Monday, February 29, 2016

Praying Over your Household

Let's talk about a fight, but not the one you are thinking of. When we read about marriage, we often read about fighting fair or how to minimize fights with your spouse. This fight is a good one, though. This is fighting for your marriage in the spiritual sense. Sound crazy? Hear me out. Your marriage is under attack from the world, from all the forces tugging at both of you, and from the enemy.

Our secular culture shuns marriage as a temporary holdover of some old religious traditions. Work, kids' events, activities, and all the other STUFF that life throws at you on a weekly basis want to be more important than your marriage. Your marriage is from God, and therefore the enemy is out to destroy it. That's a lot of attack, huh? Well, let's talk about a tool that you need to be using to fight.

Prayer is a cornerstone of any good marriage. I'm sure plenty of people disagree, but I'm unwavering on this point. We are constantly reaching out to God for help with our marriage and as a covering over our household. We even pray every night before bed. I think I've covered why to pray. Now, what does praying over your household look like?

As husbands, this is one of our primary responsibilities. We are the spiritual coverings over our wives and children, and it is essential that we are prayed up regarding ourselves and our relationships. If there is something that is preventing you  from being this covering for your family, deal with this first by seeking wise council and accountability and come back and finish the rest of this later. For the rest of us, we must be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. He is our lifeline as human beings, let alone leaders of families.

Next, we must pray over our wives and children when we are alone. As I've grown in the Holy Spirit and as a husband, I find myself praying over Laura and our house more than just in my quiet time in the mornings. At intervals during the day, or even night, I'm praying over her and our future children whenever I feel led.

Lastly, and most importantly, pray over them out loud. We set aside time when we go to bed every night for me to pray for Laura. Often, she also prays for me. This may sound intimidating, but she loves it, and I believe that this is a desire of many wives in the church. It is important that your wife and children know that you are praying for them and more specifically, what you are praying for them. You are showing your wife that you lead the home spiritually and showing your children a model of the Christian walk.

It may seem awkward at first, and you may not be really confident in how you pray. I wasn't at first either, but it becomes more natural, and it is too important to let your pride get in the way. So take time to pray over your family. It is a small investment with huge dividends. (Click to Tweet.) 


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Redeem: Part 1

The word God gave me for 2016 is REDEEM. A dear friend of mine (yep—the same friend) gave me a necklace with this word on it, so I can wear it every day as a reminder.

As I’ve mediated on this word, I feel like the Lord continues to show me a new facet of meaning.

Redeem is literally an exchange—and usually money is involved.

We redeem something in exchange for something else. If I have a coupon for 30% off at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I will redeem my coupon for the discount on my total purchase.

I receive the purchase. I’ve redeemed the coupon.

As believers, we are redeemed. We know that He is our Redeemer.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My church did a sermon series a while ago called The Exchange—and it’s the exchanges that took place at the cross.

This morning, as I was reading through Romans 5, what we received in that exchange really stood out:

Because of the cross, we have
  • Peace with God
  • Grace
  • Hope of the glory of God
  • God’s love in our heart
  • The Holy Spirit
We are now
  • Saved from God’s wrath
  • Reconciled
  • Saved (Greek word: sozo – literally, to save, to heal, to deliver) 
  • Righteous

Through Jesus, we receive grace and righteousness. Receive. It’s a gift.

Our only job to receive this gift is to believe—believe in Jesus, in the finished work of the cross.

So often, we present the gospel like this: You’re a terrible sinner, you’re worthless, you’re nothing without Jesus—you need to confess your sins, right now! (Or go to Hell.)

I’m not denying the truth of those statements. We are sinners. We do fall short of God’s glory apart from Jesus, etc.

But Scripture says to confess that Jesus is Lord.

What we confess is our belief in Jesus—in what He accomplished for us on the cross. What we repent from is the law of sin and death, from works righteousness.

We don’t focus enough on the exchange, on what was redeemed—that our new nature is righteous, literally, made right. It is as it should be between God and me.

Never again will I be separated. By faith, I believe this.

If we make salvation only about confessing sin and needing a savior, we miss the power of the cross. Because the next day, we are still powerless to sin.

When we make salvation an exchange—an unmerited exchange, a free gift received by faith alone—now it’s more than forgiven sins. It’s a new nature. I am a new person: righteous and full of grace.

Salvation is easy. Getting saved is actually easy. Our part is very light: Believe. That’s all His word says—confess and believe that Jesus is Lord, and you will be saved.

What is hard about following Jesus? Well...

  • Walking through life. (“In this world, you will face troubles…”)
  • Believing all that He says He is and all that He says you are in Him. (Sometimes that's hard.)
  • Submitting my will to His. (Yeah, that’s also hard.)

Being a disciple—a follower of Jesus—is the challenging part. Receiving His promise is not.

When we present the gospel, we should be clear on these two points:

  • We don’t work to be saved.
  • We don’t work after salvation.

But we do choose to believe. We do choose to submit. We choose to be a follower.

Next week, I want to look more closely at this word, REDEEM, for our everyday life: it’s in His nature to redeem; what can He redeem for us in this season?

But this week, let’s be grateful as we remember the greatest redemption story—how he redeemed us from our sin and in exchange made us righteous and free. (Click to Tweet.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

An Update on The Waiting Game

I’ve been asked lately how things are going with the fiction book I wrote last year, and for whatever reason, I don’t feel discouraged about the progress until I have to give an answer to someone.

When I realize that my answer is the same as it was the last time—or that I’m still waiting—I feel like I should have more to show for my efforts.

One of the most important takeaways from the ACFW conference last year highlighted how slow the publishing process is—and, for me, I’m glad I know that so I can expect to wait, a lot.

But equally as true as the wait time from an agent shopping your book proposal with publishers to securing a contract to seeing your book in print, I’m learning, is the process for finding an agent.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I didn’t want to send out my book proposal or manuscript to any and every agent, so it’s been a lot of wait-and-see (and check the inbox all. the. time).

I finished the book last January.

In September, I met with three agents and one publisher at the ACFW conference, and I had two agents ask to see the manuscript. 

In October, I sent the manuscript to the first agent who requested it.

In early January, I received her reply (which I’m still saying is the nicest rejection email I’ve ever seen).

And toward the end of last month, I sent the manuscript and proposal to the second agent I met with.

And now, I’m waiting again… 

I did have encouraging conversations with two editors who said (noncommittally) that I could send them my proposal—and I have thought about sending them my proposal as is, without an agent representing me, but I guess the thought makes me nervous. 

What if I burn a bridge with an editor because my proposal is not as sharp as it would be/will be when I have an agent? Could we still send the proposal to that publishing house later? 

(Side note: If you, dear reader, know this answer or have advice—please share! :) )

So, I’ve had a lot of waiting lately, but this week the Lord reminded me that the best is worth waiting for.

Our culture tells us that everything should be instant—the law of immediacy—which is counter to God’s law of sowing and reaping. Instant gratification is not necessarily true gratification—sometimes the hardest work has the sweetest reward. 

I wrote in my journal—years ago—the greater the desire, the longer the wait, the higher the risk for disappointment but also the highest and sweetest return. 

I’ve said before, I’m not much of a risk taker, but God has taught me so much about the risk that’s always worth it—trusting Him, trusting His plan, trusting His timing.

My sweet Mimi called me last weekend to tell me she was praying for my book—and after I had told her that I still didn’t have an agent yet, she said so matter-of-factly, “You will. Because you’ve got a talent. And God’s going to use you. Just be patient.”

I know she’s a little biased because she’s my Mimi, but her reminder could not have come at a better time: just be patient.

"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale

When I saw this quote on Facebook, it resonated so much within me. The time is going to pass anyway. Why not pass the time pursuing my dream?

If I’m really committed, then I’m willing to risk.

And if my risk is to trust Him with my future, then it’s really not a risk at all; it’s the safest bet I can place.

Besides, one of my favorite Christian fiction authors, Charles Martin, said he had 86 rejections before his first manuscript was published. Today he's a New York Times Bestselling Author. I told my family—I guess if I get to 87, I’ll ask God if I missed it. J

And in the meantime, I'm working on Book 2 (squeeeeel!), and I'm willing to learn as much as I can about the craft of writing. (Second side note: I'm going to this local ACFW writer's event in April. Anyone else going!?) 

Dear friends, what are you waiting for in this season of life? What risk is He asking you to take?

(Click to Tweet)

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Habits of Marriage: Guarding Against Temptation

Today we finish our final post for The Habits of Marriage series: Guarding Your Marriage Against Temptation.

I could say so much about this topic—and temptation in itself is very broad. But this week, we’ll get really real.

Let’s talk about sexual temptation in our marriage.

We cannot be passive when it comes to sexual temptation. Pornography is accessible, private (e.g. secret), and free to everyone.

But it cannot and should not be permissible in your marriage.

Porn and shame go hand in hand. They are two sides of one cycle. A man (or woman—because it’s not just men) feels no value, maybe from work, maybe at home, maybe in the bedroom. He or she feels worthless.

Porn—and other sexual temptations—are a fantasy world, a place to escape, where the person not only feels valued and accepted, but also in control.

But I’m convinced, despite the fact that 67% of Christian men and 30% of Christian women confess to looking at porn regularly*, no one actually feels good about it.

And so comes shame.

Shame reinforces what the person already believes about himself or herself—and so we go back to value and worth and identity, etc., which leads to more porn and to more shame, and so on.

How can you guard yourself and your marriage against this cycle?

First, we would say—COMMUNICATE!  Shame lies in secrecy, but there is powerful freedom when you communicate with someone else what’s going on inside of you.

Talk to your spouse—be open and honest. And then seek wise council, someone you trust who can pray for you and help you. (We would love to talk to you! J)

The other thing we would say about this topic is this: to overcome ANY temptation, we’ve got to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Once we tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and begin walking in who we are in Christ, then we experience real freedom.

In Christ, we are covered in righteousness. We are accepted, complete, whole, valuable, etc.  Righteousness shouldn’t be an excuse for sin, but it IS a powerful, new identity that helps us break off shame and guilt.

Our world is full of temptation—especially sexual temptations. Guarding your marriage against temptation means:

- Praying for your spouse and your marriage

- Communicating openly and honestly (Shame lies in secrecy.)

- Staying connected physically

- Believing who you are in Christ

- And letting the Holy Spirit fill you and empower you

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Love the One You're With

Sometimes movies really get me thinking, movies like The Vow that display the uncertainty of life and show a testimony to the power of love. I know, it's silly, and I know, for some movies, it's "just a movie," but it's true. I once wrote a similar post about a Nicholas Sparks book....

But the thing is—sometimes I forget about the uncertainty of life, and I take for granted those little moments we get to experience with the ones we love. Maybe Valentine's Day is just a silly holiday created by greeting card companies and the restaurant industry to make women feel secure about their love relationships. But even still, why not take advantage of a designated day to show your love for someone? Why not take advantage of every day?

Redeeming the time. That’s what Ephesians 5:15-16 says. How can we make the most of each day? More importantly, how can we make the most out of every relationship? Every day is a gift, and I get to walk through life with the greatest gift God gave me - my husband.

Howell is the most incredible husband to me. I know our marriage is a rare gift, and I know that God has shown us favor, despite our imperfections. Few husbands help put up Christmas decorations and clean the house on Saturday afternoon, when they could be watching football or basketball. Few husbands load the dishwasher and remember to unload it a few hours later. Few husbands never grumble about taking out the trash, putting up the laundry, or going to the grocery store. And few husbands are both as strong and as tender as Howell is.

He really is amazing, and our love really is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of loves.

Not sure how to connect with your loved one this Valentine’s? Here are FIVE meaningful ways you can connect to someone you love:

1. Write a note or a letter. Whether you consider yourself a writer, whether you think you can be sentimental or romantic—it doesn’t matter. If you can’t think of anything to say, start with “I love you because…” or “I love when…”

2. Make a special dinner. Dinner is especially special when you’re not the one who usually cooks. You don’t have to go out for a fancy meal to switch things up a little. Fire up the grill. Look up a recipe online. And if all else fails—get take out.

3. Do something out of the ordinary. If you never make the bed, if you never do the dishes—go out of your way to be intentional in serving your loved one. It could be as simple as breakfast in bed—or coffee on the nightstand when he or she wakes up.

4. Give a long kiss or hug. Don’t be too rushed (on Valentine’s Day or ever) to give a hello or goodbye kiss. Affection is free and priceless.

5. Buy a meaningful gift. Not everyone’s love language is gifts, so spending the “big bucks” on a Valentine’s Day gift may not even minister to your loved one’s heart. But if you’re loved one is a gifts person, then buy him or her a gift that means something. (And you can check out these financial tools from Personal Capital to see how much you can spend without worrying!)

Maybe Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday, but you can take advantage of this day to love the one you're with. Value your time together. Connect to the other person’s love language. Be grateful for the moments you share.

Movies like The Vow make me mindful of every moment we get together, every second we have in this lifetime. I don't want to waste time with petty arguments or even unimportant and misplaced priorities. Instead, I want to be grateful, to take notice, and to make memories. I want to remember the days we have together. I prayed last night, as I often do, that Howell and I would share a lifetime together, that God would extend our days and give us a long-lasting marriage, an extraordinary marriage.

What can you do this weekend to redeem the time you share with your loved ones?

Click to Share: How can you love the one you're with this Valentine's Day? 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When I Can't Let Go of That Empty Tube of Toothpaste

Sometimes I think I’m a product of the 1930s, as if I lived through the wrong generation and instead I live like my grandparents, who survived the Great Depression. 

Either that or I’m cheap—and I prefer to think it’s the former and not the latter. 

Right now I have two un-opened packages of mascara in my cabinet, and my current tube is seriously empty, but I am still—and have been for weeks—scraping the edges for some black goodness that makes my eyelashes look longer and thicker than they really are. 

And it’s not just makeup. I refuse to depart with a near-empty tube of toothpaste. Even though I have a new tube under the sink, I will squeeze that tube for days, even weeks, putting teeny-tiny dallops on my tongue (yes, that’s where I put it, and that’s why Howell refuses to share a toothpaste tube with me). 

In the shower, I’ll fill my conditioner with water when it gets to the very end and shake it for the stuck sides of conditioner to “rain out” on my head. I’ll do this for at least two or three showers—until it’s really just water I’m pouring on my head—before I finally give in, throw it away, and grab the new bottle under the sink, the one I bought months ago in preparation for this day. 

Why do I do this? I have no idea… Howell just laughs at me and says, “Babe, just get a new one.” 

I mean, I have a black dress from 8th grade in my closet. I wore it faithfully through my senior year of college when I was consistently a size 4. Today, it does. not. fit. It never will fit. 

Why do I still have it? 

Obviously, I have a very hard time throwing things away, and I’m not only talking about cute sentimental things like cards or something (although, yes, I also keep every stinking card because I am crazy, and I guess I believe I will someday read through those boxes and boxes of paper). 

But seriously, y’all, I can’t even depart with a tube of toothpaste. 

With Howell and others who know me well, we joke about this, but I’ve been seriously thinking about it this week, especially as I (for real) am scraping my mascara bottle’s edges each morning. 

I believe the root of my sometimes comical behavior is fear of lack. 

I don’t think I consciously feel that way—and it’s not like we can’t afford an $8 tube of mascara. (I mean, I have two new ones in the cabinet!)

But somewhere in my heart is the root—

I must hold on or else…

I can’t let go or there won’t be enough….

I’ve blogged about fear of lack before—mostly related to myself, to not seeing myself as enough, as if I can’t contribute, as if I have nothing to offer.

For months, we had this thing on our kitchen counter: “Through Jesus, I am whole, complete, lacking nothing.” 

This is not only true for me as a person, but it’s also true for the Lord’s provision.
He is enough, and He will always provide enough. 

I have never not been taken care of. (How’s that for a double negative and passive voice?!) Honestly, though, I cannot recall a time where the Lord hasn’t provided, and there were plenty of dire months where we needed it. 

But even in those paycheck-to-paycheck days, He provided. And He provides now. 

Yes, it’s funny, and we can laugh when I’m still holding on to that tube of toothpaste, but in all sincerity, it’s about my heart. 

And in my heart, I need to believe that I do not lack. 

He provides not only my vanity products like mascara—but my everything: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. 

“The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not lack.”

What are you holding onto today that might be connected to a fear of lack? Dear friends, I encourage you to remind yourself--as I need to often!--that He is our source and provider.

Click to Tweet: When we're holding on too tight, when we can't throw anything away, do we have a fear of lack?


Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Date Night!!

I think we can all remember the romantic things we did for our wives to win them over when we first started dating. As time goes by, and we get more and more comfortable in our relationships, it's easy to take our spouses for granted and not put the effort in to make them feel wanted. After all, they already chose us, right? Well, it’s still important to make them feel special and wanted.  I mean, don't you want to feel special? I do.

This is why it's so important that couples spend quality time together regularly. If you have kids, a career, or both, you know that quality time with your spouse is hard to come by. Different people have different love languages, but I've never seen a couple that could really thrive without some dedicated special time, just the two of them. We certainly need it, and we don't always do it often enough. Whether it's a picnic or a night at the opera, all couples need it.

Sometimes it's spontaneous; sometimes it can be planned. With Laura and I, it's generally planned because she's a planner. If I want it to happen, it needs to be on the schedule or something else will fill that slot. Your wife might be the same way, so you might want to think about that ahead of time. (I learned that the hard way. :))

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says to enjoy life with the wife whom you love, and I couldn't agree more. We only have so much time on this earth together, and I want that to be full of wonderful memories. Many of our best memories came on a date or a nice vacation together. Don't forget to stop and HAVE FUN with your spouse now and then. My favorite times have been with Laura, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

So why don't we do this? Honestly, I get distracted. Many of us live distracted by the responsibilities of work, family, bills, and life…. Even the television. We have to make notes to ourselves, talk about it, and just downright prioritize quality time to make it happen. Most parents I know have baseball, dance, PTA and a myriad of other things that take up evenings and weekends. While memories are being made at all these things, and I don't deny their importance, no one wants to realize one day that the kids are gone, and they are married to a stranger.

It's date what? Well, you don't have to do something boring. 
I had this idea in my head that date night had to be a fancy dinner and (*ahem*) a chick-flick. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Laura and I like to golf, attend a play at the local university, or just eat out and go to the coffee shop. Once in a while, I even grill and rent a movie. That's a date under $20. (There is something to be said for watching what she wants though. :)) 

So take some time and plan something nice for your spouse. Take the kids to Grandma's and go enjoy an evening together. You'll be glad you did, and you'll be amazed at how connected you feel to your spouse days later.