Monday, April 22, 2013

A few words on the subject of Marriage

Below is my newspaper column from earlier this month.  The responses from folks who read it in the paper have been very encouraging.  
The night I met Tammy, I knew I was going to marry her -- I knew she was the one!  I had a girlfriend who I was dating for two years at the time I met Tammy, and my friend Pete who I’ve known since kindergarten thought he was Tammy’s date the night I met her...  But I was smitten.  I broke up with my girlfriend and doggedly pursued Tammy till she gave in.  We were 19 years old when we married and we didn’t go away on a honeymoon...

Now’s a good time to celebrate!  This month, my lovely wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  My wife and I feel very blessed to still have each other to love and to hold, to be there in sickness and in health, and to fulfill our vows -- till death do-us-part.  We’ve raised our four boys together, living in a few states through the years.  We’ve traveled together across the Atlantic and across the mighty Mississippi river, serving God.  And, we’ve learned the secret to lasting love.

The secret of loving each other and supporting each other for a quarter of a century...  the secret is loving the other more than you love getting your way and it’s loving that other person more than you love being right.  Compliment more, much more, than you criticize.  Learn how to argue without fighting-dirty and be quick to forgive.  Give & take, sacrifice, showing respect, and dishing out a lot of grace both ways can go a long way to making a happy home.  And as Charlie Rich sang a generation ago, spending lots of time together “behind closed doors” helps too!  

Perhaps you need to know this, it’s not always easy for people to stay married.  It takes work.  It takes time.  It takes energy.  It takes commitment.  Maintenance.  Love, really, isn’t a feeling as much as it is a choice.  Love will not see you through tough times, if love is “how” you feel at the time.  We know this too well.

Sadly, we all see people who live with miserable marriages, barely maintaining their sanity.  Always at odds their mate.  They fell out of love, or so they say.  Hostility and animosity and ugly-hatefulness, instead of love and compassion and connectedness, describe their daily hell.  We all see people throwing in the towel, calling it quits.  This is one of the reasons my wife and I like to “brag” about the longevity of our marriage, not to show-off or brag in the immature sense of the word, but to show people God can do miracles with your marriage when you both let Him.

The divorce rate in America is around 50%.  I’m really sorry if you are there.  I have heard divorce compared to fighting a skunk in a phonebooth.  I almost found this out the hard way.  I’m not proud of the person I used to be -- I’m ashamed of the way I mistreated my wife, early on in our marriage.  We went through some rocky times, early on in our marriage, before we became Christians.  I was arrested three times for domestic violence, and for a time we were separated -- facing down divorce.  

I couldn't blame Tammy for filing for divorce, in my opinion physical abuse is just another form of unfaithfulness.  I would urge any couple to seek counseling in an abusive situation before you divorce -- but I wouldn’t say you should stay in an abusive situation because “It’s the Christian thing to do.”  Divorce is a sticky topic, but the physical and emotional dangers of an abusive marriage are too deadly to brush off.  

Mysteriously, those painful times actually drove us into Christianity.  So, we can confidently say, any marriage is salvageable and can be fulfilling and happy, if you both want to work on it and let God bless you.  I’m truly hopeful for every troubled marriage I hear about -- because we made it by God’s grace, we know you can too.  Hold onto hope, it won’t disappoint.

Our life experiences in our personal marriage has helped our family to be a little more understanding, accepting and nonjudgmental with people who have faced dark days in their relationships.  I’m also proud of New Song church, where we love and embrace people who hurt deeply -- even if their marriage sadly dissolves.  No judgment, no punishment; we are a healing presence.  Visit our website to see what we are planning for marriages on April 20th:

Thankfully, Tammy was able to squirrel away some money from her subbing job and she’s going to spoil me!  Sometime soon, for the first time ever for the two of us, we’ll go on a cruise for a belated honeymoon -- 25 years later.  Together.  No kids.  All I can eat. Heaven on... well not on earth, so much as on ocean.  We want to reward ourselves and celebrate this wonderful milestone in a memorable way that honors and cherishes our love.  Celebrate your victories, work on your marriage, and never lose hope.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

The toughest Monday of the Year:

Mondays in ministry can be tough.  You run the Sunday morning message over again in your mind, mentally catching mistakes you made or thinking of a great point that you should have brought out, but you didn't think of at the time.  You think of the people you touched and the responses you sensed from people who you can tell are hurting in life, and sometimes you simply know the morning message was good, but it wasn't the cure-all you hoped it would before them. And you realize that Sunday's coming again in 6 days...

I used to think that the toughest Monday of the year was the Monday after Easter.
The Monday immediately after Easter this year, I was wore out.
Exhausted.  Wiped out!
Being so tired, felt great -- the type of fatigue in ministry where you have a great sense of accomplishment.

It's that next Sunday, the Sunday one week after Easter though, where you have to be careful with your feelings.  As a minister, you can kind of look around and "see" who came back.  It would be tempting to be discouraged, because the correlation between extra visitors and your sense of identity in ministry can often be closely connected.  And then, the Monday after that following week hits you -- and you run the Sunday after Easter through your mind...

And remembering that Sunday following the week of Easter  -- I remember it's a good thing I'm not doing this all on my own.  I start to remember all of the help I had from other people we worship with in church, those who made Easter great.  And I think about my family's involvement in making Easter great.  And I think to the excitement people in church shared... And you ask, was God honored, because that seems to be all that really counts in the long run.  And if we got that right, everything else will fall into place.

Daily, I utilize Evernote on my Iphone.  I catch all my thoughts I want to store.  I have all kinds of folders, some for future sermons, thoughts on projects we are working on at church, blog ideas, article ideas for Wineskins, class ideas, ideas for my newspaper column, books I'm working on.  And then, I keep a great "to do list" in Evernote.  Mondays, sometimes I open my "to do list" and wonder, how will I get everything done? More importantly, on the Monday one week after Easter, I reflect on the question, are these areas in my "to do list" the best use of my time & energy?