My Life

So, I Married A Lion

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Beaver_LionWhat do you know about your personality? Are you introverted? Do you enjoy being around people more than being alone? Adventurous? Perfectionistic? What are you like? Are you a thinker or a feeler?

There have been numerous personality tests developed to give us insight into what our overall personality is like, such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Jung Typology Test, and a score of tests based on what is known as the Five Factor Model. Before my wife and I got married, we made each other take the MMPI-II, which is the mother of all personality tests. It consists of 567 true false questions and takes quite a while to complete. When scored, it indicates whether one struggles with any psychological or emotional difficulties. It even indicates if a person is lying, trying to appear more normal, or trying to look crazy. We both passed enough to know that the other person wasn’t a serial killer.

This weekend, my wife taught a class and administered spiritual inventories and a personality test. The personality test she offered was one developed by Gary Smalley that bases personalities around animal characteristics. The categories are: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. It had been a while since we took the test and we laughed as we looked at the results. My wife is a Lion, and I am a Beaver. Our secondary result was Golden Retriever.

As you may suspect, Lions and Beavers are not very similar creatures. Lions, like my wife, tend to be goal oriented, direct, decisive, competitive, and enjoy a good challenge, but they are often too blunt and must temper their aggressive, goal-oriented behavior. Beavers, like myself, are orderly, respectful, have high standards, are problem solvers, steady, creative, and take their own sweet time. On the downside, Beavers often have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, try to be to perfect, and are often inflexible.

In our household, whenever I am in true Beaver mode and my wife is being a Lioness, it looks like an episode on the Discovery Channel. Sometimes I chew on her and she growls! I say that in jest, but our differences are often what cause our conflicts.

I think there are a couple of things to remember about personality differences in marriage. Until recently, it was believed that personalities are fairly locked across one’s lifetime. That has recently come into question. I agree, I think some facets of our personalities do change, but I feel they are unlikely to dramatically change.

When it comes to marriage we often hear clichés such as “opposites attract”, but this is also contradicted by sayings like “birds of a feather flock together.” So which is it? From my experience doing a great deal of marital therapy, when couples differ greatly on important core issues this turns out to be a detriment to their marriage. Now, I am not saying if your core beliefs differ greatly from your spouses that your marriage is doomed to fail. I am simply saying it takes a great deal more work.

So marrying someone very like you when it comes to your values, worldview, and what you view as most important in life is very important. Yet, having differences in how you relate to and view the world can have its benefits. The fact that this beaver married a lion brings a set of advantages to our relationship. We temper each other. I bring some order and calm into her world and she brings adventure into mine.

You see, God uses marriage to help change us in certain areas. Marriage is like a mirror that reflects where your strengths and weaknesses are. It shows you areas of your personality that are strong, but also reveals your weaknesses.  I firmly believe that God uses marriage to make us more like Him.

I also think we should remember that we didn’t marry someone exactly like us, and this is a good thing. While sometimes our differences might be frustrating, this is how we grow and change. We must remember that we can’t change our spouse’s personality. We have to learn to accept and love their strengths and weaknesses. We must also learn to accept influence from one another. At times I need my wife to tell me that I am being too rigid and she needs me to temper her at times.

Don’t spend your marriage trying to turn a beaver into a lion or a golden retriever into an otter. Instead, appreciate what your spouse brings to the table and remember that marriage is a lifelong process where our different personalities sand the rough edges off of one another allowing us to become better people.

So what are you, a lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver? Take the test here for yourself and share your results!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Back in the Saddle

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Back in the saddleHi. Remember me? I use to write thoughts here, frequently. As a matter of fact, I use to be religious about publishing three posts a week, right here on this humble blog. Just like the struggling Unites States Postal Service, rain, sleet, snow, or hail, three posts flew up a week. For a couple of years, I was adamant. Then, the last few months of 2013, I went dark. I fell of the grid. The corner of the Internet (thanks Al Gore) where I hung my hat became devoid of my presence.

Whether you missed my tri-weekly rantings or not is irrelevant. I missed writing them, because writing for me is actually a part of my identity. Writing is threaded within the tapestry of my life dreams and goals. It also forces me to think. It causes me to ask questions more deeply. It urges me to think of creative ways to present information, and hopefully, at times, it causes others to think differently. I love to write.

So, the question is, why did something I love get benched on the sideline for a few months? Mostly, because I needed to be consistent with what I wrote. I found myself juggling too many chainsaws (like those fancy clowns do in TV) and I knew eventually one of my hands was going to get sawed off. In other words, I had to reassess some priorities. I couldn’t do well, all of the things I was doing. I couldn’t read enough, which is paramount to writing things that are informed.

There were other areas in life as well that needed my attention and writing was competing with those, the most specific being my family and kids. When my three year old asks me to watch the Lorax, and I can do that or write, what will matter to me more fifteen years down the road is that I didn’t pass up those moments with my family. Sometimes life is difficult to balance, and we have to ask ourselves what hangs in the balance. I have much of my life to write, I only have a limited time to snuggle on the couch with my three year old. I think we need to continually assess our lives and make sure we are keeping the most important things the most important. For two solid years I was able to write, and much of this about marriage and family, without any expense to my family. When my writing started to infringe on my family time, I felt to continue to do so would be the pinnacle of hypocrisy. So I gently bowed out.

Another reason that my writing output curtailed was due to fear and insecurity. I read a lot of blogs by some amazing writers. I began to compare my creativity, ability, presentation, and knowledge to that of others and I found myself discouraged. I have learned though, that we should never fall into the comparison trap, whether it is writing or any other arena of life. When we compare our talents and gifts to those of others we find ourselves in a lose-lose situation; either we feel superior and thus prideful, or inferior and discouraged. The value in what we do is not wrapped up in how we perform alongside others. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we doing what God would have us do, to the best of our ability, with the right motives, and in a balance manner?

There are some amazing authors, bloggers, and speakers out there, especially in the fields I love (counseling, theology, apologetics, family life, etc.), but God does not need me to be other people. God needs me to be me. God needs me to follow my calling. God needs me to be a “one dollar” apologist instead of comparing myself to “million dollar apologists”.

Let me say, fear stifles creativity. When we fear how we will be perceived we lock up. We should want to do things well, but when it becomes exaggerated we stop doing altogether. In other words, everything that we do/produce doesn’t have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, it is okay if things flop at times. Should we strive for perfection? Absolutely! Yet, if we never take risks, we stay stagnant. Again, balance.

All this to say, it is good to be back. I feel like I am at a place where I can focus on doing something I enjoy again. I hope you can come hang out with me sometime. I am excited about 2014. I have some new ideas. I have some new things I want to try out in my corner of the Internet.

I hope you remember to keep the things that are most important in your life the most important as we continue in this new year. I also hope you remember the unique place God has you and to do that well. Be the you God has in mind, and be you with gusto.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Today Is A Big Day

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Big DayIt was five years ago today that my wife and I made the second greatest decision of our lives. We each chose one another. We chose to do life together until death steals one of us from the other. It is today that marks five years together. Aside from giving my life to Christ, there has been no other decision that has defined my life to a greater magnitude. I am compelled to give thanks for this amazing woman.

My wife and I’s relationship is far from perfect, but it is wonderful. It is filled with it’s share of joys and frustrations. Though I write weekly about marriage, it does not mean my marriage is the model marriage for all to see. Often I write to challenge myself to be a better person within my marriage. I write to encourage others to invest in their spouse and never slouch to maintain a status quo marriage.

With marriage being viewed in disdain by many, and the divorce rate being what it is, I simply hope to remind others that marriage is, in fact, a wonderful thing. One of the big problems with marriage is that we become selfish. We want what we want but often fail to realize that our selfishness poisons our own well. Nothing is broken about the institution of marriage. It still offers the great benefits and privileges it always has. It is we that have tarnished marriage with our egocentrism and selfishness.

Though no marriage is perfect, marriage can be such a rewarding experience. Life is incredibly short. Why not find someone that you can enjoy life with and spend your years growing old, dancing like a whirling dervish in rapture and delight? Life goes by in a blink. Enjoy the wife of your youth, as the Proverb says.

I am so incredibly thankful to love and be loved, despite both of our shortcomings. I am thankful to have someone to model grace in my life, but also hold me accountable. I am grateful that there is someone who knows my deepest fears and insecurities, but believes in me. I am glad to have someone to laugh and joke with, even if my jokes are bad. I am incredibly blessed to have someone that helps guard my heart from things that are destructive to me emotionally and spiritually. I am thankful to know that I can trust the person that raises my children to always guide them in the ways of God. I am thankful to have someone that encourages me and challenges me to be a better person.

I believe God uses marriage to do such a wonderful work in our lives. Let us hold it in high esteem. Let us approach it in a holy manner. Let us be thankful for the gift of the opposite sex. Let us not try to minimize the differences between men and women and celebrate those differences instead!

Devon, I am so incredibly thankful for you. You are a tremendous blessing. I would choose you again without hesitation. Thanks so much for choosing me. Let’s let these five years absorb into another fifty. How about it? I love you.

Ounces of Eden: Why Adults Should Be More Like Kids

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Ounces of EdenMy son loves bugs. I think there is something innate in every male around the age of two that compels them to enjoy all things creepy-crawly. Now, he doesn’t like touching bugs mind you. He has a fascination of them from afar. Tonight, when I was taking our dog out for the 18th time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in a while. A little light twinkled on and off at various points across our yard. A Firefly, the most romantic little guy in the insect world. Think of it, he can create his own ambiance every time he takes Mrs. Firefly out.

I managed to catch the little luminaire with wings, placed it in a jar, and brought it inside for my son to ogle at. When I came inside I told him that I caught him a very special bug. I turned out the light, and we watched as this marvelous creation did what it was designed to do. It glowed. Hayden was beside himself. “That bug has a flashlight”, he exclaimed. Well-spoken Hayden, I thought, a bug with his own flashlight. Imagine that.

We watched our small friend flicker around a few more minutes, and then we set it free to be a tiny beacon in sea of black. That was it. One boy. His dad. A tiny bug. Two full hearts. A gentle reminder.

This week started out kind of crummy for me. I had been sick with an odd virus (that makes your skin feel like it is being burned off). I was cranky, tired, stressed out, anxious, and feeling as though I didn’t have what it takes. Do you ever feel that way? That your dreams, hopes, and aspirations would just as soon smash you flat, scrape you up, and then crinkle you between their fingernails as the wind disperses the bits and pieces at random? It was a perfect storm for me to be a complete curmudgeon. Yet, bad weeks make gentle reminders burn brighter than they normally would. Tonight, as we gazed at a tiny, resplendent creature in the pitch-black of our living room, I was reminded of how good life is.

As I watched my son, it occurred to me that adults should be more like children for a number of reasons. In fact, at times I watch my son with jealous eyes. It seems when we are young we lack the perspective to enjoy childhood for what it is. Yet, it has long been my conviction that children never grow up. They just get bigger bodies, more responsibilities, become more driven by fear, distracted, and lose much of the wonder for the world around them.

I know that as “bigger children” we can’t ditch our responsibilities, but maybe we would do well to be more like children at times. Consider the many wonderful ways that children approach life. Early on, children aren’t insecure. They don’t worry about what other people think about them. They aren’t scared to ask questions. They aren’t anxious over the future. Very little, if any, shame mars their tiny hearts. They have no problem enjoying themselves. They take risks. They love freely and deeply. They trust others and aren’t cynical. They view the world with fresh, vibrant eyes, and they find wonder in everything they lay their eyes on.

When you begin to analyze the lives of children, one cannot help but be taken back to Eden. The infancy of mankind. What must that have been like? I think we can know, though with extremely limited capacity, by looking at the lives of children. We know that in Eden, mankind was corrupted and sin entered the world. The freshness and wonder of Eden was crushed under the weight of sin. So also is it with children. Eventually the world tries to squeeze every ounce of Eden out of the hearts and minds of all. Yet, regardless of how hard the world tries, one thing cannot be erased. The Imago Dei. The image of God.

At the fall, the imaged of God was effaced, but not erased. We all bear God’s image. It is the last ounce of Eden that remains with us all. At times, we get greater glimpses of Eden. When we become more like our children, I believe we are closer to what life was like at the beginning, and what life will be back when He returns. In the meantime, we get to struggle in a post-Eden world. Yet, we should strive to take Eden back by learning from our children.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:3

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What quality do you most admire about children?

Marriage Monday: A Husband’s Job Description

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Husbands Job DescriptionThe first job I ever had was selling “media” at Best Buy. Though I am glad to have moved on to other career endeavors, it wasn’t a bad first job for a single guy that enjoyed all things geek. My first day at work was trial by fire, my only instruction was not to wreck the forklift and to sell stuff, and I did just that. Yet, I wonder to what degree my sales would have increased had I received more input and instruction. It would have been nice to have gotten more information on various merchandise, service plans, navigating overstock, using software, and what my exact responsibilities were. More information never hurts.

What about when it comes to marriage? What instruction were you given before making one of the biggest commitments of your life? I am a strong advocate of pre-marital counseling. I feel it is a requirement, but many people don’t go through the counseling process. Even for those of us that do, there is still a great deal to figure out. Learning to communicate, manage finances, establish boundaries and assign priorities all sound fine when discussed in an office with the person you love, but applying the many concepts discussed in pre-marital counseling is in itself another challenge.

This is why I think it important to identify what our “job description” should be within our marriages. If we don’t identify what our duties are and what is most important we will find ourselves doing things that are of little lasting significance, or perhaps spending our time on good things instead of great things. With that being said, here is my personal job description.

1. To lead my families’ spiritual development. Sure, it is easy to say that, but what does it actually mean? At the foundation it means that I keep myself spiritually healthy. Am I spending time with God daily? Am I growing in my understanding and application if scripture? Am I listening to what God wants for my family and I? It also means that I spend time in prayer with my wife. Together we should pray for our children and that they would be sensitive to what God wants for them. Promoting the spiritual development of my family means that they see me applying God’s word instead of just reading it or discussing it. It also consists of teaching my children why our family lives the way we do and why we believe in the God of the Bible. It means equipping them with answers about why the Bible is trustworthy, why we should take the claims of Christ to be historically accurate, knowing the evidence for the resurrection, explaining why bad things happen to good people, and why God is trustworthy. It will involve helping them understand where they came from, what their purpose is in life, what their identity is in Christ, and where they are headed. They should also know my journey that brought me to Christ and the mistakes I have made in the past.

2. To meet the needs of my wife. This means listening to what she has to say without trying to fix things. Giving her time without being distracted. Making time to do things that make her feel special. Not trying to change her unique personality or gifting that does not coincide with my own. Allowing her time to do things that recharge and rejuvenate her. I need to invest in her emotionally and express my own emotions. Communicate that she is loved, valued, respected, and needed. She needs be understand that she is the most significant thing in my life outside of Christ.

3. To provide financially. She needs to feel secure. It is imperative that she sees me working hard and knows that I am concerned about the future of our family. Making money should not be an end in itself. The pursuit of stuff cannot come at the expense of our family. My wife and the kids should see me giving of our finances, both to God and those in need. A written budget should be generated each month because if we don’t measure it we will never manage it. A college fund and retirement plan should be invested in each month.

4. To be second. I will be honest, putting my needs on the back burner does not come naturally. Yet, Christ is to be our model here. Ephesians 5:25 admonishes us to love our wives, just as Christ loved the church. This means it is a husband’s job to make sacrifices. It means I don’t gripe when I have to take on extra responsibilities at times. It means I get up when kids scream and let her sleep at times. I will need to help her shoulder some of her duties at times even when I don’t feel like it.

5. To be an encourager. I should be my wife’s biggest cheerleader. I should never make demeaning remarks, especially in front of others. I am to control my temper and not lash out or try and manipulate by being silent. My speech should be seasoned with grace and respectful.

6. To keep my eyes and mind pure. It’s easy to find things to look at that are not honoring to God or my wife. I can choose to let my eyes linger on the low necklines or high hemlines. I can decide to entertain sinful thoughts or push them from my mind.

7. To represent Christ. My actions should reflect God’s care and concern for my wife. My son’s relationship with God will be understood by how I relate to him. My daughter will see how a man should treat a woman by how I relate to her and her mother. The biggest thing I can do for my children is to love my wife like God does.

When you put your job description down on paper it becomes rather sobering. This is a tremendous task to live out and live well. I think it is easy to forget just how big of a job being a husband and father is. This is why we should sit down and figure out what is important and what our job is as a husband. Many of these areas I fail at on a daily basis, but some days I do well. Yet, if I don’t figure out what I should be doing how will I know whether I am doing well or poor?

Take the initiative to be the spiritual leader in the home – to pray, to worship at church, and to study God’s Word.  Take the initiative to see that finances are in order, needs are met and your wife feels financially secure.  Take the initiative to ask forgiveness, resolve conflict and ensure your home is a place of encouragement and safety. –Dennis Rainey

So, what does your job description look like? What would you add or take away from this list?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Walk Well…No…Walk Good

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Walk Well_Walk GoodAs of late, I have had several people ask me where the title for this blog came from. Occasionally, a few people even correct my grammar. It should be “Walk Well” I am told. It occurred to me that there might be some others that wonder the same thing. So here is why we Walk Good here instead of walking well.

In July of 2008, my wife and I spent a week in Montego Bay, Jamaica for our honeymoon. We could not have asked for a better experience. Beautiful skies, brilliant sunsets, tropical cake melting in our hands (alright, I totally ripped that line from Kokomo), the waves gently lapping at the steps outside of our beachside vista and time to spend together enjoying the community with God’s creation. During our stay there we noticed a peculiar saying by the locals, “walk good.” We would hear this at various times throughout the day. After a show the performer would say, “Goodnight and walk good.” When we finished a meal our waiter would send us on our way and remind us in his thick Jamaican accent to “walk good.” This started to become a joke between Devon and I. We continually reminded one another to “walk good” throughout our stay.

During the week I started to wonder what does it mean for a person to walk good? Furthermore, how does a Christian walk good? As a minister and therapist I am constantly peeling back the curtain and looking at people’s struggles, habits, hurts and problems. I myself am no exception. I am a broken human being with more problems and shortcomings than I would readily like to admit. It is so much easier to deny them and make everyone else think I am walking hand in hand with Jesus Christ every second of every day. We all have our problems. I know a few Christians that would have me believe otherwise. A lack of struggles and problems do not a good Christian make. To think we are without our problems is narcissistic, egotistic, or living in denial.

One thing I have found is many of my problems, and this applies to all people, could often be avoided if I would simply walk good. My favorite verse in the Bible is Ephesians 5:15. It is verse that calls us to live to a very high standard and it is pure application. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV) says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Circumspectly means to look around. We get the picture of someone taking great care as they walk down a path. Each step is made with precision and vigilance. If you are a dog person, you know what it means to walk good, because as you walk through the back yard where Fido, Trixie, or pickles uses the bathroom you are very careful about where your feet land. This is what our Jamaican friends were communicating to us. They were admonishing us to be careful as we exit and make our way home. In this verse the Apostle Paul challenges us to live carefully. The NIV translation of this verse says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” The question is, are we living a life that seeks wisdom? Are we walking down the path of life giving great attention to how we walk and where we are headed?

So we get the idea from this passage in Ephesians that we are to live wise, that we are to be careful in living our lives. Knowledge is one thing and application another. How do we do it? We ask ourselves a question. We ask ourselves this question every day. Every decision and aspect of our lives should be funneled through one single question. What is the wise thing for me to do? This question should be the backdrop for our entire lives. This is not a question many people think, or even want, to ask. Most people simply want to know is there a rule against it. Is there a Bible verse that says what I am about to is ok, or does the Bible speak out against it? I believe we should consult the Bible for every decision we make, but asking, “is this a wise decision?” holds us to a higher standard. Just because there is not a rule or Bible verse against a certain action does not mean it is wise for one to do. Everyone has different struggles, histories, temptations, circumstances and experiences. What is wise for one person is not always wise for another.

Asking “what is the wise thing to do?” radically alters how we live and raises the bar for morality and making good decisions. In I Corinthians 10:23 (NIV) Paul tells us, “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.” Just because there is not a rule or verse against something does not make it a wise thing to do.

Paul then goes on to tell us in Ephesians 5:15 to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” He tells us we are to “make the most of every opportunity we have.” Wise people redeem the time. People that walk good don’t waste the time they have. They realize that one wrong decision leads to another and this wastes precious time and energy. I see so many people squander the time they have. They often do this by living in denial. They want their life to be at a certain point. They feel they have a goal and they are headed toward it. They dream about where they are going. They talk about where they are headed in life. They even pray for God to bless their endeavors as they head toward said goal. When you actually evaluate their lives they are making no progress at all to where they want to be. It is the direction you are headed that determines where you end up. We can dream, pray, hope and discuss where we want to be further down the path, but if we are not taking active steps in that direction we are deceiving ourselves. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period and you win the battle; lose it and you will be defeated.” When it comes to living a life called to wisdom there are various windows of opportunity. One squandered decision cost us time and we may never be able to make it up. We must redeem the time. We are never stagnate; our lives are constantly headed somewhere, be it forward or backward. The question is, “are you headed in the direction you want to be?” Are you walking good? Are you living as the wise? This question should govern our lives.

We must keep in mind that it is not our wisdom that we seek to live by. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) challenges us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” We are to seek God’s wisdom if we hope to have a straighter path to walk down. We are to ask, “what is wise in relation to who I am as a unique individual taking into account my history, circumstances and struggles?”

It is based on Ephesians 5:15-16 that think about life and write my thoughts down. It is based on this principle that I seek to make sense of life and better understand how we are called to live. I could never have imagined what a difference it would make in my life to start writing down my thoughts and what I am learning. It has been both a blessing and a challenge.

Thanks to those of you that walk with me.

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Baited By the Beard?

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beardsRoad Trip! Many people hate piling in the car and staring at the road for hours on end, but I happen to enjoy it. Sure, flying is great at times, but road trips are conducive to great conversations and opportunities to reflect on life. It had been several years since we hopped in the car and drove across the country so my wife and I decided to drive to Atlanta this week, with our starting point being close to Houston. As we mapped out our route, we just so happened to notice that passing through West Monroe, Louisiana, was only about thirty minutes out of our way. What’s in West Monroe? Don’t you know? The bearded boys from Duck Dynasty, who else?

My wife and I began watching the show in season two, and quickly caught up by buying season one (which we watched in a night). We have been hooked ever since. We tune in every Wednesday night to see those friendly, fuzzed up faces.

When I stop to think about the show, it’s hard to say what drew me in to begin with. Sure it’s funny, but there are a lot of funny shows I don’t watch. I have never gone duck hunting (which I am not opposed to if anyone wants to give me an invite) a day in my life. I don’t even own a rifle. I have never even shot a deer, or at one for that matter. I really don’t even watch much television period, so it is interesting that I tune in faithfully every week this show airs. I even watch reruns from time to time, despite the fact that I own the seasons.

As we rolled up to Duck Commander, that’s the dynasty headquarters for those not sucked into the cult of duck yet, I was amazed. The facility wasn’t some huge corporate operation sprawled out over acres. It was a modest warehouse with some offices and a newly added gift shop. It is located right beside a small town car wash with some houses just down the road. To be honest, it looks smaller in person than on television. It is fascinating that the network, A & E, took a bet on the beards in the first place.

The gift shop opens at nine in the morning, and we arrived about eight-thirty. To my surprise, we were not the first ones there. We took some pictures while we waited for the gift shop to open. People continued to arrive by the minute. When the gift shop opened there were probably fifty people inside. The place was bustling with beard enthusiast by nine-thirty. I was amazed that this place attracted so many people.

This season, Duck Dynasty attracted an average of 8.4 million viewers per episode. It was the number one rated reality show this year. Just a bunch of guys, with beards, that make duck calls for a living. What is the appeal? It is something very simple, but so counter cultural that it almost elicits shock value. The success of Duck Dynasty is wrapped up in faith and family.

The show promotes a very family oriented lifestyle that flies in the face of our individualistic society. Each episode ends with the extended family sitting around a dinner table and some kind of moral is presented to tie the show together. There is also a healthy slice of faith served up with every episode.

It is my opinion that these two things, faith and family, are what pull people in (though Uncle Si’s antics also help). Why are people so drawn by these two things? Because it is what everybody wants. Who doesn’t want to have a close family? Most people want to find something that guides their life and instills a sense of purpose as well.

The sad fact is, much of our society is lacking in these two areas. So many people feel they can’t have what is seen in the lives of the Robertson’s, but they can. Anyone can have a life devoted to family and faith. Now this may be to varying degrees because, for many, the past plays a part in the present. Families don’t immediately change over night, but they can start the change process in a night. The Robertson family has what it has because it is willing to do what many people are unwilling to do, which is making faith and family a priority.

One of the cleanest shows on television right now is at the top. How does that happen? Because many people want to be a part of something good (not perfect). Maybe it also serves to show that there is a bigger desire for wholesome entertainment than some would have us think.

We were made for community. We find that fulfilled both vertically and horizontally. We need one another and we need God to feel fulfilled, have purpose, and be healthy. We long to be in community with God, family, and friends, whether we are cognizant of it or want to admit it. Somewhere, Duck Dynasty gives us a taste of what that feels like, and it feels nice.

We  have to remember though, to have what most people don’t have, we have to do what most people don’t do. Invest in our families and make faith a priority, each of which require a certain amount of sacrifice, but the reward is worth the effort.

You were made for community. I was made for community. We were all designed with a void that only God and family can fill. How are you doing at filling your void?

Seek God. Invest in family. Live in community. Enjoy life. And if you want, grow a killer beard.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Case of the Crummy Husband

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Crummy HusbandAnother Mother’s Day has come and gone. Moms are a big deal. We should make sure they are celebrated more than one Sunday a year because moms (Most moms that is. I work with mother’s every now and then that don’t deserve any celebration.) shoulder incredibly responsibilities. So to all the mothers and soon-to-be mothers we salute you. Let’s have a moment of silence for all the amazing mothers……….Alright, moment over.

My wife is no exception. She is an amazing mom to our two kids. If she got a nickel for every hour of missed sleep because of our kids, she could buy us a small island in the tropics. This mother’s day was her third one to celebrate. For her first mother’s day I bought her this amazing leather bound photo book of our son with captions to her from him on each page. When she got it, she went straight to ugly cry. It was a case of daddy success!

Each year you have to step up your game a little. So guess what I got her for mother’s day last year? You ready for this? Absolutely nothing. In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking. I wish I could say I forgot about the holiday, but I new it was coming. I wish I could say I had the flu, but I was as healthy as a Clydesdale.  I wish I could say anything other than the flimsy excuse I gave. Here was my excuse “I didn’t get a chance to do anything.”

It’s certainly true that I was extremely busy at that time. I had a lot going on. There were dozens of irons in the fire that I was juggling. Yet, Mother’s day comes around the same time every year. I knew it was coming. I had good intentions. I planned to do something, at some point, eventually.

My wife doesn’t particularly care about having expensive gifts. She just likes to feel thought about and cared for. She likes to know that I took a few seconds of my time to think about her and communicate that I care for her. So when Mother’s Day came last year, she was naturally disappointed. She felt underappreciated, and rightly so! I had good intentions, but never acted on them.

Have you ever noticed we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but we usually judge others by their actions? In our marriages (and every other facet of life) our intentions don’t cut the mustard (whatever that means). Good intentions are pointless. Wives don’t feel appreciated by our good intentions. Romance doesn’t flourish through our good intentions.

Its’ so easy to give ourselves a pass because our intentions were good, and then get upset with our spouses when their actions fall short. So what am I saying? We need to be fair. We need to stop using our intentions as an excuse for not acting. We also need to cut our spouse some slack at times when their actions don’t meet our expectations. We need to judge ourselves by the same standards we judge our spouse. As the truisms go, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions and actions speak louder than words.” So how are your actions talking? Are you being intentional?

This year has been even busier than last year. Work has been extremely busy. We added another baby to the mix. We are close to finishing a house. The end of school fell right on Mother’s day for me. I could whine on and on, but you get the picture. It’s busy. You can relate. You are busy too. Right? Yet this year I decided not to cop out with my “good intentions.” I decided to act. I even tried to go the extra mile and redeem myself. This year she got another photo book and some Vera Bradley (which I hear is like Lisa Frank for grown ups).

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Universal Language

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Universal Love LanguageConfession. I took two solid years of Español (that’s Spanish for all you English only people) in college. To this day, I can say a handful of Spanish phrases, most of which are extremely unhelpful. I know how to say rug, pants, underwear, potatoes, count to thirty, and sing a song about a Cockroach. None of that will ever help me negotiate my way out of a Mexican prison (should that need ever arise) if I am ever taken captive down on Méjico. Wouldn’t it be much simpler if everyone just spoke the same language?

So what about love languages? You remember the book by Gary Chapman right, The Five Love Languages? Essentially, he says we all have a different language that communicates how we like to be loved or know we are being loved. He divided the love languages into the following categories: Words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts.

People try to love their spouse in the language that they themselves “speak”, but that might not be the language their spouse speaks. If someone feels loved by receiving gifts then they naturally buy gifts for their spouse in order to communicate their love, but Chapmen says, their spouse may feel loved by hearing affirming words. So the underlying principle is, learn what language your spouse speaks and love them the way that they like to be loved.

It is an interesting read. Thousands of couples have done it together in small groups. It has four and a half stars on Amazon as reviewed by 1,649 people. It always seemed to make sense to me, but I think there may be more at work here than speaking your spouse’s specific language.

When I read the Five Love Languages, my primary language was words of affirmation and my SSL (second love language) was physical touch.  So, all my wife has to do is tell me nice things and hold my hand and I am feeling some kind of loved. Easy-peasy.

Several weeks ago, however, something happened that got me thinking. One thing that grates on my nerves is having a dirty vehicle. I like our cars to look clean, smell clean, and not have 2 month old M&M’s melting in the dark recesses under the seats. I enjoy washing the cars. Give me a beautiful day, some soap, and a shop vac, and I am thrilled. This one particular week, however, my car was filthy. It had been several weeks since I got to wash the car and my week was hectic and my schedule was packed. One day when my wife was out she washed the car, vacuumed it, cleaned the seats, and wiped the entire interior.

It was nighttime when I had to get in the car, and I noticed my rear slide in the seat. WAIT, “I know that feeling” I said to myself. That’s what the seats feel like after mink oil has been applied. But….what…who…? I looked at the floor. Vacuumed. “Devon, did you wash the car?” “Yup. I knew it was stressing you out.”

In that moment, I had just been handed a blank check. Someone just slapped me upside the head with warm fuzzies for my wife. She washed the car. I couldn’t thank her enough. But wait, you say. Acts of service isn’t your love language. It is words of affirmation and physical touch. That’s right, but her act of service meant the world to me that week.

So that caused me to wonder. Maybe we do all tend to have a certain way that we feel more loved or tend to express our love just like Gary Chapman says, but maybe there is a universal language? Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking his book. You should probably read it, but maybe there is something bigger here than several different languages. Maybe the universal love language is simply doing something for you spouse. Anything at all.

As the years creep by in a marriage, it is easy to let all the things that you use to do begin to slip. Maybe it isn’t what you do for your spouse that matters as much as the fact that you actually do something. I think if we take the time to invest emotionally, let them know that we care, think about them, and want to see them happy, what we do won’t matter nearly as much as the fact that we have chosen to let them know how valuable they are to us.

We should still study our spouse and try to meet their specific needs and pay attention to the unique ways they feel loved, but above all else, let’s make sure we continually communicate that we care. There are millions of ways to do this. Let’s not get too bogged down in trying to figure out exactly the perfect way to communicate we love them, let’s just make sure we invest in them often to show we care. What we do doesn’t matter near as much as that we DO! Let’s not use our inability to love perfectly as an excuse not to act. Action, doing, making the effort often, that is the universal love language.

Tonight, as I hopped in bed with my laptop while my wife settled in to read for five minutes until she passed out she asked, “You about to blog?” I told her yes. “Got a topic?” “No, not yet Dev. You have a suggestion?” “Yea, you could write about how great your wife is?” So here is it. Thanks for all the ways you invest in me. The many things you do mean the world. You are pretty amazing. I know your love language is not words of affirmation, but you are pretty great.

What have you done/said/given to remind your spouse how great they are lately?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Lost and Found

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Have you ever lost something important? What did you do? Did you sit around, hoping it would eventually turn up, or did you keep searching until you found it? It probably depends on how important it was.  Around my house, I feel like we are constantly looking for things. Our little boy is frequently putting things in random places. My wife has knack for misplacing (her word for losing) various items as well. Honestly, I think they are both in cahoots just to watch me tear the house apart in a frantic frenzy. The most common items I search for are: remote controls, car keys, debit cards, and cell phones (which are always on silent when they are lost). I hate losing things. It is such a frustrating experience. Generally, things get lost when you need them most, or when you are in a hurry.

Last Sunday night nothing could have prepared me for what got lost. It was my two-year old son. We had just gotten out of church, and several of us stayed around visiting and catching up afterwards. All of the exits were locked. My wife and I were both keeping our eyes on our son as he ran and played with several of the other children. Out of nowhere someone asks, “Where is Hayden.” My response was, “He is right over here playing with the kids.” I walk around the corner and I see the kids, but my kid is missing. No big deal. I check the bathrooms because sometimes he meanders in there. I walk in and the lights are out. I call out and no answer. I quickly check his usual spots all to no avail. We check the sanctuary. No Hayden. We look, and one of the exterior door are cracked open.

At this point, about twenty people go in every direction, some out the front doors, others out the back, and some stay inside. I quickly run to the front and make sure he is not anywhere close to the road. Thankfully, I don’t see him close to the road, but then again, I don’t see him anywhere else either. Nausea starts to ripple through my stomach. Where is he? He isn’t one to wander. Where can he be? Please, God, help us find this sweet little boy. I walk back inside. Everyone else has moved outside to look so I start to sweep the inside again. I run into the sanctuary and something to my left catches my attention. He is playing in the floor of the sound booth completely oblivious to the frantic search going on around him.

Relief. I am flooded with a heart of thankfulness. I found him. He is okay. He is safe. I scoop him up and squeeze him. In that moment he has no idea how relieved and thankful I am to have my arms wrapped tightly around him. My son that was lost is now found. What incredible joy. I cut my celebration short in order to tell everyone else to call off the search. I had found him. No longer did I rejoice alone, we all gave thanks. Everything was alright. My son was safe.

In those short couple of minutes I collided headlong with a new perspective on the degree of the Father’s love for us. I had previously thought I had somewhat of a grasp on the extent of God’s love for His children. What I thought I knew about God’s love was shattered in several extremely long minutes.

I would have given anything to find my son. There is no extreme I would not have gone to in order for him to be wrapped safely in my arms. How much more so is the Father’s love for us? He paid the ultimate price.

He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
-Philippians 2:7-8

Ever since mankind willingly chose to separate himself from God, He has been seeking us. Even though our souls have become twisted and we desire to hide, He has been seeking us. Though we have tried to do things our own way and rebelled, He has continued to search for us.

He is always there with arms wide. A Father that longs to embrace His children. What joy he finds when we are found! We will never know what pure love is until we run to Him!

Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.‘  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  -Luke 15:8-10

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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