Archive for March, 2010

“HODGES GARDENS”

March 31, 2010
Tulips provide a dazzling display of color in a pristine forest setting
 
This past Sunday after church we traveled to Hodges Gardens in Louisiana with friends.  It is always beautiful this time of year when all the flowers are in bloom.  If you’ve never been there, give yourself a treat and go.  We needed to stop for Sunday lunch and found a Mexican Food restaurant in Hemphill, Texas.  I say restaurant but it really didn’t qualify for what I call restaurant.  It was more like a cafe but who goes to a Mexican Cafe?  When we entered the restaurant, I noticed a sign that read “Only one serving of salsa and chips for each customer ordering a meal.”  This should have been my first warning sign.  The food was okay, the service was lousy, but they didn’t charge for all the salsa and chips we ate.  The group I was with need at least two bowls of salsa each (with chips) just to read the menu.
 
Speaking of salsa–a few years ago I read about the annual Margarita & Salsa Festival in Waco, Texas.  This morning I thought it had only been 3 or 4 years ago.  When I looked for pictures of the salsa contest, I discovered that this year is the 14th annual festival.  When I entered Pam in the salsa contest, they gave us T-shirts for the 7th annual festival, so I guess it must have been seven years ago.
 
Pam made 4 gallons of salsa to take to the salsa contest.  I entered her because she makes the best salsa ever.  She is a real decorator and her table was by far the most attractive.  There were a large number in the salsa competition and Pam won second place.  We made a sign for her table:  “Pamlita’s Salsa.”  There were numerous of judging groups because no one group could taste all of the different salsa samples.  Two of the judges came to Pam’s booth after they finished their tasting tests.  They said that had heard “Pamlita’s Salsa” was the best there.  I will have to admit, with no bias, that it was the best.  So, regardless of the second place finish, she was number one to me. 
 
 
Well, I seemed to have gotten of the main road here and traveled down a “rabbit trail.”  We were on the way to Hodges Gardens.  With all the cold weather we have been having this year, we were a little early for the many flowers in the gardens.  There were a few blooms for the winter plants, but it was not time for the Azaleas, etc.  In about two weeks in will be as beautiful as ever and our wives plan to return.  Maybe all the flowers knew nothing about “global warming.”
 
I always try to have some form of “life lesson” in each post.  Most of the time I don’t really know that lesson is until the end of the subject matter.  My first thought today is that God is always in control of the weather and He changes the seasons at His pleasure.  God is sovereign over all the earth.  Seasons change and nature is balanced according to His plan and man is not, and never will be, in control.
 
My second thought, or another life lesson, is that sometimes we lose our focus and travel down a “rabbit trail.”  That is what happened to me when I started thinking about salsa and chips.  How many times do we find ourselves going down the road under God’s directions and find ourselves suddenly on one of these “rabbit trails?”  I am thankful that God always very gently steers us back to the road He wishes us to travel.
 
Maybe there were two lessons here!!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“AGONY – MISERY”

March 30, 2010

 

Agony - Misery Ft, Knox KY

This is a photo of “Agony-Misery Hills” at the military reservation at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  This is where I trained with the 3rd Armored Division before going to Germany.  I was in the Armored Infantry, and we know what infantry means.  We marched out to the training areas and this is the route we took going out and coming in.  Some days we were lucky and were transported by trucks.

This picture looks pretty rough, but in reality it is worse–especially when marching.  Even the vehicles needed to shift to the lower gears to make it to the top of these grades.  “Agony Hill” was the hill we marched down to get to the training area.  It wasn’t too bad when we were fresh.  We had to march up “Misery Hill” on our way back to our company area after training all day.  It wouldn’t be a very miserable walk for a Sunday stroll with shorts, t-shirt, and walking shoes, but with rifles and other various pieces of equipment it was not a pleasant journey.  Some times we were even “allowed” to jog up “Misery.”  I can tell you this–it was appropriately named.

While I was at Fort Knox, I started running.  There was a 2 mile cross-country course that was truly cross-country.  There wasn’t a flat area on the course.  It started at the top of “Misery” and came around the mountain on a ledge, through a creek bottom, and then angled back to the top.  There was one section that contained an obstacle course.  It was great for staying in top condition.

I never thought about it until this morning but I recall the old saying:  “Misery loves company.”  Maybe that’s why they named the other hill “Agony.”  As I look back on those times it really wasn’t bad…not now!

So, what is the moral of this story?  It could be many things.  I know that on top of the mountain (company barracks) we felt pretty safe and secure.  As we moved from this safety, we suffered a little “agony” as we went out into the boondocks for training.  Before we could return to safety, it was necessary to suffer a little “misery.”  Maybe that is what happens when we leave the safety of the mountain top with God and go out into the world.  That is where we receive our training to deal with the dangers we will face throughout our lives.  The main thing to remember is to remain focused on the mountain top and never forget that God is faithful in His Promise to never leave us.  It is when we leave Him that “agony and misery” come into our lives.

If you have other thoughts about “agony & misery,”  I would welcome a response.

Update:  Please read “AGONY – MISERY UPDATE” also.

“FROM CALM TO STORM”

March 29, 2010

The summer before I was drafted to serve in the United States Army, I decided to find a little excitement in my spare time.  My friends were participating in the rodeos in my part of the state.  So, I decided to join them for the fun.  My choice was bareback bronc riding.  Now, doesn’t that sound like a safe and fun thing to do?

I will never forget my first attempt at bronc riding.  You may notice I said “bronc” and not “horse.”  I had been riding horses all my life, sometimes bareback but mostly with a saddle.  When they had my bronc in the bucking chute, put the rigging on, and I eased into riding position, everything was just great.  Every thing was real calm just like most of the horses I had been riding all my life.  I thought this is not really bad at all.   Before I nodded my head to let them know I was ready, I did wonder what it would be like when they opened the gate.

Well, let me tell you.  I was totally unprepared for what happened when the gate opened.  In my wildest imagination I couldn’t believe the drastic change of going from “calm” to “storm.”  When the gate opens there are a lot of things to concentrate on.  On the first jump out of the chute, the rider must “mark the horse out. ” This means he must have the heels of his boots in contact with the horse above the point of the shoulders before the horse’s front legs hit the ground.  I am almost positive the horse is not too fond of the spurs jabbing into his shoulders.  Forget all about holding on and riding that beast.  If you fail to “mark,” you get zero points and are just there for the ride.  You must ride for 8 seconds and then you have to make the decision of how to get off.  Turning loose of the rigging is one way or you can wait for the “pickup” man. 

There are ways to score points during the ride, but on my first ride I was really concerned about staying on.  I wasn’t trying to get the bronc to go any particular direction….I let him decide and I just held on.  The rides got better at each rodeo, but my point in all this is that when the transition from “calm” to “storm” is something that you cannot imagine.  All you can really expect is the unexpected.

When trying to ride a bareback bronc, you depend on your God-given strength.  This is a contest between the strength of man and the strength of an animal. 

As we go through life we may spend some time in the “calm.”  As we travel through this life we will eventually be faced with a “storm.”  This is an entirely different contest.  When satan makes his attack on us, we find ourselves in quite a “storm.”  To win this contest, it is not our strength that will overcome.  We must call on the strength of The Lord and ride on that strength to bring “calm” back to our lives.  This is the peace that God promises.

“A TODDLER AND A RUBBER BAND”

March 26, 2010

A few years ago, Pam and I were scheduled to have dinner with friends.  I say scheduled because sometimes plans are delayed.  The husband was a little late coming in from work.  He is a welder and was delayed on the job.  When he came in, he was in quite a bit of pain.  He had recently burned his arms from welding sparks.  After the burns he accidently exposed them to cement.  This had caused a serious infection and when he arrived home his arms were very swollen and painful.  We delayed dinner and I took him to the emergency room at the local hospital. 

If you have every been to an emergency room, you know that it is quite an ordeal.  Many times there is a long wait.  We sat in the emergency room and waited.  It can also be very interesting.  You can see all kinds of emergencies.  We witnessed a toddler waiting on medical attention.  This little girl had poked a rubber band up her nose.  She was surrounded by parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc.  I guess they were all family.  Each time another relative arrived, they would try to remove the rubber band.  The toddler was crying and each time someone tried to remove the rubber band she would cry louder.  I think maybe she was crying because each new arrival stuck their finger in her nose.  I have never had this experience with a rubber band but I doubt it is very painful.  I have also never had people poking their fingers in my nose but I can imagine that is more painful.

A nurse finally came to see what the emergency was.  When the parents explained the situation, the nurse reach and grabbed some tissues, placed them on the toddler’s nose, and said:  ” blow, sugar.”  When she removed the tissue she said:  “here it is!”  This large group of relatives were relieved and took the toddler home.

We finally received medical attention for my friend’s infection and left the hospital for dinner.

How many times do we find ourselves in a dilemma and give our full attention to the problem instead of searching for an answer.  The family I mentioned were so concerned and emotionally involved with the problem, they couldn’t think of the simple solution.  When the nurse arrived, she didn’t focus on the problem….she focused on the answer.

As we experience problems in our life, whether large or small, the answer is always there.  We can be frustrated, frightened, or sad about the problem but we have a God that wants to be involved.  His involvement is with the answer and that can only happened when the problem is turned over to Him.  He is the Answer Man and when problems are given to Him they are replaced by His Peace.  Many times we don’t think the answer is so easy.  The relatives of the toddler didn’t realize this either.  So it is with our relationship with God.  To get a solution give Him the problem.

“A MESSAGE FROM THE PAST”

March 25, 2010

I will be at an all-day seminar tomorrow so I was going to share a poem that has meant a lot to me over the years.  I have a book of poetry titled “Poems That Touch the Heart.”  The poem I had in mind is “untitled” and the author is “unknown.”  In the book I found a note:  Please copy “Why Do I Love You?” in its entirety.  It was written by Lyndsey when she was much younger and I don’t recall what prompted the note, but the poem did indeed “touch my heart.”  I didn’t find the other poem, but I will locate it for a later post.  Therefore, I share this “‘message from the past.”

WHY DO I LOVE YOU?

I love you,

Not only for what your are,

But for what I am

When I am with yuou.

***

I love you

Not only for what

You have made of yourself,

But for what

You are making of me.

***

I love you

For ignoring the possibilities

Of the fool in me

And for laying firm hold

Of the possibilities for good.

***

Why do I love you?

***

I love you

For closing your eyes

To the discords–

And for adding to the music in me

By worshipful listening.

***

I love you becaue you

Are helping me to make

Of the lumber of my life

Not a tavern

But a temple;

And out of the words

Of my every day

Not a reproach

But a song.

***

I love you

Because you have done

More than any creed

To make me happy.

***

You have done it

Without a word,

Without a touch,

Without a sign.

You have done it

Just by being yourself.

***

After all

Perhaps that is what

Love means.

                     Roy Crouch

Lyndsey and I have always shared a very special bond and I thank God for her each day.

“REMOVING THE SCRAP”

March 24, 2010

Yesterday afternoon a young man, Ryan, who works in the office came in and told me a story about the owner of a sawmill.  He is building a new home and needed some cypress beams.  He had cut the logs and taken to the mill.  The owner of the mill was preparing to saw the beams.  He had to get the logs placed just right and then lock the log in place.  There were quite a number of adjustments to make before the sawing began.  Ryan asked him what this process was all about.  The man told Ryan that in order to saw the beams he had to get everything just right.  He said once the adjustments were made, he would remove everything that didn’t look like a beam.

I thought about what a job carving the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln on the face of Mt. Rushmore must have been.  I wondered if the sculptor had to remove all the material that didn’t look like these former presidents in order to accomplish this magnificent sculpture.  As the layers and layers of rock are removed it takes a very special talent to visualize the end results.  How wonder many times he had to get close and remove rock and then withdraw to a far distance  to see the result of his action.  He must have been a very patient man with the determination to see his vision materialize.

This is similar to the way I make wooden bowls with my lathe.  I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish.  But, as I remove the wood and the shape begins to materialize, I always step back to examine the results.  The grain in the wood begins to “speak.”  This is what determines the final details of a finished bowl.

This causes me to wonder what we look like before God begins to remove the undesirable scrap from hour lives.  We must look horrible in His eyes, but I know that He loves us anyway.  I think of Israel as God delivered them from bondage in Egypt.  The short trip to the Promised Land took 40 years.  Because of disobedience, there was a lot of “scrap” that had to be removed before they could enter the land He had promised.

I can remember the many times the Sculptor removed those unnecessary things and this process will continue for the rest of my life.  It always seemed painful at the time but I now realize that the “scrap” was what caused the pain…not the removal.

Sometimes we feel the need for crutches to walk and find out that without the crutches we can really walk and stand tall.  Like the sculptor at Mr. Rushmore, God sees to our very core and His vision for us is beyond our imagination.

“BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM”

March 23, 2010

 

Doesn’t buttermilk ice cream sound delicious?  Does pineapple buttermilk ice cream sound any better?  If you have never tried it, take my word for it…it is awful.

When I was young, one of my favorite things to do at my grandparents was make homemade ice cream.  I am talking about the old-fashioned method of “hand cranking.”  I never thought about if but the reason we used a hand crank ice cream freezer was the lack of electricity.  I was always first to volunteer to do the hand cranking job.  If I did the work, I would get the first bowl of ice cream.  One of my smaller cousins would have the job of sitting on the freezer to keep it from moving around while I cranked.  That cousin would receive the second bowl.

The family favorite was pineapple.  The family was large so we had a two-gallon freezer.  On one hot Sunday afternoon we were all ready for some cold, refreshing, pineapple ice cream.  With each crank of the freezer, I could just taste the delicious treat.  When I could no longer turn the crank, we would usually pack the freezer to let it harden more.  This was always the worst part.  The waiting was almost unbearable.  But, it was always worth it.

After the waiting period was over, I was served the first bowl.  To my surprise it was the most awful tasting concoction I had ever tasted.  None of the parents would believe me when I said it was awful.  By the look on my face it should have been obvious that I was not lying.  When my mother tasted the ice cream, she understood.  They figured out what had happened.  When they mixed the ice cream, they needed about a quart of milk to fill the container.  One of my mother’s sisters grabbed a bottle of milk and poured it in.  IT JUST HAPPENED TO BE BUTTERMILK! 

They poured the contaminated ice cream out and here came my grandpa’s two dogs to feast on the treat.  When I tell you this was bad ice cream, I’m not kidding.  The dogs would not eat it and they would normally eat anything.  By the time more ice cream was mixed, frozen, and packed, I was ready again.  It took that long to get that awful buttermilk pineapple taste out of my mouth and mind.  The ice cream was really, really good this time.  My mother  and I enjoyed the ice cream more than anyone because the rest of the family didn’t get to experience the taste of the first batch.

This experience reminds me of Matthew 13:33.  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”  The parable of the leaven that Jesus taught the disciples.

What does leaven represent:  Physically, leaven is a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation, or a substance that causes dough to rise (yeast).  A natural reason for leaven’s negative symbolism is the idea that fermentation implies a process of corruption.  In the Old Testament, it is generally symbolic of sin and evil.  In every instance that leaven appears in the Bible, it represents evil; the only exception is Jesus’ use of leaven in this parable.  As we study this parable, we find that this is one of the few times Jesus uses leaven to represent a good thing.

Once we learn about the leaven, we arrive at the main point of this parable:  leaven will spread throughout all the flour changing all of it. 

Now, we apply this to the kingdom of God.  Leaven is a small but powerful change agent.  It only takes a little to affect a large amount.  We may be small in the kingdom of God, but we can have a powerful influence.  Also, this can refer to the work of the Holy Spirit Who works God’s will into every aspect of our lives.  Once that happens, we can’t go back.

If a little buttermilk has a great effect on ice cream, the Holy Spirit has a great impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.

“YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU WILL BUMP INTO”

March 22, 2010

A few years ago we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico with friends.  We stayed at the conquistador Resort and had a great time.  One of the James Bond movies had scenes takenh in the casino at the resort.  Before our trip we saw a brochure and it said they had a funicular.  Boy, was I excited!  The only problem..none of us knew what a funicular was, but they had one.  Our friends names were Cam and Kim.  Over the years these names have caused my problems on who I am talking to.  In a conversation with Pam, Cam, & Kim I would many times say the wrong name.  It’s not hard to do.

While we were there, we ran into a girl from our town.  She is a professional golfer and was playing a tournament at the resort.  We saw her name listed at the tournament headquarters and I sneaked up behind her early in the morning when she was on the practice range.  You can imagine how surprised she was when I walked up behind her and called her name.

Pam and I were at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.  We had friends that were visiting their son in Omaha and agreed to meet at Rosenblatt Stadium.  On the day we were to meet we were on the lookout for them.  They finally arrived and we waved.  They came up and greeted us and we were surprised to discover their seats were on the same row.  There were only two seats and an aisle separating us.  The people next to me were not at this game so they were able to sit next to us.

When I was stationed in Germany, I went to Spain on leave.  There I ran into an old high school friend at the bull fights.  Our seats were very close together.

When I had my CPA practice in Port Arthur, I was always ready for a break and soon as the tax season was over.  For a number of years I would go to New Orleans for a long weekend and enjoy good food and jazz music.  My favorite musicians in the French Quarter were Pete Fountain and Al Hirt.  I would always check to see when they would both be in town and performing.  On one trip I was at Pat O’Brien’s and really, really bumped into my best friend in high school.  I walked by his table and bumped into his chair and, when I leaned over and said “excuse me,” I looked him right in the face.  It was really a surprise.  I had not seen him for quite a few years.

 

 

 I took Pam’s dad to M. D. Anderson Hospital in Houston to visit a friend whose wife had cancer.  We had just entered the lobby when I heard someone call my name.  I looked around and there was a friend from Port Arthur that I had not seen for 20 years.  His daughter was in the hospital being treated for cancer.

I have heard often that the definition of integrity is how you act or what you do when you are alone.  Most of the time our actions are seen by others, not just our friends.  Those actions have an impact on others.  Some time that impact is negative and other times positive.  It is amazing to me the times I have “bumped”  into friends in places I would never expect to see them.

As I think of all those times in the past when I have come face to face with friends in unexpected places, it makes me realize that God is continually watching my act ions….24/7.  Just as God knew the thoughts and actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden, He knows mine.  This makes me want to be on guard each day to strive to bring glory to God in all I do.  If this is my focus, then any impact those actions have on others will be positive. 

 

“CHANGING TIMES & CHANGING OF THE GUARD”

March 19, 2010

This is a picture of the “Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.”  This takes place at the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day and each hour (each half-hour in summer) there is a changing of the guard ceremony with a special march and salute. 

This post has nothing to do with this changing of the guard.  I have found that writing these posts is good for me in that I am able to express my thoughts.  I always try to search my memories and it causes me to realize the truly changing times of this nation.  This is one of the times when I feel like expressing my concerns for the future of this nation and especially the children born and unborn that will be affected by the changing times.  It is not a pleasant post to write, but bear with me as I take the liberty to unload my thoughts.

We had a high school baseball game scheduled for this past Tuesday.  It was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday night.  When Pam and I moved here thirty-two years ago, Wednesday night was reserved for “prayer meeting” at the churches.  During that time I do not recalled any sports event being scheduled or rescheduled Wednesday night.  No other events were schedule for that night.  I thought:  WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

I began to think back about how times have changed.  When I was young, my parents set the rules and I knew what the results would be for my disobedience.  I was held accountable for my actions.  I recently saw a parent protest to her daughter’s school official because her daughter was sent to the principal’s office for disobeying the dress code.  She said it was the school officials’ fault that her daughter was not in class being educated.  My dad would have taken the necessary action at home, not at the school.  He was my guard and charged with teaching me the principles of life.  He didn’t believe it was a school problem but a home problem.

The picture above shows how it is possible to maintain traditions and I believe the leaders and parents of this nation still have the ability to maintain the principles set forth long before we became a nation.  Parents are just as much leaders as the leaders of our government.  Each must take responsibility for their lack of leadership and stop trying to place the blame on others.

There are many more problems we face today.  In fact, there are too many to mention.  We tend to blame our children for their actions.  We blame the nation’s problems on the leadership in our schools, as well as the local, state, and federal governments.  The believe the problem is in the leadership in our homes.  We are responsible for those we have placed in leadership.  Therefore, the solution is at home. 

The Changing of the Guard:  When Leaders Need to Be Replaced (Jeremiah 23:1-16)

God does not hesitate to remove poor or wicked leaders–and beyond their removal, God pronounces His judgement on them.

Jeremiah 23 supplies us with a good evaluation tool to recognize what God values in a leader and what constitutes grounds for dismissal and replacement.  Study the characteristics of the kind of leaders God promised to replace:

1.  Leaders who destroy their people instead of developing them (v.1)

2.  Leaders who scatter their people instead of uniting them in a cause (v.1)

3.  Leaders who abandon their people in fear instead of remaining responsible (v.4)

4.  Leaders who act in self-serving and unjust ways instead of standing for the truth (v.10)

5.  Leaders who lie, as though there were no God (v.11)

6.  Leaders who lead their people astray instead of guiding them into security (v.13)

7.  Leaders who foster evil and deceit instead of integrity and honesty (v.14)

8.  Leaders who fill people with false hope rather than speaking God’s Word (v.16)

God didn’t merely threaten to remove bad leaders; He also promised to raise up a Righteous Branch from the line of David to replace these artificial leaders.  Today we know that Righteous Branch has a beautiful name:  Jesus Christ!

 

 

“THE DAY AFTER ST. PATRICK’S DAY”

March 18, 2010

WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THE DAY AFTER ST. PATRICK’S DAY?  Thirty-two years ago Pam and I were married!  I’ve mentioned this a few times in my posts.  It was an important day when I mentioned it and it is a very important day today. 

St. Patrick’s Day is very important to me also.  Why?  Every year when I see everyone wearing green it means there is something important that I must do.  Very seldom do I forget special occasion but I have a very definite “green” sign for our anniversary. 

It’s a good thing when we can have something to remind us of special days.  My birthday is also pretty easy to remember.  Not only was I present on the day I was born, but my birthday comes around the day when I am a year older.  I also have birthdays that remind me of my birthday.  My birthday is 4 days after Bill’s, 2 days after Wendel’s, and 2 days before Danny’s.  See how easy that is.  It all begins when Pam calls Bill (her dad) and wishes him “happy birthday” .  Once that happens I can remember all the other birthdays.

I am not sure how Pam remembers this day, but maybe it’s when I pinch her.  She is real bad about not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day so I always pinch her.  That’s probably not the way she remembers.  I know one thing.  She never forgets birthdays or any other special occasions.  When each January comes around, she gets her new calendar and writes down all the special occasions for the entire year.  Pam is an organizer so she stays organized. 

One year I almost forget her birthday.  We had taken her mom and day to Dauphine Island off the coast of Alabama.  This is a small island and there are no retail businesses.   There are a couple of restaurants, but mostly is just a quiet island with great beaches.  Although we’ve not been there for a number of years, it’s one of my favorite places for sun and relaxation.  Her dad had some trouble with his car so I followed him to Mobile one morning.  On the way there I remembered Pam’s birthday was coming up.  Horrors!!!  I had forgotten all about card, present, etc.  We left his car in Mobile and returned in the afternoon to pick it up.  After I dropped him off, I went shopping.  I found a diamond ring.  I think it is called a “dinner ring.”  Well, I purchased the ring and selected a birthday card.  I will always remember what I wrote in the birthday card.  Pam always likes to have the date written in the card and something special written to her.  That was the first time I said, “I would do it all over again.”  That worked so well that I have said it again on appropriate occasions.  I wrote that because I meant it that day and I mean it even more today.

I just this moment remember something about cards.  A few years ago, I believe it was on our anniversary, Pam presented me with an album containing all the special cards she had given me since our marriage.  I told you she was organized and she found all the cards and filled the album.  It was a special gift to me and held great memories as we looked through all the cards. 

I got her something special this year but I can’t tell what it is.  She may read this before she gets her gift.  Lyndsey always does something special on this day.  I can see Pam’s influence on her life in things she does that are “over and above” for others.

Now is when I usually have something to say about God and His relationship with His people.  I have thought about this and I believe the message is this:  Above all to be true to your spouse concerning the promises you made before God at the altar.  Placing God first in your life will make your marriage an exciting adventure.  In turn, the family you raise will bring many blessings as you see them walk in His presence. 

Follow the God-given vision for your marriage.  How do we recognize a vision as God-given or as man-made?  First, does it align with the Word of God, the nature of God, and the ways of God?  Second, does it advance God’s kingdom, and not necessarily your own?  Third, does it bless other people?  Finally, does the vision stand the test of time?