Birthdays and Family in Eternity

One year ago today, my mother turned 99. Today she is in heaven. We often talked about her living to be one hundred. But I knew that was not her desire. She talked about going home, and I knew she was not talking about her earthly home. Two weeks before she died she prayed, “Lord, take me home. My work is done.” On March 9th this year, God answered her prayers.

My mother’s name was Grace, and that has been her spirit though all these years. She gave her heart to Christ as a teenager and has walked with Him ever since. My dad and sister are both in heaven. I can only imagine the reunion they are having. I thought about singing “Happy 100th Birthday Mom”, but I don’t think that matters in eternity. On this day, I’m extremely grateful for a Christian family.

Arms Wide Open

In our culture, Christmas is a time when families get together. That’s really what Christmas was all about: God reaching out to bring us together. We were made to have fellowship with God, but we walked away. We left home. We wandered afar. But God came to find us through a babe in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life.  He died a sacrificial death. He paid our penalty, so we could return home without penalty.

I hope that you have responded to the love of God expressed in Christ. I hope that you have accepted the gift of forgiveness. I hope that you can call God, Father, and know that He is not ashamed to call you his son or daughter. If not, His arms are always open.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Webster says, that ‘merry’ implies uninhibited enjoyment of frolic, festivity, or fun. In addition, freshness and buoyancy as manifest in singing, leaping, and dancing. That’s what I wish for you on this Christmas day. That’s what the shepherds did.  Luke says, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

I hope that in the busyness of this day, you will find a place where you can let your spirit rise in praise to God for what He did on that first Christmas. The babe of Bethlehem was born to die so that we might have eternal life. Yes, the hinge of history is attached to the door of a Bethlehem stable. So, let us sing, leap, and dance for joy in celebration.

Have a Merry Christmas!

The Day Before Christmas

For many, today is a day dedicated to ‘last minute shopping’. I’m often wondered what God was doing the day before Christ was born? Probably guiding each step as Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. The most profound event of human history was about to happen. The theologians call it the ‘incarnation’. God becoming human in the form of a baby.

God had communicated for hundreds of years through the prophets. But now He sends His own Son. To use the words of John, “The Word became flesh and we observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In the midst of today’s busyness, let’s make time to reflect upon God’s greatest gift.

My Side of the Wall

Many couples are at a stalemate because they have allowed a wall to develop between them. Walls are erected one block at a time. It may be as small as failing to take out the garbage or as large as failing to meet sexual needs. Instead of dealing with the failure, we ignore it. One failure after another is ignored. The wall becomes high and thick. We were once “in love” but now only resentment remains.

There is only one way to remove a wall. We must tear down the blocks on our side. Someone must take the initiative. Will your spouse forgive you? I don’t know, but it’s worth a try. Confess your past failures and ask God to help you make the future different. The wall is not as thick when your remove the blocks on your side.

You Can’t Create a Perfect Marriage.

You can’t create a perfect marriage, but you can have a better marriage. And, it all begins with you. Most of us think that if our spouse would change we could have a better marriage. But that’s the wrong place to start.

When I counsel couples, I often give them paper and pencil and ask them to write for me the things they dislike about their spouse. You should see the lists. Some have to request additional paper. A bit later, I ask them to list for me what they feel to be their own weaknesses. Usually, they can think of one right away, but I have seen them think and think trying to come up with number two. The message is clear. “I’m not perfect, but the real problem is with my spouse.”

Jesus had a different idea: “First, get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see more clearly how to get the speck out of eye of your spouse.” Begin by identifying your own failures and consider praying this prayer: “Lord, where am I failing in my marriage.”. Confess your discoveries to God and then to your spouse. You now have a clear conscience and you are free to change your own behavior and become a loving spouse.

You Can't Create a Perfect Marriage.

You can’t create a perfect marriage, but you can have a better marriage. And, it all begins with you. Most of us think that if our spouse would change we could have a better marriage. But that’s the wrong place to start.

When I counsel couples, I often give them paper and pencil and ask them to write for me the things they dislike about their spouse. You should see the lists. Some have to request additional paper. A bit later, I ask them to list for me what they feel to be their own weaknesses. Usually, they can think of one right away, but I have seen them think and think trying to come up with number two. The message is clear. “I’m not perfect, but the real problem is with my spouse.”

Jesus had a different idea: “First, get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see more clearly how to get the speck out of eye of your spouse.” Begin by identifying your own failures and consider praying this prayer: “Lord, where am I failing in my marriage.”. Confess your discoveries to God and then to your spouse. You now have a clear conscience and you are free to change your own behavior and become a loving spouse.

Would you like your spouse to change?

In my thirty years as a marriage counselor, I’ve drawn one conclusion: Everyone wishes their spouse would change. “We could have a good marriage if he would just help me more around the house.” Or, “Our marriage would be great if we could have sex more than once a month.” She wants him to change and he wants her to change. Both of them feel condemned and resentful. There is a better way.

Start with you own failures. Admit that you’re not perfect. Confess some of your most obvious failures to your spouse and tell them that you want to change. Ask your spouse for one suggestion each week on how you could be a better husband or wife. To the best of your ability make changes. Chances are, your spouse will reciprocate.

Why is Communication So Hard?

Why does communication break down after marriage? Often, the answer lies in emotions. Before marriage we felt one over-powering emotion . . . love. But now the emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment, and fear often dominate. These emotions do not encourage us to communicate. Or, if we communicate it is likely to be critical.

We speak out of our anger and create even more negative feelings. The key is learning how share emotions without condemnation. “I’m feeling hurt and when you have time, I need your help.” Identifying your feelings and choosing to share them is step one. Step two is accepting the feelings of your mate and asking, “What can I do to help?”

Why is communication so important in a relationship? Because we are not mind readers. The apostle Paul recognized this reality when he asked the question, “Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The reason we know what God is like is because God has chosen to reveal Himself. If we reciprocate, we can have a love relationship with God.

Likewise, when we reveal ourselves to another, and they listen and reciprocate, we can build an intimate relationship with that person. Communication is to a relationship what breathing is to the body. Don’t stop talking and don’t stop listening.

*adapted from The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Dr. Gary Chapman