Monday, September 27, 2010

Running the race together!

Dear leaders,

This wed Sept. 29, 2010 Karen and I will reach the amazing mile stone of 20 years of marriage. Wow! What a truly wonderful journey. In a time when marriages involved in ministry are under an all out assault from the enemy. Believe it or not according to Charisma magazines poll of ministers the divorce rate is 50%. Karen and I have watched several dear couples we were close to walk away from their marriages. Many just allowed ministry to destroy their marriage or they simply grew apart. In honor of 20 years with my sweetheart I wanted to focus this 3M blog on “Running together to the finish line.” You see we believe that we are called to run together!

Our wedding: I will never forget looking to the back of that little church in Eagle Lake, FL upon the most gorgeous woman in the world. As she walked towards me on her father’s arm down that aisle I began to weep. How could this angel be marrying me? Her smile, her beauty, her sophistication, and her grace was overwhelming. Not to mention….. On that day September 29th, 1990 I started a journey with my lady. Twenty years ago I had no idea what it meant to be a husband. I had yet to truly even learn what true love meant. Karen would not only become my best friend, but she would teach me so much about life, God, and love. Karen would be the one that would teach me how to chase Jesus, how to have grace, how to develop a devotional life, and how to establish boundaries. God brought her to me and she has always been way more anointed. Our entire marriage we have been in ministry. In fact while we were dating I accepted my first fulltime position as a youth pastor near Tampa, FL. Due to the fact that the church also had a retirement community for pastors on sight we were continually encouraged (harassed- Lol) to get married. So we moved our date to Sept. We moved into a small and very old house that was owned by the church. Karen made that little house a home. I remember we tried so hard to clean the 30 year old dingy green carpet, and the mildewed walls. HAHA! I remember us asking the church to change the carpet in that old parsonage. One elderly fella (everyone in the church was over 60) on the board told us our carpet in the parsonage was better than his homes carpet, and we could just live with it. Back then I was as green as the carpet and didn’t know how to stand up for issues. Those were the days. We found out six months after we were married that our son had been conceived. I got home from a college class and Karen greeted me at the door with the news. I remember telling her to sit down and not move for 9 months. While those days were tough financially, and also geographically we had fun together. During those early days Karen was very shy in large gatherings and she would force herself to be a public figure. The thought of speaking publicly petrified her, but at the same time she knew God was going to use her. As small child her mother would tell her over and over someday God is going use you greatly. I remember the first few times she spoke she would break out in blotches from her nerves. Yet, she kept pushing forward. She would say to me “the girls must be told that they are all beautiful princesses.” She knew she had a message for a generation of girls that had to be spoken. She knew my secret. While on the outside walking in bold confidence I dealt so strongly with insecurity and fear. She made up her mind to help me get thru that in my life. To this day when I speak at a gathering she is the first to greet me with-“Sweetheart, that was awesome.” I can’t imagine being married to someone who would tell their minister husband or wife- You could have done better, or you went too long. In fact Karen still laughs at jokes she has heard 10,000 times. You see we learned a long time ago that we would be each other’s biggest fan! I still send her roses wherever she speaks and I always have them attach a bottle of Pepto-Bismol for her stomach. Now it has become a small sign of “look where you have come from baby!” That reminds me I need to call the florist today as Karen gets ready to go to Idaho on Thursday to speak. Let me give you 20 rules for marriage in ministry. These all can be applied to marriages, but my main goal today is to speak into the lives of those preparing for ministry.

20 Rules for Marriages in Ministry:
• Remember, that God never asks us to put the call of ministry ahead of our marriage or children. You see Karen and I believe that marriage done right causes the right kind of ministry. We have fun in ministry. The ministry has allowed us to go and see what we could have never done leading a “normal” life. The ministry has allowed us to accomplish dreams and goals. It is a awesome adventure.
• In ministry it is critical that you never allow the ministry to be a mistress. I remember early in years of marriage I would go to the office late at night, study late at night, and many times use the church as an excuse for being less than focused on my family. Over time I began to realize that the ministry is “constant,” and I that I must draw lines to protect my home and marriage.
• Never allow anyone outside your spouse to be your biggest fan. No one gets that spot. That is reserved parking for the love of your life. Make sure to step outside the mirror and keep an eye on your wedding photo. There are two people in that photo- not one! In other words it is your job to see the person who chose to stand with you that day. Make sure you continually take the time to praise your spouse.
• Guard your home from the continual attack of what is aptly called “the tyranny of the urgent.” You see people always need us. Most of the time people forget that you are a normal family. Somewhere in discipleship 101 that chapter gets left out. So it is your job to say “WHOA.” It is your job to turn the phone off. It is your job to guard the special occasions, and also regular days of life. Your spouse doesn’t mind sharing you, but there is a limit! Be the first one to say, “I would love to help you, but I can’t today. My family needs me!”
• Guard your marriage from the “office chatter.” In other words do not always talk about the church or the people. Instead, talk about each other. Remember, shepherds must always guard the sheep door. Learn what it means that when you are home- BE AT HOME!
• Guard your bedroom. You see Karen and I made up our mind early that our bedroom was a place of solitude and rest. We decided early on that no one else belonged in our room. That means we only talk about us, our family, and our dreams.
• Guard intimacy! OK- here we go! Intimacy in marriage must never stop. Your must make sure the flames of romance stay lit. Enjoy each other. That is God’s really cool plan. REALLY COOL! Sex is pure!
• Serve each other! I think in ministry we serve so many that we forget that we must serve each other. I wasn’t very good at this when I first got married. Many times it is what we see modeled by our parents that determines how well we serve. We come home from the office tired and ready to vegetate. Men in ministry especially have a tough time with this. We lead at the church, but we follow at home. Maybe it is because we get tired and for some reason think we have done enough. At some point the light came on for me. I needed to help around the house. I needed to get up early with the kids. It is not only unfair to not serve our spouses and kids, but is also a great romance killer.
• Stay enamored with each other. Have secret moments that take place in public. Karen and I have little signals and sayings that we share with each other in the biggest of crowds. It is our way of saying “we may be among hundreds or thousands, but we are really one and in love with each other in the crowd.” When she walks in the room it catches my breath. My eyes meet hers and I really don’t care who else is there. I am enamored with her.
• Some of the most dysfunctional marriages are in high profile ministries. They have “Image management vs. authentic living.” They put on the masks in public. So we have made up our minds early that we must show honor, love, and respect in public, and in private. We do not ever bring reproach or offense upon each other. We also do not allow people to cross a line in any manor towards our marriage. We believe that we are Christians first before we are ministers. When you are public people for some reason people think they know you and your spouse. They may even think they can speak into your lives from an outsiders point of view. Learn how to keep offense out of your marriage.
• HAVE FUN! Make sure the most fun you could ever have can only be found in the arms of your spouse. Learn how to get off the spinning world and have a vacation. Our spouses must see that when we are together nothing else matters. This is very hard in ministry. That is about setting boundaries. Also, laugh together, dance together, play together, and enjoy your time together. I will cover this more at the end of the blog. Remember, you were created for each other’s pleasure and joy! Go on dates. Use the 7-7-7-7 plan. Every 7 hours connect with each other, Every 7 days have a date, every 7weeks plan a getaway or really long day, and every 7 months take a long vacation!
• Pray together! This took me a long time to truly appreciate. I didn’t understand the power of agreement as a couple. In fact you really don’t understand this until you walk through tough times. Your children must see that you pray together. They must see that you walk as one as believers. When you pray together get real, and be honest. Disciple each other in the things of God. But don’t condemn! Instead push each other towards the savior.
• Never stop believing in each other’s dreams. In fact the more you believe in each other’s dreams the more your dreams will become one.
• As the priest of my house I must always be willing to serve, develop, and minister to my family first. Learn the power of washing each other’s feet. Learn the power of having a family covenant.
• Realize you married to each other and not the ministry. Jesus is married to the church not you. In other words realize “without the ministry- you are ok.”
• Keep the front door locked! In marriage it is absolutely critical that you are givers and great stewards of your finances. You see we believe we do not have to be broke, because we are in ministry. That means we have to plan for the future- use wisdom in spending- and always be tithe payers. This rebukes the enemy from your home. That means also that when it comes to finances make decisions together. Debt is a love killer. That means when spending don’t use the “God Card,” but rather “agreement plan.” Walk in agreement.
• In ministry we must also learn the power of sharing our spouse. This is hard. Above I talked about the importance of separating from people, but we must also realize that in some parts we belong to the people. If there is balance in the marriage then this isn’t usually a problem. Guard jealousy! Guard walking in tension. In fact God wants his best from you on all occasions. That means when things are tough at home take time to fix it. Karen and I have a rule that we never bring an argument into the pulpit. We fix it.
• Train together. Learn how to work out together. This is awesome in every way.
• Guard your tongue- Ok let’s get honest! When you spend your life using words to continually share the message and vision as a professional speaker- you thus can use the same tongue for evil. You’re a trained orator! That means your tongue can be a double edged sword. Be careful how you speak to your spouse. A huge love chiller is to demean, demand, demoralize, or denigrate your spouse! Build each other up. Don’t criticize. Do not allow yourself to become the church member that destroys churches. Guard being negative. Guard against expecting and demanding more from your spouse than they deserve. You don’t own each other! You are called to build each other up at all times.
• Leave the office! Drive home slow! Pull in the driveway! Get out of the car! Be ready to be life to the ones that matter most!

This entire blog was written to encourage you the reader in God’s plan for your marriage. The devil hates healthy marriages. He hates it when you set a pure example. The enemies goal is to destroy your marriage so others will lose hope. Most of all the enemy can’t stand that you like each other. A few months ago Karen and I decided to start a new adventure. We started jogging together. It is one of the coolest things we have ever done together. We talk, laugh, complain, cry, dream, pray, and plan together on the track in the morning time. Not only has it helped us get in shape, but our marriage has gone to a whole other level. I would not give our mornings up for anyone. In fact we are pretty selfish about our mornings. We won’t plan meetings or appointments during our morning runs. It is our time. It is a daily date! There are more mornings where we simply enjoy each other’s company, and other times we do war with the devil. We fight for our children, finances, ministry, and friends. We pray for miracles for upcoming services. We encourage each other. So I challenge you as a couple to find something consistent that the two of you can do together. GUARD IT! You deserve each other. Our goal is at the end of the next 20 years we will be able to say- “the first 20 was incredible, but the last 20 was indescribable.”

So to my gorgeous wife I say, “Thank you baby!” You turned me into a man, and pushed me to understand true love. Thank you Jesus for my bride of my youth that will someday be my bride of my old age! Together we are unstoppable! A part we would just be half of a perfect plan! God Bless you! Pat

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