Ministry Moment: Loving those Newlyweds

Marriage is good and marriage is hard.

The more we say it out loud the more we edify the thing that is marriage, as well as those enjoying and slugging through it each day.

Marriage is GOOD.

Genesis 2:18 reminds us that God calls marriage good.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Something God calls good, let us not call blah or outdated, second rate or defective. If He says it’s good, it’s good. Even when it feels not so good.

What is good in marriage –

support

affection

two heads and two hearts for all of life’s problems

sexual expression

knowing and being known intimately

safety

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is imperfect.

Marriage involves two sinners, two wills, two personalities, two ways of processing, two of everything.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that two, however complicated, has its benefits:

Two are better than one…Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Two sinners, saved by grace, willing to let Him work in all that is hard, and let His light shine in the dark places, that’s marriage at its best, folks.

We need one another.

For some reason we have entered the last centuries with an ever more conscious idea that marriage is a private thing, that in order to keep intimacy, we need to keep our marriage triumphs to ourself, and our marriage troubles out of sight.

There are private things. There are things just for the two of you, but when God created the Body of Christ, He also may as well have sent us a giant flashing red light that said, “You need each other!”

God knows.

He knows we need others to build up our marriages, just as they build up our individual selves.

He knows we need safe and caring places and people to confide in, to get wisdom from, to turn us around, and to help us see our own sin in the matter.

He knows we need people who stand on the sidelines and pump us up for this wild marriage ride. People who will cheer us on as we get to mile five of the marriage marathon, and then will throw water in our face and yell at us to Never. Give. Up. at mile 23.

But all of this isn’t just common knowledge. Newlyweds need people in their lives to reach out and say it out loud –

Marriage is good. Marriage is hard.

They need people to open the conversation, and to keep it going, a safe space for advice and ideas, and someone to rip off that Band-aid of privacy even a little, so that encouragement can come in and heal.

Here are a few ideas for loving on and encouraging the newlyweds around you:

Be a marriage mentor, intentionally.

Mentors are a great idea, but we all tend to have a hard time finding them. Offer yourselves, not as an expert, but as a couple to walk alongside another couple. The difference between a mentor relationship from straight up friendship is that one person is more seasoned than the other and both parties are honest about that. Mentor relationships should involve a certain reciprocity, however. There is intentional love and intentional learning, in kindness and safety. Most people would love a mentor and have no idea who to ask. Offer yourself in humility and kindness, with genuine affection. Couples- seek mentors out. Just do it. Churches – consider creating a marriage mentor situation for couples who are newly married or in pre-marriage counseling.

Invite them to dinner

Take a newlywed couple out to eat or invite them into your home. Nothing creates good relationship like good food and good conversation. Love on them, literally. Shower them with a meal they probably can’t afford, show them what date night wow looks like, or feed them hearty food and hearty affection through your open door. Celebrate the good and the hard of marriage together.

Ask questions

What is marriage like for you?

What surprises you about marriage?

What differences do you see between yourself and your spouse? How are they helpful?

What is good about marriage for you?

What is hard about marriage for you?

Cook together or make freezer meals

Imagine if every newlywed couple in your church was invited by someone to make freezer meals – they leave with at least six meals, some good conversation, and a fuller heart. Or imagine that every newlywed couple from your church receives six meals with devotional cards attached and an encouragement to take it easy and just spend time together one night. This obviously could have nothing to do with “church” the organization. Find a newlywed in your life and love on them with some food prep.

 Give them a surprise gift card for date night

Teach them confession and forgiveness

Ask them what they need and remember what you needed

More on all of this in the podcast, on the I Love My Shepherd podcast, episode 7, Ministry Moment: Loving on our newlyweds, linked below, or found on iTunes and Stitcher.

Do you have an idea to share? Please do so in the comments of this blog post. We’d love to hear your wisdom and suggestions!

Now, go to it!  Loving on our newlyweds is a team effort.

Let’s rejoice in the good and hard of marriage together, every day.

I do, in fact, Love My Shepherd


I like blankets. When I was little they were my comfort, with their fuzzy middles and their silky edges. They wrapped me up when I needed to feel safe, and warmed my toes and arms on winter nights. My mom knew that when I was sad, I needed a hug and my hole-y blue blanket, ragged and worn, so I could love it to literal pieces.

What speaks comfort into your life? What physical manifestation of God’s warmth and goodness has He blessed you with in this life? God encourages us to fix our eyes on the eternal, but He leaves us with the temporal as a bonus, small reminders that He is good. He is our comfort on cold days and in the dark of night.

God, throughout Scripture gives us a vision of comfort in the language of Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who consistently gathers His sheep. Please open to Isaiah 40:10-11 or read below –
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.

He comes with might, but listen to the tenderness of it all. God is so fantastically perfect that He is complete in a way we cannot fathom. This mighty God, this powerful Shepherd goes out to defeat the wolves of this world, to defeat the devil who destroys… He also holds you in His arms. He gathers every part of you to Him and will never let you go. He gathers His people to His chest and loves, loves, loves, and loves some more. What a God we have!

How many of you would list Psalm 23 as a verse on your comfort list? Clearly I would! I named my blog after it. 😉

Let’s read it together today.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

He restores. He overflows. He walks with me. He pursues me with mercy. He provides for me. He gathers me around the table and He eats with me.

Let’s widen it a bit. Let’s think about gather in its fullest sense.

He restores us.

He overflows into us.

He walks with us.

He pursues us.

He provides for us.

He gathers us around the table. He eats with us.

We were made for gathering. We were born into a flock. We experience the fullness of Him within the gathering of His people.

I Love My Shepherd is about We Love Our Shepherd

…stretching my heart for my husband, Christ, and His Church. We are the comfort, dear friends, for our husbands, and those in our homes, in our churches, and in our lives. We speak Jesus into one another’s life in a way we wouldn’t experience walking this earth on our own.

Let’s pray Psalm 23 today for our own needs, but also for one another. Let’s thank our Shepherd for just being Himself in all His wonderfulness as well as giving us this life to live together.

So, here’s how this is going to go. Read Psalm 23 through 3 times.

Read through #1 – focus on who God is, as our Shepherd. When you read the Psalm, what do you learn about Him? Spend time in prayer proclaiming His character, such as provider, comforter, leader, etc.

Read through #2 – focus on what our Shepherd does for you as an individual. How has He brought His work proclaimed in Psalm 23 to bear in your real life? Where have you seen Him shepherd? Where have you seen Him lead? What do you need Him to walk with you through?

Read through #3 – focus on what our Shepherd does for His people or for other people in your life. Pray the psalm over anyone in need or ask for God’s provision, comfort, overflow into individuals and/or your church.

We are gathered, sheep into our Shepherd, sheep into the sheepfold. Loved on, cared for, mightily rescued, guided, filled to the brim with overflowing.

I love my shepherd. And I know you do too.

Exploration:

Share some of your prayer insights from Psalm 23 with us, fill in the requests you feel comfortable sharing for each prayer round or share some that stick out to you overall.

Round 1 – Who God is as our Shepherd…

Round 2 – What God does for you, as an individual…

Round 3 – What God does for His people, or the people in your life…

40 Date Night Ideas to Spice It Up

MSP-24

Recently I wrote a blog for Everyday Faith, over at Concordia Publishing House – 

Spicing Up Date Night (check it out here!)

Here I’d like to offer the list of fun and spicy date nights contributed by young and old alike at Sammi and Craig’s wedding. See photo of them above… #seriouslyadorable.

So, are you ready to Spice Up your date nights this summer? Dave and I are planning on using at least one of these ideas a month for the coming months. Which ones would you choose? What ideas would you add? 

                  40 DATE NIGHT IDEAS
  1. Rent a limo or car just for fun
  2. Paintball or laser tag
  3. Dance at a country hoedown & eat BBQ
  4. Take a mime class together
  5. Date night at home
    1. Grill pizzas, it tastes like wood oven pizza
    2. Have a bottle of wine
    3. A good movie or a card game
  6. Make homemade ice cream & watch a Disney movie
  7. Go to the farmer’s market & cook with your finds
  8. Go back to high school
    1. Go out for ice cream
    2. Go putt putting
    3. Go to a PG13 movie
  9. Drive In
  10. Take a sleigh ride & drink hot cocoa
  11. Roll in the hay #literally
  12. Muddin with an awesome off-road vehicle
  13. Make a dish from a cooking show together
  14. Zip line together
  15. Do a factory tour, especially any place with samples
  16. Try new candy bars and walk them off together
  17. Create your own cheese of the month club – buy 3 new and creative cheeses to share together each month…enjoy with wine! 
  18. Board games & local microbrews
  19. Go to a coffee shop one morning & get a beverage to share
  20. Ride a tandem bike & eat ethnic foods
  21. Go camping & eat s’mores
  22. Explore hiking areas or metroparks
  23. Recreate the first date you had together
  24. Go to a museum
  25. Pottery/painting or stained glass class- create something together!
  26. Sushi rolling class, followed by dessert at a restaraunt
  27. Breakfast Date
  28. Beach day on Lake Huron (or your nearest body of water)
  29. Taco Night with homemade sangria
  30. Shop for ingredients and build your own creative martini bar
  31. Build a birdhouse together
  32. Do a progressive dinner, try a few new restaurants
    1. Do one restaurant for appetizers
    2. Another restaurant for a meal
    3. Another restaurant for dessert
    4. Lastly a different restaurant for drinks
  33. Go fishing
  34. Go for a moonlight (or daytime!) canoe ride
  35. Go to the theater & watch a movie with popcorn, candy, and a giant pop! Try doing a double feature.
  36. Go to a concert & don’t leave until your feet hurt from dancing
  37. Find a magazine with the best restaurant list, see how many you can visit in a year
  38. Get some pillows, blankets and snacks for a midnight picnic & watch the stars
  39. Get a green screen & take pictures of yourselves in front of it. Then Photoshop really cool stuff in behind you. Like the Eiffel Tower, the sinking of the Titanic, a car crash, or prehistoric dinosaurs
  40. Create a Chopped basket for each other and get creative in the kitchen
 
*photo by Melissa Sue Ripke at http://www.melissasphoto.com/ 

Men Who Pray (and the Women Who Love Them) Church Work Edition

I’m so thankful for these men who meet and pray with my husband, taking the time to build one another up.



Last week I wrote a blog for the CPH website that addressed prayer in marriage. I suggested that it is one of the most important ways to build intimacy in your marriage. Key points included:

   I talk to women all the time who desire deeply for their husbands to pray with them more.
   Biblically speaking, we know prayer creates connection between us and God and us and one another.
   That doesn’t mean we are always great at making it happen. There’s a whole lot of Grace with the Spirit and Jesus interceding for us, but we also don’t want to miss the invitation to grow together!

The thing is, you would think the church work marriage would be different. I feel a little bad for ratting pastors and other church workers out, but the reality is that we are not praying with our families more than the general population. In fact, some statistics show that we may be praying with our families LESS than our lay members around us. Ouch.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t pray. It doesn’t mean we aren’t beseeching the Lord on behalf of the flock daily, or that we aren’t praying earnestly with the member dying of cancer or hurting from divorce. It does mean that we aren’t necessarily praying around our tables or at our bedsides with our wives and husbands and children in a way that allows us to share our heart, our struggles, and the myriad of joys God gives us in any given day.
I hear the following phrase all the time, and ladies and gentlemen, it’s just a bit real and Technicolor, so hold on to your hats.
“My husband prays with everyone else. How can I get him to pray with me?”
Double ouch.
Pastors, DCEs, missionaries, church workers near and far, hear my words knowing that I get it. I get the busyness of life. I get the draining of your heart and energy for a world in need and having only drops left when you arrive home. I get that our spouses and children could just as easily be the ones “responsible” for starting the prayer. I’m letting you know today, though, that there is a huge opportunity for you to share Jesus with the people who matter most in your life…pray with them.
Intimately pray with them. You can choose a prayer book or the Psalms or resource, but we get really blocked up in the finding of the resource and the digging it out, and the actually doing it, that I think it’s a hindrance at some point.
So here are my suggestions for church workers who pray….
   1)   Just start. It doesn’t have to be regular or epic or fancy. Grab your wife’s hand and start praying. Pray for her, pray for your children and your parents, and pray for your church. Pray for the aching world, and stop whenever you feel like it. Try it again the next day. It may feel weird and awkward; someone may even get a little bent out of shape because they are trying to make dinner. But forge ahead, friend!

   2)   Be creative. Add petitions to the family meal prayer, pray on the way to school or over the rushed breakfast table, leave post it note prayers to your wife or husband on the bathroom mirror. Text a prayer in the middle of the day when you are praying for or with someone else. Everyone has a communication love language, feel free to utilize it.

   3)   Start a prayer journal. List prayers and leave it on your spouse’s nightstand or Bible. Ask them to list some prayer of their own and return it. Pray, give thanks, confess together. Its like a secret prayer spot just for the two of you.  Every once and a while look at the journal together and pray the items out loud.
Prayer is a major work of the Church. Martin Luther shared his wisdom,
Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.”
Let us build strong walls in our homes, strong reinforcements for our marriages. This, friends, is no less ministry than preaching and teaching and sharing the faith.
His mercies are new every morning. Let’s start this one recalling them together. God be with you as you tend and feed and care for your beautiful marriage.

Dessert Night

A happy heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
                                                                                                                                          Proverbs 17:22

I’m still feeling filled up! While the physical satisfaction from some good food, good dessert and good wine is long gone, my heart is happy, my spirit joyful. Why?

Dessert night.

It’s easy. Invite a few friends, everyone brings a dessert. Kids play, friends chat. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this for years. Our circuit of pastors and families is great. We have a Christmas party and a summer picnic, but it just isn’t enough for me. We have friends and gatherings, but I need time with people who get where I’m coming from, to hear that they are struggling with the same things at their churches or at least have struggles with their churches. It’s a time to say, “I love this life, but it’s hard.” And, “It’s not just me?! I’m not the only one!” 

The thing is, I kept waiting for other people to create this kind of gathering. I spent time mumbling to my husband that we didn’t get together enough, assuming everyone’s life was too busy. I was intimidated by the prospect of cleaning my house enough, so that I wouldn’t panic when people walked in. And making up scenarios where there were toys everywhere and I had stacks of dishes on my counters for days. 

And then, life happened and I simply needed people. 
The isolation couldn’t go on any longer. So I sent a group text, and told a few couples to bring a dessert. Do you know what happened? They showed up. And I realized something – that was my biggest fear. That no one would show up. That’s why it took me 10 years to invite my fellow workers over with any kind of regularity. Deep down I didn’t want one more rejection, one more too busy, but here’s the truth – it’s worth it. It’s worth the risk for connection and growth and life together. 

After one evening with these friends, I was filled up and ready for life. Ready to reach out and continue to fill up others. You will be too, I promise. Isolation is a tool of Satan to tell us we’re all alone in this journey, that no one understands. 
But I guarantee that someone does. That’s how God created it to be.

So… dessert night, bonfire night, grilled cheese night, Uno night. I don’t care what it is- just do it. 🙂 Open your calendar, your home, your willingness for God to create community for you. This risk is worth it. It is His medicine for a happy heart.




What kind of night (or afternoon!) would you or do you host? Does your circuit or group of friends hold any special gatherings to connect?