Clippin’ Grace Coupons in the Ministry

I do not deserve anything.  I am unrighteous (Romans 3:10) and a sinner (Romans 3:23).  How blessed (Ephesians 1:3) to be able to say with confidence, “I know I am saved by the grace of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9), to be able to sing “Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone,” (Colossians 3:15-17), and to rejoice in the assurance of heaven (John 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Another grace gift that I do not deserve is the blessed privilege of marriage.  That blessing is increased by virtue of God placing us in ministry together where we serve side-by-side. As I pastor, my wife is my faithful ministry companion who prays for me, disciples ladies and children, and makes our house a welcoming place to bear one another’s burdens.  In the midst of grace-enabled ministry, we both understand that our first ministry is to each other.

Therefore, in what is usually a busy time of the year, we begin the holiday season by visiting a local coffee shop.  There we pull out our calendars and schedule dates that help us set aside time to continue to build our marriage so we are fit to minister to others.  Hence, we are preparing to clip more grace coupons.

Yesterday was one of those dates and it included a trip to our favorite restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN, The Old Mill Pottery Cafe and Grille.  We like it so much that while attending the Couples Advance in November, we enjoyed their scrumptious food three-days-in-a- row.  (We got others hooked on it, too!)

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and first part of the evening in one of our top five favorite places . . . Dollywood.  How amazing to walk along hand-in-hand in the midst of a gazillion Christmas lights, sit through three shows that unashamedly gave the gospel, and to be entertained and welcomed in a wholesome way!  Oh, by the way, the coffee and warm, fresh cinnamon roll was good, too!  Brrrr, it was cold outside!!

Truth is, there’s no one I’d rather share these grace gifts of God with than my wife.  Sometimes, we are just like two kids again just soaking up the moment!

We returned home refreshed, blessed, closer to each other, and ready to clip more grace coupons as we minister to others today and through this Christmas season!  God is good!  Grace is sufficient!

Making Your Marriage an All-Time Event

My wife and I have often said to others and reminded ourselves, “Marriage takes work everyday.”  Yes it does.  One of the things that we have tried to do over the years is make the ordinary an event.  Here’s what I mean.
A trip the grocery store:  Don’t just go to the store together to buy groceries and see how quick you can get it done.  Shop together like you are on a date.  In the early years, Denise and I would go grocery shopping at midnight.  We had fun! If an old love song comes over the intercom that takes you back in time, stop, look at each other and give a wink, share a kiss, or even a little dance on Aisle 8 in front of the Ritz Crackers!  Use grocery items to share a love thought just between you!  Laugh.  Hold hands.  Let the world know you are a happy, joyful married couple that loves the Lord!  Don’t be a bore on aisle four!  Make it an event!
Supper time:  Eat at home and not around the bar counter.  Turn off the TV, internet, and smartphones.  Play some romantic music.  Light a candle or two.  Use cloth napkins. When you are finished, play a game, read Scripture, and/or pray together.  Don’t be in a hurry.  If you have children, still do all the above.  They need to learn from you what a good marriage is all about.  Make it an event that your children will want to attend  when they are married!
Bring her flowers:  Don’t just bring her a dozen flowers and hand them to her like a set of car keys.  Go to the front door.  Ring the bell.  When she comes to the door, deliver them to her!  Add some pizazz to it!  Enjoy the moment!  Hugs, kisses, endearing looks into her eyes are good, . . . real good!!  See, you’ve just made it an event!
So, when it comes to the ordinary things of marriage, don’t just have a dry peanut butter sandwich; put some jam on it!! Work at it! Make it an event!

Barbeque Sundae

Marriage is a wonderful grace gift from the Lord (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:18-33).  How blessed I am for the Lord to guide me to my right woman almost 35 ½ years ago.

Our first outing was a pure friendship date and nothing else.  My first “crush” on a girl was in the first grade, and all through elementary school, it was “will you go with me?” questions. Then I continued to date through junior high and high school always hoping I would marry my “childhood sweetheart.”  When I arrived at college, it was a “wow moment” when I realized there were three girls to every one guy on campus!  By the time my junior year rolled around, I was done with the dating scene.  Too many heart breaks, too many tense moments, too many temptations, too many “crash-and-burn” dates, and I had had it!

Hence, the first outing with Denise was as I said earlier, a friendship style date.  My Chevrolet Impala had a bench seat, which always begged for your date to sit next to you. But on this evening, I did not even ask.  She sat on her side, and I drove.  No stress; just us being ourselves.  You see, Denise too, had gotten tired of the dating scene as well.  We went out for supper and bowling.  We had a blast!  We were just two people having fun with no expectations or strings attached.

The reason for such a good evening was our attitude toward dating.  Having heard some solid teaching on the doctrine of right man and right woman from Genesis 2, we began to believe in the sovereignty of God to bring His mate for both of us.  His way is always perfect (Psalm 18:30), and He can orchestrate life so much better than we could ever imagine.  So, with calmness in our hearts, we both had a great time that night.

Yes, we continued to “go out” and realized that God was directing this relationship.  Our dating years were so much fun!  After I graduated from college, we were married.  Now after thirty-three years, we’re still having fun!

You are probably wondering where the title “Barbeque Sundae” comes into this story.  Well, it’s simply this.  We have found a quaint restaurant near us in Limestone, TN, known as Old Pilot Hill General Store.  They have a unique entrée on the menu known as a Barbeque Sundae which is delicious barbeque, beans, and slaw all layered and served in a mason jar.  Recently, because Denise and I are still dating, we drove to the country, sat outside on the large porch, side-by-side, and an enjoyed a quaint meal, the quiet and each other!

When you wait on God’s best, work every day at your marriage, and keep dating, it’s like a Barbeque Sundae—-it all goes together!  And it’s good!!