Lessons to Learn

Yesterday morning, a close friend of mine and I went fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains. We traveled up a gravel road to some fishing spots we frequented often over the last few years. As we rounded a curve slowly, we looked over to the left at the stream.

Standing on a large, mossy rock, fully outfitted with waders, vest and fly rod, was a man facing upstream. Beside him stood a very young girl with waders and vest and with her hair pulled back under a fishing cap. As the waters murmured and splashed around them, he pointed and leaned down as he spoke to her. A father and daughter.  Continue reading

An Idol Mind

Hi, my name is Dustin…and I am an idolater.

I would like to say “was an idolater,” but I still struggle with it.

Idol.

The very word conjures the image of a primitive people, crouched around a stone image by firelight, incantations and chants rising into the night air. “Those misguided and blind people,” we think. “If only they knew Jesus is enough.”

But then, there are other idols, ones not made of wood and stone, but still just as dangerous and meaningless at the same time. Continue reading

God’s Ball Game, Misplaced Jelly and Being a Baby Again

Early this morning, I came across this transcript buried in some computer files. It was a conversation from years ago, but it left an impact on me. A friend of mine asked if he could come by my office to share some things that he had been pondering. He came to faith in Christ during the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s, and that old bohemian lifestyle still infuses the cadence of his speech and the train of his thoughts. Late one rainy evening, by the warm light of a couple of floor lamps, we sat down to discuss the things that were on his mind. Continue reading

The Long and Short of It


I have a favorite watch. It’s a mechanical dive watch milled from a solid block of stainless steel. The considerable weight is a constant reminder of its presence. Being an automatic watch, it self-winds as I wear it; the very movement of my arm keeps it running. As it runs, the thin, bright arrow of the second hand plunges into the heart of every moment and then passes on to the next…and the next. Measured seconds slip into the past, and my pulse keeps time. Continue reading

A needed reminder…

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.
– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

How to Pray for Your Future Husband

(Click here for How To Pray for Your Future Wife – Part 1.)

(Click here for How To Pray for Your Future Wife – Part 2) 

For a godly woman, prayer is as essential for spiritual life as breathing is for her physical life.

If you, as a daughter of God, do pray, you know the power in it; if you don’t pray on a regular basis, you are missing out on seeing God do wondrous things. Continue reading

Went fishing today…

Taught my friend Carl how to fly fish in the National Park. He did well with the trout. So well that I left him to it and napped on a midstream, shaded rock for a while. 

Later, I drove to a pier in Knoxville, and, yes, did some more fishing. That resulted in a few nice fish and a double catch too. The children on the pier all gathered around to watch and then scattered promptly to rummage through their tackle boxes for matching bait…

This is strong mojo.

(The lure is 2.5 in. long for scale.)

 
   

The Twisting of the Sacred

I’ve heard some say the inherent appeal of the female form should be traced to evolutionary theory. Man sees woman. Man likes seeing woman. Man wants woman. And so, the species continues. The purported idea is that man’s desire to survive is the driving motivation behind all actions. Life must go on, and the more women a man garners, the better the chance his genes will rise above those of his competitors and be perpetuated throughout the ages. Followed to the logical conclusion, the argument is that men have no choice in the matter, no ability to deal with wandering eyes and no control over their genetics. Continue reading

Eternally Yours

“Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people….We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. The good news of the Gospel of grace has not penetrated the level of our emotions.”                                                            -David Seamands  


Continue reading

Trust His View

The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man…(Psalm 33:13).

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man (Psalm 11:4).

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When God wants to grow your faith, He begins by reducing your sight.

The Spiritual 2×4 That Just Hit Me

Since…

He has given us all things we need related to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ (1 Peter 1:3).

He only gives good gifts (James 1:17).

He will withhold no good thing from those living devoted to truth (Psalm 84:11).

Then you can trust…

If He allows it or brings it, you have it for a reason.

If He allows it or brings it, then takes it, you had it for a season.

If you don’t have it now, you don’t need it to bring glory to Him now.

If you need it later, He will provide it.

So remember…

Sometimes it takes a real loss to make room for a real gain in knowing Him, for He is good in His giving…

And good in His taking.

A Translation Guide (What We Say – What We Mean)

“I’m worried” – “I don’t trust You, All-Powerful God.”

“I’m impatient.” – “Eternal God, clearly You don’t understand the concept of time.”

“I’m in a panic because no one saw this coming!” – “All-Knowing Lord, Your wisdom has serious limits.”

“I must hold on tightly to everything I get.” – “God, Owner of All Creation, You won’t provide for my needs.”

“No good can come of this.” – “Your design for my life is worthless, Master Planner.”

“I deserve to be happy.” – “Righteous God, You aren’t concerned about my holiness.”

“I must do this myself.” – “Father, Your grace falls short of my need.”

Matt. 6:25-34; Ps. 37:7-9; Ps. 147:5; Phil. 4:19; Jer. 29:11; 1 Pet. 1:16; Heb. 4:16

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…” – 2 Peter 1:3

Thankful

Thanksgiving with these guys (and family) was amazing. Then, to add to the wonder of it all, I reconnected with some special people through perfect timing. Best Thanksgiving I’ve had in years.

And even better ones to come…

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Swirling smoke from the fire.
Stiff breeze from the northwest.
Scent of meat and gunpowder.
Saying grace in an old farmhouse.
Muddy boots.
Laughter.

A good day.

Great Expectations

Four different people.

Four different conversations.

Four similar questions.

“Do you believe marriage will make you more content?”
“Do you have unreasonable expectations for marriage?”
“How do you see marriage as a means to holiness?”
“What do you want out of marriage?”

I know I don’t know all the struggles we will face in marriage or the depth I will need to die to self or the difficulties of each of us being sanded and, at times, rubbed raw by the sinfulness of the other…but I want it.

I want it all.

I want the joys and tears and slammed doors and making up and concerns about the future and the grace of God’s provision. I want dinners growing cold under heavy conversation and prayers offered up sweetly like incense.

I want to ponder paint swatches for the eighth time and not be able to fully grasp an appreciable difference in the exact shade for the living room walls but know that it’s not about the paint or the walls but the lining of a nest and the nest is the home and that is how it should be.

I want to sit up late to rock the baby and fix the dishwasher and change the oil and take out the trash and rotate the tires and go to the store in the middle of a rainstorm to pick up products for her that a single guy never thinks about.

I want to make coffee and rub feet and bring flowers and notice her hair and leave notes and call just to say I was thinking of her.

I want sore knees and lost sleep and tear stains from praying for her.

I want dirt under my nails and grit between my teeth and my tunic flecked with my own blood from wading into battle on her behalf.

I want the tango. Stumbling and tangled and on each other’s toes and pressing into her and she into me and both of us into God. Feeling the small of her back rest in my hand and allowing me, wanting me, to lead and both of us hearing the same rhythm and learning the steps and no longer two but one and being willing to step back onto the floor again and again.

I want to put a ring on the hand of a woman I can look at and say, “Help me become like Christ, and I will spare nothing to do the same for you.”

I want holiness, even through hurt.

I want sacrifice and service and sanctification if it all kills me in the process, and I know it will; it must.

I want her to look down at my hand around her hand and easily imagine nail prints.

There is no other way.

How To Pray for Your Future Wife – Part 1

(Click here for How To Pray for Your Future Wife – Part 2)

(Click here for How To Pray for Your Future Husband.)

Gentlemen, your relentless pursuit of God, your Christ-centered love for others and your passionate prayers for your future wife are the most important gifts you can give to her now.

Are you praying for her?

There is a real-life woman out there who faces struggles and victories, hard decisions and deep questions, good times and bad moments. You should pray for your future wife because she needs your prayers. If she could ask you for those prayers personally, she would.

Now some of you are probably reading this thinking, “Of course I pray for my future wife…I pray for her all the time. ‘God, please send me a wife!’ That’s what I pray daily.”

Good start, but I’m talking about more than just praying for her presence. Don’t just pray for her to be here, pray for her to be holy.

“But wait,” you may say. “I don’t know who she is.”

But God does. He knows her name. He knows how you will meet her. He knows the moment you will propose. He knows the exact look (or how many tears) you’ll get in your eyes when you see her walk down the aisle. He knows every marital struggle you will face. He knows how, through marriage, you will learn to depend upon His grace even more. He knows precisely what He has in store for you and your wife.

Unfortunately, all too often, the average guy does not start thinking seriously about his future alongside one of God’s daughters until he actually meets her.

That is sad, both for the guy…and his future wife.

“Oh, don’t worry,” some men say. “When I get married, I’ll go to church, start praying for my wife and do all that kind of stuff. Right now, I just want to enjoy life and have some fun. Nothing too serious, keep it carefree and light. There is plenty of time for seriousness later.” The assumption is that living for Christ is some stale, boring and anemic way of life, separated from excitement and adventure.

Guys, if you think that way, to borrow a phrase from Cool Hand Luke, you need to “get your mind right.”

(Please hang with me for a few moments while we walk through some thick forest together toward the ultimate point of this post.)

When you get married, that is not the time to “get serious” about your life with God. And why on earth would you think that walking with God is boring or uneventful? That’s not even approaching the reality of it all. I can assure you, with full confidence, if you regard a life with Christ as drudgery, then you probably have never been introduced to Him properly. Cultivate a deep and rich life with the Creator right now. In fact, you must do that whether single or married. That’s just obedience.

Period.

So don’t buy into the lie that you can live however you want to live until you get married, then you’ll “get right” and follow Him. Marriage is not the motivation to live for God; Christ is. To the same point, don’t believe the myth that when you finally love God in the right way He’ll then (and only then) send you a spouse. By this line of reasoning, if you don’t have a wife now, you just don’t love God enough. That’s misguided advice. A God-given spouse is a gift of grace, given despite us, not because of us. Again, we can never make the presence or absence of a spouse the main motivation for holiness. We must seek Him first and allow Him to provide the rest (Matthew 6:33).

This also means we are not to be consumed with the “hunt” for a wife. Let’s face it guys: we are to be the pursuers, the initiators, the protectors and the spiritual pacesetters for our relationships. That is a good thing, but as you probably know, if we grow careless, this is one of the areas where we can get out of balance. God gave us a desire for conquest and accomplishment, but when we become fixated on finding a wife, exclude all other desires and focus on the “chase,” we are in dangerous territory. Instead, we must be consumed with running hard after our God. He is the priority, not what we can get from Him.

But let me be brutally honest with you: if you don’t love Jesus, you will never love another as He loves. Men, the only one who can truly love like Christ is Christ. This means He must love your wife through you, and He can’t do that if He isn’t in you. If He is in you, your love for her will only grow to the extent that your love for Him is growing. Less like you, more like Him, in every way, that’s your goal, single or married.

If you are growing in your love for Him, then you’ll want what He wants, and He wants certain things for your future wife even now. So why would you not go before Him now to ask Him to give her those things?

So ask Him, men.
Ask in His name (John 14:13).
Ask according to His will (1 John 5:14).
Ask (Matthew 7:7), and keep asking (Luke 18:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Let me assure you of one thing: if you start praying passionately for your future wife (or for anything else), all the powers of Hell will try to stop you. You will be tempted to distraction, discouragement or disappointment. The Enemy does not want you to pray. He wants you to remain silent, and he wants her, and you, to remain unchanged.

Don’t stop praying.

This is the woman who will share life with you, the one you’ll promise, before God, to love and honor until the end, and the woman with whom you will become one. God tells us to cherish our wives “just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29). The word “cherish” means literally “to keep warm” (like a mother hen keeps her chicks safe and warm under her wings). You are called to reflect Jesus to your wife and treat her as a precious gift of God. One of the ways that Christ cherished the church was by praying for her (John 17:20-26).

You don’t have to wait until you know who she is to begin cherishing your wife. (And you don’t have to wait to ask her Heavenly Daddy for her hand.)

If you have the desire to be honorable, masculine, Christ-like and, yes, romantic…then be the leader, man up, go before Him, get on your knees and fight for her in prayer even now.

That’s what women want.

How do I know?

I asked them.

I am blessed to have a number of godly women in my life. From my mother, to co-workers and friends, both single and married, I’ve asked a large group of them to tell me what they believe a man should be praying for his future wife, as well as any wisdom they might want to share. What follows, in no particular order (except the first one, which is foundational), are the results.

I condensed the field down to one topic for each day of the month, and I’ve added some scripture references as well for each area. You might want to take some time, look those up, and pray those biblical principles for your future wife (as well as yourself).

A friendly warning: avoid the urge to blaze through the topics without considering the weight of them in order to “finish the task.” Make this personal, and take the time to do it right. It’s real. It’s needed. It’s effective. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16b).

Also, don’t get “stuck” on praying only for the things on the list. Certainly, there are things that could be added, but I know if you are seeking His will for your life, asking for wisdom and are clean before Him, and then begin to pray about some things desired by godly women, He’ll give you some other things for you to pray specifically for your future wife. I find that as I am praying for my own “Miss Pending” (as I like to call her, until I know her name), God continues to deepen and focus my prayers for her.

(A note to the women who might be reading…If you meet a guy, start dating him, and he doesn’t care about God, has a take-it-or-leave-it-live-and-let-live attitude about Christ or does not seem concerned with genuine prayer for you…dump him. Do not pass “go,” do not collect $200, do not try to justify, excuse or otherwise lessen the importance of those things. He’s not the one for you. God has a better choice waiting.)

I’m hopeful that we single guys can learn something more about the prayer support that women need and want…and then take decisive action. Peter writes, in reference to wives, that men should “dwell with them with understanding” (1 Peter 3:7).

Men, you should be a student of what women need, how they think, and more specifically, a student of your own wife.

Consider class to be in session now.

How to Pray For Your Future Wife

1. Her relationship with God

By far, this is the most important thing on the list. Everything else is a reflection of this single facet. Too often we make the mistake of believing that the primary concern in any relationship is what goes on between the two people involved, but the real ground-level work happens, not between two people, but between each person and God Himself. It’s always about us and God first, and then us and other people. Men, you want your future wife to love God much more than she could ever love you. If she loves you more than God, you’ll be an idol to her, and God doesn’t tolerate idols

Not only should she avoid idolatry, but her affection for you depends upon her view of God. Any true, deep and lasting connection to you will only come if she loves God more than she loves you. The love you will enjoy from her is a byproduct of her love for Him. A person can only show true, sacrificial love if she has experienced it.

In fact, her love for you – that true, deep love – will only come if she loves God more than she loves you. The love you will enjoy is a byproduct of her love for Him. Again, this is not primarily about you and her; it’s about God. She must love Him for His sake alone. If she knows Him, pray that He’ll draw her even closer; if she doesn’t know Him, pray that she will surrender her life to His will for her. Every spiritual undertaking requires surrender; marriage is no exception.

If you are having to “drag” her along spiritually while you’re dating, why would you think that a band of gold would automatically change her? I don’t mean that you should only pursue a Bible scholar, but you only want to run after someone who genuinely cares about the things of Christ (and shows clear, consistent evidence of His power in her life). If you are romantically drawn to someone who doesn’t belong to God, or someone who is selfish and careless toward Him, and you are pursuing that person, you are saying, “God, my plan is better than Your plan, and I choose to settle for less than Your best” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Don’t sow those seeds; they grow only bitter fruit.

Pray that…

She loves Him with all that is in her (Luke 10:27).

Her knowledge of Him grows even more (2 Peter 3:18).

God totally transforms her through His Word, and she desires to spend time with Him (Joshua 1:8; John 17:17).

Her heart is receptive to God’s voice, and she is very sensitive to the leading of His Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

She worships God faithfully in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

2. Her anxieties, fears and doubts

Women often get overwhelmed with negative thoughts, and that can be incredibly discouraging. We men sometimes distract ourselves or try our best to ignore those nagging, unpleasant feelings. Women, on the other hand, tend to weigh out multiple concerns and options immediately when they arise, and they can’t help when or how often those thoughts surface. Sometimes they march in like armies, at other times, they move in as stealthy commandos, but however they come, they are bent on damaging her heart.

A pleasant day can be disrupted by a single, random notion gaining unexpected momentum. One woman expressed it this way, “I have a thought, and it seems harmless on the surface. But then, it grows. I begin to ‘what-if’ the idea. ‘What if it doesn’t work out?’ ‘What if they think I am stupid?’ ‘What if I am totally wrong about what I should do?’ Every time I add another ‘what-if,’ my fear grows stronger. Before long, what was once a tiny concern has grown into a potential catastrophe within my mind. Then I am fearful and exhausted!”

These words were spoken by a successful, wise and strong woman. Like most women, her mind sees many potential possibilities in any given situation. It is because of her giftedness to think with complexity and juggle multiple ideas at once that fear finds room to infiltrate her mind.

Your future wife may be fearful of the future, worry about things beyond her control and second-guess (or third-guess) what to do next. At times, she may feel like everything is totally out of control in her life. It’s your mission to pray that she understands and clings to a sovereign God who loves her and wants to show His care for her.

Pray that…

God overrules any worry that arises within her mind (Philippians 4:6-7).

The Holy Spirit controls her and sets her free from fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

The truth so saturates her mind that doubts will have no place to take root (Philippians 4:8).

3. Her calling

Your future wife has a special calling on her life. Granted, every follower of Christ has the mission to make Him known to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But God also has a specific plan for her for how she will reflect the character of Jesus to others, and He will enable her to accomplish what He intends. He may have told her exactly what He wants her to do in life, but He may be revealing the directions and details of her call a bit at a time. Regardless of how He may show these things to her, God is allowing her to grow in her faith and exercise her gifts along the way.

For any of us, discovering and acting upon God’s leading in our lives is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking journeys ever. Your future wife feels that same pressure. There may be tears and a sickening feeling when she faces uncertainty about how to proceed. When setbacks arise and difficulties follow, she might question if she is doing God’s will or not. In all these moments, whether in victory or seeming derailment, she needs to stay close to Him and listen for His voice. Do you have any idea what a high honor it is to pray God’s perfect plan for her? Don’t take it lightly.
Pray that…

She seeks God’s will for her life (Romans 12:2).

She is open and surrendered to wherever God leads her (Isaiah 6:8).

She is faithful where He has placed her now, and seeks to fulfill His plan for her in her current place in life (Luke 16:10).

4. Her prayer life

Gentlemen, your desire must be that your future wife is a woman of prayer. You want her to talk to her Father with passion.

Her prayer life should be a concerted effort, not a convenient perk. I’m not trying to be legalistic, but I’m not talking about having a prayer time only during her morning commute while her favorite playlist blasts. With all of the possible distractions of today, drifting attention is the norm. Becoming a person of prayer requires diligence to push through the mass of busyness we all encounter. Where distraction doesn’t work, discouragement will. Perhaps your future wife has prayed and prayed for something and, as of yet, has received no answer. She may feel like giving up. Delayed answers sometimes feel like a “no.” Your desire should be that she prays, keeps praying and then prays more, regardless of how long it may be for an answer to come (Luke 18:1-8).

She should show a lifestyle of prayer—an intimate, ongoing conversation with the Eternal One. Prayer expresses her dependence upon, thankfulness toward and connection to God Himself. Not only do you want her to want to spend time with God, you want her to realize that God longs to spend that time with her. He isn’t bothered by her presence, nor is He frustrated by her coming to Him often; He enjoys spending time with His children. May her first response to crisis or blessing, to confusion or clarity, be prayer.

And besides, what if, right now, she’s praying for you too?

Pray that…

She is dependent upon the power of God through prayer (John 15:5).

God gives her a deeper desire for prayer (Luke 11:1).

She is able to concentrate and focus as she prays (Matthew 6:6).

Prayer is her first, not last, resort (James 5:13-18).

5. Her emotions

When asked about how men could pray for them, many women brought this idea up often. There are highly logical women, just as there are very emotional men, but the tendency is for women to be more in touch with their emotional lives (and the emotional lives of others) more so than their male counterparts. Having emotions is a strength, not a weakness, but there are times when emotions can be deceitful.

Just as we looked earlier at the way your future wife’s worries can rule over a situation, feelings too can be tyrannical, and sometimes they are hard to separate from what is true and real. She needs what feels right to be governed by what is right. Your wife may “feel like” she has been wronged, rejected or insulted when the facts may not bear that out as the truth. Strong feelings can make one very vulnerable, and being vulnerable can be scary. In these moments, it is important that she is able to acknowledge and express those feelings in a healthy way in a caring environment.

Imagine her emotions at times to be like a runaway train that keeps switching tracks. She wants to slow them down to a manageable speed, but often they come too fast and too hard. Moment by moment, the emotions roll, and once one feeling is under control, two more seem to gain ground. God can rule over her emotions and bring her peace.

Pray that…

She does not depend upon what “seems” right to her, but depends upon God’s truth (Judges 21:25).

No bitterness finds a place to grow in her (Hebrews 12:15).

She practices “being still” before God (Psalm 46:10).

6. Her earthly relationships

Relationships are important to us guys, but they are especially important to a woman. Your future wife wants to depend upon and pour into a meaningful, mutual support system of friendships. Her emotional health depends a great deal upon the health of her relationships, including the health of her interaction with her parents. Those particular relationships may be great, fair, strained or non-existent, but whatever the case, they will have a powerful influence on her. We are all part of a large dysfunctional family. The family name is “Humanity,” and the dysfunction is sin. But her smaller family has been marked by our common struggle, the only question is how deeply the effects run.

Divorce, substance abuse, infidelity, fights…all will leave traces that need to be addressed honestly by her. She may need healing from past hurts caused by relatives, friends or other men (and she may not even be aware of the wounds). Pray that God brings healing to her heart.

At the same time, she must be careful that her relationships do not become a replacement for God. A great relationship can change a person’s life, but a great relationship placed in too high of a position can become an idol. Pray that she guards her relationships from this danger by relying upon God more than anyone else.

She may be in a relationship with a guy now just because she’s bored, insecure or lonely…none of which are valid reasons for getting involved with another. And, as uncomfortable as it is to think about it, maybe she is in a deeper relationship now that is not honoring to God; pray that He intervenes and drives a wedge between her and anyone who would lead her astray.

Pray that…

God gives her friends who will help to grow and challenge her as she helps to do the same for them (Proverbs 27:17).

She is careful about the people she allows to come into her life (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20).

She has at least one true, deep, lifelong friend (Proverbs 18:24).

All her relationships would bring honor to God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Before we go to the next topic, there is an aspect of relationships that needs to be mentioned: motherhood. Your future wife may already have children that you will grow to love and support, you may bring your own children into your future marriage or you and your wife might have a child of your own later, thus creating another human who will live with God or without Him forever. If children are a part of your future, understand that motherhood is one of the hardest tasks facing a woman. This burden is made stronger by the incredible bond between a mother and her child. Just as you will be able to bring certain strengths to the lives of your children, your wife will be able to speak, teach and reach a child in specific ways unique to women. Motherhood requires being a diplomat, a counselor, a confidant, a leader and a planner, just to name a few of the many, many roles. Many people may look at a mother and praise her for bearing her responsibilities with grace and skill, but her most-valued praise will come, not from her friends or her neighbors, but from those who know her best: her family (Proverbs 31:28-29).

Pray that…

She would show the compassion and comfort of God as she leads the children of your family (Isaiah 45:9; 66:13).

She teaches your family’s children wisdom that they receive willingly (Proverbs 6:20-22).

She is an example of faith to the children (2 Timothy 1:5).

7. Her speech

Women tend to be more expressive than men. That’s a good thing. But some of the women I spoke to mentioned that they hate when they say things without thinking first. Words have immense power to damage. The words she uses or the ones directed toward her can hurt as much as a physical wound (and the damage can last longer).

Many women have said that they often reach the point where an internal monologue begins. One woman said that at times her brain starts saying something like this, “Stop talking already. You’ve said too much. Hello, mouth, are you listening to me? No, you don’t have to get ‘one more word in.’ Let me go on record in saying that what you are about to say is a mistake.” We have all been at that place. In moments like those, our tongues keep galloping along no matter how hard we might tug on the reins. Those words spoken without thought (or any words for that matter) can never be called back, and we watch helplessly as they stampede along, free of restraint.

Words have meaning, gentlemen, remember that.

Pray that…

Her words drip with grace (Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4)

Her mouth is controlled by the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 21:23).

She stays far from gossip (Leviticus 19:16).

Her heart produces godly words and that she worships God with her lips sincerely (Matthew 12:34; 15:8).

8. Her insecurities

Society places all sorts of pressures on women. Your future wife gets all sorts of messages thrown at her about how to look, what to wear and the way to act. The world practically screams at her from the magazine aisle, billboards, Internet and television. Not only that, her own heart also whispers deceit to her, telling her she’s not beautiful, she’ll never be enough, she’ll be valued for the wrong reasons, and she’ll never be deeply known and truly loved. Little by little, those false ideas accumulate and seem to give more and more validity to her own insecurities. Those are all lies, of course, but she needs discernment to hear His truth to combat them.

She needs to know and hear that she is beautiful to you, but not only that, she needs to know that God sees her as “holy, blameless and above reproach” (Colossians 1:22). Only when she begins to see herself through the eyes of God will she begin to combat her insecurities in the right way.

Pray that…

She is not captured by the lies of the world (John 16:33).

She knows who she is in Christ alone and finds her value by her acceptance in Him (Ephesians 1:6).

She knows she is truly loved and completely pleasing to God (Colossians 1:22).

9. Her repentance.

Let’s face it: repentance is critical. Your future wife needs to be quick to repent when she is wrong. Repentance isn’t an indication of weakness, but of strength. It takes a strong person to admit a wrong sincerely and humbly. Repentance is no flippant “I’m sorry,” nor is it merely feeling badly about what you did or becoming angry at yourself. It is certainly not a grudging apology for a wrong when what you really regret is getting caught.

Another way to view it is that is requires confession and forsaking. Confession is not the admission that the wrong is discovered, but it is saying the same thing about sin as God does. It is a deep recognition of why the action, thought or attitude is against God’s will, plan and Word. After we confess, we must forsake the sin. We turn from it, leave it behind and strive to walk in His righteousness.

The higher the view of God we have, the more serious our view of sin becomes. You want this attitude to be deepening in your future wife with every day she walks with Him.

Pray that…

She is quick to seek forgiveness from God (1 John 1:9; Matthew 3:8).

She is quick to seek forgiveness from other and offer it quickly as well. (Matthew 5:23-24; Colossians 3:13; Luke 17:3-4).

10. Her beauty

Certainly you will admire the physical beauty of your wife, but you should also be looking at the heart as well. There are many physically beautiful women who have cold hearts toward God. Pray that your future wife would become a woman of true, inner beauty, one whose character is absolutely stunning. She should spend more time preparing her soul than she does her hair. With time, everyone’s physical beauty fades, but her inner beauty is able to continually grow as she becomes more and more like Christ.

A.W. Tozer related, “All things as they move toward God are beautiful.” As you pray for your future wife, ask God to move her toward Himself. Ask Him to transform her into the glorious likeness of Christ and cause His radiance to be seen in her life.

To a man following God, nothing is more deeply stirring, more desirable, and more beautiful than a truly, godly woman.

Pray that…

She pays attention to the hidden person of her heart (1 Peter 3:3-4).

She finds her beauty wrapped up in honoring God (Proverbs 31:30).

She avoids the temptation of basing her worth on appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

11. Her purity

Men, we know the struggle with the purity of our eyes and our thoughts. It may not be as obvious (or as freely spoken of) as it is with men, but it’s still an issue with women. They regularly face assaults on their purity on all fronts, including their thoughts and eyes.

Your future wife’s mind is a battleground, and her emotional needs can play havoc with her purity. Like men, women’s temptations do begin in the mind, but those thoughts are interlaced with their emotions as well. Satan would love for her to sacrifice her mental and physical purity in an attempt to get love, acceptance and comfort.

In a sex-saturated world, to resist temptation is considered old-fashioned and foolish, but it is God’s will (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).

(Be aware that “Proverbs 7” women can masquerade as “Proverbs 31” women…for a time. They may talk a good talk, say they value purity, hold people to a high moral standard but run to sexual sin quickly after claiming to seek God’s perfect will. Eventually their true natures are revealed. Guys, give it time to see what kind of woman you are getting to know.) Your future wife needs to stand on the truth that intimacy removed from marriage isn’t true intimacy at all, no matter who tells her it is.

Pray that…

She understands that her body belongs to God because He bought her (1 Corinthians 6:20).

She flees from any and all sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18).

She exercises self-control by being controlled by the Spirit of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

She values the sanctity of sex within the covenant of marriage (Hebrews 13:4).

12. Her gifts

As one of His children, God has given your future wife certain gifts. God gave them to her to glorify Himself through her. One of her greatest joys is to discover and enjoy those gifts by using them to grow others, support the church and bring unity. As she uses her gifts, their identity and strength become more apparent. Your future wife will connect more deeply with the church, worship and serve God more powerfully and know Christ more intimately by the practice of her areas of giftedness.

You might also discover that God has given her gifts that complement your weaknesses. The joy that comes from using her gifts is not only an encouragement to her, but it builds up the entire body of believers, which includes your family.

Pray that…

She discovers and uses her spiritual gifts fully (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11).

She sees her gifts as important to the building of the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-19; Ephesians 4:15-16).

She finds joy in bringing honor to God through her gifts (1 Peter 4:10-12).

13. Her heart

If her mind is the front line of the battle, the heart is the headquarters. It must be guarded carefully. Satan would take glee in seeing things enter her heart that would later cause pain and loss. Your desire should be that any Trojan horse left at the gates of her heart would never be brought inside, all deceptions fail and every idol set up be toppled.

Because the heart is the source of activity, your wife must take great care with it. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Our hearts affect everything about us. They affect our words (Proverbs 4:24), what we look at (v. 25), where we go (v. 26) and all we do (v. 27).

If your wife consistently loses the battle within her heart, she will consistently lose the battle with sin. Her strength and her vulnerability find their home in that most precious part of her, so pray for it.

Pray that…

God teaches her to guard her heart against anything that would do damage (Proverbs 4:23).

She will have godly desires, given to her by God Himself (Psalm 37:4).

Jesus would be “at home” as He dwells in her heart (Ephesians 3:17).

14. Her singleness

Your future wife may or may not have come to terms with her singleness. It can be a tricky season to navigate successfully. Accepting being single for a time and desiring marriage can coexist peacefully (although usually with a degree of tension). If she is being faithful, as I hope you are too, she can rest assured that her Father has not forgotten where she is or His perfect plans for her. Your future wife isn’t ultimately called to be single, though she is called by God to be single today. Pray she embraces that call.

Pray that…

Christ grows her in ways that she would not experience if she were married now (1 Corinthians 7:32).

She uses her singleness to further God’s kingdom and not waste it (1 Corinthians 7:35).

15. Her wounds

She has wounds. We all do. But her wounds are going to affect you and your family personally. She will need you to provide a safe place for her to express her past hurts and still be loved. Even if she has healed from them, there will be scars left behind. Those old scars, though faded, may hold feelings of condemnation, regret and guilt.

She may relive past mistakes and replay the things she believes “should have been done and said” to remedy the problems or to ensure the hurts never occurred. Sadly, none of us can go back to undo what has been done, but our God is the Healer. He mends the broken, redeems the past and dissolves shame. Men, be an instrument of redemption, not condemnation, to her.

Pray that…

She heals from her wounds of the past (Psalm 147:3).

Christ uses her hurts for His good, though she may not understand how He can do so (Romans 8:28).

She is set free from feelings of guilt (Romans 8:1; Psalm 103:11-12).

16. Her integrity

The word “integrity” carries with it the idea of completeness, soundness and sticking to a standard. Those characteristics should define your future wife’s life. In a world that values “getting ahead” regardless of the cost, your future wife should be honest even when it costs her much. She should not live by situational ethics or change how she speaks, dresses or acts in order to be accepted by those around her. She should be who she is in Christ regardless of her environment, even when being honest and living for Him will extract a toll. That’s how God calls us to live, and believe me, you only want to get involved with a consistently honest woman. Someone who has stories that never quite check out, changes details here and there to make herself look better or has a pattern of dishonesty will play havoc with your mind and your trust in her. Pray that God raises your future wife up as a woman known for her character.

Pray that…

Her life is characterized by integrity (Proverbs 10:9).

She is not a “chameleon,” changing with the circumstances, but she is stable and consistent in all her ways (Matthew 5:37).

She is a trustworthy person (Proverbs 31:11-12).

17. Her contentment

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt. He’s right, and your future wife combats it often. Comparison of how things are with what things were, were not, could be or should be can cause a constant sense of loss and pain. She may be looking around at life and grieving over unmet expectations, shattered dreams and fading hopes.

But if she is being faithful to God, seeking Him in all things and has done all she can do, then she is in the center of His will. Ask God to give her contentment in her place in life right now and for her to practice living in the certainty of His perfect will where she finds herself, regardless of the circumstances. The pursuit of fulfillment here will always ache of incompleteness, but the incompleteness we experience here points toward One who is fully complete, in and of Himself, and One who will complete what He started in us (Philippians 1:6).

Pray that…

She is content regardless of where God may place her (Philippians 4:11-12).

She releases control of her life to the care of God (I Peter 5:7).

God helps her find contentment in simplicity (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

18. Her work

Godly women aren’t afraid to exert effort in working, whether outside the home, inside the home or in a marriage. But all women (including singles) can feel overburdened by the demands of work. (Plus it’s made doubly hard if there is no one with whom she can share what happens during her day.) Deadlines can loom large, the officemates may be in conflict and household duties may accumulate to the point of frustration. Let’s face it; the difficulty of work is part of the original curse of humanity. It’s by the sweat of our brows that anything gets done (Genesis 3:18). But we can have a redemptive view of work by seeing it as worship. Pray that your future wife sees her work as an offering to God, as hard as that might be at times, and finds joy in what she does.

Pray that…

She embraces hard work and avoids laziness (Proverbs 31:13-19).

She works for God first (Colossians 3:23).

She works in a way that gives others a glimpse of our future serving God forever (Revelation 22:3).

 

19. Her wisdom

The word “wisdom” is best understood to mean “skilled living.” You want your future wife to live with a heart of wisdom; your desire should be that she would navigate the world with skill and tact (Proverbs 4:7-9). Her discernment will save her from many potential problems. On a personal note, I pray that God will grant my “Miss Pending” incredible wisdom so that she can lead and guide others and so that she would be my most valued and trusted confidant and counselor.

True wisdom comes only from God, and He wants your future wife to be full of wisdom. His wisdom will show her how to live her life, know Him more fully and be ready for anything that comes her way (Colossians 1:9-11).

Pray that…

She displays winsome wisdom (Proverbs 31:26).

God grants her more wisdom than she thinks possible (Proverbs 2:6-8).

She takes opportunities to mentor other women (Titus 3:2-5).

20. Her endurance

We all want to quit sometimes. She is no different. Maybe she’s struggling with waiting on something important to her (maybe that something is a someone, and maybe that someone is you). Perhaps she wrestles with impatience and has been crying out, “How long, God?” Your future wife may look ahead, see nothing but uncertainty and have a slight (or not-so-slight) sense of panic, dread or despair. But you want her to have hope. You don’t want her to be a woman who gives up easily. Ask God to give her a deeper strength for all she faces.

God is the God of patience (Rom. 5:5). In the original language, “patience” is the word for “steadfastness, constancy, and endurance.” It is the word used for the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from a deliberate purpose or loyal faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings. God is steadfast and immovable in His purposes, and you can pray that He gives your wife the same mindset.

God will not keep her from all trials; pray that He will grow her through them.

Pray that…

She has great patience when working for His purposes (Galatians 6:9).

She waits for God with hope (Psalm 27:13-14; Romans 15:13).

She faces trials with patience (James 1:4).

She looks at difficulty as an opportunity for purification and transformation (Job 23:10; 1 Peter 1:7).

21. Her time

With such a busy life, your future wife will be tempted to overvalue the good at the expense of the best. The hours of her day seem to slip by and the “to-do” list seems to grow longer. With such circumstances, it’s easy to feel like nothing is being accomplished. Pray that God will help her manage her time and prioritize all she must do. Sometimes things will be added to her schedule by others thoughtlessly, at times this will be a minor inconvenience, at other moments this will cause her great stress.

Paul writes that we should “make the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16). Your future wife has the same number of minutes in her day as everyone else. Once our time is gone, there is no calling it back. Pray that she spends every moment to the fullest for God’s purposes. Only God can give her the grace to handle everything she faces in the time she has in a way that reflects Him to others.

Pray that…

She learns how to use her time wisely (Ephesians 5:16).

She recognizes that life is short and lives accordingly (Psalm 90:12).

She makes time for God above everything else (Luke 10:42).

22. Her sleep

Many women mentioned sleep and rest often. In today’s busy, loud and frantic world, true rest is a luxury. Your wife needs rest, just like you do. Your wife has stressful moments throughout the day, and you can pray that her evenings are filled with restful sleep and peaceful dreams. After all, she is going to battle for the King of Kings; she needs sleep for tomorrow’s fight. I want her to wake up with a clear head, calm heart and a rested body. And men, the day will come when we will have the honor of praying over our wives before they drift off into sleep beside us. Start practicing now.

Pray that…

She closes her eyes every night trusting that God will sustain her (Psalm 3:5).

Wisdom is a warm blanket of peace for her (Proverbs 3:24).

She enjoys the sleep God gives her (Psalm 127:2)

23. Her service

True service arises from the heart-level. This isn’t doing nice things for others when they are watching, but doing what is right when no one is watching. (Well, that’s not really true; all of Heaven is gazing upon the servants of God.) You want your future wife to desire to serve even when the task is thankless, hidden or uncomfortable. If she is living with true humility, then true service will follow. (If she knows God, she will know herself. If she knows herself, she will know humility.) If she won’t get her hands dirty now, there is a good chance that she probably won’t later in life. If you’re going to serve God, you’ll want someone by your side who doesn’t mind getting some grit under her nails, someone who will walk close through the fire, and someone who is totally loyal in the worst of it all. Sacrifices are messy; pray for someone who will pour herself out on His altar and accept the mess as a beautiful thing.

Pray that…

She follows the example of Christ’s service (Philippians 2:5-7).

She serves quietly and sincerely, even when it’s messy (John 13:12-17).

God would reveal and remove any selfish motives in her heart (James 3:16).

She recognizes she was made by God, for God (Colossians 1:16-17).

24. Her protection

You want your future wife to be kept safe by God, but some physical safety and emotional protection can be influenced by her. She needs wisdom to know how to keep herself out of certain situations that could lead to harm. The boundaries she establishes for her own actions and the actions and influence of others will play a huge role in her protection from all sorts of danger from the world’s influences. Pray that she will be kept safe emotionally and mentally as well. Men, your presence, leadership and love can provide a place of openness, acceptance and affection so that your wife can feel more secure in many areas of her life.

(I also pray that “Miss Pending’s” angels don’t have to work as hard as mine have.)

Pray that…

God delivers her from unnecessary hurt (Psalm 138:7).

She is gentle but wise (Matthew 10:16).

She establishes and lives by godly standards (Titus 2:12).

She is a powerful influence in the world, but does not align herself with it (James 4:4).

25. Her reputation

You don’t want your future wife to be known for dishonesty, gossip, immorality, laziness or contention (Proverbs 12:4). Certainly, there are things in each person’s past that cause shame, but there should be enough of a distance and/or change between the past negatives and her life now. You must desire others to speak well of your future wife. You want her to have great influence. You want her to be cultivating true, biblical respect for men (watch how she treats her dad, brothers and other men she knows, if that is possible). You also want her to be a person of modesty and avoid putting herself “on display” for anyone and everyone. As one of my female friends once said, “What is on her hanger in the closet is a good indication of her reputation in the world.”

Her reputation is first and foremost important to God’s glory, secondly, it is a reflection on her, and lastly, but still of importance, her reputation will become a part of your reputation. After all, it’s very clear that the woman in Proverbs 31 had a significant influence upon how her husband was seen in the community (Proverbs 31:23). That man was who he was, in large part, because of the person she was. Your wife’s disrespect for you can destroy you; her respect for you can help you become the man you never dreamed of becoming. As a good friend of mine says of the woman he loves: “I know, by God using her in my life, that I will have become the man He wanted me to be by the day they throw the dirt down on me.”

Pray that…

She values her good name (Proverbs 22:1).

She holds a good reputation among non-believers and does nothing to harm her witness (1 Peter 2:12; 2 Corinthians 6:3).

She has a genuine, healthy concern for what others say of her (Proverbs 27:21).

She values modesty in a biblical way (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

26. Her joy

Joy is hard to find, and it’s harder to keep. Some people mistake happiness for joy, but they are not the same. Happiness is based upon circumstances, while joy is based upon the internal state of heart, not an external state of affairs. Satan would love to steal away any and all joy from your future wife’s life. But even in the worst possible situation, your wife can have joy. James writes that we are to consider it a joy when trials come (James 1:2-3). Though that seems impossible at times, with God’s help, and trusting in His promises that He is working all things toward our ultimate good (Romans 8:28), your future wife can look past the circumstance to the God holding all things in His hand. Ultimately, your future wife needs an unshakable joy, and that comes from Christ Himself (John 15:11). She can’t “work up” joy; joy is a gift we seek, receive from God and then cling to tenaciously.

Pray that…

She has joy, even in the middle of great difficulty (Hebrews 12:2).

Her belief in Christ, even though He is unseen, brings her visible joy (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Her trust in God’s care for her would bring great joy, leading to pure worship (Romans 15:13; Psalm 28:7).

God gives her moments that cause her to look heavenward and thank Him for loving her so greatly (Ephesians 3:16-19).

27. Her view of marriage and love

There are some things you can learn through experience. There are other things you can learn through careful attention and study. There are things you can learn by God shaping your heart and mind to match His. True love and Christ-centered marriages involve all three approaches. If you neglect any of those three ways of learning, you’ll muddle along through your relationship, and it will never be everything God intends it to become. But now, while you and your future wife are single, you both have the perfect opportunity to learn everything you can about love from the One who loves perfectly. Gentlemen, by seeking to become like Christ, you’ll begin to love and see others like He does. Pray the same thing for your future wife. You can both save yourselves a great deal of pain and trouble by having a biblical view of love and marriage before you enter into it. (To this end, I would recommend that anyone, whether single or married, read some of these great books on the subject.)

And gentlemen, you too should be asking God to give you His view of marriage as well. It took years for me to reach a point where I developed a realistic idea of marriage, and I put my personal view down in writing after I was asked four questions:

“Do you believe marriage will make you more content?”

“Do you have unreasonable expectations for marriage?”

“How do you see marriage as a means to holiness?”

“What do you want out of marriage?”

After consideration and prayer, this was my response:

I know I don’t know all the struggles we will face in marriage or the depth I will need to die to self or the difficulties of each of us being sanded and, at times, rubbed raw by the sinfulness of the other…but I want it.

I want it all.

I want the joys and tears and slammed doors and making up and concerns about the future and the grace of God’s provision. I want dinners growing cold under heavy conversation and prayers offered up sweetly like incense.

I want to ponder paint swatches for the eighth time and not be able to fully grasp an appreciable difference in the exact shade for the living room walls but know that it’s not about the paint or the walls but the lining of a nest and the nest is the home and that is how it should be.

I want to sit up late to rock the baby and fix the dishwasher and change the oil and take out the trash and rotate the tires and go to the store in the middle of a rainstorm to pick up products for her that a single guy never thinks about.

I want to make coffee and rub feet and bring flowers and notice her hair and leave notes and call just to say I was thinking of her.

I want sore knees and lost sleep and tear stains from praying for her.

I want dirt under my nails and grit between my teeth and my tunic flecked with my own blood from wading into battle on her behalf.

I want the tango. Stumbling and tangled and on each other’s toes and pressing into her and she into me and both of us into God. Feeling the small of her back rest in my hand and allowing me, wanting me, to lead and both of us hearing the same rhythm and learning the steps and no longer two but one and being willing to step back onto the floor again and again.

I want to put a ring on the hand of a woman I can look at and say, “Help me become like Christ, and I will spare nothing to do the same for you.”

I want holiness, even through hurt.

I want sacrifice and service and sanctification if it all kills me in the process, and I know it will; it must.

I want her to look down at my hand around her hand and easily imagine nail prints.

There is no other way.

Pray that…

She views love as a choice to seek the greatest good of another regardless of the cost (Ephesians 5:25).

She develops a Christ-like love for others (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Her view of marriage is not shaped wrongly by poor examples or the world’s view of relationships, but by God’s perfect plan (Ephesians 5:31-33).

28. Her faith

It’s tempting to live life by a formula, but that’s not how God has told us to live. Since His power is limitless, His knowledge is without fail, and His goodness is perfect, God can be trusted completely. Your future wife’s faith will be tested, stretched and grown by what she faces daily. Every moment of difficulty that comes her way is allowed by God Himself to come into her life for the purpose of making her more like Him. When the darkness comes and every earthly thing she has put her trust in seems to fail, she can know there is One who can see through the darkness and is always trustworthy (Psalm 139:12). The growth of her faith and trust are precious to God. You want her to face anything in her life and say, with confidence, “My Daddy has this under His control.”

Pray that…

She lives her life by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7; Habakkuk 2:4).

Her life is marked by a holy boldness (Ephesians 6:8-20).

Her trust in God allows her to rest in any direction He leads (Proverbs 3:5-6).

She places everything upon God and relies upon Him to work (Psalm 37:5).

29. Her submission to God

It is sad hearing someone say, “I am not fully surrendered to God.” It is even sadder when that person is one you love. When a person places limits upon God with regard to what she will do for Him, where she will go for Him or how she will serve Him, you’re hearing a person living in outright rebellion and missing out on His best for her. You must pray that your future wife is practicing daily surrender to God. She should be dying to her own selfish desires, her own wrong motives and sinful actions more and more every day. Just as she should wake up, every day of your marriage, to a man who is more like Jesus than the day before, she should be striving to become transformed into His image as well.

Pray that…

She would seek His will before her own, no matter how much that costs her (Mark 14:35-36).

Her life would display the power of God as she lives a life crucified to sin and self (Galatians 2:20).

She would seek, above all, to live for Him daily (Luke 9:23).

30. Her dreams

Your future wife likely looks toward what is to come with some nervous anticipation, a degree of uncertainty and a helping of excitement. If she’s the kind of woman a bold man of God desires, you can know some things to be true about her. She desires to see God use her in great ways. She doesn’t want to settle for a boring, routine life. She wants the God of the universe to take her gifts, her talents and her heart and pour them into the lives of others so that they can be changed for all eternity. She wants to be spent for His glory. Pray that God will give her the right desires and bring them to pass in His time, in His way.

Pray that…

She views the future with confidence (Proverbs 31:25).

She has godly desires in her heart (Psalm 37:4-5).

She wants God to forge her into an instrument to display His grace and His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

31. Her blessings

God wants to bless your future wife. He wants to bless your marriage. He wants your relationship as husband and wife to be a blessing to others. He also wants to use each of you now to bless everyone He places in your lives. Blessings don’t end with you; they always point back to Christ. You’ve been praying some incredible things for your wife…as I have for mine. Why not pray a prayer that God will do greater things even still?

Today, pray your version of the prayer below:

“God, Thank you for Your love for my future wife. As much as I will love her, I know You love her even more. You have heard my prayers for her, and You want to bless her life. I know You are able to do exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think by Your power at work in us (Ephesians 3:20). So I ask You, if I have asked for too little in my prayers for her, if the things I have voiced are too small for such a God as You, if I have not asked for enough that would fit Your glory, Your plan and Your perfect will for her, then do those things instead. Give her all the things I don’t know to ask You for; grant her blessings unspeakable, gifts incomprehensible and Your goodness beyond measure. Work in her however You desire to make her into a woman who is most like You. Amen.”

Gentlemen, my prayer for you is that you can know with certainty, when she walks down that aisle toward you, that you lifted that beautiful daughter of your King up to His throne again and again in passionate prayer. I pray your marriage is better for you having prayed for it.

In your waiting for your bride, be encouraged that Christ has been waiting on His Bride, the Church, for a couple of thousand years now, but when the time in perfect, He will be united with her. He has a perfect time planned for you to meet your bride as well.

May your life be bold, your heart honest and your love the same as Christ’s.

D.

(Click here for Part 2 of “How To Pray for Your Future Wife”)

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(P.S. If you have some things you are praying for your future wife that I have not yet included in either of the previous posts on the subject, feel free to use the email on the contact page (or just use prayingforyourfuturewife@gmail.com) to let me know what those things might be (if you like). I would love to hear how you are praying specifically for your Miss Pending and include those thoughts in a future post.)

Let me meet you on the mountain, Lord,
Just once.
You wouldn’t have to burn a whole bush.
Just a few smoking branches
And I would surely be…your Moses.

Let me meet you on the water, Lord,
Just once.
It wouldn’t have to be on a lake.
Just on a puddle after the rain
And I would surely be…your Peter.

Let me meet you on the road, Lord,
Just once.
You wouldn’t have to blind me.
Just a few bright lights on the way to chapel
And I would surely be…your Paul.

Let me meet you, Lord,
Just once.
Anywhere. Anytime.
Just meeting you in the Word is so hard sometimes
Must I always be…your Thomas?

-Norman Shirk (1981)

“I Love You, Lord…Mostly.”

The cross of Christ does not allow for nominal followers…

For no one is “half-crucified.”

He did not leave His royal splendor to secure our mediocrity.

His blood did not spill hot so that we might remain lukewarm.

His body was not broken to give us lives of mere ease.

His sacrifice does not remove our call
to do the same: to sacrifice.

Our Master, the One who died for us, demands we die to self for Him as well.

What are you holding back from the nails?

God’s Punctuality

So I was walking toward a trout stream the other day with a friend I had not seen in years. We ran into each other on another stream earlier in the morning, and we were catching up as we went to the next spot. He told me about his family, and mentioned that his college-aged son was going through a rough spot right now. I’ve had my share of rough spots too (we all have), but the more he talked, the more I sensed God tugging at my heart and mind. Continue reading

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My friend Trevor and I hit the high-elevation streams the other day. If there is a man with the God-given energy to change the world, it’s T. He doesn’t “grow weary in well-doing.”

In fact, I don’t know if he ever grows weary in doing anything.

Smaller fish, incredible scenery and talks about God…it was a day to remember.

(The beard is for an upcoming Jack Sparrow appearance…)

Snagged

The other day, while fly fishing in the mountains, I suffered the inevitable: I got snagged.

It was where the snag occurred that was so frustrating.

I was aiming for a pocket of slowly swirling water on the far side of the stream… beyond a lone, high tree limb…across a deep, churning run. Having exhausted all other methods of getting the fly where I needed it to be, including my location, I backed up and tried to just cast it over to the target.

Did I mention the tree limb?
And that it was my favorite fly?
And that I was without waders?

The cast was graceful and looping, moving through the air like a curl of woodsmoke on an autumn breeze…and then, in an instant, the fly hung some twelve feet high on the solitary limb, firmly fixed by its hook.

“I can’t believe I did that,” I muttered. “Of all the limbs in all the streams in all the world, this one had to catch my fly.” I’m a novice fly fisherman, but this was still an incredible act of carelessness. The limb was high, and sparse, and a very small target, yet, I hooked it. Had that been intentional, it would have been impressive.

Then it began to pour rain.

I looked heavenward and let the drops hit my face, then gazed back at the limb.

“God, what do You want to teach me in this?” I asked. There is always a lesson, always.

I tried tugging the line upstream to free the hook. Nope.
Throwing another loop toward the snag. Nothing.
A quick wiggle. Again, no.

Nothing was left but the nuclear option.

I waded out into that waist-deep run, got under the limb, and pulled down. After momentary pressure, there was a quick “snap” and a small piece of the limb (with fly attached) fell into the current.

Wading back to the bank, I looked at the offending scrap of wood.

There, dug in deep, was my black fly.

And right next to it…another fly.

Someone else’s fly. From some earlier time.

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A tourist staying at the campground.
A child being taught by his father how to cast.
A local who was having a bad day.

Beautiful, smart and godly fly fishing woman.
(Sorry, but it was just too easy to pass up…)

Regardless of the original owner’s identity, one thing was clear: I wasn’t the first one to get snagged.

Neither are you.

That temptation you face has been battled long before you.
Others have been rejected, lied about and betrayed just as you have been.
Countless minds and hearts have struggled with how to respond in a godly way to the pressures of sin.

There is a danger in thinking we are alone in getting caught up, but the greatest danger is thinking that the limb is too high, too distant or too small to pose any real threat.

So how will you approach your snag?

1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Quick Thought

I was thinking this morning about some sad and difficult discussions I have had with certain people over the last couple of years. When a sinful pattern surfaced, there were always certain things that seemed to follow…

“But I was angry.”
“We were in love, so it was ok.”
“I had a hard day at work.”
“My family life was rotten.”
“I deserve to have fun and be happy.”
“You did the same thing! No, wait, a worse thing!”
“You just don’t understand.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Excuses for sin and brokenness over sin can never coexist.

The denial of sin does not erase it.

As long as I offer a “plausible” reason for my disobedience, I am not truly repentant.

As long as I avoid apologizing to those I have hurt by my words or actions, I avoid real repentance. I may say, “I made it right with God, so I don’t need to apologize to them.” But that attitude reveals that, in reality, I have not made it right with God.

As long as I avoid repentance, I avoid growth, grace and fellowship with God.

The apology based upon my own reasoning tries to get me off the hook, but succeeds in driving the barb deeper; true repentance admits you’re stuck, by your own doing, and asks God to pull you free.

Is. 66:2 But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Ps. 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

2 Cor. 7:9-10 I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Yet Another Great Day…

Spent today fly fishing in the mountains with a couple of friends and the legendary Hugh Hartsell. (And no, since a couple of you will ask, I did not run into “beautiful, smart and godly fly fishing woman” today. But you never know when she might appear.) Hugh was kind enough to wade in alongside me to coach and lend wisdom on “all things trout.” 62 years of fishing on the rivers have taught him much.

He’s like the Trout Whisperer or something…

He sent me out with a fly of his own making: the Smoky Mountain Blackbird.

It works if you work it.

The catches were small, but stunning. God’s handiwork, spoken into existence. His infinite creativity on display in a sliver of life held in my palm. I know He could have just made them all plain, grey and neutral…

But He didn’t.

He fashioned them for cold mountain pools. He streamlined their bodies for stability and strength. He splashed color and dappled patterns and matched them to their surroundings to the point where, when motionless, they are almost invisible.

But early this morning, when lowering that first little trout back into the flow of the water, the sun hit him just right. He was ablaze with beauty.

I stopped my movement and literally gasped.

He was gasping for his world, and I was catching my breath having been given a glimpse of his life below the surface.

I faced him upstream, gently placed him into the ripples and felt him revive instantly. He left my palm and became a phantom again.

I straightened up, gazed downstream and considered how a small fish could make me feel very small amid the wonder of it all.

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Waded a mile of streams.

Tied enough clinch knots so that my fingers will be working them in my sleep.

Learned that if you think you see a strike, react. “It’s always a fish,” says Hugh. If it’s not a fish, and you react, you were just mistaken; if it is a fish, and you don’t respond, you missed a catch.

Found out that many trout will spit out something alluring the very moment they discover it’s fake…which is more than I can say for most humans (myself included).

Discovered if you take the time to correct something before it becomes a bad habit, you’ll progress faster later. Take the time to do it right.

No shortcuts.

No rushing.

Just like life.

How to Reply to the Nigerian Money Scam

A few years ago, I received the following email (with original spelling and grammar) very early one morning:

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Anti-Terrorist And Monitory Crime Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J.Edgar.Hoover Building Washington Dc

Dear Beneficiary,

Series of meetings have been held Continue reading

A Friend’s Thoughts On God Being In Control

When I live like God is in total control, they say it’s “the peace that passeth all understanding”…which is great if you’re King James, but I call it “I can live now.” I can get on with life because He gives me peace. I call it “functional relaxation.” Sometimes I miss out on that, even when it comes. When God gives me functional relaxation, instead of resting in it and enjoying it, I’m trying to figure out what I did–the formula, the steps, the process–whatever I did or didn’t do to make that happen so I can get it, keep it or regain it. I act like it’s all me, when all the time it’s Him. Never has been me.

Facing a Trial?

Andrew Murray famously related how he faced a time of trial in his own life:

First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,
1) By God’s appointment;
2) In His keeping;
3) Under His training;
4) For His time.

You Don’t Miss the Water…

Sometimes you must be dry to know dependence.

Thirsty enough to pay the price for a drink.

Parched enough to cry out for rain.

Whether rain from Heaven or fire from above, a dry heart receives more willingly and with gratitude.  

When you truly hunger and thirst after righteousness, you shall be filled.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink…”

Desperation comes where desperation is lacking.

Filling always requires emptiness first.

The Only Way Out Is Through

Endurance.

It’s not a matter of distracting oneself long enough for the discomfort to pass.

Nor is it adopting a carefree attitude about dealing with suffering.

It’s not whistling past the graveyard.

It’s not shrugging your shoulders and moving on.

It’s facing the dark.

Moving toward the pain.

Entering the unknown.

Fully embracing the discomfort, the shame and the fear.

It’s absorbing the hurt and allowing it to transform you.

It’s passing through uncertainty and, along the way, finding the unshakable God walking with you.

It’s trusting He is there, regardless of how it looks or feels.

People who distract themselves from the pain rarely grow deep.

They rarely rise.

They rarely relate to others in a meaningful way.

They seldom develop wisdom.

They miss the point of suffering.

Don’t pity the one who comes through the fire…

Pity those who never allow it to burn away their dross.

Perspective From the Gut

Sometimes you need perspective, and God often brings that perspective through events you never would have chosen for yourself. Take Jonah for example.

Here’s a guy who gets a message from God: Arise, go to Nineveh and preach to them. Now, in all fairness, Nineveh wasn’t the best place for him to go, it might be dangerous; they were, after all, an evil people, God said so Himself. Continue reading

Where Do You Want This Killin’ Done? (Part 2)

“Like the sisters of Lazarus, sometimes we must experience a death to our own vision before we can catch a glimpse of God’s perfect plan.”
-Dr. Don Rauniker

“If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you live differently today?” I’ve been asked that question on numerous occasions, and my answer is usually something along the lines of: “Tell everyone I care about what they mean to me, write out how and by whom I want my funeral conducted, and eat way too much gelato.” Continue reading

“I Love You With All My Heart…”

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).

We use the phrase so flippantly:
“I love you/her/him/this/that with all my heart.”

We often say it mistakenly out of emotion. It feels like all our heart. Continue reading

Every Good Gift and Perfect Gift Is From Above

Last night, during our Bible story time, I was teaching the 3rd-5th graders about our complete dependence on God. I asked them to name things they enjoy that are obvious gifts from God. Little hands shot up around the room; voices followed…

“Jesus.”

“The love of my parents for me.”

“Shelter and clothes.”

“Safety.”

“Bacon.”

(Yes, child…just, yes.)

He Wants Me to be Happy.

Been thinking about an earlier post on holiness and happiness with regard to marriage. But over the last few days, I’ve been placing the idea into the bigger perspective of my life.

God wants my happiness to be a byproduct of my holiness.

If I try to reverse that order and put happiness first, expecting that holiness will follow because of it, I will be terribly disappointed. (I have seen this in my own life.)

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33).

Including happiness in His way and time…

Waiting…Still

Have you ever had to wait on something for a long time?

Or maybe it seemed like a long time, but was really a short time?

Maybe it’s when that person just won’t move when the light turns green, or the long checkout line, or the doctor’s office. But then, there are those times when the minutes turn into hours, the hours into days, then weeks, and perhaps, yes, even years. Continue reading

God, What Is Going On?

photoIn the midst of confusion, we often wonder where God is and what the future holds.

This morning, I found a ragged slip of paper in my Bible. On it was a quote from Chuck Swindoll. I had jotted it down over a decade ago and slipped it between the pages. It read, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

So very true.  

I was reminded of Elisabeth Elliot…“We never know what God has up His sleeve. You never know what might happen; you only know what you have to do now.”  

And Thomas Carlyle as well…“Do the Duty which lies nearest thee, which thou knowest to be a Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer.”

And then there is that old hymn...”Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Faith and obedience, even through the fire of uncertainty, knowing He is not only bringing you through the blaze, but that He is there with you. 

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet. 4:19).

Perhaps the best answer to, “God, what on earth are You doing?” is simply this:

“Something not of earth.”

(Is. 55:8) 

 

When Comfort Rules Over His Command

Did you ever build couch cushion forts as a kid? I did. With great care and precision, I would stack and prop the cushions until they were in the prime positions. Pushing one cushion from the front of my fort, I would leave my safe, soft confines long enough to gather my toys, crawl back into my structure and then seal the opening behind me. I controlled what entered and what exited my little fortress.

Sometimes I think we do a similar thing in Christianity: build a fortress, seal ourselves inside and come out long enough to gather our toys only to crawl to “safety” once again.

Once we surround ourselves with soft walls of spirituality that bear little weight, become fascinated with the “toys” in our lives that we value far too much, or insulate and isolate ourselves from the “outside” world by structures of our own making, we become focused on our comfort and ease. And as long as I focus upon myself, my view of everyone else becomes dim. Once my focus is firmly set upon maintaining my comfort, then anything or anyone that runs contrary to my plans for ease poses an unacceptable level of threat. After all, I’ve worked hard to arrange the cushions on my fort as I think they should be arranged. I like to stay put.

The words of George McLeod challenge life in our cozy forts…

I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek…at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died and that is what He died about.

In light of our tendency to “hunker down and hide out,” the words of Jesus in Luke 10:2, hit hard: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

How much time are you spending trying to make your life predictable, comfortable and easy at the expense of truly living for Christ, laying your entire life before Him in total surrender and being willing to do whatever He calls you to do?

Is it time for you to leave your fort?

Worry

The Christian Atheist may do everything humanly possible to ensure a situation’s positive outcome, and still worry, I can’t just let this sit. I have to do more. But if we’ve honestly done everything we can, by definition we can’t do anything more…So in our powerlessness we settle for the only thing left within our control: we worry.

If you do catch yourself worrying even after you’ve done what was wise, remember that God is bigger than our problems, and that he wants us to hand them over to him. Worry then becomes a signal alerting us that it’s time to pray.

When we tell God what we’re worried about or what we need, we are giving our burden to him. We still have responsibility to do what we can, but doing what we can’t isn’t ours anymore. Anytime we try to take back God’s responsibilities onto our shoulders, we remind ourselves, Now that’s his problem.

Can your worry change anything? No. Can God change anything? Absolutely he can. Do what God tells you to. Give everything you cannot do to God.

From – The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn’t Exist (Craig Groeschel)

God’s Plans

Sometimes I have an image in my mind that looks something like this…

It’s a cold morning, just before dawn, and I’m sitting in my truck at the edge of a recently cleared plot of land. Beside me is a rolled-up plan. It’s the plan for my life. I’m about to meet with God so that He can look it over. God shows up (I really don’t pay any attention to what kind of vehicle He drives…). I pull out the plans and lay them on the hood of my truck and He looks them over. “Did you do this?” He asks.
“Yes.”
“All by yourself?”
“All by myself.”
“But you didn’t ask Me.”
(pause)“But I’m asking now.”
“Asking for what?”
(another pause, longer this time) “Asking for You to bless them.”
He looks at the plans again. “So, where do I fit in?”
“Excuse me?”
“Me. Where do I fit in your plans?”
I flip a page or two of the sheets, “Here, right here, see, there You are. And You are in some other places too.”
He just looks at me.
“Let Me show you something,” He says. And, with that, He takes out His own plans and places the roll of papers on the hood. “You made plans all by yourself, that’s the problem. And the plans you have made by yourself would be really good plans, if you want to accomplish them all by yourself. These are My plans for you now.”
He unrolls a tiny bit of a corner for me to see. I look at it and say, “And…?”
“Do that, and then I’ll show you more.”
“But I would like to know the rest now.”
“You have plenty to do with this one corner now. Besides, these are My plans for you, not your plans for Me. You are a part of My plan, not the other way around. So, if anyone needs to get his plans in line, it’s you.”

I find myself confronted with that reality at times. I can get comfortable and so focused doing “my own thing” and ignore the One who has plans for my life. We can neglect spending time reading His Word and separate ourselves from worshipping Him with others, then begin to live according to what makes us happy or content with little regard for the things of God. Before long, our desires can become so twisted that they bear little resemblance to what God intended.

And even good desires can become difficult desires when the timing is tested. By now, I thought I would have found a sincerely-surrendered and God-honoring woman as the love of my life, gotten married and started a family, but that’s not happened yet. Patience can be hard to come by when you want something badly. Patience is also needed when things do happen, but happen badly.

It can be frustrating to believe you are “on-track” only to see things derail in moments, but how even more frustrating would it be to live in less than God’s absolute best for you? I have to remind myself that the “corner” that He lets me see makes little or no sense at the time because I can’t see the entire picture. If I could see it, and understand it as He does, I would want nothing less than what He wants for me, even if it may be painful at the time. He’s the Architect of the plans I am to follow.

He doesn’t need my wisdom to make His plans for me (“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor.1:19b)), but I need His wisdom to follow the plan (James 3:13). Even when it seems like the plan is not what I wanted, and I am reeling, confused and heartbroken, He may be saving me from something (or someone) that would cause even more pain. The spanking I received as a child for disobeying my parents and running into the street was nothing compared to the pain of what could have been the next time an approaching car had not stopped. Heartbreak now is better than devastation later.

The only thing I can really offer to the accomplishing of the plan is my trust, obedience, and dependence upon Him. “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:10b).

Are you a part of His plans, or is He a part of yours?

Where are you ignoring God’s plans for you?

What It Means to Fall in Love (Truly)

Within [the] Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, “I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”’ Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.

–Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

If you have suffered the loss of a family member to chronic disease, if you suffer debilitating seasons of depression, if you lost your job and livelihood, or if you went through a divorce that came out of the blue, know that God is not punishing you. He is not waiting for you to do something. You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and find a way to conquer the odds, be stronger, or transform yourself into some better version of yourself. The pain you feel (whatever the degree) may be a reminder that things are not as they should be, in which case it is appropriate to mourn the gravity of that brokenness. While God does indeed use the suffering in our lives, He is interested in much more than improvements in your personality or circumstantial happiness; He is interested in saving you. He is more than your Helper; He is your Redeemer. We do not have the primary role in this drama after all; we are the actors, not the directors. Sometimes it requires getting on our knees for us to see the truth. –from Glorious Ruin (Tchividjian)

Real Love

Years ago, when I was leaving a late-evening college leadership class, one of my professors (who, in her words, was “no longer a spring chicken”) asked me if I would walk her to her car as she wasn’t able to get around easily without assistance. I offered her my arm, and she leaned into me as we made slow progress through the building to the parking lot. As we went along, she spoke to me in that melodious and lilting Old South accent…

Dustin, allow me tell you a story that I know you, of all people, will appreciate. My husband and I have lived in the same little house for years, and every morning he gets up and fixes me a cup of instant coffee. I never drink more than a cup, and my husband doesn’t drink coffee at all, so that’s why we buy the instant kind. He always has the cup waiting on the table for me. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. The past few weeks though, I have been finding the coffee in the cupboard near the sink, not across the kitchen on the shelf where it has been for years. So, when I would open the door and find it near the sink, I would put it back where it belonged.

After a few days of this my husband Frank sat across from me, took me by my hands and said to me, “Jennie dear, could we keep the coffee near the sink? It’s just easier that way. The water and the stove are on one side of the kitchen and the coffee is on the other. So when I make your morning cup, it is just easier with me having to use my cane and all for everything to be on the same side.”

“But we’ve always kept it in the other cabinet,” I said.

“I know, but it’s easier the other way.”

Now here is a man who is not getting around as well as he once did, talking to a woman for whom he makes a single cup of coffee every morning, a woman who never even touches the jar of instant coffee for anything other than to move it. And he is standing in a kitchen that is hardly big enough for two to turn around inside of it, and I know if I insisted on keeping the coffee where it has been, and spread broken glass on the floor, he would willingly walk over it to make my one morning cup.

I sat looking at this man and realized that in forty years of marriage, this is the only time I ever remember him pleading with me for anything…and the one thing he has asked me for is the one thing that could make it easier to show how deeply he cares for me.

Now that, my dear…is love.

Heart Condition

“You’ll have to find another way to pay,” said the clerk when my credit card failed to scan in a local checkout line. When I got home, I brought my account up on the computer, and there, in bold print, were the words, “Account Suspended.” Now it’s important to know that I pay the balance monthly, and that payment had been received for that month, yet something had gone amiss. A call to customer service (which is now located somewhere over the ocean, it seems) put me in touch with a representative who said she had some questions for me…

“We have some questionable charges. Did you spend $1.12 at iTunes?” she asked.
“Yes. I just bought an iPod,” I said, somewhat irritated at the question. “Are you going to suspend my account every time I buy a song?”
“No, but that’s one of the charges over the last week we wanted to check on. Did you buy gas?”
“Did I buy gas?”
“On Monday?”
“Yes, I bought gas on Monday. Gas and songs, yes, I buy them both.”
“Very good then. How about Emirates?”
“Excuse me?”
“Emirates. Did you spend $550 at Emirates?”
“What is Emirates?”
“We will come back to that.”
“No, let’s talk about that one now.”
“I have some other charges to ask about now. Did you buy another song from iTunes on Wednesday?”
“Probably. Let’s talk about this Emirates business.”
“Sir, did you or didn’t you buy a song from iTunes?”
“Was it $1.12?”
“Yes.”
“Then yes, let’s say it was me. Emirates, now, please, let’s talk about it.”
“Okay, it’s an airline sir.”
“An airline.”
“We have that you purchased a ticket yesterday from Emirates.”
“Wait…Emirates as in ‘United Arab Emirates?’”
“That would be the one.”
“Well, that would not be me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive.”
“Then it seems that someone has stolen your identity sir.”
“So what do I need to do?”
“Do you have your credit card with you?”
“Yes.”
“Do you have a pair of scissors…?”

Honestly, I was annoyed at the start of the call, but by the end, I was grateful. So grateful in fact, that I called the credit card company again later in the week just to tell them “thank you” for keeping watch over things. I, for one, was glad that this charge didn’t slip by them unnoticed. But it made me think about all those times that things slide past my conscience (I Tim. 1:5).

Sometimes, we become so accustomed to wrong thinking and so acclimated to wrong motivations and actions, that our consciences become calloused (I Tim. 4:2). Our early warning system no longer “suspends our account,” but turns a blind eye and allows our sin to keep on “spending.”

This is why we find the Bible imploring “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). The word for “keep” is the word that is used of the central and highly reinforced area of a fortress (thus “castle keep”). Because how we live our lives is evidence of what is in our hearts, we should be diligent to keep our conscience and our minds safe and be on watch for those things that attempt to bring harm.

Unfortunately, some of us take better care of our plastic than we do our hearts.

Love or Infatuation

Chip Ingram writes about the difference in Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships (great read).

A brief synopsis can be found at the following link:

http://livingontheedge.org/read-blog/blog/2011/02/14/love-or-infatuation-12-tests-to-find-out

It’s easy to go blindly into a relationship. It’s also easy to operate solely from infatuation and not develop true lasting love with another. When the infatuation “runs out” (in 6-18 months), someone might believe that he/she is no longer “in love.”

Learn the difference and save yourself some hurt.

It’s a Virtue

“The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.”
–Dr. Phillips Brooks

The psychological experiment is legendary now…Stanford University in the 1960s, a number of four-year-olds, and bags of marshmallows all converged to produce a study on waiting and rewards. A single marshmallow was placed on the table in front of each child tested. The children were told that they would be given another marshmallow in addition to the first one if they did not eat the first one before the researcher returned (usually within 15-20 minutes). If the first one was eaten before time was up, they would not receive the second marshmallow. Each child was then left alone in the room with a single, tempting marshmallow for company and was watched from the other room secretly to record the behavior.

Some children sang songs and hummed to distract themselves, while others stared around the room, intentionally avoiding the sight of the marshmallow. One child crawled under the table to avoid eating the marshmallow and others sat holding their heads. At least one of them placed the tip of his tongue on the tabletop…as…close…as…he…could… possibly…get to the marshmallow without actually touching it. There were some of the children who sat very still, very patiently, for a very long time (at least, a long time for a four-year-old) and waited. Then there were those who simply looked at the marshmallow and devoured it, thus missing the reward of twice as many later, opting instead for immediate gratification.

Patience can be hard to maintain, regardless of age. I sometimes ask groups of people, “How many of you have ever prayed for patience?” Usually a large number of hands go up. Then I ask, “How many of you have ever prayed for patience more than once?” Usually the vast majority of hands drop. Why? Because God does not so much give patience to us as develop patience in us. It’s not something that is usually dropped into a person’s life easily by a one-time installation, but it is a virtue developed over time, through difficult and trying circumstances. During those situations, God seems to take His time with us to grow patience within us. God is “the God of patience” (Rom. 15:5).

We, as His children, are to bear the same characteristic. We too, are to wait calmly and allow “patience [to] have its perfect work” (James 1:4). Often we think we have signed up for a spiritual 50-yard dash, but in actuality, we are slated for the marathon.

The marshmallow study mentioned earlier didn’t end in the 1960’s. Researchers tracked these individuals who were tested and studied them again, thirty years later, as adults. The results: the children who didn’t wait tended to become adults who were impulsive and sought instant results, whereas the ones who waited tended to be more disciplined and structured and patient in all areas of their lives. Lives of impatience, left unchecked, continually produce even more impatience.

Far too often, because of impatience, we sacrifice the “best” yet to come and settle for the “good enough” now. We seek to gratify the flesh instead of glorifying Christ. All the waiting and patience yields rewards…and they are greater than a second marshmallow.

My Mother

Spent some time over the last few days visiting my parents. My mother never fails to amaze me. I thought about something I wrote on Mother’s Day about her…

She is a woman of faith and a prayer-warrior. When she goes to her knees, the powers of Hell grow uneasy.

She’s got the ear of the Almighty. I know her voice is familiar in the Throne room. When Paul writes that we are already seated in the heavenly places with Him, it seems strange, then I think of my mother. Yeah, she’s there. One foot in Mississippi red-dirt, one foot on Heaven’s pavement.

She has a steel backbone and a heart of gold. She never fears hard work and strides into life with a “a woman’s gotta’ do what a woman’s gotta’ do” attitude. Over the years, I’ve watched her take care of my brother, my dad and me with a degree of patience that could only come from Christ alone.

I’ve seen her fix fence, comfort the dying, love orphaned puppies, tend wounds, shave necks, shoot guns, wipe tears, write beautifully, speak gracefully, pray boldly, arrange flowers, cook meals, dispense justice, speak truth, and worship freely.

You never once forgot that she was, and is, a woman. She taught me that true femininity is always inseparable from strength as they are the same.

My prayer is that my future wife has a heart so strong, a faith so deep and a love so pure.

Having a child makes one a mother, but it’s a choice rooted in love to be a mama.

A-ha Moment of the Day

“It’s never about the other person; it’s always about you and God.”

A dear and wise friend told me that via email when I shared some struggles with another person.

“About me…and God?”

It was jarring at the moment, but she was right.

Every earthly relationship we have reflects our understanding of God.

Whether it is respect for a stranger made in His image, forgiveness offered to those who wrong us, endurance practiced with those wearying us or love given to those who are loving (or unloving), every relationship, good or bad, reflects something of my relationship with God.

My goal in relationships should be to be so transformed by God that I treat others more and more like He does and less and less like I do.

If I don’t know God, or if I’m not actively pursuing Him, spending time with Him and allowing Him to change me, there is no way that any friendship or relationship of any sort will ever be everything He wants it to be. If I don’t know Him, how will I ever know those made in His image?

It’s always about Him and me.

Things I Have Learned

Buy really good shoes…and use shoe trees…cedar ones.

Remember what you post to the Internet is put there for all to see; don’t be stupid.

Be self-aware. In today’s attention-deficient, techno-buzzing world this is harder than a half century ago, yet situational awareness trumps your next social media update.

Learn to use a knife in the woods, in the kitchen and for self defense.

Pray more.

Realize that most opinions and decisions aren’t backed with careful thought but by emotions.

People are not good at heart, so watch yourself.

If you are a male, don’t wear skinny jeans…just…don’t…ever.

Keep your left up. (Or your right, for you southpaws.)

If you knowingly dishonor and disrespect a man, know that whatever displeasure, disappointment and disgust he may direct toward you is likely much less than you deserve.

Don’t learn bad habits from others.

Learn how to cook well (heating frozen fishsticks and the like is not cooking).

Never ascribe bravery to stupidity.

Develop an appreciation for well-made things with respect to the time, effort and talent it takes to produce them.

Develop a deep trust of God, and release your worry by remembering His care. (By far, the hardest thing I have ever done…through the hardest of situations.)

Grow a large plant from a small seed. There is something immensely satisfying in seeing life fill an empty space.

Always check the chamber…always…visually and with your finger…always.

When fear strikes, remember to breathe deeply. Your brain needs oxygen to think, don’t make things worse for it.

Eat more veggies.

Find a cologne that few people wear and use it so only a hint of it lingers briefly in the air. No one has a chance to remember you fondly if your scent never leaves.

Read your Bible. You’ll be amazed at how His truth speaks consistently to you.

Accept the reality of ambiguity.

Spend time talking with little kids. Their lack of cynicism can lend you valuable and needed perspective at times.

Don’t be lazy.

Meet deadlines.

Be the first to apologize…then make it right.

Hug those you love.

Tell others how much you appreciate them.

Develop the discipline of thinking truly, deeply and for long periods of time.

Don’t sacrifice the eternal for the temporary.

Buy a set of metal collar stays of assorted sizes.

And while we’re at it, own a few nice-fitting, classic dress shirts.

Offer someone else the last cookie.

Periodically, watch a snippet of a cartoon from your youth.

Own at least one item with a really good backstory…a backstory you can tell really well.

Learn the difference in infatuation and love and make choices based on that wisdom.

Don’t stop learning.

On Dying

Had to die to some more things today.

When confronted with that need to lay some things aside and move on, I try to think of the Cross. It wasn’t just a physical death, but the death of Jesus’ own will as well: “Thy will be done”. I keep thinking about Jesus being a Man of Sorrows who was well acquainted with grief. He wants us to be conformed to His image.

I like the image of the conquering King leading the armies of Heaven on horseback into battle.

I’m not too keen on dragging my Cross and dying on it every day, multiple times a day.

I like the idea of a pony more than nails.

A.W. Tozer once told someone that when you saw a person carrying his cross from the city, you knew he wasn’t coming back.

Maybe that’s it: day by day, little by little, we carry a part of ourselves out to be crucified. You can’t follow Him without dying to self. There is no other way.

Messy, messy business, this crucified life.

On Love

Love is not convenient.
It misplaces you.
Love is seldom efficient.
It lavishes.
Love is not always comfortable.
It is sacrificial.
Love is never consumed with selfishness.
It seeks the best for another first.
Love is the choice to seek the greatest good of another regardless of the cost.
The satisfaction of the lover is found in the revealing of that best choice.
True love is a call to die truly…
Because it demands the death of self.
Not a feeling…
Not an infatuation…
Not a fleeting thought…
But a resolute choice to climb upon an altar of slow fire.

On Butterflies, Forbidden Fruit and Discontent

We all struggle with “how things are” at times, and sometimes it seems quite raw. With little apologies, here are some moments from some emails I related to a friend recently…

When I was in first grade, I got chicken pox. Missed 10 days of school. Before I left there was a butterfly chrysalis in a terrarium over on the counter of the classroom near the windows. Every day we would check it. And wait. And wait.

When I came back to class, weary and still smelling faintly of Calamine lotion, I stepped over that first morning to sharpen my thick, green log pencil and saw it: the butterfly. It was perched on a limb in the terrarium and was slowly opening and closing its wings in the sunbeam.

I went into overload. Continue reading

Big Sky

“The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Ps. 19:1).

The sun, moon, stars, the planets and all astronomical objects and events point toward the existence, creativity, goodness, greatness and majesty of the Creator. This is why Paul writes that humanity is “without excuse” for unbelief (Rom. 1:20). It’s a great big universe fashioned by an eternal God. A really big universe.

A point of reference for your consideration…

Gaze into the reaches of the night sky and find Polaris, the North Star. The twinkling light falling on your eyes began its journey nearly 434 years ago (around the same time that Squanto, the Native American who helped the Pilgrims weather that first harsh winter at Plymouth, was born). Speeding along at 700 million miles per hour, the light is just now reaching Earth. That’s just one star.

One.

One out of many.

So many in fact, if you were to take the number of all the grains of sand on our planet and multiply it times 10, you would get the low-end estimate of the total number of stars in existence.

God not only spoke them all into being, but He knows their number and calls each by name (Ps. 147:4).

But He is not just the God of Polaris, the Andromeda galaxy and the rings of Saturn, He’s also the God who sees every sparrow that falls, numbers the hairs on your head (Matt. 10:29-30)…and He knows your name too.

Yes, He’s the transcendent Creator, but He’s also the personal Redeemer and Sustainer.

He is mindful of you.

And you, me and all humans are His crown jewels of creation; Polaris isn’t even a rhinestone by comparison.

Take comfort that this God, in the vastness of the universe, is intimately acquainted with you.

Psalm 139:17-18
How precious to me are your thoughts God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand…

On Birthdays and Belly Buttons

I grow pensive every time I have a birthday. The date serves as a marker for me, not just for the passage of time, but as a moment for me to look back and remember the previous year. I take stock, weigh good decisions and bad ones and try to make sense of where I find myself at the present as I lick icing from my fingers. Continue reading

Books

This are some books I would suggest to any person wanting to have a better grasp of love and marriage.

The Mystery of Marriage 20th Anniversary Edition: Meditations on the Miracle by Mike Mason

Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships by Chip Ingram

The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why? by Gary Thomas

Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy by Gary Thomas

(For women) Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands by Gary Thomas

Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference by Shaunti Feldhahn

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy and Kathy Keller

Choosing God’s Best: Wisdom for Lifelong Romance by Dr. Don Raunikar

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary D. Chapman

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before and After You Marry by Les Parrott

I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah: Moving from Romance to Lasting Love by Ravi Zacharias

(Disclaimer: Books or other materials suggested are done so purely because they have proven to be valuable resources for my growth. I have received no payment, dinners, pats on the back, kudos or round-trip tickets to exotic locales for my recommendations.)