Take Out the Trash

Truck-load-of-garbageIt’s officially Spring and that means it’s time for Spring Cleaning. I’m not sure how it happens but it seems like a ton of stuff always accumulates over the winter. Today we got tired of walking around it, stepping over it, and moving it from one place to another. So we worked all day digging, dragging and hauling. Before we knew it the truck was so loaded it wouldn’t hold any more. The springs on the old Ford sagged as we headed for the dump. As we got closer and closer I noticed more people with the same problem I had. They had their trucks loaded up too. It was almost like a parade as we entered the gates of the landfill. After we paid an exorbitant fee to be rid of all that garbage, we drove away. Our empty truck felt much lighter without the load. In fact it felt so good I wanted to spin donuts in the parking lot. We drove back home with smiles on our faces.

You’ve read about them in the paper and heard about them on the news. They call them hoarders. They even made a TV show about them. They live in filth and no one wants to be around them because they never take out the trash.

Adam and Eve began their life in a perfect, pristine world. They had no secrets, no sore subjects, no past failures, no disappointments, no half-truths, and no broken promises. Genesis 2:25 says: They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. All newlyweds begin their marriage with high hopes and high expectations.

Couple Face to FaceImagine a married couple standing in their bedroom, face to face in broad daylight, naked. (I hope you are imagining your spouse and yourself) Does that make you uncomfortable? Why?
Because we aren’t speaking to one another since I said that stupid thing.
Because he might see that I‘ve put on 15 pounds.
Because he might want to make love and I don’t want to make love because we have other issues.
Because she expects me to say something romantic and I can never think of anything to say.
Because he let our children get away with not doing their chores.
Because she spent a bunch of money and didn’t discuss it with me first.
Because he was playing the stock market and lost it all on a stupid decision.

We all crave intimacy. But we are afraid to let our guard down to attain it. We build walls of protection around ourselves but the walls isolate us and imprison us. Sin makes us ashamed.
Do you remember God said it is not good for man to be alone? It still isn’t. But sin cuts us off from relationship. It cuts us off from relationship with God, and it cuts us off from relationship with our spouse. All couples want a marriage where we can be naked and unashamed. But instead we become hoarders. We collect sin. We collect ammunition. Our spouse sins against us and we sin against our spouse and by the time the honeymoon is over…The honeymoon is over.

Dumping TrashSometimes when a couple comes into my office for marriage counseling it is like they back a dump truck in and dump it in the middle of my office. Then we spend the next hour sorting through the trash. But there is a better way.

The truth is, we are a sinner and we’re married to a sinner. We need to learn the fine art of forgiveness. We need to learn repentance, communication, apologizing, grace, overlooking a transgression, and conflict resolution. We need to learn to take the garbage out.trash-bagHave you noticed if you take the garbage out every day it stays contained in one little receptacle? It doesn’t even stink because it hasn’t been there long enough to spoil. Plus it’s easy to carry out a neat, little white bag with a drawstring. Jesus told us to deal with today’s problems today… that every day has enough garbage of its own (Matt 6:34). Taking the trash out every day is part of the abundant life.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:31-32

Investor or Consumer?

Stock Market GraphHave you been watching the stock market lately? It has been hitting some all-time highs. I hope you’re experiencing some great rewards.
Are you an investor or a consumer? And what does that have to do with Marriage? Let’s think about it for a minute. What is the difference? A consumer is a person who is focused on today. He works all week, and then spends every penny of his paycheck on things to consume, food, drink, entertainment, etc… At the end of the day, he has nothing of value to show for his money except that he had a good time. He consumes all of his resources. An Investor takes a different approach. He is focused on the future. He also works all week, but instead of spending all of his pay on consumables, he spends a portion on things that retain value, and hopefully go up in value.Big Bite

A consumer will approach his marriage with the attitude: “I want my needs met!” An investor will ask: “What can I do to make this relationship thrive?” He will invest his energy into developing a marriage that is healthy today, and it will get better and better over time.

Jesus is an investor; and He encourages us to be investors as well.

Ephesians 5:25-27 says: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious bride…

Wall StreetSo, when is the best time to invest? Should I wait until my “marital stock” is up, or is it best to invest when it is down? People who try to time the market either never jump in, or they jump in or out at exactly the wrong time. There is a practice called dollar cost averaging which means you invest a consistent amount regularly, regardless if the market is up or down. Investing regularly is a good practice in marriage.

How can we be investors in our marriages and not merely consumers? By loving and serving our spouse today; and by pouring our life into them. Investing is so much more satisfying than consuming. Sweat equity becomes sweet equity.
If we invest ourselves in our spouse, we will reap major dividends that will last a lifetime.

The Most Important 20 Minutes

We woke up early this morning to a beautiful crisp March day. Both of our To-Do lists are a mile long with all those things that have to be done on our “day off”. There never seems to be enough time during the week to tackle those bigger projects. My list would have me outside tending to the long-neglected yard and Andee’s list includes catching up on a pile of paperwork. Although today is Saturday, and we will actually be in the same zip code, our projects will have us geographically thirty yards apart. Having a Saturday to do our own thing is good, unless we neglect connecting with each other. It is so easy to let a whole work week pass, only to realize we haven’t had a meaningful conversation all week. We’ve had this happen in the past and we don’t ever want it to happen again. Saying “Hello” and “Good-bye” and talking about our schedules as we come and go is not enough to sustain a healthy marriage. We can’t allow the calendar page to flip, only to realize we haven’t talked about the things that are really important.
Johns Shoes Looking DownThere is a place just to the right of our kitchen sink where the flooring really should be worn out. I don’t know why it isn’t. It is a favorite place of mine. True, it’s where the coffee pot is located but that’s not the reason. That spot is the place I stand and lean against the counter when I come home from work at night. Andee is usually busy preparing a meal. As soon as I come home, I put away my jacket and computer and go stand in my favorite spot. That is the place I learn about my wife. She tells me about the victories and blessings of her day. She also tells me about the struggles, technology problems and family news. I even get a little update on her Facebook friends. Sometimes I leave my sacred spot to take care of a “quick fix” that has been concerning her all day, if it takes less than a minute. Then I hurry back. I don’t want to miss anything. Conveniently the plates and silverware are right behind me so I can set the table while she puts the finishing touches on dinner.
Hour GlassThrough all the years of raising a family, the first twenty minutes I’m home we’ve spent together. Now that our children are grown, and on their own, we still do this. It helps us feel connected. Gone are the days of homework and diapers, but they have been replaced with meetings, projects and other commitments.
Gift of TimeThe bible tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil. (Eph 5:16). Every day will provide enough challenges to keep us too busy for each other…if we let them. But instead, let’s build healthy habits of staying current with our spouse. Then when our projects have us working in different locations, we will still feel “together”. That is much better than being together and feeling all alone.

Yes & No

“Yes” is a very good word. It is a happy word; one we love to hear from just about everyone. “Yes, you passed the class.” “Yes, you can have a pay raise.” “Will you marry me?” “YES!!”
It brings a smile to our face and causes our eyes to light up.
“No”, on the other hand, is not so nice. “No, you may not have another piece of pie.” “No, we gave the job to another applicant.” “No honey, not tonight.” Me Me Me“No” is a word we never want to hear. Sometimes people say “no” to good things. But what about God?
God says “Yes” to character qualities that produce good relationships, and “No” to those that are bad . His judgment is not based on our momentary pleasure, but on the eternal perspective.

God says:
Yes to Servanthood & No to Selfishness
Yes to Tenderheartedness & No to Hardheartedness
Yes to Forgiveness & No to Bitterness
Yes to Giving & No to Taking
Yes to Openness & No to Hiding
Yes to Diligence & No to Laziness
Yes to Thankfulness & No to Complaining
Yes to Contentment & No to Grasping
Yes to Holiness & No to Sinfulness
Yes to Honesty & No to Lies
Yes to Love & No to Hate

Thumbs upWhat qualities do you find attractive in your spouse? The “Yes”, or the “No” column?
What kind of spouse are you? God wants us to say “Yes” to the things He says “Yes” to. But more than saying it, He wants these qualities to be the substance of our life.