Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A message on marriage has been on my heart for months. God keeps showing me illustrations, verses and quotations that have pushed me to preach or write this message. The picture keeps getting clearer and I feel it is now time, dear friends, to share this message with you.

It all started in the spring when God first pointed out in me that I wasn't making time for Him in my life. There were times when I saw clearly that our relationship - God's and mine - was suffering. God put it on my heart that just as a married couple cannot go days or perhaps even one day without "checking in" with one another, God and I needed time together every day as well. So I heeded that call - to make time with God, to enter my prayer closet every day and just start the day with praising Him for the day before me. It has made an incredible difference. In the times that I have stumbled recently, I can see that it was those particular days that I did not stop and praise Him that helped to knock my focus off of the only One who deserves it.

Fast forward a couple of months. I stepped outside of my church where my husband has stood for the past hour "chatting" with the guys. One man says, "Man... I'm telling my kids to never get married. Marriage is soooo hard." Derek tells me more of the conversation later. It seems this whole conversation of these men revolved around marriages and relationships and how you can never please women and blah, blah, blah. Derek related to me that he was so happy to be able to say, "Fellas.... I don't know what to tell you, but after Danielle and I butted heads for years, our marriage gets stronger every day." He said his eyes welled up with tears as another man standing there looked at Derek and said, "That's God."

I know that it's God that brought Derek and I out of darkness and brought us together. I know that it's God who took these two strong-headed and strong-willed people and their children, as well as the baggage from their pasts, and turned them into a TEAM. We say it to each other ALL the time, and we say it to our kids: "We're a team." And this team looks for every opportunity to bring Glory to God through our gifts and talents that God has given us. I praise God every day for bringing us together. I praise God every day for the ways in which He has stripped us of our old selves and made us new in Him. We would still be butting heads. We would still be scrapping every day. We could possibly be divorced and handing Zoe back and forth on weekends. Our Theatre Company would be no more and Ellen and I would no longer have much contact with Darianne and Julian. A family of six could have been reduced to ruins... BUT GOD. Oh, Hallelujah.

But with all this praise I have for God in my marriage and for my marriage, I have to stop and wonder why my Best Friend is going through a horrible divorce as I write this right now. I have to stop and ask myself why a man and fellow church member would be standing outside the doors of the church and saying, "My kids ain't getting married, if I can help it. Marriage is too hard." God has painted this wonderfully clear parallel in my spirit - let's call it "The Recipe for a Successful Marriage," or "The Blue Print." He calls me to share it with you.

The key to a successful marriage is this simple: "Love your spouse." Earth shattering, isn't it? But I know you don't realize the truth in that statement, so I will expound. I will show you the parallel that has been revealed to me regarding our relationships with our spouses and our relationships with God. But it starts with examining what "Love your spouse" truly means.

1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

A wise man once told me to replace the word "Love" with "God." I see now that you can also replace the word love with "Praise" in terms of our relationship with God. And that's the secret.

When we learn as individuals in our marriages to truly love our spouse, it means to shower them with our love, our praise, our trust, our hope and our respect. When we learn to love our spouse and do everything for them, it frees up your spouse to reciprocate. Suddenly, all of your needs are being met by the other person. This is the making of a holy marriage. When you took your vows, there was supposed to be a "death of self," just as in Baptism. You were no longer two, but one in marriage. You can no longer live with your selfish desires before you. It is all about the other person now. But if you can accept this, your efforts will be rewarded through your spouse loving you back.

I once read that love is like a ball of liquid Mercury held in your hand. If you squeeze it too tightly, it squeezes through your fingers and is gone forever. But if you keep your hand open, allowing the other person to love you back, it will remain.

Now I challenge you to take this lesson and put it into the perspective of our relationship with God. When we shower God with our love, our praise, our trust, our hope and our respect, He has no choice but to return that love. Furthermore, it is our faith that allows us to praise God, despite our circumstances and despite what we are going through. If we focus on ourselves and on our circumstances, our eyes are no longer on God, but on ourselves. This is where our relationship starts to falter. This is where we find ourselves saying, "Oh, woe is me. I have it soooo hard. What am I going to do?" But in the moment that we cry out to God, He holds the power to change our circumstances and will do so because He loves us.

There is a speaker and author coming to The Pregnancy Care Center's Annual Fall Fundraising Banquet. His name is Gary Thomas and he is a prolific writer. One of his books, "Sacred Marriage" is subtitled, "What If God Designed Marriage To Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?" I have to wonder, what if? What if marriage was the physical and earthly training ground in order for us to be rightly related to God? Can we learn to love our spouses in the same way we are expected to love God?

Let us not forget that we are being prepared for another marriage. God is preparing our gowns of white for that day, described in Revelation 19:

5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great." 6 Then I heard {something} like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

The church is the bride. We are the bride.

God calls us to be holy, not happy. How many times have we heard this? 1 Peter 1:16 declares: Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. Holy means "Rightly related to God." Rightly related to God means: eyes fixed on Him, not having selfish desires, but wanting to give God what He wants. And what does He want? He wants our praise, our love and our acknowledgement at all times. Our spouses desire the same.

Derek and I were some ugly people. We were afraid to trust, afraid to love. We were unable to submit to one another. He had to be The Man, and I was not about to be the Subservient Wife. Both of us had to be right all the time. Everything was a fight: who was more intelligent, whose idea of raising children was better, who was cleaner, who was messier, who was a better steward of money - everything was a fight. But God was working in the midst of it all. I was seeking. Derek was seeking. Somewhere along the way, we realized that all either of us really wanted was to be loved. God helped us move beyond our fears and our need to be self-sufficent. God laid our selfish desires to death and instilled in us a new love and respect for one another.

On September 13th, Derek and I will celebrate our fourth Wedding Anniversary. On our fifth anniversary, in 2008, we are planning to renew our vows because, Praise God, we are not who we were back then.

Our marriages are not meant to be a struggle, just as being a Christian is not supposed to be a struggle. We are not to walk around, saying, "Oh, this is soooo hard. God, why'd I get married?" That's like saying, "Oh God, why do you love me? Being a Christian is soooo difficult." Surrender to yourself. Love God. Love your spouse. And watch your needs get met. Yes, watch the blessings flow.

I wrote this song for Derek:
You walk into the room and at once my spirits soar.
It’s only been a moment, but it seems like so much more.
I love you that much
And your every touch
Sets my heart aflame.

It’s been six long years and yet our love grows stronger every day.
There’s been so much doubt and so much hope, but now it seems we found our way.
God’s hand in it all
He wouldn’t let us fall
We give Him all the praise.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

We both came from a place called “Self,” and it’s a lonely place to be.
No matter how we tried, how hard we kicked, we couldn’t seem to break free.
But then His good Grace
Shone on our face
And His Glory was revealed.

I gave a little and you gave a lot and how the tables turned -
Both learning how to trust again, not afraid to get burned.
All of His love
Poured from above
And helped us to be healed.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

You know tomorrow we don’t know
If the sun will shine or hide
But I know the only thing that matters
Is that you are by my side
You are my love, my help-mate
My husband, my Best Friend
Together we will run this race
With every rock and bend

I don’t know what sets us apart; we watch those around us fall
I know too many times and too many hearts that get hid behind a wall
They think they gotta stay tough
It’s never enough
To protect yourself from pain

You and I learned how to love by learning how to give
I got your back and you got mine, and that’s how we must live
Our needs always met
No regrets.
More sunshine than rain.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Counting my Blessings

Editor's Note: I wrote this blog today because my mind and heart were reeling. I looked for someone to talk to, but when no one was available, I knew I had to blog through it. Praise be to God, that by the time I got to the end of this post, the answer was revealed.

I should offer a subtitle to this one: Pushing through this. I don't know why I am where I am right now spiritually, but I know I gotta get through this. I gotta get right with God again. I covet your prayers for me at this time.

I started my position as Event Coordinator of the Pregnancy Care Center on Monday, July 16th. Immediately, it was tough. As someone who needs a certain physical arrangement such as an office with a door, a desk lamp which casts a warm, amber glow and Gospel music playing quietly in the background in order to be able to concentrate, I was a bit underwhelmed to find my new "spot." It consisted of a desk from the 1960's parked against a wall in a huge conference room, cordoned off with some Mary-Tyler-Moore-looking cubicle wall. Above me, garish flourescent lights buzzed like bees. My computer, with a Gateway monitor and an NEC tower, operates on Windows 98. It has no USB ports and no speakers for which to listen to music. Even if it did, since I'm located in a common area, it probably would be bothering someone.

I thought to myself, "Quit being a spoiled brat. Be thankful for this opportunity to work here - a place where you are surrounded by Christian women, where you're encouraged to pray on the job. God brought you here for a moment like this." I continued to pray that He would give me focus and clarity and an ability to do the best job I could. Yet every day, I found it harder to get out of bed and make it to work.

Then the work came. Mostly, it's been telemarketing, at best. I phone business after business after business asking them to "make a donation" as a form of advertising at our Fall Fundraising Banquet. I only have to raise 30,000 dollars. At about 350 dollars per contribution, my math-whiz, Ben, tells me "86. You need 86 contributors to reach 30,000." Need I tell you, I hate the phone. Email and the Internet are THE greatest inventions EVER. I don't stutter over email. I stutter over the phone. I can send one email to a gazillion people at one time. I have to make phone calls ONE AT A TIME. I have to repeat myself OVER and OVER and OVER again. And I won't forget to mention - I have to ask for money. Ugh. Could it get any worse? Of course it can, because now that we're down to the halfway point, the contributions are coming in at 175 dollars, instead of 350. I continue to praise God for every dollar raised, knowing He is Able to make a way where there is no way. But still, the phone gets heavier every time I have to pick it up.

I had so much joy in knowing that after "MacBeth" was over, I would finally have time on my hands. I could get caught up on laundry and housecleaning. I could take my kids to the pool. I could spend a week organizing props and cleaning costumes from our Theatre Company. The more I delved into the laundry and housecleaning, the more I realized how disgusting my kids were. Oh the stuff I found under their beds and in their closets. I found myself overwhelmed and complaining all the time. I'd pray, "God I repent of these ill feelings toward my children, but wow, when did this get so bad?" I was reminded of how beautiful each of my children are - how intelligent, how good-natured. I was reminded of how healthy they are. I know so many children who are ill or disabled. I kept praying, "Thank you, Lord, for my children, no matter how messy they are." Guess what happened the next time I started complaining? My dryer died. God has a way of reminding you to count your blessings, doesn't He?

It was official. I had become a victim of Chronic Complaining Disorder. I knew it was wrong. I kept begging for God to show me a way out of all of this negativity. I was walking around my house saying, "No Whining. No Whining. No Whining" - and I wasn't talking to my kids. When Brother Brian preached about Aubyn pushing the lawn mower and pleading, "But Daddy...." I heard him loud and clear. Yesterday, when Brother Tim followed the Spirit and just gave us time to give God Thankfulness and Praise for all of our blessings, I did. I wept tears of joy for all of my many blessings. But then something happened today. I had to get up and go to work. I trudged into work, pleading, "But Daddy..." the whole way.

Then I opened my email, and there it was in my Inbox - my special devotional from You never tire of hearing that, do you? Me neither.

"Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28
From "My Utmost for His Highest"
"God means us to live a fully-orbed life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside, and we tumble into a way of introspection which we thought had gone. Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden dumping down into new circumstances. It is never Gods will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.

Never allow the dividing up of your life in Christ to remain without facing it. Beware of leakage, of the dividing up of your life by the influence of friends or of circumstances; beware of anything that is going to split up your oneness with Him and make you see yourself separately. Nothing is so important as to keep right spiritually. The great solution is the simple one - "Come unto Me." The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words. In every degree in which we are not real, we will dispute rather than come.

Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once and ask Him to establish rest. Never allow anything to remain which is making the dis-peace. Take every element of disintegration as something to wrestle against, and not to suffer. Say - 'Lord, prove Thy consciousness in me,' and self-consciousness will go and He will be all in all. Beware of allowing self-consciousness to continue because by slow degrees it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is Satanic. 'Well, I am not understood;' 'this is a thing they ought to apologize for;' 'that is a point I really must have cleared up.' Leave others alone and ask the Lord to give you
Christ-consciousness, and He will poise you until the completeness is absolute.

The complete life is the life of a child. When I am consciously conscious, there is something wrong. It is the sick man who knows what health is. The child of God is not conscious of the will of God because he is the will of God. When there has been the slightest deviation from the will of God, we begin to ask - What is Thy will? A child of God never prays to be conscious that God answers prayer, he is so restfully certain that God always does answer prayer.

If we try to overcome self-consciousness by any common-sense method, we will develop it tremendously. Jesus says, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest," i.e., Christ-consciousness will take the place of self-consciousness. Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest, the rest of the perfection of activity that is never conscious of itself."

The more conscious of my "self" I became, the more "self-conscious" I became. I started to doubt my gifts and abilities. And doubt, may I remind you is the opposite of Faith. I know these gifts and abilities are God-given. Who am I to doubt what He's given me? I started to feel inferior to my co-workers. I even started to feel like maybe they hired the wrong person, and maybe they knew it too. Satan began using these lies to keep me from fulfilling my purpose - God's purpose.

I must remember that I am a child of God and rest in that. I must remember to see me as God sees me - as His precious child. I may stutter sometimes, but that does not make me a lesser person. The Power of Jesus goes before me - I am washed in His blood. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. If He is with me, who can stand against me? No one. Not Satan. Not even my "self."

If any of this rings true to you and where you are today, call out to Him and say, "Lord, prove Thy consciousness in me." Remember who you are in Christ and praise Him for His Abundant Love. He will remind you that every blessing that surrounds you is completely of Him. You will be so lifted up in your praise of our great God, I promise you, self-consciousness WILL go, and He will give you rest.