Monday, July 21, 2014

THE SUFFOCATING DARKNESS OF THE ENEMY

"The Mulberry Tree" by: Vincent van Gough
There you are, welcome back.
I was hoping to see you today.

As Keith and I stand here watching each of you find your seat on the tour bus,
we are realizing this is much harder than we thought.

We are watching some of you hop on the bus, holding hands with your person.
You look so happy.  So in love.

But some of you, you are limping.
You snuck on the bus, trying not to be noticed.
But we see you.

And that is what makes this tour hard.

The reality is that some of you are lost and wandering in the dark.
The fog is thick and it makes it nearly impossible to see where you are going.
You want to be on the right path, but the fog, the dark, they are suffocating you.

You want to go on the tour with us, but you can't imagine it helping.

A precious new friend that Keith and I recently met on our adventure just learned that she lost a friend to suicide.  My heart breaks for his family and for my friend.

And my mind is racing… because I know.
I know exactly how dark and foggy that path is.
One wrong step and you find yourself in a deep, dark pit.

Three years ago, I was trying my best to navigate a path I had never been on and frankly didn't want to take.  It was isolating and suffocating.  I found that trusting God for every slippery step was hard.  Too hard.  Because, if I was honest, I didn't really trust Him.

I knew I was suppose to believe that He loves me.  That He is good.
But, everything about the path He had me on felt mean.  Cruel, even.

At first you stay in the pit.
It's easier to just stay.
But you can't.

The walls are moving in around you and you don't even realize it.
The longer you stay, you become numb.
The fog, it's so much thicker in the pit, you can't think straight.

You have to get out.
You have to ask for help.
You need someone to grab you by the hand, be a light to cut through the darkness, help you see where you are on your map, and lead you to a path of safety.

You are not there by accident.
You have an enemy who desires to steal, kill and destroy you.
He has you right where he wants you.
Don't let him win.

If that's you, look up.
God has His mighty hand outstretched, ready to pull you out.
He's been there the whole time, waiting for you to grab hold.

On the 1st Stop of our tour, we poured and squared our marriage foundation built on an accurate view of God’s character.  God is good, loving and trustworthy.  That truth is the very lens we will want to view the map as we continue our journey.
Putting on those lenses saved my life.

We also met Adam and Eve at the end of The Creation Story.
We are going to look at part their adventure today, not because they the first couple to take this journey, but because they were the enemy’s first target.

2nd Stop- THE SUFFOCATING DARKNESS OF THE ENEMY

Adam and Eve.
The pioneers of the adventure we call marriage.
They have so much to teach us about our relationship with the enemy, with our spouse, and with God.

Adam.
First man created.
God spoke some very clear, specific instructions to Adam.
  • God gave Adam "dominion [authority] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." {Genesis 1:26}
  •  God put Adam in the garden to "work it, keep it, guard it." {Genesis 2:15}
  • God told Adam, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." {Genesis 2:16-17}

Because God is a good and loving God, He is looking further down the path Adam is on and preparing him for what's to come.  God's provisions can protect us from a lot of unnecessary hurts, but we have to believe and trust Him.

In chapter 3 of Genesis, we are introduced to the enemy, Satan.
He is described as crafty [shrewd, malicious, evil in nature and character] and was in the garden in the form of a serpent.

I hate even giving him any attention, but we need to know who we are dealing with so we will know how to guard ourselves, our spouse and our family.

He slithered in the garden, found Eve, and started a conversation with her.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" {Genesis 3:1}

"He [the enemy] speaks to the woman, not because she is weaker,
but because her knowledge of God's instructions is secondhand—
communicated to her by Adam."
-Iva May

Eve responded, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit if the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" {Genesis 3:2-3}

The enemy replies, twisting her words and planted seeds of doubt and discontentment.  He knows if he can just get her to do this back and forth dance, if he can spin the truth, she will fall into his arms.

Eve looked at the tree.
She saw.  She took.  She ate.

And just like that, with an outstretched hand, she offered the fruit to her husband.

She could have ignored the enemy.
She could have walked away.
She didn't.

Her husband could have helped her.
He was right there with her.
He should have helped her.
He didn't.

Remember what God gave Adam?
He gave him dominion [power, authority, control] over all creatures.
All creatures, including the one that was talking to his wife!

Remember what God put Adam in the garden to do?
He was to work it, keep it, guard it.
If the garden was being guarded, the enemy would have never made it to Eve.

Remember what God told Adam?
He gave him the freedom to eat from any and all trees in the garden and then warned him that one tree would bring hurt and pain.

Adam and Eve.
Both ate the fruit.
Both of their eyes were opened.
Fear, shame and guilt flooded their hearts.

The enemy -evil in nature and character- has a purpose.
Satan' goal is the same in Genesis 3 as it is today-
He wants to make you doubt the goodness of God and to keep God's Word from taking root in your heart.

Oh how I wish that Adam would have put on his snake boots and kicked that serpent out of the garden!  He had the power and authority to do so.  And yet, he stood there as though he was powerless.

Husbands.  It's not enough to know what God says, you need to obey it.  Your family needs you to obey it.   You were designed and created to guard, protect and lead your family and you have been given the authority to do so.  Your family needs you to be an active participant in their lives so you can kick the enemy every times he tries to slither in a the door, window or computer in our home.

Wives.  Step aside, encourage your husband to lead, and support him.  Spend time reading your map.  It is so important for you to hear God speak His truths to you everyday.  Repeating what God told your husband has no power against the enemy.  You have to hear it, meditate on it, and allow it to take root in your own life.  Be very careful how you influence your husband.  It is powerful.  God told Adam, in person, not to eat from the tree, and yet his wife handed him the fruit and he ate.  That should scare us into making sure our influence is used for their benefit and not our selfish motives.  You are a rib… protect your husband's heart.

Each of us are in different places and on different paths of our adventure.
But the one common denominator in every adventure is Satan.
We have an enemy and he is real.
Don't give him any power.

If you find yourself today feeling suffocated by the enemy and are having trouble finding God, consider this our outstretched hand.  Keith and I would be honored to shine a light to show you the way.


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

POURING A FOUNDATION TO ANCHOR YOUR MARRIAGE

photo credit

Keith and I are excited that you decided to join us on The Marriage Adventure tour.  We have been talking about and planning this particular tour for a while and are thrilled that it is finally time to head out.  We are so grateful to have the opportunity to spend some time with you.  We would love for this tour to be interactive so feel free to use the comment section below to introduce yourself.  Nothing makes this adventure more fun than walking through it with others and meeting new friends along the way.

We have several stops planned over the next couple of weeks and they all serve the same purpose… to give perspective.  We want to help you paint a picture of marriage that will lay a solid foundation for you to be able to stand and even go back to if when you come to a steep mountain that has to be climbed.  The only way to make it to the top is to have a place to rest along the way.    

1st Stop-  THE CREATION STORY: Pouring a Foundation to Anchor Your Marriage

Knowing God, knowing who God really is, not who we think He is or who we have made Him to be, is the most important step in this journey.  If our view of God is not accurate, this adventure will be really difficult.  We will filter our marriage adventure through broken lenses and then blame God and each other for our wrong turns.

When we look at the very first book of the Bible, our map, we learn several truths about God.  The first 23 verses of Genesis walk us through the first five days of Creation.  We get to see God interact with creation before humans entered the picture and made a mess of things.  In a matter of days, we learn…

§  God is a purposeful Creator whose very voice can speak life into existence.
§  God is strong and powerful.
§  God created stuff from nothing.
§  God does not make mistakes.
§  God has a plan for everything He does.
§  God can accomplish more in one day than we can in a lifetime.
§  God is very creative.

The 6th day of Creation, we see God create once again.
First, God made living creatures like cattle, reptiles, wild animals and bugs.
Then, He got His hands dirty.

With His mighty hands, the God of the universe scooped up some dust from the ground, and like a sculptor, began to carefully and perfectly form man.  When He was done with His masterpiece, God bent down and breathed life into man.

Body from dirt.  Breath from Heaven.
An unlikely combination from the very beginning.

When a suitable helper was not found for Adam, God made him one.
God took a rib from Adam's side and formed woman.
God made woman from the piece of man that was designed to protect his heart.

Man.  Woman.
Both God's idea.
Both made in His image.


Adam-Eve.  Husband-Wife.
Marriage was all God’s idea and Adam and Eve were the first to go on the adventure.  God explained to them that when you go from being man and woman to husband-wife, you are to cling to each other.  You become their person and they become yours.  You are to live and act as you are one.

This one-flesh relationship is pretty amazing.
Two people had to come together to give you life, and yet God says the bonds of marriage, the covenant the two of you made to God, is even stronger than those of nature.  I would say He makes it very clear how important He sees this union.

As day 6 comes to an end and God prepares to rest on day 7,
He looked at all He had made and said, “it is very good.”

The last two days of the Creation story reveals to us that…

§  God is a good God.
§  God knows our needs before we do and is delighted to meet them.
§  God wants a relationship with us.
§  God is for marriage.
§  God is faithful to work in your life until 'it is good'.
§  God is thoughtful.
§  God is absolutely, positively crazy about you.
§  God love you.  He really, really loves you!

I know the Creation story may seem like a strange first stop on our tour, but when Keith and I step back and put ourselves and our marriage ‘in the beginning’, it completely alters our course.  It refocuses us.  It reminds us that God has been writing an amazing love story for thousands of years and we are part of it.  Our marriage has a purpose in His story and looking at it from beginning gives us the perspective we need to stay the course when gets hard.

Are any of the above truths about God hard for you to accept?  If so, I want to encourage you spend time reading your map.  Start your own list of the different characteristics of God and ask Him to give you an accurate view of Himself.  This was a complete game changer for me a few years ago.  I was in a season of life that felt like one hard road after another with no end in sight.  The thing that helped me the most was to stop focusing on how tough life was and start focusing on who God was.  My circumstances didn't change, but I did.  The only way possible for me to change was to keep my eyes and heart fixed on the One who never changes and to trust that He was who He said He was.  What you see and what you feel doesn't determine the character of God.  Instead, the person of God changes you.  He gives you perspective.  He replaces your broken, jacked-up lenses that you keep trying to mend with duct tape and gives you new lenses to view Him, your life, and your marriage.  He really is a good, loving God.

Our next tour will leave on Monday, but if you need anything or have questions before then, please don't hesitate to ask.  You can email us directly or leave a comment below.

"I am the Lord, and I do not change…"
{Malachi 3:6}

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THE MARRIAGE ADVENTURE

Wedding invitations.
They fill my mailbox this time of the year.

Brides have spent months making their Pinterest wedding board come to life.
Couples plan, save, and work with a fast approaching date in mind… the wedding day.

The day arrives.
The day they have been working toward and dreaming of is finally here.
The day they will stand before friends and family and make a commitment, a covenant, a promise...

"...to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'till death do us part.  And heretofore I pledge you my faithfulness."

The vows.
The rings.
The kiss.

A forever covenant is made.
A new family is created.

The day they spent the last several months thinking of, planning for, dreaming about, is over.  Now what?

"Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made, the prince and princess on their wedding day.  But fairy tales usually end at this point with a simple phrase, 'They lived happily ever after.'   This may be because fairy tales regard marriage as an anticlimax after the romance of courtship.  This is not the Christian view.  Our faith sees the wedding day not as a place of arrival but the place where the adventure begins." 

-Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie,
at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana

The day after your wedding day is the beginning.
The beginning of a marriage.
The beginning of an adventure.

The vows are easy to say on the happiest day of your life when you are looking into the eyes of the person you are madly in love with.  But those vows are really, really tough to live when your marriage is struggling.  When you have to choose love because you don't even feel it.

The day you make your commitment is one day.  It comes and it goes.
But, you will spend the rest of your life living out that commitment. 

Before embarking on your great marriage adventure, it is wise to do some planning.
For your health and safety, you both need to evaluate what kind of shape you are in.  The marriage adventure is a long, hard journey with unpredictable bumps in the road, so we highly encourage you to make sure you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically ready for the journey.  Find a good Christian counselor to do your pre-marital counseling and keep going even after you say your “I do’s.”

When Keith and I meet with a couple before they get married, we talk very little about the wedding and talk a whole lot about the marriage.  The adventure.  I guess you could say we agree to be their official tour guides.  A tour guide is just someone who shows the way by leading or advising and is willing to provide assistance and information to others.

"Wait!  Can't I just throw some stuff in a backpack and head out?"  Absolutely.
But keep in mind, you will have to make a lot of detours.  There are a lot of closed roads on the unprepared journey.  Roads that you are not ready for, but you will still have to take.  You see, the detours don't allow you to go around the roads that are under construction, but instead, they force you to circle around and make the necessary repairs to continue on your adventure.

If you would allow us, Keith and I would like to act as your tour guides for the next couple of weeks.  We have been living our adventure for almost 18 years, which means we have had a lot of years to make wrong turns and take unnecessary detours.  We have a lot of bumps, bruises, and even permanent scars from some of the mountains we’ve climbed and the best way we have found to redeem those tough days is to help others as they encounter the same rocky paths.

On this quick little tour, we want to point out the importance of...

…READING THE MAP.  Both of you need to study the map everyday.  The more you study, meditate on, and memorize the map, the closer you will be to the One who planned your itinerary and knows every mountain and valley along the way.

…BEING ON GUARD.  When you made a 'till death do us part' covenant to each other and to God, a target was placed on your backs.  You have an enemy that wants to 'steal, kill, and destroy' you both.  But, don't be afraid.  He is powerless against you.  The only power he has is the power you give him.  Don't give him any ammunition.  Don't open any doors or windows.  Protect yourself and your spouse.  If you find yourself stuck in one of his traps, grab your map and spend time with the One.

…BIG PICTURE THINKING.  Talk often about the destination.  It will help give perspective on those dark, foggy days when you are having trouble staying between the lines.  There is purpose in the adventure.  Your marriage is a small, but important, part of a big story that is being written.

…WORKING AS A TEAM.  This adventure is a 2-person team.  You win together and lose together.  When one gets injured, the other needs to stop and help the other back on their feet… even if especially when you were the one who caused the injury.  Each of you brings different gifts and talents to the team that the other needs.  Be quick to give redo's to your spouse because the journey can affect us differently on different days.  Be their person!

…OTHERS.  No two adventures are exactly alike, but they all have similarities.  All have mountains, hills, and valleys, but the path to them and the path through them isn't the same. You may need some outside help or back up if a serious injury occurs or if you encounter something on your adventure that has you stuck.  Don't be afraid to ask for help!  Everyone on the marriage adventure has encountered serious injuries and has bumps, bruises and scars to prove it.  Some couples do everything they can to hide their injuries, to act like their journey has been carefree, but if they are willing to be honest, they would tell you they often feel alone.  Be careful not to compare your journey to someone else's.  It will not only cause hurt and disappointment, but it will blind you from the beauty of your own adventure.

Our tour will begin on Thursday, so if you're interested, meet us back here and climb aboard the double-decker bus.  Together we will allow the One, the driver, to guide us give us His perspective.


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

intend(ed)

And just like that, he's five.
Happy Birthday sweet Miles.


In five short years, you have changed my world.

Because of you, I learned to speak the languages of adoption and special needs.
Because of you, I see the world through completely different lenses.
Because of you, I have meet some of the most precious families who serve their children with special needs without abandon.  They love with such a fierce sacrificial love, it is like getting a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.

Because of you, I will never be the same again, and I am forever grateful!


I was hoping that by the time Miles turned five I would understand him better.
Instead, God has been teaching me to understand Him better.

God has been so gracious to give me a glimpse of how He sees disability.

As Jesus went on His way, He saw a man who had been born blind.
His followers asked Him, "Teacher, whose sin made this man to be born blind?
Was it the sin of this man or the sin of his parents?"  Jesus answered,
"The sin of this man or the sin of his parents did not make him to be born blind.
He was born blind so the work of God would be seen in him.
We must keep on doing the work of Him who sent Me while it is day.
Night is coming when no man can work.
While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
{John 9:1-5}

A man.
Born blind.

People walked by him every single day for years.
He could not see them and my guess is a lot of them acted like they didn't see him.


But Jesus.
He could not see Jesus, but Jesus saw him.
He saw him!
He saw who he was designed, purposed, planned, and intended to be!

A man.
Born blind.

Born with a disability so the power of God could be [seen, displayed, illustrated] in him. So the glory of God could be displayed through him.

God has a purpose in disability.
He allows it and sometimes even authors it.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose."
-Alan Redpath

I've never doubted that God has a purpose for Miles.
But this year, God has changed my word from purpose to intended.

in-tend
(1) to have in mind for a particular use
(2) to design or mean for a specific purpose
(3) to have a purpose or design
(4) to destine

Miles is exactly how God intended.
God has a particular use in mind for Miles and the gift of Autism allows His glory to shine in a way that Miles without Autism cannot.  It magnifies the glory of God in the most beautiful way.


"I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn.  I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory.  Thou divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross and the value of my thorn."
-George Matheson

A man.
Born blind.

He lived in complete darkness all of his life and one day, one encounter with Jesus, light cuts into the darkness.  God used a man who was born blind to show us our need for Jesus.  Our need for the Light of the world.

You and me.
Born blind.

We are all broken and born with a disability called sin (Romans 3:23).
But Jesus sees us.  Really sees us.
And because of the finished work of Jesus on the Cross, we have the opportunity to be be healed.  To have our blind eyes opened by the Light of the world.

No one goes unnoticed by Jesus.  No one!
His love, grace and mercy is available to you and me.

You don't have to have it all together.
You don't have to have all the answers.
Jesus already knows you are broken and wants to make you whole.

Jesus is asking you the same question He asked the blind man…
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?"


"For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation."
{Romans 10:9-10}

Jesus, the Light of the world, wants to shine in and through your life.
Sin has made you blind to Jesus, but it has not made Jesus blind to you!

If you, like the blind man, have already declared "Lord, I believe",
What challenges are going on right now in your life?
What has God allowed that He has a particular use in mind?
What has He intended that will magnify the glory of God through your life in the most beautiful way?

Do you trust Him?

The best thing you can do is spend less time trying to understand your situation and more time getting to know the God that designs, purposes, plans, and intends to use your situation to reveal His power and His glory.


"We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him accept His invitation to live according to His plan."
{Romans 8:28}

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