Truth That Triggers Transformation

Don’t trust him, trust Me.

 I will restore what the locusts have eaten away.

 You are mine.

 Hug him.

These aren’t just random instructions and verse tidbits.  They’re truths that triggered transformation in my life and marriage. They are the reason I’m able to write today from a green pasture rather than the valley of divorce.

Holy Spirit whispered them at moments of utter desperation when I didn’t believe this day would ever come. Despite my best effort, I couldn’t mend the unraveling threads of my marriage. My emotions constantly attacked my mind with things like:

He’s not the man you thought he was.

 Things will never change.

 You don’t matter to anyone.

 Get as far away from him as possible.

I needed something more powerful than my own emotions to hold me—an unshakable anchor.

“God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”  Hebrews 6:18-19, NLT

If you’ve been following my blog posts these last few weeks, you know that each revelation started with a whisper from the Lord. While I sought wise counsel with mentoring and community through church, it was hearing and obeying guidance from the Comforter himself that proved most powerful.

Wise counsel and community are important supporting roles in my relationship with God, but I’ve learned they can never be substitutes for it. He’s the only one who knows absolutely everything—about you, your husband, your marriage, His Word, and His plan for your life. Only God’s truth has the power to transform. He’s always with us, yet, He will only intervene if we invite Him.

Do you desire hearing specific instructions and transforming truth from the Lord for your marriage? I want to encourage you that you absolutely can receive it—if you ask.

My heart broke recently for a couple whose marriage was much like mine. A laundry list of hurts led to separation. She said that all of her church friends agreed with her choice. But when asked if she had sought the Lord, she sidestepped the answer, saying, “It’s done, divorce is the only thing that makes sense. It will be better for everyone.”  But would it be? Maybe not. More importantly, was it what God would have directed?  Sadly, she didn’t know, because she had reacted to her emotions, substituting community for both wise counsel and the Comforter.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (NASB)

There is no substitute for personally seeking the Lord and spending time in His presence. When we do, He promises to answer us. The more time we spend with Him, the more we recognize His voice. No one knows and understands your situation more completely than God.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

It was not only receiving but also obeying those whispers from the Comforter that sustained me and ultimately turned my marriage around. Relying on my emotions would have led me astray. I would have traded God’s best for temporary relief from my pain.

I had all but signed the divorce papers when a good friend asked if there was anything my husband could do to change my mind. Our circumstances and my emotions screamed for a divorce. Yet, I replied, “Only if God says something different.” God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have. It must override every other voice.

Everything in me told me to get as far away from my husband as I could. Seeing him poured salt into fresh wounds, and I wanted so badly for him to feel the sting of it.

But God had other plans. Hug him. Embracing the source of my sorrow made no sense, so I ignored it.  But the Lord persisted. Hug him. Tears dripped from my chin and my thoughts protested fiercely, but my arms reached out in obedience. In that moment—relinquishing my own understanding—something in my husband broke and the love of the Lord flooded in.

Nothing has been the same since. My hug was nothing special. But my obedience allowed God’s instruction to be truth that triggered transformation for both of us. And that transformation became a pivotal piece of the Lord’s plan for restoring our marriage.

It can be for yours too, but God’s truth can only trigger transformation when we’ve trained ourselves to listen and we’re willing to overlook our feelings and obey Him.

My husband and I still have much work to do, but we’re living in a miracle of God’s making, and it’s more fulfilling than anything we ever could have imagined.

I’m sure you know exactly how you feel about your husband and marriage, but what does the Lord have to say?  Have you asked Him? Are you listening? Will you obey even if it goes against your feelings?  Will you trust Him with the outcome?

“…when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6

May I pray for you? Father God, help my sister to hear Your voice above every other.  Draw her to the secret place and give her the courage to seek Your will for her marriage despite her feelings.  Give her truth to hold on to that replaces the lies her emotions have told her.  Thank you for being a strong and trustworthy anchor for her soul. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Candace Salamone

Something’s Gotta Die

This is the second in a series of 3 posts by Candace Salamone.

I needed it to be dead-dead. That’s what I heard in my spirit.  I knew it was the answer to a question I’d been asking the Lord about my marriage—more specifically, the undoing of it. My marriage had been lifeless for years, but “dead-dead?” What did He mean?

If you read last week’s blog post, you know my marriage was headed for divorce. The demise of our union had been years in the making with too many wrongs to overcome. But God.

To be completely honest, when I say I’d been asking the Lord a question about my marriage, what I really mean is I’d been accusing Him of failing me. I sounded like Lazarus’ sister, Martha, when he fell ill and died.  She sent word to Jesus that Lazarus’ condition had turned critical, begging Jesus to act quickly. Yet, according to the story in John 11, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days when Jesus finally arrived. In other words, he was “dead-dead.” And so seemed my marriage. Could that really be what God intended?

Full of disappointment and heartbreak, Martha and I both started our accusations the same, “If only You would have…”

Have you been there?  If only the Lord had done something sooner.  If only He would do something now. I never would have chosen these lonely nights tossing on my tear-soaked pillow or disappointing my children and having our family torn apart. Why did it have to come to this? Why did He wait and let things go this far? Like Martha, I’d sent word that the end was near unless He intervened. For me, it had been years, not days, of heartache coupled with desperate cries for help.

I had prayed, sought wise counsel and scoured God’s word, determined to save my marriage. I’d even found encouragement in Lazarus’ story—declaring and holding on to the truth that if God could resurrect Lazarus, He could resurrect my marriage too.  But here’s what I’d missed that the Lord was showing me now.

Resurrection is for things that are completely dead, meaning something must be all the way dead— “dead-dead”—not just dying, in order to receive a resurrection miracle.

God’s miracles are not simply about solving our problems and helping us escape our pain.  He desires to reveal Himself more personally and completely to us, while drawing us closer, and so that He ultimately receives all the glory. He’s the only one who knows what it takes to accomplish that.

“… it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”

John 11:4, NLT

Bringing newness out of death is the Lord’s way—both literally and figuratively.  It started in the old testament and hasn’t stopped.  Death gets rid of the old and makes way for the new.  It makes room for God to do things only He can do, because He’s the only one who knows and fully understands the problems as well as how to fulfill His purposes in each of us and our husbands.

I’m not suggesting that you open the door to divorce, like I did.  But I am asking you to consider whether there are things that need to die, and places you need to make room for God to move in ways only He can.

Are there patterns of thinking or behaviors you need to let go of? Expectations you’ve placed on your marriage or your husband? Is something from your past affecting your marriage? Or maybe you’ve submitted your plan to the Lord for what needs to happen in your marriage so you’ll be happy and satisfied.

I don’t know what thing the Lord wants to be “dead-dead” for you and your marriage. But I do know that death is inherent to life with Jesus.  He is the only One who overcomes death.  Giving Him all control allows Him to be the miracle-working God He longs to be in your life and marriage.

Will you give Him room to work?  Ask the Lord to show you what needs to die so He can resurrect it with His life.

I’d taken the role of Junior Holy Spirit in my marriage for a very long time. I thought I knew exactly what was wrong with my husband and how to fix him. The Lord wanted no part in my plans.

He wanted to give us more than I could ever have asked or imagined. He wanted no mistaking that this miracle was His doing.  For that, He needed my marriage to be dead-dead—which meant I was finally giving up control so He could fully move in.  None of this looked the way I would have chosen or expected, yet I never could have imagined the amazing miracle marriage God is building or the love He is growing.

24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.

John 12:24, NLT, emphasis added

May I pray for you: Father, I ask for a resurrection miracle in my sister’s marriage.  Thank you that You are the resurrection and the life.  Show her the areas in her marriage that need to die so that You can bring new life to them.  Strengthen her along this journey.  Fill her with the hope that You are able to do immeasurably more than she could ever ask or imagine according to Your glorious power at work within her. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Promise and a Plan for Harvesting a Crop of Love in Your Marriage

I’m so happy to introduce guest blogger, Candace Salamone, to you. Candace and I have been mentoring together since the last time Tom’s and my interview was aired on Focus on the Family. I love Candace and am overjoyed watching God’s movement in her life. May you be blessed as you read a portion of her story over the next 3 weeks.

Are you desperate to harvest a crop of love?  If my marriage and those of the women who pass through my living room weekly are any indication, I’m guessing your answer is, “yes.”

While love is usually what leads us into marriage, sadly, it’s what often dries up as time passes and life happens.  Dry ground is no place for new growth, but God has a plan that will drench your marriage’s love drought and produce a plentiful love harvest.

“I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love.Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that may come and shower righteousness upon you.’” Hosea 10:12, NLT (emphasis added)

I read this verse recently through the blur of tear-filled eyes and with a heart as empty as my husband’s closet. Along with his clothes, I had packed away the hopes and dreams for our marriage.

Me harvest love? How? There are no good seeds in my marriage.  How can I reap love after all that’s happened?  I don’t know all that’s happened in your marriage, but God does. And when the One who is himself, love, assures a harvest, it’s a promise you can grab hold of.

My marriage was in a totally hopeless, end-of-the-rope place where harvesting anything from it, much less love, seemed beyond impossible. Our love tank had been empty for more than a few harvest seasons.

Can you relate?

God’s desire is to heal our hearts and restore love to our marriages. I’m beginning to experience the buds of new love growing, and I believe you can too. Hope is rising in my marriage where weeds of despair had grown dense. True forgiveness is sprouting where deep-rooted hurts had smothered peace.  And I’m no longer fixating on my husband’s issues—trusting the Lord to work on him instead. Love is growing.

I’ll be sharing more on how we got there over the next 3 weeks on Sandy’s blog.

But I’ll start by saying, the work began in me, and it started here with Hosea 10:12. Everywhere I went, Hosea was there. On the radio and in my dreams. Even in my own backyard.

Work gloves on, several shovels and wheel barrow in tow, I stepped into the yard to remove piles of loose dirt left behind by a project.  The piles looked loose, but when I thrust the shovel into them, they were hard as rock. With all my strength, swinging sharp, heavy tools, only crumbs broke away.

How could loose dirt harden so quickly? No one packed it down. It was untouched, yet completely hardened, and impossible for me to move.

God’s gentle whisper pierced my spirit. This is just like your heart. What do you mean? I asked.

These piles of dirt are like the hurts and wrongs you’ve collected over the years. They’ve piled up in your heart, untouched and have hardened. Your heart couldn’t receive love even if I sent it.

 Holy Spirit was right. I was holding onto years of wrongs, causing the ground of my heart to harden. God had my attention as I remembered the verse from Hosea. He showed me that the hardness of my heart was blocking my love harvest. Like the farming metaphor in the verse implies, I had work to do.

Farmers know they can’t plant and harvest in the same season. Not only do seeds take time and tending to grow, but before seed goes into the ground, the dirt itself must be carefully and meticulously prepared to receive it.

What if, like mine, your love harvest has been delayed because the planting ground of your heart hasn’t been properly prepared to receive it?

God’s plan in Hosea 10:12 can change that. It says: in order to harvest love, you must plant righteousness, but before you plant, first, you must plow.

The Hosea 10:12 Plan

Step 1:  Plow up the hard ground of your hearts

Plowing has a very specific purpose in preparing soil for seed. It turns the upper layer over, bringing fresh nutrients to the surface, while burying the weeds (like unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment) and dislodging the roots and remains of previous crops (or in our case, past wrongs) so that they break down and die.

Bringing in fresh nutrients is like allowing light into the dirt below the surface. So, for me, plowing meant acknowledging the truth of what the Lord had shown me.

Uncovering the root of the problem is the first step towards resolving it. The ground of my heart needed work, and I couldn’t do it alone.

Step 2:  Now is the time to seek the Lord

Invite the Lord in. Ask Him to show you what’s piled in your heart that has you stuck, then release it to Him. His word promises that He rights every wrong. That means you can stop building a case for your pain and holding on to the causes.

I’d been stuck in survival mode, justifying my heart’s condition for far too long. Pleading my case one last time, I wrote each wrong on the pages of my journal and released it, saying, “I forgive my husband for [insert each wrong] and I trust You, Lord, with my heart.”

When we do this, God promises to do the heavy lifting for us. He says, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT, emphasis added)

A responsive heart.  That’s exactly what I needed in order for my heart to receive anything—including the seeds that would produce love.

Previous pain doesn’t have to kill our marriages, but we must turn the roots over to the Lord. Left untouched, they’ll battle anything we try to plant. New growth simply won’t take root.

Step 3: Plant the good seeds of righteousness

Ordinary seeds won’t produce love, only the good seeds will. Where do they come from? Hosea tells us. God provides them.

He is our supply and portion for every need. When we do what we can do, God does what only He can do:

Plow your hearts (what we can do),

Seek the Lord (us, again),

so that He (God) may come and shower righteousness (the good seeds) on you.

When we do the plowing, God does the showering. Your work will prepare the way so that His “good seeds of righteousness” fall on fertile ground.

God is love. That means His seeds will produce the crop of love He promises. Unlike the romantic love of this world, God’s love fulfills, satisfies and endures.

Don’t let another harvest season pass you by. Start this work in your heart. Release your hurts to the Lord, and allow Him to produce a love harvest that will overflow to your husband.  God’s love truly can cover a multitude of sin.

Let’s get plowing.

May I pray for you? Father, I lift my sister and her marriage up to you. You know the depths of pain she’s endured and the tears cried. Comfort her. Thank you for the promise of harvesting a crop of love.  Help her to follow Your plan by plowing the hardened ground of her heart so that You can come and drench her in Your righteousness. Thank you that with Your help, she can break down the remains of previous hurts and release them to you.  Give her the strength and courage to get plowing and to trust you with her husband. Thank you in advance for healing and restoring her marriage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Candace Salamone

How to Grow a Flourishing Marriage in a Weed Patch

Every flourishing marriage has had to deal with their fair share of weeds. Those character flaws of ‘self’ that we’d rather not look at, much less talk about.

Yet if you’re serious about growing a flourishing marriage in a weed patch, it’s important to understand the strain of weeds you’re dealing with. Without that self-awareness, those weeds will get the better of you and your marriage. I promise.

For a better understanding of which weeds you’re dealing with, answer the question “Where do you experience pain in your marriage?” Your answer will provide clues about where the Holy Spirit is already at work to lift out the weeds making room for more fruit.

When you discover where the Spirit is moving and you join Him there, you can expect wonderful results! In fact, I can promise wonderful results because the fruit or work of the Spirit contains everything you’ve ever wanted for your marriage: Unconditional love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. This is the epitome of a flourishing marriage!

So let’s get back to the question, ‘Where does it hurt in your marriage?’

What’s causing the pain?

  • Selfishness
  • Pride
  • Cynicism
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Harshness
  • Critical spirit
  • Greed
  • Envy

This list represents weeds which block the Spirit’s fruit production in your life. And without the fruits of the Spirit growing in you, the weeds will eventually choke the life right out of your marriage.

So how do you fight back and regain or secure a flourishing marriage? How do you get rid of the weeds and grow more fruit? The best defense is often a good offense. Author Gary Thomas said, “Grow a virtue that is opposite the vice and thereby suffocate the vice.”

That logic certainly proved true in my flower garden. The more my plants grew and thrived, the less space was available for those pesky weeds.

So let’s take a look at the corresponding fruit to weed breakdown so you can increase your self awareness.

FRUIT                                    WEED

Unconditional Love             Self absorption, Pride.

Joy                                       Cynicism

Peace                                   Fear, Anxiety, Envy

Patience                               Anger

Kindness                              Critical Spirit, Sarcasm

Goodness                            Greed, Unethical

Faithfulness                         Disloyalty, Disregard

Gentleness                          Anger, Harshness

Self-Control                         Lustful, Addictive Lifestyle

John 6:63 reminds us, “The Spirit brings life, but the flesh has nothing to offer.” And nowhere is this made more clear than when contrasting the Spirit’s fruit with the weeds of our humanness.

Are you willing to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit and to intentionally focus on bearing greater fruit this year? This isn’t about a will to weed, but a willingness to be weeded.

As I examined the list, I recognized that fear and anxiety have caused pain in my marriage. So the fruit I need more of is peace.

During this 21 Day Fast for a Fruitful Marriage Challenge, I’ve realized my need for greater, God-given peace. So I’ve asked for more.

In response, the Spirit did the work of bringing to my attention one area where I rob, not add to, my peace. In his book, Fasting, Jentezen Franklin says that fasting helps unstop your ears. And God spoke straight to my heart through my husband’s lips. What he said helped me understand exactly where the weeds of fear and anxiety were hurting my marriage.

I have a tendency (nice word for habit) to minimize my husband’s feelings in an attempt to preserve my peace.  When he’s concerned about something or has been hurt, I don’t always ask him about his feelings. I don’t always want to go there! Instead, I minimize his feelings for fear they will rob me of peace.

Growth isn’t easy but I’ve begun listening fully to some of my husband’s deep emotions. It’s tremendously satisfying when that fruit produces good in your marriage.

The reason they call it fruit is because you were made to taste good to the world. You manifest God’s presence through your maturity and love. So that others say God is so good through you!  -AJ Sherrill

When you determine where it hurts, ask the Spirit for more of the fruit you need! Watch and listen as he reveals your next steps.

How to Drop the Dead Weight Which Weighs on Your Marriage

Is there a drag on your marriage? Something that weighs it down and creates pain?

During the 21 Day Fast for a Fruitful Marriage, I unpack how God guides you to shed the weight and experience unconditional love, greater joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These fruits will bring life to a marriage!

Listen in…

 

21 Day Fast for a Fruitful Marriage Challenge

Would you like to see a greater harvest of the good stuff in your marriage in 2017? More love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Fruitfulness is exactly what God desires for your marriage and mine. In fact, fruitfulness is very important to Jesus. Fruitfulness was the topic of Jesus’ last message to the disciples before He was betrayed in Gethsemane’s Garden. Think about that: He was about to die and fruitfulness was the message He wanted to leave ringing in His closest friend’s ears.

During my 21 day Fasting for a Fruitful Marriage Challenge, I’ll share with you the secrets that encourage sweeter, abundant fruit from your marriage.

Understanding fruitfulness will

Help you identify how God is dealing with you
Eliminate misery due to fruitlessness
Answer the question: ‘What is God up to in my life?’ and ‘Why isn’t my life turning out as I expected?’

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Making Peace in Relationships

I’m wrestling with the concept of peace this Christmas. Estranged from certain family members, I suffer more anxiety than peace when musical strains depicting warm family gatherings penetrate my conscious mind. Honestly, it’s difficult not to grow anxious or cynical.

Can you relate? Are you robbed of peace worrying about a stressed or broken relationship this Christmas?

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Wives Celebrating Advent

advent messages or wivesAre there encouraging messages within Scripture for wives celebrating advent? Can you plumb the depths of Bethlehem and discover gifts of blessing for your marriage?

In fact, there are several messages for wives within the miracle of Jesus’ arrival on Earth and I’ll be unpacking these treasures during December’s series of blogs. These blogs are written specifically for wives seeking the King of King’s best gifts this Christmas.

A Priesthood At Home

Hebrews 5 describes the ‘why’ behind Jesus advent or arrival on Earth as a baby. He was sent by God to be a high priest on our behalf.

The job of every high priest is reconciliation: approaching God on behalf of others and offering Him gifts and sacrifices to repair the damage caused by our sins against God and each other. High Priest’s should have compassion for those who are ignorant of the faith and those who fall out of the faith because he, himself, has wrestled with human weakness. And so the priest must offer sacrifices both for his sins and for the those of the people.

The office of high priest and the honor that goes along with it isn’t one that someone just takes. A high priest must be called by God.

You, my dear reader, are called to be priests in your home. In fact, I believe some of you have been sensing the nudge of the Holy Spirit to perform the role of priest without realizing that it was to the priesthood you’ve been called. Incidentally, the role of priest does not include preaching.l

Whenever you pray for your husband or share a cup of cold water with him in Jesus’ name, you’re a priest. You’re communicating the grace of God.

Lessons for Wives Celebrating Advent

When Jesus lived on earth, He offered up prayers and pleas, groans and tears to the One who could save Him from death. He was heard because He approached God with regard and deep respect.

  1. When you recognize that God alone has the answers you need, and when you enter His gates with thanksgiving, in spite of the difficulty you face, you’ve donned priestly robes.
  2. When you ask God to bless your husband rather than dress him down, you’ve just been promoted to the office of high priest.

Although He was a Son, Jesus, our high priest, learned obedience through the things He suffered. And once He was perfected through that suffering He became the way of eternal salvation for all those who hear and follow Him.

Did you catch that? Although He was a Son. If Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God was not spared suffering, His daughters won’t escape it either.

So don’t be surprised or feel you’ve been forgotten if you find yourself in deep struggle this Christmas.  Let the reason for Jesus’ Advent remind you that you’ve been called to a priestly duty: to offer gifts and sacrifices to God on your husband’s behalf. These are the gifts God treasures most.

What gift is fit to bring your King this Christmas? An affirmative response to the role of priest He’s calling you to.

What priestly sacrifices is the Holy Spirit prompting you to make on behalf of your husband?

When Biblical Marriage Strategies Fail to Produce

Ever been introduced to biblical marriage strategies that failed to produce satisfying results? Having your hopes dashed like that sucks the air right out of your lungs.

When you’re facing marriage challenges, you’re looking for ideas and strategies that lead to a place of re-connection with your spouse. So you strap on your hiking boots and begin the climb with anticipation of a favorable outcome.

Yet many times these strategies fail to produce the results you’d hoped for. After laboring upward for days, weeks, or months all you see is barren wilderness in all directions.

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