What does it mean to “help” my husband?

I was pondering my wifely skills and shortcomings (praying He will “cleanse me from my secret faults”) this morning and asked God the question:  What does it mean to “help” my husband.  I know this word (Genesis 2:18) comes from the same Hebrew root translated in Psalm 54:4 where is says “God is my helper.”  Being like God to my husband?  Lord, what does that look like?  God loves unconditionally and faithfully.  God always forgives, always hears and listens, guides and guards, and looks for ways to bless.  He helps.

Helps.  The Ministry of Helps, I’ve been learning, is simply that:  helping where help is needed.  It includes but is not limited to, Holy Spirit-led ministering via a hug, listening ear, kind word, thoughtful deed, card, letter, call, or even an e-mail that says, “You’ve been on my heart and I just want you to know I love you,” etc.  And all of that is best served with Word-based, Holy Spirit-led prayer.

Is that something Christians just know how to do?  Apparently not or they’d also know the joy of it, and do it more often.  And more effectually.  Listen:  No one needs a “woe are we, such worms who only deserve death” prayer.  No one needs our lies added to Satan’s because we’re scriptural illiterates who think God has good days and bad days, and it’s a roll of the dice, and He’s probably not going to help anyway, but it’s worth a shot.  We guess.  Maybe.

People need prayers of faith based on the truth of God’s Word about His great and never-ending love for us.  People need prayers from people who know what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  They need prayers from people whose hearts are actually filled with the very Spirit of God because they’ve accepted the gift of Jesus and what He accomplished at Calvary.  People need to be ministered to in the power of this Love.

I weep when I begin ministering like this at church.  My heart is so grieved as I pray for people and realize their desperate need of prayer and of a caring touch, that sometimes I can hardly speak through the slinging snot.  What a picture, right?  No one seems to care that I have to blow l my nose throughout the prayer.  What they care about is being cared about.  I realize as the Holy Spirit reveals hearts to me during prayer, that people are broken-hearted and disconnected.  They are weak, weary, and vulnerable to that ever-prevalent lie of the enemy:  No one cares a single thing about you.

I have learned that even my adult children, who have been taught from their very beginnings that they are more precious than words can say, are susceptible to this lie.  And since this lie comes at them continuously in some form or fashion, I must continuously speak and pray the truth.

The tendency is to see a problem in an adult child’s life and to lament it, pray that situation changed or certain influences removed, and to frown really hard in the meantime.  But those children need equipping.  “Equipping” sounds like tools and gear and rules and how-to instructions.  But those are physical things, and must be preceded by the spiritual.

Let me clarify. I’ve been considering the incredible pressures my children face right now.  I’ve been doing a little more worrying than I should (any worrying is more than I should worry) and a little less praying than I should, and a little more speaking the problem than I should (yep, ANY speaking the problem is more than I should speak).  My daughter, Hannah, for an example, is fighting numerous hard battles right now.  She wants to excel at all things, and let no one down ever (especially God) while in the midst of extreme responsibilities and demanding/needy people, but without extreme support.

Except for her parents.  We are extreme support.  We are equippers.  We don’t say, “Well, Hannah has her act together, Hannah reads the Word and prays more diligently than do her siblings, Hannah will be fine,” as we focus on the others.

No!  That should not be the reward for her efforts.  The squeaky wheels shouldn’t be the only ones getting the grease. When I sense there is a difficulty, and when I don’t, there is still a difficulty, or very possibly a host of difficulties.  It’s time, not only to pray for Hannah as usual, but to pray with her.  To let God use me to bless my child.

As He does.  It’s such a blessing when I call and say, “I want to pray for you,” and then to be used by God to speak things I had no idea about, but that bless and strengthen and help her.  I did this recently only after several days of prayer and consideration, and a two-hour quiet time with Jesus in the Word and in prayer.  This meant that through my prayers He was speaking to her heart, blessing her heart, strengthening and helping her, giving her perspective on things that were troubling her.  Bringing her peace, power and an undergirding for her day.  Equipping her.  It’s my job.

The Word talks about equipping the saints, and we’re all too ready to sign on for that:  Oh come all ye saints and listen unto me.  I shall equip you!!!  But we are to start where it all starts.  At home.  We come before the Throne of Grace for our personal equipping, putting on the full armor of God, hearing His voice, heeding His voice, seeking Him and basking in His goodness and grace.  Then, and only then are we equipped to equip.

We moms are also ready to sign on for equipping our kids first, and our husbands next, or last, or never.  But that essential time in the Word and prayer will straighten out all the crookedness in our thinking, and we will come to see the truth about “helping” our husbands:  We are acting as God’s most essential ambassadors, His equippers.

Just as the Queen of England has no need to drive the car, neither do we have to be front, center, and “in charge” when we know our true worth to God as Homemakers.  Let us embrace, accept, and occupy our thrones as He intends.

 

Create in Me (and especially in that other person) a Clean Heart, O God.

I recently heard two very different sermons – one was an admonition that if you don’t do what your pastor says you are in rebellion, and the other was a preacher accused of rebellion himself, because he was preaching not to do what the world does, or what anyone says, but to do what Jesus says: to trust, love, forgive, and to take dominion by faith-filled, absolutely fearless, uncompromising words and actions.

The sad thing is that the attempt to squelch and squash and force people into doing whatever they’re told, and saying if they don’t they’re rebellious, is a surefire, tried and true, works-every-time way to push people into rebellion.

Satan’s ways. They don’t work very well, folks.  We try to force our spouses into behaviors based on what our vision is.  Usually when we’re under that controlling spirit our vision amounts to this:  you agree with me on every single issue and we’ll all be happy as larks.  That controlling spirit is a spirit of rebellion, and so blinding it makes us think everyone else is in rebellion.  It walks hand in hand with pride, and therefore, goes before a fall.

That spirit comes after us when we give into fear – fear God can’t or won’t handle this, we must take it into our own hands, do it like some other book, certainly not THE BOOK, says to do it: Childrearing 101; Husband-fixing 101; Basic I know best; Making others behave so I don’t have to for dummies who think everyone else is a dummy.

Disrespect is what this amounts to.  Listen, if you’re gonna take that line you had better be the second perfect human. Of course you’re saying that you’re actually more perfect than that one perfect man, Jesus.  You’re ignoring Him, disrespecting and disregarding Him, and in His Name, Glory Hallelujah, you’re spouting Satan’s lies, and going his way.

But please don’t let us judge anyone else for doing this, because the more horrified we are about it, the more susceptible we are to going from a place of grief and prayer to a place of anger and judgement. And then we, too, will be easy prey.  All of a sudden no one will want to be around us, all of a sudden we’ll be lecturing our kids, and dishonoring our mates, and thinking no one is as smart and wise as are we – just like the behavior we so recently abhorred in someone else.

John Maxwell talks about this in How Successful People Win. He says it was hard for him not to buy into his own press, his own place of leadership, without becoming prideful and unwilling to listen to others’ gentle corrections.  The problem, as he said in so many words, is that once you disdain what someone prayerfully and carefully and in love, tries bringing to your attention, they’ll stop.

It’s an untenable position for the one wanting to help. There is only one answer and that is faith in God through prayer.  The flesh and every logical thought says, “Fine.  See if I try to help your know-it-all self again.”  But after prayer for this attacked and fragile human, remembrance of the real enemy comes, we get revelation about what the enemy is up to, and what’s going on in the precious heart of the one we love.

And, we are ready to fight again.  This time, however, we will let God handle it.  We will only speak if He says to speak (if you’re unsure and have no peace about it, keep still), and we will only say what He says to say.  And . . . we will do it under the anointing, the very love, of Jesus.

If you try and try and try again, and all you get is trampled for your efforts, as the one you love is acting less like a friend or lover, and more like a swine, you can remember two things: 1) God doesn’t expect you to get beat up and disrespected and disregarded; and 2)  He really can handle it.

And here’s where another fear must be faced and fought and brought DOWN.  It’s the fear that this person is going to have that promised fall that follows pride, and that the fall will be too great to be borne, the damage beyond repair.

But when all else fails, it is a clear sign that it’s time for the only thing that never fails: Be still and know that He is God.

About this time is when the object of your prayers starts asking you what’s wrong, what’s on your mind. But unless you know they’re in a place where they really want to know and to do the right thing, rather than in  a place where they simply don’t want the discomfort of you not being all about them, just keep still.

You can say, “I’ll tell you if you really think you want to know, and are ready to listen, and you promise not to get upset.” There’s a good chance here, and be ready for it, they will not respond well to this.  That’s OK.  It’s time to trust God, remember?  He is so much more than able.

What a difference 24 hours can make. You can pray and declare and do warfare, and it looks like it didn’t do a bit of good, and then one or two days later you find yourself trying to keep up with this person set free, and about to sail away to a higher place in Jesus.  Set free.  This is not the time to say, “Ha!  You’d still be acting like a pig in a pen if it weren’t for me, and my super-anointed, spiritual giant prayers!”

All this requires harnessing the tongue to the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible tells us in the Book of James that no man can tame the tongue.  But the Holy Spirit can not only tame it, He can make it a powerful weapon against the enemy of our souls.  I like to pray David’s words from Psalms: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

When we get too focused on the wrong spirits operating on and pressuring and having a high old time in other people, when all we can see is their stupidity and ignorance and stubbornness, it can mess up our own spirits. Not only that, it can make us prey (judgement does this) to those very same problems in our own sweet selves!

Let us not focus on what the enemy is doing, but on the Greater One who can whip him every single time. Amen!

P.S.  Love is Patient.  Love is Kind.  And Love is Fearless, which is why, as we know, Love never fails.

P.P.S.  Remember to get your copy of “The Maker’s Marriage” right here on homefrontshow.com just by clicking on the picture of the book! 

No Reproach, Mrs. Bennett, I Beg You! ESPECIALLY on the 4th of July!

There are potatoes to be chopped and bacon to be crisped to go along with everything else already ready for potato salad.  There is a feast to be shared and great and glorious words to be heard this evening at church before the fireworks.

(No, this is not my potato salad, but I thought it looked appetizing.  Mine has potatoes, celery, dill pickles, green and sweet white onions, mustard, mayo, sea salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and bacon)

As usual, there is much to be done!  But first things first, regardless.  Communing with my Maker in His beautiful Word, in prayer. in praise and thanksgiving.

“Thank you, God, for America.  For freedom.  For bringing me from glory to glory, from freedom to freedom.”  A nation is only as free as its people, and people are only as free as they allow Jesus to indwell them.  Free indeed.

I was free this morning to become upset because my breakfast and git-er-done plans weren’t quite panning out.  The raisin bread was generously spread with organic salted butter, the applesauce in the serving bowl, bacon browning nicely in the oven, coffee in the French press, Rooibos in the teapot, milk in the cow creamer and heavy cream in the pitcher.

And then it was time to whip up the eggs for scrambling.  But alas!  It appears that last night someone ate almost all the remaining eggs in the fridge.  Four eggs to feed five people.  I asked a daughter to go after more eggs (in another fridge in another building) so we could have breakfast before another daughter had to leave for work.

But the speed of molasses was quite fast compared to the movements of my tribe this morning, and early-morning logic told my daughter that she had to look ready for a photo shoot in order to go after eggs.

Temptation to sabotage breakfast with my stress and upset set in.  Temptation to reproach my beloved for scrambling not one, not two, not three, but six eggs last night set in.  Temptation was after me, plaguing me – to vent about “slow and lazy” people, to put labels onto my children they need like a hole in the head.

Who has the hole in the head, anyway?  Why didn’t I simply invite the daughter who’s leaving early to join me on the balcony with baked peanut butter on raisin bread and a lovely cup of French roast with heavy cream in the cool and birdsong-blessed morning?

I plugged the hole with praise and prayer and DETERMINATION not to gripe or complain or in anyway ruin the joy and beauty of the morning for my beloveds, and all of a sudden they appeared, smiling, hugging, thanking me for breakfast, eager to partake (perhaps the power of the wafting smell of bacon?)..

So I scrambled those four eggs, and the going-to-work daughter (who doesn’t care for eggs anyway) happily put peanut butter and honey on her raisin toast, and had thick and crispy bacon slices with applesauce and tea and was happy as could be.  Between the other four of us the eggs were plenty.  Where is it written, I asked myself, that we all have to have two or three eggs every morning?  No wonder I’m a bit sluggish after breakfast sometimes!

SO GLAD I DIDN’T REPROACH JOHN FOR EATING THOSE EGGS LAST NIGHT.  I was less tempted by the lack of eggs, than by my disapproval of late-night eating.  Reproach, I know full well, never changed a husband.  Conviction by the Holy Spirit of our Creator, perhaps put in motion by my faith-filled prayers, has often worked wonders in the lives of my beloveds.

Reproach, not so much.  Reproach is very often also disdain, disapproval, censure, judgment, condemnation, and shaming.  Guilt, in other words.  Guilt, as we all know from experience, doesn’t lead to repentance, to a true turning in a new direction.

“Do not reproach your husband,” has been ringing through my mind for weeks now.  I am coming to see, in my forfeiting my “right” to even the slightest of complaints, that I am setting myself free.  I am placing myself in a right position to be in God’s blessing, and out of God’s way!

“No lace, Mrs. Bennett! No lace, I beg you!”  Mr. Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)vehemently commanded Mrs. Bennett to spare him, but she blithely ignored him.  “Respect, Mrs. Bennett,” was his heart’s cry, and silly and foolish woman that she was, she sought her own amusement at his expense.

“The heart of her husband safely trusts her,” about the Proverbs 31 woman, is a verse of continuing revelation for me. “Lord,” I ask, “Can John safely trust me?” Usually, perhaps because of the following line, “He has no lack of gain,” my thoughts turn to money. “How can I do better in this area?”

But as we pass the years together, I see that more and more what John’s heart needs from mine is simply to love him as he is, even as he changes and grows right along with me, unhindered (I pray) by my interference in his relationship with God.

 

Oh, Father, I thank you for your patience with me, and for growing patience in me. And I thank you for this wonderful child of yours, John, whose heart you have entrusted to my care.  May I be ever more skillful in that sacred trust.  Amen.

 

Hooray!  Freedom!  Especially on the 4th of July.

 

I Did Not Need My Economics Degree to Figure this One Out

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Just as I predicted, with the election of Donald Trump, the American economy is exploding.  And I believe that will mean fewer marriages ravaged by financial stress, more opportunities on all fronts, and most of all, I hope it means more moms will be able to be at home.  Homemakers, homekeepers, hearthtenders.

I not only hope, I earnestly and diligently pray that we are about to, once again, become a society where people are nurtured in the most excellent place of all – home.  And by the most blessed and privileged of all people – homemakers.

I wasn’t so privileged when I got the “education”, bought the Italian pumps and sported the chic haircut.  I had a fancy office all my own and a degree – a piece of paper – to prove I was somebody.

But now I have “medals”.  “You and John have medals,” a lady at church recently said to me after we stood together as a family before the congregation.  The pastor had asked our oldest son to come forward for prayer, along with John and me, before leaving for officer training in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Our other three joined us as well.  The pastor prayed, John prayed, and I managed to pray through the tears of an utterly full heart.

There were other words spoken and joys shared and then those words from a lady I didn’t know.  “You and John have medals.”  She paused and I waited as she gazed at our children.  “Your children are medals.”

Indeed.  And we fought for them.  We fought financial fears when I chucked that fancy job to stay home with Benjamin.  “It’s an opportunity to trust,” I said to John when the doctor said if I didn’t abort Hannah I would not survive.  Told I would miscarry Rebekah, again we donned the full armor of God and we fought.  Recovering from the C-section that brought us Seth, I battled for my health and vitality, and John prayed me through those wearying days.

Attempting to hear God and not our own insecurities or preferences, or the opinions of others, we stood our ground when we decided to home school.  John prayed as I sought self-discipline, self-control and patience.

Always, we suited up for battle with the Word of God in our mouths, saying what He said about our children, rather than what we wanted to spew out of our mouths.  This child is impossibly strong-willed, stubborn, willful, and I am at my wit’s end with her!  was the thought.  The words were prayers and positive scriptural confessions:  “This child is my great and glorious gift, fearfully and wonderfully made for God’s purposes and she will live in the light and bring blessings all the days of her life.”

And so on.  Through the years I have made the most powerful and eternally profitable investment a woman ever has the privilege to make:  I have raised my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  I have been a homemaker.

For John, the husband who supported my determination to do whatever it took to raise my children (for a time we took all four of them with us on our trim and tile jobs) I am grateful beyond all measure.

Because I raised my older children as a single mother, or rather they were raised by the daycare center and the public school system, I know the immeasurably high cost of a “real” job, of a society-sanctioned career.  I know the ever-diminishing returns on that kind of investment – investment in the world’s ways.

“I simply can’t go through that again,” I said to John when we talked about my returning to work and finding childcare for Benjamin.  It wasn’t just about my baby, it was about me, and my peace of mind.  It was about that deepest of needs in my heart, the need to make a home for my family, to be a homemaker.

A homemaker who is also a homeschooler has it made in the shade, especially if she has a strong and good husband.  Her life in no way resembles the stereotype of the harried and frantic chicken-with-her-head-cut-off mommy.  Rather, if she seeks the impartation of wisdom freely given via simply asking the Holy Spirit and reading God’s Word each and every single morning, she grows ever more skillful in battle, ever more confident and in full receipt of her rewards.  Her life is lived in rhythms of grace, rather than in sorrow and regret.

If I had it to do over in what I call my “first life” I would have cleaned houses and taken my babies with me, or lived in a tent by the river, or moved in with family.  But I would not have sacrificed my children on the altar of career, I would not have bought the line that I “couldn’t afford” to do otherwise.

I would have said, “What I can’t afford is the breaking of the little hearts and spirits of my children by leaving them in the care of, at best, indifferent workers while I go and chase the almighty dollar.

I am eternally grateful for this second chance, but regarding my older children, there are no overs.  I urge and exhort you, if you have young children being raised by others as your heart yearns for them, pray and believe God for the highest of callings and privileges, that He will make the way, that He will be the author and the finisher of your parenting, your marriage, your family.  Your home.

Then say joyously to all who ask who you are and what you do:  I AM A HOMEMAKER.

Courtesy Begins at Home

heart-in-gate” . . . there is no place in the world where the amenities of courtesy should be so carefully maintained as in the home. There are no hearts that hunger so for the expressions of affection as the hearts of which we are most sure.  There is no love that so needs its daily bread as the love that is strongest and holiest.  There is no place where rudeness or incivility is so unpardonable as inside our own doors and toward our best beloved.”  – Rev. J. R. Miller, D.D. in Home-Making

Rude and disrespectful children were not taught at home the example of kindness and consideration.  They were not shown by their parents the value of respecting the hearts of others.

From the time our kids were small we praised them for their kindnesses to others, and actively taught them how to bring light to the lives of others via small kindnesses.  And it began at home.

“Your sister is a gift from God, one that you will always have.  When you’re a very old man and have a sad day you will call her and tell her your troubles and she will pray for you and tell you she loves you,” we told the boys more than once.

“Some girls don’t have brothers,” I remember telling one of the girls.  “Your brother will grow up to be a good, strong, kind man just like your dad, and he will always care about you and always help you and always love you.”

And so forth.  And then, we would tell them to spend just a little time alone to pray (it’s never too early to teach a child to take their burdens to Jesus) and later they were required to give each other hugs and say, “I love you.”

To this day we have four kids who love each other and show it.  They are kind and courteous almost all of the time.  And if they slip up we are quick to check them.  As I said to our oldest son not long ago, “You will never have a truer friend, you will never know a more quality person, than your brother.  He’s a 17-year-old male right now, and if you’ll think back to when you were a 17-year-old male . . .”

He got the point:  Courtesy begins at home.

“The tenderer the love and the truer, the more it craves the thousand little attentions and kindnesses which so satisfy the heart.” –  Rev. J. R. Miller, D.D. in Home-Making

Would you just be still?

The question:  Is it perseverance or pig-headedness, initiative or insanity?

The answer:  It depends on whose behavior I’m trying to change, whose revelation I’m trying to get.

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The tried but not true way of living is to beat my head against a brick wall, yet again.  Maybe if I phrase it just right, wait for just the right opening, pick my timing – maybe this time that thick-headed soul will see the light!

But this morning I decided I just really didn’t want the resultant inevitable headache of the brick wall encounter.  And so . . . believe it or not . . . I kept still and silent.  When John finally asked me, “What are you thinking?” I didn’t jump at his throat like a hungry piranha.

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How did this miracle occur?  Because I waited and prayed and thought of what truths I knew, beginning with:  Is this love or is this fear?  I know enough to know that when I’m fretting, frustrated, or consumed with some unpleasant thought pattern, I am in fear.

And so, as I thought of what revelations I wanted John to get, I was reminded that I need not fear, that even if John NEVER sees it my way, God is certainly big enough to get around that.  And so, when he asked me what I was thinking, I said, “I’m thinking that even when we make a mistake, it’s not a mistake.”

And then I went to be alone and pray.  I asked God for a specific word, and I opened my Bible up to Jonah.  I got lots out of that story that I never saw before, and I finished with God telling Jonah, in brief, “Don’t you think I know a few things you don’t know, don’t you know you can be wrong even when you’re absolutely sure your way is the only way?”

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In short, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I took that literally.  Sit still.  Don’t move.  Don’t be frustrated with the lie-abouts in your house.  Rather be glad they’re all still abed so you can have time and peace.  Stop trying to change others so God can change you.  So you can be still.  And know.  He is God.

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Yay! Chapter 3 of The Maker’s Marriage

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4

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Beverly has got her a good man.”—Leona Webb, my grandmother, upon watching John do his usual stellar job in changing Rebekah, using his perfectly folded cloth diaper. I store up and call on such memories any time the enemy of my soul tries to make me discontent. And, what’s more, I share such stories. I brag on my man.

3 – Them Positive Confessions

 First Words Count Bigtime

       Her name was Sharon, and she was an obvious and victorious Christian. She was my beautiful and joyous neighbor, striding across the parking lot on her husband’s arm. When she asked how things were going, my litany of defeat was the wrong answer. “Oooh, Girl,” she said, “Quit makin’ them negative confessions!”

Your first words, in any situation, set the tone; they give the invite—either for blessing or breaking, for life or for death. Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

Look at the following two scenarios and then determine which one sounds more like my friend Sharon’s probable response to any marital discord:

  1. “That’s it. I’ve had it. I don’t have to listen to this crap.”
  2. Long and deep breath, concentrated thought and internal prayer. Father, you promised me wisdom. Help me to understand what’s really going on here. Help me to see my mate as you see him. Give me the words. Speak through me, Holy Spirit.

Incidentally, Sharon had a special place in my heart simply because she was the wife of an OU football player.

“Who cares?” you say. “How is OU football relevant?”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? OU football is relevant to all things, especially my and John’s first argument.

We were having Thanksgiving at my dad’s and we ruined it for everyone, arguing over Oklahoma vs. Arkansas football. When John started badmouthing the Sooners and I came right back with cut-to-the-bone remarks about the Razorbacks (to which John said I was just as obnoxious as any other Sooner fan). We knew nothing about the power of first words. We were simply focused on having the last word.

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Recently John and I got a little tiny bit crossways over the care and cleaning of wooden cutting boards. When he responded to my learned wisdom with an unbelieving “Who told you that?” my mind instantly went into turbo-charged overdrive. But right in the middle of the thoughts, I think I know a little more than you about a few things, and I am not the village idiot, and I don’t have to give you chapter and verse, I put on the brakes and started trying to see things his way. He does not think I’m the village idiot. After a few moments wherein he picked up his book and began pretending to read as I watched and tried not to grin, he looked at me and grinned back.

Who, really, gives a flying flip about the care and keeping of wooden cutting boards? I do, I do, I do. I’m right. Go find the info on the Net and prove it to him. Or just shut up, give him a hug and let God handle it.

If it turns out John is right (using harsh soap and hot water and scrubbing my lovely boards) I will simply smile and say, “Well, Honey, I should have known you were right. What was I thinking? Where do I sign up for the Germophobe Club?” He’ll then give me a bear hug and call me a smartass and wonder why he ever thought he could have the last word. I just can’t lose, really. And neither can he.

Oh, you want to know the details, so you can see who’s right and who’s wrong? After all, you say, “There are different protocols for cleaning up after raw chicken as opposed to chopped walnuts!” The point is simply, “Are we really going to get crossways over this?” If pride’s on board (giving Satan legal access) then yes, we will get crossways. Two people cannot live together in real harmony of spirit when pride is in operation. Pride’s presence will result in both people thinking and saying “I” and “me” thoughts.

John and I once cooked dinner for a young couple with two little ones (one a newborn), and were enjoying their company immensely. But when the toddler got stinky there was an immediate battle about who would change him. I empathized with the stay-at-home mom who, when the husband said it was her turn, came back with, “I’ve been changing him all day. It’s your turn.”

In John, I am blessed to have a husband who wanted his turn, who was smart enough to know I had gotten my fill of “turns.” But still, when my babies were wet or dirty, I just handled it. Whoever found it, whoever was closer, took care of it. We looked at caring for our children as a duty and a privilege, and as a joint and joyous effort. It was not a competition in laziness.

Of course, I wasn’t always so sharp. In fact, I was more than a bit overwhelmed with my firstborn, Vann. My dad came by to check on us when Vann was three weeks old. He found Vann crying in my arms as I wailed and dropped tears all over my baby’s sweet head. “One of you,” Dad said, “is going to have to be an adult.” Not me, I immediately thought. I looked down at my child. Oh.

In those days I was truly on my own, except for the blessed weekends when Dad bought my gas so I could go home to Mom. It was a tough job, but there was no alternative. One of us, as a wise man once said, had to be an adult.

What does that look like? First of all, let’s establish the fact that adult behavior very often has an inverse relationship with age. I have numerous memories of adult and responsible behavior as a child and as a teen, and even more memories of being a brat at age 45. Adult behavior begins with yielding to Jesus, and therefore operating in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Childish behavior whines, “I want what I want and that’s the end of it.” Adult behavior has the sense to know that first words set the tone, that first words are irretrievable, that the other person (remember, that mate God gave you to love, honor, cherish, bless, and fight for?) will be affected for good or for evil, depending on the words chosen.

First words go along with first actions. You will not get good actions in tandem with bad words. You will not rub your mate’s shoulders at the same time you say, “I hate your sorry self.”

Oh, you know all this, but you just can’t seem to stop with the harsh and hurtful words and ways? Jesus is the only permanent and complete solution to evil. And words that invite the devil to come on in and take up residence in your home are evil.

Again and as always, Jesus is the solution. To be more specific, the unconditional love, grace, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, and mercy of Jesus in you, will cause you to pass these things on to your mate. If Jesus doesn’t have your heart, if you haven’t accepted the gift of His love for you, if you aren’t spending time with Him every single day, then every time a problem or issue comes up, you’re in for it.

How much time with Jesus? That depends on how skilled you want to be in the fine arts of love and marriage. How much victory do you want?

Maybe your marriage is a battlefield. Change your weapons. In order for there to be Strife (remember Strife’s attendant putridness—confusion and every evil work?) you must be using the wrong weapons and fighting the wrong enemy. Repeat after me: “My mate is not the enemy. My mate is my mate.”

Words, particularly first words, are weapons, for good or for evil. Make up your mind for once and for all that your words will be weapons for good. And since we know from the Book of James that no man (in his own strength) can tame the tongue, you must harness yours to the Holy Spirit and get out of God’s way.

Yes, I know the pressure, the temptation to say what you’re feeling, is almost unbearable. I know when you manage not to go ballistic on your mate, you feel you have to tell someone. But resist! This is hazardous to the health of your marriage. The only one you can always safely tell is Jesus, and even then you must muzzle your tongue.

Satan can and will use everything you say against you. He’s the one pressuring you—endlessly, maddeningly—pushing, taunting, and provoking.

I remember once, long ago, when I decided to have a TV fast (the kids were little and I was beginning to use TV as a sitter) and I put the TV in the garage. The reactions were interesting. John didn’t care, the kids didn’t care. I, however, was consumed with a desire to watch all the Rocky movies. I couldn’t think of anything else. Well, I was smart enough (if barely) to recognize where this pressure and temptation came from, and to laugh at it. Note: If you laugh at the demons hissing in your ear, they will cease.

When I recognize fearful and untrue thoughts as what they are—lies, and refute them aloud with the truth (scripture), just as promised, the devil flees (“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7). When I eat half a jar of fudge sauce straight from the fridge and thoughts of defeat, recrimination and disgust come at me, I say, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” I’m choosing to believe II Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” This doesn’t mean I particularly approve of my behavior, but let me tell you this one thing: If I’m going to speak someone else’s words about me, that someone is not going to be Satan.

Who’s Using Your Words?

Remember, the words you speak will determine your actions. You’d better make sure they’re words of life and love and light. The words you speak will be used by God to make a way for His will, or they will be used by the Great Deceiver. First, he will pressure you into saying them (“Go ahead and leave, see if I care,” is a good example of words from Hell), and then he will convince you of your right to say them, and soon you’ll actually believe them. Of course, when the inevitable regret sets in, he’ll get you with shame and condemnation.

But if you know Jesus, if you meditate on His Word, you will be strong in His love, and able to refuse the enemy’s guilt trip. You will understand how guilt strengthens sin’s power over you.

I rejoice when I read Paul’s words about this shame-obliterating love in Romans 8:38, 39 – “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Eventually, as you spend increasing time in the Word and in prayer, you’ll recognize thoughts that aren’t life thoughts, and when you feel the pressure to say what should not be said, you’ll be able to say life words back to the death words—you’ll know in an instant to take those thoughts captive (Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – II Corinthians 10:5). You’ll be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that at the first hint of stress, you’ll be able to recognize and deal with its source.

The Fruits of the Spirit will become your weapons, your antidotes. When hateful thoughts come, you’ll counter and defeat them with Love (the really big gun!). When sorrow comes you’ll regain your strength by calling on Joy. Peace will annihilate worry, and impatience will give way to the formidable force of Patience. Rather than driving your mate away from the love of Christ with unkind words, Kindness will make both of you victorious! And rather than being a “control freak” (who is actually someone out of control), Self-control will rule you to such an extent that you won’t even notice the misbehaviors of others (except to pray POWERFUL prayers for them). Your weaknesses will become strengths.

The enemy of our souls attacks us when we’re weak, and in our weak spots. But we can look at these attacks as signposts, pointing us to the areas needing our attention, our nurturing, and concentrated prayer efforts.

Take Joy, for instance. The joy of the Lord is our strength, as we know from the Word, and from experiencing the power we feel when we’re joyous. Because I’m naturally a happy person, I don’t accept a lack of joy as normal. Do I still have to fight for my Joy? Absolutely! Because Joy is so important to a Home Maker’s success, the enemy will steal it if at all possible.

Do I walk in the Fruits of the Spirit all the time? I am there sometimes, in some areas. Other times, I feel myself getting all bent out of shape, and that’s my warning: Wait just one minute, Sister. What’s really going on here? Jesus, are you trying to tell me something?

Whadda Ya Say? Let’s Praise Our Mates!

clapping lady

There’s only one human whose opinion really matters to me. Recently John got up feeling terrible (an entire night following three entire weeks of coughing all night) and growled at me at the breakfast table. Because I’d given up sleeping next to him, and spent my night on the couch, I was not my usual wise and charming self. I snapped right back, slammed my uneaten breakfast in the sink and went on a walk.

In days of old I’d have stayed gone an hour or two—let him stew, right? This one took about five minutes. After asking God for wisdom (how did Satan get at us?) I thought of two things immediately: 1) I didn’t have my Quiet Time; and 2) just before our little tiff I said some very dangerous words—words of judgment. I judged people for judging people.

I was talking about the rampant divorce in the Church and saying that one major reason is because of how judgmental many Christians are about divorce. “What you judge will come on you,” I had said with just a bit of satisfaction.

You see, I was one of those divorced women who felt she had a huge red “D” branded on her forehead every Sunday. And when those family members who once judged me ended up with children who had their own marital issues (including divorce), perhaps I had been a bit smug.

Had I evaluated my own behavior, judging myself (For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. – I Corinthians 11:31) maybe I would have recognized I hadn’t quite forgiven those who judged me.

But God is patient, and always working with me, bringing me gently along. So, after my little walk and talk with Him, I went back to John, determined not to have my say and get my way and make him see the errors of his ways. I went back determined to join with him in kicking Satan in the teeth (and elsewhere).

Meanwhile our children were joined in prayer for us, and later told us they prayed almost exactly what we prayed. We prayed for additional issues (unbeknownst to them) that were uncovered through this event, and God grew us rather marvelously.

My “Ha, ha, ha’s” are now aimed at the enemy. And added to my never-to-be-missed-again Quiet Time is ever more fervent prayer for freedom for the Body of Christ.

Perhaps most satisfying of all is the sure knowledge that it will be a long, long time (I declare never) before I receive ugly thoughts, much less speak ugly words, to or about my darlin’.

*****

What do you say about your mate, about your marriage, and about yourself? Do those words line up with scripture? Are your words builder’s words or breaker’s words? Beware! Your mind will shut down to hear what your mouth has to say and will then act on it. If you say you’re sick and tired, you’re not putting up with it, it’s not fair, your marriage was a mistake, there’s no use in trying, your mate is a pig from Hell who gets to have all the fun, he doesn’t know how hard you work, etc., then your life, and you too, will be one big drag.

Suppose, however, that your words line up with scripture and you count your blessings all day long, always including that God neither gets fed up with you nor gives up on you. If also, you pray and read the Word morning, noon, and night, then your words will be life words, and your life will just get better and better and better.

Do you want your words to bring life? Do you want wrath long gone from your home? Find and memorize the following scripture from Proverbs 15:1—A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

Yes, memorization sounds formulaic, and therefore suspect—perhaps not exactly what the Holy Spirit has for your individual situation. But here’s the beauty of it: the more time you spend with Jesus, even if it begins simply as a habit and/or because someone else suggested it, the sooner you’ll get to that place where you love being with Jesus, and it will just be who you are—someone who listens, hears, trusts, and obeys; someone who is blessed and highly favored by the Most High.

Relish, guard, and look forward to your blessing time with Jesus, where you learn what He has to say about you, your mate, and your marriage. Tuck those words and thoughts away in your heart. Soon, those words—life words—will be what come out of your mouth. You will be a blessing to yourself and all others in your sphere of influence.

Yes, you have influence, and yes, you want that to be a good influence. Everything you say to and about your spouse is powerful. Get this. Your words count (“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof .” – Proverbs 18:21) and your thoughts count, as they determine your words.

It’s Not That Complicated

So how do you change your thoughts? The Word fills the heart, which fills the head, which fills the mouth. (“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”– Matthew 12:34). It’s as simple as that: move in close to Jesus and keep the Word before your eyes, and coming in your ears. When you fill your heart with the Good Word of Jesus, you will speak good words.

It’s your choice. Are your words going to bring life or death to your marriage? Are you going to build your mate, or tear him down?

Spare yourself the grief of knowing you let the enemy use your words to hurt those you love, those whose hearts God has entrusted to you. Remember, this doesn’t only happen in an all-out battle. You can deeply wound that heart so attuned to you—the one so desperately in need of your absolute and always-faithful love, respect and kindness—with seemingly inconsequential words (no such thing). Just a tiny little whine about something they were “supposed to” do, or something they “should” be, will wound a weary heart.

God wants your marriage to be beautiful, so get your eyes off your mate’s issues and onto Jesus. If you don’t think there are areas in your heart He would like to heal and clean up, you have a pride issue. Repent! Otherwise, you are bound to wound your mate.

Warning: “Supposed to” goes right in the trash can with “should.” You are under grace. Refuse law, and stop trying to be the law. Your name isn’t Sheriff Wife. Your name is Lover Girl. (Think in fives: See Romans 5 and Galatians 5.)

The Builder Lady

farmhouse

Proverbs 14:1 speaks to me every time I read it: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” The word “house” in this verse is translated from bayith, meaning “a house, especially family.”

Growing up and working on my dad’s construction sites gave me a good sense of what’s involved in building a house. Long before the homeowner served a lovely Thanksgiving turkey in her walnut-paneled dining room, there were plans, bulldozing, and slab pouring, plumbing, well drilling, and so forth. And this was just the beginning!

For the contractor, it was the beginning of headaches. Subcontractors didn’t show up and in some cases that was a blessing in disguise. Lumber store trucks delivered the wrong products, slabs resembled mountain ranges, rain never stopped, and the homeowner changed her mind about details almost daily.

But the contractor expected these little blips and even if there were times when he packed it up and went home early in hopes of saving his sanity, he always showed back up the next day. He was there for the duration. He was the “contractor”—he had a contract, an agreement, and he had a responsibility. And of course, he had the rewards: a beautiful finished product, a healthy amount of cash in the bank, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

More Than a Contractor

You, however, have much more than a contract. You made vows pertaining to a covenant. Even as your mission and calling are so much higher than that of a builder’s contract to construct a physical house, so are your potential rewards.

You won’t easily, magically, or instantly attain a strong and sure marriage and family. But if you are wise (and God promises us all wisdom for the asking) you can and will build your house, your family, your mate. With good words.

Suggested Reading: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell illustrates how great differences can be great strengths if we will let love have say-so; The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

Keys to Victory: Praise God that your tongue is a weapon for good; be the kind of woman your in-laws can brag on, because they love how you build their boy with your words; daily declare, “I take a stand against my enemy. My mouth is off limits. My words bring life!”