Building Your Home

The principles in WisdomBuilt show you how to build your house in such a way that you discover the beauty, the grandeur, and the immeasurable treasures God has for you. In the same way every home is decorated differently, no two marriages will look and feel the same. Your relationship will be unique because you are one-of-a-kind, but the wisdom offered here will show you how to bring out the best in yourself, your partner, and your coupleness.

The longer I’m married, the more I study the Bible, and the further I read the research of counselors and psychologists, the deeper I realize there is a remarkable amount of wisdom to be gained from each source. What’s even more amazing is the extent to which they agree with each other.

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Freedom: An Aspect of Love

In Ephesians 5:21-25, marriage is said to be like our relationship with Christ. Since that is the case, we need to understand the impact Jesus has on us when he comes into our lives. A quick glance at Galatians 5:1 shows what the Lord is up to in our lives: Christ has liberated us to be free.

Since husband and wife are called to represent the Lord to one another, the impact you have in each other’s lives should be the same as what the Lord is doing. In other words, you are called to set each other free. Your love for each other and the way you treat each other should liberate each other, and remove constraints, yokes, or bondage. Love allows and empowers you to pursue life, to fulfill dreams and aspirations, to live life to the fullest.

Jesus said, I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Everyone who is married should be able to say this to his or her mate.

Does the way you and your spouse treat each other set you free? Free from fear or abuse? Free from a power struggle? Free from worry and stress? Free from debt? Free to relax and be yourself? Free to love and trust? Free to enjoy life and follow your dreams?

Freedom should decorate every room in your home, and establish the mood in every part of your life. When this happens, you begin to realize that freedom really is an aspect of love.

This thought is expressed more fully in my book, WisdomBuilt Principles of Marriage.

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Miracle of Forgiveness

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves from the pain and injustice in our past. But forgiveness does not happen quickly. It cannot happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, and the injustice. When forgiveness has finished its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and set free from the pain of the past.

Lewis Smedes was an ethicist who wrote about the miracle of forgiveness. “When you forgive the person who hurt you deeply and unfairly, you perform a miracle that has no equal.” He goes on the say that forgiveness is not for the weak. It isn’t for the trivial offenses. It is reserved for the deep wrongs that cannot be forgotten, ignored, or tolerated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We often carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and the forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group called Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with the theme of forgiveness and healing, which are often followed by scars that remain for a lifetime.

Heal the wound but leave the scar

A reminder of how merciful You are

I am broken, torn apart

Take the pieces of this heart

And heal the wound but leave the scar

One middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. In addition, they felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor and met with him, asking for his guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. He also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness.

They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They asked each other for forgiveness, too. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

I am not saying this is the right thing to do. I do not endorse littering or polluting the environment, but am merely reporting what this particular couple did. You might need to be creative and come up with an action plan that’ll work for you.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.

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You Don’t Understand Me

You Just Don't UnderstandWhen 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 Women and Men 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, 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?

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, and how we fail to 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 Dr. Tannen discusses in the book is the 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.

The truth is that women don’t need a fixer. And, contrary to popular myth, they don’t want a knight in shining armor to come and rescue them. They want someone they can relate to, someone who will affirm them, someone who takes time to understand.

Men are more comfortable talking about information than relationship. Their standard response to a problem is to come up with a solution, and they don’t understand why they’re not appreciated for it. They want someone who doesn’t read into their words and reinterpret them, but instead will take them at face value.

A couple years ago, a blogger posted an entry called Her Diary, His Diary. Hers was almost 300 words long. His had only seven words. She wrote that her husband was acting weird. He was upset about something, but wouldn’t talk about it. She tried to ask if she’d done something wrong, but he just said not to worry about it; it wasn’t about her. She was a total wreck by the end of the night, trying to figure it out, and finally concluded their marriage was over and her life was a disaster. His diary that day simply said, Motorcycle won’t start . . . can’t figure out why.

The comments from readers after the post, are just as telling as the original blog. Men sided with the husband. They got it. Women sided with the wife. They understood. Apparently, the writer struck a nerve.

In 1999, newspaper columnist and humorist Dave Berry wrote a classic piece about a man and woman on a date, Roger and Elaine, having a conversation in the car. The guy is concerned about the car, and the gal is worried about the relationship. Their conversation is hilarious, a great example of two people trying to have a discussion, making assumptions, but neither person knowing what the other is even thinking about or talking about.

Linda and I have had conversations like that. It’s not funny while it’s happening, but later on, it’s hilarious to look back, once we finally break through, communicate and understand each other.

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You Are Not Your Own

Roger & Michelle 2When you’re a Christian, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says that your body doesn’t belong to you. Your life doesn’t belong to you. Jesus Christ bought and paid for you, and now you belong to him. The Lord owns you. Therefore, the way you live your life matters. You decided to live your life the way the Lord wants you to.

Then in chapter seven we discover that a wife does not have the right over her own body. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body. In other words, you are not your own. You belong to Christ, who owns you. And if you’re married, you are not your own, you belong to your spouse, who owns you. Therefore, you might want to consider your partner’s preferences when trying to make lifestyle decisions.

I understand that this flies in the face of what the secular culture might be telling you. The message from your friends, your therapist, and the media may be more like, “Do your own thing. Who cares about what your partner says. Be your own person. Nobody owns you. If she doesn’t like it, so what. If he doesn’t like it, do it anyway. Be your own boss. You own yourself.” That’s what a lot of voices might be telling you, but they’re wrong . . . Every one of them. Your church might be telling you something different, too.

Before you click away from this blog, or decide that this concept is so outdated you’re going to forget it and live the way you want to, please keep in mind that this is the Word of the Lord. Life works better this way and marriage works better this way. But also, the harshness of being owned by someone is mitigated by the fact that ownership in marriage is mutual. You own each other. It’s not a one-way street; it works both ways.

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When the apostle Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Corinthians 7:4, there are three ways to understand his meaning.

The literal way to read the verse is that it’s talking about your physical body being owned by your spouse. In a literal sense, it’s saying that your partner has the authority to make decisions that affect your body, because your body belongs to your spouse. Interestingly, this is what a Medical Power of Attorney establishes. In some states, it’s called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

My wife and I have both a Durable Power of Attorney (financial/business authority) and a Medical Power of Attorney (medical/healthcare authority). You might consider preparing similar documents, but before you do, you need to make sure you have a relationship and a reputation of complete trust in each other.

A second way to understand “body” in this verse is to see it as a pronoun. It can be interpreted to mean the self. A wife doesn’t have authority over herself, nor does a husband have authority over himself. Biblical scholars point out that Paul sometimes uses “body” and “flesh” as if they were pronouns referring to the self.

And a third way to understand body in 1 Corinthians 7 is as a metaphor for life. When I committed myself to my wife in marriage, I transferred ownership of my body, myself, and my entire life to her. When she married me, she made the same commitment.

That’s why marriage can be scary. That’s why the decision to marry shouldn’t be made in a hurry, or before knowing each other pretty well.

The fact that your spouse owns you doesn’t mean he or she makes all the decisions. It doesn’t mean your mate can boss you around, bark out orders, or issue commands. It doesn’t give your partner permission to abuse you or take advantage of you, and it doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for yourself.

What it does mean is that you are accountable to each other. It means you are aware of each other’s feelings, desires, and preferences, and you choose to honor one another with your body, your decisions, and your lifestyle.

While driving to a restaurant one night, I asked my wife what she thought about the biblical principle of mutual ownership. Her response surprised me, but I really like what she had to say.

“It’s like Jesus’s parable about the Pearl of Great Price,” she told me. “The pearl was expensive. It cost the guy everything he had. But he was happy, because that pearl was precious to him.”

When we become a follower of Jesus, we count the cost and are willing to give up everything in order to follow Him. He is Lord, and His will is really what we want more than anything else.

In the same way, marriage costs everything we have. But what we gain is precious.

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What Mutual Submission Looks Like

couple-1030744_1920Husbands are called to submit to their wives just as certainly as wives are called to submit to their husbands. What might this look like in a marriage?

There are many ways this can be implemented. One way is the impact it has on the decision-making process. For example, some couples take turns making decisions. Others make every decision together, talking it out until they agree on what to do. One method is to have the partner who is more knowledgeable in that area make the decision. Another possibility would be for the partner who feels more passionate on that issue to decide. My wife and I have used every one of these methods. The key is to build and maintain unity in the marriage, to honor one another, and foster equality and mutuality.

Bible and TeacupThis is one of the take-aways of Ephesians 5:21, where the apostle writes, “Submit to one another in reverence for Christ.” It seems to me that “in reverence for Christ” is a reference to the Imago Dei, the Image of God in both husband and wife. We are to submit to each other and honor each other because both husband and wife are made in the Image of God.

Another way mutual submission might show up in marriage is the way you balance two careers. We discovered early on that a wife’s career is just as important as a husband’s. We also realized that it’s sometimes difficult for both to get good jobs in the same area at the same time. Because of this, my wife and I have taken turns making professional sacrifices in order to further the other’s career.

A few years ago, I was pastoring a good church when my wife had an opportunity to join the faculty at a university that was a bit too far to commute. After discussing it, praying about it, and thinking it through, I decided to resign from the ministry position in order for her to take the teaching job. A lot of people criticized me for doing that, because they believed the husband and his career mattered, and the wife and her interests should always be subservient or marginalized. A few months after we moved, the Lord opened the doors to another ministry opportunity for me. Linda found fulfillment in her career, and so did I.

Ten years later, I had a chance to go into the Army as an Active Duty Chaplain. Knowing how much that meant to me, Linda willingly resigned from the teaching position that she loved, in order to facilitate my dream of being a military chaplain. It just so happened, that my first duty station was near a university that had a PhD program in her field. She applied and was accepted.

As she was completing her degree, she got a new job that wouldn’t have been possible had she not completed the doctorate. Again, one of us submitted so the other could pursue a career opportunity. Every time we did that, it worked out to the benefit of the one who was making the sacrifice, and we were both able to pursue our dreams.

If you want to read more about this, take a look at WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage.

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The Annual Newsletter

Annual Newsletters: You’ve seen them, so you know the format. A recap of what happened during the year. Pictures that coincide with the stories. Almost always, the newsletter focuses on the good and fun events that happened during the year: the vacation, the promotion, the positives. We get them from friends and relatives every year, usually during the month of December. You get them too. You probably even sent a few.

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But what do you do when only bad happens during the year? Do you still send out that festive, upbeat newsletter? This happened to us a few years ago. Right after Thanksgiving, my wife asked, “Are you doing a newsletter this year?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll tell all our friends what a crummy year we had.”

When we recounted all the painful experiences and disappointments that happened during the year, we started laughing. That year, my wife gave up a job she really loved in order to be with me when the Army transferred me to a different part of the country. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer and had multiple surgeries. As she was recovering and going through chemotherapy, the Army sent me overseas, so I couldn’t even be with her. That same year, I had an evil boss who was trying to destroy my career. One of our sons was unemployed, and our other two sons were struggling with personal issues. Bad news after bad news piled on top of us, and it seemed there was no end.

We have a pretty good idea how Job felt when he experienced horrible losses back to back to back, one after another. No wonder he groaned and grumbled and grieved. No wonder his wife suggested that he simply curse God and die. When life gets too painful and it seems there’s no end to the suffering and bad news, there’s not much you can do. We understand, because it happened to us.

But Job didn’t turn his back on God. He didn’t lose his faith. He didn’t curse. And he didn’t end his life. In fact, Job 1:22 indicates that in all his suffering, he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t end his life, he didn’t sin, and he didn’t blame God.

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In our worst year ever, we adopted similar goals. We wanted to keep our eyes on Jesus and stay faithful in every way. When the world would advise us to give up, curse God, and die, we refused. And by the end of the year, even though we hadn’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel in those dreadful situations, we managed to laugh together.

James 1:2-4 reminds us to remain joyful even when facing many kinds of trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces character, perseverance, and strength. 1 Peter 4:12-13 adds that we shouldn’t even be surprised when life gets ugly, as if something strange were happening. Instead, we can continue to be joyful, knowing that our Lord suffered too, keeping in mind that if we are faithful during the tough days, the Glory of the Lord will eventually be revealed in us.

Job knew this a long time ago, which is why he could proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand.” And then he adds, “And I will see Him with my own eyes.”

The same is true for you, my friend. Do your best to remain joyful and faithful while you’re struggling, and you will see the glory of the Lord, because your Redeemer lives.

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Being Spiritual Together

church-4565590_1920Who you are as a couple can be infinitely more beautiful and wonderful when you are spiritual together. Every aspect of your relationship will be better. Your spirituality can include Bible reading, singing praise songs and hymns, praying, and going to church. Some couples fast, memorize Bible verses, and talk about the beauty in the world and the universe. There are many ways to pursue and develop spiritually. The important thing is to make a plan, and that you do it together.

When my wife and I were visiting some friends, the husband asked If I wanted to go to the grocery store with him to pick up a few items, so I did. He and his wife were relatively new Christians so in the car, I asked if he and his wife prayed together.

“No. We did that for a while, but we don’t anymore.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I got tired of her correcting my grammar when I’m talking to the Lord.”

He had a point. Praying or being spiritual together is hard enough. Instead of adding to the difficulty, you need to make it a safe experience by being supportive and accepting. The Lord understands your weaknesses and shortcomings, and he’s big enough to tolerate bad grammar.

I know some couples who correct each other’s theology when they’re praying together. Don’t do that. There may be other appropriate times to talk about theology, but not while you’re praying. God won’t send a lightning bolt if you accidentally say something wrong or misquote the scripture in your prayer. What’s important is that you’re praying together.

There are some cool benefits to being spiritual. You develop a sensitivity for one another. You’re more in sync mentally and emotionally. You’re stronger psychologically, and better able to handle life’s challenges and obstacles. You start knowing each other in a more comprehensive and more intimate way. Plus, you come to a deeper sense of unity with the Lord and with your spouse. Unity invites the presence of God, and ignites the power of God in your home.

You’ll also discover a greater inner security, joy, and fulfillment in your life. Your sex life will be better, and you’ll know first-hand what the apostle meant when he wrote in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Accompanying these discoveries will be an inner transformation of character, a connection with the God of the universe, and an ability to overcome temptations and personal weaknesses.

In summary, by growing spiritually, you are able to bring your best self to your mate. That is a priceless gift. And that’s when marriage truly becomes heaven on earth.

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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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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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