Archives for : February2019

What Does it Take?

What Does It Take to Build A Marriage That Goes the Distance? By Sharon Sheppard

            With attitudes toward marriage shifting and divorce rates soaring, it’s refreshing to take an occasional look at some marriages that have stood the test of time. Here is one of my favorite true stories about couples I have known.

            My sister-in-law, Marlene Moser, made frequent trips to check on her parents, Bob and Doris Coulter (Pine River, MN) after they moved into an assisted living apartment. The couple had been married for seventy-plus years, and now both of them were rapidly declining in health. Marlene, who has a gift for interior decorating, had arranged their cozy living quarters, and placed a small table between their two recliners to hold their coffee cups while they watched TV together.      

            The next time Marlene stopped in, she noticed that they had moved the little table to a different spot.

            “You have a new arrangement,” she commented.

            “Yes,” her mother said, “it’s too hard for us to hold hands with that table between our chairs.”

            As in any marriage, life had not always been easy for the Coulters, and during those years the two of them had weathered plenty of difficult times. There were anxious years while Bob was away fighting in the Philippines during World War II. They lost a daughter to cancer and shared other heartaches along the way. But their faith in the Lord remained firm, and their tender commitment to each other was unshakable.

            Several years ago, as I was working on an article on marriage for the Baptist Standard, I went to the experts for advice—couples who had been married 35 years or more. “What’s your best advice for achieving a love that goes the distance?” I asked.

            Over coffee and dessert, the panel pooled their combined 270 years of marriage experience to come up with their top ten tips:

  • Recognize and celebrate your differences.
  • Be quick to apologize.
  • Treat each other with respect.
  • Handle each other’s shortcomings with sensitivity.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to be able to read your mind.
  • Learn to communicate by becoming transparent with each other.
  • Learn to fight fair.
  • Keep your romance alive.
  • Become an expert at knowing what makes the other person happy.
  • Nurture your faith as a couple.

            Marriage was God’s idea in the first place. Inviting Him to be a full partner in a couple’s  marriage journey can make all the difference between a contentious relationship and one where differences can be resolved peaceably.

            From 1 Corinthians, here is some of God’s best marriage advice:

            Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. . . If you really love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

            There are three things that remain—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love.

            1 Cor. 13: 4-7, 13 (TLB)

Two Novelists Weigh in on the Definition of Love

Two novelists weigh in on the definition of LOVE:

In a passage from his novel, Corelli’s Mandolin, British author Louis de Bernieres says, “Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just ‘being in love,’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.”

In another novel, Brian Moore’s The Luck of Ginger Coffey, the protagonist describes married love this way: “Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life. It’s staying with her now because she needs you. It’s knowing you and she will still care about each other when sex and daydreams, fights and futures—when all that’s on the shelf and done with. Love—well I’ll tell you what love is: It’s you at seventy-five and her at seventy-one, each of you listening for the other’s step in the next room, each afraid that a sudden silence, a sudden cry, could mean a lifetime’s talk is over.”

How Do We Apply Love?

How Do We Apply Love?   By Mary Zigan

  The thought came to my cousin Sharon that one of our topics in the month of February should be: How We Apply Love.  I love the word apply. A picture comes to mind of something being massaged in a repetitive methodical motion. It feels soothing, gentle, and loving. What if every one of us applied love in that way? Would there be more loving kindness in our world? Another thought that comes to mind is that love is more than love over the long haul. Love fleshes itself out through committed sacrifice, through keeping short accounts, namely being forgiving, and through compromise, by not always needing to be right or have the last word.

In my book, *An Upside-Down Heart, I expressed that a lot of the conflict with my husband, Don and me, was due to the fact we didn’t apply what I just described. Our fears, our stubborn wills, and our unresolved issues from our past marriages were keeping us from intimacy, tender, consistent love, and from seeing the goodness and blessing we had in each other. For most of us, changes in perception are gradual because we can see the speck in others that needs changing, but, not so readily see the board of judgement in our own eye.

Most of us need others, a Jesus with skin on: like a special friend, a counsellor, or a   spiritual director, to help us along the way, before we grow to embrace an idea, a person, or new concept. And it comes slowly, over a period of time. However, loving commitment perseveres and never gives up.

Don and I embraced the Freedom in Christ materials, written by Neil Anderson. The Seven Steps to Freedom, particularly the step on forgiveness, was so freeing and cleansing for our marriage. It was so refreshing to read that forgiveness is not forgetting what happened, but a choice, a crisis of the will. Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Neither Don nor I wanted to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness from our past. We began the discipline of renewing our minds to the truth. We loved each other, we cherished each other, we wanted to leave regret and grief behind and begin celebrating the best in each other. As we actively worked at connecting with God, and being more intentional with each other, our perspective shifted. And when the focus is different, the view changes. And I might add, the view kept changing for 35 years until Don passed away in 2009.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.    

                                                                                                            ~ James Baldwin       

Mary Zigan                                                                                        

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Love is Bursting Out All Over

Love is bursting out all over… Mary Zigan introduces our theme for February and our two guest bloggers:

            Is there a more complex word than love? I don’t think so. We talk about a loving God, loving football, loving pizza, giving love, making love. No wonder we take the word love so for granted. Love is the oxygen for our souls and we all need it. Every one of us needs and longs for acceptance, affection, reassurance and fellowship, all forms of love, not just in February on Valentine’s Day, but all year. Forthcoming are a couple of true love stories:

The first is young, tender love just budding, as expressed by my granddaughter, Sydney Johnson:

Take the Detour

            Have you ever been driving down a familiar road and all of a sudden a detour sign appears? You think, “No! Not now!” Everything was going so smooth up until the detour sign appeared and now you have to reroute. You may be frustrated or upset by this new unfamiliar path, maybe even scared or nervous. Let me also ask you this… have you ever faced a detour that actually ended up being a blessing in disguise?

            My fiancé and I started dating last March and he continues to be the greatest blessing in disguise? I had an agenda (path) for my life. I’m a planner so you can imagine the type of life I had pictured in my head. First comes a steady job, then maybe some traveling, then paying off loans, more traveling, getting married, more traveling, settling down, the list goes on. My agenda (path) seemed so right and true to who I was and what I wanted. And then one day, bam! A detour arose. My best friend (and now fiancé) from college was standing right in front of me waiting for me to commit to something more than just being friends.

            The reasons why we love people are hard to put into words sometimes. As I love Jacoby more and more each day, it gets harder to explain why I have chosen him to be my life long partner simply because there are so many reasons that continue to accumulate. One reason that stands out to me is the way I feel when I am with him. I’m not talking just being happy or excited but really how my heart and body feels when I am with him. I am at peace about life. My deep concerns or issues that weigh down my heart seem to fizzle and be put in perspective. I laugh more. I talk more about good and bad things. I listen more. Simply put, I am more. I can be more when I am with Jacoby because I feel that I can be all that I am with him. I can be ugly, sad, happy, uptight, angry, excited, hyper, goofy, sick, stressed. You name it, I can be it because he accepts me and actually loves me for everything that I am. And get this, he loves me even harder on the days that seem like my worst!

Trusting THIS detour never ends!

Now here is the “long-haul love” of forty-plus years as expressed by friend, Julie DeMuth:

Sweethearts still….

            My husband and I have been married for over 34 years and still happily married. We are high-school sweethearts who went on our first official date for my 16th birthday. I am turning 58 on February 11th so you do the math.  Our marriage and relationship has been a blessing in so many ways. Even though there have been ups and downs, we always protect our marriage and the love that it has always provided for one another.

             To me, my marriage is everything that gives balance in our life. We put each other first and foremost no matter if we might not like the outcome personally. Our relationship has been based on a “partnership.” It is a constant give and take and making sure we don’t hurt each other along the way. Love is the best thing in the world when both partners are engaged. Making time for one another and truly enjoying what we share together is the key to a successful and loving marriage. If you put energy towards your love for one another, you will reap many rewards. It sounds so simple, but many marriages and relationships collapse when the spark is extinguished. We don’t attempt to clone one another but try to find freshness in our daily journey of life. It is best not to take each other too serious and make sure to PLAY whenever possible. Trying new adventures (travel, biking) and experiencing Life together is the best gift of love we can give one another. Our marriage is sacred and a blessing and we never take it for granted for one single day.


Then there is agape love which is the highest form of love, the love we knew nothing of until Christ came to earth as a love-gift to the world. Agape love is unconditional, divine love, the kind of love God exercises toward mankind. This love is practical not just a spiritual sensation. This love wears work gloves and handles the everyday nuts and bolts of life. It hugs the lonely, feeds the hungry, it tends to the sick and comforts the sorrowful. This love is pure, positive and practical. We are made unlovely by our sin, yet God’s love sees beneath our sin to the person he created, and when we open ourselves to His love, no matter who we are and where we have been, each and every day is Valentine’s Day!

Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another. ~ George Eliot

~ Mary Z