Flirting with Infidelity

thelmaNobody in their right mind would plan to drive a car off a cliff. But most of us know people, who have crashed through the guardrails, and whose marriages have been dashed on the rocks below, by infidelity. Crash on the RocksSadly, this magnitude of betrayal often results in divorce. There, I said it. The word we swear is “not an option” and “not in our vocabulary”: Divorce. We think that by denying its existence, it will never happen to us. Who would have thought that a playful comment by a co-worker or an acquaintance could bloom into full scale adultery? Boss flirting Secretary.jpgHow could an occasional look at pornography possibly damage our marriage? How could a dinner meeting with a client of the opposite sex possibly hurt anyone? It happens more often than we’d like to admit.  “It will never happen to me”, we say. Because we think we are the exception. The bible says, “If any man thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall”.

King Solomon posed a very direct question in Proverbs 6. “Can a man take fire into his lap and not be burned?” Fire LaptopObviously, the answer is NO. But to someone who is blinded by sin and enflamed by lust, the answers are not so clear. When we flirt with sin, we delude ourselves into believing we can control it, and that we can stop any time. What we don’t admit is that the point-of-no-return is long before we take fire into our lap, not afterwards. Back-To-The-Future-3-Point-Of-No-ReturnThen we act so surprised when our sin blindsides us. Flirting seems so innocent. A child playing with matches does not intend to burn down the house, but destroys it nonetheless. Solomon laments of the man who gives himself to the immoral woman: all who were slain by her were “strong” men.

Marriage is the most important relationship we have with another human being, and it must be protected. When we are tempted to stray, the bible tells us to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Rather than ignore the dangers to our marriages, we must protect against them and to make no provision for the flesh. How do we do that? By continually investing and reinvesting ourselves into our spouse. The bible says that we reap what we sow. Think Garden of Eden.Planting Seeds

Plant good seeds – What do you want your marriage to be? Be intentional in what you are planting. If we want to reap love, joy, peace, and patience, then those are the seeds we need to sow. If selfishness, vanity, and greed are what we plant, that’s the crop we will reap.

Water them in good – Healthy crops need to be watered regularly. And healthy husbands and wives need to be immersed in the water of the word. The bible teaches us how. Grow and learn together. Keep it fresh. Keep it clean. And keep it coming.

Pulling weedsPull weeds – The devil wants to destroy our marriage by deception. He doesn’t show up in red leotards and pitchfork. He whispers “little lies” that appear as harmless as a weed sprout. “Your husband loves his work more than you.” or “Your wife isn’t as sexual as other women”. Devil with PitchforkBe ruthless pulling out weeds as soon as they sprout. If we don’t, they’ll put down a tap root and require major excavation to extract.

Tend and protect from pests – Pay attention. Healthy gardens don’t grow without tending and neither do healthy marriages. If something is eating at you, don’t ignore it, talk about it with your spouse. If he or she does something that bugs you, learn to address it in a way that attacks the problem, not your spouse.

Holding HandsAdd Miracle-Gro – Walk with the Lord together. Encourage one another to enjoy some quiet time with the Lord and your bible. Pray together. Remind one another that the Lord is in control and put your trust in Him together for the needs of your family. Be active in your local church, growing and serving others. The Lord will bless your marriage and make you thrive!

Enjoy the fruit!Good Fruit

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you always;
and always be enraptured with her love. Prov 5:18-19

In Sickness and in Health

Every couple of weeks my wife pulls into her parking space with a car full of groceries. As she makes her way to the front porch, I realize I have a split-second decision to make. Do I run to my easy chair and fake that I’m asleep? Or do I meet her at the door and say, “Let me help you unload all those groceries”?Sack of Flour The way I answer this question has changed over the years. It’s not that I dislike carrying twenty five pound bags of onions or a fifty pound bag of flour. In fact I love the meals she makes with them. But there is a lazy man inside of me that is always looking for the easy way out.Sacks of Onions

I’m not a very good passenger. I’m even worse at being a patient. One day I was playing tennis, the next day I couldn’t walk without a cane. I couldn’t even drive myself to the doctor’s office to find out what was wrong. So there I was, sitting in the passenger seat, being shuttled from appointment to appointment by my wife. I was very thankful for her care, but you could never tell by the way I was criticizing her driving skills.

doctor-and-patient-looking-at-spine-xrayThe MRI, the neurologist and neurosurgeon all agreed. “We really don’t know if surgery will cure your problem. And there is no guarantee that the medication will help. Let’s get you some physical therapy and give it some time.”

Six weeks seems like an eternity when you’re waiting. It seems even longer when there is little or no improvement.Physical Therapy It is easy to lose heart. The enemy of our soul likes to take a snapshot of the way things are today, and extrapolate it to defeat us with hopelessness. He wants us to believe things will always be this way and project out twenty years as more of the same. But we know things never stay the same. We know the Lord heals. Most often we recover, and life returns to normal. Sometimes we recover with new limitations, and we have to accept a new normal.

Some of us resist going to doctors because we fear the diagnosis. We really don’t want to change our diet, and we struggle to be disciplined enough to do our exercises for more than a few days. But we owe it to our spouse to be as healthy as we can be. We have to remember, whenever we are forced into accepting a new normal, so is our spouse. Then it is up to both of us to make the best of it. The secret to success is encouraging one another as we face these changes together.Man Playing Tennis

Man Carrying GroceriesYesterday morning I was out on the tennis courts playing once again. I’m not as quick on my feet as I was before, but I’m hoping that in time, that will improve. For the most part, I’ve recovered. Yesterday afternoon my wife pulled up with a load of groceries. I was so happy to carry the groceries into the house, because I was able to. I no longer take that for granted.

Til Death Do Us Part

My Friend DonWhat do you want people to say about you at your memorial service? That’s kind of an uncomfortable question, but I came by it honestly. I recently lost a good friend who was my own age, and way too young to die. He went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. Frankly, that’s the way we’d all prefer to go, without suffering, but the suddenness rocked me. Any one of us could be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and given six weeks to live. At least then we’d have six weeks to get our affairs in order. HeavenBut what if I go to sleep tonight and wake up in heaven, like Don did? I couldn’t rest until I answered that question.

If I die…wait a minute… we always say that, but we really should say “when I die”. In human history, there is just about a 100% mortality rate with only a few biblical exceptions. CemetarySo let’s be honest and say, “when I die”.  Hopefully it will be at the ripe old age of a hundred, but what if I die unexpectedly? In that moment my wife’s life would be drastically altered. A lifetime of plans would suddenly and completely change. The thought of my wife rifling through my file cabinet, wondering how she would make ends meet, gripped me.Dave Ramsey

So I sat down and wrote a legacy list. You know, the one Dave Ramsey always talks about. We already have our wills in place, but the Legacy List is another tangible way we can say “I love You” from heaven. It’s not romantic, but it is a single sheet of paper that has all the information, account numbers and policy numbers that a grieving spouse would need to carry on without us. On second thought, maybe it is romantic. The list includes location of our wills and healthcare directives, policy and account numbers for: life insurance, investments, short and long term disability, health and long term care insurance.Last Will and Testament It even includes some recommendations on which broker to seek advice from, on how to live on the life insurance and what we have saved. Plus we have to consider that Social Security and pensions change or disappear upon a spouse’s death.

We tend to think:

There will always be time to say the things I want to say to my spouse.

There will always be time to take that trip.

There will always be time to save for retirement.

There will always be time to take a walk, watch a chick flick, or go fishing together.

There will always be time…

Don ServingBut time is an earthbound property; and our time on this earth is like a vapor. Moments like this can be paralyzing or catalyzing. I know myself pretty well, and I know that if I let any time elapse, I’d forget the urgency. There are some important things I need to do today. Then there are other things that I need to do a little bit every day… for my wife, for my children and for others who are important to me.

One of the things I admire most about my friend Don is that he was a man of action. He didn’t just talk about going hunting, he’d plan a trip. He didn’t wait for others to plan events; he would serve others by taking a lead role. Hound DogHe was a real friend and we had a great friendship because he pursued it like a bloodhound. Great relationships don’t just happen, they must be pursued. Thanks Don. Even your death has inspired me to be a better man.Don and I Hunting Success

Any More Money, Honey?

Money Tug of WarIt is a well-documented statistic that the biggest cause of divorce in North America today is money fights and money problems. No surprise that our consumer mentality as Americans spills over into our marriages. The trend toward two-earner households over the past several decades has only served to divide what ought to be united. Couples use terms like “my money” and “your money” and develop self-centered plans to spend it. Many couples engage in protracted power struggles over their resources that result in debt, hurt feelings and empty bank accounts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometime one or both spouses engage in “retail therapy” as they try to “medicate” their unhappiness or to satisfy a longing in their heart that “Stuff” will never fill. Jesus spoke of the desire for more like this: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12: 15 In other words, more stuff isn’t the answer. What we crave is unity: oneness with our God and oneness with our spouse.
Successful married couples view their income as “our money” as they share their goals and dreams and the future together.
So let’s start with the basics: Where does money come from? They say there are two things everyone should teach their children. Where babies come from and where money comes from. The answer is: Money comes from work. “Work is a sure-fire money-making scheme,” according to money guru Dave Ramsey. Early on in marriage, couples need to decide who is going to go out to work. It is OK to decide that both husband and wife will work, especially while getting started and establishing a home. Couple with BabyThroughout your marriage this decision can be re-evaluated as children are born, go off to school, and as they leave the nest. During different seasons of life, you may decide that one spouse should stay home to devote their time and energy to raising your children. That will be their work for the next X number of years. The most important thing is that the couple makes these decisions together
Then next thing we want to understand is that there are three things we should do with our money. A healthy balanced life includes all three: Saving, Spending and Giving. When couples agree upon how their money will be saved, spent and given, they agree upon their core values.  They say you can look at a person’s check book and learn what is important to them. Jesus said: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also Luke 12:34.
The Dreaded B Word
Money Scrabble TilesIf you’re feeling hopeless, like you can’t get a handle on your money it is probably because you’re disorganized. When we want to solve complex situations it is very helpful to write them down instead of just letting them swirl around in our mind. Plus, since our spouse isn’t a mind reader, a BUDGET will help us put all the facts on the table and agree on a plan we can work on together. If you want help establishing a budget, and a sound financial plan for your life and marriage, I highly recommend you sign up to take Financial Peace University together. Thousands of couples have attended with the intent to fix their finances, only to experience the added bonus of gaining valuable communication skills, which revolutionized every other aspect of their marriage. I’d say that’s worth the price of admission. Wouldn’t you?

Nurture and Cherish

BelmontI’ve never seen more nurturing and cherishing than at a car show. No speck of dust is safe. No smudge of grease will escape the watchful eye of the automobile enthusiast. He is meticulous to take care of his “baby.” After all, “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore”. She’s all original, he says proudly, as others admire her with a hint of envy. No expense has been spared, and countless hours have been spent to make her the coveted award winner. She’s the Prize of the show.

Imagine if one car had to last us a life time. How would we care for it? We certainly wouldn’t drive it recklessly. No, we’d nurture and cherish it. We’d wash it every week and wax it once a month. We’d change the oil every 3,000 miles and give it a tune up regularly to keep it in good repair. We’d be easy on the throttle and light on the brakes. When parking in a public lot, we’d take up two spaces so others wouldn’t ding her doors. At home we’d garage her to protect her from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. We’d cruise Main Street to impress people, and show her off in parades. After fifty years the sleek beauty would still purr like a kitten and look like the day she drove off the showroom floor.

What if we cared for our spouse as if they had to last a lifetime? Because…they do.

So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies… For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. Ephesians 5:28 & 29