He Loved Me First

He liked to brag that he loved me first. And he did.  His great love evoked my own love for him. No woman could resist his great proclamations of love.

His love was permanent, he said–forever and ever amen. He couldn’t bear to “run out” on me, so he wanted me to die first–in his arms–so as to spare me the pain of separation. But he would camp out at my grave until he died. He would be praying for death, and it would come soon because no man can live once his heart is ripped out of him. He suggested “The man who loved [Moonbeam]” as his epitaph. He hoped for the mansion next to mine in heaven if they wouldn’t let us share.

I had the power of life or death over him. I had restarted his heart and I could stop it cold–just by failing to love him. I was his engine, and without me he could not move and was fit only for the junk yard. The most profound relationship or experience he had ever had was with me.

If he didn’t love me, no man ever loved a woman. He called God as his witness and swore that he loved me. He felt that any man who knew me and even looked at another woman was not worthy of me. He  loved me like no man ever had and no man ever would again.

I was his “pearl of great price.”  He promised to make me the envy of all women. He intended to keep expressing his love for me as long as he lived. His great brilliance, he said, was shown in the fact that he loved me. He wanted to tattoo my name on his private parts!

Now how could I resist such love? I couldn’t. What woman could? So I loved him in return. I loved him truly, deeply, madly–just as he said he loved me.

But forever and ever amen is not as long as one might think. In fact, less than two years after the wedding, he was not only looking at other women but seeking their company.

He loved me first. But I loved him better. And I loved him last. He was wrong about loving me forever and ever amen. He was wrong about a lot of things. But one thing I hope he was right about. I hope no man ever loves me again like he loved me.



Nourish and Cherish

Just as Jesus is our Master and Lord, so a husband is master and lord of his wife (Ep 5:22-24, I Pe 3:1, 6). Sometimes I don’t think we consider what that means. We recognize the headship of Jesus. We even accept the authority an employer has over his employees. We understand the authority and power of kings and others in high positions. But when it comes to our husband, we women tend to focus more on the fact that he is to love us and to cherish and nourish us (Eph 5:29).

We might want to look at that word “nourish.” The word is ektrephō, and means “to nurture or bring up.” Our husband has the right and duty to guide, train, and teach us, and to nurture us, as the very word itself means. It’s not always easy to accept nurturing from our husband. We think we are mature women (godly and spiritually minded) and we have long since passed the need of nurturing. Yet we see that we must accept our husband’s nurturing.

Our husband is our lord. We need to have the proper attitude about his authority over us. We need to obey and submit our will to him and subject ourselves to him voluntarily and out of love so that he can give an account with joy and not with grief for how he ruled us and our household (I Ti 3:4-5). We shouldn’t have the attitude that we are grown women and don’t need anyone to train or guide or rule us.

We might consider not only how we react toward our husband’s rule but also how we might, without realizing it, treat our husband as if we have some sort of control over him. For instance, if we tell our husband to do something instead of asking him, question him as a mother might question a child about where he’s been, or tell him he’s wrong about something, we might be stepping out of our bounds. Imagine how we would feel if our child said to us, “Mom, go get me a Kleenex,” or “You’re wrong about that, Mom; here’s how it is,” or “Where have you been all day, Mom? I’ve been calling you and you didn’t answer. Keep your cell phone on so I can reach you.”

Yes, we are one with our husband, but he still is our lord and master and he rules over us, with God’s approval (Ge 2:16). We should give him at least, and I’m being sarcastic, the respect we would give to our boss at work. I doubt any of us tell our boss to get us a Kleenex or ask him where he’s been all day.

Granted, we have a deeper and more intimate relationship with our husband than we do our boss, but how we relate to our husband and his authority involves our attitude and tone of voice as well as our overt and covert actions. And I think we sometimes need a gentle reminder that we are to submit to our husband as to the Lord.

Ep 5:22  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church . . .
24  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

If we wouldn’t think of telling Christ what to do or questioning Him about His actions, if we wouldn’t consider telling him no or making Him wait when He calls us, if we wouldn’t dare think that we are grown women and don’t need Him telling us what to do, then we shouldn’t act (or even feel) that way toward our husband either.

If we women will surrender our will to our husband’s and seek to be the helper (Ge 2:18) we should be to him, we most likely won’t have to worry about how he treats us. Our husband will reach down, pick us up in his strong and tender arms, and put us up on that pedestal where we want to be. We don’t need to try to climb it ourselves.

I explained what “nourish” means. Do you know what “cherish” means? The word is thalpō and means to “keep warm” or “foster with tender care.” If we will accept our husband’s nourishment with grace and humility, and even appreciation, he will automatically cherish us. And what joy, what jubilation, what delight and elation, when our husband, the man whose praise and adoration we want most, glories in us as we glory in our children!

God’s ways are best. And what is more, they work to give us exactly what we want and need as women. And more importantly, they make us the helper our husband wants and needs. Praise God for His magnificent and awesome wisdom!


Extreme Makeover

I looked in the mirror this morning and realized that I need a makeover. An extreme makeover. I am sagging and drooping and wrinkled. And it is sad because I do not have to be that way.

No, I am not talking about my physical appearance. I am talking about my heart. I have come to believe that we can think we are behaving as we should–being the kind of person God wants us to be–when in reality we are not pleasing God at all. And that is what I discovered as I looked into the mirror this morning.

It is very easy to become upset with others and not even realize that we do the same things ourselves. People can be thoughtless and inconsiderate, it is true. But so can I. I have not felt well this past week so I have been particularly self-centered and cranky. I guess it is all right to be that way when I am sick, but I believe I am that way quite often.

I am selfish. There, I said it. I think about what I need–love from my husband and children and encouragement from my friends. I think about how I want it and what I can do to obtain it. But how often do I think about reaching out first? Not often, that is for sure. It is much easier to wait for someone else to be the first to make a move. That way I not only do not risk rejection but I can also be offended when I fail to receive what I want and what I think I deserve. Let my husband tell me first that he loves me. Let my children call me up on the phone.  Let my friends be the first to e-mail. I am selfish.

And greedy. I am very greedy. I have a closet full of clothes, most of which I never wear. This weekend I cleaned out five bags of clothes and shoes and I will never miss them. And I still have too many left–some of which I probably will continue not to wear. And I will buy more. I will be roaming the thrift stores in a week or two searching for more—unless something changes.

Oh, and I am proud. Instead of admitting when I am wrong it is so much easier to snuff out all humility and go on acting like I know I am right. And when someone mentions something that I do not know, I sometimes pretend I do know–because I am too proud to acknowledge my ignorance. And even on rare occasions when I do acknowledge it, I still try to save face by proffering something I do know just to make myself look better. I remember the line of a song that says, “Have you never let someone else be strong?” I need to learn to let someone else be strong.

I am ungrateful. God has given me the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world. He is smart, he is handsome, he is good and kind and gentle and loving and romantic, and he treats me like a queen. Yet I complain because he makes too much noise when I am trying to sleep. I actually become angry about it. I am ungrateful.

I have many more bad qualities, but that is enough. No need to be vain on top of everything else and talk incessantly about myself. I need a makeover. I want to change. I want to become the person my husband thinks I am. He loves me and he sees me as the pearl of great price. I want to be that pearl!

And my husband deserves a pearl. He is a diabetic and he wanted to give one of his kidneys to a complete stranger. Now that is the kind of selflessness I am aiming for—the kind I believe God wants me to achieve.

Where can I find a makeover for my heart? The Word of God, of course. And through prayer–and practice. I must behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord and allow Him to transform me into the same image (II Cor. 3:18). I need to stop conforming to this world and instead be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I can prove the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

If you are reading this, would you stop for a few seconds and say a little prayer for me. And so as not to be self-centered, before I finished this sentence I paused and prayed for all who may happen upon these words. May God bless you far above anything you have ever hoped to ask, and may you also grow in His grace and, if you need it, get the extreme makeover I am longing for.



An Ordinary Day

“God, please give me an ordinary day.” Have you ever prayed that prayer? We go through ordinary day after ordinary day, and sometimes I think we expect more. We grow bored and we can’t find anything to do. Life is treating us fairly well, but something is missing. We want excitement or maybe even controversy–something to make us know we are alive and the world is still turning. We do not generally long for ordinary days.

But that is not always the case. Sometimes we get day after day of first one dilemma or catastrophe and then another. The car breaks down or we lock our keys in it while the lights are still on. The washing machine starts crawling into the living room or the roof leaks. Maybe a neighbor runs over our cat or we learn that out our son is leaving home–or coming back home (it’s all the same, depending on the circumstances).

Well, recently I have had a slew of extraordinary (or perhaps I should say out of the ordinary) days–days when I never know what is going to slap me in the face and I never know how to react to the slap. And, quite frankly, I am tired of those days. So this morning I asked God for an ordinary day.

To me “ordinary” means nobody calls me a hypocrite and nobody tells me I’m headed for hell. Nobody blames the demise of my marriage on my “weirdness” and nobody tells me I am handicapping my children. And one more thing: I can breathe through at least one nostril all day long and my lungs don’t hurt.

I don’t think all that is too much to hope for. I don’t want to be able to buy paper towels. I don’t even care if I can’t buy cocoa so I can make the candy I am craving. If I can find enough change to buy milk and I have some beans in the cabinet, I’m happy. I just want an ordinary day. Is that too much to ask?

I know many people suffer on a daily basis. Many people can’t even buy the milk I bought with my change today. And I will have money tomorrow–at least enough to buy cocoa. I may still be called a hypocrite, and my lungs may still hurt. But all in all I know I have it pretty good. I don’t mean to be complaining.

But we all wear down, little by little, when we hear discouraging comments and when we can’t seem to get a good word no matter where we turn. And we are not alone. Others out there are hurting too. We never know what people are going through, and it may be that one kind word from us will lift their spirits and help them make it through an extraordinary day.

Do we bring these days upon ourselves? Maybe, sometimes. Other times we don’t. And does it really matter? Whether we’re the victim of nature, the victim of another person, or the victim of our own actions, does it make any difference? We still need encouragement and love. We still need a kind word, a good deed, a hand to help.

“Let me be a little kinder;
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me;
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery,
Think a little more of others
And a little less of me.”
(Glen Campbell)

I am weary. But let me put myself aside and do what I am asking of others. Let me wish you an ordinary day. May you have milk and cocoa. May your breathing not be labored. May you receive a smile and not a frown when you walk out your door. And when you lie down to sleep tonight, may you thank God for an ordinary day.


Thrift Store or Saks Fifth Avenue?

Of all sins, sexual sin is the most physically rewarding and brings instant gratification, therefore making it extremely tempting. It is also based on a natural desire. However, this desire, this gift from God, must be used properly and in accordance with God’s will. We all want and need food, and God approves of our nourishing our bodies. But God will condemn us if we eat food that doesn’t belong to us. Many and varied foods are readily available and we can buy them, so this natural desire is easily filled.

These thoughts may be obvious, but I wanted to preface my remarks this way for two reasons. First, we sometimes forget when we talk about sexual sin that sex, like food, is of itself a very good thing and not something for which we need to feel shame or embarrassment. Second, most of us probably seldom think about the fact that the person we are dating is going to be someone else’s spouse if he turns out not to be ours.

We need to regard the man we are dating with respect because he may someday belong to another woman. He does not belong to us yet and may never be ours. We need to behave toward him in the same manner that we hope our future spouse is being treated by the woman he is dating.

With respect to most sins God tells us to stand and fight. But when it comes to fornication He tells us to flee. My guess is that He knows that we will not fight once we get caught up in the situation. He knows that our brain will fly out the window when a handsome, eloquent man starts whispering sweet nothings into our ear.

We need to plan ahead and learn to give no occasion to the flesh. We should keep ourselves out of situations where sexual sin is likely to happen. If we see a man only in our parents’ living room with our parents nearby (or in our own living room if we are older, and with our children nearby), we will not have the same temptation that we will have if we go park on Lovers’ Lane at midnight.

But often, instead of providing ways to help keep ourselves pure, we plan outings that create an environment that promotes sin. We put ourselves out on the fringes–living on the edge–and hope we can taste some of the pleasures of sex without “going all the way.”

But whether we fornicate or simply engage in activities that we would consider to be lesser sexual acts, we sin; and we need to avoid all sin. As James 1:14 says, we are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lust and enticed. We get ourselves into situations where even a dead man would commit sexual sins and then wonder why we have so much trouble refraining from illicit sex.

Paul told Timothy to treat younger women as sisters, with all purity. Paul did not tell Timothy to remain a technical virgin until he was married. He told him to treat women as SISTERS, WITH ALL PURITY. If we make up our minds to insist that men treat us as sisters, we will have a much easier time avoiding sin.

The problem is, we do not WANT to be treated that way when a good-looking, intelligent man is wooing us. Our natural desires are to give in to him. God wants our desire to be to our husband, so even this tendency in us is natural. But again, we must use it properly and save our love and obedience for our husband.

We must respect ourselves and the man we are dating, and we need to have a heart to obey God. We have to make up our mind that we will obey God and not man. It’s just that simple. Sex builds an emotional bond. Once you have formed that bond it is hard to break. Even if the man shows himself not to be the caliber of man you should marry, you will want to marry him anyway because you have created that bond with him. And if he refuses to marry you, your heart will break in two. Even if you KNOW he is not the right one for you, your heart will break in two. We should not develop strong emotional bonds that put a strong desire for sex in us until we are ready to be married. That will help protect us.

But the main thing we need to do is value ourselves. In her book In the Meantime Iyanla Vanzant writes:

“You are a valuable and worthwhile product, full of love, consciously making choices. You have full confidence in your product. So are you going to price it for bargain hunters? Or are you going to price it like a designer item? The value and worth you place on yourself will determine the people you attract. Those who shop in the high-priced markets know exactly what they want and how to treat it once they get it. They know a masterpiece when they see one, and they are not afraid to pull out all the stops to be in its company. Basement bargain hunters are not as clear or conscientious. A bargain hunter could have a rare piece of art and not even recognize it.”

Do you want to sell yourself at the thrift store, or do you want to sell yourself at Saks Fifth Avenue? Only you can make that decision. Only you can determine your worth. Price your love high. Price yourself high. Don’t go in an auction to the highest bidder. Don’t go to any man who is not willing to commit himself totally to you by taking you as his own–to cherish you, provide for you, protect you (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and love you as Christ loved the church.

“It is easy for a magnet to attract metal pieces or things cleverly disguised as silver and gold” (Vanzant), so you must be careful. But if you value yourself and wait for God to bring you the right man and you don’t settle for anything less than a godly man who will respect you and your body as he also respects his own, God will provide the right person for you.

Quoting again from Vanzant, “You can’t make platinum from tin fibers.” If the man you are dating doesn’t love the Lord enough to obey Him when he is single, he will not, after marriage, suddenly turn into a godly man who will love the Lord enough to obey Him. And he will not love you as Christ loved the church.

Pray. Ask God for guidance. Ask Him to lead you to the man who will be best for you, the man who will love you and whom you can love the way God intends. Fast often. When you fast you deny yourself food and it makes it easier to deny yourself sex. You are married to Christ. Let Him sustain you, and remember that you can do all things through Him, who strengthens you.

You are a pearl of great price. Wait for the man who recognizes you as such and is willing to give up all he has to make you his. No man buys what he can get free, and no man values what costs him nothing.


White Pearls and Him

Wearing only white pearls and him
I snuggle against his velvet chest,
Wet and heaving from the evening’s exertion.
He whispers his love into my tangled tresses
And I return my own into the salty recesses of his neck.
Our cravings sated, our bodies reposed,
We seize the drunken slumber granted to lovers–
And welcomed by weary mourners,
Wails silenced and tears spent.
Somnolent visions compete to enthrall us,
But dreams cannot rival what has now become ours:
A gift to exceed a king’s lavish holdings
And shame a poet’s finest musings–
When I am wearing only white pearls and him.


We Will Remember

Again tonight I watch him, here in this cool, antiseptic room.
I try to sleep, but nurses come and go
And the intercom rouses me as soon as I start to doze.
My bones and muscles ache as I scoot my chair nearer him.
The rasping of his dusty lungs constricts me, and I too labor to breathe.
I reach out to stroke his weathered, wrinkled face,
And recall his consoling words when I first noticed creases of my own–
Just more delightful crevices for him to enjoy, he said.
Gently, so as not to disturb him, I tug at the corners of his covers.
Our own were never so tight–how we played beneath them, how we loved.
The blankets are loose now, and my hand finds its way beneath them.
It travels across his chest and down his body, nestling in its familiar home.
He stirs at my touch, and a slight smile graces his face.
We will not be one tonight, but he will be comforted–
And we will remember.