9 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage and Grow Older Together

13 05 2019

Over 44 years ago, Mary and I promised to never, ever use the “D” word when it came to our relationship – divorce.  We have kept that promise.  Along the way we have discovered there are a lot of things we can do as a couple to provide strength to the marriage relationship.

After eliminating the divorce word, decide to maintain honor in your relationship.  Honor is a hard word because none of us act honorably every day, at every moment.  Honor means to hold in high respect and worth and high public esteem.  To honor the marriage relationship is to place it before the children, your job and your ministry, but not before your God.  Love God first and then your closest neighbor, your spouse.

 

Keep giving each other space.  That means when she needs some alone time, do your best to help her make it happen.  If he needs a guy’s night out, help him plan it.  That “space” can help to recharge your batteries and who doesn’t want their life mate to return refreshed?

 

Share your financial expectations and maintain your budget.  Money can cause the biggest disagreements.  At least it did in our marriage.  All too often couples have differing money values, but a money date where we openly discuss our goals and look over our finances can really help the two of us to be on the same page.  Money dates could happen as often as weekly, but need to happen at least monthly.

 

Speaking of communication…never stop.  In fact, over communicate as often as you can.  You just can’t beat talking!  Taking a daily time, at least 20-30 minutes of time that is not interrupted by the children, the phone or the TV, is invaluable to your relationship.  It will keep you on the same page.  Whether it’s the kids schedules or your weekend plans communicate, communicate, communicate.

 

Be good to yourself and to one another.  Take care of yourself and your health.  Try to look good for one another.  I know, you have baby food on your sweatshirt and dog hair on your pants, but for heaven’s sake take the time to clean up a bit, have dinner together once in a while and share words of appreciation and encouragement. It will go miles in your relationship. This also means prioritizing dating your spouse.  Dress up, get a babysitter and spend time together laughing and having fun.  The investment is worth any cost because the return is incalculable.

 

Give each other room for failure.  Failing is a part of life and through it we often learn what doesn’t work.  I fail, you fail, we all fail.  Stop being so hard on the other person, acting as though you don’t fail.  When we give room for failure, we are showing good will and giving one another the benefit of the doubt.  Walk and talk through it and then forgive. Forgive quickly. Forgiveness is medicinal and we are both desperately in need of it.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.

 

Refuse to allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from you.  It’s yours and yours only. While frequency may decrease and children make it challenging, do not lose it.  Create a schedule if you have to and maintain it.  Nothing removes the “little foxes,” those growing annoyances, like love-making and nothing keeps passion alive like sexual intimacy.  Make a promise to yourself, to one another and to the God who gave this gift to you to never let it go.  You are one and sexual intimacy reinforces your oneness.

 

The glue that holds all this together?  Prayer.  Learn to pray together.  There is no better way to communicate, resolve issues, gain wisdom or “cast your care” than to pray together.  You will find the intimacy you have only dreamed of if you’ll pray together.  You will discover answers to lifelong problems, to long-term financial disagreements, to present frustrations and to future visions and goals.  Prayer is intimacy of the highest degree in marriage as together we reveal our hearts’ desires to God and to one another.

 

Lastly, seek the wisdom of others as needed.  None of us can go it alone.  We need mentors: older, wiser married couples in our lives.  We need a local church that provides teaching for our family and causes us to look beyond ourselves and to the mission of helping others.  We need those who will challenge us to be better parents, lovers, friends, employees, business owners and servants.

Read through this blog together, discuss it and then ask your life mate how the two of you are doing in the above areas.





Have You Ever Felt Like a Failure as a Parent?

4 03 2019

There is a truth revealed concerning child rearing in I Samuel chapter eight in the Old Testament. Samuel was growing quite old so he appointed his sons as judges over Israel.  “But his sons did not walk in his ways.  They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”  (I Samuel 8:3) It was after this that Israel desired a king rather than being ruled by a judge.

 

So often blame is placed upon Samuel for how his sons carried out their new-found power.  Had Samuel failed as a father?  The scripture does not indicate that he did.  Samuel’s sons made their own choice and Samuel was not faulted for those choices.

 

I have seen difficult children come from great families and great children come from difficult families. We like to think there is a guarantee, but at the same time, I have never met a parent with adult children that said there is a guarantee our children will walk as we’ve trained them to.

 

Our children, given the truth of God’s word, still live with freedom of choice and free will.  Can we as parents be good enough parents that somehow God is beholden to, indebted to go against their own will?  As well, the opposite is also true.  We, as parents can mess up and yet our Father is generously compassionate and merciful beyond anything deserved.

 

If your children are not walking as you expected then pray, ask God and do not walk in condemnation and failure.  Rather, walk in faith.





Voting Has a Direct Effect Upon Life In The Womb

28 01 2019

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 

Your eyes saw my unformed body: all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139: 13-16

 

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

 

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it?

 

Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?  Proverbs 24: 11, 12

 

Today we see the direct result of how we cast our votes.  Is your allegiance, is your passion to Jesus and the lives He created for life?  If the godly do not care, who will?  Thank you New York state elected officials for this reminder.

 

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

 

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

 

Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  Psalm 127: 3-5

“Father, forgive us for this sin of selfishness and the sacrifice of innocent blood.”





Don’t Just Cry About It; Do Something!

2 12 2018

There it was, 15 feet up, stuck on a tree limb.  My grandson’s favorite stuffed animal hanging and lodged by a single leg now out of his hands and his control.  In his five-year-old mind it seemed permanent, so he cried and cried.  He imagined it gone from his life forever and thus the emotion.  We held him to console him and then said, “There’s no need to cry. Let’s work on a solution to the problem.”  When asking him what we could do about the problem he shrugged his shoulders and whimpered, “I don’t know.”  We asked him if crying could be part of the solution and he managed to shake his head no.

 

He just couldn’t seem to muster up any viable solution so Mimi (grandma) abruptly retrieved a long-handled broom and asked him if this could help.  He looked at the broom and then the stuffed animal in the tree and said, “Maybe.”  Having no other ideas coming from our grandson, grandma began to whack the tree in order to loosen the lodged friend.  He found the exercise funny and began to laugh as the stuffed toy now hung by one arm. Eventually “Nigel” fell to the ground and was quickly grabbed by his owner.

 

I just know we’ll have something “stuck up in a tree” today and it will take a solution. Or, we could just cry about it.  Why is it that we tend to have an emotional response first? Our initial response is truly up to us, be it tears, anger or silence, but in the end, like my grandson, we’ll need a solution.





Eight Huge Benefits of Becoming Debt Free

26 11 2018

My wife and I have been practicing debt-free living for years now.*  I say practicing because it takes discipline to reach and discipline to maintain.  So here are eight encouragements or benefits that we have discovered when it comes to debt-free living.

1. Freedom: My wife and I feel so free – free to give, free to purchase and free to save for the future.  We have more money to do these things rather than being enslaved to and feeling the pressure of our debt.

2. Ownership: Owning your car or your house is an amazing feeling that continues the feeling of freedom.  You will have less stress in your life.  Who doesn’t desire less stress?

3. Agreement: You will have and discover a greater sense of agreement in your marriage and your family.  If you’ve agreed to become debt free and you reach that goal, what else can you agree about and reach?

4. Children: Your children will see you more often. You will not feel required to sign up for all the overtime you possibly can.  And besides, you’ll be an amazing financial example to your kids, your family, your friends and your neighbors.  If you can do it, you’ll be helping them to believe they can too.

5. Opportunity: Becoming debt free automatically provides better opportunities to give more money away, to help someone in need.  Rather than feeling that feeling of tightness, you will be looking for and watching for investment opportunity to increase your finances and have the cash to do so.

6. Security: You will be and feel far more secure. Debt increases the feelings of insecurity and rightly so.  You may be one last paycheck from disaster with an ongoing debt load.  While being debt free there is far less fear of financial disaster and crisis.

7. Servant: The Scriptures tell us that the borrower is a servant to the lender. Whose servant are you?  To be debt free is to not be encumbered by enslavement to another. You are literally no longer enslaved to your job or the next unexpected car repair or house repair bill.

8. Savings: You will grow a savings account and an emergency fund faster.  Your retirement savings fund will grow faster.  Your college fund for your children can grow faster.  Every savings fund can realize increase when you are no longer borrowing and having to pay back another co-owner with interest.

And if all that’s not enough to convince you, how about this?  You will have less arguments over money in your life.  If married, you and your spouse will enjoy less financial disagreement and more financial agreement.  You’ll have more resources for eating out along with short and long-term vacations or mission trips. Living debt free loosens what has been wound tight for so long.  Purpose in your heart today and begin taking steps to become debt free.  You’ll never regret it.

*A point of clarity concerning living debt-free is investment for growth. Some consider investments that grow in value, like real estate, to not be debt.  I would consider it debt with the opportunity for growth/gain in value or perhaps “good debt.”





The Devastation of Abuse and Teaching Your Children Responsibility

22 10 2018

I would be devastated, overwhelmed and heart-broken if my daughter suffered any kind of abuse from anyone in any fashion.  I would give my life to make sure that did not happen. Further, I would be equally broken and horrified if one of my sons was falsely accused of abusing another. Having raised my children with very clear values and boundaries, I would believe them if they told me abuse occurred or did not occur.

Whether there is alleged abuse or alleged accusation, I appreciate that these kinds of things, brought out and into the light, bring awareness to very destructive behaviors.

We are told that one in four girls endure or suffer from some form of abuse or molestation, which is simply horrific.  But it is also true that one in five boys suffer the same.  Having been a social worker and marriage and family counselor for many years, I witnessed way too much devastation in lives of youth and of adults in both females and males.

I heard stories from young women who had been molested in their family barns, a place that should have been safe for them and I heard similar stories from young men.  One young man told me that his female high school English teacher while on school premises repeatedly forced him to engage in sexual intercourse.  His pain over this was evident years later.

We are responsible to teach our children truth and how destructive sex can be outside God’s boundary of marriage.  My wife and I shared I Timothy 5:1 and 2 with our children, “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  Your children’s school teachers, politicians, Hollywood or any news media will not be teaching these verses; it is your/our job to establish these boundaries and life-giving values.

Today we hand our children a smart phone to stay in touch with us. At the same time, we must realize these hand-held devices are a computer and they accesses pornography which teaches just the opposite of the values we are attempting to instill.  Are you aware that Hollywood produces around 600 to 700 films per year while the pornography industry produces 13,000 films per year? Children are accessing some of the worst, most horrific sexual smut available for free on their phones each and every day.

In these times we are hard pressed to find any moral guidance coming from Washington DC, even as governmental leaders call for morality.  And Hollywood continually puts out sexually provocative films and then expects morality among its ranks.  You cannot have it both ways…sorry.

So let’s take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our family.  We need to have a zero tolerance of pornography and sexually explicit movies and television.

No matter the ill in our society, God’s word has already spoken on the subject and given us the most safe, most protective and life-giving answers. It is that same book that mentions not lying, not stealing, not committing adultery, not coveting and not murdering.  This is not a call to fight or resist our government, our schools or even Hollywood, but it is a call to remember who our enemy actually is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6: 12)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(I Corinthians 10: 2)





The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.








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