Who? Little Ol’ Me?

On Friday, I will tell you a little bit more about a Bible study that I’m taking at my church. But in speaking of Weakest Moments on Wednesday, I really wanted to share this.

The study I am taking is about marriage. I feel like I really stink at this marriage thing. My husband and I are so different. How do we talk to each other? He’s never home. How do I invest in US? So, I sheepishly enrolled in the study that I hoped would “fix” me. I was floored when after the first day of class, the co-teachers asked me to be a small group leader. I thought, if only they knew how messed up I am. If  they knew how many times I’ve danced on the edge of giving up, they would never ask me to lead. But, when I prayed about it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge, so I agreed.

Much of the time, I have my radar of up for what I should be doing for God. I rarely feel satisfied with where I am. Surely there is some capacity that I am not filling.

I didn’t believe I was equipped to lead women in a marriage class; so I kept looking for something else. As I continue in prayer, I want to share some of what the Lord has been telling me. I hope you are encouraged in the vocation that He has given to you.


Consider that I have lead you to here. I’m not ceasing to lead and guide you, but don’t you think I brought you HERE for a reason? Maybe I want to use you now, but you’re often so focused on whatever you are preparing to do. Whatever you think you SHOULD be doing for me.

Abby, choosing my way will not mean drastic change of direction or taking on something new. But learn to be interested  and invested in what I am doing in you today.

You have asked for ministry. You have been given the ministry of loving women, exposing their strengths, introducing them to relationship with me. Do not fear. Do not allow a false spirit of fear to lead you astray. You must follow, fear, listen to, serve and cling to me. I will do more than you can imagine or desire.

Do not be like Zechariah, whose voice I took for a time when he failed to believe in my power to conquer all human weakness.

I love you. Abba”

Doubly Blessed! – Beth’s Thoughts

Hello, dear friends. This is your lucky day! Both Chrissy and Beth have agreed to share their observations on the concept of tough love. You’ve heard from Beth before. She is my dearest friend from Oklahoma. Though our face-to-face time is very limited, God has abundantly blessed our friendship. Every time I speak to her, I am challenged, encouraged and most of all – loved. But I confess – she is not shy about convicting. Beth will tell me the truth, regardless of what I want to hear. Thanks, Beth!


Should Love Be Tough?

What is love? Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Whether you read the Bible or not, the definition of love in First Corinthians is pretty universal. It can also be said that love is putting someone else before you. So, if that is the definition of love, what is tough love?

Patient – Allowing someone to make mistakes in life and suffer the consequences. Not fixing their problem for them.

Kind – Building your spouse up with encouraging words instead of always tearing him/her down.

Not jealous – Celebrating with someone when they are succeeding in life and you are still in the same place.

Does not brag – Being humble with what God has graciously given you.

Not arrogant – Realizing that life is not about you. Seek ways to serve others and not your own desires.

Does not act unbecoming – When things don’t go your way, don’t throw a fit or pout or let the entire world know you are unhappy.

Does not seek its own – Not always doing what’s easy or fun for you. Serving others even when it’s inconvenient or not what you want to do.

Is not provoked – Never being so angry that you hurt someone physically, sexually or emotionally.

Does not take into account a wrong suffered – Letting go of the anger or bitterness that was caused by another. Not holding a grudge, but letting someone “off the hook”.

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness – When a friend does something that is acceptable by the world’s standards (premarital sex, putting her husband down, getting an abortion) don’t be the one who glorifies/celebrates the sin.

Rejoices in truth – Speaking the truth can be hard. Learn to do it with love and know that God blesses obedience.

Bears all things – Carry the load with a friend. Pray for them. Take time to call them. Write them. Encourage them through a difficult time. Try to do things often so they know you remember.

Believes all things – Trust that your spouse can make a good decision. Don’t question every single thing they say or do. Just believe in him/her!

Hopes all things – Be excited about the future. Celebrate someone’s adventure, even if it means they are taking a different path in life that may lead them miles away from you.

Endures all things – Be there until the end. Stick with the relationship. Sometimes life can be hard and you become a little self-centered, but be quick to pull out of it and don’t lose a friendship just because life isn’t going the way you thought.

Love never fails – Even when a person has hit rock-bottom, be there for them. Not to fix their problems, but just so they know you aren’t going anywhere. Don’t give up on them.

Is love ever easy? Some might think so, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Not just a romantic relationship, but when a mom holds her baby for the first time or meeting a friend that you instantly click with. It’s easy in the beginning and it really should be.


However, if you want a relationship to grow and truly be more than an acquaintance, it’s going to be tough. At some point you will have a disagreement. You will have circumstances that you have to see each other through. Life gets in the way.


Why do we continue to settle for relationships that aren’t based on tough, godly love? They bring us down! They make us weak and not able to live the life of freedom that Christ gave us through salvation. This is not what God intended for us. God doesn’t let us have every little thing we want in life. His love is tough! Because of His love, He continues to makes us better. He strengthens us. We should be looking for and offering that same kind of love in our relationships. If we want to love people, then we have to mimic the One who is love. Love is who God is. Through Him, we can love others and ourselves the way He does.


Tough love begins with a choice. We need to make the decision to love. Whether it be in the good, the bad, the easy or the hard circumstances of life. There will always be times of joy and laughter. But, know that there will be things that you cannot fix. Know there will be tears. Know that some relationships will be harder than others and will require boundaries. God never promised that life would be easy. Being tough means to be strong and durable or being capable of great endurance (www.dictionary.com). This doesn’t come from our own trying, but comes from Jesus Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength” (Philippians 4:13). When we allow Christ to be the center of our lives and decide to be obedient only to Him, then we find our true identity and can be strong in Him.


Tough love is about making difficult decisions that make us more like Christ. Serving others and placing their needs above your own. Allowing them to make mistakes and loving them through it.


Make the decision to be what love is in First Corinthians. When looking for relationships, do not settle for “easy”. Make the choice to love one another. Encourage one another. Strengthen one another in the Lord. It may be tough, but well worth it in the end.


By Beth P www.exceedinglyabundantlyabove.blogspot.com

How Tough Should Love Be?

Everyone’s heard of tough love. It’s touted in interventions, employed by therapists and pondered by parents. It means: harsh or stern behavior, often thought cruel by the recipient, with the end goal of their higher good. (That’s my own definition, but it sounds official, doesn’t it?)


A parent shuts and locks the door behind their 17-year-old son who has been using drugs. Tough love demands that they withdraw support until he humbles himself to accept help.


A mild version of tough love is grounding – withholding something of need or value until the tantrum-tossing-two-year-old obediently quiets. Another example, a coach who pushes his players to near exhaustion in order to bring out their very best.


It is another tough love scenario that I am curious about. Is tough love biblical in marriage?


Many Christian counselors advocate tough love toward a habitually sinning spouse: a husband involved in pornography, a plastic-crazed wife who has driven the family into debt, an alcoholic husband or an unfaithful wife.


In those cases, what does real love do? Counselors often suggest that the offended spouse leave the situation. Divorce is not the end goal, but hopefully separation will force the spouse to “hit rock bottom.”


One psychologist explained it in terms that made obvious sense, “The offender will not stop the behavior until the pain of continuing is greater than the pain, shame or embarrassment, of change.”


When I hear this logic, I emphatically agree. As an addict myself (formerly addicted to many anorexic behaviors) I know that it is essential to hit “rock bottom.” So pack your bags, scribble a note or confront them head-on and head out. Right?

Such drastic behavior will undoubtedly force a drastic response. Right?


I was firmly persuaded until last week. I read 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, and Psalm 15:4, and 130. First Corinthians 12, espouses the body of Christ’s correct behavior. Paul admonishes the church to respect each other’s differences, honor one another, weep and rejoice with each other. All of these behaviors are designed to produce harmony and effectiveness in the body of Christ. Then it seems, if all these fail to establish and keep peace, Paul trumps them with, “But I will show you a still more excellent way.”


Enter, The Love Chapter. Can I possibly “bear all things,” if I leave my spouse when I get too uncomfortable? Can I possibly “believe all things,” if I refuse to attend when my spouse tries to explain their side of the story? Can I possibly hope and endure all things, when at some point, I walk away, leaving the future dangling between us?


I have been memorizing Romans 12. In verse nine, Paul begins a long definition of genuine love. His insistence, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” echos over and over in the halls of my mind. How can leaving show honor, in any way?


There are two final passages that block the doorway when I consider the tough love method. One is 1 Peter 3:1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”


And 1 Corinthians 7:13-14, “And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”


Finally, a godly counselor of a different persuasion, recently encouraged a spouse feeling led to stay in a difficult situation. He insisted that there is no shame in staying, quoting Psalm 15:1,4, “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”…”[he] who swears to his own hurt and does not change;”.


So, this week I want to explore the concept of Tough Love. Is it true and biblical? Is it a lie that we tell ourselves, or that the culture offers to hurting people for an excuse?


I am reading Dr. James Dobson’s book, “Love Must Be Tough,” and a Bible study called, “Enhancing Your Marriage,” by Judy Rossi. I will offer my gleanings from these two resources. Also, I earnestly ask for your thoughts and experiences.


Relationships, especially family relationships, and especially marriages are in dire jeopardy. Let’s discover and discuss God’s truth that brings healing.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let’s pursue Him!

My Way or the Highway

When I was a little girl, I was an unconscious legalist. My good-Christian parents had chosen to homeschool their four girls. Like most kids, products of our environment, we assimilate what our parents, our peers, the adults we respect, the world around us – what everyone else does as the way things should be done.


My wonderful mother ground her own whole wheat into flour and made healthy homemade bread. We grew up active – swimming, playing outside, watching very little TV. I didn’t realize that I was building a moral code based on my observations. Even worse, I didn’t realize that I was equating all of these good things with the “good works” that God had created me for.


Let me explain, here’s what my pre-adolescent mind deduced: all Christians make their own homemade bread, all Christians call the television the boob-tube, all Christians homeschool their children, all Christians eat dinner together as a family and require their kids to drink a full glass of 2% milk every night.



That’s what Will Davis’ chapter 6 in, “10 Things Jesus Never Said,” addressed.

The Lie 

If it’s wrong for you, then it has to be wrong for everyone else.  If God requires you to do it, then every other Christian has to do it too.  If we’re not all completely uniform in our Christian beliefs and practices, then someone is out of line.  If other’s aren’t acting, worshiping, and believing exactly as you do, then they’re not good Christians.  Maybe they’re not Christians at all. 


That’s harsh, and few believers would agree that they think this way, but, if our actions reference our true beliefs, then most of us have been caught in the act. My examples above are pedantic, thoughts of a school girl.  But they are none-the-less indicative of how we often treat other believers. To this day, I have to remind myself that my husband was not brought up to believe that the television is inherently evil – it’s OK to watch more than 30 minutes a day.


Now, before you think that I am saying, “Anything goes, do whatever makes you happy,” let me emphasize: I am talking about debatable issues. The Bible is not ambivalent to our behavior. There are non-negotiables: all human life is valuable, stealing is wrong, God’s name is sacred, homosexuality is a sin, sex outside of marriage is wrong, and Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father are a few examples. But truthfully, God did not prescribe a certain number of hours of television. He never said “homeschool thy children.” God does not approve of one church denomination over another.  (In fact, it is my opinion that God would rather we didn’t have denominations, but that’s another article.)


Davis concludes this chapter, as the others with, Come to Me, All You Who are Weary and Burdened. To paraphrase his final paragraphs: God enjoys all kinds of music and God doesn’t have a favorite color.


I’m Only Joking!

Sarcasm is a modern hobby.  It is, “Just the way I am.”

I have recently been using Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s devotional book He Restores My Soul.  I honestly was not expecting today’s chapter to discuss the potency of words.  I really didn’t want to discuss the potency of words.  Recently, I have been extremely aware of how my words can hurt my husband.

I really do try to guard my tongue.  I hate it that quite often my unsolicited, godly advice comes out as reasonable words couched in self-righteousness.  The worst part is that even when I am right, this tone negates anything valuable in my comment.  I see slivers of his soul come lose and I wonder if they can ever be retrieved.

Sarcasm has practically become an accent, a dialect, a recognizable, definable way of speaking.  The lie is that it’s OK.  Right?  It’s just the way I am!  I’m only kidding!


“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Prov. 12:18

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Prov. 15:4

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov. 18: 21

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death is the man who deceives his

neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!'” Prov. 26:18-19

Has sarcasm or wit ever gotten you in trouble?  If you’re really honest, was there a legitimate sting in your remarks?

I Just Can’t Keep Up

Who can find a perfect wife? 

She is better than being rich, better than living on a oil field.

She will never let you down, you will prosper in all areas, have all sons, drive a BMW – all of your heart’s desires. 

She will work from home, and import exotic foods and know how to cook gourmet meals.  

She will barely sleep because she will clean your dessert plate at night and serve you breakfast in bed. 

She will handle all the financial issues – maybe even investing in real estate. 

She will be strong and capable. 

She will never be taken by a slick car salesman, all her purchases will be high quality. 

She will sew well and provide for the poor. 

Every winter she will make warm sweaters for you – of high fashion, too. 

She will weave the 600 thread count sheets for your bed and you will always be satisfied there. 

She will wear beautiful clothing.

Due in part to her excellency, you will be well-known in the city, your reputation will precede you. 

She will never stress out about the future.

She will teach your children kindness and truth, and she will never say a harsh word.

She will completely take care of you. 

She will never sit still and never waste time watching TV. 

In return, you and the progeny that she has borne to you, will stand up and applaud her. 

Tell me, how do you feel about that woman?  I would like to slug her.  She obviously has no needs and knows exactly what everyone else’s needs are before they do, and she meets those needs.

Meet the modern version of the Proverbs 31 woman.

Last Sunday, our pastor stated that the Proverbs 31 woman was a real historical figure.  He thinks that Lemuel’s mom sat him down and pointed at the neighbor’s daughter, her choice for her son, and said, “Son, that’s the perfect woman.”

Just a few days ago, I was reading Vonda Skelton’s Seeing Through the Lies.  Vonda says, “I don’t know about you, but I used to hate the Proverb’s 31 Woman.”  She worried, “Why can’t I be more like her?  Why can’t I bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan?”

Vonda’s conclusion is that the woman of Proverbs 31 was not a specific person.  “She was an example of a dream wife – a wife who would exemplify the wisdom of the proverbs.  It would be like me saying to my daughters, ‘Now listen, girls.  If you can find a man like this, he’d be worth a million bucks.'”  She goes on to imagine that 1. he would be rich, 2. all his stocks would do well, 3. he would always be able to protect her from financial difficulties and dangerous weather, 4. he would always speak kindly and give good advice, 5. he must be recognized for his achievements and respected publicly – SERIOUSLY?

Now, I’m not declaring emancipation from the duties of a godly wife.  But, as I pray about my own life and listen to your comments here and my girl friends and my sisters, I believe that today’s Christian woman is all too aware of her faults and short comings.  I spend most of my prayer time begging God to change me, improve me, make me a good wife, forgive me  – or take me out.  It’s exhausting trying to be as perfect as I believe all of my peers are, let alone measure up to the Proverbs 31 woman.

Romans 5:20, 21 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Proverbs 31 woman is what a woman who kept all of God’s law perfectly would look like.  By comparison, I am a disappointment.  BUT, THANKS BE TO GOD who because of His perfect plan and limitless grace, now that I am aware of my short comings, I can come to Jesus who gives me His perfect righteousness.

Stop moaning over your failures.  Step off the treadmill of perfection.  Let His word bring you peace: “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works.” Is. 26:12

Does God Use Online Dating? Win an Answer!

When I worked at Red Lobster, nearly 10 years ago, I met the first person I remember who admitted he was dating online.  I think his name was Paul and he was a server at the restaurant with me.  Poor Paul, was super smart and I thought he was funny and pretty cute, but he just couldn’t seem to get a repeat date.

Suddenly, one night after we had worked together for about one year, Paul bounded into the restaurant lobby, swinging his black, waist apron over his head.  “She said, ‘Yes!'”  A resounding chorus queried, “Who said, ‘Yes,’ about what?!”  We, his fellow servers, couldn’t believe that he meant the obvious.  Where was this mystery woman?  How had they met?  How long had they known each other?  Why had we never seen her?

I confess, when Paul told us he had met Wendy on Match.com, I felt sorry for him.  Apparently, he was more desperate than I thought.  I kept my mouth shut and minded my own business, but I wanted to warn him that it could never last.  An online meeting was certainly superficial and a foregone disaster.

Paul and I went separate ways.  I was already engaged, married later that year and moved away.  However, I stayed in touch with another server from Red Lobster and two years later, I heard that Paul and Wendy were happily wedded and expecting a baby girl.  Go figure. 

Since that over 1000 dating websites have launched a volley of Cupid’s arrows.  Surprisingly they have pierced 1 in 5 of couples married today.  Currently, one third of singles are scouring the wide world of cyberspace for that special someone.

Let me give you a few more statistics, taken from Janet Parshal’s interview with Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.  The Parrotts are the authors of “dot.comdating:  Finding Your Right Someone Online,” and the founders of Realrealtionships.com.  I found the timing of this interview especially interesting since Beth just shared with us her experience of waiting on God to provide her husband.  Hopefully, Beth will chime in here, giving us her thoughts about the efficacy of online dating.

Match.com and Eharmony.com are the two most renowned online dating services.  According to a survey conducted by Eharmony, after the first five years of marriage, couples who had met online reported better than average satisfaction in their marriage.

So my first question: Can it last?  At least one source says, “Yes.”

I think the bottom line question for me is: Does online dating somehow usurp God’s sovereignty and express a lack of faith that He will provide in His timing?  Can God’s sovereignty be usurped?

I really am undecided about online dating and curious about your opinion.  Should a Christian try it?  Why or why not?  Have you dated anyone online and what happened?

Here’s the deal.  I am especially interested in your thoughts if you are single.  Leave a comment here and you will be entered in a contest.  I will draw the winning name on June 16th, and the winner will receive a copy of the Parrott’s book, “dot.comdating: Finding Your Right Someone Online.”

Good Luck!

I Wimped Out

Last week, I confessed that I didn’t have the nerve to tell my in-laws that I am not the athlete that they think I am.  I am not that tough and I really don’t want to be.  I hung up my Asics. 

I did it.  In so many words, I told them.

When my mom visited in April, she and I took a fantastic bike ride down the Potomac River.  We rented bikes  and rode the Mount Vernon trail for a 20 mile round trip.  Pooped, but proud of ourselves, I filed that excursion as a perfect idea of something to do with Mike and Julie.  When they arrived last Saturday we began planning out our limited days and decided to go bike riding on Thursday.

I don’t know if you have the least bit of interest in northern Virginia’s weather – but in case you didn’t notice, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we were under a heat advisory, a code orange for the air quality and a heat index of nearly 105.  The air was stagnant.  I hate to complain, but I sincerely missed Washington state last week.

As the week progressed, my machine of a father-in-law commented several times how much he loved the heat.  Mike and Julie once rode over 80 miles, three days in a row in 90+ degree weather.  They have made multiple double crossings of the Grand Canyon.

All week, I kept pondering my Thursday dilemma.  I didn’t want to do a 20 mile bike ride on Thursday afternoon.  But I also didn’t want to disappoint them and I certainly didn’t want to be a wimp!  Finally, Wednesday evening the critical moment arrived.  I had to say something, or suck it up and saddle up.

“Mike, I’m really sorry, but I’m going to chicken out on you.  I don’t want to ride in heat like this.”  Gulp.

Guess what!  I was OK!  In fact, I felt really great.  Not only, was I much more comfortable all day Thursday than I would have been, but I felt more certain of myself and more aware of what I wanted to do and to be – I am not an all-weather athlete.  I’m not a huge fan of bike riding.  I could tell Mike was disappointed.  Facetiously, he did agree that I was, “wimping out.”

It was a big step for me.  Instead of forcing myself to go for a miserable bike ride in order to prove that I was tough enough, good enough and eager to please in every situation, I simply stated what I wanted – what I was going to do and let the rest of the world do what they wanted to do.  I was not responsible for their happiness.

Thursday became my favorite day of the entire week.  Julie decided not to ride either.  Mike met an old college buddy for a different bike ride and Julie and I met her old friend in downtown Alexandria for lunch.  Then, Julie and I explored King Street, the Torpedo Factory, various bead shops and listened to the glass-playing Mozart. 

Have you ever struggled to tell someone something that you didn’t think they wanted to hear?  Or, did you just go along or keep silent to please them?  What do you wish you had done?

(image from Flickr.com)

Where does culture come from?

Please keep in mind that I am not naturally scientifically inclined.  But my curiosity was piqued this last week as I watched my in-laws and my husband interact.  I thought about what culture is and where it comes from.  Why does my husband act the way he does and do the things he does?

In many ways, he is just like his dad.  He is quiet, brilliant, a voracious reader, persuasive, strong-willed, generally undemonstrative and has an elephant’s memory.  His father is a doctor, but, in so many ways Patrick is the quintessential soldier – most likely a product of his environment in the Army.  He is stoic, commanding, methodical, critical, undemonstrative, determined, silent and competitive.  So, what made Patrick – Patrick?  How is he a product of his culture?  My husband and I are of the same generation.  However, my culture has made me loud, chatty, warm, gregarious, dramatic, emotional, introspective, impulsive and accepting.

Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”)[1] is a term that has various meanings. For example, in 1952,Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions.[2]However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:

  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group
W. C. McGrew suggests that we view culture as a process. He lists six steps in the process:


1.  A new pattern of behavior is invented, or an existing one is modified.


2.  The innovator transmits this pattern to another.


3.  The form of the pattern is consistent within and across performers, perhaps even in terms of recognizable stylistic features.


4.  The one who acquires the pattern retains the ability to perform it long after having acquired it.


5.  The pattern spreads across social units in a population. These social units may be families, clans, troops, or bands.


6.  The pattern endures across generations.


(also from Wikipedia)


When I read this six step process, it is easy to plug our beliefs into the equation.  Take an outrageous example:


1.  One person tells someone another that it is fun to rob a bank.


2.  The second person takes this on faith and robs a bank.  That must be what fun feels like.  They decide to rob their neighbor.


3.  They continue their new found hobby and tell all their co-workers how much fun it is.


4.   Everyone at work decides to try this new, fun past-time.


5.  These fun-loving adults show their kids how to have the time of their lives.


6.  Bingo!  A new cultural norm.


Who ensures that new cultural norms are beneficial, safe, moral or good?  Who gets makes the first suggestion?   What if they are lies?