The Scenic Route in Marriage

No beach trip this summer . . . bummer!! For several years, my wife and I have begun the summer season with a trip to North Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head Island.

Well. thanks to COVID, our plans, like yours, have been constantly rearranged. Oh well , , , we have just continued on the scenic route in our marriage.

Since I love to drive, and my wife likes to ride, we have enjoyed many, many journeys over the years. Some short, some medium and some very long. No matter, every trip is an event, an adventure on the scenic route.

This past Saturday night, I told my wife to bring a change of clothes to church on Sunday and be prepared to head out after our morning ministries.

Watagua Lake has been our “most-go-to place” since the middle of March, so the destination decision was not difficult. Our afternoon trip began with an “On the Go Order” from Dunkin Donuts for refreshing iced tea. Then it was a stop at KFC for a four-piece grilled chicken dinner to go. Our favorite spot at the lake is Watagua Point. Since it was Labor Day weekend, all the picnic tables were taken. No problem. We grabbed our camping chairs and found a somewhat shady spot with a fabulous view of the lake and the mountains in the background. Just being together was all we needed.

After dinner, Denise took a nap, and I read. We chatted, prayed, took pictures, went for a walk, shared the blessings from the morning church gatherings, and just enjoyed being together.

The key to taking the scenic route in marriage is just simply enjoying the journey and most of all, the one you are with!! We made memories. We made an intentional investment in our marriage. We held hands, kissed, and hugged each other. As we say, “We like us!”

No matter whether your beach trip has been cancelled or COVID has rearranged your plans, you are still married. Make the investments. Enjoy the scenic route.

Can You Find a Man?

While reading Jeremiah 5 recently, these words caught my attention:

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem;
See now and know;
And seek in her open places
If you can find a man,
If there is anyone who executes justice,
Who seeks the truth,
And I will pardon her
. (5:1)

In Jeremiah’s day, Jerusalem was a corrupt city. If a man could be found that sought the truth and executed justice, God would hold back His judgment. It was as if there was not even one man who did right and sought after truth.

When we see the course of so many men in our nation today living out their unbridled passion for violence cloaked in terms of justice and making decisions based upon lies, we wonder, where are the men of truth and justice?

It is time for us to rise up and be those men! We need to be men who love God, love our wives, and love life.

A man who loves God searches for the truth in the pages of God’s Word. We must be like Ezra who prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (7:10). Sir, are you a seeker of truth who can be found in the “open places” declaring truth to others? Are you walking justly (Micah 6:8) because truth dwells in your heart? A man who has something to say is one who loves and personally knows the truth of God’s Word! The world doesn’t need anymore human viewpoint!! We must be men who are known in the streets for speaking Truth!

A man who loves his wife lives out Ephesians 5:18-33 by the grace of God. He is able to love his wife correctly because he loves God with all of his heart (Matthew 22:37). Furthermore, a husband who submits to God (5:21) will have no problem living a life of servant submission to his wife. Men, you don’t need a better wife to be happy. You need to be the best servant husband for your wife and the testimony of the gospel (Philippians 2:1-8). What do you say in the “streets” of your town about your wife and about marriage in particular? Does your love for her portray to a lost world the glories of marriage; the gospel of Jesus Christ? We must be men who are known in the streets for full-on loyalty to their wives!

A man who loves God and his wife will also love life. With all the fluctuation and mandates about COVID-19 as well as the division and sin in our country, sometimes it’s hard to love life. Solomon laments in Ecclesiastes 2:18, Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. “The healthy Christian believer certainly would not hate life, no matter how difficult the circumstances might be. Certainly some great men . . . have [even] wanted to die, such as Job, Moses, Elijah, and Jonah, but we must not take these special instances as examples for us to follow. All of these men finally changed their minds. The Christian should love life (1 Peter 3:10; Psalm 34:12), seeking to put the most into it and getting the most out of it, to the glory of God. We may not enjoy everything in life, or be able to explain everything about life, but that is not important. We live by promises and not by explanations, and we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).”(Warren Wiersbe) We must be men who are known in the streets for loving life!

Hey man, what are you known for “in the streets”?

Know What We Were Doing . . . ?

This past week, my wife and I have been recalling some of the events of our first week of married life which all began on June 20, 1981. We would say to each other, “Know what we were doing today 39 years ago?”

We reminisced to an outdoor gospel sing by the Inspirations at Inspiration Park in Bryson City, NC; to what we ate during our honeymoon week (Hamburger Helper, Pork Chop Casserole, Golden Grahams cereal); to the eight-sided cabin on Lake Santeetlah, NC, “in the middle of nowhere;” to where we attended Sunday morning service in Robbinsville, NC; to our drive through the Smokies to Gatlinburg; to our “hike” up Clingman’s Dome on the spur-of-the-moment (Denise was still wearing her Sunday dress and heels. I carried her 3/4 of the way…seriously.); to our stay at Rocky Waters Motel in Gatlinburg in which we had only enough money left over to buy two TV dinners for supper which we thoroughly enjoyed on our room balcony!! I promise you, the adventures have continued!!

Recently my wife shared a quote with me she had heard on a podcast about marriage. “Couples who have been married for over 35 years enjoy their marriage as much as the first year.”

One of the key ingredients, among others to accomplishing a refreshing marriage, is husband and wife must make many more investments in their marriage than withdrawals, and that is every day.

Our marriage, like every one else’s, has had days of rocky waters, no pun intended. Praise the Lord for His grace to enable us to work through those churning, troubling moments and days.

In order to look back over your marriage with joy and a good dose of sentimentality, you must . . .

  • Live in the world of forgiveness and not apologies.
  • Never stop dating.
  • Always keep your spouse above your children.
  • Pray together.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Share the Word together.
  • Shut out the world.
  • Enjoy romance.
  • Make frequent trips, husband, to Kroger’s for those $10 dozen roses! (Sometimes on sale for $8)
  • Do things out of the ordinary.
  • Hold hands and pray together before you go to bed.
  • Put down your cellphone or tablet.
  • Take the lead, men, and ladies, let him lead.
  • Walk in humility.
  • Never speak of your spouse in a negative fashion in public nor run to your parents when there’s a conflict.
  • Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, etc. like you did or wanted to do when you were dating. Have at it now! It’s legal and fun!!
  • Be a servant.
  • Adore each other.
  • Don’t be a “tight-wad” all the time, guys. Splurge on your sweetheart once-in-awhile.
  • Prepare your children to leave home.

There are many, many other things to add, but let me just ask, “What were you doing ____ years ago?”

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
(Proverbs 5:18-19)

Treating COVID-19 Marriage Conflicts

I heard someone say years ago when asked how long he had been married, “38 years, . . . and 36 of ‘um have been good ones.”

So, has COVID-19 stretched your marriage like a rubber band? Has it created additional conflict due to being together too much? Has the stress of the quarantine created some tough times?

Well, let me encourage you about something. The issue is not the quarantine or the coronavirus. The issue is that two sinners are living under the same roof.

Recently I heard about a book that intrigues me in regards to pre-marital and marital counseling. (I have not read it yet.) Authored by Dave Harvey, the title is When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. Harvey says, “Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin.”

The coronavirus cannot cause strife in your marriage. The cause was there before COVID-19. The cause is your old sin nature which is full of pride, selfishness, criticism, harsh words, envy, jealousy, anger, fear, and much more. It stands in constant opposition to God and has a downward gravitational pull.

Let me give you a challenge. I could offer suggestions, but only the Word of God has the power to transform you, your situation, and your marriage in tough times. Therefore, here’s the encouragement, and men, take the lead. As a couple read Romans 5:1 – 6:23; 8:1-39; and Ephesians 4:17 – 5:33. Pray before you read the Word, then read it together. Read it slow. Read it out loud. Ask the Spirit to reveal Christ to you through the Word. Ask each other after reading a verse or two or more, “What does this passage say to us about our marriage? What do we need surrender? How do I need to change?” Take off the face masks and be transparent before the Lord and each other. Soak your soul in the Word of God and lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

There are still many unknowns about the coronavirus, but that is not the case with marriage. God created marriage and has given us the manual for marriage if we will just read it, obey it and trust God for His way in it.

Be as willing and proactive to protect the gift of marriage from the sin virus as you are the coronavirus.

A Quarantined Marriage

Monday, my in-laws celebrated 65 years of marriage!! Wow!! What a milestone by God’s grace! And let me say right now, they are still like two little love-birds continuing to feather their nest and keep their marriage fresh. But I will tell you, they made a major adjustment in their relationship when my father-in-law retired early as a plant engineer. My mother-in-law was not used to Dad being at home every day. Being the consummate servant that he is, well, he kept “getting under mom’s feet.” I promise you, there were indeed some adjustments for both of them.

Is that how you feel wives, now that many of the husbands are working at home or vice versa due to COVID-19? Perhaps at first it was a welcomed change. But if these weeks move forward at their projected pace, how’s your quarantined marriage going to look? Will it be like a brief video that is making its way around the internet that has a married man listening to a voice recording that says, “Because of coronavirus, you are going to be quarantined, but you have a choice. Do you A) quarantine with your wife and child or B? And before the voice can announce what “B” is, the father says, “B!” Or, will you make the adjustments and come out on the other side of this trial having put into your marriage the ingredients that can make it 65 years if the Lord wills?

May I say first of all, let’s not waste this opportunity. In spite of the trial, God has given us an opportunity to push the reset button, but not to go back to the way it was before. Reset priorities, schedule, goals, passion, direction, values, etc.

As for your marriage, this quarantine time gives you the opportunity to:

  1. Pray together (And not just at meal time). Stop and pray several times throughout the day. Share your fears, concerns, and anxieties with each other. Then compassionately pray for one another.
  2. Read God’s Word together at breakfast, lunch or supper or before bedtime.
  3. Read a devotional book together such as Paul Tripp’s, New Morning Mercies.
  4. Read a marriage book together such as Emerson Eggrich’s, Love and Respect.
  5. Memorize a passage of scripture together that is relevant to this trial such as Joshua 1:9; Psalms 27:1-4; 34:1-9; 119:92-93; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2 Peter 3:18.
  6. Spend time together on the couch cuddled up like you used to do when you were dating and/or first married. As a matter of fact, go back to some of the things you did when you were newlyweds that added spark to your relationship. Get out of the rut. (Saturday night, my wife and I cuddled on the couch listening to Kenny Roger’s love songs that we’ve enjoyed through our dating and married life. Sure was fun to just be still and hold each other!)
  7. Put your children to bed so you can have some quiet time together talking, praying, reading, playing a game, watching a movie, etc.
  8. Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22-23).
  9. Be forgiving (Ephesians 4:26, 29-32).
  10. Laugh (Proverbs 17:22).
  11. Be romantic with each other.
  12. Take a drive through the country . . . not a fast one either!
  13. Show love and respect for each other by your appearance. Don’t stay in your pjs all day.
  14. Take walks together (hand-in-hand) or work out together.
  15. Work with a pastor or a biblical counselor via the phone or Zoom to repair some hard places in your marriage.
  16. Build a better home for your children. They need the security on knowing that mom and dad really do love each other.
  17. Most of all, grow in your personal relationship with God. The very best thing you can be and do for your spouse and family is to be a growing, maturing believer in Christ (Ephesians 5:18-33; 2 Peter 3:18). Since you have extra time on your hands due to the gym being closed, ball games cancelled, restaurants shuttered, etc., prioritize the most important relationship!

“Divorce rates in China have risen sharply since the coronvirus pandemic began, and America may well be next. It’s understandable. With social distancing measures in place, people are stuck with their spouses in close quarters indefinitely, which eliminates the necessary space many of us need to actually miss our [husband/wife].” (Parade, March 18, 2020)

A marriage that lasts 65 years has to be worked at day-by-day with many adjustments along the way. Don’t let your marriage be a casualty to COVID-19. Make social distancing work for your marriage, not against your marriage. The grace of God defies all of man’s reasoning and ability. Don’t waste the opportunity!

Let’s Cheer ‘Em On!

Pulling into the Tweetsie Trail parking lot for our early morning run, there gathered around the trailhead were 30 or more college students. They were in fine shape bringing back memories of my pre-gotta-watch-what-you-eat, what’s-that-hanging-over-your-belt days! They were all lean, trim and in optimum running shape.

Andrew and I headed down the trail and about two miles in, we heard the sound of runners gaining on us. These college age gazelles in various groupings passed us with great ease.

As we approached the three mile mark, some of these students were gathered waiting for the rest of their gang. Are you ready for this? They saw us coming and formed lines on either side of the trail and began clapping for us and cheering us on!!! Wow!! They did not know us. We were not in their group. The only thing that unified us was what called us to be on the Tweetsie Trail . . . running.

As Andrew and I continued our run, a pertinent application struck a chord in my heart. This is how Christians should treat others, especially those in the family of God.

So, how should we treat others in the family of God? Should we carry long-term grudges against them? Should we withhold forgiveness? Should we just write them off? Should we misapply scripture to fit our reasons for distancing ourselves from our brother and/or sister in Christ? Should we gossip about them? Should we make them feel like a nobody when seen in public? What does the Word of God say?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:10, 16)

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

You may not run races here on earth, but if you are a believer, you are running a race that will count in Glory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1-3). Hence, may I encourage you to cheer on your brother and sister in Christ? Should we treat them different here than we will in Heaven? Who needs to hear you clapping and cheering them on?

Valentine’s Day Everyday!

Roses

Roses are red. Violets are blue. If you don’t spend big on Valentine’s Day, your partner might end things with you.

It’s expected that more than half (53%) of all Americans will pull out all the stops this February 14th, spending a collective $30 billion on all manner of heart-shaped treats and experiences.

However, signs point to Lotharios tightening the old purse strings in 2019, with spending on Valentine’s Day down 10%, falling from $30.3 billion in 2018 to $30 billion in 2019.

If you’re one of the 53% of Americans planning to spend on someone for Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ve got deep pockets: The average person is expected to spend $221.34.

These Valentine’s facts were posted January 16, 2019 on finder.com.  Wow!

Valentine’s Day is a very special day, and it’s fun to try to express our love in big ways!

This week, I cooked supper for my Sweetheart of 37+ years.  I found an easy recipe from Ree Drummond on the Food Network website and went to work.  Within an hour, we had lemon-pepper steak grilled in butter, seasoned steak fries with hollandaise sauce, blue cheese wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese crumbles, and parmesan toast.  (Now, a side note.  I’m not running to take my wife’s place in the kitchen!!)  We ate by the fireplace, Denise gave me a gift, and afterwards, we watched two episodes of the Andy Griffith Show and played two rounds of Take Two.  Total cost for the meal:  Maybe $10.

I have good news for you.  You can have Valentine’s Day everyday, and it won’t cost you $221.34 each day!

How?  Just work at your marriage by the grace of God each day.

  1. Tell your spouse each day, “I love you.”
  2. Kiss your spouse each day–not a peck on the cheek or lips, either!
  3. Hold hands.
  4. Take 10-30 minutes each day to pay attention and communicate with each other.  No distractions (kids, phones, TV, etc).  You can do it!
  5. Leave love notes around the house, in the car, in his shirt pocket, in her purse, etc.
  6. Text each other throughout the day expressing your love for one another and what you are up to at the moment.
  7. Be demonstrative in your love toward your spouse in front of the children.  They need to see what marriage really is like.
  8. Plan an inexpensive date (A ride in the car after supper, a walk through the park, sometime spent on the back porch, a personal pan pizza served on china plates after the kids are in bed, read old love letters and cards, just talk as you look into each other’s eyes, shut the door to your bedroom making it off limits to the kids, listen to some old love songs, recreated a date from before you were married, watch your wedding video, etc.)
  9. Open the car door and store door for your wife.  Seat her at the table, too.
  10. Look for opportunities each day to say, “I love you. I am thinking of you.”  If you don’t know what to do, pray about it . . . seriously.

Big event days are indeed fun.  But, it’s all the little things you do that make those big event days special and not “make-up-for-it” days!  And, . . . the first sentence of the finder.com report will have no bearing on you!

Because Love Has No Limits!

“What would you do for someone you love?”

That was the headline at the top of our local newspaper insert, Parade. Oh, and yes, in this instant internet age I still read the newspaper. Nevertheless, that question piqued my interest here on the brink of a new year.

Immediately my thoughts were turned to, “What would I do for the One Who Loves me eternally? What would I become and do the for Christ Who gave Himself for my redemption and justification? What would I do for Christ Who demonstrates His for me love today, tomorrow and for all eternity?”
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In these past few days, we have heard much through preaching, podcasts, and social media to encourage us to begin a new year with a “clean sheet / a fresh start.” Therefore, may I simply ask each of us to consider what we will be and do in 2019 for the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who motivates us by His eternal, unconditional love?

The answer should be the same one word answer as found under the question in the Parade insert that prompted this post. That word . . . EVERYTHING.

 

Twelve Days of True Love

What will you do these next twelve days?  Look for a partridge in a pear tree?  How about five gold rings?  Maybe eight maids a milking?  Six geese a laying?  (Better watch where you step!)  No matter, they all came from your “true love.”  Wow!

When you think of true love, I doubt you consider a partridge, milking a cow, seven swans gliding along on a pristine pond or drummers having at it!  Now, I will give you this much, ladies, you might think of  gold rings!!

So let’s set aside all of the aforementioned “true love” gifts and consider how you can give true love in the next twelve days between you and your spouse.

  1.  May sure your love relationship with the Lord is fresh and daily renewed (John 3:16; Matthew 22:37; John 15:9; Luke 10:42; Romans 12:1-2).
  2. Share with your spouse the blessings of the love relationship between you and your Lord!
  3. Join hands with your spouse and together talk/pray to Jehovah Who loves you with an everlasting, unconditional love.
  4. Enjoy the marriage love relationship that God gave you by taking time to just look into each other’s eyes and share terms of endearment with each other and words of appreciation for each other.
  5. After the kids go to bed, make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie. Be sure to snuggle up with each other and turn off your smartphone! Your relationship with each other is more important than your children and phone notifications.
  6. Talk a walk in the snow holding hands all the while.
  7. Sit by the Christmas tree and read Luke 2 or a Christmas devotional.
  8. Make Christmas sugar cookies together and be sure to give each other some sugar!
  9. Hang some mistletoe and . . . .
  10. Give each other a small gift by the tree each night until Christmas; play Christmas music on Pandora.
  11. Breakfast served to your spouse in bed on Saturday morning.
  12. Without interruptions, sit by the fire and make up your own list of twelve true love gifts.

I promise you, this will be better than three French hens, four calling birds or ten lords a leaping!

37 and Counting

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According to takemeback, “It was Saturday. The US president was Ronald Reagan (Republican). Famous people born on this day include Céréna (singer) and Sarah Marshall. In that special week of June people in US were listening to Medley by Stars On 45. In UK Being With You by Smokey Robinson was in the top 5 hits. Dragonslayer, directed by Matthew Robbins, was one of the most viewed movies released in 1981 while The Beverly Hills Diet by Judy Mazel was one of the best selling books. On TV people were watching Bellamy. If you liked video games you were probably playing Colony 7 or Mystery Fun House. But much more happened that day.”

And that is exactly right! Much more did happen on that day. It was a hot, humid Saturday in Sumter, SC, where a sweet, precious, petite gal from Winchester, KY, walked the aisle to be joined in marriage to a tall, lanky, man dressed up in white tails. Not many in the world knew about it, but it meant the world to us.

Now 37 years later, what seemed like a long time to be married is now becoming more-and-more, “Where did the years go?’

Those 37 years amount to 13,514 days. Wow!

Looking back over all the joys, sorrows, hardships, fun, decisions, children, deaths, answers to prayer, struggles, laughter, misunderstandings, steps of faith, assumptions, dates, difficulties, delights, disappointments, discouragements, etc., I must say two things among many that could be said.

First of all, for a marriage to thrive, both husband and wife must work every day at their marriage. That’s 13,514 opportunities to love, forgive, kiss, listen, hug, serve, sacrifice, do the little things, look at each other, talk, date, pray, care, etc.

The second thing I must say is, “through it all, God’s been good.”

Tomorrow, we will work on day 13,515!