10 Commandments for Christmas (Part One)

jesus_mangerRecently I’ve been studying the Ten Commandments and trying to apply them to my 21st century world. Yet as the holidays approached, I faced with a whole new set of decisions. How could I apply the Ten Commandments to my busy American Christmas season? For the next few weeks, we’ll explore the 10 commandments from the perspective of Christmas. I hope it’s an inspiring journey.

Commandment 1: Worship God alone

On the surface, this seemed obvious. Believers don’t worship other things, do they? Yet as I looked at my life and the lives of those around me (mostly believers, by the way), I wondered if the saying, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” is really true for many of us. We get so busy with holiday plans, parties, and projects that we often forget to rejoice in the profound truth that the God of the heavens came down to earth…for us!

When my children were young, we had little money for our holiday endeavors, so we kept things much simpler. Besides, I tried hard to be intentional about imparting the true meaning of Christmas to them. So each evening of Advent we centered our hearts on the coming of the Savior. We gathered in front of the manger and talked about His birth. We took time to worship God.

But after they left the nest, it was all too easy to get caught up in the festivities and forget to worship the Prince of Peace. I realized that it simply takes intentionality to pull away from the holiday chaos and take some time to worship Him every day. Since then, I’ve tried to make this an important cornerstone of my Christmas season.

Commandment 2: Don’t make idols

Of course we wouldn’t make idols! we all think with an heir of dignity and pride. But how do we address Santa and all the secular symbols so pervasive in our world today? The topic of Santa can be controversial, and every family must decide how they are going to handle such Christmas traditions. Yet as believers we should never let Santa become more of a focus than the Babe in the manger.

When my children were young, I went a little overboard. Because my parents placed such importance on Santa coming, even to the point of stomping around the attic as if it were Santa on the roof, I went to the opposite extreme and forbade any reflection of the man in the red suit. As my children grew and I saw how other families made Santa a fun tradition yet still kept Christ in Christmas, I relaxed my legalistic attitude and allowed some Santa into our holidays. But I tried to keep it all in a proper perspective, so that the posture of my heart would always keep secular symbols from becoming idols.


A Honeymoon That Never Ends

2748559-young-happy-couple-embracingRemember how thrilling your dating days were? And what about those happy honeymoon memories? I bet you wished it would never end, right? Well, it really doesn’t. Though you may not be able to stay on the cruise or Caribbean island or in that cozy mountain cabin, and though you may have lots of commitments, kids, and responsibilities that weren’t with you on your honeymoon, you can still keep the passion and romance that was present on your honeymoon.

People might think I’m sappy, strange, or silly, but I’m of the opinion that your relationship really can get better and better with time—if you’re willing to invest the time and energy to keep it growing.

I know it’s true; I’m living it every day.

I’m not bragging. I just want everyone to experience what we get to enjoy. Yes, it takes work, determination, sacrifice, and intentionality. But it can be done. It’s deciding every day to choose to love your mate fully—that day.

I know what you’re thinking. No one can ever do it all right every day. And you’d be correct.

We get busy. Distracted. Frustrated. Tired. Even bored. But we can choose to keep working at it, keep moving forward, and keep creating an atmosphere of love, romance, and intimacy that feels like your honeymoon days, even when you mess up.

It’s an amazing thing, really. You keep on trying to show your love, to share your love, to speak your love for the other. And you try to meet their deepest needs. After all, isn’t that what you did on your honeymoon?

And what about the fun that was such a big part of your honeymoon? You made time for laughing and playing and being silly. And you took time to rest and be intimate.

I encourage you to go back to the basics. Take some time to look at your dating, wedding, and honeymoon pictures, and remember what made that season so special. Then do it. Just do it all over again.

The honeymoon doesn’t have to end. Really.

What do you do to keep the honeymoon in your marriage? I’d love to know!



Reconnecting with Your Spouse

images-14We hear it from couples over and over again. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been married, if you have kids at home, or grandkids near or far. Life is busy. And in the midst of our busyness, it’s easy to find ourselves disconnected from our spouses. So what are some simple ways to get reconnected without an expensive weekend get-away—or counseling sessions? Try a few of these; you both may like them.

  • Be intentional. Sync your schedules each week, and plan on time together.
  • Get out your photo album and share memories together.
  • Break the bedroom routine. Enjoy time together on the living room floor or another unusual place (when the kids aren’t around, of course).
  • Write a love note and put it on your mate’s car seat.
  • Create a Bucket List together.
  • Watch old home movies together.
  • Write “I love you” in lipstick on your mate’s mirror.
  • Check out your baby pictures together.
  • Do something your husband or wife loves, even if you don’t. That shoulder-to-shoulder and romantic stuff really matters.
  • Make your dates unusual. Skip the dinner and a movie thing and go to a park, enjoy the zoo, a museum, or dancing. Mix it up and keep it fresh.
  • Do chores together. Doing the dishes together gives you time to talk and lessens the workload.
  • Massage each other’s shoulders. Rub his arm while watching TV. Stroke her hair while you cuddle. Touching is good.
  • Walk around the neighborhood and pray for your neighbors.
  • Make a new recipe together.
  • Write a “What I appreciate about you list” for your mate.

There are endless possibilities—little things you can do to reconnect. If you’re interested in receiving ways to reconnect, I send out tweets Monday-Friday that provide ways for you to do just that. Every Monday you’ll get a question you can talk about together. On Tuesday you’ll receive a thought-provoking idea to spark your imagination and discuss. On Wednesday you’ll get a link to my blog, “Enjoy the Journey”. On Thursday you’ll receive an idea for doing something fun together. On Friday I’ll provide a date idea for you to enjoy. Whatever you do, as couples, stay connected.

What are some ways you stay connected as a couple? I’d love to know!



Copping an Attitude

images-2I recently heard a thought-provoking quote: “Attitude is the librarian of our past, the speaker of our present, and the prophet of our future.” As we work with couples, we often find “attitudes” to be sticking points, so I’m pondering this one, especially regarding marriage.

Attitude is the librarian of our past? We tend to base our attitudes on all the volumes of information we’ve accumulated through our experiences with our family of origin, our parents, and past relationships. Based on our past, we think that our relationship should be this way or that, but why should we use those “chapters of our past” and compare our marriage with them? My mother never did that! My dad wouldn’t do it that way! But should we hold on to “attitudes” based on our past? My advice? Write your own book!

Attitude is the speaker of our present? As the years go by, there are personality quirks and “pet peeves” that tend to be part of who we are. But after years of those patterns, they can rub us the wrong way until we can cop a pretty lousy attitude toward our loved one. Why does he still leave the toilet seat up? or Why does she always fold the towels this way? Sometimes, maturity is holding our tongue and letting things like that go. In the scope of doing life together, there are so many things that we can file away in our mental and emotional libraries that can become just plain silly. Let them go!

Attitude is the prophet of our future? When a bad attitude becomes a regular habit, it can affect our relationship, sometimes irreparably hurting your marriage. Nagging. Put downs. Sacrasm. Condescension. These are toxic attitudes that can destroy your marriage if you let it. Just don’t!

Your attitude is an outward reflection of your heart, and it is reflected in your face, your countenance, and your words. But in the end, attitude is a choice! Right attitudes bring God’s favor, direction, and blessing, while bad attitudes have negative consequences.

Is there someone or something that is influencing your attitude? A friend? A TV show? Sin? 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: ‘bad company corrupts good character’.”

Anchor your attitude—toward your mate and your marriage—in God’s truth. Allow God to influence the attitudes you have toward your spouse, and when you get a little off kilter (and we all do), simply repent and choose to turn your attitude around. Allow your heart to be transformed and your attitude and relationship will be transformed too.

How do you maintain a godly attitude toward your mate? I’d love to know.



A Marriage Made for More

Unknown-1What would marriage look like if we applied John 10:10 to it? “I have come that they may have life, and have life to the full.”

When a couple walks down the aisle on their wedding day, it’s their hope—and intention—that they’ll have a full and abundant marriage, a married life full of joy and peace, confidence and love. But as the days, months, and years go by, too often they simply get a little apathetic and settle for less.

That is not God’s plan for any marriage.

God wants each of us to live an abundant and full marriage. It takes work. It takes intentionality. And it takes lots of love and patience—and sometimes even longsuffering. But that’s just part of the marriage journey.

John 15:16-17 says, “I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”

So how do we live in an abundant marriage, love each other, and as a couple bear fruit that will last?

First, know that you are made for a purpose as a couple. Pray together, and ask God to help you know what that purpose is. Ask Him to help you work on making your relationship more abundant every day. When you fail at any of this—and you will—know that God forgives, and be sure to forgive one another. Part of living an abundant marriage, a marriage that is made for more, has lots of forgiveness in it.

Second, we are made to participate in God’s plan. He wants every person on this planet to have His abundance, His “more”. And He has a role for each of us to play in His plan—a ministry for us to do. As a couple, what might that be? Dale and I have discovered that there is nothing more bonding than serving God together.

What can you do to share the truth that God wants every person, every couple to have more of His abundance? It might be mentoring younger couples, serving in the premarital or marriage ministry, watching the children so a young couple can have a date night. There are endless opportunities to help people along their journey to an abundant life.

Third, when things get tough in your marriage, stand on His promises, and know that He is with you. Know that He wants more for your marriage. Yes, there will be times of frustration and trouble, but He will be with you as you work together to discover that abundant life together. Hold on to a long-term view of your marriage, stand firm, and don’t give up.

What can you do today, this week, this month to have a full, abundant and “more” marriage? I’d love to know!



Don’t Let The Myths Get You Down

6a0134806ea86f970c01543535eecf970c-500wiThere are so many blending family myths out there—thoughts that cast dark shadows on the redemptive work God can do in a remarriage that is under His control. Sure, remarriage and blending a family is definitely more complex. But it can also be a place of healing, hope, and redemption like none other. So I’d like to address a few of these, just to bring a little perspective to the topic and to bring remarrying couples some blending family hope.

The myth of being forever broken: When a marriage ends, whether through death or divorce, there are hurts, healing, and adjustments to be made. But research shows that eighty percent of children do heal and recover—if they journey through it surrounded by love and security. So provide that safe haven, and hang in there for the long haul.

The myth of a seamless adjustment: When couples remarry, they often have on rose-colored glasses. They think it’ll be simple, happy, and carefree, and they are optimistic that they will quickly become a “family”. But the truth is, just as it takes years to become good friends with another person, it may take years for blending family relationships to form, bonding to happen, and trust to be established. The first two years may be the hardest, but statistics show that five years after a remarriage, the blending family is most often happy and stable. Patience, realistic expectations, and unconditional love are good rules of thumb.

The myth of the wicked stepparent: We’ve heard it in fairy tales and seen it in movies. But, most often, that’s a lie. Most stepparents desperately want to bond with their stepchildren. They want to love them, meet their needs, and become family. So when you see this myth in the media, call it what it is. Bring it to the attention of everyone, and dispel this ugly lie.

The myth of the deadbeat dad: Many, if not most fathers long to be with their children, provide for them, and remain a vital part of their lives. While some are aloof and uncaring, be careful not to cast this myth on your ex if he’s not and be sure you don’t expect your new husband to become aloof from his children because he now has a “new” family. Encourage dads to be involved, even affirm them for the steps they take to be close to their children.

What other myths do you face as a blending family? I’d love to know.