The Marriage Knot

Marriage is not about you; it's about two.  This past weekend, couples gathered for our church’s marriage conference - "Behind Closed Doors."   During that time, I reminded couples of this truth.  I derive that truth from two biblical texts:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.    
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)
Marriage is true companionship; not true competition.  When one spouse grows overly focused on his or her own needs - success in business, personal goals, recreation, sexual desire - then he or she becomes too focused on self and neglects the one with whom he/she shares life.

At times in marriage, one person will be the stronger one and at others, the weaker.  Each must adjust during such times.

Marriage is a journey – a tie-the-knot journey.  Have you ever noticed how on a hiking trip or another outdoor adventure, the knots that you tie on your pack, on your sack, or on your shoes, begin to loosen along the journey?  This loosening of knots occurs in the journey of marriage, also.  Sometimes couples loosen them and sometimes others loosen them.  Couples need to keep the marriage knot tied.  Keep it tied by committing to . . .
1) Paying attention.
2) Recognizing that temptation is real and looks good.
3) Keeping their vows -
        “Keep Only Unto You”; “Till death do us part”; etc.
4) Enjoying one another (See 1 Corinthians 7).
5) Remembering that God sees all.


Counting and Naming

The X-rays confirmed it. I broke my clavicle as a result of the Alaskan ice and an unwise choice of footwear. Now I write this via my voice rather than my fingers. I have been reminded these last few days about the significance of the little things in life, the things I so often take for granted. Here are some examples:
Buttoning my shirt.
Donning my down coat. 
Washing the left side of my body.
Using a fork. 
I am about halfway through the healing process, and I have been ready to exit said process since my shoulder and the ice-covered pavement collided.

I am however, periodically reminded that I should not complain.  In a matter of weeks, I will be holding forks and racquetball rackets as if the accident never occurred.  Others will continue on with more severe medical issues. Still others will continue in the process of waiting for a brokenness to heal, perhaps even a broken heart.  All said, my troubles are light.

In 1897 a man named Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote the well-known song that contains the following well-known refrain.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
He continues . . .  
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

"So, amid the conflict."

What is your current conflict?

. . . a broken clavicle, a broken heart, a wounded spirit, a struggling relationship. . .

I offer to my fellow conflicted ones a word of encouragement, a word of advice.

              Count your blessings, name them one by one.

When you count and name, you will remember and recognize. You will remember the blessings and recognize just how much of a gift they were and are.



Fixing Windows

In 1982 James Wilson and George Kelling proposed an academic theory they deemed the "Broken Window" theory.  The Encyclopedia Britannica ( describes how the theory connects serious crime to "a lengthier chain of events, theorizing that crime emanated from disorder and that if disorder were eliminated, then serious crime would not occur."

The final statement, in my view, sounds rather out of reach; nevertheless, the theory is worth our consideration.
When you and I see a neglected building (i.e. broken windows, unkept lawn, etc.), we tend to assume that either the structure is uninhabited or the owner rarely, if ever, monitors its condition.  Anyone eager for mischief sees an opportunity in such a place.  Unkept and neglected locations serve as easy or, at least, more appealing targets.

In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, the author relays an interesting fact.

He issued this edict because a Passover like this had not been observed since the days of the judges; it was neglected for the entire period of the kings of Israel and Judah.
2 Kings 23:22 (NET)
That verse follows the account of King Josiah giving his order, one which greatly pleased God, to the people of Judah to "Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant." 

Due to the neglect practiced by kings previous to Josiah and priests prior to Hilkiah, the Hebrew people held not the annual feast of their people that reminded them of God's great deliverance of their forebears from death in Egypt.  Neglect led to spiritual stagnation and forgetfulness of the grace of God.  The windows of the kingdom of Judah were broken.

The Bible is full of "broken window" stories.
- David kept looking at the beautiful bather.
- Solomon grew attracted to his wealth.
- Lot's wife failed to face forward.
- Judas lost focus on the true prize.
- Peter chose the security of secrecy.

The result?
- David felt the pain of loss.
- Solomon saw the kingdom headed toward division.
- Lot's wife lost her life.
- Judas lost hope and took his own life.
- Peter heard the rooster and felt the sting of failure.

Broken windows led to grief, disillusionment, shame, and even death.

About a month ago, a couple of young men broke into my office by breaking a window.  We fixed it quickly.  I am thankful for that as our temperatures have been in the single digits.  I am thankful, also, because my office is tended to - not neglected.

What in your world needs tending?  What in your life suffers neglect?

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  
2 Corinthians 13:5a (NIV)


Flossed Lately?

Even the most saintly among us tend to lie about three things. 
  • First, the number associated with our height (usually rounded up).
  • Second, the number associated with our weight (usually rounded down).
  • Third, the answer given in response to the question asked by the dentist or hygienist inspecting our teeth - "How regularly do you floss?"
As a word of disclaimer, I am a son and grandson of a dentist and my father-in-law also bears D.D.S. after his name.  My family pays attention to teeth!  From my father and father-in-law, you can hear them say a catchy phrase - catchy and challenging:  "Only floss the teeth you want to keep."

One is hard-pressed to form many more sentences with such liberty and conviction wrapped up in such a verbal package. 

As a child, I looked forward to losing teeth.  I even enjoyed the feeling of moving the nearly-ejected tooth back and forth in anticipation.  I have no such desire now.  I like my teeth - all 28 of them.  (I lost four molars of wisdom long ago.)  Therefore, when tempted to neglect flossing, I replay the phrase in my head:  "Only floss the teeth you want to keep."  And each time I do, I reflect on the liberty in that statement. 
Those that know teeth best speak challenge with liberty. 

The one who knows all things best did the same.  Jesus (as recorded in John, chapters 10 and 14) challenges with liberty. 

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:9-10 (NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 14:6

- In the former, Jesus refers to Himself as a gate.  He invites sheep (trusting believers) to enter through Him into security.
- In the latter, Jesus refers to Himself as the way, truth, and life.  He offers the way by serving as the way.  He speaks truth and we choose whether or not to believe Him.  He offers life and we choose whether or not to die to self in order to live.  (See 1 Corinthians 15:31 and Galatians 5:24-25.)

Earlier in John, the writer records the best known and centrally important words in the Bible . . .

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)
God gave.  Jesus died.  You and I decide whether or not to believe.  Paul, the apostle, brought great clarity to the situation in which we all enter.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (NIV)

God gave a gift.  Eternal life to be exact.  He gave the gift and waits for each recipient to open it, to embrace it.

In a few days, I have a dental appointment.  I anticipate the question.  And I will answer (honestly) - "regularly."  I was taught well and given great advice.  And I took it.  I was given a gift of advice and by keeping it, I keep my teeth. 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:9 (NIV)
Jesus came and spoke truth (more than advice).  By believing Him, I have been saved.  I believe His truth and, therefore, I keep my life - even though I will die.
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
John 11:25 (NLT)