Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Need a Buffer Zone?

buffer zone- Jesus Calling

For we fix our attention not on things that are seen, but things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what is not seen lasts forever.
1 Corinthians 4:18

They [the seraphim] were calling out to each other:
“Holy, holy, holy!
The Lord Almighty is holy!
His glory fills the world.”
Isaiah 6:3

I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in his Word I trust.
Psalm 130:5

This is from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s been packed in my still-unloaded book bag from when I went with Sunshine and had my blogging retreat 2 weeks ago so I’m behind! This selection shouted out at me, though, with talk of a buffer zone. I call it brain space, or margin. For me it looks like a little down time between activities, time for me to think about any follow-up I need to do, tie up any loose ends (like unpacking the book bag and putting things away!), or what I need to do to prepare for the next thing. I’m not very good at it, possibly because I try to cram too much in. I’m still working to learn that lesson that time is a finite commodity!

How about you? Do you need a buffer zone? Together, let’s ask God to create one around us– to grant wisdom in figuring out what to do and what NOT to do, then to have the will to be obedient!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

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Time: The Elusive Necessity in Marriage

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

24 hour clock courtesy of digitalmama824 via Flickr

Have you accepted the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day? And that even though you can borrow money (bad idea), you can’t get any more time? If your too-busy schedule is causing stress in your marriage, it’s time to take an honest look at it, assess it, and make some changes. In “No Vacuum,” I talked about 2 extremely important things in a successful marriage: knowing what we need as well as what our spouses need; and once we figure that out, having realistic expectations of ourselves and our spouses. Today I’m looking at where these 2 ideas intersect: TIME.

“Free” Time

Do you feel like you’re running from can to can’t? (That’s one of my favorite old-time Southern sayings.) Or in the words of the country singer, “always running, but always running behind”? If you’re not sure where your time flies away to, keep a time diary for a few days– in 15-30 minute increments, see where your minutes go. OUCH… It might show what I call the “Starbucks effect” (spending a small amount of money very often– it adds up!) But instead of being shocked at how much money you spent, you might realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time in small chunks, on things that aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of your life, like Facebook, playing games on your phone, watching TV reruns, etc. Don’t get me wrong; you do need recreation and leisure activities. But you need to CHOOSE what you do, not just fritter away your time on meaningless activities, then wonder why your marriage is suffering. How we spend our time should reflect what we say our priorities are.

Work

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Is your career killing your marriage? In his sermon series “Breathing Room,” Andy Stanley shares a story from a book written by a hospice nurse who spends much of her time with people in the last few weeks of their lives. She began asking them, “What do you regret most in your life?” She said, without exception, every. single. man. wished he hadn’t spent so much time and energy on work.

“This came from every male patient that I had nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.” Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

(Thanks to Joel at Friendly Thoughts for documenting what I only listened to!)

Mr X and I both have salaried jobs, and we probably could both work another 4 hours every day and still find things to do. In our cut-to-the-bone economy, many employers expect more than any one person to do, and sometimes we are our own slave-drivers. But you’ve got to be honest– if you consistently work many hours beyond what you signed up for, is it worth it? That salary that looked great when you divided it by 40 hours a week might not look so good spread out over 60-80 hours. And is it worth it to you? Only you can decide. But again– be honest. Count the whole cost (not just in terms of money) to your marriage, children, your health, etc.  How much money does your family need? It’s a sad thing when a parent realizes he’s lost his window of opportunity to build a close relationship with his children while he was working to provide THINGS that were not as  important as a relationship with him.

This is tough, I know. You’ve got to find the balance. To help you think, I have to throw in this classic song from the late Harry Chapin. There is a bit of commentary from his wife and son that I think are quite relevant.

Caring for Yourself

… vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16

Have you ever had “vast crowds” clamoring for you? Like at the bathroom door? We women are notorious for taking care of everything and everybody else before we take care of ourselves. But you know what? You’ve got to take care of yourself or you’ll either be sick or be a grouch who has nothing left for your poor spouse. I learned the hard way that my job could move on just fine without me, and it reminded me that I’m the only wife my husband has and the only mom my kids have. Consider these things when you’re looking at your weekly schedule:

  • How much margin do you need for mental peace? I need lots, and when I forget to figure it into my schedule, my nerves frazzle. Rushing from one activity to the next drives me crazy!
  • How much sleep and rest does your body need? If you cheat, it will catch up with you.
  • What rejuvenates you? This is different for everyone.

Jesus modeled taking time away for re-creation. (I rather doubt He needed it– but He knew we would!) And remember that in Exodus 20, God Himself suggested commanded that we should rest. How prideful are we when we think the world will fall apart without us?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…

How are you using your time today? Do you need to make any changes?

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Waiting on God

Time Flies by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

I’m doing the Good Morning Girls Spring Bible Study, Living and Leading Like Jesus, and recently the reading was Luke 13:10-17. What jumped out at me was that this woman had been so very ill– bent over and unable to even straighten up– for 18 years. EIGHTEEN YEARS!

A woman there had an evil spirit that had kept her sick for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. Luke 13:11

Then the following Sunday at church the pastor mentioned the healing of the Gadarene demoniac —

This man had an evil spirit in him  and lived among the tombs. Nobody could keep him tied with chains any more;  many times his feet and his hands had been tied, but every time he broke the chains and smashed the irons on his feet. He was too strong for anyone to control him. Day and night he wandered among the tombs and through the hills, screaming and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:2-5

— and the woman with the 12-year issue of blood.

There was a woman who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for twelve years,   even though she had been treated by many doctors. She had spent all her money, but instead of getting better she got worse all the time.

Do you see a pattern? All 3 of these people had a serious problem for a very long time. Sometimes, for reasons perhaps known only to Him, God waits to heal us or answer our prayers. But look how He answered them when it was time!

When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free from your sickness!”  He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God. Luke 13:12-13

… Jesus was saying, “Evil spirit, come out of this man!” … they saw the man who used to have the mob of demons in him. He was sitting there, clothed and in his right mind… So the man left and went all through the Ten Towns, telling what Jesus had done for him. And all who heard it were amazed.  Mark 5:8, 15, 20

 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had [touched His clothes].  The woman realized what had happened to her, so she came, trembling with fear, knelt at his feet, and told him the whole truth.  Jesus said to her, “My daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your trouble.”  (Matthew 9:22 says “…At that very moment the woman became well.”)

What I learned from these passages–

1. God answers our prayers when and how He sees fit.

2. When He chooses to heal, it’s complete, or at least it was in these particular instances. There was no therapy needed for the bent woman to stand up straight; no counseling for the demoniac; no transfusions for the bleeding woman. Christ’s power was enough.

3. After each healing, they WENT. Praising God, telling what Jesus did, and in peace. It looks to me like Jesus healed people so they could testify to others about God’s greatness and power.

I wish I could say that I’ve been a faithful prayer warrior for years, but even though I have had situations I’ve prayed for over many years, (I’ve seen some answers and I’m still waiting on some others.) I have been erratic. Not a warrior. Maybe a weekend warrior, or a Cub Scout. Thankfully, God’s work depends on His grace and knowledge of our hearts more than our actions!

Are you waiting on God?

Cub Sout by califboy101 via Flickr

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Might as Well Laugh About it Now; or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes… James 4:13-16

Might as Well Laugh About it NowI just had a lesson in making plans then adapting to Plan B. Or C. Or even D! It showed me how little control we really have, and reminded me more than ever how much we need to rely on God in every moment.

You may know I teach a high school choir. Every spring, we take a trip where we sing at a competition then do some fun activities. We usually stay 1 night, take a charter bus, and the kids bring home big trophies and have a good time. But this time, things went from bad to worse; my friend and coworker Lara and I would just look at each other in disbelief and shake our heads. After a few more days we will laugh about it.

This year I had gotten an estimate in the fall from my local bus company that I normally use, but neglected to send them the “hold” money. By the time I realized it they were booked up. I called about a bazillion other companies and contacted my choir director friends about recommendations. Late April is a very popular time to travel because I had a very hard time finding anybody! I thought my problem was solved, however, when US Coachways said they could fix me up. I secured a bus with my credit card on April 18 and corresponded with my agent several times over the next few days. Then on the 23rd- THREE days before I was supposed to take 53 people 300 miles from home– they called and said actually, they didn’t have a bus for me after all. The buses are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and apparently, I wasn’t first! (She also assured me that my credit card had not and would not be charged, and it has; I’m working to get that reversed now, but that’s another story!)

So after more calls, I got one secured with The Bus Bank. The agent I dealt with was very helpful and very professional. I think how it must work is that they contract local companies, because we ended up with a “Tierra Nueva” bus from Houston. With a driver who didn’t speak or apparently understand much English. And didn’t have a GPS. And had a really bad sense of direction. And a bus with torn up seats. (Really). And no trash bag. And a DVD player that worked only when one of our students jiggled wires several times. And no toilet paper in the bathroom. And (at least by the time I used it the 2nd day) no water to flush said toilet.  And not enough fuel to get us to our destination. He had a flat tire and got lost coming to pick us up at the school and was an hour and a half late. He stopped en route for fuel at a Love’s gas station with an Arby’s, announcing that everyone needed to get off, and it would take only about 20 minutes. We had already changed the lunch plans from The Shops at La Cantera to Bucee’s, but ended up eating there because there was no time.

Once we got there, things were pretty uneventful except that Lara had to sit in the navigator seat with her phone GPS and direct the driver EVERYWHERE we went. We were late to our performance, but fortunately their schedule wasn’t too tight and it didn’t mess them up. (The kids did great!) We missed out on eating in Boerne, where the competition was, and went on to La Cantera for supper and had a great time. Then we went to the Hyatt Wildoak Ranch (a timeshare and hotel) which I heartily recommend! The kids loved the indoor/outdoor pools; I loved our balcony porch, and the rooms were beautiful. Saturday we went to Fiesta Texas which the kids seemed to love, but I did not. 7 hours at a noisy, crowded amusement park with 2 1/2 hours of waiting for 2 three-minute rides is not my idea of fun. Ugh.

You must know that even when everything goes smoothly, these trips are very difficult for me. I am a terrible homebody anyway; I hate to be away from Mr X, and I don’t do late nights. All these things are serious stressors to me. I always pray that I won’t embarrass Jesus. This trip truly was a test LOL! (Funny that my post about Patience at A Biblical Marriage had just been published the very same day we left!)

Once our driver found his way out of the parking lot of Fiesta Texas, we were on our way. Before we had gone 20 miles he stopped the bus 3 times, finally stopping at a gas station and calling for another bus! I told the kids, “Oh boy! We get to stop at another gas station!” They were huddled around electrical outlets like herds of antelope around a watering hole in the Serengeti, charging their phones. The driver said he got something or other fixed and the bus would be good to go now. I hoped that was true, but told the agent to keep looking for a bus just in case!

Inside the gas station one of my boys asked me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how mad are you?” And I realized that I wasn’t mad at all! I had absolutely no control over the situation. None. I told him if our bus can’t make it home, the company can send us another bus or put us up in Houston for the night. You know, the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change… Weeping and gnashing my teeth, or pitching a fit wouldn’t have made a difference in the situation; it just would have made Jesus look bad.

As we finally approached to school, close to 2 hours later than scheduled, one of our chaperones moved down to the navigator chair , to make sure the driver didn’t get lost again! As he pulled into the parking lot, the bus died and he coasted to a parking place. Seriously!

I was reminded that In all things, God works for the good of those that love Him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) The next time I got on Facebook I read stories of horrible thunderstorms and flooding in Houston. If we had not spent an hour stopping  to work on a crippled bus, we might have been there during the thick of it, instead of light rain. The bus didn’t die until we got back to school. I didn’t lose my cool or fall apart. I prayed a lot. The bus driver handled the bus very well and safely. (even if he couldn’t find his way out of a parking lot) My kids behaved beautifully and had fun. We had parents who went with us and helped a lot. I’m continuing to make myself focus on the GOOD and not the BAD or the UGLY!

The Good

wild oak ranch fireplace wild oak ranch view boys girls

The Bad (is this blood?)

blood on chair

The Ugly

blood on chair more rip rip

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Jesus is Calling

Jesus is calling

One of my students shared a page in her devotional (from April 1) on Facebook– from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. (There is a free app that I just found– it looks good!) I think it was written for me, or maybe for me and all those other Marthas that get caught up in our own agendas either from an overblown sense of importance or an unrealistic view of our time, energy, and schedules. (Or it could be some other reason.  I’ve noticed how often I make sweeping statements, like I know everything. But I’ve seen and experienced these two.)

Here are some excerpts:

I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me.

This reminds me of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. (If you click the link and scroll down, you will find several links to free ebooks and audio books.) He was a 17th-century French soldier turned monk, and he worked in the kitchen most of his monastic life. He was able to keep that constant communion with God going, through whatever mundane task he was doing. I need to keep myself from getting so “into” my tasks that I get “out of” God’s presence. He doesn’t move. I don’t need to either.

You yearn for a simplified lifestyle… But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world… find Me in the midst of it all.

This one punched me right in the face. I have pinned so many pins about simplification and organization. Read books. Gleaned websites. Made lists. All with the hope that this time, it would really work, and I would float along sort of like a Stepford wife, with an aura of peace and serenity around me, my yard manicured, my hair done, my weight ideal, while I dusted my pristine house every Tuesday morning before work, or whatever other job was on my list for that day and that time slot. Truly, I work better with a schedule because I don’t have an inner clock/calendar and I really can’t remember when I vacuumed or washed my hair last. But I have a tendency to get obsessive about my schedule when I’m stressed and feel out of control of my life. A working schedule gives the illusion that I’m in control of SOMETHING.

Remember your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you [NEWSFLASH!]; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone… Do not let your to-do list become an idol

I have had a difficult several weeks. High stress, low energy, lots to do, plus I’m pretty sure I’m hitting menopause, which is making everything twice as bad. Bad combination! So lots has gone undone, especially at my house. The yard has taken priority because of the season (though there’s still a ton to be done everywhere I look), and the house has gotten more and more undone.

But God tells me to talk to Him. Listen to Him. Slow down. Take a breath. Work a little and rest a little each day. Hire help. Calm down.

Is He talking to you, too? I’m praying for our peace. In the midst of our messy lives.

Come unto me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Jesus is calling. He wants you to rest.

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Quiet Time with a Little Help from my Friends

Bible study

A few weeks ago I asked for input from my friends and readers about the logistics of their prayer and quiet time. I like to do that in the morning, but I’m very slow to “rise to the surface” and be able to hold a conversation with the Lord (or anyone else) or to read anything that requires much thought, which I believe a quiet time should do. Then you know how it is after work, trying to take care of all the home stuff. Consequently, my prayer life is not what it should be.

So, thinking that surely I’m not the only one facing this kind of challenge, I put out an SOS and consulted my Board of Directors! … Here’s what I got back. And please, if you have something that works for you, leave it in the comments. Even if you think it’s simple and VERY obvious– it’s not! Sometimes we need a V8 moment to make us see a very simple thing.

Lisa at Deep and Wonderful Thoughts shared this:

Hey there! Here is my first post. It’s very short, but conveys a picture and a message on prayer and the bible. http://deepandwonderfulthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/solar-powered/ I hope it helps.
Have you ever heard of BSF (Bible study Fellowship)? It is a daily bible study and a world wide organization. Fabulous! That is what I do. There are 6 day’s questions and on the 7th day, we discuss them as a group. Here is a link….if you’re interested. http://preview.bsfinternational.org/about

Denise at Rejoycin’ said:

Hi,
(1) Group support is always good, At different times I have been involved in meeting with a bible study group and we selected a topic book to guide us– sometimes videos.

(2) Otherwise, I love this link for options:
http://www.esvbible.org/devotions/
There are numerous options that you can browse through to see what interests you. Perhaps start with a short devotion, such as “Daily Proverbs” for 31 Days. Currently, I have been using “Daily Light on the Daily Path” which is very rich.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done cover to cover– although I tried numerous times. I wind up picking up a (3) Jack Hayford study book and doing a topic study or choose a book and use:

(4) Pastor Chuck Smith Commentaries… love this guy!!!!
http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_author.cfm?AuthorID=1

If you decide you would like a partner or online accountability group, I am game.
Online seems to work for me that is why I like #2, the esvbible.org/devotions… you can write online and take notes in your online bible. ESV has become my base bible after much research is choosing.

From Sarah Tun at A Life Examined:

Honestly, to grow prayer time and depth, I find rising early best… when the house is quiet and there are fewer distractions. God meets us whenever, wherever we are, if we’ll just engage with Him.

Linda from  Life Station Express shared:

Early on, back in the day, yes I believe it was the late 80′s or early 90′s we had a woman come speak at a women’s conference at our church. Her name…Joyce Meyer. Yes, before she became JOYCE MEYER!!!   Ha ha, well she said something in her teaching that I never forgot. She said she would get so upset when she couldn’t keep a rigid bible reading schedule for herself. Beating herself up when she just couldn’t get it all in at the proper time each day.
She said that she finally learned that for some folks reading in the morning works, for others, evenings, and still for others, before bed. Some used a bible study format, others used daily reading guides and yet others read as lead. Whenever, whatever, however, it matters not. What does matter, is that you spend some time in reading and prayer with the Lord.
Some of us need that rigid schedule and that is fine, for others going at it a bit more freely is ok too. I fall into the second category, but respect those who meet with the Lord at a scheduled time each day.
Taking God along with me as I go face the day is imperative! Spending time with Him also. But how I do it often varies with the day too.
Hope this helps! He wants our heart, our time and our life. How we work that out is important to Him too. He embraces our desire to be with Him each day.
Thanks for the great posts! Linda

Lori, an IRL friend and coworker said this:

Hey Melinda- I have always struggled with a quiet time also. I think almost everyone struggles with a structured quiet time. Recently my husband and I started a study with 12 other people called “Masterlife.” it has completely helped! Thats not to say some of the others I’ve been through we’re not fantastic. I loved Ruth by Kelley Minter.  There is so much I could write but I will stop before it gets too long.

My brilliant son-in-law (I’m being serious, not sarcastic) shared his way:

Go to: usccb.org and read the Catholic Mass readings for the day
Go to: dailyscripture.net and read a reflection on those readings
Go to: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html to read another reflection on those reading
Go to: http://www.loyolapress.com/daily-inspirations.htm to read one final short reflection on those readings
 Then I spend about 10-12 mins meditating, usually on something from the readings (new 2013 practice that really helps me stay centered)
 Then I read email reflections that my mom forwards: one from Proverbs 31 ministries and one from Girlfriends in God. 
 Works very well for me.

(Back to Auntie Em) And isn’t it funny how God works? Right after I asked for suggestions, a friend posted on Facebook that she wanted to start a FB Good Morning Girls group. I’ve seen their studies and glanced over their SOAP method, but have never done one. So I took the hint from God and signed up! We are starting next Monday morning.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared! My prayer is that we will all find SOMETHING that works for us… and remember, that ultimately, God is our Heavenly Father who loves us. We don’t have to use a system or ritual; we just need to plug in to our Source of life and power, regularly, and with intention.

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Two Quick Things- a Gift and a Request

First, a gift for you– A Biblical Marriage, a blog I contribute to, launched an e-book today called Glorifying God in your Finances. If you enjoyed my “Take Care of your Pennies” post, it’s in there, along with articles from many of the regular contributors. And the best news is that it’s FREE for a limited time! (I’m not sure how long, so don’t wait.) Click the picture to reach the article and instructions for downloading.
Glorifying God in your Finances ~ FREE Resource from ABiblicalMarriage.com

Next, I need something from you. I have never been able to get into a “groove” with a quiet time and prayer. Mostly prayer. I figured the best way to learn is to research and teach, so I want to write some posts about the process of prayer. I’m asking for any kind of suggestions you have, from the smallest sentence to possibly a guest post. I want specifics… logistics… what time? How long? A certain amount of chapters, pages, time, etc?? Do you read the Bible only, or do book studies?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. If it’s come easy for you, or if it has been difficult and you’ve found something that has helped, please share with us! (And if, like me, you’re still struggling, share that too… we’ll muddle through together.)

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Conflict in Marriage– the Biblical Way

How do you and your spouse deal with conflict in your marriage? Calmly discuss the issues? Yell and call names? Sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist?

Dealing with Marital Conflict Biblically

Come over to A Biblical Marriage and get some insight on how to deal with conflict how God tells us to.

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Why Unity?

why unity? Auntie Ems' Guide to LifeOur church has been without a pastor since last May. We elected a search committee quickly and they have been busily and faithfully going through dozens of resumes, listening to sermons, contacting references, etc… all the things involved in that huge task. We’ve had a “long-term supply” pastor for several months, the one that has inspired many of my posts, but we are ready for a shepherd! Our committee has found the man they feel that God wants for our church; he is coming to our church next month “in view of a call” (if you are not familiar with that term, it means he will meet us, preach for us, and spend time with us so we can all make our final decisions as we listen and seek God’s will.)

Well anyway, on Sunday the preacher preached his “church looking for a pastor” sermon, as he called it. It was all about unity. Many of the reasons a church needs unity are also applicable to a marriage between believers.

An interesting insight: He said unity was one of the disciplines of Christian discipleship. That was a new thought for me, but think about it: a discipline is something that does not come naturally; you have to do it consciously, and many times it’s hard; and the purpose is to mold our behavior and characters. Unity definitely does NOT come naturally, because it involves laying down and subduing our selfish egos.

There must have been a lack of unity among Christ’s disciples, because in His prayer in John 17, He talks about it at length. He asks for God’s protection “so that they may be one as we are one” (v 11) and asks “May they be brought to complete unity…” (v 23) There are several instances of disunity and competition among Jesus’s followers throughout the New Testament– In Mark 10 where James and John ask to be given places of honor– In Acts 6 where the Greeks felt that the Hebrews were overlooking their widows– Euodia and Syntyche had some sort of conflict in Philippians 4, and Paul pleads with them to “agree in the Lord.” The fact that he pleaded with them instead of just suggesting or asking indicates how important it was.

What’s the big deal? Why unity?

POWER

There is POWER in unity. One of the biggest miracles in the New Testament happened in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit entered the people and 3,000 were saved. Have you noticed what preceded the event? The King James Bible says the believers were “of one accord, ” gathered together.

Have you seen or experienced times when you are your spouse were not unified? Maybe on financial decisions? Child-rearing philosophies? Where to go or how to vacation? Of course you have; we’ve all been there! And if one of us doesn’t lay down our preference, and decide that the unity of our marriage is more important than winning, a small disagreement can lead to a big problem.

MATURITY

Ephesians 4 says that being able to overlook people’s faults, being patient, humble, and gentle (v 2) is the mark of  MATURITY in a Christian (v 13) Verses 15-16 further explain how the members of the Body of Christ need to be able to work together like parts of our physical bodies so we will not be led astray, but become more like Christ.

A mature marriage (I don’t mean one that has just been in existence a long time; I mean a truly God-grown, mature marriage) can withstand a lot of blows. The roots are strong and the love tanks are full. God has brought you through many crises so it’s easier to believe that He will bring you through this next one.

GOD’S BLESSING

GOD BLESSES unity: Psalm 133: 1-3 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony… there the Lord has pronounced His blessing, even life everlasting.

When a husband and wife are united–not necessarily share the same opinions on everything, but their life philosophies are in line with one another (both with God’s), marriage is a sweet place. You know what to expect. You’ve learned to read one another and pick up on needs and moods and can respond accordingly. How peaceful!

WITNESS

I believe the most important benefit of unity is back in John 17: so that the world may believe that you have sent me (v 22) and to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (v 23). Believe me, the world knows how Christians are supposed to behave. When we bicker and are ugly and rude to people, that’s not Christ they are seeing.

The news media love to throw around that statistic about Christian marriages ending in divorce as often as non-Christian. (FYI, at our Weekend to Remember conference, one of our speakers said that when the qualifications of regular church attendance and prayer were added to “being a Christian” the number of divorces dropped sharply. I don’t know where he got his figures, but that makes sense.) Remember that the enemy hates marriage, and he especially hates a marriage that honors God and represents His love for His children.

Our world today is more anti-Christian than I’ve ever seen. We must remember that our God is greater than any power on earth, and we are His children, His Body, His representatives. I pray we will be united in showing His love to unbelievers, in ways that will woo them to Him. Please God, don’t let us be ones that push people away.

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Lessons on Marriage from the Garden

We had a very mild winter here in Southeast Texas, and Spring is creeping in. Lots of early blooms are out– and the weeds are beginning to wake up too. Our neighborhood is called “Enchanted Forest” and before Hurricane Rita, our yard was full of beautiful, mature oak trees. (Now we have a few tall skinny ones left.) Part of having a “forested” yard is that very hardy vines grow alongside those trees, and when you plant shrubs, the vines continue to grow up among them. They are not vulnerable to Round-Up and most foliar weed killers- you have to dig them out, and many times the bulb is WAAAAAYY down deep.

Cross vine is one of our worst invasive vines. When you let it go too long, it will completely strangle a poor azalea bush.

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When I finally got around to rescuing this pitiful bush, look at all that came up: there was lots more growing underground that you couldn’t see. Bigger than the bush it had covered up.

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Can you guess where this is headed?

This is what a single little crossvine sprig looks like: Innocent enough, right?

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But look what’s lurking below: Look very closely to see the leaves and visible growth: Most of it is below ground.

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Kelly’s post at Exceptionalistic immediately came to mind when I pulled this rampant weed up by the roots.

Here’s the deal: Lots of time, I counsel you to overlook things. After all, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8) and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7). However, you must also LET THEM GO. (Think of hanging the toilet paper the wrong way, or not at all, kicking the sheets out, procrastinating, etc…) If the issue so serious that you can’t let it go, and it interferes with your feelings for your spouse, it needs to be dealt with. Maybe it’s the symptom of a deeper problem- you resent his golf days with his friends not because you don’t want him to spend time with his friends, but you feel neglected. Or maybe there is a lack of transparency in the relationship that shows itself in tiny, unimportant little ways. In these days of separate Facebook accounts, telephones, the all-important “confidentiality” that the medical and insurance worlds insist on, and the blatant “porn mode” internet browsers, it would be very easy to begin to hide things from your spouse.

There are many issues in a marriage that will grow underground, like the roots of my crossvine. Left on their own, they can overtake your whole marriage and choke the life out. You must pull them up by the roots and dig out the bulb. Is it hard? Yep. Painful, tedious? You bet. Will it leave scars? Oh yes.

But our God is the God of comfort, healing, and rejuvenation. He not only gets rid of the problem; he replaces it with something better than it was before!

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
 … to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

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