MARRIAGE ADVICE

Marriage–the beauty of a man and a woman deciding to spend the rest of their lives fighting over the covers.  Everyone seems to have advice about love and marriage, and there is no shortage of both sacred and secular  books about the embattled institution, so I thought I would throw my own little advice out there.  Please feel free to take it or leave it, or, better yet, comment and share some of your own advice. 

 

Who to Marry?

No one can tell you who to marry, not even your parents or friends.  You alone have to make that decision.  My one bit of advice on the subject of picking a mate is this:  BE CAREFUL.  For the love of all that is good and decent make absolutely certain you want that person to be the mother/father of your children, awake in the room when you are asleep, nursing you when you are sick, and spending money in your name.  If you do not trust them with any part of that, any part of your life, then skip over them like a puddle of mud and toss them away like a bad piece of fruit.  I mean it!  Ignore how you feel emotionally about them because your heart lies to you.  Listen to your head because it is smarter than the heart.  Nothing has done more damage to the reputation of marriage than people thinking they are being romantic when really they are just being idiots.

Honesty is Important, but Transparency is Best

What I mean here is that you need to always be honest with your spouse, but transparency is a better policy because it eliminates a lot of the places where there might be lies.  My wife has complete access to all of my digital devices and she knows all my pass codes.  Nothing is hidden from her.  The same is true of her.  I can check her iPhone, iPad, login personals, Facebook, anything whenever I want.  She can do the same.  She knows where I am going, who I am with, and when I expect to be back all the time.  This level of transparency is better than having to work at being honest.  Honesty flows naturally when there is nothing to hide.

Money Troubles

I will have advice on money in a future blog, but as it pertains to marriage there really is only two rules that we follow which I think every couple should.  Rule one–one joint bank account.  If you try to have a his and hers bank account, you are setting yourself up for disaster, because hidden money breeds secret spending and secret spending betrays honesty and they all conspire against transparency and thus the relationship is murdered.  Rule two–pay the bills together.  We pay bills twice a month, together, usually with a cup of tea and music playing.  It is work, but enjoyable work as we get a chance to talk about how much to pay on that bill, how much to give to that cause, could we tithe a little more this month, etc… etc… 

Children

This blog post is not about children, that will be another advice blog, but as with money there is one important thing to tell you which you may disagree with.  That’s okay but I know I’m right.  You must love your spouse more than your children.  When the kids grow up and leave, you will still be with your spouse.  If you love your spouse correctly, there will be plenty of love that flows toward your children but the opposite is not true.  If you love your children more than your spouse you will neglect the most important human relationship the Lord gave you. 

Hard Times

No marriage is immune from difficulty and troubles.  When hard times come, do not call a lawyer and opt for the decision you think will be easier.  Divorce is never the ‘easy’ option.  It is messy and inconvenient.  Instead, when hard times come, push your heart to learn to love the life you’ve made and the marriage ideal as much as the spouse you’re married to.  There will be times you want to run away and hide from your husband/wife, but knowing that the life you’ve made and the marital rhythms will be gone–lost–abandoned may help you hang in there.  It is worth it. 

There is one exception to the ‘hang in there in hard times’ rule and that is abuse.  If a spouse is hurting you and abusing you, get out.  Leave.  God did not make you to be a punching bag and this is not his plan for you.  Anyone who tells you otherwise does not have your best interest in mind. 

1-2-3

A pastor friend of mine outlined this concept for me years ago, and it has proven to be wonderfully true and helpful.  A married couple should spend 1 hour a week together.  This hour is spent talking, sharing, being together.  It can be a long walk, dinner, sitting on the porch swing or anything at all.  What it can’t be is watching television, gaming, or working.  Turn the cell phone off.  1 hour a day. 

2 days a month, not necessarily back to back, but 2 days a month a married couple should spend alone, as much as possible, and together.  Go shopping, go for a drive, visit a museum, ride horses, hike, read in the park or anything at all.  2 days together. 

3 uninterrupted days once a quarter a couple should plan to be alone.  This is hard when the kids are small, but it is not impossible.  If possible, go to a cabin in the mountains or a hotel in the city, or if money is tight just block away time at home.  Turn the phone off and be together.

If you never spend time with your spouse, your marriage will fail. 

 

Okay, this blog post has already ran way over–so I’ll wrap it up there.  I’d love to hear what marriage advice you might have. 

TWO CONVERSATIONS WITH STRANGERS

In the last week and a half I have had two very interesting conversations with complete strangers.  Both conversations were fun and, to me at least, informative.

The first conversation was about ten days ago when I was in a large group of people participating in a community event.  The nice thing about the event was that it was not a church event–but a community event.  That meant I was not leading it and I was not “on” as pastor.  Instead, I was just a citizen in the community at the event.  A senior adult woman sat down next to me, because the room we were in was very crowded and we began to talk.  She asked me what I do for a living and I said, “I pastor a church.”  That was followed by “which church,”and “where is your church,” and so forth.

The woman informed me that she went to church, but that she was looking for a new one.  She told me which one she went to and I told her, “I know that church, it is a good one,” and I went on to share my philosophy of never saying anything bad about another church and having no desire to take people from other congregations.  She said, “I understand that, but I could never be at your church.”

Well, now my curiosity was piqued and I asked matter-of-factly “Why?”  She said, “Because I know your church and you believe that only the pastor, only you, can baptize.”  I giggled and said, “I assure you, that is not the case.”  I went on to tell her of my long standing and publicly stated belief that if anyone leads someone else to have a relationship with Jesus, and they all agree on it, then I’ll let the leader do the baptizing.  I talked to her for a few minutes at sacerdotalism, without using that word of course, and how our church did not have a sacerdotal view at all.  We talked for a few more minutes and then she said, “Well, then I might visit your church then.  Your service starts at 10, right?”

“No, we have two, one at 9:30 and one at 11,” I said.

She looked at me and said, “No, your services are at 10.  I see it on the sign all the time.”

“Where is this sign?”

She told me where, and then I discovered she was talking about another church and she had never fully understood which church I was from.  She wasn’t at church the last two Sundays, because I’ve been looking.  Maybe she went back to her church.  I hope so.

The second conversation I had was with a woman at the auto dealership where I was getting Mrs. Greenbean’s Altima serviced last Thursday.  She worked at the service desk and had come out to tell me the car was almost ready.  There was another woman, a senior adult woman there, and she gave her a report on her car too.  The woman from the dealership began making small talk about some of the funny things she’d seen people do with their cars and the self inflicted problems people had done to their automobiles.  I replied  something like, “Well, when you work with the public your going to see strange and odd things.”  She then said, “What do you do.”  Again, I replied, “I’m a pastor.”  The three of us   there in the lobby continued making small talk and discovered that none of us were from the Northwest.  The older woman was from Minnesota.  She had moved out here in the 1930’s.  The service specialist was from New York City.

I asked her why she relocated here from the big city.  She said one of the pulls to the Northwest was the rock climbing.  She enjoyed it. She said it was “mentally demanding.”  I questioned her about that and said something like, “That  surprises me, because I would guess rock climbing is physically demanding, not mentally demanding.”  She said, “Well, it is like a giant life-sized puzzle, so your mind gets quite a workout.”  I then said, “It sure sounds like hard work.”

That is when she surprised me again by saying, “It is, but if you have a good partner to hep you get through the hard spots, it is very rewarding.”  Now that is an amazing statement.  My mind raced toward my partner in life– Mrs. Greenbean and the truth of how wonderful marriage is.  I would never be able to navigate life’s difficulties without her.  But I also thought about the idea of Christ as my partner in life.  He is more than a partner, and more than a friend–he is my Lord, my master, my God but he comes to me also as a friend.  He comes to me as a partner to navigate the really tough parts of life.

Sometime after Easter I have a sermon planned on marriage–I’ll have to remember that conversation and tell that story again.

SIPPING COFFEE, THINKING HARD

I had a missing-time experience this morning so I decided to take advantage of it.  No, not an alien abduction kind of missing time, but the other kind of missing-time.  Someone I was supposed to be seeing was suddenly unavailable and I had a hole in my schedule.  I took advantage of this hole and did something I used to do a lot but haven’t done in very long while.  I went to a local coffee bar, ordered my favorite caffeinated beverage (cinnamon dolce latte skinny extra hot), made small talk with the newbie barista—who did a great job, by the way on the drink—and sat at the little bar on the stool and worked in a very non-hurry-up-lets-go way.

It was great.

The first thing I did was finish the last few pages of my Sherlock Holmes novel.  It was nice.  Then I opened my laptop and wrote a whole long section for the sermon I’m preaching in three weeks on marriage.  It is a part of my sermon series on “doubt” and the theme is the doubts many people have today about marriage.  As a side note, I finished that sermon just a few moments ago, will edit it tomorrow and will officially be caught up in the sermonizing category.  For me caught up is three weeks ahead.

Then, I sat and daydreamed about what I would like to see happen in our church and ministry between now and the end of the year.  I used to daydream a lot about ‘how it could be’ but I’ve not lately.  There have been many reasons for this, but I know I need to do it more.  Creativity comes from contemplation.

As I thought I brainstormed such things as church plants in the area, increased presence in the community, how to improve our children’s ministry, and how I might want to tweak my sermonizing.  I also spent some time reflecting upon the Easter weekend.  Attendance on Sunday was very good.  Good Friday was a bust, though.  We had too many doughnuts leftover, but that might be because somehow they were far away from where the people were.

The coffee bar lounge was very crowded.  Almost every seat in the place was filled.  To my left sat a woman, about my age, who kept alternately reading a novel and writing notes in a spiral notebook.  She must be studying, but she looked far too old to be a student, and the book she was reading looked like something you pick up in line at the grocery store.  Maybe she is studying to be a writer? 

To my left were a father and mother with a little boy in between them.  That little boy must have been about 4.  He talked the entire time.  Non-stop.  It was a thing of beauty.  What made me sad was that all his questions were directed toward his father, not his mother.  Daddy answered all of his question with short, one syllable answers.  Daddy was more interested in his USA Today and his cell phone than he was his son.  Have I ever been that guy with my daughters?  Yes.  Lord forgive me. 

Behind me was two different tables filled with middle-aged women.  At both tables the main topic was church.  I got the definite impression it was not a small group or accountability group or a fellowship group.  It was a “these are the things we don’t like about our church” group.  At first I was thankful that these folks were not from my church, but then I realized two things.  First, since the body of Christ is so intrinsically connected, all believers are a part of ‘my church.’  Second, my church people were probably in another coffee place, or perhaps they would be here tomorrow.

These uncomfortable thoughts made me remember why I needed to spend time in the coffee bar more often.  It connects me to reality—to where people really are—foibles, faults, and phobias.  Somewhere in the gossiping church women, the neurotic note taking woman, and the coming adolescent son-father train wreck was where most of us live.  When I preach, these are the kinds of people who are hearing.

I opened my laptop and made some revisions to my sermon.

APOLOGETICS MARRIAGE CONFERENCE

Recently I was invited by my super-cool publisher, Anthony Horvath to participate in his second internet apologetics conference.  I was a part of the line-up last year and had a great time talking about literary apologetics.  This year the theme is marriage.  While it is tempting to just show scenes from The Princess Bride as the material for my talk, I decided instead to actually try to say something.  Now, since I am a pastor who likes to give his opinion, and they invited me to talk, I assume they have a taste for pastoral opinions.  Therefore, this year I’m just letting it rip.  Below I have posted a brief section of material for your preview.

I see stress on families that goes deeper than are people staying married or getting married.  One of these is economic stress. 

Economic stress exists in several strains.  One is the stress of underemployed people having to cobble together multiple jobs, none of which are very fulfilling, in order to make ends meet.  This type of economic stress has destroyed many couples notions of time together, weekends away, or family vacations.  It is a shock to me how many families in our church never take a family vacation.  It is not so much that they can’t afford it, it is that they work in so many disparate places which are not professional in nature and there is no vacation allotment. 

A second aspect of economic stress is the pressure put on young people who want to get married by their Baby boomer parents to wait until they are ‘financially stable’ to do so.  I hate to break the news, but young couples who just get married are never financially stable.  It’s okay to be poor. 

Kim and I were so poor when we got married that a Methodist charity paid for the ICU bill of our first daughter while I was attending a Baptist seminary and all we ate for a year was waffles because someone gave us a waffle iron and the mix was cheap.  It’s okay to be poor and work your way through.  It creates gratitude and hard work.  But I will never eat a waffle again, but I am thankful for those waffles.

There is a third type of economic stress . . .

. . . a secondary stressor which is time.  I’ve already talked about multiple jobs, but now factor in such things as gymnastics, school plays, little league, church, and don’t forget soccer.  If I were king of the world, I would outlaw children’s soccer leagues.  I’ve seen more families fall away from the faith because they enroll their children in soccer leagues which practice three nights a week and then play games every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Curiously, many of these same families often end up in marital trouble or even divorce. 

There is a correlation.

One more time stressor, and I suppose this is the pastor inside of me speaking, but digital social networks are killing marriages.  I love Facebook and all my Facebook friends and I am trying to get used to Twitterfication and they can be powerful tools for connecting and ministry.  In fact, I often do a lot of pastoring on Facebook with the people in my church and with people I’m connected to in other ways.  But if a husband or a wife spends more time per day on Facebook than he or she does with his or her spouse, trouble is brewing.  It’s the age-old problem of emotional adultery . . .  

And that brings me to the last stress on marriage that I wish to share.  This is the sex and romance stressor.  Somewhere . . .

WANT TO SEE MORE?  You can by registering for the online conference right now, just click here