5 Biggest Threats to Biblical Oneness in Marriage

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Over the last 25 years of ministry, I’ve talked to a lot of hurting, frustrated, desperate, and disillusioned women regarding the state of their marriage.  I’ve shed tears for my own marriage a few times over these 25 years since I said “I do”.  But the single common thread, the most consistent demonic imprint of the stressed-out, lonely, heartsick moments in the lifespan of a marriage, can be traced back to a breach of oneness.  There is a sliding scale of seriousness involved in the drift away from the other spouse.  Sometimes it’s the wife slipping away, sometimes it’s the husband.  Sometimes it’s both.  But in any case, and at any level of severity, it’s toxic to the marriage.  And that’s because it threatens the divine design.  It puts us at odds with God’s best for us.  It sabotages intimacy at every level.  It erects walls and leaves a hole in our being.  It will torpedo your love.

Whether you’ve been married for a day or a half-century, you won’t experience the total of what God wants for your marriage if you are allowing certain threats to come against oneness in your relationship with your spouse.  God has already declared you one with them.  So you must root out any enemy that desires to separate you in body, spirit, emotion, or mind.  Here are some top separators.  If you see these in your marriage, you need to seek to immediately bring them under the Lordship of Christ and His authority as head of your home.  You need to identify them, attack them and remove these barriers before the become a habit and a lifestyle, or worse yet, the fodder of a divorce decree.

Top 5 Threats to Oneness:

1.  Yoked to an Unbeliever: It goes without saying that if there is no shared bond with God through a relationship with Jesus, intimacy is threatened at the deepest level.  Pray for your spouse’s salvation.  Follow the blueprint in I Peter 3:1.

2.  Breached Covenant:  When vows are broken, so is oneness.  Betrayal through adultery (real or pornographic), abandonment, dishonesty or abuse is ultimately a brutal divider and requires the most drastic Spirit-filled counter-attack.

3.  Un-forgiveness:  It is inevitable that two sinners trying to live together for a lifetime with hurt each other.  Yet, it’s impossible to be truly intimate with someone you resent.  It will lead to a poison of bitterness if you cling to or feed your anger.  Instead feed the roots of your love.  It is hard work, and a process.  Obedience in this area it not an option. Deal with the surrender issues and fears you have.  Feelings of love will eventually bloom again.

4.  Child-centered Parenting:  The husband/wife relationship has to come first in your level of investment and focus. We fit our beloved children into our love lives.  We do not build our lives around them.  We do not leave our love life scrambling for a place in the fringes of our world.  The best act of parenting you could ever do is to live a happy, healthy, hot, and holy marriage in front of them.

5.  Parallel Living:  So many couples who start out loving each other more than life, end up in the rut of letting life choke the love.  We get busy, tired, and distracted. We arrive home with nothing left to give, empty and ready to unplug and end up neglecting our spouse.  Our relationship becomes a management agreement.  This is battle you must constantly fight.  Work at the friendship.  Save energy and time for developing the marriage.  Find ways to engage in common leisure activities together.  At the end of the day, when you come back together, stop what you are doing and make eye contact, smile.  Bring back touch.  Hold hands, kiss a little longer, rest your head on his chest and listen to his heart beating.  Turn off the TV and cellphone and talk.  Make Love.  Two objects running parallel will not have much conflict, but they will never merge either.

Mark 10:6-9
“6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

What’s your threat level?  Are you dealing with one or more of these threats?  Maybe you and your spouse could sit and talk about it.  Maybe you need to develop an action plan to douse the threat.  Maybe you need to book a meeting with a counselor or attend a marriage enrichment event.  Whatever you do, don’t do nothing.  Inaction and complacent living are the road to unfulfilled destiny.  You can have the marriage God intended for you, but not if you are fighting the miracle of oneness by tolerating these threats.

Healthy Progress: My Gluten Free Experiment

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I’ve been staring at a paper for about 5 minutes.  Utter disbelief mixed with a sense of accomplishment, mingled with a twinge of sadness.  It is a copy of my latest lab testing on my blood.  Almost every single marker tested is within normal limits for the first time in over two years.  Hormones, lipids, chemistry, blood sugar… all of it normal, even good!  There are still indications of mild chronic inflammation and the marker for Thyroid antibodies is still above normal but drastically reduced…from >10,000 to now only 18.  The scale also show a net loss of 20 pounds.

Six months ago I decided to take action to deal with some health issues related to an auto-immune condition I have called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  Basically it means my body is producing antibodies to attack my own thyroid.  (Normally antibodies are made to attack foreign invaders that cause disease) The result of this attack is a massive systemic inflammatory response and ultimately the death of the gland.  There is no cure for this other than to support the thyroid gland responsible for metabolism with thyroid replacement medicines as the gland is destroyed…or so I thought.

Last October, while my husband was on Sabbatical, he and I decided to do some research and  look for ways to manage this disease process with the best stewardship we could find.  The side effects of this disease were causing severe fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, poor digestion, and emotional lows.  After combing the internet, talking with doctors, and reading several books we decided to approach the issue with a combination of prayer and a radical lifestyle change related to diet.

I’m thrilled, as I said with the results after 6 months.  And I’d like to share with you what exactly it is that has worked.  And, why I’m a little sad…because the changes I made were to sacrifice some eating habits that were such a part of my life’s culture and comfort.  But based on how I feel, look, and this lab work, I think these changes are going to need to be permanent.

My regimen for exercise is to walk 4-6 times a week for at least 20 min.  I lift heavy weights 2-3 times a week.  I started out with a trainer but will phase that out and do the things she taught me on my own.  Building muscle has been key to raising my basic metabolic rate.  The walking is for cardiac fitness but also a great way to relieve stress and get some vitamin D.  I worship and pray a lot as I walk.  Or, I do it with a friend and we encourage each other.

The diet is where things got drastic.  And, I will say, If Bruce, my husband had not agreed to do it with me, I never could have made the jump.  We eliminated all grains except occasional rice or corn.  As a result, we also gave up gluten.  We eliminated all sugar.  White potatoes of all kinds.  We also eliminated legumes and dairy.  So that left us with unprocessed meats, eggs, fruits, veggies and sweet potato/pumpkin.  We’ve also cut way back on diet soda.  We substituted sparkling water and now we just drink diet soda occasionally instead of every day.  We went cold turkey.  There have been cheats (few) and accidental exposures when we did not read labels thoroughly. My one area I did not sacrifice was I kept my heavy organic cream in my morning coffee and we have a bite of 80% dark chocolate a couple of times a week.  What we don’t do is count carbs, calories, fat grams or measure anything.  We eat all we want of the things that we eat.  After the initial withdrawal/detox period of about 3 weeks, those crazy carb and sugar cravings went away.  Our hunger and blood sugar stabilized and we started to be a lot less hungry.  We had stable energy all day. We slept great.  Our bathroom habits were stable.  Our moods were crazy good!  Our stress management got easier.

It still gets hard some days.  The idea of never enjoying a gravy slathered biscuit or a piece of chocolate cake again gets me a little whiny sometimes.  We also don’t have the luxury of very many convenience foods and eating out can be harder.  But the truth is, it’s never been easier to be gluten-free.  There are lots of products available now in gluten-free versions, but we try to eat as few of these processed foods as possible.  I keep a gluten-free protein bar in my purse and we enjoy gluten-free protein shakes at home for a quick meal or snack.  But I find it’s always better to eat real foods not packaged things.

My body composition is improving as an added benefit.  My skin and hair too:)  But these latest lab tests are all the proof I need that food and our gut is the key to long-term health together with good old-fashioned moving our rears.  If you are considering a change like this for whatever reason, here are a few things I’ve learned:

1.  Get support:  I could never have done this is the rest of my family was not doing it too.  Also, pray for God to help you with sticking to it.  Go public with at least a few supportive friends and family so you can be accountable and they can cheer you on.

2.  Get educated:  Read, research, and discuss with your doctor. Your issues might not require such drastic changes.  Find a plan that meets your individual needs.

3.  Get advice:  Spend the money to have an exercise expert design you a plan so you don’t injure yourself.

4.  Get firm:  Remove the junk from your pantry and your fridge.  Tell your friends and family and let them know if they are tempting you.  Make room in your life for the added time required to plan your meals, grocery shop, and cook/prepare your food.  Eat what’s in season.  Make your fitness routine a part of your every day, non-negotiable schedule then protect it.

5.  Get focused:  Place your attention on all the bounty God has given you to find pleasure in healthy natural foods.  Don’t linger on what you are deprived of.  Take time to experience your food.  You’ll find that the exquisite explosion of a ripe peach on your taste buds far outweighs the momentary sugary burst from that cookie.

This post is a lot of personal even private stuff, but I felt I needed to share this news.  I know I can’t be the only one who needed to make some changes… FYI I love “Kind” bars and “Shakeology” for quick snacks.  If you know any awesome gluten/grain free or “Paleo” recipes you can suggest I’d love for you to share links in the comments. Let’s get a conversation going…Have a healthy day, Lori

Parenting Kids 5th-12th Grade

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As my regular readers know, I am in the throws of the agonizing parenting process of letting go.  My “boys” are now grown men in their 20s and are showing all the signs of possibly having survived my imperfect but well-intended parenting.  In fact both are currently gainfully employed while completing their education, paying their own bills and one is about to graduate and get married in less than two months.  But most important to me is that they are growing as disciples and looking more like Jesus and making gains in the Lord’s Kingdom everyday.  They are active in a small group Bible Study, they tithe, they get up for church on Sundays on their own and bring their friends.  All of this, as college students living hundreds of miles from home, with high GPAs and not a single reason on their records for me to lose trust in them.

I say all this, not to brag, if you know me, you know I’m not.  All this is God’s work, done in spite of me and my failures.  But I have to say, if I did anything right, it was to be a hard-nose about a few things as they grew.  Their father and I had a policy of saying “yes” as often as possible to things they asked.  Spend the night?  Go to this event?  Take these lessons, try out for this play?  Go for a spot on this or that team?  Play in the dirt pile?  Build a fort? You name it… Whatever young boys are asking for, if there wasn’t a safety, holiness, financial, or legal reason to say “no” we said “yes”.  You see, it is possible to build your child’s character while being the parents of “yes”.

Or, let me rephrase that for accuracy… We were the parents of “Yes, but”.  It was “Yes, but only if…”  You see, we had some hard and fast family rules, that were applicable to kids and adults alike:  some no-excuses prerequisites.  Not many, but a few very big ones.  They were the “Yes, But” answer to especially the big requests.  Can I drive the car?  Can I go on a date?  Can I have this or that freedom?  Yes, But…

I’ll share with you what our big pre-requisites were:

1.  Are you in right fellowship with God?-  Are you growing in your own spiritual discipline appropriate to your personal age and maturity?  Do you read your Bible, a devotional book,pray, journal, and memorize scripture on your own without being prompted or nagged?  Are you being a good steward of your body by sleeping, eating, moving in a healthy way.

2.  Are you in right fellowship with your family?-  Are you being a “Butt-hole” to live with right now?  I realize a certain amount of teenage hormonal angst is part of the deal, but there are limits and I get to say when you’ve crossed that line, not you.   Are you exhibiting respect for our property, our rules, our authority?  Are you being civil with your siblings and working out differences with words and with compromise? Are you contributing to household chores without nagging or complaining.?

3.  Are you in right relationship with those outside our home?-  Same as above only including coaches, principals, teachers, friends, church leaders and civic structures.  It means a clean and encouraging social media profile.  It means the texts on your phone are appropriate.  Grades? This includes being able to look us in the eye and honestly say you’ve done your best on your assignments and commitments.  If the answer to that is yes but the report card said C-, I’m fine, I just need you to give your best and C- is your best, we’re cool and I’ll fight to get you the help you need.  If C is not your best and you were goofing off, not cool, I’m now the parent of “No”.

4. Are you in right relationship with your church?-  I’m the parent, when you live in my home, I pick the church.  I will do so based on where God leads us as a couple and where we feel we, as a family will be able to contribute and to be fed.  From there, I expect you to attend a small group.  I expect you to prioritize, attend and engage (with a good attitude) in all activities relevant to you, that are put on by the student ministry. I expect you to pray for, submit to, and speak well of those in authority at our church.  I expect you to serve in a ministry of some sort that interests you and lets you find or use your spiritual gift. If you make some money mowing lawns, babysitting, or what-not, I expect you to tithe and give offerings from that amount.  I will gladly pay for you or help you earn money to go to camp and on a mission trip.  I will make sure that nothing I sign you up for will compete with these two character and spirit building activities.

5.  Are you resting?-  Do you have margin in your life?  Is there time to daydream, surf the net, be creative, nap, shop, do nothing, play?  You must learn to organize your world to include Sabbath.  You must learn to disconnect from your electronics or your to-do list and relax.  I hate seeing kids as young as 8 or 9 being stressed out, over-scheduled and sleep deprived…unable to go a day without wifi.

And that’s about it as for Frank house rules… If my kid’s answers were yes to 1-5, my answers were yes to just about anything else they asked.  And why not?  As a kid grows in his ability to succeed in these areas, he will ask for good things.  Do you and your husband need to sit your kids down and introduce or re-introduce some basic rules your family intends to live by?  Are you ready to lead the way in these?  If these basic principles do not dominate your family code from oldest to youngest, parent to child there will be a hole somewhere in the character and spiritual walk of the person or persons involved.  They are not optional.  I urge you to take a look at the kid you think is on the right track.  Are they doing these 5 things with growing consistency?  Are you allowing them to focus their time and energy in other areas before these 5 are a given?  Be very careful.  You might be teaching them the wrong set of priorities.  When they get out on their own, that perfect pirouette or curveball won’t be the thing that makes them successful, it will be a strong, loving and godly character that leads them to favor with God and man.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  Luke 2:52 

The Breakdance That Almost Broke Me

breakdance

Many moons ago, I’m talking the olden days in church of Sandy Patty solos with accompaniment tracks, hymnals, choir robes, hand bell Offertories and pipe organ preludes, I unintentionally gave a free tutorial on how to do an advanced one-legged adaptation of the dance move called “the funky chicken” to our conservative congregation. It produced a different kind of shock and awe than the pastor had prayed for that morning in pre-service meetings.  What actually happened was that I was to be a featured soloist in the midst of the “anthem” selected for our choir to sing right before the Pastor’s message. I had been instructed to come down out of the choir loft right as the intro of the song began and stand at the pulpit microphone to sing. (if you are under 40 you might have to ask an old-timer what any of this means)  So, with the first note, I made my move to the stairs with my ring bound music notebook in hand.  But on my way down, the heel of one of my “Candies” shoes (remember those?) got hung in the thick but torn hem of my choir robe.  I could not get it out or the shoe off my foot.  But the music was continuing to approach the point where I was supposed to be singing.  So I made the decision to hop for it… On my one good foot…Hence the very un-Baptist “funky chicken”. My valiant attempt ended with the flourish of an onstage belly flop version of “the worm”, a carpet burn on my face, a bruised ego, and a gratuitous display of my L’eggs pantyhose (again, under 40? please ask someone) and Anthem turned Anathema. I brought the entire worship service to a gasping halt.

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The Axis of Evil…Featured above.

I learned a lot of lessons that day:

1. Pantyhose and high heel wooden mules are not just tacky but they are dangerous when forced to break dance against your will in a building with a carillon in the steeple.
2. In a near death accident, I care less about life and limb than I do about whether my control-tops are showing.

 And most importantly…

3. Sometimes it’s ok to stop the music and say, “I’m not ok here. Can I get some help?”

      Dear sisters, it’s never healthy to hop for it just to keep going.  If an issue has you bound up, crippled, and dangerously close to an embarrassing exposure, just stop.  Admit you need help and ask for it.  Many of us don’t for fear of criticism or letting others down. Your “heel caught in the hem” moment might be anything…over-committed and over scheduled, wrapped up in living a lie about your real spiritual condition, caught in an addiction, bound up in sin, mental or emotional health issues, loneliness, bitterness, a broken marriage, fill in the blank.  Stop hopping along.  You will eventually fall.  You will take others down with you.  You will bring shame on yourself and on our Lord.  You will stop the progress of the world you are trying so hard not to let your predicament impede.

Ask God to guide you to the help you need and the scriptures that can renew your mind.  The BBC website http://www.biltmorebaptist.org has a wealth of resources for you: from discrete counseling, to support groups, to mentoring, to addiction recovery, to discipleship training. Take advantage.  And I’m not just lecturing you. This lesson was recently life changing for me. This year was our 25th year of ministry. In honor of this, my husband was given a Sabbatical by our loving church.  We used a portion of it to go away, where we could be completely private and anonymous, and get some intense, in-depth counseling and help with figuring out how to finish the next 25 years (God willing) of ministry strong and healthy and effective to glorify God and advance the kingdom.

Don’t learn my lesson the hard way.  Most failures are recoverable in life, but some leave lasting scars. Worse, some failures are self-perpetuating, and that’s never a good way to live.  Stop hopping forward in your bound up state. God has assignments for you, the most important being to become like Jesus. You can’t get there by hopping along out of control and destined for a breakdown not a breakdance.  And don’t think people can’t see it.  You’re not that good at hiding it.  Be still, get help, and get free.  Then get up and move on in Grace.  Anyone out there hopping and hoping?  It won’t end well, believe me.

Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

“13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Put Your Best “Selfie” Forward

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OK, Ladies!  It’s been a while since my last beauty post.  I thought I would lighten things up a bit today.  I wanted share some tips and tricks to getting good results with a “selfie” photo.  I’m not saying you should be doing one of these everyday.  (Read, please don’t) But, In my humble opinion, there are occasions where you need a cute and flattering profile picture of yourself or a headshot for some event and you don’t want to go to the trouble to book a pro-session with photographer.

Tips:

1.  Wear a solid color top with a neckline that opens up your face-  Note:  I did not say to reveal your cleavage or in any way be provocative.  Just a cute scoop neck.

2.  Simple accessories an earring that shows through your hair with some sparkle is all you need.  Skip the statement necklace.  You want your face to be the star of the show here.

3. Makeup-  Choose one feature to showcase, make it your best one.  For me it’s eyes.  For you, it might be lips, teeth, skin or cheekbones.  Design your makeup look around this feature.  Avoid too much sparkle or highlights.  You can add those with editing.  The below photos of me are with a smokey eye from the Naked 3 palette by Urban Decay with Winged liner in “Rockstar” by the same line.  I am wearing false lashes by Red Cherry #43s.  Everything else is sheer, neutral, and simple.

4.  Stage it-  Shoot down on yourself.  So hold your phone or tablet slightly higher than your eyes.  Shooting up will emphasize wrinkles and shadows and make you look puffy.  Once you get a good angle in the view-finder, adjust the lighting.  Go for natural light near a window or outside.  All you need to shoot is head and shoulders. To thin your face, keep lips together but slightly drop your jaw when you smile.

5 Edit it-  Choose your best shot.  Then edit all you want.  I use an app called Facetune.  It costs a few bucks but is very worth it for what it can do right from your phone or tablet.  Here are the before and after shots with details about what I did.  I don’t edit because I don’t think I’m good enough or because I feel pressure from society.  I just do it to put my best “face” forward, because it makes be happy.  I see it as me only perfected;) (much the same way that I wouldn’t go to church without makeup).

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

 

So, From within the Facetune app, here is what I did.

-If I had been smiling, I would have used the “whiten” brush to run my finger over the teeth to make them dazzle. (skipped that one here).

-zoom in and use the “smooth” feature to run my finger right on the screen to smooth out my under-eye area, my neck and my forehead.  My eyes were super puffy today!

-zoom in and use the “detail” feature to make my skin tone more even on my chest and my neck where my freckles are not a feature I like.  I leave the ones on the bridge of my nose alone because Hubby loves them;)

- if I had a blemish or something I would use the “patch” feature to brush that out.  Just happens to be a good skin day today!

-after those details are done I adjust the lighting by using the “filter” feature.  I avoid using the “paper” option and the “texture” section.  But you can play around with those.  To me that just look too fake and obvious.  I stick to “lighting” and “lens” filters.  There are numerous lighting schemes to choose from in this app.  I personally like s-curve, sigmoid, and gamma best.  For this shot I used gamma at level 50 on a scale of 0-100.  It automatically plays up the highlights and contours of my face and brings out the eyes.  From there I chose the lens I liked.  For this one I chose “smena”.  It seems to be a little concave but not too much.  That brings out the middle planes of the face and the sides recede, AKA instant cheekbones.

- Last step is to crop.  When I do this I frame just the face and then use the “defocus” feature to darken out some of my messy kitchen in the background;)  You can add a cute frame with the app too, if you so desire.

This entire process from the first click to the finished product only took me about 5 minutes.  Remember, it’s not about narcissistic self-promotion.  It’s not about not feeling your natural face is not good enough.  It’s all just presenting yourself in your best light with your best features emphasized.  So let me see you adding a stunning facebook profile pic!  Let me see your instagram of your date night with you and your darlin’ looking fresh and glowing!  With a little help from the folks at Facetune, it’s a breeze;)))

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/facetune/id606310581?mt=8  $2.99

http://www.sephora.com/naked3-P384099?om_mmc=ppc-GG&mkwid=sTEHCBoc3&pcrid=32731004537&pdv=c&site=us_search&country_switch=us&lang=en  $52.00 (I’m wearing “factory” and “darkside”)

Marriage Rescue: How to get the love back

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I’m a terrible counselor.  First of all I’m not qualified professionally and second of all, I just stink at it. I’m either too harsh or too personally involved to be objective so I have a hard time saying the hard things.  But in the past few months, I’ve had some challenging opportunities to pour into women whose marriages are in a troubled season.  Each one has verbalized this feeling… I just don’t feel anything positive for this man anymore, I’m not even sure I ever loved him.  And because these women are professing Christians there was deep guilt there and the nagging stress of living a lie, fear of exposure.  

Each wife was overcome with pain, anger, resentment, and disappointment.  Some justifiable, some unfair, but all real to them.  On top of these negative feelings they had become numb, bitter, and stuck in their inability to even share a loving touch, a romantic date, or a tender word with their husband. These marriages had become a family management co-op.  Pure obligation.  All communication that was not a blistering yelling fight, was business, kids or schedules.  No friendship.  No joy.  No laughter or affection.

The misery was so deep.  It covered everything and clouded every interaction.  It was like an undertow, constantly pulling and demanding a struggle.  The toll of all this is exhaustion, depression, volatile emotional swings, paranoia, emptiness and agony.  The obvious fruit of something God had joined and made one, being torn asunder from the inside out.

Maybe you know what that feels like.  Maybe your marriage is not quite that damaged, but your love for your husband is not what is should be, not what you dreamed it could be, not what you wish it was…  Would you dare to entertain a glimpse of hope that the icy loveless grip the enemy has on your marriage could thaw, even simmer to a new life?   It can!  I’ve seen it.  I’ve lived it in the 25+ years I’ve been a wife.  Every good marriage must be reinvented from the inside out many times throughout the years.  You must break the ice though, and you have to swing the hammer for yourself.  No one can do it for you, especially not your husband.

The path to getting the love back starts with a prayer, progresses to an action, and explodes into a rebirth.  These three steps build one upon the other.  They must be done in order and you must stick with one until God moves you on.  You’ll know when to move on to the next. It might happen fast, it might take some time.  But it will happen.   But don’t sit still, waiting for your husband to change or initiate things.  You work on you.  Leave Him to God.  As you break through, you will create a pathway of grace for the Spirit to unleash the healing in your home, spilling over onto all who dwell there.

Step One:  Pray

A.  Oneness- you are one positionally in Christ, by the covenant of marriage.  But you must pray, “Lord, make us one, practically.” Asking for God to miraculously give you one mind, one purpose, one desire, one healing, one set of spiritual blueprints is a prayer that will set the dominoes in motion.  When they get moving it triggers progress on every front in every direction.  Oneness in marriage is a picture of the inseparable nature of Christ and His bride.  Getting that drive to cut and run nipped in the bud,  is the first step that gets you pulling in the same direction toward progress and toward victory.   Mark 10:9

B.  Want to- Part of the stress of a torn marriage is that we don’t initially want to be restored.  We WANT to be miserable because it seems right for what we’ve been through.  We want the other to own our suffering, to feel the brunt of the wrong done and pain inflicted.  Choosing to move on feels like we are thwarting justice and letting someone get away with less than what is right.  But God’s will, and a prayer He will surely answer when prayed sincerely is, “Lord, Give me not just the power to do this, but the want to I need to take the next step and get me unstuck” Phil. 2:13

Step two:  Act

A.  Respect-  Communicate your commitment to resolving the stalemate through intentional acts of profound respect.  Remember, right feelings follow right actions.  If you have the want to, now you must step out in faith.  Do the right thing until you feel the right thing.  Speak affirmation.  Speak gratitude.  Speak honor.  Say you admire him.  Hold yourself back from criticism, nagging, finger-pointing, and reminding him of his failures.  Do it over and over, day after day.  You will begin to believe it as God reveals the truth of it to your heart.  He will wonder what on earth has happened, but his character and skill as a husband will grow into the high esteem you place on him.  Or, it will stay dormant and deflated by your criticism.  Choose to act, and watch the changes.  You have nothing to lose but your disillusionment.  Eph. 5:33

B.  Receive-  Communicate openness.  Open your arms.  Soften your posture. Soften your countenance. Look in his eyes and smile. Be close to him.  Feel his strength and size.  Let him be a shelter.  Remind him he is a man.  You may not be ready for intimacy, but take a step in that direction, no matter how small, give him an opening.  A kiss, a touch, a hug, eye contact, a smile.  Make him feel he has a chance to be your love again.  Receive his acts of affection or tenderness with eagerness and delight.  Ask him to take it slow, but give him hope.  As an act of faith, just let go.  1 Cor. 6:19-20

C.  Reflect-  He is looking to you for his report card.  He needs to see in your eyes that you want to move forward.  Your face needs to reflect encouragement.  When he comes home, light up.  When he makes an effort, respond with encouragement.  When he is down and tired and frustrated be a mirror that says, “Keep going, hero. I love you.”  Be the first to step out, bravely.  It is a risk, but the reward will come.  Numbers 6:26

Step three:  Nourish

A.  Water the seeds you’ve planted in the marriage.  Love blooms in the fertile soil of action.  There will be setbacks and clumsiness.  But push through.  Feed those feelings that are blooming, starve the voice of discontentment and past wounds.  Pursue the things in earnest that started off with out of sheer obedience.  You are on the path to restoration.  Protect it and preserve it.  I Cor. 13

B.  Get rid of pests.  The weeds that rise up to choke the fruit are laziness, busy-ness, Distraction, unrealistic expectation, perfectionism, and living in the power of the flesh.  Your pain will strive to quench the bloom if you let yourself focus there.  instead, nourish the places where the healing has begun.  Make some new guard rails, set some good habits.  Cling to the promise of completion.  Phil. 1:6

C.  Feed your soul-  Often times, when we feel our spouse has failed us, we feel God has too.  So we try to freeze Him out as well.  The best thing you can do for your marriage is to get real with God, then surrender to Him all over again.  Trust Him, love him, passionately pursue intimacy with Him… All with a complete commitment to doing things His way, on His terms, for His glory.  Soak Him in.  Let Him and His perfect love flow through your heart to your husband.  The dam will burst and wash you away and into each other all over again.  It won’t just be tolerable, it will be the spiritual, transcendent ecstatic union He created it to be.  A little glimpse of Heaven here on Earth.  Romans 12:1-2

The choice is yours.  Don’t be a statistic.  Don’t walk away.  Work the plan, do the steps.  Set your heart to fight for what’s right.  If you won’t even attempt to move on, you’re saying No to God.  Not a safe place to be.   Choose to say yes.  Let God do what He does… Make all things new!  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:5

Mission of Mercy: Kenya 2014

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I recently returned from a Medical/Dental mission trip to several villages in Kenya.  Our team of Dentists, Doctors, Nurses and volunteers went to do clinics in Kijabe, Elementitia, and Suswa.  Our team was joined by several Kenyan nurses, pastors, and a pharmacist who worked with local churches to get the word out.  The Christians there used this opportunity of free care and free medicines as a way to invite their friends.  Each patient was presented the Gospel and registered so the local pastors can follow up.  Our team of amazing, selfless, medical and dental professionals saw around 1200 patients on this trip!  I learned so much and God spoke to me clearly on this trip.  Getting away from our comforts, sleeping on the ground in a tent, doing without toilets or showers or electricity helps you strip life down to the essentials.  But one comfort we did not forgo was good food.  Our Kenyan hosts made sure we had plenty and it was really yummy!  One of my favorite treats was Ugali, a hominy type grit cooked in goat’s milk.

During the trip I was able to tour the 2 acre equipping center that our home church, Biltmore Baptist Church has built.  It contains the only source of clean, fresh, water for the entire village of Kijabe.  The well was paid for by our church.  With this life giving water, the center has a garden, livestock, and fruit trees as well as a way to wash and bathe and sanitation for those who use the facility.  On the property, is a meeting place and construction is underway for additional classrooms.  These are used for feeding 80+ orphans everyday as well as sewing classes and computer training.

A few miles from this center is a truck stop on one of the major highways through Africa.  Here helpless, hopeless young girls as young as 12 are trafficked.  They get into trucks with strangers and ride along with these men for weeks, selling themselves and being used, in order to send money back to support their families.  Many are addicted to drugs, many are further victimized by being sold.  Some just disappear.  But the sewing classes at the center offer a girl an alternative.  They teach them skills, educate them, introduce them to the love of Jesus, and help them find employment.  Our church also pays the support for girls who want to join the classes while they learn.  Below is the center, and 4 of the young ladies who have said Yes to Jesus and are participating in the sewing classes.  Our women’s ministry, Woman to Woman, supports girls like this.

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After our time there in Kijabe, we went to Elementitia and then on into Masai country to a village called Suswa.  I was fascinated by the Masai culture.  I learned that these regal and stoic people are nomadic herders.  The church there is alive and on fire.  New Christians are being won and are being discipled there everyday.  I learned a lot about the rights of passage associated with male tribal initiation which involves circumcision at age 13 without anesthesia.  After initiation, they are considered a warrior.  These boys are incredibly tough and very responsible.  They live out in the countryside alone with large herds for weeks, even as 6-10 year-olds, able to live off the land and be responsible for the welfare of the live-stock.  The males follow the herds and are gone for weeks on end from the home.  They are able to protect their flocks from large predators like lions and cheetahs as well as from hyenas and cobras.  They do this will swords and machete-like knives worn on their belts.  The women are stationary and keep the home and the smaller animals like goats and sheep.  The Masai have no currency.  They use the trade of animals entirely to do business.  The wife builds her own house with her own hands from sticks, mud and dung.  The Masai have a patriarchal system of arranged marriages and dowries.  Non-Christians have many wives.  If a man becomes a Christ-follower, he stops taking any more wives but continues providing for the ones he has.  The Masai are beautiful, tall, and elegant.  They value beauty and make gorgeous beaded jewelry.  They wear bright colors and woven material is fashioned into robes.  They do piercings, and make large holes in their ears to display the jewelry they make.   They also remove the lower two middle permanent teeth of their children because they consider the gap to be a mark of beauty.  They preserve the “Old Ways” and try to keep their culture distinct.  They live today almost exactly like their ancestors did a thousand years ago… With the exception of a few cellphones here and there.  One day, before our clinic time one of the pastors took us for a walk and we came upon a lady who was kind enough to show us around her home.  She later came to our clinic and we were able to love on her for her hospitality.  This is her with her home in the background.  Notice her extravagant jewelry!

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I will close with a brief video of some of our work in Kenya.  Please pray for the work and the gospel seeds scattered there to grow and mature.  Pray about going on one of these trips someday.  Pray about giving to the relief and educational efforts there.  You can get more information about giving or going at http://www.biltmorebaptist.org.  And Thank God for His grace, that reaches across culture, across geo-political boundaries, and pierces the darkness to rescue us from our sin… and to bind our hearts together where no words are necessary except the Name of Jesus!

If It Wasn’t For You: Valentine Edition

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Dear Bruce, If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t:

know how to throw a ball

know the joy of motherhood

see myself as a leader

like big dogs

dislike cats

be a morning person

drink the best coffee on earth every day

be able to stand up for myself

be able to trust

be suspicious of strangers while leaving a mall late at night

feel safe

have this beautiful home and all that fills it

know how to negotiate with car salesmen

bother working out

have finished college

keep a “to-do” list

know anything whatsoever about golf

tweet

live in North Carolina

hate tomato juice

know certain greek, hebrew, and theological words

know what “the running game sets up the passing game” means

love myself

believe in myself

know what it feels like to be perfectly happy while spending myself for someone else

Thank you for all the ways you love me, and for this adventurous life I cherish.  You are my prince and I LOVE YOU… xoxo, Lori

What if you made a list for your man… What would you be missing, if it wasn’t for him?

Abortion: What Are We Going To Do About It?

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“I don’t want the government forcing me to become a mother against my will.  As an American citizen, I should have autonomy over my body, my health and my family planning.  This is about women’s rights.  This is about freedom.”  A typical feminist argument for the right to an abortion, articulate and assertive, and reflective of the law of the land.  Only, that spin doesn’t wash.  No one is forcing her to be a mother.  She became a mother just like I did, by having intercourse.  And her legal right to undergo a procedure to terminate the pregnancy will not make her “not a mother”.  It merely eliminates her future responsibilities for the baby.  Which is the whole idea…Convenience.  God help us.

So, Americans go on legally killing.  And don’t even get me started on the very small percentage of abortions related to cases of rape or incest.  It is anecdotally heartbreaking, but it’s a straw man.  We’ve killed 1/3 of a generation!  The “keep abortion legal” folks are not crusading for these victims, the tragic few.  They are fighting for a very lucrative industry.  Murder for profit.  They are fighting to help Americans avoid the crushing realities of personal responsibility.  We call it “products of conception” in the medical record so we can soothe the seared conscience of the providers, and the patients.  Don’t even refer to the dead human being lying in the waste basket as a baby…Legalized murder, as a form of birth control.

So as a pro-life member of society, what can you do?  At times the grief and shame I bear, knowing I am a part of a country who allows this paralyzes me.  I feel helpless and hopeless. overwhelmed.  I’m not the type to picket a clinic.  I won’t march on Washington, at this point.  So what do I do?  What can you do?  How can we stand for our moral values without causing more harm?  I’ve been thinking about it.  Here is what I’ve come up with:

1.  Pray- Pray for spiritual awakening and revival.   Pray for elections.  Pray for our leaders.  Share the gospel.  A supernatural act of mercy from God Almighty is our only real hope.

2.  Love-  show love to those who bear the scars of choosing abortion.  Many women find that later in life they regret the choice.  Extend grace.  Avoid angry rants that make personal insults.  The shame and guilt are already hurting, they don’t need you to point it out, they need you to usher them to mercy.

3.  Give- Support a crisis pregnancy center on your own or through your church.  Invest in agencies that help educate the public about the facts of abortion and expose the sleazy practices of abortion mills like planned parenthood.  Put your money where your heart is.  Embrace your chances to support a woman who chose not to run from responsibility.  Help her with money, childcare, and mentoring parenting skills.  Give her an opportunity, an education, It’s a hand up, not a handout.

4.  Vote- Never support a candidate because you like his or her economic policies and ignore their moral or constitutional policies.  Do your homework.  Know the platform of each individual and party.  Then vote your conscience, not your pocketbook.

5. Adopt-  If we are serious about preventing abortion, then we also need to be serious about what happens if these babies are born.  They will be born, many times, into poverty, to a single mother.  If she chooses life but not to raise this child, how can we ignore the orphans?  We say we are for life, let’s give them a life.  Support families who are longing to expand their family through adoption.  Pray about it yourself.  Sign up for foster care.  Be an adoption advocate in your church and community.

We can grieve the loss of unborn millions.  We can decry the moral decay that invades our land.  We can hide our eyes from the consequences.  Or, we can effect change and pray for a miraculous move of God.  This has happened on our watch.  What are we going to do about it?

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Whatever Happended to the Sabbath?

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Last week I was sitting around a table in a mentoring session with some budding high-capacity leaders.  I was teaching on the necessity of practicing Sabbath for longevity and health in ministry.  I was surprised by their responses.  They ranged from novel curiosity, to doubt, and to outright pushback.  Several stated that for them a day off was impossible, and out of the question.  One lady stated, “If I did that I’d be paying for it for the rest of the week!”  I replied that if she didn’t she could be paying for it for the rest of her life.

Has our neck-breaking pace of American life begun to cast the 4th commandment as impossible or optional?  Or do we just not understand it?  Growing up in the 60′s in small-town, Oklahoma I encountered the effects of a generation who took Sabbath related ideology to the legalistic extreme.  They made it about appearances, rules, and self-punishment.  Now it seems an equally crippling assumption is being made.

Jesus encountered some misunderstanding related to this teaching as well.  In his excellent book on the subject, The Rest Of God, Mark Buchanan brings us back to the idea that Sabbath is an attitude of the Heart.  He reminds us that God rested, “ceased creating”, in order to model for us the behaviors that would maximize our productivity through dependence, restoration, and quiet contemplation.  He points out that Jesus expounded on this idea, dispelling the legalistic burdens the religious officials were placing on mankind.  Buchanan boils it down. He shows us we can design a period of obedient rest around this phrase: “Cease what is necessary, embrace what gives life.”

From one sundown to the next, one day out of 7, we must stop our usual occupation and feed our body, soul, spirit, and mind.  We must refill our emptiness, drained as we have spent ourselves in our work.  Am I saying we should let our children starve or play in traffic because mommy is having a day off?  Of course not!  But we can arrange our schedules to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy”.

Here are some ways and means to get you started in this practice if you have been neglecting it:

1.  Design your Sabbath around your individual personality An introvert will be drained by interacting with groups.  For them, solitude is healing.  For an extrovert, being in a group event where you have no responsibility will energize and restore.

2.  Plan ahead  Get your necessary housework and domestic needs done in advance.  Include your children in this process.  Educate them about what it means to rest and renew.  Use the crock pot, ask for help from your family.  Protect your time and schedule it in. Sometimes saying Yes to God means saying no to someone else.

3.  Don’t just lay around  Maybe your greatest need is sleep.  If you’ve neglected this practice for a while it probably is.  But once you get caught up, add in play, recreation, a workout, sex, good food, music, nature, and quality time with those you love.

4.  Be spiritual  Saturate your day with scripture and worship.  Meditate, sing, dance, and read.  Listen to the voice of God.  Meet for corporate worship and connect with a small group.  Even leaders need a small group.

5.  It may not be Sunday  If you are in ministry or work on Sunday, think of another day to devote yourself to the obedient practice of the Sabbath.  For me and my husband, our Sabbath is Saturday.  We do do work, we cut the grass, fix a meal, ect… but we cease from our usual work.  No sermon prep, no blogging, no meetings, or email, or the like.  We feed our marriage, we feed our spirits, we watch sports, we go for a jeep ride in the mountains, we enjoy a delicious treat of some sort.

Don’t let the enemy use burnout to defeat you.  Don’t let the pride of self-sufficiency ruin what God wants to teach you.  “Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27  If nothing else, practicing Sabbath will teach us how to let things go, how to choose what is really necessary, and what will never count for eternity. 

 

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