Sep 172014

Divorce Is Contagious

Ebola is real. I know that. You know that. Nearly everyone knows that.

Yet in a small country in Africa, a woman in a small village believes the disease is made up. She thinks powerful western countries have invented the concept of Ebola in order to control the people in her village and the surrounding areas.

This perception changes everything. Instead of seeing the missionaries, doctors, and nurses as humble servants who are risking their lives to save her village, she sees them as evil, manipulating, pirates who are attempting to pillage her people.

Instead of seeing the basic sanitary precautions intended to save lives, she sees the hand washing, bandages, and isolation as an evil plot.

Instead of following the simplest of procedures which could protect her, she engages in activity which threatens not only her own safety but the wellbeing of several countries.

A fatal disease is horrendous. A contagious, fatal disease can be devastating.

Until we understand the disease is real and we admit that it is contagious, there is very little we can do to stop it.

Divorce is a contagious disease. (See: How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake)

It rarely attacks one couple. It almost always spreads through friend groups, offices, churches, and social gatherings. Couple by couple it destroys marriages, devastates hearts, and leaves a trail of brokenness touching multiple generations.

All the while, we are foolish enough to believe the condition isn’t contagious. We think a friend can show symptoms without it influencing our marriage. We think we can interact with the fallout without needing to take any precautions. We see the destruction without ever considering how we can keep it from  happening to us.

Divorce is contagious, and we are in denial.

The contagious nature of divorce does not mean we should distance ourselves from those experiencing its symptoms. The last thing others need from us is distance or isolation. Those suffering through a divorce need and deserve the love, support, and understanding of a community. We must give them that. We would need it and desire it, so we must provide it. (See: People Do Not Get Divorced Over Money)

However, whenever divorce comes near your family, workplace, church, or other setting, you must recognize its contagious nature and make precautions in order to protect yourself and others.

Divorce is contagious because it can lead others to a false understanding.

It makes people think divorce is normal and a healthy marriage is unusual. Divorce is not as common as one thinks. The idea that your marriage is just a coin-flip is not accurate. Attention goes toward a divorcing couple, but we rarely pay attention to a couple with a healthy marriage. (See: It’s Happening Everywhere)

It causes couples to see common problems as possibly fatal problems. Every couple has problems. Yet when a couple gets a divorce, it can cause others to assume that some couples are perfect. Since we don’t fit the model of perfection, maybe we will get divorced as well.

It can diminish the true pain which a divorce causes. People can put on good faces in public. Many times those going through a divorce try to act as thought they are okay which can give the impression their pain is not deeply felt. It’s rarely true. Divorce is often the most painful thing someone can experience, often more painful than death. When we diminish the pain, we are more likely to see divorce as a viable option.

It can create the illusion that happiness is one relationship change away. Couples who get divorces often quickly (almost always too quickly) jump into another relationship. As they experience the euphoria of a honeymoon period in the new relationship, others can get the idea that they too could be that happy if they would just switch partners. It is a mirage. The best chance a person has for marital happiness is almost always with the person they are currently married to. (See: Why Marriage Matters to the Church)

Because of the contagious nature of divorce and because of our need to love and serve those going through a divorce, we must take some practical precautions whenever divorce comes near our communities.

We must:

Remember the true and painful nature of divorce. While divorce is sometimes necessary, it is always painful. The negative consequences of divorce extend well past our ability to see or detect them. We should never be fooled into thinking divorce is easy or without long-lasting consequences. (See: How to Respond to a Culture of Broken Marriages)

Make great intention to guard our marriage. We should always have some defense aspect about our marriage. Our relationship with our spouse is always under attack. However, when someone we love is going through a divorce, it should raise the alert level within our own relationships. We should be quicker to resolve issues, get help, and take time with our spouse to nourish the relationship. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)

Seek relationships with others who are in healthy marriages. In the same way that divorce is contagious, so is a happy marriage. When someone near us is going through a divorce, we should assist them, but we should also assist a healthy couple in order to encourage us and remind us that we can have a marriage which lasts. This should be the great benefit of a church or a healthy community—we should always have couples we can help as they struggle, and we can always have other couples who can encourage us because of their strength. (See: How to Stay Married in the Tough Times)

Divorce is contagious. Few people realize it, yet if you will pay attention you will notice it often happens within circles of friends, offices, and churches. The contagious nature of divorce is hidden, but that only makes it more dangerous. We can’t stop divorce, but we can prevent it from influencing our marriages by recognizing its contagious nature and taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others.

For more, see:

Every Marriage Lives Between Two Rings

Change Your Marriage Today

 

Sep 162014

You Better Make Up Your Mind

Who do you want to be in one of those moments?

You know “those moments.”

The moments:

  • when the stakes are high and the choices are serious.
  • which define not just individuals, but whole families, companies, and communities.
  • which cause most people to make bad choices, lose reputations, and to fold under pressure.

We all want to be the type of people who are the same no matter the situation. We want to be who others can lean on in difficult times. We want to lead when everyone else is afraid. We want to maintain character when everyone else is losing theirs. We want to be what few people are. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

But how?

It’s tempting to believe that the difference between those who lead through tough times and those who wilt under pressure is internal strength. And no doubt strength matters.

Yet the strength of good leaders and bad leaders isn’t that different.

The difference is that good leaders know a secret which bad leaders do not.

The secret of being who you want to be when the moments matter the most is deciding who you will be before those moments occur.

Some decisions must be made before the questions are asked.

You can’t wait for the moment. (See: 7 Lessons Learned From a Crisis)

If you wait, you might make a good choice—once or twice, maybe three times. But if you wait, you are risking disaster. Eventually you will choose poorly.

You must not wait.

You must decide now who you will be then.

So often the difference between those who make wise choices and those who do not is not the inner strength, desire, or will-power of the individual. Often it is the simple timing in which a person chooses to make a decision. A wise person chooses who they want to be before the pressure of the decision is upon them. (See: When a Baby Cries in a Restaurant, Rejoice)

They choose to:

  • be a faithful spouse before they ever feel the temptation to stray.
  • be an honest salesperson before they have the opportunity to cheat a prospect.
  • record their true score before they ever hit the tee shot.
  • love whomever crosses their path.
  • serve no matter what is demanded.

By making the choices before facing the temptation, they remove the stress, pressure, and temptation of the moment. The choice is made solely on who they want to be.

Yet by making the choice before hand, they greatly increase the likelihood of making a wise choice. It doesn’t guarantee it. We can all ignore what we have said we would do and make dramatically different choices. But it does make it much easier to choose wisely.

For a company or organization, many of these choices are expressed through core values. They define what a company will or will not do depending on a situation.

In the same way that a company should define these values, individuals and couples should do the same. (See: What To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue)

  • Who do we want to be?
  • What do we want to value?
  • How will we handle truth?
  • How will we treat people?
  • What will we refuse to be associated with?

In a moment of pressure, any of us could make a foolish choice. Yet when we take the time to answer these questions before a situation occurs, we are more likely to choose wisely.

 

 

Sep 152014

Don’t Live for Tomorrow; Embrace Today

My six-year-old doesn’t always like being six. He thinks life is unfair. He sees his nine-year-old sister and thinks life will be better at nine. He sees all the privileges she enjoys because of her age, but he doesn’t see any of the added responsibilities. He has concluded life is better at nine than six.

Of course my nine-year-old doesn’t always like being nine. She thinks life is unfair. She sees her fifteen-year-old cousin and thinks life will be better at fifteen. She sees all the privileges and none of the responsibilities and has concluded that life will be better at fifteen.

We understand the thoughts of my children, but we think it’s silly. We, of course, know that life at six, nine, or fifteen is pretty good. (See: Do You Know What Today Is?)

If we could give either of my kids any advice, it would likely include: enjoy being six and nine. Enjoy it. Live it. Learn what you are supposed to learn and tomorrow will come soon enough.

My guess is that the advice many of us need today is the very advice we would give my children. Don’t live for tomorrow; embrace today.

I don’t know where you will be tomorrow. It could be that the last place you want to be tomorrow is where you are today. Thankfully we live in a time and place in which you can make changes.

Don’t like your boss? Find a new job.

Don’t like your job? Learn a new skill.

Don’t like your company? Start your own business.

Where you will be tomorrow is unknown, but there are many choices you have which will likely determine what tomorrow holds.

But that doesn’t change today. At least for today, you are where you are. (See: You Chose This)

Maybe you’ve worked hard to get here.

Maybe you never expected to be here.

Chances are that wherever you are today is the result of many good decisions, some bad decisions, some blessings you didn’t deserve, and some bad luck you don’t understand.

No matter how you got here, you are here. And you can’t do anything about it right now. By the choices you make, you can change tomorrow, but you can’t do anything about changing today. (See: A Secret About Today Which Could Change Everything)

So what can you do? Whether you love it or hate it, there is only one thing you can do with today—you can live it.

Even as you plan for tomorrow or remember yesterday, your only charge for today is to live it to its fullest.

There is a reason you are where you are.

Sure your decisions played a part. No doubt there are some things you would do differently. Hopefully you are making better choices for tomorrow.

But you are here for greater reasons than your own choices. Others made the same choices you made and they aren’t where you are. Some have made far worse choices and they have had better results.

You are here because God has placed you here. He allowed you to make the choices you made. He allowed others to influence your life as they have. Where you live, what you do, the people you work with and for, the people you live with, are all in your life because He has allowed it.

None of this may be in your life tomorrow, but all of the circumstances and people are in your life today because God has allowed it.

And if He has allowed it, He has a plan for it. (See: One Thing You Have)

Consider: wherever you are today, at minimum God has allowed it and at maximum He has orchestrated every aspect of it. You are where you are for a reason.

Even as you plan for tomorrow, there are some things you are called to do today:

  • Love
  • Glorify God
  • Serve those around you
  • Know God
  • Make God known
  • Appreciate the good
  • Endure the bad
  • Forgive
  • Give grace
  • Use your talent

All of those things, and many more, can be done no matter where you live, what you do for a living, or who is around you. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

You may not love where you are today. You may hope you aren’t there tomorrow. But until tomorrow comes, embrace today.

For More, See:

How To Determine What to Do: At Work, In Marriage, In Life

Sep 122014

Two Words Which Describe Many People I Know

Foolishly unhappy. If given just two words to describe a majority of people, these would be the two I would choose. It doesn’t define everyone, but it properly describes a good number. Look around and you will see a lot of people who are foolishly unhappy.

Few would doubt the “unhappy” description.

A significant number of people are unhappy: (See: I Just Want to Be Happy)

In relationships. Much is said about a high divorce rate, but many relationships are breaking before vows are even said. Fearing that marriage is insignificant or even a threat to love, many are avoiding the altar. Sadly this avoidance is neither leading to longer relationships nor providing a more meaningful love. By skipping marriage, many are giving up on any chance of finding a lasting, significant relationship. The result is deep unhappiness. (See: Three Things Marriage Can Never Do For You)

At work. Do you know how rare it is to find someone truly satisfied with what they do on a daily basis? Clearly no one will be happy every day at work, but it doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume a general happiness on a regular basis. We spend a majority of our waking hours at work. Besides the home, if there is any place in which we would seek happiness, it is at work. Yet a majority of individuals are frustrated, burned out, dissatisfied with their bosses, estranged from their co-workers, and unfulfilled by what they do on an average day at work.

With themselves. Nobody is perfect. We all have struggles, imperfections, and character flaws. But why is it so rare to find someone who is truly happy with themselves? Even those who suffer from arrogance seem to do so as a mask to cover up their weaknesses and insecurities. Few people I know have a balanced understanding of themselves which results in a general satisfaction with who they are. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

Many are unhappy, but notice the day in which we live. There has never been a time in which an individual controls so much of their own lives. We decide whom we marry (as long as the other person says yes), where we work (at least where we don’t work), and a plethora of other aspects of our lives which many people in the past did not decide.

We control more of our lives, yet we are more unhappy than nearly any generation before us.

We are unhappy, but we the source of that unhappiness is our own foolishness. (See: Money Can Make You Happy)

Clearly there are exceptions. Some people have been dealt a hand in the game of life which is nearly unplayable. Their unhappiness is not their fault; it’s not within their control. Yet for most of us, our satisfaction with life is 100% within our control. We have decided how to live and it has resulted in unhappiness.

Our foolishness is often sourced in three areas:

1. A fixation on the future or past at the expense of the present: We often spend so much time thinking about what we hope happens or remembering what we think did happen that we lose all sense of enjoyment of the present. Like a small child who desperately wants to grow up thinking grown-ups have all the fun, many people spend their entire lives looking ahead until one day they begin looking behind them, but at no point do they appreciate the moment. Generally, we have very little to fear or dread in the present. We often have everything we need to enjoy the next moment, but sadly we often look past the next moment dreaming of what is to come or what once was.

2. A deep sense of entitlement: Many people believe they deserve happiness, as though it is a birthright. They think they should be given happiness and then they might be expected to work or make wise choices. Our sense of entitlement is so deep, we often do not see it. We actually believe we are entitled to be entitled. Believing we deserve every accolade, title, promotion, award, and recognition, robs us of one of life’s greatest producers of happiness–gratitude. Without feeling gratitude, we cannot feel happy. (See: Why We Don’t Like Grace)

3. A complete unwillingness to choose wisely: We choose what we want, not what is best. We are often so selfishly driven that we reject wise voices in our lives and simply pick what we desire the most. The problem is that our desires are rarely satisfied by what we think will satisfy them. We reject wisdom but then wonder why we are unhappy. (See: The One Piece of Advice I Would Give a 7th Grader)

Foolishly unhappy does not describe every person I know, but it describes many. While a few lack happiness because of situations they do not control, many have chosen their unhappiness.

Yet sadly they do not realize they have decided their own fate.

Living in the deception that their life is out of their control, they will continue to focus on the past or future wondering why they haven’t been given everything they deserve. They will reject wise choices in order to get what they want in the moment.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We can:

Come to peace with our past, not overly worry about or long for the future, and deeply appreciate the present.

Live in a constant state of gratitude for the good we do not deserve.

Make wise choices.

This will not guarantee an unending happiness, but it will save us from the most common cause of unhappiness–ourselves

Sep 112014

Everyone’s Pain Is Just Below the Surface

Celtic spirituality uses the phrase “thin place.” It’s a place where the distance between heaven and earth seems more thin than other places. In those locations, God seems more near, heaven seems not-so-distant, and eternity seems not so abstract.

There are many “thick places” on earth. There are few places that I doubt God more than in the NICU. I wonder about his plan as I view the chaos of the Middle East. I can grow apathetic toward his presence in the repetition of day-to-day life.

Because of these “thick places,” I need “thin places.” (See: Recognize Your Child’s Pain)

Hopefully we all have a few.  In memory of a lost colleague, my former professor spoke last week of the chapel at the University as one of his “thin places.” There are several such places in my life. God often seems more real in the midst of corporate worship with my church family. He feels more possible on a mountain top with my wife. He seems more loving as one of my children sleeps on my shoulder.

But there are other “thin places.” There are places where the gap between the happiness we present to the world and the pain which is buried deep into our souls is not as thick. The sorrow rises to surface and is exposed.

Everyone has pain. Some might have it more than others, but no one has is exempt from the arrows of this world. We’ve all be wounded. Yet we quickly learn in a survival-of-the-fittest world, we should not show sorrow. We put on a facade, pretend to be healthy, and bury our sorrow as deep as we can.

And most of the time no one ever knows. We can smile at Wal-Mart, seem satisfied at a school function, and put on a pretty face for a church social. But deep within us the pain resides. And in some locations the cover-up is less thick than others. Those thin places threaten our image of perfect people.

September 11 is one of those “thin places” for our country. We can appear strong on most days. Our military might is unquestioned. Our influence in the world is unmatched. Yet our sorrow is deep. You can see it from the oil still surfacing in Pearl Harbor. You can experience it in a hundred National Cemeteries across the country. You can hear it in the moments of silence as we remember those who have been lost. (See: What 9/11 Reminds Us About Marriage)

On August 11, I don’t remember the pain as well as I do on September 11. I remember the fear of the day, the sorrow for those who were lost, the uncertainty of what was to come, the gratitude for the safety of my family, the guilt that not everyone would experience the same reunions.

The pain is always there, but on most days it is just below the surface. On a few days, it rises to the surface.

As it is for our country, so it is for all of us. (See: God Controls Our Darkest Days)

We all have pain. Some wounds are self-inflicted. Some have been unintentionally delivered by those who loved us most. Others have been intentionally buried into our hearts.

On most days we bury the pain, but on some days it rushes to the surface.

I see it as I preach a sermon and tears begin to flow by those in the audience. I observe it when the random song brings back a memory and a conversation grows silent. I feel it when a chance public encounter goes from joyous to somber because a name is mentioned or a past experience is brought to mind.

We all have thin places of hurt—locations where our pain cannot be buried or hidden. Our temptation is to run from those places, to ignore them, deny them, and do everything in our power to avoid them. But I would say we should run to those thin places of hurt. We should have the courage to confront the memories, recognize the pain, and cry the tears.

We should do so because there is an odd connection between the thin places of hurt and the thin places of heaven. In those locations where our pain rises to the surface, so often God makes himself known. (See: How We Respond to Suffering)

We would expect the opposite. We would assume God is most real to us when we are most happy. We would think eternity feels most real when our pain is at its least. But that is not our experience. It is not God’s plan.

Jesus revealed to us the connection between God and suffering. While on this earth, pain would forever be a place in which God would have the power to make himself known. The thin places of hurt would forever be intertwined with the thin places of heaven.

So we shouldn’t run from these days. We shouldn’t avoid these places of remembrance and pain. We should embrace them because even as our pain rises to the surface, so too, our God will comfort us in the midst of our sorrow. (See: 7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts)

September 11 is a thin place of hurt. But thanks be to God it can also be a thin place of heaven.

Sep 102014

Four Rights of Marriage

With marriage comes obligations. We don’t like the word obligations. We want to do what we want; we do not like to be duty-bound to anything. Yet whenever we say “I do” we are obligating ourselves to some activities.

As a wife, my spouse has rights which I am generally bound to meet. Unless she has greatly violated our covenant through adultery, gross disrespect, or some other deep injury, then I am obligated to certain things. And so is she.  (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

As her husband, I have a right to my wife’s:

Heart. I can fairly expect her to reveal her heart to me. It might take time, but as our marriage continues to grow, she should reveal more and more of her heart to me. This doesn’t mean she has to tell me everything. She needs friends and to share conversations with them, but it does mean that there are no major aspects of her life which are off limits to me. I see it all and I see it first. Others might get to see part of who she is, but I get to see the depth of her hopes, fears, dreams, and ambitions. (See: If I Could Tell Husbands One Thing)

Body. Sex is a marital obligation. Most of the time it should be a marital joy, but it’s also a duty. It should only be under very unusual circumstances that a marriage does not include frequent sex. The right to my wife’s body does not give me a license to do whatever I wish whenever I wish. It does, however, give me the right to expect regular access to both physical touch and sexual pleasure. Sex is not a privilege in marriage; it is a natural expectation of marriage. (See: 11 Posts About Married Sex)

Time. Relationship requires shared experience. Time spent together might vary though different seasons of life, but as her spouse, I can expect an ample amount of quality time with my wife. Choosing to marry someone is choosing to spend time with them. A wife or husband isn’t meant to be a spouse’s only friend, but it is expected that they are best friends. It’s important to spend time apart, but it is more important to spend time together. Time is not a luxury within a relationship; it is a pre-requisite for that relationship to flourish. (See: You Chose This–a Reflection on Time Management)

Fidelity. Loyalty is one of the great pledges of a marriage vow. Whenever a couple gets married, they are making unique promises to one another and fidelity is one of those promises. Not only sexually, but in every other aspect of life, I can expect my wife to be loyal to me. This doesn’t mean I can expect her to break laws and keep secrets which keep me out of trouble. It does mean she will look out for my best interests more than anyone else; that she will live out our marriage vows to the best of her ability; and she will always be on my side even as I’m on her side. (See: Three Myths About Adultery)

Marriage is full of responsibilities. Whenever we say “I do,” we are not just promising to do something in the moment, we are proclaiming that we will continue to do some things for as long as we both live. Most of the time it will be a privilege to live out our marriage vows; sometimes we will do so out of simple obligation. Yet both privilege and obligation are part of a true marriage.

As a husband, I have certain rights which I can expect my wife to meet. As my spouse, my wife has an equal number of rights she can expect from me. We said, “I do” to one another which means we will give access to our heart, body, time, and fidelity solely to one another.

 

Sep 092014

A Sunday Sermon About Married Sex

Preachers do not preach very often about sex.

In fairness, there are a lot of topics which need to be covered and only one Sunday a week. However, we should talk about it more. Our sex-saturated culture needs to hear what the Bible has to say about healthy sexuality.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul confronted two sexual sins taking place in the church: some saw nothing wrong with having sex with everyone while others saw nothing wrong with avoiding sex with their own spouse. Both mindsets were corrupting the church and injuring individuals.

Here is a sermon from 1 Corinthians 7.1-5. (If the video doesn’t work, click here.)

 

11 Posts About Married Sex

I’ve written a good amount about sex. Here are 11 posts which apply directly to married sex. I think #2 is my favorite.

  1. Are You Having Enough Sex?
  2. I Wouldn’t Sleep With You Either
  3. Three Types of Sex Every Married Couple Should Have
  4. The 24-Hour Rule (a Simple Solution to a Common Sex Problem)
  5. Spicing Up Married Sex By Learning From the Adulterer
  6. What I Tell College Students About Married Sex
  7. If I Could Tell Wives Only One Thing
  8. The Greatest Aspect of Sex (or What a Horny Teenager Could Never Know)
  9. What Your Husband Wants From You in Bed
  10. Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
  11. This Is Only For Women, Men Shouldn’t Read

For more, see:

Ann Voskamp, “Dear Kids: Why Wait Until Marriage”

Matt Chandler, “Jesus Wants the Rose”

 

Sep 082014

Money Can Make You Happy

They say money can’t make you happy.

But they lie.

Money can drastically influence one’s happiness and satisfaction in life.

Recent studies have proven that up to a certain threshold, money can buy happiness. It’s not surprising that if someone has enough money to secure a house, to know where the next meal will come from, and to have their basic necessities taken care with a little left over, people will be happier. (See: I Just Want to Be Happy)

Yet beyond a very low threshold, experts agree that money can’t buy happiness. And it can’t. After we have our basic needs covered, buying objects do not influence our satisfaction with life or feeling of happiness.

However, money can still make you happy.

It just requires us to use money in a different way to experience that happiness.

Up to certain levels, we buy things which lead to our happiness. But having the ability to buy more expensive cars, bigger houses, or nicer clothes does not influence our sense of life satisfaction. (See: Marriage Can’t Make You Happy)

This doesn’t mean money can’t continue to make us happy. It can.

But it only will if we use money in a different way.

While buying things cannot make us happy, giving money and using money to enable experiences can greatly impact our lives.

Money can make you happy when you:

Give it

or

Do things with it

Thinking money will continue to buy happiness after our basic necessities are secured is foolishness. It won’t. Size of bank account or house or car in no way correlates with someone’s satisfaction with life. (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)

But when someone uses money to give to others or to secure experiences for themselves, money can make one happy.

Giving may be the most counter-intuitive act there is. How can giving something to someone else make us happy? It makes no sense. From the moment we can distinguish having something or not have something, we want things to be ours. Try to convince a small child that sharing a toy is a good idea and they will not believe you.

However, as maturity comes, so does the experience that giving to others can be a deeply meaningful event. Not only does giving bring us happiness because it helps others, but also because it is an antidote to greed. Giving brings a double happiness—we find deep satisfaction in watching others receive what they did not expect and it prevents us from holding to tightly to that which we keep.

If you have money and you don’t give to others, you will be greedy. Few things make us more unhappy than the presence of greed.

Money can also enable experiences. Unlike buying things, whenever we use money to gain access to experiences it often deepens relationships, creates an appreciation for what we have, and makes us feel alive.

Buying things does not have a lasting influence on our lives; making memories does. (See: Stop Spending Your Spouse’s Dreams)

Looking back on my life, I can’t remember very many things which I purchased, but I can remember nearly every vacation taken, ballgame enjoyed, and special event experienced. Those memories continue to bring joy even though they have long passed.

Whenever we realize the power of experience in our lives and the lives of our children, it should greatly influence how we spend money. We are tempted to purchase things at the expense of experiences. We should deny the temptation.

Buy a smaller house if it frees up money for season tickets to your favorite team.

Buy a used car if it allows you take a vacation.

Instead of buying a boat, spend the money on multiple trips with your family.

Anytime you have a choice between an object or an experience, buy the experience.

Money can make you happy. It begins by giving us the necessities of life. But it continues as we use it bless others and enjoy one another. Buying things will not make us happy, but giving to others and accessing experiences can bring great joy. (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

And if you really want to multiply the happiness, give someone an experience.

 

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Sep 052014

Fear Leads Me Too Often

I called an editor. It’s been a year. I told him I had a book idea and wanted to know how much it would cost for him to give me some advice. He gave me a price. I balked.

It was expensive. It was fair, but expensive. I’m not sure what I was expecting—probably half. Isn’t that what we always expect. No matter what price someone gives, we also thought it was worth half that price. Unless we own it, of course, then we think it was worth double of what they said.

He gave a price and I balked. I told him I might call him when I was further down the road.

Truth be told, I didn’t balk at the price; I balked at the commitment. To sign a contract, send a manuscript, and write a check would be a real action. Accountability would come. My wife would gladly spend the money, but it would irritate her if I just wasted it. She’s willing to ignore home upgrades if I’m chasing my dreams, but if I don’t have any follow through, skip the editor and let her buy some new furniture.

I wasn’t ready to commit. (See: Clowns in the Closet–an antidote to fear)

People ask all the time if I’m writing a book. I think they are hoping, not so they can read it, but maybe in hopes that if I wrote a book, these articles wouldn’t be slammed into their inboxes or on their social media pages every day. I’ve written five books in the past two years; I’ve just done it 750 words at a time, five days a week.

Starting a website was intimidating enough. It actually happened by accident, but that’s another story for another time. I’ve grown comfortable in putting my ideas and words out on a daily basis. I’ve gotten over my need for perfectionism in order to accomplish production. Every post has mistakes, but people point them out, I correct them and we move on. At least I am writing.

But a book is another concept. It’s a mountain I haven’t learned to hike. I’m trying. Manuscripts are started. Many of these articles are written with the future in mind. Marriage, parenting, and leadership are all topics I would like in book form one day.

It won’t happen if I keep balking. (See: Why Are We Afraid of Change?)

Last year it was the price of editing; this year it’s the busyness of the pastorate. Next year it will be something else.

Too often we are led by fear. We excuse it. We justify it. We never admit it is fear, but fear is the real reason.

What if I fail?

What if people don’t like it?

What if people don’t like me?

The excuses are endless. And they are universal. (See: You Always Have an Excuse)

At what are you balking?

What are the excuses preventing you from doing what needs to be done?

  • Calling the marriage counselor
  • Mending the broken relationship with your sibling
  • Trying out for the part
  • Asking the girl out
  • Going back to school
  • Writing the screenplay
  • Starting the business

Every time you approach the start of the next level of commitment, what is holding you back?

I’m balking. So are you.

What if we stopped balking and took the chance?

Sep 042014

A Church Lady, a Prostitute, and a Misunderstanding of Sex

 

Truth is often missed in one of two ways. Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, if the truth is in the center, you can miss it either to the left or right.

This is true of sex.

Imagine two women (although it could be two men) who seemingly have nothing in common:

The first is the quintessential sweet, holy woman. Everything about her is prim and proper. Hardly a Sunday passes in which she is not on the second row of the most conservative church in town. She is kind, generous, firm in her belief yet not holier-than-though. From the outside, it looks as though she has it all together.

The second is the typical street-walker. Everything about her announces her intention—she wants money and the only way she knows how to “earn” it is through sex. Her skirt is short, her blouse is low, and from the outside, it looks as though she has nothing together.

Their worlds couldn’t be further apart, yet the two might share something in common. If the good church lady is like many good church ladies and she sees nothing wrong with not having sex with her husband then she is more like the street prostitute than she would like to admit. (See: Are You Having Enough Sex?)

There is little difference between the church-going lady who has no problem with not sleeping with her husband and the street-walking prostitute who has no problem sleeping with everybody’s husband.

Both have missed God’s understanding of sex.

Of course it is not just women. In many marriages, it is the man who is ignoring his marital obligations to do everything in his power to foster a healthy sexual intimacy. (See: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines)

No matter who is at fault, denying your spouse a healthy sexual expression is just as wrong as a spouse looking for sexual expression in unhealthy ways.

Many good people have fallen for the lie that sex is just a physical act and it doesn’t really matter. Some even believe it is a borderline carnal act which becomes less important the more spiritually minded one becomes. This belief allows some to look down not just on the prostitute but also any person who desires or enjoys sex.

Viewing sex between spouses as unholy is perversion. It is a twisting of that which is good into something that is bad. It is leading people down an unholy path.

Sex is a God-created, God-ordained act between a husband and wife. It is unholy to pursue sex outside of that covenant and it is unholy to ignore sex within that covenant. (See: What I Tell College Students About Sex)

Clearly there are times in which a sexual relationship is not possible within marriage. Some seasons do not allow for sex and some illnesses make it not possible. However, in most relationships, a healthy sexual union should be sought and can be found. Yet it begins with a proper understanding of sex.

Biblical sex is about more than procreation. It’s also about pleasure. It’s about uniting a husband and wife into a unique experience unlike any other relationship they could have.

It isn’t an easy relationship. Sin has corrupted sex. It has brought much pain and shame to many people. It has perverted our view of healthy sexuality. It has done much harm.

Yet sex should not be forsaken. We cannot be deceived into thinking that sex can be ignored and our marriage will still flourish. We cannot believe in the delusion that there is a high spiritual plane for those who deny their spouse and themselves sexually. We cannot mimic an unhealthy culture regarding sex with our own unhealthy culture.

Instead, we should do the work necessary to cultivate an appropriate sexual relationship. It’s not easy. Few things make us so vulnerable. Few things expose our insecurities and past hurts. Few things are as personal. (See: The Greatest Aspect of Sex)

Developing a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse will guarantee hurt feelings, frustrations, and disagreements. It will attack our very definitions of womanhood and manhood. It will be difficult work.

Yet the work is worth it.

When a couple sincerely makes it a life-long pursuit to nourish a healthy sexual relationship within their marriage, they will never regret it.

As a pastor, I often grieve over the sexual perversion of our culture. It has disastrous consequences.

But sometimes I also grieve over the sexual perversion inside the church. It has equal negative consequences. (See: What Your Husband Wants From You In Bed)

There are two ways to pervert the truth. Surprisingly, many church people have a lot in common with the prostitutes.

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