Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Marriage 101

We are currently sitting at the airport in Daraga, Philippines waiting on our first leg of the journey home. 


Tonight we will make it to Manila and stay the evening in a hotel, leaving for San Francisco fairly early tomorrow…then, on to Phoenix. 


The crazy thing is that we arrive only three hours after our departure time, even though it’s a good 24 hour journey.


If you’ve followed social media at all, you have seen pictures and know that this has been a great trip - ordained and appointed by the Lord for such a time as this. 




I love being a part of God’s plans and seeing them unfold.


But, now that this trip has come to a close, our hearts, minds and prayers turn toward the next step on our adventures with Jesus - 


Come next week (Wednesday), we will be heading to Idaho to speak at a marriage conference for 42 couples in a little resort community. 


You’d think with almost 50 years of marriage under our belt (this coming June 1), and having spoken at multiple marriage conferences over the years, we’d be feeling pretty confident about those things that have kept us ticking along year after year. 




However, I find myself struggling a little bit with this upcoming conference, and it has hit me: 


Does anyone ever feel like they have this institution called marriage down pat? 


Isn’t it ever-changing, ever-growing, and we, as marriage partners, ever-learning? 


Each year, there are new seasons - some glorious, some gory!


It also dawned on me that I have never written a blog on marriage, and seldom have I discussed parenting. 


Again, it’s a question of who am I that I should be discussing these two incredible gifts from the Lord, when I still feel like I’m learning?



However, blogging often helps me process, so maybe it’s time to take a look at some of the keys that have kept us standing firm for the last 50 years. (Smile)


This is the question I’ve asked myself: 


What has kept two sinners with self-centered natures waking up each morning, re-committing themselves to “I do?” 


Forever and ever, I do!


When asked this question, so many Jesus-followers answer with one word: love!


Of course they do…it sounds spiritual, most couples all have the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13 quoted at their weddings, and the all-wise, famous guy-band, The Beatles assured us that “All We Need is Love…”



However, somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that this is one of the greatest myths of marriage.


Love is not the all-we-ever-need.


It’s not even a thing we need.


At some stage of our relationship, I recognized that I could only truly love my husband to the extent that I trusted him…and, it also followed that I would only allow him to love me to the extent that I trusted him. 



The two go hand in hand; but love flows out of trust. 


No trust, no love.


In fact, Scottish author, George MacDonald once said:


“ To be trusted is a far greater compliment than to be loved.”


Without trust, we start our marriages stiff-arming our spouse, never actually allowing them get to know us. 


Trust is developed in a myriad of different ways.


The beginning of trust is found in Christ.


Without the direction for life that comes from a relationship surrendered to Christ, we’d be floundering down different paths, always trying to find our way to one another. 



Because Bay trusted Jesus, just as I trusted Jesus, I knew our commitment to Him would be the one plumb line that we would always measure our relationship against, and it had the power to steady us in every storm.


But, there were other things that caused my trust to grow through our dating and early marriage years:

  • Bay did what he said he’d do…
  • He followed through on promises…
  • I knew when we scheduled our priorities, he included me in the discussion, valuing and wanting my opinion.
  • He trusted his hopes and dreams to my care.
  • There was never (!) a question that when he was away from me, he carried me with him in his heart. I never worried, not once, that he would be unfaithful to me in any way.
  • We were best friends, constant companions, and enjoyed one another’s company over any other.
  • He was a safe space for me to be vulnerable, knowing he was always “for me.”
  • Both of us were comfortable being quick to seek forgiveness and to ask for forgiveness, when an offense occurred.

Do we continue to do these things perfectly?


Of course not!



But, we are both committed to keeping cracks from occurring in the foundation of our marriage.


After all, problems with foundations of houses immediately begin causing stress fractures in the walls of our marriage…and the protective walls around our home are bound to crumble (ask me how I know about foundations of houses)… 😌


The same holds true for marriages. 



Just a word of warning, though, and I’ve seen this prove true, time and time again in other relationships:


“Trust is easily broken and extremely costly to restore.” 

Paul Tripp, “What Did You Expect”










                                             



Thursday, February 15, 2024

A Random Thought on Raising Children 😏

Once again, Bay and I are in the Philippines 🇵🇭 serving at a variety of venues: Sunday church services, leadership training conferences, evangelistic outreach events, university evangelical ministry, a women’s conference (in which we are partnering with Compassion International), and connection with government officials for a possible large future crusade. 

This trip, we brought friends, who pastor a church in Greenfield, IN. What a blessing to have them share responsibilities with us…


(Pastor Theo and Randy Griffin)

…and, what a gift to experience what Paul expressed so well:


It is right for me to feel this way about you (full of thanksgiving)…for you are all partakers with me of grace in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.


Partakers, by definition, are companions who help achieve more together than either could “doing the work” alone. 


We certainly saw this in action this week (Theo and Randy left us this afternoon to head back to Indiana, and we will miss partnering with them).


At the leadership conferences, we zeroed in on the biblical purposes and character of those who are called by God to serve Him among His people. 


One of the leaders assigned to me was Samuel - one of the greatest prophets Israel has known!



At different times of my life, certain aspects of Scripture hit me in diverse ways depending on the current season in which I find myself. 


So as I reviewed Samuel’s story, I was taken back to a quiet time where God spoke to me years ago. 


Steph, Adam, and Mandy were quite young. 


Bay and I were waiting on raising the support we needed to head to Africa. 


Our home had sold. 


All our earthly possessions, except for Bay’s grandmother’s piano and his saddle, were safely ensconced on board the ship heading to Kenya. 🇰🇪 


We were staying with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law as we looked expectantly toward our future in Africa. 


This particular morning, the words from a letter that had arrived in the mail from my parents, played like a recording over and over in my brain. 


“Why would you take your children so far away to a primitive country where there is so much disease, potential danger, and lack of amenities? What about the things you can’t give them there that are prevalent here in the US? How are you going to feel if they want ice cream and you can’t get them something as simple as ice cream?” 


Of course, it occurred during the middle of the night when things always seem bigger and “badder” than they ever do in the day light.

What is it about night that causes our brains to shut down and not think the thoughts of God as easily?


Yet it happens to us all.

For me, those words translated into “What kind of parents are we?” “What kind of future life were we giving our children?” “What if they grew up to resent us for taking them away from the life they had in America?” And, most of all…”What if our act of obedience in saying ‘Yes” to the Lord had damaging repercussions and they chose not to follow Jesus because of us?”

😟😟😟

The next morning in my quiet time, I was slated to read the first few chapters in the book of 1 Samuel. Here’s the back story:
  • Samuel’s mother, as we know, was Hannah.
  • Hannah was one of two wives to Elkanah.
  • While his first wife bore him several children, Hannah was barren and it grieved her heart.
  • When the family went to Shiloh to the temple to sacrifice, as was their custom, Hannah went into the quiet of the temple in the early morning to pray.
  • Her desperate tears; her crying aloud to the Lord, caused Eli the priest to think she was drunk.
  • As he approached her to rebuke her, he listened to her petition, and prophesied that, indeed, she would have a son before the next year.
  • She did. 
  • Her declaration to the Lord upon Samuel’s birth proclaimed that she would “give her son back to the Lord” once he was weaned. (I can’t imagine!)

Here’s the thing…

Hannah took Samuel and left him with Eli, the priest. 

What Eli lacked in parenting skills (“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men…1 Samuel 2:12”), he also lacked in the priesthood - a terrible father and, perhaps, an even worse priest. 

Because of this, the Lord rejected the house of Eli and revealed that He would strip the priesthood from this family.

However (!) the Lord also told Eli, He (God, Himself) would “raise up for himself a FAITHFUL PRIEST, who would do according to all that is in God’s heart and in His mind (1 Samuel 2:35)”


These words from the ancient books of the Old Testament comforted my heart from God’s Holy “Rhema.”

The Lord, in spite of Eli, raised Samuel up to be a great man of God, a faithful servant, a minister in the house of the Lord.

Like Elkanah and Hanna, Bay and I dedicated our children back to the Lord as babies.

We covenanted with God to raise them the best we knew how with the education and information we had in those days.

Were we “perfect?” 

Ha! Far from it…but our hearts were committed to do what we believed was best, all the while serving the Lord ourselves, as we placed our children into His loving hands. 

Here’s what the Lord spoke to me that morning following my “long night” - 

If the Lord could do a great work in the heart of Samuel under the tutelage of a worthless priest, who wasn’t even a good father figure, I could surely trust Him to ‘raise up’ my children, as well - no matter where He might lead us.

Hannah’s example held the keys: desperate praying and total surrender of her child into God’s hands.

XXXXX

This was simply a random reminder to me this week.

I honestly don’t know who needs to read this…if anyone…😏

But, I was thankful to reminisce that the Lord is (no matter how old) still THE ONE who does the “raising up” of my adult children (even to old age and gray hair) and my grand kiddos…as well as, future generations to come!

In this, I continue to trust His sovereign hand.



Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Survival Guide for the Wilderness

A while back, Bay and I followed a survivor-type-televison series on the History Chanel.

I'm pretty sure we watched about 7 seasons in a row, and I found it informative and interesting.

However, I'm hoping I never, in my lifetime, have to use the skills with which I became acquainted, because I am alone and trying to survive... 

Titled "ALONE," the series tracked 10 individuals dropped off in various locations out in the wild. 

Each person chronicled their journey (via videos) for the program, all in diverse situations with limited equipment.

Truly, it was an exercise in endurance. 

One of the ways contestants attempted to provide food for themselves was fishing with a "gill net."

The net was placed in the down-running-current of a river and as the water rushed through, the fish (hopefully) get trapped. 

Assuredly, it often seemed that the winner of the contest ($500,000) ended up being the one who ate the best. 

In fact, in one of the seasons, a fellow caught a tremendous amount of fish, dried them, hung them about his self-constructed-shelter, and all appeared as if he was destined to win.

However, he ended up being forced to leave the show when the doctors (who check in on participants at regular intervals) discovered he was "starving to death."

He had all the food he needed to survive...he simply didn't eat!!!

XXXXX

Last weekend I spoke at a women's conference in Dallas, TX.

The theme of the retreat was "reset."

The goal: to provide some tools that can be utilized at any time of year to do a "hard reset" in some aspect of life with a begin-again in mind (while this could be any type of reset, primarily I focused on spiritual do-overs). 

We all need them from time to time. 

In the first session we talked about rest.

Scripture is scattered with instructions to rest.

In fact, the fourth commandment is just that - a directive to take the time every six days to rest (see this blog published on December 28.)

The Lord is pretty clear:

There is no reset without rest.

Period.

Exclamation mark.

I've also blogged recently on this next tool, which is "remember," however, I want to add a P.S. to those posts.

When the fourth commandment is repeated in Deuteronomy, the Lord adds a one-more-thing to our "resetting:"

REMEMBER!

1) Remember where you were and what you were without the Lord's intervention.

2) Remember who your God is (YHWH) - the I AM EVERYTHING YOU NEED!

3) Remember how He came alongside and rescued/delivered/redeemed your life.

4) Remember His mighty hand and outstretched arm (metaphorical reminders of His power, love, mercy and grace) in the middle of your stories...

REMEMBER!!!

It's so important in every reset. 

There's no reset without rest.

There is no reset without remembering these very important things about our relationship with the Lord.

Why?

There is no hope in tomorrow without remembering our history with our God; and, there is no ability to endure without hope!

Y'all, we won't take time to remember if we don't have time to stop in the midst of resting in order to do so. 

In the resting, we must look for our God in the memories that are caught in the net and SEE HIM THERE!

This will be key for those times when we feel ALONE.

It will be crucial for our endurance in the spiritual wildernesses of life.

It will be most critical that we take the fish, dry them, hang them about our shelters and then EAT OF THEM!

Don't starve yourselves to death spiritually because you have forgotten these instructions from the Lord.

EAT!