Monday, November 28, 2011

December Doldrums

Ruts: we all fall into them. Very subtly, routine becomes ingrained and you start doing things because, well, that’s what you do. You forget why, or how it started, you just do it... mindlessly. The longer the pattern holds, the harder it becomes to change. Some repeated behaviors are positive. A routine can be a good thing if it removes decisions that cause undue stress, if it stops conflicts before they start. There is a dark side to routine though.

It becomes hard to change even when the change is for the better. Look at your relationship: look specifically at activities and behaviors that are always the same and ask whether or not they are having a positive or negative impact on your marriage. It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect different results. If your marriage is not all you and your spouse want or need it to be, then maybe doing things differently is in order.

In weightlifting, if one does the same exercise all the time it becomes less and less effective. As the body gets used to the motion, it becomes more efficient at it and the muscle building gains of that exercise diminish. This is called a plateau. To get passed a plateau, you have to do something different; catch your muscles off guard by making them do something they aren’t expecting.

Marriage relationships are no different. If you are in a rut, then your love is not growing to its full potential - time to shake it up a little bit, abandon the routine. New activities done together are great ways to spark conversations, find out things you didn’t know about each other. Abandon comfortable activities and behaviors that have become stale and replace them with ones that provide opportunities to talk. If necessary, turn off the TV. Turn off the computer and mute the phones. Get to know that person you decided to spend the rest of your life with all over again. Consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with a lot of things that you and your spouse are doing, the routines you've settled into. Ask yourself though, are they EDIFYING? Are these things helping your love to grow, your relationship to strengthen? Change things up so that they are.
I was going to make this a New Year’s resolution challenge... but why wait? Do it NOW!

Monday, October 31, 2011


How do you talk about your spouse? When they are with you, is your tone positive or negative? What about when they are not around - while you’re at work or out with friends, how do you speak about your marriage then? When things are not the greatest between you, do you still praise your spouse publicly? Praising each other is critical to the success of your marriage.

If you are not speaking well of your spouse, examine your motives. Are you addressing issues and trying to resolve them? Unless you are speaking directly to your spouse or with a counsellor, airing your problems is unlikely to solve anything. Are you just seeking allies - people who will agree with you and commiserate? Not only is this unlikely to help, it will almost surely make things worse. People agreeing with your negativity will reinforce it in your mind. When they start airing their problems too, it can make all marriage seem hopeless. It won’t make you feel good about yourself either... didn’t you choose the person you married? Speaking bad about your spouse is also denigrating yourself.

In Luke 6:45 Jesus says:
The good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

You can actively turn this verse upside down. When you choose to speak positively about your spouse, you can refill your heart with “good treasure” that will bless your marriage. Whatever you say, speaking it aloud - especially to someone else - reinforces it in your head; you become more and more convinced of your own conclusions. Thus, when you’re speaking ill, you reinforce that. Luckily though, it works both ways. When you are making a conscious effort to focus on the positives it’s a way to intentionally remember why you married that person in the first place, a way to count your blessings and revel in what is good about your marriage.

When your spouse is in the room, keep praising! Speaking bad about each other in public - even under the guise of joking - is a sure way to make those around you uncomfortable, as they try to decipher tone and body language cues to tell if you are being serious or not. When your spouse hears you praising them to others they are affirmed. It will make it easy for them to continue with the behavior you are praising, and even to go beyond. Think of it as investing in your marriage; your effort will not go unnoticed - by your spouse or by God. in Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus says:

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

What kind of words are you using? Be intentional when you speak, and use words to build up your spouse and your marriage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I hate when people don’t respond. Whether it be to a voice mail or an email, whether they don’t RSVP to a party invitation or a Facebook message, I feel that if they cared at all, they’d at least acknowledge that they received the message. I’d even be OK with them lying and telling me they’d say more later even if they never did, or didn't even plan to. At least I’d know the message I sent was received. No one likes to feel they are being ignored.

In marriage, do you feel that your messages to your spouse are not being received? Do you feel you’ve made the same requests or comments multiple times and have gotten no response; not even an acknowledgement? Sometimes all we want is for our spouse to acknowledge our feelings, validate our needs and desires. Of course there are two sides to this coin, two sets of feelings, needs and desires. Is your spouse sending messages that you are not receiving? Is he or she expressing feelings that you are not acknowledging? I am not saying you need to drop everything and immediately meet their every need. They need to know that they are heard though, just as God hears all of our prayers - even if the answers to them aren’t always to our liking. Open your heart and mind and talk to your spouse; knowing each other’s desires is the first stop towards fulfilling them.

There is another aspect to this as well: how are you delivering your messages? With what attitude are you voicing your wants and needs? There are many Proverbs that deal with the tongue, and the consequences of how it used. Proverbs 12:18 says The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing and in Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death. In Ephesians 4:29 we are implored Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

So consider your words carefully. Is what you are saying “ministering grace” to who you’re speaking to? Are your words coming across as a demand instead of a request? Instead of “I would feel loved if...” is your spouse hearing “You never...” ? Be sure that you are speaking from a place of love and mutual respect, and that you are giving equal weight to your spouse’s wants and needs when making requests. Lastly, 1 Corinthians 13:5 - Love does not demand its own way. No ultimatums; always give your partner an ‘out,’ because no one likes to feel forced, pressured or trapped.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

it always FEELS like, somebody's WATCHIN MEEEeee

A successful marriage needs a healthy measure of privacy. Problems need to be discussed between spouses to achieve resolution, not shared with co-workers or even best friends. A couple’s sex life should of course be completely private. It’s probably not a coincidence that almost every couple that stars on a reality TV show winds up split, usually nastily so: Jessica and Nick, John and Kate, all the so-called unions resulting from the endless iterations of bachelor and bachelorette, and VH1’s various “Fill-in-the-blank of Love” shows... Maybe this is also one of the reasons why Hollywood marriages rarely work - too much time spent in the public eye.


It is naivĂ© however to think that marriage is a completely private affair. People are watching when you leave your house. If you publicly call yourself “Christian” then they are watching more intently. Critics of the church love to point to religious folks who stumble and say “See? They’re no better than the rest of us,” in essence declaring “God makes no difference.” In a society that is saying that marriage is an outdated institution, quaint at best and pointless at worst, it is our job as Christians to be an advertisement for God’s ideas of what it is supposed to be.


Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding. There are constant metaphorical references to Christ as the bridegroom with the church as his bride. Wedding imagery is used extensively in Revelations to describe the reconciling of God to his creation. Marriage is meant to be a glimpse of God’s plan for the salvation of us all. Done right, it can be a ray of hope in a fallen world that God loves us, and wants us to be in relationship with him forever. I make this point not to put pressure on those of us who struggle - none of us is perfect, and we all have our problems. I make this point to remind us that we are part of something much bigger than us, and our marriages are not just for our benefit. They can be an inspiration to others, whom we may not even realize are watching.


Listen to comedians, watch a sit com... the media says that marriage is a chore, a dead end, spiritually numbing and usually doomed to failure. Does your marriage reinforce that worldview - or refute it? The Bible is the template of what God wants for all marriages. Deuteronomy 24:5 says that men should “be at home to bring happiness to the wife he married.” Guys, are you doing that? Proverbs 14:1 says “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Ladies, are your efforts constructive or destructive?


A friend of mine said this: “Your walk must be so loud that people can’t hear what you are saying.” Louder then words, your actions are what other people notice - so what message is your marriage sending? The Bishop of London gave a homily on marriage recently. In it he said “The more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves... In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.” To truly become one flesh (Matthew 19:6) each spouse must die to themselves and put the other first in their hearts in order for the union to flourish and be what God desires. The joy this type of marriage exudes is noticeable, inspirational and hopefully contagious. Is your marriage sending God’s message to those around you? If not, then what do you need to change, to do differently? As Christians, how we live our lives can - and should - be our loudest testimony to the value of having God at the center of all we do.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Solomon's Mine

Forget gold... Solomon's real treasure was wisdom.

Song of Solomon 2:15 -
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

I’ll aim this verse at the men. What are the little foxes that are ruining your vineyard? They are any thing that is getting in the way of your marriage being what you and your wife want and need it to be. Are you working long hours and depriving your wife and kids of your presence? That could be causing resentment and leaving your wife questioning your commitment to the family. As men we tend to define ourselves by our jobs, and it is all too easy to put work before our loved ones. We may think its necessary for financial reasons or to stay on the career path we desire, but this is a dangerous train of thought with potentially catastrophic results. Our ‘jobs’ as husband and father must come first. If you aren’t there, is your wife swamped with her own work responsibilities plus the housework, leaving her wanting to do nothing but pass out by the time night rolls around? Does the pressure of dealing with kids lead her to shout “They’re yours!” as soon as you walk in the door at the end of the work day? Do all these things leave you both yearning for days seemingly long gone when your focus was on each other, when you sought to meet each other’s needs and fulfill each other’s hopes and dreams of what a marriage was supposed to be?
If so, what can you do to make your wife’s life easier? If you are unsure, I’ll bet your wife would give you some  suggestions. Could you arrange flex-time hours at work that would allow you to be at home more often, where you could be more involved in the kids’ lives and their schedules? Could you pitch in more around the house? Could your wife come home once in a while and not have any domestic chore demanding her attention? Its no coincidence that Kevin Lehman has a book called Sex Begins in the Kitchen, and that Laura Schlessinger once said on her radio program that “the sound of my husband running the vacuum cleaner counts as foreplay.” Think about it. Do not, however, expect a quid pro quo exchange of needs-meeting. Make it a habit to help without expecting anything, and in time the very nature of the relationship will change for the better.

And now, a verse for the ladies, Song of Solomon 7:13 -
...and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old,
  that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

That’s Solomon’s wife speaking, talking about a trip out of the city to a secluded hideaway, just the two of them. “Every delicacy, both new and old...” What she’s essentially saying is “Come bedtime, I’ve got tricks you haven’t seen yet.” Not ‘some delicacies’ she says, but *every* delicacy. Choice fruits, she says elsewhere in the Song of Songs. Being the initiator might not be in your comfort zone, but rejoice in the fact that “naughty” in the context of a loving, devoted marriage is in fact blessed and holy.
So surprise him. Let your husband know that he’s worth your effort. Let him know that you’ve listened when he’s talked about his needs, dreams, wants and desires. If he hasn’t talked to you about them - ask! Initiate the conversation. Most likely he desperately wants to have these talks but may worry about starting them; there’s a vulnerability in discussing desires, in the bedroom and otherwise. You opening that door will be a blessing, as will you acting on the knowledge gained. A man who feels his needs are a priority to you will do just about anything to make sure yours are met as well.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:5 that both spouses should fulfill each other’s needs, and not deprive each other. You won’t know how to do that without talking about what those needs are. Both spouses need to put forth the effort to create an environment where the other truly wants to follow Paul’s direction, where it is not considered a duty or a chore to meet your spouse’s needs, but a privilege and a gift.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Pressure, pushing down on me Pressing down on you, no man asks for...
-David Bowie / Queen

But you will come to a place Where the only thing you feel
Are loaded guns in your face And you'll have to deal with Pressure
-Billy Joel

Pressure isn’t fun. It can be exhilarating at times, and some of us claim to work better under pressure. While that may be true, over time constant pressure can break us down and rob of us of our mental and even physical health and well being. What pressures are we - consciously or otherwise - putting on our spouses because of our ideas about love?

The notion that romantic love could completely satisfy us is pervasive in all our media. We are told over and over that somewhere out there is *one* person that will complete us, that will make us whole. Love songs, romance novels and movies all trumpet that out there somewhere is our “soul mate,” and if we could just find that person all would be well; endless bliss, happily ever after. The idea of a “soul mate” is a pagan concept, rooted in ancient Greek mythology. In Plato’s The Symposium there is a story about how the first humans had four arms and legs, and two faces. Zeus, fearing their power, split them in two and condemned each to search endlessly for the other half. While dating then, we put undue pressure on ourselves to find that one... and once married we put a lot of pressure on our spouse; we expect them to be our everything, to fulfill our every need, to be our lover, our best friend, our confidant, our biggest cheerleader. In the rush of new love, it may feel that way but it can lead to unhealthy dependence, especially if we tie our identity to the relationship, and *expect* changes to *need.* Mark Gungor, pastor, couples’ counsellor and stand-up comedian said, “If there was one person on earth that could fulfill all your needs, God would make sure that person stayed AS FAR AWAY FROM YOU AS POSSIBLE!” Why? Because God wants to fill that void within us, to complete us, to satisfy our needs and wants. At first glance this seems unromantic; it’s contrary to every love song we've ever heard!  It is, however, liberating. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Make no mistake - loving your spouse as best you can is included in that good work you are called to. If you and your spouse are both looking to God to “complete” you, that takes all the pressure off each other - pressure that is unrealistic and self-defeating anyway. We can’t complete another person, or satisfy another person’s every want and need. We are finite and imperfect ourselves! With the pressure off, we are free to love our spouse because we want to, because we choose to, not because they expect or need us to. Relying on God’s strength and following Christ’s example we can love our spouses better than we ever could on our own.

When two people intentionally and continually put each other’s needs before their own, when they make it a point to forgive slights and hurts, forget misdeeds and overlook imperfections, when they choose every day to love unconditionally... then a successful marriage is virtually guaranteed.

Following Biblical truths, ANY TWO PEOPLE can make marriage work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Covet (a poem)

I wrote this a while ago. I post it in reponse to a post on another marriage blog here .

What images of passion
delicious kisses words
and hot embraces
are forgotten in the
of our desire?

Doors of opportunity
open themselves to us
and we stand blinded
hearts and minds coveting
more and more

That which we do not yet have
hanging beyond our reach
taunts our grasping hands
shines bright obscuring all
that we’ve been given

We grasp and stretch and lunge
at ripe red apples and
fields of luscious green
while our own grass withers
our fruit
spoils at our feet

Monday, May 23, 2011

Still here? (or, "recalculating..." )

(not ONLY about marriage, but intrinsically tied to the ideals, so it fits)

Said Keith Bauer, truck driver and May 21st rapture believer, "I was hoping for it, because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth."

I'm making this guy, for the purpose of this blog entry, the poster child for how Christians these days seem to be completely missing the point. There's a whole lot of people out there (Christians and otherwise) who seem to have given up on this world, this time, this life. The "Left Behind" series of books are indicative of the view of a lot of people that they would much rather be whisked away to some peaceful, magical place instead of stay here. In the now. In this world that - I'll agree - we are doing a pretty good job of mucking up.

I'll posit that this is a cowardly and lazy attitude. I'll draw a parallel that is a particular sore point with me by asking this question: how many divorces happen because one or both people involved assume they are in the wrong "place" with the wrong partner? Suffering from the "grass is greener" syndrome, they let their union fall apart, with devastating effects on those around them so they can seek their own happiness. Tony Hawk just walked away from his third wife to run off with the wife of his best friend. The former governor of South Carolina ran off to South America to be with his "soul mate." Sorry, wife and kids. Ah-nold boinks members of his house staff rather than pursue his wife. Hey Maria, I'll be (stabbing you in the) back.

My theory here is that rapture madness and selfish relationship trends are part of the same problem: the unwillingness (or inability) to look critically at the world around us, at our relationships, at ourselves, and simply get to work. Isn't it just easier to start over and hope for the best than to do the work necessary to make our current situation all that it can be? All that it is meant to be?

Let me quote N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham, England, from his book Simply Christian.

Despite what many people think, within the Christian family and outside it, the point of Christianity isn't 'to go to Heaven when you die.'

Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what's going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn't a matter of doing things to earn God's favour. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God's new world.

Right there in the Lord's prayer it says "Your kingdom come, your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven." in Revelation, do the believers all ascend into some world of clouds and harps and halos? No God's city, the new Jerusalem, comes down. Heaven bows down to earth so that the two are (re)joined. As Christians we need to grasp the fact that God, through Christ, has given us a glimpse of what the nature of the kingdom will be, and it is our job to help usher it in. That will take massive amounts of work. Think on the descriptions of the kingdom in Revelation. No more hunger, no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears. No hatred. No anger. Look at the world we're in; we have a lot of work to do. Its very easy to look at the world we are in and lose hope; to be overwhelmed. Just as its easy to look at a relationship that has begun to sour and think how much easier it would be to throw it away and start a new one. Much harder is rolling up your sleeves and doing the work necessary. In a marriage it often means changing yourself; your expectations, your willingness to let go your own needs and meet your spouse's instead, to look at yourself critically and work on being the partner that your husband or wife needs you to be. "That's no fun," many say. "Why should I have to change? Why not just find someone who will give me what I need as I am?" Concerning this world it's not much fun to work at alleviating hunger, poverty, and disease. It's hard to love those that hate you, to bless those that curse you, to forgive those that hurt you, to comfort those who mourn, to make peace where conflicts occur.

But what is the cost of turning away from that work? At what price our own comfort? By thinking small we rob ourselves of the joy that comes in selflessness, in giving, in compassion, in helping to further the cause of God’s vision for what this world can be. Rob Bell said in his book Love Wins:

The people who are most concerned with going to Heaven when they die don’t throw very good parties here and now.

The real danger in focusing on getting to heaven (and salvation can’t be earned, anyway) is that is fosters the belief that this world is disposable. Why work for making it better? Why try when I’m just going to leave? God called his creation “very good” in Genesis. It is not meant as merely a soul incubator. Throughout the Old and New Testaments the recurring theme is the redemption of all things, the making right of all things, the reconciliation of the Creator with creation. The universe isn’t meant to be thrown away when its usefulness has expired.

The New Testament is indeed full of rules on how to live this kind of life, one that works towards the redemption of all things, but it is important that we see these rules for what they are. Again, N.T. Wright:

The rules are to be understood, not as arbitrary laws thought up by a distant God to stop us from having fun (or to set up some ethical hoops to jump through as a kind of moral examination) but as the signposts to a way of life in which heaven and earth overlap, in which God's future breaks in to the present, in which we discover what genuine humanness looks and feels like in practice.

Why would anybody hope for a ticket out of that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Marriage Moments

(The theme of all my articles in the newsletter has been "Marriage Moments." I guess it was just a matter of time until I titled an article eponomously)

In the course of a day there are four particular points where you can exercise great influence on the direction of your marriage - four 'marriage moments' you could say. If you and your spouse commit to connecting at these four times every day (or as often as possible), you will stay connected and stave off the 'drift' that is so easy to succumb to. Your marriage will definitely get better and your love for each other will grow stronger. These four times during the day can be ports in the storm of your hectic lives where you can feel safe and secure. They are opportunities to actively make your marriage what you want it to be. If you spend five minutes on each that's twenty minutes total, or just 1.39% of a whole day. It's a small amount of time to invest, but one that can pay dramatic dividends.

> When you wake up <
The love of your spouse should be like manna, a nourishing gift from God that can sustain you and get you through your day.

Gather it morning by morning, each as much as you can eat. -Exodus 16:21

> Before you leave the house <
None of us knows what the future holds, not even an hour from now. Let there be no doubt of your mutual love when you leave each other's presence.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. -Proverbs 27:1

> When you return home <
Tired and weary from a day out in the world, when you get home let your relationship with your spouse be for you an oasis - a place of refuge, solace and rest. Put aside all the stress and fatigue, and take your spouse in your arms.

My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.
-Song of Solomon 1:14

You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water
and streams flowing from Lebanon.
-Song of Solomon 4:15

> Before you go to sleep <
Whatever has occured during the day, kiss each other before falling asleep. If there are things to be discussed - lingering anger or hurt, any unresolved issues - agree to discuss them... tomorrow. In the meantime, remember your vows to love, honour and cherish are sacred, and more important than anything else. Choose to let anything that stands between you fall to the wayside, and let the kiss remind you of everything you love about your spouse.

Be angry and yet do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger.
-Ephesians 4:26


The relationship between husband and wife should be like armor, there to shield and protect you both against everything life throws your way. When the relationship between husband and wife (and between both spouses and God) is right, then you feel invincible; nothing can get to you, nothing can shake your faith or threaten your union. Use these four opportunities each day to make sure your armor is on. Revel in these moments; intentionally remember how blessed you are by having each other to lean on, and be grateful.

Friday, May 6, 2011


1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up

It is critical for all of us to not become stagnant. We must keep growing as people, and in our walks with God. Spouses have a unique opportunity to (gently!) push each other along, to help each other grow. A marriage should be a environment that fosters this kind of development. Are you two not only encouraging each other, but are you pushing each other towards personal growth and self-expansion? An article I read in the NY Times posited that might be a key to having a marriage that lasts.

article here:

To wit: "Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship."

For example, I've spoken often about how my wife and I have pushed each other musically. She has grown to enjoy some heavy metal (a love of mine since middle school). She is an avid fan of classical music (her mother was a voice teacher and all-around music afficionado) and as such she has led me to discover and enjoy some opera and orchestral that I may have never found on my own. She has also developed a love of fantasy literature, and her sense of culinary adventure has spurred me on to be willing to try any food at least once!

It is important to retain some interests that are your own, and it certainly isn't necessary to adopt every one of your spouse's interests, but discovering new things that you can enjoy with each other has definite advantages. You remain separate people - but you ALSO become more fully a couple, one flesh as it says in Genesis 2:24.

These points of common interest can be seemingly small; forwarding interesting articles to one another, reading a book and discussing it, critiquing a new CD together. You don't have to agree about everything of course, but the discussions become shared experiences, chances to bond and gain insight into each others' head and heart.

We should all be continually learning about our spouses. The human soul is infinitely complex, and it takes a lifetime to really get to know that person you've chosen to spend your life with. In the NYT article, Dr. Lewandowski says, “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.” So, keep learning about each other. Keep growing together. Push each other as you go.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


In the post titled "Dating" I cited 1 Corinthians 7:5 as justification for giving your all to your spouse, not withholding anything. I will mention it again, in the context of verses 3 and 4. (from the New Living Translation, so there is no ambiguity)

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

I love Kevin Lehman's summary of this verse from his "Making the Most of Marriage" study:

What the apostle Paul is telling married folks is 'do it.
Then pray together.
Then do it again.'

Some book, that Bible... I don't think I've ever heard a priest or pastor do a message based on this verse, and that's really too bad. The church has always shied away from discussing sex openly. Again, as Lehman said, "If there is anybody who should be talking about sex, it is the church!" But on the whole, we don't, and our world is the worse for it. In the absence of talk about its place in God's plan for marriage, we have let the world define its place in our culture and our lives. Sex is a gift from God, and it is meant to be enjoyed by husbands and wives. Married folks should claim it as their privilege to revel in each other's embrace without shame; indeed, with unabashed joy.

Like all gifts though, sex needs to be both given and received in the right spirit. As soon as it is seen as a "duty" it loses its magic. All other emotional and relational needs must be met and fulfilled before sex can take its rightful place. A Florida pastor challenged the married couples in his congregation to make love to each other every night for a month. Article here:

(A pastor in Texas issued a 7-day challenge; more modest, but in the same spirit) In light of all the other articles I've written, I’ll suggest that the real challenge here is not for the one spouse whose libido is lesser to "just do it" for the sake of the couple meeting the goal. The challenge is for the spouse whose libido is greater: can they be the partner (in all senses) that their spouse needs? Can they kindle desire in their spouse over and over? Can they be the someone their spouse wants to make love to every night for a week – or a month?

In one sense, sex in a marriage is akin to the good works the Bible tells us we are created for. (see Ephesians 2:10) Good works are not an end unto themselves, or the price of admittance into Heaven. What they are is the appropriate response to the love God has for His people.
Sex - passionate, fulfilling sex – is not a duty, or a bargaining chip, or a goal. It should be the joyous response to the love of your spouse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It says in Proverbs 5:18-19:

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always, may you be intoxicated always with her love.

Every marriage eventually reaches the disillusionment stage, when reality sets in. Expectations are not met, hopes are unfulfilled. It is easier at this stage to believe that what we don’t have must be better than what we do; but the grass is not greener. It is a trick of the eye - or more to the point a trick of the heart and mind. It plays upon that aspect of human nature that always wants what it doesn’t – or can’t – have. Humans tend to be lazy, to not want to do the work required to transform what we have into what we want; especially if that involves changing ourselves.

When we took our vows though, we said some variation of “Until death do us part.” If we meant what we said, then we must remain devoted to our spouse, committed to making the marriage we have work – for both people! When our devotion wanes, when we start to believe the lie that it is better “out there,” we stop enjoying our life. That runs counter to what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 9:9.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your life that are given you under the sun.

I've heard it said that "women marry men thinking the men will change – and they don’t - while men marry women thinking the women won’t change – and they do." It is important for everyone to accept their spouse for who they are, and not pine for who they were, or yearn for who they could be. Love your spouse for who they are each minute - for all their virtues sure, but also with all their quirks and flaws. In Mark Twain’s “Diaries of Adam and Eve” both protagonists come to this conclusion in their own way.

Eve writes “The garden is lost, but I have found him, and am content.” She then goes on for pages trying to figure out why she loves Adam, listing many of his qualities and stating that she admires him and is proud of him for these - but they are not why she loves him. She states finally, “I think I love him because he is masculine, and he is mine.” He is Adam, and for her that is enough.

Adam, being a guy, comes to his epiphany in far fewer words. At her grave he remarks, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”

If you have drifted, take the time to once again DEVOTE yourself to your spouse. Recognize that God put the two of you together for a reason, and do everything in your power to make the best of what you’ve been given. Do it well, and the grass on the “other side of the fence” will look far less green.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


1 Corinthians 10:31
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Does how you love your spouse honor God, and give Him glory? Are you loving your spouse as best as you can, using all the tools you possess? God brought the two of you together because in His eyes you could love each other as no one else could, because you could love each other *just* the way you each needed to be loved. He equipped you uniquely with abilities and interests, with memories and experiences that make you precisely who you are. It is God’s plan that who you are fits who your spouse is in ways that make you both better, that allow you to live and grow together in joy and love. Are you using these gifts as He intended?

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

If you are, God is not the only one who will notice. If your love, your marriage, honors God with the depth and breadth of the love contained within it, it will shine with His light and others will notice. It will be an example of His plan that others can learn from. Much has been made of the fact that the divorce rate for Christian couples is no different than the rate for the un-churched. According to the General Social Survey (2000-2004) though, this is not true. (48% for all non-Christians vs. 41% for all Christians) What is more interesting though is this: broken down further, FREQUENT Christians (defined as going once or more per week) have a rate of 32%. More than once a week could mean they are involved in small groups and bible studies, or just that they go to multiple services. Either way, these are couples who are constantly in the Word. They are concerned with their spiritual growth, with progressing in their journey towards God, with making the most of their gifts according to His will.

What is your spouse if not a glorious gift to you from God? Loving that person in ways that are holy and good, as best you can is the way you thank God for that gift, and honor Him.

Monday, May 2, 2011


tic toc tic toc tic toc

Is there a more important gift we can give to our spouses than our time? How often during a regular week does your husband or wife have your undivided attention? What are the things that take up your time – or rather, what do you choose to spend your time on? There are so many ways we could reclaim time in our marriages - but this month let’s focus on one.

I read an article suggesting that when a couple marries, they should vow to turn of their TV - until their first anniversary! Another article on Lent posited people would have a harder time giving up TV than anything else. It would be too great a sacrifice for most - what about you? Could you give it up for a year? A month? A week? There is an official "natiaonal screen free" week, but you can try it any time. As the apostle Paul wrote in Phillipians 4:8:

...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

How much of what is on TV or the web embodies those qualities? Are there better things you could be dwelling on - like the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with, perhaps?

For you it might not be TV. There is a multitude of other gadgets and things that consume our precious time; internet ready cell phones, video games, social networking sites. What could be gained if you and your spouse spent the time one or both of you would have been watching TV (or surfing the net, etc.) talking, asking each other questions, discussing dreams, or just walking around the neighborhood holding hands? One of the challenges in the Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (as seen in the movie Fireproof) is to become a "student" of your spouse. It is too easy to think you know them fully and thus wind up taking them for granted. A human soul is complex though... there is ALWAYS something new to learn if you take the time to seek it. A woman once commented to me, "I've been married to my husband for almost forty years - and I'm still finding out things about him of which I had no idea!"

So, where are you at in your "education" concerning your spouse? Do you have your "high school diploma" yet? Your associates or bachelors degree? Have you started grad school?
Wherever you are in the process, recommit yourself to getting to know that person better, for bby doing so you will learn how better to love them. Commit to spending more of your time together.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Shared goals, dreams and fantasies can cement a relationship together like little else can; I'm talking about a couple having a collective vision for their future... things hoped for, things planned for, even "wouldn't-it-be-great-if" things that may never happen. When two become one flesh, all aspects of who they are should be shared. Communication, obviously, is key to this, as it is so many things that can strengthen a marriage. Set aside time every now and then when the two of you are alone to talk about dreams; things you want to do, places you want to see. Dream up and down the spectrum, from little projects around the house that would be cool, to restaurants it would be great to try, all the way up to sailboats, lake houses, once-in-a-lifetime vacations - even bedroom "adventures" that one or the other has always wanted to do. Write down your dreams and put them in a jar; once a week or so, each pull one out and discuss it. Together, make plans to accomplish little dreams, or spend time fantasizing about the big ones.

A particular dream may "belong" more to one spouse, and that's OK. When the other chooses to invest themselves in supporting their spouse, encouraging them and even helping to work towards realizing that dream, what an expression of love that is! Especially if it is the one unique dream that everyone has, that some would say is the reason God put each of us here.

All manner of dreams are important. It is when we dream at night that our brains and bodies recharge. Without dreams, over time we lose the ability to function at all. The dreams we have while we're awake allow our spirits to recharge - without them, functioning also diminishes. The big dreams are the "carrots on the stick" that keep us moving forward. The fact that they sometimes seem unobtainable is so we remember that we can't undertake them alone; we need our spouse's support - and of course God! The value of the little dreams lies in their obtainability though. Accomplishing them, checking them off the list can inspire hope and make us remember that

…with God, all things are possible. - Matthew 19:26

Sharing dreams is critically important. They give a glimpse into a person's heart and soul, and letting another person see what's there takes real trust. There is a vulnerability involved in sharing your dreams, and it is strong, healthy relationships that can support and nurture that honesty and openness. Share your dreams with your spouse, big and small... and encourage them to share theirs with you. Anything that helps you know each other better makes you both more able to love each other well.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Marriage vows are a covenant between two people before God, but some people see it more like a contract. The differences seem minor but in reality are enormous – in fact, a contract and a covenant can be seen as diametrically opposed.
> In a contract, each party seeks to protect his or her rights while at the same time limiting their liability. A contract then, is at its root self-serving. I think of celebrity unions with elaborate pre-nuptial agreements to protect assets; not exactly a picture of love expected to last forever.
> In a covenant however, one voluntarily forfeits his or her rights while taking on liability. In the context of marriage, that means each spouse is vowing that the other person will always – unconditionally - come first in their hearts, minds and actions.

Think of God in his covenant with us. Did he demand our love and worship? Did he worry about whether or not he would get his due? Did he wait for us to love him before loving us? No. Romans 5:8 tells us

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Now think of marriages. How many end in divorce because of selfishness? How many break up because one party or the other is worried about their rights, or the treatment they deserve? How many married couples “fall out of love” or “drift apart” or “become different people” from when they first met, and so they go their separate ways? If both spouses are focused on God and on serving one other, there can never be “irreconcilable differences” that cause the union to be broken. When the focus of both partners is right, then as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:8

Love never fails.

Still, some may feel that they have been given up on, and even though they want to work to make their marriage work their spouse does not. Do not be discouraged! Only God can change their heart, but you can still love them. In 1 Peter 3:1-2 the apostle tells us

…that even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over by their spouse’s conduct, when they see the purity and reverence in their lives.

Relationships are never static. They are always in motion, going forward or backward, getting better or worse. If a marriage is in a downward spiral, one act of unconditional love might be all that it takes to reverse that trend and get things moving in a healthier direction. The challenge then is to intentionally, deliberately let go of whatever you think is “owed” you, and just give. If your spouse is having a bad day (week or month) drop whatever you are doing and give your whole-hearted support. Comfort and love them. Let them know you have their back; always, come what may. If your spouse is not loving you in the ways you need to be loved (everyone - read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) instead of harping or nagging, instead of fuming and seething and resenting, just love them in the way they need to be loved; see if that changes things for the better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Conflict. Let's explore conflict as a positive force - it can be! It’s unavoidable; in any relationship there will be conflict, so it is critical that it be resolved. God has made each of us unique. (fearfully and wonderfully - Psalm 139:14) No two of us are alike, and when a man and a woman choose to spend the rest of their lives together, clashes – though hopefully rare – are inevitable. How we deal with conflict is the key to whether it will be destructive or constructive. Let me offer some “rules of engagement:”

First, do not avoid conflict! Way too often, one or both spouses choose the path of least resistance - to no one’s benefit. Older married guys will often say to newlywed grooms, “Better learn those two magic words: YES DEAR.” Mildly funny sure, but it really is terrible advice. It comes off as patronizing, and signifies that the speaker is abandoning or swallowing his own point of view. This “keeping of the peace” covers potential problems while doing nothing to resolve them. When something comes between a married couple, they owe it to one another to address it honestly, work through it lovingly, and resolve it. Ignoring it will let it fester and grow worse, making the atmosphere in the home tense and uneasy.

Secondly, fight fair! Simple advice, so often ignored in the heat of battle. When conflict occurs, deal with it – and it only! Resist the urge to get “historical,” using past events as ammunition. Don’t get personal either. Discuss events and how they make you feel without attacking the other person’s character. (Hint: avoid any statement that contains the words “always” or “never.” Avoid "You do..." statements too, and focus on "I feel..." instead) Sometimes it will feel like you are being attacked, but do not react to that. As the apostle Paul said in I Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone,
but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

This leads me to Rule Number Three: empathize. Stay quiet while the other person is speaking. Listen to what they are saying. Do not just think you know what he or she means and start planning your counter attack. Try to see the situation – and yourself – through their eyes. Be warned though: if you can master this skill, you might see that it is you that needs to ask forgiveness. You might see flaws in yourself that you need to be mindful of, or ask God’s help to work on. Of course, sometimes the “problem” might be your spouse, or just in your spouse’s head. In these cases you might have to understand that you can’t change them, any more than they can change you. That’s God’s job, not yours. Your job is to love them anyway.

Winning may be impossible, but even if it isn’t, it will most likely be counter-productive. In the context of marriage, if one spouse “wins” an argument, then both people lose. The two are one flesh, and as it says in Ephesians 5:29:

For no one ever hates his own body,
but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it

In light of that, decide very carefully if “winning” is worth the price it will exact on your relationship.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Dating' your spouse

Almost every advice column on “marriage strengthening” or “rekindling romance” or “spicing up your love life” gives the same advice – schedule date night – as if just having it penciled in on the calendar will unlock all the passion of the early stages of a relationship. In light of how hectic life can be, it is important to make time for each other, but without an attitude adjustment in both partners, no lasting change is likely to occur.

In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love, Richard and Kristine Carlson point to “in love” teenagers as role models in two very specific areas. Adults often dismiss the love felt by teens as shallow, immature and somehow not real, but it often has two hallmarks that are invaluable to lasting, committed relationships:

* The first is attentiveness. Young lovers tend to focus all their attention on their significant other, and are always actively seeking ways they can express their affection, through words and actions.
* The second hallmark is enthusiasm. There is an energy about these relationships that makes everything seem exciting, that makes the smallest gesture seem like a gift. In marriage, does the familiarity that comes with being together for an extended length of time have to kill that joy? No… but it certainly can if one or both spouses stop actively investing themselves in the relationship.

Both partners must maintain the mindset that they need to win the other's heart, and continue to date each other holding back no effort in that quest. Pull out all the stops! Act as if nothing is more important than making your spouse feel loved – because nothing is more important!
If you’re wondering whether the effort will be worthwhile, consider Proverbs 11:24-25

Some give freely, yet grow all the richer
Others withhold what is due, and only suffer want
A generous person will be enriched
And one who gives water will get water

Guys, when was the last time you went all out to really sweep your wife off her feet?
Ladies, when did you last let your husband know - in no uncertain terms - that you wanted him?
If you have not been fully present in your marriage, or have been withholding part of yourself, your effort, attentiveness or enthusiasm, read the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:5

Do not deprive one another except by mutual agreement for a time
to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again

We are called to give ourselves fully and completely to our spouses. Marriage is not a “50-50” situation, but “100-100” – each gives all to the other. What does that look like? How can that transform a relationship? Are you willing to try it and see?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Unless you are newlyweds (and possibly even then!) you and your spouse probably harbor memories that do your marriage no good. We are all imperfect human beings, and there are sure to be past arguments that left one or both partners hurt, mistakes made that left indelible scars, conflicts that may have never been resolved. As love is a choice we make intentionally, so too can memory be. In our efforts to be Christ-like, we can live out the words in Hebrews 8:12 where the Lord says:

I will be merciful towards their iniquities
And I will remember their sins no more.

Consciously replace negative memories with positive ones. If you have been married for any length of time, there are bound to have been moments great and small that made you smile sincerely with amazement that God put the two of you together. So start a fond memory log. It could be an email “conversation” or a small notebook. It could be a series of notes stuck on the bathroom mirror or hidden in each others’ lunchboxes, but it should be written – and shared. Take turns jotting down good memories of times you’ve spent together, memorable milestones, great vacations… or make mention of particularly meaningful gifts. Be specific as to what made those things or moments so special. As you answer with your own memories, add responses to your spouse’s entries too; this back and forth dialogue will provide insight into how God has made each of you. How often you write and share will be up to you; daily? Once a week? It should be an effort you make, but it shouldn’t seem like work.

In Ecclesiastes 9:9 we are implored:

Enjoy life with the wife (or husband!) whom you love, all the days of your life.

If you are remembering the good times the two of you have shared, the joy you have brought each other, enjoying your life together will be much easier. As you make focusing on the positive memories a habit, enjoying each other will become second nature. As the number of entries in your log grows, you will gain two important things. First, you will have a reminder of why you two got together ¬- and are still together - one that you can read and re-read when things are less than wonderful, when doubts nag and troubles might be brewing. Second, and maybe more importantly you will gain a precious glimpse into your spouse’s heart and soul. You will begin to see what kinds of things they think are special, are meaningful… you will learn what it is that makes them love being married to you! With memory reclaimed as a force to strengthen your marriage, act on that knowledge and make it so.

Monday, April 25, 2011

SLEEP together

Nope, not what you think...

Love is a verb. It is an action, and as such should be intentional. To that end, married couples should make a habit of “SLEEP ing” together – by that, I mean doing the following on a daily basis:

Sacrifice – This word, and “submission,” get bad press in the ‘me first’ world we live in, but make no mistake: any relationship, especially one that is by covenant for life, will require change and yes, sacrifice. Lifestyle, habits, hobbies, and even who we are as people have to change for a marriage to work. This is not a bad thing! Putting our spouses’ needs before our own puts us more in tune with who and what God wants us to be; selfless, giving, serving. When it is mutual, what we get is so much more than what we give. We are better people when we put others first, when we develop a servant’s heart.

Ephesians 5:21 - Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Listen – Marriages will only work if both spouses commit to listening to one another, without judgment or criticism, without interrupting and without trying to fix every problem. Sometimes, what the speaker needs most is just to be heard. When you listen, listen with your whole being. Stop what you’re doing. Turn off the TV, get away from the computer, put down that magazine. Listen with your face. Look at your spouse, make eye contact. Give them your full attention. Few things say “I love you” as much as this.

James 1:9 - Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

Express – In a marriage, it is our responsibility to communicate our feelings – especially if we expect our spouse to acknowledge them and act on them. If negative things are held inside, they can fester and grow into major problems. Is something bothering you? Your spouse may be blissfully unaware, so tell them! If positive things are not expressed, your spouse may feel that things are wrong or that they are not appreciated. Tell your spouse when you are grateful for things they’ve done, for who they are. Expressions of gratitude positively affect both people. They have a way of minimizing our own grief and anger while reassuring and encouraging the ones we’re thankful for.

Phillipians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

God wants us to express our hearts and souls to him; do likewise with your spouse. ( and don’t forget WITH THANKSGIVING )

Empathize – Spend some time putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Imagine what it’s like to be them, to face their problems, to see the world through their eyes. What do they overcome on a daily basis. What’s it like living with you? Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings as if they were yours. It can radically transform any relationship. Do this regularly and you will develop a greater appreciation of your spouse; who they are, what they do and what they bring to your marriage.

John 1:14 - The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us.

Christ came to Earth to experience being human; to be hungry and cold, to hurt, to be tempted. God empathizes with us because he knows what it means to be human; he experienced it first-hand.

Profess – Let your spouse know that you love them. Learn your partner’s love language and affirm them in ways that they will cherish. Profess your love in all situations. Make these statements unconditional and emphatic. Don’t worry about looking weak. Don’t wait for them to love you first so that you can reciprocate; be first. God didn’t wait.

Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


So, SLEEP: Sacrifice, Listen, Express, Empathize, and Profess.
And while you're at it...
don’t let sleeping together get neglected, overlooked or forgotten either.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


What is your marriage based on? What is at the center of your relationship, the one thing that holds it all together? Is it the same thing now as it was at the beginning? Regardless of what it is, consider this verse (the one my blog title is based on) :

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Is your marriage, at its heart, focused on God? If it is focused on anything else, there could be problems. The two of you need to constantly try and discern what God's will is for you - as a couple. To do this:

Pray. Pray for each other, and with each other. As a couple voice your concerns and your hopes for your marriage to God. When done together, it is a window into each other's soul. Make it a point to thank God for the gifts he's given to you both each time you pray.

Study. Be continually in God's word. The Bible has so much to say about God's plans for strong healthy marriages. Scripture is our ammunition against all the things that erode at marital happiness over time.

Seek. Make sure you are constantly seeking God's will for yourself as an individual, keeping in mind that you are "one flesh" with your spouse as well. Balance is sometimes difficult - but it is critical. Visualize your marriage as a triangle, with God at the top and you and your spouse at the bottom two points. If you are both moving closer to God, you are moving closer to each other as well. The opposite also holds true.

Reflect. Take stock of your relationship regularly. Look at the activities you are involved in, how your time is being spent, look at the things that drive your decision making. Even good things, like caring for children, like serving the church, like working to provide for your family, can be negative if they claim that central role in your relationship.

Always strive for God alone to be in that position.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Failure is not an option

We live in a disposable society. Almost everything we buy we can throw away once we're done. It's so often cheaper to buy something new than to have something mended or repaired, and indeed, TV blares at us the virtues of all things "new and improved," and how dreadful it is to have things that are obsolete or passĂ©. Sadly, this attitude has infected out view of relationships. Far too often, people go into marriage thinking that if it doesn't work out, we'll just go our different ways and start over. Second marriages dissolve at an even higher rate. To quote Batman in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns:

"Can't have a back door, Alfred… Might be tempted to use it."

Our society has made it an acceptable option, but it is one that does not fit into God's plan; to wit, Matthew 19:6-8

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. "Why then," they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

Our world has also become very selfish. Everything is geared towards a person being out for him or her self, to be responsible for his or her own happiness and to pursue it at all costs. Coupled with the above mindset, it leads to break ups when people feel their needs are not being met. If a relationship is bringing you down, get out and start over! "You deserve happiness," the world screams at you. Is this what God wants though?

"Not so," Jesus says in Mark 10:43. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be a servant."

Think about that in the context of marriage. What if the words "Until death do us part" or "as long as we both shall live" mean exactly what they say? I sure when people say them, they want to believe them, but what if there was a subtle shift in attitude, and those vows were made knowing they could not - not "would not" - be broken? Would less people actually take the plunge? Maybe.

It is unrealistic of course to think any human institution can be perfect, but God sets these standards for us to strive for them. If those vows you made were suddenly taken to be unbreakable, how would that change the way you interact with your spouse. If there was no "out" how would the relationship change?

Would you be more forgiving? You'd have to be if you wanted peace. Would you be more tolerant of flaws? I'd think that would be necessary too. More loving? More willing to speak up when things bother you? Add up all the things you'd have to change, all the things you'd have to BE and it equals one thing. IF you wanted a successful marriage, you'd have to be more graceful; in effect, more like God.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe the reason God commands us to marry for life is this: when two people have to peacefully live under one roof for the rest of their lives, and not just coexist but thrive and grow, they have to treat each other with the utmost of respect and grace. They have to accept their spouse's imperfections if they want their own overlooked as well. An attitude of service is far more likely to make the union healthy than waiting to be served.

Marriage is a crucible; it is meant to foster our growth, to make us better people. The process if not always pleasant, but growth rarely is. It is painful sometimes, and uncomfortable, but also vital. To make a marriage work, we have to model ourselves after God's example of love that is unconditional and absolute, unwavering and endless. Go into marriage with that mindset, and see how it changes you.