Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Unconditional Love and Respect in Marriage

image of blue nile wedding ringsImage Courtesy of Blue Nile Jewelry

Ephesians 5: 33 lets us know that we are to unconditionally love and respect our spouses, and in doing so we represent God's love and respect for us. In class we discussed how God shows us love and respect. There are some universal ways in which He show this to us.

  • God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
  • God is patient with us, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance - insinuating that God will respect our decisions and not force us to trust Him even though He desires it.

There are much more universal ways, but there are also many personal ways God shows individually shows us love and respect. God can give us a personal Scripture that speaks to our need. He can lead us to a personal calling of something He wants us to do. For each of us in this class, parenting is one of those callings. But, in order to hear this specific heart of love and respect for us personally from God, it is best to set aside time to spend with Him. Prayer and listening to God is a great way to know how God feels about you. Reading the Bible and talking about God with other Christians can also awaken our hearts to these feelings.

God loves and respects each of us more than our actions deserve. But, when we united our lives with Christ, all that God sees and feels for Jesus are also placed on us. It is what we were created for. We are the apple of His eye and the pride of His heart.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

God Puts Us With Out Opposite in Marriage

Ransomed Heart logoAllison and I receive John Eldredge's newsletters by mail. The following is what he sent for Ransomed Heart's September newsletter. John and Staci are releasing a marriage book in January called, Love and War, which this newsletter is an excerpt from. It goes right along with what we discussed in class and what we will continue to talk about. Enjoy

Love and War Book imageDear Friends,

Just this morning Stasi and I were talking about marriages we both know, and we came to a pretty sobering realization - we can't name one marriage that hasn't been through deep waters in the last three years. Not one. And we know a lot of people, and a lot of marriages. You'd think we'd be able to point to some couple who is trouble free. We can't find one. Not One. Every single marriage we know is either currently struggling, or they've just passed through some major struggle, or they've thrown in the towel. What's with that?

Is it just a bad time to be married, like the 90's were a bad time to live in Rwanda? Is it a bad time for marriage generally, like last fall was a bad time to be in the stock market? Or maybe it's something else. Maybe there's something about marriage, something inherent to it, that we'd all do well to go ahead and admit, face head-on, come to terms with. Marriage is fabulously hard.

Everybody who's been married knows this. Though years into marriage it still catches us off guard, all of us. And newly married couples, when they discover how hard it is, they seem genuinely surprised. Shocked, and disheartened by the fact. Are we doing something wrong? Did I marry the right person? The sirens that lure us into marriage - romance, love, passion, sex, longing, companionship - they seem so far fro the actual reality of married life we fear we've made a colossal mistake, caught the wrong bus, missed our flight. And so the hardness also comes as something of an embarrassment (don't you feel embarrassed to admit how hard your marriage is?) Maybe it's just us.

Nope. This is everyone. We might as well come out and say it.

The sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we'll find our way through. Of course marriage is hard. For heaven's sake, bring together a man and a woman - two creatures who think, act and feel so differently you'd think they'd come from separate solar systems - and ask them to get along for the rest of their lives under the same roof. That's like taking Cinderella and Huck Finn, tossing them in a submarine and closing the hatch. What did you think would happen?

When it comes to high-level expeditions, one piece of advice that veterans unanimously urge is this: "Choose your tent mate carefully." For you are going to spend weeks to months on end shut-in by foul weather in the forced intimacy of a tiny fabric cocoon with this person. By the time it's over everything about them will drive you mad - the way they eat, the way they breathe, the way they hum show tunes or pick their nails. To keep yourself from a Donnor party ending, you must start with people you are utterly compatible with.

God does the opposite - he puts us with our opposite. Our mutual brokenness plays off of each other so perfectly it's frightening. It's like throwing a dog and a cat in the dryer. Is he absolutely mad? Why would God do such a thing?

Because marriage is a divine conspiracy. It is a conspiracy divinely arranged and with divine intent. God lures us into marriage through love and sex and loneliness, or simply the fact that someone finally paid attention - all those reasons that you got married in the first place. It doesn't really matter, he'll do whatever it takes. he lures us into marriage and then he uses it to transform us.

Come back to the fairy tales - in every one of those stories, the boy and the girl each carry a fatal flaw. if they refuse their transformation - which is essential to the plot of the story - they'll never make it. Evil will win, they will lose heart and split up, and there will be no happily ever after. Beauty and the Beast. The Horse and His Boy, The Golden Key- in every one of those stories, happily ever after waits upon a peculiar turn of events, at the center of which is their transformation.

We all have a style of relating, we have a way that we do life. Our carefully crafted approach colors the way we work, the way we love, the way we handle stress and the way we look for life. Our style is borne out of brokenness and sin, and it is the number one thing that gets in the way of real love and companionship, the shared adventure and all the beauty of marriage. It's really this simple - the number one thing that gets in the way is your way. And we have absolutely no intention of giving it up. Not even to love. So God creates an environment where we have to. It's called marriage.

Now listen carefully - God wants us to be happy. He really does. He simply knows that until we deal with our brokenness, our sin, an dour style of relating, we aren't going to be happy. Nobody around us is going to be very happy, either. Most of what you've been experiencing in the last twelve months is God's attempt to get you to face your style of relating, and repent of it.

This is the old Christian understanding of the world, the understanding that happiness is the fruit of other things, chief among them our own holiness, and so we must undergo a transformation. Just like the fairy tales, we must share in God's holiness before the story is finished. This flies in the face of the more popular view of the world that's crept in recently - the happiness view. This is the idea that frames most people's expectations of marriage (and everything else) - the view that we're here for our happiness and so you'd better make me happy. It comes as quite a disruption when we begin to realize that God might have other things in mind!

But once we accept the plot of the conspiracy - our transformation - then we can get on with the cooperating with God, and that opens the door to all sorts of good things.

This is an excerpt from the book Stasi and I just finished reading on marriage, entitled Love and War. It comes out at the end of the year. But we thought we might begin sharing some of it with you now. We think everyone - married and single - will find the themes true and helpful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We Are Intended for Pleasure

This John Eldredge daily reading came out today. We hit on this topic in class when we discussed that God's ultimate desire for us is to be holy not happy. Eldredge describes this well by emphasizing that pleasure is still a large concern of the Father for us. I would love to hear your comments on what he has written.

Ransomed Heart

Intended for Pleasure

But doesn’t Christianity condemn desire – the Puritans and all that? Not at all. Quite the contrary. Christianity takes desire seriously – far more seriously than the stoic or the mere hedonist. Christianity refuses to budge from the fact that man was made for pleasure, that his beginning and his end is a paradise, and that the goal of living is to find Life. Jesus knows the dilemma of desire and he speaks to it in nearly everything he says. When it comes to the moral question, it is neither simply yes or no to desire, but always what we do with our desire. Christianity recognizes that we have desire gone mad within us. But it does not seek to rectify the problem by killing desire; rather, it seeks the healing of desire, just as it seeks the healing of every other part of our human being.

“Two things contribute to our sanctification,” wrote Pascal. “Pains and pleasures.” And while we know that our journey is strewn with danger and difficulty, “the difficulties they meet with are not without pleasure, and cannot be overcome without pleasure.” Where do you find Jesus saying, “The problem with you people is, you want too much. If you’d just learn to be happy with less, we’d all get along just fine.” “My commands are for your good,” he says, “always.” Something has gone wrong in us, very wrong indeed. So wrong that we have to be told that joy is not found in having another man’s wife, but in having our own. But the point is not the law, the point is the joy. Need I say more than this: Modern Christianity has brought an entire group of people to the point where they have to be told that sex is, in the words of one book, “intended for pleasure.”

God is realistic. He knows that ecstasy is not an option; we are made for bliss and we must have it, one way or another. He also knows that happiness is fragile and rests upon a foundation greater than happiness. All the Christian disciplines were formulated at one time or another in an attempt to heal desire’s waywardness, and so by means of obedience, bring us home to bliss. Walter Brueggemann suggests that faith on its way to maturity moves from “duty to delight.” If it is not moving, then it has become stagnant. If it has changed the goal from delight to duty, it has gone backwards; it is regressing. This is the great lost truth of the Christian faith, that correction of Judaism made by Jesus and passed on to us: The goal of morality is not morality – it is ecstasy. You are intended for pleasure!
(Desire, 46-47)

Our Kids Need Us

This video does not relate to our study, but I thought you would like it. Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Finding God in Marriage

Unusual giraffe and ostrich imageImage Source Unknown

Marriage is the coming together of two very different people and making the differences work. Immediately we can see the analogy to our relationship with God as He is so much different from us yet committed to making a relationship with us work. Finding God in marriage is not really that hard once you start looking. The problem we face is that it is hard to look past our differences with our spouse to see anything good.

There is an old joke I hard about a bride on her wedding day. As she enters the sanctuary, she sees three things. First she sees the aisle she has to walk down. Then she sees the altar where she is going to walk to. And, finally she see him - the guy shes to marry. In that order, she thinks: aisle, altar, him. Or, I'll alter him.

But if marriage is to work, we must be willing to becoming like our spouse. I hear what you are saying, God is not like that He does want to alter us. We are to become like God. Yes, since He knows what is best for us, He does want us to become more like Him. But do not forget that God was so committed to making it work with us that he took on flesh. He became like us. So yes, God does want us to become like Him, but He became like us first.

There are so many other ways we can find God in marriage, and we had a great discussion yesterday regarding these. It was a great class, and I am looking forward going through Sacred Romance this fall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

To Become Like Jesus

If you want to do the work of Jesus, stay single.
If you want to become like Jesus, get married.

This is a paraphrase from the book. While it is not entirely true, it does get at the heart of the book. When you live 24/7 with another person, who knows your thoughts and actions... who know who you are when no one else is looking, then your impurities start to show. Your spouse does not make you a bad person or more sinful. Your spouse reveals where you do not live out who you really are.

This is exactly what Jesus wants. Not to make you feel bad about yourself but to gently persuede you to become who you were created to be. Remember conviction is good. It is of the Spirit. It leads to life. When we don't take these issues to Jesus, then it becomes shame and leads to death. It is all a matter of perspective.

Your spouse is God's perfect gift to you. Never try to think of them as anything else.

Helpful Advice for Husbands

Gentelmen, do you want to build a marriage that is sturdy, like an oak? Here is some helpful advice from the guys at IgniterMedia.com. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Class Schedule Changes

It was great to see everyone again and be back in room 225 with the couches and the outdoor view. We also need to thank Gwladys and Reynolda for providing the Krispy Kreme.

Two major administration decisions came from yesterday:
  1. We will keep meeting every week.
  2. Class will now meet from 11:00 - 12:15.

Other than that, we shared stories of our summer and introduced the Sacred Marriage book. We will be studying chapters 1 and 2 next week focusing on the topic: Finding God in Marriage.

Something to do in Winston

This Saturday we are planning on a play date for our kids at Funigan's. Funigan's has a this very large play area: think Chick-fil-A play area times 10. There are other things for the kids to do, but this play area is great for preschoolers. Our kids can have fun for hours. Let us know if you are planning on coming.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Class Starts This Sunday

down the drain image Where did the summer go? Preschool has started back; school buses crowd the rode. Time to start back the Parents of Preschool class. We will meet this Sunday at 10:30 in room 225.

I had felt bad making people have homework for the first class, so I am rescinding this. This coming week we will just catch up on the summer, eat some snacks, and set the agenda for the coming fall. We are still going to go through Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, so go ahead and get the book if you have not yet. We will not have extras available to bring to the class this time around.

We look forward to having everyone together again!

Butterfly Farm

Butterfly ImageThis is a repeat for all of you who read your mail from Reynolda's Childrens Ministry, but there will be a trip to the Butterfly Farm for all young kids on September 30th. This is not done through the POPs class, but it is a perfect fit for us. Christal Giese is putting together a trip to All-A-Flutter Butterfly Farm. Directions to the farm are on their site. Please contact Christal at 659-6581 if you want to attend, so she can let you know any additional details.
September 30th at 10:30
  • $6 for adults
  • $5 for children 2 and older

Image courtesy of Bruce Jennings

Monday, September 7, 2009

Praying with Your Child

I have recently started a new job writing for a Prayer Blog for praytel.net. I uploaded this video of myself and Rachel to illustrate something regarding prayer. You can go here to see the blog post I wrote about Praying With Children.

I wanted to repost it here just to reiterate the importance of praying with our kids. After posting this video above, I realized that Elizabeth is now the age of Rachel in the video, so she is now in the Bible story and prayer phase. Rachel has requested to join us, but I am having to remind her that this is Elizabeth's time. She is welcome to join, but she needs to let Elizabeth be the focus.

I must admit, these times with the kids increases my time in prayer. But what Allison and I wanting is to create a lifestyle for our kids that focuses them on Jesus. This may look different for you, but prayer together has been foundational for Allison and I in our marriage, and I believe we are already seeing benefits of this time with Rachel. It takes longer to put them down, but we keep remembering it is worth it.

  • One last note, record a video of what you do with your kids. It was great to look back at this video with Rachel and see what we did.
  • If you do, post it for us to get ideas of what others are doing and be encouraged by each other.

Back to Room 225

Church out window pictureThis coming Sunday we will start back the Parents of Preschoolers class. For the fall we have been moved back to room 225: the comfy life style. For those that started with us in the spring, you missed the scenic views and the comfy couches, but it all has been given back. As with the church blessing of the year, we have been restored our fortunes. :) Look forward to seeing everyone again this Sunday.

Reynolda Classroom Map