A Reason to Carry On Blog

Marriage in Stormy Waters

Marriage is expensive to maintain. It takes time, it takes creativity, it takes money, but most of all it takes more than love.  Once you get married you will forever remain married, and never would you be considered single, unless of course erroneously. Marriage is a consummation and not an action – and once you board that vessel called marriage, you cannot disembark without affecting other riders e.g. children, family, friends, parents, brothers, and so on. The roaring tides of success often threaten marriages, as couples blinded by this fruitless pursuit endanger not only the vessel, but themselves and others as well.

As long as the marriage is still a ‘marriage’, the vessel will, at some point in time, inadvertently stray into stormy waters. Depending on the spouses desire to sail to safety, they can easily navigate their vessel to safer waters or sail into higher and wilder waves. Marriages that have recently experienced life changes events e.g. a newborn, a new job, a job loss, a promotion, death in the family, just about anything that affects either spouse, often face severe and destructive dark storms.

A recent survey revealed the majority of separated or divorced men blamed the wife for being argumentative and disrespectful.  On the other hand, the majority of divorced wives accused husbands of not putting enough commitment into the relationship (agenzia Fides 2010). In another article by Leslie Bennetts, The Truth About American Marriages, she argued “nearly 70% of the men surveyed said they “never” think about leaving their wives, whereas nearly half of the women said they think about leaving their husbands at least occasionally–and sometimes daily” (Bennetts 2010).

I’m told there’s a small community, in a country that will remain nameless, called “Forget Marriage”. This community has one goal – forget your marriage. Husbands and wives would visit this community and consume as much alcohol as their system would hold, in a bid to forget their marriages.  Sadly, after weeks of alcohol binges, most in their drunken stupor come to reality and stagger, broke, back home to the same marriage they had wanted to forget.  Think about it, people who once loved each other, had children together now have grown so far apart, they are willing to brainwash themselves and forget that they were ever married!

Marriage troubles are often insignificant if proper maintenance is done on the marriage vessel. The problem though is proper vessel maintenance is not done and yet there is so much expectation from the marriage. Suffice it to say, there is hope in every marriage, and there is no one marriage better than the other. Couples owe it to each other the responsibility of bringing happiness to their marriage. If the couple treats each other with decorum and respect, that marriage will flourish. If they treated each other as they would individually want to be treated, that marriage would be fun.

The greatest challenge in marriage is when a couple measures their marriage achievements and failures with those of another. All marriages are different just as every couple is different, and comparing marriages is more like comparing oranges and lemons, so close yet so distinctly different. The moment this happens, cracks start revealing in the vessels bow, and the conversations start to change. “You don’t respect me as Jones’s wife does”,” you don’t treat me like Smith treats his wife”, and so on and so forth, and unless that broken bow is repaired by admitting it was wrong to compare the marriage to ‘Jones’ marriage,  that marriage will be pursuing a completely different goal to be like the others.

Couples should not be detoured to pursue the port of a successful or a perfect marriage. It simply does not exist. How do you measure a successful or perfect marriage? What are the thresholds? Every marriage is unique, and the fact that a couple is still together in marriage, trying to make it better than it was last year, last month, last week, yesterday,  is in itself success and warrants a toast. It is misleading to hear people define successful or happy marriages and putting other marriages under unnecessary pressures to be the such. Marriage is a choice, and if you are happy where you are, that is your port of success and your port of perfection.

When your marriage sails through stormy waters, take time to understand where you are and slowly and steadily navigate to safety. Sometimes that safety may be a temporary place to help you both recalculate how long you are willing to continue or whether you would rather let the marriage vessel break in the rough torrents of the ocean, as you swim to safety. Sometimes, time is the best refuge. It takes away the exhaustion and frustrations of a bedeviling journey. Start with yourself, and go through what you know. Your internal reference; did you do everything correctly, what could you have done differently, did you overstretch your reaction, were you too harsh, were you too unrealistic? Go through your personal values as honestly as you can, and make amends – Don’t be too proud not to go to your spouse and say, “I was wrong you were right and I’m sorry for this or that”. More often than not, apologies always allow your marriages vessel to go several more naughts in bliss.

However, if you marriage is abusive, it means your vessel is allowing water and you need intervention sooner than later. You cannot continue with the journey in a broken vessel. You cannot save yourself. Seek immediate help for your safety and disembark.  There could be serious consequences if you fail to get help, refuse to be a statistic and admit your vessel is in danger, and you need help. Talk to a trusted friend, your best friend, your pastor and let them know what is going on. If your marriage is abusive don’t for a moment think you can fix it involve the authorities, there are far too many perverts out there and you’d rather be safe than sorry. Never justify your spouse’s abuse, never cover your spouse’s abuse, it only gets worse. The sooner the abuse stops the better it will be for both of you.

Marriage is for those who are quick to upgrade their vulnerable weak past and invest into a future of hope. Those who look out for the other and willing to outdo them in doing good, those willing to not only put their time but their very lives into the marriage. Marriage is therefore not for the weak and faint in heart. It’s for those who are willing to influence and see positive transformation in their spouse. It’s for those who are mature enough to take care of their spouse with a sincere heart of service. It’s for those who see the weakness in their spouse and still choose to work together to overcome them. It’s for those who see the empty bank account and still choose to live with their spouse.

I learnt many years ago that you can’t learn how to swim without getting your feet wet. Certainly, marriage is not the kind of thing that you play around with. The emotional ties are so deep you can easily change the life of one person overnight or severely affect the life of another with the simple use of words as weapons. What these two people bring with them to the marriage table will determine whether they are ready to fight for their marriage. If they get into marriage armed with pounds of love to last them a lifetime and bring nothing else, they will have severe challenges, for marriage cannot thrive on love alone. However, if they bring enough love with perseverance, patience, kindness and all those spices of goodness, that marriage will survive the storms. As such, couples who are not ready to invest in a marriage should not get anywhere near it.

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Upgrade Your Marriage

Have you noticed everything these days has to be upgraded? Upgrade processes; upgrade products, upgrade services, and so on. It’s amazing isn’t it? One thing I noticed the upgrading process has in common is improvement. When you say “I’m upgrading the way I do my home budget”, you are actually saying you are improving your home budget. The “upgrading” process makes things better than they were, more profitable, more meaningful, more fulfilling. Similarly, with the passage of time, there is need to examine and upgrade the original foundations of your marriage and match them to the current times. If the marriage is under traditional values and you now embrace an urban lifestyle, that marriage may need an upgrade. The danger of ignoring the upgrading process is being declared irrelevant, being exposed to an unfulfilled life, a life where you cannot attain congruence anymore since the goals are no longer visible. Similarly, when the original foundations conflict with the present lifestyle, threats on marriages become common, frequent, and real.

Every marriage requires an upgrade. This process requires a critical self-examination with a determination to identify and eliminate redundant and retrogressive areas that cause hurt, hate, and increased frequency of missed opportunities in attaining congruence, which yields more happiness, and increased moments of delight. Marriages that do not change with the times face the severe tests and could inevitably end in separation or divorce.

What hinders most couples from reaching that point, of seeking an upgrade, is pride. They want to be seen as okay: they consider other relationships as more important than their marriage; It is like holding a clean cup, but refusing to drink from it because the inside is dirty. My challenge is “you have been in that marriage long enough, dare to upgrade it, dare to change how you handle situations, and determine to attain congruence, yield more happiness and increase moments of delight.

There steps to follow through the upgrade process are few and harmless.

First, deal with issues as they emerge – too often couples address things that are not a real threat to our marriage. We use so much energy addressing irrelevant things, leaving us drained and frustrated to handle the real issues.  Many years ago, the “Doom” marketers used a comic strip of Batman killing a bothersome fly with a “semi-automatic”, while he could have used a “doom “can. In essence then we identify the problem, but the resources we use to address the problem is overrated, and we get frustrated because the problem still persists, regardless of what we do to address it. You probably could be using a “semi” instead of using a “doom” can.

Every problem encountered in marriage has a solution. I know that for a fact. But the couples have to keep their eyes on the issue and be patient in dealing with it. The solution is not always easy, and sometimes strategies have to be changed. The problem though, couples get easily destructed by “marriage actors” visibly present in every social gathering – if you see what I mean. Every marriage has its tests, and many marriages comprise gifted actors. In the process of acting though, they learn how to deal with issues, until they become non-issues. Leave the actors alone and if your marriage needs an overhaul, go for it. Identify the specific area that needs most work and start doing something about it. Part of it may be acting – that is fine- after all you have to start somewhere.

Make an effort towards your problem. If you do not move, that problem will remain there, and will keep bothering you, until you act on it or it wears your brains out and you die frustrated and a failure in marriage. If you think it’s your spouse who should act first, you’ve got another one coming. Don’t wait on your spouse, and do what you got to do. Keep doing the right thing – the light will dawn in him or her and join you eventually. You will be glad you started.

If you identify a problem, it’s your problem not your spouse’s, and it will never be your spouse’s until you bring it to their attention. Act on it in a civil and mature manner, like two people helping their best friend overcome a challenge. Don’t start shouting at your spouse how he or she will never change because when you do, you have set your expectation too low. Go for it with a high expectation – spouses dream too. You came into the marriage with dreams of children, houses, cars, big monies and all. Address them like your life depended on what action you take. Do not allow yourself to be misdirected by anything. Be specific to what the problem is, not the symptoms, not the late coming, not the dirty house – be specific.

Keep in mind the longer you take to address issues, the longer it will take to resolve them. You are better off identifying and talking about issues when they show up. There’s no benefit in waiting and bringing them during thanksgiving when your spouse suggests you visit their parents, or when your spouse needs a favor from you.

Secondly, be real –You cannot allow your marriage to degenerate this low and expect an easy fix. As I’ve always said; it’s hard enough for twins to live together, how about two strangers brought together by this strange thing we call “love”? How much easier is it for them? Yet when you know in your heart that even though my spouse is stubborn, I’m in it for the long haul – give it your all. True, some spouses demand from each other things/actions that are not feasible or practical. This brings frustrations and even pushes some spouses to some strange addictions.  There was this couple, where the wife kept referring to how loving “other husbands” are to their wives, but the more she referred to “other husbands” the more agitated the husband would be, and understandably so. Marriage comprises two people, most of the times actors who show up there real colors after the show is over. Don’t accept to be fooled by what you see, and blindly drive your marriage to the rocks. Every marriage is unique, and should not be compared.

It always delights me when my hawk eyes notices some ‘things’ going on in some marriages. Some couples react openly and ask for help, others cover up their spouses like there’s nothing wrong in their marriage, and yet others go on quietly marinating on their cause of action “after the show”. Yet there are others constantly in a combative mood and you had better not be in their path. Be real, what is it you want of your spouse? Is it realistic, is it possible? Perchance one spouse lost a job, how do you work it out together? What do you need to adjust? Perhaps one spouse is not bringing home enough pork, reminding him/her to get another job, or sell the truck, or do nursing is not going to help, in fact, you may just be compounding the problem.

Be real – the fact that another couple solved their problem in a particular way does not mean yours will follow the same path. Be real and adjust solutions to your situation. I assure you the more realistic you are the more your spouse will see you as supportive and caring.

Finally, make majority of the decisions together. My view is if you want to do something, anything, share it with your spouse. Give your spouse time to digest your suggestion, don’t rush you decision on them. After a while, go back and ask if they thought about what you had suggested. This works wonders. You would rather be guilty of sharing too much information than not at all.

Merry Christmas and happy upgrading!

THE COLOR PURPLE (New York: Simon & Schuster via Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982),

Reading Alice Walker’s epistolary The Color Purple, the reader encounters Alice’s unique writing style where she demonstrates an oratory skill retelling the story from third party letters- if you will. What is interesting though, it’s not really a third party story, it’s her story, a story she has created and therefore retains the liberty to retell it in whichever form or fashion. This said, her writing is noble, with tones of liberation, womanist and sisterism being loosely introduced. The question that a keen reader will not fail to ask is “why does she (Alice Walker) delight in narrating sexual encounters with such candor?” Alice, the author and medium (as she later describes herself), does not spare words in narrating Celie’s sexual encounters when being abused by her dad and later her husband, or in her own pursuit. This only causes disconcert and confuses the view (of God) being portrayed.

Celie views God as “big and old and tall and graybeareded and white” (Walker, 201), which to her defines God as protective (big and tall), wise and trustworthy (old and graybearded), and reverent (white). When she (Celie) therefore fails to find a person she can talk to, since the only person she could talk to, her mammy, is sickly and she’s already been warned; “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” (Walker, 1), she obediently turns to; the protective, wise and trustworthy, and respectful, God.

This is the God she perceives, in her mind, as she writes letters to him. She can trust him, she can ask him all she wants to know, she can narrate her experiences and trust him to tell her what is happening to her. This is what she does in her first letter, at the age of fourteen years, when she knows very little about her physiological changes, when she tells God in the letter; “I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me” (Walker, 1). To my mind this is what sets the pace for the preceding letters.

Celie finds her freedom in being candid and unambiguous communicating to God; peradventure he will tell her what is happening to her.

So much has happened to her and she never had anyone to ask what it was. But she trusted God, it was easy to write to him probably because he was not physically there. But the view she had of God was enough for her to trust him.

The letters she writes then, are confidential literature, meant for God’s reading eye’s only. We the readers have, through Alice Walker, been given that sneak preview, through the narrations-a privilege opportunity to read and understand what Celie was going through – we cannot therefore judge them as graphic narrations.

Four Steps to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

Many couples get into marriage without understanding the intricacies surrounding this much sought after union. They comfort themselves that ‘they’ll learn on the job’. They argue that if others before them survived the marital upheavals, there is no reason why they cannot. While this is true, the only problem being there is no good track record out there to learn from. Marriage statistics cannot be trusted as the players purport to make their marriages better typically for public display. Marriage appearances are too unreal to learn from and it’s not uncommon to see a couple cuddling lovingly, calling each other sweet names, but outside the public eye, a beast awakens causing hell in the marriage. Countless movies have been made on this platform, either to show the destructive nature of the marriage actors, or as a mockery of the marriage institution.
Many couples are in unhappy marriages, but you the outsider would never know – that is inside information only available to the husband, the wife, and the children; Marriages that were once happy lay in ruins as couples focus on the “me” convenience, and are too proud and conceited to mend the broken walls, opting to live as housemates than soul-mates i.e. sharing house bills with no relationship whatsoever. Yet when you visit those families, they portray a loving couple. In a recent blog “talkaboutmarriage.com”, a contributor writes “Everyone who knows us thinks I have the best husband in the world. In front of everyone, he throws surprise parties and gives expensive gifts and praises my beauty. But behind the screen, he is very bossy and controls me very much – I am very unhappy”.
An unhappy marriage is like a vehicle that has missed its regular maintenance/service; oil change, tire rotation, and so on, regardless of how expensive the vehicle is, it would no longer run as smoothly and risks breaking down at any point. But after a good service, the vehicle would once again spurt to life and on to a smooth drive. Similarly, when you get into a marriage you have one of two choices; be determined to pursue happiness for your sake, your spouse and that of your off springs or; do nothing at the risk of being unhappy and ruin your marriage. Wise couples choose to do something, they seek to harvest happiness from their marriage by sowing seeds of commitment, honesty, affection and respect in their marriage; they do what they need to do to find happiness. Marriages don’t just fall apart, you don’t wake up one morning and find your spouse has turned into a vampire, or a beast, no; it’s a process of time. It’s the little things that are ignored, the missed oil change, the engine light, and over time those little things, if unattended, end up destroying a very solid marriage. 
What can you do to avoid an unhappy marriage?
1.       Commitment – Your marriage credo should be; “This marriage will not end in divorce. I am committed to this marriage”. While the therapist will offer solutions to your marriage, when you face challenges, it will take you, and your commitment to make that marriage work. You are the only one who knows why the wheel does not turn. The therapist can only offer ideas, but you would have to be the one to get down and fix the wheel.
When you are looking for a solution to a problem, you remain focused to the problem until you get a solution. You don’t paddle the boat further away from safety. When you are committed to your marriage, you guide your marriage to safety; paddle your boat to a safe place, by speaking words that will help bring calmness to your spouse.
When you are committed to your marriage you will do anything to save your marriage, no matter how unpopular you end up being to your friends or family –after all it’s your marriage you are trying to save. You will keep your marital differences to yourself, and you will protect your spouse even when he or she is as wrong as wrong can be. You will create time to be together as this will keep you away from prying eyes, and other addictions. When you are together, you promote commitment and your spouse feels more secure, thus reducing chances of another eruption.
Remember every marriage has it’s time of testing, and if you got into marriage knowing in your heart that there’s no way out of that marriage, you will do what you need to do to make it work. Think for a moment, you are living with someone you’ve probably only known for a short period of time, compared to your brothers or sisters, that’s not easy. Even twins, born only minutes apart, easily find something to fight over – ask Zack and Cody Martin (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) from the American sitcom ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’.
Let me quickly add here, that an unhappy marriage can quickly convert to an abusive one. When this happens get help as quickly as you can. Your commitment might lead into manipulation (it matters whom you are committing to), and manipulation might lead to abuse –physical, psychological, or emotional. No one has a right to abuse the other. Talk with someone in authority, talk to the local police, and let them be aware of the abusive relationship you are in. Let your pastor and the marriage support teams you may be part of, know what is going on. You only have one life to live. Don’t be a statistic, save yourself.  Far too many lives have been in recent years, because the spouses did not understand the destructive signs the partner was displaying. Save yourself and talk to someone in authority. Understand spousal killings are on the increase – refuse to be a statistic.
2.       Honesty – Share your feelings, concerns, and thoughts with your spouse as honestly.  Don’t conceal your sad and frustrated moments, rather share them as you would share your happy moments. Unexpressed frustrations can pile up and could easily result to resentment. One writer said holding onto resentment is ‘like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. Speak your heart out to your spouse, as honesty as you can. There are only two people who can fix a failing marriage, and that is the husband and the wife. Remember when you fight back in anger, you hurt yourself more. If you are committed to the marriage, one of you will back down, and allow God to avenge for you, according to Romans 12:17 -19.
‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord’. (NLV)
As a trusted partner, uphold integrity in all you do, the way you handle finances, the way you handle your relationships, the way you handle yourself with the acquaintances of the opposite sex, and so on. Your partner wants the assurance that he or she can trust you, not just in what you do, but in what you say and how you present yourself. Don’t give yourself a reason to be dishonest – live a life beyond reproach.
When you are honest with your spouse, you build trust. Your spouse sees the trustworthiness in you, one who does not run to defend him/herself. You also promote accountability, which is a great enemy to addiction – whether alcoholic, drug, or other destructive behaviors. Most of all, when you speak honestly to your spouse, you promote good communication, which is healthy to your marriage.
3.       Affection – affection is hard to define and even harder to measure, but its absence is easily noticeable. Affection is the care you show, the time you make for your spouse; it’s the attention, the commitment to your union, the integrity you uphold, the financial support; it’s a conglomeration of the positive acts towards your spouse.
Todd Creager, a licensed marriage therapist and author of The Long, Hot Marriage says, “Studies have shown that happy couples give compliments often. Offering a simple ‘thank-you’ is an easy way to show appreciation and make him or her feel significant”. One way to test affection is to ask “where do I place ‘me’ and ‘we’ in my planning, in my conversations, in my life”. If ‘me’ comes first, then you are heading for a soggy unhappy marriage, or you are already in one.
When you show affection, you naturally become respectful to your spouse. You look forward to being together as you enjoy the company of one another, which increases security.
 
Men and women react differently to issues, but since you are in it (the marriage) together for the long haul, learn to be kind to one another. When your spouse comes home stressed, allow them to vent. Hold back your anger; hold back your condescending comments. Men easily hold back when they are confronted with accusations or condescending remarks, while women react to rudeness or non-communication.  Avoid any action that will kill conversation as it will also evict affection. 
 
When spouses fail to talk to each other, they separate from each other both mentally and physically, and each starts to seek a place of refuge away from home, where they can find people who will overlook their weaknesses and celebrate them. Avoid providing this opportunity to your spouse, avoid pushing your spouse to the wall – as much as you want to address serious issues when they are still hot, you can’t kill a mosquito with a gun, save your marriage. There is time for everything.
 
4.       Respect – Respect your spouse; speak to them honorably even when anger is sneaking in. There is nothing that precipitates conflict faster than lack of respect in a marriage. When you speak to your spouse with a haughty spirit, when you call him/her humiliating names, when you refer to him/her in a pejorative manner, or ignore them– you are asking for heavy duty trouble. Your spouse maybe out of work, but that does not qualify you to disrespect him/her. It is a temporary thing, grow up. Your spouse maybe going through some personal issues, see beyond that, he/she has not always been that way.  Don’t be short sighted, and sacrifice your marriage over a temporary gain. The fact that your spouse is facing some challenges does not justify you to disrespect them; the fact that your spouse is not financially where he/she ought to be (according to you) does not mean he/she cannot be respected. Respect your spouse; you are in this marriage for a long time.
Sometimes, your spouse may need some time and space to vent – honor that request and in support identify a place of refuge; a place in your house where each of you can go and steam out, and let out the beast within. That place of refuge will help you calm down and once again be able to see your spouse as a human and not a monster; it’s amazing what a self-time out does to the human spirit.
During this time of economic hardships and high unemployment, it’s not uncommon to see the spouse earning more than the other looking down on the other. When this happens, you will not have long to wait to see the marriage disintegrate. Respect your spouse regardless and let your friends know you respect your spouse.
Respect your spouse when he/she speaks honestly on a touchy subject. When you respect your spouse you are indirectly promoting your commitment to the marriage and building trust. Even when your spouse acts up, respect their feelings. When you respect your spouse, you manage your anger and deflate confrontation. One thing you should always assure yourself is, “my spouse is not always this way; this is an exception”. When you do that, respect creeps back, affection comes back running, and commitment resurrects.
Marriage is a school, a school you never graduate from; it’s an ongoing school and you never fully learn or understand your spouse. When you come home and find your spouse has embraced a negative spirit, don’t let it bother you, give him/her some space – we all have our moments. A happy marriage will have negative moments but a wise couple refuses to focus on those moments, instead they choose to focus on better happier moments. Similarly a spouse who elevates negative moments, e.g. what has not been done, what has not happened, what is not there, and so on, in effect promotes unhappiness in marriage. As the old adage goes, you reap what you sow; it’s not a wonder then that a simple petty issue can degenerate to an ugly worthless encounter – the results of what was sowed –leading to an unhappy marriage.
If you are in an unhappy marriage, realize that the path to fixing that marriage is shorter than taking an exit. According to LJ White in her research – Does Divorce Make People Happy? “Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later”. If you got into that marriage knowing in your heart that there’s no way out of that marriage, you will do what you need to do to make it work. Unfortunately, couples expect too much from their partners without sacrificing anything for it. The question is, since you are in that marriage for the long haul, “what is it that you want out of it and what are you willing to sacrifice for it?

Pick your pieces and carry on

“…Just 15 months after Carrie was born, Jay was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, and we were pulled into swirling vortex of panic, depression, anxiety, and fear. We were desperate to find any reason to hope, but the situation, I can only now admit, was hopeless…” [Katie Couric, The Best Advice I Ever Got]

Twelve years later Katie is still moving on with life. Maybe not the way she‘d wanted it to be, but she adjusted to the new challenges. 

Life can throw stuff at you, but don’t give up. Without challenges, it would not be life. If for a moment you look at where you are today and trace back to where you have come from, you will be very proud of yourself. That illness did not kill you, that accident did not maim you, that failure did not devastate you, that job loss did not break you. You will realize time that you have learnt how to strengthen yourself even at the worst of the moments.

That is what David did. He says on Psalms 121:1-4 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.

When you are overwhelmed, lift your eyes to the Lord, for he who watches over you does not slumber or sleep. That’s why harm has not overwhelmed you, that is why that death in the family did not destroy you, that is why that layoff did not harm you, that is why you are still standing!

Break Free

I turned to the left but there was no room to maneuver. I supposed the right might be better, but no, it was worse – I could neither turn to the right nor to the left – either way I tried, I was stuck and there was no way to get out – I was trapped.

I looked behind in anxiety to the sound of whooshing and swishing as drivers navigated nonchalantly through the snowy road oblivious of the fact I was trapped. One driver slowed down, looked at me pitifully and without a word drove away.

Snow in Texas is always an unwelcome visitor. It had snowed during the night and by the morning, it was still snowing. The roads were not as bad as they had been the previous week when most businesses closed offices. I’m usually not afraid to try out on anything and definitely the snow would not hold me back.

Highway 75 had very little traffic, but the drive was smooth. At some point I saw the lane I was on was snowy and there were track marks showing vehicles had changed lanes. That’s what I wanted to do-big mistake. As I turned, the vehicle slid through the lanes a couple of times, completely refused any orders I gave, and with no power and gear on neutral, the car headed for the rail guards, and grounded to a halt after denting the rail – facing the direction we had come from. There was so much snow where the car had stalled; it was laughable to imagine I could even think of moving it from there.

I realized the only way I could save myself was to seek help. It was pitiful, a feeling of helplessness and I hate being in such a position where I can’t help myself. I convinced myself that I was not a victim, as I skinned off the victim disposition. The reality was I couldn’t help myself even if I tried, and I was not too proud to seek for help – I reached for my cell phone and called the emergency hotline, and within minutes, help was on the way and I was back to normalcy in style.

You can break free from anything or any situation that has bound you. It doesn’t matter how you ended up being in bondage or trapped, that is an unnecessary detail. What is important is you must have that desire to be free.  There is that feeling of how foolish you were to get into the mess, but truth be told, we all get baited by things that attract us, but once you realize it’s a trap, use your energy, not to lament on the mistakes, but in breaking free. Refuse to be a victim, regardless of what has happened, regardless of the price you have to pay. You will be better of free, than trapped in misery.

For thirty-eight years, this man was imprisoned by a sickness that required him to jump into the pool when the angel stirred the water. But he had nobody to help him crawl to the pool and year after year he remained there. Until Jesus came by and asked him what he wanted done for him. Thirty eight years is a long time to be imprisoned. It’s a long time to be unable to do anything for but sit and stare in the same status, looking at people come in bondage and leave free. I believe by Jesus asking him what he wanted done for him, it was a test for him to decide what was really important to him. Did he want to break free from the bondage that held him down or was he content? He chose to be free from the bondage of sickness, and he received his freedom.

In my moment of being trapped, I wondered to myself how many people out there were trapped like me and afraid to cry out. I recalled the wife of a preacher in Selmer, a small town in Tennessee, who in 2006 “snapped after years of abuse”, took the gun and fatally shot her husband. She was in a trap, and could not see any way of escape from the abuse, until mentally she could not take it anymore. She could not break free until she reached the ‘no return” point, that point where it did not matter what she did. Most people committing such heinous crimes are locked in some form of bondage. They refuse to seek for help fearing the worst may happen, and end up doing what they think is best for them. If you have tried solving an issue and you are ending up nowhere, probably it’s the best time to seek for help. No crime is a solution, nor an excuse to cause harm unless it’s in self-defense.

I thought of people who have committed suicide after looking ceaselessly for ways of escape and finding none, take their lives, the very life they wanted to protect. It’s like knowingly throwing away the only keys to your door not knowing that once you shut it you can never open it again. point of no return. You have the power to determine how far you want to travel down that road. Don’t allow yourself to reach a point of no return, don’t listen to that voice that urges you to do something that your conscience tells you it’s wrong. Seek help.

We are surrounded by people who are in different types of snares. Some are temporary caused by temporary conditions, some are bearable, yet some are permanent until we purposely do something about it. Just like I was in a small trap in an interstate highway and no motorist thought for a moment that I couldn’t just turn the vehicle and drive away, particularly because the vehicle did not have any visible damage – there could be someone out there trapped in a spiritual interstate, or a marital interstate, an ethical highway. In the meantime, life for the rest of the world goes on; your friends and enemies alike move past you, as they navigate through life, not considering for a moment why you are where you are.

You can get out of any situation you find yourself in as long as you are willing to do so. The power within you is much stronger than the microchip in your computer that tells it to reboot, because even when the power is off, the microchip is still on. The one who created you, put some super charge power within you, so that even when you are weak, you still have power with in you, even when you are down you still have power within you to pick you up, even when you are trapped, you have power within you to seek for help. Let no one tell you that you can’t get out of the situation, let no one tell you that your situation is for a long time, let no one tell you that you can’t make it from here. All you need to do is to realize you have a power within you, and you can make it past this problem, past this situation, past this delinquency.

When Nicodemus walked to Jesus by night it wasn’t because he couldn’t approach him by day. He was in a situation he wanted out. He struggled daily, pretending that everything was fine, but inside of him he was wondering how long he would keep pretending. “How much more can I take” he must have thought to himself. As a leader of one of the most influential group, he couldn’t lay his guard down; he had to show how strong a Pharisee he was even though in the inside he was feeling weak and unable to take this anymore, he chose to cry out for help. One evening, after his guards were released to their quarters for the night, he walked to Jesus, wanting to know nothing more than how he could see the kingdom of God. He had realized that he was trapped and wanted a way out. “How can I be born again?” he asked Jesus. He couldn’t live a pretentious life anymore; he wanted to know whether there was a chance for him to see the Kingdom of God – even though he had fought against the same message all through.

Sometimes the past cannot only trap you but also stop you from moving forward. These past mistakes, past failures, and past goofs keep coming back and haunt you, stopping you from moving on with your life, by creating fear. You need to confront them, declaring you are not who you were then, “thing have changed, I’m no longer the person who made those mistakes”. Ulysses S Grant is quoted to have said, “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on”. Declare war on the past that keeps haunting you, don’t allow the past that you cannot change, the past that created harm and disharmony, trap you and stop you from reaching your destiny. If you allow your past to dwell with you, it will hinder you from moving forward. The past has a way of showing you how inadequate, pathetic, and despondent you are. It has a way of defining you as incapable, undependable, capricious and heaping blame on you, declaring glaring statements, “had you not done this, this would never have happened, had you been more responsible, this child would be alive today, had you been more dependable, you would be the CEO today”, and so on. This is all wishful thinking; the truth is there is nothing you can do. What happened, happened, and it’s now time to brush off the dirt from your sartorial and move on, it’s time to show, not the world, but that person inside you, that you are much stronger, much wiser, more discerning and ready to move on.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:11, 12, “I have seen something else under the sun:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant  or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:   As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times   that fall unexpectedly upon them”. Traps will be there and you will be ensnared.

Not too long ago we visited a church for a Sunday service, with my family, but the loud speakers were super loud, and the speaker did not help either as he shouted from the top of his lungs. He went on for what I thought was hours until I could bear it no more. I told my wife “We are not in a prison, and we can leave whenever we want”. And we did, we had the power and the will. Why would we remain inside torturing ourselves, when we could liberate ourselves? Quit justifying wrongs done against you saying “this is the cross the Lord wants me to bear”. No connect to the power within you, gather your courage and seek for help You don’t deserve to be treated badly even if you did wrong, you don’t deserve to be abused even if you don’t have a job, you don’t deserve to be mistreated just because. Remember God is never surprised and the moment you take your courage and take an action, God open a door of blessing for you. Most often we have this fear of financial delinquency, “if I walk out, how am I going to survive”, well the same way you have survived, the Lord will provide. The devil is a liar and he would like to keep you in a controlled state, where he keeps reminding of all your inadequacies – when he does this remind him of the power within you!

Refuse to be trapped, but when it happens, do all that there is within your power to break free. Often we live in so much trouble and turmoil we doubt we could ever be free. We doubt we’ll ever be happy again, we doubt we’ll eve r live a normal life again. Yes you can but it will take you. It will take you to say no to traps and yes to breaking free. It will take you to say yes, I can make it and no, I’m not a loser.

Refuse to be trapped by your past, regardless of what you did or said. That’s in the past, let’s leave it there. Realize you are not a pioneer, as what you did has been done by someone ahead of you, so get over with it and move on with life. A young lady came crying to her pastor that her past was haunting her. Came to find out that in her youth, she had terminated a pregnancy, which also terminated her freedom. She could never forgive herself; she lived the entire pregnancy and nightmares were her portion. Her life was pegged to her past no matter how much she tried to move on that experience kept coming back. She had to be determined to understand that God does really forgive and gives us a second chance like he had given her. But we must be willing to cry out for help, don’t sit in your worry and fear.

There’s no trap you cannot get out from. You can overcome all those lying voices screaming at you “Everyone would be better off without me, there’s no value in being alive” and so on and so lies. You are more valuable than you can ever imagine. There is no trouble that you cannot get out from no matter what people or those voices say. Break free from the past, it doesn’t matter how ugly it may have been, you got to break free from it. Most of all, seek help from your pastor, a doctor, talk to someone you trust, tell them you are in a trap and you need help.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9], giving us a second chance, helping us break free from the bondage that holds us back, and setting us free to live for God.

The Seven Deadly Sins in Marriage

Marriage is a commitment between two people, committed to live together as man and wife, until separated by death. It is not therefore temporary or for trials, rather it’s a lifetime companionship steering the partners through life’s challenges into one of, hopefully, bliss.

Marriages are however intricate, complex, multifarious associations, attacked in every area of their existence and takes the spouses concerted efforts, to defend and protect their marriage from all forms of imposition. The underlying benefits of protecting/defending the marriage from collapse cannot be compared to any other presumed benefit from other unions. Its tough work and many spouses have been known to give up by divorcing, separating or being uninvolved – DLT (divorced but living together).  Spouses can avoid the collapse of their marriage, by identifying and avoiding marriage sins that encroach and slowly destroy their relationship. No spouse is immune to these sins but if your marriage is important, you will do all you can to save it from collapse.

These seven deadly sins of marriage are not anything exceptional. I left out some “common” sins (adultery, fornication, and other sexisms) because they are a result of major sins. In my research I found out there are bad marriages but no good marriages. A bad marriage is like a house in disrepair, broken windows and shutters, gust and dust blowing in the house, leaking roof and all. It’s a discomfort to be or live in such a house. On the other hand, a normal marriage can be compared to a house that is constantly been maintained. The gust and dust do not blow into the house because the windows and shutters are all properly fitted, the roof does not leak, because it’s well maintained. I also realized that there is nothing like a perfect marriage. Every marriage requires constant maintenance; a normal marriage can quickly turn into a bad marriage if not watched. The difference between the bad and normal marriages is in one, the spouses don’t care, or they have no more energy to maintain their marriage, while in the other, the spouses will do anything to make sure their marriage survives another day, another week, another year. It’s the spouse’s willingness to accommodate each other that makes the difference – it’s all about love, because what you love you protect.

1. Passing Blame –Dawn Lipthrott in her blog Relationship Journey asserts passing blame “allows us to put responsibility on everyone and everything besides ourselves!” It’s an act of selfishness.

If you find yourself blaming your spouse, ask yourself “what was my role in this and what could I have done differently.” Also remember if you confront your spouse, you are only asking for a fight, regardless of how right you might be. Consider other options to confront failed plans. David approached his failures by enquiring from the Lord. How do I proceed from here God, I am clueless. He will answer you and provide the courage and wisdom that you need. David kept his source of strength; he maintained his relationship with God.

Ease up, lighten up and learn to build your faith in God. If your faith in God is strong, then there’s very little you need to worry about. But when it’s easier to blame, try to change your communication style by making simple comments. Turn the heat on yourself rather than on your spouse – for example “I should have taken that car for service last week before it broke down” or “I wonder if Laura’s attitude will improve if we let her go to the teen camp” and so on.

2. Nagging your spouse – To nag is to annoy by persistently finding fault on the other, or complaining and making endless demands. One spouse feels like he/she has the mandate and dexterity to consistently point out what should be done, when and how. This fuels stubbornness in the other spouse and not making time for the other. It’s no wonder the bible in proverbs 21:9 says “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife”.

Nagging is a selfish act and accomplishes nothing less than resentment. If there’s anything that pushes spouses away from each other, it’s nagging. An article posted in Mindconnection’s website suggested, “Nagging is a compulsive behavior condition. People suffering from this condition are convinced that they are successfully managing things when the opposite is actually true. A nagging person may appear to be in charge, but actually is not. This behavior undermines your goals, your relationships, and fuels the misery of all involved.”

The bible reminds us that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks [Matthew 12:34], it’s important therefore we speak sound words, words that build and not destroy. We’ve got to be careful what we speak, because those words have a way of coming back. When you speak negative words, you attract those words to the person you spoke to. When you see your spouse and the first word that comes out of your mouth is negative, you have planted a negative seed in your spouse and the same to your children. Do you wonder why your children avoid talking to you? It’s the seed you planted in them. Besides your way, there’s another way of doing things. Don’t work yourself into frenzy because the dishes weren’t cleaned when they should have been. Understand that even if they were not washed when you wanted them washed, the world would not come to an end.

Learn to lighten up, and not to take issues like they depend on you.  Have a gratuitous spirit; appreciate those around you and when things are done correctly. Consider practicing not to point out when things are not done differently. In your conversation, avoid using words as “never”, “now”, “always” – no one enjoys being inculcated in a deleterious manner.  If you are a nagging partner, stop nagging and you will be astounded at the levels your relationship will rise to.

3. Punishing your spouse – Some spouses, feel it’s a prerequisite to punish their partner for a deed or wrong committed against them. The moment this happens, the cracks are all over the marriage floor and something needs to be done if the marriage will be saved.

The spouse unleashing the punishment feels superior to the ‘victim’; he/she feels the urge and importance of not letting the spouse “get away with” whatever happened. Marriage is a relationship where both parties have an equal say. Regardless therefore of what happen, the first thing would be to look for a resolution. Even if it one spouse feels they may have reached the end of purgatory road, no spouse can be a judge over the other. Punishment ferments resentment, and a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of not being loved or appreciated, and eventually looking for consolation elsewhere.

When you punish someone you love, you are really punishing yourself, and it’s not like the other spouse can’t retaliate. If you fail to do a deed for your spouse, because you had a disagreement, you end up being hurt the more. Instead of punishing, consider putting burning coal over your spouse, by doing good. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” [Romans 12:20]

4. Lack of proper Communication – Communication is the worst known destroyer of relationships –including marriages. Knowing this, it’s not clear why spouses unleash this dangerous weapon to each other, to the detriment of their marriage. Communication is not just about words, but actions as well – remember the old adage; actions speak louder than words. One can easily communicate negatively by what they do or do not. An observation by marriage counselors indicate that communication should be nurtured in the early years of the marriage, otherwise it becomes very challenging to change later in life.

Unresolved issues play a leading role in lack of communication, and unless they are addressed, communication will continue to be evasive. Concerns such as being judgmental to each other, lack of trust, and so on could also corrupt communication.  Making a mockery of each other, talking to each other in derogatory manner, and lack of respect when in conversation also inhibits communication between spouses.

Communication is not a one-way street; etiquette requires one listens when the other talks. When this rule is violated, you have a shouting match, with each seeking to be heard. This increases frustration and further destroys the communication goal -albeit the two are ‘talking’ to each other. Communication is not so much about talking than is to listen. It’s okay to sit and talk about nothing, or just sit and do nothing. Communication is sometimes just being there physically and mentally.

If your marriage lacks or fails in communication, you (spouses) should, at the least, avoid careless criticism -you should by now have known that – it yields nothing but resentment and withdrawal.  Dr. Willard Halley advises “Good communication avoids … disrespect” such as: “disrespectful judgments”, Sarcasm, ridicule, judgmental statements and accusations, and “fits”. Grow up and act like the mature person you are. Communication is not shouting to your spouse, nor making condescending comments, or reading the riot act and replaying history. Good communication overlooks all that, and helps the weak communicator to open up and share their concerns.

5. Lack of Gratitude – To show gratitude is to be thankful or appreciative. When this lacks in marriage, it leads to the assumption that someone is taking the other for granted and could lead to complaining and discouraging the other spouse.

 The general assumption that – one will always be there, dinner will always be cooked, clothes will always be ironed/folded without taking the effort to appreciate the doer of those little deeds could be disastrous. This sin is common among men. Do you ever stop to think who made the meal that you just ate, or who cleaned the bathroom, folded the clothes and dusted the room? Do you ever stop to ask who made the bed, who made sure the kids ate, who made sure the lights were turned off? A simple act of gratitude would, by simply saying “Thank you” is very appropriate at this point. I read somewhere that the spouse who does not show gratitude, could be suffering from the “I deserve being served” mentality, particularly if he/she brings home more/pork.

Dallas Munkholm in his article Gratitude- the Marriage Miracle suggests “expressing your gratitude, genuinely saying “thank you”, has the power to change, heal and empower a relationship. Gratitude, i.e. true gratitude is empowering to both the giver and the receiver as the expression of unselfishness and trust creates magic in their souls”. Lack of gratitude locks your powers and your potential thus rendering you unable to achieve anything beyond what you have.

Emily Dickson says in her article Seven Deadly Sins of a Relationship, “… while you might have some problems with what your partner does, you should also realize that your partner does good things too… take the time to say thank you…this little expression can go a long way”. When this lacks, it depletes the much needed energy, to carry on that marital journey.

6. Lack of Affection – This can simply be defined as a feeling of liking. Expressing affection is learnt as children and if one grew up in an environment where affection was not expressed he/she may have a problem expressing it. Fortunately, affection can be expressed in many ways.

The act of liking and enjoying the company of your spouse can be affected by several things including and not limited to resentment, lack of respect, poor or bad communication, and unresolved issues . Men may feel fulfilled by bringing the pork home, fixing the yard, washing the car, and doing the chores and repairs around the house. Women on the other hand are touchy; like to be held, kissed and told more times than you can remember how much they are loved.

While to most couples affection is associated with sex, affection is physical and the more it happens the higher the affection grid goes. It’s affected by emotional issues and can turn on and off at instantaneously. A friend of mine took his wife to an office function, but on their way home, his wife, a little upset, asked him “who was that lady you spent so much time with”. He had apparently talked too much to another lady (whom he had introduced his wife to), but the wife was uncomfortable with that. This is where it should have ended, but my friend was angry. After spending such a great evening together the one thing she saw, was him talking to another female! Regardless of how he tried to explain, his wife remained adamant, “I’m just saying you spent too much time with her” she relented. She was not being hateful or obnoxious; she was just speaking her mind. Perhaps if he talked to the other lady whilst holding his wife’s hand, it would not have been as bad.

Spouses need to identify those moments of expressing their affection to one another and disallow the little foxes from ruining the field.

7. Unrealistic Expectation – These are the expectation a spouse may set for the other and when the spouse fails to meet them there’s a feeling of betrayal, frustration and resentment. James P. Krehbiel in his article Unrealistic Expectation in Relations suggests, “Unrealistic expectations are connected to issues of power, manipulation and control. We might embrace an underlying assumption which says, ‘People must act the way I want them to, or else I have no use for them’.”  Some expectation such as one spouse supporting the other while he/she stays at home and taking care of the children may be reasonable, but when reality hits home, it may no longer be realistic as the income and lifestyle hit different roads.

 Spouses should be willing to bend their expectation for the sake of their marriage, if it doesn’t happen the way they had planned so what? If you can’t drive this make and model of a car or can’t live in that neighborhood the Jones’ live, so what? If your children don’t attend the same private school as the jones’s so what?

Let me assert here again and say marriage is complicated and we can do better by not complicating it any further by being considerate with our spouses. Expectations are normal in marriage but we must not be selfish, and peg the expectations on how well the spouse is supporting the family.

The core of unrealistic expectation is selfishness, which brings division and destroys relationships. Whenever selfishness displays itself through any of the spouses, it becomes apparent that God is not involved and there is no more trust or faith in God.

Spouses should try as much as they can to avoid anything from separating them. This is what the bible says in Matthew 19:6 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Don’t allow unrealistic expectation to wedge through and separate what God has put together.

What breaks the marriage is not the sins committed, it is the failure to admit that these sins are breaking the marriage; it’s the failure to admit that your effort is needed to salvage your marriage. It’s a pride thing, as each spouse holds their hands waiting for the other to make the first move. Marriage is a partnership where individual goals are mutated into a single goal. Indeed if spouses are to be seen as one, then selfishness should not exist nor should individual motives be accommodated.

Marriage bliss is an apex and to get there, spouses go through valleys, climb mountains and cross rivers – whoever says otherwise is not being honest. There should therefore be no victim or victor since the left hand cannot fight the right hand. Don’t let that marriage fail, stretch your hand a little further, diligently work on areas you identify as deficient, most of all, talk to the Lord about the challenges you are fcaing – He will help you through.

Deliberate Omission

A couple of weeks ago, I flipped through the television channels and ended up watching one of those “listener supported channels”, which I thought would be inspiring but little did I know what was coming.

The preacher of the day was on fire. Something had ticked him off, and no, it wasn’t sinners who weren’t turning to Christ, no, no, no, nor was it his members who were not giving money. No it wasn’t about money either, it was beyond. He was on serious fire and full of drama hopping and bouncing from one side of the dais to the other, spreading his arms like an eagle – literally like a man on fire and each time asking his listeners whether they heard (sic) him. I had never heard him before and I wanted to know what had ticked him. He looked dead serious. He kind of reminded me of another preacher who declared that God would call him home unless he raised some $8 million. Well he neither raised the $8 million nor did God call him home, until 31 years later!

Anyway, this preacher was talking about the Philistines taking over, and I forget exactly what they were taking over because he would never finish his sentences. In his parallel application though, the Philistines were taking over the Washington, the US Whitehouse, and needed to be stopped. He did not conceal his reference to the US President Obama as a Philistine nor was he shy to mock President Obama’s Whitehouse appointees, in a way as to shame the presidency. What I viewed on this broadcast was not just melodramatic but an egotistical expression, far from the great commission but unfortunately protected by the First Amendment.

The man went on to decree that if anyone voted for the president, then they should repent because they too are murderers (because “Obama”, as he referred to him, supports abortion). There was no doubt this man had such an intense animosity towards the president although he denied being a Democrat or Republican (hinting he was an independent), and not having any political ambition.

This was too much for me to handle so I switched the channel to something less disparaging. I was a little late for the drama in the next channel and the preacher was making his closing remarks. He looked straight at the camera and with a calm voice told his listeners how his ministry had suffered a blow because of the economic downturn and would the viewer’s consider sending a gift of $25, $50 or $100? For each gift of $25 or more they would each receive a book –I fail to remember the title.  

I thought this was getting interesting, so I tried one more channel, for the fun of it. This time round, the preacher was more candid. He spoke nonchalantly, almost over-confident, with a permanent camera smile. “Take your check books, and write a check for $52 for the next 52 weeks then sit back and see what God is going to do in your life”, he declared on an up-close camera shot. He went on to give testimonies of people who had followed his direction and received unexpected checks in the mail, bonus checks and all those cool things we wish it was us.

Generally the average human has an insatiable desire to search for God. Such people will go to whatever extent seeking God. Unfortunately many fall in the hands of foxes in sheep clothing as Jesus referred to false prophets in Matthew 7:15, when he said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”. Thing is we have to be patient to see if the prophets are real or not. As the bible says, a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, but you have to give it time to bear the fruit. I feel afraid that if the bible is true and good fruits are not being produced by the churches then there’s a chance that many will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Isaiah 2:3 says “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”. People gather in mountain of the Lord, the highest or elevated spot, where the house of God is situated –highly elevated, and respected among men. In return, as people gather, He will teach “us” his ways, so that we may walk in his ways.

I am worried that the church has swayed so far and that God is not in the church any more, and what is left is bare brick and mortar. So swayed is the church that According to a study by David T Olson, The American Church in Crisis, “about 3,200 churches closed each year in the 1990’s – 1.1 percent of U.S. Christian congregations and 3,700 a year in the 2000’s.”  Why would this not happen if churches preach hatred and discord, mayhem and cacophony, riches and wealth? Why would this not happen if churches don’t obey the great commission and instead fight for spiritual and physical ‘supremacy’, why would this not happen, if churches don’t win souls for Christ and rather get involved in philosophies that have nothing to do with the great commission?

Too many doctrines have shot up in recent times than in any other time in history. Paul in his letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” The manifestation of these many doctrines is a confirmation that we are in the last days. Like Paul says, the most common thing with the new doctrines is they target one person and it’s not Christ, it’s Self. More prophets and bishops have emerged through self-declaration or appointment than in any other time in history. We have more prophetic drama in the 21st century church than in other century in history. All manner of doctrines are being practiced in the 21 century church; some preachers are known to ask for gifts (also known as money) before praying for the sick, while others openly manipulate their congregations to support their extravagant lifestyles. A friend told me not too long ago how he overheard one preacher telling another, “let me call for the offerings, I’ll show you how they (the congregants) are squeezed.”

Is the church headed for self-destruction?

In all three years, Jesus focused on the ministry, he lived the ministry. He was the ministry, navigating through land and sea teaching and making disciples. And finally, before ascending to the heavens he left an assignment, commonly known as the great commission, as recorded in Matthew 28 saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

I wonder; if the goal of the church is to accumulate wealth to support luxurious lifestyles, if the goal of the church is to set up a money minting machine to support individual lifestyle, if the goal of the church is to support profligate living, then pray, who will accomplish the great commission? Who will be the voice to tell people to get ready? Who will teach them, who will baptize them? How will they know?

I wonder; if churches today don’t have enough time to teach their congregation about the love of God, the forgiving grace of God, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, if they have not enough time to disciple, how shall the reception be when we all gather in heaven – if we all do, that is. In Matthew 21:13, Jesus confronted some traders in a church who had changed the motive of the church to money generators “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” He chased them from the church with a whip. This is the only time in the bible I believe he chased people with a whip, most of the times he congregated with the people in the synagogues, but not when the people changed the purpose of the church. Could Jesus have changed his opinion about this, so that he would be more merciful? After all, the money raised in church goes to support the ministries, and ministers.

Seeing then that we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witness what manner of men ought we to be?

Changing People

It’s a couple of days before the end of 2010 and I have been thinking of what to write as my last blog for the year – And I think I have come up with one – relating with people, yes people!

Does it surprise you how easily affected we are by the behavior of people around us? I do, and not once. Sometimes I wish I could replace what I consider burnt-out coils in some people. Did you know that you cannot control what people say, but you can control what you process? There are people in my life I’d never give the time of day on what they told me – I’d listen but it ends there. Honestly though, I have wished to change some people, so they can be better people, but I realized in so doing I’d be selfish because if each of us had the power to change somebody, we’d have one crazy world. God created us in his likeness and only he can change us to be whatever he wants us to be!

If you are keen in seeing change in people, start with you. Stop seeing the other person as the one needing change. Stop seeing the ‘problem child’ in others, rather have a keen look at yourself, and see the change you need to make. Stop seeing the other person as the person messing the party and see you as the spoiler needing to change. Start changing the area in your life that is di-synchronizing the value system, the relationship, the friendship. Stop seeing the specks in other people wondering who will help them get the specks out of their eyes and remove the log from your eyes first.

I don’t know if you have been around people who constantly complain about ‘the other person’ and how inconsiderate other people are and so on. Granted, there are inconsiderate people around us, but truly the last assignment you want is to change people. Choose instead to live at peace with them. Insofar as it concerns you, purpose to live at peace, with all men. Make it your duty to see that you are at peace with all people – it’s healthy. The bible reminds us in Romans 12:18 “to live at peace with all men insofar as it concerns us” or if possible. We need to be the first to make that effort to live at peace, let’s drop all our differences because they will be there, let’s drop all judgments we may have against one another, let’s drop all selfish opinions, and let’s live at peace with one another.

Realize (whether you accept this or not) that people relationship equals success. Let’s put that in another way. Success is all about people, and there is no way you can be successful as a person without other people. You cannot succeed in life alone. We all need people and we cannot live in disharmony. Value people, regardless of what they may have done, or said about you – I heard one woman say “I love him but I do not like him” – whatever the case, don’t allow hatred into your life even if you have to fake it. Paul tells the Romans in Romans 12 – “bless those who persecute you, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (Scornfully and condescendingly proud) but associate with the lowly”.

One strategy the devil uses over us is to make us victims. He brings condescending people our way, totally annoying people to compromise our faith. As a result, being unable to tolerate them, some people have had to move from one church to another, from one city to another, and from one employment to another. If you ever see yourself as the victim, always wronged, always hurt, always targeted, then you need to raise your standard.

When King David was walking one evening with his entourage, a mad man started hurling insults and throwing stones at him, but David and his men kept walking, unbothered. David’s men asked him for permission to take him down, but David would not hear of it. Instead he told them “It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.”[2 Samuel 16:13] There are some battles that are not worth fighting, and when you do, the outcome will not bring any gratification or justify the effort. Don’t be the victim!

If this year you struggled with some friends, you don’t have to hate them, love them and let them move on. Find a niche and purpose to live at peace with all men – it’s good for your health you know!

Some people are talented in talking about others – did you see how he dressed last Sunday, did you see how he talked to her, why is she being treated better than us, and so on and so crap – let them, and don’t let it bother you. At the end of the road they will be the ones struggling with poor health as you trot on in robust health.

As this year comes to an end, and we embrace the New Year 2011, purpose to live at peace with all men regardless of their background, religion, or race. Be the first to reach out to your family members if you never did before; reach out to that friend who fell by the wayside, reach out to that obnoxious colleague at work. Purpose to reach out where you never did before, that could be the secret to your success. Don’t let anyone steal your joy, instead walk on. In so doing you will be changing people beyond what you can think or imagine.

You’ll be glad you said “thank you”.

Have you ever thought of how powerful these two words are? Let me ask this differently. Do you remember how you felt when someone from the blue came and told you “thank you for ….”? These can confuse your purported enemy to a position of not knowing how to deal with you anymore. They can diffuse anger so profusely and suddenly to the surprise of both, the one uttering them and the one hearing. They have such profound power to calm the wildest heart, and heal the deepest hurt.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. But have you ever walked to someone and genuinely acknowledge them “I like your pants, they look great on you.” However, expecting a thank you, this is what you hear from them; “O this one, actually it was gift from my wife. She blah… blah…” and goes on to irrelevancies. Or, “I bought it at a sale last year, I’m glad you like it.” Yet others, “These old pants, I have not worn them like a year or so…” They totally miss the point and a simple response. How about a simple “thank you”?

It’s rumored (yes…just rumored) that most arguments among married couples occur when they are driving in one car and often when the man is driving. The wife innocently, points out something that needs attention, for the most part in the politest way possible, for example; “I think you are driving too fast…” or “you need to add some gas…” or “you should have taken that other road”, and whichever the case, this brings a very different (let’s call it negative) response, with one thing leading to another. How about, if the person being “helped” just responded and said, “why, thank you, I should have thought of that!” That argument would diffuse instantly, but no, that’s just wishful thinking.

Daily, we are confronted by opportunities requiring us to say a simple “thank you” but instead we miss the chance and grunt or saying other unsavory words. For example, when your spouse prepares a cup of tea/coffee for you, wouldn’t a “thank you” add a feather on her crown?, or a thank you appreciating your spouse when he/she mentions the shirt or skirt you are wearing conflicts with who you are and where you are going or when a friend accompanies you to a place where he/she would rather not have been – a simple “thank you for accompanying me” acts like fuel in your relationship.

You can use the words “thank you” literary everywhere. When you don’t know what else to say, simply say, “Thank you”. Marshall Goldsmith in his bestselling book “What got you here won’t get you there”, suggests “the next time someone offers you advice or “helps you” with something as important as ‘commenting on your driving’, don’t punish the messenger and don’t say a word. Stop whatever you’re thinking of saying-unless it’s ‘thank you!’”

Thank you for reading this article!

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