Patty and I have a really good marriage, but it hasn’t always been good. How does a marriage become really good? A major key is lots of good teaching on how to have a good marriage. That is something that few married couples do because of the time that it takes and often the money. Patty and I went to the same 5 day seminar every year for over 20 years. It wasn’tprimarily a seminar on marriage, mostly principles on how to have a good relationship with God and others. We went to a variety of marriage workshops and seminars that were offered over the years, and read lots of books.
If someone asked me how to have a great marriage this is what I would say;
1. Go to marriage counseling often. You don’t have to have a major problem to go to counseling, you just want to grow. Counseling almost always results in couples talking about things they normally don’t talk about. JBC has free marriage counseling, and it is very good.
2. Take thetime to go to any and every Christian seminar on marriage and the family offered within driving distance. This would include marriage retreats that your church or other churches in the area offer
3. Read books together on marriage. There are dozens of excellent books available. You can get many books that are audible so you can listen to a book together for 15 minutes once a week and then talk about what you heard. This is a great thing to do when driving together, makes the time go by very rapidly.
4. Establish a relationship with another married couple who are older than you, have a great marriage, and are willing to meet regularly and share principles that have helped them. JBC has a number of older couples who have great marriages who have offered to mentor others who want to grow.
There are way more resources available today than there was when Patty and I got married, but very few married couples take advantage of them because they are to busy. It is sad that so many spend hours watching television and won’t take the time to learn how to have a great marriage.
We all talk to people all the time. Some is just chit chat, in that it is just being polite, but the goal of talking with, and listening to people who are important to us is that we would understand them. Understanding the full meaning and intent of the words that my wife, Patty speaks to me is not easy, it takes attentiveness and thought. I often don’t understand what she is saying and don’t realize I didn’t get it, until a problem comes up later because I didn’t follow through on that previous communication. I have a responsibility when I speak, to work at being understood, there is a learned skill in being a good communicator so people understand exactly what I am trying to say.
It is also my responsibility in a relationship to work at understanding the other person’s communication to me, not to be a lazy, inattentive listener. If I don’t quite understand, to ask questions to help clarify. The desire to clearly understand another person is an expression of love and of honor. Being a lazy listener and inattentive is very dishonoring to the other person, communicating clearly that what they have to say is not important to me. Learning how another person communicates, the definition of the words they use in their mind, the logic that they use in putting together sentences and stories is another part of being a good lister to people I care about.
I have tended towards being a poor listener over the years because I am usually in a hurry to do something, so I just give enough attention to get the basic gist of what is being said. I made a commitment a number of years ago to Patty as my “I Love You Commitments” to her, it was “I will listen attentively to your words, and honor you by paying sincere attention to what you are saying to me, and diligently seek to understand you completely“.
I work hard at eating healthy, no sugar and no gluten, and I exercise just about an hour every day. I also work hard at resting appropriately for the things I have done, resting to recover physically, and emotionally. I do that so I will have energy and strength to serve the Lord my entire life effectively. But I recognize that if I don’t receive God’s strength I won’t do anything that matters. God gives strength to the weary. To get God’s strength I need to ask for it often, I ask daily. To get God’s strength I need to be faithful to the disciplines, bible reading, prayer, gathering with my church family. But a major key to get God’s strength is to do something that matters, that has eternal significance and that requires God’s strength in order to succeed. If you don’t make a choice and commitment to do something great with your life there will be no power or strength from god.
A fellow said to me once that the reasonhe didn’t believe in God was because of all the bad things that happened to people, and he couldn’t believe that a loving God would let that happen. I asked him what life would look like if God prevented every bad thing from happening to everybody. He thought for a minute and said, “well I guess it would be heaven”, and I responded, “exactly“. So the question is, “why did God put life on the planet earth with all its problems in front of heaven, because that is exactly what He did”. Let me suggest several reasons:
1. God wants heaven populated with people who really love Him. Real love is not a result of perfect circumstances, everybody “loves” then. Real love endures, has toughness as part of its DNA. Life is a test to see who gets to live in heaven forever. The test isn’t perfection or performance, it is love, love that endures.
2. If we started out in heaven we would have zero appreciation for heaven’s beauty, for it’s joy, it’s perfection. Heaven is heaven because of the contrast between it and life. When the kids were young we put some black construction paper in the freezer having heard that it was going to snow. When it began to snow we took the paper out of the freezer and let some snow flakes fall onto the black paper. It was easy to see the design, the beauty and the difference in each snow flake because of the contrast created by the white snowflake against the black paper.
3. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is community, family, and They are expanding the family to include us. That is amazing to think about, we will be part of the family of God. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that God would like His expanded family to be like Him in character so that He can enjoy our fellowship and we His. Character can not be created in a moment of time, only trials make character.
There are so many people in our church right now going through very rough times. Cancer, death of loved ones, kids going sideways, marriages struggling big time, and on the list goes. Why? That was the question Job asked repeatedly, why? It is interesting to note that when a God does respond to Job, He never answers the question, He simply points to His greatness. As I have gotten older I have gotten very comfortable with a simple line, “I don’t know, and I probably won’t know until I get to Heaven, and I am OK with that”. I trust God totally with my life and my future. It may be that I live to be 100 and I preach 5 times a week and never miss writing my blog, or it may mean that I get the most painful disease known to man and die before I am able to kill a monster buck this Fall. When I get to heaven it won’t matter, why won’t enter my mind.
I know the answer though, Paul tells us in Romans 8. Tough times make us grow to be like Jesus and that is what matters. Life is all about growing to be like Jesus, and tough times accelerate the growth if we don’t grumble and feel sorry for ourselves. The more we can handle thefaster we will grow.
I pray so much, and so hard for people in our church family that I love. I pray, “Dear Jesus, give ,so and so, great joy in their heart in spite of their life right now, give them a peace that passes all comprehension, give them great strength to manage life well, give them a powerful sense of your presence, give them wisdom to understand Your purpose, and use them as a powerful witness for You as they live life with courage and enthusiasm for You.
Sometimes my praying for people is do intense that I get a chest ache, and I often wish I could take some of their pain for awhile to give them a break and a rest. I do that in a way by my praying for them. I almost daily feel guilty for not praying more. It won’t be long now and I will be in heaven, and that will be glory.
Getting better is the goal of life.Becoming more like Jesus in character, becoming more and more mature. If you don’tconsciously work diligently at it, growth will not happen. Everything in us, in life, in the world is pressing us toward status qua, Don’t get excited , life is good, just keep doing what you are doing, don’t rock the boat. If you are going to change, grow, become more and more like Jesus you have got to want it, and press on toward that goal with a relentless determination. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go on rafting trips, go hunting, fishing etc
The key is self examination on a regular basis. You ask yourself the question, “how am I doing”? and then you answer it very honestly, make adjustments and commitments accordingly. What are my character flaws, weaknesses, and defects? We naturally tend to protect ourselves, which results in a lack of transparency, excusing all of our poor choices, justifying, blaming others, and ignoring. Again, brutal honesty based on a very strong desire to growis the key. It is so easy to say, “I am OK” and just keep doing the same old thing. Don’t do that. Press on to maturity, hunger and thirst to be like Jesus in every way. Want, want even more, want so much it hurts,
I will have 29 grandchildren pretty soon, and I enjoy being with them, and around them very much. They bring a tremendous amount of joy into my life. I am very proud of each one and glory in their accomplishments. Recently Wyatt who is 10 and Alexa who is 12 went hunting in Alaska with their parents and they both shot a caribou. Remembering back to when I was 12 years old and shot my first deer, and how special that was to me I feel very proud of both of them.