Friday, June 24, 2011

Survey Says: Prayer is Like Superglue

I thought this was an interesting article and a good follow-up to my last post, as it compliments and reinforces some of the ideas I previously mentioned. The original article can be found here.

Fourteen days -- 336 hours. That's how long Eddie Murphy's latest marriage lasted to film producer, Tracey Edmonds. David Letterman quipped: "They started to drift apart during the ceremony. The legal question now is who gets custody of the cake."

The star-struck couple entered the New Year with a flourish, exchanging vows on a private island off Bora Bora in French Polynesia on Jan. 1. They were the picture of perfection; dapperly dressed, sunshiny smiles and bodacious bodies honed by exercise and diet. Probing paparazzi captured faces aglow with the radiance of love. Or was it merely the beginning of sunstroke? That at least would explain the insane antics that followed.

The marriage headed south faster than a Canadian snowbird in November and they pulled the plug just days into the adventure. Apparently "till death do us part" is translated differently in French Polynesia. Eddie and Tracey discovered what most people instinctively know: enduring marriages require more than picturesque beginnings, fame or even fortune.

Flourishing relationships grow in the greenhouse of commitment, nourished by copious communication and persistent prayer. Traditional wedding vows are meant to usher in delightful devotion to a spouse. Stubborn commitment is pledged: "For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and faithful to you alone, till death do us part."

The Bible calls this a covenant and it was never meant to be broken. To sever such a relationship is the equivalent of ripping our tongue off on the playground slide in the middle of a Canadian winter. Not pleasant and downright bloody. No wonder God says He hates divorce. He is the outstanding Father of all time; watching His children experience such pain is nothing less than heart-wrenching.

Commitment can prevent much of that pain, forming the banks in which the marital river freely flows. If commitment forms the banks, then communication is the current. It ensures the relationship retains freshness and vigour, combating the staleness that grows in quiet waters.

Relational silence is not golden -- it is an eerily accurate forecaster of dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Wise couples dispel these clouds in three ways:

- They expose secrets. Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we are as sick as the secrets we keep. Marital secrets need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light, where they die of exposure. The heart of marriage is meant to be transparent.

- Healthy couples deal with their disagreements. They follow St. Paul's advice and "do not let the sun go down while (they) are still angry." The right time to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness is always the present. An oft forgotten bonus is that making up can be a whole lot of fun.

Perceptive spouses frequently express their love. Spoken sentiment is a gentle breeze refreshing the soul. It is a spring rain watering seeds of love sown deep within. Couples who excel in the language of love need never fear failure.

A 1997 Gallup Poll unearthed a noteworthy nugget of marital insight. It discovered that when a couple consistently prays together its chances of divorce plunges from one-in-three to one-in-1,152.

Wise couples pay attention to such findings. Fools alone discount a practice that increases the odds of success this dramatically.

The poll issues a clarion, if unconventional challenge to all. According to these findings, marriage counsellors should be clambering to arm clients with prayer manuals, couples should be flocking to churches and enterprising employers wishing to maximize employee emotional health should consider initiating prayer workshops.

You don't have to be religious to pray -- just smart. Don't worry about a formula, God appreciates simple sincerity. Try the "sorry, thank you, please" format. Express what you are sorry for. Thank God for the multitude of received blessings, including your spouse. Then discuss requests with the Divine.

Magazines littering the grocery checkout aisles proclaimed the tragedy of the Eddie and Tracey breakup. But the greatest tragedy is unheralded; that two mature individuals have yet to grasp the keys that will unlock an enduring and fulfilling relationship.

Perhaps the one redeeming factor in the entire sordid affair is the opportunity we have to glean and grow from their marital mishap.We can choose to stay true to commitments made. We can open our hearts and mouths, rejecting the lure of silence when communication is desperately needed. Persistent prayer can bind us to the One who is an artesian well of wisdom and an unending source of love.

When we live in such a way we rise above a myriad of gifted individuals who choose a lesser pathway, including two rich but lonely movie moguls who left their hearts in Bora Bora.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Best Intentions?

My parents just celebrated their 35th anniversary. I joined them this past weekend for a surprise party. It was a great plan my dad had in store for my mother and put together by him and their fellow campers. Saturday was a fun night filled with a potluck dinner a wild party, and if you know my dad at all, very rambunctious. As the night wound down and the crowd dwindled from about 50 people to 4 or 5, someone asked my parents the secret to staying together that long. My mother responded with: GLUE! The key is to stick together no matter what!

But what about single folk like me who want to be married but haven’t found someone suitable yet?

Before she graced the stage of NBC’s The Voice, Raquel Castro took on the role of Ben Affleck’s daughter in the movie Jersey Girl. After walking in on Raquel and her friend playing doctor, we next see Ben sitting the two on a couch as the protective parent asking the boy “what are your intentions with my daughter? Do you plan on marrying her?” later on the role is comically reversed when Raquel catches Ben Affleck in the shower with Liv Tyler. Raquel then asks Liv her intentions toward her dad.

 I can relate to being in that proverbial hot seat getting grilled by either a protective parent or friend looking out for their bestie. Lately I’ve begun to wonder if that’s the best question to be asking. I am a form believer that God has a purpose and a plan for everyone alive. I also believe that God brings people into our lives for particular reasons and specific seasons. With this in mind I wonder if instead of asking someone: “what are your intentions with this relationship?” wouldn’t it be better to seek out God’s intentions for the relationship? If your goal is to have a long lasting and durable marriage; in your relationships beforehand – or even during the marriage – wouldn’t it be wise to ask “what is God’s calling on my spouse’s life, and how can I help fulfill that calling”?

Here’s another thought: What would it hurt to ask a combination of all three?

**** EDIT**** this article became headliner at The Daily Helpers Newspaper!!! =D see the link here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Does Forgiveness Mean Lack of Control?

I heard a story recently about a woman named Charlotte. At the age of 6, her parents followed their cultural norm and pre-arranged her marriage. By age 19 the date was set. A week before her big day, everything was set to go. Charlotte had her dress picked out, the bridesmaids were all flown in, and both the stag and stagette parties were had. The only preparation left were the wedding rehearsals. This would be the first time Charlotte would meet her husband, Dennis.

Her first impression of Dennis was quite pleasing. He seems like decent guy. Holding down a job as an engineer in the petroleum business, Charlotte feels at ease knowing that money will be a less likely concern. Watching Dennis mix and mingle around the room Charlotte notices his people skills are top notch. She imagines her and her husband greeting guests into their home at one of their many dinner parties as part of their married life together. As the two sit down at the dinner table they hold hands for the first time. Charlotte eagerly kisses Dennis on the cheek in front of those at the rehearsal. Dennis accepts the kiss with a smile on his face and a twinkle in the eye. She rests that night knowing things will be alright; that she can trust this man whom she just met to love and cherish her all of her days.

It’s now 11:45PM. Dennis and Charlotte have confessed their love for each other sited their vows, and been blessed by a priest in front of 250 friends and family in attendance at the wedding; and are now in the back of a Lincoln town car en route to their hotel for the night. As soon as the two were alone Charlotte was caught by surprise when Dennis raped her before the day had ended. Sadly, this was just the beginning of 10 years of abuse for Charlotte. Daily the beatings would continue. When Charlotte appealed to family for help, Dennis would turn the argument back on to her. Calling her mentally unstable, Dennis would manipulate Charlotte’s parents to make them think she needed psychiatric treatment. Then one day Charlotte found refuge in an unlikely hero.

One day Dennis decided to beat Charlotte after their three children went to bed. Their eldest son Mason had grown accustomed to hearing his parents shout and fight as they tried to sleep. But this time was different. Mason’s third grade teacher Mrs. Swanson had a special visitor do a presentation to her class during Safety Week at school. Mrs. Swanson brought in Constable Hudson from the local police department to teach the children all about how the police keep people safe. During his presentation, Constable Hudson told them about 911. Mason and his classmates learned about the people who work at 911 and how they are trained to help people in trouble. Hearing his mom crying, Mason used the phone in his parents room to call 911. When 911 answered, Mason listened to the gentleman on the phone as he told him how to keep his brother and sister safe and that help was on the way. The police showed up minutes later and took Dennis away to jail.

Charlotte saw this time as a chance for freedom and sought new life on a different continent with her three children. Now a quartet of Christians, Charlotte and her family enjoy life on the Canadian prairies. Still in touch with her family back home, Charlotte learns that Dennis’ life hangs in the balance as he suffers a coma during a riot in prison. While praying for his safety, she is led to scriptures that speak of forgiveness. Confused, she ignores the scriptures and continues to pray for Dennis’ life. Soon it becomes abundantly clear of God’s asking Charlotte to forgive Dennis of all the abuse he’s given her during their marriage. Charlotte decides on forgiving her husband and makes plans to visit her homeland.

During a vacation back home, she visits Dennis in the hospital. When the two are alone, she contemplates pulling the plug and taking Dennis’ life in return for her years of abuse. Then she quickly remembers why she came – to forgive Dennis for all the abuse Charlotte incurred over the years. In between the beeping and hissing of the machines that keep Dennis alive, Charlotte talks to Dennis for nearly 45 minutes about all the pain and the hurt he is responsible for. Before the conversation ends, Charlotte is able to utter words of forgiveness.

As she leaves the hospital a new sense of freedom encompasses her. Now she can let go of the past and focus on the future without fearing the abusive Dennis will find her, her children and abuse them again. The five years since charlotte and the kids left, charlotte was living in fear that Dennis would go looking for them with nothing but vengeance on his mind. Even though they were continents apart, Charlotte’s fear of Dennis controlled her. But because she was able to forgive Dennis from 10 years of abuse Charlotte no longer has to cower in fear or frantically look over her shoulder at men who even look like Dennis. Because of forgiveness Charlotte is now free from any grip Dennis still had on her and her children five years after the fact.

Maybe this is one reason why God asks us to practice forgiveness. Without it, our abusers – those who have done wrong to us – have some element of control in our lives for years and even decades after the incidences. By forgiving our abusers we release them of that control and we walk in freedom in more was then one. Not only are we free of any reoccurrences, but we no longer walk in fear. Cowering at the mere site of our abuser is not a posture we need to assume because it is gone and perhaps long forgotten. The only action we have from the point of forgiveness is rebuilding the bridge that was once burned. Rebuilding that bridge isn’t always mandatory, but it is an option one could take. I believe God will honor whatever action we take regarding that burned bridge. If we choose to rebuild it and make amends, the Lord will help us. If we choose otherwise, God will respect our decision and continue to direct those involved down different paths.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

Hey everyone! I know it’s been over a month since I’ve blogged but I have been rather busy this last month.
I attended The Outpouring back in April, and during a “catch up conversation” with my good friend Dallas, he asked about the progress of my book. Telling him I have 1 more devotional to write then I can work on getting it published, he offered to host a book release party for me this fathers day weekend.

Almost immediately after hearing the news about the book release I hit the pavement hard and threw as much energy as I could into having a printed copy in hand in about 2 weeks from now. When the final devotional was finished, I immediately began editing my work. On a side note I HATE editing stuff. Doing so was more tedious then I’m used too, and was way more time consuming then I thought. But doing so turned out to be a good thing as I was able to come up with a title and introduction to the book. I then contacted the Business Development Centre in Ontario regarding the copyright for my book. The money they charged me was nearly unaffordable. But God was good at providing the funds to do so. After a night of praying how I would afford the $160 to get the copyright registered, someone donated the money to me. I now have a silent partner in my venture. Yay for them coming into my life and blessing me with this opportunity.

My book was originally going to be solely an Ebook, but after speaking with a number of people requesting an ACTUAL book – one that they can hold flip pages of and keep on a shelf – it became quite clear that I should look into binding options. My initial meeting with a printing agency didn’t fare too well. They asked me a whole bunch of questions I wasn’t really prepared for. The sales staff hit me with all kinds of questions. I had to choose the kind of paper, its thickness, size, and texture, the font style, etc etc. Whether I wanted a hard or soft cover.

They had various types of binding and a whole list of questions regarding that too. In the end, they did have some books on display that I liked but they couldn’t do it on site. They had a book on demand service they referred me to that can give me a book for a cost of $3-5 each.

Next I had to think of a cover page. I had a few ideas that I initially thought were great but had to scrap. Once I decided on a suitable graphic, I decided the best way to do it would be to design it myself by gathering up the items that would be on the front cover and take a photo. Then I could tinker around with it using Photoshop until I had what I wanted. Amidst preparing to work on the cover page, I ran into an old friend who has a photography studio. I told him what I was doing, and he volunteered to do the cover page photo for me. I was like Praise God because I’m flying by the seat of my pants here.

Then I heard that a publishing company in Winnipeg called Word Alive Press is currently running its annual publishing contest for Christian Authors. The winners get a pretty sweet publishing deal for free. Shortly before this I had been praying about how to get my books onto the bookshelves of stores like Blessings, Chapters and Scott's Parable up near Red Deer Alberta. About this time God had also been teaching me about stepping outside of our comfort zones and the benefits of taking risks. So I decided to postpone my book release party and put everything else on hold to enter this contest. Up until last week I have been running around trying to get things done for my book and/or this publishing contest. I find out in august if I win. But if I don’t, I’ll just pick up where I left off.

Things are finally starting to slow down for me as I’m in the waiting period regarding this contest and I’m glad they have slowed. I’m not quite sure how much longer I could have gone on like that. I also threw my name in the hat to be a bible teacher at a bible camp this July through Rehoboth Christian Ministries. I haven’t heard back from them yet but if you don’t see many posts here in July that may be why. That’s all I wanted to share for now so until next time, be blessed!