Day 12 Love lets the other win II

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I had a conversation with a friend last night. He is of the opinion that there are “no good marriages”. I admitted that most of what I believe concerning having a Bible-based, God-centered marriage is based on faith, not experience. I know a few married people who have good marriages, but they seem to have them by “luck” and not by design. If I consider what makes the marriages I see as successful work, many of the elements outlined in this book are being implemented, not by design, but perhaps through discovery or just due to the individual’s personalities. What this says to me is this Love Dare book is really needed!

We are to glorify God and give honor to Him through our lives. When we do not have marriages that glorify God and bring honor to His Name, it is a terrible testimony and a HUGE missed opportunity to witness to others what the reason for our success is. When we divorce, what does that tell those who look to us as Christians for answers? I can say this about my own failed marriage; it is not God’s fault. It takes two willing people to submit to God’s guidance and live out what He empowers us to live out when we are willing to do His Will in our marriages and lives.

Today’s lesson in “The Love Dare” covers stubbornness, willingness and the ability to lay aside personal “rights” for the good of the relationship. Stubbornness can be good in certain areas, like our belief in God and a refusal to deny those beliefs. In a marriage, a stubborn insistence on our own way and “rights” is detrimental to a good relationship. It only takes one partner to “give in” to diffuse an argument, but ideally both should become willing to cooperate with one another.

I am a stubborn person, my wife is stubborn also and this knowledge causes me much grief. I know my wife is stubborn enough to take her being offended, hurt and disappointed all the way through Divorce Court. I did not file an “Answer” to my wife’s Petition for Dissolution. I told her I could not, would not file an Answer and would not appear in Court. In Minnesota, it only takes one person to file for divorce and if there is no “Answer” filed, all that the person filing for requests is granted by default. I had the “right” to challenge my wife’s settlement requests, but was physically, emotionally and mentally unable to. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6: 1-11 admonishing believers not to take one another to court. I read this after I was unable to file legal papers and felt better about not being able to do so.

Even though this is not the scope or application the author was referring to, I feel like I am allowing my wife to “win”. This is a sickening thought in this application and I pray that God will be able to impress upon my wife that this is not the course to stay on. I am not deluded however to think that if the divorce were stopped and my wife reconciled to me, that our marriage would succeed without professional help and the application of the principles laid out in this book. Without God being first and foremost in our lives and a humble submission to His Will for our lives, we can have no success. Whatever the outcome, I am giving myself wholly to God everyday, to seek His Will for my life and ask for His power to carry that out. I am course corrected and I am very grateful for that, “not my will, but Thy Will be done”.

Day 5 Love is not rude II

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Today’s reading in The Love Dare deals with “rudeness”. “Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.”

I was raised being shamed into “good manners”, many in my generation will recognize statements like, “kids should be seen and not heard”. We were taught at school, for me a Lutheran Parochial school, and at home, table, and classroom and playground manners. A stern and punishing adult was always present and any infraction was dealt with swiftly and corporeally. My home was a hypocritical teaching experience, “do as I say, not as I do!” and extremely violent in language and action.

Needless to say I was not properly equipped for a successful marital relationship, or any other relationship for that manner. I had my fill of physical violence growing up and absolutely did not want to bring that into my adult life. I somehow gave myself permission to have a sharp tongue and be sarcastic. I now believe, since my wife so convincingly, albeit not lovingly, drove into my thinking that sarcasm goes beyond rude behavior.

What I share in this blog is considered by some as poor boundaried, ill-mannered, and to me also, embarrassing. What I have learned though, is that by others sharing their “experience, strength and hope”, I receive healing. I am by nature a shy person, but because I have lived my life a certain way and not concerned myself with consequences to self or others, I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned that is good and healing. My children have their mother’s sensitivity to privacy and they are mortified by what I share.

I know there is value and relief in being able to share even our most painful memories. Complete strangers tell me their life stories after only minutes of conversation. Friends confide in me life stories that they tell no one else, why? I have no idea! Some of these stories are so painful, it is hard to listen to them and at times I fell exhausted after hearing them, but I always feel blessed. It is an honor to be trusted, to be perceived as someone who cares and someone who will not shame you for sharing.

When I was getting to know my wife, she confided in me, we had intertwining relationships, sometimes a good thing, other times not. This is bearable as long as the relationship remains on a friendship level. I was not mature or love-filled enough to handle all that information as we moved into an intimate relationship. I was sarcastic and ill-mannered because I was unforgiving, ungracious, and without mercy. It would be far easier for me to go through this divorce than to be grown by God to handle what I have not handled very well to this point. I am not interested in the easier path however, I want to grow and extend the grace, mercy and forgiveness that God has extended to me to my wife.

I love this quote from the Love Dare, “If you’re thinking that your spouse—not you—is the one who needs work in this area, you’re likely suffering from a bad case of ignorance, with a secondary case of selfishness. Remember, love is not rude, but lifts you to a higher standard”.

“Here are three guiding principles when it comes to practicing etiquette in your marriage:
1. Guard the Golden Rule. Treat your mate the same way you want to be treated (see Luke 6.31).
2. No Double Standards. Be as considerate to your spouse as you are to strangers and coworkers.
3. Honor Requests. Consider what your husband or wife already asked you to do or not to do. If in doubt, then ask.
All quotes are from “The Love Dare”

World’s Way vs God’s Way

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Jesus came to take away the sins of the world, to heal the sick and save the lost.  I don’t know of another baby born whose life was laid out in such detail ahead of time.  Since the “Fall of Man” a picture emerged of the coming Messiah, written by many different authors over hundreds of years.  It’s like a large canvas stretched and protected for hundreds of years and every so often an artist comes along and places a few strokes on it.  This canvas would have to be huge; it would have names of Jesus on it, scenes from the life of this child through manhood and ultimately showing in graphic detail His death on a cross.  Then this Man walks in this building and is the exact image of the Man in the painting!

“And you shall call His name Emmanuel, God with us”.  When I first accepted the full import of this saying, I was well out of the parochial school upbringing I had.  I did not understand salvation, the Godhood of Jesus or that His death replaced the 10 Commandments.   I was not stupid and this was a Lutheran school, so how did I miss it?  Martin Luther let the common people know the truth of salvation, that it is by faith we are saved and not works.  God’s grace saves us from the penalty of disobeying the 10 commandments and gives us a “New Law” to live by.

I became what is called “legalistic” by my upbringing in the parochial school.  I thought the 10 Commandments were it, the final word.  The seeds of salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus were planted deeply in me, so it wasn’t all bad.  Jesus said we have the 10 Commandments to make us aware that we fail, so we can repent, ask for and receive His forgiveness and live better lives.  If there were no speed limits, we would not be guilty of breaking the law by driving as fast as we wanted, same idea.  This is not to say that we can do whatever we want, ask forgiveness and everything will be all right.  How many times as kids, or have your kids tried that with you, doing the same wrong things, saying “sorry” and repeating the behavior, doesn’t work for long.  That’s where the repentance comes in, we “turn away from” those behaviors, in other words stop doing the wrong thing.  God gives us the notice that we do wrong and He gives us the ability to stop those behaviors, what a good system, if we use it!

The entire Bible is filled with what we are to do to please God, and what it is He expects from us.  The Bible tells us there are things He hates.  People spend their entire lives trying to please parents that may or may not even appreciate our efforts, why wouldn’t we want to please the God of the entire universe?  We can purposely disobey God’s commands, His desires for us.  He is not waiting to smack us over the head with a 2×4, or punish us in any manner.  We are accountable to Him for our behaviors and there are consequences, sometimes dire for disobeying God.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  The good life is not an accident, as Christians we are called to a higher calling and as examples of the goodness of God.

If we live like everyone else who has no moral compass and do whatever it is that pleases them, what is the point?  That kind of living is what is referred to in the Bible as living “like the world”. It says in the Bible that, “friendship with the world is enmity with God”, why would I want God as an enemy?  I believe as Christians we are not to talk” like the world”, impressing everyone with the shock value of swear words or the knowledge of pornographic exploits.  With the power of God coursing through us and living in us, the 10 Commandments and all of God’s principles should be a worthy goal and obey-able.

God hates divorce, period.  The illustration of the church (those who accept the salvation God has provided), is of Jesus as the Bridegroom  and the church as the Bride.  This is an eternal condition in this example, we are to be a testimony of this arrangement as Christians in marriage, not as the world does it with serial marriages, but one for life.  When we take our wedding vows, those vows are made to God.  Do what you want, any way you want but there are consequences for not honoring those vows.  Jesus warns us against making vows, He said, “ Let your yes be yes and your no, no”.  So many Christians are like the world (enmity with God),  in how we treat our marriage vows.  Is there forgiveness for divorcing, of course; the supreme sacrifice (Christ crucified), was made to forgive us all our sins.  BUT there are those sometimes dire consequences for disobeying God’s design.

If you are a child of a divorce, even an adult child, you know very well the consequences of divorce in your own life.  I have been divorced once and my second wife wants a divorce from me now.  She can divorce me, but there will be consequences, and that does not make me happy.  I have a hard time when I violate God’s desires and continue to do so, then ask Him for something I need.  We need to make things right as far as we can, as part of our repentance, than we can go to God with a clear conscience.  Again God isn’t waiting to punish us, but as in His physical law, if you step off a building and say you don’t believe in gravity, you’re going down anyway.

 

 

 

Day 32 Love Meets Sexual Needs

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“The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband”.   1 Corinthians 7:3

Listening to some “religious” minded men, it sounds like this is a scripture they like to assert only from their self-interest.  The other much abused scripture is how the wife must be subject to her husband.  Well men, we need to look at the whole verse, in both situations.  Your wife has sexual needs that are to be fulfilled.  We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church, is your love to your wife of that nature?  If it were, I believe the wife’s attitude would be one of loving agreement, rather than becoming rightfully offended.  I raise my hand, if asked if anyone every violated these commands.

“Some people think the Bible has nothing good to say about sex, as though all God seems concerned about is telling us when not to do it and who not to do it with.  In reality, however, the Bible has a great deal to say about sex and the blessing it can be for both husband and wife.  Even its boundaries and restrictions are God’s ways of keeping our sexual experiences at a level far beyond any of those advertised on television or in the movies.”

For those blessed enough by what God intended sex to be, read the Song of Solomon and see if any of the imagery rings true.  It is true that sex is only one aspect of marriage and in becoming “one flesh”.  When celebrated as a gift from God, there is nothing better.  If one partner values the importance of this more than the other, your feeling of oneness will be threatened.

“We are not to share this same experience with anyone else….But we are weak.  And when this legitimate need goes unmet—when it’s treated as being selfish and demanding by the other—our hearts are subject to being drawn away from marriage, tempted to fulfill this longing somewhere else, some other way.”

“To counteract this tendency, God established marriage with an “oneflesh” mentality, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1Corinthians 7:4).

We have probably all heard stories of how some people use sex as a bargaining tool, or as a special occasion event.  This is not the way God intends for us to use sex.  We cannot withhold sex without consequences.  “So stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self- control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

There are people who evidently just aren’t interested in sex.  I know of one person like this and it has caused a rift in their marriage. It is good to be honorable and show proper boundaries before getting married, by not pressing the sex issue.  However once married and attempting to have a Christian marriage, there are the requirements of fulfilling one another’s sexual needs.  For the woman in this case, depending on one’s outlook, her job is easy.  But she still has needs unmet, and this man from what I have observed does want to please his wife, maybe not sexually, but that really doesn’t matter.  I would highly recommend that he ask his wife how he may please her.  If there is a problem with erectile dysfunction, that really doesn’t mean that he cannot engage in holding and affirming his wife and even bring her to “fulfillment”.  This would probably please the man, because his wife would be pleased.  There should not be shame with men talking to men about issues such as these; Bob Dole was on National TV talking about erectile dysfunction.

“Love is the only way to reestablish loving union between each other.  All things the Love Dare entails—patience, kindness, selflessness, thoughtfulness, protection, honor, forgiveness—-will play a role in renewing your sexual intimacy.  When the love of Christ is the foundation of your marriage, the strength of your friendship and sexual relationship can be enjoyed at a level this world can never know”.

“Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

All quotes from “The Love Dare” except where noted.

 

 

 

 

Day 30 Love Brings Unity

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I am having a difficult time writing about today’s lesson, I hope it does not turn into the rambling mess that yesterday’s did.  The imagery in the Bible as referenced in today’s reading moved me unexpectedly. I understand that we are spirit, soul and body. That there are three distinct components of every man, woman and child, amazes me.

Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all three in perfect unity, present at “The Creation”.  God creating the heavens and the earth, the Holy Spirit “moving over the surface of the waters”, and the Son speaking the world into existence!  .  God said “let us make man in our image” and He made them both male and female (this was prior to Eve’s creation).   The mystery of the scripture of all Three on the scene at the same time blows me away.

To be a witness at the baptism of Jesus would have put you at the place of the Trinity being present.  As Jesus emerged from the water, the Spirit descends like a dove and the Father proclaims, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.  I get goose bumps thinking about this; at times this scene can bring tears to my eyes.

“In the unique relationship of husband and wife, two distinct individuals are spiritually united into “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  Is it hard to comprehend the idea of “one flesh”?  I realize for those among us who do not believe in the creation story, this concept must be totally nonsensical.  I believe Eve was made from the rib of Adam (think DNA), so they came from one flesh and when we marry and consummate the marriage, we become one flesh with that person.

“The church (the bride) is most honored when her Savior is worshiped and celebrated.  Christ (the bridegroom), who has given Himself up for her, is most honored when He sees her, ‘as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless’ (Ephesians 5. 27).  Both Christ and the church love and honor the other.”

The Love Dare book asks to questions for our consideration, Husband— “What would happen in your marriage if you devoted yourself to loving, honoring, and serving your wife in all things?  What if you determined that the preservation of your oneness with this woman was worth every sacrifice and expression of love you could make?  What would change in your home if you took that approach to your relationship on a daily basis?”

Wife—“What would happen if you made it your mission to do everything possible to promote togetherness of heart with your husband?  What if every threat to your unity was treated as a poison, a cancer, an enemy to be eliminated by love, humility and selflessness?  What would your marriage become if you were never again willing to see your oneness torn apart?”

Sounds like a good stopping point, to meditate on the power of God’s unity, what we become when married, how Jesus sees us and consider what if BOTH parties to a marriage walked out the principles of this book?

All quotes from “The Love Dare”, unless noted otherwise

Day 29 Loves Motivation

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“Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men.”  Ephesians 6:7

As the opening scripture reference alludes to, this principle applies to all areas of our life.

I like today’s lesson, it doesn’t give rise to a feeling of self-condemnation.  That is not to say I have mastered the concept behind this message.  I think there is room for more improvement in everyone’s life that I know, to exercise this principle.  The author of “The Love Dare” says, “Those who are fine with mediocre marriages can leave their love to chance and hope for the best.”  I left my love to chance much of the time and the results were disastrous!

I began going to Sunday School when I was 3 years old and my grandmother requested that my mother send my brother and I to parochial school.  The school was old fashioned, conservative Lutheran, except for Kindergarten our classes consisted of two grades in one room.  The teacher, who we generally had for two consecutive years, taught the lesson to one grade level, then taught another lesson to the next grade, so we had time to study “between classes” and get a preview of what the following year held for us.  I went to this school through the 6th grade and then reluctantly finished confirmation classes for two years of Saturdays!

I add this schooling history so you might get a better grasp of the religious upbringing I had in school and the demonstration of what hell was like at home.  This is what formed the foundation for my dysfunctional manner of approaching life.  I am still shedding layers of this dysfunction as I write.  The only “fun” I had in dysfunction was being able to live a Huck Finn/ Tom Sawyer type life, enjoying great adventures. Unless we ran afoul with the authorities, then we were dealt some pretty amazing beatings.

I give this background to contrast the example in the LD book.  They ask you to recall how as a child your parents gave you established rules for you to follow, (not in my case).  The LD says if we were like most people, we bent the rules as often as we obeyed them.  If not for consequences, you might not have obeyed them at all.  “But if you met Christ along the way or received any kind of Bible teaching, you probably were exposed to this idea—-“Children be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord”.  I honestly do not recall this teaching; it was do wrong and get caught, get beat.

I am responsible for my life, and have been for a very long time.  My mother had her teaching opportunity with me.  When I left home for college, I realized it was time to re-parent myself.  Eighteen year olds for the most part, do not make good parents, even to themselves.  I continue to avail myself to this re-parenting concept.  I have told my children many times, “I made mistakes raising you, you are not happy about some of these things, now you have the rest of your life to re-parent yourself.  The bookstores and other avenues are full of good tools for this.”  I’ve also shared my growth process with them since they suffered through my degenerative phases.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Colossians 3.22 Through other scripture we are to work, serve, and do everything “as unto the Lord”.  With this perspective it is a matter of being obedient to God and not out of duty that we do, what we do.

The LD book talks about how at times we can demotivate our spouse in loving us.  “The love demanded from you in marriage is not dependent on your mate’s sweetness or suitability.  The love between a husband and a wife should have one chief objective; honoring the Lord with devotion and sincerity.  The fact that it blesses our beloved in the process is simply a wonderful, additional benefit. …. No longer is it this imperfect person who decides how much love you’ll show, but rather it’s your omni-perfect God who can use even a flawed person like yourself to bestow loving favor on another.

Today’s Dare:  …PRAY FOR THEM BY NAME AND FOR THEIR NEEDS. WHETHER IT COMES EASY FOR YOU OR NOT, SAY “I LOVE YOU,” THEN EXPRESS LOVE TO THEM IN SOME TANGIBLE WAY.  GO TO GOD IN PRAYER AGAIN, THANKING HIM FOR GIVING YOU THE PRIVELEGE OF LOVING THIS ONE SPECIAL PERSON——UNCONDITIONALLY, THE WAY HE LOVES BOTH OF YOU.

All quotes from The Love Dare except were noted.

Day 22 Love is Faithful

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I am not Hosea and my wife is not a prostitute.

In the Old Testament there is a book called Hosea.  Hosea was told by God to marry a prostitute. He obeyed God.  Hosea and his wife had 3 children together.  It was just a matter of time that his wife wanted back in her old lifestyle.  Hosea was heart broken and shamed through this abandonment.  More time passed and God told Hosea to find his wife and reconcile their marriage.  By this time his wife had reached the bottom and had to be purchased of the slave block.

The lesson that we are to learn from this is how great God’s love is for us.  There are references all over  the Bible about how the children of Israel “went whoring after other Gods.”  We are to realize that we too have turned our backs on God, rejecting His love, yet He waits for our return. The time away from God and refusing his love always ends up with us paying a price for our unfaithfulness, while we are pursuing our lusts. How long does it take for you to recover from knowing you have disappointed God?

A man shared in an AA meeting how ashamed he was that he had a “slip”.  He got drunk a few times after being sober for 10 years and it took him 2 years to get over the shame.  Alcohol is the seductress that many of us are confronted with.  He told of how he went to a “Round Up” which is a very large meeting and they had everyone stand.  The longest to the shortest time of sobriety was called out and people sat when they heard their time.  He said he knew people there and they knew how long he had been sober.  Then his time passed, people stared at him and after quite some time, they called out 1 day, and he was able to sit.  To me that exercise is very shaming, I guess they had something else in mind.

My wife and I both know that if we were to have sexual relationships with someone else, that our relationship would be irreparably damaged. This time of separation is really a dangerous time, there are temptations everywhere and a seemingly sliding scale of morality heightens the danger.  There are those who give really bad advice.  Like, “you have your needs, get them met, but make sure she knows that is all you’re doing.  My AA sponsor says, “you have to keep from thinking about your wife, consider it over, but don’t get involved with another woman”.

Gods example for rejected love is to remain faithful.  I will know when the time is here to move on, but for now I will remain faithful and continue to work on the areas of my life that need work.

The Love Dare book speaks briefly about how our marriages can be a battlefield and our spouse become our enemy.  Jesus says we are to love our enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.  We are to be known by our love, people should know we are disciples of Christ by our love for one another.  What is great about this is we are to simply release the love God has placed in our heart.

This book is not the answer to every difficulty there is in relationships.  If we can learn to love and act the way outlined in this book, it would be great.  Some of us have addictions that need to be dealt with on a daily basis, some of us need to get our attention back to where it belongs. We need to stop listening to people who are anti-marriage, anti-reconciliation, those whose first word of advice is to divorce the blankety blank!


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