Every Day Choices: Speaking Life to Your Mate

Death and life are in power of the tongue, and they who indulge it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life] (Proverbs 18:21 Amplified Bible).

One our favorite activities on Sunday morning, besides going to church, is to watch the episode of CBS Sunday Morning we record on our DVR. After arriving home from church, I will, typically, make a light breakfast of tea and toast or something similar. As we sit down to eat, we cue up our favorite news show.

Every episode includes a number of very interesting stories from serious to humorous to  celebratory. Last Sunday’s episode included a piece on the famous screenwriter and film director, Quentin Tarantino. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I am a fan of Mr. Tarantino, but the conversation with him was rather interesting. He talked about getting married in 2018. Nothing particularly curious about that except for the fact that he was in his late 50’s and this was his first marriage. Up until that time, he was seriously married to his work, and that was all he wanted to focus on. When the interviewer asked him what happened that caused him to finally marry. He responded, “I met Daniella!”

Those words really struck me because I could tell he was deeply in love and that this woman changed his life. He also swooned about their new son, Leo. I felt very happy for him but also a little sad. Love can truly change a person’s life forever; but without an everyday choice to cultivate that love, it can eventually turn dull and lifeless. I wondered how willing Mr. Tarantino and/or his wife were willing to do that. We have seen, too many times, love turn to hatred because the couples were not willing to saturate their relationship with everyday choices that breathe life into it.

When couples engage in disagreements, they can very easily allow themselves to get caught up in their emotions and let all manner of unkind words fly from their mouths.  These are words of death.  Death is speaking out of your flesh- your hurt, anger and pain.

It’s unfortunate, but many experts now say that they can determine how long a marriage will last simply by listening to how a couple speaks to each other during an argument.  If their words are cutting and deliberately hurtful, it is said that most likely that marriage won’t last long.  If, however, words are carefully chosen in order to soften a blow; or if they are attacking the problem instead of each other, that marriage has a better chance of success.  If you find yourselves practicing the former, the warning flags should be waving fiercely.  Take the warning seriously, but don’t allow it to seal your fate.  You can do something about it.  Instead of speaking death, speak life.

     Speaking life is: Listening (to your mate and the Holy Spirit) before you speak, sharing the truth in love, repenting quickly, forgiving even before your mate repents, and saying only what the Father tells you to say.1

One of best ways to get out of the bad habit of using death-filled words during a dispute is to make a new daily habit of blessing your spouse.  Do you know that you can lay hands on your spouse and speak a blessing over him or her?  Pray a blessing for prosperity, health, wholeness and intimacy with God.  Pray for God’s Spirit to anoint your spouse with power, wisdom and favor at home and work. Make an effort to affirm your mate’s strengths, character and actions on a daily basis.   

Blessing speaks God’s shalom over a person.  Shalom means more than peace; it connotes well-being, wholeness, health and prosperity. 2 You can begin this by laying hands on your spouse’s head and praying Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (NIV)

When you make it a daily habit to bless your mate and speak life to him/her, I promise you will be less likely to desire to speak another word of death to each other, and it will strengthen your relationship beyond your imagination. Let that blessing be the oil of gladness poured over your mate, daily. (Pam)

1 &2.  Dr. Larry and Judi Keefauver, Seventy-seven Irrefutable truths of Marriage (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)

Love’s Work

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18 NJKV)

This is one of my favorite scriptures that has inspired me to trust and stand, so many times, in faith toward God’s promised devotion to His family. The love that I’m are talking about here is God’s love for those who have dared to receive Christ as their personal Savior. It was His love that allowed Jesus to come and be our personal sacrifice for sins we could not atone for ourselves. 1 John 4:19 expresses that “We love Him because He first loved us”. The love that is perfect is God’s love for us and not our perfect performance because we all know none of us is perfect. Fortunately, God, in His love, has promised to help us do the things He desires us to do such as love Him and our fellow human beings.

When we begin to understand just how much God loves us with a perfect love, we find that it expels, cast out, and drives out fear. Fear involves torment and thoughts of punishment, which is the enemy of faith. If we have fear of God’s intentions, it is because we have not been made complete in His love. We must allow love to work for us by banishing fear and promoting faith in God. This is love’s work. Faith (that is, faith in God’s Word) is what releases God’s power and strength in our lives.

When we face situations that tend to promote fear, we must remember God’s committed love and declared devotion to His children. The very thought of the level and quality of His love should inspire confidence, not in ourselves but the God who loved us first and promised to stand with us and never forsake us. Fear, in the face of understood and received love, must retreat. In the absence of fear, faith will grow as we pursue a knowledge and loving understanding of God’s commitment to us through His Word.

Why is this one of my favorite scriptures? Because I make mistakes, missteps, errors, and outright sinful decisions; but when I remember I am loved and can ask God to first forgive me and then, through faith in Him, help me to live victoriously obedient to His will.

Love will keep fear away from us and allow faith to operate, making overcoming power and strength available to us. Ask Him to make you perfect, mature, and complete in His love. (Adrian)

The Sun is Always Shining

The day is Yours, the night is Yours; You have established and prepared the (heavenly) light and the sun. (Psalm 74:16. AMP)

On a particularly gloomy and rainy day, my son, (who was three at the time) and I hopped in the car off to an appointment. As I backed out of the garage into the driveway, my son looked up at the sky and asked, “Mommy, where’s the sun?” I quickly responded, “Oh, the sun’s behind the clouds, Baby.” His follow-up question was, “Why does the sun go behind the clouds?” While trying to develop an explanation I thought would be understandable for a three-year-old, my son came up with his own clever answer. “I know. The sun goes behind the clouds so it won’t get wet.” I thought to myself, “Brilliant!”

Although the sun may not actually go behind the clouds so it won’t get wet, it is back there, still shining as brightly as it ever has. Even on our gloomiest day, physically or emotionally, the sun is still shining; but not only is that  hot sphere of glowing gases we call the s-u-n  still shining radiantly, so is our Savior, God’s S-O-N.

Our lives are made up of so many ups and downs, and sometimes it so easy to allow ourselves to sink into depression during those down times because we feel hopeless. It takes a great amount of faith to recognize that Jesus, who is our very present help in times of need, is right there with us to lift up our hung-down heads, to raise us back to joy. The Son is always shining. We must remember not to forget Hebrews 4:16, So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (NLT). It’s also important to remember that we can come out of our gloominess with this Scripture in mind,  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

One of our dearest friends lost his battle with cancer, recently. One of the most remarkable things about his passing was his wife’s attitude before, during and after the funeral. All the possible sadness that could accompany such an event, was surpassed by the joy she felt, knowing where he was and the cessation of pain he was now experiencing. Of course, she misses him terribly but has been able to keep her eyes on the Son, whom she knows has her back.

There is coming a day when there will be no need for the sun: And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light (Rev. 12:23, NLT). Until that day comes, while here on earth, we can be comforted by the fact that the sun and the Son is always shining for us.

Embrace His Presence, Part 2

This is a repost from our Marriage Adventures Blog

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:1-4 NLT).

In Hebrews 13:5-6 God promises to never leave or forsake us.  What many of us fail to understand is that the presence of God is an expression of His love for us.  This verse goes on to say that the reason for His faithfulness is that he desires for us to be able to boldly declare, “God is my helper”.  Until we can truly comprehend the depth of God’s love for us as an individual, it is difficult to joyfully accept the longing God has for involvement in our lives. 

We have coached many people over the years and found some to believe that their marriage, home, and family were areas of their personal domain.  The thought was that these are areas free from the intervention of God or that they were on their own in a trial adventure.  Many of us are willing to allow God access when trouble, illness, or rescue is needed but still demand the control back once delivered.  It needs to be understood that God’s promised love takes the form of being ever present, involved, caringly attentive, and eternally desirous of a loving relationship with you.

God’s presence reaches, covers, manifest and dominates any and everywhere we are or are not.  The only condition for full enjoyment of this love gift is for us to accept and embrace God, the Giver.  Acknowledge and ask God through Christ to be involved in every aspect of your life.  Exclude Him from no activity, thought, or area of your existence.  Invite Him to be the true Lord of your life and then expand His lordship to your marriage, home, and family.  Understand that because of God’s love for you, you want Him involved and influencing every aspect of you and your marriage.

Realize that God knows everything there is to know about you, and He still loves and desires to have relationship with you.  Even if you thought you could, or still wanted to hide from God, it’s impossible.  Grasp hold of God’s loving presence and allow Him to work in you, on you, and through you to become personally blessed and be a blessing to your family.  Realize that there is nothing in this life that God has assigned you to handle without Him.  As promised, God is ever present; but when we focus our attention on Him we become conscious of His preexisting, loving attendance.  In order to please God, we must believe that He is, and that He desires to reward us for our faith in Him. (Adrian)

Embrace His Presence

This is a repost from our Marriage Adventures Blog

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here (Exodus 33:14-15 NKJV)

Moses had been given direction and purpose as the leader of the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land.  Moses, in a conversation with God, was promised that the presence of God would go with him.  Not only did God assure Moses of His presence but He reiterated that rest would be given to the Israelites in the process.  Moses’ response was to request from God that, “If you don’t accompany us, then don’t move us.”  Moses appreciated and acknowledged the importance of the involvement and presence of God in accomplishing the God-given assignment.

Marriage is an institution that was established and is still sanctioned by God.  A truly successful marital relationship must embrace the necessity for God’s presence and involvement.  Just as Moses asked God to go with them, we must do the same for our marriages.

To embrace the need for God’s intervention is to recognize that the designed purpose for marriage was to provide help in life, pursuing pleasing Him.  God wants to reveal His love and nurturing character within the marriage relationship.  This will require the assistance of God to enable us to successfully demonstrate and share the love we received from Him.  God is always giving us examples of love in action because He knows we cannot share or give what we have not received.  Therefore, in order to execute God’s plan of unconditional redemptive love, He must be at the center of our life experience.

The more you involve God, the more you begin to understand that He desires and loves to be invited into every aspect of your life.  Marriage is an experience that is no exception. You will find that marriage is not a take home test where you are on your own.  God has promised to always be there.  Trust Him to be faithful to you and His Word.

Reminder: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV) (Adrian)

Don’t Rush the Process

…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4, NKJV).)

Some things take time to perfect.

I had an interesting conversation recently with my oldest daughter. We talked about marriage and how, after several years of marriage, she has finally gotten to a real place of appreciating her husband and the value he adds to her life. She is also aware of the value she adds to his life.

As we shared our different experiences in marriage, we came to a final conclusion which was this: Too many couples aren’t willing to go through the struggle of truly learning each other. If, after a few years things aren’t perfect, they’re willing to throw in the towel. Most of the time, things aren’t perfect because they are not putting the difficult  work involved in making a marriage work. They rush the process.

Most people are aware of how often marriage ends in divorce, but they still, somehow, hold on to this fantasy that because they are so “in love”, everything will be easy and breezy. The truth is that the only marriages that work are those that WORK at making it work, and are willing to not rush the process.

There’s a reason they call early marriage the “honeymoon phase”. It’s because it is only a phase. A phase is a distinct period or stage in a series of events or a process of change or development. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily last. Typically, after a couple gets “hitched”, they go on an extended vacation away from all the responsibilities of life and concentrate on each other, allowing themselves to be totally enraptured in each other’s love. Their eyes are full of fairy dust, and everything is seen through that. Unfortunately, soon after arriving home, real life begins. Now it’s easy to get distracted by tasks that take your attention away from each other; and in the process, it’s easy to lose patience or become short tempered with your mate.  Suddenly, all your mate’s flaws are smacking you in the face. It’s also easy to forget that this, too, is a phase. 

Marriage goes through many, many phases, and if that is not kept in mind, it’s too easy to think that the current phase is a permanent one. It, indeed, can become a permanent one if the two parties refuse to make the essential changes that allow them to transition into a different stage.

In the beginning, we want our mates to be just like us. It has been said that if you both are alike, one of you is unnecessary. It is so much more rewarding to learn to understand and appreciate your differences. It’s a lot more interesting, too.

It truly takes time to cultivate a good marriage, but if patience isn’t developed, it can’t happen. Expecting perfection from your mate is an impossible pursuit. Even if you find the “perfect” person, the relationship is going to be imperfect because you’re in it. Oops! Was that your toe I just stepped on. Sorry, not sorry.

Here’s the bottom line: if you rush the process of becoming an “US”, and choose, instead,  to separate or divorce, you will miss out on some of the most wonderful joys marriage can have. And should you decide to marry someone new, you’ll have to start all over again, getting to know each other, learning each other’s idiosyncrasies, what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, what brings you great delight. Those things take time.

Let patience truly have it’s perfect work in you. If you are a child of God, you already have it in you through the Fruit of the Spirit; so you don’t even have to ask God for it. Instead, ask Him to help you develop that fruit, and be expectant that He will. And, by the way, remember to be patient with yourself as you grow in your relationship with God and your spouse. (Pam)

Poison

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23, NLT)

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that the Word of God is true and is worthy of my attention and deliberate compliance.  It’s like many of the things our parents warned us about that. At the time. they didn’t seem to make sense or just seemed irrelevant to our situation.  However, we later experienced remorse for not paying attention. How many times have we remembered the decisions we made early on  like quitting our music lessons, not continuing our education, or not staying away from people or activities that we later regretted and wound up reaping undesirable consequences.

I think that many of the issues I was given information about, I just didn’t believe that it was true or accurate. It was like looking at a bottle of poison and thinking that someone had mislabeled it or was mistaken.  If I had sincerely trusted the warning on the label, there was no way I would have eaten or drunk the contents of the container.  Most of us use our personal experiences to help us make decisions we face everyday; but when it comes to poison, your experience may be the last thing you want to depend on.  Many of us have had experiences that help to guide us but wish never to repeat or see others get involved with.  Some things we encounter have immediate consequences, delayed results, and some no effects at all. Therefore, in order to safely navigate life’s choices and challenges we need to deliberately investigate, learn from our – and other’s – experiences, and determine what we hold as true and sacred.

The scripture quoted above indicates that the wages or consequences of sin is death.  Sin is one of those things that always produces the consequence of separating us spiritually from God immediately but also has its progressive and final remunerations that may appear more slowly over a lifetime or even eternally.  I am personally thankful for the Word of God because it allows me to take advantage of other’s experiences, and the wisdom and warnings of God, Himself.  I don’t have to touch a scorching stove to know it will burn me or drink poison to know that it kills.  I have learned to equate both sin and poison as activities to be avoided or eliminated from my life. 

Sin will always yield the consequence of death unless, having sinned, we take God’s antidote.  The same scripture quoted above also provides humanity with the God- given-sin antidote for life through receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior.   Jesus has provided a remedy for our personal sins by taking the penalty for us. 

I challenge you to investigate and pursue Christ as the true antidote for sin that will not only work in this lifetime but throughout eternity.   (Adrian)   

A Legacy of Faith

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.  In righteousness you shall be established;
(Isaiah 54:13-14a, NKJV)

Not very long ago, we lay Adrian’s brother’s body to rest. He was only one of the twelve offspring of their parents. Adrian is actually the baby of the family; and by the time he was born, three of his siblings had already died at early ages – one of whom was the identical twin  of his recently deceased brother. It’s hard to imagine the unbearable pain of such loss for his parents, but one of the hallmarks of the Stovall father and mother is the legacy of faith they have left for the family.

The thing that changed my life forever was meeting Adrian and experiencing faith in action. It was his example of his love for God and his faith that He would help him through difficult course work that brought me to a decision where I accepted Jesus as my Savior.

It’s a most remarkable family, those Stovalls. When I first met a portion of Adrian’s family, he and I were in the early stages of our relationship. We were both in college although not the same one, so we would meet up on weekends. Just prior to one of those weekends, Adrian invited me to go to his hometown to meet his Dad (his mother had passed away when he was only 16). I was both stunned and delighted, so, of course, I accepted. I already knew that his father was a pastor, but I didn’t know quite what to expect upon our arrival. Up to this time, I didn’t know any pastors personally. He was very warm and friendly. I suppose he wanted to help Adrian impress me even more because he handed him the keys to his beautiful car and sent us off to explore the town.

I got to meet one of Adrian’s brothers, also a pastor, and wife. We got to know each other quickly and easily. I loved them right from the beginning.

That Sunday, Adrian took me to church where his father pastored. It was a new experience for me. My parents believed in God but didn’t attend church, so I was excited. The singing and clapping was new to me, and I loved it; and the congregants were warm and welcoming.

After we decided to get married, one of Adrian’s sisters-in-law came from California to help with the wedding. Later, her husband came for the actual ceremony. This brother was both a physician and a pastor. A few months after getting married, Adrian and I traveled to California with his dad to meet the rest of the Stovall clan. Did I already tell you he was the baby of 12! I met another brother who was a pastor, a sister who was a medical technician and married to a pastor, a sister who was a fashion designer for a major clothing brand, a brother who was an OB/GYN, a sister who was a science teacher and another brother who was an engineer with the military. And, oh by the way, Adrian was a chemical engineer.

When you take a full look at my husband’s extraordinary family, you discover two things about his parents. They believed in education and God. Being an African-American family with so many children one would have to wonder how on earth did they accomplish so much! The easy answer is, though they believed in education; it was their faith in God that carried them through. They have transferred that faith to their own children, and that faith has been transferred to all the children of the offspring, as well. All of our families have children who are serving the Lord, and their children are also.

You see, it’s a legacy of faith that carries on from generation to generation. God’s will for us is that we bear godly offspring, and that our children bear godly offspring, and that their children bear godly offspring and so on and so on. That’s our true inheritance!

Love

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, NLT).

We love each other because he loved us first (1John 4:19, NLT).

And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers (1John 4:21, NLT) .

You can’t give anyone something you don’t have or haven’t received, yourself.  Fortunately, the Scripture, John 3:16, informs us that we have been made the recipients and beneficiaries of love given by God to all humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.  The type of love I am referring to is God’s love that is based on an act of His or our will.  It’s a love not founded in feelings, physical attraction, beauty, or personal appeal, but a love that directs, constrains, and inspires us to follow the example of God toward those with whom we are in contact.

This type of God-love causes us to behave in a manner that benefits the person we confess to love.  In other words, when God gave His son for our need for reconciliation and redemption, it was because we needed help not God.  This love is not selfish but selfless, prioritizing the needs of others ahead of our personal desires where possible and appropriate.  We can do this for each other because God loved us first.  That means I can love my spouse, family, friends, and acquaintances so that it blesses them and assist them in acquiring their needs and wants. God has commanded us to love our fellow believers if we say that we love Him.

First Corinthians 13:4-7 tells how this love performs in practice: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proudor rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (NLT).

The point I want to make is that this God-love is first received from God and is, then,  activated by an act of your will.  When you decide that you want to share the love you received from God, God, Himself, will provide the empowerment and ability.  He will not force you or work His love through your life unless you volunteer to be His ambassador of love to your world.  It’s your choice to love God’s way with His enablement and inspiration.  I challenge you to share the love you have received from God with those closest to you first and then spread it everywhere else you go. (Adrian)

Why is Marriage So Hard?

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother [to establish a home with his wife], and the two shall become one flesh; so that they are no longer two, but [are united as] one flesh. (Mark 10 7-8, AMP)

I find it very interesting that there are couples out there who still want to get married. I know that makes me sound like a cynic. With all the statistics out there that tell us how half of all marriages end in divorce, it surprises me that some still want to try to beat the odds. They somehow believe that they will the “lucky” ones. Trust me, luck has absolutely nothing to do with it!

We do a lot of premarital coaching, and the couples who come to us give all the right answers to questions we ask. They are very excited and bright eyed as we delve into each session. One pastor once told us that when he does premarital counseling, he feels it’s his job to talk the couples out of getting married. That sounds shocking on its face, but I totally understand. When we wrote our book, Marriage is Not for the Faint of Heart, we wanted to impress upon the readers that marriage is one of the hardest ventures they will experience; and it’s not because God intended it for it be. God didn’t place Eve in the garden with Adam to see if they could pass some, seemingly, unconquerable test to see if they were worthy of being in His Kingdom. I know it seems like that sometimes, but trust me when I tell you that God intended marriage to be a blessing.

Why, then, is marriage so hard? Then answer is simple, really. It’s because we humans are a  basically very selfish and prideful species. We want what we want when we want it, and aren’t particularly willing to let that go.

A successful marriage requires us to live a life of sacrifice. Oh no, not that! Funny thing is that, even though we tell those young (sometimes, old) couples that, they don’t really hear us because they’re ears are too stuffed with all the “I love yous” they just heard their fiancé say.

Sparkly, fairy-dust-filled love won’t cut it for making a happy marriage. When Adrian and I got married, we were absolutely crazy about each other. So, why did I cry nearly everyday the first year of our marriage? Because, after the fairy dust settled, – and it doesn’t take long for that to happen – our eyes could now actually see the flaws in each other. Now, he felt he had to make me like him, and I was trying to make him like me. That’s a recipe for disaster every time. When we were able to get over ourselves and allow our relationship with God to be our premier focus, we could begin to see each other through His eyes, and try our very best to give ourselves what God had given us: His love, His acceptance, and His  forgiveness.

I applaud those who decide to get married despite the statistics; but I also warn you, don’t go into it blindly thinking that being in mushy, gushy love is enough. We need the kind of love that is based on choice and not feelings.

So why is marriage so hard? Because until we truly submit our wills to God, we will always be in competition with each other instead of working together as a team to accomplish why God put us together in the first place. As I stated before, God intended marriage to be a blessing. If there is to be any competition in our relationship, let’s let it be to try to out-love each other and then allow ourselves to truly become the one flesh God intended: one in purpose and one in pursuit of God.