Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

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The Irrefutable Solution to Irreconcilable Differences

I wasn’t being nosy. I didn’t even ask. In fact, it started with a casual conversation about our dogs, and somehow we got all the way around to his admission, “Well, I used to have a family.”

In the course of seven brief minutes, in the hospital corridor, this complete stranger unveiled pieces of his story. “I was married once…you know, my son…but she kept the dog…don’t see them much…life was better then—when I had a family.”

My heart sunk a little, distracted from the surface of our conversation by the sadness in his eyes. Moments later, we parted and I’ll likely never see him again. But my heart was bruised with sympathy. What a loss! What loneliness; what a painful realization: “I used to have a family.”

The next day, I called my mom during my morning walk. Her precious voice, the assurance that I have a family who deeply loves me, filled me with joy as bright as that early morning sun peeking over the trees.

“You know, your dad and I had the strangest conversation the other day,” she told me. “Now that we have grandkids and all, it’s strange to wonder what life would have been like if we hadn’t hung in there through the first tough years of our marriage. We wouldn’t have you! We wouldn’t have your youngest sister. I can’t even imagine life with out each of our grandchildren! It’s startling to consider that if we had given up on us—we would have given up everything else! The entire course of our life would be so different. We would never had experienced the joy of each of our children and their children! So many fewer friendships, hugs, tears and promises.”

One of the most common reasons given for broken marriages is, “We just weren’t compatible anymore. We had irreconcilable differences.” Incompatibility—there is a Biblical App[lication] for that.

Ephesians 5 is often quoted over Christian marriages. You can almost see a finger wagging in your face, “The Bible says submit to your husband!” or, “The Bible tells you to love your wife!” Both statements are true, but just one verse before those instructions is another command we rush over on our way to our favorite ones.

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)

The Greek word translated “one to another” is allelon. It means, “reciprocally, mutually”. Those words are eerily similar to the English word, “compatible”, which according to thesauraus.com means, “like-minded, together, sympathetic, on the same wavelength, cooperative, congruent”.

Compatibility isn’t something that just happens. The phrase, “submit yourselves to one another”, can aptly be paraphrased, “subordinate, or arrange yourselves mutually beneath the other”. In essence, “make yourselves like-minded, together, cooperative, congruent, reciprocal”. It is not acceptable to simply be incompatible, anymore than it is okay to simply be cruel. Scripture indicates we are to make ourselves compatible.

The impossibility of this command weighs heavy on spouses that have struggled, with blood, sweat and tears, and still find themselves hopelessly at odds. But light dawns with the next two verses, the ones that usually sound ugly, harsh and demeaning:

“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:22-25)

In his book, The Power of Right Believing, Pastor Joseph Prince says, “…we need to teach the entire verse…The emphasis is on Jesus’ love for us. Everything we do today under the new covenant of grace springs from our love relationship with Jesus. His love needs to first work in us.”

Prince gives the example, “How would you like your husband to say to you, ‘God says that I should love you and that we should talk more, so let’s go out for dinner tonight.’? Then he sets a timer on his phone and says, ‘Alright, lady, your time begins now.’ Hey, no self-respecting woman would accept that, right? You want your husband to take you out for dinner not because he has to, but because he wants to.

“That’s why the Word of God doesn’t simply exhort husbands to love their wives and then stop there. It goes on to teach husbands just how to go about doing so—the power to love comes when husbands first experience how Jesus loved them and gave Himself for them.”

The instruction in Ephesians 5:21, “To submit yourselves one to another”, is a command. It’s a non-negotiable. Rather than a shackle for women, is a lock on the door to an easy escape from one’s marriage vows. However, God never leaves us in a position to “buck up” or “grit our teeth and bear it”. The Bible walks us right into the truth that Christ goes before us. “We love because He first loved us”. (1 John 4:19)

The answer to our irreconcilable differences is the irrefutable truth that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. A convinced, firm, heart-grip on the knowledge that Jesus loved us enough to die for us even when we were still sinners (and still sin), even when our abject rebellion was decisively incompatible with His holiness—that knowledge, shods our feet in the Gospel of Peace. It enables us to walk mutually, sympathetically, submissively, cooperatively and congruently. His unshakable love for us—husbands and wives, sin-stained all—sheds a new light on our differences, and if we accept it, brings peace to our homes and longevity to our marriages.

This first appeared on Start Marriage Right

Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?

First comes love, then comes marriage?

Last weekend Patrick and I participated in a marriage retreat called Strong Bonds. True confession, as this blog is entirely about, it was emotionally difficult for me. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m mulit-lingual in the languages of love and that my hubby hasn’t even learned to sound out words. [That’s my pride talking, a subject I’m am constantly re-submitting to the Lord.]

We are learning, or I should say, I am learning, how to communicate. Wouldn’t you think that the girl who can’t shut-up would have this communication thing figured out?

As you all know from reading here, Patrick and I have been through some major mud, over towering hurdles and through the lowest of valleys. And actually, our sustenance has been, the trick to all of this is, learning to believe in God’s LOVE for us, both corporately and individually. Because when God’s love become progressively more real, we cannot help but see His reflection in each other and personally glow with His radiance.

Wrapping up this month of LOVE, I’ve still hardly scratched the surface of C.S. Lewis’ wisdom in The Screwtape Letters. So, we will carry on in March, looking for modern application of this book and alternately peering into the depths of the One Word: Naked.

After this past weekend, it really comes as no surprise that God brought us to Lewis’ chapter on love, sex and marriage. Consider this nugget:

The humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-colored and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.

Do you see that? Kinda makes you think for a second, doesn’t it? In a generation that wants legal marriage for all and at the same time argues for no-fault divorce, it’s pretty obvious that humans believe love is the foundation for marriage. But what if that’s not as God intended?

Perhaps, and it seems evident in the Garden of Eden, marriage, oneness – is the foundation, the fertile ground for love.

Thoughts?

Hysterical Marital Issues?

Two weeks ago, Patrick and I wrapped up our Sunday school class called, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. It’s a video series produced by Mark Gungor, head pastor of Celebration Church in Wisconsin. Patrick and I missed the first week, but had no problem jumping into the second video. We had a small class, probably the few bold couples who could endure Gungor’s humor. 

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage is exactly what it says. Every problem you ever faced, argument you ever had, moment you nearly left – is fodder for mocking by the merciless pastor. Don’t get me wrong, Gungor is tasteful – moderately. Everything he says is entirely supported Biblically and the gospel message is threaded through every concept. However, as in his daily radio show, Gungor makes no effort to secure his audience’s comfort. Sex is wonderful. Pornography is a marriage destroying sin. Submission is badly misconstrued by the church as a whole. Women need to get over themselves and their expectations that men should behave like their girlfriends.

“I love to inspire people’s lives with truth and humor. There are a lot of performers that make people laugh, and there are a lot of speakers who give solid principles for living. I want to do both,” Mark says.  “Our secular culture over-romanticizes marriage and our Christian culture over-spiritualizes it. The reality is that relationships between men and women are very down to earth.”

Do you believe that? That relationships between men and women are really down to earth? In our marriage, absorbing that little nugget of truth, which dawned slowly on me like an LED bulb warming to full exposure, was life changing. Suddenly, we are more free to enjoy each other. Funny, my husband’s been telling me for years that I am too concerned about the state of our marriage. I have been constantly re-evaluating it’s health, worried if we are stronger than we were before, if we’re ignoring any warning signs, instead of simply enjoying the fact that we’re still together and applauding the nearly 10 years that we have loved each other.

For the rest of this week, I will introduce you to a few elements of Gungor’s ministry. It is multi-faceted, so you would do well to explore the site on your own, listen to his radio show and read some of his articles. Laugh hard, come back here and share your joy and relief with me.

Not Looking for Miracles

Wonders of wonder, miracles of miracles! That’s what we’re talking about this week. I would love to hear your miracles – please send them to me via comments here or feel free to email me personally. Also, if you need a miracle, please let me know. I promise to pray for you.

Let me share the miracle that I mentioned at the beginning of this month:

It was a drizzly, cold Monday morning. We’re still in the fledgling stages of Moms Who TRI. Kristen and I keep reminding each other that God is sovereign over our business’ success – and over the weather. Right now, we’re still training in her backyard, so rainy days effectively cancel our bootcamps.

The bum deal is that I am not omniscient, so I had no idea what the weather would do. I got up early, hustled through my quiet time with the Lord and then at the last minute, Kristen and I agreed, there was no way we could hold Moms Who TRI. So there I was with a whole free morning ahead of me. If you know me at all, you know that’s very disconcerting.

I’m from the Seattle area. I don’t melt. Brave was pacing around my ankles. So, we loaded up in the car and drove to the trails behind South Run RECenter. There’s nothing like a walk in the rain to clear your head. I was actually looking forward to the solitude, but noticed another woman heading toward the trailhead with her dog. Politely, we exchanged greetings and I expected to go our separate ways. God had other plans.

“How are you? How did you come to be walking in the rain this morning?”
“My husband is working out in the gym, but the dog needed to get out.  My husband’s health isn’t such that he should be walking in the rain.”

Then.

“Oh well. I’m going to bear my soul.” Tears filled her eyes and out of the blue, this virtual stranger poured out her heart. “Until the day before yesterday we believed that my husband’s cancer was in remission. He’s been on an experimental drug that made him miserable, but we thought it was working. Then, two days ago, the doctor told us that the cancer has gotten into his cerebrospinal fluid. He may have only a few months to live.”

Oh how my heart broke as this lady continued. I never even got her name as she continued to spill her sorrows. She had already been widowed once. Her children had moved away and her dog was old. “I’m afraid I’m going to be all alone, again.” They had both recently retired at a young age. Looking forward they had dreamed up plans to visit Bulgaria.

I am as uncomfortable as anyone else in these situations. I’ve always thought that I lived a charmed life by most standards. But then… I’ve watched loved ones die of cancer. I’ve been completely alone. I teetered on the edge of divorce. I’ve been suicidal. So perhaps my life hasn’t been so rosy. So where does one find the capacity for empathy and sympathy at the same time? How does one identify and comfort and most importantly, what does one say to another?

“You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” Psalm 73:24

“But don’t worry about what you should say. Say the things God gives you to say at that time. It will not really be you speaking. It will be the Holy Spirit speaking.” Mark 13:11b

Honestly, I said very little. I do know that we talked about Jesus. And at the end of our walk, we still never exchanged names, but this sweet woman pulled me into a hug and whispered, “Thank you. Thank you for being here today.”

I had never planned to be.

I’m only slowly learning that God’s destruction of my plans is for the construction of a miracle.