Contrast

Phil and Gayle 1975

“How did you and Phil ever get together?”

We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and the answer is still the same –

God

We could be the poster couple for “opposites attract.” Just ask any of our friends, or our children for that matter. Phil and I are very different. That has created definite excitement in our marriage. May I use excitement to describe these extremes?

  • I think money is to use – he thinks money is to save
  • I think decorating means arranging items by color and visual harmony – he thinks it means putting items wherever they fit
  • I think it is relaxing to have friends over for food and fellowship – he thinks relaxing is being quiet by yourself
  • I think it is fun to be in big crowds and be a part of what is going on – he dislikes big crowds (unless it is a major league baseball game)
  • I like to sit near the front at church gatherings, concerts or performances – he likes to sit in the back

These are just a few examples of the contrast between Phil and myself.

Contrast as a principle of design is defined as “the juxtaposition of different elements of design in order to highlight their differences and create visual interest.” Differences create visual interest because things don’t all look just the same. Contrast creates excitement in art work. Light and dark elements of a painting create drama, just as neutral values that are all the same seem dull or uninteresting.

Contrast can also easily become conflict.

Jay Fesperman, a very wise and Godly man shared at a marriage retreat – “If both people in a marriage always agree, one is unnecessary”.

We do NOT have that problem! We often don’t agree. Yet how do we prevent the contrast of our relationship from plummeting into the depths of hurtful conflict?

What has allowed us to stay together and resolve our contrasting viewpoints low these 40 years?

Godly advice.

Ephesians 5:31 Amplified Version

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery [of two becoming one] is great; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church. 33 However, each man among you [without exception] is to love his wife as his very own self [with behavior worthy of respect and esteem, always seeking the best for her with an attitude of loving kindness], and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].

This says it all.

Phil and I do not live up to this standard – yet this is what we come back to when the contrast in our relationship threatens to tear us apart.

We do share several things in common –

  • God is first in each of our lives
  • We are both deeply committed to our family
  • We walk in forgiveness toward each other – yes – this is a choice
  • We respect each other, we don’t always agree, but sometimes we agree to disagree

I am humbly thankful for our marriage, because as imperfect as it is, we are committed to walking out the next 40 years together – with God’s help.

God had a plan when He brought us together.

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2015

 

We Are Suffering

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26 If one part [of the Body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it;”            I Cor. 12:2

Families are suffering in Charleston, South Carolina – they are our brothers and sisters in Christ – therefore we are suffering.

I couldn’t help think of the children of the pastor whose father is now no longer with them. It is Father’s Day, a tragic reminder of all they have lost. Others murdered were also fathers.

They were at church praying, just where many thousands of Christians throughout our country are on Wednesday night – praying. It hurt so much to think of this evil act being carried out in a place where God is worshipped and His love is shared.

I was reading yesterday in a journal my Grandmother Barker, my father’s mother kept. After a tragedy occurred during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, Grandma quoted him as asking that these verses be read to him.  II Corinthians 4: 6-9 (NKJV)

6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;

   we are perplexed, but not in despair;  

persecuted, but not forsaken;

   struck down, but not destroyed;

I have heard many of the family members and friends of those murdered speak of forgiveness in this time of horrific pain and loss. What a testimony of God’s amazing grace!

As the Body of Christ we MUST step up our efforts to battle the forces of evil that foster hatred.

It starts in our homes as we express acceptance and love for all people, especially those who may be different from us. Hatred is a learned attitude. When our homes are places of love and acceptance – our children will learn to treat others with respect.

Sing this simple, yet profound chorus with your children and talk about what it means –

” Jesus loves the little children

ALL the children of the world

Red, brown, yellow, black, and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Hatred can not exist in our hearts if God’s love is present. Now is the time to plant those seeds of love and respect in the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

We must keep those suffering in Charleston in our prayers.

We are all suffering – but love wins in the end.

 

 

Forgiveness

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“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

Whoa…really?

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately since a friend from many years ago recently called my husband and asked if they could get together.

They did – and this person proceeded to ask forgiveness for something that happened almost 20 years ago. He wanted freedom from the guilt of what he had done. God had put on his heart that he had hurt my husband by some things he had done.

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately because I need it daily from my loved ones.

It is easiest to hurt those we love the most and who are closest to us.

Why is that? There are many reasons but those that come instantly to mind are:

* they are there – near us
* they are those we talk to the most
* it is easy to get busy and forget those who are most important to us
* we are self centered, sinful creatures

Jesus came to bring us forgiveness. His death on the cross took all our sin – from the most egregious deed to a jealous thought – Jesus paid the price for ALL sin.

Yet we must redeem it – just as we turn in a coupon for 40% off – we must ASK for forgiveness.

A coupon is no good if we don’t redeem it.

Forgiveness is no good if we don’t redeem it.

So, we must ask forgiveness, even if we don’t feel sorry. Forgiveness is an action – not a feeling.

Poison drains away life and kills.

Unforgiveness drains away life and kills. It fills us with bitterness and rots away our bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (AMP)

30 A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.

When we fail to forgive someone – it really hurts us.

The person we are angry with or hurt by may not even know we harbor unforgiveness.

The opening quote was shared by a survivor of child sexual abuse and it was a statement her pastor spoke during a sermon. She shared that at that moment she realized she had to forgive the perpetrator of the abuse. After she forgave him, he no longer had any hold on her life. She was able to let go of the anger, resentment, and hurt.

She was free!

Forgiveness set her free.

Forgiveness does NOT justify what one person has done that hurts another. Forgiveness loosens the hold of sin and its effects on one’s life.

Matthew 6:14-16 (AMP)

14 For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.

This may mean forgiving our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters. Just as there is hurt in our families, there is hurt in the family of God as well that needs forgiveness.

Don’t drink the poison!

May we walk in the freedom of forgiveness each and every day.

My Failure or I’m a BIG Hypocrite

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“So, what did you think about that?”

I listened for a moment, and then proceeded to criticize my husband’s response.

Busted!

I proceeded to explain to him that he was being CRITICAL.

REALLY?

I also went further (inserting both feet in my mouth) to tell him that his response was HYPOCRITICAL.

Everything I accused him of I was doing myself.

Shame washed over me – but the damage was done.

I couldn’t take back my words or the feelings they invoked. The thought went through my mind that I have been on my journey as a Christian for over 50 years, yet I am still failing to love the person who means the most to me, my husband.

I can blog all day about respectful relationships with my children and grandchildren – yet it is all meaningless if I don’t live it out myself in my primary relationship – with my husband.

The mission statement of this blog is “Reflecting the Image of God in Our Relationships”.

That means ALL relationships. Not just the ones I blog about, or the ones other people see.

Yet that is the beauty of our journey as Christians. God is taking us from wherever we are to the destination of being conformed to the likeness of His son, Jesus. As a journey, there are wrong turns, detours, even wrecks. We still press on. Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We will receive that prize if we stay on the journey.

So – I ask forgiveness, get off the path of criticism and judgment, and press on – “straining toward what is ahead.”

My friend Alice Marie and I were talking about the pictures we post on Facebook. She mentioned that they give a snapshot – but an incomplete view of our lives. We post the “events” – the parties, get togethers, the cute poses – and these are so much fun to see. They are certainly true – but not the whole story. We should celebrate and share the special times – always remembering that they are just part of the picture.

We don’t post the fights, crying fits, or major messes of our lives. Nor should we. These would often be disrespectful of those involved.

Alice Marie made me think about the photos I post and the things I write about.

I want to tell the truth, give the complete picture and at the same time, celebrate the beauty and wonder of our journey as Christians. God loves us so much that He shows us our failures and gives us the grace to admit them, ask forgiveness, and get back on the right path.

So, I will PRESS ON, thankful that Phil walks in forgiveness with me.

I sure need it.

REALLY!

Four Generations

4 genHappy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you mothers!

For some us of motherhood was a choice, for others an unexpected surprise, for others a long awaited event that we thought might never come.

Yet we all share much in common. The anticipation of birth, feeling anxious about taking care of a newborn, selcting a name, and watching in wonder as the little life before us begins to respond to us as “mother”.

God placed us in families for a reason. He wanted us to learn about His character through the lives of others.

We are, after all, created in God’s image.

The qualities that mirror God’s image are qualities for mothers to emulate – such as –

* unconditional love
* protective love
* undying love
* disciplinary love, and
* forgiving love

In II Timothy 1:2-5 Paul is writng to his spiritual son Timothy –

2 To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Paul acknowledges the important role that Timothy’s grandmother and mother played in his spiritual development. Paul does not mention a father or grandfather but specifically mentions Lois and Eunice by name.

What a legacy these women had in the formation of the early church as they demonstrated God’s character to Timothy – a minister of the gospel, leader in the early church, and assistant to Paul.

As mothers and grandmothers we have a wonderful opportunity to share God’s love with our children and grandchildren. We must demonstrate God’s love in such a way that they desire to follow God because they see His reflection in us.

I have been blessed to have had a mother and two grandmothers who did just that – they:
* loved me unconditionally
* protected me from negative influences
* loved me until they died
* disciplined me in love
* forgave me when I failed them

That is the legacy I want to leave with the next generation!

Free at Last!

Woody Family in 1990

Woody Family in 1990

“Now that I’m older, I’m free from worrying about that any more. It feels so good!” My friend Winnie said this to me yesterday at church. Winnie is a lovely Christian lady who has held fast to her faith through life’s storms. She is now pursuing a college degree in her 50’s and tutoring college students on the side.

“I am free from so many false beliefs that I had as a young wife and mother.” I replied. “Why didn’t we learn these lessons earlier?” I said to Winnie.

This caused me to reflect on just what some of those erroneous ideas were. These were thoughts I held that kept me in bondage and fed feelings of guilt. Here is a list of some of those toxic thoughts:

* I must have a perfectly clean house before I invite anyone to visit.
* If I invite guests for dinner, the food must be homemade.
* If I am feeling overwhelmed, I must never admit it.
* If I haven’t had a quiet time, I don’t have anything of value to share.
* I’m a bad mother if I yell at my kids.
* I’m a bad mother if my children act up at library story time.
* I’m a bad mother if my children run around at Sunday School.
* I must have a “ministry” outside of my home.

These are just a few of the things that weighed me down as a mother of young children. As you can see – there is some truth in each of these beliefs – but there is much that is false. Those lies kept me frustrated and often full of guilt.

I wanted to have people over, so I would wear myself out cleaning up. I was crabby and demanding of my children – once I even locked them out of the house until the kitchen floor dried after I had mopped it. They have NEVER forgotten this and enjoy seeing my discomfort as they tell people I used to lock them out of the house. To set the record straight – I did that ONE time!

I am not a natural cook – it is an effort for me to make tasty meals. Yet I thought I had to make everything from scratch if I was having guests.

I also gauged my “success” as a mother by my children’s performance. This was partly because as a former teacher, I measured my success as a teacher by how well my students learned. I took this same attitude to my efforts in parenting.

Jesus says in John 8:31-32

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

As God began to teach me His truth, I was set free from those falsehoods that held me in bondage.

* People come to visit people, not the house. Four children make messes.
* I can buy pre-cut salad – no one cares.
* I must admit my weakness so my husband (or friends) know I need help.
* My relationship with God is based on His grace, not my quiet time.
* If I yell at my kids, I ask forgiveness.
* If my children act up at story time – I teach them respectful manners.
* If my children run at Sunday School – I teach them proper behavior.
* When I feel “I’m not doing enough for the Lord”,
I remember that my family IS my ministry.

The TRUTH does set us free from the bondage of quilt and frustration.
As Winnie said – “It feels so good to be free!”

Open, Honest Conflict

Who is hiding?

“If any married couple tells you that they always agree, they are either lying or one member of the relationship is unnecessary”. I remember Jay Fesperman saying this as his lovely wife, Sally, stood next to him smiling sweetly. The Fespermans were the owners/directors of the Inn of the Last Resort in Franklin, North Carolina. This mountain retreat center held marriage and parenting retreats where Jay and Sally imparted Godly wisdom to young families in the 1970’s. My husband and I were privileged to attend several times. It wasn’t that we were slow learners –  at least I hope not –  it was more that we learned something new each time as our children grew older, as we matured in our marriage, and as circumstances changed in our lives.

The first time we attended the Christian Marriage and Parenting retreat it was 1977 and I was pregnant with our first child. I was teaching kindergarten at that time  and I could manage 23 five-year-olds easily. My classroom was organized and productive. Parenting was going to be a piece of cake!

Wrong!!! I had a difficult time getting a handle on organization in the home. Sometimes it was 5:30 before I even thought about supper, and that was the time the children were ready to eat. I would lay something down to change a diaper or resolve a sibling conflict and forget where I put it. When I left home to run errands, I often forgot something because I was in a hurry to get home to breastfeed, put the kids down for a nap, or feed them lunch.

This created some conflict in our marriage. I had been very competent as a teacher, but as a mother of four young children, I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water. My frustration spilled over into my relationship with my husband.

Fortunately, we had learned some conflict resolution skills at the above mentioned Marriage and Parenting Retreat. Ignoring this conflict would not make it go away. It would not “fix itself” over time. We had to address this issue and come to a place of mutual understanding. Here is a list – please forgive me, but lists clarify things for me and bring order to my right-sided brain – of steps that have helped us resolve conflict in our family in a positive way.

  • Conflict is normal, even healthy, if resolved with respect. Differing opinions can bring new insight and balance to a relationship. No two thinking people always agree.
  • Resolve conflict at a “neutral” time. In other words, don’t discuss what appropriate discipline for a child should be when you are disciplining the child.That will allow the child to determine who is on their side and play the parents off one another. Present a united front – then discuss appropriate discipline when the child is not there. If the issue is varied opinions about manners at the table, discuss it before or after the meal, not during the meal. We are more defensive in the heat of the moment than if a concern is brought up later.
  • Address the present concern without bring up the past. “You did it again……” Maybe that is true, but we all need grace to change and the real issue is the present concern. This can be particularly disheartening for small children who by nature are learning to follow through and will repeat misbehavior.
  • Avoid using “always” and “never”. Besides being untrue, those words are often unfair. I may forget to lock the front door once in a while, but to say “You never lock the front door”  is not true. “You always leave your toys all over.” says to a child that you don’t notice when they do pick up their toys.
  • Let the other person know how their behavior makes you feel. I had to let Phil know that I felt rejected when he didn’t want to hear about my day, or talk to me about his. Believe me, this was not resolved once and for all time! We have revisited this issue several times in our marriage because of the differences in our personalities. This will happen with children as well. You may need to explain to a child several times that it is disrespectful to ignore a parent’s instructions, that you feel upset when they don’t listen.
  • There are times when you need to agree to disagree. As adults with different personalities, there are areas that you may never agree on. Phil and I have one area in particular. We recognize this and though it still causes occasional conflict, we refuse to let it divide us. With children, they may not agree, but they still must obey!
  • Love One Another – Love covers a multitude of sin.

Colossians 3:10-14 (NLT)

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

These verses share the wisdom needed to live together in harmony. May God grant us His Spirit to do so.