Monthly Archives: March 2014

Keeping the relationship young and strong

An older married couple had fallen into a rut of ignoring each other and taking one another for granted. So they went to a counselor who recommended they say sweet things to each other. “Like what?” the husband asked. “Well,” replied the counselor, “when you are at the dinner table you could say, “Would you please pass the sugar, Sugar?” Or “Pass the honey, Honey.” The husband thought he’d try this the next day. So at the table, he asked his wife, “Would you pass the tea, Bag?” (Oh my, he didn’t get it, did he?!)

How do you keep a relationship both vibrantly young and growing in maturity? My bride and I have only been married (almost) 42 years, so we are still growing in this area. 🙂 Trust, me, we have made our share of mistakes along the way. But we have also committed ourselves to investing in our relationship. Here are some thoughts on building a strong relationship.

Commitment eliminates fear and anxiety.

Hold hands while walking. Gentle affection meant for you also inspires others.

Weekly dates.* It might be a walk, or a trip to McDs for a $1 cone. Or even a tour of the Menard’s lumber store. Also spend some time knee-to-knee, face-to-face, reminding each other how glad you are that they said, “I do.” Remind each other, “I still do!”

Monthly get aways.* Marcia really likes road trips. They don’t have to have a particular destination, just the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy God’s creation on the back roads. Once in awhile, go to a restaurant where you have to look DOWN at the menu, not UP. Talk about your dreams and aspirations.

Yearly memory makers.* I really enjoy our peaceful acreage that speaks peace to both of us. But we have found that getting away to make some memories is important. Ours aren’t often exotic or expensive. But they always provide an opportunity to enjoy each other away from the daily chores at home. We always take a reflective view of our married years on our anniversary, recalling favorite people, events, and places.

Be honest with each other. We have always had this ‘rule’ since when we were first friends: never complain about your spouse to others. The bible instructs us that if we have problems with each other, go to THAT person, not others. It makes for a lot more respectful and honoring relationship. Don’t you agree?

Admit when you are wrong. And even if you aren’t wrong, practice saying, “You might be right,” instead of arguing some needless and trivial point that really doesn’t matter.

Read the bible together and pray together. Make God the center of your marriage.

These are just some ways we try to keep our relationship alive and focused on our values. Maybe you have suggestions you’d like to share. We’d love to hear them.

* (Thanks to Robert Lewis for these 3 suggestions.)

Let Go of the Lie!

Ann Voskamp wrote a most relevant essay, Let Go of the Lie. In it she relates vignettes from childhood that grew up into adulthood. And they all began with a lie that she believed. You and I can relate to that.

We have been subjected to lies ever since the serpent twisted the truth in the garden with his first lie: “Did God really say…” One question and the seed of doubt is planted, ready to take root if we let it, ready to destroy our life or at least steal our joy. Throughout our lives we have confronted lies about ourselves:
You are not good at anything.
You’re not smart enough.
You’re ugly.
You are not worthy.
You’re damaged goods.
Nobody likes you.

And we’ve been surrounded by lies about the nature of the world, the purpose of our lives, and the character of God. Voskamp says, “There can be lies about ready to poison you wherever you turn.” Bite into the lie and it bites back, injecting poisonous venom into the mind. “The truth will set you free.” Ah yes, but only if we believe it and apply it to our lives. You can not be free by holding on to a part of the truth and all of a lie.

Voskamp advocates, “Turn around and shake off that snake
Because its head’s been long crushed, no — pulverized.
So, for the sake of God and you still breathing with time—- let go of the lie.”

We have to know the truth to recognize the lie. Lies melt in the face of truth. Their venom becomes harmless. “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” Isaiah 44:20

“The bottom line, Lie-Crushing Truth is simply this:
I am loved … because I am chosen by Jesus.
I am known … because I am named by Jesus.
I am fearless … because I am safe in Jesus.
I am brave … because I am always with Jesus.” (Voskamp)

What lies do you face? Learn what the Truth says about them. Repeat it, out loud if you need to.

Shake off the snake.
Let go of the Lie.


(This short article taken from Focus on the family.)

Do you ever struggle with “a lack of faith”? Faith is not something we merely have or do not have. It involves a process of ups and downs, victories and setbacks, triumphs and disappointments with every passing day. That’s because faith is an aspect of our relationship with God—a product of our walk with Christ and the constant, gentle influence of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Every Christian has to wrestle with doubt, fear, failure and inconsistency. In a certain sense, this is the only reliable road to a true and lasting faith that can weather the storms of life. Even the disciples of Jesus (“men of little faith” in the Lord’s affectionate phrase) had to find their way through this dark, discouraging tunnel. Just at that moment when belief should have come easiest to them—when the Risen Christ Himself stood before them on a mountaintop in Galilee—Matthew records that “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

So if you sometimes question, know that you’re not alone; as a matter of fact, you’re in very good company. Meanwhile, you can take courage in the thought that even the merest shred of faith—faith as tiny as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20)—is all that it takes to elicit an approving smile from your heavenly Father (Hebrews 11:6).


Someone once commented that we have to always be on our guard because the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10+) doesn’t provide defensive armor for the back of the body. Thanks to Cindy for finding Isaiah 52:12 for me: “… The Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

One of my aunts sent me an article by Pastor Dave Hess, entitled Shielded, that speaks to a similar aspect of God’s protective shield.

Pastor Dave contracted AML, the same type of leukemia as I have, when he was 39. He talks about not expecting to live throughout the week, never mind a year. One member of his congregation reminded him of a verse about God being a shield around us. (Psalm 3:3 – You are a shield around me oh Lord.) Dave had rather dismissed the reminder as a nice gesture, but “real life miracles today?” Then at the end of his last round of chemo, his appendix burst. Surgery wasn’t an option because his platelets were so low, he would probably bleed to death. And his white counts were so low he couldn’t fight the infection without the surgery. Amazingly, his white blood levels rose and his platelets multiplied enough so the surgeon could at least proceed with exploratory surgery to assess the damage.

The doctor was amazed by what he discovered. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” the surgeon explained. Holding up a photo, he pointed out what remained of the burst appendix. Then he pointed to a circular tent-like structure composed of tightly knit adhesions. Making a circle, he said that this kind of scar tissue is the strongest known and normally is seen only after someone has had surgery. He explained that this protective scar tissue ‘wall’ contained all the toxins within it. All the adhesions acted as little ‘shields’ packed together to protect the rest of Dave’s body! (Yes, miracles do still happen.)

What kind of shield do you pick up when you are in trouble? God provides us with a shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts meant to harm and dismay us. And he himself provides a shield that surrounds us with goodwill (Psalm 5:12). He promises: “under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

When getting dressed and changing clothes, let’s remember to also put on the shield of our faithful God.

If it keeps you from God, let it go

Yesterday, we spoke of being foreigners in a strange land. We are called to separate ourselves from the world, not physically, but behaviorally. Our actions and thoughts should be modeled after Christ, not the rest of the world. Perhaps the most frequent criticism of Christians is that they are hypocritical in their actions. That’s one of those judgments that carries some truth and also is also a cop-out, because we all are hypocritical at times. None of us hit the mark perfectly all the time. We all fall short.

But tell me, what about our lives looks like we aren’t attached to the world maybe just a little too much? A look inside our closets, garages, day planners, and checkbooks may be a good start. How many things and activities are we involved with that separate us from God rather than connect us with him? How many isolate us from others rather than draw us purposefully toward others? Garrison Keillor once observed that something happened when people stopped sitting on their front porch at night to greet passers-by and instead retreated to the back yard behind their privacy fences. Hmmm, worth some thought.

But it is not just our stuff but also our thoughts and ambitions. George Barna conducts extensive surveys of evangelicals across the country and regularly concludes that the thinking and ambitions of Christians do not look very much different from nonbelievers. We define our ‘success’ by how much money we make, how cute of a house we have, and how much entertainment we pursue.

I don’t bring this up to beat up fellow Christians, but to encourage us all to take an honest look at our stuff, our activities, our thoughts about and conversations with others, and our dreams and ambitions. It’s not necessarily wrong to have nice stuff, nor is it some virtue to live in poverty, unless God calls you to it. But let’s bring all this into the Light and expose it to the truth that God speaks. Does it bring you closer to or separate you farther from God and others?

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2:11-12

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

What kind of an ambassador are you?

There has been some opposition to recently appointed ambassadors who appear to be not only unqualified for their jobs but also apathetic toward their duties. It is reported that the new ambassador to Hungary is completely unaware of USA strategic interests there. The new ambassador to Norway seems clueless of that county’s political structure or really anything about the country. In fairness, this may be more common than we think but it is concerning none the less.

An ambassador is a high-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country. Appointed for a special and often for a temporary assignment, it is the role of the ambassador to represent goodwill.

Did you know that you are an ambassador? Paul says we are ambassadors for Christ. One of our primary responsibilities is to represent Jesus while we live in a “foreign country.” The epistles talk repeatedly that we are “aliens” or “foreigners” in a strange land. In other words, this is not our permanent home. 1 John 2 reminds us that we are not to get attached to anything in this world. It will turn us away from our job as ambassadors.

What kind of an ambassador are you? (I ask the same question about myself.) How qualified are we to be good ambassadors for Christ? I know the phrase “He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. OK, but do our behaviors demonstrate that we are being equipped? Or does our Christ nature shut off when we leave through the physical church doors?

Pastor Chad Roberts started a website to give a place for dialog from service workers who have stories to tell about ‘Christians’ who have belittled and berated them and generally demonstrated bad behavior. You will cringe to read the stories at but it might also be an eye opener and reminder that we are ambassadors, whether we want to be or not. The website is called “Sundays are the worst” in reference to the number of ‘Christians’ who flock to restaurants after Sunday church service, only to have quickly forgotten who they are when they walk out of church.

Now, I get it that lots of people are rude and demanding. But they all aren’t called to be ambassadors. Christians are.

So here is the question, “What kind of ambassadors are we?” Do our actions, attitudes, and behaviors reflect that we truly follow Jesus? Or do we treat others in the service industry (restaurants, call centers, customer service, hotels) as if they were beneath us? Phil 2:3-4 tells us to put others first and doesn’t exclude people in service jobs. In fact Jesus modeled this when He washed the disciples feet, normally the job of a slave in those days.

Show others there are Christians who care, true ambassadors of Christ who try to live in this foreign land with kindness and goodness. And while you are at it, leave a generous tip!

World Water Day – March 22

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42

Millions of people across the globe have no access to clean water. Many have to walk miles just for a drink or to wash their face. Thousands of children die everyday due to this vicious dilemma.

Today, on World Water Day, would you consider refraining from wasting water while running down the drain? No, that bit of water won’t help others around the world. But it will help


by being mindful of the needs of others, thankful for the blessings you freely have, and by giving you pause for prayer.

If you want to do more, you will find ways to help people in desperate need of water. Visit: and

Great hope for today

Many people have feelings of worthless or low self-esteem.

Looking up at the stars on a clear night has a way of putting our minute lives into perspective. We are quite small in comparison to the vastness of God’s creation. Crises also have a way of humbling us in a most vivid way. At the end of ourselves with no hope for our own ability to solve something like cancer, the loss of a loved one, joblessness, financial ruin, or other catastrophe, we come to realize our profound dependence on God. We realize that our very breaths are measured by Him. And we feel very small in the presence of the creator of the universe, the one who has no beginning or end.

But this smallness, this sense of being unimportant to the grand scheme of things is not the whole picture. There is reason to have great joy and hope right now. For God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to rescue us. When? When we were still rebellious sinners, since we were determined to go our own way. God says that to whoever believes in His Son, He gives them the right to be children of God. And not just adopted children but also heirs of His kingdom, an eternal life of joy, a life with no tears or pain or sorrow. And part of that kingdom can be experienced right now. Real joy and hope that starts now and lasts forever!

We are distracted by other things in this world, things we think are greater pleasure. Even in the important and necessary things of life, we forget God, and we forget to thank Him. And how does our great God respond? He graciously waits for us. Why does He love us so? I really don’t know; only that He made us and longs to spend time with us. Just like you long to spend time with your loved ones and feel fulfilled when they choose to spend time with you, God enjoys being with us. I am convinced this is partly for His pleasure but also because He desires the very best for us. Admittedly, don’t you want the very best for your life? Don’t you want the very best for those you love? It is found in one place, with God.

In the small and big parts of your life you are of great importance. You are highly valued, esteemed, loved and treasured. So if you are feeling down and unimportant, invite God to your pity party. He will remind you of how precious you are and you will experience more of how awesome our God really is.

Profit from suffering

A friend shared a devotional thought from Charles Stanley. He talks about how most of us are quick to avoid suffering, both our own and the suffering of others. It makes us uncomfortable. It often seems so pointless. It takes us far out of our comfort zone, that cozy cocoon in which we like to shelter ourselves and isolate ourselves from pain. But pain and suffering are not without meaning. I’ve written of this in the past, but it bears repeating (at least to my ears).

Like I commented in the “jars of clay” post, suffering can bring us closer to God if we allow it. When confronted with forces we cannot control, we are reminded of how much we depend on God, sometimes for our very next breath. Stanley explains, “Your ultimate purpose should not be to achieve pleasure or happiness, but to know Christ and become like Him. Real trouble facilitates that goal, driving you closer to Him.” Drawing closer to Jesus and others is a profitable result of suffering.

A verse that has spoken to me all through this cancer/Leukemia experience is 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Suffering causes us to be more able to receive God’s grace, because we so desperately need it. It’s only in our extreme weakness, when we have no strength of our own, that His strength can be fully manifest and His grace fully received. In the half-dozen or so times that my pain was so great, I selfishly told God this would be a good time to bring me home to heaven. Let’s just escape this pain. But as a friend reminded me, God is such a lover of life, it is so very precious to Him. YOU are so very precious to Him. And so He pours out what you and I need: grace and strength sufficient for the moment. Suffering helps us be more receptive to God’s immense gifts of blessing and sustenance.

Additionally, suffering enables us in a good way to be more sensitive to the needs of others. We are better able to be compassionate toward others because of the compassion we have received from God. The ability to relate with others with increased compassion is another benefit that rises from suffering and adds meaning to your life. As Stanley concludes, “Suffering is never desirable, but your sovereign loving Lord can make it profitable.”

In what ways is suffering weighing you down and killing your joy? Take your eyes off the pain whenever you can and consider in what ways you might allow God to work a blessing in your life and in others.

Jars of clay

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

I got mad one day a week or so ago, really mad at myself. It is not my nature anymore to be mad and when rarely the emotion comes upon me it usually goes as quickly as it came. I used to be angry most of the time. I’d yell and sometimes cuss. That was over thirty years ago, before I really came to the end of myself and asked God to take the anger away because it was making me become someone I didn’t want to be. It was then I decided it was better to be better than bitter; better to fill myself with peace, not anger. What happened that day was my fault; my ‘chemo brain’ was at work and I couldn’t process a task as I intended and I became very frustrated with myself. After I punished myself for too long I finally gave it up and asked God for forgiveness and His peace.

This ‘jar of clay’ is a frail vessel that easily cracks, especially when we remove ourselves from God’s protective hands. It reminds me how much we desperately need God and depend on Him for our care. Sarah Young writes from the perspective of Jesus in Jesus Today, “Come close and rest in my presence. I am closer to you than the air you breathe. Trust Me with each breath you take. Discipline yourself in the practice of being in my presence. Don’t be discouraged by your tendency to wander and become distracted. Simply keep returning to Me, trusting in My unfailing love.”

Whether it is a sin we have committed or a deep pain or sorrow we bear, this frail jar of clay in which we live is not capable of bearing all the weight that comes upon us. We need to pour it out before God, turn from our focus on ourselves and our troubles and focus instead on remaining faithful to God, thanking Him for the peace, grace and strength He readily offers. Focus on your troubles and that is all you see. Turn your focus on God’s presence and the power of troubles’ grip, still present, diminishes.

We don’t like the feeling of being frail. We like to try to convince ourselves that we are really strong. And God does indeed give us strength. But that gift never replaces our inherent dependence on Him. So be content with being a jar of clay, for in it you will carry the great treasures of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.