Repost: 7 Ways to Have More Fun in Your Marriage

originally posted October 28, 2014

If your marriage is more about fighting then it is about having fun, then you’re off track from where God wants your marriage to be. Sunday at Mt Vernon I shared seven ways that couples can be serious about having more fun in their marriage:

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1. Identify the biggest culprits crowding into your marriage space. What is it that is crowding into the space that’s reserved for you and your spouse? Is it a career? Is it the kids? Is it a hobby or an addiction? Is it another friendship? Once you identify it, you and your spouse can begin to talk about how to protect that space. More space for you and your spouse equals more fun.

2. Keep dating. You have to keep dating your spouse after you’re married. By the way, a date with the kids doesn’t count as a date. Dating equals fun, so date! Utilize the grandparents, dump your kids off on a babysitter or family friends. Make regular dating a priority.

3. Find a shared interest that’s yours alone. This is where it takes work and discipline. Find something you both like to do. For some it’s easy, for some it’s hard because your personalities are so different (which is fine). But find a hobby, an interest, something that’s yours alone with your spouse. It can’t be something from work or involve the kids. Keep working, keep digging, until you discover something both you and your spouse enjoy together. That leads to enjoyment in your relationship.

4. Get in shape. When you’re out of shape and overweight, you don’t have any energy. You get tired easier so you don’t have any energy for fun. If you’re out of shape, you also think more negatively about yourself. You don’t like how you look or feel. You’re less likely to initiate intimacy, because you feel unattractive. When you’re in shape, you feel better about yourself, you have more energy, you’re more positive, which all leads to fun.

5. Put your phone in a kitchen drawer when you get home. As much as I love technology, it kills intimacy with your spouse. It’s tough for a wife when she wants to sit and talk and connect but the husband is checking his email. It’s tough for a husband when the day’s finally done, the kids are in bed, he’s trying to throw out his best moves, but the wife doesn’t notice because she’s checking Facebook. Your phone is a distraction. Get it out of your hand. Don’t bring it into the bedroom with you. Putting your phone away will force you to interact with and connect with your spouse, which leads to fun.

6. Get the kids out of your bed. Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. When the kids sleep with you, there’s no fun. It’s hard to make more babies when there’s one still in the bed. But more than just physical intimacy, your bed is the only physical space you and your spouse occupy that’s reserved for you alone. It’s where you can talk and connect, where you can start and end the day together. Don’t let the kids in there. And I know all the excuses. Don’t settle. Your bed is your space. Protect it. Get the kids out of the bed. As cruel as it sounds, let them cry themselves to sleep for a few nights in their room. They’ll get over it, and you’ll have more fun.

7. Have lots of sex. Here’s why this is so important: you are the only legitimate source of romance in your spouse’s life. Wives, you are the only legitimate source of romance in your husband’s life. If you’re not intentional about pursuing and initiating intimacy, then he’s more susceptible to illegitimate options. Husbands, you are the only legitimate source of romance in your wife’s life. You need to remember that romance doesn’t just mean sex. Romance starts with serving her, valuing her, talking with her. The goal is for both of you to have a healthy, enjoyable sex life. Remember that men and women are wired differently. Men are like a microwave. 30 seconds and they’re done. Women are like a crockpot. Intimacy can’t be rushed. Husbands, make sure that you’re meeting your wife’s sexual needs, and not just your own.

Work hard and have fun! The best way to protect your marriage is to enjoy your marriage.

Repost: 11 Reasons Why Marriages Fail

originally posted June 3, 2013

5.27.15We see marriages around us fail for a multitude of reasons. Underlying the causes of divorce are some common themes. Here are eleven of them:

1. Lack of communication. Constant and meaningful conversation is the lifeblood of a marriage. You would think that all marriages have meaningful conversation, but they don’t. Couples don’t carve out time. They’re too tired. The husbands don’t want to talk. Television replaces conversation, and separation begins.

2. Busyness. We can be too busy for our own good. A career is good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Hobbies are good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Friends are good, but not if they come at the expense of your marriage. Even kids can drain away precious energy from your marriage. The couples that can’t cut back see their marriages float away in a sea of busyness.

3. Selfishness. At the core, marriage is about serving your spouse, about submitting yourself and your needs to the needs of your spouse. If the couples can’t grasp this, submit their ego and embrace the concept of mutual submission, then fault line cracks will appear at the base of your marriage.

4. Can’t overcome your family of origin. Many spouses were raised in broken, abusive, or dysfunctional homes. They walk into marriage knowing only destructive marriage habits from the example of their parents. If they can’t overcome and move past their family of origin, their parents’ destructive marriage will become their own destructive marriage.

5. Unwilling to grow in your marriage. Marriage is all about change. You change. Your spouse changes. If you’re unwilling to grow and change with your spouse, you don’t have much of a shot. The trick of marriage isn’t finding a perfect spouse who will never change, but to find a way to continuously fall in love with your ever-changing spouse.

6. Lack of investment in your marriage. Husbands, your marriage isn’t complete when you say “I do.” Without constant and intentional investment, your marriage will struggle. Just like a farmer’s work isn’t done when he plants the seed, neither is your work done when you walk the aisle. Marriage takes hard work, lots of it.

7. Addictions overwhelm a spouse. Sometimes a latent addiction can rear up and consume a spouse. An eating disorder, a pornography addiction, alcoholism, if left unchecked, will wreck a marriage. It takes two people to make a marriage work, but only one person to wreck it.

8. Bitterness and unforgiveness overwhelm you. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other person on the planet. They will continually remind you that they are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. Because you’re the person closest to them, you will deal with the brunt of their imperfections. If you choose to hold on to past hurts and slights, bitterness will poison your soul and consume you.

9. You give up too easily. Make no illusions: marriage is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart. Every couple will come to points where divorce seems like the easy option. The marriage that works is the marriage that chooses to fight when things get tough, not quit.

10. Sin entices and destroys the marriage. Sin is always looking for a way to destroy the beauty of your marriage. It may use the approach of greed, selfishness, an affair, or any other number of enticements. If you’re not constantly on your guard, sin will destroy your marriage.

11. The love grows cold. Love is like a campfire that must be constantly tended to and stoked. If left alone, the fire will eventually burn itself out and grow cold. When the love grows cold, there doesn’t seem to be much left to save. Don’t let your fire grow cold.

QUESTION: What other reasons cause marriage to fail?

image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Repost: The Committee on Committee on Committees

originally posted May 20, 2013

Growing up Baptist, I was entranced by the abundance of committees that seemed to cover every facet of church life. A committee for flowers? Check. A hostess committee? Check. (Only later did I realize that this committee had nothing to do with a favorite brand of comfort foods). But one committee always intrigued me with its deeply authoritative and far-reaching title: the committee on committees.

This was the pinnacle. This was the magical smoke-filled back room committee where the real power was exerted. Who wanted to be on something lame like the properties committee when you could be on the committee on committees? This committee was the supreme power, the Council of Elrond of Baptist churches.

As I grew a little older, my typical male aspirations of world domination played itself out in my Baptist world, and I created a new, fictitious, uber-powerful committee that would rule all committees: the Committee on Committee on Committees. This highly secretive committee would wield uncontrolled power to install puppet committees throughout the church.

Growing up in a typical Baptist church, here are some of the new committees that the Committee on Committee on Committees would install:

  • The Surly Greeter Committee – This committee would ensure that the meanest, poutiest, surliest members (and oldest, preferably) would greet at the front doors. They would set an acceptably dour mood for the service.
  • The Pew Kicker Committee – This committee would deputize one angry couple a week to go throughout the sanctuary and kick guests out of their seats, claiming that they were sitting in their row. They would ensure that the pecking order of seniority remained intact.
  • The Temperature Complaining Committee – This committee would be made exclusively of senior ladies who would be strategically placed throughout the sanctuary to loudly complain that the temperature was too cold (no matter what the actual temperature).
  • The Baby Screaming Committee – This committee would commission new moms to keep their babies out of the nursery and bring them into the service, preferably fussy. These moms would assume that everyone would love to watch and hear this new, screaming bundle of joy for an hour.
  • The Sleeping Choir Member Committee – This committee would enlist at least one choir member per service to fall asleep (noticeably) during the pastor’s sermon. The closer they sat directly behind the pastor, the better.
  • The Clothing Diva Committee – This committee would be an added bonus to the Baptist church. This committee would be formed exclusively of median aged wives and moms who think each Sunday service is an opportunity to dress for the Kentucky Derby. Their over-the-top and look-at-me outfits would ensure that people have someone to talk about at lunch.

QUESTION: What new committees would you install for the typical church?

Repost: If God Could Use Them, He Can Use You

originally posted June 26, 2013

What do Moses, David, and Paul all have in common? These names represent some of the best men written about in the Bible. God spoke to Moses face to face (Num. 12:8). The Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). Paul was privileged with writing almost half of the New Testament.

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When you look at their accomplishments, their heroics are almost mythical: Moses called down the plagues on Egypt and parted the Red Sea; David killed the giant Goliath and led Israel to her glory years; Paul was a prolific church planter and had more impact on the church than anyone else in history. We look at them, and it’s easy to see them as idealized, untouchable characters with whitewashed pasts.

Yet here’s what Moses, David and Paul have in common: they were all murderers.Moses killed an Egyptian in anger (Ex. 2:12), David killed Uriah the Hittite because he got Uriah’s wife pregnant (2 Sam. 11:15). Paul was present at the murder of Stephen and was responsible for many other deaths before his own conversion (Acts 8:1).

The application is simple: if God could use them, he can use you. No past is too checkered for him. What makes God great is inexhaustible grace and ability to take even the worst of circumstances and redeem them for his glory. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you’ve made. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been divorced. It doesn’t matter how many addictions controlled you. If God can use murderers to be some of the greatest men in the Bible, then he can use you.

I believe this enough that I shared it with a group of ladies a few days ago who are overcoming alcohol and drug addiction. One young lady is trying to overcome an IV meth addiction with an extremely low statistical probability of recovery. I shared it with a young lady of 25 who’s been in rehab seven different times. Even them, not too far gone. My God is big enough and strong enough and loving enough to use even them. If God can use these ladies, he can use you.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Story of Hope: Lincoln

Our three-year-old son (Happy Birthday!) Lincoln isn’t supposed to be here. If you look at our life now you would laugh at the narrative, but Robin and I used to be the couple who couldn’t have any kids. Robin was a school teacher and I was a youth pastor. We were a good young Christian couple doing good things for good people. Life was good.

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But we couldn’t have kids. Miscarriages, check. Thousands spent on fertility treatments, check. Robin had school kids getting pregnant and I had youth getting pregnant, but not us. To say it was a trying time is an understatement.

And yet, in the summer of 2011, Robin and I came full circle in our story of heartache. Looking back through our trials, we were now to the point where we were actually thankful that God allowed us to walk through what we did. Not only did it make our faith stronger, but more importantly it brought our first two sons (Zeke and Shepherd) into our life through adoption. Simply put, if we would have had kids early like all the other normal couples, those two wouldn’t be our sons, those two who mean more than life itself to us.

So in the summer of 2011, we had truly come full circle and embraced the plan and the purpose that God had for us. And then, in God’s divine plan and (I’m convinced) sense of humor, He decided to remind us that He still works miracles today. Two months later, we were pregnant with Lincoln. We kept waiting for complications. We kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn’t. Lincoln was born happy and healthy exactly three years ago today. His little sister was born less than two years later.

The reason I can preach hope is because I see hope every day in my family. Lincoln’s middle name is Isaac, named after the child of promise in the Old Testament born to a couple who thought their days of parenting were behind them. God has worked miracles in my life, and I know He can work miracles in yours. Don’t give up hope!

9 Hard Truths I Wish I Could Tell Every Graduate

Congratulations graduates! What you’ve achieved is the result of years of determination, and your celebration is well deserved. Graduation isn’t the finish line though, it’s merely the second lap. Here are nine truths that may be hard to accept but will help you flourish in the next chapter in your life:

Graduates in Cap and Gown --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Graduates in Cap and Gown — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

1. Growing up comes by making a decision, not by celebrating a birthday. Maturity and truly acting like an adult isn’t something that magically happens when you celebrate an 18th or 21st birthday. It’s a conscious choice. You grow up when you choose to grow up. It’s that simple.

2. Life isn’t fair. Get used to it. There are going to be things that happen that just don’t seem fair. The reason they don’t seem fair is because they’re not fair, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. Fairness ended in the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world like a grenade going off. Life stopped being fair a long time ago.

3. If you work hard, you’ll be ahead of 90% of the people out there, because they’re lazy. Success in many ways can be boiled down to work ethic and perseverance. Most people don’t work hard enough or long enough to be successful. If you can master those two things, you’ll see most everyone else around you in the rearview mirror.

4. You’ll learn more from failure than anything else. Working hard doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, failure is an absolute prerequisite for success, because you’ll learn more from your failures than any of your successes. Success doesn’t mean never getting knocked down, success is the willingness to keep getting back up.

5. If you’re waiting for life to be handed to you, you’ll be waiting awhile. Entitlement is a killer in life. If you had everything handed to you as a child, your family actually did you a disservice because they did not give you an accurate picture of how life happens in the real world. The only place where everything is planned out and given to you is prison. Everywhere else you’ve got to work to achieve your goals.

6. The choices you make today will still affect you 10 years from now. Your choices have consequences. Your decisions have a ripple effect that will still be making waves a decade from now. For instance, you can only have one first marriage. Think it through. Choose wisely. Every choice has a consequence, some of which will follow you for years.

7. Love is a choice, not an emotion. This season will be the time that you look for love. But there’s an incredible difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation is a blast. The emotional rush is unparalleled. But it’s not love. Once the emotional rush wears off, the hard work of sacrificially loving begins. What you’ll discover behind the emotional rush is a deep-seated sense of contentment and fulfillment that comes with a relationship that stands the test of time. It’s there, if you’re willing to work for it.

8. Money will never equal happiness. Those 80,000 advertisements you watched as a kid all tried to sell you one overarching narrative, that money equals happiness. It’s a facade. Money will never equal true and lasting happiness. Sure, it will give you a momentary emotion that seems like happiness, but it will disappear as quickly as your money. If you’re looking for true happiness, you’ll have to look somewhere else other than money.

9. Significance begins when you get over yourself. The value of a life is determined by how much of it you give away. As Jesus said, it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. There is an incredible life of significance waiting for you out there, but the first hurdle you’re going to have to get over is yourself. If you can remove yourself from the center of your universe and replace it with something (or someone, hopefully God) much bigger than yourself, then life will go to a whole new level.

I know these truths are hard. It takes most people years to figure this out. Some never do. If you can learn these truths now, life will be much better for you in the real world. Good luck!

QUESTION: What other hard truths would you share with graduates?

The BIGGEST Lie We Tell Ourselves

Recently I sat down to counsel with two different people. These two people were at least a decade apart in age, had vastly different life experiences, and were struggling with very different problems. And yet, when we talked, they had both fallen for the same lie. In fact, this lie is the same lie that too many people fall for. I would go so far as to argue that this is the biggest lie that we tell ourselves: “I can do this on my own.”

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That’s the lie, the deception that Satan tries to get us to fall for. When we’re struggling through something, Satan will do everything in his power to convince us that we’re strong enough on our own to overcome this addiction, battle this depression or get over this traumatic event. We fall for the deception because we don’t want to suffer through the humiliation of reaching out to others and admitting that we need help.

But it’s all a lie. God did not create you to do life on your own. Galatians 6 tells us to bear each others burdens. Why? Because we’re created for community. Both of the people I counseled fell for this lie for years. For years they struggled on their own, convinced they were the only ones going through their struggles, convinced that if they just tried a little harder they could overcome it on their own. They were both wrong.

They weren’t strong enough on their own because none of us are strong enough on our own. They found healing when they began to reach out to others. They reached out to me. They reached out to others who could help. And now they’re both on the road to recovery. Don’t fall for this lie! Whatever it is you’re struggling with, you can’t do it on your own. You need others. Reach out to someone and find the healing you’re looking for.

3 Tricks to Start Learning Names

I’m good with names. I remember the summer before my sophomore year of college I came back early to school to help with freshman orientation. After seeing the same names over and over again for a week, I realized I remembered a good portion of them. So I continued to work hard at names and faces, and it’s been a huge help to me over the years.

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“But I’m not good with names!” I know people like to say that. I used to like to say that. I just don’t buy it as an excuse anymore. If you’re ready to get rid of that crutch and start learning names, here are three tricks that have helped me along the way:

1. First and Last. You might think it’s easier to remember simply the first name. For me, it was always easier if I attached a last name to it as well. Do you know how many Jessicas, Davids, and Brittanys there are out there? Learning the last name helps to differentiate the individual, and it earns you double points when you can remember and call out their last name as well.
2. Facebook stalk. For me, the quicker I put a face with a name, the better I’ll learn it. If I meet someone, I’ll ask for their name, and immediately after our conversation I’ll email or text myself (thank you smart phones) their name. Later on I’ll try and find them through social media to get a little Facebook stalking going on. The more I can associate a name with a face, the easier it is for me to remember it.
3. Practice makes perfect. If you’re not good with names, after trying really hard, you may only be slightly less horrible with names. But it’s progress. The parts of your brain needed to learn and remember names is like a muscle that might have atrophied. It will take some time and some work to get it back into shape. Don’t give up!

Why is this all important? Because we live in an increasingly isolated and fragmented world. And yet we’re wired for community because God created us that way. If you can remember and call someone by name, you build the first plank in a relational bridge that can change both of your lives for the better.