I Love Christmas…..but

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For most of us, Christmas is a favorite time of year. We go to great lengths (and expense) to buy special gifts, cook special foods, plan family gatherings and become much more benevolent. We seem to see life and those around us through different lenses. Things seem happier, there’s a spirit in the air, a childlike joy, an anticipation – an adventure.

It seems people ban together to help the poor, the orphan, the elderly. People volunteer more, give more and generally seem to get along better….except on Black Friday.

We just love Christmas at our house. Our bank account shrinks and our waistlines expand, but we plan for it now. We decorate, knowing we will only take it all down in a few weeks. We shop, sometimes when we aren’t even looking for anything specific. Like salmon in a stream, we just get caught up in it all…… but we still love it.

But why Christmas? More specifically – why only Christmas? Why do we seem to be able to do these things and be these kind of people only around the Holidays? Sure, we get to focus on the real reason for Christmas, and that it what it’s all about – but I bet Christ would encourage us to act more like this on the other 364 days of the year.

What would it be like if we kept that same benevolent attitude toward the poor, the orphan and the elderly. What if we volunteered every month, or gave more money to worthy causes, or had family and friends over for a feast more often?

Somehow, after Christmas comes and goes, and we watch football, then put the decorations back in the attic – life speeds up and hits us in the face again on January 2nd. We shift back to “I’m too busy” mode and that volunteerism, generosity and upbeat attitude all get pushed to the back burner….to a season several months from now when we drag it out for a few weeks.

Maybe we could remember to remind each other this year, after the Holidays, to keep Christmas alive. If only in our hearts, maybe we could remind each other to view our busy lives through the lens of Christmas. I think it would please Christ very much. I think He would agree that His coming meant a while lot more than for an excuse to be upbeat and generous for a few weeks.

So, here’s the challenge. Let’s see who can post, tweet or Facebook some Christmas reminders throughout the year…say in March, or July – to remind us to lift our eyes up from our routines long enough to remember those less fortunate, or to volunteer a day, or to invite someone over for dinner. Maybe it wouldn’t feel like Christmas is so far away. Maybe it will feel like Christmas, and Christ’s coming can be experienced more often.

I love Christmas, but I need to be reminded to live like Christmastime – all the time.

Immanuel – “God with us”.

Rob

A Marriage Lesson from the Wise Men

 

We all know the story of the three wise men (kings) who traveled many miles to find the child who had been foretold (prophesied). These men risked much to be in the presence of this future king. They each brought gifts of great value with which to honor the child, and worshiped in his presence.

Many books, songs, signs, cards and T-shirts still proclaim the message that “Wise Men Still Seek Him”. I passed such a sign recently and I asked myself – “do they really?” Then I thought – do wise men seek God, or does a man become wise by seeking God? Honestly, they both may be accurate. The question for us is – do we honestly seek Him? Do we, as men, truly desire His company? Do we long to be in His presence? Do we really want to know what He has to say to us – or are we secretly afraid of what we might hear?

Our enemy would have us believe one or more of the following lies that:

God is mad at me because of sinful things in my past.

God is too busy to care about the trivial things going on in my life.

God is going to tell me to do something I really don’t want to do – aka – He is going to really mess up my plans.

Whichever lie it is – it is still a lie. God is the most loving, patient, forgiving, caring, kind Father we could ever encounter. There is absolutely no reason to shy away from Him or fear Him. The Bible actually tells us that, because of what Christ has already done, we can come “boldly before God’s throne” to avail ourselves of His love, grace and help in our time of need. But, why do we feel we have to wait until a time of need, or crisis or great difficulty to seek our God? It would break my heart if the only time my children spoke to me was when they wanted something. Nothing thrill a dad’s heart more than to know his kids sincerely want to spend time with him, talking, laughing, just enjoying each other’s company – because we love each other and want to be together.

Think about what is keeping you from bounding out of bed everyday eager to encounter the most gracious, giving and loving Person you could ever know. You were created by Him, and He deeply desires for you to live life with Him. He wants to be involved in every aspect of your life. He loves you. Heck – He even likes you. Christmas reminds us that wise men seek God, and that God is eager to be found.

Let’s reject the lies and seek Him like never before. I am convinced that we will be blown away by what we find.

Merry Christmas,

Rob

Marriage is a War Zone

US-soldier

It seems every man I speak to these days seems to be fighting for something. Young and old, we all have things in our life that we feel are worth fighting for: kids education / promotion at work / more sales / more income/ better grades / a new or better job / popularity / fame / appreciation / better health …….

There always seems to be something going on in our lives that needs extra work, effort, struggle, toil, labor – fight.

Many of you fought, or are fighting, in a real war. Men have fought and died for our country and for noble causes since before our country was founded. For them, fighting is not an option. They wake up in a war zone every morning. The slightest miscalculation, or the least amount of inattention could cost them their life.

They cannot afford to take their life for granted. They cannot afford NOT to be diligent, deliberate, on guard, watchful – every day.

The cause is great and worth fighting for. Why else would they put their life, their future, their life at risk?

I want to take a moment to remind us all that we also live in a world at war. We have an enemy who is relentless, dangerous and merciless. He wakes every morning with the express goal of destroying our life, our marriage, our children, our finances, our morals, our witness and our legacy.

I meet men every week who are walking wounded, some mortally. They are dying inside and their world is falling apart. They wonder what went wrong, or where things got off track, and I have to remind them of the war. It seems they forgot there was a war going on, and an enemy hell-bent on their destruction – and they let their guard down.

They took off their armor. Their protective gear was uncomfortable, so they put it aside. The gun was heavy, so they put it down. Besides – they didn’t see or hear the enemy anywhere close by. Maybe the battle is over. Maybe there was a cease-fire, or a truce.

Sadly, they fall for the lie that the war is over or that the enemy has retreated. They let down their guard and stop living diligently. Before long, they become another statistic of war. Affairs, divorces, troubled kids, bankruptcy, depression, substance abuse, suicide …. the list gets longer and longer. No one is safe. I have seen noble Christian men fall to all the above. Men who I would have never believed would fall – but they did.

Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He warns us, and instructs us concerning what to do to prevent such a plunge.

Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

I Peter 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Like the U.S. military, Christian husbands have been given the very finest in protective armor and the world’s most sophisticated weaponry – but they don’t help us at all if we don’t wear them and fire them. The enemy is relentless, but we have all the intelligence, power and resources we need to crush his attacks on every front.

Yes, there are many things in our life worth fighting for – but none more critical, more eternal, than the war against the enemy of God and His family. I pray you will consider re-enlisting in the war for the lives and hearts of the ones you hold most dear. They are worth fighting for. It is time we walk in the victory Christ paid for, and tear down the strongholds the enemy has built. Are you in?

Dressed for battle,

Rob

 

Rev Up Your Date Night

When we fall in love, one part of the brain that becomes activated is the area that produces dopamine, a natural stimulant that produces feelings of excitement, craving, motivation and elation,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love and Chief Scientific Advisor for Chemistry.com. Brain scans of couples that have recently fallen in love show that the reward systems where dopamine is produced are activated. And for new couples, time together is often characterized by intense feelings of joy and excitement. But can these feelings be maintained over the years? Fisher and her colleagues also scanned the brains of happy couples who have been together for over 25 years and discovered that the reward systems of their brains were similarly activated when they were together. So what can couples do to make sure their feelings of love and excitement for each other stay fresh over time?

1. Variety, variety, variety
One secret to keeping your love alive may well be adding some variety to your date nights. “Novelty drives up dopamine production in the brain,” says Fisher, “and gives you the same feelings associated with romantic love. In fact, doing any activity that is new, dangerous or exciting will raise the brain’s dopamine levels.” Mixing things up is one of the easiest ways to keep a relationship exciting. So if you’ve got a favorite sushi place, it’s still OK to eat dinner there… just not every Friday night. “It is important to share your favorite places with your partner, but don’t go to the same spots over and over. Choose new things to do — a museum, a picnic, a bike ride to a new part of town,” suggests Fisher. Couples can brainstorm a master list of date night activities together that are new to both people, like tango classes, ice skating, visiting an art gallery or attending a lecture at a local college or library. Even mixing things up in small ways — like taking a new route or making plans with new friends — creates an air of date-night novelty.

2. Take turns planning your date nights
Another way to keep monotony at bay, suggests Fisher, is to take turns planning dates. If one of you always plans the dates, it’s easier to be lulled into a routine. When it’s your turn to plan date night, think of small and big ways to weave the unexpected into your evening. If you normally drive to a restaurant, try walking somewhere closer instead. If you have a standard movie night out, check your local listings for plays and concerts. If staying in and watching rented films is your go-to date, invite friends over to play board games or take turns finding new recipes to cook and enjoy together.

3. Go out without a plan
In the head-spinning start of a relationship, everything feels like an adventure as you discover your new partner’s world — their friends, favorite haunts, most beloved books and movies. Unplanned date nights can help couples foster this attitude of adventure throughout the course of their relationship. “Head out the door without a plan,” says Fisher, “and just see where the evening takes you.” Start by heading to a new neighborhood and taking a stroll, which might lead to dinner in a restaurant neither of you knew existed. Often, our most fun and memorable evenings are born from spontaneous and unexpected choices.

4. Go where no man has been before…or at least, neither of you
It’s only natural to take your new love to all of your favorite places and vice versa. But for at least one of you, these places will be lacking in the novelty associated with dopamine production. After you’ve visited your mutual hangouts, head off to discover fresh locations together. Check out restaurant reviews and try that new Thai place. Hike along on a trail that’s new to both of you. Find a guidebook for your city and read it together, scanning for adventures for you two to embark upon. Remember: keep it new, fresh — and keep the excitement of being in love alive!

Guys – it’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to dating/courting your wife. Many husbands don’t even bother. They have already “won the prize” and somehow feel that they don’t need to pursue, date or court her ever again. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your wife deeply desires to be wanted, to be needed, to be pursued and desired.

One of the best ways to stay emotionally connected/engaged with her is to deliberately plan time (date night, weekend getaway, etc.) together with just her. That means no double-dates, no group dates, etc. – just you and her. Please take a break from the movie theater. Go somewhere where you have to walk, talk, interact together. Difficult for most of us – but a huge gust of fresh wind on your wife’s emotional (connected with you) sails.

Be deliberate. Plan it ahead of time. Book a babysitter. Do whatever it takes. You’re marriage is worth it!

It starts with you,

Rob

A Father’s Love

Today, I wanted to approach Father’s Day a touch differently.

One of the greatest joys of my life is being a father. My soul soars when I talk about, think about and/or get to spend any time at all with my sons. I am the proudest dad on the planet. Today though – I can’t help but think about my heavenly Father. If you’re like me, it may be hard to think of a heavenly Father without seeing him through the lens of our earthly one. My earthly dad was a nice man, but not much of a father. He was not abusive or tyrannical, he just wasn’t around. He was absent. Divorced mom when I was in elementary school, moved away and, until later in his life, was mainly a voice on the phone a couple of times a year.

He said he loved me, but I guess I looked at his actions (or lack of them) and concluded that his love for me (and my brother) must not have meant too much to him. Then I met my heavenly Father. His Word said He loved me too. What was I to think? “Okay, sure – I’ve heard that before”. But this time it was different. This Father kept pursuing me, and showing me how much He loved me – just as I am.

He told me through those I loved. He spoke to me through family, friends, roommates, pastors – and then through my wife and children. He showed me in His Word and through talking with Him in the quiet moments of my days. I will share two stories that He used to pierce my doubting heart, and make His point in such as way that I will never question it again:

The prodigal son – You know the story from Luke 15, and I thought I did too. I had read it and heard it preached many times. One day God made me stop and ponder the response of the father in the story. He saw his son returning “from a long way off”, which means he was waiting and watching for him. He ran down the road to his son. He didn’t wait for his boy to come to him with his tail tucked between his legs.

Instead of scolding him, or expecting an apology, or waiting for explanations – he hugged him and kissed him repeatedly and I am sure tearfully. His heart was overwhelmed with love for his wayward son. He took him home, put his finest robe on his pig-smelling shoulders, gave him his family ring and threw him a lavish party. And this is a story Jesus told to illustrate in some small way how God views us, and how very much He loves us.

Well, I finally “got it”. I finally changed the pronoun from “us”, or “them” and replaced it with “me”. He loves “me”. He did all that for “me”. Even though I will never deserve it – He loves “me” that much. I have been overwhelmed ever since.

The other story God has used in my life to help me “see” His love, and overwhelm me with a “knowing” of His love for me is the amazing story of the Team Hoyt. If you have never seen this (or even if you have), please take a minute this Father’s Day to see an amazing representation of how much God loves you and is doing everything He can to demonstrate that love to you every single day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRvsO8m_KI

Whether you are a father or not, use this day to remind yourself of how very much your heavenly Father loves you, and remember that you don’t have to tap dance (perform) for Him. He loves you completely and unconditionally. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more than He already does.

Enjoy this Father’s Day guys – and let the Father’s love embrace you with fresh hope, life and joy.

Huz

Treasure

It’s so hard at Christmas time not to get a little lusty. I would really like to upgrade from an iPhone 3 to a 4.0. My laptop is getting old and Apple is having a really good sale on MacBooks. And don’t you know the Bowl games would look so much better on a bigger, high-def television.

It’s not that I’m materialistic or greedy – it would just be nice sometime to be able to just go out and buy that “thing” I really want, no matter what it costs. If I’m honest, I must confess that even though I truly feel content with what I have, there is a secret place inside my soul that would be severely challenged if I won the lottery or inherited hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My mind understands, and my spirit agrees, that I can’t take anything from this world with me when I check out. Everything I own will pass on to someone else. They also understand that the Bible says not to love the world or the things in the world, and not to store up for myself treasures that will rust and rot – but to store up treasure in heaven. I know these things, and truly want to do them – but my flesh still snarls when I see a young punk driving a $60k BMW or Range Rover. Oh well….

The older I get the more I realize that things truly do not satisfy, and that what truly matters for eternity are your walk with God and your interaction with, and influence on, other people. Almost every week I get a sad sort of feeling come over me that wishes that I had understood these things much earlier in my life.

The Bible talks about where my treasure is, my heart will be also. My heart will follow what I hold valuable.

If I see my daily walk with Christ as truly valuable – I won’t have any problem making time to spend with Him. If I place my wife’s needs above my own, and “give myself up for her” as commanded by the Lord – I will eagerly seek to sacrifice my desires on her behalf. At the end of the day, I will invest my time and resources in those things that I see as most valuable.

What is most valuable to me? I really have to take some time to give myself an honest answer. The simple answer can be found by looking over my calendar and my checkbook. These will tell what/who gets my time and money. This is where I am investing myself.

Christmas and New Year’s is a great time to reflect. Assess what happened last year, and plan/dream about the next. What will be different next year? How will my marriage be different? What will make our relationship better? What is God calling me to do with 2011?

Over the Holidays let’s take some deliberate, alone time to determine where our treasure/heart really is.

The Lord will guide you always (Isa. 58:11),

Huz

It’s Her Fault

The words date back to the Garden of Eden.

That woman you gave me – she gave me the fruit from the tree and I ate it.” (Gen. 3:12)

Ever since, husbands have blamed their wives (and God) for many of their problems. “If she would just….”, “When she….”, etc., etc. It seems almost like an automatic response to why our situation is the way it is. Men find it very easy to blame “Eve” for screwing things up.

Have you ever blamed your wife for your situation, your feelings, your hardship or your consequences? Obviously, she isn’t perfect and both husband and wife share responsibility – but here is a sentence I want us all to ponder:

My wife doesn’t cause me to be the way I am – she reveals the way I am.

If your response to your wife is unloving, is she to blame? Are you justified because of her words or actions? Or, is God using her to reveal to you where your own heart is? Was Adam correct when he said Eve gave him the fruit? Yes. Was he also correct when he said that she was responsible (and therefore to blame) for making him eat it?

Adam knew what God told him about the fruit. He was responsible for his choice, and his action – not Eve.

We know what God tells us to do too: “love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her” – “live with your wife in an understanding way” – “let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth…” – etc.

Sometimes your wife will make you so upset you just want to cuss. Sometimes she just rubs you the wrong way; doesn’t meet your expectations; doesn’t treat you with respect; or just drives you batty. In these times I want to encourage you (and me) to look past her and ask God what He is trying to reveal to you about the current condition of your heart. How is your intimacy level with Him in those moments? Are you walking in the Spirit or in the flesh?

The Holiday season can be one of added stress and busyness. It is easy to get emotionally frayed and to become slack about walking deliberately with Jesus every single day – which together can lead to some additional tension in the marriage.

Remember – “I am responsible for my response”.

No matter how your mother-in-law treats you, or your selfish sister acts, or the kids don’t respond to your heart-felt gifts – or how your wife speaks to you – you are responsible for your response. Is there something in your heart that God is revealing that needs to be dealt with (selfishness, pride, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, etc.)?

Let’s allow the Prince of Peace to rule and reign in our heart this Season, and respond to those around us as He would. This season is, by the way, all about Him.

Live through us Lord.

Rob

35 Years

My wonderful wife and I just celebrated 35 years together. We should probably celebrate more years together since we dated for several years before getting married – but 35 will do.

As I pondered what to write on my anniversary card, I couldn’t help but reflect on how great God has been to me, and to us, for all these years. Our marriage, like most of yours, has been riddled with hard times and tough things. But God is faithful. Always. He cannot be anything but faithful – it is His nature, His character. In spite of all of my sin and shortcomings, He has been the one constant, and the Rock on which we have always landed.

We made a commitment early in our marriage – that divorce would never be an option. We didn’t know it then, but we were actually just agreeing with God’s view of marriage. In His eyes, and in His heart, marriage is a covenant. It is not a contract that can be broken for non-performance by one of the parties. He is a covenant-keeping God, and our marriage is to reflect that to the world. So we told ourselves, and we told each other, that we were in this together. Through thick and thin, better or worse, etc., etc., we were going to face life together.

Life is hard. We didn’t really know that at the time we said “I do”, but it is hard – dang hard. Things don’t typically turn out the way we expect, or dream of, but it is still our life. Another marriage lesson learned has been just that – giving my expectations to Jesus. I want the life He wants for me. He loves me with a perfect father’s love and He knows exactly what I need to be completely fulfilled in this life. If He wants me to have it – then I want it. If He doesn’t, then I don’t need it.

He loves me and always does what is in my best interest. Sometimes I don’t know why – but I trust Him.

He brought the love of my life into my life over 35 years ago, and looking back it is very plain to see His loving hand in the  whole story. Proverbs 31 reminds me – 

The Lord has created for me a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies. I can trust her, and she has greatly enriched my life. She brings me good, not harm, every day of her life.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Her children stand and bless her. I too praise her, saying “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Any of you who know her, know I’m not making this up – she is amazing. She is truly the only woman I have ever known who has no enemies, or even anyone who doesn’t like her. She is a treasure. The logical question you ask is – how did she end up with me? And I once again have to go back to God. I thank Him every day.

We have made it through these years by the amazing grace of God, and look forward to what He has in store along the road ahead. Thank you God for your faithfulness, and for your wonderful gift to me, and to my children and their children’s children.

Huz

One Day a Year ?

Valentine’s day is a great day. I am all for V-Day, but I must protest that many of us huzbands make a big deal over how special our wife is on this one, special day – but what about the other 364?

Are we guilty of buying a card or some flowers on this special day and living for our selves the other days? Surely not. Tell me it isn’t so.

I hope you have an awesome day with your wife tomorrow. I hope you will seriously consider how often you give her the “special treatment” the rest of the year. She deserves it. She needs to know how special she is – often. And, God will bless you for it.

Happy Valentine’s day guys!

Huz