Monday, February 14, 2011

Singles' Awareness Day (a.k.a Valentine's Day)

To those unmarried and over 22 – ON VALENTINE’S DAY...

Many changes had occurred in the past 10-15 years for the modern day single. They are bombarded with reasons to remain single and desires to become married. Those who are single in American has grown from 30% to 50% of people here in the US. The average age to marry (in the past 10 years) has gone from 23 years for a woman to 26 and from 25 years for a man to 29. This dilemma has not made life easier for the single.

The church seldom has a place for the “after college” single. The over 22 year old doesn’t always have a place to meet with others the same age. Where do they go to meet singles their own age? What do they do with their own loneliness?

What does that mean to you as a Christian single? Your life becomes more difficult just from the difference in age to marry. First, it makes it more difficult to arrive into marriage as a virgin. It is also more difficult to meet other Christian singles. Are you as a single, doomed to remain single, to give up your beliefs to find other singles?

To survive in this new world as a Christian single you have to make a choice to follow God no matter how difficult life seems. Here are some simple guidelines to help you..

1. Know that the grass isn’t greener on the other side – marriage doesn’t promise you a better life.

2. Praise God in all things – everyday be thankful for the blessings you have.

3. Choose to be content as you are. Paul “learned to be content”. This may be a choice you have to make everyday.

4. Keep your prayer life solid. How much time do you spend with the Lord? Do you enjoy being in His presence? Do you look forward to being with God? Are you letting this time strengthen you each day?

5. Spend time in the Word. Start with the gospel of John, Psalms and Proverbs. Gradually, add in other books. Ask God to show you what you need to know to grow in Him.

6. Try to encourage another single. Have scriptures of hope that bring true life.

7. If you need to get out of the doldrums – fast and pray. Know there is nothing God cannot do. DO NOT GIVE UP.

8. Try to enjoy your life and do the things that you enjoy – travel, sports, and creative pastimes –in other words- have fun.

9. Never give up – If God hasn’t called you to be single, most likely you will marry, 95% of Americans do.

10.To help yourself emotionally, exercise at least 4 times a week and eat healthy. It makes a huge difference in how you feel.

Now, go out there this day and face this Valentine’s Day with a smile. :)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Now the men benefit…time for all you married women to read!

Part 2 of What are the Most Important Attributes in a Marriage?

In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul admonishes the church regarding marriage, “...Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect (another translation – honor) her husband.” In many marriages, the problem of a wife feeling unprotected is not a one-sided issue. I have recognized that in this type of relationship, the wife is usually failing to respect her husband, as Paul exhorted wives to do. When a man does not feel respected and admired, he often stops protecting his wife. As such, when a woman does not feel protected, it is almost impossible for her to bring herself to admire and respect her husband. This easily spins into a miserable cycle which produces resentment and sometimes divorce. Some women, especially those who grew up in a home with an absent father, do not know how to show respect or admiration for their husbands. The definition of respect includes these four aspects:

1. Honor

Honoring a husband is about valuing him and regarding him highly, including communicating personal gratefulness for him in front of others.. A wife can honor her husband by making herself and their home beautiful for him. She can also honor him by refraining from comparing her husband to other men. A woman who obviously shows loyalty to her husband above friends, relatives, and work honors him. Wives who honor their husbands also learn to be content in their present circumstances, even if they are not ideal.

2. Love

Many women love their husbands dearly but do not know how to show it in a way that he will receive that love. One way that a woman can show her love for her husband is by paying more attention to him than to others, especially at social gatherings. Also, she can express her love for him by accepting and returning his physical affection, which is a man’s most common way of showing love. In order to show her love for her husband, a woman must not use withdrawal of sex as a punishment for his insensitivity or wrong actions. When they disagree, a wife can display her love in a gentle, respectful spirit toward her husband.

3. Admire, Praise, and Adore

Men love to receive praise and adoration from their wives. It is so important for a woman to express unconditional acceptance of her husband, as well as to give him her approval and encouragement. A wife can do this by making an effort to gain appreciation for her husband’s occupation, and by expressing enthusiasm for his achievements. She can also use her womanly sensitivity to detect his personal goals and then lend her support as he pursues those goals. A man will feel adored by his wife if she brags to other people about him and refrains from discrediting or criticizing him in front of other people.

4. Defer to Him

Submission has become a hot topic in some circles today, but a woman’s deferment toward her husband is essential to her respecting him. This includes valuing his opinions enough to give up hers if necessary and a willingness to listen to his advice. A woman who defers to her husband expresses confidence in him, and shows loyalty and support in spite of the wrong decisions he may make. Submitting to her husband also means being willing to admit when she is wrong, and making a point to values his input in front of their children.

Many of these ways for husbands to protect their wives and for wives to protect their husbands are easier said than done and include a great deal of self-sacrifice. However, once the cycle has started, it takes on person to start making sacrifices to put a stop to it, leading to the beginning of a more fruitful, healthy marriage where both partner’s needs are being met. The key – one spouse must start the cycle.

By the way credit goes to my coauthor – JOY MOYAL!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What are the Most Important Attributes in a Marriage?

CBS NEWS cites a study on spouses called “Bad Relationship bad for heart” and why couples can develop hardening of the arteries. This coincides with God’s Word to husbands to love their wife and wives to honor their husband. We will see how this fits with a man’s need to protect his wife and a woman’s need to admire her husband.

CBS referred to the study of March, 2006 that showed the effects of hostility and controlling behavior on spouses’ hearts. It was found that if a wife’s husband was hostile toward her she would develop hardening of the arteries. If the husband’s wife was dominant he would be more likely than other men to have hardening of the arteries. Let’s look at this finding viewing it through the Word of God.

The apostle Peter acknowledged wives’ need for protection when he wrote, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” 1 Peter 3:7. This is showing women do need protection as the weaker partner physically and sometimes emotionally.

In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul admonishes the church regarding marriage, “...Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect (another translation – honor) her husband.” It is vital that women value their husband by admiring him.

If a man is protecting his wife from many of life’s frustrations he is definitely loving her as himself and being considerate of her being the weaker partner (this will be described below). You can’t be angry with someone and protect them at the same time. Most often anger from a husband gives the wife fear and anxiety. Fear is quite the opposite of safety.

Hostile husbands not being able to protect due to anger = wife with hardening of the arteries.

In the same way, if a woman is admiring and honoring her husband she cannot be controlling at the same time. Control from a woman causes resentment and anger in a man. Honor is showing great deference and awe, quite the opposite of control.

Controlling wives not being able to admire and honor due to their control = husband with hardening of the arteries.

The same basic root of discord intertwines most all the couples I counsel: she does not feel protected and he does not feel admired. Although we often hear about these two basic elements, I believe we do not address them because we do not understand how they are manifested in real life. Here is an example of a couple facing a lack of protection and admiration.

The silence was tense as I sat with *Bob and Kathy, watching their faces crumple alternately with frustration and despair. This was my second session with them, and I was finally starting to see the root of their problem. The couple had come with the complaint that they “just weren’t getting along anymore” and divorce had been mentioned. Kathy sat on the edge of her seat, chewing on her lower lip as she tried to formulate her next sentence. “I feel like a pressure cooker,” she said finally. Her rigid posture and tight voice supported this idea. “I just feel all this*not the actual couple weight closing in on me from all sides, and I know that one day soon I’m going to explode!”

I turned my attention to Bob, whose face reflected genuine confusion and concern mixed with intense frustration. “I don’t get it,” he began gruffly. “I work long hours every day to provide for her and our kids. I try to give her nice things whenever she wants them. I have never hit her, called her names, or been unfaithful to her. What else could she possibly want?” Kathy looked confused, too, like she felt that Bob’s list should be enough to make her happy, and she was upset with herself that she wasn’t. She stared at the floor for a few moments, then looked up into his eyes before quietly saying, “I just thought when I got married, someone would have my back, you know? That I would be covered. Instead, I feel like I am living life alone.” As tiny, silent tears began to leak from Kathy’s tired eyes, I let her words sink in. When the couple first came into my office, I had suspected their deeper issue, but with Kathy’s statement about living life alone, I knew Kathy did not feel protected.

When we hear the word “protection” we automatically think of physical protection. However, with most couples this is not the case. There is no abuse involved, and both partners know that the other would die for them if necessary. But there are other areas where a woman needs to feel protected and the happiness of any marriage can be greatly increased if these areas are identified and addressed.

The Need of Protection for a woman:

1. A woman needs protection from the stress she experiences from her internal world. Let’s look at where “weakness” needs protection.

Daily hassles can build up into monstrous stress for women. These can be things as simple as fighting traffic on her daily commute or as difficult as getting the kids ready for bed. Merely by asking his wife about such hassles and doing his best to relieve some of them, a husband can make her feel protected.

Women also live under the stress of too much to do. In today’s society, she is often responsible for a job, raising the kids, keeping the house, and looking good while doing it! A husband can protect his wife from this type of stress by pitching in and helping around the house without being asked. A wife does not feel protected when her husband lives by the idea that “a woman’s work is never done.”

A woman’s home is an extension of herself, and when projects go unfinished or things are broken, the woman tends to feel undone, too. Her husband can help by seeing these needs around the house and fixing them without waiting for a reward. It also helps for him to be aware of his wife’s physical limitations and her inability to do some of the chores around the house. Men can also protect their wives from stress by taking care of the “little things” such as being the one to get the waiter’s attention at a restaurant or pumping her gas for her.

2. A woman needs protection from people.

It is not uncommon for women to need protection by their husband from relatives. If a family member (on her side or his side) insults the wife, it is her husband’s duty to stand up for her. He protects her from her relatives by putting her first and letting her know that she is more valuable to him than his extended family. With people in general, a man can protect his wife by spending focused time with her at a social gathering, by defending her against people who may insult her, and by showing public affection for her so everyone sees that he is proud to be with her.

3. A woman needs protection from the pressure of outside forces.

Pushy salesmen, bill collectors, problems with credit cards...these can put unnecessary pressures on a woman. Her husband needs to understand that to a woman some of these issues are more easily fixed by a man and he needs to take the initiative. Money pressures are also common for many women. Making financial decisions together helps relieve such pressure from a woman. One way men sometimes cause their wives to feel unprotected in this area is when they spend too much money or change jobs and put their family under financial pressure.

4. A woman needs her husband to be mature and responsible.

Husbands need to protect their wives from their own selfishness by keeping their promises or by not spending so much time watching TV or on the computer and instead spend time with the family. Husbands need to be affectionate with their wife at times that doesn’t lead to sex. A wife also needs protection from her husband’s immaturity. He can make progress in this area by being open to talk with her about things that he doesn’t understand, by being willing to admit when he is wrong, and by refraining from doing things that embarrass her.

The husband must make an effort to make decisions with his wife instead of leaving them all up to her. He can also help her by having a plan for the future, which will bring security. Spiritually, a husband needs to be the leader of the home. He can protect his wife in this area by modeling a prayer life, including praying with her, and by expressing interest in his wife’s personal and spiritual growth. Finally, a woman needs protection from her husband’s needs and desires overwhelming hers. He can show that he values her needs and desires by showing enthusiasm about her job and other activities, by cherishing her womanly characteristics and sensitivity, and by refraining from comparing her to other women. It might help to treat her as though the words “Handle with Care” were stamped on her forehead! This is the first half – stay tuned in 2 weeks and see what the woman needs to do to truly honor her husband.

The two most needed attributes in a marriage – the man to protect – the woman to honor. God was protecting our physical hearts as well as our emotional heart with His Word.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Change – for the New Year

Change is hard for most people. The frightening thing about change is that it comes whether we want it or not. We all experience it – sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways as is the manner of life. In the Bible when experiencing loss of loved ones people would tear their clothes and sit in ashes. Friends would mourn and wail with them. This part of the process was helpful because it was acknowledgment of loss as well as deep felt empathy with others. Throughout history there has always been a process of how to grieve depending upon the culture. In the early 1900’s people were still wearing black for a year if not longer to signify their grief. By the 1950’s we still wore black to the funeral (a must) although the grieving expectations of the griever by society in time was shortened. In the 1980’s some wore black to the funeral and now in the 21st century seldom is black worn at a funeral and the griever does not wear black to signify their pain. Many people today seem to expect a person to get over their grief soon and seem impatient if the process is delayed.

So now you are to 2011! What will be different this year? What will change? Will it be good change? Will it hurt? We definitely go through the grieving cycle when big change occurs. Moving to another city can do that. Losing your job definitely causes grief. A close friend dying will add to the grief. What does this mean to you? This could be preparing you for the future!

As for me and 2011- I am believing for good things this year – for all my promises to come to pass! I am, however, in a phase of grief. Through being laid off from my job in 2010, now moving to Washington tomorrow, I am finding everything seems new and different. Just because it is a loss, doesn’t mean I had to stay in grief. Our bodies just respond to loss physically and emotionally. It is part of the life process. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He sees the very smallest loss we have. He cares about everything. It is time in 2011 to believe and act on Romans 8:28 – that all things work together for our good. Know God is faithful – even when we are faithless. Claim 2011 as your year of Jubilee!