Don’t Miss the Moments

Don't miss the moments

Slow down.

It’s not a phrase you hear very often anymore. It’s go, go (regardless of the destination), it’s so easy to miss each other and to miss God. A friend often reminds me that Jesus never ran and never rushed, yet He did everything the Father asked Him to do.

In our most hurried moments, Rodney will sometimes stop me and just hold me for a few minutes. In those moments, time seems to slow down and we experience connection. We experience relationship. We experience marriage.

And when our daughters were small, we would often stop them, look them in the eyes, and say something like, “You are so special to me. God made you and has a wonderful plan for your life. I’m glad to be your parent.” In those powerful moments, we experienced connection with our girls. We experienced parenting.

After 40 years of marriage and more than 30 years of parenting and now grand-parenting, our advice is simply this: Don’t miss the moments. It isn’t the days, weeks, and years that are so powerful in family relationships; it’s the moments. Those brief times of connecting with one another and with God really matter.

This post originally appeared in HomeLife magazine.

Voices of Wisdom: April 14, 2015


Letting Go of What’s Not Coming Back by Beth Moore:

God will not leave us comfortless. He will not leave us alone. He will not leave us fruitless. He will either resurrect the dead or grow something brand new.

I say this to you with a tender heart and deep compassion and empathy. If it is gone, let it go. If it is possible to move the deadness from your sight where it has become a monument to your sadness, pile it up and carry it off.

And know with all your heart and all your faith that something new is coming. Hope preferred for your hope deferred. Give it space. Sunshine. Water. Inspect it with great expectation. And you will surely – as surely as God is faithful and Jesus is the fleshing out of life itself – live to see new trees sprout out of that soil. Something you couldn’t have expected. Something Old Moses could never have given you.

Front Row Seats by Amanda Williams on She Reads Truth:

This is what it means to be witnesses of Jesus: to share with others what we’ve seen Him do.

You and I have been given that same message of repentance and forgiveness to proclaim, that same Hope and that same Help. The charge is for us, too. We may not have all our questions answered or mysteries revealed. We may even be a little freaked out by all we’ve seen and heard. But we sit at the table with the One who knows how all the pieces fit.

Kids Aren’t the Priority. Marriage Is. by Ann Swindell

Strong marriages make for strong families, and it’s worth it to invest in our marriages so that we don’t lose intimacy with our spouse in the busy years of parenting. The kids, as treasured and valuable as they are, will leave. The spouse is the one who is meant to stay.

Small Screens, Big World by Andy Crouch on forty days without email or a smartphone:

The real gift of my absence from screens was that nothing was paying attention to me. Of course my wife and children and friends did, graciously, continue to attend to me (along with gracious hosts in the countries I visited over the past few weeks). But not in the relentless, addictive way that devices do. And in the absence of that constant digital flattery, feeling much smaller and less significant, I was more free to pay attention to the world I am called to love.

4 Root Idols that Corrupt Leaders by Eric Geiger

The idolatry of leaders impact more than just the leaders, as teams and entire organizations are affected. The idolatry in a pastor’s heart impacts more than the pastor, as the church and community are affected by a waning passion for the Lord.

Are You a Rebellious or Submissive Leader?

Are You a Rebellious or Submissive Leader

If you are a leader, more than likely you have a strong personality. I have worked with many “lion” leaders in my day. The very power of their personality can move people to follow. But I have also seen those same lion leaders fall simply because they rebelled against the authority over them.

Submission is not a word you usually connect to leadership but it may be one of the most powerful attributes for a leader to succeed in going the distance and successfully passing that baton of leadership to his/her successor.


Signs you are a rebellious leader:

  1.  You think you can do a better job than your leader.
  2.  You often make negative remarks about your boss to others and you allow others to speak negatively about them to you.
  3.  You don’t pray for your boss.
  4.  You keep things from your leader that are significant.
  5.  You take pride when others comment that you are a better leader.
  6.  You don’t think you need the accountability of a leader over you.
  7.  You avoid informal conversations and stick to only required meetings.

Signs you are a submissive leader:

  1. You pray for your leader often asking God to give them strength, wisdom, and favor.
  2. You speak highly of them in front of others, especially those you lead. You intentionally strive to make them look good in front of others.
  3. You drop by informally just to check on them and to see if they need anything from you.
  4. You know they aren’t a perfect leader but you know that God has placed them in the role of leadership over you. You see your submission to them as ultimately submission to God.
  5. They know you respect them by your words and by your actions.
  6. You go out of your way to serve them because you understand the weight of any leadership role is heavy. You want to help carry the load.
  7. You respectfully but courageously speak truth to your leader.
  8. There is more power in submission than rebellion. It is a strong and courageous leader that gives respect and honor to the leader God has placed over them.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17

How do you see submission as a key attribute for leadership?



10 Ways Dads Can Shape Their Daughters to Be Leaders

Life Lessons (1)

If you have daughters, my dad can teach you a few things about raising a girl.

I am still a daddy’s girl even at 58. My dad turns 90 this year and Rodney and I recently spent a week with him and my step mom in his winter home in Florida (he is a true snow bird flying to his Tennessee farm in the summer and heading south in the winter). Rodney and I had the joy of leading a conference in his church. It was the first time my dad had heard me teach. It was such a blessing for me and dad was proud of his little girl.

Dad raised a girl that ended up as a leader.

I don’t know the plans God has for your girl(s), but I do know you are in a powerful position to help shape and guide her future. You can give your girl(s) the confidence and courage to use the gifts God has given them.


Here are a few life lessons I learned from my Dad:

1. Unconditional love.

I have always known and still know today that my daddy loves me, believes in me, prays for me, and he cheers me on.

2. Time.

My dad always had time for me. Growing up in a rural setting, dad’s work was the farm and the work would rival any corporate job. It doesn’t matter where you work as a dad, work is still work. Dad was always busy but he always made time for our family and me.

3. Affection.

I still hold my dad’s hand and soak up his hugs. Dads give affection differently, but it is critical that your girl(s) know you are crazy about them. A hug, holding hands, or just sitting together playing a game or watching a movie are all impactful. Tender affection stirs up confidence and deep joy.

4. Authentic faith.

My dad’s faith has been an anchor for me all my life. There is absolutely no doubt that he believes in God and has a personal relationship with Christ.

I remember vividly asking dad about his faith the day after my mom died of breast cancer. For over a year, I had watched him fight the fight for her life. He did everything he could do humanly, but she died. On that country porch swing, as we sat and looked out over the mist of the morning, I asked him about his faith in God. I can still hear his words of confidence in God even in the middle of the pain. “I don’t understand, but I trust God.”

A faith lived out as real will give your daughter the confidence to live boldly.

5. Character.

Dad is a man of integrity. His word was his word. He gave, he served, and he shared his faith with others. Truth was truth. Your daughter is learning most by how you live.

6. Hard work.

Everyone in our family was expected to work and my dad (and mom) set the pace. I grew up working. From the earliest age, I had jobs to do around the house. Everyone in the family had jobs to do. There was never a question about work. No entitlement. No special treatment because I was a girl. My work ethic was instilled in me at an early age.

7. Be positive.

My Dad is positive — a glass half full kind of guy. He smiles often and laughs easily. He worked hard but he also played hard. His faith brought joy to his life and to our family. No matter how hard the situation, he always had hope.

8. He believed in me.

I knew my dad believed in me. He pushed me to be my best. He encouraged me but he also challenged me. He wanted me to reach my full potential. He encouraged my education and he championed my accomplishments.

9. Be future focused.

My Dad taught me to be future focused. To have dreams and work hard and see those dreams accomplished. He dreamed of owning his own farm and he did that when I was nine. In my teen years, Dad and mom traveled around the US and around the world sharing their faith. When my mom died, dad kept his eyes on Jesus and his future. God lead him to marry my step mom and they have served faithfully in their church for twenty years. At almost 90, my dad is still future focused.

10. He let me go.

When Rodney asked for my hand in marriage, it was hard for Dad but he let me go. He blessed my marriage and he stepped back giving Rodney the place of leadership in our marriage and home. Dad was and has always been in my life but there was a very clear shift and I am thankful he let me go.

I know my dad is a big reason I can lead today with confidence and with peace. Whatever God’s plans are for your daughter(s), let God use you to prepare them to say, “yes” to those plans.

What do you pray for your daughters?



Leadership Lessons from Easter


This past week, followers of Jesus remembered. We remembered the cost of our redemption. We remembered Jesus’ journey to the cross, His death, and His burial. And yesterday, around the world, believers gathered for Resurrection Sunday. A mighty worship of praise echoed among the nations yesterday on Easter Sunday. Our Redeemer lives!

It is good for leaders to remember. Our life, our purpose, our eternity is all found in Jesus. Here are a few things that hit me in a fresh way this year.

1. Pray again and again and again.

Jesus was in intense prayer in the garden. Not once, not twice, but three times. “After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.” (Matthew 26:44) As leaders, let’s up our prayer commitment. Let’s increase the intensity to pray over our work, our team, our mission. Let’s be willing to go to our knees three times or more if necessary.

2. Those closest to you will let you down.

I know you feel it like me each time you read about the disciples going to sleep. Not one time but three times! When Jesus asks Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray . . . ” (Matthew 26:40) and Peter goes right back to sleep. Sometimes, the people closest to us will let us down. Sometimes your leadership team will let you down. Even in those times when you feel the weight of leadership alone, you must and can still lead (and have grace for those who let you down).

3. Lead with compassion and mercy.

Even on the road to His death, even in His darkest hour, He had compassion for people. On the cross, He took care of His mother. (John 19:26-27) On the cross, he showed mercy to the criminals crucified with him. On the cross, He said “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As a leader, make sure you see the people you lead. I mean really see them. Maybe our greatest leadership assignment is giving the people we lead grace.

4. Silence may be your loudest leadership voice.

I was struck again by the strength of Jesus’ silence. The shouting from the crowds, “Crucify! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21) and he did not respond. When the chief priests and elders accused Him, scripture said he did not answer (Matthew 27:12-14). In fact, Pilate was greatly amazed at his silence. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing at all. Maybe it is in your silence that your leadership voice will be the strongest.

5. Lead with grace.

The law wasn’t sufficient. Not then, not now, not ever. Pure unmerited grace. Unearned. Undeserved. Grace. Freely given. Such amazing love. As you lead, never forget His grace for you so you will be able to give His grace to others.

6. Lead like it is finished.

It is finished. Jesus said it was (John 19:30). The cross finished it for us. The price of sin has been paid. Complete. Beautiful. Unchallenged. Totally complete. The confidence and strength of leadership comes from this truth. There is nothing we can do or not do that will erase His completed work.

Today, we lead with the truth, the power, and the hope of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. Our Redeemer lives!

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

Hebrews 12:1b-2

How does the truth of the cross and the resurrection of Christ impact your life and leadership? 



A Resurrection Story

As we approach Easter Sunday, we read scripture and remember Jesus’s life, the cross, His burial, three days in the tomb, and then His triumphant resurrection.  This is a time when Christians around the world join together to worship a risen Savior.

My son-in-law and daughter planted a church in Thailand three years ago.  Today, I have asked my daughter, Jennifer, to share a story, a resurrection story.  It has reminded me again that the core of all leadership is Jesus.

Pada, an elderly woman in our Thai community, came to church every time the doors were opened. She attended every English class, retreat, outreach event, and birthday party. Virtually every person in our congregation received some kind of gift from Pada — especially the children who adored her as the woman with an endless supply of chocolate. She’d walk to church every day to eat her lunch and chat with whoever was there trying to work. The church was her family. But behind this sweet old woman’s smiling face and giving nature lurked a dark reality.

Pada Jesus Conversion
Pada may have loved the church, but she hated Jesus.

Like most Thais, Pada was Buddhist to the bone. She loved the community aspect of church, but she squirmed every single time the gospel was presented. As soon as my husband stood to preach, Pada would jam headphones in her ears and crank up the volume. She’d stand up and take pictures (yes, in the middle of the sermon). She’d pace in and out of the building, or go in the back to play with the babies. Anything to escape hearing about Jesus. Pada would leave church after lunch, and head over to the Buddhist temple to make merit to the monks. She’d bow to Buddhist spirit houses and statues. Despite hearing the gospel dozens of times from dozens of Christians over three years, despite being drawn to the warm community and family of the church, Pada was not interested in Jesus.

Then God opened her eyes.

A Resurrection Story

After missing a few Sundays due to an illness, Pada showed up at our church on a Saturday morning. She walked into the church cafe and simply said, “I want to know God.” Our fellow team members, both fluent in Thai, asked her what she meant. She asked them if Christianity could be for her too — if she could know Jesus. My friends prayed with Pada to follow Christ. Then honestly, we all kind of stepped back and waited — like did this thing we’ve all been praying for really just happen? Is this for real?

It was for real.

The next day, Sunday, Pada came to church and for the first time in three years, I saw her worship Jesus. I then saw her sit and listen to the message, eagerly focused. That week she contacted her friend to tear down all the idols in her home (many Thais have statues and spirit houses in their homes). At 65 years old, Pada was a new creation. The woman who spent 99% of her life as an enemy of God was suddenly changed. That’s the pure, unmerited grace of God.

Then tragically, sixteen days after her salvation, Pada died in an accident. The news of her death rippled through our church, and we were all heartbroken. I confess we were also confused about God’s timing. Why would God take the life of a Christian Thai so soon after her salvation, when she might have influenced many with her changed life?

Again we watched the power of God’s timing.

Because Pada became a Christian so close to death, her family insisted on having the full Buddhist funeral. They were fully aware of Pada’s decision to follow Christ and they expressed wonder at the change in her life, yet still wished to proceed with the Buddhist funeral. As a nod to her new “religion” they agreed to allow David to preach about Jesus for fifteen minutes in the Buddhist temple. They also scheduled it for nine in the morning; probably hoping no one would come. David preached the gospel, and only three of the family came and heard. But they agreed to allow David to preach the gospel again in the afternoon, after the monks finished their funeral chants. This time many more family and friends heard about Jesus.

So through this elderly Thai woman’s death, the Lord opened the door for us to not only share the gospel with her family, but also stand inside the Buddhist temple, surrounded by idols and incense to false gods, and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a room of non-believing Thais. That’s the power and timing of God.

I believe we have hardly scratched the surface of how God will use this unlikely, quirky lady to glorify himself in Thailand. I praise God for Pada’s life. I praise God for the church that became her family, and then led her straight into the very arms of Jesus.

This week we celebrate Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our Savior. Undoubtedly Jesus will be the focus of our celebration, but I can’t help smile thinking of Pada worshipping Jesus — not in her broken English, but in pure, beautiful Thai! And I praise God for the future Thais he may call to salvation through this woman’s testimony.

Voices of Wisdom: March 31, 2015


What Do Our Kids Need to Learn About Easter? – by Amy Julia Becker on Christianity Today

“I think the most important way to teach our kids about Easter is to live it out all year long. To remember the death and resurrection of Christ in church on Sunday mornings through confession and celebration and through the mystery of communion. To practice the death and resurrection of Jesus in our family life, through admission of wrongdoing and the extension of grace to one another.”

Why We Need Passion Week – by Danny Franks

“We need Passion Week because it forces us to look at our sin. It forces us to look at the cost. But more than that, it allows us to look at Jesus. Because as great as our sin, as large as our shame, his grace is greater still.”

The Surprising Secret of Courage – by J. D. Greear

God doesn’t call the brave; he makes brave those he calls. So if you’re waiting on God to take away your fear, you’ll never start moving. Gideon becomes a hero, even though he never does stop being afraid. But he’s given an assurance to overcome his fear: “I am with you.”

“I’m so excited to tell you about Seamless, my first Bible study with Lifeway. I’m a little bit of an overachiever, so of course for my first study I decided the best thing to do was the entire Bible.What I wanted to create was a resource for women to sit down and do over seven sessions and develop a great understanding of the entire story of Scripture.”

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit - by Ron Edmonson

“I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay. Period. No questions asked. If God calls you to it — even when you’re miserable — you stay.

But many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. We stay for a false sense of loyalty. We stay because we are afraid. We stay because we don’t know what we would do if we left.”

Are You a Liar?

In recent days, we have heard stories of news anchors who have lied, authors who have manipulated the system to get a book on a best seller list, and pastors who have lied about their past. With the sheer number of people in leadership roles, these stories while discouraging, do represent only a small percentage of leaders. But still, we are shocked when leaders lie.

There is the lie that makes it to a big media story, but what about the lies that don’t? What about the lies that become more normal in our lives that don’t seem all that bad? Relative. White lies. Lies that we think no one really notices.


Are you a liar?

We had a pastor we served with tell us that whenever he used a number, we should cut it in half to know the truth. He laughed about it but it didn’t seem that funny. Was it really okay to lie even when you admitted you were lying? Most of his lies were about church growth numbers. He really wanted to beat the next largest church in our community.

What can we do to make sure we live above reproach, with integrity, and with truth as a core part of our leadership?

  1. Speak truth to power.  You need to make sure you don’t just have a “yes” team around you.  Invite others to tell you the truth.  You will have to work hard to break down the barrier of people only telling you what you want to hear.
  1. Have an accountability group. Find three or four people who are committed to challenging you to live with integrity and who will ask you the hard questions.
  1. Submit to authority. You need someone to answer to, to give an account of your leadership to.  You must respect the authority over you and you must be truthful to them.
  1. Ask those closest to you – your spouse, your children, your best friends, your closest ministry partners, your closest leaders – to tell you the truth.  Ask them how you are doing.
  1. Walk intimately with God. Time in prayer and time in God’s word are essential for leaders of faith. And don’t lie about this! Real time with God. Real and honest.

“These are the things you must do:  Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your gates.”  Zechariah 8:16

Why do you think leaders lie?




Do You Exhaust Your Team as a Leader?

Do you give your team energy or do you drain them of energy? Is your team glad to see you coming or do they dread times with you? Are you tuned in to the energy cues from your people or are you so busy focused on your agenda, your message, and your own voice that you are missing something vital to every organization’s success – energy!

Do You EXHAUST Your Team as a Leader

Energy is the force that moves something forward.  We know most about energy from the sciences such as physics but there is a social science force of energy at work in your organization.

I remember the day my core leadership team asked me to stop sending emails on Sunday.  I had developed a habit of jump-starting my workweek on Sunday afternoon. I was feeling great about it but I didn’t realize the negative impact it was having on my leaders. You see, I am at the empty nest stage of life and most of my leaders still have young children at home. Sundays were family days and when I sent the emails, they felt I was saying to them “get to work.” I was so glad they told me. I made a few adjustments: I still jump-started my week on Sunday evening, but didn’t send my leaders emails until early Monday morning.

Are you energizing your people or do you drain them? Here are five examples of each to help you decide.

The Energizing Leadership Types

1.  Proactive Leader
Proactive leaders stay are calm during a crisis, seek to find a solution, and to learn from the challenge. They try to teach and learn through the process so their organizations are stronger and healthier. Their first reaction is:  “We have an organizational problem and I own the problem. How can I help?” This is also the leader who invites others to speak into their leadership.  They seek first to understand.

2.  Emotionally Intelligent Leader
This is the leader who is self-aware of the power of emotion, aware of their own emotions, and seeks to approach situations consistently.  They understand they need to get the emotion under control to lead effectively.  They have set a course for strategic success and they don’t react to challenges by unsettling their people, nor do they dwell on problems.

3.  Clear Leader
This is the leader who often and with consistency reminds their organization of the “why” of the organization. They clearly state the mission and vision (a compelling image of success) to their people. Everyone in the organization knows why they do the work they do. Everyone feels a part of the team and knows the work they do contributes to the success of the mission. The force of the organization’s energy is all going in one direction.

4.  Responsible Leader
This is a leader who believes in their mission, vision, strategy and people. They believe that their people come to work everyday wanting to be successful in the work they do. When a problem happens, they lead the way to find the solution, owning responsibility for the overall success and health of their team. They see the problem as first an organizational problem, and seek to find the solution as a way to learn, teach, and help develop the organization to be stronger.

5.  People-Oriented Leader
This is the leader who is actively engaging with others on the team asking questions and listening to solutions. They are aware of culture (how work is done) and are strategically creating a culture of people engagement. They know ultimately, their organizations success is centered on the people. They find ways to get feedback as a regular part of their leadership. Whether formally (surveys) or informally through walking around, they want and value hearing from their leaders and their team.

The Exhausting Leadership Types

1.  Reactionary Leader
Leaders, who are quick to anger, look for the person to blame when there is a problem, and takes conflict or criticism personally. Their first reaction is:  “Someone is responsible, someone is to blame.” When the reactionary leader hears criticism, they are usually ready to attack, are defensive, and see the criticism as someone being disloyal.

2.  Emotional Leader
This is the leader who uses emotions to lead and people never know what leader they will get or why. One day the leader is angry, then happy, and then frustrated, then encouraging. One day things are going great and the next day the sky is falling. People pull back because they are always uncertain. Way too much energy is used trying to figure out the emotional state of the leader!

3.  Confused Leader
This is the leader who changes leadership direction or message based on the last book or article read, the last person they talked to, or the last problem they faced. They change directions often and keep their teams unsure of which direction to go or how to define success. Energy is wasted as people try to figure it out on their own.

4.  Blaming Leader
If there is a problem, it is someone’s fault and this leader is quick to place the blame on someone else. This leader may blame their boss, a direct report, or someone else on the team. They think the problem would be solved if that person were removed.  This will cause people and teams to become risk averse and personal energy will be wasted by fear and lack of trust.

5.  One-Way Leader
This is the leader who is great at giving passionate speeches, using the force of their leadership personality to communicate and to drive their organization. They are one-way communicators. They dominate team meetings and individual conversations. These leaders have a lot to say but don’t take the time to listen.

As faith-centered leaders, leading faith centered organizations; ultimately the core of all energy is spiritual energy.

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

Are you an exhausting leader or an energizing leader? Why don’t you be bold and ask your people? Let me know what you learn. I would love to hear from you.





Your Personal Marriage Planning Retreat

The get-away that can make all the difference

Rodney and I will be married 39 years this July.  While our marriage and our journey together has not been perfect, it has been healthy, forward focused, purposeful, and fulfilling.  We have a healthy marriage today as we turn sixty, as empty nesters, as grandparents of three, and as a couple still energized by ministry and the opportunities before us.  Rodney is still my very best friend and we love doing life, family, and ministry together.  One of the keys for us was a marriage get-away retreat we started over two decades ago.

Earlier in our marriage as life, work, family, and opportunities began to fill up our calendars, we found ourselves exhausted and spinning. These were all good things but we felt controlled by our calendars rather than refreshed and focused. We decided to try a different approach than just trying to get everything in that was coming our way. So we started doing personal marriage planning retreats, and here are some tips below to help you plan your own:

Your Personal Marriage Planning Retreat

Get a time on the calendar now!

We started by getting a time on the calendar for just the two of us to get away. We wanted two nights and three days. We wanted enough time to unwind, refresh, and to plan. The best time for us ended up being early fall because this became the time to review the year and make decisions about the coming year(s).

Bring planning tools!

We brought calendars and planning tools to the retreat. Digital tools are good today but when we started our retreat, it was printed calendars that went out for five years plus a copy of the current calendar we were using. Whatever tools are best for the two of you, bring them. You will review the past year, plan in more detail the coming year, and also mark critical decisions for the next five years.

Start with evaluation.

What is your marriage purpose and are you in agreement about that purpose? Make sure you write this down and keep it in front of you during the entire retreat. You will need to focus on this often as you make decisions for the future.

For Rodney and I, we feel our purpose is to help people find life in Jesus, to teach biblical truth, and to build up the body of Christ through the church. We have felt a specific calling from God to point couples to God’s plan and design for marriage.

We started the first night and first morning just talking and sharing, but no planning. How are we doing? How is our relationship? Are we still on purpose in our marriage? How are we doing spiritually, in our physical relationship, how are we connecting emotionally? Are we experiencing marriage in the way God designed?

Genesis 2:24-25 became the foundation verse for this assessment:
“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.  Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.”

One, unified, experiencing intimacy and openness as a couple spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

This part of the retreat requires open and honest dialogue with the purpose of making the changes needed to make sure your marriage is healthy, vital, growing. Ensuring that your marriage is ultimately a reflection of the gospel to your children first and then to everyone else in your life.

Rodney and I love the mountains, hiking and biking. This first night and morning are usually spent walking and talking often stopping by beautiful creeks and streams. We also spend time in prayer together reaffirming before God and each other our desire to live our lives and our marriage in such a way to bring God glory and to bring others into faith in Jesus.

A one-year review.

The high level evaluation then leads into a one-year review. Your calendar is a great way to test your purpose and your priorities. This is a “how are we doing this year” assessment. Are we making sure we have time together as a couple? Is our family time a priority? How are we carrying out our purpose through extended family, church, ministry, and work?  Are we good at saying “no”? Do we have healthy boundaries in place?  Saying “no” with grace but with resolve is essential to the health of your relationship.

Five year planning.

Next, we would look at the next five years of our marriage. Rodney and I would literally put up large sheets of paper on the walls of our cabin or hotel room. We would tape up five large sheets, put the year on each sheet, then add our ages, our children’s ages, our parent’s ages, and any other key event that would happen in that year. These became critical issues to consider as we planned our year. If we had specific goals, we would write those in to the five-year plans. I remember a few we added over the years:  write a book, do a marriage conference in Europe, celebrate Rodney’s Mom’s 80th birthday, do family Christmas overseas, start a bible study in our home for our neighborhood. This time is more the dreaming, high level planning. This can really be fun as you pray and seek God’s direction for your future. Putting these down will help you calendar them and make these dreams become a reality. No, you won’t do all of them but you will do most.

Next year planning.

Next, we would review plans for the coming year.  Rodney and I are often asked to speak, lead conferences or retreats, or to partner with others in ministry.  Several years ago, when life was a little out of control with so many opportunities but not enough time, we made the decision we would not give an answer to a request until after we had our retreat. That way we could pray and plan together, making sure we were making the right decision for the right reason. So many good things can come to you but good does not mean it is the right decision for you or the right time. We had to learn to say no with grace. Looking at our purpose, looking at the big picture of life, and looking specifically at our calendar priorities, gave us the ability to make wise decisions for our family.

There is no perfect formula to make life calm and predictable. Plans shouldn’t control our lives but they are guides for our lives. As people of faith, we want to always be open to God’s leading and the direction of His Spirit in our daily lives. We set our course with intentional purpose but also with total surrender to God. When the interruptions of life come (and they most certainly will), we see them a little differently when we have prayed and sought God’s direction. But it is equally important that we don’t let the press of good things crowd out God’s purposes in our lives.

For more than twenty years we have done these marriage getaway retreats, and we are getting ready to plan our next one. These retreats have kept our intimacy with God as well as each other. We live our lives and our marriage looking forward to God’s work, and these retreats have helped us realize all that He has done and will do in the future.

“As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.  But the seed in the good ground – these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.”  Luke 8:14-15

What are you doing to keep your marriage healthy, growing, and purposeful?