Friends Who Care

Last week, we talked about the kind of friends that could adversely affect our marriages. The complainer, the critic, and the cynic all hurt our God-given relationships and in many cases have contributed to the demise of a “friend’s” wedded bliss. But thank God that those are not the only friends we get to choose from. There is the other end of the spectrum, a different breed of friends. These are the friends who care about us. They care about our marriage and pray for us to make it. They hurt when we hurt, cry when we cry, and rejoice when we rejoice. These friends truly love us and want the best for our marriage. They don’t get all clingy and jealous of our spouse. They are encouragers. They are honest. They are real friends.

Let’s examine the type of friends we must surround ourselves with who seek to help, and not hinder our marriages.

The Honest Friend

It must start here. It is hard to move forward in a friendship without honesty. We cannot live our lives based on lies. Why would we want to have friendships that are dishonest?

In a time of “networking,” we have been programmed to make friends based on how they will help us in our business and life. And to some degree, that’s what this post is about. However, sometimes, honesty goes out the door because we’re afraid to hurt each other’s feelings or maybe it’s just not our business. Some might even say, “I’m not by brother’s keeper!”

If you see your friend walking towards a busy interstate highway, intending to hurt himself, what would you do? Would you trust what he’s doing? Would you say, “it’s none of my business?” Or would you scream to the top of your lungs, “stop,” while running to pull him back to safety?

I need a friend that would be honest with me and just say, “You’re being a jerk with your wife,” if I am being one. I need a friend who would be willing to give me honest feedback regarding my character, reputation, and marriage, especially at crucial stages of my life. And when done in love and at the appropriate time, I don’t consider it meddling.

We need friends that will be honest with us.

The Encouraging Friend

Can we all agree that there’s enough drama in this world? We don’t need to add to it! I need a friend who will encourage me. Notice what Paul said about the house of Onesiphorus:

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:”               2 Timothy 1:16

I know I’m not perfect. I know that my marriage isn’t perfect. I don’t need anyone creating drama around it or reminding me of how much I fail in life. I need someone who would refresh me. Someone who will say, “It’s okay if you messed up. Get up, get it right, and keep going.” Do your friends, like Onesiphorus, often refresh you?

The Challenging Friend

It’s been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I receive help better from people who I know care about me. Abraham Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”

The fact is this: we are not done growing personally and maritally. We need help! Therefore we need friends who will challenge us to go to the next level. We need people who will challenge us to be more caring, romantic, thoughtful, etc. We need friends who constantly remind us not to settle for second best. After all, when it comes to our marriage, our attitude should always be, “the best is yet to come.” That only happens if we are willing to grow and a friend can help us with that.

Do you have friends who care? Friends who don’t get in the way of your marriage but rather become the stepping stones to a successful relationship. If so, hang on to them tightly, thank them for being honest with you, encouraging and challenging you. Your marriage has been helped by these special angels. How can you repay them? Be the same kind of friend to them, a friend who cares and together we can create a community filled with strong marriages.

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Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 2

Step 4: Keep the Fire Burning

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned – Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love – Proverbs 5:18-19

Time and distance are constant enemies of marriage. The natural flow of relationships is never towards but away from each other. It takes work to make a relationship work!

Remember when you and your spouse were dating/courting. You worked to prove your love to each other. You wrote notes, bought flowers, made gifts, took time, talked, served and preferred each other. What about now? Do you approach the same “duties” with the same fervor or are you just going through the motions? Are you just being romantic so that “momma stays happy because if she ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy?”

People who are labeled as “romantic” work at being just that. It doesn’t come natural but being selfish and thinking about “my wants and my needs” does come easy. So you’ve got to plan. You must prepare.

It’s just like having a campfire or a fireplace. You have to sometimes stoke the fire or blow into it to see the flames rise. Sometimes you have to add more wood or even squirt an accelerant. Then, whoosh! The fire is raging and burning much hotter than it did before.

Your marriage deserves the same, if not more, attention. Throw some fuel into it. Have regular date nights but don’t be boring and predictable. Plan to be intimate. Yeah, I said it, plan it! There is definitely room for spontaneity but if you have kids, you know that there’s not much room for surprises. Ladies, give your husband some money and send him to the store to buy you something to wear. Text your husband a “message” and let him know what’s waiting for him.

You don’t have to be ashamed. Remember, these are all honorable in marriage according to God. I love what Proverbs 5 says, “be thou ravished ALWAYS with her love.” Enough said.

Step 5: Remember Your Family & Friends

As a husband, father, assistant pastor, couples’ teacher and school principal, I have people (both young and old) that observe my life. Now, I’m not taking these steps for them, per sé, but they are affected by what I do.

Not only is your spouse affected by your affair (physical or emotional) but so are your kids, your friends, and your church. Everyone feels a level of pain because of the selfish and sinful act. Having an affair is not a victimless crime!

I remember talking to a young person a few years ago who foolishly exclaimed, “I think marriage is a joke.” After asking him why he thought that, I soon discovered that his dad had been unfaithful multiple times to his mom. In his eyes, what’s the point of getting married and being committed? After explaining to him what the Bible says about marriage and the blessing that it is, he apologized and had a different perspective on marriage.

A dad’s foolish affair affected his son’s attitude and perspective that day. You can do the same, too.

(the article will be concluded next week)

Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 1

Zarate Family 1331

It breaks my heart that people today don’t think much of marriage. Mainstream culture today see marriage as “old-fashioned” and “unnecessary.” Men and women see no problems with sexual relations outside of the marriage relationship. As a result, affairs are rampant and couples even get to a point of indifference, where they simply don’t care if their spouse is sleeping around.

Marriage has become a social, rather than a spiritual responsibility. Husbands and wives simply stay together nowadays for “the kid’s sake.” (As if divorcing after the children are grown makes it easier on them) And as a result, we see or hear of affairs often.

It’s unfortunate but almost everyone knows of someone who’s had or has been a victim of an affair. Maybe you’re the one reeling from it or the one that committed it. If so, I have a few words before we discuss the simple steps to an affair-free marriage.

First of all, you must confess your sin (if you’re the offender). You must confess it to God and your spouse and maybe even your children (depending on their age, of course). You have no right to act so selfishly and foolishly, regardless of how you think your spouse treated you. Your actions did not just affect you and the effects will last for quite some time.

If you’re the victim of an affair, this may be hard, but I want to encourage you to hear the confession and offer forgiveness. Be honest. Be loving. Communicate how you’ve been hurt but also provide instructions on how your trust can be earned back. It won’t happen overnight. But with God’s help, you can restore your marriage.

Second of all, this is not an article meant to bash people who have been in an affair or been divorced. Before you become protective over someone who has been involved in an affair (as a perpetrator or a victim), show them this article and ask, “Could these have helped?” The people who have been affected by affairs will be the first ones to encourage all of us to take the necessary steps to protect our marriages. They know the pain and have experienced the hurt. It is not their desire for anyone else to go through what they went through.

And finally, this is not an all-inclusive list. I am not a marriage expert. I simply have a passion for marriage and will do all that I can to help anyone who wants to strengthen or save their marriage. These steps are based on Scripture and the godly counsel and examples I have observed in my life. So, here it goes.

Step 1: Thank God For Your Spouse and Show Your Appreciation Daily

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. – Proverbs 18:22

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

One of the biggest problems in America today is that we often pine for that which we do not have. Someone once said that contentment is not having what you want but being thankful for what you have.

Stop wondering what life would be like if you would’ve married your high school or college girlfriend or boyfriend! (i.e. the Facebook Romance) Stop fantasizing about that actor or co-worker. The one that should fill your thoughts, excite your heart, and turn you on should be your spouse. Think about it, he/she is God’s gift to you!

One way to be thankful for your spouse is to show your appreciation daily. Don’t just say “thank you” but show it, too, through your actions. It’ll keep you from coveting someone else.

Step 2: Avoid Being Alone with a Person of the Opposite Sex

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? – Proverbs 6:27

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband:and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. – 1 Corinthians 7:4

No offense, but people who’ve had affairs often thought, “This is no big deal. I can handle it!” Newsflash – you can’t! If we play with fire, we will get burned.

The sexual desires we are created with are God’s gifts for our marriage. That’s why He says in Hebrews 13, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled…” The intimacy that should exist between a man and a woman is created for those in a marriage relationship. That is why guilt and misery accompanies premarital or extramarital affairs. There’s no joy or happiness, only deceit and eventual despair. And forget about earning trust. If you’re relationship started out as a lie, what kind of foundation is that? But I digress from the point.

Men and women have a mutual dependency upon each other on various levels (spiritual, emotional, physical, etc.) Those dependencies are to be met, again, within the confines of marriage. Unfortunately, these dependencies also draw men and women together.

It begins with, “I’m glad you understand because my wife sure doesn’t” or “Why can’t my husband be more caring and concerned like you?” And before you know it, you’ve let go of that which is good and now are giving the appearance of evil. You’ve decided to pick up that “fire.”

You also have given someone else power over your mind, emotion, and body, which rightly belongs to your spouse. All of a sudden you notice things you thought you were missing in your marriage and find it in this person. The conversation and companionship alone with each other has moved you away from appreciating God’s gift to you – your spouse!

I know what most are thinking, “It’s not that big a deal!” May I remind you? That’s how it starts. Just ask those who’ve been down this destructive path before.

Step 3: Watch Your Eyes

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes… – Psalm 101:3

…and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon… 2 Samuel 11:2

You can only control, to a certain degree, what is set before your eyes. In today’s society, where sexuality is flaunted, it is hard to “unsee” what’s all over the place. But you can choose not to look again. That’s what got King David in trouble. He knew about Bathsheba. He saw her and he kept watching to a point where he began to desire her. By the way, what happens to David also happens to those who view pornography. They begin to desire who they’re watching or at the very least, seek to imitate in their spouse what they’ve observed through pornography and it never ends well.

Also, husbands, when speaking to a woman, it is best to make eye contact. Don’t let your eyes wander. Her body isn’t meant for your pleasure. Remember, we’re stimulated by sight. But wives, even though sight is not your primary stimulant, follow the same practice anyway. And though this will be further discussed later, please ladies, keep your hands to yourself.

(to be continued)

 

How Easter Can Help Your Marriage

easter-eggs

It’s that time of the year when we celebrate Easter Sunday! It signals a new beginning as people don apparel that comes from the brighter side of their closets. Little girls coming in their beautiful dresses and boys handsomely dressed like “preppies.” And then there’s the Easter Dinner. Ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, the colorful desserts after Easter service at your local church. After that delicious Easter dinner, it’s time for some games so that the kids can run off all that sugar and the adults can come out of their semi-comatose state. After all, unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a football game to snooze in front of. The traditional game: an Easter egg hunt!  (By the way, before you get all offended, I know what Easter or Resurrection Sunday is all about; just wanting to help marriages for now)

It was the thought of an Easter egg hunt that gave me an idea on how to help our marriages. Why not have an egg hunt for your spouse. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • A bag of empty plastic shells (you can get these at Walmart, Target, or Party City)
  • A roll of scotch tape
  • Tiny pieces of paper
  • A pen
  • Maybe your spouse’s favorite perfume or cologne

I think you already know where I’m going. On the tiny pieces of paper write down any of the following:

  • I love you because… (you should come up with at least a dozen different reasons)
  • Because I love you, I will… (kinda like a coupon for a back rub, romantic dinner, favorite treat, or… you know what he/she likes, just write it down)
  • Go get your favorite… (then include the money for his/her favorite…)

Feel free to be more creative than me in what you can place in those eggs.

Then, hide the eggs all over the house (fridge, closet, drawers, favorite chair, etc.), the car, their office, and anywhere else they may frequent. It’s okay if they don’t find it right away. Can you imagine the smile on their face when they find it a few months later? It will be awesome!

By the way, parents, this would be good to do with your children (both for them and for your spouse). It’s fun way to communicate love to each other. It also teaches them that loving each other takes some work (something that most people don’t realize nowadays).

You may be thinking, “Why go through all the trouble?” First of all, your marriage is important! When you said, “I do,” you made a promise before God and men. Keep it! Fight for your marriage and do all that you can to make it better. Your home should be a haven, not a war zone and doing little things like this egg hunt shows how much you care.

Second of all, if you have children, realize that they are watching. Statistics have shown that many children whose parent went through divorce ended up going through divorce themselves. Monkey see, money do. Fathers, one of the best gifts you can give your children is to love their mother. And even as children of divorced parents persevere through their own marriages, they’ll be the first to tell you that at some point, they struggle at the very least with the fear of being divorced. Don’t put them through that!

Finally, your marriage is worth it and God is on your side! How do I know? Well, He did create marriage all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Our marriages are a perfect picture of Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (the bride). There’s no doubt Jesus loves us and just in case you have any doubts, He’s left a lot of “easter eggs” with messages all over the place. Just open it up and read, you’ll be glad you did!

Get Off the Carousel!

Silver-Beach-CarouselOne of my daughter’s favorite rides is the carousel. Whether it’s on a beach boardwalk, a mall, or Disneyland, if there’s a carousel, she wants to ride it.

Can I be honest with you? I loathe it as much as my daughter loves it! It goes in circles over and over again. No matter what horse, or fish, animal, or object you’re riding, you’ll never get ahead of the person in front of you. Then there’s the obligatory wave at the loved ones watching you as you aimlessly spin around on this contraption. Whoever invented this ride was a genius!

Has your marriage ever felt like a carousel ride? Have you ever had those conversations that just went around and around, only to accomplish nothing? Maybe you find yourselves fighting the same issue over and over and over again. You ask yourself, “Is this ever gonna end?” And like the carousel for the motion-sensitive person, you start to have that nauseous feeling that signals some uncontrolled, unwanted “burst” is coming!
Too many marriages live on a carousel – they’re moving but they’re not going anywhere! The same arguments dominate their conversations. The same stagnant schedule with no growth whatsoever. And before you know it, one or both spouses are sick of going around and around that they decide to jump off the carousel.

Good!

You heard me. I said that’s good.

I’m not talking about getting off the carousel by means of divorce, dissolving their marriage. I am, however, talking about a conscious effort to resist being a slave to the seemingly never-ending, unnecessary cycles in life.

So how to we get off the carousel?

First, admit that you’re on the carousel. Too many people are in denial. They believe they’re in a perfect marriage. Are you a sinner? Has he/she offended you? Then there’s a great possibility you may be on (either now or in the future) on a carousel. Admit it!

Second, assess the situation. Not all problems are huge, earth-shattering problems. But if left alone, it can be. Pray and ask God to give you both wisdom to see the situation for what it really is.

Third, aim to make it right. Develop a plan by studying God’s Word. What does He say about your situation and how can you fix it? And give the plan an activation date. More often than not, that date is now! After, didn’t someone once say, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail?”

Finally, accomplish your aim. Work your plan. Do what you know is right. Don’t just talk about stopping the cycle and getting off the carousel – do it!

Your marriage doesn’t have to be a series of cyclical arguments and events. It can, through the power of the Spirit, be an upward climb towards a closer relationship with God and each other. A glorious, joyful relationship is yours , if you would only get off the carousel!

Romantically Challenged Support Group, Part 4

Today, we’ll conclude this article with two more tips for the “romantically challenged.” As I said before, these are areas I have struggled in and seek to be better with the upcoming days. There is no perfect marriage and the quicker you recognize that, the sooner you’ll humbly improve your marriage. So here’s the final two.

Realize That Romance is Not an Exact Science

Continue reading

Romantically Challenged Support Group, Part 2

Let’s continue to look at how we can be a more romantic spouse.

Make a Big Deal of Special Days. This means saying, “Happy Birthday,” or “Happy Anniversary” on the days they actually occurred. The other day, someone I know talked to their spouse three times on the phone before realizing that it was their birthday. Ouch! I understand that you may not celebrate it that day but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something or at the very least, say something. Let me say, too, that forgetfulness is not an excuse. With electronic calendars, reminder apps, smartphones, and computers, there’s plenty of ways to keep track of these special days.

Anticipate Your Spouse’s Needs. Gentlemen, especially, don’t wait until your wife has to drop hints (which we often miss) to do something for her. It’s amazing how many arguments can be eliminated by simply meeting our spouse’s needs. I love how David’s mighty men risked their lives just to get him water from a well in Bethlehem. Pay attention during conversations and learn to anticipate what your spouse may need or want.

The other day I got a big kiss from my wife that surprised me. I simply filled out her supplement container. I had a few extra minutes and decided to do something she typically does for both of us. Guess what, if I keep getting surprised that way, I’m looking for more needs to meet!

Learn How Your Spouse Wants To Be Loved. This may sound strange but not everyone enjoys being loved the same way. I suppose the best way to describe this is by citing Dr. Gary Chapman’s Book, The Five Love Languages. For years I rebelled against this book because I thought it was hogwash that you could box in the way you express your love. After being married a few years, I decided to read it again. And boy, was I wrong! The premise of the book it this: there are love languages each person usually speak and it is how they desire to receive love. The love languages are physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, gifts, and quality time. Each person likes for love to be expressed to them specifically in one or a combination of these languages. Which brings me back to the point of learning how your spouse wants to be loved. One of the best ways to know is to observe how he/she expresses love. If he loves to demonstrate affection through physical contact, more than likely he wants it reciprocated in the same manner. If she loves to give gifts, then she probably enjoys receiving them, too. The exception to these rules is if they have discovered your love language and is seeking to express their love to you. Talk about it and learn how you want love expressed in your marriage.

 

Eye Contact and Full Attention. When your spouse is speaking to you (especially when it’s a serious conversation), turn off the TV, put down the phone or tablet, and give him/her your undivided attention. One of the surest ways to manifest this is through eye contact. Look into your spouse’s eyes. Think about it, what’s more romantic? A husband gazing into his wife’s eye and saying, “I love you.” Or a husband watching TV or playing Temple Run and saying to his wife, “I love you.” We live in such a multimedia, multi-sensory world that we don’t take the time to just slow down and focus. Don’t be so A.D.D when your spouse is speaking to you. Frankly, many couples have drifted apart due to a lack of focus and full attention. On date nights or late night conversations, stare into their eyes and give full attention.