Saturday, September 29, 2007

The mom's version of the "William Tell Overture"

Friday, September 28, 2007

Journey to Contentment (Part VI)

I was reading in the book "Feminine Appeal" a rather interesting analogy that I thought might shed further light on this contentment issue. Here go's:

Sponge Theology
Let me ask you a question. If I squeezed a sponge and made a puddle on the floor, what was the actual cause of the puddle? Was it my squeezing? No. It was the water that was in the sponge already. If I squeezed a dry sponge, there would be no puddle.
So it is with our hearts. The squeezing (that is, difficult & trying people/circumstances) do not cause us to sin/get angry. It only reveals what is in our hearts already.

Look back at these verses from the book of James.

"Consider is pure joy, brothers, whenever you experience trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
-James 1:2-4

How many of us, and I ask in all honesty, consider it "pure joy" when trying people or circumstances come our way? Well, I got to "practice what I preach" in a very real way these past two weeks. All three of my children contracted some sort of virus that started off with a fever for 3-4 days and then turned into a rather debilitating sinus/upper respiratory thing. Now, I don't mind administering drugs, taking temperatures, rocking/cradling, wiping noses, etc. But what I do find most difficult to undertake is the way my children respond to such illnesses: an all-over discontent/restless attitude (I want food-no I don't want food; I want a nap-no I don't want a nap; I want to watch a movie- no I don't want to watch a movie, etc.), incessant whining, waking up 3+ times in the night, etc. After two weeks, it'll wear on you. Any of you mothers out there that have multiple children can relate.

How did I do with contentment and "pure joy" do you ask? To be honest, not so well. Come about this past Tuesday/Wednesday, I started to lose my cool. Cabin fever and the overwhelming annoyance at declining invitations and canceling plans started to takes its toll on me and I started to get snippy and outright/sinfully annoyed toward both the kids and RD. Just when I didn't think I could handle much more, God brought to my attention this "sponge theology" concept. I saw James 1:2-4 from a completely different perspective... a perspective that is helping me get through the tail end of these "sick days". Let me explain.

I should consider it "pure joy" whenever I face various trials because I know 1) my "sponge" is getting squeezed, 2) my sin will rise to the surface, 3) I can then confess/repent from my sin, 4) grow in further Christ-likeness, 5) develop perseverance, and 6) be mature/complete/lacking in nothing. See, what I realized is that the squeezing (kids getting sick, being stuck at home, having to deal with the children's overall discontent with life, etc.) caused a lot of yuckiness to rise up out of me, that is, sin. Anger has been a rather unfortunate reality of my married/mothering years. I just realized yesterday AM during my quiet time that I have ALWAYS been an angry person, it's just having a husband and kids has brought it up out of me. They are forcing me to deal with sin that I might not otherwise get the "privilege" of dealing with (by confession and repentance). I SHOULD consider it all joy when "squeezed" because I have a great opportunity to have sin removed from my life!

No, it's not fun to go through a difficulty. That's crazy! BUT, knowing what the end result should be (further righteousness/Christ-likeness)... now that should be something to revel in and take great joy in. Let me tell you, I now have a renewed vigor to tackle those sick kids. Not that I like experiencing the difficulty, but because I know the sin of anger and bitterness that I struggle so much with will arise and I can deal with it appropriately.

How do you look at trials? Are they something you run from? Are they something you begrudgingly endure? Or are they something you willingly and joyfully embrace because you know that the sin in your heart (the water in your sponge) will get squeezed out of you and you will have the opportunity to grow up in Christ?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Delight of Loving My Husband (Part IV)

2) Behave tenderly toward him

This can be done in three ways:
-prize him
-cherish him
-enjoy him

As Linda Dillow said:
Now that you know your husband's admirable qualities, why keep them to yourself? It's good to admire your husband secretly, but how much better to admire him actively!

Prize him:
Speaking from personal experience, I know what it's like to get caught up in the midst of life (for me, mothering) and totally lose sight of your spouse. Unfortunately, I went through a rather long season where I was so engrossed in mothering that RD was basically an afterthought. By the time he got home from work, I was exhausted and had nothing left to give him. I'd forgotten that I was to prize him.

Perhaps I am counter-cultural when I say this, but it must be said... HUSBANDS COME BEFORE CHILDREN! There is a God-ordained order to the home. God first. Spouse second. Kids third. Mahaney says this: "... one of the most loving things we can do for our children is to prize our husbands. It provides a wonderful security in their lives, and it presents a biblical model for them and their future marriages."

How do we begin to prize our mates? Cards, letters of encouragement, seek his opinion on matters before anyone else, get a sitter and have regular date nights, plan a night/weekend getaway... Use your imagination. Be creative. Prize your husband above anyone or anything else.

Cherish him:
Remember the traditional wedding vow that says: to love and to cherish till death do us part? To cherish means "to hold dear, to care for tenderly or to nurture, to cling fondly to, or treat at precious". This is another area in which to freely use your creative juices.
-if he's not feeling well, make him some food/tea and bring it to him
-warmly embrace him when you meet him, esp. in front of others
-notes of encouragement in his lunches
-thank him for the good things he accomplishes
-plan simple, sporadic surprises for him
-where that outfit or nighty that you know he loves
-pray for him
-praise him for his commendable qualities to friends/family

Remember, this doesn't have to be expensive. You can cherish your mate without spending money.

Enjoy him:
Mahaney writes: "Phileo is not a dutiful love; it is to be characterized by joy and delight. We are to find great happiness in our relationship with our husbands. We should prefer his company above all others. We should find genuine pleasure in serving them, and we should take an interest in what they enjoy."

Well, if our spouse is to be our "friend", that would entail that we do things together because we love one another's company. I don't suppose a wife and husband that live two completely separate lives and only see and connect just before bed are truly enjoying one another. Nor is the couple that are home together but doing their own separate "thing" with hardly a word said between them truly enjoying one another. We are to be our spouses friend. What do we do with our friends? We spend time together. We talk about all sorts of things. We share our deepest feelings and thoughts about life together. We do activities together. It's active. It's alive.

What does your husband like? Sports? Traveling? Movies? Motorcycles/cars? Computers? For me, my husband LOVES computers, football, movies, Star Wars & Star Trek, camping and video games. Do I like that stuff? Heck no. But now that I've read the Biblical command that I'm supposed to be husband's best friend, I am starting to do those things with him... and you know what? He LOVES it! In fact, he's planning a "surprise" for me tonight. Could it be in part because I am seeking to do more "friendship" things with him? Maybe.

I remember when the Colts won the Superbowl. (Go Colts!) RD had a bunch of his guy friends come over so they could watch the game. Following the game, the guys stayed up until 3AM playing the Nintendo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Against what my inner femaleness was telling me, I sat diligently with RD during the game and even served snacks at 2AM (figuring they were hungry since they'd been up so long). And do you know how RD responded? I say this in a modest way... he couldn't keep his hands off me. He was ecstatic that I chose to be with him and the guys all that time. He even said in front of all the guys that he had the best wife ever. *blush* I don't say this to pat myself on the back, but rather so you ladies can see the potential blessings of taking the time to enjoy your spouse. If I would have gone to the other room to sulk and pout because of the boring game and lack of estrogen to keep me company, I would have missed out on a huge blessing.

Ladies, do something with your husband that he likes. You don't necessarily have to adore whatever "it" is, but at least show an interest. Your husband needs and wants your company. He wants you to be his friend. Enjoy him. Learn to enjoy what he enjoys.

The Delight of Loving My Husband (Part III)

In order for us to cultivate a tender/friendship love toward our spouses, there are three things we must do:
1) think tender thoughts toward him
2) behave tenderly toward him
3) pray for God to grant us tender feelings for him

Lets take a look at the first one.

1) Think tender thoughts toward him
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
-Phil. 4:8,9

Wouldn't this verse apply to our spouses? In an earlier post I wrote about how in a very real way, we are what we think. If all we are doing is harping about every little "wrong" thing our spouses are doing, I can guarantee that our joy and excitement toward them will evaporate. Rather, we should diligently be seeking to point out the very areas in which to praise and admire our husbands. As we begin working our "praise muscles" concerning our spouses, the more commendable qualities we'll begin to see.

Elizabeth Elliot wrote these words of wisdom in her book entitled "Love Has A Price Tag":
A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps 80% of her expectations. There is always the other 20% that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the 80%, and both of them will be happy.

According to Scripture, we are to be dwelling on the good things concerning our husbands.

Another thing to think about is what Charles Spurgeon once said:
He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks 10,000 of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks 20,000 in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

Who am I to nit-pick on my husband's faults when I myself am the recipient of God's grace for so many more transgressions?!... Like I'm a perfect specimen of righteousness...

More to come...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Delight of Loving My Husband (Part II)

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."
-Titus 2:3-5

Did you know that the Greek translation for the word love in "so train the young women to love their husbands" is NOT agape love? Get this... it's phileo!
Agape is defined as a "self-sacrificing love; love that gives to others even if nothing is given back; the type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13". Phileo is defined as "love between very close friends; a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love; emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship."
In Biblical commands specifically related to wives, agape is never used. Does that mean that we as wives don't have to show an agape-type love for our husbands? No. Take a look at Mark 12:31 when Scripture states that the second greatest command is for us to (agape) love our neighbors as ourselves. Since our husbands are our closest "neighbor", I guess we're not off the hook.
BUT... husbands ARE commanded to love their wives with an agape love. See Ephesians 5:25 where husbands are told to love their wives "as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Mahaney states:
I believe that Scripture's specific commands to husbands and wives regarding their duties in marriage attest to our respective weaknesses. Men may be weaker in showing sacrificial love and are exhorted to undertake it. But I believe women are generally weaker in exhibiting an affectionate love- thus the instructions given us in Titus 2.

Douglas Wilson (author) stated this: "Women are fully capable of loving a man, and sacrificing for him, while believing the entire time that he is a true and unvarnished jerk. Women are good at this kind of love".
Can any of you women attest to this sort of thing? Serving and submitting but out of duty and without tender, affectionate feelings toward your husband? Unfortunately, I have. There have been times where I have very dutifully went about cleaning house, doing laundry, making meals, attending to the children without phileo feelings toward RD. I hate to admit that, but it's a reality. And I'm sure it's a reality in other women's lives as well.
Mahaney goes on to discuss how this phileo love has no conditions attached. She says that according to Scripture, we are to love our husbands with a tender, affectionate love regardless of their response. It's an unconditional love.
So I've been pondering this phileo thing in accordance to my own marriage for a couple days now. It was actually quite a shock to hear that I am Scripturally commanded to friendship-love my husband. What does that mean? How do I do that? First of all, I need to be filling my head with tender thoughts toward RD. Second of all, I need to be exhibiting tender behavior toward RD. Thirdly, I need to be praying that the Lord helps me in this process.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Delight of Loving My Husband

My pastor's wife just recently gave me a book to read entitled "Feminine Appeal- Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother" by Carolyn Mahaney. Another MUST READ!!!

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."
-Titus 2:3-5

"There are many Christian women who agree with and adhere to the virtues listed in Titus 2, but are unaware of the ultimate purpose of these practical applications. These women are avid proponents of society's need to return to "traditional values;" yet that is not what this passage is advocating. We are not commanded to love our husbands and to love our children so we can have strong, happy families like those from a previous era. To be sure, we experience enjoyable and fruitful family relationships when we follow God's instructions. But there is a higher call. On the other hand, there are Christian women who reject some of these virtues because they regard them as restrictive and outdated. They single out "working at home" and "submissive to their own husbands" as purely cultural requirements that are not applicable in modern society. However, that idea is erroneous. This passage remains authoritative and relevant for women today."
-excerpt taken from "Feminine Appeal" pg. 16

So what is the "ultimate purpose of these practical applications"?
-that the word of God may not be reviled... (v.5)
-so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (v.8)
-so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (v.10)

By our behavior, people see the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we live out our days, we are a reflection of what Christ did on the cross. People don't judge us according to our beliefs/theology. They judge us by our behavior and whether what we believe effects how we live our lives. By our actions, we either honor God or misrepresent His truth. Mahaney wrote "How sobering it is to realize that our behavior has the potential to discredit the gospel. But how exciting it is to think that we can actually commend the gospel!"

I love how Mahaney finishes her first chapter:
"Consider the loveliness of a woman who passionately adores her husband, who tenderly cherishes her children, who creates a warm and peaceful home, who exemplifies purity, self-control, and kindness in her character and who gladly submits to her husband's leadership- for all the days God grants her life. I dare say there are few things that display the gospel jewel with greater elegance. This is true feminine appeal."