Friday, March 11, 2011

Reason 13: His encouragement

Recently I was struggling with some difficult things in my walk with the Lord. I knew in my head exactly what my Savior would do if he were here in my shoes, and yet seemed completely unable to follow in his steps.  While I'd not yet succumbed to genuine discouragement, I was beginning to allow my failures in this one battle to define my entire Christian walk and identity in Christ.

After sharing my battle with my husband I exclaimed, "This isn't the person I want to be!!"

As a Christian brother and as my husband, my beloved would have been perfectly in line to show me from scripture where I was wrong and what I needed to do to improve. If I had been him that's probably what I would have done.

Instead he looked me in the eye and said, "Dear, that isn't the person that you ARE. You are a beloved daughter of Christ and my beautiful bride. Don't let a few hard days define your life."

Instead of giving me what I deserved, he gave me grace. His encouragement, like cool water to a thirsty soul, refreshed me and gave me the strength to continue the fight.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Preparing to be a Help Meet

Preparing to be a Help Meet, by Debi Pearl, is a sequal of sorts to her older, more widely known book Created to be a Help Meet. The original book was written as an encouragement to married women. It was hard hitting, and extremely good. My mother intruced me to the book when I was about 16, and by the time I got married late last year I'd fallen into the habit of re-reading it yearly. If I had to list off the top five books that directly impacted the way I relate to my husband and vew my role in marriage Created to Be His Help Meet would be one of them.

Preparing to be a Help Meet came out last year, the same month I was engaged. It was written because many of the women who read Created to be His Help Meet wanted a similar book for their daughters.
Like her first book, Preparing to be A Help Meet is direct, forthright, and sometimes runs contrary to commonly accepted Christian Conservatism. I think this is a good thing. Most people will not walk away from any of Debi Pearl's books agreeing 100%, but they will walk away having assumptions challenged and having grown as a result.

Here are some things I liked about Preparing to be a Help Meet, and a few cautions.

1. Throughout the book there are comments from men. These are in bracketed boxes, and most are distinguished with symbols depending on whether the man is a Prophet, priest, or kingly type (which is explained in the book, and is also covered in greater detail in Created to be His Help Meet). These comments were written after the text of the book, and often provide a balancing perspective (by which I mean, the men don't always have the same opinions asMrs. Pearl). This is VERY helpful!!!

2. She includes many "courtship stories." This was excellent. Each of the stories is a start of the chapter, and each of them is different. Some of them are VERY different (I've NEVER heard a story like Mrs. Pearl's!!). It is extremely benificial for young women to really grasp the idea that every love story is different. Sometimes there are similarities--but sometimes there just aren't. I remember during my courtship there was a fair amount of tension because our love story was different than other love stories that our families had closely observed. There was fear that because our story wasn't "by the book" (the book of expectations) that it wasn't "by the Book" (as in, the Bible and God's will). Young women need to know not to put God in a box by expecting every love story to be identical. Their story may be completely different than they were expecting, but as long as they follow hard after God that's okay!! God is MUCH too good at writing  love stories to write identical ones!

3. At the close of each chapter there is a page or two for guided reflection. The study guide is very helpful in driving home the points of each chapter.

4. Debi Pearl relies heavily on scripture. Preparing to be a Help Meet consists of Scripture, stories to illustrate, and conclusions--in that order.

5. I really like the "Prophet, Priest, and King" descriptions that Mrs. Pearl gives for each type of men (In Created these types are called Mr. Visionary, Mr. Steady and Mr Command Man). While each individual man will be a different combination of one or two of these, I can look at each of the men in my life and see which part of God's nature he tends  to reflect. My husband, for example, is Mr. Command Man (king). My Dad is Mr. Visionary (prophet). My oldest brother is a Mr. Steady (priest). The types aren't intended to "put men in boxes" but they do help us ladies a lot in knowing what type of responses the men in our lives need!!

6. Chapter 7, the entire chapter but particularly the end, is worth the purchase price of the whole book. Chapter 11 is more negative (negative in a good way) but contains extremely valuable advice on  the potentially devistating effects of modern technology (texting, chatting, facebook, and the internet in general) on relationships.

7. Despite the fact that this is a book about preparing to be a help meet, Mrs. Pearl never gets into the "courtship vs. Dating" debate. As this is a hot-topic in the conservative Christian world I know not everyone will agree with her decision, but I think it was a wise one. I think a lot of times Christians can get overly focused on debating which method is best, or which rules should be kept, instead of focusing on making the main thing the main thing. Mrs. Pearl does a good job of focusing on keeping Christ in the center.

8. As I mentioned earlier in the report, this book didn't come out until the month I got my engagement ring. As such it didn't have a particularly big impact on my "preparaing" to be a help meet. What it DID have an impact on was my wedding, and the chapter that most impacted my wedding was chapter 13. Before reading this book I'd never heard anyone else vocalize the concept that when a bride is preparing for a wedding the wedding night should be part of the preparation plans. In other words, a bride should plan in a way that she won't end up being an exausted, stressed, basket case as soon as the wedding adrenalin wears off. As Mrs. Pearl says, it takes a LOT of emotional and physical energy to be a wife the first few weeks of marriage, and it is foolish for a young bride to expend all her emotional/physical reserves on a "dream" wedding and not take into those demands into account. "Taking into account" means not being out till midnight the wedding day and having to drive two more hours to get to the honeymoon suite. "Taking into account" means being so tied up in wedding details that you don't sleep the week before the wedding. "Taking into account" means long hours of rest (physically), mental preparation, and prayer (spiritually) the week of the wedding.

9. As always read with parental guidance. There is nothing in this book that I would hesitate to have my daughter read when she is an appropriate age (somewhere in the early to mid teens, depending on the young lady), but each family is different. There are some things, for example, in chapter 7 that Mrs. Pearl recommends young ladies research that some parents might not be comfortable with (chapter 7 is about a young lady continuing to learn and prepare, some things are necessary some things aren't, each family will be different. The purpose of her list is to provoke thought, not provide a complete curriculum. So, of course, parental guidance is a good thing).

End analysis? This is a GREAT book, and one I can recommend to just about any young lady. In fact, someday I'd like to do a study through it with some of the young ladies at my church. We'd ALL learn from it, even those of us who are already help meets!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who sets the standards?

Due to some questions I've recieved about my previous post, "Responsibility and Purity" I think some clarification is needed. In that post I had two seperate ideas, and didn't do a good job of explaining the difference between the two. Here are my two main ideas:

Idea #1: Men should take the leadership role in pre-marital purity.

Idea #2: Men should become couragious protectors of their lady's "sacred boundary line."

The question was, "If men are taking the leadership role in purity, why talk about the woman's sacred boundary line? Shouldn't the man, if he is the leader, be the one setting the standards?"

This is an excellent question--and one that points out the delecate balance of give-and-take that exists in relationships. In order to answer it I need to touch on some Biblical truths about marriage.

In the marriage relationship the husband, scripturally, is the head. This does not mean that the wife is less than her husband, it is simply an authority structure. As part of that structure the husband is called to love his wife with the sacrifical servant-leader love that Christ showed for the church.  A husband who does not acknowledge this and instead lords his authority over his wife is not filling his role of authority in a scriptural way. A good husband will be a reflection Jesus's love to his wife.

Just as a husband is called to lovingly lead a wife is called to respectfully submit. Again, this is not a reflection of worth, it is simply an authority structure. Just as Jesus chooses to submit his will to the Father, even though he is in every way equal to His Father, the wife chooses to submit to her husband, even though she is in every way equal with him before God.

While respect and submission play a big role in a scriptural marriage relationship, they are not the complete story. A wise husband will not just make decisions without consulting his wife, assuming that as the leader he knows the full story. Instead, he will recognize that God has given him a valuable asset in his wife and will  take her counsel and concerns seriously. If the husband is the captain of the ship, the wife is his radar. A husband who ignores his wife's counsel is as foolish as a ship's captain that ignores the coming dangers that his radar reveals.

What does all this about the marriage have to do with purity in courtship? Everything!! The pre-marriage relationship, whether it is called courtship, engagement, or dating, is a valuable opportunity for both the committed young lady and the committed young man begin to learn what it is to be a wife or husband. He should get comfortable in being a leader. She should grow accustomed to following his lead. It is a time of preparation for marriage, both in physical skills (he being a provider, she being a "keeper at home") and in relationship skills.  They both need to learn to think as a team.

During that time a young man is getting his first taste at being "captain" of his own ship. Probably one of the first opportunities he will be given for taking the leadership role will be in the area of purity. What boundaries are needful for him to set? What balance between love and rules? What dangerous waters does he forsee, and how should he, as the captain, avoid them? As he makes these decisions a wise young captain will remember to consult his new "radar" to see what troubled waters she reveals.

So who sets the standards? The man or the woman? The short answer is YES! They BOTH do! Though a young man chooses to take the leadership role in purity, he also can also be a courageous defender of sacred boundary lines. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Neither is it mutually exclusive for a woman to allow her future husband to have the chance at leadership while still revealing things that she is and isn't comfortable with. He may not see the danger his radar reveals, but he can choose to act in accordance with it, knowing that one of the purposes God has given his future-wife is to be a wise counselor.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reason 12: His suspense



This morning I was getting ready to head to work. My husband hugged me good-bye and asked, "So, have you found--" Seeing how I suddenly perked up he cut off abruptly. "Err, never mind."

Of course I wouldn't leave it there, and I found out that there was some sort of surprise he'd obtained/made/gotten me last night. My mind jumped to all sorts of possibilities, but my husband resolutely refused to divulge the nature of the surprise. "Just go about your day just as you usually would and you'll find it."

A half hour later I was at work. My charge was sleeping soundly, so I reached for my Bible to read a few more chapters. There, sandwiched between the pages, right beside my #1 marker, was a letter from my man. Not only had he managed to write the letter on a night he was already up extra late working, he'd also managed to draw out the suspense to make the surprise even sweeter.

This may be redundant, but I sure do love that man! :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reason 11: He Prays

Recently my husband and I were talking about some hard things. I thought we'd finished the topic, but instead he put his arm around me and began to pray. All to often I forget to pray over things until I've tried everything else--I love that my man takes things straight to God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quotable Quotes

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. ~ G.K. Chesterton.


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