The Best Marriage Advice for the New Year.

 

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As I read again the story of Jesus’ first miracle, I was struck by the profound life truths and marriage advice found there. You remember the story in John, Chapter 2 –

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus *said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother *said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus *said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He *said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 

Advice for life and for marriage:

1. Jesus was invited to the wedding – we must invite Jesus to our daily lives if we want Him to enjoy it as it was intended.

2. When there was a need, Mary went to Jesus for help – 1 Cor. 7:28 promises all married couples will face many trials in this life. When these trials come (and they will), we need to take them to Jesus, not try to figure things out on our own.

3. Mary gave the very best marriage advice ever given – she turned to the servants and said “whatever he tells you to do – do it”. Other translations say, “listen to him and do what he says”. If more husbands and wives would simply do this, they would experience life and marriage to the fullest. Marriage was never intended to be lived apart from God.

4. Jesus turned ordinary water into fine wine; not cheap, watered-down wine, but expensive, delicious wine. And not just a pitcher or two, but six 20-30 gallon water pots full. If we will invite Him into our daily lives, ask for His help with life’s issues, listen to him and do what he says – he will bless our socks off. He will provide for our needs above and beyond all we can ask or imagine.

So, Mary’s last recorded words are the best marriage advice we will ever receive. We get to choose whether or not to “do” it. Every single day we choose whether to listen to ourselves and do what we say – or listen to Him.

Our marriage will thrive if we invite Him in, give him our needs, listen to him and do what he tells us to do……

Let’s start now, and see what a difference it makes in our relationship.

Rob

 

 

Keeping Your Marriage Like New

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My wife and I bought new car last at the end of last year. We would normally choose a late-model used car, but the deal we got was truly a good one, so I went for it. There’s just something about a brand new vehicle with 10 miles on the odometer.

It smells so good, and rides so well. We don’t have to worry about the transmission going out, the tires going flat or the pumps/belts failing. If we could only keep it this way…..

In many ways, it reminds me of a new marriage. Everything about it is wonderful. The sights and sounds; the feeling of adventure; the feeling of confidence that all is well. In the beginning, everything is pretty much on auto-pilot. Like the new car, there’s not much to fix or maintain for a while.

The manufacturer of every car includes a maintenance guide in the vehicle. In it, there is a recommended schedule of actions that the owner(s) should take in order to keep the car running at peak levels and be able to enjoy the vehicle for many years to come. These actions typically include: regular oil changes, regular tire rotation and an annual checkup by a professional to see that all systems are working as designed.

You see, cars can’t take care of themselves. As we add mileage the oil gets thicker, the tires get thinner and the parts begin to simply wear down. The key to enjoying a great vehicle for many  years is to do what the maintenance guide says to do. Change to oil, rotate and replace the tires, and monitor all the vital engine parts to make sure they function well for the life of the car.

Marriages too can’t take care of themselves. As months and years go by, our heads get thicker, our skin gets thinner and the our hearts begin to wear down. All of these happen sooner as we tow addition along with us – multiple children, illness, stressful jobs and simply a hectic lifestyle. All of these add additional pressure to the vital components of our marriage while taking away time for critical maintenance.

A lack of regular care and maintenance will make our new car age faster and make us lose our sense of confidence and joy. The same will happen to a marriage. In the same way you can’t expect your vehicle to hold your excitement and confidence if you neglect to care for it – your marriage will begin to run poorly and even break down without regular care as well.

Do we take better care of our things than we do our most valuable relationship? Do we regularly and deliberately maintain our marriage? Do we read the maintenance Manual regularly and do what the Manufacturer says?

This year, let’s pay closer attention to how our marriage is running, and ask God to show us regularly how we can keep it running in tip-top condition. If we don’t, we don’t have anyone else to blame but ourselves when something goes wrong.

Stay deliberate,

Rob

 

Stop Arguing and Start Obeying God

 

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Did you know that arguing and fighting are not Biblical marriage concepts? There is no such thing as “fighting fair” in the Bible. In fact, God says He doesn’t want husbands and wives to fight at all. No offense to those fine authors who write about such things, but my Bible left out those verses.

What the Bible does say is that people, even Christian folks, will disagree and should find a way to come to agreement on things. It leaves room for difficult conversations and for allowing each other room (and grace) to express our feelings and even to complain. But fighting and quarreling are not be allowed in our marriage.

Proverbs 17:19 says, “He who loves a quarrel (fight, argument), loves sin”.

Proverbs 18:1 tells us that a person who starts quarrels is “unfriendly, selfish and lacking sound judgement”

Proverbs 15:18 reminds us that quarrels and conflicts are stirred up by “hot-tempered” people, and that a “patient” person (a fruit of the Spirit by the way) calms a quarrel.

Then there are Proverbs 19,21 and 25 that spotlight a “quarrelsome wife” and how awful it is to live with such a person. I am sure it holds true for a quarrelsome husband as well.

So, stop it!. If God says that arguing, fighting, quarreling/nagging are “sin”, then the short answer is – stop sinning. Don’t look for a way to candy coat it, or justify it, or do it “fairly”.  We don’t do that with other sins.

God is very clear that it is not a sin to “be angry”, but in our anger we are to refrain from sinning, i.e.: not fight, quarrel or argue about it. See Ephesians 4:26. And, by the way, we are supposed to settle such disagreements before we go to bed or else we open our home and relationship open to invasion by the enemy.

James 4 tells us that “fighting and quarreling” come from a battle that wages within us. The battle of selfishness; of not having our expectations met or our deserve-its catered to; a battle we have waged internally since birth – not getting what we want. A four year old responds by stomping his feet, crying or throwing an all-out hissy fit on the floor. As grown-ups we have learned to take the frustration inward. We steam, we stew, we cuss, we fuss, we try to suppress until one day it can’t be held back any longer and the dam breaks. The result is a grown up hissy fit. We nag, we nip, we diss, we jab with sarcasm. Our words and our tone destroy the oneness/intimacy we so desperately long for.

We lash out, we yell, we accuse, insinuate, blame, berate. We have not learned to harness our anger – so, we sin. We hurt, deeply and saying “I’m sorry” hours later simply doesn’t make up for the hurtful, hateful, sinful behavior we have unleashed.

Answer? If you profess to be a believer in Christ, the answer is…… stop it. Turn to Him for help. Walk with Him. Be filled (continually) with His Spirit (Galatians 5). If you are an addict – get help, now. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to change. Like other sins, we cannot change ourselves. Only God can do that for us, but we have to want to, we have to choose to. Then, we have to choose to live differently and walk daily with His help.

Fighting, quarreling, nagging, yelling and arguing have no place in a Christian marriage, or home. Christ came to bring”peace on earth and good will to men”. Let’s embrace His gift and start enjoying it this Holiday season.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife – Proverbs 20:3

Rob

 

 

The Best Gift to Give Your Wife This Year

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Boots are in. Clothes are always a hit, if they fit.

Jewelry is awesome, but most of us can’t afford what we really want to give him/her.

Technology? Something useful? (hint: never). What size? What color? What store? Geeeezz…….

What would be the perfect gift – meaningful, affordable, useful, appreciated and doable?

As I scoured websites and walked through retail stores aimlessly this year, I felt a strong impression that maybe God might have something to tell me on the matter. Maybe a hint, a tip or some specific direction from on high…

So, as I so often do, I went to Him last, after exhausting nearly every other option I could come up with on my own.

You know what He said?

“What she really needs this year is: tangible and unconditional love; deep and satisfying joy flowing out of a heart that is full of gladness; soul-satisfying peace in her heart, in her home and with her husband; 12 months of really trying to understand her heart, her feelings and her needs and a boatload of patience in the process; abundant grace and kindness from the one closest to her; a true sense of goodness in her life – the kind that keeps her smiling and provides her a constant feeling of “life is good”, “my marriage is in a good place”, and my God is so good to me”; the faithfulness of a man she can trust explicitly with her life and her heart; the gentleness and humility of a man who knows God and walks in step with Him; all of which culminate in a deep-seated sense that life is not out of control. In spite of the whirlwind pace of life all around her – she is content, she is at peace, she is loved and secure”.

I then asked the obvious question? Where can all of that be found? He responded with a smile on His face –

It’s not on Amazon or on sale at the mall. The gift is inside you and can be given every day – you just have to open it. The gift is “me”, He said. I am what she truly needs. Everything that she secretly, deeply yearns for – I am. And I live in you. You are my body, my means, my vessel. Through you I can meet her deepest needs, fill her soul with peace and her heart with abundant joy. You were never meant to meet these needs, but if you will allow me the opportunities, I will meet them through you. With your cooperation, your wife, my daughter, will have the best year ever this coming year.

That’s what He said to me. That’s what He is saying to you. Will we cooperate, or will we choose to turn away, reject His offer and settle for the “okay” marriage we live in today?

I told Him I am ALL IN. I want a wife who experiences Him and all He is – every day. If I can help facilitate that – then let’s get started. Christmas isn’t just a day – it’s a lifestyle. We can give His life away – every day.

Are you in?

Rob

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

 

3 Communication Secrets You Have to Know

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First, watch your tone. Between a husband and wife, tone is everything. We have to be extremely careful about the tone we use with our spouse.

For one thing, tone communicates care. A lack of caring in a marriage is deadly. It is impossible to reach higher levels of communication with a person who does not care.

Your tone also communicates to your spouse how you feel about his or her needs. Early in our marriage—during the days when we were struggling—Karen used to tell me “I wish I could record the way you talk to me. I wish you could hear what you sound like.”

When God finally made me aware how I spoke to her, I heard the tone of a husband who was frustrated, angry, and who had checked out of our marriage. My tone spoke loudly to Karen of my dissatisfaction. It caused tremendous insecurity in her.

Second, give your spouse the right to complain. I was dominant in our marriage and became verbally abusive. If Karen shared with me how she felt and I didn’t like it, I would make her pay for it. That attitude destroyed any trust she ever had in me.

A husband or wife absolutely must have freedom to complain about something in your marriage—your behavior, how you treat them, how you make them feel—without having to pay a price for it.

Giving a spouse the freedom to complain says to them “I want to know how you feel. I may not understand it or agree with it, but I will respect it. You will never have to worry about how I’ll respond.” This builds security and trust.

An inability to complain causes spouses to bottle up those concerns. This creates bitterness and all kinds of problems. Be approachable to your spouse. Be humble enough that you can accept gentle instruction from him or her. Be prepared to say you are sorry.

Third, speak the truth in love. The Bible says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to follow Him by speaking the truth in love.

This is a balancing act. Truth without grace is mean. It is truth-telling without any compassion—like looking at someone, saying, “You’re ugly,” and walking away. But grace without truth is meaningless. It’s a cheerleader in the 4th quarter of a football game cheering on her quarterback when the team is down by 60 points.

Marriages need truth and love. The truth can be unpleasant, but truth spoken without grace and love destroys trust. Many couples never talk about the things that matter because the truth makes them uncomfortable.

But research shows conflict can be important to the strength of a marriage. Relationships that avoid conflict are not as satisfying as those that experience conflict…then know how to resolve it.

Your tone, giving your spouse the freedom to complain, and a commitment to truth spoken in love: These are the things that must be present in a marriage marked by good communication.

Thanks to Jimmy Evans for a great review of some great insight into marriage communication.

 

Rob

3 Things Your Wife Needs You to Know – About Intimacy

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Anyone who has been married for more than a day knows that men and women define hundreds of words differently, and in most cases, very differently.

Intimacy is such a word. In our marriage class/small group we always ask the husbands and wives to define it for us. Want to know what they say?

Wives – “closeness”, “connected”, “oneness”, “emotionally close”

Husbands – “sex”

Upon further investigation, the word “sex” is typically expanded to mean physical oneness or closeness.

Our culture almost always associates intimacy with sex, or in a sexual connotation (intimate apparel, intimate setting), so it is little wonder that men do too. Truth is – all the answers given above from our class are correct. Where couples fall woefully short is by not understanding or appreciating the other spouse’s definition.

So – for the men reading this blog, here is a brief overview of what you need to know about your wife’s definition (and expectation) of intimacy. I would also encourage you to ask her for her definition of intimacy.

1. Intimacy does not equal sex. Granted intimacy may end up as sex, but to most women (your wife may be the exception) intimacy is not defined by having sex together. To her, intimacy means closeness. “I feel close to my husband, emotionally” is the definition we most often get from wives. What this means in practical/man terms is: we have spent time together, we have talked through the many issues on my heart, I feel caught up with what is going on with him, I feel that he loves me and values me, I feel safe in our relationship, I feel cherish, I feel connected. These things cannot happen without having been physically together in a non-sexual way, talking, processing life and issues and connecting as friends more than roommates or business partners.

2. Wives don’t have pop-up blockers. A typical husband can come home from a horrible day at work, having run over a dog along the way, have a headache and a deep desire to plop into his favorite chair – but if greeted by his wife dressed in her little black dress who informs him the kids are eating dinner at the grandparents house – can instantly be all-in for sex. Wives, on the other hand, would need to talk with you about her horrible day and process her feelings about it. Cry a bit over the poor dog who ran out in front of her car, take some headache medicine and want to get off her feet as well. If you greet her in your newly purchased red, satin speedo – there will be absolutely no arousal or burning desire that magically wells up in her that makes her want to have amazing sex on the kitchen table. She cannot block out all the events and relational issues of her day like a man can. Once again – it takes time, understanding and conversation (processing).

3. Wives are not porn stars. Statistics tell us that nearly 90% of all men (husbands included) have viewed porn at some point in their lives  and as many as 70% view it on a regular basis. The women (paid performers) they watch always greatly desire sex, greatly enjoy sex and are greatly satisfied by their partner. This leads to many problems for men, but particularly when it comes to expectations. They cannot help but want to experience some of that “greatly” from their own wives. When they don’t, they subconsciously feel slighted and become more emotionally distant from their wives. This leads to more pornography, which leads to more disappointment and emotional distance – a very vicious and intimacy-killing cycle.

Moral?

Spend mass quantities of time with your wife. Sit and talk, go for a walk, hold hands, court her, pursue her – make her feel special, loved and cherish. Talk with her about her day, her anxieties, her fears, her dreams. Help her out around the house and with the kids. Ease her burdens. Lighten her loads.

Don’t expect her to desire to meet your need for physical intimacy until you take the time/effort to meet her need for emotional intimacy first. That’s what a leader does. That’s what laying your life down for another means.

That’s what Jesus did for us….regardless of our performance or response and expecting nothing in return. Don’t be so selfish that you only serve, love, help when you want sex.

Flee from porn if you are dabbling or using regularly. Get a mentor, an accountability partner, or even a formal treatment program if necessary. It is worth it. Your marriage, your children, your legacy – are worth it. Don’t let the enemy destroy your life and your home.

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” Eph. 5:25

If we will learn to do this – we will have the amazing marriage we’ve always wanted.

Rob

3 Things I Know About My Wife

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When you’ve known someone for most of your life, you get to know them quite well. My wife and I have known each other since we were about 14 years old. We dated off and on from middle school through college and got married the summer after college.

Spending that much time with another person is a mixed blessing for sure. You know them better than anyone. The good stuff and the not-so-good stuff. What I want you to know are three (3) things I have to sadly admit, took me far too long to recognize and appreciate about her.

1. She is God’s daughter – as a fellow Christian, my wife has also been adopted into God’s family and is a precious daughter of His. He personally hand-crafted her in her mother’s womb (Ps. 139), knows every hair on her head (Matt.10), and loves her enough to send His son to die on her behalf. He created her on purpose and has a wonderful plan for her life.

2. She was created specifically for me – since the very first marriage (Gen.2), God declared that it is “not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”. God handcrafted Eve for Adam. Out of all the women on the planet, He handcrafted a wife specifically for me also. He knew I would need help and so He created a “helper” with the exact specifications needed to partner with me in this lifetime. How awesome is that?

3. She is a sinner – like her husband. We are both addicts. We are addicted (by birth) to ourselves. Neither of us has it all together and neither of us will ever be able to be a selfless spouse who loves with unconditional love. Our sin nature automatically defaults to “me” each morning of our lives, and we must remain desperate for God’s direct intervention and help if we are ever to make our marriage work. Each of us, with God’s grace, must extend truckloads of grace and forgiveness to the other and constantly remember that our spouse was never intended to make us happy or meet all of our needs….. that is God’s job.

I wish I had realized and appreciated these things about my wife much earlier in our marriage, but I am thankful to be able to share them with other couples these days as we mentor and teach on marriage. I want to believe that our marriage would have been even richer/fuller than it has been and that I would have been a much better husband along the way.

Surely I would have treated her with much more honor and respect if I had truly comprehended that I was marrying one of God’s daughters and He was watching to see how I was treating her.

Surely I would have never been tempted by other women (real or imaginary) had I fully appreciated that God made her specifically for me, to help me, to partner with me and to impact the world around us – for His glory.

Surely I would have been much quicker to apologize, to forgive and to give grace to my fellow sinner instead of somehow thinking she was the problem. Surely we would have prayed together more, said I’m sorry quicker, and battled our real enemy together, instead of pointing fingers.

Wouldn’t I have?

Will you – now that you know?

Thankful,
Rob

A Life That Matters

 

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As I have gotten older, it has become increasingly obvious to me why I am here…on earth…for the years I am granted. Don’t we all wonder that from time to time? What is the meaning of life? Why I am here?

Here is the conclusion I have reached:

I am here to have an impact, to leave a footprint, to influence others for the glory of God. What I didn’t really realize, was the path to making this kind of imprint is a calling to die. Yes, you and I will all eventually cease breathing and physically die. What I mean is – I am here to learn to die…. to myself….to my inborn self-focus. And until I do, I will remain a selfish, unfulfilled, mostly unhappy man who will make no lasting, positive footprint or produce lasting fruit for God’s glory.

As I reflect back on my life I have seen nearly every endeavor, activity and relationship has been purposefully placed in my life path in order to teach me this lesson.

Parents were given to me to help teach, lead, mentor, discipline and love me so I would hopefully learn not be a selfish, the-world-revolves-around-me brat. Then came school (I’m talking about school in the good ole days of the 60s and 70s) with teachers. principals and coaches – all of whom had permission and authority to raise their eyebrows, raise their voices, paddle your backside, suspend you from classes, flunk an exam or even repeat a grade – if you didn’t behave or learn what you were “required” to learn back then.

Did I like all of that? No. Did I learn amazing life lessons about manners, respect, learning, hard work, getting along with others, respect for my elders/authorities, behaving, following rules, etc.? Absolutely!

I learned how to die. I learned how to obey when I didn’t feel like it or want to; to work hard when I would have preferred an easier path; to be a team player; to take responsibility (sometimes painfully) for my actions/conduct.

All of those people were strategically placed in my life to prepare me for “real” life, and more importantly – to teach me how to lay my life (desires, preferences, deserve-its) aside for someone else. I could not have imagined at the time how valuable those lessons would be in my life when they really mattered…….

Childhood, education and sports were all practice for what matters most in life. At age 22 I married the love of my life. Soon thereafter, three wonderful sons were entrusted to my care, protection and training. If I had thought life was hard beforehand, it was a cake walk compared to the next 20+ years. Anyone who is or has been married, or has raised children knows that this venue is the ultimate workshop for God to teach us what it means to die – to voluntarily give your life up for another person.

Now the kids are gone and having kids of their own. My wife and I are about to celebrate forty years together. And – the dying continues. Every day, in multiple ways, I continue to learn that my highest calling in this short life is to learn what Jesus taught and learned Himself….

“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”Matthew 20:26-29

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24

If you and I want our lives to really count. If we want to make an impact during the few years we have here – an impact that affects generations behind us – we have to learn to give our lives away; to become servants; to fall to the earth and die. It is only when we do this that our lives will “bear much fruit”, and have an eternal impact.

Let it be, Lord.

Rob

Marriage is for Losers

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Re-Post from Dr. Kelly Flanagan (2013)…

“You can be right, or you can be married; take your pick.” I can’t remember who told me that, but I do remember they were only half-joking. The other half, the serious half, is exceedingly important. Because if marriage is going to work, it needs to become a contest to see which spouse is going to lose the most, and it needs to be a race that goes down to the wire.

When it comes to winning and losing, I think there are three kinds of marriages. In the first kind of marriage, both spouses are competing to win, and it’s a duel to the death. Husbands and wives are armed with a vast arsenal, ranging from fists, to words, to silence. Spouses destroy each other, and, in the process, they destroy the peace of their children. These marriages account for most of the 50 percent of marriages that fail, and then some.

The second kind of marriage is rife with winning and losing, but the roles are set, and the loser is always the same spouse. These are the truly abusive marriages, the ones in which one spouse dominates, the other submits, and in the process, both husband and wife are stripped of their dignity. These are the marriages of addicts and enablers, tyrants and slaves, and they may be the saddest marriages of all.

But there is a third kind of marriage.

The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all — themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

And they are revolutionary, in the purest sense of the word.

We live in a culture in which losing is the enemy. We wake up to news stories about domestic disputes gone wrong. Really wrong. We go to workplaces where everyone is battling for the boss’s favor and the next promotion, or we stay at home where the battle for the Legos is just as fierce. Nightly, we watch the talking heads on the cable news networks, trying to win the battle of ideas, although sometimes they seem quite willing to settle for winning the battle of decibels. We fight to have the best stuff, in the best name brands. We fight for attention and approval and a sense of worth, and when we finally look at each other at the end of the day, we fight, because we are trained to do nothing else. And, so, cultivating a marriage in which losing is the mutual norm becomes a radically counter-cultural act.

A rebellion.

What do the rebellious marriages look like? When my blood is bubbling, I try to remember a phone call we received from my son’s second grade teacher. She called to tell us there had been an incident in gym class. After a fierce athletic competition, in which the prize was the privilege to leave the gym first, my son’s team had lost. The losers were standing by, grumbling and complaining about second-grade-versions of injustice, as the victors filed past. And that’s when my son started to clap. He clapped for the winners as they passed, with a big dopey grin on his face and a smile stretched from one ear of his heart to the other. His startled gym teacher quickly exhorted the rest of his team to follow suit. So, a bunch of second grade losers staged a rebellion, giving a rousing ovation for their victorious peers, and in doing so, embraced the fullness of what it can mean to be a loser. When I’m seething, I try to remember the heart of a boy, a heart that can lose graciously and reach out in affection to the victors.

In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heartache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally — because they are a broken creature, too — and loving them to the end anyway.

Maybe marriage, when it’s lived by two losers in a household culture of mutual surrender, is just the training we need to walk through this world — a world that wants to chew you up and spit you out — without the constant fear of getting the short end of the stick. Maybe we need to be formed in such a way that winning loses its glamour, that we can sacrifice the competition in favor of people. Maybe what we need, really, is to become a bunch of losers in a world that is being a torn apart by the competition to win. If we did that, maybe we’d be able to sleep a little easier at night, look our loved ones in the eyes, forgive and forget, and clap for the people around us.

I think in a marriage of losers, a synergy happens and all of life can explode into a kind of rebellion that is brighter than the sun. The really good rebellions, the ones that last and make the world a better place, they are like that, aren’t they? They heal, they restore. They are big, and they shine like the sun. And, like the sun, their gravitational pull is almost irresistible.

Follow Kelly M. Flanagan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrKellyFlanagan

Is God a Homophobe?

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What was God thinking? After creating man (Adam) and placing Him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it, it became blatantly obvious that man was lonely and unfulfilled. He brought millions of newly-created animals to Adam to see what he would name them, and after a significant length of time God put into place His master plan, His crowning achievement. (I think God allowed so much time to go by before creating a “helper” for Adam so that Adam would truly appreciate what God provided, and treat this creation with the utmost love, honor and respect. So finally, God begins to unveil His plan).

He puts Adam to sleep and extracts a rib from his side. At this point He has a decision to make. He has just spoken into being a multitude of galaxies, billions of stars, planets, Earth, animals, light and darkness, oceans, mountains, etc. – and now comes the moment of truth.

The ultimate Creator had the opportunity to create anything or anyone He wished as the perfect compliment/helper for man. The Bible uses the word “suitable” to describe this perfect match, this “other half” that would be able to meet man’s needs and become the perfect companion, lover and friend.

So, from the mind of God, came the answer. A woman.

Why not another man? Why not a decked out Ford F-150 pickup, or a shiny new sportscar? What about a world-class golf course, or a hunting cub with all the latest equipment? Why not two women, or three?

The obvious answer is that the Creator God knew that only one thing, one creation would be capable of truly fulfilling man’s needs and becoming his fulfilling companion for a lifetime. He chose to create a woman.

All other created animals were created to have a male and female counterpart. Nothing that was created was designed to have a counterpart of the same gender. Did God make a mistake? Was He homophobic?

As the Creator, does God get to decide what is “normal”, or do we ? If we choose not to believe in God, or His creation and plan for humanity, then absolutely – we get to choose whatever lifestyle we want. We should be able to marry whomever we choose, or even multiple people, underage people, or non-people. Without a moral compass, we are in charge and whatever we want should rule the day – and become the newest “normal”. Devoid of any moral absolutes, our existing laws, constitution and society itself will be redefined – because they were indeed founded on the belief in God and in His desire/design for mankind.

The prevailing conflict in our culture today is not really about who gets to decide what is “normal” or how to define or redefine “marriage”  – but whether or not God exists and whether He created mankind in the first place. If God exists, then our decision is whether to obey Him or go our own independent way in life. If He exists and the Bible is His blueprint for living, then we already have our answers regarding “normal” and “marriage”.  If He does not exist, then we get to decide for ourselves.

Seems simple enough – God exists or He doesn’t. God created or He didn’t.

The answers to these questions will decide who has the right to define those terms. The outcome will be monumental in determining the future of our society and nation.

Gay, straight. Same sex, opposite sex. Polygamy, monogamy. The real question and conflict is not between differing opinions of “normal” – but truthfully, between those who believe in/follow God, and those who don’t.

In the meantime, we should be tolerant, right? And tolerance should work both ways I believe. If one has the right to believe one way and even voice his/her belief – should the other viewpoint also not be allowed the same freedom and respect? Neither should have the right to force, coerce, or demand  the viewpoint embrace or condone a lifestyle or a definition of “normal” or “marriage” they find diametrically opposed to the heart and teachings of their God – any more than those holding to a more traditional viewpoint of “normal” and “marriage” demand the other viewpoint believe in God and follow the Bible’s teachings.

Ultimately, God will decide. If He exists and is truly is the Creator, He will answer the questions for all of us. If He doesn’t exist and didn’t create anything or anyone, then all of this will be a mute point.