Sunday, March 13, 2016

The "Private Garden" of Marriage

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” --Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

This description of "the secret garden" from Burnett's book could also describe the detailed account of the sexual relationship between Solomon and his wife that began to bloom on their honeymoon.   Solomon shared this account in detail in Song of Solomon Chapter 4 of the Bible. 

In fact Solomon tells his bride in vs. 12, "You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.  And in vs. 15 she invites her new husband to, "Come into (his) garden, (and) taste its finest fruits."


Before we move on, I want to point out the difference in the adjective used by Solomon to describe this "marriage garden" and the one used by Burnett to describe the actual physical garden:  "private" verse "secret."  A good sexual relationship between a husband and wife should be "private" (intended for one particular person) but shouldn't be a "secret" (kept hidden from others). 

There is nothing wrong with other people knowing that you and your spouse have a healthy sex life.  I want other people, especially my kids, to know I have a good sex life with my wife and to fully and understand and experience this with their spouse as well.

I will not rewrite the chapter 4 of Song of Solomon in it's entirety here but it is one of the most giving, sacrificial, and moral "sex scenes" ever recorded and I will use it to talk with my kids about a good sexual relationship between a husband and wife.

The overarching theme from this chapter of Song of Solomon is most likely not breaking news to anyone who has been around the opposite sex for more than 15 minutes but none the less important to a healthy sexual relationship.  The theme is that women are prepared for sex by what is said and men are prepared for sex by what is seen! That is why my wife always jokes that if she doesn't want to have sex she has to get undressed in the closet.  And we don't have a walk in closet! It takes carefully chosen words given at the right time deliver in the right way to motivate a woman's libido.

Most women don't understand how men can be ready for sex so quickly and the typical man of few words has a hard time finding the right words to help his wife "get in the mood."  If you read Song of Solomon Chapter 4 you will notice this played out.   Verses 1-15 are Solomon talking to this bride and verse 16 is his bride talking to him.  This is normally what the balance will look like--as a couple you will spend 15 minutes talking to get the woman "in the mood" and then the man will be ready in just a minute.


We are by nature selfish beings and it would be easy not to put in the effort it takes to have a giving and sacrificial sex life with your spouse but true intimacy will only blossom in the marriage garden when the miracle of self-sacrifice is practiced on by both the husband and wife as they prepare and participate in the private garden of sexual intimacy.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

FedEx Father

Recently I have become a "FedEx Father!" 

Being a "FedEx Father" doesn't have anything to do with using FedEx exclusively to ship packages, in fact most of the time I ship things USPS because I'm "thrifty" aka "cheap."  Being a "FedEx Father" is all about the FedEx logo.  The FedEx logo has won over 40 design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years in the 35th Anniversary American Icon issue of Rolling Stone magazine. 

My kids point out the logo on a FedEx truck every time they see one. They have done this without fail ever since I showed them a little secret about the logo you may, or may not know about. What’s the secret you ask? Take a look for yourself, don't cheat and scroll down to see the answer until you have looked!








Did you see the "secret" arrow between the E and the x pointing to the RIGHT!  After you see the arrow, it will be the first thing you see from now on when you look at a FedEx vehicle.  Since my eye goes directly to the arrow I decided to use my bodies muscle memory to help me become a better dad.  Song of Solomon 2:7 says that the bride does not want to "awaken love until the time is right" (NLT Holy Bible).

As parents we want to "direct (our) children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it" (Prov. 22:6 NLT Holy Bible)  We hope and pray that they will make the right decisions at the right time.  Choosing the right mate at the right time, choosing to have sex with the right person at the right time, choosing the right words at the right time, choosing the right friends at the right time, choosing the right EVERYTHING at the right time.

With so many chances for my kids to make the wrong choices at the wrong time, I felt the need to pray for them more often about making right choices.  So, now each time my eye gravitates to that arrow on the side of a FedEx truck I say a silent prayer for my kids that they will make the right choices at the right time.  Sometimes it is specific to something I know they are going through and a choice they have to make and sometimes it is just a generic prayer but it is always a good reminder how important it is for me to be a "Fedex Father" directing my children on the right path so when they are older they will not leave it.

Questions to Consider

1.  What choices do your children have to make in the near future and what can you do to help them make the right decision at the right time?

2.  Who are some other people you could include in your prayers to make right decisions at the right time?


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dream Wedding Part 2: The Approved Guest List


We live in a society where we are so conditioned to do whatever we want, no matter what other people think, that sometimes we fail to seek the advice of those closest to us.  There are many times in life when we need the insight and approval of those around us before making a rash decision.  In regards to treating women right, one of the biggest times we need the approval of some very important people in our lives is before we decide to get married.  We should not rashly meet a prospective mate, set a date, write up a guest list for the big day and go get married without getting approval first.

The most important person to approve of your marriage is you!  I know this sounds ridiculous, who would get marred if they didn't approve of the marriage themselves? It happens more than you think.  I did not approve of my first marriage, but I got married anyway. Her family, my family and all of our friends approved of the marriage so I thought she was the right one to marry but deep down in my own heart I didn't approve of my own marriage.
I never understood what happily married couples meant when they told me "When you meet the one you are supposed to marry you will 'just know.'"  Until I met the Love of My Life, Alana I "just knew."  I just knew without a doubt that we were perfect for each other and I had no hesitations about marrying her.

Without sounding too clich√© unless you are 100% sure that you want to be married to the person for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health until death do you part--DONT get married you don't approve of the marriage. 

What I am about to say may be controversial but it is what I believe so here goes-- No matter the circumstances, no exceptions, (I am not even going to fill in the blanks here because I firmly believe there are not exceptions to what I am about to say) if YOU do not fully approve of marrying a potential spouse you should NOT marry them!  Don't make the same mistake I made and marry the wrong person just because everyone else approved of her.

Even though YOU are the most important person to approve of your marriage, you are not the only person that should approve of it.  After you fully approve of your marriage, then seek the advice and approval of those closest to you.  Song of Solomon 3:6-11 is more than the account of a beautiful wedding ceremony for Solomon and his bride, it is a list of guests that attended this wedding because they approved of the marriage.



Guest #1 who approved the marriage:  God
The first one to approve of this wedding was God.  Song of Solomon 3:6 asks, "Who is coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke...?"  This is a reference to the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness who were being guided on their journey by the Spirit of God.  And the Spirit of God would show himself to the people in the form of a pillar of fire so they knew He was present with them.  This reference implies that God approves of the marriage of Solomon and his bride and will be with the couple in their marriage relationship.  The approval of the one who created marriage is very important for a long and happy marriage.

Guest #2 who approved the marriage:  The Bridal Party
The second guests to approve of this wedding were the bridal party.  Song of Solomon 3:7 says Solomon came "with sixty valiant men around him...every man had his sword."  By wearing their swords, these valiant groomsmen were not only showing their approval of the marriage but they were committing to protect it against anyone who would want to separate this married couple.  Chapter 3:10 says, the daughters of Jerusalem, who were the brides friends and bridesmaids, decorated the interior of the wedding carriage with love for the couple. 

Tommy Nelson says in his book The Book of Romance (p. 76)


                As a whole, those who witness your marriage should be like a holy hedge of protection around you, keeping you focused toward each other inside the circle of matrimony, and keeping out anybody who might try to destroy your marriage.  Don't ask someone to stand up for you who isn't completely committed to you, to your marriage and, in general, to the sanctity and value of marriage.  Such a person will not encourage you to work through problems in your marriage; such a person will not do the utmost to help you and your spouse when you need help.  And they may embarrass you at the rehearsal dinner


Guest #3 who approved the marriage:  The Mother of the Groom
In Chapter 3:11 Solomon's mother crowned him with a wedding crown to show her approval of his bride and this marriage.  In today's wedding ceremonies the Father of the Bride traditionally "gives the bride away" to symbolize the approval of the brides parents.  Once after a wedding I performed I overheard a little girl asking someone why the bride changed her mind.  I was so curious I had to ask her what she meant.   She said the bride walked down the aisle with one man but walked back up the aisle at the end with another man, why did she change her mind on who to marry?  The little girl didn't quite understand the symbolism behind the father giving the bride away. 

Before you marry someone take time to get to know your perspective spouse's family because you are marrying into their family and their approval is important.  If the family does not give their approval of the marriage listen to their concerns and consider them carefully. 



To have a dream marriage, you first need a dream wedding and no matter how big or beautiful a dream wedding will never happen without the proper approval.  

Questions to consider

Q1:Are you so conditioned to do whatever you want that you fail to seek the advice of those closest to you?  

Q2:  If you are dating or engaged do you fully approve of your potential spouse?  If not don't get married NO MATTER WHAT!


Q3:  Do you agree or disagree with the statement " No matter the circumstances, no exceptions, if YOU do not fully approve of marrying a potential spouse you should NOT marry them! Why do you agree or disagree?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Dream Wedding Part 1: "Mr. Dreamy"



Most little girls dream of their wedding day from a young age.  They begin to think about and plan that special day.  They think about marrying their Prince Charming in an elegant wedding venue full of guests in a beautiful white gown, walking on rose petals down the aisle to bliss way before they find the "man of their dreams."

According to researchers the average age a girl starts planning and dreaming of their wedding is 13 but some start as early as age 6.  And, 6 out of 10 single women have already planned their entire wedding day. (1)

In Chapter 3 of Song of Solomon, Solomon's bride to be is laying in her bed dreaming of her wedding day and night.  ("One night as I lay in bed, I yearned deeply for my lover." Song of Solomon 3:1 NLT)

She roamed "the city searching for (her dream man) in all the streets and squares." (Song of Solomon 3:2 NLT)  Does this remind you of the modern dating scene?  Women, and men are spending every weekend going to bars, parties, malls, parks, even online dating sites to find the man or woman of their dreams. 

Solomon's bride to be "searched in vain" (Song of Solomon 3:2b NLT) she didn't force a relationship with the wrong guy, she didn't compromise or settle for less than her dream man.--Good for her!  No one will ever be perfect but you will know if you have found the man or woman of your dreams.  If you are not sure, I can assure you they are NOT the one for you.  I made this mistake.  I rushed into marriage with my first wife.  I wasn't sure if she was the right person for me to marry but I had dating quite a few girls in high school and college, I had searched for someone to be with and even though I wasn't sure I wasn't brave enough to say I had searched in vain.  I wanted to be married, even if I wasn't sure it was to the right person.  That was a mistake.  Because I rushed into marriage I ended up getting a divorce.  I should have waited until I was sure I found the woman of my dreams.  Solomon's bride to be was patient and "a little while later" she did find the man of her dreams.  (Song of Solomon 3:4). 

A little while later in my life, I did find the woman of my dreams, this time I was sure and I married my current wife Alana.  We are not perfect, but we are perfect for each other and we will be together forever--she is the woman of my dreams!

As we talked about in an earlier blog titled "Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now" 
Solomon's bride to be had chosen to wait until marriage to have sex.  Society says that sex is for two people who "love each other" the best choice, however, is waiting to have sex until you are married.  We will not re-hash that point here but please take a few minutes to read why I have reached my opinion on this issue in my previous blog.

Solomon's fiance had such a strong desire to be with Solomon that she started dreaming about doing something sexually with him that she knew she didn't want to do--have sex with him in her mother's home before they were married. (Song of Solomon 3:4b NLT). "New data from a national survey of teens indicate that most report their “first time” occurred in their own or their partner’s family home." (2)

So how did she keep herself from falling into this very real temptation to have sex with the man of her dreams before their wedding day?  She enlisted the help of her friends!  Friends are the best people to help young people keep their commitments.  Parents have a responsibility to teach kids how to make right choices from a young age but by the time they are able to make choices like whether to have sex before marriage their friends have more influence on their choices.
She asks her friends to promise that they will not let her "awaken love until the time is right." (Song of Solomon 3:5 NLT).  Their are many projects or organizations I would recommend that can connect you and your teenager with other people who are waiting until marriage to have sex. (www.truelovewaits.comchastityproject.com; https://free.thepurityproject.org; )



(1) Daily Mail Reporter Feb 25, 2014 online

(2)  http://www.childtrends.org/news/news-releases/where-and-when-do-teens-first-have-sex/#sthash.XA36QYlf.dpuf

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Does the Fox Say?

In the late 1990's there were a series of books titled:  “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  They had, “Don’t sweat the small stuff at work”  “Don’t sweat the small stuff with your family” “Don’t sweat the small stuff for women” and several others.  With over 25 million copies in print, the Don’t Sweat philosophy has touched multiple generations of parents & grandparents, teenagers & kids.  Many of you may have a copy of one of these books on your bookshelf or nightstand right now.

The problem with that philosophy is that the little things that we leave unresolved will continue to fester and can eventually ruin our relationships.  Solomon writes in Song of Solomon 2:15  "Quick!  Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love..."-NLT

If it is the little things that can easily ruin our relationships, why don't we catch them?  Why do we let them continue to run around in our relationships and ruin our vineyards?  The reason is their size.  Some things don't seem like a big deal, they seem like "the small stuff" and we have been conditioned not to sweat the small stuff.  We tend to pay close attention to preventing the big relationship busters like infidelity, and financial crisis but we don't usually recognize that the biggest threat to our relationships come from what we might casually think of as smaller issues or irritations with one another. You can build a fence to keep the big fox out, but its the little fox that can squeeze through that fence.

"Chuck Swindoll said in his book, Strike the Original Match (1) the "large stuff," paradoxically enough, will actually strengthen a marriage in many instances:  the loss of a job, a sudden illness, a long absence.  It's those "little foxes"--often minor irritations that don't get discussed--that add up.  It's the slow leaks, not the blow outs...that cut away at the heart of a home until it crumbles and two people end up walking away.

You need a system to address the little foxes that can get into your relationships so that they don't become bigger problems.  You must agree with your spouse on how to bring up these seemingly insignificant things so that no one feels picked on or nagged at you when they bring up little fox. Be willing to listen to what that little fox is saying when your spouse brings it up.   And here is the big one, be willing to ask "What can I do to help catch the little fox so it doesn't ruin our relationship?"



If you are irritated with something small about your spouse, don't make a big deal of it but address it QUICKLY.  Sometimes in relationships we rationalize lying a little or misleading a little or being irritated a little or whatever a little but don't let those little foxes hang around your relationship they are not harmless.  Don’t let these small things ruin your relationships, it’s not worth it.  Life’s too short, sweat the small stuff.


Bibliography: (1).  Portland, OR Multnomah Press, 1980, p. 87

Monday, August 24, 2015

People Watching

One of my favorite things to do with Alana is "people watching."  One of the great things about people watching is that you can do it almost anywhere.  We will sit in the restaurant or the park and and we will pick a couple or a family and ask, "What's their story?'  As we continue to watch them interact with others we will formulate "their story" in our own minds.  By the time we leave the restaurant or the park we know all about these people without ever talking to them, at least we think we know them from what we see on the outside.  

As I " people watch" Solomon and his finance interact I see two things in their relationship that convince me they are truly in love.  They desperately want to spend time together and they speak lovingly to one another.  Our eyes only allow us to look on the outside so we will never know for sure, but I believe there are two outward observations that are good indicators of the heart. 



Observation #1.  Spending Time Together.  
In Song of Solomon 2: 10 & 13 Solomon urges his fiance to "come away" and spend time with him.  He wants to spend as much time with her as possible.  There should be a certain excitement that comes from being with the one we love.  Yes the "butterflies" in the stomach and the "goosebumps" on the arms may be more evident and often at first but even after years of marriage you should still love to spend time with your spouse.  There should be no other place that makes you feel "at home" like being with the one you love.

Before marriage, spending time alone with your significant other is normally your highest priority. But after marriage, so many couples, find themselves in the same room together and not actually spending time together.  I know it's easy after a long day to "veg out" in front of the T.V. or get lost in a good book and I know its hard to engage and interact with your spouse in meaningful ways when you are exhausted but it is crucial to the success of your marriage in the long run. Living in the same house but not spending quality time together means you are no more than room mates living together out of convenience not a married couple living together out of love.
        
Observation #2 Speaking Lovingly to One Another.
Solomon speaks so lovingly to his finance in vs 10 & 13, he calls her his "love" and his "fair one."  

In my observations of couples over the years those who are truly in love have their own unique expressions of love towards one another.  Alana and I have a few that have endured through the years of our married life.  When one of us says, "I love you."  instead of responding with the standard, "I love you too."  Most of the time, the other person will respond with either, "I love you 17." or " I love you sooooooooxxxxx much."  These expressions of love may sound corny to those outside the relationship but they are subtle ways for us as a couple to continually remember certain memories that make our marriage special.

One of the most difficult times for men to express their love verbally is on the phone but this is probably one of the most important times to make your feelings for you spouse clear and verbal.  Tell your wife you love her before you hang up the phone.  Don't just say "uh-huh" or "you too" actually say the words, "I love you."   Your wife doesn't know where you are or who you are with and she wants to know no matter what you are not ashamed of the love you have for her.

I have never had Alana tell me at the end of the day that I told her I loved her too many times.  When we first got married, however, she did tell me that I didn't say I loved her enough.  As men, who use far less words per day than women, we must make an extra effort to use some of those words to tell our wives, in meaningful ways, that we love them. 

Questions to answer:

Q1.  Do you long to spend time with your spouse as much as you did when you were dating?  If not why not?

Q2.  How do you spend your time with your spouse?  Would you say it is meaningful or quality time?

Q3.  How often do you tell your spouse you love them?


Q4.  When was the last time you lost a disagreement on purpose because your spouse was more important than winning the argument?

Thank you to Lacey McGinty and Changing Faces Photography for the picture in this blog.  http://www.changingfacesphotography.com

Friday, January 23, 2015

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

The purpose of my blog is to acquire practical relationship advice from one of the wisest men to ever live, King Solomon.  This relationship advice is recorded in the book of Song of Solomon contained in the Bible.  There are so many rich and practical relational truths found in this book that when looking back at the blog, I found myself skipping right over the very first sentence in the entire book, "The Song of Songs which is Solomon's." 
(Song of Solomon 1:1)  

At first glance this appears to be an insignificant statement of fact but in reality it is a very significant question we must all answer BEFORE we get into a relationship with someone else.  I never stopped to answer the question, "Who was Solomon?"

History tells us that Solomon was a wise man with wisdom that excelled the wisdom of most people of his day, he was the King of Israel, he was a very wealthy business man, and he was also a father, and husband. (I Kings 4)

If someone asked me, "Who are you?" I think I would have very similar responses, "I am a middle class retail store manager, husband and father of four."  I think many of you would have similar responses as me.



But is that who Solomon was?  Is that who I am?  Is that who you are?  Can the answer to those questions be all wrapped up into our jobs and our relationship to others?  No, that cannot be who we are.  These things, important as they might be to our earthly life, are only a costume we wear for a short time.  "...How brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away." (Psalm 39:4)

I believe the answer of who we are goes back to the fact that we are undeniably created different than any other creature on earth.  Why are we different may have many different interpretations but I believe that difference exists because mankind unlike anything else on this earth was created to live on beyond our time in this earthly realm.  I believe, "God has...planted eternity in the human heart." (Ecc. 3:11) Even though everyone's body eventually stops breathing, death seems so unnatural and unfair.  For century’s people have searched for "the fountain of life" so they could live forever.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Surely God would not have created such a being as man to exist for a day!  No, no, man was made for immortality."

When you can answer the question, "Who am I?" with the statement "I am an immortal being."  You will begin to live life differently.  You will handle relationships, tasks, jobs, goals, activities, pretty much everything, differently.

This is a harsh statement so I will make it about myself and you can see if it applies to you:  Who am I?  I am a narcissistic hypocrite consumed by costumes and performances UNTIL I come to realize I am NOTHING apart from the one who created me to live for all eternity! 

Questions to Consider:
Who are you?

What are some of the masks/costumes you wear? 

How would things change if you were to take off this mask?


Mankind was created for immortality, what does life after earth hold for you?