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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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

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!

Help in the Bible

Helping is a major theme in the Bible. First, the Lord himself is our helper. Psalm 33:20 says, We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield, and in Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Second, the people of God are called to help others. Leviticus 25:35 says, If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 teaches, Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. In each of these scenarios, the helper is the stronger, richer, or more able person.

But the scriptural injunction to help others goes beyond the countryman, the friend, or the neighbor, extending even to one’s enemy. Exodus 23:5, for example, says If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it. And in Matthew 5:44, Jesus teaches his disciples, But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

A third way we see helping in the Bible is that ministry is considered to be a way of helping people. When describing Paul’s Macedonian call, Acts 16:9 says, During the night a vision appeared to Paul:  A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”

Fourth, there is a spiritual gift called the Gift of Helps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages.

And fifth, in Genesis 2:18, marriage is initiated by God to be a helping relationship.

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Heat, Danger, Dust, and Death

I knew from the start that I could be wounded or killed. It was a weird feeling, and I came to accept it. How or when, I had no idea. But every time there was another explosion, I wondered if this was the day.

My wife also knew I might not make it home alive. Or if I did return, I might be a broken man – crippled, blind, psychologically damaged, or all of the above. With that possibility in mind, she told me before I left home, “I don’t want to find out after you get back or after you’re dead that you were in danger. I want to know right away.”

Many of our military personnel won’t tell their spouse and family what they’re going through during war, thinking they’re protecting them. Plus, we’re limited in what we’re allowed to say or write to our families. But I have a hunch there are many, like my wife, who are better off knowing what’s going on, and who want to know.

The first time I mentioned during a phone call some of the dangerous things that were happening, she said, “I already know. I saw it on TV and in the newspaper. They’re mentioning Diwaniyah and Camp Echo by name.” She scanned and sent me an LA Times article. I took it to our staff meeting the next morning, and discovered that many on our leadership team didn’t know what was going on outside the wire.

Heat, danger, dust, and death formed the context for the job I was sent to do. Operating from the philosophy that “ministry follows friendship,” I built relationships among the men and women at Camp Echo: military, civilian, American, and Coalition. This allowed me to be there when they were at their best and when they were at their worst, in their strongest moments and in their weakest.

In the heat of the battle and the heat of the desert, hours turn into days, which transition to nights, and add up to weeks and then months. The conditions wear you down, leaving an imprint on your mind and your soul: images that will be seen in dreams for months or years, sounds that reverberate long after you’re home, people you befriended and cared about and stared at death with, but will probably never hear from again. For many of us, it’s only memory now. But for others, the war continues . . . on the inside.

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Struggle and Triumph

Rick Hendricks 1In plain, storytelling fashion, Paul provides a simple, but not simplistic, application of timeless Biblical principles to apply in your relationship. He shares his own experiences of struggle and triumph, letting you know none of this is easy, but it is accessible. Paul’s style is enjoyable, easy to read, and digest. I really appreciate his Discussion Starters at the end of each chapter to guide a couple’s deeper dive. As a Christian couple’s therapist, I highly recommend this to those who are contemplating marriage, are early in their marriage, or may be looking for ways to grow in their marriage.

Rick Hendricks, LMFC, Deputy District Director, North Atlantic District 1, Veterans Health Administration

Will We Ever Be Happy?

Falling in love is a wonderful experience. You’re on top of the world, and you feel like you’re the luckiest person in the world, hoping it’ll last forever.

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Then it starts to change.

At first it just doesn’t feel the same. Then comes the pain, followed by the realization that it’s over. Soon, you’re singing the oldie from the Carpenters, Goodbye to Love.

Too many marriages in the United States end in divorce, and many of those who stay together aren’t happy. The burning question is this. What are you and your spouse going to do to make sure you stay together and are happy?

After we’d been married five years, my wife and I came to a point where life was hard. We didn’t have enough money to pay the bills. She was stuck at home with a toddler and an infant. She noticed that I invested a lot more time, energy, and thought in my work than I gave to our marriage. We were both dissatisfied and unhappy. We weren’t getting enough sleep. Stress was high. We got angry easily, and didn’t laugh much. We also discovered that men and women speak different languages. She was too emotional, and I was too insensitive.

One day, I came home from work and my wife met me in the kitchen. Without hesitation, she blurted out, “Are we ever going to be happy again? Will our marriage ever be good again?”

I told her, “I think so, sweetheart. I’m not sure, but I think so.”

It would have been easy to throw in the towel and call it quits. Just as easy to start blaming, accusing, and getting angry with each other. Or maybe even look elsewhere for love and affection, and have an affair.

But we didn’t do that. Instead, we decided to do our best to be kind to each other, treat each other right, and see what happened.

Eventually, the joy did return. We got through that dark time, and we’re glad we did. But we needed to help each other through the process.

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Look What Amazon Delivered

Jeff and Barbara posted this picture on Facebook with a note that said, “Look what Amazon delivered today! We’re looking forward to reading it together. We’ve always been grateful for the wisdom you shared with us in the past. PS How do we get this autographed?”

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My good friends and I used to work together, once upon a time, and amazingly, they STILL decided to get the book. Since they’re in Utah and I’m in Florida, we’ll figure out how to get together, go out for dinner, and do a personalized, one-on-one book signing. I love you guys, and hope you enjoy the book.