The Chief Sinner in Your Marriage

“I am the chief sinner.”

Who would say something like that? We might be ready to nominate someone else for “chief sinner” at times, but we don’t often suggest ourselves.

But in a letter to a young pastor, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT). This is the same man who wrote much of the New Testament and who was beaten, flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and finally beheaded for his devotion to Christ. Paul also said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, NIV). It is true that Paul persecuted Christians before he became one himself; but even so, we wouldn’t call him the worst sinner of all. Is this some kind of unusual humility, unique to Paul?

Or could it be that he is modeling something for us? Maybe Paul was demonstrating something important for all of us as Christ-followers.

[Click HERE to continue to read this article at StartMarriageRight.com.]

Blessings to you,
Tami

Coming Up:

Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us ON THURSDAY (April 20) for our prayer call with Mark and Jill Savage. They have an incredible story of a restored marriage. (Read more about this couple HERE.) You will be encouraged by their insights, and you will be strengthened by the time of prayer.

You can join us by phone or online at 12:30 (EDT), or listen later to the recording posted online. Simply visit the Prayer Call page on MannaForMarriage.com for info on the call or to view the recordings.

Congratulations to Angie for winning a copy of Mark and Jill’s book, compliments of Moody Publishers. 🙂

A Weekend Getaway

As you plan your summer, be sure to schedule some time for your marriage. A great way to do that is to sign-up for a “A Weekend to Remember.” There are many of these marriage events scheduled for this summer and fall.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a fantastic getaway for you and your spouse. You will spend two nights at a lovely hotel, listen to great speakers share practical insight and encouragement concerning marriage, and enjoy some much-needed quality time together.

When you register, be sure to use the group code, MannaForMarriage, to receive a
$100 discount on your registration. Click HERE to learn more, to find a location, and to register.

“A Weekend to Remember” is a FamilyLife event. You may contact FamilyLife directly by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Remember to ask for the $100 discount by using  the group name: MannaForMarriage.

See you Thursday!
Tami

No More Perfect Marriages

God Specializes in Restoration

Mark and Jill had been married for 25 years and had five children. He was a pastor, and she led a well-known women’s ministry. Together, they spoke on marriage and parenting.

But then he had an affair, left the home, and asked for a divorce.

restoration

However, God intervened and fully restored Mark and Jill’s marriage. In the process, they learned what had sabotaged their relationship and how they could more effectively strengthen their marriage. They share their new insights in a very practical book, No More Perfect Marriages: Experience the Freedom of Being Real Together.¹

restoration

Being Real

“Being real” is something Mark and Jill Savage do well in this book. They are real not only with one another, but also with their readers. I appreciate the authors’ openness and honesty.

Not only do they say, “Here are some things that happened in our marriage,” but they go beyond that: Mark says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart,” and Jill says, “Here is some of the junk that was going on in my heart.” Those insights are critical because until we look at our own hearts as husbands and wives, we are dealing with only surface issues in our marriages.

The truths in this book are important for all of us—whether our marriage is great, struggling, or broken—because being diligent in guarding the thoughts and motives of our heart is always the most important thing we do. One of the best things we can do for our marriages is to recognize and take responsibility for our self-talk and inner motivations.

Accepting One Another

And here is something that I love about this book: there is a consistent theme of accepting one another. That is what God does for us; He accepts us with warm welcome.

Jill explains the value of acceptance:

Acceptance has helped me honor my husband. It’s helped me celebrate who he is. … I’m not his mom. … I’m not his teacher. … I’m his wife, and acceptance has helped me to link arms with the man I love in order to walk through life together. (72)

Mark also recognized the need for acceptance:

I realized I wasn’t accepting Jill for who she is. Instead, I was working against her, trying to change her into what was easier and more comfortable for me. I was working to make her into who I wanted her to be. (72)

Fighting the Fades

The thesis of the book is that there are seven “fades” which gradually erode marriages, but there are also eight God-given tools which overcome those fades. Do you recognize any of these fades?

  1. failing to deal with unrealistic expectations
  2. minimizing your feelings or those of your spouse
  3. not accepting your spouse
  4. reacting to disagreement in damaging ways
  5. defensiveness
  6. being naïve and failing to protect your marriage
  7. avoiding emotion

Using God’s Tools

To counter the fades, God gives us eight powerful tools: courage, forgiveness, grace, love, humility, wisdom, compassion, and acceptance.

Doing things God’s way isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is determining [that] something is more important than the fear. (48)

We act courageously in marriage when we persevere rather than quit. When we act with integrity rather than letting our feelings control us. … When we talk rather than shut down. When we apologize even if we aren’t the only one wrong. … Get your courage on and push through those fears for the sake of your marriage. (51-52)

When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:

1) Does this hurt me or just irritate me?

2) Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person? (56-57)

Let’s be aware of the fades, and let’s keep using our tools! The Spirit of God will help us to recognize and repent of the junk in our own hearts, and He will give us new attitudes, new thoughts, and new motivations. God works miracles and masterpieces in every heart and home lifted up to Him.

You Will Not Want to Miss This:  A Prayer Call with Mark and Jill

Be sure to join us on April 20.

I am excited that Mark and Jill will be joining us on our weekly call. They will share some insights and encouragement for several minutes before leading us in prayer for our marriages.

Join the prayer call online or by phone. Click HERE to learn how. (It’s easy, and you will be in listen-only mode.)

A Book Give-Away

Interested in receiving a copy of No More Perfect Marriages? If so, just let me know with a comment on this post by APRIL 5.  Moody Publishers will mail a complimentary copy to one person, randomly chosen.

Blessings to you!
Tami

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¹Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.

Spring Celebrations: Passover and Easter

Happy Spring!

spring

Soon, we will be celebrating the most important events in human history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first event rescues us from unending death, unrelieved aloneness, and the utter loss of every good thing.  The second event gives us friendship-filled, bursting-with-beauty Life forever.

And the brilliant spotlight in both events is on Jesus Christ, the One who rescues with power and who loves lavishly. He is the One True Living God, full of glory and goodness. We have much to celebrate!

spring

It has been a rich blessing in my family to celebrate Passover and Resurrection Sunday.  If you have not enjoyed Passover at your home or with your church before, here are some simple ways to do that with preschoolers, children, or adults. (This material comes from Simple Celebrations.)

Celebrating Passover

What it is:

Passover is a rich, multilayered celebration. On the first Passover,  the blood from a flawless lamb protected God’s people from death.

Fifteen hundred years later, the symbols of the Passover supper became reality as  the flawless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, shed His blood on a cross to rescue us from spiritual death . And today,  every follower of Christ can experience a personal Passover, as we are rescued from spiritual slavery to enjoy friendship with God.

Passover celebrates the fact that spiritual death passes over us, not touching us, as we commit to following Christ as Lord.

How to prepare: 

  1. Set a festive, colorful table. You may want to include two long taper candles.
  1. Set a glass of grape juice at each place.3. Place the following on each plate:
    • a parsley stalk
    • a piece of onion, or a bite of horseradish
    • a small serving of haroset (Combine applesauce, walnuts, and cinnamon—or use chunky applesauce, if your group has a nut allergy. The idea is create something that resembles mortar and which reminds us of the Hebrew slaves’ brickmaking.)
    • a small bowl of salt water (It is not necessary for each person to have a bowl if people can share.)
    • a sheet (or piece) of matzoh (or plain cracker)
    • a bite of cooked lamb (I fry lamb chops.)
  1. If you are using a Haggadah (a program) with your group, make a copy for each person, and put a copy at each place. Click here for a PDF of a Christian Passover program.

You will need someone to be the leader, who will read most of the program. You may assign the shorter sections to others in your group–however you like. There are 23 reading sections. (Blank lines are provided so that you can write in the reader’s name at each numbered section.) The leader reads each section that is not otherwise assigned.

How to celebrate with preschoolers:

I like to begin by saying this: “I know that you have eaten a meal before. And I know that you have listened to a story before. But today, we are going to EAT A STORY!” 

In a way appropriate for your children, tell the story of the Exodus. When you talk about making bricks, eat the haroset, which reminds us of the mortar used in building.

As you tell about the suffering of the slaves, dip the parsley into the salt water, and then have the children taste or eat it. Explain that this reminds us of tears because the Hebrew people were very sad.

spring

Have the children eat (or simply smell) the green onion, explaining that this, too, reminds us that the Hebrew slaves were sad because of the cruel things that Pharaoh did to them. Explain that we also are sad if we don’t know God and if we don’t know that He loves us.

Explain that God sent Moses to rescue the Hebrew slaves. Moses told the people what to do, and God helped them to escape from Pharaoh.

Let the children taste the lamb. Explain that everyone who belonged to God had a Passover lamb, and God took good care of everyone with a Passover lamb because they were His people.  We belong to God, and we have a Passover Lamb, too, because Jesus is like a Passover Lamb for us. God takes good care of us because we belong to Him.

Show the children the “flat bread,” the matzoh. Explain that when God rescued the Hebrew slaves, they had to leave Egypt so quickly that they could not wait for their bread to rise; they had to eat flat bread. As the children eat the matzoh, express gratitude to God for helping us because He loves us.

Explain that grape juice reminds us that God loves us so much that He would die for us! Say, “This juice is red (or purple), just like a valentine. This juice is like a valentine from God because it reminds us that God loves us very much.”

Conclude with a short prayer, thanking God that He loves us very much, that we can belong to Him, and that He helps us because He loves us.

Celebrating Easter

In Marriage

As we reflect on the Scriptures concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, we can learn valuable truths for our marriages:

With Children

With my children were younger, we enjoyed making Resurrection Cookies. This is a creative and fun way to talk about the Easter events as you make cookies together. Click HERE for a Family Life PDF of the recipe and instructions.

May God bless you with much joy as you celebrate His lavish love!

Cutting (self-injury)

You may not realize that 20% of high-school and college students engage in the self-injuring practice of cutting. As this becomes more common, it also affects more marriages.

Most of us have not purposely cut ourselves, but we have all experienced inner pain, and we have all searched for ways to relieve that pain. Although this is not my usual topic, I am sharing this today with the prayer that it will be helpful—perhaps to you or someone you know. 

The Cutting that Cures

God understands this pain
of cutting.

He knows this pain
that cries
with the voice of a knife.

He feels this pain too heavy
for words or tears
alone
to carry;
the flesh must join.

If only burdens
would flow
with blood.
If only blades
could strip sorrow
as well as skin.¹

This draining of the body
leeches life from the soul.

“Imago Dei”²
is written upon us,
yet we mar,
not knowing
the handwriting of God.

*

“Without the shedding of blood,
there is no remission of sin.”³
Without having heard,
we seem to know.
But we hope only
for the remission of pain.

Only God really knows
how great is the loss and
how deep is the pain.

Through the tearing of His own flesh,
He felt the torment of the whole world.
With the gushing of His own blood,
He marked the loss of love.

He carried the weight of our suffering
in His own body
that we would not
in ours.

cutting

Our pain became His pain,
and His wounds became our healing.
His brokenness
bought our wholeness.

There is, therefore, now
no cutting
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
for there is now
no condemnation and
no separation.

There is no loss
that He will not accept as His.
There is no emptiness
that He cannot turn
inside out
into fullness.

The only cutting
that will ever put things back together
was the crushing of Christ on the Cross–
the tearing of a veil,
and a new covenant cut.4

“It is finished.”

cutting

With lavish love,
He engraved our names
forever
on His palms.

The scars of Christ,
sealed on our souls,
mark us now
as His.

cutting

 

————————————————————-

1 In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp writes that she cut herself as if “you could drain yourself out of pain” (Zondervan, 2016, page 11).
2 This is the Latin phrase for “image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says that God created people in His own image.
*  By User:BardFuse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
3 From Hebrews 9:22. The Bible teaches that the consequence of our rejection of God (who is Life) is death.
4 In English, we say that we make a covenant. But in the Hebrew language of Scripture, a covenant is “cut.”

———————————————————

FOR HELP in overcoming cutting, please visit Focus on the Family’s website for a series of helpful articles.

 

 

Trade Your Saw for a Spade

Marriage is Like Gardening

When you build something out of wood, you measure, cut, sand, nail, and – viola!- results. You have visible signs of progress and defined outcomes. Best of all, you have much of the control. Relationships, on the other hand, are not easy to measure, and they are certainly not easy to control.

gardening

Both gardening and carpentry are creative ventures, but they are very different in their approaches and processes. Of the two activities, gardening seems a better metaphor for dealing with relationships.

For starters, gardening puts you on your knees. Although gardeners have a lot to do, they understand that much of the critical activity will be unseen. Gardeners do the hard work of planting, but they must rely on God to activate the seed and to grow the fruit.

gardening

Growing things requires great patience. Good gardening, like good relationships, involves both the work of effort and the work of waiting. You work to create healthy conditions, but then you wait to let good things grow. As a carpenter, you can use your hammer to control the nail. But as a gardener, you cannot pound out an apple. Instead, your job is to nurture. The gardener must tend. Tend and trust.

gardening

Like carpenters, we would sometimes like to cut our relationships to proper size and shape, sand off our spouses’ imperfections, nail some strength into someone, paint things the way we like, and then position everything right into place—viola! But people are not carpentry projects, and marriage doesn’t work that way. Our spouses belong in God’s hands, not ours.

(To continue reading this article at StartMarriageRight.com, please click HERE.)

May God bless your gardening!
Tami

Facing the Brokenness in Life

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


We all have to deal with broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts. All of us are broken by our own sin and by the sin of others.

But God says to us:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

God meets us in those broken places, and He is the Restorer. He repairs and renews and redeems. That is what Resurrection is all about.

brokenness
Enter a Garden

We do not come just to the Cross, which is the place of forgiveness. We come also to the empty tomb, which opens into a springtime garden. We receive forgiveness at the cross, but we receive new life in the garden.

brokenness

When we open up to Christ our tombs of suffering, He speaks life into every place which is yielded to Him. Every deep wound becomes a place for deep healing. Every cruel piercing becomes a place for tender filling. Our pain can break the hardness of our hearts so that our spirits finally open up to His love and goodness. God longs to pour His power into our weakness,  and His peace into our distress. He knows how to fill our emptiness with His fullness.

Roll Away Some Stones

Do you remember the New Testament story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? These three siblings were close friends of Jesus. Several days after Lazarus died, Martha was hesitant to open the tomb of her brother to Jesus. We, too, can be reluctant to expose places of our heart. But we are safe with this God who has written love for us on His own arms.¹ He will not shame us, and He certainly will not violate us.

Jesus did not do what Martha expected. What He did was far greater than what she expected. It will be the same for you.

Trust God with the Seeds

Ann Voskamp reminds us that we are like seeds that are broken apart and completely undone, and then something mighty and beautiful grows out of that very brokenness.² Jesus said that unless a seed dies, it remains alone. But buried in the ground, it dies, producing “a plentiful harvest.”³

I am easily distressed by brokenness—the neediness, the failures, the suffering, the struggles, the lack. It is around us and within us. But I am learning not to be disheartened. I am learning—just a bit—to allow the Spirit to bring His peace to the core of my being. It’s something like “a feast in the presence of mine enemies.”¹¹

Hold and Behold the Hurting

We can feel great compassion for those who are hurting, and we can also feel utterly helpless to heal their wounds. But we can do something very powerful. While we cannot fix those who are broken, we can carry them to the One who can. We can “hold and behold.”

Sometimes we can actually hold others in our arms, but always we can hold them in
our hearts and in our prayers. And we can behold them. We can behold them as treasures, and we can behold their stories and their unique hearts. Holding and beholding, we can lift up those who are broken to the One who repairs and who makes new.

As we encounter brokenness, we need not sink down in despair. Instead, we can walk knowing that God meets us in these broken places. This is where He works His miracles. Jesus Christ is the God who stoops to make us great,²² who washes dirty feet, and who touches unclean lepers. Christ enters our brokenness with us, walks through it with us, and turns ashes into beauty.³³

Hold and Behold Your Healer

We are all walking through pieces of brokenness right now, but when the Perfect comes, then we will walk in glorious wholeness and beauty. Until then, we walk with the One who is Himself Glory and Beauty.

 

 

 

_______________________________________________
¹   In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (NLT).
    To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization dedicated to helping people who are struggling with self-destructive habits: twloha.com.
²   The Broken Way. Zondervan. 2016.
³   John 12:24, NLT
¹¹  Psalm 23:5, KJV
²²  Psalm 18:35, NIV
³³  Isaiah 61:3