Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are You Tearing Apart The Marriage of a Friend?

Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all…”

I work with a guy whom I will call Joe. Joe is in his late 20’s, is someone you're always happy to bump into, and has been married for a little over a year or so. He and his bride were high school sweethearts, and have been together about ten years now – a feat in and of itself! We were talking about marriage and career, and where Joe was headed next in life. What he said next almost brought tears to my eyes.

He said that right now he and his wife were just focusing on their marriage. He shared that in his current job position, he has been asked periodically to work out in the field instead of the corporate office – not just for a week, but for extended periods of several months at a time. Joe confided that, when asked, he explains that this isn’t a good time right now, because his wife couldn’t join him. He said his managers look at him like he’s got three heads, and then say, “But your wife will understand!” They can’t wrap their brains around the fact that Joe would prioritize his wife to a higher position than his career. The concept just ain’t even showing up on their radar screens. This talented, hard-working young man is risking, even turning his back on, the fast track to “success” in the industry by choosing his wife and marriage over what may be seen as valuable career experience. What a rare thing to see, and I pray God will bless them both richly for this choice. I guess Joe’s managers haven’t considering Deuteronomy 24:5 (Amplified Bible): “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year and shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.”

This made me think of how we honor the marriages of our friends and colleagues. When was the last time you prayed for the marriage of someone, not because they were having difficulty, but just because you wanted to support them and respect their marriage? In some traditional marriage vows, it is proclaimed, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Asunder – an adjective meaning “into separate parts, into pieces; apart or widely separated.” Do we not put asunder a friend’s marriage when we speak words of discouragement and disparagement against their spouse? Do we not tear at the very fabric of someone’s marriage when we participate with her in sarcasm/joking/little jabs about her husband? Doesn’t joining with the girls in a little (even subtle) man-bashing highlight their husbands’ weaknesses and expose/make vulnerable the problem areas of their marriage? I’m not saying this is a woman thing, this happens constantly for both sexes, for we often make our spouse the brunt of many a joke, making fun of them in front of other people, then covering the damage by an explanation of, “Oh, I was only joking, don’t be so sensitive!”

Instead we need to stand enmeshed, heart to heart, to weave a strong hedge of love, protection, and consecration around the honor of marriage, for the unity of a husband/wife, and to do everything we can to be a source of encouragement and support for these two who journey together in the partnership God has given them. Take every opportunity to lift up your friend’s husband, your friend’s wife – reminding them of all that is good and loving and respectable and wonderful in the person they have married. When they come to you with a problem, of course you listen and acknowledge it, but pray with them/for them, read the Scriptures to seek godly answers. Certainly, I am not addressing areas of danger and abuse – what I am speaking of is the everyday occurrences, the “dailies” of marital problems. Dr. Stephen Covey calls talking about someone else “confessing their sins” – don’t be part of that negative and ungodly practice. Instead, vow as in Job 27:4 that your lips will not speak wickedness, and your tongue will whisper no deceit, and each day remember James 4:11 “Do not speak against one another.” Instead use your words to build up, edify marriage and marriage partners collectively and individually, and let your words be skillfully spoken, “like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) Imagine how many marriages could be made stronger, more satisfying, and more fortified against the threat of divorce?

Challenge – for the next week, speak only positive words of encouragement to your friends about their spouses, and especially make it a point to speak the same words of love and support to the one to whom you have entrusted your own heart.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Hold the Hand... To Hold the Heart

Isaiah 42:6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee.

Transliterated word for hold – “chazaq” verb – to strengthen, to prevail, to make strong, restore/give strength, to support, to repair, to encourage

Today I read the devotional “Hold onto the Hand” from “Joy and Strength” by Mary Wilder Tileston (see below). To be honest, I’ve don’t remember ever reading this verse in Isaiah before, but then again, sometimes when we need it God causes a particular verse or passage of Scripture jump out like a neon sign, doesn’t He?

Think about the last time you slipped your hand into the hand of someone you loved. It immediately makes both a physical and emotional connection. I’m an unabashedly unashamed lover of hand-holding, and my heart always is moved when I am walking along and see that special someone’s hand in front of/beside me extended in invitation to reach out and take hold. It is an invitation to intimacy. My smaller hand in his, fingers entwined – it is a feeling of warmth, of safety, of feeling very special and proud that I am walking with him – and it visually identifies our personal relationship to others.

When someone you know/love is hurting, how often have you reached out and held their hand? When you pray with a friend, do you often hold hands? At times of encouragement, have you leaned over and placed your hand on top of the one you wish to encourage? Again, it is a non-verbal way of saying you care, of offering your support, of saying “I’m here for you”. How often this one small act of giving yourself says so much more than words could proclaim?

Sometimes when I am praying, especially when I need to “feel” Jesus in a tangible way, I will reach out and pretend that I am holding His hand. It brings me great comfort, imagining that He is sitting next to me, my hand in His. Okay, maybe it sounds a little odd, but it works for me. In fact, on my way to work this morning, I was doing the “commuter prayers” and while talking to Jesus (yes, I chat away as if He was right there), I did in fact reach over the (seemingly) empty seat next to me, and envisioned my hand clasped in His.

There was a song in the 70s by Anderson Lynn called “Put Your Hand in the Hand” and it spoke of putting your hand in His hand, the One who stilled the waters and calmed the sea. May I encourage you to take a moment to reach out to Jesus, slip your hand in His, and know His love for you today?

Title: Hold on to the Hand
Author: Mary Wilder Tileston
Scripture References:
Isaiah 8:6
Devotion: Joy and Strength

DON'T be content with spending all your time on your faults, but try to get a step nearer to God. It is not He who is far away from us, but we from Him. If you ask me the best means to persevere, I would say, if you have succeeded in getting hold of Almighty God's hand, don't let it go.

Keep hold of Him by constantly renewing ejaculatory prayers to Him, acts of desire, and the seeking to please Him in little things.

Strive to be as a little child who, while its mother holds its hand, goes on fearlessly, and is not disturbed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness. So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go on boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His arms in trusting love. Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible; if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Well, Shut My Garbage Spewin' Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Lately I’ve become more aware of the things that come out of my mouth. It’s embarrassing and painful to admit, but way too often I find that I have a very acerbic tongue, a cutting humor, a critical spirit, and easily shoot verbal bullets at people (my Mom calls it “verbal sniping” – because it’s so easy to hurt someone with words). The original Greek refers to unwholesome as “rotten, putrefied; of poor quality”. Basically garbage mouth!

When I think of unwholesome words, the first thing that comes to mind is either actively cutting someone down or cursing up a storm. You know, the “big” things that you know you’re not supposed to say. But those little running comments, that little put-down here, that sarcastic answer there, well, they’re like termites in the foundation of a relationship that slowly eat away at someone, and also eat away at the foundation of my witness as a Christ-follower. Later in the verse we’re called to use words that build others up. Hmmm… that goes along with my whole termite scenario. I get this visual of each word that comes out of my mouth being a brick, and I can use that brick to either build up, or to slam and destroy. So much power, so much riding on everything that I say throughout the day.

I remember hearing once a good rule of thumb to check what you’re about to say – “Is it truthful? Is it accurate? Is it necessary?” I would also like to add “Is it beneficial – will it build up or tear down?” Which brings me also to two verses that I will pray each morning from now on:

Psalm 141:3 – “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Psalm 19:14 – “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Excellent Wife Who Can Find - I Can't Find Myself, and I'm Not Even Married!

Proverbs 31:10 "An excellent wife who can find?"

Excellent: the Hebrew word is a masculine noun for strength, ability, translated as able, capable, full, strong, substantial, a warrior, valiant, and worthy. The dictionary definition of excellent is “possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good; extraordinary.

Wife: is the Hebrew feminine noun defined as woman (opposite of man), female, and in the NAS is translated and used often for a variety of women (from harlot to single to married to widow).

When I read the word for wife (woman), and how it’s used for so many women, I think of the song by Chaka Khan (and later Whitney Houston) “I’m Every Woman”. I also think of the old Peggy Lee song, “”Cause I’m a Woman (W-O-M-A-N). And how can we forget the 70’s feminist theme song by Helen Reddy “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar”? The definitions swirl in my head as I try to sort it all out.

Add to the mix the fact that I am an unmarried woman, so where do I find my place in this beginning of the first verse of the Scripture passage on the “Proverbs Woman”? It’s taken me years to tackle this section but now my heart desires to really, truly understand what it means, and what it means personally to me/about me/for me to emulate. What makes me an excellent woman?

I am immediately drawn to the words “strength”, “valiant”, “warrior”, and “substantial”. This ain’t no milk toast mama we’re talking about here – this female is fierce! My first visual is that of a Christian Amazon woman! (Believe me, considering all the books I buy, I already qualify as an Amazon woman … but I digress). I’m digging this already, but wondering how I balance this woman with the phrases “submissive” and “quiet and gentle spirit” from other sections of Scripture. Hmmm… That will have to be a whole ‘nuther blog post!

Where to first? Okay, excellence – from whence does my excellence come? It must come from Christ – He must be my example. Christ an example of an excellent woman? Whoa, hold on, won’t that get me tossed off the women’s ministry team and possibly excommunicated??? No, because His example rises so far above the boundaries of male/female. He is Savior, Lord, Perfection. When I define myself I must find my identity first in Him. My worth, my substance, any strength or valor comes from His Holy Spirit living in me, helping me each day be more Christlike. Romans 11:36 tells me all things are from Him and through Him, and Philippians 4:13 tells me I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Let’s not forget warrior – as a “warrior woman” I am to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and battle the enemy daily. Another song comes to mind: “Onward Christian Soldiers”. Finally, worthy – to be worthy – I find my worth in Him as well, not in another person here on earth or in my own efforts, but in knowing Christ’s love for me and His sacrifice for me on the Cross, and the Father’s love/forgiveness for me. When I think on these things, how can I not recognize my worth to Him? To Him I am far more precious than jewels (as the second half of Proverbs 31:10 is written).

So there you go – today I will see myself through His eyes, and to join my sisters worldwide in the journey and goal of being a woman of excellence.