religion

Episode #55 with Mike and Becky

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Being Grateful For Your Trials

Mike and Becky seem almost too good to be true... and that's why I love them.

One thing that stood out to me as I re-listened to this interview is the attitude Mike and Becky have towards each other, and the respect and esteem they have for their marriage.

Their marriage inspires them to be the best version of themselves.

I believe they feel so lucky to have each other and have so much respect for their marriage that it has completely changed how they experience life. They don't want to threaten or jeopardize something they deem so sacred, so they put an incredible effort to preserve and nurture everything that is good within their relationship... and they find ways to turn the trials into blessings.

It takes a special kind of person to be grateful for the good in life along with the bad. During the interview Mike mentioned how one of their biggest trials was when his wife was diagnosed with diabetes... then not 10 minutes later, Becky talks about what a blessing her illness has been, and how she's been able to use it to help, serve, and uplift other people struggling with the same disease.

There is a level of love that remarkable couples tend to reach that sets them apart from others. It's a realization that their relationship with each other extends beyond personal satisfaction. Their love carries beyond their partner. It even spreads beyond their children and immediate family.

Truly incredible couples realize that they way they love each other, and they way they respond to their trials and challenges can have an impact on their community and the world. They use their marriage as a catalyst to inspire and uplift others. They set themselves as examples and role models. They see the value in sharing their struggles, and uplifting those who are hurting and suffering.

The lesson I learned from Mike and Becky is that life is what you choose to make it.

What did you learn from this week's podcast? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

[jbox title="Show Notes:" border="5" radius="15"]I hope you enjoyed our conversation with Mike and Becky. Here are some of the things we talk about in this episode, as well as some of the resources that were mentioned:

  • Waiting till marriage to have sex.
  • Burn the ships. Don't use the "Divorce" word.
  • Be grateful for each other and the work you do for each other
  • Child rearing conflicts. Good cop vs. Bad cop
  • The Love Monkey (holds love notes, and they'd hide him from each other)
  • When Becky got diabetes
  • Talking about sex with kids on their level
  • Focus on the Family
  • If you make it through one trial, you can be better prepared and stronger for the next one. There are no back doors.
  • Being grateful for the good and the bad
  • How much joy and excitement marriage can bring into your life
  • Finding your love language

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Be The One That Causes Someone To Be Grateful That They Know You

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Without being cliché or sounding cheesy, I truly have so much to be grateful for. I know. This is what we’re supposed to say even if we don’t mean it and even if our life really sucks. I can’t say that I’ve always been grateful for everything in my life: a divorced home to grow up in, divorce and infidelity running rampant throughout my family, sleeping in a different bed every night as I split time between my mom and dad’s house (a change made later in my childhood), two completely different environments in each home, an incessant and overwhelming need to keep everyone happy, an inability to make decisions because I was so worried about who was going to be mad, etc.

I’m very aware that people have had a much worse and damaging time growing up. I’m not whining, making comparisons or trying to one-up anyone. This is just my story, and really the foundation that put me on a path to gratitude.

It often takes some space and time to understand the impact of gratitude and the need to be grateful. But, as I have reflected back on my life and with the filter of gratitude, there is a decision that my dad made almost 30 years ago that significantly changed my life.

In the midst of the custody battle - and it was a battle - my dad was allowed to choose one day/evening during the week that he could have me. The original agreement was he would have me one day during the week plus every other weekend. The day he chose was Wednesday. Why was this significant? Because Wednesday was church night in our little Baptist church. By the time he got home from work, it was time for church, and by the time church was over, it was time to get ready for bed. In essence, my dad “gave up” his night with me so that I could be in church on Wednesday nights.

This may not seem like much, but it was huge for my dad and me. For my dad, I was his only child and this one night a week plus the alternating weekends were the only times he was able to see me.

I'm a dad of two little guys and don't have the extra pressure that comes with shared custody, and I often feel like I just don’t get enough time with my them. I honestly can’t imagine how tough it was for my dad to further decrease the face-to-face time with me. My dad, however, had recently turned back to Jesus, and for the first time in a few decades he started to walk with Him again. (Another benefit of the divorce process.) My dad believed very strongly that at my young age, it was vital that I was in church with him and my step mom, who also came to Christ in the midst of this process.

Why was this significant for me? At the time, I didn’t really know what was going on. All I really knew was that I had a new step-dad and step-mom, and that I was splitting time between two different homes. Church on Wednesday nights was just a blip on my radar given everything else that was happening. Four years later, after being in church often and ultimately understanding my absolute need for God’s forgiveness and transformation, I accepted Christ. I was 8.

I know I was young, but God got ahold of my little heart and life and changed me forever. Although I’m far from perfect, I’ve never been the same. It wasn’t my dad that “saved” me or talked me into anything. It was my dad that made a difficult, but intentional decision to put me on the best track possible after the life-altering divorce.

My dad has done so many things for me over the years and broke many unhealthy patterns he received from his dad. Things like never hearing his dad say he loved him. I can’t count how many times a day I heard him tell me that he loved me and was proud of me. My dad also received very little, if any affection from his dad. I was often embarrassed, in a good way, by how affectionate he was with me. We never left each other without an “I love you” and a kiss on the cheek. The list could go on and on, but I want you to understand how significant these decisions were that my dad made and how grateful I am that he made them. I don’t want to know where I would be without his love, willingness to sacrifice himself for me and his vision for what he believed God had for me and his desire to do everything within his power to ensure I reached that potential.

Not only have these things impacted my life in the past, but this gratitude has carried into my life as a husband and dad. You better believe I’m raising my boys to be grateful. And you better know that they hear me say I love them and am proud of them many times today. And you can rest assured that they get lots and lots of affection. Why? I’ve experienced how important these things are, and I want them to know the love that I knew as a boy. Oh, and more significantly, by the grace of God and only by His doing, over the last year and a half, both of them have accepted Christ and allowed him to change their little hearts and lives. Amazing!

No matter your past circumstances and your story today, we can find things to be grateful for. It took me years of reflection to realize many of these things. I encourage you to not wait so long, but to start this process now. And, if you really haven’t received the kinds of things I have, then be the one to break the patterns. No matter what is behind you, you can choose today to be the one that causes someone to be grateful that they know you; that you are their husband; that you are their mom; that you were their friend.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Jackson Dunn is the Director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family where directs the programs, strategies and initiatives of the Marriage Division seeking to provide resources for couples preparing for marriage, to enrich the lives of married couples and to help couples in crisis. He was formerly the Director of University Ministries at the Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University. In this position, he taught relationships courses, oversaw a national student assessment, directed a national couples retreat program, and helped developed a community premarital and marriage program.

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Photo credit: Lars Ploughmann

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Episode 24 - Women. Religion. And Sexuality.

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Religions Preach Virtue... But Do They Do It Right?

Most religions throughout the world ask their members to follow a model of sexual purity. The rules and consequences vary in their intensity from church to church, but I believe the overall intention is typically good and pure. However, anything - including good things - if taken to an extreme can be damaging.

Self-confidence if taken to an extreme can become self-absorption. An optimist can quickly become unrealistic. Loyalty can become blindness. Honesty can become rudeness. Courage can become recklessness.

Virtue and chastity, if taken to an extreme, also possess a dark side. When sexual purity is celebrated, sexuality tends to become demonized. Sex, and even feelings of pleasure, begin to be associated with extreme feelings of guilt and shame. People develop a fear of their own bodies.

Misperceptions of Virtue = Bad Sex

Unintentionally, we create a culture of unhealthy sexual beings. Religious individuals get married and are so scared of sexual arousal that they don't have sex for weeks or even months. Or, when they do have sex, it's associated with guilt and feelings of evil and darkness.

Many couples never have good, enjoyable sex because they never explored their own bodies to understand what makes them feel good. Nor do they feel they have a right to feel good. Sexual pleasure has been portrayed as something evil.

How sad that something so beautiful, and intimate - when taken to an extreme - can tear an otherwise healthy relationship apart.

What Sex Should Be

Sex should be something that brings couples together. It is the ultimate act of unity. It is foundation of the creation of family, and the most physical manifestation of love and vulnerability.

Good sex requires work, communication, openness, selflessness, and a willingness to be in the moment and experience pleasure.

If religious-types want to raise informed and sexually healthy individuals (which I believe most do), it might be time to reframe some of the ways we teach virtue and chastity.

The following is a great start, developed by Kristin Hodson and Alisha Worthington, the guests on today's podcast. If you want to learn more about the BE HEALTHY process, and hear a bit more about how to find a healthy sexual balance for yourself, check out the podcast (at the top of the screen).

BE HEALTHY

Balance intimacy (physical, spiritual, emotional, sexual – pyramid)

Embrace your growth edge (based on trust and Risk not safety) Have realistic expectations on range of experiences (how sex is like dining, good enough sex) Engaging your partner (being deliberate, increase the eros, flirt, desire to desire) Authenticity (be present in your sex—emotions, sensations - wanting to known and be known as you/they are) Learn how your body works and your partners (this also includes knowing your sexual history) Take time and treat it like a skill (schedule it – make it matter) Have conversation and negotiate You know best (sexual agent - trust your experience, not looking to other sources to be experts on you)

[jbox title="Show Notes:" border="5" radius="15"] Thanks for listening! Remember, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and get them delivered for free on a weekly basis!

Here are some of the resources we talked about in the podcast today. If you want to learn more about finding a balance between virtue and sexuality, this is a great place to start.

Real Intimacy: A Couple's Guide to Healthy Genuine Sexuality was written by today's podcast guests, Kristin Hodson and Alisha Worthington. Check out their website, The Healing Group, for counseling, support and hope.

The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality, by Alyssa Royse discusses how the current "predator/prey" model of sexual relationships is harmful to both men and women alike.

The Secret To Desire In A Long-Term Relationship is a TED Talk by Esther Perel that talks about the conflicting needs within a healthy sexual relationship. The need for security and the need for surprise. The need predictability and the need for spontaneity. The need for independence and the need for vulnerability and closeness. Communication is key to a healthy sexy life.

Sex Workshop: Click the banner below for information on Kristin and Alisha's sex workshop for women: On The Edge Of The Bed Event [/jbox]