Monday, January 26, 2015

Marriage Matters

Wayne and I were in Fort Pierce, Florida trying to collect information on a former boss with whom he’d lost contact. We discovered he lived to be ninety-seven and the obit said he and his wife “had a beautiful marriage for sixty-six years.

I knew him during a time when their relationship wasn’t problem-free, but forgiveness and vulnerability and commitment restored it and made it beautiful. I was delighted to learn they made it to the victory lap.

As a marriage and family counselor for many decades I’m always interested in principles to help marriages stay strong. I recently heard the pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale say the key can be summed up in two words no secrets - total honesty. Truth-telling requires being emotionally vulnerable, opening your heart wide and only to your spouse.

A few days ago I heard from a woman who gave my women’s book now titled Loving Every Minute, 52 Ways to Live, Laugh & Love As A Woman to a female relative. She said the principles in it saved her marriage. This was more than a little thrilling to hear. Man in Command is the corollary book for men with principles to keep the family connection strong.

Wayne and I are fifty-two years into this thing called love and my advice to couples is hang in there for the long haul. It’s so worth it when you can share the memories of a lifetime together.

Don’t give up the joys of a lasting marriage for a momentary infatuation, sexual thrills or because you have personal struggles needing to be resolved. Ask for help from a pastor, a mature couple at church, read some helpful material, seek out counseling or do all of the above. Pray together even if you don’t feel like it - that's powerful too.

You can fall in love over and over again with the same person!!!

1 Peter Chapter 3 contains everything you need to know about love and respect for your spouse.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pie, Art and Angels

I was checking out pies in the bakery section of Winn-Dixie when a dignified elderly lady scooted over in her electric cart. She commented on how expensive the pumpkin pies were and I agreed. I ran into her minutes later near the donuts and she asked if I could do her a favor. I said I’d be happy to if I could.

She said her church had suggested everyone do something special for a stranger and could she give me $10. Before I stammered out a reply she opened her wallet and handed me the bill.

I was wide-eyed to say the least. We chatted briefly about her church and I shared that I was a Christian author. Might she want to choose someone else? No I was to be the one. What a sweet, gracious gift from God. I want to do something special with the money. The Salvation Army fund? Cookies for local police to encourage them and thank them? I’m praying. Lord, what would you have me do?

“In me and through me and for me” keeps running through my mind. In Christ and through Christ. We are receivers so that we can be givers. We give and receive again and again and the cycle never ends.

Just a few days before I’d been privileged to give a gift to a man named Lawrence. Wayne and I met Lawrence at a local marina. He was drawing a picture on his sketchpad of a moored boat. I noticed he'd only done a few although he seemed quite talented. Perhaps he hadn’t been at this long?

As we chatted I learned two months ago Lawrence went back to church after a forty-year absence. He said being there broke his depression and renewed his enthusiasm for life. He’d found a community of people who cared about him - another artist he met there encouraged him to take up drawing again. Happiness rippled from Lawrence. He was thrilled when I gave him a print copy of my Breathless Mini-Meditations to encourage his spiritual life.

Last week I gifted a print copy of my women’s book to a young mom I met on the beach with her three children. Watching her eyes light up was a gift to me.

It’s the unexpected that makes us feel special – that someone singles us out for no purpose but to bless us. Isn’t that being Christ in the world?
Or perhaps angels on assignment?

Giving and receiving. Christ came and gave all his love, all his life so that we might give with abandon. We need only see and speak to the saints and sinners and angels we meet in the course of our “ordinary” days to make our days truly extraordinary.

May something good happen through you and to you today and every day in 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Python, Lizard and Me

There we were bound up with a Burmese python wrapped around my husband and me as I'm trying to hold the snake’s head with its tongue flicking every which way.

And the trainer says “We may not be able to bring the bearded dragon lizard into the picture” and I say “Oh I hope you can, that’s my granddaughter’s favorite.” Knowing the trainer put it in the previous picture I’m thinking why not. So the trainer adds it to the mix of small alligator and huge snake even though he’d rather not.

Me? I’m thinking I included snakes in my latest novel Bullet in the Night and what a fun picture this will be to send my editor and post on my author page.

And the trainer says, “Sorry I need to be in your picture. I don’t like the way this snake is acting.” I say “Oh do you have to?” because he wasn’t in the other family’s picture. Meanwhile he tries to ease himself over to the edge. But the snake’s not liking this so the trainer grabs hold of its head.

I’m totally clueless that we’re getting into a situation of real danger here. This python has already been posed for eight other family pictures and is sick of this.

Suddenly the trainer says, “That’s enough. I’m taking the python out.” We all groan. And only later I see in the snapshots that the python is starting to squeeze itself around my husband’s leg and that head is looking for something to bite and my shoulder is right there. How do you remove a python squeezing your limb fast enough? Chop it away? And even if it’s not poisonous do I really want all those snake teeth in my arm? Plus who wants being a snake killer on their conscience?

I wake up the next day in a cold sweat thinking how close we all were to danger. And then I’m thanking God for protecting me in my impulsiveness at times when I insist on having things my way. Even as I’m trying to teach our ten-year-old grandson the beauty of submitting to authority – that adults and people in charge know better and that’s why they must be obeyed.  I’m thinking how I wanted this picture of God’s awesome creatures my way – I was casually insisting while I should have been hanging on every word of the trainer.

One of several New Year’s resolutions I'm making is to listen more carefully. To check for the yes’s and no’s of God. To move forward and retreat at His command. And control my willful urge to have my way and consult Him for direction later.

I’m also thinking of not asking people “How are you doing?” Instead I may start asking “How are you being?” After all isn’t that more important? Aren’t we all focused on the to-do stuff more than the to-be stuff? Like to-be submissive to the will of God, full of gratitude even during adversity and always mindful of the needs of others.

The trainer got us another snake. We finished the picture shoot with this small snake wrapped around our granddaughter’s neck. 

The picture makes me smile now. I wanted big and we got little but with it came safety and happiness.

Can anybody relate to this?

Men if you’d like a few suggestions to help with your husbanding and fathering this year check out my ebook Man in Command. At 99 cents it’s the richest investment you’ll make in your life.

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Saddened by Recent Events

Is there anyone who hasn’t been saddened by the recent events in our nation? I won’t comment on recent rulings best left to those who examined factual evidence in each case. But what can we glean moving forward to prevent reoccurrences of such tragic situations?

It’s clear as a society we’re failing to universally teach basic principles of moral behavior and respect for the law. Not all parents, grandparents, relatives, school teachers, etc. have succeeded in impressing youthful and adult citizens that stealing is wrong, breaking the law is intolerable and violating the law will have consequences.

Parents have a responsibility to discipline their children and train them wisely. This is the purpose in my book Soaring As A Parent, Secrets To Being Great and yes I’m giving it a plug because many parents are well-meaning but don’t have effective strategies which is why I present clear methods. The book is available on amazon.

Grandparents or other relatives can also step in to assist parents or take over if parents are unable to perform this role. My book Secrets To Being A Super Grandparent helps them teach wise behavior. Also available on amazon.

Moving forward I suggest three immediate strategies.
1) Teaching the Ten Commandments in every classroom and on the walls of every home. Leaders within every culture should support this. What’s not to like about teaching not to lie, not to steal, not to covet what belongs to someone else? Some children currently grow up not learning moral behavior. Post the Ten Commandments in businesses. Display them in public places and demonstrate them by how we adults live.

2) Preventing a widespread disrespect for the countless men and women in blue uniforms who risk their lives every day to protect citizens will occur. Our police need affirmation not condemnation. I advocate instituting “Cookies for Cops” to honor the good and faithful public servants who perform their jobs every day with the highest level of integrity. How about bringing a batch of cookies to local police to honor them?

3) Those who foster political agitation are not serving the individual families affected or our nation well. The violation of law brings subsequent engagement of police if individuals breaking the law are black, white, brown or whatever. Leaders must not incite protests, but channel energy to positives outcomes like teaching we are one nation under the law. Every citizen who respects the law will avoid any confrontation with a potentially disastrous outcome. Let’s move forward with sympathy for those adversely impacted while we teach moral behavior to those who follow us.

What better time than now to discuss these issues and implement positive strategies that will benefit all citizens.

From the Bible, Message version, Romans 13:3-5:

"Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live."


Monday, November 24, 2014

Full of Thanks

Dear Family and Friends,

Full of thanks, how I hope so!!! If not thankfulness what might we be filled with in the daily circumstances of life?

It would be easy to fall into the trap of being full of bitterness, resentment, and regret. Bitter as in thinking our life is not as ”perfect” as another's that’s looking better, regretful as in thinking our kids don’t… or do…., angry that God isn’t fair. I smile at this, as if we humans could be God’s scorekeepers.

After enjoying many Thanksgiving celebrations now I’ve learned thankfulness is a daily resolution, a mind-set to help us rise up when the not-so-nice or just plain awful stuff happens to us. As well as a gulp of awe when amazing good enters our personal world.

Thankfulness includes my husband’s skin cancer of his lower lip that required three surgeries over the last three weeks including plastic reconstructive surgery. We didn’t like the chill that ripped over us when he heard the C-word, but the blessed hands that ministered to Wayne, the gracious, tender medical care he received were a joy to behold. Thanks be to God, he’s cancer free and looks normal again.

Our thankful attitude was challenged less dramatically by our kitchen sink and faucet hitting beyond repair status. Instead of just being "oh no something else on the list to deal with" this turned into a delightful encounter with the plumber who arrived to install the new one.  Our conversation went like this:

Plumber: “Lady your garbage disposal is old, it’s probably not going to work or be a tight fit after I disconnect it and reinstall. I’m just telling you I can’t warrant it and your counter top looks like it will crack when I take out the old one. I’ll do my best but I’m letting you know in advance plus if I have to enlarge the opening it’s another $75.
Me: “Okay, go ahead. I’ll pray it goes well.”
Plumber: “For this you better go to church to pray. You’ve got old pipes under here.”
Me: Laughing. “God is everywhere even in my kitchen.”
Plumber afterward: “I’m really surprised how well that went.”
Me: Smiling. “I told you prayer works. God cares about everything even my sink.”

But best of all, I also had a chance to talk this kind young plumber briefly about his wife studying to be a nurse and his five--year-old daughter. And give him a paper copy of my Emotional Intimacy Reviver Tool of questions for close conversation so he and his wife can grow their marriage strong. (It's free on my website. Click here to print out a copy.

Would I have believed God was responsive even if my husband’s body wasn’t cancer-free again and the sink install wasn’t so smooth ? Actually yes. Thanksgiving comes from learning to trust God has a plan and purpose in all things which ultimately work together for our good. I’ve had a full lifetime of witnessing this.

WE/I receive huge benefit from being thankful. Is this why the Scripture verse “In everything give thanks to God for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5: 18 is included in the Bible? At first it doesn’t seem to make sense. Everything? Isn’t this a doozy to meditate on. Yes it’s true, accept what can't be changed, yet it doesn't mean we don't take action to right obvious wrong.

Blessed Happy Thanksgiving this Thursday and every day of your life. This is our wish for you, for all of us, as we appreciate God’s creation of turkeys and celebrate being with people we love who enrich our world. 

(Dan's wife Stephanie shot this picture three days ago of a fun Saturday night game night. We do love our board games!)