Monday, November 30, 2009

for women only (part 8) - romance

for women only:
what
you need to know about the inner lives of men
Shaunti Feldhahn

Chapter 7 - Chocolate, Flowers, Bait Fishing
Why the Reluctant Clod You Know Really Does Want Romance*

I found this chapter a little less illuminating - or perhaps not so surprising. She found that men want romance however, they have some hesitations about making a move in that direction:

1. "I won't do a very good job" - the risks of humiliation
2. Haunted by romantic failure - or being unable to top the last success
3. It's difficult to change gears from job and responsibility to romance

Then she explored how there is or can be a difference in definition of romance between men and women, because

1. Playing together is romantic for many men - so that game of golf or bushwalk he suggests may be his idea of romance.
2. Romance without sex may not feel complete - it's viewed as all part of the experience.

So, our response?
1. Encourage - all efforts at romance, and go along with suggestions to play together
2. Entice him - make him want to pursue you romantically
3. Drop hints, let you know what you would like and find romantic
4. Keep him number one - this includes #1 over the kids, give him time too.


Personally, one thing I did find enlightening in this chapter was the idea that for some men, playing together is romantic. I realised that when Husband would ask if I wanted to go for a bushwalk, or come with him on the golf course, these are things he thought were romantic. I am much keener now to say 'yes' to these suggestions!


Some things to think about:


For men:

  • What types of things do you find romantic - candlelit dinner or outdoor activities? Or something else? Have you told you wife?
  • Are you afraid to organise romantic events, for fear of failure? Chances are, your wife would love it if you tried.

For women:
  • Can you identify the things your husband finds romantic?
  • Are you enabling him to do those things?


Next time: Part 9 - how we look



* these are her titles and subtitles - not mine!

Going the Distance - Chapter 5

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 5: Depression doesn't have to be depressing

This is an interesting chapter. Brain makes a distinction between exogenous depression (depression that is reactive to a loss) and endogenous depression (which is biological). He does not attempt to deal with endogenous depression (which is often treated with medication), instead pointing people to other resources. Instead, he deals with exogenous depression - the more common depression experienced by many people, often. A simple (yet hard to absolutely define) difference may be the feeling of depression, rather than actually having depression.

It is important to see this distinction and understand it, for otherwise some of his suggestions seem inappropriate and a little superficial. However, as he is dealing with the more usual 'downs' of life, this chapter is a helpful one.

He states that depression, is
a part of our body's 'early warning system', alerting us to the fact that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with. We may need to slow down, seek medical treatment, turn to God in repentance or allow the grieving process to take its course. Depression may be an agent used by God for our sanity (where depression is a response to loss), or our sanctification (if there is an sinful act or attitude involved). For every loss situation there is an appropriate amount of depression. (p70)
I wondered whether I agreed with his definition - that depression is the reaction to a loss. When we discussed this a little more, we wondered whether it could be more broadly defined as the reaction to change.

Brain goes on to talk about how the truth of God and the gospel inform us and prepare us for these times:
the learning of contentment and trust in God's sovereignty and faithfulness can help us face loss when it comes, whether through happy or unhappy, expected or unexpected, circumstances. None of this is meant for a moment to downplay the loss of people or things in our lives, but in so far as we are detached from them as reasons for living, and attached to our Lord, we will be better able to face their loss and move through the resultant grieving process. (p73)
I think my husband is good at this. When something happens that could cause disappointment, he is able to separate himself from it. Not to say he doesn't care (he certainly does), but he is able to discern when he is responsible, or when things are best left to God or others. He knows that God alone can change people and they are responsible before God. On the other hand, I need to work at this a little more, and not take things as personally as I tend to.

This chapter then gets a little more practical - addressing some issues of self-care that may help, helpful tips in listening to those who are depressed and a reminder of the truths of God that can help Christians who are depressed.


If you would like another place to go to think a little more about depression as a Christian, read Paul Grimmond's article in the August 09 Briefing here.


Some things to think about:

  1. What losses or changes have you experienced that have caused you to feel depressed?
  2. Do you have someone with whom you can share about the hard times and disappointments in ministry, as well as the highs? Do you actually do so?
  3. Where/to whom would you turn if you thought you were clinically depressed and needed professional help?

Next Monday: Chapter 6 - Anger: Using it Constructively

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Advent

Well, here we are again - Christmas is coming up fast and so we need to start our advent calendar next week. Some longer term readers may recall what we have done in previous years.

We want to teach the kids that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, and to use every chance we have to do so. We have found that 25 readings/activities in December have been a great way to teach about Jesus as well as making it exciting to do so.

We started out having a cardboard Christmas tree with numbers attached to it, which each had a verse on the back, which matched up with the special verses in the Advent Tree material in Disciplines of a Godly Family, by Kent and Barbara Hughes. You can see pictures and details in this post.

Last year, I got more detailed with little numbered boxes each containing a bible verse and a special treat, still using a form of the Advent Tree, although quite edited by me. More photos & details are here.

Fast forward to this year!
  • We are still going with the boxes - they were a big hit last year - and they can fit enough in them (but not too much!)
  • I have written my own material this year - for the last three years we have done a biblical theology of Christmas, a 'Genesis to Jesus' if you will (as mentioned above). This year, we are focusing on the events around the birth of Jesus. We have 25 readings mainly from Luke and Matthew's gospels, so we can really spend time thinking about when Jesus was born and what it means for us today. Each day there is a bible reading, some questions to think about, a special verse and some optional extras - something to draw, a song to listen to, a craft to do, etc.
  • In each box there is a verse for each of our 3 children. The verse in full is written out for Mr 6 (a confident reader), then a simplified version for Miss 4 which she should be able to remember bits of, and the same for Miss 2 - she will remember nothing, but we have to include her!).
  • They will also get a special treat each day, which will be a selection of little trinkets I got from Koorong (bouncy balls, erasers, stickers, etc), bubbles, Christmas decorations and some candy/chocolate. I do this to make it FUN. We want Christmas to be fun and learning about Jesus to be fun too.

Now I am really looking forward to December 1!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Going the Distance - Chapter 4

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 4: Stress and adrenalin: understanding your body clockIn this chapter, Brain looks at stress and how we respond to it. He says:

Stress cannot be avoided in life and ministry. There will always be emergencies to attend to, difficult circumstances and people that need attention, regular deadlines to meet, plus our own expectations driving us.

What is important is our response to stress, and the way we manage our lives so as to avoid unnecessary stress. (p53)
He goes on to detail some of the body's natural responses to stress. It is helpful how he points out again that stress cannot be avoided, nor should it be:
Life is to be lived - and lived to the fullest. Being highly motivated to accomplish some task and able to work with enthusiasm is a great blessing. (quoting Hart, p57)
However, he does warn of the toll of long-term stress, with no release, using the words of Arch Hart:
Both roads - stress and burnout - lead ultimately to depression. The depression that comes from stress is due to the exhaustion of the adrenal system. On the other hand, the depression that comes from burnout is the loss of your vision, of your ideals. (p58)
Hart goes on to outline the 4 danger areas for a minister, when under ill-managed stress:

1. Arrogance - "I can do it myself"
2. Addiction - excited and addicted to own work
3. Aloneness - cuts off from other people, here depression can set in
4. Adultery - turns to sex to fulfill his needs

So what to do??

Brain gives a number of suggestions, which include:
- manage your diary well
- build in time for friends
- remember that God is in control - not us!
- plan ahead (similar to a well managed diary)
- watch your use of artificial stimulants - caffeine, etc.
A factor in all of it, one that I really have learned is that we work better when relaxed rather than stressed. Some will disagree with this claiming "I work better with a deadline", but research is suggesting that people are most creative and innovative when relaxed.

I have certainly found this to be true for myself. Earlier this year I had a number of talks to give. On days when I only had a little time to work on them, and I was trying to squeeze in a moment here and there with kids around, I got almost nothing done. But on quiet days, when I had time to think and no urgency - I was able to think clearly and productively. It made me decide not to even try to work on them on higher stress days and leave my time for the quieter days, for I knew I could get more done that way.

**

Some things we thought through as we read this chapter were:

1. It is useful to think about how your body physically copes with stress. I have realised recently that my response is tiredness, I just need to sleep. This has been good to identify, so that I can realise when body is saying "enough!"

2. Similarly, for those of us supporting husbands in ministry - we want to learn what their signals are. Some signs people have told me about include:
- a lower level of patience with children
- the need for a break, some time-out
- forgetfulness - when she notices coffee cups in odd places and glasses left at home, she knows he is stressed
- more likely to get sick

3. Be aware of times of high-stress. In our little prayer group, Term 3 for our husbands is a big one. It starts with Mid Year Conference (MYC), and the energy needs to be maintained through to Jesus Week (Mission Week) 4 weeks later and then through to the end of the term. After watching the pattern for 5 years, I have realised that I need to be prepared for Term 3 to be busy and to make home a relaxing place, rather than another source of stress. So, the lawns are unlikely to be mown for some time, but that doesn't really matter!

4. Try to factor in some 'down time' after times of high-stress. My husband likes to go out for dinner, just to chat, in the days after MYC, to catch up and have a breather.

5. I wonder whether it is pointless to try to relax prior to a high-stress event? We used to take holidays in November, but I always felt a shadow hanging over me as  my husband would leave a few days after to be away for 2 weeks. I felt the anxiety knowing I was to be parenting alone for 2 weeks, and was less relaxed on holiday. We learnt not to take holidays before he went away, but rather afterwards. Similarly there is no point him trying to take holidays in the weeks before he is speaking at MYC, there is just too much on his mind.


Some things to think about:

  1. How do you respond to stress?
  2. How does your husband respond to stress?
  3. Have you talked about this together so you can help each other identify those times?
  4. Do you factor in 'down times' after high-stress times? And what would you like to do in those times?


Next Monday: Chapter 5 - Depression doesn't have to be depressing

Friday, November 20, 2009

for women only (part 7) - visual images

for women only:
what
you need to know about the inner lives of men
Shaunti Feldhahn

Chapter 6 - Keeper of the Visual Rolodex
Why It's So natural for Him to Look and So Hard to Forget What He's Seen*

This is a fascinating chapter, and one which for many women will be a little bewildering, as well as a bit concerning. Feldhahn explains the moment when the truth of 'men are visual' clicked for both her and her husband:
Jeff: "Maybe we just use different language to describe it. For example, think of a movie star you find physically attractive - Tom Cruise, say. After we've seen one of his movies, how many times will that attractive image rise up in your mind the next day?"
Me: "Never."
Jeff: "I must not be explaining myself correctly, I mean how may times will a thought of what he looked like with his shirt off just sort of pop up in your head?"
Me: "Never."
Jeff: "Never - as in never?"
Me:
"Zero times. It just doesn't happen."
Jeff: (After a long pause). "Wow" (p117)
What she found was:
Even happily married men are instinctively pulled to visually consume attractive women, and these images can be just as alluring whether they are live or recollected. (p111)
I'm not going to include too much detail about the whole chapter, but will summarise a few things she said. Firstly the progression of male response:

Step 1: For every man, sensual images and thoughts arrive involuntarily
Step 2: Even man's involuntary physical impulse is the enjoy the feelings associated with these thoughts and images
Step 3: But every man can make a choice - to dwell on the images and thoughts, or to dismiss them.

Then she gives reassurances (for wives):
#1 - His temptation is often not primarily sexual - it can just be admiring beauty
#2 - Every man is different - some really struggle with this, others do not
#3 - It's not because of you
#4 - This doesn't impact his feelings for you

So what should wives do?
  • Pray for him & and us - to protect our own hearts from anger or hopelessness and to protect our husbands from the sex culture around us
  • Check our own hearts - are we wiling to support them in their temptations and struggles rather than freak out about them?
  • Determine your involvement level - we can be supportive but sometimes men should be sharing these struggles with other men. Also, some wives cannot cope with hearing these types of details - in that case, we should show we are willing to be supportive, but would prefer they sought help from a male friend.
  • Become a support - try to have openness and honesty in your marriage - the ability to share struggles in this area in a way that is supportive and helpful rather than accusatory or blaming.
  • Champion modesty in yourself and others - the images men have of women came from somewhere and they are other women. Make sure you are not unwittingly becoming an unwanted visual image for a man other than your husband.

Some things to think about:

For men:
  • How strongly are you affected by visual images?
  • Do you need more accountability measures in your own life to help you control your temptations in this area? Can you seek out a trusted male friend for help and support?
  • Are you able to talk with your wife about whether you struggle with visual images?

For women:
  • Does this chapter surprise you or upset you? Why?
  • Are you willing to talk with your husband about whether this issue is one he struggles with?
  • How can you support your husband and help him to avoid temptation?
  • Do you need to think about your own modesty and encourage others (eg. your daughters) to do the same?

Next time: Part 8 - romance


* these are her titles and subtitles - not mine!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Going the Distance - Chapter 3

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 3: Stress and the demands of ministry: learning to say no
It becomes clear when reading this book that Brain is aiming it at a certain type of person, many of whom I suspect he has come across - the ministers who struggle under the weight of their jobs and who struggle to say no.

This chapter is designed for them. Whether or not you are in ministry, if assessing the wisdom of and deciding whether to comply with various requests is an issue for you, this chapter will be helpful.

Brain starts with a strategy of how to deal with demands on our time:
1. Articulating priorities
2. Being assertive
3. No's give value to yes's

He then goes into a little more detail of how to say no:
- clarify the request - make sure we really understand what is being asked
- assess the reasonableness of the request
- you don't have to give an extended reason why you are saying no
- confidence in our status before God - it is not based on how much work we do, but on what Jesus Christ has done for us in the cross.

In setting the scene for this chapter, Brain quotes a saying which we should heed - and which can be either positive or negative:
If you sow a thought you reap an act
If you sow a act you reap a habit
If you sow a habit you reap a character
If you sow a character you reap a destiny (p42)
I liked this, it reminded me that we do need to be aware of our thought-processes, because over time they influence who we are.
He is obviously aware of the dangers that surround the over-worked and under-supported minister. One of the things our trio felt as we read through this book was how it was really aimed at ministers who are running churches on their own - the 'one-man band' as it were. I know this is the reality of many ministers around the country and the world, but he hardly ever addresses any of these issues in the context of a team ministry.

In our group of wives, my husband is 'the senior staff' (for want of a better term!), one other is a senior trained male, but in his first year out of study; and the other is a trainee. Therefore, the way each of them are responsible for their own time differs greatly.  My husband is more in control of his time. The other 'senior staff' member manages most of his own time, but with some guidance from my husband (eg. he sets the preaching program), and the trainee's time is more planned for him by others. So, there are complications - each 'minister' is not solely responsible for assessing and planning their own priorities. This is where Brain could have included more ideas of how to work in a team - how would (for example) the trainee approach the senior minister when he felt overwhelmed by the things he was required to do? Hopefully easily, as his boss would be kind, understanding and helpful - but we all know that is not always the case!

I found this chapter helpful personally as I do really struggle to say no to things. If I am asked to do something, I want to do it - and often for the wrong reasons, some of which Brain outlined. Sometimes I like being asked to do things, if makes me feel needed, or makes me feel like I am good at something or that I am useful in that area. Also, I feel the pull of real needs - when there truly is a need and I feel like I could help out, I struggle not to offer my assistance, even when it would be a bad idea for me personally or for our family.

Not surprisingly, again in this chapter my mind turned to the balance of time required in various stages of parenting. We still have young children at home, so I have little time and the time I do have I want to use well. Each year we sit down and consider what I could be involved in, besides caring for the family and running the home.

Some years it has felt like very little - but that is because life at home is very busy. Some years I did way too much, especially years with newborn babies. This year has seemed good so far. I took on more, some bible studies and talks, and we all managed well. However, we are always re-assessing what I do, and there are many more things I would like to be doing.

I find my husband very helpful in this regard. He is good at assessing needs and requests, and is able to say no when required. I really respect him for it, and he is the one who helps me assess what I can realistically do and what I can't. And he has already started warning me about what is going to happen in 3 years when my 'baby' goes to school and I want to do everything! Must keep praying for wisdom!


Some things to think about:
  1. Do you struggle to say 'no' to things? What types of things?
  2. If you find it hard to say 'no', why do you think that is so?
  3. How do you assess what to say 'yes' to and what to say 'no' to?
  4. Do you need to re-assess the amount of things you are doing at the moment? Are you at risk of burnout?

Next Monday: Chapter 4 - Stress and Adrenaline: understanding your body clock

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Religion Saves - part 1 of 2

I have been listening to a series of talks recently - Religion Saves and 9 other misconceptions, by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill, Seattle. I know there are some major fans of Driscoll out there, however this has been the first time I have heard any of his sermons. I have found them thought provoking and generally quite helpful.

He addresses 9 major questions, which were determined from online surveys and responses. Each sermons deals with one issue. I am not going to go through them in depth (mainly because I did not take detailed notes, as they were my exercise listening material!), but I will just give a summary of each, to see if you might also be interested in listening to them.

I know that Driscoll uses humour somewhat harshly, and can be quite overt in his preaching style and therefore sometimes he can offend. However, even so, I find his exegesis is usually pretty good and when it is appropriate to be serious, he certainly is.

Talk 1: Birth Control - I found this talk extremely helpful. He started by outlining ~16 principles of family, life and children from the bible. Then he scaled the types of birth control from 1 (nothing) to 5 (abortion and abortive methods). I found it well balanced, educational and biblical. I have written about contraception before, and this helped me to think again about the issues - how we should view pregnancy and life and the contraceptive methods which are appropriate, inappropriate and which are grey areas which mean that you need to be well informed.

Talk 2: Humour - This one appealed to me less, and in this one I thought his exegesis was questionable in several areas. (eg. Jesus named Peter 'Rock' like 'Rocky' making fun of him, because he was so weak, and unlike a rock. I disagree, for while Peter struggled to even own Jesus during his trial, the resurrection transformed him and in Acts, Peter is instrumental in the early church). He seemed to be trying to find jokes in the bible to suit his purpose. Now, I fully agree that there is humour, satire and irony in the bible and that Jesus used irony often in his parables and stories about the Pharisees. However, it doesn't seem to be to 'get a laugh' but to point out the sad misconceptions and mis-interpretations that 'religious people' had.

He does say that we should never mock God, never mock those who are godly and never mock our spouses, children or mothers. Those who were most open, in his opinion, to mocking were ourselves, which is very true - we should not take ourselves too seriously, and also religious people, who take themselves too seriously.

I didn't like the use of 'mock'. Mocking seems to imply an unkind element. The whole sermon, while having some very good points still sat a little uncomfortably with me. It seemed like the whole thing was designed to justify his own stance and the way he preaches. Having said that though, he earnestly apologised for anyone who he may have offended or sinned against, while at the same time urging them to honestly think about why they were offended (ie. was he right and therefore it was too personal?)

Talk 3: Predestination - started with the history of various views including Augustine, Calvin and Arminius. This helped to set up where he stands on this issue - Jesus died for all to be saved, and God saves those he has elected. I found this talk informative and helpful. He uses an extremely powerful illustration at the end to show how predestination is the act of a loving Father. It did not answer all questions someone would have about predestination, but really could anyone? He only touched on the impact this doctrine can have on our view of evangelism, but helpfully used Paul as an illustration - eg. he firmly believed in predestination, having seen it in action in his own life, and he was a committed evangelist.

Talk 4: Grace - this was great. Contrasting with a few of the previous talks, where he shouted a lot, this one was very gentle and therefore much easier to listen to. He talked about both common grace (the grace God shows to all humanity) and saving grace (the grace which believers experience). He had about 15 types of saving grace that God bestows on his believers, including electing grace, sanctifying grace, transforming grace and preached grace. I liked this one.

Talk 5 - Sex (sexual immorality). This sermon even started with a warning about its explicit nature! He starts by talking about how much sex has saturated society, to the point where sex is like a major religion, with its own adherents. It is idolatry which has taken over much of the world. Most of his application was related to how sex is idolatry, and we need to worshipping God and him alone, rather than any idol that the world offers. (I did disagree with his exegesis of the 'gift of singleness' in this talk)

One point that was excellent was that, for those who are married, our standard of beauty should be our spouse and nothing else. So when your wife is 20, that is your standard of beauty. When your wife is 40, that is your standard of beauty, as it is when she is 60 and 80, etc. Obviously the same applies in reverse and the way my husband looks now is my standard of beauty/handsomeness.


I'll get to the other 4 in the next few weeks, once I have listened to them!

I just discovered that Driscoll has recently turned this sermon series into a book, which I saw on the Koorong website.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Persistence

I read this post from the Desiring God blog today, and found it helpful:

Did you wake up not feeling like reading your Bible and praying? How many times today have you had to battle not feeling like doing things you know would be good for you?

While it’s true that this is our indwelling sin that we must repent of and fight against, there’s more going on.

Think about this strange pattern that occurs over and over in just about every area of life:

  • Good food requires discipline to prepare and eat while junk food tends to be the most tasty, addictive, and convenient.
  • Keeping the body healthy and strong requires frequent deliberate discomfort while it only takes constant comfort to go to pot.
  • You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing theological book while watching a movie can feel so inviting.
  • You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer while sleeping, reading the sports, and checking Facebook seems effortless...

You can read the rest here.

for women only (part 6) - sex

for women only:
what
you need to know about the inner lives of men
Shaunti Feldhahn

Chapter 5 - Sex Changes Everything
Why Sex Unlocks a Man's Emotions (Guess Who Holds the Key?)*

Some of you are thinking - now we get to the real stuff! Well, here it is:
  • men want to be wanted
For your husband, sex is more than just a physical need. Lack of sex is as emotionally serious to him as, say, his sudden silence, would be to you, were he simply to stop communicating with you. It is just as wounding to him, just as much a legitimate grievance - and just as dangerous to your marriage. (p92)
There is a lot in this chapter that is worth reading, but I'll try to be brief:

She outlines two benefits of a fulfilling sex life:
  1. Fulfilling, regular sex makes him feel loved and desired
  2. Fulfilling sex gives him confidence
And in contrast, the responses to an unfulfilling sex life are:
  • "If she doesn't want to, I feel incredible rejection"
Although we might just be saying that we don't want sex at that point in time, he hears the much more painful message that we don't want him. (p100)
  • Your lack of desire can send him into a lack of confidence, withdrawal and/or depression.

So, ladies, what are we to do? The simple answer is - desire your husband as he desires you, or start trying to. Feldhahn gives the following pointers:
  • Choose to love him the way he needs
you've probably been viewing his sexual need as mostly physical - important, yes, but probably also optional... But once you realise...he is saying "This is essential to my feeling of being loved and desired by you, and is critical to counteract my stress, my fears and my loneliness ... If at all possible, respond to his advances with your full emotional involvement (p102-3)
  • Get involved... and have more fun too. Your husband wants you to be interested, involved, and to occasionally make the first move. A quote from another man,
The woman needs to play an active role in the sex life. She needs to tell her mate what she needs, wants, and feels. Passive wife = boring life. (p104)
  • Get help if you need it - there can be reasons, medical and otherwise, why sex is a problem for a couple. Seek help and keep trying to seek help until you get satisfactory answers and hopefully, solutions.
  • Make sex a priority (or at least a higher priority than you currently do)- sometimes when we stop and look at the things we do in a day, we do all the things that matter to us (or even just what we think we should be doing - cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids, etc). It is possible that the thing our husband wants most, we view as just another demand on our time. I could almost guarantee that most husbands would be delighted with a sandwich or take-away pizza for dinner if they knew it meant that we had more time and energy to spend with them in the bedroom! Sometimes, it's also worth reminding ourselves that we usually enjoy it, once we make the effort (and, as I said above, if you don't - please seek professional help).
  • Try to listen to his signals. Your husband may have been sending you signals that he would like things to change - he may have hinted, talked about it directly, or become withdrawn and no longer suggest anything at all (in a mode of self-protection). Perhaps it's time to have an open and honest discussion about how you both feel about it and a way forward for you both.


Some things to think about:

For men:
  • Do you agree with what Feldhahn is saying in this chapter?
  • Are you willing to raise the issue with your wife?

For women:
  • Do you consider yourself 'a willing participant' in the bedroom?
  • What signals do you think you are sending your husband when you are disinterested in sex? Have you asked him what he thinks?


More reading:
  • 365 Nights, by Charla Muller. I reviewed it earlier this year here.
  • Feminine Appeal, by Carolyn Mahaney has a helpful chapter on both The Delight of Loving my Husband (more about our attitudes) and The Pleasure of Purity (about sex within marriage). I am planning to review this book later this year. Both Nicole and Jean have written about it previously.

Next time: Part 7 - visual images


* these are her titles and subtitles - not mine!

*** PLEASE NOTE: if you are reading this and I have had a conversation with you about this topic, please do not assume I was thinking about you when I wrote this post. I have talked about this topic with a number of people, always completely confidentially. ***

And, if you want to comment on this post, but prefer not to leave your name - that's OK too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

for women only (part 5) - the need to provide

for women only:
what
you need to know about the inner lives of men
Shaunti Feldhahn

Chapter 4 - The Loneliest Burden

(How His Need to Provide Weighs Your Man Down, and Why He Like It That Way)*


Feldhahn's research suggested that men feel the need to provide financially for their family, irrespective of their wife's earnings, and they feel that pressure much of the time.

She concludes that the need to be a provider means certain things:
  • it's at the core of his identity,
being the provider isn't just a burden, but a highly desirable goal. Men feel powerful when they provide. And they want to be depended on. The ability to take care of those they feel responsible for lies at the very centre of their sense of personal significance (p79-80)
  • it's a way of expressing love,
"My job is to worry about providing so that my wife doesn't have to. That's one way I show her I love her" (p80)
  • they can feel trapped by the need to provide, and the pressures of work, especially in the light of criticism at home about not spending enough time with the family, one man said,
"My priorities ARE my family, I wish I of some way not to work so much, or to be available more, but I don't know how to make this work otherwise, I wish she was more aware of this." (p86)
  • they are trying to provide for the present and the future (ie. retirement)

She asks, how do we, as wives, respond?
  • reconsider existing areas of conflict - can we view conflict over work hours or pressures in a different light because of this?
  • help relieve the pressure - either by also reducing our spending, increasing our own earning or just deciding what to do together by talking about it
  • cast our cares on God,
By praying for our husbands and looking to the Lord rather than to our circumstances, we trust Him to carry both our husband and his burden. (p90)
  • encourage and appreciate our husband in his role of provider.

Some other things I thought:
  • I wonder if the reaction women have to this depends on whether or not they also earn an income? As I read this chapter I could understand her points and thought that yes, I can see that providing could be a burden, even if it is a wanted one. I wonder however, if you would read it the same way if you earned an income, especially if it was equal to, or more than your husband. Perhaps employed wives out there might like to comment on that one!

  • She made the valuable point that there would be women who would happily trade their husband's job of long hours and lots of money for one with less money where he was home more often.
  • I still think we need to honestly evaluate our jobs. Are we serving God in our job? Are we working appropriate hours? Are we neglecting other things because of our job? Do we find our value in our job or career? Have we chosen a lifestyle which requires us to work more than we should need to?


Some things to think about:

    For men:
    • Do you feel the burden and responsibility of providing for your family?
    • Have you articulated this to your wife, explaining why you feel this way?
    • Do you need to honestly evaluate your work and consider whether you are neglecting your family in any other way (even if you are providing for them financially)?
    • Have you actually discussed your financial and lifestyle priorities, in light of God's word and come to an agreement about them?
    For women:
    • Have you talked to your husband about whether he the feels the burden of providing for the family?
    • Do you think you add to his burden by complaining about his work or spending a lot of money?
    • Have you actually discussed your financial and lifestyle priorities, in light of God's word and come to an agreement about them?
    • How could you show your appreciation for his provision this week?

    Next time: Part 6 - sex


    * please note, these are her titles and subtitles - not mine!

    Going the Distance - Chapter 2

    This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

    Chapter 2: Burnout - friend or foe?

    Not the cheeriest of chapters I found! But relevant and appropriate. Brain tackles the symptoms of burnout and some of the causes. To be completely honest, I found myself reading this chapter not with ministry in mind, but rather parenting. It seemed equally applicable!

    He makes the observations that all will probably feel the effects of burnout. What is important is to recognise those signs and know how to manage them before they take over. The symptoms themselves are signs that something is wrong, which he likens to warning lights in your car. They are giving you notice that something needs attention.

    Three overarching symptoms he lists are:
    • a sense of being drained emotionally
    • a reduced sense of personal accomplishment
    • a sense of depersonalisation, of distance and disconnection in relationships
    These can be seen in other symptoms, each of which he outlines and then addresses some ways to deal with them:
    • an inability to say no (which is often a way to combat, wrongly, feelings of inadequacy)
    • a need to succeed
    • trying to meet others' expectations
    • long working hours
    • lack of exercise and healthy habits
    All of these can be indicators of burnout, and therefore action and purposeful self-care is needed.

    I find when things are getting a bit much, I do feel emotionally drained, less 'successful' or competent, and disconnected. For me being emotionally drained probably results in choosing to be disconnected.

    I wonder if you can identify signs of burnout in your own life and whether you can be proactive about managing them?


    Some things to think about:
    1. Have you seen any indicators of burnout in others (in ministry or other professions)?
    2. What do you think are the indicators of burnout for you?
    3. How do you manage when you notice signs of burnout? What do you think you do well? What could you do better?

    Next Monday: Chapter 3 - Stress and the demands of ministry: learning to say no

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    for women only (part 4) - insecurity

    for women only:
    what
    you need to know about the inner lives of men
    Shaunti Feldhahn

    Chapter 3 - The Performance of a lifetime

    (Why your Mr Smooth looks so impressive but feels like an imposter)*

    A quick summary of her thoughts:
    • men feel insecure in most areas of life - work, abilities, at home - as a husband and father
    • while they often appear confident, they harbour doubts about their self-worth and ability to do the things that are required of them
    • the opinion and attitude of their wife makes a huge difference in either building up their confidence or assisting in tearing it down
    So, she asks - what's a wife to do?
    • affirm him,
    If a man knows that his wife believes in him, he is empowered to do better in every area of his life ... "It's all about whether my wife thinks I can do it. A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains and win great victories if he believes his wife believes that he can." (p67-68)
    • don't tear him down - many men feel unappreciated at home, which can result in withdrawal at home, or seeking affirmation elsewhere
    • supportive sex,
    A man can be having a horrible time at work, rejection in his industry, and every other area can be going rotten - but if his wife want him physically and affirms him in bed, he can handle the rest of the world no problem. Conversely, if he gets the same imposter message at home ('You don't measure up. Don't touch me'), it will devastate him far worse than any career blow. (p72)
    • giving them confidence,
    "I want my wife to know and understand my weaknesses, failings, shortcomings, and still want me. I need her to be my number one source of encouragement to become the man God created me to be." (p73)

    Here are some thoughts about this chapter:
    1. I don't think women are any different, we also feel inadequate in many areas. I wonder if women feel inadequate in other areas perhaps - so less about work performance, and more about their ability to mother, or their appearance? Many women also feel like they are also not up to the tasks which they have taken on. For me, I still sometimes feel like I am pretending to be a mother - because I feel like I still really have no idea what I am doing.
    2. As Husband read this book, he felt there was a fine line in this chapter between being supportive of men and just encouraging them to be egotistical.
    3. If we to be taking affirmation of our husbands seriously, we probably want to be careful about what we affirm them in - our primary affirmation would be when they are godly, kind and generous, rather than in getting a promotion, etc. We want to affirm the things that matter. (not that affirmation in these other things is bad, just not primary)
    4. Perhaps all of us (men and women) need to be reminded that it is not what we do that matters, but who we are. We are God's children, saved by him alone for his glory. Our identity and feelings of worth come from our relationship with God and who we are in his sight, not what what we can or cannot do.

    Some things to think about:

    For men:

    • Do you personally agree with this chapter - do you struggle with insecurity and uncertainty over your job or abilities?
    • Is affirmation important to you?
    • Try to talk to your wife about these feelings and how she can encourage you.
    • Encourage your wife in the things she is doing.
    • Try to remember that your worth comes from being a child of God, not in what you do.

    For women:

    • Are you an affirming wife? (Are you willing to ask your husband what he thinks?!)
    • How could you be more affirming of him?
    • Encourage your husband in the things he is doing.
    • Try to remember that your worth comes from being a child of God, not in what you do.

    Next time: Part 5 - the need to provide


    * please note, these are her titles and subtitles - not mine!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Conference


    Two weekends ago I headed over to Sydney for another conference. This was the second for me this year. This one was the AFES wives conference, so it's for all wives of AFES staff and all wives who are AFES staff around the country. AFES is the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students - they are the organisation that put Christian workers on university campuses around Australia.

    It was great. I was a little hesitant about going, being the only one there from Adelaide or SA, but once I got over my initial shyness, it was really good.

    I found it incredibly encouraging to realise how many people are employed to bring the gospel to university students all over the country and to also realise that there was much more of a 'network' than I had realised. We had a session at one point in which we all shared some of the joys and challenges of being AFES staff/wives. It was so encouraging to hear how many staff love their jobs and opportunities they have to share about Jesus with university students.


    On the Saturday in free time, some of us ventured on a bushwalk. We were staying at Stanwell Tops and decided to walk down the cliff to the beach. As none of us were from Sydney (at least anymore) we were going on someone's impression that 30 years ago there was a path down to the beach. There was no path (at least not one we found), so what followed was a bushbash down a very steep slope. It was very scenic, although not quite what we had expected! We scrambled over many rocks...


    had to balance (beetle walk style) over a large log...


    We reached civilization about 1.5 hours later, getting to the railway line. At that point we realized that we had only made it about half way to the beach!


    The final straw for most was then discovering leeches in shoes and attached to legs. Thankfully, they avoided me!

    It was rather a bonding experience for the 8 of us, as we shared nurofen for sore muscles that night and compared whether our quads or arms were sorer the next day!


    I am so glad Husband encouraged me to go. I am looking forward to doing it all again in 2 years (perhaps minus the bushwalk!), and I plan to encourage the other Adelaide wives to join me!

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    for women only (part 3) - Respect as well as love

    for women only:
    what
    you need to know about the inner lives of men
    Shaunti Feldhahn

    Chapter 2 - Your love is not enough
    (why your respect means more to him that even your affection)

    Feldhahn's research revealed that almost 75% of men would prefer to feel 'alone and unloved' than 'inadequate and disrespected'. Men desire respect in the same way than women desire love. This is very similar theory to the one by Dr Emerson Eggerichs in Love & Respect, a book we both enjoyed and I have reviewed previously here.

    Feldhahn suggests that a way to know whether or not your husband* is feeling respected is by checking for anger, she quotes Dr Eggerichs,
    In a relationship conflict, crying is often a woman's response to feeling unloved, and anger is often a man's response to feeling disrespected. (p24)
    Men felt even more disrespected in times of conflict, 81% felt disrespected during conflict with their wives* whereas only 19% would suggest they felt unloved.

    Just like continuing to love our husbands unconditionally is a choice so is our choosing to respect them unconditionally.

    So, then - how can we show our respect for our husbands?

    1. Respect his judgment - many husbands feel respected by their colleagues, but not respected by their wives in their own homes.

    2. Respect his abilities - trust he can get the job done. This was interesting and will be close to home for many - eg. map reading, getting places. If we wives are constantly telling our husbands where to go, how to do something etc, they think we don't trust them to figure it out for themselves.

    3. Respect in communication - it seems men can hear disrespect even when none was intended. If we suggest again that something might need fixing, some husbands can interpret it that we think we cannot count on them to remember things or get them done.

    4. Respect in public - humiliating or even teasing in public can cause great damage to our husbands feeling respected. I think this can be a major issue among women, the 'who has the worst or most useless husband' session, with or without them present. As Christians, we should not be doing this to anyone, least of all the person on earth whom we love the most and have promised to be committed to. We should never speak ill of our husbands to others (with the obvious exception of when counsel is needed in areas of struggle or sin).

    5. Respect in our assumptions - sometimes when we examine our hearts, we must realise we assume the worst eg.
    - 'he needs to be reminded' - perhaps no, he just has different priorities or he has so much else to do he can't add another thing
    - 'he's choosing not to help' - perhaps no, he just doesn't see the need in the same way you do
    - 'it's his fault' - perhaps no, it could be ours - are we showing disrespect which results in him showing less love?

    In conclusion, Feldhahn says:
    We as women hold incredible power - and responsibility - in our hands. We have the ability to either build up or tear down our men. We can either strengthen them or hobble them in ways that go far beyond our relationship because respect at home affects every area of a man's life. (p48-9)
    And quoting of the men whom she interviewed:
    "You know that saying 'Behind every good man is a great women?' Well, that is so true. If a man's wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world - or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere, By contrast, very few men can do well at work or at home if their wives make them feel inadequate." (p50)

    Some things to think about:
    For men:

    • Do you personally agree with this chapter - do you prefer to feel respected rather than loved? And do you actually want your wife to say she respects you? (it's worth discussing, for as Husband & I discussed it, he would prefer to hear that I love him, however, he obviously still wants to know that I respect him).
    For women:

    • In which areas do you struggle to show respect to your husband?
    • Are you willing to ask him whether he feels that your respect him?
    • How can your change your speech or attitude to show more respect?
    • How could you show respect to your husband in the times when you do not respect him?


    * for the sake of ease, I am going to use 'husband' and 'wife' in all references in this series. I realise not all readers may be married to the significant man in their life, but I don't like saying 'your man' as I feel like I should be singing a country and western song when I do, 'partner' is gender inspecific and 'significant other' is just plain awful!



    On Friday (if you're lucky!): Part 4 - insecurity

    Going the Distance - Chapter 1

    This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

    Chapter 1 - The Importance of Self-Care

    In Acts 20:24, Paul stated "I consider my life nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me". Herein lies the model I choose to follow. I want neither to burn out nor rust out. I want to finish the race. (quoting Berkeley, pg 10, emphasis mine)
    So begins Peter Brain's book, Going the Distance. He is setting up his principles - we must take self-care seriously if we want to continue on for a lifetime of ministry.

    1. The seriousness of the work
    Brain has included some of the words of the Anglican ordinal, which highlights the seriousness of the promises made by minister's at their ordination. These include:

    ...remember the dignity of the high office and charge to which you are called: that is to say, to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord's family... Have always therefore printed in your mind how great a treasure is committed to your care. For they are the sheep of Christ, whom he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood...And if it should come about that the church, or any of its members, is hurt or hindered as a result of your negligence, you know the greatness of the fault and the judgement that will follow... (AAPB, p609-10, in Brain)
    These are serious words, and I distinctly remember sitting in St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney on the day these words were read out as part of my husband's ordination service and realising the seriousness of the promises he was about to make. It is sobering and something those of us in ministry need to be reminded of.
    2. The nature of ministryIt was good to be reminded that:
    The core activities of pastoring - prayer, preparation, pastoral visiting, discipling and counselling - are never ending. (p12)
    This is why it can feel like the task is never-finished, nothing is ever completed. I feel much the same about parenting - another role which never ends and could always be done better. I could understand his 'hobbies' where things actually get finished - woodwork and scone-making. For me, I used to love mowing the lawn - it looked neat for a few days (unlike the house) and I felt a sense of completion and accomplishment when it was done.


    3. Perceptions/expectations of ministry
    Brain points to a number of factors which can increase the burden on ministers:

    • their own expectations of themselves
    • the voluntary nature of churches and their members
    • the transient populations of churches
    • expectations of lay members, real or imagined
    • the low view of ministers generally in society and especially in the media
    • pressures of church growth numbers or other churches
    So, self-care is important. As he quotes Dr. Arch Hart,
    "Most ministers don't burn out because they forget they are ministers, they burn out because they forget they are people." (p20)
    One very insightful point he makes is that "pastors are busy because they are lazy!" (quoting Peterson, p21). We all know people (not just ministers) like this - they rush about from task to task, never doing any properly but also seeming insanely busy. Brain makes the insightful point that this happens because they are too lazy to work out priorities and put them into practice. If organised, one can have the ability to assess various needs and calls on their time and what needs to be attended to and what does not, and what can wait. I have certainly seen people who operate like this, but I have no idea what to do about it!


    Some things to think about:

    1. Have you seen any examples of good self-care amongst pastors (or other people)?
    2. Have you seen any examples of bad self-care amongst pastors (or other people)?
    3. Do you have a tendency to be busy because you are lazy?
    4. How are you working at good self-care, individually and as a couple/family?

    Next Monday: Chapter 2 - Burnout - friend or foe?