Start Your Summer off Right with these 3 Easy Steps

devotional_couple eating watermelon.jpgMemorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer … and while we never want to forget to reflect and honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms; we also recognize that it is a time when school is out … the kids are home and regular routines are often shattered … and the challenges of summer vacation loom ahead.  Here are three thoughts to help you get the most out of your summer season …

Manage your expectations: Sometimes we want to get a year’s worth of work, relationship building and family fun all crammed into the three months of summer. I know Karen and I have planned a special biking or kayaking event for every Wednesday this summer … it is ambitious and failure to hit those targets will probably create some personal and relational stress. 

So, keep your expectations reasonable … set some goals for your time together as a couple and as a family … make sure you get to spend some quality memory making one on one time with each of your kids … and if you can … send them off to camp for a week so you can carve out some special time to reconnect as a couple!

Share the load:  if your to-do list of summer jobs around the house has been piling up … you might want to start your summer off with a little sit down meeting to divide the tasks … your goal is to distress the yard, garden and house maintenance before they become more of an aggravation … than inspiration.

It’s too easy to say hey I’m on vacation … this is me time. Instead, the right thought is … “many hands make light work” … but my hunch is that you will discover that working together to accomplish a common goal is a very powerful relationship building activity.

Have some fun!  Hey all work and no play does not make for a fun summer … so be sure to schedule some fun things to do together … they don’t need to be expensive ... water balloon fights … backyard hot dog roasts … walks or bike rides … and my favorite … trips to the local ice cream parlor … will always be a fun time.

So start this holiday weekend … by honoring those who have defended us … and by planning to make this a memory making summer!

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Is Your Home a Shelter in the Time of Storms

devotional_creating a safe home.jpgA few years ago my wife Janeen and I began the process of opening our home to foster children ... and after going through countless hours of training, it became apparent there was one overarching theme – Safety … both emotionally and physically. These foster kids coming from challenging environments needed to instantly know they could feel safe.

Our house went through a physical inspection … requiring us to lock medication in cabinets, plug electric outlets and have a fire extinguisher on premise.

Emotionally, we had a script of what to say … and how to say it … so we could instantly let a young child feel safe.

While the analogy isn’t perfect … it got me thinking about whether or not we create a safe environment in our home for our spouse.

Our world is increasingly unsafe.

Demands on our time at work … the pressure to produce … pending layoffs or looming deadlines … beat us down on a regular basis.

Exaggerated expectations to have the best behaved … most well-rounded … highly skilled children cause us to overload our schedules creating undue stress on everyone!

So what do we do?

Here’s 4 simple ways to make your home a safe place.

1st – Slow Down – We all love excitement, but stress kills … literally. Stress erodes our patience, our ability to give our spouse our best, and our health. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can usually find ways to make our lives less stressful … so do it!

2nd –Reduce the complaints … and increase the compliments. When we reinforce positive behavior … we get more positive behavior. Reinforce negativity … and that’s what continues. Make a concerted effort to give multiple compliments … every day!

3rd – Provide Financial Security – This doesn’t mean you need to have a million dollars in the bank … but it does mean you need to understand your finances and live within your means. Create a budget ... stick to it … and reward yourselves for the hard efforts to fight materialism!

Finally – Demonstrate Unconditional Love – I John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” This is a love that accepts imperfections … doesn’t hold grudges or keep a marriage scorecard … forgives freely and focuses on your spouse’s best interests.

If you work on these four … you’ll soon find your home a haven of rest and security!

By Jeffrey Kime
Executive Director
House on the Rock Family Ministries

 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


4 Questions to Becoming a Better Spouse

devotional_becoming a better spouse.jpgLiving in a world of crumbling marriages, you’ve probably asked yourself the question: “Am I a good spouse?”  If you are like me you say, “I am better than average,” … but what does that mean?  And, do I only want to be just better than average?  The real question is, “How I can become the best spouse?”  So, here are four questions that will help you answer that big one:

Am I keeping my spouse my top priority?  It’s too easy to put our jobs, kids, hobbies or anything else into the top priority slot of our lives.  When we neglect our spouses … we’re setting them up to look for attention somewhere else.  The follow up question to this one is, “If there is something in my life more important to me than my spouse … is that person, place or thing worth losing my marriage over?”

Am I still actively pursuing my spouse?  Many of us look at marriage as a “check the box” activity.  We get married … check the box … and move onto our next life goal.  To be a great spouse we need to keep actively wooing our mates.  Keep flirting, dating … and doing things that we did to win his or her heart before we were married.  Follow-up question, “What can I do today to win the heart of my spouse?”

Am I sharing more than I am hiding?  After years of marriage, couples easily fall into boring routines.  Heart-to-heart conversations quickly fade into mundane chitchat about day-to-day things.  Great spouses never give up on sharing their hearts with one another.  We need to get passed the, “How was your day?” and start opening up about what we’re really thinking and feeling.  Follow up question:  What’s an issue on my heart right now that I need to share with my spouse?”

Am I protecting myself from things that can harm or kill our marriage?  Our culture is filled with enemies who seek to destroy marriages.  Addictions, strong anti-marriage messages from family, friends and media, and selfishness top the list.  Don’t let a lack of personal discipline and self-control kill your marriage.  Follow up question, “What are you doing to guard against these invaders?  Who is holding you accountable?”

I hope that these four questions (and their follow-ups) will put you on the path to becoming the best spouse you can be!

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


What You Should Say When You Confront Your Spouse

devotional_couple talking to each other.JPGLast week we shared how to get ready for a spousal confrontation … and we ended by promising to talk about what and how we say what needs to be said this week.  So here goes:

Deal with one issue at a time.  Too often we go after the root issue by attacking a long list of symptoms.  Rather than confronting all of individual lies … or not having access to cell phones … or experiencing a constant unwillingness to share details of their day, start by grouping all of those offenses into the big category of trust-busting activities.  The root issue that needs to be addressed:  “I can’t trust you!” 

Attack the problem not the person:  starting your confrontation off with a “You” statement like, “You are a liar and are up to no good … you’re always hiding things from me … will result in your spouse not hearing the issue you want to address. Instead, he or she will hear and respond to the personal attack of being a dishonest liar.  Which isn’t going to help either of you solve the problem!

A better way to address your issue is to use “I” statements.  “I am not feeling safe right now in our marriage … I am having trouble trusting you … because you have not been truthful … I would appreciate knowing where you are and what you’re doing. Can you feel the difference?

You have stated how you feel … why you feel that way … and what your spouse can do to remedy the problem …

Pick the right time and place:  You don’t want to have this conversation when tempers are flared, time is rushed and kids are present.  You are ready to talk about a problem when you can pray together before you talk about it.  Start by asking, “Can we have a safe conversation about something that is important?”  Safe means you are both ready to speak and respond appropriately.    If the answer is yes … start with a short prayer for wisdom and patience and then begin with your “I” statement script.

Don’t go too long.  Confrontations are uncomfortable for both of you.  Once you have made your point, ask your spouse to reflect back what you said and how you feel.  When you believe your spouse fully understands, give him or her a chance to respond.  This is not a time to argue or debate.  It is not a time to demand or wait for an apology.  It is a time to understand what and how both of you are feeling.  If you can work forward to a peaceful solution keep going … if not …

End your time by thanking your spouse for caring enough to listen.  Hopefully an apology comes … but you want it to be from the heart and not just to get out of the heat of the moment. 

The bigger payoff is the intimacy that will grow because of your ability to resolve a conflict in a loving and understanding way! 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


4 Ways to Prepare Before You Confront Your Spouse's Sinful Behavior

devotional_being prepared.jpgEvery couple will come to a point where one spouse will have to confront the other regarding an issue that is negatively affecting their marriage.  Let’s be honest, nobody likes to be involved on either end of a confrontation.  But if you find yourself having to confront your spouse here are some vital steps to prepare yourself:

Prepare your heart:  Matthew 7:5 tells us to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from our spouse’s.  Nobody is without sin … so ask the Lord to forgive you for any sin that has infected your life because of the issue and to give you the wisdom, boldness, humility and gentleness that you will need to work through this process. 

Prepare your proof:  by “documenting” the destructive behavior.  Matthew 18 explains that we may need witnesses to help back our confrontation.  If you have people who have seen, or experienced, the issue being confronted invite them to be a part of the process.  If you don’t have people witnesses … do you have any other “proof” like financial statements, screen shots, photos or videos that may come to your aid if your spouse refuses to acknowledge the destructive behaviors?  The goal is not to shame your spouse but to verify the reality of the issue.

Prepare the desired action plan and potential consequences:  What is the desired outcome of your confrontation and what will you do if your spouse refuses to take the action you desire?  For example, if there is abuse going on … you want to inform your spouse that you and the kids will be leaving for safety reasons and will not be returning until he or she has completed a professional treatment program.  If there is some illegitimate contact with another person, those means of communication must be broken and accountability employed.  If it is an addiction … what treatment plan?  Don’t confront without clearly stating your expectations of desired outcomes and changes of behavior.

Prepare your script:  You want to carefully plan for what you need to say and how you want to say it.  Every message has a fact and feeling side … as well as a verbal and non-verbal component.  Strive to make sure you are communicating your facts and feelings appropriately; and make sure your non-verbals (body language and tone of voice) match the words you speak.  If you shout an attack, you will probably experience a loud counter attack ... and your confrontation will quickly deteriorate into a blame game.  So, before you confront, write a script of what and how you want to share your concern … and then practice, practice, practice.  This will pay off when you actually start to share with your spouse. 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Spring Cleaning Our Marriages

devotional_spring cleaning couple.jpgWith this nice weather comes that annual tradition of spring-cleaning.  Karen is always eager to open up the house and give it a good shake.  My job is the garage … I open the door and literally take everything out so I can sweep the floor and put everything back where it belongs. 

As I was doing this, I couldn’t help asking myself: “How can we spring clean our marriages?”  Because if you’re like me, we all get lazy and let clutter accumulate in our marriage that needs to be cleaned out.

Here are 5 areas in our marriages that may need a little spring cleaning:

Our hearts: 

The dreariness of winter often leads many of us into the state of mutual co-existing.  Two people living under the same roof but not connecting with each other.  We begin to feel more like roommates than spouses.  We need to dust off our lack of appreciation and complacency to reactivate our patience, kindness and gentleness. 

Our speech: 

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 15:18, there is a direct link between our hearts and our mouths.  So, when our hearts aren’t clean … our speech isn’t either!  It’s too easy for non-loving words, or words that don’t build each other up to slip into our marriages.  We need to clean up our conversations by making sure the things we say to our spouses are in love and will build up and not tear down.

Our actions:

Remember those days when you couldn’t do enough to win the love of your spouse … those special acts of kindness, the gifts you bought … where have they gone?  They’re probably buried under years of real life mess and need to be rediscovered so we can reactivate those loving actions.

Our calendars:

Calendars attract clutter and priorities get disorganized.  Kids, family, work and everything else crowd out our time alone together as couples.  Don’t let this happen; declutter your schedule to make time for each other.

Our needs and wants:

Having trouble seeing through the selfishness of not having your needs and wants met?  Truth is … we can’t see that we are neglecting our spouses’ needs too!  So, let’s ask God to scrub those thoughts out of our minds so we can see our spouses’ needs.  When we work at polishing our spouses’ emotional, physical and spiritual needs they will reflect back a willingness to meet ours. 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Is Netflix Hurting Your Marriage

devotional_Netflix-on-screen.jpegWith Netflix hovering around 100 million subscribers and growing at record rates … my hunch is that many of you can relate to this scenario.

My wife Janeen and I have six children. After getting them to bed in the evening, we’re usually emotionally and physically spent. We’d heard of friends “binge watching” shows … and about three years ago decided to give it a try. It didn’t take long till we were hooked! The shows were captivating … and the plots enticed us …

Quite honestly, it was a lot of fun … something we looked forward to … and it became our evening ritual.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t realize, was that our communication with each other was slowly turning into something boring, predictable and dangerous.

Instead of talking about our thoughts, dreams and emotions … we scurried the kids to bed so we could mindlessly sit in front of a screen and be entertained.

The highlights of our conversation were, “Wanna watch another one?” “Pause the show, I need a bathroom break” and “What kind of snacks do we have?”

The results of our new venture? Too many nights of staying up way too late … and a lack of motivation to do anything different.

How did we break out of this trap?

Thankfully, a little over a year ago, Janeen timidly approached me with the desire to start a home based business. It would entail an investment to buy inventory … and would require my help in the evenings to keep things running smoothly.

I knew we needed a change … and after looking over the business plan … agreed this was for us!

Our routine drastically changed … after putting the kids to bed, we’d spend an hour or two working side by side on this business. We started sharing our thoughts, ideas and dreams. We brainstormed together … and the emotional, physical and spiritual connection in our marriage grew much more than we ever anticipated.

Do we still watch shows on Netflix … yes, but we’ve re-aligned our priorities to keep it in its proper place!

How about you? Do you need to reevaluate how much time you’re being “entertained?” Is there something you can do to get you out of the rut you’re in?

I promise you, that time spent with your spouse … will reap far greater rewards … than time spent in front of a screen.

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


A Time for Change

devotional_time for a change.JPGA number of years ago, my wife said to me, “Do you realize the way you wake up in the morning and the attitude you display, sets the tone for our family for the rest of the day?”  This wasn’t a compliment…it was a criticism of the negative cycle my morning routine had become…and she was right!

Mind-sets are patterns where your mind automatically operates a certain way. That means you can set yourself up for misery by reacting to the same people and circumstances in the same way, and expecting different results….in essence, you claim to be a victim of your circumstances.

It took courage for my wife to lovingly confront me with constructive criticism that morning.  Sometimes it’s easy to ignore the concern or criticism of others — but I took my wife’s words seriously and determined that, if my attitude in the morning was going to set the tone for our family, then I wanted to be a blessing, not a drag on the family….and it worked!

Melody Beattie, in her book, The Language of Letting Go says that: “If you don’t like the same results…try pushing a different button. Look at your relationships. Is there a situation that’s going downhill despite your best efforts? Are you waiting for something to change, instead of doing something different? Stop pushing the same button, and ask God for clarity to see the situation honestly and to act with wisdom and responsibility.”

Ephesians 4:21-23 states:

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind…  

You are not a victim of circumstances; you don’t have to stay stuck or keep going round in circles.  Paul says, “Put off…your former conduct …and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Husbands and wives, Mom & Dad…the word for you today is: You can change!  Why not start now?  Let today be the beginning of victory for you and your family.

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Keeping a Short Leash with Your Spouse

devotional_dog leash.jpgWe work with many couples who are experiencing challenging marriages.  After they attend one of our intensives they realize how their marriage slipped slowly into the “crisis” situation that brought them to us … they let things get too far away from them … they didn’t keep a short leash on their marriage.  So, here are some thoughts to help us from letting things get too far away …

Keep a short leash on your relationship with God … Do not fall for all of the misleading messages within our culture that foster stinky thinking … Spend time in God’s Word and with His people … who will speak truth into your hearts and lives. 

Keep yourself in a right relationship with God …  The number one cause of marital separation is rooted in sin.  Remember the promise in I John 1:9: that if we confess our sin He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Keep a short leash on your marriage relationship

When the church at Ephesus fell from her first love … Jesus gave them the 3 r’s remedy … remember … repent … and return

So, take some time to reflect back and remember the good old days … when you were head over heels in love … hey, I know love is not just a feeling … but the committed relationship of a marriage is the best place to nurture and maintain loving feelings.

Repent … means to turn around …

So, if you are not feelin’ it … which is normal … stop and identify those things that are taking you away from each other … do an about face and start moving towards each other …

Finally return to the things you did at first … start acting as if you are trying to win the affection of your spouse’s heart all over again.  Do some of that dating behavior … a little flirting … a lot of talking … some cuddling … and see if those loving feelings don’t start coming back …

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Four Steps to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship

devotional_rebuilding-trust.jpgHere at House on the Rock we have couples in crisis calling and emailing us daily to learn about our marriage intensive retreats … because something foundational in their marriage has eroded away … something so important they’ve begun to wonder whether they can ever see eye to eye again … and so valuable that they’re willing to spend 25 hours with us over a weekend to try and rebuild it …

What is it you ask … TRUST!

Proverbs 10:9 states, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”

George MacDonald the Scottish novelist once said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”

If trust is so cherished in a marriage relationship, what can we do to build it up? Here’s four practical steps to help you begin!

Step One – Keep your Word. To the best of your ability, do what you say you’re going to do. If you promise to spend time with your spouse … do it! Promise to get a job completed … do it! Promise to be home at a certain time … make it happen!

Step Two – Be Transparent. This means having nothing to hide from your spouse. No hidden text messages … no hidden websites … no hidden finances … and one that couples often miss … no hidden emotions you’re not willing to share!

Step Three – Don’t Lie. It might sound trite and simple, but the reality is we all struggle with the truth. Whether it’s a blatant lie … “stretching the truth” … or letting your spouse believe something that isn’t true … it has no place in a marriage relationship.

And finally Step Four – Confess Promptly. The reality is that we’re not perfect people … and there’s gonna be times we don’t keep our word … we aren’t immediately transparent … or we lie. Instead of letting those situations fester and erode trust … quickly and appropriately confess your sins and mistakes.

The temporary pain of imperfection … combined with the goal of rebuilding intimacy will actually build a strong foundation of trust in your relationship.

 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


The Number One Predictor of Divorce in a Marriage!!

devotional_devo icon.jpgDr. John Gottman is one of America’s most prominent marriage researchers … he has spent decades studying marital relationships and what makes them thrive … and what causes them die.

He has identified what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse … saying that these four attitudes, when allowed to ride rough shod in marriages often prove to be fatal to the relationship.  The most ominous of these 4 marital marauders is contempt … that air of superiority that causes you to feel that you are better than your spouse. 

What’s scary is that contempt can ferment into a state of mind that your spouse is worthless … and can ultimately morph into an actual discarding of your spouse.

That’s why Gottman says that contempt is the “kiss of death” for marriages and is his number one predictor of divorce. 

Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying these contemptuous things?

You have never been a good husband/wife/parent/lover”
“You are not a real man/woman”
“My whole marriage is one big disappointment because you failed to . . . .”
“You call yourself a Christian but you are not even close . . .”
“I regret marrying you.  If I had known you; I would’ve never married you.”
“You have no clue how to please me !
“You disgust me”
“You are pathetic.”
“I have wasted most of my life being with you.”
“You are just like your mother/father'”

How do we overcome it?

First step is to get yourself right with God … contempt is not a fruit of the spirit … in fact it is something that God hates!  So seek forgiveness for your selfishness and arrogance … the root sins of contempt and ask Him to change your heart … and to give you the ability to see the good in the one you have married. 

Second, begin searching for and expressing gratitude for the positives in your spouse.  Paul commands us in Philippians 4:8 whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Now make it a new goal to share all those the good things about your partner with him or her … build him or her up private and in public … and watch that horrible horseman ride into the sunset

For more information about Contempt in Marriage ... watch our newest Fan the Flame Dates video below!

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


What is Your Tone of Voice Saying?

devotional_tone of voice.jpgWhen our children were small, I used to hear my wife speaking to our kids in a tone of voice that sounded like they were her worst enemies….but she couldn’t hear it!  And she would hear me speaking to our kids in a tone of voice that made her fear for the lives of our children….but I couldn’t hear it.

Unfortunately, this same habit, of a negative tone of voice, can easily carry over into our relationship as husbands and wives.  How many times has your spouse said to you, “Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice!

Proverbs 18:21 says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  In other words, the way we talk will reap the consequences of how we talk!

Did you know that only 7% of every message is the actual words spokenFacial expressions and body language make up 55% of the message.  And 38% of the message is the volume in which we speak, voice inflections and tone of voice!

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?  That’s a lie from the enemy of our soul.  Wars have been started, marriages have ended, families divided, and churches split….all because of words and how they are used.

Proverbs 15:4 says, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 12:18 tells us that, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Verbal abuse, intimidation, hateful speech should never be part of our marital relationships.  Let’s learn together to cherish, encourage and love our spouses by the way we speak to them.  Remember….God’s Word says that we need to speak the truth in Love!

 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Give Your Spouse a Valentine's Day Gift that Keeps on Giving

devotional_couple giving valentines day gift.JPGValentine’s Day is just around the corner … and you are probably thinking: “Oh boy, what am I going to get my spouse this year?”  You know that special gift that says: “I Love You …”

Just for fun I went out online and googled Valentine’s gifts … and found a site with over 300 to choose from.  I have to tell you … some were out of the box.  Two of my favorites were: the “I’m nuts about you” key chain … which is an eye bolt with the key ring going through it … and four different kinds of nuts screwed onto it. The second one was the “sea stone sponge rack” … three stones on a flat rock with a sponge propped up in between. 

I can see the look on my wife’s face opening either of those up … I’d be out in the dog house. 

So, if you’re in a quandary about what to get your spouse for Valentine’s Day let me make a recommendation. 

Think about a gift that will grow your marriage over the next 12 months.  Envision a gift that will give you some practical information that will enrich and strengthen your marriage.  See yourself spending some quality time together talking about your relationship; and here’s the best part … all of this is absolutely free and can be done in the privacy of your own home at a time that works best for you!

Sound like something you’d be interested in?  If so, go out to www.fantheflamedates.com … click on the “more” tag on the upper right corner … select “challenge” … and sign up for our One Year Challenge …

Here’s what will happen … every month you’ll get an e-mail reminder to watch one of our 5 – 10 minute marriage building videos.  We’ll provide you with some knee-to-knee nose-to-nose questions that will help you process and apply what you’ve learned.  Then sit back and enjoy the benefits of a meaningful connection. 

Go out right now and sign up … then write a love note telling your spouse that you are giving him or her 12 dates this year that will fan the flames of your marriage.

I guarantee the reaction will be better than the “I’m nuts about you key chain” …

 

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


How to Cheat in Your Marriage the Right Way

devotional_hand-cheating.jpgMy wife and I are in the throes of raising our 6 boys. 

As a stay at home mom, she shoulders many responsibilities and works hard to keep our house running smoothly. 

A few months ago, I was challenged to ask her one simple question ... "What’s one way I can help you with regards to our kids and family?"

Her response ... “Would you adjust your work schedule to be home when the kids get off the bus from school?”

My first thought … well that’s ridiculous ... I have to work during that time and I there’s always too much to do. 

Then a stinging rebuke hit me ... I had recently finished reading a book by Andy Stanley where he mentioned everyone wants more of your time and efforts. Your work wants more of you ... your kids want more of you ... your friends want more of you ... your wife wants more of you ... your hobbies want more of you ... and the list goes on and on.

The reality is that you can't please everyone. So … you have to choose who you will cheat.

My selfish desire was to say I need time at work. If I don't get things done ... they’ll be sitting on my desk for me the next day … I don’t want to look bad in front of the rest of the staff … I need to be successful at work!

It’s much easier to tell my wife that she’ll be fine with doing everything at home … and she doesn’t need my help.

Philippians 2:3-4 says to “Value others above yourself not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

Who’s interests should get the priority in my life? Who’s interests should I be putting first? … My Self … My Work … My Ego …

Or should I be valuing my wife and my family first?

Needless to say … I made the commitment to honor my wife and give her the first fruits of my time this year … and I can honestly say it’s made an unbelievable difference.

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


Are You Keeping Your Marriage Promises?

devotional_marriage promises.jpgI find it ironic that today’s headlines are about politicians wanting to keep their promises this year … as though it is an unusual thing to do.  Isn’t it amazing how we as a culture have become so lax in keeping our commitments? 

As followers of Jesus Christ, we can be thankful that we have a promise keeping Heavenly Father.  He has promised to never to leave us nor forsake us, to forgive us, and to deliver us from temptation and so much more. 

Since we’re commanded to love our spouses the same way Jesus loves us in Ephesians 5, we should be committed to keeping these promises that we made to one another as husbands and wives.  Let’s take a closer look:

God has promised “Never leave nor forsake” (Hebrews 13:5):  You probably made this vow on your wedding day … “to forsake all others,” and to “remain faithful until death do us part.” 

We think of this promise in the context of never geographically leaving or physically separating from our spouses; we should not abandon or desert them.  But, I believe there is so much more to this promise!  Unfortunately, at our Fan the Flame Marriage Intensives, we see couples who live in the same house but have deserted and abandoned each other emotionally, physically and spiritually.  This is not the oneness that God intended for us to enjoy; nor is it what we promised to one another. 

God has promised to forgive us. (I John 1:9):  It’s great to know that there is no sin God is not ready and willing to forgive us from!  We, as His children, are to be just as forgiving of those who “sin against us.”  So, don’t let hours of unforgiveness toward your spouse sneak into days … because those days too easily morph into months, years or decades!  God’s desire is for us to always be in a state of forgiveness and reconciliation … make it yours’s too.

God has promised to deliver us from temptation (I Corinthians 10:13):  So let’s not let the temptation to break the promises we’ve made to each other be successful.  Greater is He who lives in you than he who is in the world. 

 


Start Your Marriage Off Right in 2017

devotional_sparkler couple two.jpgThis is the time of year when we many of us make those infamous New Year’s resolutions; and we here at House on the Rock believe this is a great time to set some goals for our marriages … but this year we want to challenge you to do something a little more.  We’re encouraging you to perform a marriage audit by asking these four probing questions:

What are the strengths in your marriage?  What are the things you are doing well?  How’s your communication, conflict resolution, spiritual connection, physical connection, parenting together, money? 

Making a list of these things you feel good about will be an encouragement!  But now ask another question: What do we want to do to improve these more?  Jot down your ideas and then refine them into goals.

What are the weaknesses in your marriage?  What are the areas you want to improve?  Where are you experiencing problems?  What’s causing them?  This process can create some tension and disappointment be careful not to blame or shame.  Be sensitive to each other’s feelings and be sure to grant each other grace.  The purpose of this process is to develop a strategy for turning these weaknesses into strengths. 

You may decide you need to get some outside help to work through some of these issues … that’s OK … self-help is often an oxymoron!

What are the opportunities for your marriage this year?  Maybe the kids are old enough that you feel safe in leaving them with family or friends while you do something to build your marriage.  Like taking a special trip to spend some time alone together … or a chance to get to a marriage retreat or conference! 

Maybe you inherit some money that will help reduce or eliminate debt. What opportunities are coming your way that will strengthen your relationship?

What are the potential threats to your marriage?  Are you going to be facing the “empty nest”?  Are there employment or financial issues, parenting problems, or physical challenges that have the potential of weakening your marriage?  What are you going to to minimize their impact?  How can you eliminate some of them all together?

While the idea of an audit can be daunting … the discoveries from this process will be very helpful in building your marriage; and the key to a happy 2017 will be greatly impacted by the happiness of your marriage.

2 Weekends Marriage Retreats Available ... Grab 'em for Valentine's Day Before They Sell Out!!

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2nd Weekend at the Twin Pine Manor - February 3-5, 2017

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MARRIAGE INTENSIVES WITH HOUSE ON THE ROCK

Have you drifted beyond “discouraged” to “desperate?” Have you realized that your marriage is crashing and burning, and it won’t get better without help? We have help!

Your interest in a marriage intensive means that you believe there is still hope for your marriage. That’s all we ask … that you can still see a flicker of life … and have a willingness to fan that flame back into a meaningful marriage. You owe it to yourself, your spouse and your children to make that effort.

Acknowledging your need for an intervention … or a miracle … is the first step to transforming your relationship. You might believe you’re too far apart … too hurt and damaged … or too far gone to save your marriage. We believe that our time together can help you begin to stop the craziness so you can begin putting your relationship with God and each other back together again.

May we encourage you … before you choose to extinguish the flame of your marriage forever, to make at least one more try?

For more information about upcoming dates and pricing, simply go to: http://fantheflamedates.com/intensives


The Greatest Christmas Gift You Can Give This Year

devotional_rawImage.jpgDo you believe that God brings couples together for a purpose?

One of the lessons of the Christmas story is that God ordained that Mary would be the mother of Jesus; and that Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, would act as Jesus’ earthly father!  It was all in God’s plan that this special couple would usher in His great gift of salvation by parenting His Messiah together.  That’s incarnation … God becoming flesh … and living among us.

But the carrying out of salvation’s plan puts some unusual and powerful pressures on the young couple’s relationship.  You remember the story … Mary is pregnant … and Joseph knows he isn’t the father.  He’s devastated and embarrassed.  But, being a loving man of high character … he doesn’t want to publicly hurt or humiliate Mary.  So, Scripture tells us that he thought about putting her away quietly.  

But God intervenes … and speaks to Joseph through a dream and reveals His redemptive plan.  Joseph, a man of faith, believes and trusts that God’s strategy is the best one for their lives together as husband and wife and chooses to stay with Mary. 

Let’s think about that for a minute … if you’re married … God knew that the two of you would become life mates.  It makes sense then … that He had a purpose in bringing the two of you together.  So, the big question is: “What is that purpose?”

I believe that the primary purpose of all Christian marriages is the same one He had for Joseph and Mary … to usher in His gift of salvation to a sin filled world. 

You and I do that today by reflecting the nature and character of God by the way we do marriage.  Can all within our sphere of influence see God’s unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness by watching the way you treat each other?  That’s incarnation … letting people see God with skin on. 

Yes, our marriages will encounter some challenging times … just like Mary and Joseph did.  But our answer is the same.  We must believe that God’s plan for us to be together is to introduce our world to Jesus.

The greatest Christmas gift you can give this year … is to flesh out who God through your marriage … that's incarnation!

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Keep Christmas from Being the Most Stressful Time of the Year with Your Spouse

devotional_Christmas stress.jpgWe’ve all heard that song … it’s the most wonderful time of the year … But is it?

Many of us set high and unrealistic expectations about what our Christmas should look like … add to that the buying gifts for kids and family … planning family gatherings … work parties … church programs and socials … wow sounds like the most hectic time of year.

Oh, and one other thing: Wives and husbands hope Christmastime will be special for them too, as a couple.  But will it be?

More often than not these overloaded schedules with everyone else’s high expectations and the competing demands of family, friends and workplace associates, Christmastime is stressful for couples.  Some wives and husbands feel that at best, they can muddle along until January.

Many times — patience with each other runs thin for a wife and husband during the holidays. For a variety of reasons, stress gains the upper hand between them.

– One spouse frets that Christmas is unaffordable.  He or she feels stressed-out by the cost of Christmas gifts, travel and entertainment.

– The other spouse experiences the stress of workplace demands that collide with their family’s overcrowded schedule of holiday festivities at school and church, with family and friends, or for shopping.

– Then there is the stress that is caused by the mere logistics of Christmas and the challenge of finding ways to celebrate with two to four sets of grandparents and extended or step family celebrations.

– Couples who desire to keep Christ in Christmas cringe when the season’s real purpose gets left in the shadows, eclipsed by so much else that is happening.

So what can you do to help reduce some of this stress?

Sit down and prepare a budget … set a limit of what you are going to spend … encourage each other not to be too impulsive …

Sit down with your calendar to schedule your activities and work through the logistics … keep from making last minute crisis inspired decisions.  Keep your priorities of faith and family at the forefront of this process.

This is a time where you need each other … where you need to be on the same page united to deal with all the stresses and strains that come with this most wonderful time of the year!

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7 Signs You Might be Smothering Your Spouse

devotional_smothering husband.jpgSomeone once said, “A relationship is like a blanket: It can leave us struggling for air, or enfold us in a warm, safe embrace.”

Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at 50 ways to build your marriage.

Today, we’d like to look at the topic – loving vs. smothering in the relationship.

When you love someone, your desire to be with them is driven by your proper motives such as: your spouse’s best interests, generosity, care and concern. When you smother someone, your desire to be with them is driven by negative motivations such as: insecurity, selfishness and fear!

In I Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul states, “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy … it is not self-seeking.”

So how do you know if you’re loving your spouse … or smothering your spouse? Here’s some thoughts to consider …

  1. Do you follow every single one of your spouse’s social media interactions?
  2. Do you have a little panic attack each time your spouse talks to a member of the opposite sex?
  3. Do you routinely check your spouse's call logs and voicemail messages?
  4. If your husband / wife does not return your call/text within a few minutes, do you keep calling/texting until he or she does?
  5. Have you ever faked an illness/depression/miscellaneous ailment just to keep your spouse from leaving you?
  6. Do you routinely accuse your spouse of not spending enough time with you?
  7. Do you need constant reassurance that he/she loves you? Do you need to hear "I love you" at least a few times a day for certainty?

If you find yourself guilty of many of the behaviors on this list … it’s time to do face the fact you could be smothering your spouse … and not loving.

How can you change? Stop using love as way to control your spouse. Give space for the relationship to grow … you’ve all heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder!

Stop craving for attention … and begin focusing on the needs and wants of your spouse.

As you begin to do love the way the Apostle Paul shares in I Corinthians, you’ll find your intimacy will grow!

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Do You Know the Most Powerful Way to Communicate to Your Spouse

devotional_black couple flirting.jpgWe’ve been inspired by the oldies hit … 50 ways to leave your lover … to explore ways of building your marriage … and today we want to highlight touch.

Did you know that physical touch is a more powerful communication of love than words? 

Touch is vital to deepening romantic relationships.  Remember back to your dating days when you looked for the opportunity of casually sweeping your hand over to touch his or her’s?  Which led to holding hands … or putting your arms around each other?  Ah the chills ran up and down …

Scientist tell us that when married couples touch in loving and positive ways, they increase their production of a hormone that is a key player in creating and strengthening emotional bonds.  When you and your spouse touch, it reduces insecurity and fear while building trust and safety which adds more “glue” that strengthens your marital bond.  Researchers tell us that there is a direct correlation between marital touch and marital satisfaction! 

So, that means the lack of touch can be an idiot light on your marriage dashboard that your relationship needs some attention.  Couples who aren’t touching may be experiencing some deeper marital issues like lack of safety and trust, or an inability to emotionally or verbally communicate.  If this is you it’s time to get some help … your marriage is heading in the wrong direction.

Touch can express a variety of emotions and feelings that we have trouble verbalizing.  A soft touch on your spouse's arm shows care and support, and a warm hug upon returning home shows how happy you are to see your spouse!

So, if appropriate touch makes your spouse feel loved and wanted, how can you incorporate it into your relationship?  Why not try this today?

  • Every time you pass one another give a high five, fist bump, or love pats …
  • Anytime you leave the house, give each other a warm kiss.
  • When you return home from the day, hug for at least 10 seconds.
  • When you are walking, hold hands.
  • When seated next to each other, put a hand on the other’s leg.
  • When watching TV, sit together and cuddle.
  • When going to bed, hold one another until at least one of you goes to sleep.

 Hold her hand, Stan.  Give him a pat, Pat.  How ‘bout a rub, Bub?

 

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How to Become a Better YOU in Your Marriage

devotional_better you.JPGMy guess is that many of you have heard Paul Simon’s number one hit song back in 1975 … 50 ways to leave your lover … “just slip out the back, Jack … make a new plan, Stan … drop off the key, Lee… get yourself free”? 

Well, we want to begin a series called: 50 ways to build your marriage; and start with our first of fifty ways … Claim your own part, Bart … Stop with the blame, Jane … Work on you, Lou … take responsibility!

If your goal is to have a life-long satisfying marriage … you have to take personal responsibility for the health and well-being of your relationship.  Each spouse must own the fact that he or she is partially responsible for the good, the bad, and any ugly that is present in your marital union. 

Let’s be honest … we all want to blame our spouses (or somebody or something else) for the problems in our marriages.  But the truth is … most of the problems in your relationship usually start with you.  Not your spouse … but you! 

Marriage expert Paul David Tripp says: “I am my biggest marital problem!” 

The fact is … no marriage will ever be stronger than the weaker spouse.  You can’t have the best marriage … unless you are the best husband or best wife … right?  So, both of you need to work at becoming the best “you” possible … to being the man, or woman, God wants you to be; and to have the best marriage possible!

Becoming the best involves asking yourself the hard questions: Where am I dropping the ball in our marriage?  What am I blaming my spouse for … and how have I contributed to this weakness in our relationship?

This will not only help you … it will strengthen your marriage.  It only takes one spouse who is willing to work toward being happily married for the whole marriage to change.

That process … is totally your responsibility … you can’t do it for each other.

 

If you want a better marriage … become a better you!

 

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Do You and Your Spouse Think Differently About Money?

devotional_managing money as a couple.pngAdam and Connie‘s combined income puts them in the upper middle class, so we assume they’ll have no money issues.  Not true! Though they make good money, they’ve never learned to manage it effectively.

Like many, they don’t keep track of where their money goes.  In fact, they have individual accounts and enjoy not answering to each other for money spent.  Unfortunately, they’re not answering to themselves either.

Bills are usually paid on time; and when checking account balances disappear, they draw on their good credit.  The amount of compounding interest on their credit card statements worries them; but they’ve never had a problem making the minimum payments.  After all, two more checks are coming in next week.

At least, they hope so.

While Edward and Jean make a fraction of what Adam and Connie do, they’re in better financial shape.  They regularly “do the math” to see exactly where their money goes; and have learned how to use a “loose” budget to guide their spending.

Early in their marriage they promised to discuss all money issues and set mutual goals for saving and giving.  They use credit sparingly, and postpone major purchases until they can pay cash or make a significant down payment.  They enjoy an occasional financial fling without dreading the high credit card interest.  Theses financial practices have empowered them to make family, not finance, focused choices.

Financial stress impacts a couple’s emotional bottom line.  So what do you do?

* Regularly review your finances together
* Agree on spending priorities
* Agree on how you want to handle debt
* Identify mutual savings and giving goals
* Establish a flexible and realistic budget
* Regularly tweak your budget to reflect your current situation
* Stay in tune financially with your partner

Remember … it’s God’s money … not ours … and our goal is to be faithful stewards of what He has entrusted to us …  to be liberal in our giving (Luke 6:33), focusing on eternal treasures (Matt. 6:19-20) … and keeping money in its proper perspective (I Tim. 6:10).

Prov. 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Knee to knee … Nose to nose Questions:

Which couple are you more like?  Why or why not?  Talk about how you are doing in managing your money together.

Which of the action steps do you need to start working on … or tweaking?

How do you feel about your saving and giving plans?  How well are you doing in being a good and faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you?


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One Marriage Trait All Successful Couples Share

devotional_speak well of your spouse.jpgAfter spending time with both couples who are super successful in their marriages … and those on the opposite spectrum dealing with major challenges, I’ve found a few key traits that all the successful couples share … and the not so successful couples need to learn.

The first is to speak well of your spouse in public.

Now that might sound a little trite … and not very earth shattering, but the reality is many couples choose to vent about their frustrations … poke fun of their spouse … or spew negative comments over and over again about them.

Paul gives this advice to the Ephesians, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Besides being biblical, here’s 3 practical reasons why this is so important.

1 – You Get the Behaviors You Affirm

Social psychologists have reiterated this notion over and over again. When you praise positive behavior, you get more of the same. When I tell my friends how much I enjoy my wife’s good cooking … the message cycles back to her … affirming that trait and making her want to entertain more and more!

2 – Affirmation Keeps You Positive

When we choose to keep our words positive, our emotions and feelings will follow suit. We have the ability to literally talk ourselves into a better mood. If we choose to dwell on the negative, the same thought holds true and we linger in frustration and bitterness.

3 – We Forget to Close the Loop

We’ve all fallen prey to this one. You just left your spouse after an argument that wasn’t resolved … and you spout off to a mutual friend or family member sharing only your side of the battle. Of course in your mind you were right and your spouse was wrong making your spouse look stupid and petty.

After you get home, you resolve the argument realizing you both played into the equation … unfortunately, you never share how it ended to those friends or family members … which causes them to think less of your spouse. 

I challenge you today to start speaking well of your spouse in public ... and see how it transforms both your and your spouse's attitudes and actions!

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Something Amazing Happens When You Sacrifice in Your Marriage

devotional_happy couple in fall.JPGHow many times have you fallen prey to the idea is that you are supposed to give up what you want in order for your spouse to take what he or she wants … with the hopeful anticipation that your spouse will return the favor sometime in the near future? 

The problem with this way of thinking can be the motive behind the giving, or sacrifice.  “I am giving to you now with the promise and expectation that you will be giving to me later!”  That is selfish not selfless …

As Christ followers we know that this is stinky thinking.  We are commanded to love each other the same way we want to be loved.  Paul says in Philippians 2:3 that we should: “do nothing from selfish ambition …or vain conceit … but treat others (even our spouses) as more important than yourself.

Here’s 3 practical sacrifices we should be making for our spouse on a regular basis.

Sacrifice Your Need to Being Right –We all wrestle with those times when you just know you are right and your spouse is wrong.  If your marriage has fallen into the I am right you are wrong mindset … the one who is always wrong will grow very resentful. Put that need to always be right on the altar.

 

Sacrifice Your Need for Getting all the Credit – Our pride can rear its ugly head each time we remind our spouses how much we do for them.  “You never do this,” “I’m always doing … .”  As mutual helpers to one another … your behind the scenes role is the most important role in your spouse’s life.  Let’s be honest …  God deserves all the credit anyway.

Sacrifice Your Independent Goals - When you marry, life isn’t just about you anymore.  It’s about your marriage and the family you’ve create together.  You must willingly sacrifice some of your personal independence in order to gain interdependence, which is a blessed and blended spiritual, emotional, and physical state of being.

Not surprisingly a recent Harvard study came out with the conclusions that the one who willingly sacrifices in their relationship … is the one who experiences the greatest relational satisfaction.  Even more than the one who was served!  Just goes to show that Jesus is always right … when He said it is more blessed to give than to receive!”

Here's a Great Way to Have a Blast ... and Help Marriages at the Same Time!!

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What is Pre-Marital Counseling … and Why is it So Important?

devotional_premarital couple.JPGOur society has created a model for marriage that goes something like this …

Boy meets girl … boy and girl fall hopelessly in love … boy and girl plan fairytale wedding … and the rest of their lives are lived happily ever after.

Unfortunately, that model has shown to not only be ineffective … but unbiblical as well!

Proverbs 21:5 states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Planning for your marriage … and the rest of your life together with your husband or wife is something that needs diligence.

One of the greatest indicators of long-term marital success is whether or not the young couple participated in pre-marital counseling.

According to a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, couples with premarital education reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years.

So what exactly is pre-marital counseling and why is it so important?

Most couples entering marriage are in their proverbial “honeymoon” state. Everything is new, exciting … and they are hopelessly in love with their spouse.

The problem is the reality of life hasn’t set in and these couples have not taken appropriate time to talk about and prepare for tough issues to come.

During pre-marital counseling, couples look to the future asking questions such as … “Do we want kids?” … “How many?” … “When should we start?”

They explore each of their family of origins to uncover their thoughts on issues such as … “Is going into debt okay?” … “Should we buy top of the line products … or shop at thrift stores?” … “Who handles the money and what does our budget look like?”

They learn basic marital skills such as how to fight fair … how to ask for forgiveness … and how to communicate appropriately.

If you or someone you know is getting married soon … encourage them to do their diligent planning by getting proper pre-marital counseling.

These discussions and marital “life-skills” will become the building blocks of a lifetime of marriage together.

  


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6 Ways to Cure Isolation Pain in Marriage

devotional_isolated couple.JPGI often hear couples say, “I’m married … but I’m lonely.”

My husband has time for work, sports, fishing, playing games with friends … but nothing for me.

My wife cares for the kids, talks forever with her girlfriends, finds time to exercise and have her “alone” time … but there’s nothing left for me.

Or …

We talk as a couple … but not about anything that’s important. We can’t share our hearts, emotions, fears and dreams without arguments erupting … so we simply stop communicating.

If you’re struggling with the pain of isolation, let me prescribe 6 “Cures” to bring back the intimacy you desire.

1st – Re-examine the Biblical basics of marriage. God clearly shares in Genesis that being “alone” wasn’t good for Adam. We’re to mirror the relationship of the Godhead … the 3 in 1 … not isolation.

2nd – Re-evaluate your Commitment. The Bible teaches, “For this reason a man and woman shall leave their father and mother … and cleave … to become one …” Marriage is built on a commitment to building oneness and intimacy.

3rd – Recognize your Selfishness. James 4:12 says, “We ‘war’ because we do not get what we want …” Paul reiterated in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from vain conceit … but treat others as more important than yourself …” You need to own your personal responsibility that has added to the isolation.

4th – Re-Kindle your Spiritual Connection – Make sure your connection with God is where it needs to be. Start praying with, and for, each other on a regular basis. We can’t build the marriage we want without His help!

5th – Revitalize your Relational Skills. Communication, resolving conflict, and forgiveness are all skills that can be honed and refined. Read up on them … practice them … just like any other skill you’d like to see enhanced.

6th – Re-Prioritize your Time Together. Time is a powerful love language because it demonstrates priority. Plan for consistent times together – a daily check in … regular date nights … annual romantic getaway, etc.

I promise … you’ll see the cure for isolation begin to work as you follow this prescription …

Here's a Great Way to Have a Blast ... and Help Marriages at the Same Time!!

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The Sacrament of Marriage

devotional_catholic marriage.jpgKaren and I attended a wedding recently where the officiating pastor gave the opening greeting which included the phrase … “marriage is a sacrament.”  That word sacrament exploded in my mind.  Because we, as Protestants, do not talk about marriage being a sacrament; and I often feel we should.  So, with my newly piqued curiosity I decided to ask … why don’t we?  So let’s explore this idea together a little …

A theological dictionary defines sacrament as: “a rite or ceremony instituted by Jesus, and practiced by the church as a means of, or illustration of, God’s grace.”  Our English wordsacrament comes from the Latin sacramentum, which means to make holy, or to consecrate.

The Catholic church maintains seven sacraments, one of which is matrimony; Protestants hold to two: baptism and communion. 

But let’s think through this again … Marriage is a ceremony that reflects and represents the love and grace of God.  God created male and female in His image.  He designed the coming together of a man and woman in marriage to reflect or to represent His loving nature and character. 

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that it is a mystery … but our earthly marriages are to reflect to our world … the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church.  We are to model His unconditional love and forgiveness for our family, friends and neighbors to see.  They are to see how God loves them by watching how we love each other.

But it is not just a means of showing the world who God is … it is a relationship used by the Holy Spirit to draw us, as husband and wives, closer to God and each other. 

Let’s be honest God often uses our spouses to “make us holy.”  When we resolve conflicts we often confront the sin issues in our lives.  Our selfishness is readily exposed in our marriages.  We must seek God’s forgiveness before we seek forgiveness from our spouses.  That brings us into experiencing the grace of God!

So, if sacraments are created human symbolic actions that make available and point to God’s presence and power ... let’s work at making ours a sacrament

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7 Great Ways to Grow Physical Intimacy in Your Marriage

devotional_dancing couple.jpgIt’s no secret that one of the big complaints we hear from couples is their struggle with physical intimacy. This can lead to the “blame game” … feeling like you’re walking on egg shells if you bring up the topic … or the beginning stages of a deep seated apathy that can roll in.

Scientific research has shown that babies who are held, caressed, tickled, and played with physically grow up to have healthier emotional bonds and hormonal balance than those left alone. Even Jesus understood the need for children to be close when He reprimanded His disciples and told them to let the children come up to Him!

That need for physical touch never goes away … even if your primary love language is something else … couples need to develop their physical contact.

The exciting thing is … there’s tons of great ways to build physical intimacy that can be done throughout the day … without the need for intercourse.

  1. Crank up the music and dance together while you make dinner or do chores around the house. Doing a few pirouettes will be fun and rewarding all at once!
  2. Take a walk around the block while holding hands.
  3. Sit next to each other instead of on opposite sides of the table … at home … or in a restaurant. Confrontation is done facing one another … relationship building is done side to side.
  4. Snuggle on the couch at night while you read … watch TV … or just spend time talking together.
  5. Watch a romantic comedy together … studies have shown that watching and talking about these types of movies actually lowers your need for marriage therapy!
  6. Lay in bed for pillow talk … before you’re exhausted … and without screens to distract you! Spending twenty minutes together right when you get home from work … or before you fall asleep will build both emotional and physical intimacy.
  7. Exercise together … this is a great way to get in shape … encourage one another … and have healthy physical contact!

Do you have other ways you like to interact physically throughout the day? Let us know … and get working on growing your physical connection today!


Did you know that charitable giving drops in the summer time?

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Thankfully, we've been blessed to have a donor step up by offering to help counter the summer drop by matching up to $5,000 in charitable donations to House on the Rock.


Every dollar we use goes directly towards helping marriages thrive!

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Thank you for your generous support!

 


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How You Can Build Intimacy by Adding Simple Rituals to Your Daily Routine

devotional_coveredbridge.jpgIt seems like the word “ritual” has taken on a negative connotation over the years. Everything from daily ruts and routines to empty ritualistic religious experiences … have damaged how valuable good rituals can be.

The term “ritual” is defined as any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.

Psychologist and well-known marriage expert John Gottman says that, “creating informal rituals when you can connect emotionally is critical in a marriage.” 

Our bodies are hardwired to tie in positive emotional connections with those daily routines we have … and when we make them purposeful … we grow our daily emotional connections with our spouse.

Here’s a few marriage rituals you could start adding today!

  1. Starting your day off by saying “good morning my love” to your spouse. It may sound corny at first, but whether you’re a morning person or not … there’s nothing better than the 1st words you hear each day being an affirmation of your love for each other.
  2. Before you head out for work in your opposite directions, take a minute to hold hands while you pray for each other’s day. This is an opportunity to grow emotionally … spiritually … and physically all at once!
  3. Create a special time each day where you call each other to check in. Maybe it’s during a lunch break … or at some point during the day when you know your spouse is usually available. That short 2-minute call … or volley of quick text messages … is a great way to do a quick check-in … and prep for the night!

Some other fun things you can do just for laughs

  • Trying holding your breath as you drive through a tunnel
  • Race home when you drive separate cars to an event … and see who wins!
  • Kiss every time you go thru a covered bridge
  • Singing a favorite song at the top of your lungs in the car together
  • Act like strangers and use your worst pick-up lines on each other

 Do you have some other fun things you do as a couple? We’d love to hear about them … just to go www.fantheflamedates.com and leave us a note!


Did you know that charitable giving drops in the summer time?

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Thankfully, we've been blessed to have a donor step up by offering to help counter the summer drop by matching up to $5,000 in charitable donations to House on the Rock.


Every dollar we use goes directly towards helping marriages thrive!

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Thank you for your generous support!

 


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Gardening Your Marriage

devotional_gardening.JPGOne of the summer pleasures that Karen and I enjoy is strolling through beautiful gardens. 

As we’re walking it becomes obvious that these works of art don’t happen by accident.  Every garden is planned … its location … whether in sun or shade … raised or flat beds have been carefully considered.  The gardener planned for the permanent anchor bushes … the placement of perennials … and what annuals he or she was going to use to add even more color.

We can’t help but notice all the work that goes into maintaining these oases.  All the weeds … those unwanted intruders … have been pulled … overgrown branches pruned … the borders kept … they’ve been mulched and the vibrancy of color tells us that they are regularly watered and fertilized.

We recently reflected that the skills needed to grow a beautiful garden are similar to the ones needed to create a healthy marriage.  Just like attractive gardens healthy marriages don’t happen by chance … they are carefully planned … couples need to ask themselves the question … what do we want our marriage to look like in the next year … five … and more?  

Thriving marriages take maintenance … we have to pull the weeds that invade our relationships.  What are the things creeping in and taking root in our lives that are robbing our marriages of time and energy?  Unresolved conflicts, financial pressures … obsessive or other addictive activities will quickly sap the nutrients out of a love relationship.

Borders need to be well maintained too … in marriage we call these boundaries.  We must realize that the most expensive plant becomes a “weed” if it’s growing where we don’t want to be.  So,  what are some of the “good” things in our lives that are creeping too far into our husband and wife relationship?  Our children … or other family members … work … or even church activities can encroach our marital garden in unhealthy ways.

Finally, what are we doing to water and feed our relationship?  How are we speaking each other’s love languages?  How are we nourishing and cherishing each other?  Daily touches … date nights … and an occasional time away together will help bring life and vitality into your marriage. 

So the next time you see a well-kept garden … let it remind you of how beautiful your marriage can be with a little more gardening …


Did you know that charitable giving drops in the summer time?

devotional_double.JPG

Thankfully, we've been blessed to have a donor step up by offering to help counter the summer drop by matching up to $5,000 in charitable donations to House on the Rock.


Every dollar we use goes directly towards helping marriages thrive!

devotional_button.jpg

Thank you for your generous support!

 


Add Some Real Romance ... on a Retreat in Cape May!! Plan Now!! ($350 / couple)
Join us in Cape May, NJ - Sept. 16 - 18, 2016 Only 5 Rooms Left!!
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Do You Need to Wake Up Jesus in Your Marriage

devotional_waking jesus.jpgThe gospel of Mark (chapter 4:35-41) tells us the story of Jesus launching out across the sea of Galilee with his disciples to get some rest after a full day of ministry.  While crossing they encounter a fierce wind storm … waves of water were spilling into their little ship …

These seasoned fishermen … tried their best to navigate to the other side … they pulled out every trick in their sailing experience book … but it was not good enough … panicked … they finally wake Jesus up … He’s been asleep on a cushion in the rear of the boat … the place where the captain usually steers the boat.

Jesus gets up and rebukes the storm … with the words “Peace!  Be still!” ... and the wind and waves immediately subside.  Then Jesus turns to his harried friends and asks: “Why are you so afraid … have you no faith?” 

Sometimes God allows us to experience some significant storms in our lives to help us learn some important lessons ... 

Let me ask you a question … do you feel like your life in a serious storm?  Maybe the fierce winds of marriage, and kids along with the waves of finances … have you feeling like you’re sinking … and out of control? 

Are you afraid of the impending disaster waiting to happen?  Are you panicking because you’re doing all you can and know how to do … yet you still can’t navigate to the "other side" by yourself? 

The more important question is: “Where is Jesus?”  Is he in your boat?  Is He sleeping where He should be steering?  Maybe it’s time to wake Him up … to invite Him to take control of your life and the storm you find yourself sinking in … because He loves you and wants you to experience His peace and presence. 

Our mission here at House on the Rock is to help couples get Jesus back in control of their marriage boats.  For those experiencing some peace … we do that through our online Fantheflamedates.com website … for couples who find themselves sinking in a storm we provide our marriage intensive weekends.  If we can serve you please feel free to contact us …  


Did you know that charitable giving drops in the summer time?

Everybody loves taking a vacation ... and so do I ... Karen and I just got back from spending a wonderful time with our family!

Unfortunately, too many times people take a vacation from their charitable giving as well! Right now we are down approximately 30% in our summer giving ... which puts us and many other ministries in a challenging position every summer where we have to either delay our financial obligations ... or incur extra financial costs by borrowing money from a line of credit.

Would you be willing to help by donating today with an extra special summer donation?

Every dollar we use goes directly towards helping marriages thrive!

 


Add Some Real Romance ... on a Retreat in Cape May!! Plan Now!! ($350 / couple)
Join us in Cape May, NJ - Sept. 16 - 18, 2016
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How to Bring Up Money Concerns without Arguing

devotional_money talk.jpgThink back over the last few conversations you had with your spouse … my guess is that close to half of those talks had something to do with money!

As I think through the last few days, Janeen and I talked about the cost of groceries … which store would be better to shop at … how much birthday money a child still had … the cost of summer camp for our kids … and much more!!

Money is such an important topic that nearly half of Jesus’ parables deal with it … and almost one in every seven verses in the New Testament discusses money.

If money is such a prevalent topic in life … then why does it cause such heartache in our marriages and lead to so many arguments?

I’d like to share three simple ways you can improve the financial conversations in your marriage.

1 – Talk about money ACCURATELY. Too many times we exaggerate the details … saying things like why do you spend HUNDREDS of dollars on a certain habit or activity … when it’s only $20 or $30 … leads to arguments, hurt feelings and frustration. Instead, sit down and accurately calculate where your money is going. Try out an online or mobile tool that can help track all your expenses. Get your facts straight before you begin the discussion.

2 – Talk about money SOFTLY. Your tone of voice will set the stage for the conversation. Make sure you’re not yelling … accusing … sulking … or speaking in the same voice you would use to reprimand your children! Proverbs 15:1 states, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

3 – Talk about money THOUGHTFULLY. As a verbal processor, it’s a regular occurrence for me to say something before I think about it. Instead, ask yourself the question, “What do I want from this financial conversation?” Is it a discussion about spending habits … tithing … or something new that’s coming on the horizon? Then, plan where you’d like to see the conversation go. What outcomes do you expect? After you’ve prepared yourself, you’ll be ready to go.

By speaking accurately, softly and thoughtfully … you’ll soon find that instead of causing pain and arguments … conversations about money will grow the intimacy and unity in your marriage.

 


Did you know that charitable giving drops in the summer time?

Everybody loves taking a vacation ... and so do I ... Karen and I just got back from spending a wonderful time with our family!

Unfortunately, too many times people take a vacation from their charitable giving as well! Right now we are down approximately 30% in our summer giving ... which puts us and many other ministries in a challenging position every summer where we have to either delay our financial obligations ... or incur extra financial costs by borrowing money from a line of credit.

Would you be willing to help by donating today with an extra special summer donation?

Every dollar we use goes directly towards helping marriages thrive!

 


Add Some Real Romance ... on a Retreat in Cape May!! Plan Now!! ($350 / couple)
Join us in Cape May, NJ - Sept. 16 - 18, 2016
Click for more information as well as reservation details.

 

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90 Percent of Failing Couples Have Stopped Asking this Simple Question

devotional_couple talking.jpegMy wife Janeen and I are coming out of one of our busier seasons of life.

Over the spring, we had five of our boys involved in sporting events … add in the school programs, graduations from pre-school, keeping up with homework, and trying to get used to having a newborn again … those challenges left us pretty worn out and EXTREMELY busy!

Unfortunately for most married couples, as life gets busier, communication is one of the first things to suffer.

Sharon Rivkin, a counselor and author on marriage therapy, states that 90% of the struggling couples she works with have stopped asking the simple question, “How was your day?”

Why is that question so important?

As a fan of good literature, I’ve come to appreciate the distinct stages in the plot of a novel.  

They typically start out with background information about the events, setting and characters. That leads into character growth … rising action that occurs and whets your appetite for more … until you ultimately get to the climax … or most important part of the story that leads you to the conclusion.

As Janeen shares with me daily, I’ve become familiar with the “characters” in her life and our kid’s lives and likewise, she knows mine. I have a strong understanding of the plot lines that have been forming over the years … and know where the struggles and joys have come.

If I come home annoyed that something didn’t work out at the last minute, and I’m quiet and my mind is wandering, she doesn’t immediately assume it’s about her or get anxious or worried or hurt … because she knows what’s going on in my life … she knows the challenges that are occurring at work … at church … and in my friend’s lives.

We “check-in” multiple ways and at multiple times.

A simple text or Facebook message to Janeen asking how the kids did in the morning getting up … how the doctor’s appointment went … or how was lunch with your friend … keep me up to date and in tune with her life.

Every evening after the kids are in bed and it’s just the two of us, we catch up on the events from the day before we veg out to something on TV.

By continuing to communicate like this, we’ve been able to build unity … and build relationship even during an extremely busy season of our life.

Why don’t you start asking, “How was your day?” … TODAY!!

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Have you ever thought about a Marriage Vacation

devotional_vacation marriage.jpgHave you ever thought about going on a "Marriage Vacation?" 

You know a planned time for the two of you to re-energize your intimacy, friendship and connection. Can I challenge you to try one? The biggest obstacle to overcome is what to do with the kids. You will need to be creative in how you carve out the time to take a "No Kids Marriage Vacation."

But summers provide some excellent alternatives … you can send them to camp for a week, or maybe grandparents would like to do something special with them? You can even carve out some half day activities while your kids are at a day camp or Vacation Bible School.


Dr. Michelle Gannon offers 5 reasons why couples should take a marriage vacation.

  1. You need to have some time just for the two of you.  Although you love your kids, they can unwittingly undermine and weaken your marriage.  It is important that you keep working on your most important relationship … with the one who will be rocking on the retirement porch with you.

  2. This time together will up the fun and friendship in your marriage.  Guard this time from conflict resolution and focus on enjoying each other.  Try new things … find a climbing wall … go to a show … paddle the river … plan for an adventure. New experiences will draw you closer together and make memories.

  3. Marriage vacations can revitalize your physical intimacy … you have guaranteed privacy … so schedule it as a priority.

  4. Plan for some meaningful conversations.  Make a list of what needs to be talked about … but you haven’t gotten to … because of the hustle and bustle of everyday routines.  Have fun sharing some of your hopes and dreams … . 

  5. These times alone will send an important message to your children that your marriage is important … and trust me they will be thrilled that mommy and daddy are working on loving each other and staying together.  It will give them an example to follow when they have a spouse and family of their own. 

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Why Self-Care is Godly and Important for Your Marriage

devotional_selfcare.pngWarm weather, cook-outs and graduation parties signal that summer is here! 

You probably have some vacation plans in the works … but let me challenge you to drill down a little deeper.  What’s your vision for your marriage and family during this time together?  What does your marriage need now?  What do you need to get refreshed and reloaded? 

When I first heard the term “self-care” I struggled with how it squares with the Bible.  I was taught to deny ourselves … to serve others first … “self-care” sounded selfish!

But the Great Commandment tells us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself … so God must want me to love myself in some way …

I’ve learned that self-care is not self-indulgence … it’s developing a strategy for taking care of your heart, soul, mind and strength so that you can become all God intends you to be ... and so you can be all you need to be for your spouse and children.

So, how do we recharge the batteries of our personal lives?

Your heart: ... is the center of our emotions … our feelings.  What fills your emotional tank?  For me it’s time with Karen, our sons and their wives, and our three granddaughters … nobody does it better.  So I make sure we have lots of family time during the summer months. 

Your soul: ... You need a regular time in God’s Word so you can live and love God’s way … make sure you spend some personal time with the Lord over your break …

Your mind: … You become what you think; so, what are you reading or listening to that is stimulating your mind … that is helping you ruminate on the right things?  

Your strength:  Physically ... what do you need?  More rest … better nutrition … more stamina … better health and vitality?  Your body is the temple … when your temple is weak … you’re vulnerable everywhere.

Self-care is vital to the health of your marriage and family … when you take the time to replenish your heart, soul, mind and strength … it allows you to love and serve them out of the overflow of your life.  You can’t fully love and serve from a depleted you!

Take the time during your vacation to recharge your batteries!

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Collecting Marriage Memories

devotional_memory jar.jpgSomeone once said that “marriages are built on memories”.  If that is true … we need to take some time to reflect on those shared moments, to write them down so we can talk about them with our children. 

The idea of remembering historical highlights goes back to God’s commissioning the construction of several monuments throughout Old Testament history.  God knew that His children would easily forget many of the good and great things He had done for them over the years.  So He commissioned monuments to help them remember.  The Ebenezer stone (I Samuel 7:7-12) stood at the place where the Israelites defeated the Philistines so that generations of parents would tell the story of God’s faithfulness to their children. 

So why not make it a point to take some time to collect some marriage memories of God’s faithfulness to you as a couple?  What are the Ebenezer events in your marriage and family history?  When and how did God show up in special ways? 

As I reflect on some of my favorite marriage memories, I have mental images of our early days serving together in youth ministry.  The violent thunder storm that sealed our doom as wilderness campers.  Our 9 year struggle with infertility and the miracle births of our two sons.  Enjoying over thirty years in the same house, church and neighborhood.  Seeing our sons leave us to cleave to their wives. The arrivals of our grandchildren!  These memories bring smiles, tears and laughs but fill our hearts with thankfulness! 

So I have a challenge for you: Plan some time together to begin collecting a list of your favorite marriage and family memories.  Look for times when God showed up in a special way.  Make a "Memory Jar" ... get out your photo albums and enjoy a stroll down memory lane ... and don't forget to pause to thank God for His faithfulness and blessing.

Take those photos out of the album and put them into frames ... a memory jar ... or some other special place so you can raise them as an Ebenezer … something that your family and friends can see!  It will give you an opportunity to share with all who see God’s faithfulness to you and your family.  Because family legacies are built on memories too!

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Why Dating Your Spouse is Biblical

devotional_couple in love small.JPGA husband once shared with us: “Date nights are cheaper than marriage counseling … a whole lot cheaper than divorce, and a much more fun.”  We couldn’t agree more, which is why we regularly suggest date nights to the couples we work with and seek to make them a priority in our own marriage.

When you get in the practice of regularly dating your mate … you’re really obeying God’s desire to “cleave” to one another (Genesis 2:24).  That word cleave means to hold onto; to keep pursuing one another when the throes of life are desperately trying to tear you apart.  So dating your mate is Biblical!

The fact is: your marriage can quickly deteriorate into a state of mutual co-existence where you find yourself in the daily grind of managing your personal calendars, household operations and child care business.  Before long you’re seeing your spouse as a roommate and business partner instead of that one and only special someone who used to be the love of your life.

Remember your early dates as a couple … when you were working hard to win each other’s affection?  Re-kindling those times of talking and flirting together will help fan the flame of those loving feelings that are often smothered by the everyday pressures of working and parenting.  Date nights are the time to put down your to-do list and focus on listening, sharing your feelings, and feeling close. 

There’s a vast difference between “hanging out” and “heading out” for a special time together.  What makes a “date night” different from just “hanging out” is your state of mind.  There is intentionality … you’re planning a time to be with, and to focus on, your sweetheart.  You’re saying … we’re a couple who loves each other … and we’re planning be together long after the kids leave home!

Date nights give you the opportunity to gaze across the table and enjoy the view of that special person you married, the one you fell in love with, not the one who left the bed unmade or forgot to take out the trash.  So get out your calendars and plan some times to re-create and re-live some of your early dates. 

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Why Dating is Important for Your Marriage

devotional_couple cooking together.jpgThere’s no doubt about it … regular “date nights” improve marriages and prevent divorces! 

Researchers have found that married couples who go on frequent dates have lower divorce rates, and feel better about the quality of their marriages than couples who don’t.  Hopefully that’s enough evidence to get you dating your spouse again!

One study highlights five reasons why date nights have strong correlations to healthy marriages:

Communication:  Successful communication is the life blood of any relationship.  Your words bring nourishment to your spouse … and they help you resolve conflicts.  Make sure you plan dates that will get you talking …

Fun:  Speaking of sitting and watching … get out of that rut and try something new!  Take a walk, cook a meal, or go out for ice cream together.  Take turns planning your creative dates.  Your dates will also create fun memories that you will cherish later on.  

Romance: Dating like you used to before you were married helps keep the romantic feelings alive in your marriage!  And who doesn’t want to experience those loving feelings!?  Planning and enjoying regular dates with your mate will help you fall in love with each other all over and over again.

Commitment: Talking, having fun, and fanning those romantic flames will strengthen your commitment to one another.  And it is commitment that keeps you together when those inevitable hard times hit.  

De-stressing: We’re all stressed!  Date nights become a fun oasis in the midst of our stressful lives!  Your times together will let you support and encourage each other.  Having fun is always a great distraction from our everyday routines. 

Too often the pressures of life get in the way of making date nights a reality; they end up being dinner and a movie or watching your favorite TV show.  While these dates are better than nothing … sitting and watching doesn’t really help you communicate, have fun, or get the romantic juices flowing. 

We’d love to help make your stay at home date nights a little more impactful.  Our "Fan the Flame Dates" website is designed to help you spend some time together learning something that will help build your marriage.  Watch one of our short videos and take the time to answer our “Knee to knee Nose to nose” questions to start talking about what you’ve just learned. 

Or ... if you're daring and really want to work on growing your marriage - take our "One Year Challenge" to date your spouse once a month!!


Your Marriage May be Suffering from the Ziegarnik Effect - learn more

devotional_puzzle.jpegCan you think of an unresolved conflict in your marriage right now?  It may be a big one or a small one … if so, you are suffering from the “Ziegarnik Effect.”

I hope you’re struggling to unearth one … but research tells me that many of us have a few open issues that keep rolling around in our hearts and heads.  Unfortunately, my experience as a marriage coach has introduced me to couples who are experiencing this very negative phenomenon called the “Ziegarnik Effect”.

The Ziegarnik Effect, in simple terms, is the tendency we have to remember the uncompleted, or interrupted, tasks more than we do those that have been completed or resolved.  When we put that in the context of marriage we would say … that we tend to remember all of the unresolved conflicts, or issues, in our marriages more than we do the ones we’ve resolved and put behind us. 

When a couple’s negative dealings are not properly resolved, they are constantly being remembered and rehearsed by each spouse from his or her point of view.  Trust begins to erode … and their marriage becomes a breeding ground for negative feelings and withdrawal.  Soon each spouse begins to view one another with a critical eye.  They become suspicious and begin to mistrust each other; and if left unchecked they will find themselves believing that their spouse is the enemy!   

Hopefully you can see that unprocessed negative events, or unresolved conflicts, between you and your spouse are extremely destructive because they erode trust.  And if left unresolved, these issues will ultimately create a powerful death spiral that can ultimately destroy your most intimate relationship.

That’s why Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:26: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  God knows that we humans have a strong tendency towards rehearsing the unresolved negatives in our hearts and heads over and over again.  (He knew all about the Ziegarnik Effect before it was “discovered” in 1922!)

So, if an unresolved conflict popped up in your heart and head … make it a point to get it resolved as soon as possible.  You do not want to give the devil an opportunity to divide you as husband and wife and to destroy your marriage!

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How do I help a friend who's confided in me that they're struggling in their marriage?

devotional_supporting-a-friend.jpgWe have a question from one of our listeners:  How do I help a friend who has confided in me that they’re struggling in their marriage?

Great question … and research tells us that about 75% of us will find ourselves in this role someday. 

When someone you care about shares a marital issue with you, your instinct is to make them feel better and to fix it.  In doing so you may inadvertently offer false hope, give poor advice, or take sides and widen the gap between spouses.  You may become so involved that your friend’s issue becomes your problem.  That is not healthy for you nor helpful to your friend; instead acknowledge that your perspective may be biased … you are too close to the situation.  And whatever you do … if you’re not trained … do not try to counsel both parties … you’ll be entering the devil’s triangle! 

So, trying to help a family member, friend or even a co-worker navigate a painful marital relationship is challenging because most of us haven’t been trained on how to give the right advice.  So let’s talk about some things that you can do to help …

First and foremost, you must understand that you’ll be acting as a “first responder.”  Unless you’re a trained therapist, counselor, or relationship coach … you want to be careful … because you could do more harm than good.  A first responder is not the final responder. 

Listen, love and pray: these actions will give your struggling friend some encouraging emotional support.  Listen and understand.  Let them know that you care.  Pray for them and their spouse by name.

Steer them away from the thought of divorce and keep them on the road to reconciliation.  If they mention divorce … acknowledge their pain … but encourage them that they can work through any issue with God’s help and strength. 

Refer them to a Christian counselor, coach or pastor … if you are not familiar with any in your area … do some research for them … use the American Association of Christian Counselors (www.aacc.net) website to help … or invite them to come to a Marriage Intensive retreat here at House on the Rock!

Pave the way for them to get the help they need.  Offer to baby or dog sit … eliminate as many of the logistical issues keeping your friends from getting help.  

Be patient … it’s probably taken years for your friends to get into this bad place … it’s going to take some time and hard work to get them through it.  So, stay with them … don’t turn them over to the pros and leave them disconnected from your love care and prayers. 

Keep listening, encouraging and supporting.  The day will come when your friend will thank you for helping to save their marriage. 

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Do You Suffer from Technoference in Your Marriage?

devotional_technoference.jpgImagine this … you’re both home after a day at work … the kids are off doing something productive … you’ve finally got some quiet time to yourself … you’re snuggling into the sofa to watch your favorite show … when the text chime of your cell phone goes off … what do you do? 

Or you’re cuddled in and look over to see your spouse scrolling through his or her e-mails or favorite social media websites … how do you feel?

Hopefully these moments create a dilemma for you!  Do you want to communicate to your spouse that he/she is the most important thing on your mind right now … or do you want to say that who, or whatever, is on the other end of your phone is?

While we love being connected … we need to realize that being available 24/7 creates an intrusion into our personal lives and romantic relationships.

Research has given this condition a name … it is called “technoference;” and it exists whenever technology interferes with personal face to face relationships.  Meddling cellphones are rapidly becoming a major source of marital dissatisfaction.

The unhappiness grows when spouses feel rejected by the priority of their partner’s phone activity.  The results of all of those “little intrusions” are hurt feelings, low self-esteem, resentment and ultimately anger.  Some spouses in this study fell into depression. 

So what do we need to do?

  1. As a couple sit down and ask yourself how are we experiencing “technoference”? How is technology getting in the way of our relationship? Be open and honest …
  2. Develop some realistic expectations. We’ll turn our phones to silent at an agreed upon time and set them in a designated spot. We can check them during a commercial …or every 60 minutes.
  3. Establish tech boundaries. Identify technology free zones. You might agree to keep technology literally out of your bedroom … or turned off by a certain time.  Meal times are a good time to enjoy some tech free time.  You need to set the boundaries that will best meet your desires and needs.

Thwarting technoference is one area where you both want to stay connected.

 

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Does Your Marriage Need some Spring Cleaning?

devotional_springcleaning.JPGSpring is here and for many that means “spring cleaning” … that annual ritual of scrubbing our homes from top to bottom after being closed up all winter.  The goal is a house that is fresh and clean. 

Well, for many of us … our marriages may need a little “spring cleaning”!  Because they get cluttered with hurt feelings and unresolved issues that can make them unbearable.  Here are four activities that will help us spring clean our marriages:

  1. Clearing the Clutter

Odds are we’ve hurt our spouses.  We need to take responsibility for our words and actions … even if our intentions were not to hurt … and apologize.  “Sweeping stuff under the rug” piles clutter up and will ultimately produce a trip hazard … so swallow your pride and say: “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?”

When our spouses come seeking forgiveness … we’re commanded to pardon (Matthew 18).  Forgiveness “takes out the trash” that clutters relationships.  Unforgiveness keeps that trash piled up to stink!  Who likes living in a smelly pile of trash?! 

  1. Fixing and Finishing

We usually discover some uncompleted “projects” that need to be “fixed or finished.”  Unresolved issues about money, kids, work … etc. all need to be nailed down through open and honest conversations. 

  1. Dusting

We get so comfortable that we neglect to show our spouses how much we really love them; and begin to mutually co-exist.  It’s time to “dust off” the romance so you can see the luster of loving date nights, notes, flowers, favorite meals, massages, kind words, holding hands … once you get started it’ll come back to you!!

  1. Scrubbing the Spots

We’ll probably uncover some “selfish spots” that need to be removed.  Marriages thrive on both spouses being selfless.  Putting ourselves second is not easy … it requires some “scrubbing” by the Holy Spirit to help us surrender to God and our spouses. 

Spring cleaning our homes requires hard work, intentional behavior and an action plan.   So does “spring cleaning” our marriages.  But the results of a clean, fresh home and a loving, fulfilling marriage are worth the effort.

Does your marriage need some spring cleaning?  Where are you going to start today?


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Do You Have a Sacrificial Marriage?

devotional_cross wedding 3.jpgWe’re passionate here at House on the Rock about helping couples see how the Word of God speaks to marriages.  As we’ve been reflecting on Easter, and the greatest act of love ever demonstrated to mankind, we saw several practical marriage lessons in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Sacrificial giving is foundational to building a Godly marriage

Paul’s mandate to husbands in Ephesians 5:25 is to: “… love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  That reference to “giving Himself up” is to Jesus’ crucifixion ... the ultimate expression of sacrificial love.  Jesus was willing to put His desires second to His Father’s in order to meet our need for forgiveness and reconciliation.  His prayer was “not my will … but Thy will be done.”  Too often the mindset in our marriage is: “My will be done at the expense of yours …” 

Are you willing to put your will second to the needs of your spouse?  To sacrifice your time and energy for the sake of your mate?  If yes, that’s a good start …

No marriage is too far gone …

The divine purpose of Jesus’s death and resurrection was to reconcile man to God … to mend a shattered relationship.  No marriage is so broken … so far gone that God is not willing and able to restore it.  The same authority that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that can resurrect a “dead” marriage. 

We start by asking God to forgive us.  Then we go to seek forgiveness from our spouses.  We must also be ready to grant forgiveness to our spouses when they come to us.  It’s through this process that the pathway to the marriage God wants us to enjoy is cleared of debris!

God can use the struggles in your marriage to not only create something even more beautiful and enduring than you could ever imagine; but to encourage and inspire other couples to pursue God’s love and forgiveness too.

As you celebrate Easter this year, take some time to reflect on its meaning for your marriage. Allow the wonderful and powerful spiritual truths of Easter breathe new life into your relationship, and your bond will be stronger for it. 


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Do You Know When the 2nd Most Vulnerable Time for Divorce Occurs in Marriages?

devotional_Divorce pic.jpgCouples are surprised to learn that the second most vulnerable time for divorce is during the onset of the “empty nest” years. That’s because the number one cause of divorce is not an affair, money, or irreconcilable differences. Those are symptoms of the real culprit: the absence of any intentional emotional, physical and spiritual investments into their marriages. Apathy will slowly strangle and kill a marriage.

Many empty nesters have concentrated more on their children and careers than they have on their marriages and mates. The problem surfaces when their kids and jobs go away … they discover that their love for each other has quietly vanished too!

Jesus said: “where your treasure is ... there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21.) Whatever captivates your time, energy, talent, and treasure will ultimately seize first place in your heart. So, if you’re not giving your spouse your prime time, talent, treasure and the energy they deserve, you’ve put your marriage in a perilous place.

The good news is that with some intentionality … you can reverse the curse of apathy.

Here are 5 suggestions:

1. Share a “quickie” devotional together. Find time to read from your Bible or favorite devotional book and to pray for each other as you launch out into your respective days. This acknowledges your dependency on God, gets you talking about your day, and strengthens your spiritual intimacy.

2. Greet each other with a hello / goodbye kiss: it’s a great reminder of the physical and emotional connection you share together as husband and wife.

3. Share a 30 second hug: a warm embrace everyday reminds your body, soul and mind of your love connection and commitment.

4. Check-in: call, text or e-mail updates to one another throughout the day to see how things are going, and to make sure you’re both on the same page about your plans for the evening.

5. Schedule a regular time of uninterrupted conversation: relationships need meaningful conversation to grow ... so, find a time to turn off the TV, computer, put down the phone and talk.

Many of us are disciplined about making deposits into our retirement accounts … so we can enjoy those wonderful years … but … let’s not forget to make regular deposits of “intentional attention” into our spouses love banks so that those years will be truly “golden.”


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Are Romance Novels Stealing the Romance from Your Marriage??

devotional_romance novel.jpgLast week we wrote about the danger that TV nudity brings into our homes. That led to a discussion in our office about the other side of that coin … the dangers of so-called “romance” novels.

This is a challenging topic because it is not as “black and white” as nudity … there are many shades of gray that fall under the moniker of “romance” novel. Anything from “soft porn” with explicit sex scenes to volumes of Christian romance highlighting breathless kissing. So what is good to read? We’ve identified at least three types of dangerous fiction:

1. Erotic novels should always be avoided!

These tales are written to be sexually stimulating … and are categorized as “soft porn.” Many women find themselves more aroused by reading this material than they would be watching porn. So how is the woman who devours novel after novel different from a man who consistently watches porn? Erotica will ultimately undermine your physical intimacy … so avoid this fiction!

2. Romance novels that fuel marital dissatisfaction

If your marriage is not in a good place … and you’re reading romance to escape from your feelings of marital dissatisfaction … you’re not helping your marriage … you’re undermining it even more. Any stories that stir up, or create more, displeasure with your spouse, or your marriage, are dangerous.

3. Tales that paint an unbiblical and unrealistic view of love

Stories that portray an unrealistic, or unbiblical view of what love is supposed to be are toxic to your marriage. The characters of these stories experience love as an overwhelming emotional force that completely consumes them.

God’s design for marital love contains: eros, that same kind of romantic, passionate physical love, but it also includes phileo, the deep friendship love; and agape the unconditional, unbreakable love. The idea that a superficial, feeling based, love is strong enough to make a marriage last is truly a fairy tale where the two will not live happily ever after.

Paul, in Philippians 4:8 admonishes us to "Fill our minds with … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.


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What TV Shows are Appropriate for Christian Married Couples?

devotional_tv shows.PNGMany people have asked, “Is it okay for my spouse and me to watch TV shows that have regular occurrences of nudity in them?

With the rise of online streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime … and the pervasive On Demand viewing options for networks like HBO, Cinemax, etc., the accessibility to shows that would never be allowed in primetime has grown significantly.

Not only are they more accessible, but the networks have poured large amounts of financial resources into these new original series … to increase the quality to the point they regularly receive nominations for annual Emmy awards.

We typically hear two different scenarios … the first … both of you are okay with these types of shows and don’t think it will affect your marriage … and the second … one of you doesn’t know how to tell your spouse you want them to change their viewing habits.

If you’re in the first camp, I’d strongly recommend you look at what the Scriptures teach. Paul admonishes us to “Flee from sexual immorality” in I Cor. 6:18, and Jesus defines adultery as “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully” in Matt. 5:28. Psalm 119:37 warns us to “turn my eyes from looking at worthless things.”

Hebrews 13:4 concludes, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

So what should you do if your spouse watches these shows against your better judgment and admonitions?

1 – Pray that God will convict him or her that watching nudity is wrong. God’s convictions will be much stronger than any nagging or judgement you can offer.

2 – Share your feelings … at a separate time, let your spouse know how disrespected and humiliated you feel when they watch those shows. You could ask, “If I enjoyed something that hurt you deeply, would you want me to continue doing it?

3 – Set Safeguards in place … set up filters on your viewing services that don’t allow shows with these ratings … or just get rid of them completely!

By working through these issues as a couple, you’ll build your intimacy with each other … as opposed to growing the fan base of an inappropriate show!  


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How to Stop Fighting About CHORES with Your Spouse!

devotional_chore battles.jpgSomewhere in the first few months of marriage, most couples experience major revelations about chores. The first is that your house doesn’t clean itself … and second, your spouse doesn’t clean the same way you do!

This might not seem too bad … until the inevitable happens … and you begin the “chore battles!”

My wife and I have dealt with the whole gamut … from the frequency of floor cleaning … to the trash being taken out … even the correct and incorrect ways to load the dishwasher!

Unfortunately, as you progress in your marriage and kids come along, these battles only get more frustrating … more often … and more heated!

While you might think you’re fighting about chores, the reality is you’re actually fighting about something deeper … let’s look at a few underlying reasons.

Are you attacking the person … or the problem? Stay away from missile words like “you always” or “you never.” Attacking the person is going to make them get defensive, feel belittled and hurt.

Are you treating your spouse with respect? What positive things can you share with your spouse to build him or her up prior to addressing the issue with the chores?

Have you picked the best time and place to have this discussion? Too often the chore battle takes place when we’re already stressed out … or haven’t had the proper time to process our discussion. I’ve learned that as soon as I walk in the door from work … is not the right time for me or my wife to start this process. We do much better at night, after the kids are in bed … and we can have an adult conversation without little ears floating around.

So how can we address the “chore battles?”

Work together on a blueprint, or plan, for how you can tackle the day to day routines of keeping up with the house as a couple. What does the intended outcome look like? Put the details together … then agree to revisit the plan after a few weeks and see how you’re progressing. If changes are needed, make them … and don’t forget to reward yourselves for working together as a couple!


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The 3 Greatest Gifts You Can Give this Valentine's Day!

devotional_valentines day.jpegValentine’s Day is fast approaching … and many are scrambling to get that cute card … those chocolate candies … or a cluster of Chrysanthemums.  And while those are all fine gifts, they really don’t do all that much to strengthen the romance within our marriages. 

Hey, I’m not saying don’t get your spouse that special card or a sentimental gift … that could be disastrous!  What I’m suggesting is that you consider giving your “Valentine” a gift that will make a bigger impact on your intimacy.  Here are three ideas:

Time Together:

Time is a powerful gift because it is the one thing we all have the same amount of … and how we spend it is a great indicator of what our priorities truly are.  So, when you give your spouse some of your “prime” time ... you’re saying that he or she is a high priority in your life. 

What does this gift of time look like?  Make a coupon offering 15 minutes a day to sit and share a cup of coffee or tea … or for a walk around the block … or to watch his or her favorite show.  If you want to up the ante, schedule a regular date night … or a weekend getaway to a marriage retreat. 

Talk:

While you’re spending time together … be sure to talk together.  “Small” talk leads to “significant” talk.  It’s OK to chit chat about the little things … but if you really want to grow your marriage you’ll need to develop the desire and ability to share what’s really on your heart with your spouse; visit our website for some great questions.

Touch:

Research suggests that too many couples hold back kissing, touching, or holding each other until they have time for physical intimacy.  (That sounds like another great gift coupon!)  So, give your spouse a hug and kiss before you leave and when you first get home.  Hold hands, rub feet, scratch backs, or snuggle on the sofa.  All of those little touches of love and affection boost our feel good hormones! 

Make this Valentine’s Day special by sharing these gifts of time, talk and touch with your spouse and watch the romance in your marriage grow!


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Why do we struggle to feel forgiven?

Has something like this ever happened to you? devotional_forgiven.jpg

You bark some cutting and hurtful words at your spouse … turn, walk away and slam the door.  You both retreat to a time of silence, separation and sinfulness.

At this point you have two choices … you can either go back and work out your issue together; or allow the unresolved conflict to “scab over” pretending that nothing happened.  Trust me … personal experience has taught me that the second option is not the correct one!

Hopefully you realize that the first option is the best choice.  If you don’t take some deliberate steps to resolve your conflict, your unsettled issue will fester and cause both of you to feel disconnected.  It’s the proverbial “elephant in the middle of the relationship” syndrome!  The problem is you’re not only feeling disconnected … you’re feeling unforgiving and unforgiven … and that takes your earthly marital issue to a heavenly spiritual level. 

Whenever there is an unsolved issue between you and your spouse … there is an unresolved issue between you and God.  In Matthew 5:24 Jesus said, “leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (to God).”  Jesus teaches us that broken human relationships break our connection with God; and commands us to get right with each other before we seek to have communion with God.  So when you’re not in fellowship with your spouse … you’re not in communion with your Savior. 

Our marital relationships are broken when we don’t engage in reconciliation and forgiveness.  Paul teaches us in Ephesians not to let the sun go down on our anger … the idea is to deal with our disagreements quickly.  Don’t let the sins of our stubbornness and pride keep us from humbly confessing our role in the problem.  Jesus commands us to forgive as we have been forgiven …

Many of us struggle to feel connected to, and forgiven by, our spouses and our God because we still have unfinished business with them … remember that unresolved issue leads to an unsettled heart. 


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How Do I Forgive Myself?

devotional_forgive myself.jpgHave you ever had trouble forgiving yourself? Maybe you’re struggling with that now …  Learning how to forgive yourself is vital to keeping your relationships with God and your loved ones where they need to be.

Counselors proclaim this well-known fact: “hurting people … hurt people!” The longer you avoid forgiving yourself, the longer you allow yourself to harbor those unhealthy feelings that you deserve to be punished and to suffer for what you did, the more volatile you will become and, therefore, the more apt you are to hurt the loved ones around you. You are in a vulnerable place when you are cut off from God and those who love you.

Why do we have trouble forgiving ourselves? Many times it’s because we haven’t fully accepted God’s forgiveness. We struggle to let go of the destructive baggage of guilt and shame. 

Guilt and conviction are different. God convicts through our conscience … using an emotion that feels a lot like guilt … we can label this constructive guilt because it draws us closer to God and to others. 

But then there is the destructive self-condemning guilt that seeks to keep us in bondage … which negates the liberating grace of God. Revelation 12:10 tells us that our enemy, the devil, is the accuser of Christians … the forgiven ones.  His plan is to keep us trapped in guilt and shame.  So we must rebuke our enemy just like Jesus did in Matthew 4 by using the Word of God … here are some verses you can claim to help you forgive yourself:

The blood of Jesus cleanses “me” from all unrighteousness (I John 1:7) and When God forgives our sins, he remembers them no more (Hebrews 10:17). He casts our sins in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19) and he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

The reality is that you cannot undo past mistakes … you can’t go back and change what happened. It’s going to take time, effort and prayers for patience to restore lives and relationships to where they once were. But all things are possible with God’s help. So forgive yourself and let the healing begin! 


Additional Resources to Grow Your MarriageMarriage intensives

What is a "Fan the Flame Marriage Intensive"? Our marriage intensives are more than a couple's weekend retreat. They are intimate, personalized coaching sessions designed to help you identify and address your specific needs. Intensives are more powerful than one hour counseling sessions because they keep you both focused on your issues for an extended period of time.

You will receive over 15 hours of personalized counseling, coaching and marriage building exercises that will fan the flame of your marriage back to life.

Upcoming Intensives  

- Jan. 15-17, 2016 (Black Rock Retreat) Lancaster, Pa
- Feb. 26-28, (Sandy Cove) Md
- March 18-20, (Sandy Cove) Md

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Do I Need Marriage Counseling?

devotional_heart-2-Large-300-dpi.jpgHere’s a question I get a lot, “Is our marriage at the point where we need counseling?”

While that’s a pretty loaded question … and every situation is unique … let me see if I can offer a few thoughts that might provide some clarity.

Just like the fact our wedding rings tarnish and show signs of wear over the years … marriage relationships can get worn, weary and show signs of neglect if they’re not routinely “cleaned.”

How do you know if your marriage is just in a tough season … or if you’re experiencing something much more significant?

Here’s a few behaviors you should be on the lookout for:

1 – Communication Goes Silent – The foundation of relationship is the ability to communicate with each other. If you stop sharing your thoughts and feelings … or don’t feel safe enough to communicate what you’re really thinking, you’ve entered a downward spiral that needs addressed.

2 – Constant Negative Communication – Every couple knows that arguments and conflict are a part of life. As I’ve shared on many occasions, if you don’t have conflict … you don’t care … but if your communication is nothing but negativity towards each other … and doesn’t end in positive resolution … you start laying a foundation of disdain, contempt and anger towards each other that warrants professional intervention.

3 – Non-existent Physical Intimacy – While frequency may change over the years, tapering off completely … or having physical intimacy with no emotional connection is not normal.

4 – You’ve Had or Fantasize about an Affair – We’ve seen many couples overcome affairs … through heartfelt forgiveness, rebuilding of trust, and a renewed emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy … but it takes time … hard work … and more often than not, the guidance of a third party to navigate challenging path.

Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety”

If this list hit too close to home, we’d love to chat further with you about our marriage intensive retreats … or help you get in touch with a personal counselor or pastor to help.


How to Build the “Core” of Your Marriage!!

devotional_couple exercise.pngRecently … my body told me it wasn’t as strong as it used to be … so I joined a gym. The trainer smiled and re-assured me I could get a lot my old self back … and promptly started me on an exercise program to strengthen my “core” … you know those muscles in our backs … stomachs … shoulders and sides that support our heads … arms … legs … fingers … toes. … so when we build our core … we strengthen our entire body …

As I was trying to soak away my aches and pains in a hot bath … it occurred to me that there is a lot of similarity between building our bodies and strengthening our marriages. There are core, or foundational, ingredients that all of the other aspects of our marriages are built upon.

Some of these are:  faith … commitment … unconditional love … safety … trust … and one that we often overlook … personal responsibility.

Because no marriage will ever be stronger than its weakest spouse; we need to be intentionally working to become the best man or woman … God wants us to be!

When our personal responsibility is weak … we blame our spouse for the condition of our marriage … we say :  if he would just do that …or …  if she didn’t do this …  healthy personal responsibility means we stop blaming our spouses and look at our own lives first … Jesus asked the question: “Why do you look at the speck in your spouse’s eye … but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye?”

So, we build stronger marriages by asking ourselves: How am I contributing positively or negatively to making our marriage the best it can be? What are some areas I need to strengthen in my personal life that will make a positive impact on our marriage?

Paul David Tripp declared:  “I am my biggest marital problem!”

So If you want a better marriage … ask God to help you become a better you!


5 Incredible Conversation Starters for Any Couple!

devotional_conversations starters.jpgIt’s been reported that the average couple spends less than 3 minutes a day in “meaningful” conversation.

That’s because most of our couple talk is all about family logistics … who …what … where … when … and how …  It is reporting … not rapport building …  It’s head to head communication … not heart to heart connection.

The Office for National Statistics finds that on average we, as couples, spend between 2 to 2.5 hours a day together and that includes weekends!! Let that sink in … you are only together with your spouse for about 2 hours a day.

And what do we do when we’re all alone with our loved ones? We watch TV (one third of all the time), we eat (30 minutes) and we do “household chores” together (24 minutes).

Here’s a surprise! They found that women cared more than men about spending time together; and the ladies were very clear that this time together had to involve talking to each other. The final revelation:  the less time couples spent talking together, the less frequent their physical intimacy was.

So to help you out on all fronts … here are 5 questions that you can ask each other at the end of every day to get the conversations going and your marriage growing! They’re guaranteed to get you talking more than 3 minutes!

  • What was the highlight of your day today … what did you feel good about today … Why?
  • What was the “downer of the day” … what did you enjoy least about today … what made you feel badly … Why?
  • What do you think the Lord might be doing in your life through these things?
  • What can I do to help make the rest of your day better? What do you need from me?
  • How can I pray for you now …

Didn’t have time to write them down? Come on out to our website fantheflamedates.com to download these and other helpful tools to build your marriage.


A Reader Shares the Secret Emotional Needs of Men … A Must Read!

devotional_Crying-Man.jpgIt’s always good to hear from listeners … and to those who receive these thoughts via our email devotions … here’s one we got the other day from a men’s ministry leader …

“I read your online article to wives today and it was very good.  You can quote me in saying that wives have no idea how much their husbands need encouragement from them—you were right on! An appreciative note from a wife can go a LONG way!

I know it goes both ways, but if a wife is “tuned-in” enough to get the ball rolling and becomes a cheerleader of her husband that would be awesome!

Many wives think their husbands are strong and tough and don’t need that encouragement, but that is very wrong … that is the “face” that we men have been taught to wear.

Many men are getting a “beat-down” on a daily basis only to have that continue when they get home.

Most of us men are secretly desperate to be loved, honored and appreciated (yep—just like women). And I’m amazed at how many men don’t understand how to ask for, or get attention appropriately … because it feels like the need to be loved by a woman is a weakness. So we seek it inappropriately by grabbing and demanding … or avoiding altogether …because that doesn’t make us feel weak.

It’s scary and hard for us to love a woman because we have to be vulnerable … and most of us don’t do vulnerable real well.

In fact we’ve been conditioned to believe that women need us to be tough and if we speak of our weakness and neediness that our wives will turn away from us.

As a men’s ministry leader … I’ve watched men sob over the lack of connection they feel with their wives and how desperate they are to be desired by their wives. And in most cases their wives have no idea of how much pain they are in … because men either don’t know they’re in pain or they don’t feel safe enough to express it.”

So ladies make it safe for your husbands to talk to you about what they need and want from you … why not ask them today?


Ladies, It’s time to ask ourselves the hard question. Do I let my husband lead

(Guest writing again is Bruce’s wife – Karen McCracken)

Last week we began discussing spiritual leadership in the home and our desire as wives for our husbands to take the lead.

We first looked at the importance of guarding our heart by having a heart of gratitude. One way you can do that is by journaling all the things you appreciate about him.  Having a hard copy will give you something to refer back to when you’re aren’t feeling so appreciative. Guarding your heart from negativity places you in the position to love, bless, and enjoy your husband for all the things you love about him.

When we think about creating spiritual leadership in our marriages … it may be time to ask ourselves the hard question. Do I let my husband lead?

As a strong woman … I can have a take charge attitude that Bruce has found to be a bit intimidating. In our conversation about this topic he has shared that he has felt unsure as to how to lead me spiritually.

So … you as a strong mom and wife want to pray and ask the Lord for a good time to talk together about your spiritual life … as a couple and family. Be sure to acknowledge that husbands and wives have different ideas about what spiritual connection is …so ask him what he thinks your spiritual time should look like. It’s critical to create a safe environment for him to share.  Affirm him. Be gentle.  Let him express his opinions freely without judgment (verbal or facial expressions).

Hopefully this productive loving conversation will produce some first steps to building spiritual intimacy in your marriage.

Is it easy? No. Really reflect on this and search your heart for insights about your role as follower. Think about what it would look like for you to support his attempts and give him space to lead..

Remember that it’s God’s desire for you to experience spiritual intimacy in marriage and He is the All-powerful one that can bring this to fruition. Our job is to pray for spouse and model Christ-likeness in our gentleness and our willingness to be lead spiritually.


How Should I Treat My Husband Who Won’t Lead Us Spiritually?

(Guest writing today is Bruce’s wife – Karen McCracken)devotional_husband-leading.jpg

Many wives feel disappointed, angry, resentful, resigned, and confused about what to do with a husband who seems spiritually absent or is unwilling to lead his family toward Christ.

If this is true in your marriage, the answer isn’t to nag or criticize your husband, nor is it to resign yourself to be passive.

Instead the answer lies in allowing GOD to work on your husband for you to control what you can:  YOURSELF. To encourage your husband’s faith you must first shore up your own heart. We need to passionately pursue God through Jesus Christ & recognize that is my most important and basic spiritual connection. We gain truth and insight from His Word … we’re able to complain and cry out to Him when life is hard … rejoice and thank Him when life is good … and when we seek to know and follow Him we are comforted, guided and taught by the Holy Spirit living inside us.

One of the ways we CAN encourage our husband’s spiritual life and leadership is to guard our heart by expressing gratitude. Proverbs 4:23 states “Above all else guard your heart for it’s the wellspring of life.” We are guarding our heart when we actively notice and express gratitude for our blessings and the many gifts God has given us. Look for things you appreciate about your husband – what he’s doing right and then write them down in a gratitude journal and share them with him. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so that none of you may be hardened by sin and deceitfulness.”

Pastor John Piper suggests that our attitude needs to be … ok, this may never change in my husband. I hope it does, but it may never change; and I’m not going to lock in on this shortcoming as the only thing I think about with him. Instead, I will try to love him, bless him, enjoy him for the things about him that I delight in, and all the while be Praying and Modeling what I hope he will become for me.


Are You Guilty of Using these Four “Missile Words” in Arguments?

devotional_missile_bill_by_yoshigo99-d5c032x.pngWhen you find yourself engaging in a disagreement with your spouse … your instinctive goal is to craft your argument so that it makes make a powerful impact … which typically means that some serious “missile words” will start flying out of your mouth!

A “missile” is defined as an object that is forcibly propelled at a target, carrying a conventional or nuclear explosive.  So the goal of a missile word is to deliver a painful / hurtful message … usually aimed at the heart of your spouse … and not at the issue being discussed.

We’ve identified a series of these “missile words” that explode with great force … causing couples’ conflicts to escalate … and leave a path of emotional pain and carnage.

#1 & #2 – Always and Never

These two favorites … “you always” or “you never” … attack the character of your spouse.  The irony is that as soon as you launch “always” or “never”, your spouse starts searching his or her radar screens for that one time they didn’t or did … just to prove you wrong.  Tragically you’ve stopped trying to solve a problem together … and have become defiant, argumentative and insensitive.  These two words always escalate emotions … and never lead to resolution!

#3 – Seriously?

When we use “seriously” as a question … more often than not, we’re saying, “You can’t possibly mean what you just said because it was so absurd and/or thoughtless that only a moron with half a working brain would say it to me!”  … and everyone knows the proper response is the next word –

#4 – Whatever!

Your spouse asks: Am I right? … your missile response: Whatever!  This has the same effect as nails scratching across a chalkboard.  It invalidates your spouse’s feelings and shows your total disdain for reaching a resolution … and typically sets the stage for an unresolved conflict and hurt feelings.

Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissention, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Remember the objective in resolving conflict is reaching a win / win peace agreement … not the total destruction of your spouse through missile words.


How to Talk to Your Spouse about Sex

devotional_couple in bed.jpgIt’s no surprise … talking about our physical love lives can be daunting!  Realizing that we may sound unsatisfied, selfish and judgmental doesn’t make this challenging conversation any easier.

But having the love life you desire will not happen by itself.  A positive love making experience often requires some extremely personal communication.

You need a safe and honest relationship to talk about what does and doesn’t feel good, or to ask to try something new.  Intimate discussions don’t come easy; so here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. It’s always a good idea to let your spouse know that you would like to talk about sex … before you have the conversation. Knowing that you are going to talk about this part of your marriage gives both of you the chance to plan and prepare for this important discussion.

2. Determine and agree on the best time to talk.  Obviously, this conversation needs to occur at a private time and place where you can enjoy a face to face setting with no interruptions.  Be sure to schedule it when you both will have the time and energy to stay engaged.

3. Start your conversation by affirming your partner’s desire to please you.  Then move onto describing your needs, wants and desires. Use “I” statements and avoid putting blame on your partner.  Use the proper vocabulary … no code words.  Be specific.  Stay positive … remember the goal is to make your love making experience more enjoyable for both of you.

4. Listen carefully.  Be open and honest.  Accept personal responsibility for the things you can improve or change.  Avoid making excuses for yourself and listen with an open mind!

5. Ask questions to get clarification.  “I hear you saying that you would like me to touch you more … where and how would you like me to touch you?”

6. Once you break the ice on this topic you will see that one conversation won’t be enough.  So be sure to schedule a regular date night to keep this conversation alive?

You can alternate your date night topics with conversations about emotional and spiritual intimacy … they all work together!


Take this Quiz to See if Your Marriage Needs a Tune-Up

devotional_Wrench heart.jpgIt’s the end of summer, and if you’re like me, you’re receiving ads in the mail urging us to get our heating systems checked and tuned up before the cold of Winter sets in. But, it’s still hot outside; and the thought of being warmer is the last thing on our minds. But years of experience have taught me the wisdom of preventive maintenance in saving money and avoiding breakdowns.

It’s the end of summer and our marriages will also benefit from regular tune ups and preventive maintenance. Is your relationship ready to handle the wear and tear of your family’s stressful schedule? Are you spending enough time together to fan the flame of your marriage? Now is a good time to plan for a marriage get away, before the busyness of Fall kicks in.

Take a few minutes to honestly answer these True / False questions … if the statement is more true than false answer it “T” … if not it is false. These questions should provide you with an opportunity to evaluate some key areas of your marital relationship … see if you both can agree on your answers. Talk about how you can improve the areas that were answered  “False”

T / F    We go out together alone as a couple at least twice a month?

T / F    We talk regularly about things that affect us as a couple …

not just children’s issues?

T / F    We are having devotions together regularly … reading the Bible

and praying together?

T / F    We are “more satisfied than not” with our sexual relationship?

T / F    We both have full knowledge of our financial condition and are in

agreement with how we fare?

T / F    We share family, parenting, and housekeeping responsibilities?

T / F    We would rather be home together than at work or play apart?

T / F    We verbally build one another up regularly?

T / F    We say the words “I love you” to each other daily?

T / F    We have made personal commitments to stay together …

“divorce is not an option!”

If you got more “falses” than you’re comfortable with … we have a Fan the Flame Marriage retreat planned in October … come and join us!


6 Reasons Couples Think Their Marriage is Doomed …

devotional_Sad wedding photo.jpgWhile doing our Fan the Flame Marriage Intensives for Christian couples who want to save their marriages … we’ve heard a lot of interesting reasons why they thought about ending their relationships.  Here’s a few …

  1. “We’ve drifted apart.”This classic cop out says “we’ve lost those loving feelings;” and we’re too lazy to work to bring them back … it’s easier to find a new lover than it is to rekindle our marriage” Wrong!  Not only is this unbiblical … but research reveals that it is easier to re-kindle an existing marriage than it is to create a new one.
  2. “We fight all the time.” Conflict is a good thing … it shows that there is an emotional connection! We rarely fight with people we don’t have a relationship with … we want them to see things our way. Learning how to resolve conflicts actually builds intimacy … even if it means we’ve learned something new that upsets our spouse!
  3. “We flunked counseling!” Counselors are not magicians!  Be patient.  Realize that the issues in your marriage have been festering for years and won’t be fixed in three or four sessions.
  4. “My parents never approved!” I’m amazed when parents want to break up their kid’s marriages! Genesis 2:24 says a man should “leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife.”  Couples who can effectively distance themselves from parental control will reap the rewards of a stronger marriage.
  5. “We were young and foolish!” Young couples in love can make unwise decisions! So, you parents reading this … urge your kids to get pre-marital counseling. Be sure they are confronted with the fact that marriage is a lifelong adult commitment.
  6. “God told me to marry someone else.” This is absurd … but I have heard it from a former pastor. Listen, God will never tell you to do something that clearly contradicts the Bible!

If you’re having marital problems, and think divorce is your only option, stop and take a deep breath.  Ask God to give you His counsel—and seek help from Christian friends.

Our Heavenly Father’s love and mercy may surprise you.


5 Tips for Meaningful Communication with Your Spouse!

devotional_communication2.jpgOur daily exposure to superficial noise via the internet, social media, TV, and radio makes it easy for us to become immune to significant communication. We’ve become a sound bite culture; and we can’t build meaningful relationships with sound bites!

Jesus made a habit of getting away from the “noise” in His everyday life to have some meaningful communication with His Heavenly Father.  He was intentional about dedicating blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on His most important relationship.

So as couples, we need to work hard at nurturing meaningful conversations that will build the most important earthly relationships we have with our spouses.

Here are 5 tips on how to make the best use of the times we do find to meaningfully connect:

1. Set a regular time and place.  Look at your calendars and schedule at least one block of time per week for some uninterrupted conversation.

2. Get ready. What are the two most important things we need to talk about?  Is it a major decision deadline that’s approaching?  Is it a problem between the two of you or with the kids?  Develop your agenda so you’re ready to discuss the important things first.

3. Stay on topic. Once a good conversation gets rolling it’s tempting to “dump the whole load” of what you’ve wanted to discuss over the last six months. Unfortunately, that usually leads to information overload, confusion; and the frustrated feeling of “What are we talking about?”

4. Be sensitive to the time. When your conversation gets too deep or goes too long, intellectual and emotional fatigue comes into play. Even if the conversation is going great stop and ask: “Do you want to keep talking about this?” Your goal is for the conversation to end positively and productively!

5. Close with:  “Thank you … I appreciate you listening to me.”  The conversation will eventually weaken. One of you may withdrawal or explode.  These symptoms indicate that it’s time to stop before all your good conversation morphs into a bad conflict. End your time by reviewing any decisions that were made.  Be sure to close with:  Thanks for listening … I’m glad we got to talk about this.”


10 Symptoms of a Deteriorating Marriage

devotional_deteriorating marriage.jpgHere’s a list of 10 symptoms that your marriage could be deteriorating to be on the lookout for …

  1. You’re constantly hearing: “I love you … but … I am not in love with you.”
  1. One of you wants to go for marriage counseling but the other won’t participate.
  1. You feel like you’re in a convenient business or roommate partnership rather than in a passionate marriage. Your relationship has deteriorated to a delegation of tasks and responsibilities.
  1. You, and / or your spouse, avoid dealing with your marriage problems by over indulging in food, drink, exercise, work, etc.
  1. You rarely spend quality time alone together; you find reasons to be away from each other.
  1. You’re not communicating face to face; you use texts, notes, e-mails or your children to relay important information.
  1. You’re sleeping in separate rooms or going to bed at different times.
  1. One, or both, of you are avoiding physical intimacy with each other.
  1. You fantasize about what it would be like to be single again or in a new relationship with somebody else.
  1. You suspect, or have discovered, that your spouse is having an emotional or physical affair.

These are all indicators of a marriage that is dying of neglect.  They scream that a couple has stopped trying.

Most marriages don’t end because of one cataclysmic event. They’re like the once majestic oak tree … that looks strong and healthy but has really been rotting away for years from the inside out … until a storm blows in and topples it … exposing the decay that led to its demise.

How can you stop this deterioration from happening in your marriage? 

By not allowing it to happen to you … it is easier for you to change your outlook than to change your spouse … figuratively and literally.

We want to blame our spouses for where we are in our marriages. But the truth is you need to own your personal responsibility for making your marriage better.

So which one of these symptoms do you want to attack first?

Your marriage will only be as strong as its weakest spouse … so work to be the best spouse you can be!


Creating a “No Losers” Mindset in Your Marriage

devotional_dreamstime_s_18154868.jpgOne of the biggest causes of marital breakdowns … is a couple’s inability to resolve conflict effectively; and every married couple runs into conflict because …

Conflict is inevitable … two people who are in love … want each other to think and feel the same way about things … how to deal with money … how to deal with children … free time … and more!

The problem is … too many of us have come to believe that conflict is a bad thing … and that we should avoid it at all costs … but that’s not true … nor is it healthy for your marriage …

The truth is … conflict is a sign of connectedness … it says we have a vital relationship here … Remember – we rarely have conflicts with people we do not know or like.

But the most important thing we need to know about conflict is that it does not have to be negative!  When we learn how to successfully resolve conflicts with our spouse … we discover new things about him or her that we didn’t know before (which is why we’re having the problem) … and that helps to deepen our intimacy.

To make conflict a productive force in our marriage we have to establish a “No Losers Policy.” 

If you are “one,” a house divided against itself can’t stand.  If you are a “team” … it is impossible for one member of a team to win while another member of that same team loses!  You either both win … or you both lose … but there should never be an “I win – You lose” mentality allowed your marriage!

You both “win” when you both feel good about and agree together on the solution to your problem.  Maybe one of you came up with the solution … that’s OK … as long as both of you willingly agree that it is the best solution … you have a win-win scenario!  What will break down any marriage is the “my way or the highway” mentality!


The Ashley Madison website hack means more than you might realize to your marriage!

devotional_ashley-madison.jpgToday’s headline read:  Ashley Madison’s website hacked! 

Ashley Madison is an adult extra-marital “dating” website whose tagline is: “Life is short. Have an affair

What disheartened me was the mind blowing fact that this site has over 37 million registered cheaters! That’s over 10% of our population!!

The hackers have threatened to release the names, pictures, messages … and all sorts of incriminating material … if Ashley Madison doesn’t shut the website down.

I can see it now … all that info released and 37 million folks will have a lot of explaining to do!

All of this made me think about how many of us may be keeping secrets from our spouses … for any number of reasons … none of which is good enough to justify all the damage that will occur to your marriage when it comes to light.

If you’re keeping a secret from your spouse … it is time to ask two hard questions:

1 – “Why am I keeping this information from him or her?” Do I honestly believe it’s the best thing for our marriage; or am I petrified of what will happen if the secret leaks out? And then the second question:

2 – “How is our relationship being strengthened by me keeping this secret?”

I don’t think any marital secret can survive these two questions. Let’s be honest … keeping secrets is lying … plain and simple. We are either intentionally withholding or distorting information to deceive our spouses.

We keep secrets because we’re afraid and don’t want to be judged or rejected. The Bible tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear” … So, what would our marriages look like if we refocused all of the energy it takes to hide secrets and put it into creating a safe relationship where  we could become free to share everything with each other?

Proverbs 10:19 says: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

Ashley Madison’s users have learned that keeping secrets will lead to anxious living … and ultimate discovery.

Living safely without worry comes from living honestly with integrity.


The Magic of a “Time-Out” to Ease Arguing Couples!!

devotional_timeout.jpgDid you know that “Calling a Time Out” …before you get into some marital mayhem can be a great way to start a positive conversation? 

Coaches often call a time out when they feel the game is out of control and getting away from them. It gives the team a chance to break the negative momentum or to slow the game down so that they can re-group and talk about a new strategy for winning the contest.

The same is true for you as a couple … the power of calling a “time out” at the right moment … can keep you from letting the negative and destructive arguments defeat your marriage.

So when you feel that things are getting hectic and out of control … call a time out … it can help you positively resolve your conflict by:

  • Preventing the fight from escalating into a negative and destructive disaster.
  • Allowing you to get away from each other so you can both calm down
  • Giving you time to pray, and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and the proper attitude needed to resolve your issue …
  • Giving you time to take another look at the issue from your spouse’s perspective … to ask yourself: What is my part in this problem?
  • And then, when you see your role in the issue, you can craft the words you want to say to your spouse so that he or she will hear you and not be so defensive.

Time outs don’t cancel or end the game. They have a definite starting and stopping point. The same needs to be true when one of you calls for one in your marriage. When you call a time out … acknowledge there is a problem that needs to be solved … state that you are not ready, or in a good place to deal with it now, and agree on a time and place to come back and work through the issue.

This is not an avoidance strategy … it is an advancement strategy!


5 Things We Know Based on the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

devotional_supreme court.jpgWe’ve all been processing the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling declaring: “that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”  Many have asked: “What are the implications of this ruling for House on the Rock Family Ministries?”  My answer has been: “I honestly don’t know!

But here are five things that I honestly do know:

God “created” marriage.  It was not “passed” into existence by voters, legislators or justices.  So, House on the Rock is, and will continue to be, fully committed to the Biblical truth that marriage is the union between one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant relationship with their God and each other.

God is sovereign.  He turns the hearts of kings and courts (Proverbs 21).  The cultural slide leading to this unbiblical decision didn’t catch Him off guard.  In fact, I believe God wants to use what appears to be a “tragic” decision to become the “wakeup” call for the Church in what may be the “last” days!

It’s time for us … the Bride of Christ … to rise up and show the world what the love of God looks like.  The state of the Church’s marital unions determines the state of our American union!  The condition of our marriages and families speak volumes to a lost and watching world.  So we must double down to protect, nourish, and pray for our marriages because they are the only Gospel that many will ever see.

So you … husbands … love your wives and be the sacrificial servant leaders of your families.  We have no higher calling!  You wives, love and respect your husbands –walk beside them and encourage them.  You have no higher calling.

God so loved the “world” … and all of the sinners in the world … including you and me.  Truth is … God loves all those in the LGBT community too!  These are men and women who need a Savior.  Our job is to show them how the love of Christ works in our lives … so they can see the need for it to be at work in their lives.  Remember we are not the judge …

God is the Supreme Judge whose “laws” cannot be overturned.  He will ultimately administer His grace and justice perfectly.

God is the same yesterday … today … and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He does not change and His Word endures forever.  In these rapidly challenging and changing days we cling to our unchanging God and His Word.

We should mourn this ungodly decision … this is a sad day for America; and the consequences of re-defining God’s ordained institution will be felt for generations.  But let us not lose sight of tremendous opportunity for the Gospel it presents to us.


The Greatest Marriage Lie!

devotional_couple with fingers crossed.jpgIn my years of working with couples and talking about their marriages, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone declare they’re leaving their spouse because, “I deserve to be happy in my marriage! God wants me to be happy doesn’t He?”

I understand the root of their reasoning.  We serve a good God who wants to shower good things on us.  Why wouldn’t He want us to be happy… to have a good marriage instead of a miserable one?  God wants us to experience the “abundant life!”  Add to that the power of our belief in the American dream of healthy, wealthy and happy and we have some faulty thinking.

Unfortunately, this is one of the greatest lies the devil whispers to couples today!

When you feel unhappy in your marriage, what do you?  You start making a list of all the things your spouse is doing, or has done, that upset you.  You begin to think of all the other people that seem happier than you.  You begin to punish your spouse by fighting with them, or emotionally withdrawing from them.  You start to keep an internal “tally” of all the reasons you’re not being met half-way by your spouse?

Stop!!

Are those actions of the Holy Spirit?  How can we say God wants me to be happy when we are disobeying Him and His Word?

Isaiah the prophet knew of this problem thousands of years ago when he shared “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)

“Deserving happiness” is just another form of selfishness and can be the most dangerous threat to your marriage.

God commands us to die to self … to think of others more highly then ourselves … to transform our minds daily.

When you start serving your spouse, and seeing how you can meet his or her emotional, spiritual and physical needs … when you start to make him or her happy … you’ll be amazed how God will transform your mind and your marriage!


8 Magical Words to End All Arguments in Marriage!

devotional_arguing-couple.jpgRecently I heard a sermon that challenged me deeply; the pastor shared he knew 8 magical words that could conquer any conflict in a marriage.  He went on to say that these magic words have the power to shatter strongholds, tear down barriers; and would bring healing to arguments that couples have.  These words could alter perception.

WOW!  As one who is in marriage ministry I was eager to discover what these “magic” words were!  Before letting us in on his secret, the pastor warned us that these 8 magical words may be harder for us to say than we might imagine.  He was afraid that many of us would not have the strength and courage to utter these powerful words to our spouses.

We were on the edge of our seats.  The moment of truth was upon us.  So with a dramatic pause he clearly articulated these 8 magical words:

“I was wrong.  You were right.  I’m sorry.”

My initial thought was … that’s it!?  I was wrong … you were right … and I’m sorry!  Then the attitude needed to speak those words hit me like a ton of bricks; I realized how powerful that simple and humble phrase could be in marriages.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

I Peter 4:8 continues, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Over the years I’ve come to realize that when arguments occur in my marriage, both of us begin to do and say things that are not honoring and glorifying to God.

When I say, and truly mean, these 8 words I’m admitting my mistakes, and beginning to diffuse the pressure that has been building between us.  By assuming my responsibility in the argument, and accepting the consequences of my mistakes, Karen and I can start moving towards reconciliation and renewed relationship with each other.

So, the next time you find yourself in the middle of a battle with your spouse, remember these 8 magical words and give them a try.

Let us know how they work for you!


5 Reasons why a Vacation can Strengthen Your Marriage!

devotional_Vacation-Couple.jpgSummer has officially begun … and for many of us that means … it’s vacation time!  A chance to “vacate” our everyday routines of work and life … that can break down family relationships!

Did you know that going on a vacation can strengthen your marriage and family?  Here are five reasons why that’s true:

  1. Vacations lift moods: A change in your physical surroundings and daily routines can greatly influence how you think and feel about yourself, your spouse and family members. You’re usually less defensive, more open, relaxed and connected when you are away.
  2. Vacations highlight the “us” factor:  What do couples crave? More free time and more undivided attention devoted to each other. Vacations provide those times to focus on one another … to give each other the up-close attention that re-creates true intimacy on every level!
  3. Vacations promote playing together: One of the biggest reasons why couples go from being soul mates to bickering roommates is flat out neglect. They take one another and their relationship for granted. Your same old routine becomes so entrenched that you stop playing together. Vacations usually involve having fun together… playing helps you forget your problems, pressures and responsibilities. As your mood and spirit lightens … you’re more likely to see what attracted you to one another in the first place.
  4. Vacations bolster our sense of “family”:  Vacations can create a myriad of logistical issues … keeping everyone happy is a big challenge. Yet, vacations strengthen families because they constantly remind us all about how important our relationships are, and how we should be treating each other as precious.
  5. Vacations grow relationships:  Growing people experience and foster deeper relationships … So, vacations that introduce you to new experiences that stretch your mind and challenge you to grow as an individual … will enrich and deepen all of your other family relationships too! The stronger you become … the stronger your family becomes …

So make sure you plan to take some vacation time together as a family this summer … 

 


Is Boredom Beating Your Marriage?

devotional_Couple_bored_2475394b.jpgLet’s face it … we live in a culture where we’re quickly bored.  We change jobs … channels … and conversation topics in the blink of an eye.  Today’s media knows this and bombards its ADD audience with sound bite messages every 15 to 30 seconds …

Unfortunately many of us who are married … have lost interest in our spouses and our marriages!  We stop having meaningful conversations … and even stop fighting because we don’t care … we stop dating and trying to impress each other … our love life becomes routine and predictable … we value our relationships with friends more than we do each other … we’ve grown into couch potatoes … who feel more like brothers and sisters than we do husbands and wives … does any of this sound familiar?  If so, boredom may be beating your marriage.

Boredom is an enemy of marriage and intimacy.  New research tells us that bored spouses are rapidly drifting toward divorce … believing a new spouse will bring back the excitement.

So how do we keep from getting bored in our marriage?  We can’t change spouses like we do TV channels … so let’s see if we can find some ways to beat boredom … before it beats us:

Look for ways that you can become a more exciting spouse … it’s notyour spouse’s fault that you are bored … you’ve become boring!  Start by remembering what you loved to do together when you were dating?  Rekindle some of those activities.  Now look for some more fun things that the two of you can enjoy together … get some bikes or kayaks …plan to visit every park in your region …  take dance lessons … start a garden … join a book club … plan a vacation or trip together.

Attend a marriage conference or retreat to get some helpful information and encouragement to strengthen your relationship.  Deepening Intimacy is an adventure in itself because it involves getting to know all there is to know about each other … and I’ll bet you two still have a lot to discover about one-another.

Knee to Knee … Nose to Nose Questions

1 – What are some symptoms we are seeing that may indicate we’re getting a little bored in our relationship?

2 – How have I become boring?  Why?  What do I need to do to remedy this?

3 – What were some of the fun things we did while we were dating that have stopped?  How can we bring some of those back into our lives?

4 – What are some new things we can do together that would help us beat the boredom that could beat us?

5 – What’s our plan?  What are the first three things we are going to do to break out of boring?  Set your goals … execute your plan …


Why we should say, “I Like it when you …”

When’s the last time you told your spouse … “I like it when you…”

Why that question?  Because too many marriages are characterized by negative and blaming phrases like “you never do this for me” or “you’re always doing this wrong”.  This negative attitude and tone does nothing positive to build your marriage.  so let’s try something new!…

Whenever your spouse does something that you do appreciate … share that with him or her using the phrase … “I like it when you”


Every successful marriage is characterized by acts of kindness shared between spouses … loving actions … gentle or encouraging words … a little gift … sharing time together … physical contact … all of these things make us feel loved and cared for …

But let’s be honest … we’re not mind readers … so why not help your spouse learn how to show you love … by reinforcing these loving things with the little phrase … … I like it when you … do this … I like it when you are gentle and understanding … I like it when we do this together … I like it when you give me a spontaneous hug and kiss …

So let’s set a goal … look for the little things that make your heart smile when your spouse does them … and affirm that by saying … I like it when you … (fill in what just happened) …

It’s not the once a year … big gift … or special event … that builds a marriage … it is those little things that happen every day … week after week that build love and intimacy  …

So see how many times you can share “I like it when you’s” with your spouse this week!


5 Keys to a Great Date Night!!

devotional_date night ideas.jpgThe University of Virginia released a study saying that regular date nights increase marital satisfaction and promote intimacy  Here are their five keys to great married dating:

First, dating keeps lines of communication open.  Turn off your cell phones and work on making lots of great eye contact.  Allow time for extended conversations that fight past the news of what’s happening at work and with the kids and gets to the heart issues.”

Second, Try something new.  Look for ways to break the routine of “dinner and a movie.”   Too many couples experience a decline in relationship quality because they develop boring habits that foster taking their relationships for granted.  Do something fun, unusual or exciting like:  roller skating, skeet shooting, hiking or take a cooking or dance class … go to the theatre and see a show.

Third, dating will help fan the flame of your passion for one another.  Couples often experience a decline in their romantic pursuits over time.  Your regular dates will keep you focused on each other; help you to engage in some romantic activities and to share your feelings with each other … those are things that will rekindle romantic sparks.

Fourth, dating shows your commitment to marriage.  It speaks to your children, family and friends and says, “We love each other and we take our marriage seriously.”  The fact that you make each other a priority sends a powerful message to your beloved saying … that he or she is the most important person in your life.

Fifth, regular date nights help couples “de-stress”.  When couples enjoy time together doing some fun things … it decompresses the concerns of their everyday lives.

With all the benefits dating brings to married couples, why in the world do so many of us neglect it?  The two most common excuses for skipping date night are kids and money.  I hear it all the time.  “We have kids and no money.”  That’s why we created our website “Fan the Flame Dates” so that couples like you could go out to the web on your time .. and for no money .. and enjoy some conversations that would help you connect in meaningful ways.


Have you ever gotten so stressed out that it hurt your marriage?

Have you ever gotten so stressed out that it hurt your marriage? 

Overloaded family schedules … underfunded bank accounts … mountains of maintenance stuff that needs to be done around the house … parenting pressures … not to mention the little bit of stress that we import from our day jobs … all take a toll on our marriage and family relationships.

The negative effects of stress are obvious … we get barky and snarky … we retreat … we eat … we blame … we feel overwhelmed … we are tired … irritable and yes we have a headache!  We’re in a bad place and we want to get out of there quickly … but we’re not sure how … so let’s look at some ways we can deal with the stress in our marriages.

The first thing we want to do is make time to sit down in a relaxing place to talk about what both of you are experiencing and feeling.  During this conversation make a list of the things that are stressing you out.  Attack the issues not your beloved … and be sure to apologize and forgive each other and to reaffirm your love for one another.

Second … Prioritize your list … which items are creating the most stress for both of you?  Which ones are most important? … Which ones can wait? … which ones can we delegate to someone else?

Third, now develop a strategy for tackling the tasks on your list.  Assign items and look for ways to share the load it will make things easier.  Keep your expectations reasonable …

Now spend some time praying together … ask God to help you discern what to do to ease the stress in your lives and to help you stay committed to your marriage.  Let Him know your needs. Philippians 4:19 tells us that "God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Be sure to set a time to touch base after you have successfully tackled some items ... to tweak your plans and to celebrate your victories! …


Join us for a Marriage Retreat! (Early Bird Prices NOW through June 1st)

 Lancaster Host Resort, PA - Marriage Retreat and Special Guest Musician - Matt & Kim Goss - October 9 - 11, 2015

Dr. Bruce and Karen McCracken, founders of House on the Rock Family Ministries will lead you and your spouse through a weekend filled with laughter, romance and re-connection. Bruce and Karen have been married for over 40 years and have been leading couples events for 25 years.  They bring practical advice for couples ... filled with grace that has been tempered by their experience together.

Matt and Kim Goss have been married for 19 years. Matt has been on staff as Worship Pastor of LCBC Church in Manheim, PA since 1999.  In that time the church grew from 700 to over 10,000 people! He is a featured worship leader and speaker at Integrity Music Seminars and many other conferences each year. Kim is also a prolific singer, songwriter and worship leader. Her much anticipated debut CD was released in Feb. 2011.


Additional Resources to Grow Your MarriageMarriage intensives

What is a "Fan the Flame Marriage Intensive"?

Our marriage intensives are more than a couple's weekend retreat. They are intimate, personalized coaching sessions designed to help you identify and address your specific needs. Intensives are more powerful than one hour counseling sessions because they keep you both focused on your issues for an extended period of time. You will receive over 15 hours of personalized counseling, coaching and marriage building exercises that will fan the flame of your marriage back to life. Click here for more information or to schedule a Marriage Intensive now!

 


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Celebrate Your Spouse this Month!

devotional_couple appreciation.jpgDid you know that April 2015 is Couple’s Appreciation Month? 

What a great idea … because we all take our spouses for granted and we forget to share how much we love and appreciate them.

April is the perfect month for this … it starts with April fool’s day … and let’s be honest all of us who are married have been accused of being one of those … but it’s also a time when the cold winter begins to thaw out and new life begins to spring up from its dormancy.

So let’s work to see the love we have for each other … spring back to life.  We have all experienced the cold hard realities of life … those things that freeze our romance and bury our time to be together …

We can do that by developing a strategy for demonstrating our love for our spouses every day this month … Let’s see if we can help you get started …

1. Make a list of things you “love” about your spouse … I love your smile … touch … your partnership in parenting … you fill in the list … and share one each day with your spouse.

2. Take a walk together … around the block … or in the park …

3. Splurge on a date night … go out for some fun … or stay in and watch a movie …

4. Purchase that special gift your spouse has been hoping for …

5. Be sure to give your beloved a hug and kiss everyday … and let it linger a little longer …

6. Say thank you everyday … for something your beloved does that blesses you.

7. Hey… if you want to go all out … plan a getaway at a local B&B or hotel … and then see if you can learn a few new tricks to spice up your love life!  But if that’s not in the budget … farm out the kids and enjoy a slumber party at your place …

King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, shared several times in Scripture that we are to enjoy … and if I might add … celebrate … the spouse of our youth … (Ecclesiastes 9:9; Proverbs 5:18 and Song of Solomon 4:15)


How Do You Forgive Your Spouse?

devotional_forgiveness.jpgHow do you forgive a person who was never supposed to hurt you in the first place?  A person who was supposed to have your best interest at heart … a person, who has wounded you, weakened your marriage and damaged your family?

How do you forgive your spouse?

The answer … while it sounds easy … can be very difficult … you do it the same way God has forgiven you …

Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When we play the victim card and say … my personal pain and hurt are more important than the command I have from God to forgive … who is the bigger sinner?  Our selfishness and pride are also inflicting wounds on our spouses … weakening our marriages and alienating our families.

So what does it mean to forgive?  … True forgiveness has three ingredients.

First and foremost … forgiveness is a choice.  I must decide whether I want to hold on or let go … to remain bitter or to get better.  We must choose between following our feelings and desires to judge and punish  … or following God’s desire for us to forgive and love … let’s not forget … we’re God’s child because He chose to forgive us!

Second … forgiveness is excusing the penalty of the offense … it is offering a pardon.  True forgiveness says “I’m not trying to punish or make my spouse pay for his or her sins against me “… again that flows from our understanding that we are not condemned by God … the penalty of sin and death have been forgiven!

And finally … forgiveness means renouncing anger and resentment.

We can’t forgive if we hold onto these powerful tools of the devil to divide couples.  Our Heavenly Father desires to love us and always has our best interest at heart …

So, next time your spouse offends you … let him or her know that you have made the choice to forgive … just like your Heavenly Father chose to forgive you!


It’s NOW or NEVER for Your Marriage!!

devotional_Depositphotos_5850295_s.jpgI love the oldies … and there is line from a song I often sing on retreats that goes:  it’s now or never …

Have you ever felt that way?  You are at a place in your life where you just feel things aren’t where you want them to be and you need to make a change … and now is the time … or you will never do it?

Lots of couples begin to feel this way about each other as they approach the empty nest years … their kids are gone or getting ready to go … and mom and dad begin to panic about what they are going to do with each other without their kids.

All those years of focusing their attention on the kids and not each other … has eroded their relationship … and they may begin to think … now is the time for me to get out marriage and … find that perfect spouse.

Well let me say or imagine me singing … it‘s now and never!  You are right …NOW is the time to confront that faulty thinking … because it is NEVER time to cave into the temptation of an affair or divorce.

So what can you do?  First take a walk down memory lane and talk about all the good things about your relationship … hey you’ve been together this long and raised some great kids!  There’s a lot of stuff you’re doing well!  Celebrate those!!

Then you might want to talk about where your marriage is and where you would like it to be as you enter this exciting time of your lives … identify your concerns and understand that both of you have short comings and are not the perfect spouse …

Now talk about how you want to make the changes you need to make in your lives and in your relationship to get your marriage back to where you would like it to be.

Remember … it takes less work to revitalize a tired marriage than it does to create a new one … so NOW is the time … to NEVER give up!


The Key to a Successful Marriage Revealed!!

devotional_marriage-key.jpgPeople ask all the time what is the key to having a successful marriage.  What’s fun about that question is that every marriage expert has a different answer … but I believe the one who created and ordained marriage has the best answer …

He says in Ephesians 5:25 … Husbands,and I might add wives here too, love your spouse like Jesus loves His … yes Jesus has a spouse … it’s you and me …members of His church the bride of Christ.

There’s the key … learning to love your spouse like Jesus loves you!  Stop and think about that … who loves you more than Jesus?  Ah nobody!

We’re coming up on the most sacred time of year … Holy Week … when we celebrate Jesus’ sacrificial love for us …His death and resurrection to redeem us from sin and death.

Paul helps us understand the loving attitude that Jesus had in His willingness to leave heaven and come to earth to die for us … in Philippians 2 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit … but in humility consider others better than yourself … Have this same attitude in you that was in Christ Jesus …”

Jesus believed that our need for salvation was greater than His need to remain comfortable and stay in heaven … so He came to earth to die a death He didn’t need to die … to pay for sins He never committed …

He wasn’t worried about His selfish ambition … or vain conceit … He was despised, rejected and crucified!  Who wants those as goals for their lives?  Yet He was willing to suffer this because He loves you and me more than He loves Himself.

So there’s the secret … when I can learn to love Karen more than I love myself … and I demonstrate that by my putting her needs before satisfying my own personal comforts and reputation … and when she does the same for me … we will be experiencing the successful marriage that God has intended us to enjoy.


Are You Starving Your Spouse to Death?

devotional_dreamstime_m_18919004.jpgWe all need food and water to live.  Basic nourishment is a must for a healthy lifestyle.  If we deprive our bodies of food for too long our vital organs begin to shrink and eventually shut down.  Starving to death is a slow and very painful process.

But our bodies are not the only things that need regular nourishment.  We have hearts and souls that are hungry for attention too.  So, we as married couples need to be committed to making sure our beloveds have the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment they need to stay healthy … otherwise our marriages will begin to starve to death … in a very slow and painful fashion

The idea of nourishing our spouses comes from Ephesians 5: 28-30 where Paul says … “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodiesHe who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, butnourishes and cherishes it …”

We usually think of nourishment as providing healthy food to eat.  But Paul expands on this idea.  A husband should not only nourish his wife by being a provider … making sure she has food, but he should also nourish her heart and soul; because Paul realizes that man does not live by bread alone.

Paul reminds husbands that we are quick to satisfy our own need for nourishment.  We rarely neglect our own bodies.  Our care for our wife’s needs should be just as focused.

So how do we nourish our spouse’s heart and soul?  That’s something we need to talk about together … Ask each other: “How do you feel loved by me?”  and make a list of how you can feed each other’s hearts.  Then ask: “How can I help you grow in your walk with God?” or “What can we do to strengthen our spiritual intimacy?” …  to develop a menu plan for feeding your spiritual life together.

Once you have the answers to these questions you both can begin to feed each other the things you need to be a thriving couple.


3 Greatest Pieces of Wedding Wisdom!!

devotional_advice.jpgCan you remember some of the wedding advice you got once you announced your engagement?  Here are some of the “gems of wisdom” I recall:  be sure to treat her like a queen … weird in-laws just get weirder … and my all time favorite … The secret of a happy marriage … is still a secret …

Karen and I have a marriage that has grown from good to great over our 40 years together.  We are best friends and love each other more today than we did on our wedding day.  That’s because there is a lot more we have come to learn and love about each other.

We also know, by experience, that neither one of us is perfect.  We have grown in our commitment to focus on each other’s good qualities, which I hope outweigh our negative ones.

Identifying and acknowledging these good qualities about each other are a vital part of cherishing your beloved.  First, focus more on your spouse’s strengths than weakness.  Second, serve your life mate by being willing to give more than you expect to get back.  And … third, reflect on how thankful you are for being blessed by having your beloved in your life.

Since the word cherish is a verb … it requires some action!  So, take out a piece of paper right now; and in two minutes write down between five and ten things about your spouse that you are thankful for.

Next, take two more minutes and think of five to ten special things that you can do over the next week for your beloved that will make his or her life easier and demonstrate your cherishing love!?

Finally, follow through with your to do list.

Keep a journal of how doing these love projects made you feel towards your spouse?  How did doing these things make you feel about yourself?  What impact did this activity have on your children as they noticed you performing these acts of kindness towards each other?

Use this little project to help demonstrate how you cherish each other!


Are You an SBS … Spoiled – Brat – Spouse?

devotional_spoiled-brat.jpgWe’re becoming a nation of rude, self-absorbed and spoiled “brats”!  Our culture screams the mantra: “It’s all about me!”

While it remains to be seen if this attitude will foster a generation of self empowered people … it is absolutely evident that this outlook is creating a lethal environment for establishing Biblical marriages.

Some may think “Hey, the Bible tells us to love our neighbors and our spouses like we love ourselves and that’s true.  But when we really drill down on the Biblical ideal of love, we discover that the core value of loving is giving … not getting.

And there’s the problem …we want to get all we can … while giving as little as possible.  So, instead of giving all we can to our spouses … we take all we can get from them; and we feel cheated if our needs are not being met!  That mindset spells disaster for any marriage.

So, if you’re longing to experience the marriage God wants you to enjoy … you’ll probably have to change your perspective.  If you’ve been seeing your nuptials as all about you and your needs not being met, it’s time to flip the switch.  Here’s what God is looking for:

Ephesians 5: 28 – 30:  “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

That process of “cherishing” starts when you see your beloved’s needs as more important than yours; and you realize that you won’t be happy until his or her needs are met before yours.

Here’s a foundational question to help clarify where you are:  Do you know what your beloved needs?

If not, here are some questions you can ask him or her to help:

  • What are your dreams and how can I help you fulfill them?
  • What have I failed to do or say in our relationship?
  • What can I stop doing that would help you feel more loved?
  • What could I start doing to would help you feel more cherished by me?

Once you get the answers to these questions you can begin to develop a plan for cherishing your beloved that will lead to a marriage made in heaven!


A Valentine’s Gift Better than Chocolate, Roses or Hearts!!

devotional_VDay.jpgWell, it’s Valentine’s Day and you romantics will be finding, if you haven’t already, clever ways to express your love to your Valentines with chocolates, hearts and roses!  Hopefully you’ve got all that covered … but there may be a better way to demonstrate our love

Today is a day to celebrate love … and we know that God is love … and that He is the source of the unconditional and unbreakable love we all need to make our marriages thrive.  So, let’s take a look at a familiar passage … I Corinthians 13 … that never stops teaching us something about love … to look for an even better Valentine’s Day gift for our beloved.

I’m going to break it down into Paul’s outline of:  what love is … what love is not … and what love always does …

What love is

  • Love is Patient … it’s forgiving and extending grace while we are in process of growing Christ-like … it’s steady and persevering …
  • Love is Kind … it doesn’t speak or act harshly … it is considerate … calm and gentle …

What love is not

  • Love is not jealous or envious it doesn’t feel discontented … it’s not longing for what another person or couple has …
  • Not proud and boastful it looks for ways to put others first …
  • Does not dishonor … love doesn’t embarrass, belittle, disgrace or bring shame to others …
  • Love is not proud and egotistical … it isn’t demanding its own way … to have my needs met first …
  • Love is not angered easily … doesn’t fly off the handle quickly … is looking for connection …
  • Love does not keep score of wrongs … doesn’t hold grudges and is willing to forgive and move on …
  • Love does not delight in evil … but looks for ways to bring help and healing …

What love always does …

  • Love Rejoices with the truth … it celebrates the good things … and even the “challenging” things that we know are coming from God to make us better …
  • Love Always protects … love looks for ways to shelter our beloved from harm …
  • Love Always hopes … it is expecting and desiring the best …
  • Love Always keeps on loving … even when the loving feeling isn’t there …
  • the unconditional love of God never fails … we can rest on this assurance of His unbreakable love …

Take a minute to ask your beloved:  “Which one of these descriptors of love do you need from me today?” …

I’ll bet that meeting that need in his or her life will be the best valentine’s gift ever …


Why You Should Stop Saying, “My Spouse …”

devotional_vows.jpgIf you’re like me … when you exchanged your marriage vows, if they were the traditional ones, you may have made one promise that you don’t know how to keep.

Do you remember pledging … to love, honor and cherish?

Did you ever really stop to think about what those words mean … and what that promise is supposed to look like?

Do you know how to cherish your spouse?

Let’s take a minute to explore the meaning of this vow and some ways you can use it to rekindle the spark in your relationship.

Let’s Define Your Vow:  Cherish means to hold dear, to treat tenderly, to keep in mind fondly.  It is an action word that is naturally combined with tender emotion in the way you hold, treat and think about your spouse.

So one way you can enrich the emotional connection with your spouse is to begin thinking and treating him or her as your beloved.

We’ve stopped using the term “beloved” today.  Yet it deserves to be revived and used in each modern relationship, because it encourages you to see your life-mate through loving eyes.  Can’t you hear the difference … between the emotionally void word … spouse … and the heartfelt word … beloved?

Well now that we are trying to see our life mate through a new lens of being our beloved … let’s look at the Biblical passage that this vow comes from … to see what cherishing looks like:

That phrase comes from Ephesians 5: 28 – 30:   In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

So, we are to love our spouses … to cherish them … to treat them … the same way we care and pamper ourselves … or if we need an even more challenging standard … the way Jesus loves you and me … His bride … the church.

What are some things that may be hindering me from acting tenderly … towards my beloved? 
Here’s some that come to mind:

  • Are you blaming your spouse … so your punishing not cherishing?
  • Are you waiting for your beloved to change?
  • Do you focus on what you are not getting out of your marriage?
  • Have you given up hope that you can revive the spark of love and passion?
  • Do you expect your beloved to live by your rules, desires, beliefs?

Once you recognize your blocks, are you willing to release them and improve your relationship?


Tips to Evaluate the State of Your Marital Union!

devotional_state of the union.jpgTwo weeks ago the president delivered the State of the Union address … RELAX … I’m not here to discuss politics … but it got me thinking … what would I say if I had to deliver an annual assessment of my marital union … to Karen and the rest of our family.  So let me challenge you with those same thoughts …

These speeches always start with good news … the things we’re doing well and the things we can celebrate … how many of these can you say?

  • We’re communicating on a rapport (emotional) versus report (fact) level?
  • We’re making regular spiritual connections?
  • We’re making regular physical connections?
  • We resolve our conflicts / issues with win/win scenarios?
  • We’re an effective parenting team?
  • We enjoy regular “alone time” together?
  • We are serving the Lord together?
  • We feel “safe” to share how we really feel with each other …

Let’s go through that same list and see what things need to be strengthened … or improved …

Now it’s time to do a little strategic thinking … what are some threats to your marriage that may be lingering on the horizon?  There are active threats … things you are experiencing now … and future threats … the things you don’t even see coming …

  • Money: job changes, bankruptcy, retirement …
  • Parenting failures: your children’s failures
  • ex-spouses, step children, empty nest
  • In laws: your lack of “leaving,” and their intrusion, control
  • Addictions: alcohol, porn, romance, gambling, shopping
  • You’re having that same fight over and over again
  • Emotional … physical … spiritual intimacy
  • Leftovers: emotional baggage and unresolved issues from prior relationships
  • Broken Trust: hearts and eyes begin to wander, boredom, emotional or physical infidelity

Health: chronic conditions illness grows worse

Commitment erosion / apathy with God and spouse … stop caring

Changes in your & spouse’s needs … aging

Let me challenge you to spend some time this week as a couple to go over the state of your marital union … and to talk about how you plan to strengthen your strengths, minimize your weaknesses and eliminate those threats …


Are You an “Emotionally Present” Spouse?

devotional_emotional-distance.jpgBeing emotionally available to our spouses is absolutely essential to a thriving marriage… but it is also one of our greatest challenges.

We’re all stressed by overcrowded schedules and lofty expectations.  We come home from work emotionally exhausted from holding our tempers, biting our tongues and rolling our eyes all day long to keep peace with our colleagues.

So, when we get home … we don’t have too much emotional energy left … or worse … we pull the plug on our emotions and disconnect from our spouses putting them in a state of emotional isolation.  What seems to be a positive solution to our personal issue with stress … becomes a negative and destructive consequence in our marriages.

So it makes sense for us to ask:  How can we keep our emotional batteries charged so that we’re ready to give and receive emotional messages?  How can we stay emotionally available to our spouses?  Let’s look at three answers from the Bible.

First, schedule some time to be alone with yourself.  Jesus advised His disciples to get away to a quiet place so they could re-charge their batteries so they would have something to give the multitudes they were ministering to everyday.  Maybe you can find some quiet time during your busy work week or your commute to and from work.  Turn off the noise and just be quiet to take some time to think and pray.  Or …go to lunch by yourself so you can enjoy some peace and quiet … Find a block of time everyday to be quiet.  Just for fun start making of list of the ways God shows His love to you during these quiet times.

The second way to replenish your emotional strength is to “play” … to do something you find fun and relaxing.  Each of us is different … some love to run … or exercise vigorously … others would rather stroll in the park …or cast a line into the water.  What is the physical activity that helps you release tension and recharge?  Put some time each week into your schedule to make that happen.

Proverbs 17:22 tells us that laughter is a good thing.  What makes you laugh?  Do you have a favorite program or video that you and your spouse can sit down and laugh through together?  Is there another couple, or group of friends, that you find yourself laughing with?  Be sure to spend some time enjoying the gift of laughter.  It will not only help you re-charge your emotional batteries … it will make your spouse smile!


Are You a “Trustworthy” Spouse?

devotional_truthful.jpgMarriage is built on trust … love and intimacy flourish in an atmosphere of integrity and faithfulness … they wither and die when these are missing.

Your marriage began with a vow … the forming of a trust … that you would forsake all others … so that you would continue to love … honor … and cherish each other … whether you’re rich or poor … healthy or sick … in good or bad circumstances … you would both be faithful to one another for life.

Let’s be honest … you want to trust that your spouse will always tell you the truth … about what he or she is feeling … thinking … and doing.

You are trusting that your spouse is committed to staying faithful and making the right choices to do so.  He or she is not sharing things they can’t share with you with someone else … your life mate isn’t flirting or seeking attention from others.

You’re trusting that your spouse will always have your best interest at heart … no matter what the circumstances.  You believe the best … that his or her motives are pure toward you.

While being able to trust your spouse is important … your being a trustworthy spouse … is even more essential.

So let’s take a quick quiz:

1. Are you telling your partner the truth about what you’re thinking … feeling and doing?

2. Are you protecting yourself from the temptation of getting too close to someone else … from sharing your heart with another?

3. Are you looking out for the best interest of your spouse?

4. Are you believing the best of him or her?

The best way to build and maintain trust in your marriage is to become a trustworthy spouse… someone your mate can depend on!

Paul says is I Corinthians 4:2 that it is vital for us as Christ followers to be found trustworthy … in all areas of our lives.

So make the commitment today to become a more trustworthy spouse!


Are you a “Safe” Spouse?

devotional_bubble-wrap.jpgHave you ever lied to your spouse because you were afraid of the negative consequences?  Do you ever find yourself hiding your true feelings because you’re fearful of what your spouse might think or feel about you?
If you’re like most of us the answer is an embarrassing “Yes!”  And that means that we are not feeling totally safe in our marriages.

It seems to me that there should be no safer person on earth for me to be with than my wife!

I say that because God created us to be connected … we are created in His image and our marriages are to mirror the love that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have for each other … they are one … there is no fear … there are no secrets … they enjoy being together …

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden … they were naked and unashamed … they were totally open and honest … there was no fear …

Fear comes from the fall … when the first couple sinned they became afraid of God and each other. Satan was successful in not only breaking the relationship between God and man … but in shattering the beautiful intimacy that husband and wife were designed to experience … So … whenever we don’t feel safe in our marriages … we need to understand that we’re not were God wants us to be …because  God has not given us a spirit of fear …

Here’s a definition of a safe marriage: 
An emotionally safe marriage is one in which you feel safe enough to say what and how you truly feel, knowing that your spouse will make every attempt to understand … and may even come to respect your point of view.

It’s easy for us to blame our spouses for our not feeling safe … we think … if she didn’t have a such a quick temper … or if he would emotionally connect and really try to empathize … I’d feel safer …

The first question we want to ask is:  “Am I a safe spouse?!”  Does my life mate feel like he or she can be totally open and honest with me?

If not … ask the Lord to help you become a safe spouse …


Last Minute Gift Ideas for Your Spouse that Won’t Disappoint!

devotional_christmas-gifts.jpgWondering what do you get your spouse for Christmas?

I am one of those last minute shoppers … who ventures out on Christmas Eve … wandering the mall … in search of that perfect gift for Karen … sometimes I know what I am looking for … but many times I am praying it will jump out and say “Here I am!”

Honestly … that’s how I got into this insane habit … I had a great streak going of seeing something nice on a mannequin and saying: “I like that … Karen will like that … let’s get it and get out of here!”

I’d have it wrapped … then head home … place it under the tree … and wait impatiently for Christmas morning …

And on Christmas day she opened it and loved it!

But there’s got to be a better way to choose a gift … so we’ve played with that all time greatest Christmas gifts for a true love list … the 12 days of Christmas for some inspiration … hum the tune in your head as you read them …  but don’t sing the parentheses! …

The promise of no one else but me  (unconditional commitment is foundational to marriage)

2 listening ears  (one for facts and one for feelings)

3 little words (I love you!)

4 financial planners  (to help secure your financial future)

5 dates together  (give some quality time and attention to each other)

6 sexless backrubs  (relieving stress … )

7 TV shows a turned off  (so you can tune into each other)

8 encouraging words (speak life into each other)

9 nights of nookie (the exclusive love language of married couples … enjoy!)

10 10 minute devotions  (spiritual connecting builds intimacy)

11 tingling touches  (don’t lose those loving “feelings” hold hands, etc … )

12 acts of kindness …(take some chores off your partner’s list!)

Why not figure out a way to “wrap up” one or more of these for your true love this Christmas?


How to Keep Christmas from being the “Most Stressful Time of the Year for Couples!”

devotional_Christmas stress.jpgWe’ve all heard that song … it’s the most wonderful time of the year … But is it?

Many of us set high and unrealistic expectations about what our Christmas should look like … add to that the buying gifts for kids and family … planning family gatherings … work parties … church programs and socials … wow sounds like the most hectic time of year.

Oh, and one other thing: Wives and husbands hope Christmastime will be special for them too, as a couple.  But will it be?

More often than not these overloaded schedules with everyone else’s high expectations and the competing demands of family, friends and workplace associates, Christmastime is stressful for couples.  Some wives and husbands feel that at best, they can muddle along until January.

Many times — patience with each other runs thin for a wife and husband during the holidays. For a variety of reasons, stress gains the upper hand between them.

– One spouse frets that Christmas is unaffordable.  He or she feels stressed-out by the cost of Christmas gifts, travel and entertainment.

– The other spouse experiences the stress of workplace demands that collide with their family’s overcrowded schedule of holiday festivities at school and church, with family and friends, or for shopping.

– Then there is the stress that is caused by the mere logistics of Christmas and the challenge of finding ways to celebrate with two to four sets of grandparents and extended or step family celebrations.

– Couples who desire to keep Christ in Christmas cringe when the season’s real purpose gets left in the shadows, eclipsed by so much else that is happening.

So what can you do to help reduce some of this stress?

Sit down and prepare a budget … set a limit of what you are going to spend … encourage each other not to be too impulsive …

Sit down with your calendar to schedule your activities and work through the logistics … keep from making last minute crisis inspired decisions.  Keep your priorities of faith and family at the forefront of this process.

This is a time where you need each other … where you need to be on the same page united to deal with all the stresses and strains that come with this most wonderful time of the year!


Keep Thanksgiving from Becoming a “Speed-bump” Holiday!

devotional_thanksgiving couple.jpgThe Psalmist wrote:  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever” Psalm 118:1

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

Thanksgiving is probably the most under rated, under decorated, and under celebrated holiday in America.

Halloween is approaching Christmas proportions with all its decorations and lights … and once those are all put away, the Christmas frenzy takes over.  Christmas specials start playing on TV, stores decorate their aisle with snowflakes and mistletoe, and people take the chance to hang Christmas lights while there’s no snow.  It’s not all that surprising really; the Christmas spirit can be pretty infectious … unfortunately giving thanks doesn’t seem to generate the same enthusiasm.

Thanksgiving is barely a speed bump … between these two contrasting celebrations of Halloween and Christmas.

Now … with Black Friday sales invading Thanksgiving Day … this holiday is relegated to a short meal time … followed by hours of planning the shopping strategies of the Christmas season.

Let me challenge you to re-think your idea of being thankful.  I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a list of things I want for Christmas much faster than a list of things I’m grateful for.  I bet your kids can too!

Stop and think about how we pray … “God, please give me…”, “God, please help me…”, or “God, I need…”.  We get so tied up in what God can do for us, that we forget how to be thankful for what we He has given us …

So, this Thanksgiving, with all of the Butterball and football, let me encourage you as a couple to take some time to write down all of the things you are thankful for … your spouse … your children … your home … and even all those extended family members who have invaded your house!  And then offer up a prayer of thanksgiving together for all those good gifts!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His love endures forever.


This Could Be the Ultimate Thank-You!

devotional_spiritualLife.jpgWhen’s the last time you thanked God for your spouse’s spiritual life?

We’re into week three of our “Spouse Appreciation Month”!  See our previous posts for weeks 1 & week 2.

We want to deepen our attitude of gratitude this week by focusing on the ways your spouse enriches your spiritual life both as an individual and couple.

The Apostle Paul was great at this … he often shared how thankful he was for his co-laborers … his spiritual partners!  Take a minute to read I Corinthians 1:4-9 and Philippians 1:3-11.

If we read these words as “Paul” or “I” in these verses … and the “you” to be your spouse … we have a great pattern for giving God thanks for our spouse’s spiritual support in our lives.

I Cor. 1:  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Philippians 1:  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Here’s a list of things we can be thankful for:

Our spouses’ salvation … that they are recipients of God’s grace … for the enriched lives they experience because of these things God did in their lives … for their spiritual gift(s) and how they are using them to further the gospel for their righteous living and Christ like character … for their partnership in sharing the gospel … for the “good work God is doing … completing in their lives … that their love may abound more and more.

Schedule a time this week to pray together thanking God for each other using this list as a guide to help you give God thanks for the special gift He has given each of you!  Ask Him to keep working in your lives … making you the husband …father … wife and mother that He wants you to be … so that your kids, friends and neighbors might see the gospel being lived out in front of their eyes.


Knock Your Spouse’s Socks Off with this Simple Gesture!

devotional_quill-pen.jpgThank you!  How many times have you said these two simple, but wonderful words to your life mate?  Or have you, like me, gotten so busy you’ve forgotten to say those powerful affirmations to the most important person in your life?

Last week I issued you a challenge … to make November “spouse appreciation” month.  My request was for you to say a word of thanks to your spouse for one of the many great things he or she does for you as your “help mate”.  Our goal was to come up with one specific thank you per day.

How did you do?

This week I want to issue a new challenge … that will help you focus on the character of your spouse.  What are the positive and Godly character traits you are thankful for in his or her life?  Here’s a list of traits to help you get started.

But, just for fun let’s add a little twist … instead of speaking these affirmations to you partner … write your spouse a thank you note identifying these positive characteristics.

Thank you notes are a great way to communicate your love and appreciation for your spouse.  They can also rekindle the passion and romance in your relationship!  Don’t worry … you don’t need to be a poet or Hallmark card writer to be successful.  Let me offer a fun suggestion … use your spouse’s name as an acrostic for your list …

Here’s an example using my wife’s name … Karen

K indness … (that is also a fruit of the Spirit)

A ffectionate  (fruit of Spirit)

R espectful … and responsible

E ncourager … to me and our kids …

N uturing of your family … especially your grand daughters and daughter in laws.

Once you have your list … go back and share a brief example of how your partner demonstrates these traits … just to let him or her know that you are really paying attention!

Be sure to write this note in your own handwriting … it will mean a lot more … and if you’re like me you will have to take some time to make it legible.

Your goal … one specific “Character Thank You” note handwritten this week!


Are You Taking Care of your Prized Possession?

devotional_old corvettes.jpgI read an article about a collector who purchased 36 Corvette Sting Rays, Chevy’s premiere sports car back in 1989.  While that’s interesting … the ‘rest of the story’ is even more fascinating.  This collector placed all these prized possessions in a storage facility and forgot about them.  Now almost 25 years later many of these former “gems” are almost worthless due to neglect; covered by inches of dirt and grime.

As I mused over the cost of this man’s neglect … it struck me … how many of us got married years ago … we acquired our prize possession … and then placed him or her into “storage;” only to find out that our spouses feel unappreciated … neglected … uncared for … and possibly worthless?

Whether we’re married for a month, year or decades, we all take our spouses for granted.  That “new car” care we displayed to one another wears off.

So, as we come into this Thanksgiving season let’s see if we can dust off our thankful hearts for our prized partners and make them feel loved and cared for again.  It’s time to get your prized possession feeling … well prized!

Here’s what I am asking us all to do (yes me too!)

Let’s focus this week on thanking our spouses for the “roles” they play in our lives.  This has to do with their “jobs” as a spouse.  We take for granted that the underwear magically appears in our dresser drawer … or that the lawn is manicured … or the gas tank is full … or a dinner is waiting when we get home.  This all happens because you have a great help mate!

Think about their roles of being a parent or grandparent.  Or all they do at work to provide … or their role at church … look for ways they improve your well being … your status … and help you enjoy a better life.

Be specific … don’t just say: “Thanks for being a great wife!”  Explain to her why she is “great” wife to you.  Try: “Thank you for taking such good care of the kids … I love coming home to a fun and happy place after a long day at work …”

Your goal … one specific “Thank you” every day this week!


Do you and your spouse think differently about money? That can be a good thing …

devotional_money-in-marriage.jpgWe’ve all heard that money issues are a major “causes” of divorce.  Why is that?  There are many reasons, but one is that couples grow up with different beliefs about money.

One spouse grew up in a family where they were willing to spend more to buy quality … while the other one’s family didn’t care about brand names and always bought the cheapest item.

Maybe one spouse gives money away to good causes … or loves to spend freely while the other miserly pinches every penny.   Or one spouse loves to take financial risks… creating fear and anxiety in the other.

You get the picture – dealing with these conflicting ideas about money can be the source of many disagreements.  Learning how to resolve the fighting over financial issues can actually help build marriages … here how:

First – God created “order” within a marriage – Eph. 5:22-33 and Col. 3:18-19 speak to this.  Financial decisions, as all decisions in marriage, should be a shared responsibility.  Both of you should be free to share your thoughts and concerns with respect and honor.   Yet God places the ultimate responsibility for the family squarely on the husband.

Second – Communicating your differing views and opinions will help you learn more about each other and uncover your core values … and that’s a great way to deepen intimacy in your relationship.  Pray together that God will open your hearts and minds to the best use of your finances … and that He will be glorified through them.  You’ll be amazed to see how God works in your hearts and your check books.

Third – Track your results. Prov. 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” By keeping good records of your finances and reviewing them monthly, you’ll keep yourselves accountable and be able to rejoice in your successes.

Finally – remember that our ultimate goal is to simply steward the funds God has given us.  The money is God’s and not ours, so we should be liberal in our giving (Luke 6:33) … focused on eternal treasures (Matt. 6:19-20) … and keep money in its proper perspective (I Tim. 6:10).

Knee to knee … Nose to nose Questions:

What have you learned about each other as a result of talking (arguing) about money?

Talk about how you want to become better stewards of your God entrusted resources.

What do you want to do about giving to further God’s work?  Who do you want to support?  Why?


Do you struggle with money in your marriage?

devotional_managing money as a couple.pngAdam and Connie‘s combined income puts them in the upper middle class, so we assume they’ll have no money issues.  Not true! Though they make good money, they’ve never learned to manage it effectively.

Like many, they don’t keep track of where their money goes.  In fact, they have individual accounts and enjoy not answering to each other for money spent.  Unfortunately, they’re not answering to themselves either.

Bills are usually paid on time; and when checking account balances disappear, they draw on their good credit.  The amount of compounding interest on their credit card statements worries them; but they’ve never had a problem making the minimum payments.  After all, two more checks are coming in next week.

At least, they hope so.

While Edward and Jean make a fraction of what Adam and Connie do, they’re in better financial shape.  They regularly “do the math” to see exactly where their money goes; and have learned how to use a “loose” budget to guide their spending.

Early in their marriage they promised to discuss all money issues and set mutual goals for saving and giving.  They use credit sparingly, and postpone major purchases until they can pay cash or make a significant down payment.  They enjoy an occasional financial fling without dreading the high credit card interest.  Theses financial practices have empowered them to make family, not finance, focused choices.

Financial stress impacts a couple’s emotional bottom line.  So what do you do?

* Regularly review your finances together
* Agree on spending priorities
* Agree on how you want to handle debt
* Identify mutual savings and giving goals
* Establish a flexible and realistic budget
* Regularly tweak your budget to reflect your current situation
* Stay in tune financially with your partner

Remember … it’s God’s money … not ours … and our goal is to be faithful stewards of what He has entrusted to us …  to be liberal in our giving (Luke 6:33), focusing on eternal treasures (Matt. 6:19-20) … and keeping money in its proper perspective (I Tim. 6:10).

Prov. 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Knee to knee … Nose to nose Questions:

Which couple are you more like?  Why or why not?  Talk about how you are doing in managing your money together.

Which of the action steps do you need to start working on … or tweaking?

How do you feel about your saving and giving plans?  How well are you doing in being a good and faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you?


How to Get Started Praying Together as a Couple

devotional_couplepray.jpg“Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs [not your needs, but theirs] that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.    For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  Matthew 18: 19 -20

It’s no secret that Christian couples struggle to pray together.  We’ve heard it said: “The couple that prays together stays together;” and data proves that to be overwhelmingly true.  That’s because couples who pray together nurture their relationships and strengthen their intimacy with God and their spouses.  So why not join them?

Here’s a few ways to help you get started:

  1. Share your desire to pray for your spouse.  Expressing your longing to pray for your spouse communicates your love for God and your spouse!
  2. Invite your spouse to pray with you: Be sensitive to any feelings of spiritual inadequacy your spouse may have.  Help alleviate any fears by sharing that he or she doesn’t have to lead the process or even pray out loud.  “You can just hold my hand and pray silently with me,” is a good place to start.
  3. Set a time and place: Establishing a routine starts with the “when and where?”  When do we have uninterrupted time to connect?  Where’s a comfortable spot for us to pray?  It might help to set a time to eliminate any aversions to praying together.
  4. Make a list of things you want to pray about together: Start with personal requests; things that involve you, your spouse, your children and your family.  The closer the issues … the more engaged you’ll be in the process.
  5. Pray conversationally: Some call this “ping pong praying.”  Each of you pray short sentence prayers for the first request and then work down through your list.  This method helps keep your time moving and your thoughts from wandering.
  6. Don’t “preach” to one another: “Please help Bart to see his need to soften his heart and let me do what I want to do …” is not going to foster Bart’s continued participation!
  7. Don’t quit if you miss a day: Consistency will grow over time.  Relax and don’t let the enemy discourage you.  Allow your spouse to have the freedom to remind you that it is time to pray.  Share the responsibility of leading this process.

Knee to Knee  Nose to Nose Questions:

Why do we struggle with praying together?

Are either of us feeling some fear or inadequacy?

Take a minute to pray and ask the Lord to overcome those fears and anxieties and to help you work through this list and get started.


How I took Karen from Frustration to Inspiration with my Reaction!

devotional_affirming.jpg“Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs [not your needs, but theirs] that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

I was heading out the door when Karen asked: “What do you want for dinner?”  I knew she would be busy all day and was nervous about leading a new Bible study in the evening.  So, I answered: “I’ll grab something for us on the way home.”  Karen blurted out in guilty frustration “My mom would never have done that … she would always have dinner on the table.”  I responded(correctly for a change): “Yes, but your mom never did all the things that you do.”  Karen stopped what she was in the middle of … looked up with a sense of relief and said: “Thank you! I needed to hear that!”

Speaking life into our spouses re-energizes our marriages.  Sharing positive words of affirmations is a great demonstration of love for our mates.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Be intentional about looking for positive traits and behaviors

My problem is that I expect Karen to do the right things.  We don’t praise the actions and attitudes we expect from each other.  When I fail to recognize her character and the effort it takes to continue doing positive things … she can ‘grow weary in doing what is right;’ and that’s not good!  So, I need to be intentional about verbalizing my appreciation and admiration for who she is and what she does!

 Be specific

“You’re amazing!”  While it’s nice to hear … what does it really mean?  Explain why you’re making that comment.  “The way you spoke to Johnny about that situation was amazing!”

Be genuine and sincere

Some of us feel awkward in giving affirmations … and when we do share them … we use an unnatural voice that sounds insincere to our spouses.  What we’re hoping will be a positive statement is heard as a sarcastic or phony one.

God wants us to build one another up.  We get “beat up” by the world every day.  Our marriages should be a place of safety from destructive words.  When you speak positive words of encouragement that build up your spouse … you’re ministering to them!

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose Questions:

Do you feel affirmed enough by your spouse?  How much affirmation do you want or need?

Why do you struggle with giving or receiving affirmation?

Think about one positive character trait your spouse has and affirm that trait in him or her.

Think about one action that your spouse has done recently that you appreciated but didn’t acknowledge … do it now.


6 Steps to Fighting Fair in Your Marriage

devotional_Fighting Fair.jpgDo you resort to extreme or irrational tactics when you’re “fighting” (slamming doors, exaggerated motions, etc)?

Do you need to have the last snarky word?

Do you get historical … when you’re hysterical … bringing up past wounds and offenses?

If you answered yes to any of these questions … you need to learn how to “fight fair.”

Marriage is the union of two fallen humans … so conflict is inevitable!  Many of us believe that conflict is bad and unwelcomed.  The truth is … couples who know how to resolve conflict well actually strengthen their intimacy.  They take the time to listen and learn a little more about what their spouses think and feel.

So, here are 6 steps to help you deal with conflict in a positive way:

Step 1 – Establish “Rules of Engagement.”  Set a time and place for your discussion.  Allow time to “cool down;” find a time and place so kids won’t be a distraction.  Acknowledge there is a problem and agree together on when and where you will talk about it.

Step 2 – Identify the problem and look for a “Win-Win” not a “Me vs. You” solution.  If you both win, you build intimacy, if one wins and one loses, intimacy is weakened.

Step 3 – Stick to the issue– don’t fight a multi front war!  This leads to more confusion and anger.

Step 4– Use “I” statements to express your feelings instead of “You” statements.  Ex. “I was hurt by the comment …” or “I felt disrespected when … .”  Not: “You did … “

Step 5 – Forgive and forget – the reality is that both spouses can be harmed in an argument.  Humbly ask for and grant forgiveness.  Agree not bring the issue up again.

Step 6 – Pray for God to help you navigate through this challenging time; and to ask Him for the power to mirror His forgiveness and unconditional love to the world!

Colossians 3:12-14:  So, as those who have been chosen of God, … put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, … just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose Questions

Which of these 6 steps do you need to put into practice?

How well do you do in fighting about the problem and not attacking your partner?


What Do Your Ears Say About Your Marriage?

devotional_listening ear.jpg“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

“You’re not listening to me!” Kathy blurted.  John was preoccupied with the Sports page.

“I heard you,” he half-heartedly responds.

“Well … what do you think we should do with Billy?” the frustration was mounting in Kathy’s voice.

“Do about what?” John asked.

“See … you’re not listening!  You don’t really care about me at all!” exploded Kathy.

One of the most loving and affirming gifts you can give your spouse is an attentive ear.  When you listen, and hear not only the fact that is being shared, but the feeling it’s wrapped in, you are telling your spouse: “You’re important to me.  I value what you have to say.  I care about how you feel.”

Every message has a fact side and a feeling side.  Most men speak, and hear, facts first and may occasionally catch the feeling behind them.  Women (and children) often communicate their emotional feelings louder than the facts.  This difference between husbands and wives makes listening a challenge for many couples.

The skill of listening for both the factual message and the emotion behind it is called reflective listening.  We need to use our eyes and ears to be great listeners.  Often the most important part of the message is being transmitted non-verbally.  So watch for facial expressions, body language, and listen for the tone of voice; these are all speaking louder than the words.

When you demonstrate that you understand both the fact and the feeling that is being shared with you … you have gotten the full message.  John would have done better to drop the paper … look at Kathy and say: “I’m sorry … I sense you’re frustrated about Billy … could you please tell me again.”  Now he’s ready to really listen and Kathy would have felt loved and affirmed.

You’re ministering to your spouse when you genuinely listen.  You are showing your love and concern; and that is fulfilling the greatest commandment to: “Love your neighbor (spouse) as yourself.”

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose Questions:

How are you are receiving both the fact and the feeling in messages that come from your spouse or children?

What are some of your poor listening habits … what can we do to change them?


Learn What Makes this Type of Couple the Most Prone to Divorce

devotional_divorce.jpgLearn What Makes this Couple the Most Prone to Divorce!

Murrays’ fifth, and final, couple type is by far the most destructive combination of spouses.  The “Hostile Detached” couple is comprised of one spouse who is fiery and looks for opportunities to argue and fight; while the other is a hostile avoider, not caring enough to discuss the issues, but actively expresses his or her antagonism through actions, attitudes and outbursts.  Both spouses are fighters: one prefers verbal frontal attacks … the other is a specialist in non-verbal tactics.

George is critical of Sally’s family especially around the holidays when they are planning to visit.  He relishes railing on Sally about how “stupid” and “dysfunctional” her family is and how hard it is for him to tolerate their stay.  Sally, having heard all this before, doesn’t want to engage in a verbal battle.  She glares at George, and before he can finish his rant, dramatically jumps up … storms out of the room … and slams the door for emphasis!  George is furious at Sally’s actions and continues to yell at her through the door:  “You’re just as crazy as your Looney Tune family!”  Hearing no response … he settles in to watch an all night TV marathon on the sofa; while she retreats to her room … calls her mother and then cries herself to sleep.

George and Sally are a toxic mixture of the hostile, volatile and avoider we’ve talked about earlier.  Sally has physically and emotionally detached herself from George in order to protect herself from his hurtful words.  George resents the fact that she will not engage in verbal combat; so, he defaults to his attack strategy.  Anger, withdrawal and out of control emotional outbursts are a recipe for disaster which is why the Hostile Detached Couple is most prone to divorce, and is extremely susceptible to forms of verbal, emotional and even physical abuse.

How did George and Sally get to this terrible place?  Neither of them knows how to express their true thoughts and feelings in a positive and constructive way.  They don’t address the problem … they attack each other.  Now instead of being in the “safest place” on earth … their marriage has become a terrifying space where neither wants to be ….

Knee to knee Nose to nose questions:

Do you see any of these destructive behaviors in your marriage?

Are you willing to forgive each other and move ahead?

Where can we go to for help in learning how to break out of this negative pattern?  Our pastor?  A local Christian counselor?  House on the Rock Marriage Intensive?  Plan your next action step today.

Go back and read the volatile couple’s action steps …

Here are some scriptures to think about:

Proverbs 15:1   A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:8   A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

James 1:20  For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Proverbs 14:17  A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:29  Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Colossians 3:13  Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Ephesians 4:31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Proverbs 22:24-25  Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.


Has your marriage turned into the “Cold War?”

devotional_hostile couple.jpgWhat happens when an avoider marries a confronter? 

You have what Murray calls a “Hostile” couple; and they’re often engaged in a “cold war” marriage.  Let’s look at the definition of the word ‘hostile’:  “unfriendly … antagonistic … unkind … opposed or averse to … disapproving … and unsympathetic.”

Now let’s define ‘cold war’: “an intense ideological rivalry between two parties short of military conflict; sustained hostile practices and an atmosphere of strain between opposed parties.”  These are not words that you want to have associated with your marriage; but they accurately describe the “hostile” couple.

Earlier, we introduced the “Avoiders;” the couple who works hard to bury anything negative in their relationship.  They don’t talk about it because they don’t want any conflict … just a blissful co-existence.

Hostile couples are comprised of one spouse who is an avoider; while the other is a confronter.  One doesn’t want to address or express anything negative; the other wants to deal with problems immediately.  But as we all know … it takes two to tango … and to solve a problem.

Here’s how this plays out in a hostile couples experience.  A conflict surfaces:  Jenny, the avoider is afraid to talk about it.  Josh, the confronter, wants to tackle it now.  Jenny refuses to engage … believing this conflict will lead to a bad place.  Josh, frustrated and not wanting to crush Jenny, finally concedes and drops the subject.

The “Cold War” escalates.  Jenny refuses to talk about how she may really feel, and Josh just sees more and more unresolved conflicts piling up … forming a wall of bitterness.  Jenny senses Josh’s bitterness but is afraid to address it.  Josh shuts down resenting the fact that Jenny doesn’t care enough to deal with the problem.

Josh and Jenny don’t have loud and angry arguments; they cultivate and nourish something even more devastating … a cold indifference.  They grow hostile because they can’t resolve the deep issues of their hearts.  So they simply avoid each other, living very quiet, closed off, and distant lives.

Hostile couples need to understand that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  I John 4:18 (ESV).  Jenny needs to realize that dealing with conflict will force her to share her heart with Josh.  She may be afraid to reveal her true feelings because she doesn’t trust Josh’s love for her.  Josh wants to make sure that all of his words, actions and attitudes demonstrate his love for Jenny.  Avoiders often hear intensity as anger and disapproval.  Once Jenny and Josh believe that their love for each other will overcome all of their fears … they can begin to experience the type of marriage that God wants them to enjoy.

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose questions:

What are some of the “fears” that you have that keep you from totally sharing your heart with your spouse?

How can you demonstrate your love to you spouse so that he or she will not be afraid to be open and honest with you?

How does the devil use unresolved issues to separate couples?  Have we given him any footholds in our marriage?

Here are some other scriptures to think about:

Paul says in Ephesians 4: 25 – 27 “Speak truth to one another with his (spouse) neighbor, for we are members of one another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.”

In terms of resolving conflict quickly:

Matthew 5:23  “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother (spouse) has something against you, leave your offering and go first be reconciled to your brother (spouse) and then come and present your offering.  Make friends quickly with your opponent (spouse) …”


6 Practical Steps to Get Off the Marriage Emotional Roller Coaster

devotional_rollercoaster.jpgIs your marriage riding an emotional roller coaster?  If so, you may be what Professor Murray calls a “volatile” couple.

Volatile couples, as their label implies, are unstable; doing their marital dance on the devoted / divorce borderline.  Spouses are like microwaves and flash freezers.  Their emotions, whether positive or negative, instantly heat up and “boil over;” or plunge to “cold as ice” rapidly.  This couple can be intensely romantic and passionate one moment and burst into loud heated animated arguments the next.

These couples can go either way when it comes to divorce; but research says “Volatiles” have more unhappy moments than joyful ones.  Their feelings about their marriages are also caught in a cycle.  They fluctuate from: “we’re doing great!” … to: “we’ll be OK, if we can get through this issue.” … to: “we’re done … it’s over … I can’t take this anymore!”

So what can a volatile couple do?

  1. Understand that volatile emotions have physical and emotional root causes.  You want to see a medical or counseling professional to help you get to the bottom of these out of control emotions.
  2. Unresolved conflicts often lead to anger issues … you want to seek help in developing your communication and conflict resolution skills.
  3. Stop waiting for things to get better! Don’t listen to your thoughts that we’re OK … realize that ‘hoping for change’ is not an effective strategy for dealing with your problems.  Set a plan of action.
  4. Take the first steps yourself … even if your spouse isn’t ready to join you in this process.
  5. Emotions are not bad … they are a gift from God but they do reveal what is in your heart. (Luke 6:4) The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
  6. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you control your emotions. God wants you to experience His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

What Happens When You Avoid Confrontation and Conflict in Your Marriage?

devotional_sweeping under rug.jpgAre you an “Avoider” in your marriage?  Avoiders are “stable” in maintaining their marriages yet don’t experience a high level of emotional intimacy which produces more of a “mutual co-existence,” rather than a quality marriage.

They’re called “Avoiders” because they do their best to shun confrontation and conflict.  They go all out to reply to one another positively, overlooking the trouble spots.  Their assumption is: if you don’t talk about negative emotions, feelings, and ideas, they will simply disappear.  Avoiders, like every couple, have plenty of concerns they could work together on.  But they deliberately avoid the topics they know will make each other angry; and dance around any deep seated issues.

What this couple doesn’t understand is that the ability to address and resolve conflict in a positive manner actually strengthens marriages!  The inability or lack of desire to deal with conflict weakens them.  Why?  Because when a couple learns how to resolve conflict they get down to the real ‘nitty-gritty’ of how they feel.  They have those “ah ha” moments that say: “I didn’t know that about you!” … or: “I didn’t realize you felt that way!”

Because this couple avoids conflict, they also strive to avoid the ultimate conflict – divorce.  Avoiders continue to mask their negative feelings and dodge conflict because of their children, their finances, or fear about what their church and friends would think.

Ultimately this pair commits to staying together, for better or worse, and does it, not out of the internal deeply rooted connection to each other, but based on external influences from family, faith, and fortune.  The truth is they are doing more things apart because spending time together is not a high priority.  While they have grown detached, they have created a safe and comfortable life.

This couple is often viewed by others as good parents or good Christians but they are usually not seen as sweet romantics, though sometimes they pretend to be!

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose questions:

Do you see any of the “Avoiders” negative characteristics in your marriage?  If so what changes do you want to make?

How do the biblical ideas of “not letting the sun go down on your anger” … and “love keeps no list of wrongs” come into play in your marriage?


Does Your Spouse Validate You?

devotional_thumbs up.jpgLast week we introduced you to the 5 categories of marriage that emerged from research done by James Murray of Oxford University.  This week we will amplify the first of his five categories: the Validating Couple.

The Validating Couple:  according to professor Murray, will experience the best marriage and quality of life.  This couple’s ability to remain calm reduces the number of explosive emotional flare ups that could shatter their relationship.  They “validate”, or support the value, of each other by building one another up and spending time together.  It rings of Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up … that it may give grace to those who hear.”  This couple is intentional about displaying their love for one another through words and actions.  ”Let us not love with mere words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

The Validating Couple looks for ways to create shared experiences rather than pursuing individual activities.  While each has dreams, goals, and ambitions, these are now in submission to the greater good of the marriage and family.  Obviously they will spend some time apart to enjoy personal hobbies, but at the core of their marriage is a priority commitment to pursuing togetherness, not individuality.  Murray says: “The most stable relationships are those which take a more old-fashioned view and see marriage as mainly about companionship.”

Ultimately this is the ideal relationship, it is a true joining together of two hearts as one, each partner caring deeply for the other and prioritizing the life, well-being, health, and joy of the couple, above the individual.  This loving character jumps out of John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends <spouse>;” and explains why this couple is often seen as two eternal lovebirds because they best exemplify the Biblical idea of a “one flesh” marriage.

 KNEE TO KNEE NOSE TO NOSE:

Which of these “elements” of the validating couple do we see in our marriage?

Which of the missing elements do we want to work on developing?  What is our plan for making this happen?


Predict Your Marital Success with 94% Accuracy!!

devotional_marriage types.jpgJames Murray from the University of Oxford studied 1,000 marriages and uncovered 5 “types” of marriage.  That’s no big deal.  But, he was able to predict with a 94% accuracy the marital futures of these couples based on the “type” of marriage they had.  Now that’s impressive!

So, in this issue of Fan the Flame Devotions I want to quickly overview these 5 types of marriage; and then highlight each of them in more detail over the next five devotionals. You may want to start thinking and talking together about which of these types best describes your relationship; and which type you want to move towards.

Validating:  this couple is the most likely to stay together over the course of their marriage.  They care deeply for each other and work hard to demonstrate these feelings to each other.   They are interested in building shared experiences over individual pursuits.  They place a high value on togetherness.

Avoiders:  this couple is stable in maintaining their relationship, although the quality is not as high.  They shun conflict and confrontation’ believing that if you don’t talk about it …  it will eventually go away.  This produces little intimacy yet they stay together out of a sense of duty and obligation.

Volatile:  this couple is unstable.  They may have had their fingers crossed while exchanging vows.  Their emotions (anger and passion) heat up quickly and are expressed intensely. This couple can’t hide their type because everyone sees their volatile emotional behaviors in action.

Hostile:  this couple is like the “avoiders” with one important difference.  They stay focused on the negative.  They don’t ignore it or forget it … but repeat offenses to each other frequently, erecting walls of resentment and indifference.  They are not loud and openly angry … they stew until one morning they get up and say: “I don’t love you anymore.”

Hostile Detached: this couple has one member who wants to argue and fight while the other refuses to engage because he or she doesn’t care.  What makes this distinct from the “hostile” described above is that we have two distinct personalities: one who loves to fight and the other who loves to avoid open conflict.  Conflicts are never resolved and the two become detached in just about every way.


How Can I Put My Spouse 1st … without Becoming a Doormat?

devotional_doormat.pngWe had a great question on our Marriage Devotional about last week’s idea of serving our spouses. She asked: “How do you put your spouse first without becoming a doormat?” Here’s our answer … assuming there is no “abuse” involved.

Start by reading I Peter chapters 2 and 3 for some helpful biblical insights to your question. The apostle Peter argues that one of the hallmarks of our faith is “submission” … to all who are in authority over us whether they are Christ followers or not.

I Peter 2 verse 22 reads: “… He (Jesus) committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him (the heavenly Father) who judges justly.”

Peter reminds us that Jesus submitted Himself not only to His heavenly Father … but to the pagan authorities. He was humiliated … He laid down His life … sounds like He was a “doormat” … right in front of heaven’s door!!

In I Peter 3 … Peter makes this idea of serving (submissiveness) specific to Christian wives. They are to love their non believing husbands in a way that will win them over by demonstrating their love and respect for God and their husbands. Christian wives are to have the spirit of Sarah who called her husband Abraham “my lord” … and obeyed him even when he was asking her to lie about her relationship with him.

Paul in Ephesians 5:25 states: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …” Paul mandates that husbands (this serving and submissive thing goes both ways!) are to love their wives like Jesus loves His … He gave Himself up for us. That is the same suffering Peter was talking about.

So in one sense we are to be doormats … humble, submissive and demonstrating the love of God so our spouses, children and all those around us can see the unconditional love of God at work.


The 10-minute Marriage Miracle!

devotional_10minute.jpgMany couples struggle with developing a regular devotional time together.  I believe spiritual intimacy is one of the most challenging intimacies to build in a relationship.  If you’re like me, you feel a sense of despair because we constantly hear that we should pray more, read the Bible more, etc – but we don’t know how or where to start.

Today, I want to share a tool that I’ve found helpful with you.  It has helped many couples on our retreats revolutionize their spiritual lives together.  If you begin to use it … the results will not only impact your personal relationship with God, they’ll spill over into your marriage, family and community too!

Here is the 3 part “10-minute miracle” popularized by Dave and Claudia Arp.

We husbands feel guilty for not leading … and our wives feel like they are nagging to get us started.  So, to help take some of the leadership pressures off each other start by splitting that responsibility.

Husbands lead: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Wife leads: on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  On Sundays … let the Lord lead.

Part 1: Read (5 minutes)

Begin your time together with a 5 minute devotional reading.  Leader for the day reads the passage out loud.  Use anything that gets you in the Bible: a chapter of Scripture, a couple’s devotional book, or a devotional booklet like “Daily Bread.”  (Contact us for some suggestions)

Part 2: Share (3 minutes)

Take 3 minutes to share anything that “speaks” to you regarding the passage and to discuss ways you could apply these thoughts / truths to your lives as individuals and a couple.

Part 3: Pray (2 minutes)

Hold hands as the “leader” opens and prays for 1 minute asking the Lord to help apply these things to your lives; spouse closes praying for 1 minute.

The “miracle” is what this time will do for you and your marriage!  


Do You Need to Perform a “Bedroom Audit?”

devotional_bedroom.jpgHave “things” crept into your bedroom that are robbing you of physical intimacy?  Have you created a pattern that sets you up for failure?

Maybe it’s time to perform a “Bedroom Audit!”

Karen and I routinely teach that one of the keys to physical intimacy is to make sure your bedroom is one of, if not the, most special and safest places in your home.  This isn’t a room where you discipline children, hide the clutter, or run the family business.  We like to say that the only things that should go on in this room are sleep, dressing and times of sexual intimacy.

Here’s a few simple steps you can take to reclaim the intimacy your bedroom was intended for.

1 – Make it Fun and Inviting – This room should feel like an oasis.  Karen and I recently redecorated our bedroom in a color and theme that we both love – the water.  She’s the eternal beach queen and I love boating/kayaking, etc.  Now when we enter our bedroom we feel the peace and warmth those memories create! (It beats the girly wallpaper we had in there for too many years!)

2 – Keep it Clean – I have a bad habit of simply dropping my dirty clothes right next to the bed – or stacking important papers on top of my dresser.  Trust me, my dirty clothes and scattered papers don’t create a sense of intimacy and comfort for Karen!

3 – Make it Safe and Secure – If you have little ones (or older kids) running around the house, it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re afraid that your bedroom door may burst open at an inopportune time.  So put a good lock on your door to keep unwanted intruders out!  Teach your kids that when your bedroom door is closed they are to respect mom and dad’s privacy.

4 – Make it Technology Free – How many times have you been interacting with technology while you could have been interacting with each other?  Keep your distracting tablet, TV, cell phone and other technology out of your bedroom.  Trust me; the increased intimacy that may take place will be much better than knowing you’re up to date on your Facebook or Twitter feeds!

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to having a bedroom that is sacred and filled with intimacy!

PS … never ever ever pay bills in your room!!!


The Most Important Meeting on Your Calendar

devotional_calendar.jpgI remember the day like it was yesterday. Karen had a rough time in the classroom at school, schedules were changed without her knowledge, kids weren’t on their best behavior, and she was exhausted. The only thing keeping her going was the fact she was looking forward to getting out of the house and enjoying a nice restaurant dinner with me for a date we had scheduled.

You can probably see where this is going …

My day was extremely different. I had spent the day getting things done, checking things off my list, and even had a chance to give someone a call who wanted to meet with me. It just so happened that he was free that very night. As I looked at my calendar, I noticed we only had our scheduled date night for the evening, and I thought “it won’t be a big deal to change that.”

If only I knew then what I know now …

Needless to say Karen was devastated when she got the message, “I won’t be home till later in the evening and am excited to be meeting with this other person.”
My actions made her feel like she was playing second fiddle to my work and this other person.

I often teach about the Pyramid of Priorities here at House on the Rock. They should be – God, Spouse, Family then Work. Too often, we are upside down with work being the most important – and the others catching the slack.

By breaking my date with Karen I was telling her she wasn’t as important as other things.

I had my priorities upside down.

My encouragement for couples is to put date nights and times together in INK in their calendars. They should be the most important meetings you have … and only breakable due to dire circumstances.

If you begin to do this, your spouse will not only hear they are important, but will know it because of your actions!


5 Easy Ways to Get Out of the Marriage Rut

devotional_stuck-in-a-rut.jpgDo you ever feel like your marriage is stuck in a rut?  You’re trapped in the same routines … getting up at the same time … get ready … go to work … text a few times about schedules … eat dinner … pay bills … watch TV … head to bed … only to wake up to do it all over again the same way tomorrow!!

In John 10:10 Jesus states, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly!” (emphasis added)

Does your marriage sound like abundance, or redundance?

How can you step out of the rat-race and enjoy your spouse?  Here’s 5 simple ideas to get you started.

  • Plan a special date night to a new location.  Go to a place you’ve never been to before.  If funds are available, splurge a little bit on each other by going somewhere nice … if not, check out the local classified ads in your area for a free spontaneous event.
  • Spice things up physically in your marriage.  Does your spouse like backrubs, or foot massages? Offer to give one at a time that isn’t the norm.  Enhance your sex life by trying something new, or enjoying each other in a new place.  There’s no rule that says sex can only happen in the bedroom, at night!
  • Surprise your spouse with a special letter sent to him/her at work or at home.  In this world of instant communication, there’s still something special about opening the mailbox and finding that you have a letter personally written to you!
  • Don’t wait around for the holidays, birthday or anniversary to get a special gift that says, “I love you!”  Every woman knows that flowers “just because” last the longest – both literally and figuratively!!
  • What chores does your spouse typically do? Take an entire day and do them for him/her.  It might involve mowing the grass, doing a few loads of laundry, running the vacuum – you get the picture.

If you give each of these ideas a try over the next few weeks, I guarantee that your marriage will begin to experience a new level of intimacy, excitement and abundance!

Go for it!!


Marriage Memorials (Ebenezers)

devotional_ebenezers.jpgWe just celebrated Memorial Day … a day established to “memorialize,” or remember, our fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country and our freedoms.

Throughout this weekend a question has been rattling around in my head: “What can we do to “memorialize,” or remember, our spouses and children on a daily basis?

In I Samuel 7:12-14, the prophet Samuel sets up a stone of remembrance, an “Ebenezer,” to remind the Israelites of God’s protection and help in defeating the Philistines.

We can learn some important things about establishing memorials from this passage.  First, it was an object, in this case a stone, which was large enough for people to see.  Second, it was placed in a prominent position (between the two major cities) where people would see it regularly.  Third, it was designed to be permanent.

If you were to come visit my office here at House on the Rock, you’d see that my family – especially my wife – is extremely important to me.

Directly above my computer screen sits a large picture of my wife, flanked on all sides by my children.

This portrait was purposely placed there so I would see my wife every day I am at the office and remember her.  I rarely look at my computer without seeing those photos … they’re in a place of prominence.

Why did I do that?   Because I want to remember that God has given me a precious gift that I need to celebrate and be thankful for.  I want to be thinking of her as I browse the internet.  I want to be able to talk about her when people walk into my office to see those family photos.

What have you purposely placed as an “Ebenezer” to remind you of your spouse and family?  We’d love to hear your creative thoughts and ideas.  Leave us a comment to encourage others today.


Dealing with the In-Laws and “Outlaws” (part 2)

devotional_inlaws and outlaws.pngMany of us struggle with our in-laws and outlaws.  We feel like they haven’t accepted our choice of spouse, lifestyle or parenting.

Having difficulties with your in-laws and outlaws doesn’t mean you’re in an unhealthy marriage.  Conflict is inevitable in every family.  Those conflicts can either tear you apart or bring you closer together.  The key is in how you resolve them.  And the same is true for difficulties with your in-laws.

Here’s some suggestions:

Realize your in-laws and outlaws are different people.
You are engaged in a “cross cultural” experience.  Both of you came from different family cultures.  One of your families was big into celebrations; the other one’s family rarely celebrated anything.  This isn’t necessarily wrong … it is different.

Make an effort with the in-laws and outlaws.
Don’t forget how important your spouse’s parents are to your spouse.  Treat them with respect.  Allow them to participate in family events.  Make an effort, even though they may not always agree with or understand your family’s dynamics, rituals or traditions.

Separate your marriage from the in-laws and outlaws.
You are not married to them!  So when parents are being especially difficult to deal with, make an extra effort to be kind to your spouse.  Say “I love you” or perform a sweet gesture.

Keep talking about this issue.
Processing the difficulties in loving conversations is one of the most important tools a couple has for dealing with in-laws/outlaws.  Share your own feelings and positions on the differing issues; listen to each other and sympathize with each other.

Set clear boundaries.
Talk about how your parents interfere with your spouse’s routines.  Maybe your spouse is OK with your mom stopping in unannounced but you’re not.  Set a boundary.  “Mom, we love to have you stop in … but would you please give us a call to make sure it’s a good time to stop over?  We have a busy schedule with the kids and want to make sure we have the time you deserve on your visit.

Your in-laws are important to your spouse, and they’re part of your family’s life, whether you like it or not.  So, it’s up to both of you to find a way to make time with extended family as enjoyable as possible!


Dealing with the In-Laws and “Outlaws” (Part 1)

devotional_inlaws and outlaws.pngWHETHER YOU’RE A NEWLYWED OR AN “OLDIE-WED”, LIKE ME; DEALING WITH THE “IN-LAWS” AND “OUTLAWS” CAN BE A CHALLENGE.

Your “in-laws” have profoundly shaped every aspect of your spouse’s life.  Your parents, the “outlaws,” have impacted yours.  When the two of you start making decisions both of your family’s views and values can clash.  Add some unsolicited advice from the in-laws and/or outlaws, and a showdown begins brewing between the two of you!  But you’re not feuding over the decision; it’s all about supporting or defending your parents!

So, how do you treat your in-laws and outlaws?

Leave and Cleave:  Genesis 2:24 states that you are to “leave” your parents and “cleave” to your spouse.  “Leaving” means you are to run from the arms of your parents into the arms of your spouse.  “Cleaving” means that you’re holding onto one another so tightly that nothing, including your parents, siblings or even your own children, can squeeze between you!

Re-prioritize your relationships.  Your spouse is to be the number one person in your life!  Yet, God’s command to honor our fathers and mothers is still in place.  You don’t stop loving, honoring or respecting them but you do need to:

Establish New Boundaries:  You are husband and wife, a separate family that assumes responsibility for yourselves.  Many parents have trouble letting go.  They’ve loved you for your entire life!  But this is especially true if they’re not happy in their marriage, or with your choice of a spouse.

So, if you’re dealing with in-law or outlaw behavior that is disrespectful, demeaning or derogatory, it’s time to end that.  You don’t need to subject yourself, your spouse, or your marriage to that abuse.  Lovingly, and privately, tell the offenders that those actions, or words, are wrong and not acceptable.

The old adage, “good fences make good neighbors” might come into play here.  If they’re getting too invasive and involved, it’s time to have a talk about setting boundaries … and once these boundaries are in place, insist that they are respected.

Next week we’re going to talk more about our relationships with parents and in-laws.

Knee to Knee nose to Nose Questions: 

How are we doing with “leaving and cleaving”?  Has someone, or something, been able to squeeze in between us?  Who or what … and what are we going to do about that invasion to our intimacy?

What boundaries do we need to develop to protect our marriage?  How will we do that?

How can we help our married child(ren) to “leave and cleave” better?

How can I demonstrate love and respect to your parents better?


Are White Lies OK in My Marriage?

devotional_white lies.jpgEveryone tells a white lie; but we need to ask ourselves why?  Some believe that white lies save relationships, ease hectic situations, or buy time.  The danger lurks in that once we get started it is too easy to keep lying more and more.  Now those “small, little, insignificant” cracks in our integrity grow into serious flaws that threaten to crumble the foundation of our marriage … trust.

When the foundation of a building loses its structural integrity, it becomes unstable, wobbly and ultimately uninhabitable.  The same is true in our marriages.  When our personal integrity erodes, the supports of truthfulness and trust deteriorate; leaving a marriage that is unstable, wobbly and could ultimately be uninhabitable!

Are you being totally honest in your marriage?  Are there things you are holding back or don’t want your spouse to know?  Are you transparent in sharing your true feelings?

If your spouse saw your financial records, and where you’re spending your time, or who you’re talking with on the phone or chatting with online; would he/she be surprised … or angry?  Are you feeling lonely, trapped, or like you’re about to explode; but haven’t let your spouse know?

If this describes your marriage, here is a list of things you can do to begin rebuilding your foundation again:

1st – Make a decision to unconditionally love your spouse and to stay in this relationship.  This will make you both feel safe enough to be truthful.

2nd – Acknowledge and share any hurt feelings with your spouse.  Talk about how the lack of trust has, or can hurt your relationship.

3rd – Make a decision to forgive your spouse – even if all your feelings aren’t there yet.

4th – Develop a plan for accountability.  If your struggles involved money, plan for a monthly “reconciliation” of your funds that outlines where expenditures are being made.

5th – Renew your commitment to integrity with God and with your spouse.

If you continue to sow dishonesty and “white” lies into your relationship, you’re going to reap the results of a crumbling foundation.

If you sow honesty and forgiveness, you’ll begin to see that foundation getting shored up and will gain the joy of a strong Godly marriage bond.

Proverbs 10:9 states, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”


Last Week’s Amazing … Nationally Televised Ballpark Proposal … That Nobody Noticed!!

devotional_Baseball proposal.PNGWe’ve all seen this … sometime during a game … the jumbo screen flashes to a couple and the fans watch as a young man gets out a small box with a big ring and asks his girlfriend to marry him.  After they hug or kiss, the fans in the stands erupt into cheers and applause.

Well this week… during a big game between two huge rivals … the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox  … in the bottom of the ninth … a young man got down on his knee right behind home plate and proposed … in front of national TV cameras!  And not a word was spoken.  (You can watch the video here)

Here’s what captured my attention … that this proposal of marriage didn’t capture anyone else’s attention (only a handful of fans applauded).  The players didn’t notice … the announcers were silent … the peanut vendor kept selling peanuts!

I’m not an alarmist, but I can’t help but see this as a commentary on the state of marriage in our culture today.  Statistics reveal that marriage is on the decline.  It is mocked in our media and feared by an emerging generation.

This trend should concern all of us who profess to be Christians.  The unbreakable covenant relationship between a husband and wife is the most powerful earthly picture of God’s unconditional love for us.  Jesus is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are His bride.

When marriage is minimized, mocked and maligned … the image, nature and character of God is too.  So let’s be thinking about what we can do as married couples to show the fans in our spheres of influence what the love of God looks like lived out in front of them.

Here’s some “Knee to Knee, Nose to Nose” questions to help get you started … share your answers in the comments section below …

  • How have you demonstrated the positives of being married to your children?
  • What do you do to promote the positive aspects of marriage to your work colleagues?  (example.  Don’t refer to your spouse in a derogatory manner…)
  • What would your neighbors think about God because of your marriage?

(For the record … the batter grounded out … let’s pray that this young couple hits a “home run!”)


Easter & Marriage – God’s 3 Step Plan

devotional_cross2_0.jpgEaster proclaims Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection to restore our shattered relationship with the Father.  As I reflected on this great story of reconciliation and salvation, I couldn’t help but see 3 powerful applications for our marriages!

First, God wants relationship and reconciliation:  Jesus went to the cross to restore a broken relationship between God and fallen man.  He knew that our separation from God kept us from being all we were created to be.  The same is true for us as couples.  We can’t be what God wants us to be when we are separated from one another!

Is there a wall of separation between the two of you in your marriage?  An unresolved issue, an open conflict that is keeping you both from experiencing the intimacy God wants you to have?  If so, it’s time to forgive and seek restoration, to make a commitment to resolve that conflict.  To take the second step …

Second, God took the initiative:  “For God so loved … that He gave.”  We know the verse well; and the lesson is simple: God started the process.  So we need to ask: “Do I love my spouse so much that I will begin the process of reconciliation?

Couples get “stuck” because neither of them is ready, nor willing, to take the first step.  It was God’s love for us that propelled Him to send His Son.

Third, God gave sacrificially and generously:  God’s redemptive plan mandated Jesus’ death on the cross.  The innocent One had to suffer and die.

Even when we feel that we’re not to blame for the broken intimacy in our marriages, God’s Word tells us to love our spouses in the same sacrificial way Jesus gave Himself up for us. (Ephesians 5: 25)

Are you willing to “suffer” the discomfort of delving into the nitty-gritty of making things right; to invest the time and energy needed to work through the issue?  Are you willing to “die to yourself” to see restoration happen?

Because of Easter we can celebrate the forgiveness of sin, a restored relationship and the promise of an abundant and eternal life.  When we apply God’s 3 steps of reconciliation to our marriages … we can experience the forgiveness that restores our relationship that will bring us the true intimacy that God intended.


A Wise Reprover

devotional_146898141.jpgProverbs 25:12 – “Like earrings of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprove to a listening ear.”

When Karen and I were first married, I was the apple of her eye … perfect in every way.  But it didn’t take long for reality to set in; and she wanted to make some major changes in my life.

After living together for a little while … the rose colored glasses that saw a perfect spouse fall to the floor and shatter.  You both begin to see some things you’d like to change in each other.

But be careful!  You’re entering a mine field.  Neither of you believe you have to make any changes; so giving anything that looks like a criticism to your spouse could start a “cold war” or even WW III.

So how do you share constructive criticism with your spouse in a loving way?

I’d like to suggest 5 steps to giving positive correction, or wise reproof to your spouse:

Step 1 – Check the attitude behind your criticism or reproof.  Are you giving it as a “gift” to your spouse to help him or her become a better person?  Or are you doing it out of displeasure or anger?

Step 2 – Affirm and build up your spouse before you share the critique.  What are the positive things you’re seeing in his or her life?  Then talk about the changes you’d like to see and close the time of correction with another positive and loving affirmation.

Step 3 – Make sure you address the problem and not the person; stay away from missile words like “you always” and “you never.”  Attacking the person is nevergoing to work the way you want it to … so always attack the problem.

Step 4 – Work together on a blueprint, or plan, for how your spouse can improve.  What does the intended outcome look like?  Paint as specific a word picture as possible so both of you will know what it looks like, and when you’ve succeeded!

Step 5 – Pray together for each other and your plan of action.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to being a wise reprover!!


10 Questions that Will Grow Your Intimacy in Marriage

devotional_78441-283x424-intimateconvo.jpgGod declared that it was not good for man to be alone.  Jesus taught in John 10: 30 that we are to be one just as He and the Father are one.

Intimacy is a description of God’s love; because it reflects His nature and character.  He is not alone; there is an intimate relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The mystery is how we as married couples are to reflect that oneness … that intimacy.

Intimacy is vital to a great marriage.  How are you building intimacy with your spouse?  Is it purposeful, or just something that you let to chance?  Why not take some time to build that relationship … to mirror the openness, honesty, love and care that we see in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

HERE’S 10 KNEE TO KNEE, NOSE TO NOSE QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU BEGIN THAT PROCESS …

  1.     When did you last cry?  What was it about?
  2.     When you get home from work, what would you like me to do or say in the first few minutes?
  3.     What are you currently praying about?  Why?
  4.     What should I never say or do to you, even in anger or frustration?
  5.     What can I do for you that would make you feel special or appreciated?
  6.     What Bible verses have been speaking to you lately? Why?
  7.     What are three things on your bucket list that you think we could check off in the next year?
  8.     What would you consider as the greatest accomplishment in your life so far?  What would you like to accomplish in the future?
  9.     Where would you like to travel to?  Why?
  10.    What barriers or walls are in our relationship that we need to address?

Do You Have a Hungry Heart?

devotional_hungry heart.JPGDo you have a “Hungry Heart”?

Hebrews 10: 24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 …let us encourage one another —and all the more …

Encouragement is one of your heart’s favorite foods … and every heart is a hungry heart!

We all get tummy twinges telling us that it’s time to get some nourishment.  Our hearts ache for words of love and encouragement to get us through each day too!

So, one of the vital skills we need to develop is the ability to feed our spouses’ hungry hearts with acts and words of encouragement.  Let’s look at what that looks like.

Webster defines encouragement this way:  to embolden, hearten, give courage or confidence to; contribute to the progress of; to raise the hopes of; to help on by sympathetic advice and interest; to promote, stimulate, and strengthen.

Instill Courage.  To embolden implies the giving, or installing, of courage our spouse needs to overcome timidity or fear.  What is your spouse “afraid” of today?  What can you do, or say that will him or her give strength and confidence to face this challenge head on?

Cheer Development.  We cheer when our favorite team scores!  Let your spouse hear your cheer when they have successfully overcome a challenge!  Keep an eye open for what they have overcome … or done well.

Bring Hope:  In discouraging times our mates need to hear from us that we are with them … that God is with them.  They need to see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Sometimes it is encouraging for them if we roll up our sleeves to help them work through their challenges.  Be careful that they are “hearing” this action is genuine help and not as a statement of their incompetence.

Support and Affirm:  both flow out of love and concern; and demonstrate genuine encouragement.  Look for ways to come along side of your spouse to affirm where they are and what they’re doing.

Honor their character:  We want to polish the positive traits in our mates.  This is more than affirming what they are “doing,” but acknowledging who they are “being.”  “I love your generous spirit …”  “You showed a great kindness to …”

Look to see how the fruit of the spirit is being evidenced your spouse’s life and let him or her know when you see glimmers of them emerging.

Knee to Knee Nose to Nose Questions:

Talk about which of the facets of encouragement is your heart’s favorite food.

Talk about how you can feed your spouse’s heart.

Here is a challenge.  Let’s promise to feed our spouse’s heart with a least one of these “encouraging” actions every day this week.


Did You Have Your Fingers Crossed?

devotional_funny-wedding-photo-bride-groom-fingers-crossed-behind-back.jpgRemember when you were a kid and made promises; but you had your fingers crossed behind your back?  Then when things got tough and you couldn’t follow through … you shared: “I had my fingers crossed!”

 Our national divorce rate of about 50%, suggests that many couples have their fingers crossed when they exchange their wedding vows.  And when things get tough they reveal that they were not truly all in.

 We live in a contractual culture.  I will do this for you … if you do this for me.  In marriage it looks like this.  I will stay married to you as long as you make this much money … look this good … give me children … meet my needs … and the list of conditions goes on and on.  Our relationships are built on conditions being met … I will love you IF.

 God never intended for marriage to be built on a contract.  He ordained it to be a covenant.  Covenants are unbreakable promises or vows.  God makes covenants … and He keeps them; and He expects His people to do the same.  Numbers 30:2 says this:

 If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word.  He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

 When you shared your vows (not conditions), you probably said something like this:  I take you … for better or worse … in sickness or in health … for richer or poorer … until death do us part.

 Honestly all of us are thinking … better, health and richer.  But what happens when life gives us … worse, sickness or poor?

 Do we say: Hey I’m out … I had my fingers crossed?

 Knee to Knee Nose to Nose Questions:

 What are some of the conditions you have seen other couples put on each other?

 Do you feel that you have put conditions on your spouse?

 Do you feel that he or she has put some conditions on you?

 Do you both feel secure in the covenant you have made to each other?


Am I a Selfish Spouse?

devotional_article-2382017-1B18092D000005DC-190_634x314.jpgHere’s a challenging question to start off your week:  “Am I a Selfish Spouse?”

Can you relate to this?  You’re heading home after a long hard day at work; as you open the door the kids attack!  Bills, laundry, kids’ baths and bedtime, and a dog walk are all on your evening’s agenda.

After an exhausting three hours, dinner is cleaned up, bills are paid and the kids are all snug in their beds.  Ahhh … you collapse into your favorite chair … remote in hand … ready to watch your favorite show.  Then you hear it … the biggest question of the day:

“Honey can you come downstairs to help me with …” (an exciting project that you’re not thrilled about!)

Immediately you think … Noooo!  …  You’ve got to be kidding … I’ve worked hard all day!  I deserve this “me time” to unwind!

Then you remember:  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves.  (Phil 2:3)

We get so focused on what we’re doing, that we fail to realize that our spouses have long hard days too.  We forget that they need “me time.”  It is their “me time” and they want to share it with us.

I don’t know about you but I am often guilty of considering myself … more than I am at considering Karen.  I need to start looking for ways to put her needs before mine.

As you desire to grow the intimacy in your marriage, the words of Phil 2:3 ring out loud and true.  When you begin to consider your spouse … you begin to look at life through his/her perspective.  You begin to evaluate situations in a whole new way.

This week – begin to ask yourself, “What would our marriage look like if I put my spouse’s needs over my own?”

Knee to Knee, Nose to Nose Questions

What would our marriage look like if we put each other’s needs over our own?

Write the top 5 “to-do” items you want to get done at home.  Are they for you or for your spouse?

Have a discussion with your spouse about the things that matter to him/her.  Focus on trying to meet those needs this coming week.

Share with each other some ways you feel selfish in your relationship.  Talk about how you can work together to consider each other.


Rapport vs. Report

devotional_couple-on-couch-talking.jpgDoes this happen at your house too?

After a day at work … I walk into the house … Karen cheerfully asks, “How was your day?”

Being tired and trying to forget my day at the office … I simply grunt out the standard one word male answer: “fine.”

If Karen’s lucky, I may share a few high or low points of my day at work.  She asked a question … and I answered it.  I did my job as a husband.

But there’s a slight problem.  That’s not the answer Karen was looking for.  She was looking for feelings and I was giving her one fact.

She wasn’t asking me for a report on my day, she was trying to start our evening together by building a connection … a “rapport.”

The definition of “rapport” is – a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Karen desires to grow our emotional intimacy; she wants to know my feelings, my fears, my aspirations, and my dreams.  She wants to know what’s going on behind the curtain of my heart.

Instead of entering into her world of “rapport” … I simply gave her a “report” of my day.

At Fan the Flame Dates, our goal is to help you build that emotional connection in your marriage … so take time this week as a couple to go through our “Knee to Knee, Nose to Nose” questions … and see how God grows the emotional connects you create.

Knee to Knee, Nose to Nose Questions:

What are some ways we can improve our communication so that it builds rapport?

When can we set aside a certain amount of time each day to share and hear each other’s hearts?

When you hear a report … ask your spouse: “How are you feeling about that?”;then both of you need to be patient in giving and listening for an answer.