28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet)…

Eating was important to Jesus, and so it should be important to us as His followers.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'”
(Luke 7:34 HCSB)

Jen and I like to go out to eat. We don’t always like learning the nutritional information about some of our favorite restaurants, though. Jesus didn’t come with a nutritional information guide, but He did ask His followers to eat Him!?!

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.
(John 6:53-55 HCSB)

Paul gives us an indication of what it is that we are “eating” when we eat of the Bread of Life, because we become what we have eaten.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB)

The same principle is true in our marriages. Our marriages become what we are feasting on individually and together. The Spirit blossoms in us or the flesh rears its destructive head.

And so, “The Spouse Beach Diet.”

This month, as the Westpoint Church family focuses on the letter E of the SENT emphasis, as we continue to emphasize the mission of Jesus central to our daily rhythms and alive in our everyday relationships, we turn to the most intimate everyday relationship we can have on earth. Marriage is metaphorical of the relationship between Christ and the church, and it is literally the one relationship that can define the very purpose of our lives.

Because this is so, let’s take the time this month to discover what the Scriptures teach us about the dietary nutrition of our marriages.

On a very practical level, here are 28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out. Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.” :)

For the husbands to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/husbands-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions-copy.pdf

For the wives to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/wives-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions.pdf

Hopeful that this February will be a nutritious one for your marriage!!! Find a few couples to pray for you and with you and share the ups and downs with as you diet together this month.

Much love.

-jason

A few thoughts and a prayer as my heart aches for the families of Newtown, CT…

Yesterday I had the blessing of being with my family on one of our little one’s – Ella’s – fourth birthday. With the events of today in CT, I was once again reminded not to have any regrets for missing work to be with family.

My heart has been aching since I heard the news of 20 children and 8 adults whose lives were lost in a small New England town this morning. Tragic is an understatement. Everyone has been taken off guard. It was at an elementary school. An elementary school!!!

I’ve struggled through anger and tears this afternoon. I cannot imagine, as my sister-in-law articulated on Facebook, how those family members will feel tonight as they sit around their living room looking at presents under a Christmas tree (or hidden in a closet) marked for their child who did not come home today from school.

This is yet another reminder of the death present in our world and the importance of our mission as followers of Jesus to live sent with His presence. Leaders, including today, cry out again that these things happen because “they keep God out of our school.” What bologna! God won’t be out of our schools until someone removes the Holy Spirit from those who follow Him as they go there!

We are not asked by God to legislate righteousness. We are not persuading and proselytizing for an alternative religion here. We have been loved by the God who came near compelling us to go near with His love to those who have yet to believe beyond the death and selfishness of the here and now. Our mission is not so trite as only to be about moralism in school or making a better culture. It has all to do with displaying the message of resurrection life so that hope can be found and dead can be made new again.

As Peterson so eloquently and appropriately wrote:

The church is a colony of resurrection in the country of death.

Jesus. You wept over the effect of death. Thank You, as the One who made us, for having a heart of grace for us when we, as the ones who were made, chose to eat of the tree that opened our minds and hearts to all we could know about what we are so beautifully as well as horrifically capable of. Thank You for resurrection. Thank You for hope. Amen.

In a rut in your marriage? Here’s a short but challenging encouragement from @FamilyLifeToday’s “Moments with You” from Nov 27th…

Rut Busters
by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country…There I will give you my love.
Song of Solomon 7:11-12

I don’t know what “routine” means to you, but this was ours when the kids were still at home:

Up before sunrise, have a few words together, maybe enjoy a little breakfast or a cup of coffee, exchange a kiss on the cheek and it’s goodbye for the day.

I take kids to school and then drive on to the office, while Barbara stays home to get busy with her own work. She deals with endless issues involving the children–school, laundry, chores, errands, doctors and conflicts. Meanwhile, I juggle budgets and meetings and problem solving all day long.

Our paths cross again around 6 P.M., after both of us have emptied about 90 percent of our tanks. We take a glance at the news, eat dinner, flip through the mail, pay some bills, clean up the dishes, help with school work. Then an hour of getting the kids to bed. Barbara tries to get in some reading before sleep overtakes her.

That’s the drill.

But there is no imagination in that. I’m not saying that a typical day can routinely accommodate wild swings of adventure, but I’ll tell you this (if you haven’t noticed already): A routine is just a few letters away from being shortened to a rut. A rut you will never escape unless you make a deliberate effort to do so. And I guarantee that your “rut” will never be on the same page as “romance” in your marital dictionary.

When the TV show Desperate Housewives first began its iconic rise into our national awareness, Newsweek did a feature article on the phenomenon. I remember one of the women who was interviewed lamenting, “Don’t you remember the time when he kissed you with a kiss that launched a thousand kisses?”

Is there ever room for that in the middle of your routine?

Discuss
Ready to spice up the routine? How would you do it if you could? (You can, you know.)

Pray
Ask the Creator for a delightful dose of His creativity to give you a break from the routine.

Excerpted from Moments With You by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

I am thankful for our church family, @WestpointChurch. How are you grateful for the church family with whom you are on mission?

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I am so thankful for Westpoint Church, the church family with iwhom Jen and the kids and I are blessed to do life together.

For the Gospel that has captured our hearts together and compelled us on mission together. For the many ways they encourage Jen and the kids. For the faithful friendships and loads of fun we have together. For the many truths we are learning and being affirmed in and even being challenged by as we navigate Kingdom alive in daily rhythms. For the many ways we are being sharpened by the folks with whom we do life from whose lives we learn so much as they walk with Jesus and love us like He has loved them. For the simplicity of the ways we are being the church that is welcoming of all who want to be the church more than just go to church.

I could write so much more, but I want to mention specifically how thankful we are for a pastoral team and a vision team and a volunteer group alongside whom we are so blessed to equip and serve. I know many of them would express the same sentiment.

Our journey has been such a beautiful, challenging, worthwhile one these nine years. And we are excited to see what 2013 holds for Westpoint Church!!!

How are you thankful for the church family with whom you get to do life and with whom you live on mission?

Hope the day is both refreshing and relaxing as you celebrate gratefulness to God with family and friends.

I am thankful for my family. What is one way you are thankful for your family?

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I am thankful for my family.

For my wife who is my best friend, whose beauty is unmatched, whose faith is unwavering, whose passion is our children’s hearts, whose affection is beyond fulfilling, and whose wisdom is so edifying.

For children who anticipate my arrival home, who are perseverant of my parental flaws, whose laughter fills up my heart, whose hugs are therapeutic, and whose imaginations take me on unforgettable adventures.

For a father who mirrored and modeled our heavenly Father’s gracious, generous love. For a brother who invited me along with him to learn and live the ways of Jesus. For in-laws who welcomed me into their family, encouraged me to take Jen’s hand in marriage, and who support our family with uplifting fellowship that we treasure beyond words.

I am thankful for my family.

How are you thankful for yours?

Contrast 5 of 5 _ parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ hurry, haphazardness, & hands-off OR patience, priorities, and pursuit.

Parenting takes time. A fast correction at times is enough, but often a focused conversation is necessary. In a moment of frustration, a parent can react with an angry rebuke, but walking down a path toward restoration with a child takes much longer. Parenting doesn’t give much space for hurry.

Parenting is strategic. Inconsistency is guaranteed to produce exasperation both for the parent and the child, but intentional, creative, redundant emphases over time blossom into wise choices and relational joy, both for the parent and the child. Haphazardness is not characteristic of effective parenting.

Parenting requires presence. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Occaisional gifts don’t make up for frequent absence. Respect grows as connection is valued. A hands-off approach is no way to parent.

And thus the final contrast. A prayer of sorts.

Lord, help us to be parents who hurry less, avoid haphazardness, and settle for hands-off declarations and pithy lectures. Please make us to become parents who patiently walk alongside our children, who cultivate into our kids’ lives with priorities surrendered to You, and who pursue wandering children the way You have pursued us.

PATIENCE
Yesterday morning, Jen took the older four to see the play version of the classic “Frog and Toad” stories. They adored it. My favorite tale from that collection is the one in which Toad desires a garden just like Frog’s. He plants and them is impatient. Frog tried to encourage Toad that screaming at the plants to grow isn’t probably gonna be effective. Patience and watering and more patience and even some circumstances beyond the gardener’s control and some more patience are required.

One wise dad once told me that “steady plodding brings the truest wealth,” patient cultivation brings the greatest harvest. It is true in our parenting for sure.

What helps me most to be patient with others is simply my own remembering of how much patience I require others to have with me.

PRIORITIES
When I coached high school basketball, Coach Rick Majerus, whom I am quite sure is disappointed with the closing of Hostess, declared to the coaches at his coaching clinic this very wise leadership principle:

“It is not what you teach but what you emphasize.”

Dick Bennett, who coached the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four, told our coaching staff to settle on four or five things that we creatively, redundantly practiced every practice, and he guaranteed not an undefeated season but rather that we would find ourselves AT LEAST in position to possibly win every game. We applied this with much success.

With the same thinking in mind, Jen and I settled on six actions that we would try to live ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) and cultivate into and encourage from our kids. We are in no way suggesting that we are great parents who have arrived at some gold nuggets of wisdom guaranteeing wonderful kids. Rather, we prayed and paid attention to the teachings of Jesus and sought counsel from some other parents and arrived at these six:

:: be believing
…that God loves us and is good and showed us His love most clearly when He sent His Son to be with us to live and die and live again that we might live with Him. The question to ask may not be, “What do you think of God,” but rather, “What does God think of you?”

:: be confessing
…when we realize or have been confronted with our selfishness or our wrongful attitude and actions toward God and others.

:: be grateful
…for the God who came near and all that He allows to come into our hands and into our lives, trusting Him to hold us both through our own mistakes as well as our collisions with the mistakes of others.

:: listen
…every step to God and every situation to others.

:: learn
…from Jesus as we walk with Him and with others as we learn and live Christ’s ways together.

:: love
…the God who loved us first as well as neighbors and nations the way Jesus loved us.

PURSUIT
In Psalm 139, David sang this prayer:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
(Psalm 139:23, 24 HCSB)

David’s profound gratefulness and contrite heart and surrendered life comes through in these words like no other. It is a sober and beautiful expression of worship toward the God who forgave and restored this great King.

A lot of people’s view of God is not one of a Divine Being who pursues them. For many of them, this is because their own father and mothers never pursued relationship with them in this way.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey applied these two verses to our parenting in a significant way. It is a powerful challenge to all of us as parents to pursue our kids.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you’re actually following God’s example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, “My parents have ‘searched me and known me.’ They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,’ but they also ‘understand my thought’ and are ‘intimately acquainted’ with who I am and what I’m like”?

I pray all of our kids will say that about all of us as parents, reflecting on the ebb and flow and ups and downs of a beautiful adventure with their moms and dads.

May we parent with patience and priorities and pursuit. Intentionally. Over the long haul. With grace. For the sake of God’s goodness rather than their own.

Contrast 4 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ intentionality or interruption???

I like going to the movies. My mom and I used to go see every Bond film together when it would come out in theaters. Special memories. I wish she could go with me to Skyfall. My brother and I can hopefully enjoy it together soon.

I don’t like it when others act like they are the star of this movie called Life. I don’t even like it when I act that way. And our kids certainly don’t like it when I treat them like they are interrupting the scene of the movie called “My Life.”

Not trying to step on any toes here as much as I am being confessional, but may I encourage us all as parents to choose parenting kids with intentionality rather than treating kids like interruptions.

Kids need parents. They are becoming what they were intended to be, and we as their moms and dads play an important role in that becoming. God has given them to us. We are stewards of their lives. We do not need to treat them like they are annoyances. We do not need to make them feel like interruptions.

In a grace based parenting home, parents aren’t gonna bat 1.000 on this. We need grace, too. Kids as beloved as they are can be bothersome at times, can get under our skin. But in a grace based culture, the frustrations can be fruitful if kept in check and responded to with intentionality.

That’s the real issue with our parenting, isn’t it? We tend to give knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful proaction. We tend to correct them in the grocery store with perfection at 3 years old in mind rather than 33. We tend to think only of how they might embarrass us at a 9 year old’s birthday party rather than how they might embarrass themselves at a 19 year old’s birthday party.

Are we cultivating into their hearts and lives for the long haul or for the short term? Are we parenting as though steady plodding for harvest or impatiently waiting in line for fast food?

God would surely be considered the model parent. In His dealings with the children of Israel, He always saw obedient response, right? Wrong. They were a stubborn, wandering people. God had to deal with their selfishness. He intentionally parented them. Faithfully, He loved them no matter what. Purposefully, He disciplined them, restoring them with a long term view in mind.

With His help, by His Spirit and God-given wisdom, we too can patiently, faithfully, purposefully parent our kids with focused intentionality.

But what should be the focus of our intentionality?

Rather than pretending that there is a magic formula or a silver bullet for this, may I suggest an exercise for us parents? Read Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, specifically Jesus’ teaching emphases, and try to derive four to six major themes from His teachings. Consider these as the focus of your intentionality as a parent. Bounce them off of a few others moms and dads for suggestions. Then begin over these 18 plus years you, Lord willing, will have with each child, steadily, patiently, intentionally sowing the seeds of those teachings, those Kingdom seeds of the living Word of God, into the hearts and minds and lives of those beloved kids.

But be cautious. I worry that we often get caught up in intentionally, or possibly unintentionally, parenting our kids in such a way that they avoid hardship trying to manipulate or ensure their arrival at a happy, prosperous life.

Be willing to surrender this way of thinking if you do not see it as the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings. Did He teach that in our following Him we would avoid hardship? Did He teach that personal happiness was the goal for each of our lives? I would suggest He did not.

He did, however, teach to love meant to lay down my life. He did teach that hardship was certain but His presence with me is a guarantee. He did teach that difficulty didn’t always equal bad, but might even be a means by which a blessing would come. He did teach that abundant life is given to me NOT as I pursue personal abundance, but rather as I live open handed with all that I have. He did teach that I find the fullness of who I really am when I love God and love my neighbor. He did teach that I was most likely to see Him not when I looked in the mirror at my own polished goodness, but rather when I looked into the eyes of the sick, the thirsty, the poor, the lame, the imprisoned, the ignored.

What will you intentionally cultivate into the lives of your kids? Is it in line with the teachings of our Savior, or is it more similar to the status quo of our society?

Tomorrow, in our last post of the week preparing us for the Grace Based Parenting Family Conversation, I’ll give “the bottom line,” including six things that Jen and I have decided to make priorities for cultivation into the lives of our own kids as we try to intentionally parent in a steady-plodding way.

Grateful to be learning together.