A Secret to getting to 43 Years …

As I shared in my post on Friday, there is no “one” secret to get to 43 years of marriage, and especially 43 years of a loving and still growing marriage. But there are some key factors, or secrets if you prefer, that can get you to 43, or 33, or 23, or 13 or to whatever is your next milestone. These factors/secrets may be able to restore a vibrancy to a passive marriage. They might be able to repair a wounded marriage. They maybe able to begin resurrecting a seemingly dead marriage. Or, they maybe able to give you some guidance as you begin a marriage.

For us, we will reach 43 in a few weeks, there has been some trial and error to get to this point. My hope is that some of what we have learned might help you, or someone you know.

So, here goes …

Commitment – no surprise with this factor/secret. We all knowingly nod our heads and say “Of course”. We all acknowledge that it takes commitment to make it 43 years, or even 13 years. What we too often miss is that commitment is simply a concept, the real issue is to act on that commitment. Many athletes say they are committed to win, but will they do the work in practice and offseason to win. That is when you move from the concept of commitment and begin to live the commitment. Many of us say we are committed to get in better physical condition and lose some weight, but how many of us follow through and do the work for more than a week.

Active commitment is not simply gritting your teeth and muttering “no matter what stupid thing he/she does I am going to stick it out”. Active commitment goes way beyond this level of hanging on in spite of your spouse.

Active commitment is being committed to the other person. Committed to loving them, no matter what circumstances come your way. It is being so committed to loving them that you choose not to get offended easily, because you love them too much to let an offense be a deal breaker. It is being committed to them and learning to love them. I loved my wife when we got married, but I didn’t know how to love her very well. I know her so much better now than I did when we said, “I do”. That knowledge helps me to lover her better than I did in the beginning.

Active commitment is being committed to having the best marriage you can possibly have. Your spouse has flaws, and you have flaws. We must remember that our spouse must deal with our flaws while we are dealing with theirs. In my case I am aware that my wife has a lot more to deal with because I have a lot more flaws than she does. Active commitment is understanding we are not perfect, but that we can have a good, very good, great or awesome marriage even with our flaws.

Active commitment means being committed to Christ first. I am a believer in, and follower of, Jesus Christ. My first commitment is to Christ. That commitment lifts my marriage as well. Because a follower of Christ loves and loves with the love of Christ, that includes in our marriage. As a follower of Christ, I know that means that my marriage and my relationship with my spouse is a big deal and that giving up on it is not to focused on.

Active commitment means being committed to those impacted by my marriage. That means my children. That means the spouses of my children. That means my grandchildren. That means my in-laws. I must consider that what impacts my marriage impacts all of them as well. My wife comes before all of them, but because of my commitment to her all of them matter and I must be committed to all the others as well.

How is your commitment? I am not asking if you say that you are committed to the marriage and to your spouse. I am asking if your commitment is active? Does your spouse know you are committed by how you act and what you say? Do the others who are impacted by your marriage know that you are actively committed?

If you want to have a marriage that lasts and grows, you must be actively committed.

 

Dennis

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Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a somewhat odd day with some fantastic results. As for my musings …

-There were 4 or 5 people who made the decision to accept the forgiveness of Christ for themselves and embrace his salvation yesterday.

-There were more than a dozen people who admitted that they have someone in their relationships that they need to forgive, and they committed to forgiving that person. In some cases, the person they need to forgive is themselves.

-The fantastic results of our time of worship yesterday were encouraging and showed that even when things are not ideal God can still move people.

-We have had a good run of worship times recently, and most of those had great energy and a noticeable sense of excitement in the worship service. Yesterday was different. Yesterday it felt like a struggle from the opening note of the first song we sang until just before the conclusion of the message. Maybe it was the strange weather that saw a downpour, then some sunshine and then the threat of rain that finally resulted in rain that flooded many streets shortly after church. Maybe it was the low attendance. Maybe it was the fact that I was preaching on forgiveness in our relationships.

-Construction has begun for our props and decorations for Vacation Bible School, even though it doesn’t begin for another 7 weeks. That is because we do VBS big around here and because the theme this year lends itself to some big props.

-My wife continues to do well in her recovery from double knee replacement. This past week it seemed that she took a huge step forward in her recovery. Week 8 was a great week. She began to feel much more comfortable, not yet normal, with how her knees feel.

-Praying my grandson’s student visa documents arrive this week. It would be earlier than he was told they would come, but I am praying hard for it to happen.

-This coming Sunday I will finish our relationship series of messages. I have been extremely burdened for this series because of the large number of people I know are going through very difficult times in some of their close relationships.

-I believe I am going to preach a couple of messages, or more, on joy. I am seeing a lot of people who to have no joy in their life, or who don’t seem realize that it is okay to live with joy.

-For the next few Wednesdays I am planning to post about marriage. Specifically, about how to get to 43 years of marriage and have a loving and growing marriage. I am able speak to this because my wife and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary in a few weeks. Each week I will write about one of our keys to reaching 43.

-I have been enjoying watching some of the spring college sports championships. I saw a little of the women’s track and field championship and the final race, which impacted the team championship, was awesome. Watching the softball world series and now the road to the college baseball world series, has been a blast. The sheer joy of the athletes and effort they give is great to see.

-I had some very meaningful conversations and times of prayer in my role as a hospital chaplain this past week. Some weeks people don’t seem to be all that receptive, but this week there were several who were very engaged as they shared.

-I am very encouraged by the current group of men taking the Fatherhood course that I help teach at the prison. There are many of them that are obviously looking to learn and apply the lessons.  That is not always the case. In many of our groups we have had several who were there to get a certificate but weren’t trying to apply the information. This group is openly engaged and already applying the material.

Here’s hoping that you are engaged in seeking to improve your relationships.

 

Dennis

43 Years to the Marriage You Desire …

In August of this year, my wife and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. That is kind of a big deal. We have a very good, maybe even great, marriage. We get asked often about the “secret” to a lasting, loving, successful marriage. There is no “one secret”, but there are a lot of factors that have gone into our story.

For the next few weeks I will put up one post per week that covers one of our “secrets”. I am coming to you as one who has figured out how to have a marriage that lasts 43 years. In fact, our marriage is better, much better, now than it was in our first few years of marriage.

Am I an expert on the institution of marriage? No, and yes. No, I am not an expert on all marriages. Yes, I am an expert on our marriage. I am a student of our marriage, and a student of my wife. That is a factor in how we have made it to 43. So, I will be sharing mainly from our experiences in our marriage. If what I write can help you in any way, great. If what I write doesn’t help you then I hope that it might at least entertain you a bit.

One of the “secrets” I will be sharing will be about “Wearing the right kind of glasses”. You are intrigued, aren’t you?

Why I am doing this? As I stated earlier, we get asked often how we have done it, and what our secret is for a lasting and loving marriage. A sad thought is that a 43-year marriage is not more common in our culture. My prayer is that 43-year marriages would happen more often.

I am taking a risk, because I am posting this without my wife’s knowledge. But I will cover why that is okay in one of my later posts.

My goal is to post on Wednesdays for this series. See you next week.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. My mind was trying to process too many things and I had trouble staying focused when I was teaching in a small group and when I was preaching. That is not a good thing. I apologize to everyone for being so distracted. As for my musings …

-Yesterday during our worship time we honored, and remembered, five people who passed away in the past year. We presented members of their families with a framed certificate recognizing their loved one’s faithful service to the Lord and our church. I challenged the congregation with needs we now have with the passing of these faithful people. We need more to step up their prayer life, to help in VBS, in encouragement, and much more to continue the good works that these had begun.

-I heard some great praises of how God is working in some families to build relationships and of growing interests in the things of God. I also heard some disturbing reports of relationship strains that some are in the middle of.

-I continued the message series “The Hope of Relationships”. We examined the need to remember those we are in relationship with and to work at making sure they know we remember them. We cannot expect good relationships if we ignore our relationships, especially our relationship with Christ.

-Our attendance was down yesterday.

-On Friday and Saturday my wife and I were in another state where I was coaching a volleyball team at a tournament. I will be coaching at our high school this fall and this is a summer camp/tournament that they have gone to for the past few years. It was a great experience, even if we didn’t win as much as I had hoped. It felt great to be back in that role again. My wife did well with the travel (a few hours away) and going in and out of gyms and up and down bleachers.

-We have a great praise. We have asked for prayer for our oldest grandson and his student visa that is needed so he can study in South Africa this fall. His application was approved!!! It was approved on his first try. Now we wait for the documents to arrive. We are praying that they come quickly, we have been told it could take four weeks. We want them to arrive quickly so that he can get back to Africa where his parents and siblings are serving. This process has cost them precious time together this summer. Thank you for praying.

-Saturday would have been my Dad’s 90th birthday. On Sunday it hit me that this is the first time in my lifetime that I didn’t speak with him on his birthday. However, he is enjoying a much better birthday than he ever has before.

-Being out of town, sleeping in a hotel for a couple of nights showed my wife and I that maybe it is time to get a new mattress. When you sleep better in a strange bed, in a strange place, it may be time for a different mattress.

-My struggle with focus yesterday was a result of some burdens, also from me trying to fix too many things at once, of wrestling with some ministry vision ideas and a little fatigue.

-I am getting excited for our Vacation Bible School and it doesn’t begin until July 30. Some of the props, and decorations are beginning to be put together. A couple of the items will be too big to fit through our sanctuary doors, so they will need to be built in the sanctuary and they will begin working on them soon.

-Coaching this past week confirmed that I need to get in better physical condition and drop some weight. This will be some of my accountability by making my commitment to this goal public on my blog.

Here’s hoping you have someone that you can count on to hold you accountable and encourage you in a goal. If not, then be that for someone else this week. Especially the encouragement part.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday we experienced another great time of worship, unfortunately there weren’t very many people who were apart of the experience. On to my musings …

-Many people came forward at the close of the message yesterday, committing to work on restoring a relationship. We all have at least one relationship that needs restoration. We looked at the Word for steps to take to work on restoring a relationship.

-There was a good spirit in the service from the beginning to the end.

-Our attendance was very low on this Memorial Day weekend.

-Our oldest grandson is with us for a while. I love having him here, but I hate the reason he is here. He is going to do a semester abroad in South Africa this fall. It seemed that it shouldn’t have been a problem to get his student visa for this since his parents are missionaries in Africa. They have been for 5 years. However, he was told that he had to come back to the states to get this taken care of at the South African consulate in Chicago. He flew in this week and is gathering all the paperwork he needs before he can go to the consulate get this taken care of. Prayers are appreciated for this to go smoothly and quickly.

-I was very encouraged to see a couple of our teens come forward to commit to restoring relationships yesterday.

-It became official this week that I will be an assistant varsity volleyball coach at our local high school this fall. I am excited about this opportunity. It means some readjusting of our summer schedule, but I love coaching and working with young people.

-I was encouraged by two days that I spent in meetings this week. One of those days was being a part of our District’s Board of Ministry where we interview those who are moving toward being ordained. We also spend time working on the process we have in place for ministers. It is very important, humbling and exciting to be a part of this group. The other day was the Mission Strategy Team for our District. I get really jazzed about this one. We work on the mission and vision of our District. We get to hear reports, updates and the vision of our new church plants. We work on how best to share the vision and get everyone on the mission. I love spending time with a group that is so focused on the big picture and cares about each church and pastor. I love my District.

-Our church is now in “let’s get ready for VBS” mode. The first gathering of recruiting the volunteers took place this past week. Materials for the props are being gathered. You need to understand that we transform the whole building when we do Vacation Bible School, so a lot of materials are needed.

-As I watch, and listen, to my grandson going through this visa stuff I am impressed with his maturity and spirit. It is humbling to see how well he is handling it all. I remember shooting nerf hoops with him for hours when he was a toddler. I remember the little boy giggle he had that brought a smile to everyone. Now we sit and talk about world issues over a cup of coffee. I am proud of the Christ following, people loving, world changing young man he has become. There go those allergies making my eyes water again, this has happened a few times since I picked him up at the airport.

-My wife continues to do well in her recovery. The progress each week is a little slower now. That is because she made such great progress in the first four or five weeks that the improvement now is not as obvious. She is still a rock star with how well she has done with a double knee replacement.

-I spent some time a couple of days ago leafing through one of my Dad’s old Bibles. There was even a few of his message outlines in there. It was interesting to see what he had underlined and a few notes he had made. I am blessed to have had such a great example.

-This coming Sunday we will be remembering several members from our church who passed away within the past year. We have a certificate of remembrance and honor for the families of these people. It is a time to remember and celebrate those who have been faithful to the Lord and our church. It is always an emotional day.

Here’s hoping that you recognize how much you are loved by God and will share that with someone in need this week.

 

Dennis

Monday Evening Musings …

Yesterday morning went very well. This morning however, did not go as planned, that is why these are Monday evening musings…

 

-Our Worship service was very good yesterday. The music went well, and the congregation seemed to be engaged and participating well. We honored a young lady in our church who just graduated from college. It was encouraging to see how she is maturing and growing in her faith and life. She graduated from high school just a few months after I came here to pastor. We had a great time of prayer. Even the offering seemed to be a moment of worship.

-The message was on repairing relationships as part of a series of messages entitled “The Hope of Relationships”. I received word from 2 people yesterday afternoon how God spoke to them and how they needed that message.

-Attendance was reasonable and has been up slightly for the past 3 months.

-We had 9 youth in our worship service yesterday!

-There is a growing sense of God’s moving in our fellowship, and in our community. Doors are opening for relationships and opportunities. A few more people seem to be burdened to pray intensely. There is obvious spiritual growth in some people. There is a renewed excitement. Some of the excitement stems from seeing children and youth growing in their walk with Christ.

-My wife continues to do well in her recovery. On Wednesday it will be 6 weeks since her surgery.

-My oldest grandson is having to come back to the states for a few weeks to clear up some of his student visa issues. While I am excited to see him and spend some time with him. I hurt for him as he is losing his summer with his parents and siblings and they are losing that precious time with him. Just another example of sacrifices that missionaries and their families make.

-I feel the need to set aside some time to make sure that I am doing what God desires of me right now. Recently, I have had a lot of opportunities come toward me. All these opportunities are intriguing and interesting. All of them are good things. I just want to be sure that I am spending my time on the best things that are available. That may mean saying no to some good things. I want to make sure that I am not chasing after so many things that I am fail at doing my best. I am not good at stepping aside for this type of evaluation. I love to evaluate, but I love to evaluate after I am doing. I need to get better at some evaluation before I even begin. Now to make the time to do this evaluation.

-My message this coming Sunday is on restoring relationships. It is one thing to repair broken parts of a relationship, but it is another thing to restore a relationship that appears to be dead. Prayer are appreciated as I try to get this important message across to the people of my church.

-I did some Facebook live with our service yesterday. I would like to do this every week. But I need to figure out some better logistics for the recording.

Here’s hoping you are seeing reason to hope in your relationships.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a very good Mother’s Day for many, a difficult day for some and just another day for a few. As for my musings …

-We began a new sermon series yesterday. The series will run from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day and is entitled “The Hope of Relationships”. We will be looking at celebrating, renewing, repairing, multiplying, recognizing and restoring our relationships. We were created to be in relationships. Our relationships matter, and they have a major impact on all areas of our lives.

-We had a couple of areas set up for people to have a picture taken with Mom yesterday. This is the second year we have done this, and it has been well received both years.

-Our attendance was okay, but we did not get a bump because of it being Mother’s Day.

-My wife continues to do well in her recovery from double knee replacement and has begun a more rigorous level of therapy.

-We were able to introduce a new baby to the congregation yesterday. He was 5 days old on Sunday and Mom, Dad and his 2 siblings were beaming as they walked into worship.

-I believe this Mother’s Day was the 30th since my Mom’s passing.

-I had several people in my congregation were going through their first Mother’s Day without their Mom. That can be a very difficult day.

-I believe that even tougher than Mother’s Day without your Mom is Mother’s Day without your child. No matter why you are without a child (death, conflict or have not been able to have a child) it is a very difficult day.

-The planning, and work, for our Vacation Bible School is about to ramp up. Our VBS is at the end of July, but we do VBS big, so the work is already underway.

-Our venture into doing a mid-week ministry for children and youth has gone very well. We are taking a break for a couple of months. We originally were going to do just do it for 6 or 8 weeks last fall and then consider doing another few weeks in the spring. The beginning went so well that the children’s workers just kept going. The first week there was 1 teen who attended. Last week there were 10!!! Our children have gone for about dozen to a stretch where they averaged 20+. The bigger praise is that we are seeing some significant spiritual growth in our children and some of the teens have begun attending on Sundays as well.

-I am getting ready for a church board meeting tonight. I love my church board. They are always seeking to try things that could make a difference in our community. They are not stuck on any specific method of ministry. They are generous toward anything that could help reach more people for Christ.

-We start a new round of teaching a Fatherhood class at the prison this week. I am anxious to meet this group and build relationships.

-I have been praying fervently for some musicians to begin attending our church, or for some people who have musical abilities in our congregation but have been hiding it to step up and minister. Maybe we will grow them up among our growing children and youth ministries.

-I need to get going and finish some reports for the board meeting.

Here’s hoping you will take time to celebrate some of your relationships this week.

 

Dennis

Yesterday was a very good Mother’s Day for many, a difficult day for some and just another day for a few. As for my musings …

-We began a new sermon series yesterday. The series will run from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day and is entitled “The Hope of Relationships”. We will be looking at celebrating, renewing, repairing, multiplying, recognizing and restoring our relationships. We were created to be in relationships. Our relationships matter, and they have a major impact on all areas of our lives.

-We had a couple of areas set up for people to have a picture taken with Mom yesterday. This is the second year we have done this, and it has been well received both years.

-Our attendance was okay, but we did not get a bump because of it being Mother’s Day.

-My wife continues to do well in her recovery from double knee replacement and has begun a more rigorous level of therapy.

-We were able to introduce a new baby to the congregation yesterday. He was 5 days old on Sunday and Mom, Dad and his 2 siblings were beaming as they walked into worship.

-I believe this Mother’s Day was the 30th since my Mom’s passing.

-I had several people in my congregation were going through their first Mother’s Day without their Mom. That can be a very difficult day.

-I believe that even tougher than Mother’s Day without your Mom is Mother’s Day without your child. No matter why you are without a child (death, conflict or have not been able to have a child) it is a very difficult day.

-The planning, and work, for our Vacation Bible School is about to ramp up. Our VBS is at the end of July, but we do VBS big, so the work is already underway.

-Our venture into doing a mid-week ministry for children and youth has gone very well. We are taking a break for a couple of months. We originally were going to do just do it for 6 or 8 weeks last fall and then consider doing another few weeks in the spring. The beginning went so well that the children’s workers just kept going. The first week there was 1 teen who attended. Last week there were 10!!! Our children have gone for about dozen to a stretch where they averaged 20+. The bigger praise is that we are seeing some significant spiritual growth in our children and some of the teens have begun attending on Sundays as well.

-I am getting ready for a church board meeting tonight. I love my church board. They are always seeking to try things that could make a difference in our community. They are not stuck on any specific method of ministry. They are generous toward anything that could help reach more people for Christ.

-We start a new round of teaching a Fatherhood class at the prison this week. I am anxious to meet this group and build relationships.

-I have been praying fervently for some musicians to begin attending our church, or for some people who have musical abilities in our congregation but have been hiding it to step up and minister. Maybe we will grow them up among our growing children and youth ministries.

-I need to get going and finish some reports for the board meeting.

Here’s hoping you will take time to celebrate some of your relationships this week.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

She’s back! That was a major celebration in our time or worship yesterday. There were other great things that took place as well. As for my musings …

-Yesterday my wife led our worship team, as they led our congregation in the music portion of our worship service. This was just 3 ½ weeks after having double knee replacement! What a blessing to see her back doing something she loves. On Saturday we participated in a Walk for Life to raise support for a local pregnancy center. She walked a ½ mile at that event. To say that she is doing well would be an understatement.

-We had a couple of newer families return for their 3rd or 4th week in a row. That is very encouraging. They both made their way to our church from very different directions, which is also encouraging.

-We have had several weeks in a row of outstanding worship services. With that in mind, yesterday seemed a little flat. The service went well, people seemed to be engaged, it was just that the overall atmosphere fell a little flat compared to the last 5 or 6 weeks. That is to be expected I guess.

-Our attendance was good. That is 3 good weeks of attendance in a row.

-This coming Sunday, Mother’s Day, we will begin a new series of messages on relationships. This series will go from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. We will look at celebrating, repairing, multiplying, renewing, recognizing and restoring our relationships in this series.

-My grandson who is attending college here in the States made it safely back to his parents and siblings in Africa. Thankful for safe travel. I know they are celebrating, or they will be after he gets some sleep.

-There are a lot of people around us who are struggling with family relationships. This deserves much prayer, listening ears and compassionate hearts.

-I think I may need to back off from something in my life. I am involved in many great things and have a couple of new opportunities that have become available. Wisdom says that I probably shouldn’t add anything without subtracting something. I am praying and processing all of this to determine what is the most productive things for me to be doing for my mission with Christ and where I can impact, and multiply, the most people.

-I am hoping to get some time to relax with a fishing pole in my hands in the next couple of weeks.

-I have been spending significant time recently seeking better avenues in which to make an impact in my community and beyond. In some things it is to continue to do what God has already led me into and to not close my mind to new things God is revealing to me.

-I have been reminded often this past week of the wonderful legacy I have enjoyed through those who have gone before me. In my family and in my church.

-Yesterday was one of those times in preaching where I could not get a good read on whether people were following the message I was preaching or not. It is difficult to preach when you have trouble reading the faces, and body language, of those to who you are speaking.

Here’s hoping that you are able to give someone a helping hand this week.

 

Dennis

Sometimes I’m Listening …

For some time, my wife has been after me to have my hearing evaluated. She is convinced that my hearing has suffered, and I may need something to help me hear better. We don’t agree on this issue. Therefore, I have been reluctant, some might call it stubborn, to go down this path of having my hearing evaluated. I have two major reasons for not wanting to get evaluated.

One reason is that I fear she is correct and I don’t want to admit to this phenomenon.

The other reason is that I fear she is wrong and my hearing is just fine. Then how do I explain what I didn’t hear?

Does that sound confusing? Let me attempt to explain. I have a friend who was having a similar dispute with his wife. (Do all married couples have this discussion after a certain age?) He finally gave in and went to have his hearing evaluated. He went through the testing and waited for the results and evaluation. He was sure that his hearing was fine. He was correct!

The audiologist told him that according to all the testing that there was nothing wrong with his hearing. At this point my friend gave his wife one of those “I told you so” looks. (I don’t advise using this look very often, but he went for it anyway.) Then the expert said, “There is nothing wrong with your hearing, however you do need to work on your listening.” At that point this conversation took place in my friend’s head; “What? Ouch! Can I take that look back? Is there anyway that my wife didn’t hear that?”

Do you understand my reasons better now?

If my wife is correct I will have to not only admit I was wrong, but I will have to make some major changes. If, however, my hearing is okay then I will likely be confronted with the truth that I am just not listening very well. I am struggling to know which scenario is worse.

As I was wrestling with this today I had a growing sense that God was attempting to have the same conversation with me about my spiritual hearing.

My fears in this regard are a bit different than my fears with my wife and my declining hearing ability.

Experience has taught me that the wrong party in this is not likely to be the Lord. My struggle about my spiritual hearing is that I have been hearing a lot of things from the Lord much clearer recently. That is a good thing. Those things are rocking my world as I begin to formulate what they mean for my life. If what I am hearing, with some definite hearing issues, is rocking my world this much then what will happen if I really adjust and listen more closely to the Lord? Can anyone out there relate to this?

I want to hear, and listen, better. I want to know what the Lord wants from me and for me. I want to hear every syllable he sends my way. With a trembling voice in my spirit I am saying. Could you speak a little slower Lord? I don’t want to miss any of what you are saying and how you are directing me. I am seeking to listen better.

How about you? What are you hearing? Are you listening?

In the meantime, I better go I think my wife was asking me something.

 

Dennis