Chapman, The Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman is an author and a pastor in North Carolina. His enduring ministry is in helping people’s marriages be better than they think possible. Ever since I was in college I have been aware of, and casually learned about, Chapman’s Five Love Language materials. He has written books applying them to all manner of relationships, with the most important being the marriage relationship.

In our culture and in our time, it appears to be terribly difficult to be and stay married, so I read books on marriage relationships frequently – for myself and for my church. I want to have  a good marriage, and I want to help people in our church have good marriages too.

To this end, Chapman’s book is fantastic. It’s simple, to the point, and has inspirational stories that show the reader how they too can apply an understanding of how we give and receive messages of love to their own marriages. I love this little book and tell people all the time to pick it up and enjoy a better life together with their spouse!

Here’s some solid material to get you going:

  • p. 14, “We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.”
  • p.34-5, “…one who is ‘in love’ is not genuinely interested in fostering the personal growth of the other person. ‘If we have any purpose in mind when we fall in love it is to terminate our own loneliness and perhaps ensure this result through marriage.’ The in-love experience does not focus on our own growth nor on the growth and development of the other person. Rather, it gives us the sense that we have arrived and that we do not need further growth… Research seems to indicate that there is a third and better alternative: We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was – a temporary emotional high – and now pursue ‘real love’ with our spouse.”
  • p.73, “One way to learn new patterns is to establish a daily sharing time in which each of you will talk about three things that happened to you that day and how you feel about them… you will start with the daily minimum, in a few weeks or months you may find quality conversation flowing more freely between you.
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Limiters and Ablers

Some guys¹ look at their wife and their kids and see their jailers. They see the family they have created for themselves as limiters; people who keep them from doing what they want and being who they want to be.

It’s one of the saddest things I see in men in my city, and pretty much anywhere.²

These men see their wife, and even their kids, like weights that keep them from going as fast as they want to. For many of these men, they need these weights to protect themselves from themselves. Some of these men want to be and do things that would hurt themselves, and their families keep them from the pain. For these men, it is a misplaced anger. They should be mad at themselves for not being responsible enough to take care of themselves in a healthy way. Their anger should be self-focused because they are the problem, not their families.

Sometimes these men exist in marriages and families where the spouse and/or the kids, actually enjoy having the role of jailer. They feel an unhealthy sense of worth and authority by being an actual pain to their husband/father. They enjoy being a limiter.

I once had a friend who couldn’t go out and play basketball with his friends until he had a chore list at home done to his wife’s satisfaction. It revealed a lack of trust that he would get work done. Maybe he wouldn’t! I have no idea what was going on in my friends’ marriage, but I knew right away I never wanted to be in that kind of a relationship – I didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to marry someone who would be responsible for limiting and controlling my life. It was a weird trade-off relationship, not a self-sacrificing love relationship, where the wife wanted her husband to have male friends and even be a leader among men.

The good news in all of this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. While some men look at their spouse and their kids and see their jailers – keeping them from their dreams – other men look at their spouse and their kids and see the people who make them able to live out their dreams.

Instead of being limiters, you can be an abler.

What if, instead of limiting each other in a marriage relationship, you make each other even more together than you could be apart.

The reason why this isn’t the case in so many marriages is because it’s difficult. It’s freaking easy to find a limiter to live with and then complain your way through life. It’s amazingly difficult to find someone who is so committed to you (and to be committed to them) that you actually become a better person.

The primary way to find a wife that will enable awesomeness is to look for it while you are single. I tell this to single people who are dating all the time; if you’re dating a loser, you’re going to be married to a loser, and you don’t want to be married to a loser. I say it that bluntly too, because so often single people will marry limiters just to have someone because they are so weak and scared that they marry the first loser that will say ‘I do’. They give away their dreams, in order to be happy, because the joy that fulfilled (and even only chased) dreams brings is just to difficult.

For married people, the best solution is not divorce. For married people, the best solution is not divorce. For married people, the best solution is not divorce. Are you catching this?

For married people, the solution is communication and serving. These work together because, when you are married, your primary dream is the fulfillment of the life of your spouse (this means, for example, my primary goal in life is to glorify God through the experience of life my wife enjoys). If your primary dream is something else, you lied when you got married. So quit being a liar and serve your wife because she is the only human being on earth who is willing to live with you!

Someone who is in a limiting marriage, communication and service means finding out the dreams your spouse has and then making those happen. It is not telling your spouse what you want – you want to serve your spouse. Communicate by asking questions.

This is simple. Sit down and ask, “What is the most awesome thing you want in your life?” And then listen and mentally begin to live in a way that you can help serve that dream.

Finally, if you are the limiter in a marriage, if your spouse really is limited by your sinful action and your broken need to have authority to the point that you intentionally sabotage your marriage is real. The solution is as easy as communication and serving also – but you need to repent as well. You didn’t marry your spouse because they were a loser, you married them because you saw a potential in them. So stop limiting and start serving. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

Footnotes:

¹This is happening with women also. It’s not as frequent, but I see it happening with women, yet not as often. So this isn’t a man-bashing blog. It’s about the relationships, not the genders. I could have written about people instead of men, but it’s mostly men that I see in these situations. If you need to, reverse the examples, it makes just as much sense. 

²This is a preachy post, and you can feel free to call me out on that, I’m ok with it. It’s not a rant though, because rants are angry, this is sad. It’s rant-ish, but not a good and pure and useless rant.

Driscoll, Real Marriage

I picked up this book for three reasons, primarily because, as a pastor I am always trying my best to help men and women to have great marriages and great families. Secondarily, I read on the internet some pretty outstandingly crass stuff that was allegedly inside. Finally, and possibly most importantly, I read this book because I believe in marriage in general and my marriage specifically. The second most important relationship in my life is with my wife (the first is with Jesus, basketball is a close third :).

Mark Driscoll, who is always prime for internet controversy, wrote Real Marriage: The truth about sex, friendship and life together with his wife Grace. In it they are amazingly vulnerable and open about their own struggles early in marriage. They speak from their own experience and don’t pretend to have it all together. The publishing house connected with their church, Re:Lit, has also put together an entire church wide program to help churches. we are considering using them at The Grove.

To answer the criticism that the book has received from people who haven’t read it – yeah, there’s a couple sentences that could have been left out of the book. It’s like everything is going along great and then we catch a line that the editor forgot. It’s easy to see how people would be offended by these lines. For me, it wasn’t offensive. It wasn’t agreeable, but I think the book was written from the Driscolls’ perspective and experience. So, if your marriage isn’t exactly like theirs, it’s fine – they just want to help. I don’t think they expect everyone to have a marriage just like theirs, but you could – and maybe it will be great for you.

Not everything in the book is going to be helpful in every marriage. I am pretty sure Heather would punch me in the throat if I came home, opened the book and told her how it was going to be in our home. Of course, it would be a perfectly submissive punch in the throat.

It was a fast read for me, but here’s some interesting quotes to give you a feel for the book:

  • p.13, “Some people will use this story against Mark and me, but we want to share it to help those of you who also are hurting and want to work through deep areas of sin in your marriage.”
  • p.14, “I grew more chauvinistic… I began to distrust women in general, including Grace. This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.”
  • p.20, “the ex-monk Martin [Luther] married the ex-nun Katherine in the backwoods of rural Germany on June 13, 1525. One of the reasons Martin gave for his marriage was to spite the devil, which is perhaps the least romantic statement ever uttered.”
  • p.23, quoting Luther, “The greatest gift of grace a man can have is a pious, God-fearing, home-loving wife, whom he can trust with all his goods, body, and life itself, as well as having her as the mother of his children.”
  • p.24, “The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.”
  • p.25, “It is easier for a woman to think of doing life with a friend than with a dictator or unemotional ruler. The husband is still the head, but a ‘loving her as Christ loves the church’ head – a considerate friend.”
  • p.40, “We truly do not know how selfish and sinful we are until we live with someone in marriage.”
  • p.43, “Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers.”
  • p.44, “Men are to be creators and cultivators.”
  • p.48, “Men are like trucks – they drive smoother and straighter with a load. Adolescence delays this load carrying indefinitely. Wise men know this and load themselves up early in life to get their education, careers, families, and ministries started as soon as possible because it gives them a good head start on the fools. So load yourself up. Take responsibility for yourself. Take responsibility for your wife (and children if or when you have them). take responsibility for your church. Take responsibility for your company. Take responsibility for your city. Real men don’t look for other men, organizations, and governments to carry their load. Real men carry their own load.”
  • p.71, “It is important to note that the word helper does not denigrate the wife; in fact, God is also referred to as our helper.”
  • p.83, quoting Raymond Ortlund Jr., ” ‘The ‘natural outcome’ of godly male headship is female fulfillment, not a denial of female rights.’ A wife flourishes with a loving husband and a husband becomes courageous with a respectful wife.”

Also, the last parts of the book have frank discussions on the sexual relationship within a marriage. It’s biblical and helpful, but not the kind of stuff I’m looking to post on my blog.

At the end of the day, if you are a human, are married, or want to someday have a good marriage, this is a helpful book. I would, like the Driscolls, highly recommend reading it with your spouse though. Don’t read it on your own and go to your spouse and be an idiot and say, ‘Mark Driscoll says you need to be this or do that’. If you do that and get punched in the throat, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

My copies of the Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis are a bit over 20 years old, so it’s a lot of fun now to be turning around and reading them to my kids.  Khobi specifically has asked to go through the Narnia series, so that’s what we are reading.

The first book is called The Magician’s Nephew, and it tells the story of the very beginning of the world of Narnia.  It starts out a little slow and weird, but it gets going and then tells the creation story in the most beautiful way imaginable.  I am sure the kids don’t quite catch the parallels to the beginning of Genesis, but when they read them again as young adults, the stories will surely come alive in a new way.

Lewis is an amazing writer and thinker and this children book is stunning work with remarkable depth in the midst of a fun and interesting story.

Things I learned in January 2011

I feel like all my blog posts are bookk reviews.  HOW BORING!  Does anybody acutally read those?  (I like to have a record because I can search my blog later for key ideas and connect those ideas into bigger and more dangerous ideas!).  So, this is now my effort to be more creative.  If ind when my stress is high, I blog less.  When I am busy, I blog less.  So, maybe if I blog more, I’ll be less stressed and busy?  It’s a dream, but whatever.

So, here (in Larry King style) is what I learned in January of 2011:

  • A 50 pages a day reading schedule is too much for me.  Especially with some boring books.  I don’t know why I put myself through some of the junk I read.  So, I’m going to just 40 pages in February with Sundays off reading.
  • Khobi has a vicious hammer punch, don’t let her take your back.
  • 3am is a perfect ending time for a New Year’s party.
  • filing cabinets are surprisingly costly.  Why haven’t more people gotten into the filing cabinet business?
  • The Grove has thousands of people serving on it’s first impressions team.  Thousands.  Or they just move around a lot and it seems like thousands.  And if it’s raining, they bring an umbrella to your car and rain doesn’t get on my glasses – it’s awesome!
  • The gospel is as deep as it gets.  When people say they want ‘something deeper’, they should start with the gospel.
  • Families are forever.
  • I am the third best guitar player in my house.  Soon to be fourth.
  • The suit I bought in 2003 still fits like a glove.  Like a childrens glove.
  • Mistakes are normal.  What you do with mistakes shows character.
  • Focus on the Family has a Father-of-the-Year award.  I’m going for it in 2011.  I started by giving the kids ice-cream sandwiches for breakfast.
  • There is live bluegrass music in Peedee.
  • If you don’t pay attention, your son will bust you at battleship.
  • If you throw a large brick in a washing machine, it will basically explode
  • Leadership is a gift that God gives – not just talent-wise, but also opportunity-wise.
  • Pellet stoves are great, but no one yet has developed an engine for one that runs off a wind turbine placed in the chimney.  That would be a self-sustaining power generator, a miniature coal plant in your living room!

The anti-resolution

In the fall I preached at sermon at the Grove where I talked about not taking on a new year’s resolution that is performance based.  It’s something that I struggle with all the time.  I’m a driven guy and I can easily fall into the temptation of defining myself by achievements.  Heck, in 2009, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead a church plant that is exploding in ministry and attendance, I’ve graduated my master’s program, and gotten ordained.  It’s seriously been my most productive year ever.  However, all of this is complete garbage if it takes the priority in my life that belongs to Christ.  So, this sermon that I gave at The Grove was extremely meaningful in my own life.  I’ve decided to completely eliminate performance based goals for 2010.

For instance, I was doing a read through the Bible in 90 days program…now I’m reading through the Bible because I love it.  I was reading books at a fast rate so that I can be exposed to more and more ideas…now I am reading because I love it.  I was exercising to meet physical goals…now I am because of its intrinsic benefits.  I was blogging regularly to keep people reading, now I’m not.

It sounds so silly to write it down, but this is a huge shift for me.  I actually took a month off my blog (which I’ve been doing regularly for like 6 or 7 years) to help myself to not care.  I’ve decided to, instead of developing performance based goals for the year, to set up guidelines or priorities for myself.  In a way they are still performance based and task oriented, but I am trying to avoid the goal setting parts and make my resolutions work for me instead of me working for my resolutions).  I have a feeling this is going to be long…

So here’s the dilly, yo,

  • I am going to read through the Bible.  Pastors have got to read through their Bibles at least once every year.  I’m reading through the ESV.  With Zondervan basically admitting to the ineptness of the NIV, I am gladly looking at the ESV as a possible replacement for our church.
  • I am going to be home for my kids.  In my last couple years in youth ministry I was away about 4 nights a month and working like crazy to run a youth ministry, find a replacement for myself and plant a brand new church.  It was a source of canker sores for me (my body’s way of telling me it’s stressed out) and horrible for my kids.  I’ve always said that pastors have got to change situations that are ill for their families and now I’ve lived it.  So, this year I am very intentional about being present for my family.
  • I’m going to finish the coaching network that I am in.  I am being coached my Nelson Searcy and will continue this until July-ish.  This means reading assigned books and participation in other learning activities.  This will be the only reading that I do because I have to.
  • I will be blogging less.  Blogging is not the most effective way that God has given me to share content.  Now, I am preaching for 45+ minutes on a weekly basis.  If people want to know what God is doing in my life and through me you can go to http://www.albanygrove.com.  Part of this, I am going to be keeping a personal journal.  I’ve never done this before, but it is feeling good to do for my soul.
  • I’m going to pray that the Grove goes through the 250 growth barrier.  For a long time I’ve been praying for our little church to grow in members.  It’s happening fast and I am praying that this continues.  The Grove is full of the most amazing Christians you’ll find around – and what is in store for us…God only knows!
  • Finally, I’m going to physically exercise often and enjoyably.  Planting a church put 25 pounds on me.  That’s probably not healthy.  I’m going to give it back.  If only I could find the receipt…

Sunday Night Live, December 27, 2009

What a great day! What a great weekend!  What a great week!  What a great year!

Today was the final Sunday of oh-nine for The Grove and it was a fitting end to our year.  Grove peeps are hardcore – a little weather couldn’t keep them away!  Here’s some randomizations from the past week:

  • there was a great crowd of people at the Grove today!  Traditionally, attendance is down on the week between Christmas and New Year’s but the crowd today was there at The Grove.  We had a bit of ice on the ground, but someone put out some salt and I think there was a big truck blocking the way that was really icy.  I couldn’t tell whose it was from inside but I was pumped to see people taking action and helping each other out.
  • We had to adjust the children’s ministry this morning.  The leader was away and then the sub had be be away and then the sub’s sub got really sick.  I bet there was a third grader that God really wanted to speak to through the worship service!
  • It’s fun over Christmas break not having to do as much loading in and out too.  The school has been a huge blessing for us and it’s been a super environment for people to be at church, but not feel stuffy.
  • Preached on Jesus going to the Temple at age 12.  Good stuff on submission and living in the way of Jesus.
  • My favorite thought today (though it was not the main one) was to make a new year’s resolution to not be the superstar, but to just be obedient and submissive to God.
  • I love watching the Grove Band lead worship.  They lead worship like they would be worshiping even if nobody else was there.  It’s great.
  • Christmas Eve service at The Grove was HUGE!  277 people joined in!  We also gathered $2077.77 to give away to local organizations that fight poverty, help the homeless, give shelter and care to child victims of abuse and care for women who have been victims of domestic violence and assault.  Amazing ways that God is giving the Grove to love our city!
  • Went sledding on top of the mountains yesterday, so we’re exhausted today!

Got a good week coming up too.  A bit of admin and stuff for the new year, loads of emails in the in box, year end reviewing and 1,000 pages of reading to do to hit my goal for the year…should I?