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09 August 2014 @ 04:21 pm
pic 2014-08 - algae.gifLong ago I learned to identify the term Dog Days of Summer with that period each year when ponds bloomed with Algae.   Each summer, swimming in the local farmers ponds became undesirable as they became more and more fouled with Algae and Duck Weed. My buddies and I would then stop our fun carefree days and resort to the highly chlorinated public swimming pools.   Later on I discovered that dog days are a weather phenomenon that occurs annually when the heat turns up and humidity rises, becoming a season of discomfort, stagnation and inactivity. Thankfully the Dog Days of Summer is a just a season, and cooler weather will soon return.

As it is in the natural world, there is a similar phenomenon often found in marriage, and the Dog Days of Marriage become those seasons when one or both of us feel the emotional air thickening in our relationship, and we may allow the discomfort we feel to turn to stagnation and inactivity.  Many of us react to the Dog Days of Marriage in similar fashion to our reaction to the Dog Days of Summer - by trying to "endure them".

"Enduring them" does not work in relationships, but the resolution of Marital Dog Days is really quite simple, making it a short season, and unlike natures season, very preventable in the future.  There are two key factors.

If we peel ourselves down to the core, it's really our attitude that can get us through the summer doldrums, and it is in our attitude that our marriages can soar or sour.  We all married someone we thought more of than anyone else, and while we may have put on a few pounds and become more selfish, as we turn to God's Word and learn of His plan is for us, we'll continue to discover the wisdom He had in our being together.  God's design is for each of us to grow beyond serving ourselves by learning how to serve others. The beauty of marriage is that it is in our Christ-like Character before Him and one another that we discover the most important factors in joy, and such joy is not seasonal.

I believe that God in His infinite wisdom has given us the Dog Days of Marriage, not as punishment or to be mean, but to help grow us into godliness. By the way that same wisdom has also allowed us to learn how to take Algae and Duckweed and turn them into helpful things like biofuels and food.

Last month we shared ideas for Date Nights with you because marriage studies report that the happiest marriages invest in fun things and fun time together.   Because we are now in the Dog Days of Summer, some of us may need to retreat to cooler places for fun - but even staying home and playing games, reading the Bible or a book together, or downloading our favorite movies work well too.  If desired by both of you, pillow or water balloon fights also can be great ways to laugh our way through the muggy days keeping mugginess in our marriage at bay, turning them into opportunities for selfless growth and godliness.

At the end of summer you will have enjoyed the Dog Days of Summer as you prevent the Dog Days of Marriage by checking your attitude, having a regular Date Night, and thriving as God gives you renewed vision for your marriage.

apl 2014-08
16 May 2014 @ 07:44 am

May: the month of Celebration

May 16, 2014

ImageWebster defines celebration as something special, enjoyable, commemorating an important event or occasion – or to praise someone. It is our remembrances such as – Communion, School’s out for children, Graduations, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Birthdays, Weddings, Vacations and so much more that comprise the month of May.

I remember Pastor Chuck Swindoll speaking on the value of “extravagant celebrations”, like Mary’s pouring costly perfume over Jesus and Jesus washing the feet of the disciples before the Last Supper.   He went on to share that be they extravagant or simple, celebrations offer us a way to honor God – as we focus on others.

Jesus not only celebrated events given to the Israelites by God the Father, He also participated in many smaller celebrations, modeling how we find meaningful celebrations of our own that will give honor to God.

The engagement Period that precedes a wedding is often a non-stop celebration with dating, parties etc. Weddings themselves are a celebration of the wonderful gift that God gave to man and woman in marriage and cleaving to one another. For most, the months and years following the wedding, marriage celebrations seem to fade and “dating” one another tends to stop as we settle into the things of life. Why is that?

We have so much to celebrate every week of the year with each other. We can and should celebrate the major events of life – the cultural and family things – but also those in our marriage like a regular “date” night with our spouse, the simple return home of a spouse after a trip, having each other to turn to after a difficult day, completing a longstanding item on his or her honey-do list, paying off a credit card, working through a disagreement, good job review, the completion of a simple or major goal that God brought to fruition. Intentionality in choices and actions is crucial.

I believe every moment in life gives us choices, and the one we choose either brings us closer to Christ, or will push us away from Him.

We have Jesus and we have our spouse. Most of us also have careers, family and friends, and participate in Kingdom work. All of these provide grand opportunities for celebrations – small or large – simple or extravagant. An ata-boy from a boss, a returning prodigal son or daughter, a promotion or raise, a good report from the doctor, seldom-seen family or friends arriving or departing, a good report card, even a good grade on a test, seeing spiritual growth in a child-all these are worthy of celebration. Instead, most of us reserve any recognition and celebration to birthdays, anniversaries or holidays and choose to focus daily on the mundane or the perceived or real negatives that surround us.

Above all then, we give praise to God as we follow 1 Corinthians 9:23 (“…doing all things for the sake of the gospel”) and celebrate the journey, the experiences and having the blessing of our spouse or event to celebrate in our lives. Such praise not only brings us closer to Christ, but to our husband or wife as well.


My wife is a high detail individual.  She continues to baffle me with the finite pieces she sees in something we are planning or doing.    On the other hand, I solidly wait for things to pull into place, and do not worry about the details, at least to the extent she will.   May I share that such views ran smack up against differences that divided us and brought conflict into our relationship after we were married.

It took us a while to understand that it wasn’t our differences that divided us, but because of our mutual selfishness we were not looking at the biggest picture — the one that God wanted us to see.

God says our marriage is to be a reflection of Christ and His Church, not something He gave mankind to make us “happy”.  It was given to produce in us – godliness.  1 Peter 1:16 reminds us, that we are to be holy as He is holy, reaffirming what God said in Leviticus 11:44.  For a long time I thought that was hyperbole, or didn’t happen anytime soon. Reading Philippians 1:6  “He that began the good work in you will carry it on to completion…” made me ponder and question how that was supposed to happen.

What we miss, or at least I missed, was that spiritual growth is a process and I have a responsibility to be a part of that process by allowing and eagerly accepting God’s instruction along the way — particularly as it relates to my marriage.  Worship, Bible reading, community and serving all function together to produce character change (holiness), making me more fit for marriage.

One piece of that was to see that it really isn’t our differences that divide us, it’s our failure to:

  • Acknowledge the differences

  • Accept the differences

  • Appreciate the differences

  • and Apply the differences to enhance and grow our marriage.

That clears things up a great deal in my opinion.

The differences we have are God given.  He made us different.    Just read Love and Respect by Emerson Eggrichs and learn how God designed us to be different, to make a display case for others out of our marriage (see Eph 5:32).  Or read “Men are Like Waffles, Women Like Spaghetti” by Bill & Pam Farrel and see what a sense of humor our God has to make us so different.   

To Acknowledge the differences is the first step in the process of understanding.  Once we have acknowledged the differences by sitting down to talk about how I approach things and how Mary Jane approaches things, we found that our communication improved and we learned a lot about how each of us was raised that we didn’t already know.  We bonded more too.  And, it’s an ongoing occurance. revealing new things about each other still today.

Step two was learning to Accept our differences not as wrong but just, well, DIFFERENT.  You may be saying your spouse is wrong!  Most often it is not a matter of right -vs- wrong, it’s more about our preference -vs- theirs.   That is where that ugly selfishness pops up and tries to undo what you’ve accomplished in step one.    So we wrestle with our pride and selfishness and ask God to help us do what we know is right, in spite of ourselves.

Part three of the puzzle is to take that acknowledgement and acceptance and move to Appreciation for the differences.  Once I understood and accepted that Mary Jane saw details I could not, I asked God to help me appreciate her detail orientation, and He was faithful to give us that.

That made the last part fit so well, as we learned to Apply our differences to the best advantage, not of ourselves, nor perhaps to the other, but to the benefit of God and our marriage. It’s going for the Win-Win, instead of the Win-Lose.

If this reads like we have the answer, let me assure you we do not.   We know it will always be a struggle to arrest our self centered actions and replace them with God honoring actions.   While we work on our marriages, we also need to work on ourselves – that’s where Men Coaching Men and Women’s Ministry come into the picture. Marriage Ministry is here to help us work on the relationship with each other, the other two ministries are here to help us work on our individual relationship with God.  All three are important.

apl 2014-03
16 January 2014 @ 03:09 pm
January 2014 Marriage Fitness Center monthly letter

marriage boxEach year around the world people take stock of their lives and propose resolutions, some of which are discarded even before the month ends.   Many are regarding things like exercise and diet, and I know that for me they have often been a struggle.  Each year we say – “This year will be different”, and at the beginning of a new year we have to try again.

The Marriage Box I found on FaceBook started me thinking, that while those diet and exercise goals are worthy, the most important issue God has given mankind is “Relationships”.   Ours with Him, and with our spouse are primary.  All other relationships pale by comparison, even our relationship with children, other family, friends and community.

Given that truth, it seems to me that starting with God and spouse, may ultimately be the way to sustainable goals in other areas of our lives as well.

The box concept reminds me that my relationship to God is similar to the Marriage Box. When I accepted Christ into my life and decided to become a follower of Jesus, my relationship “box” with God was empty, and only by getting to know Him more and more would my relationship “box” fill.  He fills it, not me, and He gives me the desire to glean from the Scriptures, Prayer, and Experience (fellowship with others) what He reveals.   Only as I open myself to the kernel of desire He’s given me, does God develop our character from those three, and our behavior changes.

As we begin to mature in our relationship with Christ, we are also more able to pour into our marriage relationship the increasing habits of giving, serving, humor, and praise.   The powerful GYM (Growing Your Marriage) Studies we’ve assembled provide tools, but what they teach becomes sustainable primarily as our relationship with Christ grows.

I’d like to challenge myself and you to ask God to increase our desire to deepen our relationship with Him this year and develop greater godliness, helping us to live more out of Romans 10:12, “giving preference to one another in honor” than we do today.

Mary Jane and I are looking forward to our yearly planning time this month, and we’ll use among other things a list of 10 Questions from Tom Elliff, and the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22 and ask each other how we see each fruit in our behavior toward one another and others.    Hearing from the heart of our spouse about our attitudes and conduct is a powerful way for God to speak His Truth into our lives.   (Ask me for a copy)

Your Marriage Fitness Center ministry has many ideas like these (some posted weekly on our FaceBook page, and a full array of tools to help your relationships grow deeper.   From an individualized relationship inventory (Marriage Proactive), regularly scheduled short term GYM Studies, ongoing small groups, and pastoral shepherding, to Marriage 911 for couples in distress, we are here to serve you.

I hope you have a fruitful and blessed year and are challenged to make your life more vulnerable to God’s leading in every area of your life and to your spouse’s influence in becoming the godly man and woman He planned for you since creation.

07 December 2013 @ 05:03 pm
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: Joyful
Current Music: Mary Did You Know
A Certification class in the Prepare/Enrich Relationship Inventory/Assessment, for Counselors, Pastors and Marriage Ministry staff and volunteers has been scheduled in Scottsdale Arizona - details below. If this is not a good fit for you please pass this on to others who would benefit.
Current Location: Paradise
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Sharalee Lucas
20 August 2011 @ 09:53 pm

Your Life Questions Answered !

On the SBC Marriage Ministry website.

More than 2500 video answers by the experts in their field to many of the questions about dating, marriage, finances, health - LIFE.

Find them here
- ask your own.

Current Location: here
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: Only A Lamb
Proverbs 29:18 tells us: Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.   But many of us today have no vision – a dream perhaps – but the vision is missing.   We need to look no further than to our Lord for it, and passionate, persistent, intentional, surrendered, sincere prayer will guide us – and find that His vision for our transformed life leads to our becoming conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29, 12:2 & Phil 1:6)

Last month I wrote about “fulfilling the minimal requirement for getting into heaven”, and suggested that the phrase might well stir our hearts dissatisfaction if we live with that view instead of being conformed to the image of Christ and transformed by the renewing of our minds.

As Dallas Willard says that mindset most often is a stirring of our prideful selves in our desire for control that allows us to be more interested in having others change.  He says in his book Renovation of the Heart  that “the greatest threat to Gods’ kingdom is mine” [the kingdom of “me”].  Proverbs 14:12 reminds us that there is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.

When we act out that hunger for control, we become lost.  When lost, sometimes we’ll not know it, but those times when we do, we need to cling to the understanding that we’re not worthless – just misplaced and distant from God – and that we’ll remain there until we surrender to Him and give up our wildly mistaken thought that we are in control.

If you’ve never felt dissatisfaction with your relationship with Christ, may I suggest that you pray for it and find God’s vision for your life?   A deep interpersonal walk with Jesus seems to be a common thread in the lives of those whom we’d look at as godly and those used powerfully by Him.    Since somewhere in my soul the stirring of God does quietly call to me, when I ask Him to stir it more to create that hunger for Him, it’s a prayer that He always answers - in His way and His time. 

As you acknowledge the inspired dissatisfaction with your life today– that’s Good!   It’s simply that God is there calling quietly to your heart for YOU to yield to Him.  That slight discomfort or gnawing pain can only be changed, with any permanence, as you yield and walk with Him.  Anything else will just be medication, and will satisfy only for a time. 

And if, like so many Christians, you aren’t sure you want to live that close to God, ask Him to stir that desire in you.  Larry Crabb suggests that we pray, asking “ that we would want to want, what we don’t want now in our walk and life with Christ. Say it out loud to really hear it for it’s a concept we truly have to think about to grasp. 

As we do begin to want that transformation, our life will never be the same.   What can be better than walking through life with an ever deepening trust in the One who personally created us and directs it all.

In Micah 6:8 God tells us that He requires us to walk humbly with Him.  Prostrating ourselves before Him in our heart may begin with our looking to Hosea 7:14 for inspiration.  There it tells us that God longs to redeem us (to restore us from our lost state), but that we “wail from our beds, instead of crying from our heart”.  How often in my prayer life, do I ask for relief, to understand, or control something?   It’s treating God like He’s a puppet to fulfill my desire for control is at best – foolish.  But when I cry from my heart just to find Him and to simply dwell in the presence of Christ with joy, and not to think I can manipulate Him for my gain – that’s when the full power of God comes to me and often through me to others. (see John 17:3) Praise God.

It’s there we find that doing the right thing, the things Jesus would have done, becomes more and more the passion of our lives.

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful