Tuesday, January 31, 2012

20/20 Vision

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." (Psalm 139:14, NKJV)

Think back to the moment you first "fell" in love with your spouse. For several months you probably viewed him/her through rose-colored lenses. Your eyes were opened wide to the amazing qualities that your spouse possessed that were often overlooked by others. Any shortcoming your spouse may have had was grossly overshadowed by love. Hence, the famous quote, "love is blind."

However, I tend to think it is just exactly the opposite. I came across this quote:

"Love is not blind - it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less." --Julius Gordon

I believe that love gives us panoramic vision. It looks far beyond perceived flaws in order to reveal magnificent beauty. If you stare too closely at a Monet, you will only see small dappled strokes on a canvas, rather than a priceless work of art.

Perhaps your own unmet needs and unrealistic expectations have clouded the way you view your spouse over the years. God did not make a mistake when he joined the two of you together. Your spouse is His creation. He wants you to view your partner through His eyes, not through judgment or condemnation. Decide today to throw away the glasses that magnify your spouse's weaknesses.

Make a list of the good qualities that your spouse possesses. Thank the Lord for entrusting you with His wonderful creation. Look up a corresponding Bible verse that highlights each quality.

My list for Adam is:
  1. He is sacrificial--always placing my needs above his. (Ephesians 5:25)
  2. He is full of integrity, doing the right thing even under pressure.(Psalm 26:1)
  3. He is reliable--if he says he is going to do something, he follows through. (James 5:12)
  4. He is a visionary who can see what others cannot. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
  5. He has amazing discernment.(Daniel 2:21)
  6. His unconditional love towards me gives me a greater understanding of God's love for me. (I Corinthians 13:5)
  7. He is an amazing steward of what God has given him. (I Corinthians 4:2)
  8. He shows me patience in my weaknesses. (Genesis 29:20)
  9. He works diligently and with excellence, unto God rather than man. (Colossians 3:23)
  10. He has a generous heart. (II Corinthians 9:7)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Are You on Common Time?

There is a unique eclipse that occurs every day. If you are not looking for it, you may miss its beautiful significance.  It is the sacred intersection of time when you and your spouse are simply together. For Adam and I, our common time is at night and on the weekends. God has really challenged us to use this time to grow closer with one another.

It has been 9 days into our 30 day "trial separation" from TV, and God has really shown us some amazing insights. One of our goals for this time was to understand each other's hearts on a deeper level. We have had so many meaningful conversations, and have really put everything aside just to listen to each other.

One of our conversations turned to finances. We are wanting to make some financial strides in 2012. We figured out an effortless way to save an extra $150 a month. God is also showing us some creative ways to make additional income.

We also are growing spiritually together, setting aside time to read the Bible, and seeking direction in this season of our lives. We both sense that this is a strategic time that God is using to rearrange and transition us so that He can give us the desires of our hearts.

He has reminded us that all blessings flow from intimacy. I think that is why common time is so important. Aside from your personal relationship with God, your spouse should be your first priority. I remember attending premarital counseling with Adam when we were engaged, and we mutally agreed that putting our marriage first would give us a graceful balance in all other areas of our life.

We always feel "not quite right" when the balance has been tilted. I believe this is God showing us how to order our lives so that we can experience the abundant life that He has promised--overflowing with joy and full of peace.

~John 10:10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (NKJV)

A few "uncommon" benefits of common time with your spouse:

  • increased intimacy
  • greater spiritual unity
  • emotional healing
  • new springs of creativity
  • financial unity
  • clarity of vision
  • strategies for the season

Friday, January 27, 2012

At the Crossroads

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both...I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost

You are probably familiar with these first and last poetic lines of the The Road Not Taken. It is one of my all-time favorites. In my high school English class, we had to memorize it for a grade. In choir, we sang the lines of this poem together in beautiful harmony. However, there comes a time when you simply must act on these prophetic words.

From the moment you say "I do," the decisions you face seem to double with each passing day. Where will we live? What will be our career paths? Our ministry? When will we have children? Each decision you make not only affects yourself, but also your spouse. It is easy to see why sometimes you hesitate at the crossroads a little longer because it is so important to make the right choice.

If you are facing a big decision in your marriage, you can have confidence that God will lead you every step of the way. If you are feeling overwhelmed, know that the most important decision that you have to make has already been made if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He will peacefully walk you through the process. God promises us that He will give us the wisdom we need as we humbly seek Him for guidance.

James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (NKJV, emphasis mine)

At times, the enemy will try to cloud your thoughts and tangle your emotions in effort to paralyze you from taking action. This is especially true of individuals who care so deeply about the decisions they make. If you are feeling confusion, you must first ask God to clear the spiritual atmosphere. You can be sure it is not from Him.

I Corinthians 14:33 says, "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Next, if one of the choices you are considering conflicts with Biblical truth, you should eliminate it. A decision that is not from Him has a guaranteed dead-end. (if you have made one of these, don't despair, God will get you back on track).

Once you are aligned with His word, and are full of peace, expect to hear His voice! You will have to train yourself to have your spirit tuned in and turned up at all times. This is especially true if the decision you face seems to split into multiple paths.

Here are some questions you may want to ask as you listen for His voice.

1) If I make choice A, would it be out of fear or out of faith?
2) Does choice A coincide with God's revealed will for my life?
3) If I take choice A, will it allow the Lord to use me more or less for His Kingdom?
4) Will choice A have a positive or negative impact on my spouse?
5) Does choice A reflect my God-given talents and abilities?
6) Will choice A contribute or detract from fulfilling my purpose in life?
7) Do I have a desire to do choice A?

God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (NKJV, emphasis mine)

If you believe that God has given you an answer, be sure to pray for confirmation. Sometimes, God will use individuals who are anointed with the Spirit of Counsel in your church to confirm what is already in your heart.

Also, be sensitive to God's established order for marriage. God may speak directly to your husband first. Once your husband shares his vision, it will be confirmed in your heart if you are flowing in unity. Submit joyfully, knowing that your husband has sought out what is best for the both of you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hidden Treasures of Suffering

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10)

If you and your spouse are experiencing any type of trial or affliction, take heart! I have always had a deep need to understand throughout my life. There are times when I come to the Lord in prayer and ask earnestly for His wisdom and understanding. So many people are suffering either physically, mentally, or emotionally. At times, it feels as if the needs of this world overwhelm my heart. That is when I turn to My Heavenly Father, Who withholds no good thing from His children.

As I was praying yesterday, I felt the glory of the Lord descend, and in His presence I had a vision. He showed me a new revelation about the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. I saw a vision of the "spirit man." He showed me that every time our flesh is tested and torn down, He fills it with His Spirit. I saw wounds literally being filled up with heavenly deposits. He starts with the heart and builds an incorruptible Spirit man inside of us, a total new creation.

This flesh that we are housed in will eventually wear out, but God is literally building something inside of us that can never wear out. There is a supernatural exchange that takes place. God is an economic God; He wastes nothing. He uses your suffering for His glory and it will ultimately work together for your good and His plan of salvation. Although you cannot naturally perceive the treasures, they are there all the same. That is where faith comes in.

May God give you spiritual eyes to see when you feel blinded by the storm. God calls you blessed! As you read this passage, notice the reoccurring italicized word "are" in the below means you are blessed now--present tense--even in the midst of your suffering. Jesus lovingly placed special emphasis on this word because He knows you don't always feel this!

~Matthew 5:3-12~

3  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4   Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
5   Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
6   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
7   Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
8   Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
9   Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted  for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Hour of Refreshing

There are some days when my husband has to work long days, sometimes 13 or 14 hours. He literally returns home exhausted. Yesterday was one of those days.

Of course, these inevitably are the nights that I need him for something incredibly important ( me, anyway). As I am folding the last few items in my laundry pile, I spot perhaps the largest roach I have ever seen in my life on top of my dresser.

Normally, I frantically yell for Adam's help, and he heroically appears with a fire extinguisher...ahem...I mean a can of Raid. My small contribution in this process is quite simple. I watch the roach and quietly stalk him on his trail to make sure he doesn't scuttle off.

With Adam busily working miles away, I had to quickly muster up some courage and think fast.

My solution?

I sternly tell the roach out loud, "Don't move. I will be right back." (this roach was so BIG, naturally I assumed it had ears).

I sprint downstairs and return armed with two weapons, a can of Raid and a can of Black Flag. Perhaps I can do some marketing research to determine which one really is more effective. Even more impressively, this roach with ears was also obedient because it was in the exact same spot as it was before.

I scrunch up my face from the sheer disgust of it all and start spraying with all I have. As further evidence that this is not your average Joe-Shmoe-Roach, the instant I raised the can in the air, the roach scampers off into a hiding place unbeknownst to me. I imagine the mama roaches warn their baby roachlets of these foreboding cans through bedtime stories.

After a long fruitless search for this mysterious roach, I decided I would do the next most logical thing--rent our bedroom out to the vanishing vermin and sleep downstairs for the night. Maybe I would strategically leave him a sticky mint on my pillow...

After Adam returned from his marathon day, I informed him of my plan. Not crazy about turning our living room into a camping site, he took over the search as I prepared a last-minute dinner.

He, too, discovered that the roach had vanished into thin air. We decided to lay aside the annoyances of the day, and enjoy our last hour of the night at the dinner table. After scarfing down some pizza, we just sat and talked. Adam shared what God was revealing to him in this spiritual season, and suddenly I just felt renewed both emotionally and spiritually. It was such an indescribably sweet time. As we prayed for each other, it felt like a refreshing rain that erased all the stress of the day. In fact, the last hour made all the other hours in the day worth it. We crashed in bed and fell asleep.  I must have forgotten all about the roach.

"You gave abundant showers, Oh God; you refreshed your weary inheritance." (Psalm 68:9, NIV)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Love or Religion?

The marriage union is a type and shadow of our covenant relationship with Christ. Because of this predefined parallel, problems that arise in your marriage must be answered by spiritual truths. Deep disappointments that you experience in your marriage are not designed to be dead-ends, but rather road signs that point you back to theological truths.
If you are a Christian, you know that any love that you have for your spouse ultimately originates from Christ. I John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us." Love is a free gift. James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."

If you impart love to your spouse only when he/she meets your expectations, your marriage is based on religion. Either you have consciously or subconsciously constructed a set of rules or conditions that your spouse must fulfill in order to merit your love. It is no wonder that many divorces spring from unrealistic expectations. When expectations are erected in a marriage, anything short of perfection will end in disappointment. To further complicate this impossible situation, spousal expectations are often internalized rather than communicated. Imagine not only having to hit a bull's eye, but to have to do it blindfolded!

If you are wondering if your marriage is tainted by a spirit of religion, examine if you or your spouse are experiencing these warning signs:
  • apathy
  • chronic guilt
  • a sense of inadequacy
  • feelings of condemnation
  • control/rebellion
  • bitterness/resentment
When these symptoms exist, you can be sure that the flow of love and forgiveness has been stopped by the tourniquet of religion. Each of these emotions are designed to inhibit intimacy and create the illusion of hopelessness. Your marriage could be suffering from religious spirits that emanated from childhood wounds or seeped over from past unhealthy relationships.

Do not despair if you recognize these religious hallmarks. Instead, make these steps to restore your relationship:
  • Set an appointment with a Christian counselor
  • Ask the Lord to reveal any judgments that you have made against your spouse, so that you may receive His forgiveness.
  • Resolve to love your spouse not from your own capacity, but through Christ's love in you. 
  • Surprise your spouse by showing love when it is "undeserved." 
  • Pray for your spouse daily
Even if your spouse does not respond to your unconditional love, you can have peace in knowing that God is building Christ's character in you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Smoothing out the Wrinkles

"Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert."(Isaiah 43: 18-19, NKJV)

Hearing miraculous stories from fellow Christians always invigorates my own faith. One man told us about his stove burner that had not worked in over twenty years. Feeling led by the fire of the Holy Spirit, he prayed over the burner and commanded it to work in the name of Jesus. He turned the knob, and immediately the burner heated up perfectly.

That very day, I decided I would "exercise" my own faith on a defective clothing iron that my husband was about to toss in the trash. Instead of heating up like a good iron should, it stubbornly flashed an error message every time it was plugged in. Feeling expectant, I prayed over the iron, commanding it to function properly. I asked my husband Adam to pray over it as well. We plugged it in and the error message did not come on. I was so excited, I began jumping up and down. I noticed Adam did not join in on my fit of celebration, but instead stared shrewdly at the iron.

The error message began blinking like clockwork. Adam calmly informed me that it takes about five seconds for the error message to come on and he was just waiting for that to happen. In snap judgment, I told him that his doubt must have inhibited the answer. Discerning how deeply important this was to me, Adam prayed with me again in heartfelt unity. We plugged it in again, only to be greeted by the taunting error message.

With no one left to blame, I went upstairs carrying the weight of my disappointment. After enumerating my frustrations to God, I let out a sigh and listened for His response. He showed me that I was not putting my faith in Christ alone, but rather on a particular outcome. I was seeking His hand, not His heart. He quickened in my spirit Isaiah 43:18-19, and told me to thank Him not only for the new iron that He would provide, but also for smoothing out the wrinkles in my faith....oh and to apologize to Adam.

Of course, God is more than able to perform the miraculous at any moment. However, more than that, His ultimate desire was for me to grow closer to Him. It turns out, the "error message" was a sign to me that I was out of order. I had to toss out my old defective version of faith, and allow God to let a new faith spring forth in me.

Lord, forgive me when I place my faith in the results that I desire, instead of You alone. Your ways are higher than my ways. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. Give me a faith that aligns with Your perfect will and shape it to form Your heart in me. I never want to confine You, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Thank you for the new spiritual blessings springing forth in my life. Today, faith is keeping my eyes on You. Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Sound of Your Marriage

My favorite word to say is on-o-mat-o-poe-ia. Basically, these are words that sound like the objects they name or the sounds those objects make. Zip,boom, plop, crackle, plink are just a few examples. Children's book author Dr. Seuss was an expert at crafting entertaining stories centered around these captivating sounds.

I started reflecting on "onomatopoeias" in relation to marriage, but not in the conventional sense. Phrases that we commonly express to each other such as "I love you" or "I forgive you." In order for these words to echo a sound in our marriages, we must act upon them.

Words that we speak from God's heart release light. Genesis 1:3 reads, Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. Pair this with Genesis 1:26-27, 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Notice in verse 26 God made a declaration (spoken word) and in verse 27 He created (action).When God created man, Adam's heart began to beat or make a sound. A heartbeat is an indication that someone is alive.

The correlation between light and sound can also be demonstrated by a thunderstorm. When we see a lightning bolt in the sky, we wait for the inevitable sound of thunder. The distance of lightning can be calculated by the listener based on the time interval from when the lightning is seen to when the sound is heard. The sound that the thunder makes is clap, boom, or crack (onomatopoeias).

When we see lightning in the sky, we expect to hear thunder. The sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning. The space between the declaration (light) and the manifestation (sound) is expectation.

Perhaps the distance or space between you and your spouse can be determined by words that you have spoken (light), but have not acted upon (sound). If you are feeling atmospheric pressure in your relationship, it is because the words you have spoken to your spouse have not manifested in your marriage. If you say the words, "I forgive you," you have essentially made a declaration that longs to be fulfilled by your supporting actions. Resentment, grudges, and withdrawal “mute” the sound of these words in your spouse. However, words we have spoken in our marriage become "onomatopoeias" the moment we act upon them. There is no differentiation between the word and the action. What a pleasing sound to the ear :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Trial Separation

For the next thirty (30) days, Adam and I will have a trial separation.....from television!! (hope we didn't scare anyone out there). The title was designed to grab your attention and distract you from what you are doing. Is that not exactly what television does? So many times at night, we will curl up at dinner to watch a cooking show like "Chopped" or "House Hunters International," but the preview for the next show will lure us into watching one more.

I am not saying that television is intrinsically evil or morally unsound, we just feel that it is beginning to encroach on our time that would be better spent elsewhere. We have set new goals that we want to realize this year, but goals always imply a strategy.

Ironically, we were watching a TV special last night when we came to our decision. It reported Americans' growing dependency on technology to arguably unhealthy levels. The question was posed, "Are you in charge of your BlackBerry or is your BlackBerry in charge of you?" What began as an innovation for convenience has grown into an invasion of boundaries and information overload. I learned a new term called "e-mail bankruptcy." According to Wikipedia, "email bankruptcy is a term used to identify or explain a decision to close an email account or to delete all messages older than a certain date, due to an overwhelming receipt of garbage messages compared to legitimate messages." Subsequently, a message is sent explaining the problem and relating that if a response is still required, to resend the message. The news story was reporting that even business professionals have occasionally invoked this alternative upon returning to work after vacation due to the sheer inundation of emails.

It is undeniable that our culture is socially integrated by technology. Accidentally leaving your cell phone at home will trigger that same sick feeling you have from misplacing your purse or wallet. It has become a part of our identity. I recently read a compelling article titled, A social-media addict tries to disconnect. She chronicles her commitment to unplug for the week.

It really got us thinking about incremental tolerances that we have accepted as a part of our normal routine. Although sitting shoulder to shoulder watching TV together is cozy and comforting, it does not facilitate our growth as a couple. If we are jogging together, or at a restaurant face to face, the likelihood of engaging in quality conversation is much greater than if we are willing captives to an electronic screen.

Perhaps TV consumes more of our time than we think. A few years ago, Neilsen Media research reported that the average American watches 4 hours of television a day. This translates into five full days a month, two months a year, and an astonishing nine years by the time you turn 65. This number has only trended upwards. In 2010, Neilsen Research found that Americans watch 34 hours of television a week, or over 4.8 hours a day.

What could you do with all this extra time? A month from now, we will let you know how it has impacted us. Ask God what He would have you "fast" for a season. It could be Facebook, getting up an hour earlier, or simply letting your cell phone go to voicemail for an hour or two.

Joel 2:25, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust. My great army which I sent among you." (NKJV)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recipe for Comfort Food

"Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing." ~I Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV)

There is something indescribably satisfying about digging into comfort food when you are emotionally exhausted or bone tired. Your favorite comfort food may be different from someone else's. Those with a sweet tooth will be drawn to chewy brownies or gooey chocolate chip cookies. Others may gravitate towards salty foods like chips or fried chicken.

Likewise, your spouse craves your comfort and encouragement so deeply. Keep in mind, each person is different. Keep tweaking the recipe if something is missing. The combination of ingredients and proper proportions are determined by how your spouse receives love. Ask God to show you what your husband or wife is craving in each season.

You can give your spouse edification not only through words, but also acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and time shared together. Be attentive to how your spouse receives love. Keep in mind it may not be the way you naturally give it. Love will ask you to step outside your comfort zone. This is the crux of The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman.

 Need some quick ideas?

1) Design a PowerPoint slide show or photo scrapbook of your favorite memories as a couple
2) Plant a sticky note on the steering wheel that says "I love you"
3) Give a bouquet of flowers (to your wife) or candy bars (to your husband...or wife)
4) Rent or buy your spouse's favorite movies and watch them together
5) Do a household chore that your spouse usually does without asking
6) Make a mix CD of your spouse's favorite songs...or should I say i-Tunes?
7) Cook your spouse's favorite meal. Serve and do the dishes
8) Give him/her a massage without expecting one in return
9) Send an email of appreciation to your spouse when he/she is at work
10) Plan a date that is centered around your spouse's favorite activities

Can you think of others?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Strengthen Your Immune System

"When it comes to health, when the body feels safe and is at ease, the nervous system is able to quiet and be more normal. Then the immune system is able to function better. When the body is safe and feels safe, all its other functions can help combat disease." ~Patricia Megregian

Marriage is wonderfully complex, just like the human body. Although it has the capacity to function at the cellular level of God's design, it must contend with daily threats of the outside world. I found it interesting that the human body must feel "safe" in order to function optimally.

It has been cited that the number one need in females is security. What makes one woman feel secure may differ from another. Personality, levels of sensitivity, past wounds, upbringing, environment, and spiritual location all impact the delicate balance of marital security.

However, a man must feel safe too, just in a different way. The number one need in a man is respect. Oftentimes, a husband deals with frustration when he feels his wife resisting his leadership.

Arguments tend to originate when we are operating from a micro-level with a truncated perspective. We must view marriage from the macro-level, and grow in our understanding of its inherent interdependence.

How do you get back to "safe?"

When the nervous system of your marriage is in overdrive, you must ask the Holy Spirit to do what you cannot do on your own. When a wife feels insecure, her fleshly reaction is to withdraw and withhold trust. Power is released when you do just the opposite--trusting when it is not natural to do so. When a wife trusts her husband, he feels "safe" in being a leader. And remember, trust begets trust. Proverbs 31:11 says, "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil." (KJV)

Likewise, when a husband is frustrated because his wife is feeling threatened or insecure, his fleshly tendency is to be angry or withdraw. However, when he responds with love and reassurance, the need of his wife will be met because he is being led by the Spirit. Once a husband is led by the Spirit, he can become the leader that his wife desires him to be. I Peter 3:7 says, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." (KJV)

How does the immune system work?

Simply put, the immune system works by "keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out." Whether we realize it or not, marriage is always at war. Satan hates marriage. His tactics are often subtle, but always lead to damage and destruction. Just like the body, marriages have an innate immune system and an acquired immune system. Couples innately know obvious attacks on marriage such as physical abuse or adultery. However, the acquired immune system is strengthened by spiritual sensitivity and experience. Without putting on our spiritual armor, subtle toxins seep into the mind, poisoning marriage in minute doses that gradually add up over time.

What are subtle toxins to marriage?
  • small compromises- Just like satan tricked Eve by tempting her to doubt what God had commanded, satan will attempt to construct a "grey area" in our minds. He will lead us astray not by miles, but by millimeters when he injects lies into our thoughts. Consider the following:
            "It is just lunch with a co-worker, what she doesn't know won't hurt her."
             "He is just a friend I can share my problems with."
            "It hasn't crossed the physical line, so technically it is not cheating."
  • shifting priorities- No matter how good our intentions are after saying "I do," the daily demands of life will often jockey for our time. Work, social obligations, hobbies, and even ministries can create an unseen wedge in marriage. Just like those nights you "forgot to pray" because you were just too tired, we can accidentally neglect our spouse.  Spending a disproportionate amount of time in other areas can create a "disparate impact" and your marriage will suffer. It may not be intentional, but will still adversely impact your marriage.
Protect your marriage with truth found in Ephesians 6:11, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's All How Ya Look at It

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible to others." ~Jonathan Swift

This past Saturday my husband and I embarked on a garage sale scavenger hunt. We thought this would be a fun way to spend time together and hunt for hidden treasures. We were on a mission to find old furniture that we could refurbish and sell. Adam has a natural proclivity for working with his hands, and blood that flows with creative craftsmanship. His grandfather taught woodshop at the local high school in Arizona, and his dad owns a painting and renovation company.

We woke up early, full of giddy anticipation of what we might discover. Our first stop was on a road just a few miles away from where I grew up. We were welcomed by a traditional style garage sale with items spilling from the garage into the driveway. At first it seemed as though none of the items interested us. My eyes quickly scanned shelves of old baby clothes, maternity clothes, and other random knickknacks. In the corner of my eye I spotted Adam studying an old wooden headboard for a bedroom. The accompanying foot board was altogether missing, and the ornamental finials that screw on the top were also unaccounted for. The attached green sticker read, $5.

I thought, "Why on earth is Adam even looking at this tired old piece?" Cognizant of Adam's interest in the headboard, the man hosting the garage sale explained to us that he buys foreclosed homes, and sells the abandoned furniture. Noticing Adam's interest in the piece he said, "Man, you can just have this one for free. I really just want it off my property."

Adam filled me on on what I could not envision. The two arms of the headboard had beautiful exaggerated curves and were composed of solid wood. "I can make two lamps from this, " he announced.

Suddenly, I saw the discarded headboard in a whole new light (no pun intended...). I felt like we had won the jackpot.

Adam's dad let us borrow his truck to deliver our treasure safely home. We were off to our next stop. Adam knew exactly where this one was located because it was next door to the house he grew up in. This garage sale was larger, but contained similar items from the first--boxes of old clothes and various household appliances. I was about to give up hope until I spotted two bookshelves packed with books. A lot of them were recent titles or famous authors. I spotted two John Grishams and one Frank Peretti. I thought, "three books for three bucks...not bad."

We got out our money to pay the lady and she said, "It will just be a dollar for all three." Again I was struck by the favor that we had experienced.

After another successful find, we headed to Hoover for our last two stops. We pulled into a townhouse subdivision. It was almost lunch time and this particular garage sale was winding down and picked over. A few Christmas ornaments and mugs...not much to speak of. A second time, I walked around the same semi-circle of items, making sure I didn't miss anything. I found the treasure that made it all worthwhile...bamboo shades with a price tag of $1. The lady explained that they were so cheap because they were missing the mounting hardware. We bought the shades with the vision of using it as future repurposing material. I could make bamboo-wrapped candles or perhaps some other craft.

We were headed for our last stop, an estate sale in Hoover. We entered an upscale neighborhood with two long lines of parked cars flanking the road. It was organized through a professional estate service, so the items were previously appraised in order for the client to yield top dollar. Most of the items were classic collectibles that exceeded our price range, including Chippendale chairs and an antique French clock set. After not finding much downstairs, we trudged up the stairs to have one final look before we concluded our adventure.

In a bedroom off to the side, we found a beautiful bedside chest. It was painted cream with ornate carvings on each drawer. I was pleasantly surprised that it was marked $60. In exuberance, I called for Adam to come look at it.

"What a perfect piece! This is just what we were looking for!" I cheerfully exclaimed. Adam and I determined to go downstairs and make an offer. After describing the piece, the estate sale brokers accepted our offer. We triumphantly headed back upstairs to claim our piece. Much to our dismay, The price tag that rested atop the bedroom chest was missing. My mind flashed back to a woman that quickly scurried over to the piece after I had gushed over it. We headed back down the stairs, to have our theory confirmed. The woman had quietly grabbed the price tag and bought the bedroom chest from another checkout person while we were making an offer.

We headed back to the car, empty-handed. We started to feel disappointed and even a little wronged. Then, we remembered all the grace and favor we had experienced earlier. We decided to not let an isolated disappointment detract from the plethora of blessings we experienced earlier. We thanked God for all that He did for us, and our emotions quickly came back into balance. It was, after all, a very good day.

Psalm 103:2 "Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me."

Friday, January 13, 2012

We Lost the Key

This past Thanksgiving my husband and I decided to start off our morning on the right turkey toe by going on a jog. We had stuffed two feasts into one day—lunch with my immediate family, then dinner with Adam’s family mere hours later. I was hopeful that a few miles of cardio activity would gobble up the calories in a slice of pumpkin pie, or at least the ornamental cloud of whipped topping.

I am sure this was the furthest concern from Adam’s mind. He is the laid-back, dependable type who has a knack for staying in constant peace and flowing from moment to moment. I, on the other hand, can be the nail-biting planner who has a talent for making mountains out of mole hills. After double knotting my running shoes, I glanced at the time on the microwave. We had about two hours before we had to arrive at my sister and brother-in-law’s house for Turkey Day round one. I mentally calculated how long it would take to complete our run and get ready. Since my husband completely gutted our shower in the master bedroom for renovation, we would have to take turns showering in the guest bathroom. The sense of time urgency began to heighten. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my running partner casually checking the stock boards on his laptop. Adam looked over the screen nonchalantly and asked, “You ready, Sweetheart?”

Faster than a wink, I grabbed two glasses from the kitchen cabinet and filled them to the brim with ice and water. I like to prepare our iced water before we run instead of after to avoid the possibility of contaminating our ice cubes with sweat molecules (just kidding...sort of...) Finally, we were both ready.

We stepped outside into a postcard-worthy scene of autumn. The weather was unseasonably mild with an occasional gentle breeze that conjured up the incense of burning leaves. The circular nature trail was literally footsteps from our townhouse. We started running at a slow, but steady pace. About halfway through our first lap, Adam stopped suddenly. He squatted down with a purposeful, squinted expression toward the ground, which was carpeted with layers of brown leaves.

“What are we looking for?” I asked, somewhat perplexed.

“I dropped the key.” He said, tracing his steps around a one-foot radius circle with his eyes glued to the ground.

In silence, Adam and I took small backwards steps in repetitive circles with our elbows tucked back and our faces close to the ground. I have no doubt we looked like crazed chickens—or should I say turkeys.

After minutes ticking by with no key in sight, I recalled an incriminating conversation I had earlier with my husband.

ME: “Adam, why don’t I thread the key through my shoelace so we don’t lose it?”

ADAM: “No need. I will hold on to it. It will be fine.”

It was all I needed to empower those four savory words—“I TOLD YOU SO!!!”

Similar instances began to swell up in my mind like a tornado....the gift card I fished out of his pant pocket while doing laundry...the wallet he forgot on the table as he left for work...

Before I even realized it, a critical spirit began to take root in me. Then a few vain imaginations to top it off. I pictured our families ringing our cell phones to no avail…perhaps they would send the search squad.

Meanwhile, as Adam is diligently combing through the leaves he announces, "I have a plan!"

I bite my tongue and listen.

He methodically explains using his hands as an exemplary ruler, “We will divide the path into six -inch sections until we find it.

Despite my building frustration, I felt God remind me that He placed Adam as my leader, and to just go along with the plan. I realized that we got into this together, and we had to work together as a team to get out of it.

Within a short minute after this, I picked up a leaf to uncover a gleaming silver key. I was so ecstatic at that point, it might as well have been solid gold. And then I felt a verse emerge in my spirit.

Matthew 16:19 (NKJV) "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

There will inevitably be times that you grow frustrated with your spouse or a circumstance in your marriage. However, blaming each other will only delay God’s promises and cause more wounding. You may be asking God to deliver you, and His answer is “I will give you the keys.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pronunciation (ah-TOL-uh-guhs)

A few months ago, I signed up for one of those "word of the day" e-mails in hopes of expanding my vocabulary. More often than not, these remained unopened in my inbox, but today, out of sheer curiosity, I read the meaning of a new word:


MEANING: (adjective) involving a situation in which the donor and the recipient (of blood, skin, bone, etc.) are the same person.

ETYMOLOGY: from Greek auto- (self) + -logous (proportion, ratio, word)

Although this word is in reference to a medical phenomenon, I believe there is a level of meaning that can be applied to marriage. Consider the Bible verse Mark 10:8, "'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh." (NKJV) Genesis 2:23 reads, "And Adam said: 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

When we enter into marriage we become one. There is no separation. Each spouse is essentially both the donor and recipient. This is not only true physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Too often--whether consciously or subconsciously--one spouse will withhold love when he/she is feeling hurt or neglected. We give "love" to our spouse in direct proportion to which we receive love. However, without fail, when you disperse love conditionally, you as well as your spouse will feel hurt.

Forgiveness is autologous in nature. Matthew 6:14 says, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." As you give forgiveness, your spouse may not respond instantaneously, but you immediately receive the spiritual blessing of forgiveness from your heavenly Father. God's cleansing healing will wash over your wounds and pluck out the root of bitterness.

An autologous skin graft works by peeling a thin layer of skin from the healthy part of the body and transferring it to the injured portion to improve the overall function of the body. As God continues to heal you in your walk with Him, He will use the parts you give to Him to heal not only your spouse, but also your marriage.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sharing Your Dreams

God desires to know us and communicate with us so deeply; He will even speak to us in our sleep. There are many types of dreams. Some dreams spark creativity, others may be prophetic, or used to guide your destiny. And then there are those dreams that may mean you had one slice of pizza too many. Be careful to remember that dreams must be interpreted in light of Scripture, and even then, our understanding may only be in part. Write down your dreams and share them with your spouse. You will be amazed how God will use them to not only grow you closer to Him, but also to each other.

About a year or so ago, Adam emailed me from work that he dreamed about a roach-like creature that looked more like a lobster that was swimming in a pool I was about to jump in. In his dream, he used some tongs to remove the offending creature before I jumped in. If that is not strange enough, I also dreamed about a roach-like creature that looked more like a lobster the
very same night. In my dream, I asked Adam to get rid of it.

Needless to say, that got our attention.

We sought God and felt led to pray against spiritual attacks. God used that dream to have us exercise our spiritual authority in the powerful name of Jesus. He also reminded us of the spiritual blessings that flow from marital unity.

Sometimes, God will use dreams to give us a new spiritual revelation or insight. Just last night, I dreamed that I clicked on a link and a computer virus popped up. This morning, I woke up and checked my email. An email that appeared to be sent from a friend contained only a link. Amazingly, I remembered my dream and questioned the link for a moment. Perhaps even more amazingly, I clicked on it anyway…because I reasoned…it was sent from a friend, after all. My computer protection software warned me that it appeared to contain “malicious system software” and offered me the option to go to my home page instead. I quickly chose the home page. Interestingly, I started to feel very silly, and even a bit condemned for a brief moment. I had a dream that really stuck out to me about a computer virus, and yet I clicked on a questionable email anyway.

Then, God showed me what He wanted me to see. I felt the entire interpretation download almost instantly in my spirit. The dream represented God’s direction that He freely gives us in His Word. His revelation comes with the choice of obedience. However, it appeared that the natural did not align with the supernatural. I logically thought, I can open the link because I trust the source. Is this not how the enemy operates...a wolf in sheep's clothing? Satan will tempt you by causing you to doubt what God has told you. He may even get you to disobey! However, the protective software that was installed gave me the choice to navigate back to the home page. This represents God’s unceasing grace! Thank God that even when we have made the wrong choice, we can quickly choose to go back to His protective grace and covering where He can keep us safe from the attacks of the enemy. Since we are Christians, the Holy Spirit is "installed" in us to guide us.

Here are the verses that correspond with this dream:

Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may
be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to
kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may
have it more abundantly.”

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put
confidence in man.”

Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then no longer of works;
otherwise grace is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

May God use your dreams to grow you and your marriage in Spirit and Truth!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Adam!

Three years ago, God blessed me with the most wonderful husband, Adam Donald Galey. I remember the morning of our wedding, flittering around, attending to all the seemingly important details of the day. I earnestly requested for everyone to pray that God would hold off the rain...even though it was an indoor southern girls must have the "big hair" for the photos. My mental checklist revolved in my mind--flowers, catering, cake, dress, decor, makeup, pictures...almost a year's worth of planning in anticipation of the "perfect" wedding day.
I hear a lot of brides say they did not feel nervous until they started walking down the aisle. For me, it was just the opposite. Every perceived concern melted away as the double doors opened for the bridal procession, a rush of supernatural peace overwhelmed my heart. I even remember specific smiling faces as I was walking down the aisle, but each of those quickly faded once I saw my groom's face. He had tears streaming down his face as I took steps torward him. That was the most vivid memory of the day. In total awe I thought, Adam never cries! Those tears are from his love for me. Wow! It was most definitely the perfect day, but not for the reasons I imagined it to be. And by the way, it did rain a little that day, but I wouldn't even have changed that looking back.

We have shared so much together these past three years. I traveled to another country for the first time in my life on our honeymoon. Adam wanted to surprise me, and would not tell me where we were going until I was on the plane (thankfully, he did let me know it was tropical for packing purposes...sigh of relief...). Even when the pilot announced our destination, I still did not know where we were going. Punta Cana? Where in the world is that? Turns out it is in the Dominican Republic...I still need to brush up on my repertoire of geographical knowledge :P. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen on earth. I breathed in the warm fragrance of vanilla that permeated the atmosphere. I blissfully ruined months of dieting by digging into culture-rich foods I have never tasted, and tilted my ear to enjoy the linguistic symphony of fellow tourists as they crossed our path--Russian, French, Spanish and countless other cultures that traveled such a distance to enjoy this breathtaking resort. The honeymoon definitely is filed under "the better" label--along with many other memories--of "the better" part of "for better or worse."
A couple of years into our marriage, I was introduced to the meaning of "the worse" part of this sacred vow. In less than a month's time span, we were hit by a whole gamut of trials. We endured the passing of my father, job loss, and even flood waters that attempted to invade our kitchen. Adam held me through all of this, and even praised God in the midst of these storms. We saw many miracles during this time. We learned that God really is the source of our financial provision, not man. He supplied us with the exact income we had before--almost to the penny--during the months that Adam was looking for a new job. My father's death pointed me back to the cross, and reminded me of my purpose on earth. The day of my dad's funeral we gathered all the beautiful flower arrangements and headed to the Alabaster nursing home. Adam, conscious of his role as protector, asked if really felt up for this, but amazingly I did. We just went from room to room and gave these precious elderly ladies flowers and told them, "Jesus loves you." I will never forget the last woman I gave flowers to. She had red hair, probably weighed less than 90 pounds, and one of her eyes was closed shut. I held her hand and said, "Jesus wants you to have these flowers. He loves you." She squeezed my hand and began to weep. I felt so much love and healing, and will never forget that moment. God shaped us during these trials to bring us to a whole new level of faith marked by unshakeable peace.
I have learned so far in marriage, that like my surprise honeymoon, you may not be familiar with where you are headed...perhaps you even communicate in different languages. However, you will smell and taste new experiences together...and the journey will always be worth the distance you travelled to get there, if you allow Jesus to be your pilot. ♥ I am so thankful for you, Adam! I love you with all of my heart...Happy 3rd anniversary! Here's to many more!! ♥

Monday, January 9, 2012

Love is the Catalyst to Change

As I was browsing through the newsfeed on facebook, a post from an old high school friend caught my attention and my heart. It is from Tim Keller's recently released book, Meaning of Marriage:

"Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God's saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God's mercy and grace."

Sometimes God will show you truth about a struggle your spouse is experiencing through revelation. However, it is extremely important how you handle divine revelation. If it is not applied through God's love and timing, then it will start and end with the flesh. If you have a spirit of frustration in your marriage, it is because you have stepped out of bounds. One of my favorite quotes is by Billy Graham, "It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love."

Remember, you cannot change your spouse simply because you did not create your spouse. However, God can use you as a catalyst to change only to the degree that you love. This is because God, our Creator IS love. Love has the capacity to tear down walls that the enemy has erected, and shine light into the darkest places in our hearts. What is so amazing about love is that it has a multiplicative effect. As you love your spouse through his/her weaknesses, God will strengthen your own weaknesses through His love for you. The result is a beautiful picture of unity--two broken hearts welded and molded into our Heavenly Father's heart. As God heals and seals the brokenness, your marriage will become a new vessel that God can fill with His manifest promises.

~Isaiah 64:8 (NKJV) "But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Don't be Surprised

My husband is so full of wisdom. I am so thankful that he is my leader. Yesterday he said, "So many times we pray for change, but then we are surprised when things begin to change. God always answers our prayers, but we just don't always recognize the answer."

His words really stuck in my spirit. I pondered about the inherent infiniteness of God in contrast to the finite nature of humans. If we truly believe that God is Who He says He is, then we must trust Him. He is Creator. Although we may only see darkness, we have faith that it is just a black stroke on a canvas. Black strokes must exist to give overall contrast and meaning. If they were not there, the overall picture would not have depth or beauty. Take for instance Van Gogh's masterpiece, Starry Night. Imagine the painting with only cheery shades of yellow and calming tints of blue. Erase with your mind all the black etchings and strokes. This work of art would be nothing more than an incoherent piece with superficial meaning. It would have no lasting or historical value.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Peter 3:8, "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Our concept of time is sharply contrasted to the One who is not bound by time. Many of our struggles and disappointments originate from unfulfilled expectations based on a time table that our psyches have constructed. One definition the dictionary assigns to the word "disappoint" is "to fail to meet the expectations, hopes, desires, or standards of, let down." Our fleshly desire of "needing to know" will lead us to subconsciously superimpose our plan over God's plan.

Yes, God gives us dreams and visions, but we must allow the eternal Spirit to subdue our fleeting emotions through the revelation in Habakkuk 2:3, "For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry." I have always found this verse to be interesting. At first glance, there seems to be so many paradoxes in the Bible, but the truth is that they are only paradoxical from the paradigm of our finite nature. For example, this verse in Habakkuk says "...though it will not tarry." I can only have complete understanding of this Scripture if I pair it in light with 2 Peter 3:8, "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

God will oftentimes resurrect a promise or a dream, but our spiritual eyes are so clouded by the disappointments of yesterday, that we do not perceive the grace of today. I believe there were many that walked right past Jesus on the day of his resurrection because they could not see Him past their tears. If you have experienced sufferings and disappointments together with your spouse, take heart. You will one day look back and see how God artistically used them to strengthen your commitment and intensify your love for each other.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Learning from Ants

As I was jogging around our nature trail this morning, an ant bed caught my eye. It was carefully constructed over a wooden log. I thought how enormous this log must appear to such a minuscule creature. The Holy Spirit reminded me of two Bible verses to look up:

  • Proverbs 6:6-8 "6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 Which having no captain, overseer or ruler, 8 Provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest."
  • Mark 11:23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."

When faced with an obstacle, the natural tendency of the human mind is to focus on the problem rather than the solution. What fascinated me about this particular anthill was that it was constructed right on top of the log. The ants never stopped, but rather continued right along their industrious path.

During life's journey with your spouse, you will inevitably be confronted with various mountains between you and your destiny. Consider the ant and his "log home:"

  1. Ants do not worry- When faced with an unexpected log, ants do not pace around in circles, biting their nails (or more correctly, claws), and wait for the log to move. They do not analyze or philosophise, but simply keep moving.

  2. Ants walk straight- Ants follow other ants, but if they do not see another ant to follow, they follow a fresh trail. Over time, ants bump into each other and form tiny "straightenings" to help contribute to the eventual straight line. Think about divine appointments that God has placed in your path to help you get back on track.

  3. Ants achieve the impossible- Although the path of the ant continues to change, they still walk in a maze of straight lines. Ironically, by walking these straight lines, the miraculous arched construction of their home is formed. The arched shape of the ant mound reminds me of the curvature of a rainbow, the symbol for God's promises. Oftentimes, God's promises are hidden just above our mountain. He will lead us into the impossible in order to show us the miraculous.

  4. Ants work as a team- Ants work amazingly well together because where one is weak, the other is strong. Each ant is equipped with a different purpose. Some ants are better at scouting for food, whereas others are stationed to defend the colony and protect what was brought in. Unity is often achieved through diversity.

  5. Ants quickly adapt to change by course correction- Ants deposit a certain amount of pheromone while walking, and each ant prefers to follow a direction rich in pheromone, rather than a poorer one. When ants are faced with an unexpected obstacle, the ants cannot continue to follow the original pheromone trail, and are faced with the choice to either turn right or left. Initially, about half the ants will choose the right path, and the other half will choose the left path. It is interesting that the ants that happen to follow the shortest path around the obstacle will more rapidly reconstitute the interrupted pheromone trail compared to those that choose the longer path. Thus, the shorter path will collect a higher amount of pheromone in the time unit and will consequently cause a higher number of ants to choose the shorter path. Due to this high positive feedback process, soon all the ants will choose the shorter path. A long story made short, (too late, you say??) ants are not stubborn once shown a better way.

So instead of making a mountain out of a molehill, make an anthill over a mountain. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Heights!

With the new year, couples will dream up their new year's resolutions. Like years in the past, resolutions always start with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, if they are not grounded in strategy and fueled by passion, they will eventually deflate or disappear in midair. Think of a helium balloon that slips out from between your fingers. You can only see it for so long before it snags on a tree limb or pops from the high altitude.
On the other hand, in a hot air balloon, you are literally travelling with the dream. It is fueled by fire and guided by the wind. With unbridled passion and the direction of the Holy Spirit all things are possible. However, sticking with the dream requires you to be grounded and to be still in the "basket." Remember that God has many promises He wants to give you, but you must be anchored by the Word of God and the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control and patience will keep you grounded in order to achieve new heights.
I pray that in the coming year, your marriage, ministry, goals, and desires will be rooted in Isaiah 40:31: "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up their wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."