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Happy Easter!!


Good morning all — since today is Easter Sunday, I wanted tore- post an excerpt from ny book,  “Journey: a Novel,”now available on Amazon.com. The book is an account of the life of Mary Magdalene.  It is the result of 8 years of research and a trip to Israel.  This excerpt is from Chapter sixteen, entitled, “New Wine.”     It is a peek into what the day of the Crucifixion might have been like for people who were there to experience it.   –

               It was sunset before Antonio Longinus returned to his quarters in the Fortress. Justus Flavius had been off-duty for several hours.

               Taking off his sword, and his shoes, Antonius sat down across from him. “It was quite a day today,” he said.

               Justus did not look up. “Yes, quite a day,” he answered quietly.

               “Your man Atticus was a real help today, Flavius. I appreciated him getting that foreigner to carry the Galilean’s cross. Your men did well. I am going to include a commendation in my report to Rome.”

               “Thank you,” Justus answered, still quiet.

               Longinus sat down by him. “What’s wrong, man? Have you not eaten? Did you get bad news?”

               Justus lifted his head. “One of my best friends died today,” he said.

               Longinus nodded. “I understand. I’m sorry. Did he die here in Jerusalem or back home?”

               “Here,” Justus answered, looking down again at the floor.

               “Oh,” Longinus walked across the room and took two wooden goblets. He filled them with wine. Looking through the provisions on his table, he pulled out loaf of bread. He tore the loaf in two, and began preparing two plates of food. “Come and sit with me, at least. You’ll feel better if you eat something.”

               Unfeeling, Justus rose and came to the table. He sat down across from Longinus, who began to speak.

               “In all my years, I’ve never seen an execution quite like the one we saw today. I’ve never seen that many people, or that much blood. And, until today, I thought it was against the law to scourge and crucify a man. I thought the rulers were supposed to choose.”

               Justus looked at him. “It still is against the law.”

               Longinus took a drink of his wine. “You know, that one man; the one in the middle; what was his name?

               “Jesus.” As Justus spoke, his voice broke.

               “Oh,” said Longinus, tearing a piece of bread. “Was he your friend?” 

               The Capernaum commander nodded. “He was a Healer. He healed my servant. He raised my friend’s daughter from the dead. He healed several lepers that I know. He….”

               Longinus interrupted him. “He raised someone from the dead?”

               Justus nodded.

               “I knew there was something about him. You should have heard the things he said from the cross. He gave out forgiveness. He asked a man to take care of his mother. It was like he was looking out for people.” He paused. There was one thing he said I didn’t understand; garbled, you know….Then he said, ‘it is finished,’ like he had completed some sort of job or something.” The centurion paused to take bite of his food.

               “Anyway, usually I have to break a man’s legs so the lungs collapse. That way they die before sunset, and the birds don’t get to them. Some of the men don’t do it that way, but I hate going back the next day and seeing places where the vultures have had their fill.”

               Justus shuddered. Longinus continued, his mouth full of food. “This man was already dead when I went to check him. Just before, he had said, “I’m giving my spirit into your hands.” I thought he was talking to one of his group that stood there all day. But just after he said it, he let out a long yell.”

               “I wanted to be certain he was dead, so I took my spear, and opened up his side. It’s important to be sure the lungs have really stopped working, you know. It’s more merciful, really. I wouldn’t want to be buried alive, would you?”

               He swallowed his mouthful.

               “Anyway, I told my captain ‘this man must be the son of God!’ When the spear hit the lungs, a fountain of blood and water came rushing out of him. It went everywhere.”

               “Is that unusual?” Justus asked

               “It’s never happened before; at least not to me.” He paused. “I left my men there to finish the burial detail.”

               A knock sounded on the door. Justus rose to answer it. “Go ahead and eat, Antonio,” he said. “I’ll get it.”

               When he opened the door, Justus was greeted by young messenger, dressed in the regalia of Pilate’s court. “Commander?” the messenger said.

               “Yes,” Justus answered, not remembering the message would be for Longinus. He took out his hand and took the sealed scroll.

               The young man put his fist to his chest and saluted, then walked away. Closing the door, Justus looked at Antonio. “It’s a message from Pilate, I think,” he said.

               “Go ahead and read it,” came the reply. “Are you going to eat your meat?”

               “No, I’m not really hungry.”

               Longinus moved Justus’ plate in front of himself, and continued eating. Justus opened the message and read.

               “We have both been summoned to come to Pilate’s palace.”

               “Why?”

               “It doesn’t say.”

               “Let’s go then. Let me just clean up a little.”

               When they arrived in Pilate’s court, the two officers were ushered immediately to the throne room. Pilate looked up from the scroll he was reading. He rolled it up and gave it to the scribe who stood by him.

               “Yes, that is what I wanted to say. Make sure you include the extra details I told you.”

               “Yes, sire,” the scribe responded.

               Pontius Pilate looked at the men before him. “So, Longinus, I’m sorry to call for you. I know you’ve had a long day.” He looked at Justus. “Who is this?”

               “My name is Justus Flavius, sire. I serve Rome in Capernaum. My men and I were summoned as support for the Passover detail.”

               “This has been a nasty business,” Pilate commented. “At least it will be over tomorrow.” He looked around the room, and raised his hand to indicate a man in priest’s robes standing just to the left side of the bema, or judgment seat where he sat.

               “Longinus, this is Joseph of Arimathea. He is a wealthy man; well respected in the city. He has asked for the body of Jesus, the Nazarene. He wants to take care of the burial requirements for us. He will need help getting the body down.”

               Longinus and Flavius looked at Joseph. “We will see to it, my lord,” Antonio answered.

               “There’s more,” Pilate said. “I also called you here because we have a small complication. Caiaphas has yet again managed to put a fly in my ointment. He has ‘requested’ that we set a watch on the tomb for three days. It seems this man said he was going to rise from the dead or some such nonsense. I want you to seal the tomb and set a watch. Rotate the men if you have to. I know they are all tired after the week.” He paused, thinking.

               “That’s all,” the Prefect finished. “You can go.”

               As Justus and Antonio turned to go, they heard him speak to his assistant. “I asked you for water and a towel.”

               “I brought them to you, sire,” the assistant responded.

               “I know. I used those. They are soiled now. I need another basin of water,” Pilate commanded.  “I need to scrub my hands again.”

               “Yes, sire. I will do whatever you say. But if you keep washing your hands, you will rub them even rawer than they already are.”

               “Don’t presume to tell me what to do, man!” the Prefect angrily replied. “Who are you to tell me if my hands are clean or unclean? I have to get this blood off of them!”

            Outside the palace, the three were met by another priest. He was waiting in a wagon. “What did he say, Joseph?” Nicodemus asked.

            “He gave me the body,” Joseph answered. “But these gentlemen have been asked to seal the tomb and guard it.”

            “I have myrrh and aloes to anoint his wounds and prepare him for burial, here in the wagon,” Nicodemus told him.

            “It will take a huge amount,” Joseph said, with a sad sigh. “How much did you bring?”

            “About a hundred pounds,” came the reply.

            “That might be enough,” Joseph answered. “We had better hurry. Nightfall is coming.”

(C) 2010 DG- AwakenedtoGrow. Duplication without permission prohibited.


Did you know?

 The busiest time of the year for counseling offices and psychiatric hospitals in the United States begins December 1 and continues through the middle of January each year.

 Why?

In the deepest part of us, we each have hopes and expectations, some life-changing, which are linked to this season of the year. It is the time of year when we are most vulnerable, and when disappointments we have experienced in our lives usually surface. 

The Holiday Season is the time of year when every adult becomes a child-at-heart, and when every child hopes for their wishes to come true.

So How Can I Experience Truly “Happy Holidays?”

 Determine beforehand (now!) how you will respond in given situations.  Listed on this page are a few common “Joy-Robbers” that can sabotage life’s meaning and fulfillment during the Holidays.

Stress                        

 Simply put, stress is Fear telling us that we can’t possibly do enough to gain the approval we feel we need…

Settle it now – it’s impossible to get everything done.  Let yourself off the hook.

Decide what you can reasonably accomplish, and then don’t push yourself to do more. Relax.

Make appointments during the Holiday to enjoy the time with your family. Let yourself have fun.

Conflict                  

Conflict happens because we don’t think about what our actions and attitudes are doing to those we  love.

Choose to refrain from having conflict during the holiday; this is not the time to settle deep issues, or  discuss areas of pain and                  disappointment.  Journal the things that you want to work through with your family – AFTER CHRISTMAS

Illness                     

The Holidays are no fun when you don’t feel good. Don’t push yourself.

Pushing yourself and your body past your limits decreases your ability to fight infection, and lowers your immunities—so slow down your pace. 

Make sure you get enough rest; research indicates we each need 9 hours of sleep each night to be healthy.

We each need 5 hugs a day to maintain emotional health.  Stay close to your friends and family. Studies show that a healthy community increases well-being and healthy living.

Wash your hands at least 3 times a day; – after restroom breaks, before eating, after contact with others.  Try to keep your hands away from your face.  Antibacterial cleansers are a great help. (Purel, GermX etc.)

Set your focus to search out and find the good things in the season. Look for the good in your family too. Try to focus on, and give thanks for those things.

 Financial Demands

 Determine beforehand how much you plan to spend on each person on your list, and don’t violate the amount you set.

 Plan at least one meal out for yourself (and your spouse) during the season.

 If you haven’t done so in the past, consider putting aside monies specifically for Christmas usage beginning in January.  Save throughout the year for the season, so that you are not pressured when it arrives next year.

Remember, the Holidays are about relationship; enjoy your family, and the gift of God’s Grace; don’t strive. Consider:  What homemade gifts could you give – without using a credit card?

 Depression          

Statistically, the busiest season of the year for psychiatric wards and hospitals is the Christmas and Holiday season. Most attribute this to the fact that creating the “perfect” family image tends to compete for our time during these weeks, conflicting with the realities we all experience. If this is true for you, take some time for solitude and spend it in prayer and meditation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you can give thanks for, in every circumstance you find yourself depressed over. (You would not be the person you are today without those circumstances.) Then, find someone who is in a worse situation than you are. Determine to bless them during this season. Many people have literally “served their way out of depression” by serving someone else in need. If you need counseling, or a friend to talk to, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Let someone else into your life….

on thanksgiving


The first Thanksgiving celebration held in America occurred in 1619. On December fourth of that year, thirty-eight English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Part of their original charter stated that they would set aside that day every year and observe it as a day of Thanksgiving. But the next year, 1620, those first settlers in the Americas  forgot to celebrate. Within a few years, it is believed they were absorbed into the Native American tribes around them for survival.

Also in 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. The following year, 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts, saw the most famous Thanksgiving celebration; the one we commemorate these days.  During their first winter in the “New World,” nearly half of those who came to this country on the Mayflower died. In compassion for these settlers, the peaceful Massasoit Indian tribes in the Plymouth area, not only brought food during the winter, but also offered help and instruction when it came time to plant spring crops. As a result of the native Americans and the settlers working together, a bountiful harvest was enjoyed by those in the Plymouth settlement.  To celebrate, the Pilgrims decided to hold a feast for celebration and thanksgiving. This ‘festival’, which lasted three days, included the participation of nearly one hundred Native Americans. Governor William Bradford invited the natives to show them appreciation, for helping his colony survive through the harsh weather conditions.

The next ‘thanksgiving’ celebration did not occur until 1623. That year, the Pilgrims were once again subjected to a great natural hardship, a drought. In the hope of bringing much needed rain, they gathered together in a prayer service, to “seek the face of the Almighty for rain.”  In answer to their prayers, within twelve hours, mercy drops from formerly non-existent clouds began to fall.  The rain was a gentle and steady one, continuing for several days. When it became apparent that the crops (and the colonists) would survive, Governor Bradford declared that the Plymouth settlement would hold another day of thanksgiving.  He once again invited their friends, the “Indians.” 

As other settlers joined the Plymouth pilgrims, it is noted in historical documents that other thanksgiving celebrations were held, each independently of the other.  

In 1668 the Plymouth General Court declared November 25th to be Thanksgiving Day.  The concept didn’t appear to be a national celebration, until 1777,  when the first national celebration of Thanksgiving occurred as a way to celebrate the American defeat of the British at Saratoga.

Two years later, saw the United States as a fledgling nation, with a president and governing body, known as Congress. It was 1789, and the country’s first president, George Washington, made his very first Presidential proclamation.  He declared Thanksgiving to be a national event, to be celebrated on November 26 each year.  This custom was followed until the next president,  a federalist named Thomas Jefferson, did away with the holiday.  “We do not need a national holiday to recognize God as the Source of all Blessings,” he said.

For the following sixty years, our nation had no official day to recognize blessings and give thanks to God.  It is interesting to note that during that time, our country became deeply enmeshed in the slave trade, and a civil war broke out between the northern and southern states… in the absence of giving thanks…..

Then, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale expressed her concern to the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln; requesting the nation needed to set aside a day to “give thanks unto Him from whom all blessings flow.”  On October 3 of that year, President Lincoln set the day as a national holiday to be celebrated each year.

Interestingly enough, the Confederate armies had been victorious in the civil war until that point.  In fact, the final confederate victory in the war was seen in the Battle of Chickamauga Creek in Tennessee. In mid-October of 1863, that began to change. By the end of November of 1863, generals Grant and Sherman had seen a victory at Chattanooga, and were moving towards Atlanta.

Slavery was on its way out. 

Did the shift in the war’s direction have something to do with the Thanksgiving proclamation?  Many in that day believed so.  Lincoln’s decision was seen as an invitation to “allow God into the affairs of men.”    

The day was loosely considered a national day of remembrance, until 1941 – when Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November each year to be a national and legal holiday…. interestingly enough, the same year we began to fight once again for our very survival as a nation.

There are lessons to be learned from history.  There are lessons to be learned everywhere.  What would have happened in our nation had there NOT been a sixty year gap in recognizing and remembering where our national blessings have come from?  Where would we be in regard to spiritual growth and understanding?

It is the same in our day-to-day lives.  In my own life, I am realizing that when I pause, and take the time to find the “good” thing happening in the midst of my “bad” thing — I have less stress, I feel more connected to God, I think more clearly, and I communicate with grace– hopefully even when I’m under pressure.

Any time I begin to talk this way, someone will say, “You don’t know my life.  I don’t have much to be thankful for. Do you know what happened this year?” 

I hear you.  We are all in the midst of re-organizing our lives.  If you find yourself having difficulty giving thanks, here are a few things that I hope will help you to begin the process….

Give thanks……

                That we have anything at all to be thankful for. 

                That we can make a tuna fish sandwich with all the fixings.

                That we know people who will tell us the truth.

                That true love and good health are related.

                That she wants your help to hang the Christmas lights.

                That we saved old cards and pictures, and have time to go through them, remembering.

                That we have adversity.  Without it we won’t/can’t grow.

                That we are able to breathe.

                That we can experience seasons.

                That we are living.

                That we have a car, and can get from point A to point B.

                That we can chase fireflies.

                That we have friends.

                That the online site has free shipping.

                That the mammogram was clear.

                That we can watch old movies.

                That we live in a free country.

                That there are soldiers who fight for our liberty.

                That we have the freedom to worship as we choose to.

                That we have pets who love us.

                That we can believe in Santa Claus and not get into trouble.

                That someone in the supermarket said, “Go ahead of me.”

                That we can buy MacDonalds or Taco Bell on a busy day.

                That we have a job.

                That we can color our hair and hide the gray.

                That there are so many good books to read.

                That God made coffee.

                That God made chocolate.

                That God invented snow and children invented snowballs.

                That the country is still quite safe in spite of the politicians.

                That we even have a little spare change.

                That the cranberry crop wasn’t ruined by the frosts.

                That pumpkin pies are once more in fashion.

                That turkey is cheap enough for the poor man’s table.

                That when we pray, we have a God who not only hears us, but answers us, and wants relationship.

The old phrase “every cloud has a silver lining” came from the concept of finding something to give thanks for.  What “silver” is God wanting to give you today? 

Blessings!

(c)2010 Duplication without permission requires permission.


 Hi Ron — it wouldn’t let me add this to the post for session 8 — so here is the audio for session 9.  Blessings… Deb

Identity Formation — Session 9 Bonus

provisioned


In the 1650′s,  John Bunyan wrote a book.  It was an allegorical novel, said to describe a dream.  He titled it “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  If you haven’t read it, it’s a great read – although the original version is a little harder to get through; old English and all.  When I was about ten or eleven, I had an easy-read version that I read over and over again until the cover wore thin.  I loved the symbolism, even as a child.  If you haven’t heard of him, John Bunyan was a Reformation preacher who lived in England.  During the difficult years of religious upheaval, when for a time it was illegal to even own a page from a Bible,  this part-time tinker (repairman/handyman) gathered many together with his teachings about the love of God.  He was a man who understood the compassionate side of Abba Father. His daughter, Mary, was blind.  I have wondered many times if he wrote his allegory for her.  In the years since it’s initial publication,  “Pilgrim’s Progress” has sold more copies than any other book ever printed, except for the Bible.  So, take my word for it; it’s a good read.

Which brings me to my story. This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an  experience I had when I was child, reading this old classic story.  As I said, the book is an account of a dream. It describes the story of a man named Christian, who is making a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  Along the way, he meets many who help him, and many more who hinder him.  He gains companions; he experiences pain; he loses loved ones; and he finally makes it to his destination.  All along the way, he learns and grows, becoming the person he was created to become.

In the middle of his journey, Christian has travelled a long way.  Everywhere he goes, he looks for indicators to show him the next step in his journey.  He has a map, but sometimes he can’t decipher it well. Continually, he needs others to help him figure it out.  But he keeps moving.  He comes to a steep hill, and looks upward.  Sadly, overwhelmingly, it appears that the road continues up this small mountain;  so he sighs and moves forward.  He is tired; he is forlorn; he is weary; he is hungry and thirsty; he doesn’t know if he can do it.  As he climbs, the mountain becomes steeper than he anticipated.  Finally, he has to clamber on his hands and knees just to make headway. It takes all the energies he has in his possession.  But now he is committed. He can’t go back. He can’t stop.  He must finish this part of the journey.

Soon, he comes to a clearing.  He is close to the peak of the mountain.  He sees a large house, nestled close to the summit.  He thinks “I could get some refreshment there, if they will take me in.”  So, he moves on towards the house.  But then, as he draws closer, his heart sinks.  The pathway to the house is guarded by two large lions, who, although shackled to rock posts with neck irons, look at him with menacing eyes.  Fear rises in his heart.  He stops in his tracks. 

Now what?

Suddenly, a voice speaks from the front door of the house. The Caretaker shouts to him, “Don’t be afraid!  They are chained to the posts!  Keep to the middle of the path and they won’t be able to reach you!”

With a flash of hope, Christian slowly and carefully moves past the lions, who growl as he passes.  He arrives at the front door untouched. He is safe.  He breathes a sigh of relief. 

“Welcome!” says the Caretaker. “We have been waiting for you.” 

Surprised, Christian discovers a Place of Refreshment.  He is bathed, and receives medical treatment for his injuries.  He is given clean clothing.  He eats at a banquet table.  He laughs and relaxes in an atmosphere of safety.  For several days, he stays.  He finds his heart again.  He gains direction.  He asks questions.  He listens.  He learns.

Then, on the third morning, the King’s daughters; Faith, Hope and Charity, help him get ready to complete his journey.  They clothe him in armor, hand-fit to his person.  He is given a sword and a shield.  He is provisioned, and given a scroll of promises.  For you see, the House on the mountaintop was the King’s House.  It was a place of refuge.

In the next chapter of the book, Christian faces the dragon Appollyon, his nemesis; the image of Satan in his own weaknesses.  Because of his provisioning, he prevails victorious. He emerges from the battle battered, but wiser; stronger somehow.  He would have died in the battle had he not been to the King’s House.

It’s my favorite place in the book.  The House of Refreshing.

This morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an experience I had during one of my many readings of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  I was ten years old. I had just finished the King’s House chapter, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of the Presence of God. “When I grow up, Jesus, I want my house to be like that.  I want people to go away from my house stronger than they came in.  I want to help people.”

That hope has remained a center in me for the past forty-three years.  When I met Bill, in our many conversations, building relationship, his heart resonated with that focus as well.  (It’s wonderful when you marry someone who carries some of your same pages in their own instruction manual for living.)  As as result, that same hope has filtered into the way we approach pastoring and leading people.  “Let them leave stronger than they came in.” 

It has become a personal mission statement for my counseling ministry as well.

All that being said, dear reader, I bring you a request for prayer.  My Doll-House Toehead (see blog by the same title), and her mother (see blog titled “Peaches”), move away this weekend.  They are on to the next step of rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of abuse, court systems and custody battles.  I miss them already…

I sent my toehead away with a jar of Play-Doh… one we played with together…. small offerings.  Someday, at journey’s end, we won’t have to go in different directions.

Pray for these two precious souls.  Pray for their armor to remain strong; that they lose nothing — and gain everything.

The world is a learning environment.  Some life-lessons come harder than others. 

We all need safe places of refreshing. 

Someday, I want to build a House of Safety for women in such stages of life….. God knows.  Pray for our ministry as well.

Blessings.

(c)2010 atg/dcg.  No duplication without permission.


This blog is actually being posted for my friend, Ron.  It seems that in sending the hardcopy curriculum to him for a class, one of the CDs for session 8 was scratched.   How does that happen exactly?  Although I am grateful for technology and its many methods of opening doors for each of us, I am now certain that I will never understand it all…. Oh well.

Ron, here is session 8, in two parts.  I realize one of these is unnecessary, but I thought, “Hey what if someone else sees the blog, and wants to listen to the session?  Half a session is not as good as the whole thing — (Although session 8 is the wrap up of an entire class).  It might be helpful to someone anyway — so here it is.  The theme of the class is “How Does Growth Actually Happen in us?”  We were utilizing all the elements taught in the prior 7 sessions.  As you listen, realize that each of the elements being discussed (because this was the wrap up, it was a class discussion) had been previously addressed pretty thoroughly …. The first recording is 67 minutes long, and the second is almost as long….

Identity Formation — Session 8, first half

Identity Formation — Session 8, last half

 If you want the entire class, it is available on lulu.com; and will be on Amazon by January, 2011.  Those who will use it in Ron’s setting (Covenant Theological Seminary), will also have other reading, assignments, and an exam…

All that being said…. if you do listen, I’d love your feedback!!

Blessings

on empathy


He sat across from me in my office, silent.  His hands were fidgeting as he continued to look down and shifted in his chair.  Was he contemplating the non-existent pattern in the carpet?  Had he heard me, I wondered?

Almost a complete minute of silence had passed since I had asked him the question. Apparently, it had provoked a deep introspection.  We had been discussing the value of communicating thoughts and emotions in his relationships.  As his griefs had surfaced over the past season, so had a deep confusion over his identity.  For this man, it had always been easier to logically assess a situation, plan a practical task, and move forward, ignoring the effects of his words and actions on those around him. 

Relationally, he was oblivious.  Until lately.

Now, in the midst of the cost of his marriage, his Inner Life was waking up.  My question had been a simple one:  “If you were your wife, what would you think or feel about you?”

I have learned over the years, to allow my clients time to think through their answers, and wait for responses.  But, as the silence wore on in this particular session, I began to realize we were on unknown ground for this particular gentleman. 

I broke into his reverie. “Are you having trouble?” I asked.

“She told me before she left,” he replied. “I just didn’t want to listen, I guess.”

“What did she say?”

“She told me that I didn’t want her.” He stopped. “Why would she say that? We never talked about this stuff.  Where would she get that idea?”

And there it was. After years of ignoring his wife; expecting her to take care of him without verbal or relational connection; leaving the care of the children and the home completely in her hands; acknowledging her only in public… this client was surprised at his wife’s apparently inconceivable decision to leave.  Hadn’t he been a provider, he reasoned?  That should be enough. After all, he was the man, he said.

“What do you think you would think or feel?” I repeated the question.

“I guess I would feel lonely,” he sighed a response. “I just didn’t know I was supposed to care about those things. It never occurred to me how she might feel.  I mean, she took care of everything.  I really thought she was happy. In control, you know…..”

“Did she ever tell you she was unhappy?”

He shifted in his chair again. “Well, a couple of times when we had fights. I would bring something to her attention, and she would burst into tears and ‘go off.’  You know, hormonal.”

“What does that mean: ‘you would bring something to her attention?’”

“Like something she needed to change — about herself; or about the house, or how she was handling something with the kids.”

“Did you help her?”

“I didn’t have time to do that.  I was working.”

“Were you critical of her?”

“Probably, but only to help her.” He looked at me. “Isn’t the wife supposed to take care of the husband? Isn’t that her Biblical reponsibility?”

At that point, I called him by name. “Do you realize that when you try to change your wife in that way, you are telling her that you don’t really want her as your companion? What she hears is that you want someone else who will act and respond in a different way, and be a different person than she is. You are telling her that you don’t want her. Not only that, but when that is the only communication she is receiving, it is doubly damaging.”

He looked at me, dumbfounded; his mouth and eyes wide open, like a deer in the middle of a road facing bright headlights.

“Not only that,” I continued. “But as to Biblical responsibilities, the Word has much more to say about the man’s responsibility to care and nurture his wife than it does about the woman’s role.”

“For real?” he asked.

Being female, it amazed me that he hadn’t known this.  This man, although he loved his wife dearly, had been content to live and function on a facts level only, ignoring his family, making demands. In contrast, his wife had been living in emotional starvation since their days of courtship.  Then, through the years of marriage, this husband had mistakenly assumed that because he could explain away her complaints and emotions as “not being logical,” they didn’t matter.  If he could discount them, and find an alternate perception, it became his habit to expect her to consistently adjust and make personal changes.  

This man had expected his viewpoint to determine Acceptable Truth.  Apparently, there had been no alternatives; no team; no unity.  He felt it was his God-given privilege.

Since that meeting several years ago, I have encountered many in our culture with the same issues; many marriages with the same struggle.  Sadly, in my own experience, situations like this one are even more prevalent within the mindset of the Christian church, than in the secular environment. 

God’s original design for marriage is that each partner seek to outserve the other one; not one-sided or demanding.  The husband submits his life to Jesus, and loves his wife without condition, laying his life down for her.  The wife responds by submitting her life to Jesus, and honoring his intentional choice to serve.  Together they are a team, seeking to build each other up — without asserting rights, choosing to learn how to grow together, living their growth honestly and vulnerably in front of their children and the rest of humanity.  This is the way of the Kingdom.

When we come to Christ, he calls us to forsake the desire to put ourselves first.  We become disciples — learners. We choose to serve.  A marriage doesn’t work when one partner does more serving than the other — because it isn’t God’s plan.  Such a relationship becomes selfish.  The non-communicative partner becomes the center of the orbit; with everyone seeking to gain their approval…… this is narcissism.  Sadly, it lives in the American Church as well; in marriages that would like the label “Christian.”  But Christianity is about what Jesus would do — not about our rights, our feelings, or our comfort.

We are not called to rule each other — we are called to serve each other. We are called to empathy.

I have had the exhausting joy of helping many broken and abused women over the years in rebuilding some semblance of their lives. I still find myself getting angry when legalistic dogmatics contend for some sort of “scriptural” selfishness and entrapment when it comes to abuse in Christian marriages.  In a day when our American culture has become increasingly self-focused, self-centered, and self-absorbed, there is a desperate need for more than surface answers in our homes and families. 

It is time for a house-cleaning  from the attributes of Denial, Entitlement and Religiosity. 

It is time for Honesty, Healing and Growth.

If you are in a relationship like the one described here, let me encourage you to seek help.  Find a good, solid, Christian counselor who won’t offer platitudes; but will speak real solution.  God’s plan for marriage is that it reflect the relationship Jesus has with His Bride – Honest, Safe, Secure, Loving and filled with Grace.  Within the context of Reality; it means growing, learning and communicating; allowing your spouse to know your entire life, with nothing held back — ever. 

I’m glad to say that in that particular appointment years ago the husband began a process in working, hard, I might add, to win his wife’s heart back.  What took many years to destroy, God rebuilt in a season of months — in fact, I spoke with him not long ago, and he said, “Thanks. We’re still learning– every day!”  

Aren’t we all?  (Thank God!) 

Welcome to Discipleship 101.

(c)2010 DG Awakened to Grow.  Duplication without permission prohibited.

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