Monday, August 28, 2017

Check List or Forgiveness?

Laura and I were talking with some other couples about how we argue and what our fleshly tendencies are when we do, so I thought I would share an insight that I’ve discovered about myself that might help someone else.

When something goes wrong, or I upset her, I tend to want to fix it immediately. I think that there are certain personality types that just want to fix problems quickly. Let’s be efficient people!! At least that’s my natural tendency. When it comes to matters of the heart, though, the fastest way is not always the most efficient way. Think of it like this. If something is really important, like your spouse’s feelings, you should take the time to make it right. All good things take time, especially marriage.

Early on in our marriage, I asked Laura. “What words or phrases would be most effective to help us solve our differences?” This might sound like a great question to ask, and it is. She obliged with some things that really minister to her in times of distress, which was wonderful. Excellent communication, right? It surely was. We were on the right track…but, application makes all the difference.

I jumped on those phrases like a bicyclist at the Tour de France. That is to say, way too fast. I applied the words and phrases that she gave the first chance I had, and they fell completely flat. All that great communication down the drain?! Well, almost. What I didn’t realize is that these great words are moot without hearing Laura out first. She needed a chance to tell me how she felt, and then we needed time to let those words soak in.

She just needed a little time to process, and I just needed to back off a bit. Recently, the Lord brought all this back to me when I was watching our dogs. 

Rizzoli, our Weimaraner, is much bigger than our Wheaton mix, Charlie, and thus has much bigger feet, which stomp around like Godzilla in Tokyo most of the time. This means that she steps on his tail a lot. When she does, he gets upset and barks and whines. She obviously feels terrible and stays about two centimeters from his face until he feels better, whether he likes it or not—and, in fact, he hates that too. She is really just making a bad situation worse by doing that, just like I was.

What really changed all this for the good, though, was finding the root cause. Through some prayer and self-reflection, He revealed to me that I needed to have our problems solved and find reconciliation so quickly because I was putting my security in whether Laura was okay with me instead of putting my security in Him. Simply put, I was putting more pressure on our marriage than God intended. When my security is in Him, our marriage functions much better. I’m free to ask Laura how she feels or what issues are happening and not feel an urgency to pressure her to forgive. She is then free to feel my sincerity, rather than my insecurity. In turn, we resolve issues much faster and are healthier in general together. What an amazing God we serve!!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Freedom Paradox

Have y’all heard the new Meredith Andrews’ song, Spirit of the Living God? It’s my new jam right now. I recently heard a little interview blurb on K-LOVE where she talks about the verse that inspired the song: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

She said that the meaning of the expression is actually “Where the Spirit of the Lord is Lord, there is freedom.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.  
The word for Lord there is kúrios, which means master. Think of this in contrast to the word doúlos, which is the word Paul uses at the beginning of so many of his letters. It’s usually translated as Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ (see, e.g., Philippians 1:1), but the more literal translation is like a slave or bondservant.

Consider James 1:1: James calls himself a doúlos of kúrios—a slave of his master.

Freedom comes when we submit to the Lord as Master. At first, that seems contradictory, paradoxical even. 

And to consider ourselves as slaves feels very un-American, right? And yet, what 2 Corinthians 3:17 suggests is that if the Spirit of the Lord is Lord, there is freedom.

I know in my life, when I try to do something on my own or out of my own strength, not only am I miserable (and usually unsuccessful) but also I become entangled in bondage. Fear or pride takes over, and I begin working from a position for acceptance rather than from a position of acceptance.

It never goes well.

Submitting my heart to my Master does not come naturally. I must be intentional.

But when I submit my heart to the Lord, when I place my plans, my vision, my opinions at His feet, I’m actually released in a supernatural way to walk in the fullness of Christ, filled with grace and power.

I’m a little slow sometimes, so I’m still learning what this means, but I know I want to walk in freedom, and therefore, I must let the Lord be Lord at all times.

How about you, friends? Let’s walk in freedom by submitting ourselves to the Lord as Master!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Words You're Probably Avoiding

Finances. Budgets. Bills. These are words most couples dread, right?

Usually Howell is the one to blog about money (this one is my fav), but it’s been on my heart this week, so I wanted to share a few principles we follow that I believe bring peace to this area in our marriage.

1. Tithe. If you’re on the fence about tithing, I can promise you it’s worth it to be obedient to the Lord. When we follow His word and do as He asks, abundant blessing follows. Our first couple years of marriage, our combined income was below the poverty level of a single-income household, and yet, we followed this principal of giving 10% of our income to the Lord (i.e. to our church home)—and we never went without. God has always provided everything we need.

We’ve always had the mindset that everything we own is God’s, and from the very beginning, we’d ask him, what do you want us to do with your money? Pay bills, of course. Provide for ourselves. But what else?

We both come from families who are “givers.” What does that mean? It usually means the family tithes—but in our case, we also watched our parents give generous gifts, sometimes to support monthly ministries, sometimes to give one-time gifts to the church for a project, sometimes to give extravagantly to those in need.

My dad used to tell me, even as a young girl, “You can’t out-give God.” How incredibly true! That first year of marriage, on our little income, we not only tithed, but we prayerfully considered giving to specific ministries every month. At first, we couldn’t give much, but as we were diligent to give away the little that we had, God quickly and immeasurably provided a blessing in return. With every raise we’ve ever had, our question has always been—Okay, God? How much and where to?

2. Save. Since I’ve already ball-parked our early income for you, I’ll go ahead and share that we saved enough for a down payment to buy a house within one year of being married on an income that certainly felt teeny-tiny. Want to know how? We save 10% of our income each month. 10%--that’s all. Give 10, Save 10.

We’ve been supernaturally rewarded by being stewards of our money in this way. We’ve been married 9 years, and we’ve paid off roughly $90,000 in debt. Today our only debt is our house, which will be paid for in 13 years or less.  I don’t say that to brag—in fact, I felt humbled when I started totaling it all up in preparation for this post. But because I know it’s possible to tackle what might even feel impossible, I want to encourage you: it can be done!

3. Mutually submit. We get paid twice a month, and we immediately tithe and save 10%. We do it on the gross income (though we don’t think there’s anything wrong doing it the other way), so we’re a little more stretched. What’s left after that is the money we live on and the money we give away.

Howell’s emphasized budgeting, and we live by his cute little spreadsheet (love ya, babe :)), so we know when it’s all spent on bills or giving, this is what we’ve got left to spend (gas, food, entertainment, etc.).

So what do I mean by mutually submit? Every couple has a spender and saver—and sometimes to more or less varying degrees. Whether you’re one or the other, remember that every financial choice you make affects your spouse. You’re communicating love and respect by how you spend your money (or by what you withhold in spending).

If your spouse has asked you not to purchase something or to be conscious of the “leftover” money this month, then honoring that amount is the way you honor him or her.

And I believe the Lord blesses us, not only when we honor each other with our spending but when we honor Him with our money as well.

I know money isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but I hope you’ll be encouraged this week. If your bills feel too high, if your savings feels too low—begin to ask the Lord how He wants you to steward your money (and then be obedient! :)).

His word is true. Psalm 23 begins, “The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not lack.”

Believe that, my friends. He will always provide for you!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

When the Rain Comes...

We had several days of rain last week, often at random intervals of the day. I found myself carrying my umbrella at all times—even when it wasn’t raining. I’d carry it to work in the morning, and then again to my car for lunch, and then back to work after lunch, and back to my car at the end of the day.

Sometimes I’d get to work and need it for the quick walk inside—or I’d need it for the walk from the office to my car. 

But most of the time, I was carrying an umbrella without a drop of moisture coming down.

I felt a little silly about it, but I kept thinking I didn’t want to get caught in a downpour without the coverage. That’s happened to me on multiple occasions. Better to be prepared than not, right? 

Our spiritual life can be like that.

It’s not always raining. Sometimes there’s no warning for an impending downpour. But don’t you want to be ready when it comes?

Psalm 119 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because it’s shares the writer’s love for God’s word—knowing, obeying, hiding, seeking, declaring, and trusting in His word.

Some of my favorites:

11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.

92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

165 Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.

That last verse—nothing can make them stumble—is so powerful. It reminds me of Psalm 112 where it says the righteous “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” Or the Proverbs 31 woman who “laughs at the days to come” (v. 25).

How does that happen? I believe it happens when we know who God. Bill Johnson says that fear is imagining the future without God in it. When I start to feel fearful, that always stops me, and I remind myself, there’s no future circumstance that He doesn’t already know about. And there’s nothing I’ll face that He can’t comfort.

Having God’s word in your heart is like carrying around an umbrella, even when it’s not raining.

When the rain does come, you’re ready. You’ll have great peace and hope because His truth is in you.

What are some of your favorite verses? How do you practice hiding God’s word in your heart?