Monday, November 30, 2009

Love Dare: Day 26

Today's chapter is called "Love is Responsible." It is a biggie. It is all about having a good attitude about criticism that comes your way and always asking for forgiveness for any wrongdoing that is your own (regardless of what your spouse has done).

This is a big challenge for me. I don't easily say "I'm sorry." It hasn't been something I've done well in any manner with anyone, and, though I'm working on it and recognize it, it is a hard chapter for me.

Ryan and I both have trouble saying I'm sorry first. We are both fairly defensive and more concerned about what the other person has done. This chapter reminds us that we need to FIRST be concerned with repenting of our own wrongdoing. Get the plank out of our own eye.

The dare today is to prayerfully consider any wrong I have done in my marriage (for which I haven't yet taken responsibility) and to seek Ryan's forgiveness for it. Pray that I will do this and really search my heart. I know I have a lot of room for growth in this area!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love Dare: Day 25

Today's dare chapter is entitled "Love Forgives." This is near and dear to my heart. Leading a marriage ministry with my husband, we see many marriages which can't be repaired because one participant or both is unwilling to practice forgiveness. Anger, bitterness and hurt imprison us when we choose to hold onto them. The initial feelings of hurt we felt dissipate and we are trapped with sinful feelings of bitterness and anger. We must choose to let this go and choose to move forward in forgiving and loving our spouse, even when they don't deserve this kindness. We only hurt ourselves when we act contrary to what God desires.

First and foremost we need to remember what God did for us. While we were enemies and while we were sinners, God DIED for us and suffered for OUR sins. Nothing our spouses do to us can match what God faced because of us. We are recipients of this grace, and yet we hold onto much lesser wrongs our spouse commits. We expect them to overlook grievances we do and then we punish them for as long as it takes until we feel they have paid for their wrong--but do we ever actually feel it was paid for? The answer is no. At some point we have to choose to forgive and give the justice to God. Otherwise, our lack of satisfaction at true justice eats us alive and piles bitterness upon bitterness.

The dare today is to think of ANYTHING you haven't forgiven in your spouse and to let it go. This might be something BIG--an affair, lies, emotional abuse. This might be something smaller--lack of attention, forgetting an important event, not living their role in the marriage. This might be something trivial--they accidentally hurt your feelings, they didn't say the right thing, or they left a task undone and you had to do it.

Whatever you haven't forgiven, pray God would release it from your heart, feel the relief of letting God deal with any wrongs, and choose to live your marital role in a godly manner.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love Dare: Day 24

Today's lesson was on Love vs. Lust. It was about how our eyes see something, our hearts desire it, and then we act on it in sin. This can apply to sexual material, but, as it clearly states in this chapter, this can be anything--a new material thing, a position of authority, a job, a relationship, money and affluence, etc.

The chapter goes on to explain the love and lust are polar opposites. Love is being content and choosing to honor the other person above yourself. Lust is selfish and all consuming. It is the definition of not having contentment.

The dare today is to identify any object of lust in your life and remove it. I know in the Fireproof movie, this is where the main character smashes his computer because he was addicted to pornography. For me, this is a good reminder to check my heart for contentment and make sure no yearning for "more" of anything is in my life--being more thin, more recognition, ANYTHING. I need to check for balance and contentment, for even as I make goals that are not sinful, they must not consume me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Love Dare: Day 23

Ryan and I took the boys and spent almost a week in the Las Vegas area. Despite Ryan getting the 24 hour stomach flu, we had a good time, but I'm WAY behind on my love dare days. So, let's get crackin'!

Today's dare is Love Protects. It talks about taking any harmful influences out of your marriage that undermine it. This could be harmful friends, things that build unrealistic expectations like movies or novels, lustful viewing or temptations, etc. I also liked that it mentioned keeping any vulnerabilites you know in your spouse private. You are to protect them in public and never speak down about your spouse to others--especially using weaknesses that you are privy to witness at home.

The dare is to get rid of any harmful influences that are in our marriages and lives. Ryan and I have set up boundaries in this area, and we hope to always work to protect our marriage against sinful influences. I for sure could work on always building up my spouse! I know I can jest about him in ways that might hurt his feelings, so my goal today is to be more careful about how I speak about Ryan around others. I want him to be encouraged and built up by my words!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Love Dare: Day 22

Today is Ryan's birthday! Happy birthday, love! What a blessing he is in my life.

Today's chapter is called Love is faithful. It speaks of God's unconditional, redeeming love, as illustrated so well in the life of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible. Though we fall short and did nothing to deserve God's love, He forgives and chooses to love us faithfully.

This is the crux of marriage. We should be faithful to our spouse--choosing to love them each and every day, not because they earn our love, but because we choose to commit to them and love them. This is the problem with so many marriages ending in divorce--there is no concept of faithfulness in love. People love only if it is earned. This is inevitably a failing way to run a marriage.

The dare for today is to tell your spouse you love them, you will always love them, and you choose to love them even if they don't want to love you back.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love Dare: Day 21

Yesterday, we had a fantastic family day at Knott's Berry Farm. It was great to be out together, but I didn't have a chance to post for the Love Dare. So, we will continue today. The chapter today is called "Love is satisfied in God." It reminds us that our spouses will disappoint, but God never does. The dare goes on to ask that the reader start a steady quiet time each day.

I grew up in a church that really didn't focus on quiet time, and I believe my spiritual maturity suffered because of it. Once I realized the need for daily Bible reading and prayer, I noticed a pattern of growth in my walk. How can I know the Bible, apply it to my life, and use the Word of God to live godly in Christ Jesus if I am not studying it, learning it and meditating upon it?

So, this is a great chapter dare! If you haven't done your quiet time today, stop reading blogs and go read the Word of God!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Love Dare: Day 20

Okay, so I'm half way there! This really isn't as hard as I thought. It helps that I have good friends doing this too and I'm being held accountable.

Today's chapter is the second half of the gospel chapters, and it is called "Love is Jesus Christ." I already voiced my concerns with how we must carefully present the gospel yesterday. The only additional concern I had today was that the idea of "rededication" was suggested. If you fall away from your faith and any attempt to live with God as Lord for an extended period of time, then you probably can know you were never in true saving faith. You were dating Christ, but you never fully made the commitment to Him. I was like that. Rededication isn't in the Bible. It is a cultural term we have created so that people can think they became Christians as young kiddos. What happens usually is we grow up in the church and obey our parents. We go away to college and "rebel" to certain degrees. Our theology changes and we start to even recognize we are living for ourselves and pleasure rather than God. Anyway, time goes on, life gets hard, and we realize we do need Christ in our lives after all. When we truly submit to him, lay down our pursuit of pleasure and ourselves, then we have come to a full acceptance of what the cross means to our sinful selves. This is the true point of conversion.

Anyway, that is my only beef today. : ) You have to be so careful with the gospel!

I agree with the title and the main point! Love is Christ Jesus. He is the source of love. Without Him in our lives, we cannot agape love others! Thank you, Christ, for giving me the example of how to love Ryan!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Love Dare: Day 19

Love is impossible. That was the title of today's chapter. It sounds kind of negative, doesn't it? Well, the point of the chapter was to bring the reader to the realization that love, agape style, IS impossible without God. He is the giver of this kind of love, and if you do not have a relationship with Him, you cannot be demonstrating this love to your spouse on a regular basis.

I had a slight issue with this chapter, because it is beginning to unfold the gospel message to the reader. However, it is starting in a way I personally find unproductive--focusing on God's love without exposing the sin that needs His love to forgive. The chapter promises that you will be able to have agape love for your spouse if you have God "in your heart." Though this is not false, it is a feel good message before the really bad news has been delivered.

I grew up in a few churches, but the one we attended during my formative years of junior high and high school was a church that had a feel good gospel. God is love, accept God into your heart, God loves everyone, etc. There was no mention of repentance, isolation and being an enemy of God because of my sin, the reason for the cross is not just love but PAYMENT to a just God for the sins of mankind, and a life of obedience and sanctification after the repentance and faith. There was no fruit check to really see if we were in Christ. I believe I wasn't. I thought I was. I couldn't explain my pattern of behavior, though.

It wasn't until I truly saw my capability for rebellion against God, choosing sin over righteousness and seeing a pattern of bad choices that I realized how corrupt my flesh was. I wasn't breaking the law or doing anything the world sees as horrible, but I wasn't living according to God's Word. I was an enemy of God. I had to SUBMIT to Him, repent and admit my sinful status, and OBEY Him. This didn't happen until I was just graduating from college.

God isn't as concerned about life being easy and wonderful for us as He is about our eternal state. He is concerned about our holiness and obedience to Him. We must lose our lives to gain them.

Anyway, the love is important, but it has to be put in context when giving people the gospel message.

So, the dare today is to think of the times I've found a dare of agape love hard to do on my own. I would say my flesh struggles with the idea of not being irritated by stress and then taking that out on my family and Ryan. That day was a day I needed to draw my strength from God the most. When I tried to do it on my own, I failed. When I submitted to Him and denied my own desires, it was WAY easier. Denying oneself isn't popular or easy, but God commands it.

Today we are going out for Ryan's birthday dinner--just us. It will be a nice break for us and a good chance to talk and celebrate the blessing He is to me. I am so thankful for my husband!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Love Dare: Day 18

Today was hard. We both woke up grouchy. The boys were up an hour earlier than normal, and even though I prayed before I got them, I was tired (still getting energy back from the flu) and I woke up to a lot of e-mails from our marriage ministry. Ryan was tired from Thrive the night before and cut it close on getting up with time to get to work. Since he was running late, he had little time or patience for the whining boys and my slow self this morning. Having been cooped up with the boys for three days while we get rid of germs hasn't helped. We are all stir crazy and crabby.

Sound familiar? I'm sure we've all been there. So, today was hard. I wasn't feeling warm fuzzies toward Ryan when he called during the day to remind me to do calls or e-mails. I wasn't exactly thrilled at all the posts I read on Facebook about how so and so's husband brought them coffee and took the kids downstairs so she could sleep in . . . Doesn't it seem like Satan sends a bunch of those status updates on the mornings we are disgruntled? Ugh.

However, I really struggled and fought to stay positive today. I decided to choose to be happy with the things that were great, and when I was able to focus, I did much better. God was faithful when I was obedient to quit pouting. I'm not saying I didn't sin and have some moments of self-pity. I have to always remember I'm not entitled to anything, and God's grace is sufficient. Entitlement--there is another post.

So, today's love dare is on understanding your spouse. It talked about how we study one another when we are dating, but we don't really have in depth conversations or try to better know our spouse once our marriage is settled.

Ryan and I spend a lot of time together, and I would say we know a lot about each other's lives and activities. I know what his fears, hopes and dreams are. However, where we rush and hate to spend time is in the immediate needs. In the rush of life and our tiredness, I think we don't want to see the exhaustion in our spouse, because that would mean stopping and talking or helping. We overlook the frustration in the short response we get because we just don't want to deal with something we might have said that bothered them. We are selfish in our own trials, and marriages can sometimes get derailed through lack of stopping and really being open to listening to your spouse--to really listening, encouraging and thinking about their immediate needs.

That is why today's dare is awesome. It says to cook a romantic dinner at home and have the kids out of the house. Well, Ryan is out tonight with a Thrive activity. (I'm still in quarantine with the boys and stayed home). However, I am going to put a date on the calendar and do this. We don't need to have a restaurant. I'll get nice steaks, make his favorite potatoes and dessert. I think I'll even dream up a little game of questions to get the communication flowing about the here and now needs of Ryan. It will be a good night of getting to understand my spouse better.

Oh, and for the hard day--it is almost over. Thank goodness God's mercy is new EVERY morning!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Love Dare: Day 17

So, I'm one day behind now. I came down with the stomach flu yesterday, and today we are recovering at home and Lysoling everything in the house. Thank you, Lord, for the conveniences of a washing machine, disinfectants and HOT, HOT water for cleaning.

Today's dare is about how love is intimate. It wasn't talking about the physical relationship between you and your spouse, but it was talking about emotional intimacy. A lot of the focus was on being able to safely share things with your spouse and not feel judged or like the thing you are sharing might be unfairly used against you.

I know Ryan does a great job of letting me share anything with him. All my yucky struggles I immediately share with him--he encourages me and prays for me. He always follows up and asks me how I am doing in an area I've shared with him. He's learned he doesn't have to always fix it--though he gives GREAT advice. Sometimes I just want him to listen. He's always my advocate. I pray I do the same for him. I really do think we do a good job in this area, but it is good to be aware that this needs to be protected and kept strong.

The dare was to pray for secrets your spouse has shared with you. Also, if you are struggling to love your spouse because of any issues or secrets, to resolve to love them despite this. Also, listen to your spouse when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you, so they feel safe. Good advice for sure!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love Dare: Day 16

So today's chapter is how love intercedes. In other words, it speaks about the importance of praying for your spouse! I've read the book The Power of a Praying Wife, and I pray for Ryan every day through my prayer journal. However, I like the idea that this chapter presented: pick 3 specific areas on which to pray for your spouse. When I looked at this challenge, I started brainstorming what areas I wanted to include, and I realized I am not praying enough for Ryan. I am his closest advocate, and he needs prayer from me! I need to pray he is protected from temptation at work, pray he continues to lead our family biblically, pray for boldness to witness, pray for a soft heart when it comes to giving up time, pray for endurance and strength when he works hard, pray for encouragement at work and ministry, pray for wisdom when trials surface, etc., etc. That isn't even the tip of the iceburg! Needless to say, I am excited to be more purposeful in my praying for Ryan. I am to intercede for him in prayer because I choose to love him!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Love Dare: Day 15

Today's chapter was about honoring your spouse and setting them apart as special. When I think about the specifics that go into showing honor to your spouse, I know I fall short. I respect Ryan and even show love, but I don't often think about how I can HONOR him.

To honor Ryan, I considered his time more important than my own. I honored him by putting Carter and Micah to bed (I usually only put Micah to bed) so he could get a bunch of stuff done on the computer. He was very appreciative and got a lot finished!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Love Dare: Day 14

Today's chapter talks about the choice we make to take DELIGHT in our spouse! We might be tired of their needs or desire alone time, but we need to choose to delight in who they are and who God gave us.

I know that sometimes Ryan gets home from work and I am SPENT! The boys have nagged all day, Micah is needing to be held continually, and nothing I wanted to accomplish is finished. I am not prone to smile and delight in him when he says, "Let's talk about Thrive game ideas" or "Do you want to play a board game?" I want to go VEG in front of the computer or TV and have personal space time for a bit. He, however, has the opposite need. He's been at work missing his family all day, and his reward for all his work is to come home and spend time with all of us.

SO, today's dare is to drop a project I wanted to get done today and spend time doing what Ryan wants--something with him. This actually already happened today. We got the boys down for naps, and I had about 5 things I wanted to do on the computer. WELL, he wanted to create some game ideas for the Thrive Christmas party and talk about a future vacation. So, I put ordering Christmas cards on hold for the day and helped him think of game ideas for Thrive. It was time well spent, and I'll totally be able to order Christmas cards another day. : )

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Love Dare: Day 13

Well, Ryan and I fight as all couples do, but thanks to Christ in our lives, it happens few and far between. Today's love dare is about having healthy rules of engagement when you are fighting with one another. Ryan and I have talked about this before. At different times, different suggestions have been given. Here are some good rules of engagement that we like:

--Don't fight in public.

--Tell the person you need a break because you are not able to practice self control if you are feeling out of control, BUT don't walk away until you've asked permission to take a break.

--stick to the issue at hand (no bunny trails)

--Admit your own part/insecurities in the problem

--Try not to fight in front of the kiddos

--Don't disagree on discipline for the kids in front of them

--Don't use raised voices

--Give the benefit of the doubt to the other person

--Don't do the silent treatment--communicate.

--Have restitution as soon as possible and pray at the end of a discussion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Love Dare: Day 12

Well, I forgot to make the waffles for Ryan yesterday, so today I got up and made waffles for him. He really enjoyed the family time and the extra special breakfast, so it was worth it!

Today's love dare is about disagreements in your marriage. The chapter talks about how many disagreements are fueled by our selfish stubborness. We refuse to compromise or give in to our spouse. There are issues we won't necessarily agree upon, but there definitely are little disagreements throughout the day that blow up into bigger issues due to our unbending attitude. Does this strike a cord? It does with me. Which direction we should have gone to get there faster, what outfit would have been better to wear or put on the boys, where we should eat, what we should do with our family time, what vacation to take, how we read a person's disposition and why one person was offended and the other wasn't (guess which applies to which one of us--HA!), etc, etc, etc.

Today's dare is to choose a disagreement between you and your spouse and willingly give in and concede to your spouse's opinion. This requires humility, which isn't always easy! Weekends are a great time to practice this, as we are around each other all the time and disagreements undoubtedly arise. So, I'll fill you in once this dare has been completed!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Love Dare: Day 11

Today's focus is that love cherishes. The chapter started out with a great illustration. First there is the scenario of a man whose car has fallen into disrepair and needs extremely expensive fixes and is unreliable. If he gets rid of the car and gets a new one, we'd totally understand. Secondly, there is a man who crushes his hand in a work accident. It needs costly surgery and therapy to nurse it back to health. He willingly does all this and does not chop off his hand because it is not at full potential. Many people view marriage like the FIRST scenario. If it isn't working for you, get rid of it and get a newer model. This is so sad.

So, my dare to cherish my husband is to do a chore or task for him that needs to get done. I'm going online today to order pictures from Costco for him. He hates doing this and looked VERY relieved when I said I'd take over the task of uploading photos and ordering them. Hopefully I don't mess it up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love Dare: Day 10

Wow! I can't believe we are 1/4 of the way through the Love Dare book. This has been fun! Some moments have been hard or painful to realize, but I love being able to think about blessing Ryan each day.

Today's lesson is on unconditional love: agape. Remember that list you made about your spouse. Imagine if every good quality they exhibit slowly disappeared. They no longer were good dads. They lost their job and didn't provide. They stopped doing the bills and being the planner for the family. Etc., etc.,etc. What if there was nothing to love at all?

In the world's eyes, that is the end of the relationship. In God's eyes, nothing has changed, because agape isn't based on anything but choosing to love. There are no conditions or qualities one must have to be loved. Though, as a Christian, I've heard this numerous times, this was convicting in how sometimes I justify treating Ryan badly because he has hurt me or has done something unloving. Yuck.

So today's dare is to do something above and beyond for your spouse that shows them you are choosing to love them today. Girls: wash the car, do the yardwork he does normally, buy him his favorite dessert pack his lunch. Boys: fold the laundry, get up early with the kids and let her sleep, or do some cleaning she normally does. I haven't decided what I'll do. I don't normally pack Ryan's lunch, but perhaps I'll get up early with him and make him homemade waffles tomorrow. He just washed his car, but that would have been a GREAT one! I'll file that idea away for later. : )

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love Dare: Day 9

So before my major issues on Saturday and being irritable, Ryan was digging my new attitude and actions. I even got surprise flowers from Ryan on Saturday morning! It is so true that your attitude affects others!

I love today's dare, because I need to work on it desperately. We've talked about it a million times, but the way I greet my husband when he walks in the door sets the tone for the evening. I can welcome him with a smile and hug and full attention, or I can be grumpy, yelling at the kids and complaining (which is often the case, sadly). So, the dare today is to have a loving, wonderful greeting waiting for Ryan when he walks in the door. I need to make him feel valued by me and missed while he was gone. These things are true, so I can reflect this in my greeting. One way I can have a loving greeting is by planning dinner so I'm not stressed when he walks in the door. So, I'm off to cook with plenty of time to spare!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love Dare: Day 8

Writing the negatives and positives list yesterday was really interesting. I didn't enjoy thinking about all the negatives about my spouse, but it was a great exercise to be writing about all of Ryan's strengths. It made me appreciate him more! Before bed, I thanked him for being such a hard worker and provider for our family.

Today, I was supposed to burn the negatives list, but I didn't want to start a fire, so I ripped it up and threw it away. A wife is supposed to be a husband's biggest fan, and negativity cannot take root in a marriage. Today's lesson was about not being jealous of your spouse, but it is important to encourage them and celebrate any success they encounter. To be honest, this didn't really strike a cord with me. I can't imagine being jealous of Ryan getting a raise, having people tell him he did a good job on a sermon, or of him finishing a running race for which he has been training. Whenever Ryan is successful, I am so proud of him! I know I should never say I'm above a sin, though. That is when Satan uses our pride to cause us to fall. So, I am happy to be Ryan's fan and celebrate his achievements.

I am supposed to also tell Ryan about how glad I am of a success he has had recently. I do need to work on this! Though I might not be jealous, I need to be a constant encourager--even in the little things!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Fest 09

Every year, our church hosts a community outreach called Fall Fest on Halloween. It is a large scale carnival with free rides, food, games, entertainment, etc. Each year it gets bigger and better, and each year the crowds hear about it and more and more people come. We love the growth, as that means more people hear about Compass Bible Church and might come to church if they don't have a home church! Last year about 5,000 people came, and this year there were about 7,800 people.
Carter was so excited this year! He looked quite dapper in his Buzz Lightyear costume with blinking wing lights. He squealed in delight as we were let into the event, and we went to the swings, big slide and cars first thing. This year they had a toddler lot that was awesome! It was less crowded, but they still had free food, pony rides, a train, bounce houses, bumper cars and lots more. Our ministry, Thrive, had a band that played at the event, and they were awesome.
Micah was in awe of all the noise, lights, crowds and excitement. He wasn't a fan of his hot octopus outfit or his late dinner, but he'll enjoy it more next year.

Enjoy some pics!

Love Dare: Day 7

Okay, I didn't do so well at not being irritated. I am glad I have many days to work on this. I had failed about an hour after I read the chapter, and then the crowds at Fall Fest, a hyper 3 year old and a crabby 7 month old, and eating dinner at 8pm did me in. I'm not excusing it, but I'm setting the scene to show you how irritated I probably was. Ugh. I'll keep plugging away at that and asking for forgiveness when I fall short.

Today's dare is to write two lists about your spouse. Each will be used later, separately in the love dare days. I am to write a list of all the negative things about Ryan and then a list of all the positive things about Ryan. After I am done, I need to pick one positive thing about Ryan and tell him today that I appreciate that characteristic of his!