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.

The Deer Hunter

“I’m going hunting……dear.”Fall Leaves Road

It is getting to be that time of year when the leaves are turning, the mornings are brisk, and Fall is in the air. That’s the time when men who have only one thing on their minds, begin to have something else on their minds: Deer in Fallhunting. Now don’t think for a minute that they have forgotten about the other one thing they always that have on their minds. If we can figure out a way to have both, that’s really living!

Hunting GearIt comes on subtly, but you’ll notice as he drives down Auto Row, his eyes begin to linger on 4X4 pickups. His browser seems to instinctively gravitate towards travel trailers on Craig’s List. He wants something just nice enough to still be “roughing it” but comfortable enough to accommodate himself and about a dozen of his hunting buddies. And if you discover a $5,900.00 Weatherby Mark V on the credit card bill, that’s not an automobile, as the price suggests.Weatherby Mark V w Scope It is a high powered rifle that will make him the envy of his friends. No one wants to be underpowered when moving in for the kill. Then there are all the miscellaneous accoutrements like license, tags, boots, rain gear, sleeping bag, and doe scent. I think the doe scent attracts more hunters than it does bucks.Buck Sneaking on hunter But that’s beside the point. Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s are happy to provide a wide assortment of products to get the job done. While you’re there, you have to check out their complete line of 4 wheel drive ATVs. And don’t forget the camo colored helmet, saddle bags, and rifle rack.

He comes by it honestly, ladies. I think hunting is programmed somewhere deep in a man’s DNA. Recently we had our grandkids over, and my 4 year old grandson trooped through the living room carrying his toy rifle saying “We’re going target shooting”. And His 3 year old sister was right behind him with her sunglasses, purse, and baby doll saying ”Yes, we’re going to Target!”Target Wait a minute, guys…DNA. I think I just discovered why our wives like to go shopping. And shopping season is open year round.

The best way to assure a successful hunting trip is not found in a sporting goods shop or an Amazon box. You can’t enjoy a freezer full of meat if you’re getting the cold shoulder from your wife. The best thing we can do is keep the home fires burning warm and bright, by serving our wife well throughout the year. As you encourage her to do the things that fulfill her, and make sure she knows that she is number one in your life, she will encourage you to do the same. Couple in Love 2So whether your thing is hunting, gaming or golf, you can bag your trophy, and have someone at home to celebrate your success with you, when you return.

Customer Service


Potato Chips openHalf eaten bags of potato chips, slightly used bedroom sets, and an assortment of exercise equipment teetering on push-carts are all a common sight. A parade of big-screen TVs inch their way to the return counter one week after the Super Bowl. One of the reasons we all love Costco is their wonderful return policy. CostcoTheir customer service staff is so happy to issue a full refund for anything from wilted lettuce to soiled dog beds. Why have they made no-questions-asked refunds their company policy? Because it makes every customer a happy customer; and in the long run, it is profitable.

Returns Line LongWe’ve all been to that “other store” where you bring back a shirt with the tag still attached and want to exchange it for the correct size. You stand in line for fifteen minutes to talk to a stoney-faced representative whose main contribution to society is sarcasm mixed with boredom. All sales finalAnd of course your exchange is refused because a thread is loose on the button, or you’re told, “Those shirts have been moved to clearance”. That’s when we swear, and then we swear we’ll never do business with them again.

On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, I asked a young sales assistant to direct me to a particular department. He immediately got down off his ladder, and walked me to the aisle I needed. Hobby LobbyThe smile never left his face as he led me to the item. He didn’t call to another associate or point in the direction I needed to go. He stopped what he was doing and made me feel like the most important customer in the store.

It got me thinking how healthy our marriages can be if we provide “customer service” like Hobby Lobby, for our spouse. If she wants something to be different, how ready am I to agree? Maybe there is something about me that “isn’t working” for my wife. Can she come to me and tell me? Does she have to make an iron-clad case; or am I willing to listen to understand her perspective? When she tells me, do I respond like the Costco Returns clerk or do I respond like that other store? Couple having CoffeeDo I stonewall her, or do I give her service with a smile? Maybe she needs help with something. Do I drop what I am doing, and go help her? Or do I heave a sigh and point and yell my answer?

They say the best marriages in the world are made when two servants are in love. Customer service in marriage is not a right we can insist on, but is a great benefit when it is provided to us. A little bit of good customer service can go a long way in a marriage. When we treat our spouse like the most important customer in the store, they’ll likely want to “do business” with us regularly.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16Pickles Costco

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

Visually Generous

JLoI couldn’t believe my eyes. I casually logged onto the internet to check my email and there was JLo‘s bare chest, staring me right in the face. She wasn’t naked. She was at an awards ceremony, posing for photographers in an “outfit” exposing all but the tiniest portion of her breasts, and split all the way down, let’s say… well below her navel. I didn’t click on the link, but I didn’t need to. The image is indelibly in my mind, and there is nothing I can do to remove it.Computer

In the computer world, the solution would be to format the hard drive and start over. In the real world it is not that simple.  Our minds retain those images and drift back to them at the most inopportune times. EraserWe may be tinkering on the car or mowing the lawn, and those images pop back into our mind. I’d like to say that I’m immune, but I’m just like any other guy. I can’t go to the store or watch TV for five minutes without seeing a suggestively dressed woman. I don’t understand all the physiology, but I know that when men see a naked woman, something fires in the pleasure center of the brain. Thus the saying: “Some men are visual…the rest are dead.” Get Out of Jail FreeBut guys, we can’t just say it’s normal, and use it as our get out of jail free card. The bible tells us to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5. We can’t stop a bird from landing on our head, but we can prevent it from building a nest.Nest on your Head

Many wives are hurt and frustrated when they see their husbands struggle with the visual assaults. But don’t get mad at your husband for being male. Be a sympathetic ally. You can be his biggest helper in the battle. Many husbands haven’t seen their wife naked since the invention of the walk-in closet. Walk In ClosetThey have no visuals of their own wife’s body that they can muse upon when temptation strikes.

Wives can be a tremendous help to their husbands by simply dressing in front of their husband. When you’re changing clothes, don’t go into the bathroom and close the door; dress where he can see you. You don’t have to do a strip tease and you don’t have to make an event of it, but be visually generous. When you are preparing for bed, do it in front of your husband. Take your time and carry on a conversation. I promise you, he will be attentive. Husband Thinking of his WifeGive your husband some “sanctified images” to remember and think about. Remember, you are the only person in the world whose body he can think about without guilt. Give him plenty of moments to remember, rewind and relive, focused on you. You may be astonished at the results.

Many good-willed husbands and wives have suffered needlessly, because they did not know how to help each other. Amazingly, a willingness to serve our spouse and a few small changes in our dressing habits can infuse health and satisfaction into our marriage in ways we never would have imagined.

I Was Wrong

HeadlinesMisstatements are in bold, 300 font headlines on the front page. But retractions and corrections, if you can find them, are somewhere at the bottom of page C17. We always cry “foul” when a political leader lies or fails to fulfill his promise, but when I make a mistake…not so much. My inaccuracies and misstatements always have “legitimate reasons” and “logical explanations”.Politicians

Why is it that the very faults we decry in public, we practice in our marriage relationships?Fonzie I’d much rather say that I misspoke or you misheard me, than to say I was wr—. Why is it so hard to say I was wr—? OK, I wasn’t exactly right! It’s hard to admit. I’m just like Fonzie in Happy Days, who is too cool for school, but just can’t make himself say those three magic words: I was wrong.

Fig Leaf ThongDavinci Fig LeafThe reason is universal. We are just like Adam and Eve. When we sin we tend to cover up instead of “fessing up”. We hide our dirt when we should come clean. So there we stand in our fig leaf thong, acting as if everything is normal. At first our spouse is confused, then they feel sorry for us, then they just get downright angry. Nobody’s fooling anybody, but why am I the last one to find out?

The bible says that God desires honesty in my inward parts. Psalm 51:6

James says we should confess our trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that we may be healed. How many of us are suffering needlessly when a clean slate is three words away?

The psalmist describes the relief that awaits me when I admit that I am wrong:

Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. ScoreboardFinally, I confessed all my sins you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt  is gone. Psalm 32:2-5 (NLT)

We must have some innate feeling that we need to keep score. A competitive spirit is essential when it comes to striving to win the World Series or the Super Bowl.  But Competition in marriage is an oxymoron, two things that do not belong together like apples and orangutans.Apple and Orangutan Three Legged RaceWe often forget that our spouse is not the opposition, they are not the enemy. We are on the same team. When they win, we win. It is essential that we maintain our team chemistry. And run with endurance the race that is set before us, together.

Christmas Companion

A postscript by Andee, John’s Christmas Companion: Yesterday as we I began decorating our house for Christmas I thought of this blog John wrote last year. Again we were engaged in separate tasks – he was putting up lights and I was unpacking decorations, and cleaning dusty corners I don’t usually notice. It was a lot of work, but every once in a while we just stopped and smiled at each other. The work was lightened by Christmas music, and everything Christmas means; but mostly it was lightened because we were together, and actively thankful to God for each other – “the threefold cord that is not quickly broken.”

Marriage Feast

We hardly saw each other all day long, but we were together. It was the Saturday before Christmas, and our house was about to become the converging point for sixteen family members – most of them from out of town. Grocery CartJust the previous day we had hit all the stores for last minute items. We successfully filled a shopping cart with enough food to feed an army and test the shocks on our Toyota. Today’s lists were different. Today I had yards to clean, windows to wash, tile to scrub and furniture to haul to the garage. Couple Working TogetherAndee’s list consisted of food to cook, cards to write, bedding to prepare, and a refrigerator to clean and organize. Today was not one of those days a couple walks hand in hand on a beach. But our hands were busy. Today we went our separate ways to accomplish our shared goal. Some days…

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