Monday, November 28, 2016

Following Blues

Wives, be subject to your own husbands,
as to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:22

Have you seen these pictures?  Taken by Russian photographer, Murad Osmann, they have taken social media by storm.  The series named Follow Me are taken from Osmann's perspective of his girlfriend, as they travel the most exotic locations of the world.  They are visually stunning - here's a link if you want to see more: click here

As I look at the photos, I am wondering why women are so drawn to them. Here's what I concluded: the woman in the pictures wears beautiful clothing, has gorgeous hair, a perfect figure, her skin is a flawless bronze tan and...wait for it...she is leading her man.  And women like that.  We like to lead.

Leading is not bad. It's not wrong and it's not sin. Well, let me rephrase that:  Leading is not bad, wrong or sinful in the proper context.  As women, we lead most things we are involved in - leading can include decision making, vision casting, direction planning, organization and execution.  We do all these things every day - at work, in our homes, with our children, even at church.  We decide what's for dinner and what colors look best on our children.  We rearrange the furniture so that there is room for everyone at small group.  We figure out what to put on the pizza and how many to get.  We come up with great ways to streamline our work and make life more efficient for our employers.  As image bearers of God, we are natural born leaders.

The problem is that our sin nature loves to take something that is good and God-given, and twist it into something that is destructive and yes, sinful.  Our consequence of sin in the garden is a struggle with our husband's for authority in the home. So when God tells us as wives to be subject to our husbands, everything inside of us starts to churn and burn, because we think that we are being punished or limited by God and we're not sure why.  We wonder - maybe He likes men more than women?  Maybe He used to think men were better leaders but now that women are educated as well, He's had second thoughts about that?  Maybe He just wants us to suffer because we are sinful? And when we ask these questions, we deny the fact that our very nature is bent on rejecting this authority structure.

The answer to all those maybe-questions is absolutely no.  If anything I think I can make a case that He might love women a little more because of the protection that He places around us!  The leadership of the husband is a protection for the wife - it is not a contest that he automatically wins, but rather, he is in the unenviable position of answering for the family, which is broken and sin-encrusted.   God hasn't changed his mind because He is immutable and never changes, so His decision, which was pre-fall by the way, to have the husband lead the family will not change due to education or social advances.  And finally, Jesus has suffered for our sin.  Any suffering that we bear is due to either the consequences of our own sinful choices or of the brokenness that sin has brought into the world in general. But God is not purposefully punishing us by calling us to humble ourselves and willingly place ourselves under our husband's authority.

So, is that what submission looks like in you life?  Do you follow well?  I often hear from women that their husbands don't want to lead so they have to - I am tired of that argument.  Hand the reins back to him and let him make a decision or two.  I am not talking about having your husband micromanage every detail of the home but he should be involved with the decisions:
  • He doesn't have to make the grocery list but if there are things he likes and doesn't like to eat, that should affect your list
  • He doesn't have to pick the wall colors in the house, but he should be offered the option to have an opinion
  • I had one gal tell me that she signed up for a marriage conference at church by herself because she didn't know if he would want to go - why not ask?  
  • Do you have separate bank accounts?  Do you live within your husband's budget?  Do you discuss these things with him?
  • Do you discipline the children the way your husband asks you?  Are you more worried about being liked by them rather than submitting to your husband?  Do you correct your husband in front of the kids?
I'm going to stop here because I can already hear the push-back:  My husband won't get one bank account....he is too harsh with the kids...if I ask him to go to a conference, he'll think I am leading...Bottom line, ladies, submission is a heart condition first and an action second.  We must wrap our mind around the fact that God has an authority structure for the home and we are not the head of it - and that is for our protection.  

We must stop competing with our husbands and willingly follow his lead. Start with small decisions.  Let him pick a parking space when you are out together.  Let him choose the restaurant and don't second guess his choice once he's made it.  Don't give him two options for a movie and then when he chooses one, try to talk him out of it.  And if you do well with the small decisions, watch what happens when the larger ones arise.

Finally, gals, we must choose to be subject to our husbands as unto the Lord.  Those four little words are the key to all of this. If we wrestle with God as the head of our life, we will struggle with our husbands being the head of our marriage.  But if we trust the Lord in all things, then obedience is much easier because we place the outcome in His hands, including the decisions our husbands make that are hard for us to accept.  If our eyes are on the Lord, then we know we are pleasing Him when we willingly humble ourselves and get into the helper position we were created to fill.  This is not a suggestion in scripture, but rather a command of a loving Father who knows what is best for you.  

Are you willing to work on following your husband today?  Small steps of obedience lead to great life transformation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Worry and Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; 
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Psalm 118:1

So what's on your mind today?  Thanksgiving is two days away and I am nervous my bird isn't going to thaw.  There are a lot of bigger things to worry about, but the turkey is one in a long list of worries we can have this time of year:
  • Will the family get along?
  • Will the food be enough?
  • Will my already tight jeans zip up on Friday?
  • Will I have the strength to battle the crowds for the deals on Friday?
  • How can I spend less and keep everyone happy?
And then there are the bigger worries of life:
  • He's filing for divorce
  • I've lost my job
  • My son has a drinking problem
  • The test results should be in on Friday
  • We can't afford a turkey, let alone Christmas gifts
  • The roof is rotting and we have no plan
  • My children are far from me and the Lord
  • I can't find work
  • I found a text on his phone 
  • I've let my parents down again
What we set our mind on will affect everything in our lives - how we feel, what we do, where we go and how we survive the holidays.  Just typing that list was beginning to give me a headache.  The burdens of life are real and for many of us, inescapable.

In honor of the upcoming festivities, may I make a few suggestions today?  Let's start with Psalm 118.  The opening verse instructs us to give thanks to the Lord because He is good.  If God was bad, it would be hard to thank Him, but He's not bad - He's good - therefore, we should thank Him.  

Last night, as I went to bed, my mind was starting to race with anxious thoughts, so I put this verse to the test.  I began a discussion with the Father that looked like this:  Father, I know that you are good because, do you remember when Joshua was supposed to bring Israel into the land and he was pretty unprepared and frightened?  What did You do?  You appeared to him, had several conversations, gave him clear directions and told him to be courageous.  Then you wiped out his enemies.  I know You are good because when I read the story of Ruth, I see Your sovereign hand guiding her footsteps and providing for this foreigner beyond her wildest expectations.  I know You are good because of how gently and kindly your angel approached Mary to tell her she was pregnant - You made sure she wasn't frightened and You calmed her heart.  I know you are good because my life is drenched with Your goodness...and then I went on to list out several ways that He has been good to me.  Then I fell asleep, worries aside, thankfulness in my heart.

When we are instructed to be thankful because God is good, this is not based on a lack of evidence.  My first suggestion is to take time out to think of the goodness of God from the evidence in His word and then the evidence in your own life.  As you think through these examples, thank Him.  Give your heart a break from it's anxiety and set your eyes on Him.  This will nearly always produce thankfulness. Why? Because God really is good and it's easy to be thankful to One who is good.

Second, take your cares to Jesus.  Pray about them. Pray with expectation that He will answer you and lead you.  Pour your heart out and ask Him to give you the strength to do what you need to do.

Next, do what is in your power to do.   Often times we worry about something that we haven't acted on.  So ask yourself, what can I do to solve this problem?  Do I need to fill out more job applications or ask my husband to go to counseling with me or sit down my son and talk about his drinking or confront my husband about his phone?  Whatever is in your strength to do, knowing that the Lord is with you, do it. 

And finally, for those things outside of your control, leave them in the Lord's hands.  YOU CANNOT DO WHAT GOD ALONE CAN DO.  You can't save your children, you can't force someone to hire you, you can't make those medical tests come out fine and you can't change the past.  Sometimes we are truly helpless to change a circumstance, but God is never helpless. And you know what?  God is good.  So again, turn your eyes onto Jesus and leave in His care the things that you cannot change, trusting His goodness and His love for you.  Do you need proof of His love?  Look at the cross.

A thankful heart is not one that magically appears one day a year at the end of November.  It's a way of living.  Yes, the cares of this life will continue, but we are not alone.  We have a good, good Father who loves us and asks us to cast our cares on Him.  As you head into the holiday season, try starting and ending your day with a few minutes reminding the Father of how good He is, from stories in His word and then examples in your own life.  This is a great place to set your mind as you seek to be a thankful person.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Me + You = ?

It is not good for the man to be alone.  
I will make him a helper suitable for him.

Genesis 2:18

Everything in creation was good until God created man. Man alone was not good yet - he needed a helper and then it was good. Genesis 1 tells us that male and female are created in the image of God, so the creation of woman was not an afterthought, but rather with a primary and a secondary purpose. Primarily, as an image bearer, she was created to bring glory to her Creator.  Secondarily, she was created to make man good. Her role as a helper within marriage is one that brings completeness to man. Even perfect Adam needed help and Eve was created to provide that help.

Now, true completeness can only be found in Jesus Christ, but that doesn't negate the fact that within the context of marriage according to the creation account, ladies, we have a calling.  

David and I adopted our twins from Romania when they were six years old. We brought them home in March and the first morning in our home, they displayed their great displeasure that the three other children in the house were going to school and they were stuck home with mom. Because of the language barrier, with the help of my Romanian/English dictionary, I tried to explain that they had to visit a doctor first and then we could put them in school. Even the prospect of shots did not discourage my girls - they wanted to go to "gradanitza"!  

So I got them to the doctor and then took them to school. The kindergarten teacher was a sweet, elderly gal, who managed her classroom with ease learned from years of experience. But when my two powerhouse, non-english speaking daughters arrived, her world was crashing down, so to bring some stability to that kindergarten class, I attended school with the girls for their first 6 weeks.  

Initially I was there simply to watch my girls. I made them stand when the other children stood and sit when it was time to sit. I worked on alphabet puzzles and helped them color, made them sit still when they didn't understand the story the teacher was reading. Eventually they figured out how to follow instructions, but I stayed in the class. The teacher let me clean out shelves and organize closets. I helped the children with their lunches and cut out displays for her bulletin boards. I think when the six weeks were done, she was sad to see me leave. I was a helper to her.  And trust me, there was not a moment that I was in that class that I wasn't looking around, trying to find a way to make myself useful...helpful.

Is that the attitude you have towards your husband? According to Genesis, having you in your husband's life should make his life better. So if I were to ask your husband, "What does your wife bring to your marriage that makes your life better?", what would he say? Would it be a short list or would I have to finally interrupt him because it was time for me to go? There has to be a benefit to having you around, ladies, and I think that often we focus on what we need from our husbands and forget that we are the ones with the title "helper."

Just as we are called to be our husband's biggest fan, we are called to complete or finish our husbands - make them good. For each man, this is a different need. For some, they are forgetful and need you to keep them on time, on track and organized. For others, they struggle with numbers and they need an accountant. Still others can't remember a name to save their life. Some need clean clothes, a clean house and a good home cooked meal each day. Are you willing to meet those needs?

Oh, but Kristen, my husband is perfectly competent without me.  He doesn't need anything.  We have more of a partnership and we are equals in the home.  We share everything - our paychecks, our responsibilities and our decisions.  Good.  I am happy for you.  But may I remind you that I am not the one who said your husband needs a helper.  God said it and then He gave you to him.

So knock off the excuses, roll up your sleeves and make yourself useful.  Be his biggest fan and make him complete.  Fill in the places where he struggles, make your place in his life priceless.  Cheer him on and be on his team, so that he cannot imagine life without you. And in the hard times, when being his helper isn't glamorous or even appreciated, keep your eyes on Jesus, knowing that obedience to the Lord brings glory to our Creator and our Savior, and He is always worthy.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Biggest Fan

"...and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." 
Ephesians 5:33

Have you ever seen the movie Misery?  If you have, then when you hear that it is one of my favorite movies ever, you know how twisted I am.  If you haven't, then you might want to rent it, but it's not for the faint of heart.  If you grew up a close friend of my children, odds are I've watched this with you.  I guess I should just say, "Sorry about that..." and get it over with.

In the movie, Annie Wilkes finds author Paul Sheldon severely injured from a car accident and nurses him back to health in her home.  The drama intensifies when Paul finds out that Annie is his number one fan.  She is such a big fan that when she reads his recently finished manuscript for the final installment of his Misery Chastain series in which Misery dies, she burns it and insists he write a different story.  Now this was pre-computer days, so the burned manuscript was quite blow to Paul.  Speaking of blows, there is a sledge hammer in the movie as well, but I don't want to spoil the story.

In her role as number one fan, Annie manipulates, threatens and abuses the one she deeply loves.  She honestly believes it is for his own good, but in the end, Paul is a damaged man.

This post is for my married female readers.  The rest of you can glean some wisdom from it, but you are off the hook today.  Wives, I want you to take a moment and assess how you "fan" your husband. If you have been around me any length of time, you know that I teach that God's word instructs wives to follow their husbands through submission, to complete or finish in the role of helper and be their biggest fan by respecting them.  Follow, finish and fan.

Are you your husband's biggest fan?  How does that play out in your family?  Dave and I taught a marriage conference this weekend and when it was done, some of the participants gave a testimony of what they learned. One gal who has 17 children (all hers and all single births - whoa!) said that she spends the day cheering on her children over the tiniest of things but when her husband gets home, she doesn't delight in his stories or accomplishments.  It made me think about what fanning is all about and how important it is that we, as wives, really work on this.

Respecting our husbands is more than just telling him he's handsome, though that's a start. It's more than being kind, listening when he talks, not rolling our eyes at him or how we talk about him to our friends.  True respect encompasses all those things - how we talk about him, how we talk to him, how we touch him and care for him, but it starts in our minds, how we think about him.

If we want our actions and words to be respectful, we have to think properly about our husbands.  In counseling, Dave and I often say, "Do the things that love does and you'll feel the things that love feels."  Well, when it comes to respect, "Think the things that are respectful and you'll do and say the things that are respectful."  It starts in our heads.

What do you think about all day?  When your husband comes to mind, what image do you form?  Are you thinking kind, grateful, lovely thoughts about your husband or are you critical in your mind?  Are you like Annie from our movie, wanting to shape and mold your husband into the person you want him to be? If that's what you are thinking, then when he gets home, the criticism and manipulation will begin to flow from your mouth.  It's a heavy weight to live under, unmet expectations, and trust me, your husband knows when you are sugar-coating criticism.

So, ladies, we need to be our husband's biggest fan.  He needs to know that you are on his team, supporting him, cheering him on - that you want him to be successful in all he does, that you're proud of him and that you love him above all others.  But you will not be convincing unless you truly believe these things.  What flows from your mouth begins in your mind.  Do you believe that God is working in your husband's life?  Then start there.  Trust that God is shaping him into the man He wants him to be and you are simply along for the ride.  In a world that beats on our husbands each day, we have the privilege to be the ones God has chosen to build up, cheer on and love these men.  Let's not take this call lightly.  Let's think kindly about our husbands and see how it changes our words and actions towards them. 

Two final questions - if you are not your husband's biggest fan, then who is?  And how do you like that answer?  Let's get on this, ladies...