Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Christian Family Life

Volume 3 No. 174 October 17, 2013

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Holy Family
Holy Family
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

THIS WEEK IN CHURCH

Bible Readings for This Sunday (October 20)

Bible Readings For the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo Feast
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_6th_sunday-after-sleebo.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (October 20)

Sermons for the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-after-Sleebo.htm

Inspiration for Today

Fear thou not, ... saith the LORD: for I am with thee. ...

THEMATIC ARTICLES

Featured: Introduction to Christian Marriage and Premarital Counseling

Primary aim of pre-marital counseling course is to prepare and equip men and women for an effective marital life. It covers everything from the emotional, sexual, psychological and religious aspects to personal grooming. ...

Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage

Marriages are always a work in progress. Each spouse is changing and developing, which means there are new things to learn at every age. Sometimes marriages run into problems that need the help of a third party. If this happens in your marriage, find someone who will work in support of your marriage, not just agree with your grievances. ...

Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage

When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a pre-married couple, here's what I'd tell them about the "Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married":

Lord, I Need Your Help in My Marriage

One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad. But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. ...

When a Man Loves a Woman

Men and women are different in many ways. One area in particular is in the area of needs. Women have needs that are significantly different than those of men. How has God put a woman together? What does she need from a man? In marriage, a man shows love to his wife by learning to meet seven basic needs that are the essence of who his wife is. ...

Five Keys to Your Man's Inner Heart

Meeting your husband's romantic needs involves more than understanding the differences between men and women. It also means remembering what pleases him. And it means sacrificing your own needs to meet those of your husband. Barbara and I have learned the hard way that selfishness and romance do not mix well. ...

God and Sexuality

With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve's job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God's behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture. ...

A Nagging Spouse

I wonder how many times we drive our husbands, our co-workers, our children, our friends or even our acquaintances away because of nagging or quarrelsome behavior? Are we even aware of it in our own lives? Do we justify it or brush it off when another person fails to meet our expectations? ...

Five Goals for Growing Closer to Your Spouse

What was I doing to get in better shape, relationally, with my husband? Convicted at where my priorities were, I realized that I needed to deliberately and intentionally invest in my marriage just as much as I was investing in other areas of my life. And that meant setting tangible goals yearly in that area, too. So I let my husband, Hugh, in on the goal-making process by asking him a few non-threatening questions. ...

More Resources For Christian Family Living

Malankara World Library has a wealth of articles covering various aspects of Family Living. You can find it here:
http://www.malankaraworld.com/Library/Family/default.htm

Also one special issue of Malankara World Journal is of interest:
Volume 3 No 160 (August 29, 2013) with the theme: Marriage and Divorce

GENERAL ARTICLES

Inspirational: If I Could See!

Sometimes we get things that really open our eyes. May God Bless all of you in reading this beautiful “Story To Live By”! ...

Recipe: Kerala Coconut Chicken Curry

Flavors, Spices meld and permeate in simple to prepare Kerala Coconut Chicken Curry. Adapted Kerala recipe by a Jewish Cook. ...

Favorite Poem of Mother Teresa

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway. ...

The Doctor Who Treated The Blessed Mother Teresa

Dr George Lombardi, who treated the late Mother Teresa in the 80's at then Calcutta, describes his experience. He says it laced with humor, in his inimitable style .. Absolutely fantastic and funny. ...

About Malankara World

Foreword
Malankara World was founded with the objective of helping our family. Here is an excerpt from our original vision:

"We started Malankara World recognizing the need for a resource for our families to grow spiritually. These days, we face enormous pressures and stresses in our lives irrespective of our ages or situation in our lives. Once in a while, we need to relax and meditate and obtain strength from the savior who told us that "He has a gentle yolk."

Our church offers enormous opportunities through our sacraments; but most do not understand them. We also have a rich bible; but we do not take time to study or understand it.

We also need help with our everyday lives - solving specific family related issues, our health, our career etc.

Many youngsters grow up knowing very little about the basic faith of Christianity and the Bible. The basic teachings of Christ, such as love, unconditional service (discipleship), etc. are often lost in our zeal to fight with each other and telling others how better we are.

Malankara World hopes to address each of these issues from a spiritual perspective."

Every issue of Malankara World Journal to-date had an article titled, "Family Special." We also published an entire journal focused on looking at marriage and marital relationships (Issue 160). We have a whole section in our Library dedicated to Family. This issue of the journal is another first. This is also dedicated to the families. We are proud to feature an exclusive article by Rev. Fr. Thomas Kurian who served as Director of the Premarital Counseling Program at Kottayam Diocese, one of the pioneers in implementing premarital counseling in our church. It discusses the core of what they teach in the course. Achen has a wealth of experience in counseling, palliative and hospice care and pain management. We hope to take advantage of his expertise in the future issues of the journal.

I am glad that we are making progress in bringing the awareness of the importance of providing the assistance to our family to our church leaders. The support must be provided not only before the marriage, but also after the marriage. During my recent trip to Kerala, I had an opportunity to talk to HG Joseph Mor Gregorios, the Metropolitan of Kochi Diocese and Secretary of Episcopal Synod. Thirumeni told me that they are starting the post marital counseling in his diocese very soon. In the American Diocese, under the leadership of HE Yeldho Mor Titus, Archbishop of MASOC - NA, we had a special session on Depression in our last Family Conference held at Dallas, TX. The session was very well received with a lively Q&A session. We also established an office of Pastoral Care under the leadership of Very Rev. Abraham O. Kadavil Cor Episcopa. These are small beginnings, but important ones. We are proud of bringing the need for Family Support and Pastoral Care to the attention of our bishops through Malankara World.

In this context, last week Pope Francis called an extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the family. The Synod will convene in Rome in October 5-19, 2014. The official theme for the assembly is: "The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization."

By choosing the family as the topic of the next Synod meeting, the Pope also signals the importance of addressing the crisis in family life. That message is underlined by the Pope's call for an "extraordinary" meeting.

The Synod is expected to address the breakdown in family life in much of the developed world, and the decline in respect for the family based on marriage. The Pope has also called for discussion of how the Church should address the pastoral needs of Catholics who have divorced and remarried.

The catholic church has many programs already in place to provide support to marriage and families. It is high time that our church wakes up and implement more such programs taking advantage of our educated laity and clergy. Malankara World stands ready to help in whatever way we can.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (October 20)

Bible Readings For the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo Feast

Sermons for This Sunday (October 20)
Inspiration for Today
Fear thou not, ... saith the LORD: for I am with thee; I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure. - For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.

Jer. 46:28. -Isa. 54:7,8,10,11.

Thematic Articles

Featured: Introduction to Christian Marriage and Premarital Counseling

by Fr. Thomas K Kurian, Oklahoma

INTRODUCTION

Marriage is one of the sacraments in the Church. It is strongly based on Bible verse "they become one flesh." Even though it is a holy sacrament, marriage faces many challenges today. The lacking of important qualities is the main reason for the failure of marital life. Here, I would like to explain some important marital qualities with special emphasis on communication, sexuality, parenting and spirituality.

CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

"So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them, God blessed them, 'be fruitful and multiply.'" Gen 1, 27.

Jesus said (in Mt.19:4,5) "(God) made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one separate." These verses are the basic theory of Christian marriage.

In Syrian Orthodox faith, marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the church. It is not a mere contract, but a great mystery (Eph 5; 32).

Marriage is one of God's greatest schools of learning. It can be a place where a husband and wife are refined. The rough edges are gradually filed away until there is a deeper, smoother and more fulfilling, working and blending together that is satisfying to both individuals. But this takes an incredible amount of time, energy and effort. (H. Norman Wright 1992, P 9-10.)

Mr. George Yilder in his classic book, 'Men and Marriage', says that "men and women were designed for each other and often feel incomplete alone." Not the emphasis on God's plan on Marriage.

According to Modestinus, "Marriage is a union of a man and a woman and a communion of the whole of life, a participation in divine and human law."

The core of the teaching about marriage, according to Karl Rahner, is that the love between husband and wife parallels the love of Christ and His church.

Marriage resembles the relation between Christ and the church. It is a covenant relation. It also calls to participate in the redemptive act of God.

MARITAL QUALITY

Marital quality of a family is based on several factors. Quality of individual life is also very much considered. Physical, emotional and spiritual development very much influence the growth of a person. The ups and downs of the family can be survived according to the quality of the family. Some of the key factors of marital qualities are spirituality ,communication, sexuality and parenting. The effectiveness of the family depends up on these qualities.

Spirituality

In Bible three aspects are mentioned in relation to marriage. In Genesis, it is mentioned that he shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, they become one (Gen 2:24). This leaving, cleaving and becoming one is absolutely necessary for married life. Leaving means emotional and mental leaving not mere physical.

Christian Marriage is considered a sacrament because it is seen as a channel of grace. God says they will become 'One flash.' This means that the partners see each other's bodies as extension of their own. It also means a total physical intimacy. Hence a new relationship is experienced in married life and this relationship is grounded in faith. The involvement of spiritual activities must be together. During the crisis situation their spirituality must help them to overcome the crisis. Forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, commitment and self-sacrifices to the partner through Jesus Christ are the great contributions of married life of Christian couples.

Communication

Social Scientists and counselors are finding that improving and enriching an intimate relationship often centers around learning to communicate effectively. Ability and willingness to communicate is yet another aspect in marital relationship. Studies (by Burleson and Denton 1997: 884) on the relationship between communication skills and marital satisfactions revealed that communication problems are the difficulties most frequently expressed by couples in relationship. Communication should help the partners to harmonize and compromise the differences. Couples are to be encouraged in developing parallel communication.

Transactional Analysis (TA) therapy can be taken as a tool for teaching about communication in pre-marital counseling. Research on couple communication has found that unhappy married couples are distinguished by their failure to manage conflict. The emotional tone of everyday communication is also important (Noller and Fitzpatrick 1991 pp 45-46). A two way flowing communications between two human beings is the spark that enhance the marriage life. This communication flow is like a stream that smoothes and polishes the stones on its way and reflects the light of the sun. Communication is not only exchanging words and ideas but also inner-most thoughts and feelings.

Communication heals the pain and sickness of the couple and it also makes them open to each other. Attaining reconciliation is the main contribution of effective communication.

Sexuality

Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love. Sexuality is the core dimension of the human need to love and to be loved. Sexuality is a part of any marital relationship and sex is a strong factor behind enduring relationships.

Heiman of Loppicolo (1981, PP 597-598) discusses certain general factors important including the sexual relationship in marriage. They are:

(a) Flexibility in sex role
(b) Openness, receptiveness and expressiveness
(c) Active intimacy and involvement
(d) Trust and commitment
(e) Love
(f) Erotic attraction
(g) Freedom, autonomy and responsibility.

According to Dominion (1987, pp 163-64), marital intercourse is a body language, a couple using their bodies to speak to each other at least five things. They are:

personal, physical and emotional unity,
a recurrent act of hope,
an act of reconciliation,
a powerful affirmer of the sexual identity and
recurrent act of affirming the person.

For human beings, sexual activity is not purely a biological drive for the purpose of reproduction; it is an important means of enhancing personal communication and intimacy of couples. Sexual life is also physical release of sexual tension for men as well as women (Mary Ann, Agues, 1994, (p 112-13).

A Christian view of sexual relationships implies an inter-relatedness of person in their total being in such a way that both function and being are presented and honored together. In this sense, the sexual union of married persons is sacramental for its on outward sign of commitment of love, which is recognized as a gift of God. In other words, sacramental sexuality is a union of total persons, not just genital organs (Gallagher, 1984, pp 39-40). As Grant (1998 P.294) says, sexually intense, long term companionship, most available to most people through marriage, is God's primary vehicle for creating spiritual wholeness in adults and producing redemptive parenting in children.

Parenting

According to Verginia Satir, "a pained marital relationship tends to produce dysfunctional parenting." Parenting life starts before pregnancy - the physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual preparation for a child is also considered an effective parenting.

Conceiving is not only a biological process but an emotional and spiritual process as well. If the couple is longing for a child as a fruit of their union in Christ, conception would lead to praise and thanks to God. However there are many situations where conception is either unexpected or unwanted. When a woman conceives "accidentally" even within marriage there are negative emotional reactions to the foetus.

When there are intense conflicts within marriage, a woman could be angry about her pregnancy. When the couple (parents) think that the immediate pregnancy would be a block to their pleasure of living, there would be negative emotions to the unborn child. It is the sacred responsibility of Christian parents to make sure that at the deeper levels of their hearts, there is eager anticipation of the child and that they entertain positive emotions to pregnancy, which will help the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of the child.

All these studies reveal that when bringing a child into this world, the couple is participating in the creative activity of God. They are bringing a person bearing the image of God. This is a great honor God has bestowed on humans.

During infant days of their child, parents need to ask themselves what emotion they hold within them towards the child. For various reasons, parents might experience negative feelings. For example, the parents wanted a male child but the infant is female, they hoped for a fair skinned child but the child is dark, etc. As a human, these and many others are possible. The important thing is to be aware of these feelings, take these feelings to God, say good bye to these feelings and accept the child unconditionally as your precious and special child.

The positive responses of the parents to the child assures the child that he/she is in a hospitable world and is a wanted person. Appropriate nurturing by father and mother is essential for the child during its developmental stages.

PURPOSE OF THE PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING COURSE

Primary aim of pre-marital counseling course is to prepare and equip men and women for an effective marital life. It covers everything from the emotional, sexual, psychological and religious aspects to personal grooming.

"Preparation is educating for the respect and care for life which in the sanctuary of families, must become a real and proper culture of human life in all its manifestations and stages for those who are part of the people of life and for life." (Pope John Paul II Evangelium vitac '78).

The goals of pre-marital counseling are:

To promote quality marriages and prevent marriage breakdown.
To help the participants to know about the commitments of marriage
Facilitate better understanding of partner through effective communication.
To develop healthy attitude to sexual relationship and spiritual intimacy.
Change the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and skills of participants.

The final purpose for pre-marital counseling is to assist the participants in making their final decision "Should we marry". Perhaps during the process of pre-marital counseling they can make a intelligent decision. An effective pre-marital counseling course surely will help them to conduct a blissful marriage life.

CONCLUSION

Marriage is a life-long exercise in relationship and commitment. Good marriages are built on the exercise of fundamental Biblical principles on the dynamics of relationships within the family. The family unit and Christian marriage are threatened by the onslaught of ungodly ideologies propagated by today's society, especially pressure of modern life and economics. Holding the main qualities of marital life will help the couple face the challenges of today and fulfill the purpose of Almighty.

About The Author:

Rev. Fr. Thomas Kurian is the Vicar of St. George's Syrian Orthodox Church, Bethany, OK, USA. Fr. Thomas is a graduate of Serampore University. He also has a Diploma in Clinical and Pastoral Counseling from Serampore University. For over 10 years, Fr. Kurian has served as the Director of Family Counseling Center of the Kottayam Diocese in charge of the Pre-Marital Counseling Program. He has also served as a counselor in Ashreya Counseling and Guidance Center near Kottayam Medical College providing counseling to people of all religions.

Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage

by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

1. Be thankful for your spouse.

The demands of life, family, and work can cloud your attitude toward the one you chose to accompany you through life. Thanking God often for your spouse is a practical way to focus on what is good and admirable about him or her. It is helpful to occasionally reflect on the early days and recall what attracted you, what made you pledge your life and love to each other, and be thankful.

2. Practice communicating from the heart.

It is vital to communicate authentically in both the good and the difficult times of marriage. As you grow together, you will learn more about the how and when of communicating well with your spouse, so pay attention to what works and what doesn't. Transparent conversation where each of you risks revealing your deepest thoughts, ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams creates the strong foundation of a lasting marriage.

3. Be intimate.

From relational intimacy springs sexual intimacy. The safety of being known and still being accepted — in spite of our flaws — finds its expression in marriage through sex. It is a gift to married couples from God. Relational and sexual intimacy keeps a marriage from deteriorating into little more than a legally arranged partnership. Remember, it takes time and attentiveness to nurture this kind of relationship.

4. Practice the power of forgiveness.

Because we are broken, imperfect human beings, we will fail our spouse repeatedly. We will focus on flaws, cease to communicate, and offend each other without trying. All of this demands a steady supply of forgiveness. There is great power in forgiveness; it says, "The fight is over and I will not try to punish you." Failing marriages can be revived by forgiveness; healthy marriages are sustained by it.

5. Be teachable.

Marriages are always a work in progress. Each spouse is changing and developing, which means there are new things to learn at every age. Sometimes marriages run into problems that need the help of a third party. If this happens in your marriage, find someone who will work in support of your marriage, not just agree with your grievances. Make sure this person is committed to both Christ and the two of you.

Our prayer for you:

As you break from the noise of your day to reflect on the ways God is blessing you through the life of your spouse, we pray that your heart will be filled with gratitude for this gift He has given - someone to love and to be loved by - fashioned by the Creator especially for you.

We pray God will show you ways to express your heart openly to your spouse so the two of you will grow even closer. We pray that you will enjoy intimacy of soul and body and that your passion becomes fuller and deeper each day.

We pray that the love in your marriage will be so real, so vibrant, so lasting that all who see it will know God gave this love to you.

Copyright © 2009 FamilyLife®

Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage

by Dave Boehi

I've been thinking a lot lately about what couples should know before they get married. For one thing, I've been making some updates and revisions on FamilyLife's Preparing for Marriage workbook, which is used by thousands of pastors and counselors around the country each year for pre-marriage counseling. In addition, my younger daughter, Missy, was married recently. As a parent you think of all the things you should tell a child before marriage, and nothing ever seems to be enough.

When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a premarried couple, here's what I'd tell them about the "Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married":

#1: Marriage is not all about you.

It's not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It's not about getting your needs met. It's about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It's about establishing a family. It's about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now.

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson - you are both very selfish people.

This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it's true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It's important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest.

That's the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can't make it work on your own.

It's obvious that marriage is difficult — just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it's so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.

#5: Never stop enjoying each other.

Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants...the movies you like...the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you...the times you make each other laugh...the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won't look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You're going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.

How about you? If you were talking to an engaged couple about what you wish you'd known before marriage, what would you say? Write down your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: FamilyLife Today® - Dennis Rainey

Lord, I Need Your Help in My Marriage

by Renee Swope

"In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help." (Psalm 18:6 NIV)

One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.

But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.

I was determined to figure out what J. J.'s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That's when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.

Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.

King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, "'In my distress' refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David's] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help."*

That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn't have.

My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.

Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.

As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.

By the way, I'm crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.

Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Remember

Hurts from your past can hold you hostage. God is there, waiting to heal you.

Reflect

In what ways do you file complaints against your husband (or other loved one) in what you might call a prayer?

Respond

Determine if your hurts are too deep to heal without outside help. If they are, consider seeing a pastor or counselor.

Power Verses

Psalm 46:1; Deuteronomy 4:7

*Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983).

Source: Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan.

When a Man Loves a Woman

by Daniel Akin

God did not intend for marriage to be painfully endured. He intended it to be wonderfully enjoyed. It was not His plan that it would be a burden. He wants it to be a blessing. In order for us to experience maximum marriage satisfaction, it is essential that we grow to know each other.

Men and women are different in many ways. One area in particular is in the area of needs. Women have needs that are significantly different than those of men. How has God put a woman together? What does she need from a man?

In marriage, a man shows love to his wife by learning to meet seven basic needs that are the essence of who his wife is.

1) She needs a spiritual leader.

A woman longs to follow a man of courage, conviction, commitment, compassion, and character. She wants a man who can be both steel and velvet. He can be a man’s man, and at the same time he can be gentle, tender, and approachable. Such a man will be a spiritual leader in the home. He will take the initiative in cultivating a spiritual environment for the family. He will be a capable and competent student of the Word of God, and he will live out a life founded on the Word of God. He’ll encourage and enable his wife to become a woman of God, to become more like Jesus, and he will take the lead in training their children in the things of the Lord.

2) She needs personal affirmation and appreciation.

A man who loves a woman will praise her for personal attributes and qualities. He will extol her virtues as a wife, mother, and homemaker. He will also openly commend her in the presence of others as a marvelous mate, friend, lover, and companion. She will feel that to him, no one is more important in this world.

I remember telling men in a conference that one of the ways they show their wife appreciation is by picking up the phone and calling her during the day to see how she is doing. He is not to call to ask what came in the mail or what’s for supper! The following night a sweet young lady came up to me to tell me that her husband had obviously listened to what I had said the night before. She informed me that they had been married for a number of years and that her husband had never called her during the workday until that day. On this day he called her five times!

At first I was proud of the impression I had made on the man, but then a frightening thought entered my mind. I asked the lady, "Well, what did he say in each of those conversations?" She informed me that he said not much at all and that each conversation lasted no more than a minute. I began to apologize to her for the fact that things had not worked out so well. She quickly interrupted me, "Oh no, Dr. Akin, it was wonderful. Just the fact that he thought to call means everything. We can work on the words later! However, if he doesn’t call, we have nothing to work on."

3) She needs personal affection and romance.

Romance for a man means sex. He cannot imagine romance without having sex. Romance for a woman can mean lots of things, and sex may or may not be a part of it.

Romance is basically a game. It is a specific game. It is a game of "hide-and-go-seek." She hides it and you seek it. If you find it, you will indeed agree that it’s good! On the other hand, if you don’t find it, you have one of two options. First, you can get nasty, mean, and bent out of shape and just be a miserable old grouch for the rest of your life. I have met a number of men just like that. Or second, you can remind yourself, it’s a game. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. But that’s the fun of playing the game.

But there’s a second part to this game, and this is not fair. However, we dealt long ago with the fact that some things aren’t fair; it’s just the way they are. Guys, you must understand. What is romantic to your wife, say, on Monday, may not necessarily be romantic on Tuesday. Indeed, women are adept at moving the romance on a regular basis, sometimes even hiding it in places where they can’t even find it. When you go searching for romance in the place where it used to be, but now you discover that it is no longer there, don’t be surprised if looking over your shoulder is the woman that God gave you, and with her eyes she says something like this, "Yes, my darling. I moved the romance. It’s somewhere else now. And I’m going to wait to see if you love me enough to look for it all over again."

Now again, guys, you can get angry, mean, and bent out of shape, or you can remember, it’s a game. And games can be fun. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But it’s all a great game. Men, if you will approach romance in this way, not only will you find it fun, but you will also get better at it along the way.

4) She needs intimate conversation.

A woman needs a husband who will talk with her at the feeling level (heart to heart). She needs a man who will listen to her thoughts about the events of her day with sensitivity, interest, and concern. Daily conversation with her conveys her husband’s desire to understand her. Wise men learn soon after marriage that women are masters of code language. They say what they mean and expect you to know what they mean, and the particular words really don’t matter. Unfortunately some men are simply ill prepared and a little dense at this point, and it often gets them into serious trouble.

5) She needs honesty and openness.

A woman needs a man who will look into her eyes and, in love, tell her what he is really thinking. He will explain his plans and actions clearly and completely to her because he regards himself as responsible for her. He wants her to trust him and feel secure. He wants her to know how precious she is to him. Growing openness and honesty will always mark a marriage when a man loves a woman.

6) She needs stability and security.

A man who loves a woman will firmly shoulder the responsibilities to house, feed, and clothe the family. He will provide and he will protect. He will never forget that he is the security hub of the family for both his wife and his children. She will be aware of his dependability, and as our text indicates, so will others. There will be no doubt as to where his devotion and commitments lie. They are with his wife and his children.

7) She needs family commitment.

A woman longs to know that her man puts the family first. Such a man will commit his time and energy to the spiritual, moral, and intellectual development of the entire family, especially the children. For example, he will play with them, he will read the Bible to them, he will engage in sports with them, and he will take them on exciting and fun-filled outings. Such a man will not play the fool’s game of working long hours, trying to get ahead, while his spouse and children languish in neglect. No, a woman needs a man who is committed to the family. She needs a man who puts his wife and children right behind his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

When a man loves a woman, he makes it a life goal to meet seven basic needs of his wife. When a husband is committed in this way, and when a wife has the same commitment, it is not surprising that both husband and wife have a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts. This is the way God intended it from the beginning. As persons committed to God’s plan for marriage, we should settle for and expect nothing less.

Adapted from 'God on Sex' ©2003 by Daniel Akin. Published by Broadman & Holman.
Used with permission.  

Five Keys to Your Man's Inner Heart

by Dennis Rainey

Are you a student of your husband?

Are you immersed in a process of learning what pleases him most?

Did you know that your husband - and most men - view romance through different lenses than most women? To confirm this, the next time you are in Bible study or Sunday school class, divide the men and women into separate groups and ask them to answer the same question: "What is something romantic that you would like your spouse to do for you?"

I'll guarantee you that, if they are honest, the men will focus on physical intimacy: "Dress up in a sexy negligee," or, "Meet me at the front door without any clothes." The women, however, will say things like, "Take me to a romantic, candlelit restaurant," "Spend time talking with me," or "Sit in front of a fire together and cuddle." Men are generally motivated by sight and touch, while women usually want to develop a relationship.

Meeting your husband's romantic needs involves more than understanding the differences between men and women. It also means remembering what pleases him. And it means sacrificing your own needs to meet those of your husband. Barbara and I have learned the hard way that selfishness and romance do not mix well.

I'd like to help you become an even greater student of your husband. This article can't teach you everything you need to know. You've got to carefully investigate the real thing. But here are five keys to help you know where to look for the deeper answers.

He Needs Your Sincere Respect

One of the deepest needs a man has is to be respected by his wife. Notice, I said it's one of the deepest needs. There are others, but your respect - or lack thereof - impacts his view. Respecting your husband includes listening to him, not simply hearing the words that come out of his mouth, but taking what he is saying seriously. If Barbara listens to me when I express a desire that I think is important for the family or the children, but never acts on what I have said, she has not shown me respect. It does not matter what the reason might be for her to ignore what I told her; it still hits me in the stomach. If she were to do this frequently, it would have definite consequences in our relationship and in the bedroom.

Another way to respect your husband is to honor him for what he is doing to meet the needs of the family. Showing gratefulness to a man is like feeding him his favorite meal. It is a feast to his heart and soul. Even if he is doing a poor job in some areas, there must be something he does well - providing for the family through his job, keeping the house clean, or perhaps leading the family in devotions.

He Needs to Feel Sexually Needed

Your husband wants you to be the receiver of his love in a way that communicates affection and warmth to him. It's best when you do this within the full blown perspective of being a woman, being feminine, not becoming masculine, but being the affirming arms of the love of God for your husband.

I will never forget an encounter with the young wife of a seminary student. She came up to me after I had spoken in a class for wives about how they could communicate love to their husbands, and she began to giggle.

"We were driving home the other night from youth group," she said (her husband was a youth pastor). "I turned to him and I said, 'Sweetheart, what would really encourage you to be a man of God?' There was a moment of silence, and finally he said, 'Well, it would really encourage me if I came home from class one afternoon and found you at home with no clothes on, welcoming me home.'"

The wife giggled again and asked, "Do you think he really meant it?"

I said, "I don't know. Maybe you ought to try it!"

Now, isn't it interesting that this man who has immersed himself in the study of the Scriptures answered his wife this way? You would think he might want a set of theology books or some time with a great man of God. No, he wants time with his wife, alone, just to be affirmed sexually.

This is a powerful picture. Your husband's sexuality is so much a part of who he is that it affects virtually every part of his life. The wise woman understands that her man longs to be needed sexually by her. If you really want to get to the bottom line for men, and you really want to express love to your husband in a powerful way, just express to your husband that you need him sexually.

He Needs Your Adventurous Companionship

When Barbara and I dated in the summer of 1972 in Dallas, you would have to say it was an intense relationship from the start. We went out 52 out of 55 days, and we missed those three days only because I was sick! Although there was no sexual involvement of any kind, we enjoyed plenty of romance. We did all sorts of things together - picnics, hikes, long drives, late night talks sitting outside her apartment…no two dates were the same.

We've had some great highlights in our years together since our wedding on September 2, 1972 - a trip for our tenth anniversary to New England in the fall to view the foliage, a getaway at a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn, a trip to the hill country of Texas…I could go on and on.

For us romance has always been spelled a-d-v-e-n-t-u-r-e. On one of our dates I asked Barbara, "Out of all the adventures and romantic times we've had together, what has been your favorite?"

I wasn't surprised by her answer: "Our honeymoon."

Now I know that's not true for some folks. But for us it was an all-time memory maker. I won't bore you with the details, but I took weeks to plan a two-week honeymoon in the Colorado Rockies. We camped, hiked, explored the magnificent Rocky Mountains, fished, took tons of pictures, and stayed in a cabin next to a roaring river.

She loved our time together because it was an adventure with plenty of time for just the two of us to talk and share our thoughts and our dreams.

His Sexual Satisfaction

Your husband is a sexual creature made in the image of God. Many wives misunderstand this. They think the male sex drive is something dirty. They wonder if God holds His nose every time a man initiates. Why do some women think this way? Because, in all likelihood, they fail to remember the male sex drive is God's idea.

I'm not surprised that this gift which God intended to use as a means to draw husbands and wives closer, Satan twists to drive them apart. Most men, for example, find initiating the sex act one of the riskiest ventures he could ever make. Why? Each time he initiates sex, he risks rejection.

When a man is rejected often enough, he typically internalizes his anger, his hurt, and his disappointment until such time when the rejection drives him to one of several reactions - none of them are good. Either he will give up on the relationship, he will seek alternative sexual outlets such as pornography, or he might compromise his wedding vows by pursuing female affirmation elsewhere.

Can you see how a wife has the power to affirm or to wound her husband? Let me add, when she affirms him she brings joy to her heavenly Father, too. Isn't that powerful? When you embrace your femininity and affirm your husband's sexuality, you are an agent of blessing. I'm convinced that as you meet your husband's God-given sexual drive along with other keys in your relationship - your husband will be a satisfied man.

A Final Encouragement

Our enemy does not want husbands and wives to be intimate - sexually or otherwise. In fact, everywhere we turn, inappropriate sex is celebrated: on television, in the movies, in popular music, in advertising, and especially on the Internet. Satan serves up a powerful counterfeit in order to keep couples from enjoying God's good design for sex.

This is why Barbara and I implore you to try something you may not have done before. Consider praying together about your sexual relationship. Pray that God will be honored in your marriage bed. Ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to be selfless as your meet each other's needs. The Holy Spirit can guide you and lead you to be a better lover.

Really? Absolutely!

Why not pray softly and give thanks for your husband during the "afterglow." What finer moment to say, Lord Jesus, thank you for this man You've given me. Thank you for what we have just enjoyed together. Thank you for him. Thank you for his love and for his trust in me as a woman.

There is something about prayer and asking the Holy Spirit into your relationship that invites a selfless attitude, one that truly seeks to put the other person first. As you are sensitive to God's Spirit, you will become more sensitive to your spouse - even when it sometimes means denying yourself.

God longs for you and your husband to learn how to please each other and experience this incredible act of oneness that He reserved for marriage. How do I know?

Have you read Song of Solomon lately?

Source: 'Simply Romantic Secrets.' Copyright© 2003. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

God and Sexuality

by Justin Holcomb

The Bible begins with God, the good Creator of all things and the One who rules the universe. His creative handiwork - everything from light to land to living creatures - is called "good." [1] But the crown of God's good creation is humanity. We are made in the very image of God. And God declared: "behold it was very good". [2] As the pinnacle of God's creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature as we were created like God, [3] by God, [4] for God, [5] and to be with God. [6]

In Genesis 1:26, God says "Let Us make man in Our image." The fact that our Creator gave us a remarkable title - "the image of God" - speaks of the inherent dignity of all human beings. The expression "image of God" designated human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe.

Immediately after making the man and woman, God granted them a special commission: "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" [7] This verse contains five commands: "be fruitful," "multiply," "fill," "subdue," and "have dominion." These decrees reveal our most basic human responsibilities.

With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve's job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God's behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture.

Multiplication and dominion are deeply connected to our being the image of God. To be sure, God had no problem filling the earth with his presence, but God chose to establish His authority on earth in ways that humans could understand. God commanded His images to populate the landscape of His creation. In the command to "multiply," God wanted His images spread to the ends of the earth. His command to "have dominion" is God giving humans authority to represent Him in His world.

Marital sex is the means by which we fulfill our calling of multiplying and taking dominion.

Shalom

God's plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with His image bearers, who were to glorify Him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God's intended blessing and His wise rule, is called shalom. Cornelius Plantinga writes, "In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be." [8]

Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: "I will give you peace (shalom) in the land, and none shall make you afraid."[9] Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being - abundant welfare - with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good. Shalom means harmonious and responsible relationship with God, other human beings, and nature. In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended.

In shalom, sex was also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one. God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy building in marriage.

Sin

This peaceful, loving relationship was shattered by the entrance of sin into the world. Sin has distorted this beautiful act of union, pleasure, calling, and worship.

Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God's world. One scholar calls sin is "the vandalism of shalom."[10] Instead of unashamed intimacy and trust, there is shame and mistrust. Instead of grace, there is disgrace.

A foundational element of paradise - sexual innocence in community - has been spoiled by the treachery of sin. Sex - the very expression of human union, intimacy, and peace - became a tool for pain, suffering, and destruction after the Fall.

Grace

But sin is not the last word on the world or us. God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). By dealing with sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.

The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. God's redemption imparts grace and brings peace. The effects of grace include our sexual past, present, and future. There is healing, hope, cleansing, and forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus.

God does not leave things broken, and is always at work redeeming the sin, wounds, and brokenness involved in human sexuality. Where sin does its damage, God brings forgiveness and healing, which are part of God's larger plan of restoring shalom.

Hope

Redemption removes and rectifies the alienation introduced by the fall, restoring humankind to fellowship with God (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-22) and with itself (Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-7). Further, Jesus' resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit offer hope even now to grow and become more sexually whole in Christ.

In Christ there is also great hope for human sexuality.

Lewis Smedes writes:

"Jesus did not have to talk about sexuality to affirm it. Sexuality is affirmed by the route that God took for the redemption of humanity. The Resurrection, as well as the Incarnation, carries the body-life of humankind in a deep divine embrace. Redemption is not the promise of escape from the demands or appetites of the body. To confess that Jesus Christ arose from the grave bodily is to reiterate God's good feelings about his own creation of human beings as body-persons; to celebrate the Resurrection includes a celebration of human sexuality. God did not become man to show us how to get out of our body by means of spiritual exercises. He created a community of resurrection hope and invites us to bring our total sexuality into it. Christ's resurrection makes permanent God's union with the whole of humanity, and it thus affirms sexuality as part of our hope for ultimate happiness and freedom." [11]

God and God's People

In the New Testament we also learn that human sexuality paints one of the most moving pictures of God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is repeatedly portrayed as a wayward lover of God, who had redeemed her. In the New Testament, the church is referred to as Christ's bride (e.g., Rev 19:7), and Paul explains that the one-flesh union of man and woman mentioned in Genesis is a picture of Christ and his church (Eph 5:28-33).

Jesus seems to imply that sex will not exist in heaven as it has on earth (Matt 22:30). Likely this is because the sexual union ultimately points to the relationship that Christ has with His people, which will be consummated upon His return. As we are the beloved of God, He promises always to satisfy all of our deepest longings and desires, allowing us to "drink from the river of Your delights" (Psalm 36:8; cf. Rev 22:1-2), now and forever in the age to come.

References:

[1] See the sevenfold use of "good": Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31.

[2] Genesis 1:31

[3] Genesis 1:26

[4] Genesis 1:2.

[5] Genesis 2:15

[6] Genesis 2:15

[7] Genesis 1:28

[8] Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

[9] Leviticus 26:6

[10] Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It's Supposed to Be

[11] Lewis B. Smedes, Sex for Christians: The Limits and Liberties of Sexual Living, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 64.

About The Author:

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest, director at Key Life, and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.

Source: Crosswalk.com

A Nagging Spouse

by Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife (Proverbs 21:19).

Friend to Friend

My nerves were raw because of the faint, repetitive sound in the background of our conversation. As I sat in my parents' kitchen talking to my mom, the faucet behind her was dripping… and dripping… and dripping.

It. Drove. Me. Bananas.

I got up and tightened the handle.

It didn't help.

I wanted to grab the nearest screwdriver and fix it. But, I couldn't. I'm not a sink-fixer. I cannot express to you how severely lacking my sink-fixing skills are. And although I'm sure there is an online instructional video that could teach me how to fix that faucet in five quick steps, I had neither the desire to learn nor the patience to try.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Isn't it amazing how something so small and seemingly insignificant can bother us? It was torture! I left the room. I had to. I needed to get away from the sound of the drip.

Once I composed myself, I got to thinking. The Bible compares this type of drip to a quarrelsome and nagging woman. The MESSAGE paraphrase of Proverbs 27:15 reads, "A nagging spouse is like
the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; You can't turn it off, and you can't get away from it." Likewise, the NIV version of Proverbs 19:13 says, "…a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof."

The word "nag" is defined by Webster's Online dictionary this way:

to find fault incessantly: complain
to be a persistent source of annoyance or distraction
to irritate by constant scolding or urging

Zinger!

Obviously, this behavior is not gender specific - men can surely nag and be quarrelsome too. Whether the behavior comes from a man or a woman, a friend or a foe, the impact is universal: nagging is a negative behavior that drives people to frustration, drives others away, and does not bring glory to God. Period.

I wonder how many times we drive our husbands, our co-workers, our children, our friends or even our acquaintances away because of nagging or quarrelsome behavior? Are we even aware of it in our own lives? Do we justify it or brush it off when another person fails to meet our expectations?

Am I stepping on some toes here? I assure you, mine are bearing the weight too. Oh, how we can complain and vie for control. Our expectations of others so stir us up: how we think they should act, communicate, behave, respond, and dress. Blah. Blah. Blah. The truth of the matter is, we cannot choose behavior for others, but we can choose for ourselves.

We can choose to walk worthy of our calling in Christ. (Colossians 1:10) We can choose to call on God so that His Spirit can be evidenced in and through us in the spiritual discipline of self-control. Nagging fuels the fire of contention and frustration. Quarreling does the same. But don't take my word for it… take God's Word for it!

"As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife." (Proverbs 26:21)

"Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people." (Philippians 2:14-15)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

So you see? There's a snag in our nag! We can try to justify nagging all we want, but when push comes to shove, it is not a behavior that is supported by Scripture. Say it with me, "There's a snag in my nag!"

In light of this, what will your behavior look like next time you are tempted to nag, quarrel, complain, or attempt to control another? Here are a few ideas to help eliminate our drips:

Replace nagging with prayer. (Not with: "Lord, change him or her!" But with: Lord change me. Help me. Strengthen me. Give me Your grace. Give me Your wisdom.")

Leave the room or conversation if possible or appropriate. (Don't even give yourself a chance to get the words out!) Change what you can control: your response.

Eventually, my parents got their leaky faucet fixed. I'm still working on my leak, but with God's help, I know I can do all things. We all can. Would you join me today in asking God to help us honor Him with our words and responses?

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Please forgive me for the times when I have attempted to control my circumstances and other people through nagging and quarreling. Forgive me for the times when complaining has been my response. Help me to sift my words and my thoughts through Your grace. Help me grow in You and show You in all I do.

In Jesus' name,
Amen

Now It's Your Turn

Where does this find you today? Spend time journaling and praying about this.

More from the Girlfriends

One of the best ways we can avoid ungodly behaviors is to fix our hearts and minds on Jesus. Ready to fix your heart in his strength? I'm living proof that it is possible for anyone. God delights to deliver us from our hard places in and through the pain. Experience God's healing and hope in your life today as you read Broken Into Beautiful. To order the book, go to Amazon, your favorite Christian bookstore, or for a signed copy, order from Gwen's store.

Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional

Five Goals for Growing Closer to Your Spouse

by Cindi McMenamin

I've always been a goal-setter. Every January I would come up with new goals (not resolutions -- goals) to save more money, be more productive on my job, read more books, lose more weight, and basically get in better shape mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually.

I was just missing one area. What was I doing to get in better shape, relationally, with my husband? Convicted at where my priorities were, I realized that I needed to deliberately and intentionally invest in my marriage just as much as I was investing in other areas of my life. And that meant setting tangible goals yearly in that area, too. So I let my husband, Hugh, in on the goal-making process by asking him a few non-threatening questions. From those questions, we ended up setting our yearly goals together, which we've done now for the past ten years or so.

I initiated our goal-setting process by asking my spouse the following questions:

1. What did you most enjoy about our dating days?

2. What do you wish we could do as a couple that we rarely or no longer take the time to do?

3. What have you always wanted to do, as a couple, that we haven't yet done?

4. Where would be the ideal getaway for you and I to go someday?

5. What, specifically, would you like to see us accomplish together in the next year?

My husband's answers to those questions opened up a whole new arena -- and adventure -- of yearly goal-setting together. And because I took the time -- and initiative -- to be deliberate and intentional in asking him what things he would like to see changed or improved upon in our marriage, I actually had a place to start (instead of just feeling like maybe he was unhappy or maybe there was more to our relationship that we were failing to discover). We also ended up incorporating into our lives some things like a weekly day to play, projects we've long talked about and finally accomplished together, and trips we've planned and taken that we might not otherwise have even talked about.

Through the years, we've continued to set --and meet -- relational goals. They're mainly initiated by me each year. But that's okay. As he's trying to focus on so many things to take care of our family, financially and otherwise, I can do my part by focusing on our relationship when it comes to setting and implementing yearly goals. It's amazing what any couple can accomplish when even one partner is willing to do the work. And besides, Romans 12:18 tells us "If possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (That's a great principle for marriage when both parties are waiting for the other to take the initiative.)

I encourage you to ask your spouse those questions above and then come up with some goals of your own. But if that's too big of a step for now, or if you're frustrated at being the one who has to initiate a closer connection, here's a place to start -- five simple goals for a closer connection in the next year:

1. Start your day with a kiss.

Simple, but effective. Studies show couples who kiss each other daily (even a quick peck on the cheek) are happier, overall, than couples who don't.

2. Say encouraging words.

It doesn't take a lot of effort, but it reaps marvelous results. Ephesians 4:29 says "Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (NLT)" Think in terms of "I'm only going to say it, it my spouse is encouraged by it." You'll notice, within days, how your relationship improves.

3. Plan a regular date night.

If you have children and can rarely afford a babysitter, find another couple in the same situation and exchange babysitting once a month so each couple can have a monthly date night. Dating was important before you were married and believe us, it's even more important after you're married.

4. Read through a relationship-building book together.

I know, it might sound like "work" to you or your spouse, but it can be fun, and a great investment of your time together. Maybe it will consist of you reading to your spouse before bed. Or taking turns reading a chapter to each other once a week. I tried for years to get my husband to read through a relationship book with me and finally he recommended one to me, himself, which we really enjoyed (Love & War, by John and Stasi Eldredge) and then he insisted on writing a couples book with me that he -- and other men -- would enjoy reading (When Couples Walk Together)! Working through a devotional book together will help you see deeper into your spouse's heart, as well as your own.

5. Pray together regularly.

We've heard this advice as often as you have, but it took us years to get to that place. We will admit that, even as a couple in ministry (my husband is a pastor), it's difficult to find concentrated time to pray together. But when we started spending just a few minutes praying together before work in the morning, we found that a short prayer also included a hand held, two hearts shared, and a connection with God together that made all the difference in our day. If it's still a struggle in your marriage, pray about how the two of you can make time to pray together.

A verse to remember throughout the year is the last part of 1 Corinthians 13: 7 which says that love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." When it comes to setting goals for your marriage, take the first step, willingly and lovingly. It's what Christ did for you.

About The Author:

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books including 'When a Woman Inspires Her Husband' and 'When Couples Walk Together', which she co-authored with her husband, Hugh. For more information see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Source: Live It Devotional

More Resources For Christian Family Living
Malankara World Library has a wealth of articles covering various aspects of Family Living. You can find it here:

http://www.malankaraworld.com/Library/Family/default.htm

The content is divided under the following sections:

General

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Raising Children

Seniors and Aging Parents

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Miscellaneous

Teens Issues

Staying in Peace After Divorce

Relationship Issues - How to Save Your Marriage

Malankara World Journal issues also have special articles under "Family Special." You can access the previous issues of Malankara World Journal here:

http://www.malankaraworld.com/Newsletter/default.htm

One special issue of Malankara World Journal that is especially noteworthy is:

Volume 3 No 160: August 29, 2013 with the theme: Marriage and Divorce

General Articles

Inspirational: If I Could See!

There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She Hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, 'If I could only see the world, I will marry you.'

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.

He asked her, 'Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?' The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn't expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry him.

Her boyfriend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her saying: 'Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.'

- - - - - - -

This is how the human brain often works when our status changes. Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who was always by their side in the most painful situations.

Life Is a Gift!

Today before you say an unkind word - Think of someone who can't speak.

Before you complain about the taste of your food - Think of someone who has nothing to eat.

Before you complain about your husband or wife - Think of someone who's crying out to GOD for a companion.

Today before you complain about life - Think of someone who died too early.

Before you complain about your children - Think of someone who desires children but they're barren.

Before you argue about your dirty house someone didn't clean or sweep - Think of the people who are living in the streets.

Before whining about the distance you drive - Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job - Think of the unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.

But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another - Remember that not one of us is without sin.

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down - Put a smile on your face and think: you're alive and still around.

Source: Rev. Joseph Dwight  

Recipe: Kerala Coconut Chicken Curry

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

We all know how to make chicken curry. Of course, there are several varieties and flavors. I saw the following recipe, an adapted Kerala recipe, by a Jewish Cook. Try this for a variety.

Kerala Coconut Chicken Curry

By Faith Durand, TheKitchn.com

I crave South Indian food like nothing else, and today's recipe is another effort to reproduce the lighter, fresher, coconut-driven curries I love.

Speaking very simplistically, South Indian food tends to be lighter, with drier and less rich gravies than the creamier curries of the north. The curries often rely quite a bit on toasted and ground coconut in the "masala" (the spice paste that is prepped before the curry itself is made). There is more use of tamarind, the intensely tangy fruit, and of curry leaves. Curry leaves add a fragrant, slightly spicy flavor to dishes like this, and for me they are one of the key notes of authenticity in South Indian cooking.

This curry, honestly, should have curry leaves, but I left them out because they are a rare ingredient for many people. They can be found fresh at most Indian groceries, and I love to use them when I get my hands on them. If you pick some up, throw in 20 or so during the simmering/pressure cooking phase.

Using the pressure cooker for this recipe helps all these flavors meld and permeate the chicken even better than they would after a long slow simmer. And it's ready fast -- even considering the time it takes to prepare the masala, with its range of spices.

KERALA COCONUT CHICKEN CURRY

SERVES 6

Ingredients:

For the coconut spice paste:

4 small dried red chilies
6 large shallots, peeled and halved
3/4 cup grated unsweetened coconut
4 whole cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

For the chicken curry:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar

To serve:

Cooked basmati rice
Pareve yogurt

Directions:

For the coconut spice paste:

If using an electric pressure cooker, heat it to its brown or sauté setting (whichever is hotter). If using a stovetop pressure cooker, place the uncovered pot over medium heat. Roast the red chilies and shallots together until all have developed black spots. Remove and set aside in the bowl of a small food processor.

Add the coconut and whole spices to the hot pressure cooker pan and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly until fragrant and toasted and the coconut has turned light brown. Add the turmeric and stir for another few seconds, then transfer coconut and spices to the food processor bowl.

Blend until fairly smooth, adding a 4 to 6 tablespoons of water to create a creamy paste. Set aside.

Shortcut Option:

If you do not have the whole spices, or don't want to take the time to pull them together, you may substitute 3 tablespoons garam masala spice powder. Add to the coconut after the coconut is toasted, stir for another 15 seconds, then proceed with the recipe.

For the chicken curry:

Add oil to the hot pressure cooker pot. When hot, add chopped ginger, garlic and sliced onions. Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, or until onions are softened and browned around the edges. Add the coconut spice paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the sliced tomatoes and fry for 5 more minutes or until tomatoes have broken down. Stir in the chicken, salt, and vinegar. Mix well.

Cover the pressure cooker and lock the lid. Bring up to pressure. Cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally (this will take another 8 to 15 minutes).

The chicken should be thoroughly cooked, but if it is not, or if it is not as tender as you would like it to be, pressure cook for another 4 minutes, using the quick pressure release to immediately let out the steam after the cook time.

Serve with basmati rice and pareve yogurt.

Tool Tip:

I am using an electric pressure cooker so all of this is automatic; I tell the pressure cooker to cook it on HIGH pressure (15 psi) for 10 minutes, with a natural pressure release, so I set it and walk away. The pressure cooker brings itself up to full heat and pressure, cooks for 10 minutes after that, then slowly releases the pressure. I can tell that the pressure is fully released when the safety lock on the lid turns off, and the valve float drops down.

If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker then follow the instructions and method for bringing the pressure cooker up pressure and cook as directed above.

Stovetop Directions (no Pressure Cooker):

If you want to make this without a pressure cooker, simply follow the instructions above, toasting the spices and coconut in a skillet or Dutch oven instead of in a pressure cooker. Cook the onions and garlic in a Dutch oven or deep pot with a lid. After adding the chicken, cover and cook on low heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

About The Author:

Faith Durand is managing editor of TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking.

Source: JewishWorldReview.com; © 2013, Apartment Therapy

Favorite Poem of Mother Teresa

Do It Anyway by Kent Keith

People are often unreasonable, illogical & self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of being selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight:
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

The Doctor Who Treated The Blessed Mother Teresa
Dr George Lombardi, who treated the late Mother Teresa in the 80's at then Calcutta, describes his experience. He says it laced with humor, in his inimitable style .. Absolutely fantastic and funny.

http://youtu.be/vD9RI2Bm69U

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