spiritual maturity

Thoughts are the compass of your life

 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]. ~Proverbs 23:7

Just like the selfish person progressed in the direction of their thought pattern, we also will move in the direction of our own thoughts.  Happy thoughts progress towards better and miserable towards worse.

Tack and Tune

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If I can just stick to tacking and tuning myself, often God brings His peace and harmony, in His time.

Part of my tack and tune kit is to keep a copy of our Marriage Certificate on the bulletin board at my desk.  I also have a copy of the promises I’ve made in my vows to Darrell on my computer.  When we’re in the middle of a heated fight (and in some of our less shining moments, those fights were downright vicious), I know, at some point I’m going to see that Marriage Certificate – I’ve learned to use that document as a reset for my heart and head. Instead of emotionally running away, I tack into those vows.

It’s not natural or easy, but it is simple – a simple choice of spirit instead of flesh.  God will give a simple clear way for you too — just ask Him.

Tacking and Tuning always take me to the next level in my role as a wife.  We can go from bad to good and then from good to great.

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Million Dollar Wife

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THE MINIMUM WAGE MENTALITY

This mentality agrees to become part of a marriage, and brings expectations of the wedding into the marriage – but soon finds out it’s not so much fun all the time.  In fact, this marriage isn’t like a wedding – at all.  It’s starting to require too much hard work:  short-sighted

She increasingly thinks someone (usually her husband) owes her happiness.  Being unable to see what she already has because of what she wants, she becomes unable to celebrate her own unique role as a wife because the grass is always greener … somewhere else:  fleshly-focused

Her focus on self is blocking the bigger picture so she can’t see the marriage from 40000ft – God’s view.  What He’s doing in both of them through the marriage.  All that comes into view is what her husband is presently like — not what he could be like:  near-sighted

At the heart of a minimum wage mentality, there’s conditional love.

It’s a kind of love that keeps score with checks and balances.  It leans heavily on the Law – how it should be – and because of the double-standard that often accompanies legalism, it’s blind to a vision of success for the future.  When I had a minimum wage mentality, nothing changed in our marriage – especially not me.  Familiar to me were phrases like.  What about my husband’s part?  Why do I have to go first?  How is that fair to me?

You can tell you might be stepping down into this mentality when you repeatedly hear:  Me – My – I

THE MILLION DOLLAR MENTALITY

This mentality is aware that every marriage has two broken sinners, so there’s going to be good days and bad days.  And sometimes even seasons that are gnarly and emotionally painful.  She accepts the truth about trials in marriage and believes that God can bring healing and wholeness out of any circumstance – she takes God at His Word:  faith

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~Rom 8:28

She understands that part of being a successful wife is fearlessness.  She’s able to bring her best to that role knowing God always comes through – she’s confident in God’s timing:  hope

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Col 3:23

She sees strength and merit in Christ’s example for marriage.  How Jesus chose to please God rather than himself.  Even when the disciples, in their confusion of not really understanding, tried to get him to go against His promise, He didn’t falter because of His love for God.  She knows the source of this power is not her own, it belongs to God:  love

We love each other because he loved us first. ~1 John 4:19

At the heart of the million dollar mentality, there’s unconditional love.

She leaves the scorekeeping of offences to God by leaning heavily on Grace.  Her primary focus is eternal by letting the temporal events fall to the peripheral – and this changes everything.  The higher grade of seed you plant in the soil of the marriage, the higher grade of harvest God reaps into the life of His daughter – you.

[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. ~2 Cor 9:6

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SOUL-ution:

It’s definitely a process to cultivate the million dollar wife. Perhaps you’ve already seen some miserly minimum wage seeds that you’ve planted and have taken steps to move into the million dollar mindset – fantastic, keep up the good work!

He who finds a [true] MILLION DOLLAR wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.

~Prov 18:22

But it gets rough. We know it does. When we find we’ve stepped down from that high calling: the call to be a million dollar wife, the role we agreed to on our wedding day…we’ve got to get back.  If you’ve slipped away from being that good thing that God speaks about – your man needs you back.  Remember,

YOU  ARE

A

GOOD THING

 

 

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Are You Timid & Afraid?

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What storm are you encountering … right now … at this very moment?  When your marriage boat set sail on it’s journey everything was on a nice even keel; but now it’s anything but ‘smooth sailin’ and you have no idea where all the rough waters came from.

Does this present storm have you wanting to turn and run away in fear?  How would you respond to Jesus as He asks you:

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The disciples were clambering in a panic from their emotions.  When crisis brings chop into our marriages I think we do the same thing, we end up paralyzed from our emotions and are faced with a huge temptation to focus on the circumstances and all the bad that could happen instead of all the power God has.

Isn’t this always our first wail to God?

make it stop  ~  make it go away  ~  make it be over

– always from our emotions.

I’m like one of the disciples, my default is to scramble to wake up Jesus before it gets too bad … before it gets too tough.  What I’m really asking God to do is to change my circumstances.  The disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform 3 miracles, yet when the storm hit, they still didn’t trust.  I think this is why Jesus was agitated with them and why He calls this “little” faith.  The answer isn’t in God changing the people around us or the circumstances we’re in (as we often ask Him to do), but in Christ alone.  Diligently trusting.  Diligently staying and standing, trusting that God will finish what He started.

~ Diligence is definitely the key  ~

In 2 Peter 1, Peter lays out the track that will lead to a bigger faith that is the close intimate relationship Jesus is looking to have with us.  For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue …

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Without diligence faith will stay “little”.  Changed circumstances won’t grow you closer to Jesus.  All this does is keep your faith muscles weak from lack of exercise, which puts you further away from intimate knowledge of Jesus and authentic fellowship with Him. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Then, when you find your marriage in the middle of a terrible storm, your faith isn’t big enough to allow you the peace needed to stay with it.  Don’t forget, Jesus was asleep during the storm.

Circumstances of the storm

  1. They were fisherman accustom to being on all kinds of water; they knew storms – this one was bad.
  2. They didn’t plan it, or plan for it.  Zero control over it.  And no help from anyone else.
  3. Their response revealed where their faith really was.  Nothing like a good surprise storm to reveal your true level of courage on the open water.

They wanted Jesus to change the circumstances they were in; for Him to stop the storm and for it to be all over.  But Jesus wanted to show them a different way to get on the other side of it.  He wanted them to ride-out the storm by conquering through faith in Him.

Circumstances of a storm in marriage

  1. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your spouse, people are not static.  We are all healing, growing and changing.  We are all capable of sin because we are sinners.
  2. Offences come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours.  We have no control over how Satan is going to try and divide a marriage.  You can guarantee he’s not going to be upfront … he hides and pushes from behind and it feels like you are capsizing.
  3. Nothing like a good spur of the moment crisis to reveal where you really are in your faith.  How I respond to offence will show me just how much of my heart has been molded into the image of Christ.

How do you pray for your spouse when your marriage is confronted with crisis?  This is when our true character of faith emerges.  No rote responses.  No practice runs or plans of eloquent words.

There’s really only 2 choices:

  • Fear:  Pray for the circumstances to change, asking God to remove our hardship and make it easy so that we don’t have to exercise faith.  We want God to take away free choice and change those around us and what they are doing.
  • Faith:  We boldly stand in the confidence that comes from a bigger faith, diligently trusting as God shapes us into conquerors.

Similar to worry, which literally divides your strength in half, fear will eat away at the faith that is needed to sustain you through a storm in your marriage.  It will lead you by the nose as a blind coward that is timid and afraid.  Diligence in faith will drive you to where the real power is:  closer to Christ.

The next time you and your spouse find your placid pond whipped into a frenzy of a storm, try asking yourself:  What am I going to focus on, the storm or Jesus.  It takes work and training to resist the temptation to rush to Jesus with that prayer of, “change everything else,” instead of, “with Your power, change me.”

The Day of Lovers

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I purposely waited until after Valentine’s Day to publish this post.

A couple of days before Valentine’s Day I was reading along on Twitter and saw a pattern emerge, “What I want for Valentine’s Day is …,” or, “All I want for Valentine’s Day is …”  Although framed in many different phrases, it all boiled down to drawing the emphasis to self:  MeIMy.  Considering who Saint Valentine was, I found this pattern at odds with his message.

The History

Have we over romanticised all that Saint Valentine died for?  As much as we like the cushy gush brought to us by marketing and advertising, let’s look a little beyond that to some facts:

  • Saint Valentine believed so strongly in what marriage stood for that he was willing to die for it.
  • He honoured Christian marriage and chose to break the law to preserve its sanctity.
  • He endured a beating and stoning before decapitation.

Doesn’t exactly inspire a trip to People’s Jewelers and a romantic card from Hallmark.

There’s an excellent article in which Father O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, says, “What Valentine means to me as a priest, is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that — even to the point of death.”

Try Something New

I’m not a ‘buzz-kill’ that believes in looking for reasons to not celebrate.  I love to partae!  And, I believe in ALL things that celebrate marriage!  I just want to find a better way to honour this courageous hero of marriage than:

  1. Making it about self.
  2. Making a mockery of his name sake by assimilation into the emotional promotions of flowers, frills and sales gimmicks.

A way of celebrating that would be more of an echo of Jesus.  Saint Valentine knew the heart of Christ and followed His pattern.  Inside Jesus was giver not a getter.  He died giving, not getting.

If you really believe that Valentine’s Day is about marriage and lovers, and you want Saint Valentine’s death to mean something, I challenge you to drill down on giving.  Don’t just give this day a fleeting acknowledgement that’s filled with expectations of getting.  If you are a wife, celebrate your marriage by being the best, the most stupendous partner for your husband!  Always being superior in your giving and excelling to do more than enough. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Instead of starting February 14th in the AM and ending February 14th  in the PM, start now – February 17, 2014, and continue through to February 14th 2 0 1 5.  Then, on Valentine’s Day 2015, you will really have something to celebrate.

Set aside a devotional time just for your husband, not to pray with him, but to pray for hm.  Let God into all the recesses of your heart concerning your husband.  It’s not a time to pray about his faults – it’s about praying for your growth areas as a wife.

Put the expectations of Valentine’s Day on yourself and make it about what you are going to give to your husband over the next year.

  1. Reconnect with God about your marriage vows.  Ask God if He’ll be able to say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant?”  And listen to His response. (1 John 2:6)
  2. We all suffer from immaturity.  There are areas within all of us that need to grow up.  Ask your spouse, “What is one thing that I need to grow in for you.  An area that will help me be less selfish and a little more like Jesus.” (Romans 8:29)
  3. Ask God to reveal mindsets that are destructive to your marriage and egotistical attitudes.  Make it a season to learn how to apologize for something you said that was hurtful.  In an effort to grow up and be responsible for your own behaviour.  Even if your spouse was 99% responsible and your reaction was 1%.  Own one hundred percent of your 1%.  (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  4. Ask for encouragement.  Ask your man to tell you any area(s) that you are hitting it right! (Hebrews 3:13)

Concentrate on the cosmic picture of eternity.  Does God really want me to grow into a spouse that’s able to get the most or a spouse who’s able to give the most?  What will you give this Valentine’s Day of 2015?  The day you were married you promised this man a lot … you need to give more than you promised.*

 

*Adapted from the quote by Anthony J. D’Angelo:  Promise a lot and give even more.

Marriage Triangle (Part 1)

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Part 1 – The Myth We Discovered

There is a triangle paradigm used to depict the Christian marriage, aptly called a marriage triangle.  There’s many variations of it, but generally it looks like one of these:

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The premise is obvious:  The closer you get to God the closer your marriage will align to the perfection of God thereby bringing the two of you closer.

In theory this paradigm makes complete sense, but for real life practical application in marriage, it’s a miss and leaves us strandedBy glossing over our human brokenness – the truth of what we really are, with the illusion of perfection, it leads us more into a myth mindset than a paradigm that can help a marriage grow into the force it was meant to be.

This triangle image bolsters the idea of black and white in the marriage relationship and leaves us with a flavour of simplicity.  It doesn’t factor in the reality of any hurt, strife, offences, or conflicts that are inevitable, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7:28, “… Yet those who marry will have physical and earthly troubles, …

Perfection is a myth

MYTH:  Darrell and I are equal in our maturity and our backgrounds won’t make any difference.  It doesn’t matter what each of us has been through in childhood and life, we’ll ascend the triangle towards God at an equal rate of maturity.

Both spouses growing equally in their respective relationship to God, and naturally getting closer to each other.  Yes, if all things were equal.  If I grew up on Bliss Boulevard and if Darrell came from Paradise Place and if we were making our home on Utopia Avenue, this triangle is a statement of truth.  Correctly depicting 2 Christians in a marriage; as the marriage should be.upwithmarriageJAN

But here’s the problem:

  • Earth is not utopia and balanced maturity is hardly the reality of two sinners that are …
  • Bound together in such a close relational space that they may as well be called one person …
  • Living in the fallen world.

Sorry for the bummer of all those grim verses but if we are going to live in reality and not fairyland, we need to be honest with ourselves about who we really are.  Let’s face it, there’s a reason Jesus had to die for us.  Also, if when we get a little high on ourselves, there is nothing more effective than a good dose of reality to level the playing field of marriage.

Without exception all of us are different.  Nobody grows and matures at an equal level, in the same way or during the same time frame.  Each of us have come from different backgrounds, lived different lives and have experienced hurt in ways that differ from each other, so our wounds are unalike.  Our healing and maturity will be anything but identical, equal or symmetrical as we grow closer independently to God.

Conflict is not a myth

You can’t live in this world and not be wounded.  Somehow, some way … all people are hurting (Mk 2:17).  Hurting people hurt others.  But as we heal and grow … we do less damage to each other.

Wounds are the root of offence, discord and strife.

They reveal where we need to be healed in order to grow-up.

Ferreting out the wounds from beneath our self-made coping mechanisms so that we can heal and grow, takes time.  And on top of the wounds, there’s also variations in our genders, our basic personality differences, which are not so basic if you’ve spent any time reading some of the Meyers Briggs information.  Not to mention birth order factors that probably come into play.

We humans are fearfully and wonderfully created with all our amazing complexities.  The good we live in and do belongs to us and our spouses; and so does the darkness.  It’s not as simple as:  sliding up our respective sides of the triangle into happily ever after.  So, what’s the solution?  Reciprocity.

Part 2 – ReciprocityWhat can you give to The God that has everything?  Same triangle – alternate and active perspective.  Helping each other to heal so that we each can grow closer to God.

 

Dysfunctional Communication (Part 3)

Part 1Our First Truce

Part 2 – Emotions

This post is the final installment of my series on Dysfunctional Communication.

Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk

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Perhaps this last part would have been better titled, Rules of Engagement, as that is what we were really attempting to do:  To actually engage each other in our own grievances.  But I had already chosen The Truce Box Talk sooooo, I went with that one.

First things first.  It’s presupposed that if you are reading this far in the series that you and your spouse have made the decision that you are going to fight for your marriage, regardless of where that journey may take you.  That was the place where Darrell and I had ended up, between the proverbial rock and hard place.  It was not good, but once you’ve removed the idea of divorce from the table you are left with only 1 logical option, fight for your marriage no matter how bad it is.

Our marriage is living proof that necessity really is the mother of invention.  That invention was our Truce Box.

The truce had served its purpose – there was peace.  But now we were going to move onto the next step:  Engage in conflict.  This was scary.  When you get to this level of dysfunction in your marriage, things have gone unsaid for so long and there are so many problems, that it’s almost unbearable to broach them.  The emotional weight attached to each one makes it seem impossible to lift onto the table of discussion.

Press on.

Accept that it’s going to be messy and hard …

but not undoable.

Some things are going to be very difficult to say and some things will be even harder to hear.  The Truce Box Talk is not about being right or wrong; but being safe.  Think of it as being in a meeting at a boardroom table with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the CEOs.

Its purpose is to allow naked communication by stripping away the feelings and emotions that come from conflict.  Clearing away all of the confusion, assumptions, miscommunications and misunderstandings.  The first few times it will feel awkward and disjointed, kind of like learning a new dance to a song you’ve never heard.  But with practice you become a more skilled partner.

And now, our Rules of Engagement:

RULE 1 – Public Location

Public was safe, for both of us.  I was safe from Darrell’s angry aggression and he was kept safe from my verbal tirades that lead to emotional unravelling.

There is a certain standard of polite behaviours that society expects from its adults, we could sum them up in the word civilized.  Being out in public forced us to be on our best behaviour with each other.  We were able to speak freely but it had to be done with care and dignity, which is the way we should have been speaking all along.

Rule 2 – Honesty

Honesty with each other and self.  Sounds pretty straight forward and simple, but it’s not so easy.  Honesty takes courage.  It meant we each had to be brave enough to reveal our real thoughts.  Courage to believe that it didn’t matter what the other thought, only what God thought.  There is no faster way to kill communication than by the fear that’s rooted in self-consciousness.

Rule 3 – Acceptance

This rule was based on the premise that everything goes.  This meant that whatever Darrell said, I accepted as true and real – to him.  And vice versa for me.  It’s drilling down on the idea that each other’s hearts are more important than who is right.  It’s rooted in others before self rather than self-seeking.

  • Hearing and accepting – NOT defending, NOT arguing and NO rebuttal
  • Trying to put yourself in the shoes of another to really understand
  • Listening with the intent to validate

Rule 4 – Freedom

Not all things were settled when they were first broached and most things relational are just not cut & dried.  Old habits of relating die hard and new ones take time to develop.  If When either of us fell back into old ways of responding reacting, we gave each other the freedom to say, “You are still doing it.”  Or, “You did it again.”

In the beginning there was a temptation to disregard the rules of engagement that we had established.  This generally meant that one of us would delve into conflict on the spur of the moment.  We gave each other the freedom to invoke a truce, even if it was the one who started the conflict in the first place.

The truth box talk is not about

  • saying your say to get your way
  • making a decision
  • who makes decisions
  • what is the right decision

… but is about

  • learning how to arrive at solutions together
  • working as a team
  • growing in unity through trust and peace
  • striving for maturity

In Summary

It has been humbling to put pen to paper (so to speak) and relive this pivotal time in our marriage.  As I walked down the halls of my memory I was reminded again just how fragile people can be.  How easy it is to become self-centered, or to misread a heart and assume the worse in our spouses.  How we need to be on guard against the wiles of the enemy as he seeks to trespass between husbands and wives in an effort to destroy our marriages.  I was reminded that if either of us had given up on God and walked away because of conflict, trials and tribulations in our marriage, neither of us would be experiencing the abundance of the blessings of faith, strength and unity that we now have.  Thank you for reading and giving me the opportunity to relive it.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw