Tag Archives: marriage

Recent Readings and Reflections…

I have don’t a lot of writing recently, but I have been doing a little more reading. So, I wanted to share some articles that I’ve been reading recently. Warning: many of these are hot topics in the Christian world today, and some are uncomfortable, but in order to preach the full counsel of God, we are forced to deal with the hard topics too.

My friend Holly Stratton recently wrote, “The world is changing fast, and we need God to fill us with a love for Christ that is strong enough not to be left in the dust w/ our petty preferences. We need ministry leaders who are too driven by gospel conviction & Spirit power to be hindered by fear that they’re not honoring the preferences of others. Not leaders who don’t care what others think, but leaders who care deeply what others think. Humble leaders who care enough to boldly & confidently call for a self-forgetfulness that doesn’t allow the demanding of one’s own way. We may not like change, but we’ll dislike irrelevance even more. For the glory of God, let’s move.” (Author’s Note: “Relevant: related, pertinent, connected, applicable. The gospel is always relevant. Always. Ministries & people, however, are continually faced with decisions within the bounds of sound doctrine & biblical authority that can needlessly render them irrelevant.”)

One interesting article, along those lines, that a friend shared was “Keeping Young Fundamentalists in the Camp” by Jeff Amsbaugh. Amsbaugh writes, “My heart is not to eradicate the fundamental movement but to correct the abuses of it. These words are offered as a friend from within, not an enemy from without. But if the caricature of fundamentalism that we have presented is not replaced with an authentic model, my fear is that we will lose even more young preachers in the coming days. And though part of it may be attributable to the ‘coming apostasy,’ a good portion of it may be because of the raging lunacy. God help us to keep the baby but get rid of the bath water, for the bath water is indeed dirty.”

One of the more difficult topics I’ve been studying is homosexuality. It’s been a taboo topic for too long, and lots of young people, especially, are struggling with same sex attraction. It’s time we came alongside them, empathized as fellow sinners, and showed grace and hope for change by conformity to the Word of God. Here’s an article that gives one perspective: “When Two Lesbians Walk into a Church Seeking Trouble” (an excerpt from John Burke’s book, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others Through the Eyes of Jesus). Burke says, “Do you realize that Jesus is not shocked by the shocking things people do?” He gives examples of Christ dealing with Zaccheus, the Samaritan woman, and Simon the Pharisee, and goes on to say, “It’s all about love! Don’t miss this very critical point Jesus makes to us all: If you truly recognize how much it cost God to forgive you, it will flood your heart with love for God and others who need more of the same;” and again, “It’s all about love! Not a love that ignores the mud and the damage that destroys God’s Masterpiece, but a love that recognizes how much loving mercy God has given a messed-up person like me! … That great love brings grace and truth together to give hope to a broken world in need of forgiveness and restoration.”

Another topic is modesty, and Jefferson Bethke wrote an interesting articled called “The Idolatry of Modesty.” Regardless of what you might think of Bethke, he makes some good points in this article. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Above that though, bring glory to God through your clothes. Dress in such a way that points to your Savior and Creator, not yourself. … Remember that clothes (and the attitude that puts on those clothes) are simply an outflow of what’s in the heart. … So, ladies, let our Savior’s grace, rather than your righteousness, be exalted through your dress.”

And yet another topic I’ve been thinking about is marriage.  I read an article called, “What You Really Need in Marriage” by Mark Altrogge. Altrogge says, “Our culture is extremely self-oriented. We are continually bombarded by messages that tell us we need greater self-esteem. We begin to think, I need to do this for me, I need to be validated, I need to feel good about myself, I need to think about my desires for a change, etc.”

Often we convince ourselves that our desires, wishes, wants, and even lusts are actually needs. It’s an easy error to make, especially in an “It’s-all-about-you” culture. But it’s important to constantly go back to the word…ground yourself…intentionally…to know what God says is really a need.

Speaking of intentionality and marriage, one couple had a brilliant idea that I read about in an article by Sarah Lang, called “A Slower Cup“: “A couple reflects on the slow and methodical brewing technique [of coffee] that allows them to spend time together and offers a relaxed start to their day.” What a great way to start the day…slow, intentional, and calm! Lang writes, “A beverage as alluring, delicious and influential as coffee should be savored.” I couldn’t agree more. And whether you take time to savor a quiet, slow cup of coffee (or tea) with your spouse or your Savior or both, make it intentional and enjoy the moment.

Photographs by Chantelle Grady

And while we’re on the topic of slowing down and being intentional, I read two articles by Leslie Ludy called, “Running on Empty and Refueling Our Souls” and “When Your Soul Needs Rest.” I’m working on being more intentional about refreshing and refueling my otherwise empty soul. Ludy says, “Taking time away to refresh and refuel should flow from a motive of becoming even stronger and more equipped to serve Jesus Christ—not simply to ‘escape’ from the responsibilities of serving and godly living. … Instead of looking to the empty allurements of the world to find the refreshment we seek, may we remember that He alone is the One who can fulfill us, revive us, and meet our every need.”

Sometimes we allow our culture to dictate our beliefs, instead of the other way around. And sometimes we allow lies to creep in. Other times, we make excuses for our sin, or expect perfection instead of the process of sanctification. I’ve been reminded over and over again recently of Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV). And the prayer of my heart is that I would focus on those three things. That I would be intentional about doing the next right thing. That I would love mercy and grace and love and truth. And that above all, I would walk humbly…not in conceit or pride or biting or devouring (Galatians 5, again), but that I would walk in reality of my depravity and the greatness of God’s saving grace that is both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Finally, I want to share two songs that have meant a lot to me recently. The first is one of my favorite songs, “Before the Throne of God Above.” It was a special part of our Baltic Musical Mission Team in 2003! Guitar, flute, and a bunch of crazy Americans singing their lungs out for Jesus on street corners and buses, in churches, schools, and hospitals, in Poland and Latvia. And it’s as powerful today as it was then.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
 
[Verse 2 from “Before the Throne of God Above“; Original Words by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1892), Alternate Words and Music by Vikki Cook]

And the second song is a new favorite “Across the Lands” (Townend/Getty):

May God give you grace to live intentionally, loving Him, loving others, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God. Enjoy the journey, friends, and find rest in God alone along the way.

Advertisements

Random Musings from My Snow Days…

Yesterday and today have been official snow days for us. It’s been beautiful! And we’re loving sitting in the new room we finished this fall and staring out the big windows at the squirrels and cardinals, bluebirds and tufted titmouses, gathering food and playing in the winter wonderland that is South Carolina right now. And they’re not the only ones playing; the neighborhood children have been sledding on any flat surface they can get their hands on. And since no one’s driving out there, they’re sledding right down the middle of the road, giggling and guffawing.

My Snow Day Spot

My Snow Day Spot

Yesterday, we started the day by making Eggs Benedict–Bryan’s practicing his Hollandaise Sauce for his mid-terms. I read An Introduction to the Chinese Mainland Soul. It’s a short book, but worth the read, and a fascinating cultural insight into the Asian culture and mindset.  Today I’m reading Teaching in a Distant Classroom: Crossing Borders for Global Transformation. And while I don’t plan on teaching overseas anytime soon, it’s always good to open your eyes to other cultures and how to relate to people who see the world differently than you might.

We made a batch of tomato soup and griddled sandwiches for supper last night. And I did take a slight break from my television fast yesterday, but only after having read for several hours and listening to music with Bryan for a while too.  In addition to the books, here are a few of the articles I’ve read recently:

  • Listening to Lies by FancyNonsense.com (Such a practical and convicting article; and it’s for everyone–married or not. It talks about listening to what people are saying–not what you think they’re saying; and repenting of being a “me monster”–in a culture that tells you to believe “It’s all about me.”
  • Friendship and Marriage by Jay Younts (“Romance that flows from friendship will have a sure foundation.” This article mentions Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage; and it reminds me of Gary Inrig’s Quality Friendship, a book that Bryan and I read while we were dating that talks about being friends first and then deciding to be friends forever.)
  • To Live or Die (a new hymn by Chris Anderson of ChurchWorksMedia.com)

Now, it’s back to reading for me. Enjoy these last few hours of glorious white powder, as I hear the sun is coming out today to melt it all away. And maybe read one of the articles listed above–you won’t regret it.

Journey Journal: Days 214-231

The last few weeks could be characterized by copious amounts of coffee accompanied by fabulous fellowship and foodie adventures, intermingled with thoughtful musings on articles and video clips. Check it out below.

“The relationship between coffee and well being” – picture courtesy of Stephen Altrogge

Day 214: Friday, August 2, 2013

Had another wedding today. Picked up the various pieces on Wednesday, started working on them on Thursday night, and finished up Friday morning–and actually got a full night’s sleep on this one!

This weekend’s wedding flower lineup included white hydrangeas, calla lilies and roses, blue delphinium, purple statice, peach wax flowers, green hypericum berries and grass…oh, and blue thistle!!  It turned out to be a beautiful combination! Here’s a sneak peek. I’ll post professional pics soon.

Day 215-216: Saturday and Sunday, August 3-4, 2013

More house projects. A FaceTime “coffee chat” with one of my best friends, Katie. Church. And a “breakfast for dinner” get together on Sunday night as a send-off for three of our friends who are moving away from Greenville–two to work with a church in NC (while the husband pursues ordination with the intent towards chaplaincy), and the other to teach English abroad. It was a really good time…though we will miss our friends.

Day 217: Monday, August 5, 2013

On Monday, a friend from church dropped off their first batch of eggs from their farm! Of course, that automatically meant I “had” to have eggs for dinner. So we made a batch of sausage gravy and served it over toast with a farm-fresh omelet filled with onions, peppers, goat cheese and basil, topped with arugula. So delicious! You know the eggs are fresh when they yolks are perky and deep orange. I was super excited to start getting these each week…that was, until a coyote (or neighbor’s dog) got into the chicken coop. Sad day…because these eggs were amazing! We savored egg dishes the rest of the week!

Day 218: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One of the video clips I was fascinated by this week is below. Talk about “trash to treasure”–this “Landfillharmonic” clip is amazing! Makes me thankful for all that we have:

Day 219-220: Wednesday through Thursday, August 7-8, 2013

I had some perfect peaches, so I decided to make peach pie to share with our Shepherding Group. It turned out pretty good, but I’m still working on my pie not being too runny. After Shepherding Group on Wednesday, I made stuffed peppers for the first time in ages. I found several recipes online and adapted them to be my own unique creation–recipe here.

On Thursday, I heated up the stuffed peppers and took them to lunch with my friends Shannah and Annette. Annette brought a corn salad and a cucumber salad; Shannah shared a fresh spinach salad with homemade maple vinaigrette and homemade peach pie with latticed crust and all–it was perfect!

I had plenty of leftover stuffing left that didn’t go in our peppers, so on Friday, I used them to fill hard corn taco shells–and they were fantastic! I topped the tacos and stuffing with fresh arugula, cilantro, and a dab of sour cream, along with the avocado sauce.

Day 221-222: Friday and Saturday, August 9-10, 2013

Friday lunch with an old high school friend that I was recently reunited with through work. Had our friends Kevin and Melissa over for dinner and games–recently we’ve been playing a lot of Dominion with them, but tonight they taught us a new game, Elder Sign–which is really fun! (Definitely on the Christmas wishlist 😉 ). Saturday was more work on the house. Helped the couple moving to NC pack up a bit and said final goodbyes (not that we won’t see them again soon). 😉 Lunch with my folks and sister–my parents were picking up my sister’s boys for a few days at the farm before school started. Then ran some errands and ended the day with having my sister Michelle and her husband Alan over for dinner (with only the new baby girl). We just made simple sandwiches and she brought some potato salad–and we taught them to play Dominion. It was a lot of fun! We should do that more often.

Day 223: Sunday, August 11, 2013

First Sunday not teaching in the children’s ministry for several years. It was kind of weird trying to figure out which Adult Life Application Group we fit best into. We ended up in Marriage Foundations, since we know a lot of the people in that class, and we really enjoyed it. We want to visit a couple more before we make our final decision–though any of them would be really good, I think.

Day 224-228: Monday through Thursday, August 12-15, 2013

Monday was a hugely successful day: got all my data exported and submitted for conversion at work! AND we got the majority of the insulation put up in the new room! Phew! I just have to say…if I “had” to install insulation in a hot room on a hot day, at least I got to do it with my hot husband! 😉

Read a really good article on marriage: God Loves Odd Couples. Marriage isn’t about being “perfectly compatible”…it’s about reflecting Christ. Very encouraging article.

Tuesday, I had my semi-annual dentist appointment, followed by a free birthday cupcake from Chocolate Moose–no, I didn’t tell the dentist where I was headed after my cleaning, and, yes, he did tell me I won a “mouth of the month” award! After work, I went on a long walk with a good friend, Jan. She’s a fantastic young mom of two and even though we aren’t able to get together as much as we’d like, every time we get together is always refreshing and uplifting.

Wednesday night after church, I had two friends over. Great night of fellowship with sisters in Christ who love Jesus, the Gospel and the power of Redemption! Enjoyed precious gifts of conversation, edification, good coffee, and orange cinnamon rolls.

Thursday night was dinner with some more friends, Ben and Ashley, whom we haven’t been able to catch up with in forever. Forgot that the 2 1/2 cups of coffee that I drank at dinner tonight was NOT decaf. Fail.

Day 228: Friday, August 16, 2013

Nothing like James Galway and fresh coffee on a rainy morning! I love classical flute! It’s been far too long since I played. After work, I grabbed a few ingredients and we headed over to our friends Daryl and Adrianne’s house. It was my first attempt at from-scratch banana pudding with meringue topping! I added freshly grated nutmeg and soaked the bananas in a little lime juice before adding them to the pudding with the Nilla wafers. While we made the dessert, the guys watched the grill and practiced their target shooting. It doesn’t get more Southern than this:

photo-20

Day 229-230: Saturday and Sunday, August 17-18, 2013

Progress on the house…windows and door are finally in in the new room! …along with framing, wiring, insulation, and subflooring! Plus new white posts instead of green rails on the front porch! More to come, but excited for the progress so far!

Sunday, we stopped by Panera and Starbucks for breakfast before church (wanted to use my free birthday drink). Caught up with several friends at church. Afterwards, we used some more birthday “freebie” e-coupons (World Market, etc.), then lunch with Bryan and an evening of hanging out…just the two of us! It was kind of a perfect day!

Day 231: Monday, August 19, 2013

Today I turned 32 years old. And the word that comes to mind is…blessed. I had a fantastic birthday! Tim and Debbie took me and Bryan out for lunch today, my friend Tami brought by a cute little flower pot to the office, the sun came out, and Bryan’s taking me out again tomorrow night for a nice dinner…plus lots of phone calls, messages, and emails that made me feel loved and appreciated. So thankful for the family and friends God has brought into our lives. As you can tell if you read the above post, it’s a busy stage of life for us, but it’s so rewarding and fulfilling!

Love, Respect, and “The Meaning of Marriage”

Every marriage has its ups and downs, it’s bumps and lulls. I know ours has. Now, the good memories far outweigh the rough ones, but even the rough ones teach us so much, if we’ll just stick with it. Praise the Lord I have a husband that is willing to do just that.

About four and a half years into our marriage, we hit one of those tough places. There were long hours at work coupled with lack of job satisfaction, followed by a period of four months of being down to one income. This put a strain on our finances, as you can imagine, which strained us emotionally as well. At the same time, we had some very close friends move away–some across town and some across the country. And we couldn’t afford to go out to eat with those that were left, so we stayed in, feeling disconnected and discouraged.

But God’s grace shone through. Sooner or later, you choose to stop hashing out the same frustrations and bringing up the same hurtful topics of conversation…hopefully. You see that hardships are to refine us, like purifying gold in the furnace and pressurized coals becoming diamonds. Randy Alcorn, in his book If God is Good writes, “God’s purpose for our suffering is Christlikeness. That is our highest calling. If God answered all our prayers to be delivered from evil and suffering, then he would be delivering us from Christlikeness. But Christlikeness is something to long for, not to be delivered from.” And when it’s just the two of you, you learn to talk about other things, about life, including hopes and dreams and wanting to be more like Christ.

During this down turn, a slightly-older-than-us couple in our church started getting to know us better, asking questions that were deeper than, “So, how are you?” We also joined a church volleyball league, and they “happened” to be two of the other players. They’re maybe 15 years older than us, but we clicked. As much as many may think I’m an extrovert, the truth is actually quite the opposite. She shared some of their struggles in the early years, and even later on in their marriage, and I found myself opening up to this dear Christian lady, and my husband was able to connect with her husband as well.

She would pray with me, and cry with me, and encourage me, and point me towards respecting my husband, no matter if I agreed with all of his choices or not. She showed me that the wife loves her husband BY respecting him. Some of it is earned, but some of it is given by choice, with or without merit. I’d get random “just checking in” emails or texts from her, saying she prayed for me and hoped I had a blessed day.

Over a year after this downturn, she still checks in. We’re all pretty busy, but she stopped me in the hall at church on Sunday and told me that if I ever needed her, she’d drop everything and come running. What a mentor! Just to know that someone’s watching out for you is a huge blessing and ray of sunshine!

Finally, we had the chance to sit down as couples and do dinner about a month ago. We breezed through the normal small talk and life updates, and then there was this dramatic conversation shift. They looked at us and said, “Bryan, how are you loving your wife? Melissa, how are you respecting your husband?” It was not as easy an exercise as you might think. We looked at each other, and answered. Both of our answers were “I try to love/respect my spouse by [fill in the blank].” It was a really good exercise, and it was nice to hear him say how he thought he was loving me and to tell him that I do respect him and that I’m trying to show him that. If you’re married and you’ve never done an exercise like that before, go for it; everyone’s answers will look somewhat different, but it’s a blessing to share and it actually grew our love and respect for one another even a bit more.

Another bit of advice they gave us was to always be reading books on marriage (obviously, not to the neglect of Scripture), and to never stop learning and loving (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually). About this same time, a friend of mine, who is preparing for marriage, let me borrow a book he just read by Timothy and Kathy Keller called The Meaning of Marriage (244 pages plus notes; Dutton: NY, 2011). So I thought I’d right up some of my favorite quotes from the book and give a mini review.

Timothy Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NYC. This book is an excellent reference guide, a refreshing reminder, and I highly recommend it to those who are married, single, and “single-again” alike. It was thought provoking and biblically based.

Quoting C.S. Lewis, “Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling…of that something which you were born desiring…?” (p.10).

“God says, ‘I didn’t put a parent and a child in the Garden, I put a husband and a wife. When you marry your spouse, that must supersede all other relationships, even the parental relationship. Your spouse and your marriage must be the number one priority in your life.’ …No other human being should get more of your love, energy, industry, and commitment than your spouse” (p.127).

“Marriage is so much like salvation and our relationship with Christ that Paul says you can’t understand marriage without looking at the gospel” (p.130; see also Colossians 1:15ff and Ephesians 5:28).

“Ultimately, to know that the Lord of the universe loves you is the strongest foundation that any human being can have. A growing awareness of God’s love in Christ is the greatest reward. And yet we must not forget Adam in the garden. Though he had a perfect relationship with God, his humanity’s relational nature was designed also for human love. Your spouse’s love for you and Christ’s love work together in your life with powerful interaction” (pp.148-9).

“One of the most basic skills in marriage is the ability to tell the straight, unvarnished truth about what your spouse has done–and then, completely, unself-righteously, and joyously express forgiveness without a shred of superiority, without making the other person feel small. …What does it take to know the power of grace? First it takes humility” (p.165).

“Even the best marriage cannot by itself fill the void in our souls left by God. Without a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Christ now, and hope in a perfect love relationship with him in the future, married Christians will put too much pressure on their marriage to fulfill them, and that will always create pathology in the lives” (p.198).

“The kind of love that lasts a lifetime is not only a matter of the emotions. It has to be a commitment strong enough to move us to glad, non-begrudging, sacrificial service of another person even during the inevitable seasons when the emotions are dry or cold. That kind of love grows out of this comprehensive attraction to the person’s character, future, and mission in life” (p.213).

And finally, “seventeenth-century Christian poet George Herbert” is quoted in the epilogue on pages 237-8). I studied this poem in my British Literature courses in college and it was a fast favorite. In this poem, Love is Christ and the poet (or the reader) is the sinner that receives Love’s affection.

Love (III)

“Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’;
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘ and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.”
 

For some additional resources on Marriage, our Pastor Dan Brooks of Heritage Bible Church, in Greer, SC, recently went through a series on Marriage that you may find helpful. They can be found at SermonAudio.com.

Resource: 15 Minute Marriage Makeover by Dustin Reichmann


15 Minute Marriage Makeover
is a 98-page e-Book by Dustin Reichmann that provides 28 days of topics to discuss or activities to do with your spouse. I purchased it as part of an e-Book package deal a while back and filed it under “Read Again!” It only takes 15 minutes a day (on most days). You can read each chapter together or read it separately ahead of time and discuss it during your scheduled Couple Time. Well-written and practical, 15 Minute Marriage Makeover was such an encouragement!

Here’s an overview of the Table of Contents from FitMarriage’s site:

Each Week has its own chapter; each Day has its own section to read with three main parts: Today’s Lesson, Today’s Couple Time Task, and Today’s Tips. Most days only require a 15 minute commitment. Once a week, there’s a date night (or Extra Couple Time) written into the chapter. You still have something to discuss; they just encourage you to take longer than 15 minutes at least once a week.

Life gets busy and it’s easy to let date night fall by the wayside, but I encourage you to bring it back on a regular basis, whether you have kids or not. Don’t let the busyness of life allow your relationship with your spouse to take a back seat. Oh, and if you think you’re just too busy, you may be encouraged by this recent post.

The 15 Minute Marriage Makeover is available for $17 from FitMarriage.com. Purchase here and you’ll receive an email with a link for immediate download. If you’re still not sure, view a free sample of the book here.

FitMarriage.com is about helping busy couples stay fit and grow together (instead of apart) in their relationships. They also have How-To Videos for various exercises as well as a fitness program (Thrive90) that will help you prepare for completing the P90X program (popular Beach Body exercise DVD set that’s incredible and intense).

I hope you enjoy this book. And whether you read it all or not, purpose to spend quality time with your spouse today. Plan a special date night soon: just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have to stop dating!

I Married My Best Friend!

These Willowtree figures remind me of my relationship with Bryan–always sharing something and casual. The girl has jeans, tee, and a ponytail, and the boy is adorable. We even sit like that when we talk. Reminds me of falling in love with him at The Wilds Christian Camp in Brevard, where we met, worked together, became friends, then best friends. So many late nights talking and getting to know each other. May we always be like that! By God’s grace we will! Thank you, Lord, for letting me marry my best friend!