Marriage Monday: My Competent Spouse, Pt. 1

We’re all guilty of it, aren’t we? We’d rather do things ourselves because someone else couldn’t possibly do it correctly. Or maybe just not well enough.

Okay, okay – no one else can do it MY way!

This seems to be especially true of our spouses.

The old-fashioned, King James word for a wife’s relationship to her husband is “help meet.” Many see that to be a subservient, inferior, or negative term. But, I love it. It reminds me that I have the incredible privilege of supporting, strengthening, encouraging, and building up my amazing husband. What an honor! What a joy!

Yet when I indicate that my husband is incompetent by criticizing how he accomplishes tasks, or when I jump to do things because I don’t believe he can do them well enough, I relinquish that honorable role. Instead of supporting and building up, I tear down. My criticisms weaken and discourage him when I should instead be strengthening and encouraging him with my words.

Ladies, our husbands are incredibly competent. No, they do not do things the same way we do. They do not make decisions according to our fashion. And, in some areas, it is true – we do certain things better than they do. But don’t forget that there are many, many other ways in which they are more accomplished.

And in every way, they are competent.

We live in a society that argues equality. Woman has to be as strong as man. As successful as man. As accomplished as man. As capable as man. I could go on and on.

Unfortunately, that mentality sets women up to diminish men. Why? Because until we are truly as accomplished, we must find a way to bring them down to our level to even the playing field.

Fortunately, we have truth on our side! We know that God created each of us beautifully. He created husband and wife to fit together in perfection for the purpose of glorifying Him as a single unit.

What a beautiful picture!!

Ladies, our husbands might not notice what we notice. They might not complete tasks just like we do. But, instead of being critical of them because of it, what if we were to recognize that their differences are amazingly wonderful?

What if we were to praise their competence?

Oh, what a difference it would make in our marriages! Oh what an example it would present to this world! Oh, what a pattern it would establish for our children!

And oh, how it would raise the head and shoulders of our incredibly competent husbands, allowing them the freedom to walk in strength and honor.

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Choosing Our Light

This morning, we awoke to a bright, cloudless sky. Our home has many windows that let in the bright sunshine on clear days, so on days like this we frequently don’t even have to turn on interior lights. The sunshine streaming in through the windows might not be as bright and strong as our electric lights, but it’s sufficient.

This afternoon, clouds are moving in ahead of anticipated weekend storms. As the clouds build, we alternate between bright sunshine and darkening shade. In some rooms, we’re turning on lights to counteract the game of peekaboo the sun seems to be playing.

When a storm system actually arrives, though, I expect a very different story. The front will solidly entrench itself, and heavy storm clouds will block the sun. In our home, we’ll have to use the lights that do not receive much use during a sunny stretch.

For so long, Christians in the United States have lived much as we do in our home. We’ve been content with the light of the cloudless or partly cloudy skies of morality, rarely seeing the need to turn on our lights of Christ-likeness. Why? Because we mistakenly equate Christianity and morality, thinking the light of morality is enough.

Clouds of trouble do cover the sun briefly, and we turn on our lights for a while, taking a stand for godliness. But, because the storm has not yet arrived in all of its ferocity, we inevitably turn off our lights of godliness when the sun of morality emerges from the clouds again.

Recently, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that has once again blocked the light of morality. While many Christians are in full-fledged panic mode over this decision, the reality is that this is just another bout of cloudiness – maybe even a thunder-shower – ahead of the real storm front.

But, what if we as Christians responded to this shower differently? What if we chose to turn on our lights of godliness once and for all? What if we decided to stop relying on the intermittent light of morality and made a move to operate instead in the consistent and full light of godliness?

It’s a frightening thought for American Christians, to be honest. Such an action would mark us even more profoundly than morality ever did, perhaps even expediting our progress toward persecution.

But, it would also establish us firmly in a light that can never be dimmed.

The light of morality, grounded in a false belief that man is inherently good, was destined to be extinguished. Scripture reminds us that all goodness is bound up in Christ – man is sinful, not good. Without Christ, even the most moral of Americans will eventually bow to the lie of equality.

Do I like the decision that was handed down by the Supreme Court? No. Has it robbed reason to rejoice? Again, no. On the contrary, it has actually given me reason to rejoice. Why? Because now a few more Christians will choose to move from the fading light of morality into the never-failing light of godliness. They will grow closer to Christ through it. They will become stronger witnesses for Him because of it. And more of the lost and dying in this world will come to saving faith as a result of it.

And that, my friends, is why I rejoice, even in the face of those inevitable storm clouds.

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Marriage Monday: Entrusting the “Real”

As I have been pondering how to restart Marriage Monday posts, a question has been rattling around in my mind. So, this morning, I present it to you.

Who sees the “real” of your marriage?

What do I mean by “real”? Well, think about it this way. We all have a public marriage and a private one.

The public marriage, obviously, is the one everyone sees. The public marriage reveals much, to be sure, as others see how we interact as spouses. Are we kind to one another in public? Do we speak positively or negatively to and of one another? Are we affectionate, or do we tend to keep that private?

The private marriage, however, has multiple facets. There are certain aspects of the private marriage that should stay only between a husband and wife. Period.

But there are other aspects of the private marriage that don’t automatically have to be fully restricted. In fact, these are the aspects our children see day in and day out. They know the nitty gritty of how we treat one another in the privacy of our own home. They know the “real” of Mama and Daddy’s marriage.

Those are the aspects that I mean when I ask who sees the “real” of your marriage. The things that are typically only seen at home. Some good, some bad. But definitely not the picture that the wide world sees. And, in truth, it’s not necessarily things we want the wide world to see.

That does not mean, though, that we need to hide this aspect of marriage from everyone. Some people need to see the “real” of our marriages. And we need those people – and the sharing that comes with them.

On the day our moving trucks arrived at the new house, the Choate family, some of our dearest friends, came to help tackle day one chaos. If anyone knows moving, it is the Choates. They move every few months in their service as Wycliffe Bible Translators in the Solomon Islands. They definitely know what it takes to become quickly functional after a move, and they were ready and able to dive in right alongside us.

But, Aaron and Joanna also understand something else. They fully grasp the kind of pressures moving puts on a marriage. Those little moments of miscommunication. The ways different personalities prioritize what needs to be done and when. The stress of chaos and a lack of routine. The effects of exhaustion.

It was so freeing to not have to hide those moments of strain from our dear friends. And, it was even more beautiful to have Aaron look at us and say, “I’m already praying for your marriage through all of this.”

That kind of friendship is not only priceless, it is essential. As couples, we need friends we can trust with the nitty gritty of marriage. Friends who understand the private victories and can help pray through the private struggles. Friends who see and grasp.

So, I ask again: Who sees the “real” of your marriage? Anyone? If there is no one, then my prayer for you this week is that God will provide those friends for you and your spouse. Friends who see. Friends who understand. Friends who will listen, rejoice, and fight with you. Friends who know that the struggles solidify your marital bond. And above all, friends who know how to pray for your marriage in all seasons.

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What Works for Me: Something Normal

Chaos comes in so many forms. Disrupted schedule. Illness. Trips. Major events. And, for my family of late, moving.

One thing I’ve noticed about chaos is that it leaves us feeling like we have to tackle the big in-your-face obstacles before being able to devote any time and energy to the little normalcies of life. At least, that’s how I feel.

In this move, I’ve felt driven to attack the big things. The packing and cleaning. Now the unpacking and setting up. And, specifically, tackling the big unpacking. Those things that make the biggest dent in the chaos. The little things – those little normalcies of life – seem to get pushed aside. I’ll get to those when these big glaring boxes are taken care of.

And all the while, the chaos chips away at my peace.

This morning, I realized something. Sometimes, taking the time to go ahead and welcome even just one of those little normalcies back into my life makes the big chaos less disruptive. So, today, I have embraced a few normalcies.

  1. Writing. This is my second blog post of the day – one for the family blog and one for here. I’ve put writing on the shelf for a long time because of chaos. First, it was the busyness of a particular season. Then it was a major project that took a great deal of time and energy. And now the move. There is always going to be something disruptive. If I allow one bit of chaos to chip away at my writing time, I will never come back to it. So, I’m coming back to it now. Today. Yes, before I even have any idea where my desk will go.
  2. Calendar. I was in the middle of unpacking boxes when the thought of our big, dry-erase family calendar came to mind. It’s one of those things that typically would be saved until last. It’s not critical, because we keep up with crucial events elsewhere. But, it’s something homey. It’s something we enjoy having. So, I stopped what I was doing and went to hunt down that calendar. It is now on the wall, ready to welcome the activities of our new life, church, and community. Yay!
  3. Play & Snuggles. We have been on tight deadlines for several weeks now, and our moments of snuggles and play have been far too brief. We’re all taking turns with bouts of tearful homesickness for the loved ones and home we left behind. This morning, each of my girls had a turn, and they needed snuggles. We curled up on the couch and cried and chatted – for as long as it took. No rushing back to HEDUA work or cutting the snuggles short so I could dive into another box. Just snuggles.

    Then my oldest and I took a few minutes to shop on Amazon for something she wanted to buy with birthday money.

    This afternoon, my son and I will play together for a little while before I have to get back to either HEDUA work or unpacking. It’s a normalcy. And it can’t wait for the boxes to be unpacked.

As the week continues, I will choose to embrace little moments of normalcy. I will take the time to unpack those things that could wait until later, but would help us feel more at home were I to go ahead and pull them out now. And I will chip away at the chaos by settling in to just living life.

How do you keep your chaos from taking over?

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Review: What’s Up?

I absolutely love discipleship. And I love starting discipleship young. But, when it comes to training children, it can often be difficult to know how to cross that bridge from Bible stories to discipleship. That is where material such as What’s Up by Deborah Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower can come in handy.

What’s Up is a highly interactive discipleship course for middle schoolers. It is created to be a group Bible study course with “homework” for the students. Because it is published by New Growth Press, I knew from the get-go that it would be a course designed to challenge and grow students.

Here’s what I love about What’s Up?:

  • The course introduces real theology. Theological terms are used and defined, explained in a way that makes sense to middle schoolers while not watering down the depth. This is incredibly crucial for solid discipleship.
  • The course is not dry and dull. It’s very hands-on and interactive, forcing students to work through their understanding and new knowledge.
  • The teacher’s book has teaching notes integrated directly into the student layout (yet still clearly distinguishable) so the teacher knows exactly what the student sees at all times.
  • Although prep and familiarity with the information is definitely necessary, everything is laid out to make prep as easy as possible. This leaves time for personal, spiritual preparation.

There is really only one thing I dislike about What’s Up? The layout is very busy. While on the one hand this makes it interesting, it also keeps heading and titles from standing out well. It can be difficult to distinguish when a new lesson starts. The busyness will also be more detrimental than helpful to some learning styles.

I do have to add that I have not actually been able to use this course with a group, unfortunately. Why? Well, because it requires homework, and I currently do not teach a group that would be diligent with homework.

I will say that I do not consider that to be a negative. Any measure of discipleship and growth requires a commitment to personal times of study. I would absolutely love to find a group of middle schoolers who would be committed to a study like this.

It is possible to do this course with just one or two students, so I could do it at home with my girls. But, based on my experience as a teacher and discipleship leader, I can easily see that it would not be as effective.

So, I’m hanging on to this curriculum and looking forward to an opportunity to snag a group of middle schoolers to lead through it!

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Review: The Gospel-Centered Community

We are in a Bible study saturated church culture. Every time we turn around, there’s another study ranging anywhere from completely irrelevant fluff to intensive depth that’s hard for a “real life” person to keep up with.

Meanwhile, we are also a buzzword culture, and within the past few years “gospel” has unfortunately become one of those buzzwords. As a result, we have a plethora of books and studies that claim to redirect us to a true centering on the gospel.

With all of that in mind, I will confess that I had mixed feelings about The Gospel-Centered Community. The content description held promise and it was published by New Growth Press, a company that has, thus far, earned and maintained my trust. But I just kept putting this one off. It was tiring to think of yet another buzzword Bible study.

But, The Gospel-Centered Community is not just another buzzword Bible study.

The Gospel-Centered Community is true to its title. It walks participants through what it means to be a community focused more on biblical principles than on cultural expectations.

The Gospel-Centered Community is also not your typical workbook Bible study. The small participant’s guide includes a few pages of reading for each lesson, followed by some exercises to work through as a group. There are no blanks to fill in each week before meeting. There’s just the explanation of what community looks like followed by a chance to practice that community.

I will make this note: I’m evaluating this study strictly on the participant’s guide and the anticipation of what a group study would be like based on past experience in group Bible studies.

Based on that, I look at this study and consider it one I’d like to go through with a group. I know it would be spiritually challenging and would, very often, not be “fun.” But, the format allows this study to fit easily into a growing Christian’s personal study plan rather than forcing a change. I believe it would also be a good growing experience, one that would definitely serve to help participants develop a strong spiritual bond through the discussion and exercises.

So, buzzword title and all, The Gospel-Centered Community is a group study I would recommend.

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My Dwelling Place

Consciousness slowly began to invade my dreams as the morning dawned. Daytime was simply a reminder. A reminder of all of the uncertainty and chaos surrounding my family. But my first thought was not worry. It was not uncertainty. It was not even a list of all of the things I needed to do today, including adjusting my work schedule to compensate for being off schedule this week. No, the first thought that pounded my brain was this:

The LORD is my dwelling place.

You see, the biggest concern on my mind right now is where my family will live as of the first week of June.

For nearly five years, we’ve been blessed with an amazingly wonderful parsonage in a delightful rural town. We have planted fruit trees in the yard and grape vines along the back fence. We have room to spread out – and room to line the walls with bookshelves.

But God is moving us. He worked out every detail flawlessly, guiding us with perfect direction every step of the way. Even though the decision was exceedingly hard emotionally, it was very clear. And we’ve been incredibly supported both by our current church family and our brand new one.

The only thing that has not been clear is the housing solution. There are things we crave – permanence; moving only once; space for our children; a place for the cats (for the kids’ sake…).

But this morning, none of those things invaded my thoughts first. Instead, I was given a Scripture-based reminder.

I’ll confess, I can’t find that exact phrasing in the Bible, but I sure can find support for it. My first thoughts go to Psalm 91, a beautiful song of refuge.

But ultimately, two things occur to me related to this early-morning thought:

  • The Word of God is alive and powerful. Oh, my dear friend, never ever forget that! How we must immerse ourselves in it! How we must know it well! Even the passages not intentionally committed to memory must be viewed and reviewed over and over again until they are so familiar that the Spirit can bring them to mind. But the memorization doesn’t hurt either!

    Scripture is the number one way our Lord, Savior, Father, Master, Creator, Sustainer, Helper, Healer, Comforter…(I could go on and on) communicates with us. Everything we need is right there. And even in those moments when our consciousness is not active, His Word is. It speaks to us. It pours into us. And it gives us just what we need in that moment, if we will listen.

  • The Lord is all we need. Yes, yes, I know that my family still needs physical shelter just a couple of weeks from now. And, we are continually praying that God guides our search and our decision-making process, bringing us to a satisfactory conclusion very soon.

    Ultimately, though, whatever our need – whatever our search – the Lord is the answer. Period. Not a specific house or any other specific provision. Just Him. He is my shelter. My dwelling place. My provision.

Do I want an end to our current uncertainty? Yes. Without question. Do I have specific desires related to how the housing problem gets solved? Definitely! I know what I long to have for my family!

But can I trust the Lord even in the uncertainty? Without a doubt.

There will be hard days, just as there already have been. There will be more days when I cry out in frustration and discouragement because nothing seems to be working out. There will be days when I wonder if I’m just not listening well, thinking that’s why God seems to be silent.

But ultimately I can trust Him. And I will trust Him. And once He gives His answer, I can look back on this day and know that He awakened me this morning with His Word on my heart and His promises on my tongue.

The LORD is my dwelling place.

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