This is just the beginning of something that is very dear to my heart, marriage. It just seems that everywhere that I look the concept of being married is is being degraded. I look to the past generation and see a war zone of torn marriages and kids that are the product of divorce. I look farther back than that and see people that knew what married for life meant. You can see them on the news, Clifford and Vivian married 61 years. What happened? Now in my generation you hear about people being married for two months and then divorcing. Obviously the idea of what marriage is has not really hit many people.

My purpose with this blog is to present some ideas about marriage from a Biblical perspective. Please feel free to contribute if you are married, Christian and vow to keep it together.

April 4, 2013

Helping Your Spouse Through Seasons of Stress

I keep hearing about people under stress, and I'm amazed even in my own life, how stress transfers into reaction and impatience and all that other gross stuff in my marriage and in my home.  Here is an article I saw that I thought was meaningful:

Helping Your Spouse Through Seasons of Stress
Eric and April Motl
My husband and I knew we were embarking on a season of intensity. Lots of life changes, lots of expectations, and lots of unknowns awaited us. I told him I thought life would give us a tiny break in about eight months. He was sure there would be a season of respite sooner than that ... eight months rolled around and life was still coming at us at roller-coaster-like velocity with just about as many twists and turns.

Faith is not nurtured in a spiritual greenhouse environment. It’s grown and stretched in wild, uncharted terrain. We’ve been so grateful for God’s faithful hand moving and growing our lives, even if we feel like life resembles more of a white-knuckle ride than a peaceful, stroll along quiet waters. We can’t expect life on this earth to be easy or placid. That isn’t the environment we grow in and God is after our growth!

Many of the people I know are also going through seasons of intensity. Financial fallout has coaxed many from cocoons of comfort out on the proverbial limb of trusting God rather than their retirement or bankroll. Health concerns weigh heavy on the hearts of many as they lift faces to heaven, hoping for a miracle that is beyond the hand of man. Family struggles are an ever present reality that couples process and deal with (hopefully) together. Dreams to pursue, dreams put on hold, dreams juggled -- blessings given and taken away all put a stress and strain on our marriages.

Regardless of whether we find ourselves in a season of stress right now, we will eventually! Life is just inevitably full of things that add up to stress and strain. How we handle the emotion of it all makes or breaks us as individuals and as a couple.

Consider the following passage recorded the night Jesus would be led away to His crucifixion:
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me'" (Matthew 26:36-38).

The God of the Universe, the Creator of All Things, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords experienced emotions so powerful, deep and intense that the pressure of His grief made Him feel as if He could just keel over and die right there! He sweated blood (Luke 22:44)! I’ve been stressed and deeply upset, but I’ve never been so distraught I sweat blood!

Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.” Jesus is our High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness -- even our weak, frail, human emotional stresses and issues. He sympathizes with us because He understands pressure, grief, sorrow, stress, anger, etc. Yet in all the emotional drama that surrounded His earthly life, He never sinned.

He didn’t snap at the disciples out of impatience, like we might snap at our spouses when we are out of patience. His blood sugar might have dropped low from hunger, but He didn’t get a horrid case of the grumpies like I do when that happens. He didn’t let anxiety over mean, hurtful, destructive people eat away at His insides until He was totally immobilized for His mission -- like I have done. Yet He understands my struggle -- and your struggle -- with the emotions that derail and distract us from the good stuff He has planned for us. He understands deep, intense emotions. And the hopeful part is this -- He knows what to do with them!

In your marriage you will undoubtedly come to impasses where life is just plain overwhelming. In those seasons of intense stress you must proactively guard your marriage. Here’s some practical ways to protect your marriage from the eroding force of stress:

1. Follow Jesus’ example and pray! Stats show that couples who pray together stay together! Come together as simple, needy children before your Father in heaven and seek Him together with honesty and trust. Also, pray for your spouse. Pray earnestly for their protection from temptation, the evil one and for their relationship with God to grow strong.

2. Be compassionate to one another. Stress causes us to do some weird things and we all need grace! Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

3. Encourage your spouse to take the time they need to seek God, maintain physical health (time to sleep, exercise, eat well) and positive, Christian fellowship. My husband has always encouraged me to take time for women’s retreats, enjoy my sisters who are a great source of joy and encouragement for me, eat healthy and spend time in God’s word. Especially when life is stressful, it seems really hard to take care of yourself -- and that is often when you need to do it most! Encourage your spouse to take care of him/herself.

4. Spoil ‘em a little! Does your hubby really like foot rubs or a certain meal for dinner? Does it bless your wife when you wash up the dishes after dinner or rub her shoulders at the end of the day? Then go the extra mile and spoil your honey when life is stressful! (And this refers to you -- it’s not for you to elbow your spouse to read -- wink, wink!)

If you find yourself in a season of stress, we are praying that God’s grace would surround you, that you would learn more of who God is, that your faith would grow deeper and that your marriage would grow stronger.

April Motl and her husband, Eric, minister at their church in Southern California where he is a pastor on staff. April is the founder of In His Eyes Ministries; a teaching ministry devoted to helping women see their life from God's perspective. For more information about the ministry visit
Publication date: June 5, 2012

How to Grow Closer to Your Spouse Despite Your Differences

This sounds like a really great book to read, but here is a good synopsis by Whitney Hopler. 

How to Grow Closer to Your Spouse Despite Your Differences    
Whitney Hopler
Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Poppy Smith's new book, Why Can’t He Be More Like Me?: 9 Secrets to Understanding Your Husband (Harvest House, 2012).

God has made you and your spouse two completely different people, and the many differences between you can prove frustrating when you’re struggling to understand each other. But if you accept the differences between you and learn how to work with them effectively, you can build the close marriage God wants you and your spouse to enjoy. Here’s how:

Choose to stay in your marriage. It’s tempting to give up on a difficult marriage, but if you honor your marriage vows you made to God by remaining committed to your spouse, you can count on God to give you the grace and wisdom you need to grow in your marriage. So put a stop to fantasies about leaving your marriage and finding a new spouse who is just like you (no one exists who is just like you, anyway). Instead, decide to invest your time and energy into building a stronger marriage with your current spouse by working through your differences together.

Strengthen yourself spiritually. Prepare for the challenges of making changes to your marriage by strengthening your soul through spiritual disciplines. Saturate your mind with the Bible’s wisdom, pray about your marriage and listen to the Holy Spirit’s response, and meet with a spiritual mentor who will support you on your journey toward a better marriage.

Adjust your attitudes. Make some crucial changes in the way you think about your marriage and the way you’ll choose to relate to your spouse from now on: Accept that you may never agree on some issues. Be flexible and willing to compromise. Look to God alone to meet your deepest needs, realizing that only God (who is perfect, unlike your human spouse) can truly meet those needs. Invest in healthy friendships with a few same-gender people so you release more pressure from your spouse to meet more of your relationship needs than is reasonable. Decide to communicate directly, clearly, and honestly with your spouse about everything, rather than expecting him or her to read your mind. Choose to focus on what’s positive about your spouse rather than on what’s negative about him or her, and speak well of your spouse to others. Reflect on your past conflicts and ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from them so you can work through your disagreements more successfully in the future. Put your hope in God, trusting him to improve your marriage if both you and your spouse are willing to make the effort, and knowing that God will help you grow into a stronger person no matter what your spouse decides or what happens to your marriage.

Accept your spouse. Ask God to help you accept your spouse as He does, respecting the unique way that God has created your spouse and loving your spouse unconditionally. Keep in mind that the differences between you and your spouse don’t mean necessarily mean that you’re right and he or she is wrong – you each just have unique personalities and perspectives. Your differences can complement each other if you work from a foundation of mutual love and respect.

Identify the key changes you hope to see happen your marriage. Think and pray about which differences between you and your spouse cause the most tension in your marriage. Then choose the top three areas and work with your spouse to try to reach compromises in those three areas to make both of you happier in your marriage.

Work well with each other’s family differences. Get to know how your spouse’s family of origin has affected his or her approach to your marriage so you can better understand why he or she acts in certain ways. Rather than setting up household roles the way they were in the homes that you and your spouse grew up in, set them up in whatever ways work best for the two of you in your unique marriage. Pray and get counseling together for healing from past family pain that is negatively affecting your marriage. Work together to take the pressure of unrealistic extended family expectations off of your marriage by setting up boundaries with them to protect your marriage from unnecessary stress.

Understand and appreciate the gender differences between you that God has designed. God has created male and female brains to work differently, and He has also given men and women distinctly different emotional needs. Respect God’s design and learn how to use the gender differences between you and your spouse in the way God intends: to complement each other so that you’re better together than apart.

Discuss your top relationship needs. Work with your spouse to figure out which of these common needs matters most to each of you: affection, sexual intimacy, attention, admiration, companionship, encouragement, respect, honesty and openness, domestic support, and spiritual connection. Then talk about how you all can do a better job of meeting the prioritized needs in your marriage.

Improve the communication between you. Better communication will help you both understand each other better, despite the differences between you. Learn how to listen carefully to each other and take turns sharing thoughts and feelings honestly and clearly with each other. Avoid negative words and choose positive words whenever possible. Offer each other words of affirmation, appreciation, praise, and encouragement often.

Handle conflict successfully. Conflict is a natural part of every marriage, so expect it rather than getting discouraged about it. Learn how to work through conflict successfully by focusing on solutions to problems rather than winning arguments, using your anger for constructive purposes rather than destructive ones, listening respectfully to each other’s different points of view, avoiding unhealthy behaviors such as blaming and name-calling, and staying focused on what specific problem you and your spouse are trying to solve.

Agree on how to manage your money well. Seek to understand each other’s different perspectives on money. Work together to establish and follow a budget that reflects healthy financial stewardship of the money God has given you both to share.

Pray for help if you’re not on the same page spiritually. If you’re close to Jesus and your spouse isn’t, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to be the best possible witness to your spouse to inspire him or her to grow spiritually.

Build a healthy sex life together. If you and your spouse have different sexual expectations or different levels of desire, talk together about what would help bring you closer together and work with a marriage counselor if you need more help.

Adapted from Why Can’t He Be More Like Me?: 9 Secrets to Understanding Your Husband, copyright 2012 by Poppy Smith. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,

Poppy Smith was born in England and grew up there and in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Kenya. She is the author of three books, including the bestselling I'm Too Young to Be This Old. A teaching leader with Bible Study Fellowship for several years, she now ministers extensively as a retreat and conference speaker both in the United States and around the world. She has a master's degree in spiritual formation and direction from George Fox Seminary. Visit her website at

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a contributing writer and the editor of’s site on angels and miracles, at Contact Whitney at: to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: May 22, 2012

March 25, 2013


I can remember watching a Gary Smalley video when I was in the church youth group in my teens. The leaders fully admitted that the video series was for married people, but this particular episode they showed us because it had to do with Dr. Smalley’s personality test. If you don’t know what that is, it really can teach you a lot about who you are, and how you interact with other people. Go HERE to take the test. But that is not my focus for this posting.

There was something about how in families, and especially in marriage, when people feel like they are appreciated, it builds strength in a relationship. I think this goes all through our relationships. Think of those people that you are closest to. Do you get the sense that they appreciate you? Or the people that seem to want to spend time with you. Do they feel like you appreciate them?

For married people, I think this is something that really needs to be looked at. Do you show your spouse that you appreciate them? Do you thank them for the things that they do for you, or for the house? Do you show an interest in things that they are interested in? An odd example I have for this is something that my wife is interested in…. JFK and some of the conspiracies surrounding his death. We were watching a documentary recently and there was very little in the documentary that I didn’t already know. It’s like we have been together for long enough that I have gotten to know a lot about this kind of thing. I know she has had the same thing happen with my interest in sharks.

As a marriage grows and evolves, there can come a point where two people just get used to being with each other. Some of that I think is ok, but there also needs to be some effort to strengthening and maintaining the relationship. I think that a big part of that can be showing that you appreciate your spouse. Greet them at the door for a kiss when they have been gone for the day. Set aside time to talk about the day. When you’re talking, is your attention divided?

I am a BIG supporter of this idea! Married people have to continue to date. This is SO important…especially if you have kids. There has to be time for married people to get away from the “stuff” of life… the kids… the dishes… the laundry… the cleaning… the bills… just some time for a couple to get out of the house together.

So I declare today… the day that you read this, Appreciate Your Spouse Day! Today, do something to show your wife that you appreciate them.

January 29, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

There he is in the corner of the great big room
Big and fat an obvious to see
Why’s he there? You both wonder
Is he scared? You both wonder.
He should use the door and be free.

Both are sitting on the couch munching on some snacks
When the husband takes a quick and stealthy look
That elephant won’t fit through the door, he’s way too big
He barely fits inside the breakfast nook

This time the wife looks ‘round at the great big beast
She doesn’t want her husband though to notice
The ellie stinks and blocks their path so you can’t get by
This is not something for a novice

There he is in corner of the great big room
Big and fat an obvious to see
Why’s he there? You both wonder
Is he scared? You both wonder.
He should use the door and be free.

Husband turns to wife, and risks sounding rather silly
But this problem must be talked about and solved.
The wife responds in kind, and also wants to talk
She too agrees this problem must be resolved.

Ideas begin to flow as the married couple talks, and focuses upon the elephant.
Should they squeeze him out the door after covering him with butter?
Should they have some people over and then have a barbeque?
If an idea comes to mind then it is uttered.

Something happens as they talk that escapes the eye of both
The elephant is shrinking by the moment
Talk continues, sometimes heated, but they focus on the beast
They listen close to hear the other’s comments.

Problem solved, and they going looking for the great big beast
He’s not so big and clunky anymore.
The elephant is tiny, and his trumpet is a toot,
And with a boot the lady kicks it out the door.

He was there in the corner of the great big room
No longer big and fat an obvious to see
He was there, they both knew why
They were scared to put their heart out
They talked an now the elephant is free.

November 11, 2012

Loving Your Spouse with a Whole Heart

Saw this one and had to post.  There is some really good stuff in here.  I know in my own life I see the damage that can be doen with too much rushing around and not enough time with your spouse.  My wife and I strive to spend time together, but sometimes with 3 kids and jobs and church stuff we don't always get to.  Marriage takes some work.  Here are some ideas that just struck home with me:

Loving Your Spouse with a Whole Heart
Whitney Hopler
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Shawn Stoever's book, The Wholehearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship, (Howard Books, 2009).

The passion and intimacy you wish you and your spouse could enjoy together isn't just a pie-in-the-sky dream. That kind of marriage is within your reach. But it's possible only if you both devote yourselves wholeheartedly to your relationship -- fully engaging and giving 100 percent, without reservation.

Here's how you can put your whole heart into your marriage:
Recognize where love comes from. Do you find yourself thinking that you're not in love with your spouse anymore? Perhaps you feel like you just don't connect with your spouse. Maybe you feel alone, even though the two of you are still living under the same roof. Have you chosen to settle, compromise, or go into survival mode in your marriage? Worse, have you given up and started looking for love somewhere else?

It doesn't have to be that way. No matter how discouraged you may feel, it's possible to experience love for your spouse again. That's because love comes from God -- who is always willing to give you a fresh supply of it -- rather than from you. You don't have the pressure of trying to generate love for your spouse when you don't feel it. All you need to do is go to God in prayer each day and ask Him to fill your heart with His love.

When you open your heart to God daily, you'll receive from Him all the love you need for both yourself and your spouse. The love in your heart will naturally overflow into your relationship with your spouse. So remember that God is the source of all love, and love is always available to you because it flows through you whenever you open your heart to God.

Open your heart. In your marriage, the issue isn't love; it's the state of your heart. Ask yourself daily: "Is my heart open or closed?" If your heart is closed, your marriage will start to shut down because you're blocking the flow of God's love into it. But if you open your heart to God and keep it open every day, you'll be inviting God to pour out His love through you into your marriage.

Give your heart a voice. Become aware of the emotions you're experiencing, and learn how to manage them in healthy ways. Keep in mind that God has designed your emotions to work together with your thoughts so you can make the best possible decisions. Your emotions give you valuable information that you can then process through your thoughts.
  • Ask God to help you accurately identify what you're feeling each day in various situations.
Rather than judging your emotions, consider what they are trying to tell you. When you feel frustration, joy, sadness, hurt, fear, or any other type of emotion, what does that mean?
  • Once you've figured out what you're feeling and why you're feeling it, start guiding your emotions toward what you want to feel in your marriage.
Identify your specific desires for your marriage. Then, instead of expecting your spouse to give you what you want (because he or she is bound to fall short), turn to God with your desires. Regularly pray about what you want your marriage to be like, and trust God to bring about the transformation for which you're hoping, as long as you and your spouse cooperate with Him.
  • Bring your negative emotions to God and ask Him to replace them with positive emotions in your life.
Whenever your emotions get stirred up, rather than blaming your spouse, consider what you may be doing yourself to intensify your own feelings. Look at your thoughts and thought patterns, interpretations, judgments, perceptions, expectations, fears, past hurts, beliefs, family-of-origin issues, and anything else that may be affecting your emotions. Then consider how you can best respond to your emotions.
  • Avoid unhealthy actions like ignoring, suppressing, judging, or minimizing your feelings; viewing your feelings as facts; impulsively acting on them; or spewing them on others.
Figure out some healthy responses from which you could choose to manage any emotion that comes your way: taking deep breaths, praying, going for a walk, journaling, talking to a friend, cleaning your house, reading a book, etc.

Deal with a wounded heart. Life in this fallen world wounds you and your spouse's hearts by attacking them with false messages (such as: "You're not valuable"). The messages on your hearts affect how you see yourselves and how you interact with the world.
  • Ask God to help you identify the false messages that have attacked your hearts and wounded them.
Does your heart make you feel: rejected, abandoned, disconnected, a failure, helpless, powerless, inadequate, inferior, invalidated, unloved, undesirable, worthless, judged, ignored, unimportant, misunderstood, disrespected, defective, or some other harmful message?
Then replace those lies with biblical truth.
  • Search the Bible for specific verses that line up against the lies with which you've been struggling, and memorize those verses.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can see yourself from God's perspective and think right thoughts about yourself.
  • Talk to some people you trust (such as friends, mentors, or a trained psychologist) for counsel and encouragement.
  • Care for your heart by nurturing yourself (such as by maintaining a close prayer connection to God, nurturing healthy friendships, setting healthy boundaries in your life, journaling your feelings, eating whenever you're hungry, and sleeping whenever you're tired).
Deal with a fearful heart. Create an emotionally safe environment for you and your spouse to relate to each other, so both of you feel safe to truly open up and be known at a deep, intimate level. Each of you should be able to open and reveal who you really are and know that your spouse will still love, understand, accept, and value you no matter what.
  • Avoid behaviors that erode trust, like:
criticism, angry reactions, threats, withdrawal, sarcasm, broken promises, nagging, judgment, harsh words, defensiveness, manipulation, teasing, deception, negative assumptions and jumping to conclusions, bringing up the past over and over, and refusing to forgive.
  • Recognize your spouse's value.
Ask God to help you honor your spouse -- no matter what -- because he or she is God's priceless gift to you and has a position in your life that's worthy of great respect. Treat your spouse in valuable ways, such as by: praying for and with your spouse, listening to your spouse with your full attention, validating your spouse's feelings, considering your spouse's point of view, notice your spouse's good qualities, thank your spouse for what he or she does for you, serve your spouse in ways that are meaningful for him or her, honor your spouse's boundaries, spend lots of time with your spouse, be honest and trustworthy with your spouse, forgive your spouse, and reassure your spouse of your unconditional love for him or her.

Deal with an exhausted heart. If you don't intentionally plan regular time with your spouse and time to recharge yourself, the busyness of life will take over and your marriage will suffer.
  • Slow down the pace of your lifestyle and simplify your schedule.
Build in plenty of time for rest, reflection, and prayer. Learn when and how to say "no" to pursuits that don't relate directly to your core values, so you'll be free to focus on what's most important and let the rest go.
  • Get rid of stuff that clutters your house and demands your time and energy to deal with it. Refuse to allow our culture's standards to define your value by what you look like, what you do, or what you own.
  • Find your true value in the fact that God has made you and redeemed you, and He loves you.
Ask God to help you become whole and full emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically so you'll have the energy and resources necessary to love your spouse fully and unconditionally.

Fight for your spouse's heart. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. But it doesn't have to harm your relationship; it can actually strengthen it. If you and your spouse respond to conflict in a healthy way, conflict will become the doorway to intimacy between you because it will deepen your understanding of each other.
  • Consider how both you and your spouse tend to react to conflict now.
Responding with "fight" behavior -- defensiveness, anger, going into fix-it mode, escalation, criticism, sarcasm, blame, or belittling comments -- won't promote the intimate connections you want to make. Neither will responding with "flight" behavior: withdrawal, negative beliefs, shut-down mode, isolation, numbing out, over-functioning, stonewalling, or passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Instead of becoming your spouse's adversary in conflict and causing your hearts to close to each other, open your hearts to God.
Pray for the ability to embrace, appreciate, and deal with you and your spouse's differences in healthy ways. Ask God to show you what emotional buttons your spouse is pushing through the conflict and how that makes you feel. Also ask God to reveal how you're pushing your spouse's emotional buttons through the conflict. Then pray for the power you need to gain control over the conflict and use it to accomplish something constructive in your relationship.

Care for your spouse's heart. Your spouse has an amazingly valuable and incredibly vulnerable heart, just as you do.
  • Keep the promise you made in your wedding vows to care for each other.
  • Communicate to understand by agreeing on when it's a good time to talk, agreeing on the goal of each conversation (connecting emotionally, or trying to fix something), and checking during the conversation to make sure you're still both staying on track and understanding each other.
  • Avoid communication pitfalls, such as trying to figure out: who is right or wrong, who is to blame or at fault, and what was said or what really happened.
  • Avoid destructive behaviors like: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. During difficult interactions, say to your spouse: "Help me understand" so he or she knows you truly care.
  • Ask God to open the eyes of your heart toward your spouse and give you compassion for him or her.
  • Respect how valuable and vulnerable your spouse's heart is by treating it gently.
  • Set aside your temptation to blame your spouse and focus on simply caring for him or her instead.
  • Express empathy ("I feel what you're feeling, and I want to share in your joy or pain.") and validation ("What you're feeling matters to me and you matter to me.") toward your spouse.
Speak to your spouse's heart. Give your spouse words of encouragement every day.
  • Honor, motivate, and call out your spouse's spiritual gifts and natural talents.
  • Find out what wounds and fear your spouse is struggling with, and what you can say to encourage your spouse to pursue healing.
  • Consider people's most common intimacy needs -- acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, attention, comfort, encouragement, respect, security, and support -- and do what you can to help meet your spouse's intimacy needs through your marriage.
  • Understand people's love languages -- words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch -- and express your love for your spouse in ways that best speak his or her specific love language.
Celebrate with your spouse's heart. Bring fun and laughter into your marriage often. Humor increases intimacy, reduces stress, and increases positive emotions. Intentionally turn toward your spouse each day to help prevent drifting apart. Spend as much time as you can together.
  • As much as possible, do your everyday chores and errands together rather than separately.
  • Pray with your spouse often. Share your dreams with each other regularly.
  • Schedule dates whenever you can.
  • Talk frequently about what God is doing in each of your lives.
  • Learn something new together, such as through trying a new activity or taking a class.
  • Serve others together by doing volunteer work side-by-side.
  • Surprise your spouse by doing something unexpected every now and then (such as by playing a loving practical joke on him or her or planning a romantic getaway trip).
Reminisce about the positive events that have happened over the course of your marriage, and recall what qualities about each other first attracted you to each other. Protect your fun activities from being ruined by conflict by agreeing to talk about issues at other times instead of while you're trying to have fun together.
April 28, 2009.

Adapted from The Wholehearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship by Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Shawn Stoever. Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, West Monroe, La., Greg Smalley is the coauthor of eight books, including The DNA of Relationships for Couples and The Marriage You've Always Dreamed Of. He is the director of Church Relationship Ministries for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and is also the founder of the National Institute of Marriage.

Dr. Shawn Stoever currently serves as a senior director for a nonprofit ministry called the WinShape Foundation, and he previously served as director of training for the Smalley Relationship Center.

August 15, 2012

What does spiritual leadership look like in marriage?

This is an interesting blog post that was sent to me email address.  I think it might be a little controversial because it implies that there is a leader in a marriage, but I think that when you see how this points the Christian man, you'll agree that this is a good thing.  It is by a blogger named Kevin East.  His personal blog is here. 

"Many Christian men want to lead their wives spiritually, but they have no idea what that means.  Many Christian women want to be led spiritually by their husbands, but they're not really sure what it looks like to follow.  Often times, what can result is a chaotic mess of unmet expectations.

Recently, I sat across the table from a young married man who wanted to know some practical ways to lead his wife.  He went through a short list of what he was currently doing, but felt that was somewhat inadequate.  After asking some men around him, he felt like the main question he got back was, "are you praying with your wife?".

I'm glad some men want to fill the role in their marriage as spiritual leaders.  Since God has called us, as men, to love our wives like Christ loved the Church, it is important that we put together some practical ways this plays out on a daily basis in our marriage relationships.

Here are a few ways I think men can lead spiritually in their home:

1. Pursue Christ. This is the foundation for good spiritual leadership.  Before you try to start leading, you need to make sure you are following.  Men whose hearts are humble before the Lord can be shaped by Him.  Sit before God regularly, with His Word open, eagerly seeking to be purified and conformed into His image.  Show her the importance of this in your life.  That will translate into your relationship as well.

2. Find out who has led your wife spiritually in the past. Think about your life.  Who made a distinct impact on you?  Was it a youth pastor, college pastor, Young Life leader?  Why did you learn so much from their presence in your life?

We all learn and are led differently.  If you can find out those things about your wife, I think you will get a better clue of what it means to lead her.  Your wife might love time together, just sitting and talking.  In those times, significant conversations are had that give you the opportunity to care for her soul.

3. Honor her publicly. Speak highly of your wife.  Don't focus on her flaws or deficits.  Be the man that makes your wife light up  when you speak about her at meal tables with your friends.

4. Sacrifice for her. Philippians 2 gives us a great picture of Jesus' love and example.  It is marked by putting others' needs before your own.  Do the same in marriage.  Put down the rights you think you deserve and start sacrificing for your wife.

Leadership begins by setting an example, and then asking someone to follow it.  As a man, take the initiative to sacrifice for your wife.

5. Be eager to serve. My temptation is merely to be able to serve.  Some days I am even willing to serve.  But Christ's example and calling for Christian leaders is to be eager to serve.

The other day my wife asked if I could help with one of our foster sons.  I made a joking comment in return, and then helped.  A couple of days later I apologized to her, recognizing that my attitude in that moment did not show her an eagerness to serve her.  That was not the type of husband I want to be.

6. Pray with her. Yes, I said it.  Pray with your wife.  This might be the go-to question for older men teaching younger men about spiritual leadership in marriage.  There is something unique and intimate about praying together.  I've read statistics of what prayer in marriages does for the health of a marriage.  It is profound.

Spiritual leadership in marriage is not something we should leave as a vague idea that exists in someone else's reality.  Instead, let's strive as men to fulfill the role that God has given us.

Any other concrete ideas of how a husband can lead a wife spiritually?"

June 11, 2012

Communication.... Or not!

This is an issue that has spelled the end of many relationships. Sometimes it is a lack of communication. Sometimes it is a miscommunication. Sometimes it is thoughtless, and mean communication. Imagine its import in a marriage! Communications is SO important.

At work, as part of my signature in my email, there is a quotation from George Bernard Shaw.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I put it there to be a bit mischievous, and a bit ironic, but really this is SO true! I think of all the times I have written an email or a text message and thought that I was completely clear, and then someone responds to what I said with something that makes no sense compared to what I asked them for.

Ok, granted communication is complicated when you think about it. First, there is the person that creates the thought or the idea. They filter it through their set of assumptions and their experiences. There are certain things that they expect you to know, and if you don’t know those things you have already lost part of the idea that they intended.

So then when the idea comes out of their mouth, their emotions, and their body language and their voice tone play a major role in what is communicated. If they were too intense, or maybe they were tired, or distracted when they spoke, it can affect the way the message is sent. When speaking, we rarely have the time to really focus our words, and some people are better at it than others. Just take a few minutes when you are in the middle of a conversation and notice how many conversations are really just clipped words and sentences, or even the occasional grunt. It really is a wonder that people communicate at all.

Then there is communication in text form. I know I have been guilty of this in the past. You write something, and sometimes your intention is lost because the person you are writing to doesn’t pick up on your mischievous tone. Consider this. About 10% of communication comes from the words we say. The other 90% of communication comes from body language, voice tone, and other non-verbal cues. It is no wonder why so much can be confused in text form. And let’s not even get into the spelling that people have these days… or using the wrong homonym. (There, Their and They’re) … But I digress.

The person receiving the message has a part to play in this too. There is a difference between hearing and listening. We hear a lot of things, and forget them, but I would define listening as actively trying to hear something. It is a choice to focus on someone communicating with you.

Like before the experience and assumptions of the listener play a role as well. Those may or may not be the same as the person sending the message. When those experience and assumption filters are not the same the communication can break down. There are the emotions of the person receiving the message. There are the issues of body language and voice tone and all that on the side of the listener too. Maybe they are angry, or worried, or in some other charged of off-focus state. It is easy for them to misunderstand a message.

Men and women communicate differently, and they hear differently.  Women seem to be able to talk about 2 or 3 things at the same time.  Men, seem to be able to (for the most part) track one thing at a time.  Women seem to be able to feel their conversations more than men do.  Men seem to just spell out the facts, while sometimes women just wanted to have someone lsten.

Hurt and anger about topics make it even harder to discuss the topic the next time. It’s so complicated. Any number of things can be an impediment to communication. The only thing I have seen that works… Is grace. Listen closely, as best you can. If someone says something you perceive to be hurtful, clarify it rather than react to it. Do your best to be clear, and think through how what you are saying can be taken, both positive and negative. Learn from your mistakes. Love people where they are at.

In a married relationship, remember that love is the rule. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says it all:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

You may have heard this a thousand times before, but really take some time to think about the words. Put your name in where the word Love is. With your name in the passage, is it true? Most of us fail in this area…. A lot. In communication… especially in marriage, love must be the goal.