The Anatomy of an Argument

Be joyful… Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT).

The words to one of my favorite hymns say this:

Peace, peace. Wonderful peace. flowing down from the Father above. Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray in fathomless billows of love.

Unless you have been living completely off the grid or under a rock,  you are fully aware of the tremendous chaos our world is experiencing, right now. Peace is something most of us want, but lately, it seems like an elusive pursuit. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

Believe it or not, there are many instances where we actually have control over how much peace we experience. It’s all about attitude and choice. This is especially true when it comes to conflicts within the marriage. Here is a typical scenario of when disagreements breakout: Your spouse is careless when addressing you about an offense you may have caused. He yells or uses a tone several octaves above his usual – a clear sign that he is not happy. You, of course, in turn, are offended because of his approach and feel the need to defend yourself using an equally dissonant tenor. He attacks, you counterattack. Now a full-blown argument is in progress. Not only is the battle quite heated, but you actually begin arguing about who started the argument in the first place. How foolish!

Take a look at what Romans 12:18 says: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (NKJV). That includes your spouse! That’s telling us that one or the other could have taken the high road and made the choice to not launch into the stratosphere as your mate did, thus completely diffusing the situation. 

How do arguments continue or end? Proverbs 15:1 tells us, A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger
(NKJV). Here are more: Pro. 20:3, Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling (NLT), and Pro. 21:23, Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble (NLT).

When our youngest daughter was in the seventh grade, she was only 12 and wouldn’t be turning 13 until school was almost out for the summer. She was attending a private Christian school where I also taught. During dinner, along with our other two children, we would usually talk about our day and any significant events that may have occurred. Well, my youngest daughter decided to share about a movie that her teacher showed in her Bible class. The movie was “Ghost” starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. I hadn’t seen that movie in years, but I did remember that there was a very sensual scene that I considered a bit too advanced for my barely 12-year-old and besides, the movie was rated PG-13. Suffice it to say that I was incensed! Why did she choose that movie?  Why wasn’t I given a head’s up? Why didn’t she send out permission slips? I was thinking as a parent but also as a “responsible” teacher, which I obviously didn’t think she was at that point.

The next day, I expressed my ire to my principal and alerted him that I was going to have a talk with that teacher (my colleague). I’ll call her Sandy to protect the guilty. I had it all planned out in my mind that after school I was going to plaster her to the wall because I was so angry. I felt that she had taken away my ability to protect my daughter.

I informed Sandy that I wanted to talk with her after school.  After I dismissed my students and set things in order for the following day, I headed upstairs to her classroom loaded for bear. As we both sat down, I told her that I wanted to speak with her about showing the “Ghost” movie to my daughter without my permission. Before I could lay out to her all the reasons she should be boiled in oil, she said to me, in the tenderest and most apologetic voice, “Pam, I am so sorry. I messed up.” “What?!”, I thought. “Wait, wait, I was supposed to blast her, she was supposed to give me excuses, and then, I was going to feel very justified for slicing and dicing her to pieces.” Instead, I felt about two inches tall and quite ashamed for wanting to tear her apart. Her humility and gentleness took all the wind out of my sails and left me with the feeling that now we can talk about the situation in a calm and reasonable manner. She had completely diffused the atmosphere of anger and rage by her  conciliatory attitude. That taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.

Scripture is pretty clear, and so we always have a choice whether we are going to let our pride take over or obey God’s word. Let’s let the craziness of our current society stay outside our doors. Instead, let’s allow “the peace of God that passes all understanding” be the controlling factor in our homes. And if we experience enough of it, perhaps, we will have the courage to spread it around to help those outside our peaceful dwelling so others can have a taste of the precious serenity and repose we enjoy. (Pam)

Our Job

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV)

As we all have taken time to contemplate the atmosphere and social condition of the world we now live in, the question arises from within asking, “How should I conduct my life.” Sometimes we wonder, “Just how do I fit into the scheme of things and live a life of significance.”  The scripture quoted above came to mind as I pondered where our world situation is going and what must I do to successfully navigate the challenges and events of our time.

I have come to the conclusion that my job in this life is to trust God with all my heart and mind.  Somehow we have been convinced that worrying and surrendering our peace is how we need to confront life’s many encounters.  But, Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that we are to trust the Lord and not to depend on our own understanding.   That does not mean that we don’t use our common sense, rather, that our common sense should be based on the knowledge obtained from God’s shared incites and expertise found in His Word.  When I say “our job”, I mean our defined purpose, pursuit, and all-consuming activity in this life.

In order for me to trust God, I must seek a relationship with Him as specified and explained in His Word, the Bible.  I must discover what He has directed me to do and then believe that He desires to direct me in a path that will produce the results promised.  I have never found a scripture that instructs me to worry or be anxious but we have just read one that compels us to trust or believe in God.  God promises to direct, guide, or show the path forward for your life.

In looking for God’s direction, I found the following instruction in Philippians 4:6-8:  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (NLT)

If I accept as my job – the assignment given by God to trust Him with my whole heart and follow His directives – He has promised to give me guidance.  As I look to His Word for His instructions and dare to adhere to the revealed guidelines, He promises to give me peace that exceeds anything I can understand.

What a wonderful relationship and fellowship we can have with God as we pursue our life’s job of trust and obedience to His Word. (Adrian)

Is Your Marriage a God-Free Zone?

Photo by Sachin C Nair on Pexels.com

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?  to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there. If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings  to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—  you’re already there waiting!
(Ps.139:7-10, Message)

Several years ago, we took a trip to Hawaii, one of several dream destinations for a lot of people. We always wanted to go, but, to be honest, I was a little reluctant because the idea of flying across hundreds of miles of ocean was a bit disconcerting to me. Thankfully, I got over that, and we had a very nice time there.

On one of our outings, we decided to hop on a shuttle to try to find some shopping. We stopped at what was supposed to be a shopping center. It was, indeed, that; but we once got inside, we were confused. It appeared that there were several office-like suites. As we explored further, we finally discovered that there was an entire floor dedicated to duty-free shopping. It was a zone where products were sold without the import, sales, value-added or other taxes. You’ve probably seen them in some airports and even on cruise ships.

There are, obviously, many types of zones, but there is one particular type of zone I want to talk about. In our first book, Marriage is Not for the Faint of Heart, we discussed the idea that many people seem to feel that their homes are a sort of “God-free zone.” The concept was that, as Christians, they knew they were to behave in a Christ-like manner throughout their day as they interacted with the “world.” However, once they crossed the threshold of their homes, they could now let their hair down and act anyway they please. They may not have consciously declared their homes as a God-free zone, but all of their actions said it loudly and clearly.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the television series, “The Twilight Zone.” Most of the stories had odd endings that revealed that things were not always as they seemed. Unfortunately, although a lot Christians may not be living in a “twilight zone”, per se,  their home lives may not be exactly as they appear to be from the outside.  They are, in fact, living in a “God-free zone”.

So, how do you know if you’re living in a so-called God-free zone? You can determine it by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. How do I treat my spouse and/or children when no one else is looking?
  2. What tone do I use? Am I rude and unmannerly?
  3. Do I use foul or abusive language?
  4. Am I ready to pounce on every mistake my family members make?
  5. Do I make every effort to represent Jesus in my home?
  6. Am I an encourager or do I use put downs to make my point?
  7. Do I try to win disagreements by going for the jugular?

I could go on and on with the questions, but I think you get the point. Why is it that we don’t particularly care what the people closest to us think of our behavior? They are, after all, the ones on whom we have the most influence. They are, in fact, the ones who can tell the world who we really are.

Let’s not get it twisted! God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. We couldn’t escape Him if we tried. Instead of living a life of duplicity, why not let the Holy Spirit inside of us transform us into the very image of God so that we are whom we appear to be no matter where we are – home or otherwise. Let’s not allow our homes to be a God-free zone. Let’s say, joyfully, “God you are welcome into every part of my life, nothing is hidden from you, I have no secret rooms you aren’t allowed into.”  (Pam)

Permission to be Happy

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows) John 10:10 (AMPC)

…and the one who trusts in the Lord will be happy. Proverbs 16:20b (HCSB)

Surely there is not a day that goes by that we don’t hear about all the horrible things that happen to be going on in our nation and the world at large, not to mention the personal challenges we may be facing. If we are not mindful and careful, we can get so caught up in the “stuff” that we get discouraged and depressed. As “natural” humans, that’s considered normal. However, those of us who name the name of Jesus are no longer “natural” humans; we are spiritual and, thus, operate on a different plane.

Many times, even if we are not personally struggling, we take on the cares of this world and begin to wring our hands in worry or even despair. God never intended for us to live that way. We may not have all the answers, but God does, even if He doesn’t necessarily share them with us. The solution to not having all the answers is to simply Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5 CSB). God sees the big picture while we get caught up in the details. He can, as my husband always says, see around corners while we typically can only see what’s in front of us.

Sometimes, I think we just need to give ourselves permission to be happy and take pleasure in the little things. I wonder if some might think that if we allow ourselves to smile or find joy in the midst of difficulty, we must not really care. But here’s the thing: The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, KJV). While going through tough times, it’s still important to maintain our joy because if the enemy can steal our joy, he can steal our strength; and we need all the strength we can get to be able to handle these attacks.

I’m fairly certain most everyone reading this post has experienced the loss of a loved one at some point your life. Adrian’s brother passed away last week, and although it was sad to see him go, we knew he was home with the Lord. That made the loss less painful. It brings to mind what Paul shared with the Church at Thessalonica, Now we do not want you to be uninformed, believers, about those who are asleep [in death], so that you will not grieve [for them] as the others do who have no hope [beyond this present life] (1 Thessalonians 4:13, AMP).

I’ve seen it over and over again with the loss of a loved one or friend where people begin to recount memories they have of them and either smile or laugh out loud at some comical event regarding them. It never fails, even in sorrow we can always find something that brings a little joy to our hearts if we let Holy Spirit do His work. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We shouldn’t take that lightly. This earthly existence is not the end for us, so we should allow ourselves to experience joy in the midst of trouble, joy in the midst of heartache. Let’s look around and see the beauty of nature and smile.

Let’s remember some of the quirkiness of our friends and loved ones and laugh. At times, we might just need to watch a good ol’ comedy and remember that A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing… (Proverbs 17:22a, AMPC).

Let’s give ourselves permission to be happy, not because our circumstances are perfect but because we trust in the Lord. (Pam) 

Love’s Boundaries

If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—John 14:15-16 (NKJV)

As I observe people in their everyday lives and, more specifically, in their marriage relations, I was reminded of Jesus’ directive quoted above regarding our love for Him. We are often so quick to tell God and others that we love them, but I think we disregard or frequently forget the limitations and boundaries associated with love as defined by God in His Word.

Jesus was instructing His disciples that true love required more than a declaration but, rather, a demonstration of confirming and corresponding thoughts and actions. If we really love Him, we would find ourselves endeavoring to obey the commands He left for us. These commandments are found in Matthew 22:37-40 where we are told to first, love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and secondly, to love our neighbor as yourself.

In both of the scriptures referred to, we find boundaries included after the imperative to love is given. The dictionary defines the word boundary as 1) a limiting or dividing line or mark, and 2) anything indicating a limit or confine. The confines, mark, or limits of love were described as keeping His commandments, with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love to the degree that we love ourselves. We also find other constraints on how to properly express love in First Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT),  4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or 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.” If you are like me, you probably said, “That is a difficult confinement for me to observe.”

But read, again, John 14:16 where Jesus says that He will pray that we will be sent a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will be with us forever. Isn’t that just like God to always provide assistance or help to do anything that he ask us to do? Jesus said that if we love Him, we need to keep his commandments or respect His boundaries; and if we agree or confess that we love Him, he will provide the resources needed for our successful adherence to His definition of love. God will never leave us to our own devices but with every command, request, or challenge will commit to help us be victorious as devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

We will find that God’s limitations or boundaries are, actually, demonstrations of His love and grace in action. So, when you are challenged in your execution of love toward our spouse, coworker, friend, acquaintance, or neighbor, turn to our ever- present-help, the Holy Spirit, to provide the strength and ability to love like Jesus would. Help is available just for the asking if you can believe that you are loved with an ever-lasting love by God. (Adrian)

Anything But Normal

I’ve always been fascinated with lighthouses. When I was teaching sixth grade in the San Francisco Bay Area, we visited Point Reyes. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 to warn mariners of navigational hazards and served for 105 years. The Point Reyes Lighthouse was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light adjacent and below the historic tower. The Coast Guard then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving this specimen of our maritime heritage. 

A lighthouse keeper or lightkeeper is a person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used. Lighthouse keepers were sometimes referred to as “wickies” because of their job.

Whenever I look at a lighthouse, I can’t help but wonder what life in a lighthouse must be like and that reminds me of how life is in our world’s current state of living through a pandemic. The life of a lighthouse keeper is often either romanticized or seen as a desolate life for those who prefer the solitary confines of the role, away from the social rigors of mainland life.

Because Covid-19, many have been forced to live a life of solitude as we social distance and remain pretty much quarantined in our homes. While it may be normal and desirable for lighthouse keepers, it’s anything but normal for most folks. Most of us had the freedom to move about in our world as we pleased: going to a physical place to work, taking a leisurely walk through a grocery store or mall filled with tons of other people, catching a movie in a theater packed with other viewers, etc.

The effects of such circumstances have created a varied number of reactions. It might have drawn families closer as they now have the opportunity to get to know each other better, or worse, even torn them apart as they are forced to deal with problems they had been able to ignore or overlook before. Either way, it has caused us all to change in some way.

When you look at the images above, which one describes your experience? We need to remind ourselves that none of this caught God by surprise, and He expects us to continue to trust Him in the midst of it. It’s easy to forget that God is still with us in hard times. But He hasn’t forgotten us; and if we’re not careful, we can even forget Him in our good times. We forget to express our gratitude towards Him for His sustaining power. We forget to say thank you for His extraordinary care of us. Two scriptures come to mind in both of these circumstances:

Philippians 4:12-13 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]-whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.  I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

Let’s try to keep our focus on the One who has the power to not only end this pandemic but has the power to sustain us in the midst of it. Let us know how you’re doing. (Pam)