Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reflections on Thirty Years of Marriage-Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series.  To start at the beginning, .click here.  To go to Part 2, click here.

7. Great Marriages Have Partners Who Complement Not Compete-We live in an extremely competitive society here in the U.S.  Whether in sports, the marketplace, or politics, people are encourage to compete at a high level.  You've always got to outdo the other guy.  While that may be fine in some arenas, when this competitive attitude leaches out into marriage relationships, it can be deadly.  I've observed this spirit in some relationships, and its really sad to see.  One partner always feels like he or she has to put down the other.  As a result, the other partner has to come back with a zinger, a cutting remark, a disdainful look.  Our culture feeds into this dichotomy.  TV Shows, movies, pop and country music, all revel in the classic put-down.  When the wife really takes down the husband, that really brings out the laughs.  But its a real marriage killer.  Rather than compete, great marriages have spouses who complement each other.  The dictionary states that the noun "complement" means to be a "thing that completes or brings to perfection."  The verb "to complement" means to "add to something in a way that enhances or improves it."  (Don't confuse this with "compliment"-although those are nice too!)  I think both of these definitions say it well.  Although every marriage is a little different, in almost all cases there are areas where one partner is strong and the other is weaker.  You see, the old adage about your marriage partner being "your other half" is really true!  A great marriage is one that enhances the strengths of each partner and diminishes the weaknesses. In our case, there are so many examples, but here's one.  My wife Kathy is a quick thinker.  I kind of plod along.  This is why she can beat me to answers when we watch Jeopardy on TV, but I can usually beat her at Scrabble, since it doesn't have a timer. (OK, so we're a little competitive!)  In things that really count, I value her superior processing speed, which is one thing that makes her a great nurse and helps if we have some kind of family emergency.  She tells me that my more methodical, slow way of evaluating a situation provides a balance to her (very occasional!) tendency to jump to conclusions.  
8.   Great Marriages Survive the Changing Seasons of Life-When I hear someone say that my wife (or my husband) just isn't the same person I married, I think "so what?"  In a way, none of us are really the same person we were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago that we are today.  Circumstances in life certainly change quite often, and these have a tendency to change us in ways that we don't often realize.  So you just have to adjust.  This has happened multiple times in our marriage. Just this last year, Kathy completed nursing school.  I've been so proud of her for being able to fulfill a latent dream that she had since she was a little girl.  During her school years, we had to adapt to the demands of her working two part-time jobs while going to nursing school.  Now that she has graduated, she is working as a hospital nurse several evenings a week, while I hold down my day job at the tire shop.  We may go several days of barely seeing each other.  To compensate, we use phone, email, and text to keep in touch. And I've tried to leave her a few little "tokens of love" when she comes in at night, which has meant a lot to her.  Which brings me to my final thought...
9. Great Marriages "Keep The Fire Burning!"- When I was reading in Leviticus this morning (yes, there really are good things in Leviticus!), a verse really stood out to me that seems to fit here.  Referring to the priestly duties of tending to the altar, it says "The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out,..." (Lev. 6:12).  There are many ways to look at this, but one way that I see this is like a marriage altar.  In fact, in most weddings, the couple say their vows at an "altar."  In a sense, the "marriage fire" is stoked at that place.  But, like any fire, if it's not tended to, it just naturally goes out!  In ancient Israel, the priest had to stoke the altar fire every morning and every evening.  No matter the weather. No matter how he felt.  The fire still had to be stoked.  The same goes for the "altar of marriage."  No matter the season of life, the "marriage fire" has to be tended to.  Oh, and by the way, the wife is the one with the thermometer!  I can go along thinking that everything is great (I inherited the "clueless" gene from bygone generations of Nall men!), but somewhere along the line I find out from my wife that the gauge on our marriage is reading "Low Fuel."  To change the metaphor slightly, I'm about to run our "marriage car" out of gas, and I had no clue!  (Oh, here's something else I've found--the fuel that made the car run great yesterday is no good today. But it could take a whole post to explain this one.  Maybe later!)  So, when I get the "low fuel" sign (or hopefully before it gets that low), I have to find creative ways to stoke the fire.  And this goes both ways.  My wife has done a far better job than me to "keep the home fires burning."  But I'm working on it!

Bottom line on marriage.  Being married and walking through life with another person is one of the most rewarding things God has given us to experience in this life.   But marriage does not have an autopilot button.  Every day of our thirty-plus years together, Kathy and I have enjoyed being married to each other, but we've had to work at it.  And if the Lord grants us another thirty years like our friends from church, we'll have to work just as hard at it.  But its been worth every minute!

Want to read more?  Here's links to some of my more popular posts:
Lincoln & Obama-Two Views of Welfare
TR on Lincoln-The Great Statesman
Put It On My Account

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reflections on Thirty Years of Marriage-Part 2

This is a continuation of a post from last week.  Click here for Part 1. 
4.  Great Marriages Study Each Other-You should be an expert on your spouse.  If I'm going to please my spouse, I'm going to have to know her likes and dislikes, her strengths and weaknesses.  One of the things that helped us early on in our marriage was a tape (remember tapes?) we heard of Dr. Gary Chapman on "The Five Love Languages."  (If you'd like to know more about this, here's a link to his website:  We discovered that some of the difficulties in the early years of our marriage had to do with the way we expressed love to each other.  I thought I was loving her in doing things that made me feel loved.  She was trying to love me in ways that made her feel loved.  Sometimes, this can go on for years with neither spouse really making a connection.  One example from our marriage:  I would love her with words of affirmation, as in telling her "I love you" often.  This was a good thing.  Couples should say this to each other often and we do this multiple times a day.  However, what she was really needing was for me to SHOW HER that I loved her by listening to her, by spending quality time with her.  Now, I thought I was listening to her, but I wasn't LISTENING to her!  I was hearing what she had to say, but not really paying attention the way I needed to.  And she didn't feel loved.  In fact, she felt very unloved.  My words of affirmation (my Love Language) were actually galling to her at times because I wasn't spending quality time (her Love Language) with her the way she needed.  Believe me, this is something we're still working on!  And by no means have I arrived.  But I hope that I'm listening better than I used to.  
5   Great Marriages Accept Each Other For Who They Are-a mistake that young couples often make is to try to mold each other into the person they'd like for them to be.  When people get married, they soon make the startling discovery that their spouses have faults!  The natural instinct is to try to fix the faults.  However, this is almost always counterproductive.  In fact, many marriages founder in the first few years because they haven't been able to learn to love the person that they're married to, faults and all.     In our marriage, when we discovered each other's faults (my many, her few!), we just had to adjust our expectations.  Over the years, we've just learned (and are continuing to learn) to accept each other in our own skins.  We're comfortable in each other's presence because we love each other just as he or she is. 
6.  Great Marriages Are Strengthened Through Trials-Let's face it-this life is going to have trials.  In fact, Jesus promised that "in this world, you shall have tribulations..." (John 16:33).  We've had our share...struggles with raising kids (including the additional challenges of raising adoptive and foster kids), struggles with health issues, struggles with family problems, struggles with money (pretty much all 30 years!).  Any or all of these could have blown our marriage apart if we had let it. However, I believe our faith in Christ (see #1 above!) made these seeming obstacles actually become a reason for us to lean on each other.  Kathy and I were cooks for five years in a church summer camp.  Our pastor, who was also a cook, had made a canopy to put over the outside equipment that was a real bear to put up!  It took a whole crew of men to put that canopy in place.  However, I remember Pastor Mike saying that the design of the canopy was such that when it stormed and the rain blew, the canopy actually became stronger.  Because the foundation was solid, it wouldn't go anywhere. I got to see this for myself one evening when we had a whale of storm blow up.  It was a real toad strangler, as the old folks used to say!  After the storm, I went back to see the canopy.  Sure enough, it was right there like it had always been! Nothing ripped. Nothing torn. As good a condition as before.   I look at that canopy like a marriage rooted in Christ.  The troubles that might blow some away actually become a source of strength for those whose marriage has a firm foundation.  As we look back at all we've gone through, our marriage is stronger because we made it through all these trials together.  We know, that whatever we face in the future, we will face them together

Want to read more?  To Read Part 3, click here.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reflections On Thirty Years Of Marriage-Part 1

"...heirs together of the grace of life..." I Peter 3:7b 

Last November 26, Kathy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage.  That day in 1982 was a pretty unpretentious affair.  Neither of our parents had much money and neither did we.  The ladies from Mt. Paron Church in Fordyce, Arkansas helped decorate the church, a friend of the family made Kathy's dress, and I wore an old suit.  One of the members of the church paid for the reception, which was held in the lunchroom next door.  We had some friends who sang together make a tape for us of hymns, which we played as people came in, and they sang "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" a capella for the processional.

We had only known each other six months.  We were so young!  I was 18 and she was 21.  We had met at my home in Dothan, Alabama, when her dad brought her and the rest of the family on a preaching trip back in May.  I took my last exam in high school on a Thursday morning and met Kathy that afternoon.  I won't say it was love at first sight, but it was pretty close!  There was just something there between us from the very first.  I don't know how we knew this, but at the end of that week she was in Alabama, we knew that we were supposed to be together.  We were engaged at the end that week (although we kept it a secret for a month)   and married six months later.  Most people wouldn't look on this as a recipe for a successful marriage, but I can say that the results are in---it most definitely has worked out!

When I look around me at the cultural landscape, I see a vastly different scene than the one of thirty years ago.  What was just beginning at that time, has since become a tsunami of destruction towards marriage and family.  Commitment seems to be a forgotten virtue, replaced by self-fulfillment and individualism.  As a result, the landscape is littered with broken marriages and broken homes.  The idea of a man and woman in a life-long committed relationship seems hopelessly out-of-date, but it's the younger generation that is paying for the "new normal." Holidays become hopelessly confusing.  I remember talking to a man last November who was telling me about his son and daughter-in-law trying to make four different Thanksgiving dinners because of two sets of divorced parents.  This is all too common now.  As a result of this, young people are eschewing the very idea of marriage and adopting live-in arrangements (what used to be derisively called "shacking up). In most of these unmarried households, the "'til death do us part" commitment is replaced with "I'll fulfill your needs as long as you fulfill my needs!"

But is there a better way?  I think so.  As a matter of fact, after thirty years of sharing life together, I can say that I know so!  There is something about a committed relationship that is wonderfully freeing.  You don't have to worry about whether that person is going to be around a year from now or ten years or twenty years.  We both know that, by God's grace, we'll be together until the Lord decides to take one of us home.  But, does a committed relationship just happen?  Is it just because we were just that right match that we somehow by accident ended up thirty years together?  We have a couple in our church that has been together sixty years, doubling our longevity.  Do you think that just happened to them?  Certainly not!  I believe there are some principles that under gird most successful marriages that have largely gone unrecognized.  I'd like to share some of these principles with you here:

  1. Great marriages have a firm foundation.  That foundation of our marriage, and the only one that I've found to survive the test of time, is faith in Christ.  Our faith is our bedrock.  It's what most binds us together and what makes our marriage work.  In fact, scripture teaches that marriage itself was put in place to show the love of Christ for His church (Eph. 5:25).  Our marriage is not just here  for us.  It's actually kind of a word picture of what Christ and his church are supposed to be on this earth.  Christ unselfishly gave himself up for his church so that she would be a "radiant church-without stain or wrinkle..." (Eph 5:27)  We are called to love each other in an unselfish manner.  Which brings me to the next principle.
  2. Great marriages display unselfish love.  As a husband, my attitude cannot be that "my wife is around to fulfill my every need."  I'm not looking for her to make me "feel good about myself."  However, my attitude is to love her completely and unconditionally, regardless of her response.  I referred to Eph 5:25 above.  Here's the whole verse:  "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."  I'm to give myself up for her.  She's to give herself up for me.  A great marriage is found when both of these things happen. Yet, my attitude simply cannot be, "Well, I'll give myself for her if she gives herself up for me.  My love for her is unconditional.  And I'm thankful that her love for me is unconditional.  
  3. Great marriages make each other the focus of their lives.  As a Christian, Kathy knows that Christ is my #1, but that she is my #2.  And I'm thankful that I'm her #2 as well!  So, outside of our devotion to Christ, we are the focus of each other's lives.  She tries to please me.  I try to please her.  When our kids were little, they were a vitally important part of our lives.  However, they had to take a back seat to our marriage.  This may seem wrong to some people.  It seems like you should sacrifice yourselves for your kids.  In some ways, this is right.  We as parents will go to all ends to make sure our children our safe and secure.  However, Kathy and I knew that without a strong marriage in place, our children would suffer.  I see so many couples make the terrible mistake of making their children the focus of everything.  The children are the byproduct of the marriage-not the other way around.  Your love for each other came before the kids came. Without a strong marriage, not only do the adults suffer, but the kids suffer too.  Moms, there's nothing more important that you can do for your kids than to love their dad.  Dads, there's nothing more important that you can do for your kids than to love their mom.  There's just no doubt that kids thrive in a home where their parents abound in love for each other as well as for their kids.  Additionally, how are your children going to know what a great marriage is if they don't see it in your marriage!  In our case, I'm convinced that one of the things that Kathy and I had going for us was that we saw great marriages in our homes growing up.  My parents were married for forty-two years before my mom passed away and Kathy's parents will soon celebrate fifty-three years together.  We saw how it worked growing up.  Do your kids see how it works in your home?
What to read more?  Here's a Link to Part 2 

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Free Pastor Saeed!

Many of you may be aware of the recent plight of the Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was unjustly imprisoned in Iran for three years after his conversion to Christianity.  Thankfully, because of an outpouring of international support on his behalf, he was freed recently.  You may not be aware that there is actually an American pastor who is now being held in Iran.  His name is Saeed Abedini.  He was born in Iran, and became part of the house church movement there after his conversion to Christianity in 2000.  He left Iran in 2005 to escape persecution and became an American citizen in 2010.  He has made numerous trips back to Iran since then.  Last September, he was arrested in Iran while on a humanitarian mission to help build an orphanage.  In January, he was sentenced to eight years in Iran's most notorious prison.  His charge was that he has been “creating a network of Christian house churches” and, therefore, “attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam."  He is being tortured in prison as I write this.  Although our government has been very slow in responding to this outrage, Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a strong statement on his behalf.  But, of course, much more needs to be done.  

I would ask you to consider doing the following, which I have done:

  • Please pray daily for Pastor Saeed and his precious family
  • Please sign the petition from ACLJ to free Pastor Saeed:  You can access this from this link:
  • Consider writing the U.S. State Department and White House on behalf of this pastor
  • Please share this post with your Facebook and Twitter friends

I believe that if enough people respond, this pastor will be released.  Just imagine if this were you, your husband, your son, your father.  Wouldn't you work tirelessly to get him out?  I ask you in Christ's name to do what you can.  Thanks and God bless you!

P.S.  For more information about this, please read or listen to Eric Metaxas' excellent commentary on Pastor Saaed's imprisonment. You can also listen to an emotional interview with Pastor Saeed's wife from this website.   Here's the link:

3-1-13  Update-ACLJ has now recorded over 300,000 signatures in a petition to bring about Pastor Saeed's release. You can still sign this petition by clicking the link above.  His wife has recently written a moving letter on behalf of her husband.  You can access a link to her reading of this letter here.  Please continue to pray for this pastor and his family!

3-14-13 Update-ACLJ is now approaching 500,000 signatures!  Tomorrow, 3-15-13, there will be a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill on Pastor Saeed's situation.  ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, among others will be testifying.  Please help them get to 500,000 signatures and pray for this hearing!

Want to read more?  Here's links to some of my more popular posts:
Lincoln & Obama-Two Views of Welfare
TR on Lincoln-The Great Statesman
A Christmas Story-Put It On My Account
Reflections On 30 Years of Marriage-Part 1

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