Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Here is the continuation from yesterday's article
Today most people don't understand what covenant means. Our culture is built on contracts, and everyone knows that a crackerjack lawyer can find a loophole if you really want out. So contracts get longer and longer as the parties try to close all possible loopholes, but litigation increases because people change their minds and want release from their agreements.
One contract that is increasing in usage is the prenuptial agreement. A covenant is not at all like a prenuptial agreement. For one thing, there is no escape clause. In ancient times, a covenant was a legal agreement, but with two major differences from contracts today. A covenant was made before deity. And the penalty for breaking it was death. People might negotiate out of contracts, but not out of a covenant.
The covenant between God and Abraham was more binding than a wedding certificate is today. God impressed on Abraham the importance of the covenant: "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you." While Abraham didn't walk the blood path, there was a symbol of his acceptance of the agreement. The proof of Abraham's commitment was that he and every male descendant was circumcised (Genesis 17:9-14).
But in the covenant of blood, God traveled the blood path alone. By doing so, he said that if Abraham or any of his descendants violated this contract, God would pay the price with His own blood. There would come a day when God would heroically have to keep that promise.
For centuries in liturgical churches the service of holy matrimony has been clearly spelled out word for word. As I read several liturgies, I was struck by the similarities between the church service of holy matrimony and the biblical concept of covenant.
For example, the marriage service is conducted before God. Historically a covenant was always a religious ceremony, made before God or gods as witnesses. It was the one treaty between enemies that was enforceable, because neither party was willing to risk the wrath of their deity.
In the English Book of Common Prayer (1662), a wedding service begins with the minister addressing the congregation: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God…to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony." Again and again, the couple and witnesses are reminded that God is witness to this union.
Second, a covenant had witnesses. Likewise, the marriage vows are made before human witnesses. Why is that important? A pastor I know challenged a friend who had just announced he was leaving his wife of six years. "Oh no you're not!" said the pastor. "You made a vow to love your wife until death. I know. I was there and I heard you. Now you stay with her and work things out." The man was shocked, but he stayed, and today their marriage is much healthier. I wonder what would happen if, like this pastor, more witnesses challenged couples to fulfill their wedding vows.
Third, both a covenant and a traditional marriage ceremony declared the seriousness of the commitment. In The Book of Common Prayer, the minister utters these words in his opening exhortation to the congregation and the couple standing before him: "Holy Matrimony…is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised…unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God."
Recently, as I reflected on the vows Jo and I exchanged at our wedding, I was struck by the one-sidedness of our commitment. There were no qualifiers or disclaimers. I had promised to love Jo for better or worse until death, regardless of her actions or attitude. Likewise, Jo promised to have me for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for as long as we both shall live, regardless of how well or poorly I behaved. No doubt we both assumed we would reciprocate in our love for each other. However, our vows said nothing about being loved back. By our words, each of us assumed 100 percent responsibility for the marriage. That's the nature of covenant. Each party makes an irrevocable vow.
Fourth, something of great value was exchanged. God wanted to give Abraham and his descendants a country, but He did it in the context of family. Did Abraham realize he was actually getting the best end of the deal? He was entering into a long-term relationship with the God of the universe. The land was very important, but it wasn't the most important thing — it was a symbol of the value of their relationship.
I am impressed again by the nature of the exchange in the traditional marriage service. It particularly struck me when I read the words uttered by the husband when he places the wedding ring on his wife's finger: "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." In other words, the husband gave everything he had to his wife, including his body and his earthly possessions. No longer were there his or her possessions. Everything was theirs. Why is this important? Because in giving our all, we actually gain what we want.
Permanence of Marriage
Obviously millions of couples chafe under the idea of covenant, feeling that the permanence fences them in. But Jo and I feel secure within these boundaries. Without the possibility of divorce, Jo and I know that regardless of our problems, we will be there for each other. And when we disagree or fight, we had better figure out a way to resolve our differences, for we are going to be together for a very long time.
From The Marriage Masterpiece, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2001, Al Janssen. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Yeah, two posts in one day, but I couldn't help but share this one. Talk about taking the connectability out of getting engaged.
Getting Engaged Goes High Tech
As if getting engaged and getting married isn’t already swept up in the hubbub of today’s technology (how many people congratulate friends on an engagement via their Facebook walls?! Yeah, guilty!), Tiffany’s takes it one step further with their iPhone App: The Tiffany & Co. Engagement Ring Finder. The app (launched June 14) is completely free (sigh. Unlike the Tiffany’s rocks it features) and it’s one of the snazzy updates to modern weddings that we actually like.
Why? For starts, the app lets you size your ring by placing a ring (one that properly fits the same finger where your wedding bling will go) and aligning that size with a ring size on the app. Browse the entire Tiffany & Co. selection and view your options (in all different carats) true-to-size.
This app is a big duh to the gentleman who is going to (at least you hope) put a ring on it—you can share your favorites via Facebook and Twitter (or email them if you’re being blatantly obvious). This way your guy knows the size, cut, carats, everything. Are the days of ring shopping or dropping subtle hints, like “accidentally” leaving the ring you love up on his screen, or the more old-fashioned, “Today I saw a woman with a Platinum Solitare Engagement Ring and I loved it,” GONE?!
Whether you’re getting engaged soon or just love playing around with pretty wedding rings (er, we may have been stalking the Tiffany & Co. website since we were teenagers), go here to download the app.
GIRL TALK TIME: How did you get your engagement ring? Did your fiancé/hubby go undercover to find out what cut and style you were after? What do you think of the ring app? Does it take the guesswork out of ring shopping in a good way or do you think guessing was half the fun anyways? What modern updates to engagements/weddings are you really loving? If you’re not engaged/married yet, what do you want your ring to look like?
It's been a few days since my last post. Kevin and I have been in celebratory mode. His birthday, his vacation weeks quickly approaching, our friend John Gray's birthday and soon my birthday. Whoo! We're just coming up for air. Parties, dinners, fun have kept us busy.
TAKE A PEEK INTO OUR FUN:
So, on to today. I found this great article about Covenant marital vows yesterday, today and in the future. It's rather long so I'll break it up into two parts. Here is Part #1. Part #2 about the Covenant will be posted tomorrow.
The Covenant Marriage
How serious are marriage vows? If they are anything like an Old Testament covenant, they're very serious.
By Al Janssen
If God really got married, the logical question is, "When?" Did I miss the wedding ceremony somewhere? The answer emerged when I learned about an ancient ceremony used between two nomadic tribes to make a peace treaty or to promise a boy and girl in marriage. The fathers would slaughter a goat or other animal, cut the carcass in half, and then at sundown walk barefoot through the blood path. The slaughtered animals symbolized what would happen to either party if they violated the terms of the agreement.
This was the ceremony God chose to use when he entered into a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. God asked Abram to take a heifer, a goat and a ram, plus a dove and a young pigeon, and slaughter them. But there was an unusual twist in this ceremony. While Abraham and his descendants were committed to this covenant with God, only God walked the blood path, thereby signifying that if Israel violated the agreement, God would pay the price with His own blood.
Technically, Abram and his descendants weren't married to God in the same sense that we understand a wedding ceremony today. It would be more accurate to say they were betrothed, which means that they were promised to each other. It is the same for Christ and His bride, the church. The wedding feast celebrating this marriage remains in the future at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
In our culture, couples are first engaged — they declare their intent to marry — but either party may back out before the wedding day, and there is no legal consequence for breaking an engagement. Such was not the case with betrothal. A betrothal was an ironclad contract that could be severed only by unfaithfulness or death. Though a couple might not celebrate and consummate their marriage for years, legally they were still considered married.
Such was the case with Joseph and Mary when she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. If a girl who was betrothed was found not to be a virgin before the wedding feast, when the marriage was consummated, she could be executed. This explains why Joseph, upon hearing that Mary was pregnant, decided not to make a public spectacle of his wife but to put her away privately — that is, until God spoke to him and revealed the identity of the child in her womb.
I wonder what the impact was on the children who witnessed a covenant sealed in blood by their fathers. Though they might hardly know each other, and indeed it might be years before they were ready to celebrate the wedding, they surely understood the commitment being made. There was only one way to escape from this marriage — by death.
When a couple marries today, a lot of effort goes into the wedding. According to Bride's magazine, when the average couple adds up the costs of a wedding dress, tuxedos, dresses for the bridesmaids, rings, invitations, flowers, music, photographer, wedding cake and reception, they spend more than $19,000.
When we were married, Jo was a poor schoolteacher and I was a poor writer. We had less than $1,000 for our wedding. Jo brilliantly maximized the reach of our limited budget by making her own wedding dress and soliciting help from friends and family for such things as food preparation.
A major element of our planning was the ceremony itself. We'd both attended many weddings, and the norm of the late seventies was for each couple to custom-design their ceremony.
In that spirit, Jo and I sat down one Sunday afternoon to write out our commitment to each other. We discussed what we were doing in marriage: pledging to be faithful, to take care of each other, to support one another during good times and hard times. We scribbled several drafts, but none of them captured the right tone.
Finally, we settled on the following:
"I Al take thee, Jo, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death do us part."
"I Jo take thee, Al, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death do us part."
Those words or a slight variation of them have served Christians for centuries, and we couldn't find anything that better expressed what we were committing to each other. They expressed the vows we were making — an irrevocable commitment to each other with God as our witness.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
As many of you know, I love the ministry of Dr. Larry Crabb. His background in marriage counseling combined with the Word of God is truly magnificent.
I read something from him today that took me "there" again.
"The power of love is found in connection, that profound meeting when the truest part of one soul meets the emptiest recesses in another and finds something there, when life passes from one to the other."
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Often we spend time with friends and discover that, in their relationship, it's lacking in the intimacy department. Not sexual intimacy, but Spiritual Intimacy. Their stories sound so familiar to Kevin and mine. We spend so much time, in our marriges, getting intimate sexually only to realize that the truest form of intimacy is Spiritual.
We struggled for so long in this same area of our marriage and it was difficult to overcome.
This article was such a wonderful reminder of some of the things we had to use to overcome this issue.
He shook his head dolefully as we talked about our future marriage and my thoughts on spiritual intimacy. "I'm not so sure I'm knowledgeable enough to be the spiritual partner you need me to be," Dale said. "You know the Bible so much better than I do. You've been a Christian decades longer than I have."
Over the course of our conversation, Dale realized that God's plan for spiritual intimacy did not depend on how much time we'd spent in a church — or even the amount of understanding we each had of spiritual things. We both deeply loved God, and that was a great place to start building a spiritual foundation.
Since we'd both been single for many years, we were used to deepening our relationship with Christ on our own. We had to learn how to share our deeply personal spiritual lives and grow together as a couple. As we've worked to deepen our spiritual intimacy, I've learned a few things along the way.
Let Go of Misconceptions
Dale's steps in creating a Christ-focused home were not what I had expected, but our life together has ended up even better than anything I had planned. The tone and attitude he established set a firm foundation for our marriage.
I may have subconsciously expected to marry a pastorlike man. Dale did not live up to my unrealistic expectations, but he did fulfill the role God designed for him in our marriage. Though he didn't sit me down every night for an hour of prayer and Bible study, Dale lived out 1 Corinthians 13. He incorporated the fruits of the Spirit into everyday living, and he directed many of our conversations to what Jesus would say or do.
In such an atmosphere, instead of holding on to my preconceived expectations, I enjoyed the journey of growing together spiritually.
Encourage Each Other
One of the most productive things I found I could do is encourage and empower Dale with genuine love and appreciation. When I see him take a positive spiritual step, simple affirmation gives him the courage to continue building our spiritual intimacy.
I watch for those moments — when he takes the risk to pray in a group or comments during one of our Bible studies. I make sure I let him know how proud I am of him and acknowledge his initiative. As I applaud his efforts to seek God, our spiritual relationship grows stronger day by day.
Accept One Another
Naturally, I sometimes wish my husband would change in certain ways, but I know better than to nag or criticize. One friend of mine thought that if she nagged her husband enough, he'd take his rightful place as a Christian husband. Instead, she built a wall of criticism that kept him from even trying. Now, years later, they are spiritual strangers.
As I take my concerns to God, He teaches me to be patient and entrust my husband to Him. At the same time, I must continue pursuing my own growth without worrying that my husband might fall behind. We're not running a race but traveling together on a lifelong journey; the progress of either one of us benefits both.
Work As a Team
Dale and I keep in mind that we are a team. So we make plans together regarding our spiritual life: church involvement, small-group connections, goals for prayer, Bible study, tithing and other disciplines. We address all these things as a couple, even if both of us don't participate in all of them at the time.
Though each of us may grow in different areas at different times, we will stay connected spiritually as long as we work as a team and pray for each other. Praying daily is especially important to us — whether together or on our own. As we cover each other in prayer, our hearts and minds naturally come to a special place of love and desire to see God work in our spouse.
As we've encouraged and accepted one another, and trusted God in the areas where we fall short, we've found that our spiritual intimacy is one of the most beautiful aspects of our marriage.
This article, written by Susan Mathis, first appeared in the Couples Edition of the May, 2007 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2007, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.
Monday, June 21, 2010
We hope everyone had an amazing, blessed, fun-filled and peaceful Father's Day!!!!
Today's a special day for us and should be a national holiday. So, unfortunately, no posts today.
Hubby's birthday and we are celebrating.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010
I read an article the other day about love and how easily and how often we fall into it. The article writer was focusing on the lack of stability there is in relationships and that they just don't have the same sustainability of generations past. I totally agreed with the writer.
However, I wondered about the phrase "FALL in love". I immediately thought of falling and the connotations of always wanting and even fighting/struggling to get out of or get up when we FALL. Falling has never been a positive word.
Then God reminded me of the word FALL and Adam and Eve in the Bible. Their actions are the epitome of Fall; God's creation desiring to live opposite of God's design accepting any outcome no matter how temporary. God gave directives and roles for both and they were supposed to "be" and live in the Garden; God's perfection creation for us.
I guess where I'm going is, maybe we are supposed to just "be" in love; even "be" love to those we're married to, neighboring with, meeting on the street etc. As opposed to finding ways to change the pace and flow of love the way it was created to be; freely, honest and unconditional. God didn't fall in love with us; He is love.
Just a thought.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
While watching television the other day, a sneak peek of a Fall new show, was lost on our attention. It didn’t interest Kevin and me at all. That is, until, the trailer was coming to a close. After resuming volume, I heard something very interesting. One of the characters said, “Not until you fall in love, will you ever truly know yourself.” Hmmmm was the only thing that came to my mind.
I began to reflect on Kevin and my marriage. When we were newly married, there was hardly anything Kevin could say to me that had credence; I questioned everything as if he was being interrogated. I didn’t trust his motives to “do right” by me.
However, what I began to notice was that when God began working on me, He allowed me to see that Kevin often recognized things, traits, characteristics and attitudes in me that were not so pleasant. That wasn’t so much the difficult part. What was difficult was that I had to take character and growth advice from another flawed human being. I often said, How can he tell me (blank), when he’s flawed in (blank) area?
Maturing later allowed me to recognize that I was asking the wrong question. Instead, what I should have been saying was “Thank you God for sending me someone who would often put up with the mess that I am, yet love me enough to correct me in order for me to grow into the person you’ve ordained me to be.” Yeah, I know it’s a lot, but the truth, nonetheless. But I’m a firm believer that the fuller your mouth is with praise the less full it will be with fault, complaints, gossip, lies etc.
I remember hearing a Pastor say once that God gave us spouses to be our mirrors and if there’s nothing that a mirror reflects back, it’s the truth. Kevin is and will always be “my truth.”
He was so intentional to not let me stay where I was. Honestly, it was not until I got married that I knew me; who I was supposed to be. This is truly why I love this ministry of marriage. Call me selfish, but I’d rather give people me now rather than me then.
Monday, June 14, 2010
WOW! I can’t believe that it’s been 7 days since my last post. I missed coming here so much. I was filled with client issues, contracts and meetings. My nights were long and exhausting.
Well, I’m back and something was, of course, on my mind. When Kevin and I first got married, neither one of us were walking the walk, seeking change or committed immediately to living out the Marriage Covenant we’d just vowed to live under. It was too hard! I guess to really depend on a God who wanted nothing, of value from you, in exchange for obedience and trust just wouldn’t translate into a reality for us; as, I’m quite sure, it doesn’t for many others.
More importantly, it was difficult for us to grasp the concept that we didn’t vow to be married based on what the other does or does not do or how we perform. After many fights, disagreements and confrontations, we had to come to the understanding that I Do… if, when, and until is unproductive, unsuccessful and no where near what God had in mind for marriages.
This became very evident when I started measuring how much more I washed dishes, laundry, cleaned the house or took out the garbage over how much Kevin did and it used to infuriate me and I began to resent him. There very few things I’m afraid of, but resenting my husband or anyone is one of them. There is so much discontent, anger and hurt in resentment and it takes so long to overcome. But I remember Author Gary Thomas saying that his wife didn’t refill the ice trays after using them and it angered him very much, then one day he counted just how long it takes to refill and ice tray; 7 seconds just in case you were wondering.
He chose then to refill them himself when she forgets, because that’s what a Covenant spouse does, we must refrain from inviting resentment into our marriage and take a hold of sacrifice.
Too often we choose to live under the limited and awful conditions where we forfeit truth, intimacy and our Covenant vows. Does it make us feel better to hold up a self-righteous mirror to our spouses? It’s so tiring to set about keeping score in a marriage with another adult. It may have worked in elementary school, but not so much here.
Can we commit to day to say, I Do…, not if, when or until, but in spite of?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
We hope you had a fulfilling and powerful weekend. Kevin and I just returned from our 12th Annual Couples Retreat with our church. We are so ecstatic that we went; at one point we discussed not going. We welcomed two new facilitators, Eric and Carletta Yancy from Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They were truly amazing and insightful. They brought a new flavor, concepts, demonstrations and divine revelation. Kevin and I were excited that so much of what they brought to this retreat were sheer confirmations from God for us.
Since we’ve been at our church, the whole retreat experience is all we’ve known. I have seen and know of other people who’ve gone on retreats and done things a little different than how we do it. For example, initially I thought we were supposed to be truly alone with God and our spouse with the exclusions of technology and anything else that normally takes up a lot of our time. But, it’s never been that way for us.
Additionally, we thought it was so important to spend time with other couples; outside of just lunching and shopping together. As well, we needed to know what God had next for us in ministry.
So, this time I asked the Lord why were we going on this retreat, how different was it going to be and what He wanted from us during our time together? He quickly answered. The first thing that was going to be different was me leaving my phone home and I was not going to work during our breaks. Kevin had to bring a little work along, but it didn’t interfere with anything because he didn’t have to oversee anything. Kevin and I were going to spend serious quality time together. We spent valuable time with other couples sharing God’s Word and the value of marital accountability and finally, God revealed a few things that He’s doing in our marriage and ministry.
We’ve gone to the retreat for several years and it has been increasingly difficult for us to spend time together; we’d go out and spend all of our time with other couples, sometimes to the wee hours of the morning, do a little shopping or even catch up on some much needed sleep. All the while, we’re inadvertently denying ourselves much needed time together. Well, not this time.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
How's everyone? I hope you had an amazing weekend. I know I've been away for a few days, but believe me, Kevin and I needed it. As well, work has had me bogged down too.
Anyhoo, our, Kevin and my, discussions have been vast and plentiful. I just love talking to my husband. there's just something about him that energizes my Spirit and I want to do more and be better.
But aside from all that, I was recently speaking to a very dear friend and we were discussing the status of a relationship that she presumed was over. In the midst of the seperation, change has occurred in both parties, but she's stll a little suspicious of him. Quite frankly, I know it's fear. I just pray she doesn't make him pay for past mistakes too long. You know what I mean. They are truly making a go of it now and that excites my heart so much. I can hear the absolute joy when she speaks of him and their new journey together.
So, today's questions is: Do people really change? If you thought your heart was over someone and they popped back up in the picture, you're both single, would you receive them or or hold past transgessions against them.
I know this question is loaded and a bit ambiguious, it's meant to be. I've constantly learned from my husband, that sometimes a question is just that; a question. No need to read into it or make more of it.
Share your thoughts.