THE DRIFT

A good deal of my clinical work is done with couples on the fault line.  Their marriage is in trouble and they come in to see me.  In a best-case scenario, both individuals truly want to save the marriage.  Sometimes only one party does, but often one person can save it, but it’s going to require changing the dance.  The worst case is when one or both come in only to check the box.  They can later say they tried counseling but it didn’t work. Let me make it clear that coming in and merely sitting on the couch is not trying.  You have to be willing to do the work.  The statistics on marriage counseling are not that great and here’s why. Most people wait until it is too late. My wisest couples come in for yearly marriage check-ups.

A conversation I frequently have with my couples is one I call “The Drift.”  I take them back to the days when their relationship was new. We all know how wonderful that falling-in-love feeling is.  During that time you amplify all the positives but turn down the volume on those things on which you disagree, flaws, and potential areas of conflict.  You ignore red flags.  “Isn’t it great we like the same music.  I love his family.  We have the same goals.”  You get the idea.  When your love is new you are close.

 

 

But then life starts to happen.  You have bills to pay, children to care for, a house and yard to tend, and besides, you are tired.  If you are not careful, the relationship starts to drift.  You end up far apart without even realizing it.  He’s absorbed in the television while she sits on the couch doing Pinterest.  They don’t go on dates any more.  She may go out with her girlfriends and he may play golf with his buddies, but they have forgotten how to have fun with each other.  The Drift has set in.

 

 

So my job is to help couples begin building bridges back to each other.  One of the first things I recommend is a bit of advice a very wise pastor shared with our church many years ago.  He said couples need to divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.  So once every day, you and your spouse need to spend about 15 minutes talking alone, even if you have to lock yourselves in the bathroom to do it.  Believe me, if your kids see you trying to have some couple time, they are going to do everything they can to get your attention. But one of the healthiest and most loving things you can do for your children is to demonstrate that next to God, your marriage relationship is the highest priority.  So at this point couples tell me they don’t have anything to talk about.  That’s because they quit talking long ago without even realizing it.  Or the only type of talking they do is shop talk (Did you remember to pay the mortgage?  What time is soccer practice?), or spite talk (Do you need an explanation here?).  So I suggest that they tell each other three things that happened during the day, and HOW THEY FELT ABOUT THOSE THREE THINGS.  That last part is the most important.  I want to introduce sharing feelings because that is a doorway to intimacy. Sometimes I have to give them a list of feeling words, especially the guys.  Then once a week, couples need a date night.  It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; going for an ice cream cone counts.  Again, this is done without the children.  Find a sitter or trade out with another couple.  This is necessary caretaking for your marriage.  Finally, once a year the two of you need to get away by yourselves. A good book that will help you with communication, problem solving, and other necessary marriage skills is A Lasting Promise.

Think of your marriage as a bank account.  In your account you make deposits and withdrawals.  You want to build up a good amount of deposits (good will, good experiences) to get you through those lean times.  Often when couples come to see me they have been making heavy withdrawals without much in reserve.  Their marital account is depleted.  So we have to find ways to begin making some deposits.

I have Vince Gill on my mind and in my ear because we just went to one of his concerts.  He wrote a song called Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Awaythat musically describes The Drift.  You can watch a very young Vince Gill, complete with mullet sing it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlUGTof2TWU

The lyrics are powerful:

A wounded love

Walks a real thin line

And no communication

Will kill it every time.

 

 

Wow!  Is your marriage on a “real thin line?”  Good marriages don’t just happen.  They require intentionality.  And a good marriage invites another Person into their union: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm. 127: 1-2.

Do marriage on purpose. Tend your relationship carefully.  Beware of The Drift.  You want your marriage to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

NECESSARY LOSSES

Dropping Off at College: Freshman Year

 

This is one of my favorite times of the year to look at social media.  Facebook and Instagram are loaded with back to school pictures…from first day at preschool to first day of college.  There have even been some leaving-home-for-first-job pictures.  Keep them coming!  These pictures are always bittersweet.  I especially love the pictures that show the goodbye hugs, the tears, and the looks on faces of both parent and child.  There have even been some blog posts about the struggle of letting go, trusting God with your child no matter what age they are.  We keep having to put our babies back in the basket and float them into the future God has for them.

 

I’ve been thinking about this letting go thing for some time now, and it is a continual theme in my office. I’ve decided that life is a succession of losses, one letting go after another.  And oh how we hate that letting go.  It’s been many years since I have read Judith Viorst’s book, Letting Go.  I’m remembering the central tenant of the book is that life presents us with a series of losses that are necessary to our growth and development.  These losses include the loss of a mother’s protection, the losses of impossible expectations for our lives, the loss of our younger selves (OUCH!), and the loss of loved ones through separation or death. Trying to hold on is futile, but we still hang on, sometimes desperately.  

 

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy that demonstrates the struggle involved in letting go.  Try to picture your seven-year old self with both fists full of coins.  You have been collecting and saving those coins, maybe for something special. These coins are yours, and you finally have enough to fill both of your tightly clenched hands.  Now suppose a stranger comes along and offers you two handfuls of diamonds.  But in order to receive these diamonds you have to let go of your coins.  Maybe as a seven-year old, you don’t realize the value of diamonds.  And you are very suspicious of this stranger.  He might not have your best interest at heart.  So you refuse the offer and keep your coins.  But you have done so at the expense of great treasure.

 

At the heart of letting go is loss of control.  We think if we hold on we can protect and keep.  But control is just an illusion.  We only have control over our choices, not the outcome.  We can exercise, eat the right foods, have regular checkups, and faithfully brush our teeth, but cancer may get us anyway.  As for letting go of our children, that was the whole goal from the beginning.  You do your best as a parent.  You provide them with all the basics and many of the luxuries.  You try your best to teach them to be kind and respectful, to be contributing members of society, and to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  But the window of time for this training is brief.  When you look at eighteen years in the rear view mirror, it seems like it went by so fast.  And it goes by even faster with grandchildren!  We have to remind ourselves over and over that those children we poured ourselves into were never ours to begin with.  They belong to God and were on loan to us for a short time. We also must remember that God loves them even more than we do.  I remember a long-ago conversation with God when I heard Him say, “How can I be God in her life if you keep trying to be God?”  Moms and dads, here is a little secret: The empty nest is also wonderful.  Seeing your baby hold her baby is priceless!  Watching your son teach his son how to hit a baseball is special!  You wouldn’t want to miss out on that.  Growing old with the man you have loved for a lifetime is a hard-to-put-into-words blessing.  We need to understand that there are different kinds of good. Holding on to what is already gone keeps us stuck, and it keeps us from enjoying our new chapters, new seasons. You will get through this, and a year from now things may look entirely different (see photos above and below.)

 

There are daily losses I must reckon with, and more losses to come.  A look in the mirror is a reminder.  I now know from experience that every loss comes with a gain, a hidden gift.  But oh how I hate losing firm skin!  Even the worst of losses, the death of a loved one or our own death, is a necessary loss.  We try to hold on to people, positions, possessions, and even our own lives, but these are things that keep us earthbound.  I need to open my hands and let go of the coins because diamonds await!

 

To everything there is a season…a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away.  Ecc. 3: 6.

 

Dropping Off at College: Sophomore Year

 

 

THE GREATEST OF THESE

 

Our small group has been studying I Corinthians, and we have been camped out for a couple of weeks in chapter 13.  The love chapter.  Most people are familiar with this passage even if they are not churchgoers or Bible-readers, as it is a favorite reading at weddings.  For centuries people have been expounding upon this passage, and writing about love in general.  So I am not sure I have anything new to add.  But if you will excuse the wandering and random thoughts, I would like to share some things.

This morning I woke up thinking about the infinite quality of love.  That is, we have an infinite ability to love, because love is infinite. Specifically I was thinking that when we love more, when we add more people into our love circle, love is not divided.  It is multiplied.  Love does not run out!

Ask any new mother who is holding her second (or third, or fourth…) newborn.  She is overwhelmed with love for this new little one.  But in no way does it subtract from the love she has for her first child, or for her husband for that matter.  She has enough room to love both children, because love never runs out.  Unless we willingly turn it off.

In my work, I see a good number of blended families…second, or third, or fourth marriages.  Think of the different family configurations these scenarios can present.  A common problem I see is something I will call turf wars.  I’m brining my children into this relationship, but I am not going to love yours.  Maybe I don’t even like yours.  It is as if loving these new children, or sometimes adults, will somehow diminish one’s love supply.  Sometimes the children of the new spouse are seen as a threat to the new marriage.  I don’t want you to continue loving your children.  You must now love only my children and me.  And sometimes it works the other way.  The children make no room to love the new stepparent.  They may not want to share their biological parents with these new outsiders.

Or consider friendships that are jealously guarded.  There is only room for you and me (or our chosen group).  No one else gets in.  Learning to love a new friend does not mean I no longer love you.

Now as I write these things, I acknowledge that while love is infinite, time is finite.  We have a limited amount of time, and relationships take time.  That is where priorities come in.  And intentionality.  I am blessed with a number of enduring friendships.  Some I see or talk to weekly, others maybe once every month or so. They are the kind of friendships that are relatively low maintenance.  We are all busy and we see each other when we can.  I know that June is having fun in London with Jeff, and Stephanie is busy with her grands, and others are on vacation or just plain busy! But these are people I love dearly and I know they love me too.  All I have to do is pick up the phone and they will be there.  In a few days Jerry and I will be going to Dallas to reconnect with a group of high school friends.  We have a mini reunion every year that is open to anyone who can make it. It always amazes me how those bonds that were so strong in high school fall right back into place.  I love them across time and miles.

Back to the love chapter. I told you this is random and meandering.  One commentary I read suggested replacing the word “love” with your own name:

Fran is Patient, Fran is kind. She is not proud.  She is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong.  Fran does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Fran always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I can tell you I fall short, woefully short, on every one of these.  And God has taken every opportunity to remind me.  “Fran are you keeping a record of a wrong, are you too easily provoked, are you persevering with this person even though they are difficult” and on and on.  I realize it is taking me a lifetime to master love as defined by God.

One more though about the infiniteness (is that a word?) of love.  It is in the last verse.  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” One day, when this earth has passed away, when we are in the presence of Jesus, we will have no need for faith and hope, for those will be realized.  But love will always remain, because God is love.    

HYDRANGEAS AND QUIET TIMES

 

I have to give my sister credit for this one.  We were talking on the phone a few mornings ago.  She is in New York visiting her daughter, my niece, Jacque.  Apparently the part of New York where my niece lives (Long Island) produces hydrangeas in abundance.  I can’t even get mine to bloom!  My sister told me that Jacque went into the yard one afternoon to cut some hydrangea blossoms, and brought them into the house and put them in a vase of water.  They quickly drooped, and by the next morning they were gone.  That is when my sister gave Jacque a tip our grandmother had given us. She always cut her roses in the morning and quickly put them in the bucket of water she carried.  Jacque followed this procedure the next morning and the hydrangeas lasted for days.

 

I became curious about why this technique works so well.  I’m so glad I live in the Google age, because one can research anything. And I can’t pick up the phone and call my grandmother anymore.  It seems that early morning is the best time to cut flowers because they have had the benefit of a cooler night and their stems are full of water and carbohydrates. As the day heats up, flowers lose moisture, their stems are less firm, and the blooms become limp.  They have a hard time recuperating when they are cut and brought into the house.

 

So as my sister and I were talking about our grandmother’s advice, she pointed out the parallel of having a quiet time early in the morning, before the day heats up.  I know my day goes better when I start it with the Bible and a conversation with God.  And many times, if I don’t do it in the morning it just doesn’t happen. There are too many distractions during the day.  I am reminded of the last part of Proverbs 8:17: those who seek me early shall find meThere are other places in Scripture that encourage us to be still and alone with God before our day gets hectic. 

 

I knew there had to be a physiological reason why God would tell us to seek Him early.  So again I did a little research on one of my favorite subjects, the brain.  I found out that our brains are actually bigger in the morning!  Researchers using MRI scans found that the brain shrinks during the course of the day, returning to its full size the next morning.  What causes the brain to shrink?  Dehydration!  Just like hydrangeas, the brain loses water during the day.  And at night our brains rehydrate.  Think of a sponge.  When it is dry it is not nearly as big (or useful) as it is when it is fully hydrated. One theory of this mechanism is that fluids from the lower parts of our bodies are redistributed when we are lying down.  Another explanation is that the time of day has something to do with hydration.

 

Our brains are about 85% water, and brain function depends on having that water.  Water is necessary for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters, and essential for removing toxins.  When our brains are fully hydrated, we are able to think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.  We are more alert.  And who knows this better than the God who created our brains. Maybe that is why he encourages us to seek Him early, when we can concentrate, when we can fully attend His word, when we can hear Him.

 

Isn’t our God amazing?

 

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” – Psalms 5:3

 

 

 

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IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

 

It is well with my soul. There are some days…some seasons in life, when that is that is all you can say.  But it is also the best you can say.

 

It Is Well With My Soulhas long been one of my favorite hymns.  It was written in 1873 by Horatio Spaffordfollowing the drowning deaths of his four daughters that occurred when the ship they were on sank.  That is really all I knew of his story, but after doing a little research I discovered that he had one traumatic event after another throughout his life.  Yet he could write this beautiful hymn that has helped sustain so many of us in dark days. I love the theology of this song…that no matter what happens in this world, I can know for certain that this is not my home.  I am just passing through, and one day I will live with Jesus in Heaven.

 

When you are stripped of everything in this material world.  When life slams you in the face and you didn’t see it coming.  When you have endured months and even years of a trial that seems to have no end, when life seems hopeless, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  Because really, that is all that really matters.  It is the most important thing you can ever say.  When the 6:00 news alternately makes you scratch your head or shudder in fear, when the only voice you have is your one little vote, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  When the doctor gives you a dreaded diagnosis, when you have run out of treatment options, when the miracle you prayed for seems like it is not going to happen, is it still well with your soul?   When you feel forgotten, rejected, and alone, do you know all is well with your soul?

 

When life is good, when you have the world by the tail, when you have love, health, and prosperity, can you say, “It is well with my soul?”  Sometime I think it is harder when things are going well.  I remember a friend I used to have when we lived in another city.  I have lost touch with her, but occasionally I wonder how she is doing.  When I knew her she was happily married, had great kids, lived in a big house, and had a job she loved.  One day I tried to talk to her about Jesus.  About her soul.  She told me that her life was good and she didn’t want to rock her boat.  Somehow she had the idea that if she let God into her life she was signing on for trials.  I’ve thought a lot about that and in all honesty she may have been right. God doesn’t just save us and leave us where we are.  He wants to refine us, to make us more Christ-like,  But she would have walked through any future trials with a God who loves her and has a plan for good for her.

 

I can tell you in my life, my biggest growth spurts have occurred as a result of trials.  That is where my faith has grown.  I haven’t had a Horatio Spafford life.  In fact, over all I would say life has been good.  But there have been days, seasons, when I had to come right up to a hard truth: I am not in control!  There have been times when I have had to say, “Not my will, but thine.”  And then I’ve had to let go and trust in God’s goodness.  Even in those dark, scary moments, I could say, “It is well with my soul.”  If life gives me the very worst it has (Oh and I hope it never does!  The mind can conjure up some horrible situations,) even if I am stripped of everything, I know it is well with my soul.  This is not the end.  I have a home in Heaven with Jesus, who will make all things right.

 

Can you say those words? It is well with my soul?  If not, I hope you will consider what the Bible has to say.   God loves you and has a plan for your life, but there is one thing that separates you from God and that is sin.  Welcome to the human race, for the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  And to make bad news worse, the Bible tells us that the price for our sins is death.  That is what we deserve; but God has given us the free gift (we didn’t earn it) of eternal life because our sin debt was paid by the death of Jesus.  Horatio Spafford said it well:

 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

 

If you are not sure that all is well with your soul, I urge you to settle that matter today.  Payment for your sins has already been taken care of.  Just talk to God from your heart.  You might pray something like this, although the words are not as important as the intent of your heart:

 

“Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”

 

If you have prayed that prayer, then you can sing along with Horatio Spafford and millions of other Believers: It is well with my soul.

 

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THE WORD THAT IS GUARANTEED TO MAKE US UNHAPPY

There is a common word that all of us use multiple times a day that is guaranteed to make us unhappy. It’s a word we need to drop, or at least question when we hear ourselves using it. The word is should, and we need to quit using it as well as its cousins, shouldn’t, must,and mustn’t. There is even a little psychology joke I tell my clients: “Quit shoulding all over yourself!”

 

Here’s the thing…much of the time we are justified in our shoulds.  The world shouldbe a fair and peaceful place.  Children shouldbe safe and loved.  We shouldall be able to reach for our dreams.  And the fact that these shoulds aren’t reality might ignite a righteous anger in us that serves as fuel to do what we can to change the world.

 

However I am thinking about the shoulds that are much closer to home.  My son should quit using drugs.  My wife should be faithful.  My boyfriend shouldn’t lie to me.  My best friend shouldn’t have betrayed me.  I should get a promotion.   My ex should pay his child support.  My spouse should get a job.  I should find my soul mate.  Other people should “like” my posts.

 

Those are some of the big shoulds.  Except for that last one.  But there are others that occur on a daily basis that frustrate and anger us.  My husband should pick up his socks.  My teenager should study more.  My grade schooler should brush his teeth without being told.  My daughter should get up on time.  My spouse shouldn’t spend so much money. And the list goes on and on.  I can think of dozens of them, and you probably can also.

 

If you recognize any of these should in your own life, let me give you some good news.  You are right!  Your child should brush his teeth, your wife should be faithful, and your daughter should get up on time.  But clinging to these shoulds is only serving to hurt and frustrate you. And the shoulds keep you stuck.  Shoulds are expectations, and expectations are often premeditated resentments.  Even if our expectations are realistic, holding on to them too tightly keeps us keeps us bound to an ideal that might not ever materialize.

 

What do we do when we keep banging our heads against the wall of shoulds?  I have found that one of the most helpful things I can do is to pray the Serenity Prayer that recovery groups use.

 

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

 

This prayer helps me tease out the things I have the power to change from the change I can’t control.  I remind myself that I can’t change other people, I can only change myself.  When we let go of our own expectations and move into acceptance, often the world opens up for us.  We learn to accept whatisinstead of being upset about what isn’t.  We can’t move forward when we are still clinging to our idea of what we must have.  When we let go of our should and musts, God moves.  We get a reality even better than the one we thought we shouldhave.

 

Letting go of our shoulds also makes room in our heads for positive thoughts.  That space that was full of negative, angry, and hostile thoughts opens up and allows us to think more creatively.  We see solutions and possibilities we were blind to before.  We learn to experience the moment and enjoy the journey instead of wishing we were already at our destination.

 

I know this is easier said than done, but you can get there.  It takes practice.  I still have to ask myself what I have the power to change in a given situation. And I have to remind myself that I am not in control.  But there is a God who is in control and I can trust his plans to be much better than my shoulds.

 

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THE STORMS OF LIFE

 

 

                     Storm Coming

 

In Oklahoma spring usually brings a rash of storms.  Rain is a delicate balancing act here.  We either get too much or too little.  For the last several years we have been in a drought, so we could use some moisture.  But when it comes all at once it creates problems.

Our part of the country is known as tornado alley.  In the spring it is not unusual to hear the warning sirens sound.  We take those seriously around here, because Oklahomans know how much damage can be done in just a few seconds.  While you can never totally tornado proof your home, there are certainly precautions you can take to save your life.  Some people have storm cellars or safe rooms, while others of us have a designated interior room.

I have a little “Nervous Nellie” dog.  She lets me know when a storm is coming way in advance of the thunder. Sometimes her internal radar goes off a day in advance.  Wouldn’t it be great if something would trigger an alarm when a life storm was approaching?  If we just had a little notice, maybe we could get out of the storm’s path or at least take some precautions.  Sometimes there are some warning signs that we just don’t notice.  At other times we are blindsided, and we foolishly tell ourselves if we had seen it coming it wouldn’t hurt so badly.

Are you experiencing one of life’s storms right now?  Take courage and know that storms don’t last, but you will. You will get through this!  And the good news is, God promises to walk through the storm with you!  Instead of asking the futile question, “Why me,” ask yourself what this situation has for you that you would not get any other way.  Begin to look for the hidden gifts in your adversity.  When you get on the other side of this you may look back and think, “I didn’t like it, I didn’t ask for it, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.  But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because it made me the person I am today.  It got me to the place I need to be.”   And hopefully you will use this storm experience to encourage others in their storms.

Maybe God is using this stormy time to develop your trust muscles. After my knee surgery I had to go through physical therapy. I didn’t like it!  It hurt!  But that physical therapy made me stronger. And the therapist wasn’t deliberately trying to harm me, he was trying to help me.

It is the same thing when we go through a hard time.  We may think that we have walked with God long enough to have a mature faith.  Then something happens that rocks our world and we find that God has put us in the path of a storm to develop our faith.  Maybe He is using the storm to reveal a new path we are to take.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction.”  Storms provide an opportunity to cling to the promises of God and allow Him to demonstrate His power in your life.

 

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:2-3a (NLT).

 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:2-4 (NLT).

Revised and updated from the book, Seasons: Devotionals for the Seasons of Life.

 

 

 

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THE ROYAL WEDDING, PART 2

 

I’m still not over the royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. Remember, I’m a hopeless romantic. I keep thinking about the bride, and that veil!  There are still nuggets to be mined from her story and I have to give my friend Catherine for the nudge to write these words.

 

I have always been an Anglophile and an English history buff. Jerry and I subscribe to two British television-streaming networks.  And I’m especially interested in the monarchy.  This interest began in high school when I took an English history course under a very gifted teacher, Leon Wilensky.  His teaching method was different from other history teachers I had in that he wasn’t very concerned with dates, but instead emphasized the essence and meaning of history.  However, there was one date you absolutely HAD to memorize in order to pass the class. I may not be able to remember your name or why I walked into the kitchen, but I can tell you that William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  That battle changed the course of history, and William became the first Norman king, crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.  I became fascinated with the succession of kings after that, and even while writing these words I’m thinking I would like to go back and brush up on my history.

 

When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry she became a member of the royal family.  And she herself is now royal.  Her title is now Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.  The fact that Harry chose her as his bride is really remarkable. Not only is she a divorced American, she is bi-racial.  And she is a commoner!  Edward VIII must be turning over in his grave.  On paper, she is entirely unsuitable, and would never have married into the royal family in the not too distant past.  In fact, if you go way back in history, some of those things might have gotten her beheaded.

 

I became curious about the process of becoming a royal so I did a little research.  A royal title can only be granted by the reigning monarch, in this case Queen Elizabeth, by means of conferring something called letters patent under the Great Seal. The patent is a parchment, which bears the seal.  A royal’s name must be recorded in the Roll of Peerage.  If your name is not on the roll, you aren’t royal.

 

Royalty demands respect.  There are rules for meeting the Queen, how she should be addressed, how to stand and when to sit.  And take note Michelle Obama, the Queen is NOT to be touched.  Because of her service to the nation, because of her unique place in history, and because she represents all that the British cherish about their country, the Queen demands respect.  At the close of the royal wedding when everyone sang God Save the Queen, I didn’t notice anyone taking a knee.  They stood out of respect for Queen and country.

 

Although Meghan is not a queen, or even a princess, she has attained a new level of status.  What will the new Duchess have to do besides wear gorgeous clothes and look fabulous? The royals have privileges and responsibilities, and the responsibilities far outweigh the privileges. The primary duty of all royals is procreation.  They are to produce heirs.  Since Meghan is 36 years old she better get right on it.

 

But besides producing heirs they have numerous official, ceremonial, and diplomatic duties.  I read somewhere that the Queen makes over 350 public appearances a year, and she is 92 years old!  One doesn’t get to sit back and lounge on the throne.  It’s a job.  And so it will be a new job for Meghan.  Becoming a royal means she must give up her former life because she now represents the Queen.  She has a new home (or homes) and I doubt that she will ever have to worry about having enough money.  Because he is incredibly wealthy, Prince Harry will no doubt provide royally.  That aquamarine ring!

 

You have probably already guessed where I am going with all of this. I will never wear a diamond tiara, but much of Meghan’s story parallel’s mine.  I too was chosen by a Prince, although I brought nothing of value on my own. I was a commoner, unworthy, but He conferred royalty on me (I Peter 2:9), and my name was recorded in The Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).  I am a joint-heir with Christ!  I will never wear a fabulous designer one-of-a-kind gown, but my Prince has “clothed me with the garments of salvation and covered me with the robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10).  I too have a new home in Heaven just waiting for me.  But while I am still on this earth Christ has bestowed on me countless blessings.  Because He has all the riches of Heaven at His disposal, He provides everything I need (Phil. 4:19).  I also have new responsibilities.  I am now an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and as such I am called to a new life. And I am given the commission to procreate, to produce more heirs to the Kingdom (Matt. 28:19).

 

As I was thinking about William the Conqueror being crowned on Christmas Day, I was reminded of the first Christmas when a new King arrived on the scene.  Crowned with thorns and hung on a cross, He changed history!  Nothing has been the same since Christ.  As King of King, he is worthy of our respect.  One day, every knee will bow.

 

Worthy is the Lamb
Seated on the throne
Crown You now with many crowns
You reign victorious

 

High and lifted up

Jesus, Son of God

The darling of Heaven crucified

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb

 

Read more:  Hillsong – Worthy Is The Lamb Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

 

 

 

STARTING THE DAY OUT RIGHT

 

One of my areas of interest in psychology is called positive psychology.  Founded by Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, positive psychologists study what makes people happy, what makes life worth living, instead of what makes people dysfunctional.  What a concept!  One of the basic principles is that of perspective.  We can’t always change what is happening in our lives, but we can change the way we look at it.  It seems so simple but it took us a long time to start studying it.  So I am always on the lookout for writers and speakers who embrace this philosophy.

 

The other day the television just happened to be on when Megyn Kelly’s (not a fan) show was airing. I wasn’t watching, but just passing through the room when my antenna honed in on her guests, a couple called Marc and Angel.  I only caught the end of the interview, but a little internet research led me to their blog pageand their new book, Getting Back to Happy.  I subscribed to their daily emails and find them to be inspiring.

 

I’m guessing Marc and Angel’s worldview is humanist or possibly Buddhist, while mine is decidedly Christian, but truth lines up with truth. I say that to explain why yesterday’s email resonated with me.  They shared a morning ritual, meditation, affirmation they use to begin their day. Their belief is that you can determine the kind of day you will have by the way you spend your morning.  I’d like to share the meditation here, however I’ve not only changed some of the wording, I’ve changed it from an affirmation to a prayer.  Why speak to the universe when you can speak to the God who created the universe?   So here is my revised version in italics, with credit to Marc and Angel for the original.

 

Begin each day with the following meditation (prayer):

 

May I be happy (holy. I think God is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness.  I Peter 1:16). 

May I be healthy.  (Psalm 103: 2-3).

May I be safe.  (Psalm 91).

May I be at ease (be at peace with YouIsaiah 26:3).

May I be loved (May I be aware of your love, and may I know the love of others.  May I also be loving.  Romans 8: 35-39).

 

Then you repeat the prayer with someone you love as the subject.  For example a spouse, child or parent:

 

May Jerry be holy.

May Jerry be healthy.

May Jerry be safe.

May Jerry feel be at peace with You.

May Jerry know Your love and the love of others, and may he also be loving.

 

Now comes the hard part.  Use someone you have a difficult relationship with as the subject.  Let’s say her name is Jane.

 

May Jane be holy.

May Jane be healthy.

May Jane be safe.

May Jane be at peace with You.

May Jane know your love and the love of others, and may she also be loving.

 

How we spend our mornings has a direct impact on the rest of the day.  When you start with this prayer, asking for God’s blessing on your life and the lives of others, you are beginning the day with loving-kindness. We cannot always change the situation we are in, but we can decide how we will respond.  You are choosing to begin your day with positive thoughts instead of focusing on the challenges the day might bring.

 

 

WALKING THE AISLE

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I confess.  I’m a royal watcher.  I can’t really explain why, except to say that I love the pomp and pageantry.  I’m a sucker for beautiful gowns and ancient castles.  And I guess I have never really gotten over fairy tales, although as a grandmother to seven granddaughters I have changed the heroines from damsels in distress to strong women.  Cinderella finds a sharp attorney to contest her father’s will and ends up inheriting everything.  She then goes to law school.  Snow White awakens with a passion to go to medical school to study dwarfism.  And Sleeping Beauty informs Prince Charming that she is grateful to be awakened, but this kingdom belongs to her, and she will be the one doing the reigning, thank you!  Think Elizabeth and Phillip.

 

So while I loved the fairy tale quality of last Saturday’s royal wedding, I was struck by the iconic image of Meghan Markle standing alone at the top of the steps waiting to walk into that magnificent chapel by herself.  She was a confident woman, not a helpless damsel.  And even though Prince Charles met her half way to escort her to the altar, he didn’t give her away.  She gave herself to her prince.

 

I had some time to think about these things Saturday afternoon as we were dressing to go to a “real” wedding here in Tulsa.  Why do women need to be given away?  We are not property or chattel.  Now before you decide that I have jumped off the feminist deep end, bear with me.  I still consider myself to be a fairly traditional woman.  While I still love the picture of the bride on her father’s arm, I think the wording needs to be changed a bit.  “Who gives this woman to this man,” seems as outmoded as “ And thereto I plight thee my trough.”  Maybe the parents presentthe bride instead of giving her.  I haven’t got it precisely worked out yet, but I was thinking about it on Saturday afternoon.  So as the bride and her father walked the aisle at the Tulsa wedding I attended, I thought to myself, “Oh no, don’t give her away!”  To my surprise he didn’t.  “No one gives Katie away.  She gives herself.”  Katie is a modern woman.

 

As a counselor who is also a Christian, I frequently talk about marriage being a picture of Christ and the Church.  (Although as a wife I can tell you I haven’t always painted a pretty picture.)  This conversation usually comes up when one or both parties tell me they are not happy.  That is when I tell them marriage is not about our happiness; it is about our holiness.

 

Christ’s purpose toward me is always redemptive.  He is always calling me to Himself, calling me to come aside to holiness, to belong to Him. But no one can do that for me.  I must make the decision for myself, to give myself to Him, to take those steps toward Him myself.

 

As I write these words, I must also say that I believe in the concept of household salvation.  In the 16thchapter of Acts, Paul and Silas tell the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Does that mean when the head of the household comes to Christ the rest of the family is automatically saved?  No.  The offer is extended to all, but each must come alone.  However I think it is easier for the household to be saved when the head is a Believer.

 

Jerry and I have a relative we spoke with years ago about the Lord.  He wasn’t ready to repent at that time and he jokingly told us he was counting on Jerry’s dad to get him into Heaven.  It just doesn’t work that way.   However, I believe that when the parents are Christians, and when they teach their children the things of God, and bring them up in the admonition of the Lord, it is more likely that the whole household will be saved.  By the way, this family member later came to trust Christ for himself.  Prayers were answered!

 

When I look at this beautiful picture of Meghan Markle waiting to walk to her prince, I think that is the way it is with each Believer.  We must each give ourselves to our Prince.  Oh as parents we can dedicate our children in sweet ceremonies. But that does not obtain salvation for them.  We actually are dedicating ourselves to train them in the things of God.  Each of my daughters individually made their own decision to trust Jesus.  I could lead them but I couldn’t do it for them.  As a mother, I have “given” my children to God many times as I have prayed over different situations in their lives.  I guess I must keep taking them back!  And God has told me many times that He loves them even more than I do, and He has reminded me that they have already given themselves to Him.  They belong to Him.

 

You might be wondering how do I do this?  How do I give myself to the Lord?  How do I come into a personal relationship with Him?  By believing Jesus and trusting Him for salvation.  You could then say a prayer something like this. “Lord I recognize and confess that I am a sinner, and I have tried to do things my own way.  I am lost and I need to be saved.  I deserve hell.  Please forgive me.  I believe that you died as payment for my sin.  I believe you were buried and rose from the dead.  Thank you.  I invite you into my heart to be my Savior and Lord.  From now on I want to follow you and do your will.”  The words don’t matter as much as the intent of your heart. The words don’t save you.  It is faith, the belief that Jesus is Lord and His words are true, it is trusting in Him alone for salvation that saves you.

 

As much as we may want this for those we love, we cannot do this for them.  They must believe and give themselves to God.  But when Jesus calls us, when we give ourselves to Him, we can walk boldly into His presence, just as Meghan Markle walked confidently into the presence of her prince.  Just think, we can walk to the throne of the King of Kings.  As magnificent as the sights of Windsor were on Saturday, they are nothing compared to what awaits us in Heaven!

 

 

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