Tag Archives: love

12 Choices for An Extraordinary Marriage (Part Two)

I invited my friend Kristen Hogrefe to share some of her insights into marriage as she and her husband recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. (Learn more about Kristen’s talented writing and her award-winning novels at the end of this article.*)

In this two-part series, Kristen explains 12 choices that create extraordinary marriages.

Whether you are a newlywed or a seasoned spouse, practicing these guidelines will be a blessing in your home!


by guest writer Kristen Hogrefe

Last week, we saw six choices that can help make our first year of marriage—or any year, for that matter—extraordinary. Today, we’re going to look at six more. Whether you’re engaged, newly married, or married for decades, we can all start today, by God’s grace, to make our marriages the best they can be. (Read Part One HERE.)

#7. Be interested in what interests your spouse.

James tells me he’s read more books since meeting me than he has in the rest of his lifetime. That’s a credit to him for wanting to care about something that interests me. On the other hand, I’ve gotten into mountain biking because of him and really enjoy off-road biking now.

I’m not saying you have to change your interests because of your spouse. Instead, you should expand them so that you each spend more time with your spouse doing something important to him or her. The impact on your relationship will be the best return you can make on any time investment.

#8. Encourage time apart.

Some couples become so absorbed in each other that they completely lose their identity and their friend groups, which is entirely unhealthy. You are still two people. Even though you have mutual friends and are each other’s favorite person in the world, he needs some time with the guys, and you need girl time. James has been wonderful about encouraging me to take a night out with my friends, and I’ve encouraged him to do the same. We’re both better for it.

#9. Always give more and never keep score.

Try to “out give” each other. This is a challenge I’m striving to practice. It means buying the brand of Fig Newtons he likes (even though I don’t) or putting his favorite chocolate chip cookies in the oven “just because.” It means looking extra special just for him or finding a fun way to surprise him.

Secretly, I suspect James is practicing on me too. The other night, my stomach was upset, and even though we had both gone to bed, he offered to get up and get me some Tums and something to drink. (I didn’t want to get up, and I imagine he didn’t either.) But he did. Because loves cares about upset tummies.

A marriage of two givers is a beautiful thing. 

#10. Shoot the little foxes before they reproduce.

“Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)

Solomon used foxes as a metaphor for any subtle little thing that tries to drive a wedge in your marriage. He understood that “little foxes” can damage tender relationships. Even the biggest fires start with a little flame.

He said to catch the foxes. I say shoot them dead. I’m more convinced than ever that the Devil hates marriage and wants to stir up strife through any little thing he can get his hands on. She forgot to change out the toilet paper roll? So what. You’d have to replace it yourself if you were living alone. He forgot to take out the trash? Take it out yourself. Don’t let little things become big deals. 

One practice that helps is by rehearsing all the kind things your spouse does. If I catch myself starting to complain about something, instead I remind myself, “He is such a good griller. He made me dinner last night.” Or, “I love that he helped me clean the house to get ready for my girlfriends.” Focusing on the positive puts any little annoyances in perspective.

#11. Be your best self.

One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is to take care of yourself physically and stay attractive. You’re doing yourself and your own sex drive a serious favor here too. There is no reason you should gain twenty pounds your first year of marriage, even if one of you is an exceptional cook. Don’t get “lazy” just because you no longer have to fit into a wedding dress. 

I’m sorry/not sorry if I’m hurting any feelings here, because I feel so strongly about this point. As the Bible explains, your body isn’t your own any more. It’s your husband’s too (I Corinthians 7:4). He’s equally responsible for maintaining his body and health as well. No matter how you age or what changes your body goes through, never stop striving to be fit and healthy. That doesn’t mean you’ll be a super model, and please don’t even start comparing yourself to someone who looks like one. It just means you’ll be the best version of yourself.

If you find yourself making an excuse right now, put a pin in it and instead ask, “What CAN I do?” Maybe you can join a gym together or keep each other accountable to eat fewer sweets. We all can do something. The key is consistency and accountability.

#12. Have “an anointed adventure.”

When we were doing marriage counseling, the pastor spoke about the need for “an anointed adventure.” In other words, our marriages should be about something greater than ourselves. He challenged us to think about what that adventure might look like for us.

After talking and praying about it, James and I discovered ours. We want to love people well and have a home that feels like a haven or a welcoming place. Our dream is to one day live on a lake and create our own “retreat” environment. I’m not sure when that dream will be realized or what it will look like, but we’re practicing hospitality where we are right now.

Every couple’s anointed adventure will be different, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Remember that God gifts everyone in different ways. Also remember that you and your spouse can still minister separately as well, but choose at least one area where you can serve together.

Closing thoughts

Looking back over our first year together, I almost feel the need to pinch myself at how wonderful it’s been. I want this joy to be yours too, and I hope some of these ideas will help. Of course, difficult times and disappointments will come and probably already have, but let’s always remember how blessed we are to have our spouses. They are a gift. Let’s treat them that way.

What other choices and intentional investments have made a difference in your marriage? Please comment and share!


*Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner who enjoys starting her day with Jesus and coffee. Kristen and her husband live in Florida, the perfect setting for their many outdoor adventures.

Connect with Kristen at www.KristenHogrefe.com, where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.

12 Choices for an Extraordinary Marriage (Part One)

choices

I invited my friend Kristen to share some of her insights into marriage as she and her husband recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. (Learn more about Kristen’s talented writing and her award-winning novels at the end of this article.*)

In this two-part series, Kristen explains twelve choices that create extraordinary marriages. Whether you are a newlywed or a seasoned spouse, practicing these guidelines will be a blessing in your home!

by guest writer Kristen Hogrefe

Just over a year ago, my husband and I said “I do.” Like most new couples, we received lots of advice, and we welcomed what wisdom others had to share. 

However, one recurring comment troubled me: “The first year of marriage is hard.” Although I understood that we would both have adjustments to make, I didn’t like this “survivalist” mentality. After all, Jesus came so that we could have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and surely that concept applied to marriage, part of His design. But what did I know?

Well, I have good news. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can truly be extraordinary, but both husband and wife are responsible to each other to make it that way.

#1. Agree that you married the right person.

Once you say, “I do,” this one is signed, sealed, and delivered. In God’s eyes, that person is now the “right person” because you made a covenant before Him with this individual. You can’t make the excuse, “I married the wrong person.” The truth is that anyone you marry will disappoint or upset you at one point or another, and that reality doesn’t make him or her the “wrong person.” 

In short, remove this excuse from your vocabulary. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to any other person. It’s not a fair comparison, because you don’t know anyone’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your spouse’s. This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

#2. Be kind and thoughtful to each other.

This one should be a no-brainer, but if the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers, then more than likely we can use the reminder too. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

Marriage brings adjustments. You each bring different life experiences and personal habits into the relationship. Instead of expecting the other person to be just like you, embrace the differences. Also, make room for changes.

When we got married, James moved into my house. Realizing what a big change this would be for him, I rearranged and gave away furniture to make room for his. I also practiced saying “our home” instead of “my home” and tried to look for ways to incorporate his things. 

Everyone’s situations are different, but during those first early weeks and months, be sensitive and aware of simple ways to make the transition smoother. When in doubt, ask what you can do.

#3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

My husband and I marvel at how much other couples seem to fight. We’re redeemed sinners like every other Christian couple, but we don’t argue or yell at each other. If we disagree, we talk about it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re honest about it. If we mess up, we have to apologize.

I remember having a particularly rough day at work. Coming out of my office, I found James working on his laptop and told him straight: “It’s been a tough day, babe, and I’m pretty upset about it. Just know that it has nothing to do with you.”

Don’t make your spouse guess if you’re upset with him or not. Be transparent. Once James knew how I was feeling, he was able to lovingly support me through my emotions instead of wondering if he were somehow responsible for them.

#4. Be realistic. Your spouse is not a mind-reader.

Gals, this point is especially for us. We sometimes romanticize our spouses and expect them to know exactly what we want. That expectation is just not realistic. 

A few months into our marriage, I kept seeing these posts from my girlfriends about their guys giving them flowers “just because.” I wished that James would do the same, but then I remembered something my brother once told me. “We guys aren’t mind-readers.”

The next time James asked if there was something he could do for me, I simply said, “I’d really appreciate if you gave me flowers sometime. It might seem silly, but I’d love to get flowers from you.”

He smiled and thanked me for telling him. “I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I got you flowers.” Guess what? He brought home flowers soon after that.

#5. Have adventures together.

I realize the wedding and honeymoon are expensive, but find ways to experience life together. James and I love to travel, so we’ll hunt for cheap-o flights, plan visits to see friends, or even just drive to the beach to watch the sunset. Adventures don’t have to be pricey. You just have to be intentional about planning them.

The time you spend together sharing new or favorite experiences contributes to both of your “love tanks” and builds memories.

#6. Grow together with Christian community and with Jesus.

This one is so, so important. After we got married, we tried several Sunday school classes for couples until we found our Honeymooners class. There is something so precious about doing life with other couples who are walking in your shoes. Also, being intentional about learning together deepens your relationship and fosters healthy conversations. With our class, we’ve gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Academy and are currently in the Love and Respect series by Emerson Eggerichs.

In addition to Christian community, husbands and wives should spend time together in God’s Word and alone with God. This year, James and I have been reading through the book of John and are looking forward to starting a new book soon. We also have our separate quiet times in our own ways. However, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your walk with God to your spouse’s. What matters is that you both invest in God’s Word and are committed to growing in your walk with the Lord, even if your approaches are different.

Also important is that you consistently pray for your spouse. Two resources I’ve found helpful are Jennifer Smith’s 31 Prayers for Your Husband and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.

Next time, we’ll look at six more choices couples can make to get their marriage off to a great start. For now, which of these ideas is most helpful to where you are right now?


*Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner who enjoys starting her day with Jesus and coffee.

Kristen and her husband live in Florida, the perfect setting for their many outdoor adventures. Connect with Kristen at www.KristenHogrefe.com, where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.

The Love Chapter (Adapted)

1 Corinthians 13*

If I speak to my spouse using tactful “I feel” messages and skillful conflict-resolution strategies, but I do not love, I am like a clanging cymbal or a car alarm that won’t shut off.

And even if I have an advanced degree in marriage counseling and understand the mysteries of why people do what they do and have all knowledge of psychology, and even though I read a mountain of books on relationships, if I do not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my good efforts to fulfill my duties, and though I burn up every drop of energy in being a great spouse, if I do not love, I gain nothing.

hearts of love

Love is patient even when a spouse does not change. Love is kind even when a spouse is thoughtless. Love does not envy someone else’s marriage. Love is not impressed with its own marriage skills.

Love does not save its best manners for company but instead uses its “fine china” manners with a spouse, treating him or her with honor every day. Love does not insist on getting its own way but works to see things from another’s perspective. Love is not irritable or exasperated. (You cannot get its goat!)

Love keeps no record of wrongs because love does not take offense. Love does not see a spouse’s failures or sins as personal affronts. Love knows that a spouse sins against God and against God alone (Psalm 51:4). Love forgives and refuses victim mentality (Proverbs 12:16, Ephesians 4:32).

Love refuses to think resentful thoughts about a husband or wife; instead, love insists on seeing what is good and giving thanks. Love does not delight in any threat to the relationship, but rejoices in what heals and strengthens the marriage.

couple in love

Love always protects a spouse (his or her ultimate good), always believes that a spouse is priceless and made in the image of God, always trusts the promises of God, and always is confident that God’s grace is deeper than any need. Love never shuts its heart, never forsakes its covenant commitment, and never rejects a spouse.

couple in love

Love never fails. But prophecies that “you should move on with your life” will fail; the tongues that call your spouse “a jerk” will cease; and the knowledge that “you deserve better than this” will vanish away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became married, I had to put away childish things, such as name-calling and pouting and choosing what feels easy.

For now we see through a hazy glass, and there is much that we do not understand about our spouses, about ourselves, or about God’s ways; but then, face to face with God, we will know fully what glorious things He has been doing through our marriages, just as He knows fully how to love us well now.

Scrabble letters spell L-O-V-E

And now faith, hope, and love remain; but the greatest of these is love.

*adapted from various translations of 1 Corinthians 13, including the KJV, AMP, AMPC, NLT, and NIV

21 Myths about Sex

I really didn’t expect this.

I recently read an advance copy of 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe about Sex: Pursuing Love with Passion and Truth.

sex

I thought I might find some good nuggets of truth to share. I expected to find things that were

  • helpful,
  • factual,
  • Biblical, and
  • much-needed.

I found that.

But I also found much that was

  • beautiful.

Yes, there were warnings, cautions, and facts. But all of it was laid on a canvas of understanding that was beautiful.

The author, Jennifer Strickland, understands that sex is much more than chemical reactions. God designed physical intimacy both to express and to strengthen a covenant relationship. Jennifer also understands that even with the brokenness that we bring to our marriages, there is something lovely and valuable at the core of who we are and at the core of what our marriages represent.

Here is some of the “beautiful”:

Love lifts another higher.

[Jesus] came as a servant, … loving in a manner that left the other person higher. Our need for a Savior mattered more to Him than how He felt. Our need came first to Jesus. (249)

We women are prone to complain about the men we love, that what they provide is not enough; we want more—as if [husbands] are God.  But surely, to love is to know the difference between a man and his Maker; to turn the palm up and let go; to trust that all that falls into our hands is a gift. Love says thank you for the manna, resides in today, and believes His faithfulness will be there tomorrow. (243)

To love is to thank, to bow low, to lift another higher. To believe in your beloved. Wait. Put trust in God. Surrender. … And to be kind. (243)

Love is patient.

In marriage we must be patient. … There will be things the prince does not do well and things you do not know he needs. There will be messes and confusion and fights, … the “not enough” of who you are, the lack—and the more you fill the lack with lack, the darker your heart will become. … The lack has to be filled with Christ, always. (244-245)

Love is kind.

Words can blast the kindness right off the walls…. (246)

Pride … is the biggest destroyer of love. … Humility says, “I respect your needs and desires. I want to hear your heart so that I can bless you. I want to know you and respect you deeply. What you think and experience is more important to me than how I feel right now. How can I help you?” (249)

Love never fails.

No [spouse] is perfect, but love can be. (250)

The worst times have been the times when I have expected [my husband] to be God and trusted in man instead of Christ. (250)

sex

The best times have been when I have raised my hands upward and let God be the artist painting the canvas of our future and rested in the Creator’s hands. (251)

We have a true Prince who is coming back for us one day, who loves us perfectly, without fail. The best thing we can do is lean in and listen for His still, small voice. Listen well. Love much. Fear nothing. Believe for more. (251)

Some of the Myths about Sex

The real battle in life is always to know and believe truth. As we recognize the lies that we are believing, we replace them with truth.

Here are several of the lies that are exposed in 21 Myths and the truth that replaces them:

Myth (or lie): If I’ve already been sexually active, it’s too late for me to be pure.
Truth: Forgiveness purifies you.

Myth: Abortion is the removal of unwanted tissue.
Truth: Abortion may cause trauma to the soul.

Myth: The body and soul are separate.
Truth: The body and soul are connected.

Myth: Being sexually active won’t hurt me.
Truth: Anything outside of God’s best for you hurts.

Myth: Casual sex is possible.
Truth: Sex is not casual; sex is binding.

Myth: Singleness is waiting for marriage.
Truth: Both singleness and marriage can be awesome.

These are important truths to know! I am thankful that our God shares with us the truth that sets us free, that heals us, and that enables us to enjoy Him and the lavish love that He has for us.

Book Giveaway

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Barbour Publishing is providing a complimentary copy of 21 Myths. If you would like a chance to receive the book, simply leave a comment on this post by July 2. If your name is chosen in the random drawing, a copy will be mailed directly to you.

Blessings to you,
Tami

Overcoming the Overwhelming

We make complicated messes.
God gives simple instructions.
The enemy tries to confuse and bewilder and overwhelm.
We try to figure out the tangled, jumbled-up complexities;
but with each broken piece we pick up,
we become more perplexed.
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

 

God gives simple instructions.
“Humble yourselves.”
We may not like God’s instructions, but they are simple.
“Forgive.”
They may not be easy, but they are simple.
“Serve.”
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

God says, “What’s in your hand?”
With what we have, we can love.
Wash feet.
Show kindness.
Move toward.
Be for.
overwhelming

 

 

 

 

We have complicated messes of “he said; she said; but he didn’t; and then she did….”
God says,
“Be still.
Know that I am God.
Trust Me,
and love.”

Love: Just the Basics, Please

I often need to recall the basics. Here are the basics of love, as spoken to us by Love Himself, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson. My favorite line is near the end:

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

From “the love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13):

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, …
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, …
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. …

love

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

love

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Here’s one more reminder:   No prayer call this week. But be sure to join us for next week’s call on Thursday, April 30.

Until then, I want to keep focusing on the basics:  “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”

Blessings to you,
Tami

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Scripture taken from The Message (MSG).Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

The Strength of Joy for Your Marriage

Here is an amazing verse:

      Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.   (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

That is not only a command and a statement, but it is also a promise!

God is full of love, and He is also full of joy. Not only is He the greatest Lover, but He is also the most joyful Person in the universe. His love and His joy are woven together.

joy

We tend to think that if we have joy, then we can love others. But I think it really works the other way around: if we love, then we can have joy. When we give to others, we gain joy.

The exhaling of love allows the inhaling of joy.

But there is more! I think there is something else involved in this giving and this joy—something that is very important but often overlooked:

Covenantal love is a decision to enjoy another person.

While godly love is a commitment to give, it is also a commitment to enjoy.  Part of loving our spouses well is enjoying them–enjoying who they are. God does that for us, and we can do that for others. God delights in us, and we can choose to delight in others.

So I guess we can say that this, too, is a giving because we are giving the gift of enjoying. When someone enjoys who you are, isn’t that like a gift to you?

joyVery often, our joy in marriage is lacking because our commitment to enjoying our spouses is lacking. We think that enjoyment should simply come to us. It’s great when that happens, but sometimes we must make the decision—the determination even—to enjoy someone. After we take the challenge to enjoy, we can pray for eyes to see past faults and past behaviors to the core treasure of someone. We can pray to see more of what God sees and more of what God delights in.

Enjoying our spouse is part of our love. That is part of what we give. And when we give the way God does, then we have the joy that God has. Then we have the joy of the Lord as our  strength.

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Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Calibrating the Compass of Your Heart

We tend to think that we love someone when that person attracts us. When we no longer feel attraction, we feel that we no longer have love. We see others as magnetic-like forces with the power to attract or repel us.

But are we really helpless magnets compelled to move toward attracting forces? Could it be that love is more than attraction?

God says that love is choosing to walk toward someone. Maybe attraction is not the decisive force; maybe we are.

With God’s help, we can calibrate the compass of our heart so that we move toward our choices. Godly love is a force within us which moves us toward someone whom we have chosen; it is not an external attraction that works upon us.

If we are married, we can set our compass so that the arrow of our heart points toward our covenant partner; we can determine to walk steadily in that direction, regardless of the pulling or pushing of other forces.

Mighty Men in Marriage

Big boys are everywhere, but where are the men?

Where are the men who stand taller than passivity? Where are the men who are mighty in marriage?

There are such men. There are real men who have the strength to shoulder responsibility, the nobility to keep promises, and the character to carry leadership. Husbands of such greatness are men who “cleave” to their wives. With a commitment to “stick like glue,” these men CLEAVE:

Cover.  The Scriptures teach that a man is to “cover” his wife. He covers her like a roof when he shelters her, and he covers her like an umbrella in the rain when he protects her. He covers her like a blanket on a cold night when he warms her with tenderness and comforts her with care. With his strength and his devotion, a husband “covers” his wife’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

We see this imagery in the Old Testament when Ruth says to Boaz, “Spread the corner of your covering over me” (Ruth 3:9, NLT). In this reference to Boaz’s cloak, Ruth is actually asking for the protective covering that a husband provides through marriage.

(God tells husbands specifically not to “cover” their wives with violence. “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce  . . .  and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence” (Malachi 2:16, Amplified).

Lay down. Following the example of Christ Himself, a husband lays down his life for his covenant partner (Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 3:16). He lays down his singleness, his selfishness, and his self-focus.

Encourage radiance. The goal of a husband’s ministry to his wife is to encourage her radiance.  Just as Christ works for the radiance of His Bride, so a godly man nurtures the emotional health and spiritual thriving of his wife.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way: When Christ speaks to His bride, His words “evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.” (Ephesians 5:25-28, MSG)

Her radiance becomes his joy–it’s a win/win situation!

Always love. Husbands are called to love their wives with agape love, which is an unconditional commitment to give to another. The apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives [be affectionate and sympathetic with them] and do not be harsh or bitter or resentful toward them” (Colossians 3:19, Amplified).

Value.  The Scriptures direct men to respect their wives as equals before God:
“[Y]ou husbands must give honor to your wives. … [Your wife] is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

A successful man values the God-designed strengths and abilities of his wife, as well as her innate worth as an immortal spirit created in the image of God. “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord”      (Proverbs 18:22, NLT).

Enjoy!  “Relish life with the spouse you love,” said wise King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 9:9, MSG).  Any husband is wise, too, who determines to enjoy the unique gifting and beauty of his covenant partner.

The man who CLEAVEs is a mighty man, indeed! To CLEAVE is to move toward unusual greatness and remarkable success, for the calling of a godly husband is nothing less than to reveal the character of God Himself.

 

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, KJV).

 

Delight and the Power of Yada (Part 3 of 3)

That the Creator of the universe should desire to know us deeply and to love us in the knowing is amazing. That He should desire that we know Him deeply and love Him in the knowing is staggering. God comes to us with His desire to know when we bring to Him our desire to be known. God longs for us to respond to His desire to be known with our desire to know.

Convinced that His love toward us is absolutely unfailing and completely trustworthy, we can lay ourselves fully open before the Lord. Believing that His love is perfect casts out our fear so that we are able to lay ourselves bare before God, refusing to run, refusing to create inner noise, and insisting instead on being still in His Presence. In this safe place, we find that His correction to us, if needed, is not condemnation; it is liberation. When Lazarus emerges from the grave, he is not shamed; instead, he is welcomed, and the binding strips of cloth are removed from him.

But there is more–much more. Within this yada relationship, there is this:

I lay my entire self open before God to be known and to be loved by Him. From head to toe–from inside to out–every pore of my spirit is laid open before Him. As the sun can penetrate and warm everything that is laid in its rays of light, so God comes to all of me that is willingly laid before Him–laid before Him with my full trust of Him and with my eager desire for Him. Where I submit, He loves me well, and there is healing in that loving. Where I yield, He loves me well, and there is joy in that loving.

Every part of our lives that is willingly opened to God becomes spiritual thread that God uses to weave us together in connection with Him. God uses our willingness to be known and our desire to know Him to knit our spirits in union with Himself. Such union is both the power and the delight of yada.

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Hiding and the Power of Yada (Part 1 of 3)

Rough bark scraped across the man’s bare chest as he rushed to crouch in the gathering darkness of the trees.  An unfamiliar sense of guilt threatened to suffocate the man. His frantic attempts to cover himself had failed to ease his shame, just as the thin veil of dusk did nothing now to stifle his panic. With every beat of his heart, the man felt the urge to hide hammering throughout him. Suddenly, he held his breath.

“Adam, where are you?”

And so began our long history of hiding.

Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden, and all of humankind since then has shared in this hiding. In shame and in fear, we hide from God in spirit and from one another in soul.

Yet we were not made for hiding; we were made to be known. We long desperately to be known–fully known–and to be loved in the knowing. Despairing, though, of finding someone who will both know us well and love us well, we cling to our places of hiding, hoping that these will be safe, even if solitary.

When we were enemies of God, hiding was consistent with our position as lovers of darkness. But then the unexpected happened: the Son of God entered the darkness with us. He took our reasons for hiding and made them His own. As Christ became hidden from God in death, our reasons for hiding were destroyed.

There is, therefore, now no need to hide (Romans 8:1).

hiding

Our shame and guilt have been swallowed up by Christ Himself, and our fear is dissipated in the light of His intense love.

But even now, as friends of God, we hide from Him. To our own immense loss and to God’s great sorrow, we hide. In busyness, niceness, denial, and noise, we hide.

When invited to open ourselves in honest self-disclosure before God, we cry out, “But, Lord, there will be a terrible stench!” Just as Martha was afraid to open the tomb of Lazarus, so we fear opening to God areas in our lives that we have preferred to conceal. But to keep them closed to God means that those areas will suffer increasing decay.

However, when we are willing to open these places to the Lord, then the infinite kindness and power of God work miraculous healing in our tombs of rebellion and tombs of grief.

As surely as Jesus called to Lazarus, so He calls to us to come out.

We are invited to come out into the light of freedom, where we may be released from our life-stifling wrappings of fear and shame.

The deep longing of our hearts to be known is not unique to us as men and women, nor is it random. It comes by deliberate design, for it reveals the very heart of the One in whose image we have been made: it is the deep longing of God Himself to be known and to be loved in the knowing. This is the stunning message of Scripture.

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Seen Any Pictures of Worship Lately?

How can we best understand the essence of worship? There may be no better illustration of spiritual worship than physical marriage. What marriage is between a man and woman is what worship is between God and His people. Although marriage and worship are expressed in and enhanced by activity, both marriage and worship are primarily matters of relationship.

In marriage, I choose a man to be my husband, I commit to belonging to him, I celebrate him, and I value him above all else. This tells me what it means to worship God! To worship God is to choose Him to be my God, to commit to belonging to Him, to celebrate Him, and to value Him above all else.

In our marriages, we love by eagerly serving, by giving ourselves for another’s delight, and by delighting in another. We live lives of worship as we serve God eagerly, give ourselves to Him for His delight, and delight in Him.

Marriage is how we participate in an intimate covenant relationship with another human being; worship is how we participate in an intimate covenant relationship with God.

 

To the Husband who Seeks Reconciliation

I salute you!

reconciliationYour heart for reconciliation reveals the very heart of God, and your faithfulness to covenant reflects the faithfulness of God, which “reaches to the skies.” We will break our loyalty to our covenant partners the day God breaks His loyalty to us, His covenant partners.

I commend you for your commitment, even though it means battling upstream against the culture and against spiritual forces. Instead of harming you, this struggle will instead strengthen you into the greatness for which you were created.

When a man makes a covenant vow to a woman, he is bound before God to thatreconciliation commitment until death breaks the bond. Even if his covenant partner loses heart, he can remain committed to her, regardless of what she does, and remain committed to peace. Without pushing, pulling, or demanding, he can stand with his feet planted in unshakable, unmovable commitment to the partner. Her reactions do not change his commitment. The covenant-keeping husband, even when divorced, can be a rock of commitment to his covenant partner. He is willing to suffer for her good. His goal—his unchanging goal—is to love well.

God will fully satisfy and delight you. He may use your covenant partner to do that, or He may not. It does not matter how He does it; He will do it. He will do it so that you know that He is the great Treasure; anything else would be deception and disappointment. He knows how to love you, and He knows how to love you well.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Ps. 3:3, ESV

“For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Ps. 84:11, NIV

Cheering for you,
Tami

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1 Corinthians 13: The Marriage Version (with my apologies to King James)

Though I speak to my spouse using diplomatic “I feel” messages and skillful conflict-resolution strategies, but do not love, I am become as sounding brass or as a car alarm that won’t shut off. And though I have an advanced degree in marriage counseling and understand the mysteries of why people do what they do and have all knowledge of psychology; and though I read a mountain of books on relationships, but do not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my good efforts to fulfill my duties, and though I burn up every drop of energy in being a great spouse, but do not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love is patient even when a spouse does not change; love is kind even when a spouse is thoughtless; love does not envy another marriage; love is not impressed with its own marriage skills.

Franciscan Fine ChinaLove does not save its “fine china” manners for company; love is courteous and polite. Love looks out of a spouse’s eyes to see from another’s perspective. Love is not easily provoked and thinketh no evil; instead, love assumes a spouse’s best intentions. Love does not delight in any threat to the relationship, but rejoices in healing and in strengthening. Love always protects the marriage, always believes that a spouse is priceless and made in the image of God, always trusts the promises of God, and is always confident that God’s grace is deeper than any need. Love never shuts its heart, never forsakes its covenant commitment, and never rejects a spouse.

Child rolled tongueLove never faileth: but whether there be prophecies that “you should move on with your life,” they shall fail; whether there be tongues that say that “your spouse is a jerk,” they shall cease; whether there be knowledge that “you deserve better than this,” it shall vanish away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became married, it was time to put away childish things, such as self-centeredness and quitting and valuing what feels easy.

For now we see through a glass, darkly, and there is much that we do not understand about our spouses, about ourselves, or about God’s ways; but then, face to face with God, we shall know fully what glorious things He has been doing through our marriages, just as He knows fully now how to love us well.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.