Posted in Marriage Monday

The Shining Light of Marriage

Some of my favorite classes in college were in the religion department. The professors made it their goal to challenge and stretch their students, driving us to not just settle for a surface reading of Scripture. They wanted us to dig. To study. To really see. To grasp. I am fortunate to still have the opportunity to learn from those professors as they write and teach even beyond the college classroom, seeking to stretch and grow pastors and anyone else willing to learn (like me!).

Remember the Context

One of those learning opportunities came in the form of a conference in which two professors from my alma mater walked a room of ministers and a few of their spouses (like me!) through the book of Malachi. One reminder they repeatedly hammered into our minds was the importance of keeping all of Malachi in context of the opening passage. The book begins with God’s profession of love for His people. Then it flows quickly into discipline. When reading the harsh words God speaks to His people, it’s easy to forget the love. But, He was disciplining them because of His love. Forgetting the opening profession of love skews the message of the entire book.

What About Marriage?

We have a bad habit of skewing multiple books of Scripture in the same way we might skew Malachi. We pull out a passage at a time, reading or studying in blocks, and forget the big picture of the book or of Scripture as a whole. Marriage is a particularly misused topic. There are quite a few passages on marriage, and studying those passages has resulted in quite the wide array of marriage doctrines. The doctrines seek to hash out what Scripture says about who has what rights and how those rights get to be used. Is the husband in full authority, or does the wife get to share that authority?

As we build those doctrines, we forget two things: First, we’re all bond slaves to Christ. None of us has authority or rights apart from Him. Second, each of the teachings on marriage falls into the context of a greater message to the church, and when we ignore that context, we miss the point.

Strangers and Aliens

About the same time I attended that Malachi conference, I was also taking my Sunday school class through 1 Peter. In my preparation time, I came to the passage in 1 Peter 3 about wives walking in quiet submission to their husbands, and I realized that I had never read that passage in context of the whole of Peter’s epistle. Despite the many times the importance of context had been pounded into my head by my former professors, I’d ignored the context of this passage.

1 Peter is a letter to a church living as “strangers and aliens” in a very fallen world. It is a letter to a church facing persecution. It is a letter reminding Christians that it is a good thing to stand out. To be different. To be holy. Peter is very practical in his letter, walking believers through specific ways they are to stand out from the rest of the world.

The goal is to be so different that everyone notices and is pointed to Christ, whether they accept Him or not.

Into the discussion about how to practically accomplish this goal, Peter drops a statement to Christian wives. The purpose of submission is to cause these women to stand out from the ungodly ones. In doing so, those married to non-Christian men may even have the opportunity to draw their husbands to Christ. Even if they don’t, how many others will notice the difference in them and be drawn to Christ? It’s not about fulfilling a biblical role in marriage. It’s about spreading the truth and light of Christ to a lost world.

A Light in the Darkness

If I look at the context of 1 Peter and even the context of Scripture as a whole, I see that my relationship with my husband is not about who is supposed to be in authority over or submissive to whom. It’s not even about us having a good and biblical marriage. Instead, it’s about the image I as a wife – and, by extension, we as a married couple – present to a very, very fallen world. How I relate to my husband should differ greatly from the way non-Christian wives relate to their husbands. It should stand out. I am a bond-slave of Christ. My only role, goal, and right, even in marriage, lies in my ability to honor Him and shine His light in the midst of this dark world. It is to live a life of unselfish submission that stands in sharp contrast to the get-ahead, me-first nature of this world.

When I view my role in marriage in that perspective, suddenly all of the passages on wifely submission take on a brand new meaning, a meaning that fits so beautifully with Jesus’ direct teaching about the church:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

Who Are My Counselors?

Recently, I was reading 2 Samuel 10 in my daily Bible reading. What a sad story. Because King Hanun listened to the bad advice of his princes, a series of battles followed that cost hundreds of lives.
I can’t help but compare this to Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12 or King Xerxes and Haman in the book of Esther. Even Absalom in 2 Samuel 17 is an example of following bad advice, even though we all cheer when we read his story, knowing that Hushai’s counsel was actually intentionally given to save the lives of King David and the people with him.
Considering all of these stories, I can’t help but come to a couple of conclusions.

Counsel is important.

There’s a lot of cockiness wrapped up in every one of the personalities mentioned above. Yet, each one of them sought counsel. Even with their high opinion of themselves, they still sought out the counsel of others.
Most of what we observe in the character and behavior of these men is not admirable, and we should not strive to emulate it. Except in this one thing. Like them, we should never be too proud to seek counsel.
But, we should remember a second reality that these men, sadly, ignored.

Our choice in counsel is even more important.

This is where I’ve been parked lately. How do I choose my counselors? Do I seek out those who will simply support what I already want to do? Do I look for the popular or easy to follow advice? Or do I see advisers that will steer me well, regardless of my desires?

The wise choice seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, so often that wisdom does not flow through into our practical choices. We instead surround ourselves with advisers and counselors who advise based on practical ideas or pros and cons or what they see will make us happiest or what will keep our relationships and status quo running smoothly.
The advice we need has nothing to do with the most practical option or even our happiness or relationships. It has to do with the will of the Lord. In fact, far more often than not, His will seems to completely contradict the practical and “obvious” route. His will involves trust even when the path is not clear. It involves obedience even when the results seem painful.
Godly advisers will help us know how to trust and obey. Are those the counselors we seek?

Posted in Marriage Monday

What’s Really Going On?

It’s one of those days when absolutely nothing goes right. Everything you touch seems to be out to get you. Then, your husband walks in the door, and suddenly, he becomes part of “everything.” Every word he says and everything he does seems to be an intentional attack.

If he’s going to “intentionally” aggravate you, you’re going to dish it right back. Whether it’s snapping at everything he says, refusing to cooperate in anything he does, or bringing up old frustrations that feel very unresolved in the moment, you’re going to find a way to make sure he knows just how frustrating he is being.

The Nagging Truth

Somewhere in the back of your mind, there’s this nagging thought that you’re being unreasonable. The truth is that it’s one of those days when it is completely impossible for him to succeed and give you what you want. His words and actions aren’t really aggravating. He is not really frustrating. But you’re frustrated, and it’s easier to lash out at him than accept the truth.

We all have bad days. We all have days when our thoughts drag us into the depths of frustration and our successes seem completely minimal. Perhaps those delightful hormones are out of whack. Maybe we’ve been ignoring the Lord’s voice for a few days. It could be that a sick child has us worried or lack of sleep has us utterly exhausted. A relationship or work situation could be weighing on our mind, or a nagging problem with one of the kids might be making us feel like failures.

There are any number of things that attack our mental well being, and we often don’t have a clue how to pinpoint the source of the attack. Since we can’t put our finger on the real cause, we can’t fix it. So, if we blame it on our husbands, we feel that we’ve come up with at least one solution.

The truth, though, is that wrapping our husbands up with the cause of our issues is not helpful. Believe me. I’ve been there far too many times.

So, what’s the alternative?

First, be honest with yourself.

If you find yourself responding negatively to your husband as soon as he walks in the door, choose to listen to that nagging truth, even if it doesn’t provide the answers you are seeking. You know it’s not him. Choose to act like it, even if you think venting would help you feel better. It won’t. Trust me.

Second, be honest with him.

You want to snap because you think it will make you feel better. Instead, just admit that you’ve had a really lousy day and you’re to the point that everything seems to be compounding that.

Finally, let him help.

No, his hugs won’t solve all your problems, but he’s also not trying to patronize you; he really does want to offer comfort. His jokes are an attempt to make you laugh, not to make light of the situation. His offer to take care of the kids’ supper is not an indication that you’re incapable; he truly wants to help.

When we’re in the middle of feeling rotten, it’s hard to take the time to step back and truly analyze the problem. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re probably close to tears. We don’t really have the energy to figure out what the real problem is. But, we don’t really have to figure out the problem in that moment. We only need to choose honesty and remember that our husbands are not really out to get us.

I can tell you from experience that this is the better way. I don’t always choose it, but I never regret it when I do.

Posted in What Works for Me


Yes, I’m going to be goofy. No serious contemplations here today.

Then again…chocolate IS a pretty serious topic, is it not?

Okay, so here’s the deal. We all know the truth about sugar. It’s addictive. It’s poison. It robs us of energy, keeps our clothes from fitting, and tastes oh so good!

I’m choosing, once again, to say no to it. I’m not getting all nit-picky – at least not yet – about every little ingredient of every bit of food I eat. Honestly, it makes a big enough difference to just say no to the mouth-watering peanut butter chocolate chip cookies or peanut brittle currently sitting on our kitchen counter. Accomplishing that is a major success, and I’m much less concerned, for now at least, about the type of yogurt I eat or the amount of sugar in this food or that.

But then there’s chocolate. I love chocolate. I crave chocolate. Yes, truly I do. So, how does that fit into the mix?

Here’s the catch – I know that in the process of cutting out sugar, I know that the teetotal mentality just does not work for me. Been there, done that many times before. What does seem to work, though, is allowing myself two small pieces of good chocolate – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – to the plan.

Nice, dark chocolate. Really dark. Sometimes with almonds and a hint of salt. Mmmmm. Oh, and my cup of Choffy, especially now that I drink it “black” most of the time – only occasionally adding a touch of dark chocolate almond milk if it happens to be a weak brew.

So, here I go. It’s day two (nope, I haven’t gotten very far!), and I’m already feeling a bit better. And somehow that chocolate was even more enjoyable yesterday when it was the ONLY sweet I ate. I can handle that!

Posted in Marriage Monday

Tending the Foundation

Over the years, I have interacted with women who have stepped into the beauty of real marriage after years of exposure to marriages of abuse. Perhaps they watched their parents endure an abusive marriage and never had the chance to see beauty in marriage before God granted them beauty in their own. Or perhaps they lived through spousal abuse themselves. Either way, they are suddenly confronted with what marriage should be: a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for the church.

Each time I talk to one of these precious, precious women, I’m delighted in the things they discover for the first time. No matter who else has seen the beauty in them, there’s something amazing when they’re told they’re beautiful for the first (or hundredth) time by a man who truly loves them. They discover how it feels to be reinforced by the person who knows them best. And they see the respect that exists between husband and wife in a God-honoring marriage. No matter how many times I see it, these three things are repeated. Every time. And it’s always beautiful!

And it’s a reminder to me. I’ll admit, there are days when I do not understand how my husband always sees me as beautiful. I get discouraged even when he builds me up. And, I do not actively express the respect I have for him. But, even when I fail to act on these things, I don’t take them for granted. I know what a blessing they are because I have see the alternative played out over and over again in the lives of other women.

Unforutnately, there are other things that I do take for granted, mainly because it is hard to fathom that marriage can exist without these things. For instance, I take for granted the fact that my husband and I both entered this marriage with a devotion to making it work.

I take for granted that we will make decisions together.

I take for granted that my husband married me, in part, because he wanted to be with me permanently. That I am his favorite person, and all other relationships – except with the Lord – are secondary.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that there are several things I assume are realities for every marriage simply because they are realities for me. But they are not. Many, many marriages, even lasting and spiritually growing marriages, exist without the aspects that I consider to be foundational.

So what do I do with that information?

First, I must never make assumptions about someone else’s marriage. I want to encourage couples. I want to see marriages strengthened and grown. I want to see them positively challenged and deepened. But, I must be careful to never assume that another marriage needs what mine needs. There is only one thing we all need – the Lord Jesus Christ at the head of our marriage. Period. If that is true, everything else will fall into place!

Secondly, I need to stop taking aspects of my own marriage for granted. The things that seem most natural are also most foundational to our relationship, and those things need attention just like our weaknesses and growth areas do. Sometimes it might be something as simple as thanking my husband for desiring to be with me. Whatever it is, I need to be intentional about tending our foundation.

How can you tend your foundation this week?

Posted in What Works for Me

Making Change Easier

Yes, I’m still thinking about change, probably because we’re still processing through how to implement some of the things I mentioned last week.

We often shy away from change because we think of the disruption. We think of the mess it will create and the temporary frustration it will bring. And, my friends, it definitely causes all of that! So, why not just leave things as they are?

It comes back to those positive effects. The results. Whether my change has been willing or unwilling – even when I fought against change very, very hard – the Lord has brought unimaginable beauty into my life as a direct result. Every time.

He has also taught me how to make the change a little easier to bear. Yes, there are practical ways to help process through change, whether it’s something as simple as reorganizing a room or something as big as a complete life upheaval.

  • Pray fervently. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but how often do we skip it as we approach or find ourselves in the middle of the chaos of change? Or, how often do we neglect to pray when it’s only a “small” change? I’ve used rearranging a room as an example of how I tend to change things up now and then. Does that truly require prayer?Honestly, it’s not about praying over every little detail. It’s about living a life of prayer so that we may do everything for the glory of God. When I’m not living a life of prayer, all change is hard – yes, even reorganizing a single room in my home. But, when I’m in a communicative, growing relationship with my Savior, His guidance flows through everything I do, no matter how big or how small.
  • Build a haven. Have a spot in life that is normal. This could be one room that isn’t touched until right before a move – or is the first to be set up afterward. This could be a relationship that keeps you energized through a life change. It could be a stretch of time in every day that stays the same no matter what else changes. Every time change faces me, my haven is different.
  • Step away now and then. Not all change requires this. If it’s a change in a schedule, for instance, a new rhythm will form within a few days and be better than ever. But, when change introduces a stretch of utter chaos, it’s a good idea to find a way to step out of the chaos for a time.

What does this look like practically? Well, for someone who likes to finish, it looks like an interruption. A delay. So, I often don’t like to follow through with this one. But, I’ve learned that I have to. It’s important to find a way to completely step out, refresh a bit, then dive back in. It can be as simple as making myself go to bed at a decent hour instead of trying to push as late as possible to continue progressing through the change through discussion, planning, or physical work.

Change is unpredictable. Change never impacts us the same way twice. But, we can process through change well when we are fully surrendered to the way the Lord is working through us!

Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets

Fruit or Weed?

This year, we tried to grow strawberries.

We purchased young plants, laid a foundation for them, added some soil, followed the directions to get the plants into the ground, and waited expectantly.

The plants did start to grow quickly. And, we did find a few little strawberries, some of which were mouth-wateringly delicious. But, that was it. A handful of little bitty strawberries, followed by nothing.

Well, I can’t exactly say nothing. Lots of green. But no strawberries.

Meanwhile, though, another vine has grown quite well in the same soil. And some grass. And a few other weeds. No matter how much we have tried to keep them out of the strawberry patch, they have stubbornly returned. And they grow well. Very, very well.

The same soil denies growth to the strawberries but allows the weeds to flourish.

What about our spiritual soil?

I suppose the real question is not about our soil but about our ability to discern whether the growth is fruit or weeds. You see, some weeds resemble desirable plants. The vine that is working very hard to take over our strawberry patch (and many other places in our yard) is not an ugly vine. In fact, looking out my window today, I see some pretty purple flowers on the vine. To an unpracticed gardener like myself, it might often be difficult to determine what is weed and what is actually a desirable plant.

And, sadly, the same is true spiritually. Many, many things sprout up from our spiritual soil that seem to be great spiritual fruit. Productivity at church. A great feeling of communion and community through a Bible study or other small group. Or even a belief that we “know” what Scripture is saying about this topic or that.

How can we tell if our spiritual growth is fruit or weeds?

1) Real growth always points to Jesus Christ. There will be a desire to glorify Him, draw closer to Him, and honor Him in every way.
2) Real growth dives deeply into the Word of God. It is not topical, nor is it focused on limited portions of Scripture. A passion for the whole of Scripture is evident.
2) Real growth deepens our hunger. We won’t be able to get enough. We’ll want more of Scripture, more of Christian community, and more growth for ourselves and those around us.
3) Real growth is unselfish. This is most evident in that small group time. Do we just want more of our group, or do we want more of God’s work, whatever that looks like? If we just want more of our group, it’s not real growth.
4) Real growth results in a passion for the lost and for growth in other believers. We want to see the kingdom expanded, and we’re willing to do what it takes to accomplish that.

Real growth does not crave comfort. It is never satisfied with the knowledge and understanding already gleaned. And it cannot be contained. It desires to explode and expand, and it is not satisfied with staying as it is.

My strawberry plants cannot move to new soil. In fact, it’s really too late for me to do anything about them this year. Next year, I want to do more to provide better, richer, more nourishing soil. I want to do more to rid our strawberry patch of the random weeds and annoying, invasive vine. I want to create an environment for my strawberries to grow well.

As believers, we don’t have to wait for next year, though. We can check our soil today. We can evaluate our growth and do what we need to do to make sure that what we see growing in our lives is true fruit, not weeds.

What’s growing in your soil?