Monthly Archives: January 2016

What Does Your Marital Intimacy Say about Your Faith?

By far one of the most eye-opening discoveries for me was when I realized that God and the truth of His Word extended into every single area of my life — including my marital bedroom. That revelation changed how I viewed sexual intimacy and my role as my husband’s lover.

It’s why I wrote The Gospel in the Bedroom — which remains one of my favorite posts about how Christ affects your sex life.

You could even make a case that the phrase “sex life” is a little silly, because having sex isn’t a life separate from the rest of the life you live. It’s all jumbled up together as part of who you are. You can’t shove God out of your bedroom as if your faith doesn’t reach into that part of your life.

You can’t pursue selfishness in your marriage bed, or withhold affection and intimacy from your spouse, or introduce sinful practices into your bedroom, and assume you’re a-okay with God because your sexuality is nobody’s business — private.

It’s not private to God.

‘Who can hide in secret places  so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord. — Jeremiah 23:24 (See also Psalm 139; Job 28:24.)

But honestly, it’s not entirely private to others.

Of course, what you do in your marriage bed should be kept private between you and your spouse. But since our lives are not compartmentalized and our Christianity should be infused into everything we do, how things are going in our marriage beds spills over to other parts of our life. And I believe people around us sense more than we realize.

I know this to be true of children. Oftentimes when parents — who thought they were keeping issues from their children — announce a separation or divorce, the kids aren’t surprised. Maybe they couldn’t put their finger on what was wrong, but they knew things weren’t right.

Our friends also note how we talk about our spouses. If we’re doing right and feeling happy in our marriages, including our sexual intimacy, we speak differently. We are complimentary not complaining, hopeful not hopeless, gracious not grudging. Even if it’s only in our tone.

I know for some of you, this is extremely hard because you don’t have the cooperation of your spouse. You know your marriage bed isn’t what God wants it to be, but you really don’t know how to make things better. I’ve written about how to talk to your spouse about sexual problems, but course you can only control you. You remain responsible to God, your spouse, your family, and those around you to demonstrate Christ-like love. And things could change — not on the schedule you want, but someday. Maybe a someday sooner than you think.

Regardless of where you are in your marriage, your approach to your marital intimacy says something about your faith. It sends a message to God, to your spouse, to your children, and to your friends.

We are constantly witnessing with how we live our lives — in all areas.

Which is why the Bible has verses like these:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

And it is this last one that I’ve chosen for our final January memory verse for your marriage.

Memory Verse 1-30-16

Such a simple statement, but a reminder to all of us in marriage that our marriage and marital intimacy say something about our faith. And good, godly marriages can be a witness to a struggling world.

Good, godly marriages can be a witness to a struggling world. Click To Tweet

Let’s work on improving sexual intimacy with our spouses not just for personal pleasure or to meet our physical or emotional needs. Let’s do it so that our marriages are solid, our lives are witnesses, and our children and others benefit from our commitment to God’s will.

Maybe others will never have any idea why our marriages persevere or why we are so content with our beloved, but they will sense that we are different. I truly believe this — that Christian spouses with close companionship and thriving sexual intimacy have a glow about them. They really do shine before others.

Memory Verse Help

Last week, nylse commented that she puts verses to songs to help remember them. That’s a great idea! In fact, I’d hoped to talk about that memory verse help, so here it is.

Here’s one version of John 13:35 set to music:

I’ve found quite a few Bible verses set to song on YouTube. You can simply enter a scripture citation and see what comes up.

But you can also do this yourself. Just about any lyrics can be sung to one of these two songs: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the Gilligan’s Island theme. I’m not kidding! Try it. You’ll have to work the cadence in different ways to see how it best fits, but I’ve tried this and can nearly always get one of these two songs to work.

And because I know you’re thinking, Seriously? This works? Here’s my proof! (Warning: You may want to turn down the volume before pressing play.)

To Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

 

To Gilligan’s Island Theme:

 

This month’s memory verse theme has been about setting the right foundation for our marriages and sexual intimacy. I hope you picked one of these four scriptures to memorize!

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

What I Really Want for Valentine’s Day (Maybe You Do Too)

I’ve mentioned more than once on my blog that I’m not super-big on Valentine’s Day. Maybe it was ruined for me the year a high school boyfriend gave me a dozen roses in a thick glass vase, and two weeks later they all died on the same day. It was such a letdown, especially when I found out how much they cost and that I could have had a long-lasting outfit or a great pair of shoes for that kind of money.

Call me too practical.

But I don’t think I’m unromantic. I enjoy romance! It just doesn’t always look like what other people’s romance looks like. Which makes me think we should extend our definition of romance in our marriages and for Valentine’s.

So what do I really want for Valentine’s Day? And are any of my ideas what you might want from your spouse?

What I Really Want for Valentine's Day (Maybe You Do Too)

A lingering kiss. I’m talking about that long, soft-lipped kiss that says your spouse’s lips are the only ones you ever want to touch. The type of kiss that feels sweet and passionate all at once. The sort of kiss a fairy tale prince or warrior would plant on his beloved when they finally escape certain peril and find one another.

A hand-picked bunch of flowers. Here in Texas, you’d better make sure you don’t pick any bluebonnets, because picking the state flower on public land is a crime. But there are plenty of places where you could likely yank a few naturally growing flowers from the ground or clip some from a bush and bring them home to your honey. Me? I have a weakness for daisies, which always strike me as a cheerful flower.

A slow dance in our bedroom. I love being held in my husband’s arms and swaying in tandem. We don’t need great dance moves or perfect rhythm or even music playing. Sometimes he just takes me in his arms and sings (off-key) while we dance and I swoon.

A sexy greeting card. There are some very clever greeting cards out there for spouses to exchange, and quite a few of them are flirty, suggestive, or even seductive. I like the idea of my husband picking out the perfect card to say “I want you always…starting right here and now.”

A sightseeing excursion. We’ve done dinner and/or a movie plenty. But my best memories with my husband are when we’ve traveled or gone to museums or visited local attractions. We walk hand-in-hand, see interesting sights, and enjoy great discussions. We spend quality time together. And we don’t do it often enough.

A handwritten letter or poem. My favorite gift ever from my husband is a poem he wrote for my birthday one year. Poetically speaking, it’s bad. But in terms of my intimacy with him, it’s beautiful and unforgettable. He stepped way out of his comfort zone to write something for me he knew I’d like. And if he wants to do something like that every decade or so, that would be just fine with me.

A day in bed. Yes, an entire day that we spend in bed together. We could hole ourselves up in our bedroom and do everything from the cushy, cozy spot of our mattress: Watch TV or movies, eat snacks and meals, read books, have conversations, take an afternoon nap, and — oh yeah — get physically intimate. Maybe more than once.

Are any of these are your wish list? What other ideas would you love for your spouse to gift you with this Valentine’s Day?

And here are some other ideas from previous posts:

What to Get Your Husband for V-Day
13 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts from Your Grocery Store
7 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts You Can Make
“Go Big” Valentine’s Gifts for Your Spouse
8 Cool Valentine’s Gifts for Your Hot Hubby
8 Sweet Valentine’s Gifts for Your Spicy Wife
Valentine’s Day for the Rest of Us

Q&A with J: Staying Sexually Pure When Your Divorced & Dating – Part 2

Today’s Q&A involves a question carried over from last week, in which a man was left by his wife and has begun dating again. Here’s his situation:

I am a 54 year old divorcee.  I should have relationships and sex all figured out by now right?  After all I am over half a century old with an adult son and a daughter in High School.  However, what I thought I knew about life and marriage was completely upended a couple of years ago when my wife of 24 years at the time abandoned my daughter and me for an openly gay woman. . . .

[He gives more details of the breakup and family circumstances.]

Now that is exposed, I want to tell you where I am now and seek some prayerful wisdom. Some advisers tell me that I need to wait until I am dead, well almost dead to start dating again.  I have already failed at that advice, because I  am dating and I am enjoying dating.  They problem is that the sexual landscape for Christians has changed tremendously during my lifetime.  Even very Church oriented Christ centered Christians are having a hard time staying sexually pure.  This is even an order of magnitude greater in my opinion for divorcees my age.

Last Monday, I gave a general perspective of the situation, and you can read that post HERE. Today, I want to get into specifics on staying sexually pure.

Q&A with J: Staying Sexually Pure When You're Divorced & Dating

Remind yourself why you’re staying pure. After being married and having a sex life, it can feel excruciatingly slow to back everything up to holding hands, then a soft kiss, then a lingering kiss, and then a more passionate kiss . . . etc. It can feel like time-traveling back to high school (or junior high for some of you). But that’s what you need to do.

Remind yourself that you want to be faithful to God’s design for sexual intimacy, that you want to show respect and care for the woman you are dating, and that waiting has true benefits. As Pastor James MacDonald has often said, “When God says don’t, He means don’t hurt yourself.”

If you introduce sexuality into a relationship before commitment, you’re putting on rose-colored glasses too soon. What I mean is that having sex with your spouse makes some things more bearable — like it’s hard for me to be upset about some of the little annoyances from my husband when he just brought me to ecstasy hours earlier. Sex smooths things over.

But when you’re dating someone, you need those glasses transparent so you can get to know this person and how you are together. If you add sex into the mix, you’ll feel prematurely attached and less able to see them clearly. So take it slow. I realize it may feel like you don’t have that kind of time, but slow isn’t years. You can back off, take your time, and still make progress in the relationship. And if and when you marry, you will be glad you waited.

Study scripture on purity. I’m on a campaign for myself and other wives in 2016 to memorize more scripture, because this is one of the best ways to arm ourselves with truth. When you’re dealing with a specific situation, like staying sexually pure, find Bible verses that help you remember God’s plan and your own goals. Study them and memorize ones you can bring to mind in the moment.

For instance, we’re often given this passage as a scripture about marriage:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

But tell me, guys, how can you present your someday wife as “holy and blameless” if you disregarded her sexual purity before you put the ring on her finger? Or what could you possibly say to someone else she marries about your actions with her? You sure wouldn’t want someone treating your eventual wife that way. Take the long view here, knowing that whomever you marry should enter the marriage feeling respected, protected, and loved — as demonstrated by Christ.

Other scriptures to consider:

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” Psalm 119:133

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

“But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself.” Proverbs 6:32

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Adopt strategies to stay pure. A lot of Christians go on a date with the intention of staying pure, but they don’t have any plans for how. So you get to that moment where your God-created, sexually charged body is going nuclear with desire, and you’re somehow supposed to shut that off like a flip-switch. It’s no surprise many fail.

You need strategies (or tactics — I get those two confused) to keep from getting into that my-brain-is-mush moment.

Establish your boundaries. How far is too far? This is the question most asked by teenagers, but don’t dating adults want to know too? Unfortunately, it’s often the wrong question, because what you’re really asking is how close to the land mines can you get without being in danger. Um, get off the mine field. Rather, ask what level of affection is honoring to God and respectful of your date. That’s where your boundaries stay.

Date in public. If you spend your dating time at your house on a cozy couch, that’s all kinds of temptation. But if you’re sitting across from someone at a dinner table or walking hand-in-hand through a museum, it’s not likely you’re going to get busy there. Too many witnesses, aka chaperons. And chaperons aren’t a bad thing. They can keep you honest.

Know your escape routes. Firefighters suggest you know and practice your escape route, just in case your house or building catches fire. And catching fire is exactly what high-intensity sexual desire can feel like in your body — so it’s time to get your escape plan together.

If you’re in a relationship, talk about this with your date. Things like “If I start feeling extremely turned on, I need a break. Can we promise to signal each other if we’re feeling tempted, and we’ll immediately leave and take a walk?” If it’s not a relationship but just a date, have your escape route figured out yourself. Where can you go to cool down? Is there someone you can call to talk you through it? Do you have a memorized prayer to say on the spot?

Don’t throw in the towel. What if you mess up? Does that mean you already crossed the line and should just give up and go for it? Nooooo. This is like any other sin. If you fail, you admit you’re human and need God’s help. You ask for forgiveness. Repent. And commit to God’s plan in the future. If you mess up again, rinse and repeat. God isn’t giving up you, so don’t give up on Him. Just recommit to purity.

Is staying pure until marriage impossible these days? Is it too hard to wait? Actually, Jacob waited for Rachel for seven years (see Genesis 29). SEVEN YEARS. In the face of that, do we have any good excuse?

What we do have is a Savior. We cannot do this on our own, so seek out all the Christian resources you need to stay sexually pure. Pray to God, study scripture, seek accountability. And may God bless you accordingly.

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ ” Luke 18:27

Wait, Who Is Supposed to Submit to Whom?

I’m sure you’ve heard the hullabaloo about women submitting in marriage. It’s a topic that churns through conversations and the blogosphere with people taking hard-core stances on either end or at some point on the continuum between.

If you want to know where I stand, I believe in submitting to my husband. I do it often. Not simply because of Ephesians 5:22-24, which often gets quoted here. It’s just part of honoring my husband more than myself (Romans 12:10), considering his interests (Philippians 2:3-4). and having a love that is patient and not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). But my husband doesn’t push his way around me either — he is also in favor of showing honor, considering my interests, and acting in love.

Which brings me to my point today. The verse that comes right before the passage on how wives and husbands should treat each other is this one:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

For most marriages, both spouses would do well to take this to heart.

The word translated submit is the Greek word hupotasso — a Greek military term that meant to arrange troops under a leader’s command. But in non-military use, it connoted voluntarily giving in, cooperating, taking responsibility, or carrying a burden. If the word submit, with all its modern-day baggage, rankles your nerves, consider a synonym: concede, defer, surrender, yield.

In so many ways, we can find areas to yield to one another in marriage. Most of us marrieds have argued over stuff that just didn’t matter when we could’ve deferred to our spouse. Or we’ve treated their concerns with closed ears, instead of surrendering our time and attention to their needs and longings. We’ve held onto our own sense of being right or being mistreated, instead of conceding that our spouse has plenty of their own reasons to be upset.

Let’s take the subject I write about: sex in marriage. How are you doing submitting to one another when it come to sexual intimacy?

I’ll clue you in, based on some of what I hear. You’re not submitting to your spouse out of reverence for Christ if you are:

  • Demanding sexual acts you know are upsetting to your spouse
  • Ignoring your spouse’s need and desire for physical intimacy
  • Pursuing your own pleasure, with no regard to their pleasure
  • Fighting constantly about sex

You may well have legitimate concerns. I agree those should be addressed. But you still don’t get a blank check to ignore the scriptures about loving and submitting to one another. Remember you’re not submitting because your spouse deserves it — maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t — but “out of reverence for Christ.”

And ultimately, your submission is to the Father Himself:

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God.” James 4:6-7a.

The beauty is that when we submit our will to God and yield our selfishness to serve our spouse, we reap the benefits. Here and now, or maybe there and later. But blessings come.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

I believe many marriages and marriage beds would be improved by keeping the verse about submitting to one another in our minds and hearts. That’s why I’ve chosen Ephesians 5:21 as this week’s marriage memory verse.

Commit this scripture to memory and let it guide your heart as you move through marriage.

Memory Verse 1-27-16

Memory Verse Help

This is a trick someone shared with me, which I used to help my elementary age kids learn their multiplication tables. I posted sums on the windows, then stated a multiplication problem and let my kid shoot his Nerf gun dart at the right answer.

You can do the same thing for memory verses. Just print out each word on a piece of paper or write the words on post it notes and tape them to your window or a wall. Grab a Nerf gun or foam ball or even rubber bands you can shoot with your fingers.

Then shoot the words in order of the verse, again and again, saying the words aloud as you go. Making memorization into an interactive game with encourage you to practice and help you recall the verse.

Hey, my teenage boys still know their multiplication tables. It works!

Nerf Gun Memory Verse

That’s a NERF gun. I promise!

Is Valentine’s Day Too Much Pressure?

I write about marriage and sexual intimacy, which means that when Valentine’s Day rolls around, I should be encouraging all that lovey-dovey stuff, right? Yet my marriage is in the camp of those who really don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, except for maybe a greeting card and an extra kiss.

Truth is, I’m not very excited about any of the holidays that involve gifting. Maybe that’s because gift-giving is #5 on my list of the 5 Love Languages. But in my case, that’s okay — because it’s #5 on my husband’s list too.

For many of you, that is not the case.

Is Valentine's Day Too Much Pressure?

Sometimes both spouses are right there on the same page about holidays and gift-giving, but oftentimes we’re not. You may not care about this holiday and yet be married to someone who believes that Valentine’s should be properly hailed with professions of undying love, greeting cards and flowers, gifts the size of ring boxes, and a romantic dinner for two.

It’s a big deal to some people. Valentine’s Day spending is predicted to reach a record $18.9 billion — that’s right, billion — this year. And the average amount spent for a significant other is $128.90 for men buying and $62.47 for women buying. Yes, this means we ladies clean up compared to you guys, but isn’t your wife worth the extra $60? (Say yes.) By the way, that doesn’t count the dining bill.

Isn’t that a lot of money? A lot of pressure?

What if you spend that $62 or $128 and your spouse isn’t thrilled with the day? Do you expect major points for effort? Do you at least think you should get sex on Valentine’s Day?

Let’s back up here and talk about how to take some of the pressure off this actually-very-sweet holiday. After all, who isn’t in favor of flowers, chocolate, and love?

Mutual understanding. You should talk with your husband or wife and find out how they view this holiday. Is it a big deal to them? Would they rather avoid it? Communicate about your desires and look for areas of agreement.

Although this is one area in which if it’s no big deal to you but really matters to your spouse, make an effort anyway. Gift-giving might be #1 on their Love Language list, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to shower your spouse with the love and affection they long for. You would appreciate if they did the same for you in an area you care about.

Realistic Expectations. If you’re not a millionaire, you cannot purchase dozens of roses, hire the limousine, go out to a five-star restaurant, exchange fine jewelry, and stay overnight at a luxury hotel. And you shouldn’t expect that from your spouse. Likewise, if your husband is not an emotional millionaire, he will not suddenly become Romeo and Cyrano de Bergerac molded into one and sweep you off your feet with a romantic adventure worthy of the history books. He may not even remember which chocolates you like.

Remember this is a day about expressing love. Not reaching some unattainable romantic goal. You chose this person with all of their blessed quirks, and you love each other. Set your expectations according to the couple you are. If she isn’t a domestic diva, don’t expect the perfect candlelight dinner. If he isn’t a brilliant poet, don’t expect him to cite a sonnet. If she isn’t… Well, you get the point.

Line up your expectations according to your strengths. Don’t simply celebrate love on Valentine’s — celebrate each other.

Don't simply celebrate love on Valentine's — celebrate each other. Click To Tweet

Don’t keep score. Here are three ways we keep score on Valentine’s Day:

  1. We compare how we did to how our spouse did.
  2. We compare how our spouse did compared to prior Valentine’s Days.
  3. We compare how our spouse did to what we hear other spouses did.

And all of those comparisons are likely to lead to disappointment and resentment. Valentine’s Day performance shouldn’t be reviewed like you’re a love critic.

You’ll always find someone who did better, even your own spouse in a previous year. I could search YouTube right now and find Valentine’s Day videos that would make you wish your husband was as thoughtful as that guy or as sensuous as that woman. So what? You don’t know their whole story.

Besides, marriage isn’t about keeping score. Not on Valentine’s or any other day. Instead, adopt an attitude of gratitude for the spouse you have and the covenant you share. You want to keep score? Count how many generous things you can do for your spouse today. And then do it again tomorrow. That’s a more winning approach.

Take the long-term view. It’s a day. One day. Whether you nail it or blow it, your marriage is not comprised of a single day. It’s a blessing we long-married couples have — with all these days spent together, very few stand out alone. Rather, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, our marriage exists as an entire thing, not judged by any one day but by our perseverance, selflessness, and love in action.

We build our relationship day by day, but a single bad day — even Valentine’s — won’t kill it. And a single fabulous day — even Valentine’s — won’t rescue a failing marriage. We must take the long-term view and foster intimacy each and every day. Forgiving each other for the days that don’t go well, celebrating the ones that do, and praying God will infuse us with His love to spill over to our spouse.

Is Valentine’s Day too much pressure in your marriage? Maybe. But with some intentionality, you can ease some of that pressure and enjoy February 14 . . . and every other day in your blessed marriage.

Sources: U.S. News – Valentine’s Day Spending to Approach $19 Billion; Forbes – Valentine’s Day Spending Predictions That Might Surprise You