Monday, September 21, 2009

Marriage in Paradise?

Marital bliss, we’d all like to be there. But can it be a reality? Can we really get there? I suppose that depends on how you define marital paradise, bliss, nirvana etc…

The truth is paradise in marriage is not a destination constantly lit by a warm glow and filled with tummy tingles. While those things do exist they are not what most happily married couples would say keep them together after ten or more years of marriage. Once the hormones of the honeymoon are gone we have to actually work hard not to lose that loving feeling. Now that may seem obvious to many, but then why is our divorce rate so high? People really believe and say that they have fallen out of love! They actually expect to have the feelings of love forever. Sorry to be a killjoy, but in practice love is more of a verb than a noun.

So where is paradise found in marriage? Here is a short list-
When disagreements and simple conflicts don’t escalate to verbal warfare.
When we say or do something hurtful to our spouse and wish to apologize immediately.
When we’re genuinely interested in what our spouse has to say.
When being with our spouse is fun regardless of the activity.
When the things that once bugged us about them become meaningless.
When there seems to be a warm glow everywhere, and our tummy tingles… oops! I got carried away.

How do we get there as couples? I like to keep this list short, just two items-
Be a forgiver. If we believe that our spouse’s faults are bigger than our own; it is likely that we are not a good forgiver.
Be happily incompatible. Realize that the differences that we have actually benefits us. If we don’t embrace our differences as individuals we’re being self-centered.

My wife Tracy says that marriage is like a home improvement project that never ends. I like that for two reasons; the words improvement and never ends. Marriage is not the money pit home improvement project that sucks the life out of us. Like a good wine or investment it is something that improves over time. With the right attitude and some genuine effort we can have paradise in marriage. So bring on the tummy tingles ‘cause I’m all in!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Every Marriage Needs a Little Salsa

Sunset, mango salsa, live Latin music, my wife Tracy. These are the ingredients for a perfect date for me. Yes, I’m a man; and yes most of the time a woman would be more inclined to describe a perfect date with these ingredients. Except for the wife bit… But the truth is, and every married man that takes his wife dancing knows what I’m about to say, husbands that dance get more…, well you fill in the blank. Honestly, this one activity incorporated into date night exponentially helps my wife feel more loved. And that leads to a number of fringe benefits.

My wife and I have taught ballroom dancing as a vocation, and currently as an avocation, for many years. We became professionals with the Arthur Murray Studios in our 20s and have never lost the love that we have for teaching dance. And after all these years we continue to see that couples who dance together generally have better relationships and deeper intimacy. Not only that, but just about every couple we’ve taught proclaims that learning to dance together parallels learning to have a better relationship. And it’s true, the couples that look the best on the dance floor have learned to be better partners. They understand their individual roles and know how to enhance their partnership. “They move as one” is often how you hear their dancing described. “Moving as one” is a great way for a marriage or significant relationship to be described. And just like learning to dance, it isn’t easy. It takes understanding and intentionality to become a better partner. It also takes practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect but it does make permanent.

If you’re looking for a way to light the fire in your relationship or simply turn up the heat; I recommend that you add the right ingredients. Swing, Salsa, Tango, Rumba and Waltz mix very well together! But don’t forget to add the other romantic touches as well. Your commitment will be well rewarded. We’ll see you on the dance floor, and at the marriage retreat!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Diving Deep into the Lord

Free divers with no means of propulsion assistance swim to depths of 88 meters (over 288 feet) and return to the surface in one breath requiring the diver to hold that breath 4-5 minutes. Under normal conditions permanent damage to the brain can occur in as little as three minutes without oxygen. The physiological changes required in the body to accomplish these amazing feats are extraordinary. The heart rate slows as low as 25-30bpm, blood vessels shrink, additional red blood cells are released carrying more oxygen, blood flow is limited to the arms and legs, and most importantly blood plasma fills up blood vessels in the lung to reduce residual volume. Without this adaptation the lung would wrap into itself becoming permanently damaged. The body also adapts to the increased carbon-dioxide levels. The typical training plan for free divers often includes walking 400 meters (nearly a quarter mile) or climbing numerous flights of stairs in a single breath.

Clearly this extreme sport requires incredible mental and physical discipline. The element of risk that exists is also very high in this sport while having a very small margin for error. However, because of this intense discipline free divers are able to accomplish with little risk what is impossible to you or me. At the same time, these well prepared and equipped athletes explore the deep blue of creation seeing and doing things that you or I will never experience, like hitching a ride on a beluga whale or staring eye-to-eye with a 6-foot 300lbs yellowfin tuna 200 feet below the water’s surface.

As believers in Christ we have access to the deep things of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinth 2:10). However, in order to create this depth of intimacy we must put into practice intense and focused training similar to that of the free diver. As we passionately pursue Jesus, the Way, the Truth & the Life, we our conditioning our spirit man. When we endeavor to be still and release the burdens of the day, or take control over our body by fasting, or commit to extended periods of prayer and listening for the Lord we are training our mind and body to do what is not natural. These and other spiritual disciplines will lead us to the deep things of the Father. Then just like the free diver we will experience amazing wonders so incredible they captivate people’s attention when we describe them.

The world of free diving is a small and extremely tight knit family. They share extraordinary abilities and have unbelievable testimonies. So too is the family of believers whose passion and zeal for the Lord can offer these same qualities. But the extraordinary abilities and unbelievable testimonies we experience will be radical salvations and astonishing miracles! As true followers of Jesus we aren’t called to simply tread water, we are called to dive deep! So grab your gear, for deep calls unto deep.