The Glue that Holds a Marriage Together

Couples who are active in their spiritual life together have a much higher rate of marital success. The opposite is also true. Couples who don’t practice their faith together tend to fall apart when life gets tough or when there are sexual temptations. Pursuing faith together, and maintaining a spiritual focus, are crucial to growing a strong, close marriage.

glue-306757_1280For this reason, Kay Arthur teaches that a relationship with Christ is the glue that can bond a husband and wife together for life, the secret that can hold a marriage together.

Genesis 2:24 says when a man and a woman marry, they become one flesh. The emphasis is on physical intimacy or oneness. However, the unity the Lord wants couples to experience extends far beyond the physical dimension of the relationship. It includes intellectual and spiritual unity as well.

Humans are three-fold beings. We are physical, intellectual, and spiritual, and the Lord designed us to remain active in all three ways throughout our lives. To omit any one of these dimensions is to neglect a third of what life is all about. Some couples leave out two aspects of humanness in their marriage, focusing only on sex, disregarding the importance of the mind and the spirit.

When we do this, we’re limiting their relationship to only one-third of our potential for intimacy, meaning, and happiness together. We’re simply too shallow as a couple, and our marriage is headed for troubled waters, certain to crash against the rocks or run aground.

Early in our marriage, at a time when my wife and I were really busy, with three kids at home, finances that were really tight, and life was stressful, we didn’t know the connection between spirituality and happiness in marriage. What we did know was that because of our circumstances, we got out of the habit of reading our Bibles, praying together, and taking time to worship together. We were totally unaware of the invisible toll it was taking.

We were snippy with each other, which wasn’t usually the case. We didn’t have much patience. And, I was facing some strong sexual temptations. In the middle of this chapter of our lives, Linda said to me one day, “You know, we haven’t prayed together or done family devotions in several weeks. I wonder if that’s part of why we’re struggling.”

She was right. Almost as soon as we reinstated our spiritual disciplines, a sense of unity was restored, we got along better, and the other circumstances were much easier to handle.

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Newsletter

I started writing a monthly newsletter. It typically discusses my writing projects, plus a few personal notes. But I certainly don’t want to pester anyone. So, if you’re interested in taking a look at the newsletter, please sign up for it by clicking on this sign up button.

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If after getting one or two of the newsletters you decide they’re not interesting, or you just don’t want to receive them anymore, simply unsubscribe. That’s all it takes. On the other hand, you’re always welcome to share my newsletter, articles, or blog posts with your friends.

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Words Can Inspire or Deflate

It’s important that husband and wife talk together regularly. That’s how you grow a good relationship. But how you talk to each other will make or break your marriage, because words are powerful.

Too often, people are careless with their words, giving no thought to what they’re doing to their mate. Or worse, some are intentionally cruel with their words, actually trying to hurt, damage, or destroy the one they’re supposed to love.

Words can inspire or deflate the person you’re talking with. Imagine the impact of hearing your husband or wife telling you every day, “You are wonderful. You’re good-looking. You’re smart. You can do anything you put your mind to.” Now, imagine what happens if instead, what you hear every day is, “You’re dumb. You’ll never amount to much. You can’t do anything right.”

When our kids were young, we started telling them, “You are talented and creative.” I don’t know how many zillion times they heard it, but we told them pretty often. I’m pretty sure they believed it then, and I think they still do. There’s a certain sense of people becoming what they believe. Therefore, it’s important that we give the right messages.

Words Have the Power of Life and Death

Words can kill or heal. Every time you insult, name-call, or say something derogatory to your partner, you are bringing illness or death. It’s like your words are a thermostat or volume control. By speaking positives, encouragement, and inspiration, you’re turning up hope, confidence, health, and life. But by speaking negatives, discouragement, and insults, you’re turning up despair, stress, sickness, and death.

The ramifications are far-reaching, impacting your partner’s health, self-confidence, and other relationships. It can affect performance in any area of life: work or school, athletics, driving, or sex. If you’re on the same team, you want your teammate to be as healthy as possible. So, you don’t speak in ways that lead to sickness and death. Instead, you are careful to promote life, health, and joy. And you do that with your words.

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A Seat at the Table for Honorary NCO

During War C-1The Black Hawk ride from Camp Victory, located at Baghdad International Airport, down to Ad Diwaniyah covered about 120 miles. Diwaniyah was the Iraqi headquarters for the militia leader Muqtada Al Sadr, and we got there just before Operation Black Eagle, meant to rein in militia violence, kicked off. Technically, my Chaplain Assistant and I were assigned to a military transition team, but for the past three years, Camp Echo had no Religious Support Team, so our job was to establish a religious program for the installation.

One day, after two weeks at Camp Echo, I got to the Dining Facility late. There were several casualties that day, and I spent a lot of time in the medical clinic, and with two units that had lost some Soldiers. I was tired and hungry, and finding an empty seat was difficult. Several units were at our forward operating base to assist with the operation, and many of the visiting Soldiers were in the dining facility.

Finally locating a vacant spot, I placed my tray on the table, but before I had a chance to sit, a Master Sergeant next to the empty chair growled in my direction, “No officers welcome here.” I doubt that he noticed the cross on my uniform. He probably just saw the major’s insignia on my chest, but it might not have made a difference even if he had recognized that I was a chaplain. There were three possible courses of action, and I had to make a quick decision.

1. Look for a different chair

2. Attempt to pull rank

3. Tell him I am an Honorary NCO

After completing a two-second strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis, I came to attention, turned up my collar to reveal a Sergeant E-5 insignia, and shouted as loud as I could, “Request permission to sit at your table, Master Sergeant,” then remained standing at attention and waited.

The growler did a double-take, and his eyes got real big. “Have a seat, Sarge.”

The other NCO’s at the table were howling with laughter by now. They knew the Master Sergeant, but they didn’t know me. And they had never seen a Major with NCO’s rank under the collar. They found the whole encounter to be quite entertaining.

After the others at the table calmed down, the Master Sergeant said, “OK. Suppose you tell me why you’re wearing that rank.”

“Sure, Master Sergeant. When I was a rookie fresh out of Officer Basic, my first assignment was with an Evacuation Hospital in the California Army National Guard, where I had a great rapport with the NCO’s. When they invited me to attend their dining-in, I thought it was because they wanted me to do the invocation, but that wasn’t it. During the program, the first sergeant pinned the NCO insignia on me and gave me a certificate appointing me to the honorary rank of sergeant, making me an E-5 for Life.”

“Hmmm. And you actually wear it?”

“Yes.”

I wore the SGT Stripes invisibly throughout my entire career. When in the woodland Battle Dress Uniform, it was pinned under my collar. When we switched to the newer army combat uniform, it was velcroed under the collar. And when I wore the Class A uniform or dress blues, it was under the pocket flap, beneath my name. Every time I went to a new unit, I met with the first sergeant or sergeant major, presented the documentation, and asked for permission to wear the rank and be part of the NCO corps. I was always welcomed.

After eight years in the Guard, I became an Active Duty chaplain in the Army Reserve’s Active Guard Reserve program. These chaplains don’t usually deploy, since our role was administrative and training. But while stationed at Fort McPherson, GA, in January 2007, I heard that the U.S. Army Forces Command wanted to send three chaplain teams to Iraq. There were some areas that needed religious support immediately, and Forces Command gave the task to the Army Reserve.

Strong Sense of Calling

As part of the chaplain staff at the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters, I had trained many chaplains before they went overseas. But this time I wanted to go. We were running out of chaplains who hadn’t already deployed. More importantly, I felt a strong sense of calling. We had Soldiers in dangerous places with no chaplain, and I wanted to be there with them, so I volunteered. It took a while, but I managed to talk my boss into letting me go.

Those sergeant stripes were under the collar when I went outside the wire with the military transition team. They accompanied me every time I visited wounded soldiers at the medical clinic. I wore them at each memorial ceremony or funeral. They were there for the worship services, the counseling appointments, and the Critical Incident Stress Management sessions. Whenever we had incoming rockets or mortars and we gathered in the bunkers—yep, still had them with me. One time I was eating lunch in the dining facility and the sirens started blaring. In a hurry to get out to the bunker, I forgot my helmet. My Chaplain Assistant grabbed me by the collar and pulled me back inside, “Chaplain, you forgot your Kevlar!” Just then a mortar landed right outside the door. It’s quite possible that she saved my life or prevented injury. See why I love NCOs?

The day after I met the master sergeant in the dining facility, he showed up in my office. The night before, he was feisty and energetic; now he seemed sad and tired. Something had happened.

“Good afternoon, Master Sergeant. What can I do for you?”

 “This morning, I lost a Soldier . . . a close friend. I wanted to know if you’d do a memorial ceremony tomorrow morning before we head out.”

“Of course, I will.”

“And Chaps, I’m sorry about last night.”

“Not a problem, Master Sergeant. I understand.”

“You can sit at my table any time.”

It meant a lot that this senior NCO welcomed me at his table, that he wanted me to be there to honor his friend and that we had overcome the invisible barrier between officer and NCO. In 2015, I retired as a Colonel. But I’ll be an E-5 for life.

* This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of Army Magazine, a publication of the Association of the United States Army.

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Life & Death: the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When I came across Deborah Tannen’s book, You Just Don’t Understand, it looked good, so I bought it, took it home, and placed it on my nightstand. That night I picked it up and started reading, and reading, and reading. The more I read, the more I laughed out loud. The subtitle—what it’s really all about—is Men and Women in Conversation.

“What are you laughing about?” my wife wondered.

“I’m laughing cause she’s talking about you and me.”

“What?”

Every night I read a few more pages, still laughing. I’m sure Dr. Tannen didn’t mean for her book to be taken as a comedy. She wrote it as a straight-forward description of the way men and women communicate and fail to communicate, based on the way they think and their goals and purposes in the relationship. But when you see yourself and your spouse on every page, it makes you wonder, How did she know that’s what we do?

How Did She Know What We Do?

I think I learned more about communication with my wife from Tannen’s writing than from any other source. It was easy to see my wife’s foibles and laugh about them. Aha! See? That’s what you do! But then to read about what I do was a real eye-opener. I had to own up to my own patterns and behaviors.

What I learned was that Linda and I are pretty normal in how we communicate. In many ways, we fall into the stereotypes of male and female. But the way Dr. Tannen tells the stories is so funny. I called it my evening devotions. I had to read more.

One of the principles she discusses is the 3-fold asymmetry between the way men and women think and communicate.

  • Men talk to Report; women talk to Rapport.
  • When there’s a problem, men move immediately into Fix-it mode; women move into Affirmation mode.
  • Men speak to establish Hierarchy; women speak to establish Community.

Of course, these are generalities. There are men and women at both ends of each spectrum. All too often, however, husband and wife reach a stalemate because of their differences. Not understanding their communication styles and their subconscious purposes, they become frustrated or angry with each other, and that’s when they say things that hurt the other.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What it’s saying is we can choose the easy, angry words and slice each other to shreds, destroying each other and the marriage in the process. Or, we can carefully choose words that affirm, heal, and build each other up. When we do that, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a marriage that’ll last a lifetime.

You can read more about this in chapter 9 of my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage

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Writing Update: October 2019

In February, I published WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it. The Lord is using it to help couples improve their marriage. Last month, I spoke at a ministry training conference, and in attendance were quite a few pastors and volunteer ministers who work with couples in their churches. The session went really well, and there’s even more interest in using WisdomBuilt in church classes, small groups, and couples retreats.

Since then, I completed a book about my ministry experience as an Army chaplain in Iraq. I’m really excited to announce that Dr. Richard Blackaby agreed to write the foreword for the book. Plus, I have endorsements from chaplains, pastors, Christian authors, and several denominational representatives. It’s titled Safest Place in Iraq, and is at the publisher now. They tell me it’ll be available as an ebook by early 2020, and in print by next summer.

It’s a collection of stories or testimonies about how the Lord moved in people’s lives at Camp Echo, where I served in 2007. Tell you what . . . the Lord did some fantastic things among us, and it’s exciting to be able to share these stories: answered prayer, healing, and people coming to faith in Christ.

Interestingly, in August I submitted the manuscript to the North Georgia Christian Writers Conference writing contest, and won a First Place Peach Award in the Bible Study & Nonfiction  Book category. I also entered it in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award writing competition, where it won a First Place Gold Award. Several Christian colleges and seminaries have already expressed interest in using it in their classrooms.

In the meantime, I’m teaching one class on campus at Southeastern University as an adjunct professor this fall. I volunteered to lead a 6-week Creative Writing course for a community-based senior citizen program here in Lakeland. I’ve been asked to mentor a missionary who is completing a Doctor of Ministry degree here. And, I continue to write devotional articles for CBN online, and freelance for a few other magazines from time to time.

So I manage to stay busy — maybe too busy!  🙂 But I’m having fun, and am thrilled to be able to speak into people’s lives, whether in person or through my writing.

Feel free to share this with your friends or post it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. I’d love to get an email from you or note on the Contact Page letting me know how you’re doing.

Blessings to you,
Paul

Yada, Yada, Yada

The April 24, 1997 episode of the Seinfeld Show was titled the Yada, Yada. Neither Jerry Seinfeld nor the show’s writers coined the phrase “yada, yada.” It was already in use. But after being included on the show, the expression skyrocketed in popularity, and is still used by a lot of people.

There’s some debate about the origin of the phrase. Some say it’s from the English expression yatter, while others say it comes from the Norwegian jada, which is pronounced the same and means the same as yada. Other sources say it comes from Yiddish or Hebrew. In any case, it usually means the same as blah, blah, blah, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Instead of reciting the boring details of a story, you say yada, yada, yada instead.

When you watch the Yada, Yada episode, however, it’s quite obvious from the way the characters tell their stories that there’s a sexual connotation and an intentional double meaning going on. Apparently, there is some evidence that yada is, indeed, a euphemism for sex. If so, when the Seinfeld cast says yada, yada, yada in those stories, what they’re really saying is sex, sex, sex. Watch it on YouTube and see if it seems that way to you.

Because people are sometimes shy about discussing sex, we often use euphemisms when talking about it. Some of those expressions are making love, going all the way, doing it, hanky-panky, and hitting a home run. My sister and her husband use the phrase twice around the park when referring sex. My wife and I use a different term.

Our teen-aged son never wanted to talk when we wanted to; he always waited ‘til late at night. When we were way past ready to go to bed . . . that’s when he was just coming alive and wanted to talk. One night he asked, “Hey guys. Wha’d you do on your honeymoon?” I have no idea what brought that question to his mind, or what he expected us to say.

There’s a lot of things we did on our honeymoon, but the one that came to mind was, “Well, Son. We played backgammon. Someone gave us a backgammon game as a wedding gift, and we took it with us. We stopped at a store and bought some instructions, and learned to play the game while on our honeymoon.”

“Oh. Okay.” Apparently, that satisfied his curiosity for the time being.

Two weeks later, we were in our bedroom with the door closed, but still fully clothed, playing backgammon on the bed, when there was a knock on the bedroom door. Same son wanted to talk.

“Dad, can we talk about something?”

“Sure, Son. Come on in.”

When he opened the door and saw us on the bed, his jaw dropped, eyes opened wide.  “Oh my gosh! You really do play backgammon!”

“What did you think I meant?”

“Uh . . . I thought you made it up ’cause you didn’t want to talk about what you really did on your honeymoon!”

“Oh! Well, we really did play backgammon.”

“Oh. My. Gosh.”

Ever since that conversation, “backgammon” has been a euphemism for sex in our family. “So that’s what you did on your honeymoon, heh heh.”

Yada = Knowing

When Genesis 4:1 says Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, the word translated as intimate is the Hebrew word yada. The Hebrew Bible, called the Tanach, from the Jewish Publication Society translates this verse, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word knew has a footnote that says, Heb. yada, often in a sexual sense. Following the Jewish understanding of yada in this context, many English translations of Genesis 4:1 keep the idea to know. The word means to “know intimately, to know completely, to be familiar.” No wonder one of its additional meanings is to know sexually.

Other translations render the verse as follows. These are all appropriate ways to translate Genesis 4:1, where it says in Hebrew, Adam yada’d his wife.

  • Adam and Eve had a son.
  • The man knew his wife.
  • Adam had sexual intercourse with his wife.
  • Adam slept with his wife.
  • Adam had relations with his wife.
  • Adam made love to his wife.

One of John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is what he calls Love Maps. Couples with a strong, resilient marriage not only know each other, they know a lot about each other. “From knowledge springs not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better equipped to cope with stressful events and conflict.”

I met Dr. Gottman when he spoke at a college in Orlando a few years ago. During a private conversation about love maps, he said it’s not an accident that the word know is used for sexual intimacy in Genesis 4:1. Knowing each other is crucial to maintaining a satisfying love life.

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Attitude Check!

I used to drive more than 50 miles to work, and the same distance home in the evening. The traffic was usually pretty bad, often rainy, and as you’ve probably experienced, other drivers are sometimes not very nice. When I started despising drivers who made stupid decisions, I developed a bad attitude and realized I needed to do something about it.

After praying, I decided to come up with a phrase I could say whenever another driver irked me. Here’s what I ended up with.

You are a fabulous human being, fashioned in the indelible image of the Creator.

After I memorized the sentence, I started saying it whenever a driver did something dumb or dangerous: ten, eleven, a dozen times a day. Nobody else knew what I was doing. I’m the only one who heard me, even though I said it out loud. It helped me remember that every man and every woman has the divine image, even those who are not living for the Lord. Even those who are terrible drivers.

Being in God’s image and likeness is an important part of the Judeo-Christian world view. We’re not merely the product of a godless evolutionary process. While we may have many similarities with the animals, what distinguishes us from the rest of creation is the image of God. The very first page of the Bible says,

“God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.’”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism poses the question, “How did God create man?” And then provides the answer, “God created man male and female after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

To be in God’s image has two meanings. First, it means we are like him. Second, it means we represent him.

How we are like God refers to his activity and character and the ways we are like him. God communicates. He creates. He relates. He loves. He keeps his word. He is loyal. He is compassionate. He has knowledge. We can make these same statements of human beings because we are fashioned in his image. We have the ability to create, to communicate, to relate, and to love. We have moral capabilities such as loyalty and honesty. We have the ability to show compassion. We have the capacity for knowledge. And like our creator, we have the ability to make our world a better place.

The fact that we represent God has a different focus and a different starting point for how we think and live. The emphasis is not on how we are like God, but that we represent the Lord. We represent God and his values to the planet and to other people. We represent him in matters of social justice and spirituality, which is why Christians should be involved in the community, setting an example of alleviating pain in the world, and caring for the needy.

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 the apostle writes, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.”

Not only do we have the divine image, we have the Holy Spirit in us, another powerful reason for understanding we are to represent the Lord at all times, even when driving on the freeway.

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This devotion was published at https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/attitude-check and is an adaptation from the author’s book WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage, Copyright © 2019 Paul Linzey, used with permission.

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Training for Ministry

Experience Conference September 2019

I’m excited that on Friday September 13, I’ll be able to share the Biblical Principles of Marriage, which was the subject of my first book. Then on Saturday the 14, I get to tell about some of the fascinating experiences I had in Iraq as an Army chaplain, which is what my second book is about. Although I am speaking as a volunteer and will not be paid, there is a cost to attend the program. If you want to find out more, click on the image above. Please pray for me and the entire conference as we help others prepare for the ministries God has called them to.

Falling in Love All Over Again

Successful Marriage

I like the message about falling in love with the same person. That’s exactly what it takes to grow a marriage that lasts a lifetime . . . whether you’re 20, 40, 60, 80, or somewhere in between!

Click on the picture above if you want more information about the 4 Habits online summit. And of course, you’re always welcome to message me through the Contact page of this site. Blessings to you!