20 Years of Precious Memories

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
—Song of Solomon 6:3

Just look at the memories of the past twenty years! Yes, twenty years ago today Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. In front of family and friends, we pledged to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. How these 20 years have flown by!

Much has happened over the years. We’ve experienced both good and not-so-good seasons, but one thing has always sustained us:

God is at the center of our marriage.

The path God has chosen for us as a couple has not always been easy but it is always the best for us because it is His plan for our marriage. I have spent many years enduring chronic pain while Rick has been battling leukemia.  All of this has served to bring us closer together as we take care of each other. And how can we not praise and glorify God through all of it? He is the one who brought us together!

Rick gave me a special ring years ago. It has two intertwining bands that read: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” And isn’t that the very essence of marriage? We belong to each other through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

This image is included in the collage of memories above. We call it the Marriage Triangle and you’ll note that Jesus sits at the top. Rick is on one side and I am on the other side. That symbolizes the fact that Jesus is the head of our marriage. We look to Him for guidance each day and through every situation. And we can vouch for how much closer we have become to each other as we have learned how to walk more in step with Jesus every day.

I am always thankful that God chose Rick to be the other half of my orange. I know that sounds strange but here’s how that phrase came to be a part of our marriage. 

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used an illustration of the orange to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone. 

This also applies to illness. For example, many days Rick is my caretaker, making sure I do not overdo and going out of his way to drive me on errands that need doing. There are also times when Rick isn’t feeling too well and I make sure he gets enough rest and takes the medications that help when he has a flare-up of his symptoms. 

And let’s not forget about the power of prayer in marriage. Rick and I regularly pray for each other. We pray for our family and friends. We pray together for people we know are in need of prayer. And we also pray before we travel—whether by vehicle or motorcycle—asking God to protect us and our home while we are away. 

Contrary to the belief that marriage is a 50/50 partnership, it needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all the time. I read this great quote a while back:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

To my Rick: Happy 20 years together and may there be at least another 20!!! 💞

Covenant Vows

Today’s post is from Theology for Women, but this article is good for all husbands and wives to read.

Covenant Vows

By Wendy Alsup

A covenant is a binding agreement. Our world acknowledges a myriad of secular covenants, particularly in the financial realm. Financial covenants, like a mortgage or business partnership, aren’t to be entered lightly, and it is good that there are serious consequences to those who break such financially binding agreements. Economies can fail when parties default on such agreements, particularly en masse.

Secular covenants give us a tiny glimpse of the importance of spiritual covenants. The covenant vows of Christian marriage are a serious thing. We stand before God, friends and family as our witnesses, and repeat vows to another person. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Til death do us part. The ordained minister of the gospel speaks a final word of blessing and warning, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

But in the 1970’s California became the first state to pass no fault divorce laws. What God had joined together became much easier for man to put asunder without Biblical cause or process. Soon, believers who benefit from God’s faithful covenant with themselves began taking advantage as much as unbelievers of the government’s easy path to undo such covenant vows.

Marriage vows are not the only covenants we make with another. My denomination takes the vow of church membership quite seriously. I covenant with pastors, elders, and other church members to pursue the purity and peace of my church. I covenant with them that they can count on me, and they in return covenant that I can count on them.

I’ve made covenant vows to my children as well. When I chose to bring them into this world and not give them up for adoption, I committed, at least in God’s and the government’s sight, to protect and provide for them. My commitment to my children feels a lot like God’s to Abraham in Genesis 12-17. God took both sides of the vow with Abraham. He would fulfill His covenant with Abraham because God was faithful, not because Abraham was. Similarly, I bear the heaviest weight of my covenant with my children. They may rebel, but I will remain their mother. They may run from me, but I will pursue them nonetheless. To do less would be to abdicate my responsibilities in their lives.

We tend to make covenant vows, particularly the marriage kind, in the filtered sunlight of a warm (but not hot) spring day. We make them as the sun shines and the flowers bloom. Loved ones smile warmly around us. And the ones with whom we are entering covenant welcome us toward them.

But the shining starts of our covenants aren’t the point of these covenants. They aren’t the reason for these covenants. The vows we make in front of God and family in our white dresses and tuxes, with filtered spring sunlight illuminating our pictures, aren’t for these days. The sweet days of filtered sunlight and happy smiles don’t require binding agreements to keep folks together. No one has to twist your arm to love your spouse, care for your child, or persevere with your church on such beautiful days glowing with the warmth of new hope and promise for the future. No, covenants aren’t for those days at all.

Read the rest here.

Don’t Leave Jesus Out of Your Marriage

Sharing today from Challies.com.

Don’t Leave Jesus
Out of Your Marriage

By Tim Challies

recently had the opportunity to speak and preach on marriage. This is always a tremendous challenge personally. There’s nothing like spending a couple of weeks deep in what the Bible says about marriage to expose my insufficiencies as a husband and to come face-to-face with all the ways I fail to be all God calls me to be and to be all my wife deserves.

More than anything else, I was challenged to continue to ensure Jesus is the center of our marriage. And that challenge came in what struck me as an unexpected way. I was studying the first bit of Paul’s great passage on marriage and examining the verses that pertain to wives. Paul means to bring order to the Christian household—“You’ve turned to Christ in repentance and faith, now here’s how to live as a distinctly Christian family saved and shaped by the gospel.” 

Read the rest here.

5 Things Not to Do in Your Marriage

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Things Not to Do in Your Marriage

By Elisha Galotti

Romantic love never grows old. It’s a theme in classic literature, a thread through every Shakespearean play, and the storyline of countless Hollywood movies. But every writer, poet, and storyteller is only retelling a story already told. Romance originated with God. It is one of His amazing creations.

Even before the world broke with sin, the first man’s heart longed for the sweet romantic love of a bride. And God made him one.

The other day I said to my husband, “Imagine the kind of marriage Adam and Eve would have had before the Fall.” So we had fun imagining. They would have laughed so much. They would have enjoyed every moment together. They never would have fought. They never would have gotten irritated. They never would have been selfish. They never would have spoken an unkind word. Sex would have literally been amazing every time.

A perfect romance in a perfect marriage in a perfect world.

But then Eve was deceived, and Adam chose to believe a lie. In that instant, not only was there a fracture in their relationship with God but sin also infected the relationship between husband and wife. Romantic love—this gift created by God and given to His first people—was suddenly and forever changed.

Romance would never again be perfect.

The first couple began sinning against each other, and every wife and every husband since has known the same battle. Even in marriages that are loving, faithful, and happy, sin still plays a role.

Read the rest here.

The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

Sharing today from the Radical blog.

The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

By Sean Gould

Have you guys had your orange juice moment yet?

This was a question my wife and I received over dinner with an older couple in our church. We had been married for a few months and were excited to spend the evening with an older and wiser couple in their home. This question, however, was a little bit of a shock to us. We had not received it before and certainly did not know what they meant. We stumbled a bit in our response and confessed we were a bit confused by the question.

They proceeded to tell us a story that explained the origin of this odd question. Many years ago when they were a newly married couple, they ventured out one Saturday morning together to the local grocery store. After walking through various aisles together and placing items into their cart they finally came to the orange juice section.

Read the rest here.

Marriage for Worse, for Poorer, and in Sickness

This is an excellent article from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Marriage for Worse, for Poorer,
and in Sickness

By Sarah Walton

I remember the moment I stood before my groom and recited my wedding vows. I certainly didn’t expect life to be perfect, but I assumed my marriage would be filled with more of “better” than “worse.”

With stars in my eyes, and blissfully unaware of what the future would hold, I confidently vowed, “I take you, Jeff, to be my lawful 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, for as long as we both shall live.”

That was almost 13 years ago.

Trials Can Test Your Marriage Vows

Little did I know those thirteen years would hold chronic illness, financial loss, special needs, suffering children, marital strain, and overwhelming stress. I never imagined that I’d experience so much of the “worse, poorer, and in sickness” part of our vows.

I’m grateful as I reflect on the unexpected trials that have tested our marriage. In God’s goodness, the “worse” parts of our marriage have ushered in a deeper, Christ-centered experience of the “better.” This hasn’t come without the pain of loss and failure; yet Christ has used it to mature us in him, change our character, and increase our love for each other.

This, of course, is only possible with and through Christ. While God can certainly change the heart of a non-believing spouse and use the pain of unbelief to draw both spouses to himself, the following truths reflect a husband and wife who’ve put their faith in Christ and desire to follow him. If you’re married to an unbelieving spouse, I pray God will use the trials to draw them to a saving faith in Christ.

Read the rest here.

Enduring Love

February is traditionally the month of celebrating love. The following is the love story of a very close friend and a wonderful way to end this love month!

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Enduring Love

Boarding the Greyhound bus late, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space.  She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the dim overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald, and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the handsome stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first holiday weekend. She had just enough time to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter that may have materialized from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates; of enviable cultural and educational experiences.

Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The day he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with ebullient love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled; prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors any amount of trust and reliance, accepting minuscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20, NIV). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small amount of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith will gradually mature into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing amounts of submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16, NIV)
.

God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, designating us as His current disciples.

God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated nearly fifty years ago when He answered a dubious prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70 mph!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).