I recently sat down to pen this poem in order to reflect and heal after a very challenging season in ministry.
Were you there when I walked the lonely hallway,
Having just helped a family say goodbye?
Were you there when I held a dying woman’s hand,
Hearing “I love you,” a family member cry?
I walk this lonely hallway with a heavy, grieving heart.
The hallway’s emptiness matches my soul,
I’m carrying a weight within so heavy,
My heart is paralyzed, my body feels old.
I know I will have to carry this family,
Through the tears that will honor their mother.
A great celebration of life,
Yet a wonder, "Why Mom and not another?"
Yet, I turn the corner to this hallway,
For tomorrow is another day.
People to see, sermons to write,
Who knows what the next church member might say?
So, keep going I must,
Though my soul feels both empty and full,
Heavy heart, grateful heart, Lord I know you’re good,
But life can feel so cruel.
By: Paul Gibson
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
Kids are lazy. They do not have the work ethic kids used to have thirty years ago. They whine. They're hyperactive. Their manners are terrible. They would rather have their nose buried in an electronic device than listen to a lesson. Some of them are willing to curse at you without a second thought. "Why did you give me that grade?! (No, honey. You earned that grade.) And, the kids who do want to learn, have the odds stacked against them.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
Parents project blame all the time. They do not hold their children accountable like parents used to in the past. It is never the student's fault. "What did the teacher do or not do that caused my child to get that bad grade?" Teachers look for allies in parents. Instead, they find enemies.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
The administration is critical. "We must have better test scores." "Better classroom management." "Make sure you attend PD." "Turn in your lesson plans on time." "There will be a teacher's meeting after school." "What must you do to help that student get a better grade?"
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
The pay is average. The hours are long. Grading papers while watching television gets old. "But you get three months off every summer!" Well, not exactly. There are workshops to attend. Education requirements to pursue. And, before you know it, August catches you off guard. "Is it that time already?"
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
And, oh, what about being an administrator?! The parents do not trust you. The teachers do not like you. The kids are leery of you. There are days when you feel like you can please no one.
Why would anyone want to be an administrator?!
You are part of the school support staff. You are not a teacher, so you are often viewed as "not as important." It is disappointing that people do not realize that without you, there would be no bus rides, no trips to the bathroom, no lunches, the phones would constantly be ringing, and there would be no after school care.
Why would anyone want to be on support staff?!
I will tell you why anyone would want to be teacher or administrator or support staffer.
Because they burn with concern and passion for that little boy or girl who wears the same clothes to school three days in a row while looking malnourished or unkept.
Because they see the promise in the junior high student who is often angry and disrespectful. They see that if the student could just get past their pain and anger, they could be the next doctor, college president, pastor, stay at home mom, or teacher.
Because they see that high school student who is gifted beyond their years, yet struggles with self-confidence. If that student could just learn to trust and believe in who they are, their life has no limits.
Because they take the long view on life. They understand that the true work of a teacher is not determined by test scores or marks on a paper. Instead, their work is judged by the women and men, the mothers and fathers, the leaders and workers their students become ten to fifteen years later in life.
Because they were once that elementary student or junior high student or high school student described above and if it were not for the teacher or principal or teacher's assistant or lunch lady who believed in them, they would not be the mother, the father, the husband, the wife, the teacher they are today.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?
Because they care.
It’s not a matter of asking, ‘What if forgiveness is tough?” because the answer will always be, “Yes.” Yes, forgiveness is tough because true forgiveness required a human a sacrifice, a self-willing human sacrifice, a death so gruesome and torturous that the man willing to die was almost unrecognizable. Scripture teaches us that it was because of this gruesome sacrifice, by those wounds, that we are healed.
I believe we can learn a lot about forgiveness in our marriages by looking at the Cross. Forgiveness in marriage can be extremely difficult at times when we feel deeply betrayed. Yet, if you are a confessing Christian, you follow someone who was despised and rejected by humanity. Isn’t that what betrayal looks like; being ultimately despised and rejected by your spouse? I’m talking deep, deep hurt that causes your soul to cry out in anger and anguish and heartache all the while asking how someone who confessed to loving you so much could hurt you so deeply. Do the words, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me” come to mind? Christ cried out in anguish while he was hurting, betrayed, and deeply wounded on the Cross.
Yet, Christ Chose to Forgive
Jesus Christ looked at the thief next to him and said, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus was telling the repentant thief, “Today, you will be in my ultimate presence in my garden of peace.” Christ teaches us that his choice to forgive leads us into his very presence. Christ chose forgiveness in the midst of his heartache and that means we too must strive to forgive when we’ve been deeply hurt in our marriages. Why?
Because We Have Been Forgiven
That same forgiveness that Jesus gave the thief he gives to us. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confession and repentance lead to salvation. What if our marriages, even in their darkest times, model a place where confession and repentance lead to the saving of a marriage. Again, we forgive in our marriages because have been forgiven.
We Must Remember that Forgiveness Is Tough
Jesus had to endure great heartache and pain to achieve salvation for mankind. If we are going to forgive our spouse after being deeply betrayed, we too will go through heartache and pain. I believe the Cross teaches us that there is no true redemptive forgiveness without intense pain. So, please know that if your spouse has deeply hurt you, forgiveness will not occur without much wrestling and crying out to God and even your spouse.
The Other Side of Forgiveness
Forgiving our spouse after a betrayal does not mean our marriages are always saved, especially after abuse has occurred. However, choosing to practice forgiveness the way Christ forgave on the Cross will ultimately stop the cycle of hate that would continue if you chose not to forgive. On the other side of forgiveness, there is freedom; freedom from the captivity of hate and hopelessness, freedom from the anger and disgust that might be eating you up from the inside-out, freedom that results in deep, soulful healing.
Forgiveness is tough because the Cross was tough. Yet, forgiveness is powerfully redemptive because the Cross is redemptive. When you are tempted to not forgive, may the Cross be an ever present reminder that we live as forgiven people. So, no matter how difficult choosing to forgive might be, may you find the same power that raised Jesus from the dead being the same power in you empowering you to forgive.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
It was 12:45 a.m. and I was sending my dad an email after my university’s team got hammered by 32 points on a Saturday night. I was a student manager. Our season was looking bleak, everyone was doubting the process, and no one wanted to practice at 8:00 a.m. The email read like this:
Dad, we got crushed tonight. We were overmatched and our execution was awful. We just got back to the arena and our guys are exhausted. Coach has scheduled practice for 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, Dad! What is he thinking?!
My dad’s reply:
I am sure Coach has a reason for what he is doing. He’s teaching them how to win and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. Teams who have never won before don’t understand that it takes effort, day in and day out, to build a championship team. Coach knows what he’s doing.
During this toughest part of the season that my dad’s words and the team’s experiences taught me some valuable lessons that I apply to my marriage today, lessons that are taken directly from the pages of Scripture.
STAY COMMITTED TO THE PROCESS BECAUSE HEALTHY MARRIAGES REQUIRE DAY-IN-AND-DAY-OUT EFFORT.
Galatians says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” When marriages fall upon hard times, couples can be tempted to give up. The first big marital fight, the first holiday visit to the in-laws, the miscarriage, and any other number of life challenges can cause any marriage, but especially a young marriage, to crack. Work to know the triggers of marital stress in your relationship. Yet, it’s during these difficult moments that couples must stay committed, or covenanted, to one another. And often, that commitment doesn’t look sexy or feel wonderful. Practicing at 8:00 a.m. after a game the night before never felt sexy, nor did workouts at 5:00 a.m. Commitment often feels the exact opposite of sexy and wonderful; it is often a practical and devoted decision when you feel nothing.
Commitment often feels the exact opposite of sexy and wonderful; it is often a practical and devoted decision when you feel nothing.
COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER WILL PRODUCE MARITAL GROWTH.
Galatians also says, “for, at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Commitment during a hopeless moment is often the seed that will produce marital growth. The formula for successful teams is the same for a successful marriage: commitment through difficult times produces resiliency which results in a stronger marriage. I have seen too many couples squander the pain of a difficult season instead of using that pain to grow closer to each other and to God. If you find yourself in a difficult season of marriage, lean into the pain, and allow God to use that pain to grow your marriage. A simple question you can ask God during a difficult marital season is, “God, what are you trying to teach me or teach us during this season?”
The formula for successful teams is the same for a successful marriage, commitment through difficult times produces resiliency which results in a stronger marriage.
SOMETIMES MARRIAGE REQUIRES A 12:45 A.M. CONVERSATION.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” It does not say to resolve every problem before going to sleep. However, there are times during a difficult season in marriage when you will find yourself up late into the night trying to resolve a conflict or work through a challenge. Couples can choose to see these times as burdens or they can embrace the eccentric nature of such conversations, lean into the conversation, and find themselves connecting on a different level. Please note: if you find yourself growing too exhausted to engage in respectful conversation, pause the conversation and commit to re-engaging in the morning with fresher minds and hearts.
The same team I was concerned about ended up winning three straight NCAA conference championships because they stayed committed to the process of improving and grew as a result of that commitment. I pray the same is true for your marriage. Your marriage will most likely never be given a literal championship trophy for being healthy or for staying committed during the sometimes mundane day-in-and-day-out work of marriage. But holding hands at the age of 80 while celebrating a lifetime of commitment and devotion to one another is greater than any championship any sport can offer. (Article was originally published at startmarriageright.com.)
I always try to emphasize one thing to a bride as her wedding day approaches. “It’s your wedding. It’s your celebration. It’s your day. You and your groom deserve the fairy tale; your fairy tale. So, when it comes to your wedding, don’t be shy about being honest with your dreams and hopes. It’s your day, so make it happen.”
I tell brides this because of a dynamic I’ve witnessed at too many rehearsals: a bride’s mom hijacks her daughter’s wedding and makes the wedding about her desires, her expectations, and her dreams. As this dynamic has played out time and again, I’ve seen many brides torn. They desire to speak up and express their own wishes, but out of respect, due to fear, or from a place of sheer defeat, the bride stays quiet. A little part of her dies inside because she realizes that it’s not her fairy tale day after all. It’s her moms.
There’s a deeper, much more meaningful process taking place in those moments when the bride is wrestling with whether or not she should express her desires to her mother. The process is one of spiritual formation where the bride has to decide, “Do I be honest with how I feel or do I simply bury my feelings?”
Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” If a bride’s mother is being selfish, then the bride must do the difficult work of confronting her mother about her selfish behavior; selfish behavior that is hijacking her fairy tale.
Such confrontation is extremely tough to do. But, it is important to point out that Jesus didn’t promote the burying of our feelings nor did he promote the sugar coating of our feelings. In that moment of decision, the bride is making a choice to live a life of honesty and congruence. She is deciding that she is worth speaking up for and that she cares about herself enough to do so. Yes, a bride must respect her mother, but if that bride is going to practice loving others as she loves herself, she must decide that she will advocate for herself or else she will always struggle to advocate for others like her husband and children. If the bride is going to model honesty and speaking the truth, the bride will hopefully decide to speak up. Otherwise, her relationship with her mom will always be one of false honesty where she pretends she is happy with her relationship. In essence, the bride will be living a relational lie with her mom.
In my sixteen years of ministry, I have learned that the earlier a couple can develop the characteristic of honesty with their respective parents, the greater the likelihood each set of parents will respect the marital boundaries of the newlywed couple
What if you’re the groom in moments like these? First, I encourage a groom to also be honest about their desires around the wedding, but to ultimately submit to their wife’s wishes. Allow Cinderella or Tiana to have their fairy tale! Secondly, I encourage the groom to be a voice of encouragement for their conflicted bride, but to not rescue her. The groom needs to empower his bride to be honest about her dreams and desires around the wedding. Son-in-laws-to-be benefit from encouraging daughter-mother dialogue instead of triangulating themselves into such conflict. Finally, pray that your bride will find the strength to be honest and advocate for herself.
Brides, it’s your fairy tale day. Moms, it is not your fairy tale day. Brides, be honest about what you want and may the celebration go well!!! (Article originally published at startmarriageright.com)
What Is Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family?
Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family is a marriage enrichment course that was created for the purpose of helping couples strengthen their marriages in a safe and fun environment. The core belief of the course is that healthy families are built upon healthy marriages.
Who Should Attend?
Any couple, from engagement to 75 years of marriage, will most likely benefit from this course. Couples with healthy marriages can use this course to strengthen their marriages. Couples whose marriages feel “stuck” might find this course to be a positive way to jump start marital growth and connection.
Do I Have to Be a Christian or Part of a Church to Attend?
Not at all. However, anyone taking Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family should understand that the class is built upon Biblical principles. The Christian faith and Biblical principles will be discussed often, but the purpose of this class is to not convert you. It is to help your marriage grow stronger.
I’m Afraid Someone Might Think My Marriage is Bad If I Show Up
The above fear is normal, but please know that this course is a marriage enrichment course. The primary purpose of this course is to improve a marriage, not fix a broken marriage.
Can this Course Heal My Broken Marriage?
A couple whose marriage is struggling will benefit from this course, but will most likely need additional counseling or therapy to address deeper causes of martial discord. If your marriage is in a difficult place, you are encouraged to attend and see this course as a first step towards healing.
Does My Spouse Have to Be Present in Order for Me to Attend?
Spouses are encouraged to attend together, but it is not required. The course has had many attendees before whose spouse could not attend due to work or other personal reasons.
Is the Course Offered Online?
As Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family is slowly developed into a (hopefully) published curriculum, the course will be offered online, at times, through Facebook Live. The next session of the course, mentioned below, will be offered online (technology permitting). Check out Dr. Paul's Facebook page, Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson, to watch live.
How Long is the Course?
There are two formats for the HMHF course. The first format consists of 8 sessions that will last approximately 90 minutes each. The second format is a HMHF intensive. This course meets for 4 hours on either a Saturday morning or weeknight.
Is There a Cost?
Yes, but it's a small cost that covers course materials. CHILDCARE WILL BE PROVIDED for those taking the class onsite.
Who Will Teach the Course?
The course was created and will be taught by Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson. Paul holds a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Counseling, is a regular contributor to Start Marriage Right at http://www.startmarriageright.com/author/paul-gibson/, and is currently working on publishing the course as a marriage curriculum.
Do I Have to Register to Attend? How Do I Register?
No registration is required, but it is encouraged. Go to www.paulbgibson.com and register on the site's homepage.
I am excited to announce that I'll be leading a second Healthy Marriage/Healthy Family Course starting Sunday night, January 14th at 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The course is completely open to anyone in the Breckinridge County community. The course will meet every Sunday night through the end of February at Hardinsburg Baptist Church. There is also a possibility that this course will be offered online through Facebook Live and ITunes.
Healthy Marriage/Healthy Family is for any couple engaged to their 75th wedding anniversary who desires a healthier, happier, and holier marriage. You will laugh much, cry a little, and grow a lot.
If you want to know more information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can sign-up for the class by using the form located on the right of this page (Desktop).
I was 23 years old, married for a year, and just received an offer to coach high school basketball. I was already attending seminary part-time and had started a career as a pastor. My wife, Tara, was scheduled to start traveling for medical internships within the month. Over the next four months, she would be gone throughout the week and return home over the weekends. I was entertaining the coaching offer because I was hoping to use coaching as an extension of a career in ministry.
I met with our senior pastor to seek his approval and wisdom regarding the offer. His words still haunt me to this day. With my pastor sitting right across from me, he gently looked up, and with concern on his face, said “Paul, I’m afraid you’re going to be doing too much.”
I’m afraid you’re going to be doing too much…
If only I would have listened. I accepted the coaching offer. Six months later, our marriage was showing fractures. I had grown distant from Tara. What had happened?
COMPLICATING THE HARD WORK OF MARRIAGE
Marriage is hard work. A lot harder than I expected. Basketball started to dominate my focus and Tara started her internships. I found myself too physically and emotionally exhausted to talk with Tara every night on the phone. Our conversations became short and I grew snippy. When she would return home for the weekend, I often had practice to attend. When we were together, I was a zombie whether we were sitting on the coach or watching movies. We were not connecting. The physical distance of internships and the emotional distance caused by my commitment to basketball and my career made the hard work of marriage even harder.
The physical distance of internships and the emotional distance caused by my commitment to basketball and my career made the hard work of marriage even harder.
Lack of time together and the result of not connecting led to an unhealthy marriage. It took two years of counseling to recover. I wish I could go back to that office and sit in the on the meeting between my younger self and my pastor. The more mature, wounded me would refuse to allow my younger self to leave until he had made the decision to not accept the coaching offer. I still cringe when I think of the heartache we experienced as a couple.
LAYING ASIDE YOUR ARMOR
The words of Deuteronomy 24:5 contain great wisdom. “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married” (NIV). Focusing on marriage and not battle was an Old Testament warriors’ sole responsibility for a whole year!
Currently, if a young pastor or any young professional asks me about accepting an additional employment role in the early years of marriage, I try to put the fear of the Lord in them. I strongly tell them “You’re going to be doing too much and you’re going to hurt your marriage. Lay aside your metaphorical armor and focus on your marriage first.” Such focus is especially important when marriages start off with additional challenges like school internships, graduate school processes, young children, and medical or mental illness. Challenges like these require an even greater focus and commitment to help an early marriage stay healthy and holy.
If you find yourself at the beginning stages of marriage and facing an additional job offer, wrestling with going back to school, or accepting a position that requires even more time away from your spouse, please think long and hard. Do whatever is necessary to lay aside, or not pick up, your metaphorical armor. Work on “bringing happiness” to your spouse by focusing on them as much as possible. A young marriage that focuses on time together and connection lays the foundation for an even healthier marriage in the years to follow. There will be plenty of time later to pick up “your armor.” (This article was first published at startmarriageright.com)
“Fear is the path to the darkside. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” -Master Yoda
If you read my biography, you discover pretty quickly that I am a big Star Wars fan! Why? I’ve thought often about this question and I can think of three answers. First, Star Wars connects me to my childhood. Secondly, Star Wars does a wonderful job showing that good is not achieved without struggle. Lastly, Star Wars provides heroes in an age when our society is confused about who is good and who is bad. (I digress.) As the opening of Stars Wars: The Last Jedi nears, I desire to share a few lessons about marriage that a couple can possibly gleam from Stars Wars (and Holy Scripture, of course).
An Ancient (True) Tale
A powerful scene takes place in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Characters Rey and Finn are introduced to Han Solo and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. As Han Solo prepares to ditch Rey and Finn, they inform Han that they are on a mission to return BB-8 to the Resistance because BB-8 holds a map to Jedi Luke Skywalker. After hearing their mission and no-doubt being stirred by memories of his past, Han Solo tells Rey, "It is true. All of it. The Force. The Jedi. It's all true."
Up to that point, Rey and Finn had been wrestling the meaning of the map, Luke Skywalker, and their journey to return the map to the Resistance. Han Solo's words begin the process of helping Rey and Finn understand that their journey was part of a ancient tale that was still being written; a tale of good vs evil, light vs dark, the good guys vs the bad guys.
A similar scene takes place in Acts 2. After the Holy Spirit falls upon the first church, many are left asking, "What does this mean?" Peter responds with a passionate testimony that ends with these words, "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." In essence, Peter could have responded, "It is true. All of it. Jesus' life. His death. His resurrection. It's all true."
I believe all married couples are like Rey and Finn; they must wrestle with the truth that they’re part of an ancient tale that is still being written; a tale of good vs evil, but more specifically of eternal life versus eternal death, of the Messiah versus The Accuser. Marriages shaped by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ purposely work to identify ways their marriages can share the Light of the Gospel. Such sharing could be through volunteering at a church, caring for a young college student, or even adopting a child or being foster parents. Regardless of the “how,” Christ-like marriages recognize they are part of an ancient tale that implores them to share the Light of Christ to a dark world. Don’t coast through marriage! Identify ways your marriage can make a tangible difference for the Light Side of Christ.
What If Your Marriage Turns to the Dark Side?
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” -Master Yoda
I believe Yoda was partly correct. Marriages that have symptoms of fear, anger, and hate are on the path to the marital Dark Side. However, I would slightly amend Yoda’s wise words to say that “fear leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to mistrust, and mistrust leads to an inability to connect, and not connecting leads to the Dark Side.” Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life” and Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” How’s your heart regarding your marriage? Is it full of fear, anger, or hate? Are you anxious in your marriage, not feeling accepted or loved? Do you trust your spouse? Do you feel as if you and your spouse are miles apart relationally?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it’s time to get help. And, help might not be an Old Jedi Warrior on Dagobah, but it very well could be a marriage therapist or pastoral counselor or even an older, wiser couple to seek out for help and wisdom. Please don’t allow your marriage to be seduced by the Dark Side because you and your spouse are too stubborn to reach out for help. The fate of the galaxy is in your hands! We all need an Obi Wan Kenobi, a Yoda, or Leia Organa Solo (metaphorically speaking) to help our marriages when we are seduced by fear, anger, hate, mistrust, and disconnection.
Again, our marriages are part of a much larger, ancient tale that is still being written. As you navigate the light and dark, may the force, er, I mean may the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the love of the Father be with you!
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19)
In life, and in the life of a church, I think people often assume that if we are attempting something “new,” we are forgetting about the old. This line of thinking often misses the truth of many a “new” situation; the new can only exist because it is being built upon a solid foundation established by the “old.” In other words, “new” would not be possible if the “old” had not prepared the way for the “new.”
We see such a connection between the old and the new in Scripture. Jesus’ completion of the New Covenant was possible because the Old Covenant first served as a shadow and copy of “better” things to come. As many have been learning in the class on Hebrews, the Old Covenant wasn’t bad, it simply was incomplete, unable to truly bring about redemption for the people. Thus, God enacted a new plan with a better high priest and sacrifice through Jesus Christ.
I have heard a few in our community and even our church grumble with frustration that HBC is doing away with the “good old Living Christmas Tree.” I write the two paragraphs above to show that what HBC is doing with what was formerly called “The Living Christmas Tree” is building upon its GREAT foundation to create a new worship experience that will honor what the Living Christmas Tree was about, telling the story of Christ’s birth. Matter of fact, many of the same elements from past Living Christmas Trees will still be present; a community choir, multiple means of instrumentation, and congregational participation.
Yes, this year’s Christmas Worship Service will be in many ways something “new.” But, I encourage all of us to know that whatever “new” we are doing is built upon the wonderful foundation of what was “old,” a Living Christmas Tree experience that for many years stirred our community. I pray that we as a church and community can trust that God is doing a new thing, built upon the old, with our Christmas Worship Service. And, I believe that when the weekend of December 9th and 10th is over, all will walk away feeling as if they worshipped the birth of “our newborn king.” Save the date. The new, built upon the old, will uplift us all!
Tara wears several hats; wife to Paul, Mom to Natalie and Isaac, Physical Therapist by day, and Noonday Collection ninja at night. Tara cares deeply about helping other women understand their true identities and developing their relationships with Christ. Tara likes to read, cook, and learn about all things Disney.