Posts tagged Love

The Duck, the Whole Duck, and Nothing But the Duck

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duck dynastyIt has nearly been a month since the daddy of the Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, stirred things up with his comments in the interview with GQ magazine. I know this horse has been beat to death. The blogosphere was lit up with post after post about the backwoods Patriarch. They still continue to roll out. Some of them thought provoking, some angry, some appealing to emotions, and others that are poorly thought through.

The reason for all of the excitement about Phil Robertson has very little to do with Phil. He simply struck a match too close to a tinderbox. He opened up a door that allowed some needed dialogue to ensue, though much of the dialogue has been disappointing, hurtful, and doesn’t deal squarely with some of the issues.

Due to the firestorm that Phil’s words created, I have read much about the following topics across the web on Christian, non-Christian, conservative, and liberal sites alike, including: homosexuality, the suicide rate of homosexual teens, Christianity as it relates to homosexuality, Phil himself, gay marriage, equal rights, whether homosexuality is a sin, the sexuality of other mammals, etc.

My goal here is not to add to the noise, but instead take what I have read and discuss it from my perspective as a heterosexual, Christian, counselor, and my experience as related to these topics. My goal is not to appeal to emotion, though this is an emotional topic. It my intention to be loving, but to also represent the Christian worldview, present research, and share some of my professional experience. I will repeat some of Phil’s “crass” language and due to the subject matter, there may be other “crass” terms. I just felt I should give you that disclaimer now in case you would like to abandon ship.

First, if I might simply begin with Phil’s words. This seems like a logical place to start because this is what tipped the domino, and got us here to begin with. The first utterance that Mr. Robertson made that many found offensive was, “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Many found his language “crude”, which honestly, I find remarkable. He calls body parts by their actual anatomical names. People hear the slang and far more offensive terms for these parts and never bat an eye, but here, he is accused of being offensive. That simply does not make any sense at all.

Then there is his comment about a vagina having more to offer than a man’s anus. Physiologically and medically speaking, is he wrong? A vagina is made to accommodate a penis and an anus is not. Can you insert a penis into a man’s anus? Yes. Is it healthy? The medical community would tell us no. When I was a kid, I had a friend that stuck a pencil eraser up his nose. Sure, he could get it in there, but he caused some serious damage to his sinus cavity. Just because one can does not mean one should. I think this is all Phil was trying to point out. Stay with me. I know it would be easy to check out here. Regardless of where you land on this issue, please read on and let’s dialogue openly without being emotional, because this is how we all grow to understand one another.

The second statement he made that was ill received was his response to the question, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” To which he responded, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” As you know, much of what he says here is not even his own words. He gives us the words of the Apostle Paul.

Many found offense that he placed the word bestiality, adultery, and homosexuality in the same sentence. Was he comparing these? I honestly don’t know. We would have to ask Phil. I do find that he was honest. He use to sleep with other women outside of his marriage, which he identifies as sin. He isn’t trying to point fingers. He is simply stating what he believes to be wrong and this is fully consistent within the traditional Christian worldview. One thing I found interesting was a representative from GLAAD was incredibly irate that homosexuality might even be compared to bestiality. He stated that it was wrong for someone heterosexual to place a moral judgment on someone for being homosexual, and then he turns around and places a moral judgment on someone for engaging in bestiality. I understand that many will say there is a drastic difference between being committed in a homosexual relationship and having sex with an animal. Yet, for many homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, sex is nothing more than an animalistic act. When sex is divorced from monogamy it simply becomes about arousal and physical release, which is what sex with an animal is all about.

To continue on, let’s address the serious issue of the increased rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in the GLB community raised in another article which you can read here. While I greatly understand the author’s intent, I feel it was somewhat misguided. The author brings to the surface the issue of teen suicide in the GLB community and hangs the issue on the shoulders of rejection and dehumanization of homosexual individuals, especially within the church. What is not considered is whether other factors besides the aforementioned may be at work in the higher rates of suicide amongst homosexual teens. Please listen to me carefully. If a gay person walks into my church what I honestly believe will happen is that they will be loved. Granted, there are jerks and hatemongers in every walk of life, including congregations, but I can speak for the majority of people that I worship with and say that any person who walks into my church will be met with love. It has to be this way, and especially with homosexual people that are struggling. Yet, I think we should look at other factors that may lead homosexual teens to consider suicide, and one such factor is the homosexual behavior itself. Should we love and help homosexual teens work through their problems? An emphatic yes! My question is, what if the problem is the homosexual behavior? Should we affirm and validate a sexual lifestyle that could be damaging? I don’t think so. At least, I can’t tell someone to keep doing what I believe is hurting them. Why do I think the homosexual behavior is damaging? Aside from my belief that when God says “don’t” he means “don’t hurt yourself” is that fact that the homosexual lifestyle causes emotional problems that teens (and adults, but especially teens) are not equipped to handle. Mainly, that homosexual individuals have a much higher percentage of sexual partners and are extremely promiscuous. Well, so are many heterosexual teens, right? While it is true that heterosexual teens are often promiscuous, they are less so than homosexual teens. But the bottom line is both of these behaviors are problematic and cause emotional distress.I can affirm neither of them.

Well, if we encourage monogamy this will be less of a problem, right? The difficulty is, the homosexual lifestyle is not one that often embraces monogamy. A survey published by the University of Chicago found a glaring difference between heterosexual and homosexual people. The study reported monogamy to be at 83% for heterosexuals and at 2% for homosexuals. This is echoed in my experience as a counselor. Are some homosexual’s monogamous? Sure, but they are the exception. Maybe you say, “Well, if homosexual couples could get married, this would reduce some of these problems.” Again, research does not support this. In countries where same sex marriage is legal, the vast majority do not marry.

Another statement made in this article was, “When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time.” Statements like this make me cringe. It is possible to be both theologically correct and morally responsible. The author promotes a false dichotomy here. In fact, when we get sloppy with theology that is when we become morally irresponsible. Again, could it be that the homosexual lifestyle causes some problems for individuals? If it does, it would be morally irresponsible and unloving to promote that lifestyle.

This week, an article appeared in the Huffington post titled “Why I Can’t Say ‘Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin’ Anymore.” The author goes on to write “We don’t use that phrase for everybody else. Only them. Only ‘the gays.’” He then discusses how this idea of loving the sinner and hating sin divides us from homosexual people. This may be the author’s experience, but it certainly is not mine, or many other Christians I know for that matter. I hate my own sin. I hate it violently. My own lust that I struggle with from time to time is just as sinful as the lust of a homosexual. I hate all sin. My sin is just as damaging to me as your sin is to you. As far as what separates us from others, it is only sin. Christianity teaches that sin leads to death. The biblical understanding of death is separation. Thus, sin separates. All of our sin, everyone’s, places distance between God and us. Everyone is created in the image of God, and ever last one of us is dying from a sin disease. So I say we keep on loving sinners, which is everyone, and we keep on hating sin, which causes separation, problems and death.

So what am I trying to say? Christians, Non-Christians,  gays, straights, sinners, parents, teachers, pastors, should all be able to talk about sexuality in an honest way. Love should be the highest goal. I think the problem is, people view love differently. Love, for me, is not about affirming what I believe to be destructive to individuals and society at large. Love says, “Hey, I think what you are doing is hurting you. I will love you, care for you, be here for you regardless of what you do, but I won’t promote destructive behavior.” For many Christians, this is why they can’t endorse homosexual behavior. They believe God labels it as sin because it is destructive, and feel the effects can be seen in the lives of individuals and society. This does not mean they hate or promote hate. It means they are trying to love.

Let me close with what I believe to be the most damaging aspect of the homosexual lifestyle on society. Homosexuality, largely due to the lack of monogamy and the “hook-up” culture prevalent in the homosexual community leads to fatherlessness in the lives of children. Why is this a big deal? As Frank Turek points out, children from fatherless homes are seven times more likely to live in poverty. Six times more likely to commit suicide. More than twice as likely to commit crime. More than twice as likely become pregnant out of wedlock. Worse off academically and socially. Worse off physically and emotionally when they reach adulthood. Sure, we can’t afford to ignore the dehumanization of gay teens and the poor treatment some homosexual individuals receive, but neither can we afford to ignore the aforementioned statistics either.

What I hope for people in the homosexual community to understand is that while some people facilitate hate, not every Christian who refuses to affirm the homosexual lifestyle is being a bigot. Many are just refusing to endorse something they strongly believe to be destructive. The Christian worldview does not condemn someone for being a homosexual. We often cannot help preferences or what we find attractive. Yet, we are in control of our behavior. We do choose what urges we act on. So, for many Christians, they are trying to practice compassion for those in the homosexual community. Jay Budziszewski states, “compassion out to make us visit the prisoner, dry out the alcoholic, help the pregnant girl prepare for the baby, and encourage the young homosexual to live chastely. But how much easier it is to forget the prisoner; give the drunk a drink, send the girl to the abortionist, and tell the kid to just give in. False compassion is a great deal less work than true.” For many Christians, their stance on homosexuality is motivated out of compassion.

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: No I’s In Us

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No Is in UsHow is it that two people that once desired to spend the rest of their lives together can come to a point where they can’t stand to be in the same room? What is it that leads to destruction in a marriage? Is it infidelity? Is it communication problems? Is it financial issues? Could it be bitterness or resentment? What is the root cause?

Most marriage problems can be traced to a single factor, yet it often goes unnoticed. It is an insidious enemy. It is something we all struggle with. No marriage is safe from it. It can crop up at anytime throughout life and is always destructive. The root cause of most marital problems is selfishness.

It is easy to be selfish, isn’t it? It comes natural. This is what makes it so difficult. While we have to take care of ourselves and meet many of our own needs, we often focus solely on ourselves. Our priority becomes our own happiness at the expense of our spouse. Often, we might not even realize that we have made ourselves the center of our own universe.

Many times, couples try to treat the symptoms. We try and improve communication, establish proper boundaries, look for unresolved conflict, deal with sexual frustrations, and curb spending habits. Yet, we have to ask, why are these problems in the first place? Is it possible that our infatuation with ourselves is what is fueling the problems in our marriage?

When we focus only on our needs we tend to manipulate others. We do what it takes to have our needs met. Selfish people communicate in a way that coerces others into seeing things their way. They use the other persons’ needs as a weapon. They withhold to punish the other and give in order to get. They use the resources of the other person on themselves when they can. They often appear to show concern for the other, but they do so when convenient or beneficial for themselves.

When we begin to see problems arise in our marriage, we tend to point the finger in our spouses direction. Instead of blaming, maybe we should take a look in the mirror. No one person is perfect within a marriage. Each side contributes to marital dissatisfaction and problems, yet often our love affair with ourselves is a substantial factor.

What needs does our spouse have that are we ignoring? Maybe it is time we stop focusing so much on ourselves. Maybe it is time we give without the expectation of getting? Maybe its time we be honest with ourselves and with the person we love.

No one wants to admit that they are selfish, yet most of us are. Selfishness is the arsenic of married life. It is a poison that we must seek to eliminate. It is time to die to ourselves for the sake of our marriages. We are to seek the good of the other, this is where we find happiness. When meet the needs of our spouse selflessly, and they do the same, we find that marriage becomes a joy and both parties feel cared for. There are no I’s in us. Let’s love our spouse more than we love ourselves.

Selfishness is the controlling force of sinful living. It is this motive which pulsates through the natural mind, emotions and will – self-pleasing, self-serving, living for self. – Walter J. Chantry

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

Marriage Monday: Snuggle Much?

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snuggle muchThink back to when you first began dating your spouse? How often did you hold hands? Practically every spare second, right? How often did you hug or have your arms around each other? Often, no doubt. How often did you kiss, well, we won’t get too personal, but you get the point. Physical touch, especially non-sexual physical touch is often employed heavily during the dating relationship and through the honeymoon, yet as the years go by the physical touch wanes for many couples.

We should note that physical touch is an incredibly important part in relationships. It is, in fact, one of the five love languages according to Gary Chapmen. Interestingly enough, there are people out there that will even pay for it. A woman by the name of Jackie Samuel from Penfield, NY runs a business that sells “snuggles”. If you thought the guy that invented bottled water struck a gold mind (low overhead, it’s water folks) then what about Ms. Samuel’s snuggling entrepreneurial enterprise (talk about low overhead)? She charges $50 for 45 minutes of snuggle time. You can also purchase the “double cuddle” at $100 for 45 minutes and have a three way snuggle. Sounds ridiculous I know. Perhaps you are thinking the same thing I thought, “This has to be some form of prostitution.” Yet, Ms. Samuel is adamant that all clothes must stay on. It is time for snuggling only. Why? Because she believes in the power of human touch.

This is not to say that Jackie Samuel does not have her critics. Some view her as taking advantage of “lonely people”. Maybe it’s wrong to charge for a hug? Others salute her ambition and pioneering of a market that has remained untapped. Yet, the very fact that she manages to make some money doing this says something to the fact that people crave physical touch.

Back in the 1950’s, a psychologist by the name of Harry Harlow conducted some ground-breaking experiments. He took newborn Rhesus monkeys and separated them from their mothers. He then placed them into cages. Within each cage were two surrogate mothers. One was made of heavy wire mesh and held the infant monkey’s source of food, and the other was made of cuddly terry cloth. Each of the surrogate mothers was warmed by an electric light placed inside them. Guess which mother the baby monkeys preferred? It was the one with the soft, cuddly terry cloth. Even though the other wire mesh mother offered them food and warmth, the baby monkeys spent more time clinging to the soft, terry cloth mother. At times, they would even hold on to the mother made of terry cloth and stretch to the other wire mesh mother in order to drink their bottle. It lead researches to conclude that the need for closeness and affection is more than just needing warmth or sustenance.

Physical touch is a vital part of every marriage. We aren’t talking sex here. Guys, you see the words I am typing here? Your wife needs physical touch just for the sake of it. Not physical touch that always leads somewhere. Men need it as well. Yet again, often it goes out the window as schedules fill, children make demands, and chores pile up. Nights snuggling on the couch are often exchanged for a quick peck on the lips as one partner flies out the door.

So what am I saying? Guys, hug your wife. Ladies, hold your husbands hand. Spend some time snuggling. We need it. It is healthy. It relieves stress. It promotes intimacy. Five out five monkeys agree.

Oh, and it should go without saying. Your kids need it too!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Sex and Meat Loaf

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Sex and Meat LoadWhat would you do to be loved? Back in the 90’s, the singer Meat Loaf belted, “I would do anything for love.” Doesn’t everyone want to be loved? It is a basic need that is innate. Everyone wants to receive and express love. The problem is, we are entirely willing to do too much for love and the consequences we face are devastating, both culturally and individually. Currently, about 1 out of 30 Americans successfully waits until after marriage to have sex. If that statistic is disheartening to you, remember that this represents over 10 million Americans that choose to remain abstinent until marriage, and they should be saluted.

It has been my experience as a mental health professional that women will often “do anything for love”, which often includes giving the most personal thing they possess, their virginity. Yet, if we wrote the male version of the song, it might be “I would do anything for sex”. Men will often artificially meet a need to be loved in order to enjoy a romp between the sheets. Now of course, sometimes it works the opposite way, but again, most female sexual addicts engage in sexual acts in order to meet an emotional need.

The fact of the matter is, America has become a nation of sex. It has become the driving currency. Sex has been hijacked, exploited, and manipulated to the point that it has become routine and commonplace. If one is single, having sex is the norm. Recently I was talking to a group of Christians and several made the statement, “If you are in your 20’s or 30’s then you are going to have sex. That is just the way it is.” But the truth of the matter is, we have made it that way. The remarkable thing about human beings is they have the capacity to override their sexual desires; though only 1 in 30 seem to be willing to do so.

I understand though, waiting to have sex is no longer in vogue. We are expected to enjoy sex whenever we feel like it and with whomever we like, as long as they are of age and consensual. Yet, what has this cost us? I would argue, a great deal. Scripture describes marriage, including having sexual relations, as “two becoming one flesh.” Sex is glue for the soul. Sex unites people in such a way that they become inseparable. When a couple has sex and then moves on to other partners, they carry pieces of the other person with them. This inevitably leads to problems.

A study published at Brigham Young University states, “Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships” and rank marital satisfaction 20% higher. According to a study at the University of Iowa, women who had sex as teens where at increased risk for divorce. Research at Western Washington University found that “having at least one other intimate relationship prior to marriage is linked to an increased risk of divorce.”

One does not need to pour over research, however, to see the adverse effects that the “sexual revolution” has had on America. To anyone that is cavalier in his or her sexual life I pose this question: Has having sex outside of marriage made your life better or more complicated? Has having sex outside of marriage brought you a sense of being loved or lead to more loneliness, emotional turmoil, and guilt? When you finally married after all of your sexual exploits, was your spouse excited to hear about the previous people you slept with or did you struggle with those memories by yourself? If your spouse had multiple previous partners do you fear being compared to those partners or feel that something that was meant for you was exploited by someone else?

Whenever I talk with youth I always like to ask them, “Do you want to have an amazing sex life after you are married?” I have never had one tell me “No, I hope my sex life after marriage is rotten.” They always look at me quizzically and respond with an enthusiastic “yes”! So I tell them the best thing they can do for their sex life later is not to have sex now. Because when two become one, they can’t become two again. You can’t unscramble eggs. Sure, God forgives us and offers us His wonderful grace, but we still face the consequences of our actions.

Meat Loaf would do anything for love, but he wouldn’t “do that”, whatever “that” was. We all want to be loved. We all want to give love. I think many of us have a fear not finding someone, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for a cheapened form of love and do “that”.

Let’s keep sex and love as two distinct entities, and allow sex to flow out of a committed, loving, marital relationship, the way it was intended to be.

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.

Apologetic Wednesday: Love Then Logic

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Love Then LogicIt is roughly one o’clock in the morning. It is a pretty familiar scene for me. I sit working in front of my computer in a dimly lit living room while the rest of my family sleeps. I watch my son over a monitor that streams live to my cell phone. As is often the case, he wakes up crying. I walk into his room to console him. He wants in my bed. I pick him, hug him, and place him gently beside my wife. He snuggles into her and is back to sleep in an envious matter of seconds, safe and secure.

I enjoy this time of life. My children are dependent upon me. I can allay their fears, bring comfort to their hearts, kiss away their pains, and shelter them from an often toxic and harsh world. Yet, I know one day they will make their own way. Their decisions will be their own. It will no longer be I that guides their every step.

Early yesterday morning, I read an article before I began my day. It was written by Rachael Slick, which is the daughter of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry founder, Matt Slick. In her article she tells about her childhood, which she seems to paint as restrictive, sheltered, and legalistic, and her journey into atheism. She recounts all the time that her father spent pouring into her good reasons to embrace Christianity. Then one day, she thinks of a question that she cannot answer, and walks away from her faith. Though her article does not make it clear, she seems to walk away quickly without really wrestling with the question that sent her spiraling away from the center of her Christian universe. It is also interesting to note that the question she felt posed a great problem for the Christian is really not problematic for belief in God.

As I read her story, I felt deeply saddened, but I also felt the crushing weight of responsibility. As a father of two, I hope I can instill into my children the love of God and why faith in Jesus Christ is reasonable. Why? Because I know that what they believe about God is the most important thing about them. Yet, as I read her article, it caused me to think about my own children and their journey through life as they formulate their own worldview. What if my children also decided to depart from the faith? What would I do? I would love them. Plain and simple, I would love them. There is nothing that can ever separate them from my love. No decision they could ever make can change the fact that I love them, and always will.

I have seen so many Christians who allow a host of different things to form a chasm between them and the people they love. Yet, we would do well to remember that there is nothing that can kill love, it is we that choose to withhold our love and affection.

As I read Ms. Slick’s article, it seemed (and I am psychologizing here) that though her father poured philosophy into her young mind early on and taught her to employ sound logic; she might have missed out on something she needed much, an understanding of God’s deep love and experiencing that love. We must remember that love isn’t something to be earned. It can only be given. It is the same with God. We can’t earn it. It is something He gives freely.

As Christians and Apologists (if you are a Christian you are called, though some to a higher degree than others, to be an apologist and have a reason for the hope you have) we need to remember that it is our love that must precede our logic. Do I want my children to develop solid answers for what they believe? Absolutely! Do I want my kids to remember their dad as being a defender of truth, who sought truth regardless of where it leads, and studied hard to make a case for Christianity? You bet! But long before they remember my arguments I want them to remember my love, because without a heavy dose of love from their dad my arguments won’t seem to carry much weight. In fact, without my love all of my words will just sound empty, like a “clanging symbol” that is beat annoyingly.

Let’s continue to redefine the way the world views Christianity. We are not a group of people scared by current scientific research. We do not cower down to the philosophies of the secular mind. We are not sheltered and fearful of “being bullied.” We have reasons for what we believe. But can we, as believers, please employ love before logic? Can we make sure that the world knows God’s love and be ambassadors of that love? Can we make sure that Christianity isn’t just a cognitive exercise, but also is a love story between God and His creation?

Ms. Slick, though you may not believe in God, He still loves you. To my own children, I will always love you regardless of the decisions you make. To the rest of us, may we remember the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38-39

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Giving Up My Right to Hurt You

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ForgivenessEver been hurt by your spouse? I certainly have. Is it because my wife is the wicked witch of the East? No, it is because she is human. My wife would say the same of me. There have been times where I have wounded her. If there is one thing that happens in every marriage it is this, couples hurt one another.

Though marriage is immensely satisfying, it is also somewhat messy at times. What should we expect? Marriage involves taking two imperfect, selfish people, placing them in close proximity, and highlighting every flaw and shortcoming they have. In this arrangement, someone is going to get hurt, though the degree often varies. Sometimes the emotional pain or psychological wounding is immense, leaving deep, pitted scars that will never completely heal. Other times the hurt is gotten over fairly quickly.

Regardless of when the offense is committed or the degree of severity, all relationships deal with their share of wounds, yet some allow the wounding to stall their marriage and others move past it. So what is it that determines whether a couple is able to make progress and move forward in their marriage when one or both parties have been hurt? Prepare yourself for this F-Bomb. The key to marriages that are able to heal after pain is inflicted is forgiveness. To some, the word forgiveness might as well be a bomb. “I am suppose to forgive him for what he did? Never! We can move forward, but I can’t forgive.” Yet, to not forgive is to stay stuck in marriage.

One thing I have noticed in every married couple experiencing problems that I have worked with is unforgiveness. When a couple refuses to forgive one another for hurts committed (which are inevitable, though not justifiable) they resign themselves to staying stuck. In Hebrews 12:15, the writer speaks about a “root of bitterness.” Unforgiveness is like a root. When we don’t forgive, the root presses downward ever deeper. The root of bitterness branches out in every direction and becomes more difficult to uproot. These roots send stalks upward that eventually turn into a tree which cause problems in life. The longer this plant grows the more destructive it becomes and the more difficult to remove. Unforgiveness is extremely destructive.

Despite the cancerous nature of unforgiveness, it is often present in many marriages, for one reason or another. Some couples don’t bring up past hurts because they are fearful of doing so. Some keep quiet because of their pride. Others might feel they don’t have the right to do so, or that their hurt is childish. Yet the truth us, when we are hurt we have to deal with it lest the “root of bitterness” start to grow. We must acknowledge the hurt, discuss it, work through it, and then forgive the other person.

Yet, for many, forgiving their spouse (or anyone for that matter) is a difficult task, but it is necessary if we want to be happy and free of the pain we experienced in the past. So what exactly is forgiveness? Archibald Hart captured the exact nature of forgiveness when he said, “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.” You see, forgiveness is releasing someone of a debt. Often, our spouse takes something from us (it could be time, peace of mind, comfort, peace, trust, security, happiness, a dream, etc.). Due to the fact that they took something a debt/debtor relationship is established. They owe us back what they took, but often what they took cannot be repaid. They may be able to apologize and make amends, but they may not be able to return what they owe us. So forgiveness is saying, “You don’t owe me anymore. I surrender my right to hold it over your head.”

Often you will hear people say, forgive and forget. Though time often has a way of making the past hazy, much of the time we don’t forget the past. They have still yet to actually invent those neuralyzers from Men In Black that erase people’s memories. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we forget what happened, but it means we act as though we have forgotten. It means we never reach into the past and bring it back up again. It means when things get difficult that we don’t recall past hurts, and use them as a weapon to assault our spouse.

When it comes to marriage someone is going to get hurt. It is the result of two fallen people trying to do life together. Healthy marriages employ forgiveness and are able to work past their wounds. Couples that hold on to their pain eventually self-destruct. Forgiveness is a choice. We can choose to forgive, or we can stay in bondage. The choice is ours. Yet, when we choose to forgive we choose life for ourselves and our marriage.

When I become bitter or unforgiving toward others, I’m assuming that the sins of others are more serious than my sins against God. The cross transforms my perspective. Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it’s not difficult to forgive others. -C.J. Mahaney

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Working Past the Nail In Her Head

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This video has been making its way around the Internet with great gusto. With anything like this, there are always those that see it as offensive. Obviously, it is meant to be tongue in cheek. There is also variation within the sexes as to how we handle communication and emotions. Yet, to a large extent, most can relate to this video. I cannot count the women I have heard express within couples counseling, “He just doesn’t listen. He always wants to just jump in and fix the problem.”

Undoubtedly, it isn’t always men that are fixers. Some women are quick to jump in with recommendations. There are also some men that are better listeners than most women. One cannot help but notice, however, that there is a definite difference among the sexes when it comes to this issue. On average, most women want to be heard (don’t we all?) and men are quick to jump in with solutions. It’s the way men’s minds work. When we hear a complaint/problem our minds automatically go into problem solving mode.

The guy in this video is obviously frustrated. In fact, you almost feel frustrated for him. All he wants to do is help his wife get the nail out of her head. He simply wants her problem to go away. He sees exactly what the issue is. It is pretty cut and dry. One yank and his wife’s world would improve drastically. No more head pain or snagged sweaters.

This video is fascinating because it forces us all to see things from our spouses’ perspective. It compels us to explore how well we communicate with one another and accept influence from our spouse. When it comes to this age-old issue of men being fixers and women wanting to simply be heard there are some things we should consider.

First, women are not by nature irrational (though this video candidly portrays the female that way somewhat). Sure, women are irrational at times, but so are guys. I also believe that most women want to have their problems resolved. I say most because some do not. Some want to hang on to problems because it gives them an excuse to act a certain way (again, men do this as well). I also think many women want and appreciate their husband’s input. So what is the problem? The problem is that often guys don’t LISTEN before they try to help or offer insight. How can we help if we don’t have the full story? Instead we should ask questions and make sure we understand what is going on.

Second, us guys need to remember that just because our wives are telling us about a problem does not mean that it is our job to fix it. Our wife may be painfully aware of the nail protruding from her forehead, so to speak. She may simply want to discuss it with us before she deals with it herself. Again, our job is to listen and encourage. She is aware of the problem and the solution. Sometimes she might just be wanting to process things out loud.  Just listen and let her do her thing.

Third, wives (and husbands) should accept influence from their spouse. There are times when it is incredibly obvious what the solution is to a problem. There are certain times when it is appropriate to offer help after the full story has been heard. Remember ladies, you married this person because you trusted their judgment and believed they wanted the best for you (at least I hope that is the case). So maybe he does have some helpful information?

I have learned in my own marriage to simply ask my wife what her expectations are. When she is discussing a problem I simply ask a question, “Am I suppose to just listen or help fix this?” That simple question goes a long way. There are times where she says “Just listen” and others where she openly welcomes any advice.

So what is the takeaway? We need to remember that the men and women are different, and though this can be frustrating at times it is also wonderful. Often, our differences are an asset within our marriages. Also, communication involves listening and actually hearing what the other person is communicating. We will do well to remember that our spouse wants the best for us and is eager to help. When all else fails, find out what our spouse wants. It is much easier to deliver if we know what they need in the moment.

So what are your thoughts? How do you relate to this video?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

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

Marriage Monday: Mad Men

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madmenRecently, I was sitting on the couch doing some reading while the rest of my family slept, when my phone chirped. It was a message from a good friend that asked, “Why do so many men struggle with anger?” While many women battle with anger, it seems that men as a whole are more susceptible when it comes to letting anger get the best of them. This is mostly because majority of men have a much lower emotional intelligence than do women. Again, there are plenty of men that have high levels of emotional intelligence, but in general, most men lack an adequate understanding of emotions and the expression thereof.

Anytime I discuss anger, I always like to give the reminder that there is nothing wrong with anger. It is just like any other emotion. God created anger, and it serves a beneficial purpose. It keeps us from getting walked on by others, it helps us stand up for injustice when we see it, and it lets us know where boundaries are too weak. Jesus got angry. There is nothing wrong with anger. It is the way that anger often gets expressed, or not expressed, that is the problem.

Anger becomes a problem when it becomes aggressive. When we try to harm others, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally, anger has become a problem. The anger has moved from being an emotion and has become an intent to wound someone else. Aggression isn’t always expressed outwardly. Many men (and women too) think “Well, I am not slamming doors, yelling, or hitting my spouse so I must not have an anger problem.” But this assumption isn’t true. We are all also familiar with the term passive-aggressive. This is where the intent to wound someone is still there, but it is done by flying under the radar. It is where the silent treatment is given to punish or manipulate the other person. The passive-aggressive person might also withhold or stop meeting the other persons needs intentionally. It can also simply be sneaky meanness. I once new a guy that scrubbed the toilet with his wife’s toothbrush because he was so mad at her and she never knew (don’t worry honey, I would never).

Anger is also a problem when a man is passive. This means he never speaks up and talks about when he gets angry. He wants to avoid conflict, so he just says, “No, big deal. It isn’t worth bringing up.” Sure, some things are worth letting go, but some issues must be dealt with. The passive man eventually gets bitter because he never speaks up and the same problems reoccur.

So why do so many men struggle with not handling anger correctly? Because many men don’t understand why they are angry in the first place. You see, anger is called a secondary emotion. This means that majority of the time; there is an emotion behind the anger. The real emotion stays hidden and the anger gets expressed.

The emotion behind the anger could be anything. A man might feel disappointed, lonely, rejected, embarrassed, hurt, fearful, or any of the other dozens of emotions, but instead of identifying and dealing with the underlying issue anger gets expressed, and often with gusto.

Women often tend to fare better at identifying emotions because they are socialized with a better understanding of emotion and taught that it is healthy to express emotions. Many men, though this trend seems to be changing some with newer generations, are taught to suppress emotion because “guys have to be tough and don’t need to talk about all that stuff.” This later comes at a great price to many men because they don’t know how to identify, much less communicate, what is wrong in their lives. In creates problems in their marriages because when anger becomes aggressive it creates a rift in the relationship, and when men are passive they become bitter and a rift is also created. Either way, distance results in the relationship.

So the first thing men must learn to do is ask, “What is the emotion behind the anger. What is it that is making me mad?” “Am I feeling disrespected, taken advantage of, hurt, lonely? Just exactly what am I feeling?” Simply being mad, and communicating that we are mad does not do anything to fix the underlying problem.

Next, once the underlying emotion behind the anger is identified, it must be communicated and dealt with. Here, another struggle arises for us guys. Many men, even though they might know what the problem is, refuse to discuss the underlying emotion because doing so comes with a certain price, being vulnerable. It is much easier to be mad and act mad than it is to say “When you talk to me that way it makes me feel small”, “When you said that it really hurt my feelings” or “When you invest time in so many areas with little left for me I feel lonely.” Having conversations about our emotional hurts, insecurities, vulnerabilities and problems is not comfortable, but unless we do, the problem will keep occurring, our anger will continue to be expressed poorly and in a damaging way, and our spouse will wonder “Why is he so mad all the time?”

So, to all of us “Mad Men” what is at the core? What emotions are we allowing our anger to hide? We must work to identify them, label them, and then discuss them. Let’s not wait until our wives and kids begin to ask, “Why is he so mad all the time.” Anger can be destructive, but it doesn’t have to be. It is healthy when used as directed.

Identify. Label. Discuss. Change. Heal. Live.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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