Have you joined my Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for 2015 yet? I hope you have! You just commit to reading one book a month that will enhance your marriage–and each month is a different topic, so it doesn’t get boring!

February Books for The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

This month we’re looking at spicing things up, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing about The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage

But last month we looked at building the foundation, using a number of different books, including Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge. I gave you all the opportunity in January to write out some questions that you wanted our authors to give quick answers to, and John and Stasi obliged! Here they’re sharing some quick marriage advice:

1. What is the most important thing a wife can do to bless her husband?

“I believe in you.” Those are the magic words, expressed in a thousand ways. A man yearns to know that his life matters; he yearns to know that he has what it takes. He wants his opinions to matter. He wants his words to matter. So every way you can express to him, “I believe in you,” you are pouring blessing into his heart (and romance into the marriage). Certainly, say it to him: “Honey, I believe in you. You’re doing such a great job.” But also “say” it with your actions: ask his opinion on things (and respect it when he gives it). When he makes a decision, don’t undermine him by going and doing the opposite. “I believe in you” is the greatest gift a wife can give her man.

2. If we’re part of a bigger picture of what God is doing in the world, how do you live that out if your husband isn’t a believer?

Choose something to invest in that you know your husband will understand and respect. Perhaps it is tutoring underprivileged kids; perhaps it is volunteering at the hospital. If you invest all your “ministry” time into something that is utterly strange or bizarre to him (like worship gatherings, or prophetic meetings) he won’t “connect the dots” and see that God is relevant, God cares about the things he cares about. We aren’t not saying don’t pursue your spiritual life; please do. But he needs to see that christianity is not “pie in the sky” weirdness. You can show him by being excited about fighting for justice, or getting children out of the sex trade.

3. You spoke about how it’s not loving to ignore a spouse’s sin or brokenness. But how do you know when to stand your ground with your spouse and when to let it go?

You are friends with the most brilliant person in the universe–ask him! We’re serious. Ask Jesus for his counsel when to bring things up and when not to. This one decision has rescued our marriage a thousand times. You know how it goes–you want to bring something up (or stand your ground) but when you do it blows up. Jesus knows the better timing. Ask him–and be willing to wait when he tells you to wait, and to act when he says act!

4. On a practical note, how do you carve out time for you and your spouse if your kids are now teenagers and are up later than you are?

Actually we found the teenage years to be the season that began to open up time for us together, because the boys wanted to be with their friends far more than they wanted to stay home with mom and dad. When they were at home, and we weren’t doing something together as a family, we would sometimes go into our bedroom and close the door. You might have to be as direct as to say, “Mom and Dad need some time right now to talk through some things.” But the bedroom was always a safe bet because teenagers shudder at the thought of mom and dad “doing” anything intimate; they wouldn’t interrupt if the house was on fire!

Great marriage advice, John and Stasi! Thank you!

I wanted to share today another journey I’ve been on thanks to reading Love & War, and part of what stuck with me.

John and Stasi write that marriage is supposed to be a picture of both love and war–the love that God has for us, but also the great battle that He is waging to win the world.

And we’re to fight that battle alongside our spouse, for God and with God. That’s the grand adventure that marriage is! It’s not just staring into each other’s eyes; it’s actually feeling a purpose of being part of what God is doing to bring His kingdom on earth.

They write:

Our love is meant to be both a picture of his love and his fight…

Your marriage is part of a larger story, too, a story as romantic as any that has ever stirred your heart, and at least as dangerous…

Do you get how cool that is?

Together, you and your husband can be dangerous.

I want a marriage so great that we can be dangerous to the devil

I’ve been on an odyssey with prayer over the last month–something that I’ve never experienced before. I have heard other people talk about having a burden to pray, and starting to pray and then not being able to stop until the burden is lifted. But I’ve never experienced that,  until very recently about something in my family (don’t worry; we’re all fine. No one’s sick or in danger or anything).

I’ve had a weird relationship with prayer ever since my son was born and died. We prayed for him to be healed, and he wasn’t, though I was honestly okay with that. I knew that God had other purposes, and I can see how God is using Christopher’s story (I shared it even last week in Texas, and it touched many).

But since then I’ve been wracked with the question: does God really change what He is going to do if we pray? Is there really a point to prayer? If we hedge all our bets when we pray with “If it is your will…”, then is it really useful?

I’ve read a book by C.S. Lewis lately called Letters from Malcolm that has helped a lot, but ever since I’ve had this burden I’ve been praying hard–and amazing things are happening. It’s been so encouraging to see that God answers prayer in my personal life. I’ve seen it so much in my professional life, but not as much personally.

And all of this has committed me to three things:

1. We do have to battle in prayer.

There are times when God wants to act, but He asks for our prayers to do so. And I think we do need to pray for very specific things. I’ve found lately the more specific I am the easier it is to see prayers answered.

2. I am praying that God will make Keith and me dangerous in tandem.

So much of the last few years we have gone in different directions with work and ministry. It’s HARD. He’s been in one place and I’ve been in another. But over the next few years we’re re-evaluating and looking at how we can do things together. I’m excited!

3. As I pray for my girls’ relationships (now and in the future), I am praying that they will be part of the battle.

It is not enough to pray that they will find someone to love them and that they can love in return; I’m praying that they will marry someone with whom they can be DANGEROUS with together.

Yesterday and today I’m in Ottawa wedding dress shopping with my oldest daughter, and I am praying hard that God will make them both dangerous together.

And Katie, who is not currently in a relationship–I am praying that she will only be drawn to men who are seeking first after God’s heart. And I am praying that God will lead her to a man that she can fight this grand battle with together–not just that she will have a comfortable life. What’s the fun in that?

So that is what I have taken away from John and Stasi–I want to be dangerous! And I thank them both for answering our questions.

In the meantime, you may be interested in my daughter Katie’s first video in her series: “Katie, the Relationship Guru Who Has Never Been in a Relationship.” It’s pretty funny (and wise!) I know she’d appreciate it if you shared it:

Now–let me ask you for questions for this month’s featured author, Shannon Ethridge, whose book The Passion Principles I’ll review later in February. Have any specific marriage advice or questions you’d like her to answer? Leave it in the comments below!

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