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Husbands…Set Her Free

Picture an imaginary scene from the life of Michelangelo. A group of community leaders has commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt a statue for the town square. Michelangelo accepted the David Statue in Florence Tuscanycommission and now wanders through a quarry to choose a block of stone from which to sculpt the commissioned statue. He slowly walks past various stones, peering carefully at each one…first from one side, then the other. The quarry master quietly follows close behind. He knows each block of stone by weight and shape—this oblong one is 25 pounds, this square one just under 50. He wonders what goes through the mind of an artist like Michelangelo. Hesitantly, he asks, “Can I help you find something in particular?” Michelangelo, continuing to stare at one particular stone, replies in a distant voice, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Together, they continue to roam through the quarry. Finally, Michelangelo picks a block of marble. To the quarry master it appears to be an oddly shaped block of fair quality. He gives Michelangelo a deal, thinking about the publicity a statue made by Michelangelo from a stone purchased at his quarry will bring. He even has the marble block transported to the town square, where Michelangelo will complete a sculpture of his choice (the mayor has given him “artistic license”). Michelangelo begins his work. He chips and chisels, carves, sands, and smooths. Hours turn into days and days turn into weeks before Michelangelo steps back to reveal a beautifully sculpted angel. The quarry master, who had stayed nearby to see what Michelangelo would do with the block of marble, stares in unbelief to see the beautiful angel standing where he had placed an oddly shaped block of marble. He looked at the statue and then turned to Michelangelo. “How did you know? How did you make that block of marble into such a beautiful angel?” Michelangelo looked at the quarry master and replied, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”


I don’t know if an event like this ever happened; in fact, I rather doubt it. I do know that Michelangelo is credited with the two quotes noted above… and those quotes have significance when it comes to our wives.  In our marriage, God has called us to see the “angel” in our wife and set her free! You may think I’m crazy, but Solomon, the wisest scholar in the Bible, records a similar truth in his love story, The Song of Songs. He opens his story by introducing us to a woman filled with self-doubt, a woman who sees herself as ugly and unworthy. I imagine her self-deprecating tone as she tells those around her, “Do not stare at me…because I am darkened by the sun. …My own vineyards I had to neglect.” But she has an admirer, a young man who sees the angel in the darkened skin, sun-streaked hair, and calloused hands of this working woman. He turns to her and says, “How beautiful you are my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.” He even describes her as a “lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” In response to his admiration, her “angel” newly married couple chasing each other in fieldcomes forth. The young woman begins to accept her own beauty and calls herself a “rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.” While she saw as a sun-darkened, hard-working calloused body, her admirer saw an “angel.” He recognized the “angel” within her and called her out. In response to his spoken admiration (“how beautiful you are my darling”), she gained confidence. In response to the value he placed on her (“as a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women”), she saw herself as valuable. He had seen the angel within her and set her free! The first step in growing more intimate with your wife is to see the “angel” within her, those attributes that makes her a “lily among thorns” in your eyes.


In another book, Solomon tells us that “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4) and “her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10). “An excellent wife” is a good way to describe the angel in your wife, the virtue and strength of character she possesses. When Solomon speaks of a “crown,” he is not speaking of a king’s crown. A crown is a sign of honor, joy, and gladness. He is saying your wife is your honor, your joy, and your gladness.  Take a moment right now and think about your wife. Consider her excellence as well as the honor and joy she brings into your life. To help you think about these things, consider these questions:

  • What qualities first attracted you to your wife?
  • What are your wife’s strengths?
  • What are your wife’s best character traits?
  • How does your wife bring you honor?
  • What do you admire about your wife?
  • If your wife were to suddenly disappear for some reason, what would be missing in your life? Your home? Your family?
  • How does your wife make your life better?
  • How does your wife bless your family? Benefit your family? Make your family life better?


Thank God for your wife, this “excellent woman” who is a “crown” of great worth.

Put the Zing of Anticipation in Your Marriage

We have all experienced anticipation…that feeling of excitement that something is going to happen, the expectation that an exciting event is coming your way! Perhaps you experienced Middle Aged Man Eating Unhealthy Fried Breakfastanticipation while looking at the oddly shaped and wrapped present under the tree with your name on it. Or, you may have felt anticipation when you knew a family member was coming home for a visit after their first semester at college…or your adult child was bringing a newborn grandchild home…or you patiently tapped the Heinz ketchup bottle in just the right place, anticipating the gentle flow of sweet ketchup onto the plate next to your french fries. You get the idea. Anticipation builds excitement. It motivates us to action. It energizes our desires. It draws us toward the object of our anticipation. If waiting for ketchup to come out of the bottle and flavor our fries can do all that, imagine what anticipation can do for your marriage! That’s right, anticipation can build excitement in your marriage; motivate you to act in response to your spouse, energize your desires. It can put the “zing” back in your marriage.  So, how do you build anticipation in your marriage?

  1. Keep your spouse in mind, even when you are apart. If you happen to come across something your spouse enjoys, pick it up and bring it home as a gift. This could be as simple as bringing home her favorite gum or his favorite candy bar. You may find this simply means sending a quick text message telling your spouse you’re thinking of them and love them.
  2. Do the unexpected. Bring home flowers once in a while. If that is too common, try bringing home a fruit bouquet. Maybe you can give your spouse a card of your own design, made with your own hands. Surprise your spouse with tickets for the CLO or the baseball game. Just use your imagination and do something unexpected to express your love to your spouse.
  3. Romance your spouse. Don’t let the romance end after dating. Intentionally keep the romance alive. Imagine putting on some nice music, lighting the candles, and giving your spouse a back massage. Or, go on a special date followed by a walk along the boardwalk hand-in-hand.
  4. Do a special chore around the house. We all know there are chores our spouse hates to do as well as things our spouse would like us to do. Whether it is cleaning the garage or washing the dishes, do a chore that will have special meaning for your spouse.


By doing these activities on a regular basis, you build anticipation in your marriage. Your spouse will wait with excited expectation to see what you will do next. They will look at you with the spark of anticipation in their eyes, waiting expectantly to see how you share your love today. And, your spouse will more actively seek out ways to show you love as well!

6 Tips to Fertilize Your Marital Lawn

My friend says the “grass is always greener on the other side.” I don’t know. I’ve found that the grass is always greener when I fertilize. My grass stays green through the summer and fall when I take care of the lawn. Trouble is…some summers (like this summer) I get too busy to take care of my lawn. It gets overgrown with weeds and turns brown earlier in the fall. My neighbor fertilized this year and I didn’t. He still has a beautiful lawn…mine is burned out and full of weeds. So, next year I fertilize (well, at least that’s the plan). After all, the grass is always greener when I fertilize.

The same is true in marriage. The best marriages belong to those who fertilize, who take care of their own marital lawn rather than looking at someone else’s. In fact, if you look at other couples and think the grass is always greener on the other side, you definitely need to look at your daily lawn care and use a little marital fertilizer. To help you get started toward a beautiful marital lawn, here are a couple of marital lawn care ideas.

·   Get rid of the weeds that threaten to choke out the healthy growth in your marital lawn. Forgiveness is great for getting rid of deep-rooted weeds like anger and resentment.

·   Time management skills help to eradicate those pesky weeds that seem to pop up all over the place and multiple like dandelions. Time management means learning to say “no” to those activities that might interfere with your marriage and making time to spend with your spouse. Without time management, weeds of busy-ness will grow like dandelions and destroy your marital lawn.

·   Get rid of the grubs and other pests that eat the roots of your healthy lawn. The best way to keeps grubs and pests out of your lawn is to utilize a secret lawn care ingredient made up of equal parts admiration, affection, and acknowledgement. Take the time every day to think about the attributes you admire in your spouse. After you have thought of these attributes, tell your spouse. In other words, tell your spouse at least one thing you admire about them every day. Follow that acknowledgement of admiration with a show of affection…like a hug, a kiss, a stroke of the cheek, a holding of the hand…you can use your imagination to think of others.

·   Water your marital lawn every day with a healthy shower gratitude and kindness. Show your spouse how much they mean to you by doing kind deeds for them every day. Express gratitude for the kind deeds they do for you.

·   Keep your marital lawn well-irrigated with politeness as well. Let “thank you,” “please,” “after you,” and “excuse me” flow freely through the soil of your marriage. 

·   Put some extra fertilizer on your garden. The three ingredients of this fertilizer will keep your marital lawn healthy, green, and plush—it’s the 20-2/6-3 fertilizer

   o    A 20 minute conversation each day to talk about what happened during the day and upcoming plans.

   o    At least 2 hugs a day, each lasting 6 seconds or more.

   o    Share at least 3 kisses each day–one when you say good-bye, another when you return home, and a third when you go to bed.     

If you utilize these marital lawn care practices, you will have a fresh, green lawn free of weeds and pests…and your marriage will prosper. Indeed, the grass is always greener for those who fertilize!

Men, Build 6 Pillars of Trust

Do you want a strong, lasting marriage? A marriage that fills you and your spouse with joy until “death do us part?” Do you want a marriage that will inspire your children to “never settle for less” in their own marriage? A marriage that leaves a legacy of hope and teaches positive boundaries that will promote true marital bliss in your children’s lives and marriage? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you can begin to create that kind of marriage now. It begins with your leadership in the building of trust!

Establishing a high degree of trust in your marriage produces amazing dividends. Communication goes more smoothly as mutual trust removes the need to listen for ulterior motives and defend “myself.” Overall interactions become more open, relaxed, and enjoyable when they occur within the context of trust. Couples find their decisions more mutually satisfying when they trust their spouse to have the best interest of their relationship at heart.

 Take away trust and, in the words of Stephen Covey, you replace those dividends with a tax. With a lack of trust, communication becomes taxed with lengthy, defensive explanations. Interactions pay the tax of constant vigilance against ulterior motives and fear of being used for someone else’s selfish desires. Decisions become bogged down with arguments about “my” needs since I don’t trust my spouse to care about those needs. Mistrust carries heavy duties: fear, defensiveness, constant vigilance, and an emphasis on my needs that ultimately results in isolation. So, what can you do to build marital trust? I’m glad you asked…

      1.    A leader in trust will strive to become a person of trust. A person of trust leads by example. He remains open and transparent about his needs, emotions, and desires. Doing so informs his family that he trusts them with his innermost self. A leader in trust will also remain true to his word. His wife and his family know that his word is “as good as gold” and completely trustworthy!

2.   A leader in trust accepts responsibility for his personal growth. He actively confronts his shortcomings and works to change them for the better. He will make mistakes; but, he admits those mistakes, seeks forgiveness, and works to become more mature in character, speech, and behavior. 

3.   A leader in trust strives to maximize his wife’s emotional comfort and relational 
security. He speaks highly of his wife to others. His words and actions build his wife up, secure her emotional comfort, and strengthen her relational security. He also remains aware of her sensitivities. As a result, he avoids pushing her buttons and approaches sensitive areas with care and respect. When he unintentionally hurts her (and he will), he quickly admits his wrong and makes amends.

4.   A leader in trust will capitalize on everyday interactions to stay “in tune” with his wife. He will prove faithful in his presence and availability. As a result, he and his wife will enjoy times of adventure, play, and rest. To lead in trust demands intense, constant, and careful listening as his wife expresses her needs and concerns. It means listening wisely and patiently to discern whether to step in and meet the need expressed or to simply support his wife through the need. The husband who listens well will have a finger on his wife’s pulse and share a wonderful journey with her.    

5.   A leader in trust will show respect to his wife and others. He will avoid making negative comparisons or left-handed compliments. Rather than erecting subtle performance standards and judgments, he will offer unconditional acceptance. He will clarify realistic expectations while confirming the grace of unconditional acceptance even in the midst of misunderstanding, disagreement, or conflict.

6.   A leader in trust will focus on, and cherish, his partner’s positive qualities on a daily basis. He will open his eyes to those qualities he admires in his wife, acknowledge them openly, and speak of them often. He will also believe in her desire for him, trusting that she has the best interest of him, their relationship and their family in mind.

Men, you are called to lead your spouse in establishing these 6 pillars of trust in your marriage. You become the first to practice them. You lead the way…your wife and family will follow. I know, it sounds like a big job…and it is; but, the dividends are priceless!


Now That’s A Legacy!

I have heard adults talking about children and making statements like, “He’s got an anger problem, just like his father…” or, “She’s a gossip, just like her mother…” or, “He is so selfish. His grandmother was the same way.” What a terrible family legacy to pass on to our children! I don’t know about you, but I want to pass on a legacy better than “angry,” “gossip,” “selfish,” or any other negative label. I’d rather pass on a legacy of generosity, thoughtfulness, hospitality, gratitude, or kindness. I think I might like to begin the legacy with generosity. A study entitled “Give and You Shall Receive” found that giving generosity to one’s spouse led to greater happiness and marital quality. I like that idea. Moreover, giving generosity had a greater impact than receiving generosity. That finding stands in opposition to our cultural message that close relationships and even marriages “exist primarily to enhance individual happiness and [individual] growth”…in other words, to make me happy. Why would “freely and abundantly giving good things to one’s spouse” increase marital quality and happiness? I’m glad you asked.
     1.      We have to learn about our spouse in order to give her something she will find meaningful. Not everyone finds a bouquet of flowers meaningful; so, we have to become a student of our spouse to discover their interests, likes, and dislikes. We have to know what our spouse considers a “good thing” to receive. Perhaps, in terms of Chapman’s love languages, our spouse might think it a “good thing” to receive “words of affirmation.” On the other hand, they might not. They might consider it a “good thing” to receive “acts of service,” “quality time,” “physical touch,” or “gifts” instead. We have to become a student of our spouse to figure that out!

2.      Not only do we have to become a student of our spouse, we have to take the initiative to act on the knowledge we gain. We have to make practical use of that information. Having a “head knowledge” of what pleases our spouse does no good unless we put it to practical use…unless we act on it. Generosity involves the actual act of “giving” some gift “freely and abundantly.” In the end, “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to generosity.

3.      When our spouse receives a “good thing” from us, they feel greater self-worth. They know that we considered them valuable enough to learn about them. They also know that we find them valuable enough to invest the time and energy necessary to act on that information as well. In addition, their love toward us (the generous spouse) increases.

4.      When our spouse receives a “good thing” from us, it boosts their gratitude and appreciation as well. They become more thankful.
Overall, generosity in marriage increases the satisfaction of both spouses. That’s a “win-win” proposition. Even more, generosity in a marriage will impact the children. The children will witness the generosity of their parents toward one another and, most likely, be the recipient of that same generosity displayed toward them. They will witness the joy of giving “freely and abundantly” to the one’s you love. They will also experience the joy of receiving generosity. As parents model and teach generosity, their children will soon learn the joys of giving and practice the art of giving as well. We will have created a legacy of generosity that will outlive our lifetime and flourish in the generations to come. Can’t you just hear the statements of that legacy? “You are just like your grandfather; he was so generous!” “You really know how to give great gifts, just like your mother.” Now that’s a legacy!

Book Review: Sex Begins in the Kitchen

Sex Begins in the Kitchen. What? Sex begins where? That’s right…sex begins in the kitchen…and in the living room, the back yard, the bathroom, and…. Now, before you get the wrong idea let me just say, “sex is the culmination of honoring and loving interactions shared throughout the day.” In that sense, “taking out the trash without being asked becomes foreplay.” In Sex Begins in the Kitchen, Dr. Kevin Leman expands on the idea of daily actions building relationships that culminate in sexual intimacy for married couples. He addresses issues such as the impact of birth order, emotional expression, male-female differences, love banking, and gender understanding on intimacy in general and, ultimately, sexual intimacy in particular. A couple of chapters that I found most beneficial included “Games Couples Play,” addressing some of the “dangerous and destructive games married men and women play.” In this chapter, Dr. Leman explains games like “children are the enemy,” “kill the umpire,” “take that you rat,” and “dump truck.” These are not fun games. They are games that can destroy a family and Dr. Leman helps us learn to identify and change them. Overall, this book is full of humor and insightful information that can enhance your love life and give you a more fulfilling, intimate sexual relationship.

4 Fundamental Components of Spiritual Leadership

I hear many Christian men talk about their struggle as spiritual leader in the family. It’s true; men do strive to become godly spiritual leaders in the family. But, what does that mean? Does it simply mean reading the Bible with our spouse and children? Perhaps even expounding on the Scripture? Does it mean assuring that each family member spends time in pray and making time to pray together as a couple or family? Is it the spiritual leader’s responsibility to make sure the family goes to worship services and Bible studies? We like to use these activities as markers of our spiritual leadership because we can more easily measure our productivity. Statements like, “I prayed with my wife…” or “When I led my children in Bible study…” become indicators of our effectiveness as a spiritual leader. However, the mark of a great spiritual leader is much less visible than any of these behaviors imply. In fact, these visible markers tell us very little about the more subtle, and perhaps more important, actions of a spiritual leader. Consider these 4 foundational behaviors of strong spiritual leadership.
Strong spiritual leaders model a Christian lifestyle. Our families need to witness our daily lives reflecting our Christian calling. They need to see us model humility when our spouse points out our mistakes, patience while we sit in traffic, and joy in the midst of work-related stress. Our family needs to hear us encourage rather than criticize, compliment rather than complain. They will benefit from watching us live a life that models the priorities we proclaim. Each family member needs to see that our time management reflects and confirms our heartfelt priorities. Do we spend more time with family or TV, our children or our personal hobbies? Do we talk about the importance of church but choose to sleep in and skip church more often than we attend? Spiritual leaders model a lifestyle that bears witness to the Christian call.
Spiritual leaders develop loving relationships with each family member. After all, relationships are a priority to the spiritual leader. Relationships take time to develop; so, spiritual leaders spend time with each family member. Spending time with family allows the spiritual leader to informally teach values and beliefs throughout the day. Deuteronomy 6:7 gives four specific times we might teach spiritual values to our family: when we rise up in the morning, before we go to bed at night, when we sit around the house, and when we go about various tasks outside the house. Spiritual leaders infuse the normal conversation that occurs between the time we get up and the time we go to bed with statements that reflect love, honor, and integrity. Throughout the day, they look for opportunities to teach about values and beliefs. Remember, you don’t have to “beat them over the head with it.” Offer subtle and common place statements that may lead into deeper discussions. Make it part of your everyday conversation.
Spiritual leader take the initiative in practicing the “hard choices.” They lead the way in areas like forgiveness, personal sacrifice, loving the unlovable, and persevering commitment, to name a few. Spiritual leaders are the first in the family to forgive offenses. They lead by example in personal sacrifice. They may offer the final piece of pie or the better seat to a family member. Or, they may let another family member’s choice for dinner take precedent over their own. Spiritual leaders lead through service, volunteering to put aside their book, the movie, or “the game” long enough to wash the dishes, shovel the driveway, or clean the bathroom. Family members see the spiritual leader’s commitment to family when, even in the midst of disagreement, they persevere in showing love, honor, and respect.
Finally, spiritual leaders make their family a priority in prayer. They pray for their wife and children. They become prayer warriors for each family member’s physical health, emotional security, and spiritual maturity. 
Overall, the role of spiritual leader is more about personal choices and lifestyle than it is about demanding my family pray with me and have family devotions. Those things may be important. More important, however, is the lifestyle of the spiritual leader and the relationships he forms with each family member.
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