A Necessary “No”

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For the past 10 weeks in our Marriage/Family Bible Study Class on Sundays we have been focused on the verse 3 John 1:2. With this verse, we have been asking ourselves, “How’s Your Soul?” Each week has been a different facet of “How’s Your Soul?” and what that looks like according to God’s Word and our very own Souls. In one week we parked in Genesis 2:1-22 and asked ourselves the question, “What makes a healthy soul?” There were four facets that we studied, but for now, I would like to focus on one of the four: A Healthy Soul Requires a “No.”
“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
Look at it this way, God gives lots of Permission before His One Restriction. As we read these verses it’s obvious that the odds were so stacked in Adam’s favor: “Any Tree you may eat from freely…Any… But ONE you may not…only one out of the MANY.” Again, God gives lots of Permission before His One Restriction. That’s the Heart of our God, yet we will still focus on the ONE “No.”
That’s the sign of a hurting Soul; they will purposely focus on the ONE “No” and ignore all the “Yes’s” around them.
I gleaned two key nuggets from these two verses. First, this protects the “Integrity” of the definition of love as defined by God. Because Love requires a Choice. Love requires a Yes/No. Love requires a Decision. As we read those verses, we see that the One Tree provides us with a choice: God’s Way or Our Way.
Next, it is true that our soul needs a “NO”…A necessary No. Kerry shared with me that she thought to herself, “How often do you think Adam walked past that tree and had to tell himself ‘No.’?” Great question. We both agreed that every time Adam said “No” it was good for his soul.
So, this is very much about Sin right now. Because it is good for our Soul when we choose to say “No” to distorting and abominating God’s Blessings in our life. However, too often it is not just black & white or “Sin & Not Sin.” It can be anything that leads us into sin and thus we should have said “No” even though so many at the time say “Yes.”
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Think about it, what many may say is good may in fact not be of gain for me at all. Also, even though it’s ok and not ‘sinful’ or ‘illegal’ may easily become my idol and thus slips into sin. So, we began to own this statement, “It is good for you to hear yourself say “No” to yourself.”
So, we encourage each of you this new year to begin to ask yourself these questions: “What is it right now that you are saying “No” to? You could possibly be saying “Yes” and there even may be those around you that do say yes, but you choose to say No?”

In fact, maybe the better question is this… “What do you need to say “No” to starting today?”
As you begin 2018, realize that it is good for your soul to have Restrictions/Boundaries.

We Love you all,
Joe and Kerry

Content or Disillusioned

“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”     Philippians 4:10-13

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I wanted to take time to share with you how much these verses mean to me. Throughout our 27 years of marriage, and 3 years of dating prior, Kerry and I have seen our fair share of seasons. There have been times of long winters, some beautiful and fulfilling summers, and many transitions of fall and spring in our lives. With that said, I hold dear the words spoken by Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. This is a letter of joy in the crucible of trials. To focus on the blessings instead of the darkness. Yes, for some, you believe that the darkness will never leave your heart. Trust me, I fully sympathize with you. I was there nine years ago. It was a time that I felt all alone and so out of control. Yet, through the encouragement of friends and from Kerry, they lifted me up and guided me back towards what Christ was doing in my life to wrought my heart closer to Him.

So let’s see what Paul is sharing. He first learned this attitude, this focus. He had to continually practice this mind set. It was not one and done, it was a continual process that occurred daily. Next, he understood what it meant to be content. To be content is to satisfy the mind and to make quiet in your spirit. It’s to stop your complaining and/or opposition to the situation at hand. This leads to the final observation I now own as my own. Through Christ. Paul reflects on the ups and downs he has encountered, but the learning of being content is nothing without Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives the peace in our hearts. He is the One who we must rest in daily. And it is not a passing emotion or conversation, it is Through Him. We must dwell in Him, daily.

So as Kerry and I begin our journey with you, I want you to know that we would not be where we are today in our marriage, our friendship, our family, if it were not for the strength and love of Jesus Christ in our lives. So this begs the question, are you choosing  daily to be content in where Christ has you today?

 

Joe

Adulterous Affairs Don’t Begin with Sleeping Together

“Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming.”  Song of Songs 2:15

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Adulterous Affairs Don’t Begin with Sleeping Together; they begin with inappropriate friendships. Friendship and emotional attachments with people of the opposite sex can spell danger for your marriage. This is where you husbands, must daily make a choice to protect your marriage. Wives, this is for you as well.  What do you chose?

 

Kerry and I have witnessed many couples who “innocently” will become emotionally attracted to a member of the opposite sex. They become “bored” with the relationship they are in and begin to truly believe that there is something better for them. Instead of investing into their own marriage by seeking counsel and choosing to focus on where they are falling short in the marriage, they instead begin to drift away-emotionally and physically, and especially-spiritually.

 

So here are 4 Warnings for you to be aware of in your marriage and heed immediately.

 

 

  1. Protect your marriage by avoiding private communications and intimate conversations with people of the opposite sex. Too often we see Social Media and Texting becoming a hidden area of spouses worlds. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you and your spouse share the same pass codes and that at any given time, they have the right to look into your phone for emails, texts, social media posts and IM’s. You have nothing to hide from your spouse…Nothing.

 

 

  1. Beware of workmates who seem too concerned with your personal private life; those that tell you “let me know if you need anything.” That’s the beginning of an open invitation to draw closer to them instead of your spouse. Do not share intimate details with workmates about the trials and struggles in your marriage. If you need to talk to someone, find a marriage counselor, a pastor or find another couple that shares your values and the four of you take time to talk it out.

 

 

  1. Beware of those that give you exaggerated and suggestive compliments about the way you look. Regardless of what is happening in your marriage don’t give the Devil a foothold in your marriage by falling victim to this trap. Let your workmates know there are things you won’t tolerate. Enough said…

 

 

  1. Keep a healthy physical, social and emotional distance between you and people of the opposite sex. This is the most important facet to all of these warnings. Your workmates need to know without a doubt that you are married, that you are in love with your spouse, and nothing will come between you both. Make sure to have pictures up of your family and spouse. Wear your wedding ring. Smile when you talk about your spouse.

 

So in closing, I ask the same question…”What do you chose?”

 

 

Joe

Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

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In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

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You see it as a central theme in most television shows and movies: “Lack of Effective Communication.”  Ya know what else, that could be the same theme for Marriages.

Kerry and I facilitate to couples the benefits of effective communication; however, too often we both have learned that when it comes to communication, it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do disagree, how well will we handle it? Yes, Kerry and I have not fully mastered “Effective Communication.”

In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: Both Husband and Wife should never quit and always communicate until they begin to reach the other side. This, of course, takes courage, humility and constant dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this article.

It’s not our intentions to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. That’s impossible. Instead, we should seek to remove some phrases from our vocabulary as husband and wife. Here’s our list from our personal experiences.

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

1: “I’m busy…”

This could be the easiest to begin to remove. Do you know why you’ll want to remove “I’m busy…” from your vocabulary for good?

Because saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper dysfunction (no, not always, but often). There’s a saying: “If you’re too busy for your spouse, you’re too busy”. That being the case, we should always make time for our spouses without relegating ourselves to simply being “busy”.

If you are actually busy, that’s fine, just articulate exactly what’s going on so your spouse may understand and support you with your tasks!

2: “You always…”

Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Kerry and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed in this endeavor, but we recognize it and continue to grow in reducing those statements.

The problem with absolute statements is that they’re never true when speaking of behavior, and they are always hurtful (there are two absolute statements you can be sure of!). Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at.

If I may be blunt, absolute statements are just plain lazy.  Let me explain why. Follow the example below.

Example: Instead of “You never want want sex…”, consider a statement like “lately, I’ve felt like we’re not connecting intimately enough. Can we talk about what’s going on?”

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage vocabulary will do wonders.

3: “Whatever.”

How many times have we ended an argument with a single dismissive “whatever”?

Whatever” is the Arch Enemy of Biblical Reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).

It’s not that whatever is a bad word, it’s just usually used in times when love isn’t at it’s best. Removing whatever from your marriage vocabulary will force to to either 1) explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or 2) explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

4: The word Divorce

It’s tragic when we hear couples use the word “divorce”, either jokingly or seriously, in reference to their own marriage. Marriage only works if divorce is not an option; If there’s no back door, you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up; someone decides to step out the back door. They mentally, emotionally, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially cracks the door on a terrible possibility into your marriage. Would it be funny or appropriate ever if you said “I sincerely hope you die a horrible painful death”? Nope. It’s hurtful no matter how you slice it.

Kerry and I implore you, please remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. It is toxic from the get go.

5: “I wish you were more like…” and “you’re just like your [parent]”

Ok, yes this is two phrases. I wanted to combine them here because I believe they come from the same place: comparison.

Comparison is truly heartbreaking. Nobody likes being compared to someone else, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, a family member, or a celebrity. People aren’t things, like cars with features to be compared. “This one has GPS”, “that one gets 40 MPG”, etc.

Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone greater than me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare ourselves and our spouses to.

Here are some tough comparisons married folks tend to make; some explicitly and some internally that Kerry and I have heard through marriage counseling.

  1. I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman]

 

  1. I wish [my husband] acted more like [other man]

 

  1. You’re just like your father/mother.Usually used to illustrate an undesirable behavior, thus pigeonholing the person compared.

 

  1. Why can’t we be more like [some other couple]?

 

Let’s close with this thought…

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time. Use your words to give life.

Joe & Kerry

 

 

5 Questions That Should Be Asked….

Kerry and I spent this past Saturday on a date night. Anyone that knows us well knows how much we advocate “Date Nights” for husbands and wives. This is a time to focus on one another and continue the pursuit of both romance and well as intimacy in your growing marriage. Yet, last week I came across an article that opened my perspective on “Date Nights.”
The article came from Intimate Marriage. They talked about two types of Date Nights. The first one was the one that I always think of, the “Fun Date Nite.” This is the one that is reminiscent of those dates you had when you were courting each other. Very light hearted and a getting to know each other in a fun and creative way. You both took time to enjoy one another’s company and create memories from that date. They introduced another “Date Night” that I feel should be a vital and necessary date time with your spouse: The Working Date.
A “Working Date ” is a regular hour block each week when a husband and wife come together to work on their marriage. In contrast to a “Fun Date Night” where no business is allowed, the working date is set
aside to do the business of marriage. This is the time to ask the 5 questions to one another and instead of justifying your answers or manipulating the conversation, stop and listen to your spouse and ask God to guide you to fulfill the answers shared by your spouse.
This is not an easy task at hand. The questions require prayer, thought, and transparency. Fulfilling those answers requires humility, obedience to God’s will, and a willingness to grow closer to your spouse; the one God ordained for you.

Here are the 5 questions:
1. How did you feel loved this past week? How did you feel hurt this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like?
3. How would you feel most loved & encouraged in the days ahead?
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex / intimacy this week?
5. How can I pray for you this week?

Kerry and I spent the entire night asking and answering those 5 questions. Yes, some of the answers were hard to hear and there were times we felt we both needed to justify the “why’s,” however, we knew that this was the time to capture our thoughts, make them obedient to Christ, and serve one another by fulfilling those answers. It turned out to be one of the best “Date Nights” we have had in many years.

So are there any other questions you may add?  What are your thoughts?

A simple bar of soap: 3 ways to serve your spouse

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I stepped into the shower the other morning to find a brand new bar of my soap.  Before you jump to those clever and sarcastic replies as to why I was presented a new bar of soap, it had more to do with the wonderful display of love by Kerry than the possibility of fear that I have odor.

What I am sharing is that Kerry took the time to notice my bar of soap was down to a sliver and she took time to get out a new bar and replace it with the diminishing one.  She was thinking of me. She was choosing to display her love for me in a simple act of service.  As busy as we are in the morning, getting ready for work and school, she stopped and placed my needs first, even as simple as a bar of soap.

We both take time each morning to ask God to reveal to us how we can display His love to each other by serving each other in ways of sacrificial love. This is a habit that has become as natural as walking. We have made a commitment to each other that before our feet hit the floor in the morning, we spend time in prayer with God, thanking Him for the blessings He has given us. We ask Him to guide our thoughts and actions so as to display a heart of worship to Him. We close by asking Him to reveal to us how we love on each other in a way that we have not done in either a long time or in a new way.

So let me share 3 simple ways to help guide you into acts of sacrificial service to your spouse that will also display a heart of worship to God for the spouse He has graciously given to you.

  1. Start the day praying for your spouse: As I stated above, you must start your day in the proper posture and direction for your marriage. Thanking God for what He has given you. Remember, you are married to His child.
  2. Be a student of your spouse: Watch and observe those acts of service that make them smile and what eases their burdens. If you see that when you cleared the table, your wife was smiling and thanking you, then remember she appreciates you taking the lead and allowing her to rest.  If you know your husband enjoys having a cup of coffee in the morning, maybe you make sure to bring him a cup of coffee before he goes to get his own.  Study, take mental notes, and be observant.
  3. Expect NOTHING in return: When you serve your spouse, you must do it with a sacrificial heart. In other words, DO NOT expect anything in return. Not a thank you, not an acknowledgement, not even the possibility of an act of service in return.  You serve your spouse out of reverence and worship to God, first and foremost.  Your spouse is a gift from God and the way you serve them is a display of your thanks to Him for that gift.

Our prayer is that each day you display love to one another through your words, actions and deeds.  By the way, it’s never too late to change the bar of soap.