Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Want Marriage Help? Ask the True Experts!

I recently read a blog in which a man shared how to treat your wife.  It’s gone viral.  The interesting thing?  He is divorced.  Several days later I read a blog by a woman in response on how to treat your husband.  The interesting thing?  The woman is on her third marriage.

I believe we can learn plenty from our mistakes, but why is it we get our advice from people who can’t seem to stay in a relationship instead of asking a couple who is about ready to celebrate their 35th, or better yet, 55th wedding anniversary?  Any Christ-follower knows that we grow through down times, sad times, rebellious times, if we only let God teach us.  But the sad thing is this—why do we not seek out and listen to those who did it right the first time?
Do you want a truly great marriage?  If so, stop asking advice from those who are in stagnant, unfulfilling relationships or those who claim to have the answer now that they’ve failed.  Instead, find a couple who has the kind of marriage you’d like to have…then ask them how to have a great marriage.  They’re usually not the ones who say a lot about it, because they’re not complaining about their wife.  They’re not telling you about what a bum their husband is.  Instead, you notice them holding hands at church.  You see him leave work a little early so he can get home and help her with the kids.  They may be quietly sitting over coffee reading the paper or surrounded by their grandkids at the park. 

All marriages have their ups and downs; if someone says they don’t, they are either lying or oblivious!  But successful couples learn how to work through issues and come out stronger and better on the other side.  That’s what we need to hear!  We need to ask those who have successfully maneuvered through this thing called marriage, raised children, worked a job, had illnesses, had disagreements and fights, and are still living “happily ever after.”  That’s who I want to talk to, ask questions of, get answers from, see modeled before me.  Why do we always seek out those who failed and now say they have the answer?

There is a generation of couples who were highly successful.  They’re celebrating their 60th anniversaries, not their 6 month-iversary and we need to glean all the wisdom we can from them before it’s too late!

We will be sharing golden nuggets from couples who have been married 30 years or more on our Facebook page over the next few months.  Watch for it!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


“Dial 911!  I’ve been robbed!”

I was where I love to be--sitting outside enjoying a cup of coffee and writing.  A young man came up to my table and asked, “What Starbucks is this?”  I didn’t give it much thought and told him.  He hung around close to my table and appeared to be on his cell phone.

Then suddenly in a blur he was ripping my laptop out of my hands!  He took off running with it.  I was so shocked I let him get about 10 feet away before I leaped to my feet and started chasing him.  Two other men also gave chase.  One jumped in his truck while the younger man and I ran after the thief between buildings and up a grassy slope.  But alas, he was younger, much faster, and headed right to the get-away car, which sped away before we could get the license plate number.

As we pursued him, I shouted:  “You aren’t stealing my computer.  It is the Lord’s!”  (Real spiritual, don’t you think?)  Then, I followed it up with a very spiritual scream, “You Jerk!!!”

I have now been robbed or threatened three times in the past year.  A particular verse comes to mind quite often these days:  The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.   John 10:10 The Voice

Then I thought about this from the perspective of marriage.  The thief of godly relationships hangs around the table of your marriage with malicious intent just waiting for you to look at your spouse with contempt or disrespect.  He will jump at any chance to steal your love, to slaughter your commitment, and to destroy your relationship.

Think of the damage a divorce brings.  The years you spent dating and married are all tainted, if not destroyed.  The people around you (mother, father, brothers, sisters, friends) are all now left to choose sides.  They are uncomfortable with the elephant of divorce in the room.  Then, of course, there are the children.  They have their need of a stable home stolen away for life.  I could go on and on, but I am sure that you know the damage of divorce.

But the good news is that God offers us life, with joy and abundance.  Wow! That sounds great.  The problem is that much of our Christian experience is passed along through platitudes rather than practical teaching.

Regarding being robbed, I have now learned some valuable lessons.  I need to be aware of something the police told me after the crime about what he called, “Apple Picking”.  It is a new wrinkle in crime.  Thieves walk through a restaurant, or better yet, outdoor café and simply grab an IPhone or laptop or tablet and hustle out the door.  I have learned to keep my phone in my pocket at a restaurant and that someone designed cables you can purchase for your laptop so it can be locked to a table or your arm for that matter.  If I had been told this before that fateful afternoon, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.

We can save couples grief by giving them Biblical, practical tools to fix, restore, and grow their relationship.  Whatever the need and time of life, the Bible has solutions.  We need to equip an army of mentors who can come alongside pre-married couples, couples in trouble, and couples who simply want what God promises--life, with joy and abundance.  It can be theirs.  It can be yours for that matter.  We need to start handing out tools with instruction.

Now all we have to do is show couples how to protect the laptops of their lives.  Don’t let the enemy of our souls pick the “apple of your eye” and turn your life upside down.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Keystone is Slipping

My neighbor is having his front entry repaired.  Old houses need attention and restoration on a regular basis.  As the workers were laying brick I couldn’t help but watch them rebuild the arch.  You have to know what you are doing to set the keystone.  It is absolutely the most important stone in an arch; it is the crown that locks the other pieces in place.  Without it, the arch will collapse.  As I watched the craftsmen I thought about the hundreds of churches we have worked with and realized marriage is the keystone for the local church.

With marriages in the church falling apart at an alarming rate, the church is losing its voice.  Not only are we losing our voice, we are also not being seen.  The welcoming arch that displays to the community all the wonderful ministries churches work so hard to develop is slipping and our voice and visibility is lost.

My neighbor had not inspected his front archway into his house for a while; fortunately, he caught it just in time.  Just like my neighbor, I believe the local church has forgotten to take a look at what is happening to the marriages for which they are responsible.  If we don’t address the issues, the whole thing will continue to crack and eventually will be gone. 

We see this demonstrated in the fact that the fastest growing divorce rate is in those who have been married 15 to 25 years.  It does not take a very intensive search to discover the cause.  Life gets busy and so we put our priorities in other places like raising children, pursuing a career, and trying to have a social life.  Not to mention a culture that says you have to have more and you have to have exactly what you want in order to be happy.  Whatever the reason, according to a study I recently examined we are seeing a travesty take place in our country.  It is proven in study after study that pre-marital coaching is a proven help to the first years of marriage.  Many churches are taking steps to do a better job of helping couples prepare for marriage, which is good!  My question is this:  Have we taken our eye off the keystone, and is it slipping in other areas, like the marriages of 15-25 years?  Studies show that by the time couples are married 15-25 years those who are still married have the same divorce rate whether or not they had pre-marital training.  These couples slip out the side door and we lose them.  The problem is that we get so involved with all the other bricks of ministry that we are forgetting to keep an eye on the keystone (marriage).

I read a provocative article this past week entitled: “Mum’s the Word on Divorce” by Eric Metaxas.    Metaxas allows the thought to arise that as we are silent on divorce we are also silent regarding marriage in general.  Listen to this quote out of the article by Albert Mohler, “The evangelicals allowed culture to trump Scripture….that divorce is no big deal…it is a private matter.”  He goes on to say that the “real scandal” is the fact that “evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of of the public” which creates a “significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage.”

If marriage is the keystone for the church, are we making sure the marriages in our churches are healthy, from pre-married to golden anniversaries?  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Welcoming the Next Generation

On July 13th we welcomed our second grandchild, Thoryn Marie, into this world!  Twenty-seven years ago that very day, her mommy, Christa, had entered our lives. 

Justin and Christa are facing all the new parent struggles of feeding schedules, lack of sleep, dirty diapers, lifestyle changes…anyone who has ever had a child knows what I mean!  The list could go on and on.  Your life is no longer your own.  There is a little person now who depends on you for everything.  Big responsibility! 

We’re so thankful for the loving home Thoryn has!  She has been prayed for long before she was ever conceived.  But not all children have it so good. 

Dave, a young man who is meeting with us along with his fiancé for premarital instruction, did not have it so good.  After his parents divorced when he was four, he was part of the battle between his parents, shuffled back and forth, abused mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually. He finally ended up in foster homes until he was old enough to decide to be on his own.  Dave then entered the army, married a girl for the sole purpose of receiving more benefits (his own explanation), and soon divorced.

This young couple hasn’t had much of an example set before them about what a marriage is or how to love someone till “death do you part.”

When they met with a couple in their church about getting married, they (a couple we had coached through some difficult times) immediately referred them to us.  And that’s where we enter the journey…a journey of a man and woman who will effect generations to come by the way they live their lives as a couple, how they raise their children, and how they serve the Lord.  And you are a part of that as you pray for and give to this ministry!

Enjoying being well as guides to couples who need help preparing for and living "happily ever after"!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Kiss on the Forehead from God

Ever have one of those days you felt like “throwing in the towel”?  Oh, yes, we have, too!
Not too long ago while spending time with the Lord I (Paula) was asking Him if what we were doing was worth the sacrifice; just then my phone dinged, saying I had received a text.  I normally don’t check it when I’m in conversation with God, but this morning I felt I needed a diversion so I checked it and found this:

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you and your husband this morning.  You guys have been such a blessing in our lives and God only knows how much.  I just felt y’all needed to know that.  Please don’t give up on what you are doing; it’s not in vain!  We pray for you everyday asking God to bless and keep you both.  Again, thanks for helping us to get back on the right track!  We haven’t forgotten who helped us.  God bless!  Angie

Can God get any more personal or could His timing be any better?  Only God could have tapped Angie on the shoulder and prompted her to write that on that day…a day when I was ready to seek employment elsewhere!!  J  Our friend, Josie, calls moments like this “a kiss on the forehead” from God.

Yes, we do get discouraged when there is so much need in marriages and not enough resources or when hearts are unwilling to seek help for whatever situation they may face.  We are convinced no problem is too much for Him to handle and our mission is to share that with others!!

We thank God for the miracles we see taking place in relationships like Angie’s, for the protection He gives us every day, for the encouragement He provides through His Word and through others' words and actions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Can You Help Us?

Holding back the tears Betsy confessed, “I was sexually molested at five years of age.  As a Jr. Higher I was put in foster care because my dad threated to kill me while high on drugs.  My first husband abused me.  John and I have been married five years with two little girls and we fight constantly.  We don’t want to live like this!  Please help us!”

Does that seem severe and unbelievable to you?  Then you must live in a cocoon.  In working with couples we see it all the time….the pain of innocence lost, of promises broken, disillusionment, sorrow and never-ending pain.  We see it because these are things that wreak havoc on a marriage.

All around us are people battling images in their mind—a father slamming the door as he leaves, someone who should be trusted taking your innocence, a spouse who gave their heart to someone else, a child taken away much too soon, the carnage of war overseas or on our streets here at home, on and on it goes.

We sometimes have to hide our shock and horror at the pain some people bear behind the smiles of façade.  And, yes, these are people sitting next to you in the pew at church!

The good news is that when we meet with them they are seeking help.  Is there hope?  Can life truly be lived “happily ever after”? 

It sure can!  With a loving, miracle-working God!  Without Him there is not much hope, but with Him there is!

MercyMe sings these words: 
You remain…even when the earth is shaking
You remain…even when our kings have fallen
Every mountain standing tall will crash into the sea.
You were, You are, and You will be.  Only You remain!

When all is crashing down around us…He remains!!  Statistics.  Legislation.  Politics.  Wars and revolutions.  Devastation from storms.  Violence in our streets.  Homes falling apart.  He shines even when the stars have left the sky!  He remains!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity through your financial gifts and prayers of sharing hope with individuals, couples, and families!
 Living to give hope to the hopeless!