Category Archives: Family

Marriage: The Double Black Diamond

Tina and I went on a “romantic” ski trip this past weekend with three other couples, experiences ranging from novice to expert in both skiing and relationships. Being a trip of dual purposes (skiing and romance) make for an easy comparison. After nearly eight years of marriage on the second time around for both Tina and I, I can say without a doubt that marriage is one of the toughest things that you will ever do in life. Not getting married, of course, that’s the easy part; staying married and keeping the union tight is the challenge. It can often seem like an uphill battle,  a losing one at that.

If you’ve got only a modest knowledge of skiing, you know that “double black diamond” is a label given to the most difficult skiing terrain. The slope is often very steep with many obstacles, mostly bumps (called moguls), and narrow passes that you must negotiate in order to keep from planting your face in the hard-packed snow, or worse yet, breaking your neck. Double black diamonds are reserved for advanced skiers only as they can make mush of the bones of a novice. Well I’m here to tell you, marriage is very much the same way. Look at the parallels below:

skiing-marriage

Are these requirements? Only for successful unions. With a greater than 50% divorce rate, even in Christian homes, the warnings signs are there. Do you ski on past the signs knowing that it’s either you or the schmuck beside you that won’t survive the mountain? If so, ski at your own risk!

In order to survive the treacherous conditions that await to assail you on the Double Black Diamond of marriage, heed the warnings, go back to the basics, start from scratch, bruise your back side some to avoid breaking the bond of marriage; become a seasoned skier first, and only then will you conquer the Double Black Diamond of marriage without ending up on the rocky cliff of divorce.

Here’s a trail map that will guide you down some of the Green Circles and onto the Double Black Diamonds:

  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs
  • The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
  • The Every Battle series by Stephen Afterburn and Shannon Ethridge
  • Moments Together by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Happy trails!

Hallmark Mom

Tina recently shared an interesting insight with me that came out of shopping for a birthday card for her mother. After reading several cards to find just the right one, she identified attributes that she too would like to possess as a mother. In other words, she was so moved by the many endearing words used to describe mothers in greeting card messages that she aspires to be a mother like that herself, the kind of mother typified in a greeting card. Tina wants it to be a challenge when Megan goes to buy her a card, an experience where every card is such a reflection of her own mother, that it requires careful contemplation in choosing the right one, the one that most closely depicts the exhaustive elements of her mother’s beauty.

What a great ambition. This has inspired me to do the same––to be a Hallmark Dad and a Hallmark Husband. Not to fit some stereotypical greeting card non-sense for the sake of conformity, but to epitomize that which is admirable and upright; to be the type of person that could be the inspiration for a greeting card message instead of the deviation from one; to be the rule rather than the exception; to be a benchmark by which all other fathers and husbands are measured.

How about you? Are you worthy of carrying the Hallmark seal on your back (think old ‘90s marketing campaign of flipping the card over to check for Hallmark branding)?

Your Name is Mud: Part 2

Christ was not welcome in his own town (Matt 13:53-58), He was sentenced to the cross by the people to die a brutal death, and His resurrection and claims as the Messiah have been scrutinized since He walked the earth. Christ himself said, “All men will hate you because of me. . .” It should come as no surprise, then, that not everyone, including members of your own family, share your faith; that not all understand your fascination with Jesus; that society gives your Savior little credence; that there are those not interested in the least to try your church or even your God. You will be rejected––persecution is promised in the Bible. Quite frankly, your name is mud!

That’s a pretty bleak outlook unless you know the other half of the equation, “. . . but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” You are in good company if in Christ’s family. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Your name may be mud but your soul is washed clean and your salvation clear!

Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Luke 21:12-19 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.”

6 Minutes to Impact

It was kind of ironic––on Tuesday, the local Christian radio station here in Charlotte mentioned that the last two years had been one of the safest stretches of time for commercial airline travel in the US and then, of course, two days later, Charlotte-bound flight 1549 plunges into the Hudson River. Astoundingly, everyone survived and there were no serious injuries.

Can you imagine though?

3:24:00  You’re 1 of 155 passengers sitting in a plane on the tarmac waiting for a routine flight to take off.
3:24:54  On the intercom, “This is the pilot, prepare for takeoff.”
3:27:01  At 3,000 feet in the air, you hear an explosion on one side of the plane and feel a jolt followed by another with the plane beginning to go down.
3:28:05  On the intercom, “This is the pilot, prepare for impact.”
3:30:30  Your flight impacts the Hudson River.

Life can change drastically in 6 minutes. Friday, the same radio station interviewed Mark, a listener that was on that flight. He said that he had determined that “this was it” and that he was ready to die. The DJ asked him what was going through his mind. “Regrets,” was Mark’s response. Would that be your response? Sure, Mark has been given a second chance to turn those regrets into results but most of us wouldn’t be so lucky.

If you knew that you were going to die in 6 minutes, what would be your regrets?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

What will you be doing 6 minutes from now? Loving on your spouse. . . playing with your kids. . . pursuing your dream. . . calling a friend or family member that you haven’t talked to in a while. . . living a life worthy of your calling. . . eliminating your regrets.

Don’t go back to idle, casual, regrettable living. Live a life with intensity, intentionality, and fulfillment. Live a life where your regrets are laid to rest long before you. THIS is your second chance. Start now––who knows what might become of you in 6 minutes?

Less Is More

If I had to describe my New Year’s resolutions for this year in one word, it would be “constructive.” I want the things that I do to serve a useful purpose. That’s not to say that I’ve been useless in previous years, it’s just that I haven’t been as effective as I’d like to be (welcome to the club, right?). This year, I want that to change. I desire to be more productive in the things that matter. I want to love more, give more, save more, lose more, and just plain accomplish more. Oh, and did I mention that I want to do it all with less? “More for less”––sounds like a TJ Maxx ad. Here’s what I mean:

Less impatience, more restraint

Goal: Too subjective to measure so get off my back already! (Sorry, I guess I got my work cut out for me.)

Less calories taken in, more pounds taken off

Goal: Me minus 20 lbs. (or 5 slices of pizza per week, same thing)

Less spending, more saving

Goal: Cut my specialty coffee / dining out expense in half (my belt size too)

Less debt, more freedom

Goal: A slave to lender no longer (except for mortgage)

Less TV, more time (for God, family, and my dream)

Goal: Read through entire Bible, do not neglect my family, post blog three times weekly, and write a book to have ready for publication

Less of me, more of Him

Goal: Take up my cross daily. (And two aspirin ‘cause I’m already getting overwhelmed.)

WOW! Sounds like less leisure, more exhaustion. What about you? Are your goals for 2009 big or small . . . audacious or cautious . . . lofty or puny . . . ambitious or attainable . . . more or less?

Here’ s some inspiration from Pastor Steven Furtick:

I’m sorry to say that your dreams are too small too. You serve the God of inexhaustible, all sufficient, overflowing resource. Whatever you might imagine God wants to do through your life in your most faith-filled, bold, reckless moments, multiply it by 10. Take it to the 100th power. Double it again. Now you’re starting to uncover a fraction of the blueprint God has already drawn up.

Sometimes, under the guise of getting wiser, growing deeper, or waiting on God, we let our audacity atrophy and set the stuff that made us special on the shelf. That must really insult God.  After we’ve already seen Him part seas, kill giants, and multiply fish and loaves, we should be more inclined to push our chips to the center of the table, not less!

It turns out God isn’t intimidated by my big requests. He is insulted by my puny ones.

Scratch N’ Sniff

Here is a poem that I quickly put together based on true events as told by a family member on Black Friday. The names have been left out to protect the innocent. Enjoy, it’s hilarious:

From travel, turkey, and all Thanksgiving tradition,
Too sleepy to stay up for the late news edition.
They scurry to bed without even a yawn,
To sleep until morning but wake before dawn.
After 40-plus years they know just the trick,
“We’ll ‘fondle’ each other till our eyelids get thick!”
She turns in the bed and he scratches her back,
With hopes to nod off, for it’s sleep that they lack.
The plan is not working, they’re still wide awake,
Then her butt made a sound I think in mistake.
A terror awaits while it creeps up the sheet,
The fragrance is foul and it’s not from her feet.
“The nerve!” he says as he crinkles his nose,
“I scratch your back and you let out one of those!”
She turns with a grin in under a blink,
With a funny response to explain the whole stink.
“You’ve known me for years; why, what did you expect?”
“I’m a ‘scratch n’ sniff model;’ now, rub my neck.”

Who has more balls?

Open mouth, insert foot. That’s what I needed to do Sunday at church. I volunteer as an MC for the children’s program (grades 1 thru 5). My job is basically to introduce the video lesson that gets projected onto a huge screen and then to quiz the kids when the video is over. The kids are divided into teams and each team is given points, awarded with plastic balls, for each question answered correctly. When it came time to tally up the points and find a winner, this is what I said, “Being on God’s Team, we are all winners but let’s see which team here has more balls.” Apparently, kids aren’t the only ones that “say the darnedest things.” The moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I made a boo-boo; and that was confirmed by the expression of silent chuckles on the faces of all the adults in the room. Thankfully, I don’t think any of the kids are familiar enough with the lewd figure of speech to understand it. Thankfully, God has a sense of humor (I’m proof). Most importantly, God is a God of second chances so they may still let me work with the kids again next week.

Reruns

Women like reruns too. No, not King of Queens, Two and a Half Men, or Seinfeld. They like our attempts at repeating or even topping a previous hot date. Hint guys: you actually have to take your girl on a hot date before you can try to repeat it.

Here’s what I did on Saturday: I spent several hours of the day shining up the carriage so that I could escort my queen in style. My pastor says that “if you want her to act like a queen, you better start treating her like one, Bubba!” Not only does that advice make sense but I find it to be true. Anyway, the previous night, I made some reservations at a high class restaurant and picked out the appropriate chic flick with which to woo my bride. Then I spent some significant time on the computer putting my creativity to good use by designing a few little cards expressing my love. She got the first of the cards early Saturday, giving her a general time frame of the night’s activities. Second only to the time of departure for her is what to wear. Beyond that, I kept the specifics a surprise, even driving in the direction of one of her favorite restaurants. If you want to show her some real value, set a meaningful course of events independent of her. My wife likes steak so I took her to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Also, I find that life has a way of distracting us from what’s truly important in a relationship (each other) with such things as politics currently for me or my driving technique for my wife so we agreed to set up some ground rules. No discussing politics, this blog, or my driving all night period. Oh, and I opened her doors for her. I don’t care how “independent” your women claims to be, don’t let her fool you, she will freakin’ explode on the inside if she’s not used to you doing this. So here’s the final tally:

Expensive? You bet. Was it worth it? Yes, there’s no 8 ounce piece of steak, no matter how tasty, worth $32.00 alone but the experience and how it made my wife feel is invaluable. I know what some of you are saying but hey, you spend that much on your cell phone bill every month . . . or the NFL ticket . . . or [insert own personal luxury item].

Don’t forget to compliment her either; tell her how beautiful she is, even if she looks like a Tonka Truck. Something attracted you to her, what was it? If you cant find it, maybe your the problem–stop being so shallow.

And the movie we saw: Fireproof. Awesome date movie, especially if you are considering marriage, already married, or on the verge of being unmarried. Check out the trailer below:

I had a great time, Baby–I love you!

Queen of Hearts

Tina and I were graciously invited to a party by a coworker of mine. The festivities began with a diverse group of 50 plus people. The fellowship was superb, the food yummy (chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, bruschetta, and jalapeño poppers), the DJ jammin’, the disco lights poppin’, and the dancin’ hot. Themed, “Queen of the Jungle,” after the nickname of the hostess (Queen), the party even boasted a Tarzan yell contest (and I tied for 1st––AhhhhhAhhhhhh!)

Yes, this party is definitely worth bragging about but even more brag-worthy (and blogworthy) is the hostess. Queen is truly the “hostess with the mostest.” There are some people who let life’s circumstances make them bitter and some who let life’s circumstances make them better. As someone who has been a paraplegic since being hit by a drunk driver in the 70’s, Queen is definitely the latter. She is the kind of person with an energetic personality that lights up the room when she enters. She is not idle or lazy, inspiring others by working three jobs despite her reliance on a wheelchair. Some would say that her paralysis is a disability but apparently, no one has ever told her. Her Christian walk is more of a strut, resonating in the hearts of those around her. She has scaled the mountains of life with grace and dignity yet is humble enough to share the fruits of victory with her vast array of friends (and I just happen to be lucky enough to be called one). While the party was intended to be a celebration of Queen’s birthday, the real gifts are not in what she received but in what she gives to those who are fortunate enough to know her.

We celebrate you, Queen!

Love and Marriage (oh, and Sex too)

Sunday’s message was the start of what’s sure to be one of my fav’s. Coming off a spellbinding and soul-finding series called The Gospel, where we saw over 900 people come to Christ and record attendance of over 4,500 people in the short life of our church, this week begins a series on what I believe to be one of the most important issues of the day concerning the proliferation of the life-changing gospel (talk about a run-on sentence). Visionary Love, Dream Sex, believe it or not, is about family. More specifically, it’s about the relationships that embody family like finding the right partner with which to start a family, dating, maintaining purity prior to marriage, nurturing your relationship, and how to be the best spouse you can be.

The deterioration of the family unit is a cause of many of today’s social issues. With divorce at an all time high, even in the church, you have fatherless homes like never before, increased pressure on single parent families, a rise in teenage pregnancy, more people finding fulfillment in illegal substances, sexual immorality that is off the chart, and a resulting stress on our social programs and subsequent effects on the economy. Personally, I’m a divorcee who’s been both a victim and offender of infidelity so I have seen some of this first hand. With courage and God’s grace, I am now a victor and that’s much better. Love, marriage, and where they intersect with sex are a big deal.

This series has a message for all stages of life and all but the youngest of ages. While other churches find speaking of sex to be taboo or tip-toe around it when they do, Elevation Church shoots straight; instead of running from the culture, they speak into it. And Pastor Steven Furtick has a brazen, take no prisoners style that allows him to deliver the message with a conviction that will grab hold of anyone who listens. I thank God for him and Elevation.

Listen to the message in its entirety right here:

Cool Pastor, Hot Church

Also, Elevation made the front page of the Charlotte Observer for the second time this year. Not for scandal or heresy, but for dominating the city of Charlotte with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise God!