In April, 2010, my father peacefully passed from this earth into the presence of His Savior. His battle with cancer got the best of him and He gave up his fight and entered his eternal rest. I’m thankful he no longer has unbearable pain.
My dad would readily admit that he has made many mistakes in his life. We could pretend those days never happened, but the fact is that his alcoholism caused many scars in his life and in the lives of those he loved. He spent many years trying to overcome those days.
Because of his faith in the person of Jesus Christ, my dad finished his earthly life as a new man. He had been sober for many years and he and my mother were very happily married. He loved his children and wanted nothing more than to be with them. His grandchildren just think of him as Pa Pa, with no personal knowledge of years gone by. My father was active in church, loved to share Scripture with others, and would help anyone who needed a hand. At the funeral, I was overwhelmed hearing what a “good man” my father was from so many people.MSometimes we don’t know a person’s impact until they are gone. (That seems sad, but it’s true.)
Perhaps that is what the writer of Ecclesiastes meant in Chapter 7, verse 1, which says, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” I have learned from watching my dad’s life that finishing is better than starting and that finishing well by loving God and others is the end goal of life. My father was truly prepared to die.
When I meet with people who have made mistakes in life in my role as a pastor, I am always less concerned with where they have been or what they have done wrong. I am always more concerned with where they want to go in life and how dedicated they are to get there. My dad is an example of someone that wanted to end well. I believe his legacy will continue to prove he achieved his goal.
Love you dad! Thanks for paving a good path for others to follow. Give Jesus a hug for me!
Are you prepared to die? Do you have a personal relationship with the person of Jesus Christ?
My youngest son Nate is in Chicago and we are bringing him home once again this weekend for a funeral. This time for the funeral of my father. I thought his thoughts were worth sharing today:
I have a paper due tomorrow morning at 8, so I should probably be working on that… but there’s not too many things I dislike more than writing those.
This year has by far been the most difficult year of my life. I’ve had to go home 3 times for 3 different funerals, one of which for a very close friend. Mixing all of those emotions with the emotions of being homesick in general has been interesting. At the beginning of my first semester I sensed God trying to teach me to trust in Him with every aspect of my life, and unfortunately I’ve continued trusting myself instead of Him.
I think learning to trust God completely is the most important thing that any Christian could do. Imagine what would happen if every believer truly started living by faith in every arena of life.
It’s hard. I really suck at it. Instead of spending time with Him I sit on facebook and write blog posts..
Trust God. What does that mean exactly… I don’t know. But I know God’s real and has a real plan. The goal if figuring out how to stop holding on to my life and surrender it to God, but again, I don’t really know what that means or looks like.
It’s amazing how unstructured this post is…
Can you identify with Nate?
Is trusting God completely a process for you as well?
What is the number one distraction in your life from fully trusting the God who loves you more than you could ever imagine?
Cheryl and I believe in date nights. We actually believe in date days and date weekends and date vacations. Obviously, with our children mostly grown, stretching dates over several days has become easier for us to do, but the point is we have made a practice of spending quality and quantity time together on a regular basis all of our marriage. It’s perhaps been a key to protecting and growing our relationship.
I often hear objections from couples that they can’t afford to go out much. I understand. Babysitting alone is expensive. One idea I know several couples do is to partner with other couples to share the responsibility of keeping kids while the other couple has a date night. Your children enjoy playing with other children and you get to have a date night without the expense of a babysitter.
As for the date itself, it doesn’t have to be expensive. The goal isn’t to spend a lot of money…the goal is to spend uninterrupted time together as a couple. I hope this post will encourage you to get creative in spending quality time together.
Here’s where you, the reader, can help other marriages.
What’s your cheapest and best date night idea? What are some ideas we may not have thought about yet? Share your suggestions as a comment so others can learn from you.
Could your marriage benefit from some couple time?
As a counselor and pastor, I have used many techniques to attempt the same. One of the best and easiest strategies to helping couples grow their marriage is to practice and apply these three terms to your marriage:
Learn how different each of you is from each other. God designed a man and a woman with different desires, needs and interests. Each spouse communicates differently, prefers life organized at a different pace, and handles disappointments and excitements differently. Spend quantity time identifying those differences.
(You can read more about the greatest needs of a man and a wife HERE and HERE.)
It is not enough to identify differences. Each spouse has unique expectations of what he or she expects from the marriage and the other spouse. These are the things required, in one spouse’s opinion, to make marriage work well. Spend quantity time identifying these expectations.
(You can read a post of similar thought process HERE.)
Your marriage needs continuous open dialogue. There should be a willingness to talk through each of the previous two terms throughout the marriage. Each spouse having different and have unique expectations is not wrong. That’s part of God’s design for marriage. Communicating those differences is one of the keys to making the marriage work well.
(Learn about communication in a marriage HERE.)
Most problems in a marriage begin as minor problems. The key to keeping the marriage strong and working through the problems is to address the problems while they are still small. If your marriage is experiencing minor problems, which you feel in your heart could become major if not addressed, then this post is for you. Even if your marriage is thriving now, but simply want to strengthen it, implementing these three terms may help.
Could using these three words help make your marriage stronger?
Have you heard the news? Cheryl and I are gaining a daughter! Our oldest son Jeremy asked Mary to be his wife last week. (In a very romantic way that would make most of us men hate him. He set the standard high.) They will marry sometime next year and we couldn’t be more excited.
If we were selecting a daughter or a daughter-in-law, we would have chosen someone just like Mary. She has a natural mothering heart wired to care for others. Mary is beautiful, smart, kind, and compassionate. She loves children, puppies, and people. Mary is patient with others, including Jeremy, Nate and me when we tease her. (Which is one reason I always wanted a daughter!) Mary is respectful to Cheryl and me, and has become a great friend to Cheryl. Best of all, Mary loves Jesus with all her heart. She truly is a remarkable young woman.
Jeremy and Mary have dated six years, and we have known her family for many years, so we’ve watched her grow into the fine young lady she is today. Mary completes Jeremy perfectly. We often comment that Jeremy is a better person when Mary is around; and he seems to enjoy life better. Their equal heart for missions and ministry welcomes God to use them throughout their marriage.
Mary, you should know that Cheryl and I are going to compete for the in-laws of the year award…every year! We enjoy our time with our children, but we want to encourage you two as you plan your life together, without getting in your way. We are always here if you need us, and just as we’ve told our boys (and you), you are never an interruption to our days. We are always here for you!
Welcome to the family Mary! You are dearly and completely loved!
Good choice Jeremy! You make us proud!
I was encouraged recently reading a passage in 1 Samuel 20:18-23, 35-42. If you know the story, it’s about David’s relationship with King Saul and about his friendship with Jonathan.
These specific verses deal with the question of whether the king wanted to kill David. Jonathan, the king’s son and David’s best friend, agreed to a test to discern the king’s heart. As a sign to David, Jonathan would shoot arrows into the field where David was hiding and a little boy would retrieve them. If he shot the arrows close to the boy, David was safe. If he shot the arrows far beyond the boy, David was in danger.
It’s a great story and I hope you will read it again. My purpose of this post is not the main theme of the story; my focus is the little boy. We tend to read this story for the purposes of David and Jonathan, and while they are certainly central characters in God’s story, so was the little boy.
This little boy was innocent in the matter…he was just doing what he was asked to do. The boy apparently had no idea the importance of the role he was playing at the time in protecting the future king of the Israelites. The little boy, however, was a kingdom builder without knowing it. God used Him in a mighty way, just for being willing to follow through on an assignment.
Have you stopped lately to consider the importance you play in God’s story? You may see your role as minor…perhaps you work in the parking lot ministry…you help with set up or tear down each week…you shake hands…you sweep the floor…you push buttons so another person can talk…you invite your friends to attend church with you…you offer to, and really do, pray for people. It may seem “unimportant” to you, but in God’s eyes, you are playing a vital role in His Kingdom.
Regardless of what you think of your abilities or position, you have the potential to be an important part of carrying out God’s plan through your local church. Most churches couldn’t do what they do without the sacrifices of people like you. You have opportunities the pastors never have. You have value. You have impact. You can advance the cause of Christ, just through your obedience.
Be encouraged with your service!
I have talked to dozens of marriages in need of help, but the couples are too ashamed or proud to ask for it or accept it. Somehow, I think if we admitted that all marriages struggle at times, it would help the ones in trouble to seek the help they need.
My Bible describes the process of becoming one (marriage) as a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32), yet many people mistakenly believe they can do it on their own.
Would you do me a favor? Will you consider these 5 questions? Then, if you have had to work on your marriage; if your marriage has had to learn a few things the hard way to make it work, help us all by sharing some of your experience here on this post. Perhaps the combined synergy of transparency will be good for all of our marriages.
Here are the questions:
- What if couples weren’t made to feel guilty, or a failure, or as if you were all alone, if you decided your marriage wasn’t all it is supposed to be?
- What if the stigmas against seeking help for marriage disappeared?
- What if seeking counseling or asking for help figuring out marriage became socially acceptable?
- What if couples were commended for admitting mistakes in the marriage and it was seen as a part of the process in making the marriage stronger?
- What if couples realized that every marriage has struggles; that no marriage is perfect, but that good marriages got that way through hard work?
Has married life been hard for you at times? Share a comment, even if it’s just “Yes, my marriage is a work in progress”, and let’s encourage some marriages to seek the help they need.
All the Monday Marriage Moments can now be found together in one category HERE.
All eyes are always on the minister’s family and having been on both sides, as a full-time vocational minister and years as someone with a full-time secular job, let me assure you that most pastors feel the pressure to live up to the standards of excellence people have set. I’m thankful I have a great marriage (most days) and two great boys. I’m fine with you making decisions about me based on my family life, because right now, thankfully, things are going well, but still, I also sense the pressure to live up to a set of unrealistic expectations at times.
The false expectation may often feel like I’m not supposed to have disagreements with my wife, my kids are never to be the ones that misbehave at times, or when you see Cheryl and me in public we should always be holding hands as we pray together.
I know what the Scripture says: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
Does that, however, mean the minister must have a perfect marriage and perfect children?
Is the standard you have set for the minister’s family higher than the one you have set for your family?
I’m curious, what expectations do you have of a pastor’s family?
I have tried this quick assessment with marriages in distress several times and it opens the couple’s eyes and my eyes to the real state of their marriage. If you are dealing with a marriage following a major mistake or disappointment, considering trying this process. If the marriage in distress is yours, considering a self-assessment of your marriage.
I seat the couple separately and give each person a piece of paper and pen. I asked them to number their paper from 1 to 4. I then ask them to answer the following questions on a scale of 1 to 10.
Here are the questions: (You can alter the questions to ones that work for your situation.)
- How healthy do you think your marriage was before this incident occurred on a scale of 1 to 10?
- How healthy do you think your marriage is today on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What answer do you think your spouse will give as to the health of the marriage today on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What is your personal commitment level today to make the marriage work on a scale of 1 to 10?
We then share and discuss the results.
Some of the observations from using this assessment:
- Most couples appear to give honest answers to these questions. It seems easier because they are putting them on paper first.
- This gives each spouse a look into the heart and mind of the other spouse that he or she wouldn’t normally share.
- Usually, the female rates the marriage lower than the male, to the surprise of the male, but eye opening.
- In some cases, the marriage has actually improved after the incident, if the couple is finally addressing problems in the marriage.
- The commitment level is a key indicator of where the marriage is going next. If you get high numbers here; the couple is willing to make the marriage work.
Would this be helpful for you to use working with couples or in your own marriage?
All the Monday Marriage Moments can now be found together in one category HERE.
Every 7-year period in a marriage appears to create additional stress to the marriage. I have never understood the phenomenon, and I have no statistical data to support my observations, but I have seen the results of it many times. I have talked with many other pastors and counselors that have observed the same.
The stressful period appears to begin sometime around year 6 and continues through year 8, but primarily around year 7. Another critical period seems to center around year 14 (years 13-15) and again in year 21 (years 20-22). (I haven’t dealt with many marriages beyond that period.) Many marriages actually end during one of these periods.
My suspicion is that it has something to do with life cycles. In 7 years, (which is a biblical year of completion BTW) most marriages have experienced many of the normal highs and lows a marriage faces. Issues such as death, birth, job change, housing change, medical issues and financial stress all create stress in a marriage and over the course of 7 years most marriages experiences some or all of these.
I believe strongly that awareness of a problem helps address the problem. While I don’t understand all the reasons why this phenomenon may occur, experience tells me it is real. My suggestion is that marriages in these critical times and leading up to them be especially sensitive to problems that arise in the marriage. Be willing to seek help when needed. Work on the basics of your marriage again. (Read THIS POST for examples.) Talk to other couples that have successfully weathered the period you are in now. Invest in your marriage. Stay committed to your faith and each other. Build your marriage during this time instead of letting the season of marriage tear you apart.
Pastors/Counselors/Others, have you seen this phenomenon? Do you understand it? Was it true for your marriage?
(If you read my post about my grandparents, I think they are going to be okay in their 10th 7-year cycle. Read that post HERE.)