Sunday, August 9, 2009

Marriage Lessons Learned on the Dance Floor

Phil and I took a swing dance class a couple years ago with some friends. After 1 lesson, I was amazed at the parallels that emerged between my role as a dance partner and my role as a wife.

1. THE WOMAN CAN'T LEAD - In smooth and successful swing dancing, there is a clearly identified leader that knows the tempo of the music, the order of the steps and what is coming up next. If the partner is always struggling for control, the steps are clumsy and there is no rhythm. We were never able to establish a fluid motion of dance when I was vying with Phil for his role. I certainly needed to be paying close attention and know the steps for myself - I could not be a passive, uninvolved partner. But, I did need to wait for the gentle pressure that Phil would exert on my hand or shoulder, sending me off in the right direction. In the same way, I cannot lead in our marriage. God gave that job to Phil and our life is much more beautiful and smooth when I let him fulfill that calling.

2. DON'T TELL YOUR PARTNER WHAT TO DO - Our instructor had to correct me for this several times as I was regularly "reminding" Phil of his steps. Problem was, I didn't really know Phil's steps. I had an idea of what was required of him but I truly had no clue. He was standing opposite me, using different feet for each unique move. He knew his prescribed set of steps and I didn't need to know what each was. I simply needed to trust him to do his leading and I could then easily concentrate on what I was to be doing. Similarly, I do not have the entire picture of what God has called Phil to be and do as leader of our home. I need to trust that he is seeking God for his calling which frees me up to focus on mine.

3. CREATIVE FLAIR ADDED AT THE RIGHT TIME - I came to discover that my favorite part of dancing was the extra shoulder shimmy I was free to slip in when I was headed in the right direction. As a wife, there is so much creativity and flair that I can add to my marriage when I am under Phil's leadership and protection. The overall effect is a delightful and unique version of this dance called life - Phil and Jen style.

4. STEPPING ON TOES IS PAINFUL - It's gonna happen, especially when we are just learning or trying something new. We must humble ourselves enough to ask forgiveness for the toe smashing - no matter how painful or whether it was intentional. It makes for restored closeness for the rest of the dance.

5. DON'T COMPARE TO THE COUPLE DANCING NEXT TO YOU - Phil has a very calm, cool, understated manner about him in life and on the dance floor. He is not the guy with the flashy moves and crazy stunts but I do know what I can expect from him - he is consistent. Our teacher complimented him on his smoothness and I would miss it if I'm looking around to see how good we look compared to the next couple. God has called us to our particular rhythm, tempo and moves for OUR marriage - we don't get to dance to someone else's song!

6. REMEMBER THE BASICS - Sharon, our instructor, always reminded us that if we got lost in the dance sequence, we could always come back to Step 1 and get re-synced. We both knew what came next when we remembered where we came from. In our marriage, there are times when one (or both) of us has forgotten the way - lost sight of what we are about. When we re-orient ourselves on the basics, we find our way again. Our marriage is about reflecting Jesus to each other and the world around us. Our marriage is about WORSHIP - enjoying God's presence together. When we get spun out of control and focused on the wrong dance, we must always go back to the basics: We love because He first loved us - I John 4:9.

7. KEEP GOING! This last lesson is one of the hardest for me: PERSEVERANCE. It is required on the dance floor and it is required in life. We are going to make mistakes, be off tempo and out of sync but we must keep going. There are no do-overs in life - only do differently. We must have our eyes firmly fixed on Christ - the author and perfector (and choreographer) of our faith. As we continue the dance, we will RECOGNIZE Him more and more in ourselves and each other.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Awe Came Upon My Soul

Phil and I were blessed with a wonderful gift of rest and refreshment last week at a retreat in the mountains. It was a relaxing time of fun with friends and teaching from the Word. I came away with several profound Truths that God clarified and solidified for me. In response to the teaching from Acts on the Holy Spirit and the experience of powerful worship, more than a few questions arose in my heart as we left that place of rest. I am easily inspired to feel very strongly and passionately about things and often, condemnation and doubt are quickly on the heels. I realized I needed more than my "retreat high" to navigate this experience for me.

In acts 17, the Bereans heard a stirring presentation of the gospel from Paul and they "recieved the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." Eager to make sense of my exciting week, I cracked open Acts to read for myself in a Berean-esque manner.

Here are several verses that spoke to me:

1. Acts2:43 awe came upon every soul

I certainly can't speak for everyone in attendance, but I do know that personally, I felt a depth of freedom to worship my God like I have not felt in times past. For the most part, I was completely unconcerned with what others were doing around me. The awe of the simultaneous immenseness OF God and the intimacy WITH God filled my soul to overflowing.

2. Acts 3:19 Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

I was taught a very important distinction in my heart that comes when I enter God's presence with a heart full of worship for Him instead of a heart full of shame for my sin. When I preface my repentance with worship, my time with God begins and ends with the focus on Him. If I praise Him for His character and His magnificent works and ways, then naturally I will come to a place of brokenness as I want to turn again to behold His holiness and perfection. I am refreshed when I behold Perfection, repent of my imperfections and rest in His presence and love for me.

3. Acts 4:33...great grace was upon them all.

A simple and yet, deeply profound Truth that I often forget. On my best day and certainly on my worst, I am drowning in the Great Grace of my Savior to sustain me.

4. Acts 5:42...they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

This was a powerful reminder to me as Phil and I teach the engaged couples in the Preparing for Marriage class. We often get young, starry-eyed couples asking for tips and tricks and steps to a happy and healthy marriage. This verse reminds me that even in a class on marriage, we must always begin and end with Jesus is the Christ. He is the bedrock, foundation and sustainer of marriage. He alone transforms and gives life - tips and tricks don't fundamentally change anyone.

5. Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit"

Lord, I know what it feels like for you to stir my heart with your Holy Spirit and I know what it feels like to resist you - may I never talk myself out of the fact that I have heard your voice and must respond.

6. Acts 9:31 And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it (the church) multiplied.

This is my prayer for Mars Hill - that as we each live with a proper understanding of God's power and might (fear Him) and boldly believe that God's power is in us (because of the comfort of the Holy Spirit) - our church will multiply. People who don't know Jesus will be drawn to Him because of Him in us.

7. Acts 11:23 he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.

I want this to be said of me - not that I was deeply passionate for a few moments that faded with the sun and the end of a retreat. I want my purpose (to worship God and enjoy His presence) to be steadfast (lived out til the end of my life) as I remain faithful to the Lord (not letting my heart stray to other lovers).

8. Acts 13:10 "will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?"

How often do I twist the commands of the Lord, make what He has promised as black and white to be gray and murky? God does not speak in vague, confusing terms. His Truth is simple, His way straight. My wicked heart and my crafty Enemy make the way crooked. Forgive me Lord for distorting your Word.

9. Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.

This is my prayers for the elders of Mars hill Church. One of those men is my husband, one is my little brother and all are men that I respect and trust as godly leaders. Please know that I will be praying for your vigilant watch over your own souls, your families hearts and the health of all those in your care. Jesus paid a much higher price for those souls than you ever will and He loves each of them more than you ever could. He has chosen you to bring them along with you on your journey to the Cross.

10. Acts 21:14 Let the will of the Lord be done.

Ultimately, this is my heart's cry. With some trepidation and uncertainty, we must receive what we were taught and experienced last week as given from God and for God. I do not know what His will is for the future of His church and my life but I trust Him. It is ultimately a test of our maturity and our humility that we seek God for His will in our lives and our church.