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(Video) What Brain Science Tells Us about Joy

What does brain science tell us about joy?
How can we trigger the circuitry in our brains so that our marriages are strengthened?

These are some of the questions that Chris Coursey answers during a fascinating conversation about his new book, co-authored with Marcus Warner: The 4 Habits of Joy-filled MarriagesChris shares many helpful insights and practical suggestions for increasing the joy in our marriages.

You will enjoy watching this interview!

You can learn more about this encouraging book HERE.

If you would like to enter the drawing for a free copy of this book, be sure to comment HERE or HERE by June 23.

God bless you as you build joy in your relationships!
Tami

How to Increase Joy in Your Marriage

Do you know the 4 habits that will fill your marriage with joy?

Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey have written an intriguing new book entitled, The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages.

joy

I love the underlying premise of this book: You can build joy into your marriage. Without trying to fix everything in the past, and without trying to control your spouse, you can take definite, positive action to increase the joy in your relationship. How encouraging! Many couples need that kind of hope.

Brain Science and Joy

In this book, the authors explain that recent discoveries in brain science demonstrate how these four habits stimulate joy and build stronger bonds in marriage. The explanations are neither technical nor detailed, but they are interesting and motivating.

Although this book is short and easy-to-read, it includes a separate chapter on each of the four habits, as well as many practical activities for couples to do together. These exercises show “how 15 minutes a day will help you stay in love,” as the subtitle of the book claims. These activities are designed to build connection and boost joy in any marriage—including yours!

The 4 Habits that Enhance Joy

1. Play together. It is easy to get caught-up in the busyness of married life and to neglect the core of healthy marriage, which is friendship. But if you are willing to be intentional and to invest the time and effort, you can strengthen your friendship … and amplify your joy.

joy

2. Listen for emotion. Truly listening to one another is a great gift in any marriage, but learning to listen for emotions is even more powerful. You can learn to hear your spouse’s emotion, validate it, and then provide comfort (in that order). This is the type of listening that will create the biggest joy-boost in your marriage.

3. Appreciate daily. Even more than saying “thank you,” taking the time to experience genuine appreciation will expand your joy dramatically.

4. Nurture rhythms. Schedule regular times in your calendar to connect and relax with your spouse. “As you learn to start your day relationally, end your day relationally, and schedule regular times for relational connection, your capacity for joy will dramatically increase and your margin for rest will follow suit” (106).

joy

A Helpful Guideline

The authors repeated a phrase several times in this book which I think is a great principle:

Keep your relationship bigger than the problem.

When a problem is overwhelming your friendship, take time to prioritize your marriage. Tell your spouse that you value your relationship more than anything else. It is usually best to put a problem aside until you stabilize the relationship.

If you would like to fill your marriage with joy, you will love this little book! You will learn that you can change your relational posture and that you can recalibrate your brain to experience greater joy.

A Book Giveaway

Which of the four habits grabs your attention the most?  If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of this book, leave a comment below by June 23. One winner will be selected at random and will receive a paperback copy of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, compliments of Northfield Publishing.

Coming Soon…

Next week, I will be posting a video interview with Chris Coursey, co-author of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, so be sure to watch for that!

Joy to you,
Tami

(If you missed the interview with Ron and Jody Zappia as they discussed The Marriage Knot, you can view that HERE.)

Video Interview with Authors of “The Marriage Knot”

It was a pleasure for me to interview Ron and Jody Zappia recently as they explained “the seven choices that keep couples together.”

As you watch this video (HERE), you will hear what those marriage-changing choices are, and you will also learn more about the Zappias’ own personal story of a marriage-in-crisis that God transformed as a marriage-in-Christ.

Ron and Jody Zappia

I pray that this interview will be an encouragement to you!

Blessings to you,
Tami

An Anchor for the Storm-Tossed Family

Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”

But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.

You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed FamilyPublished by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.

Family as Problem, and Family as Solution

Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.

storm-tossed family

“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.

God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”

Family as Spiritual Warfare

Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.

How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.

Living Crucified Lives

A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.

How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.

1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.

2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed.  As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.

3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.

God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.

The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.

Core Issues

I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.

This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)

The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.

Let me share some great statements from several chapters.

From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:

“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)

“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)

“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)

“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)

storm-tossed family

“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)

From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:

Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)

A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)

“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)

“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)

We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)

From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:

“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)

“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)

“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)

From “The Road To and From Divorce”:

“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)

“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)

“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)

Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175).  These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.

Cherish the Blessings

Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.

The book concludes with strong encouragement:

Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)

Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.

Loving an Unrepentant Spouse

When an unfaithful spouse shows sincere repentance, the other spouse may decide to forgive and continue to love. But who would choose to love an unrepentant spouse?

Kim Pullen made that choice. And she’s glad she did!

I am pleased to introduce Kim Pullen to you today as a guest blogger on MannaForMarriage. Kim Pullen is an author, speaker, and teacher who advocates for healthy marriages. She helps spouses overcome the devastation of affairs and pornography by focusing on a dynamic, intimate relationship with God.

Thriving in a 26-year marriage that was once traumatized by adultery and a four-year separation, Kim shares hope and healing with spouses who feel isolated due to their partner’s sexual sin but don’t know how or where to begin their recovery journey.

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6 Reasons to Love Your Unrepentant Spouse

If we look to movies or romance novels for a definition of love on which to model our marriage, we’ll quickly find ourselves confused, disappointed, and embittered. To Hollywood, love is a feeling. But that’s not real love.

Real love keeps a couple together when feelings wane and passion ebbs. It keeps them committed when the world crashes in and when their bodies age and fail. Real love satisfies a couple for decades. That’s because real love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.

Getting Re-educated on Love

In 2011, I discovered my husband had multiple affairs during our 19-year marriage. I was shell-shocked. “I don’t love you anymore,” he said.

unrepentant

We separated—me to find answers, and my husband to pursue the world. That’s also when God, the author of love, began my re-education. The qualities of real love—truth, humility, patience, perseverance, boundaries, and repentance—became more than religious terms, and God challenged me to back up my commitment with faith and obedience.

After four years of prayer and practical application, my husband and I were reconciled. Our emotional intimacy grows daily and exponentially. It’s a marriage I never could have imagined.

Here are the six reasons why I want to encourage you to choose to love your unrepentant spouse even in the face of addiction and infidelity.

  1. We All Have Core Wounds

Every one of us had some kind of dysfunction in our childhood. Even if your parents were saints, they were still sinners like their parents before them. Where you have dysfunction, you have sin and pain. Where you have pain, you have a need to medicate.

My grandfather taught my father it was weak to show affection, so I grew up starved of the love and approval a daughter so desperately craves from her daddy. For my husband, emotional abandonment in his childhood came in the form of his parents’ ineffectual boundaries. Our parents weren’t “bad people”; they simply had core wounds from their childhood they passed on to us (Exodus 20:5-6).

Whether your spouse is a professing Christian or not, they have core wounds. In all likelihood, they are unconsciously using their sexual sin to medicate themselves from pain just like you may use food, entertainment, shopping, or control to medicate yours.

  1. We’re All Sinners

It’s hard not to think the way the world does about sin, that one crime or violation is worse than another. Our whole court system is based on it. Murder is more criminal than slander. Rape gets more shock and awe than a porn site, and embezzlement stirs up infinitely more rage than shoplifting. It’s all perspective.

But not to God. Romans 8:23 says we’ve all missed the mark or fallen short of God’s standard. Revelations 21:8 puts murder on the same level as unbelief, cowardice, and lying. Yes, there are different consequences and repercussions on this side of heaven, but it only took one of our sins for Jesus to have to go to the cross.

That doesn’t minimize our spouse’s betrayal. That particular pain is excruciating. You may fantasize about pouring coffee on his laptop, flushing his iPhone down the toilet, or even snipping off his man parts—

Uh, but there you go. You sinned according to Matthew 5:22 (anyone who is angry with another is subject to judgment). You have become just as guilty and deserving of punishment for putting Christ on the cross as your unfaithful spouse.

Sure, there’s righteous anger, but most of us aren’t angry with our spouse because they’ve disrespected God (John 2:14-16).

I know it doesn’t seem fair, but how fair was it for Jesus, an innocent man, to die for our sin? I worshiped people’s approval more than God’s, and I tried playing God in my husband’s life because I was terrified of rejection and abandonment. Bottom line: even though I professed undying devotion to God, who is the Lover of my soul, I betrayed Him as much as my husband betrayed me.

unrepentant

  1. We Made a Covenant with God

On my wedding day when I stood at the altar before my family and friends, God was there, too. I vowed to my husband, my loved ones, and God, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish” for the rest of my earthly life.

Our spouse’s infidelity? That’s the “worse.” Our spouse’s sexual addiction? That’s the “sickness.” My agreement to love and to cherish him didn’t include “as long as he loves and cherishes me back.”

Let’s be clear. We did not make a commitment to let our spouse treat us like a maid, a sex toy, or wall. Setting boundaries is also an act of love. God sets boundaries for us throughout Scripture so that we can stay in relationship with Him (1 John 1:5-10).

Calling your spouse to repent and return to their commitment to God and to you is the most loving thing you can do for them.

  1. Love Moves Them Toward Repentance

If your spouse has secret sin, you don’t have to be the one to expose it.

Let me say that again because this thought is hard to wrap our head around: if you’ve furtively tracked your spouse’s whereabouts via GPS, secretly scoured their phones for illicit messages, or privately poured over credit card statements looking for evidence of their betrayal, STOP!

God sees all of our sin and our spouse’s sin as if we’re doing it right in front of Him (Psalm 90:8). He can’t be fooled or mocked (Galatians 6:7-8).

Instead of getting angry or hiding, what would happen if you reacted to your spouse’s sin with God’s love and healthy boundaries? Paul told the Romans they could overcome others’ sin with kindness (Romans 12:17-21). Peter agreed, saying love overcomes sin (1 Peter 4:8).

How in the world can loving my spouse like Jesus lead them toward repentance (Romans 2:4)? Think about your response to Jesus’ love for you. You didn’t deserve his love and kindness, but he gave it anyway (Romans 5:6). And because he did, you repented.

  1. Jesus Set Us an Example

From the cross, Jesus expressed love and compassion for the people who were murdering him (Luke 23:34). It may seem impossible to love like this, but if Jesus did it, so can we. It ain’t easy, but it is possible because love is a choice, not a feeling.

When my husband chose adultery over me, I chose to believe that Jesus could move the mountain of sin off his heart (Matthew 17:20-21).

When it looked like my marriage was dead, I chose to follow Jesus’ example and claim God’s resurrection power to restore it just like Jesus believed his Father could raise him from the dead (Acts 2:24).

That’s because Jesus said if I have faith, nothing is impossible for me (Matthew 17:20). He also said if I stay connected to him through his Word, he’ll do anything I ask (John 15:7). Through the Apostle Paul, he said I could can do anything when I rely on him for my strength (Philippians 4:13).

  1. God Commands It

The last and most important reason I need to love my unrepentant spouse is quite simply because God commands it.

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he turned Jewish tongues wagging when he flipped the Law on its head and told them they needed to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:44).

Why? Because it’s his hallmark and evidence to a sin-sick world that he’s real, and alive, and loves us desperately (John 13:34-35, 7:23). When we love like this, we are the most like Him (1 John 4:17).

For a girl that grew up desperately craving her daddy’s love and approval, how could I not respond to Him?

What Stops Us

What keeps us from loving our spouses when they aren’t repentant? Pride, fear, and unbelief.

Pride because we’ve forgotten we signed up to be a servant like Jesus (John 13:14-17).
Fear because we’re afraid of being rejected and abandoned (Deuteronomy 31:6Matthew 28:20).
And unbelief because we’ve forgotten how powerful our Creator is (Psalm 18).

Oh, and there’s one more: because it’s hard (Hebrews 12:7, 11). It’s hard to love with firm boundaries and respect. It takes supernatural fortitude to maintain a love that protects the truth and integrity of the commitment we made. It’s a love that sees not who we or who our spouses are, but who we can be.

Such a love is unstoppable (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

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If you identify with Kim’s story, please visit her website, HopeForSpouses.com, or her Facebook page, Hope For Spouses. You may also contact Kim at kim@hopeforspouses.com.

Thank you, Kim!

The Gift of Delight

Does your spouse delight you? If not, what can you do about it?

We tend to think that our delight is our spouses’ responsibility. We sit around and wait for them to delight us. Perhaps we feel sorry for ourselves as we criticize them for not delighting us. But we have a far better option:

We can CHOOSE to delight in our spouses. 

If we will determine to enjoy our spouses, we will be giving the best gift ever!

delight

Delight is an essential part of a healthy marriage, but we often fail to express it. When the gift of delight is missing, husbands and wives can sometimes feel like Mark or Karen:

Mark knows that his wife is committed to him, but he doesn’t feel that she really enjoys being with him. Most of the time, he suspects that she is merely tolerating him. He is thankful for his marriage, but he often feels lonely. He is troubled by the thought that he is inadequate to make his wife happy.

Karen appreciates her husband’s commitment, but she fears that she can’t keep his interest. She often feels unknown and unvalued. At one time, she had hoped that her husband would see her as fascinating, but now she worries that he doesn’t see her at all.

What would happen if Mark’s wife began to show him that she enjoys his company? And if Karen could see that her husband delighted in her, wouldn’t that change everything? …

[Click HERE to read more of this article at StartMarriageRight.]

Blessings to you,
Tami

A Winner and a Webinar (3 Tips for Marriage)

Most successful couples practice this one skill. In fact, this skill is so important to a healthy relationship that the direction of a marriage can be predicted based on this skill alone. Do you know what that is?

Another practice is so powerful in marriage that couples who make this a habit have a divorce rate of less than one percent. Wow! Do you know what that habit is?

Webinar

Anyone can develop these skills and begin to use them immediately. In a webinar last week, Dr. Jessica McCleese and I discussed three tips that will transform any marriage. We used the acronym MAP to discuss those three practices.

You can watch the webinar replay HERE.

Jessica is a licensed psychologist who uses biblical principles to help couples improve their marriages. I very much enjoyed working with Jessica on the webinar, which she hosted through her website BeFullyWell.com. You can view the webinar on YouTube HERE.

Winner

Thank you to all who entered the drawing for the book giveaway this week. Congratulations, Ken!  Ken will be receiving a copy of Gary Chapman’s latest release.

chapman

As always, you are invited to join our weekly prayer time on Thursdays, or listen to the recordings HERE. If you would like us to pray for you by name, just let me know. We consider it a privilege to pray for marriages and families.

Blessings to you,
Tami