Dear Blackberry Farm, It’s Still Porn…

Whether it is the Super Bowl, the Playboy Mansion, or Blackberry Farm,  presenting women as objects, reducing their whole person to body parts for male stimulation and pleasure is still porn and it’s still wrong.

Some local news outlets applauded the prestigious Blackberry Farm for receiving yet  “another accolade”  for excellence because they provided the backdrop for the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.  On the contrary, it seems they have cheapened their reputation by being an upscale Hooters.  For an organization dedicated to the highest quality possible, they have dropped their standards to such a degree that I have to wonder, is the publicity worth it? No wait, is the degradation of women worth it? Evidently, sadly, yes.

Men behaving badly is the same regardless of your locale.stop porn  This is so painfully obvious that it is near ridiculous to even have to write it out in black and white.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is not art. It’s not benign. It’s not harmless.  Neither is sex trafficking, or adultery, or porn addiction.

It kills women, children and men. It breaks marriages and lives apart.

For what? An orgasm.  Are you kidding me? Continue reading

Five Days to a Better Marriage. No, really!


I am going way out on a limb to give a shout out for my sisters.  I have seen way too many women cry and heard way too many stories about good men who look like idiots, for me to stay silent anymore. I am asking you all to Man Up for your woman.  I’m talking about about the Big Five.

Not a football conference (although you could likely name most).
Not your favorite food or workout regimen.
Not even the episodes of your favorite show….
I am talking about the Big Five For Your Wife.

  • Her Birthday
  • Your Wedding Anniversary
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Christmas
  • Mother’s Day (if applicable, of course)

These are days that you get to remind her of why she wants to spend another year picking up your socks and listening to you snore.  These are the days that are similar to holding a newborn baby. The baby is so cute that mom forgets the pangs of labor. You want these five days to be filled with so much affection that your wife will forget the pangs of living with you all the other 360 days of the year.

Really?  Only five out of 365 days? I’d say this is a pretty great deal. Very, shall we say, low maintenance…

Yet some men seem surprised, even caught off guard, that they roll around Every Year. With all our modern devices and widgets and apps to make us smarter, it really makes women dislike their men all the more when their husbands “forget” the days that she has been looking forward to for weeks. Yes, for weeks. For women who are up to their eyebrows in changing diapers, or shuffling work, home or kids, these days pop up like little mini-mental vacations.  She looks forward to these special days with girlish delight that her man is going to spoil her, to treat her, to love on her. Finally, it’s her turn, after pouring out on everybody else all year.

I am not talking about spoiled rotten women.  I am talking about women who need reminders of why you fell in love with her in the first place, reminders that you still love her today. Reminders that she is the number one person in your life amid all the pressures of work, kids, and money.

To be serious, these are the days that you promised to remember when you said “I Do.”  It falls under that love and honor part. When you show up like a loser on these days, she feels like she’s a loser too.

Brothers, I know there are objections. I have heard them first hand.

What the men say:
I don’t have any (enough) money.
She’s never satisfied.
I don’t know how to do that.
What difference does one day make?
She knows I love her, why should I jump through hoops?

But have you heard what the women say?
Its not the money, it’s the effort.
If he would just try to make me feel special, I’d be happy.
I give him lists, ideas, even links, but he won’t do anything.
When he refuses to remember me, I feel like he is saying I’m not worth anything to him.
I feel unloved.

The most scary responses are from women who say, “I don’t need that kind of stuff. Anymore.”

Usually these women have given up.  Their husbands have let them down so many times that these women quit hoping just to protect themselves from the disappointment.  They love to call it maturity.  But the dark side of this reality is many times these women have shut down a part of their hearts too.  And men, this is never a good thing for you.

The male and female worlds may indeed be strange and gloriously different. We may seem like foreign creatures to you. Yet there is an inherent design and desire for oneness in our friendship and sexuality.  For the couples who call on Jesus, this desire for oneness is even greater because it embraces the  spiritual connection as well as the physical and emotional ones.

For far too many couples, the design is there but the oneness is not.

I see woman after woman who says her husband refuses to acknowledge her year after year. Don’t be that guy. Men are amazing problem solvers. Men can, and do, accomplish incredible things.  We know you have the ability. We just need to see you have the heart. For us. In action.

Brothers.  It’s only five days. Stop making excuses. Mark your calendars.  Remind your woman why she is lucky to be with you.  Trust me. You will be glad you did.

The More of Marriage: a mini series, part 3

Marriage is a  relational Rubik’s cube

I love this mind-tester.  You keep moving the squares trying to get one color lined up and then the other side is jacked up.  So you spend time trying to get that color matching and… well.. you know the rest. One silly square out of place. Is this frustrating or fun, or both? Am I crazy? stupid? And  of course there are always the “smart ones” who  slam it down completed in 12 seconds or less.  Yeah.  We hate those people.

Marriage can look a lot like this. It’s heart- tester if you will. You work on this part of your relationship and then something (or someone) else gets out of whack. So you adjust hoping to “get it all together” at one time.  Sigh.  And much like the toy, there are the couples who say, “We have never had a fight.”  Yeah we hate those people too.  (Just kidding. Sort of. )

But hope rises with practice. As with the  Rubik’s cube, it takes skill to master the myriad of relationships.  I really thought in our marriage it was just me and Chuck, two sides, two colors.  No problem. In fact, our families were not in our equation of marriage, or so we thought.  However, idea of “just the two of us” got pretty crowded pretty quickly. Turns out  you can’t get rid of your roots. It  was me and Chuck and my family and his family. My friends and his friends. My teachers, enemies, old lovers, and role models, 600px-Rubiks_cube_by_keqsand his as well.  Then you add children. The colored squares just multiplied. Again.

These ghosts of past, present, and future really impacted our ability to connect, trust, and listen to each other.  The way our respective parents would fight, make up, handle money, do God — all that was sitting at the dining room table with us when we were trying to fight, make up, handle money, and do God.

One day in the early years,  this came into full view.  Chuck and I were fighting (for you couples who “don’t” that means the two of you disagree loudly) and he looked at me and said, “I am not your dad. I am not your ex. I am not your brothers. I am not your professor. I am not any of those guys…”
What courage and insight it was for him to lay it out for me so plainly.  I wasn’t  even listening to what Chuck was saying. I had gone into auto-pilot reaction as if I was confronting one of them.

This is true whether you had a great life history or not.  We have been relationally trained by others, for better or for worse. And we have to learn how to relate in a loving way to our mates.  Here is a newsflash.

It takes time to learn to be truly present and listening.

Not recalling old wounds, offenses or disappointments. Not thinking of your to do list or rebuttal. Not letting old triggers cause you to react instead of engage. But instead, really listening to the present need or issue of the moment. Really lending your heart and spirit to the moving parts of the relational Rubik’s cube”— it’s called relationship.  Friendship. Companionship.  It’s not easy but worth it.

Honesty, patience, safety, hope.  These four qualities totally change the condition of most marriages.  They are not something you demand from your mate, but something you cultivate with God and then pour it out on your mate.  It takes time. It takes practice. It takes God.

“I never thought marriage would be this much work.” How many times have I heard this?  Ever tried to work a Rubik’s cube?  That’s a toy. This is for life.

The More of Marriage: a mini-series, part 2

Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality  of God’s grace.

I have these random memories.  Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me.  One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.”  (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)

Fast forward to somewhere around year 5 when a wise friend from church asked me what I would do to save my already suffering marriage. I said emphatically, “ANYTHING.”IMG_0972

“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride,  independence, superiority.  Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar.  I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING.  I  only wanted to do enough to  make Chuck act better for me.  After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.

So I did. It did. God did.   I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction.  God was up to something better for me, for us.  My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged  my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice.  Jesus  knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.

From years 10-15,  there are lots of memories and  journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”

Funny now to think of it all.  I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day.  8030 days.  Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk.  Sometimes, He pulled us along,  His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…

“Trust Me.”

“Look at Me.”

“Expect Me to Change Things.”

“Believe for Good.”

I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me.  In that world of marital staying power,  I am only a youngster.  But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a  pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment.  He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.

His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?

Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time.  After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here?  I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”

Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work.  With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows.  Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.

Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.

The More of Marriage: a mini-series, part 1

IMG_1052Here a few Ah-has about the journey of becoming one.  In light of all the chaos and brokenness surrounding marriage today and in celebration of my anniversary on April 13th of 22 years of marriage to Chuck, I thought this holy experiment warranted a few words.

Marriage helps me become my true self.

Chuck and I were looking through our wedding pictures last night. I wanted to laugh out loud and cry out loud. We had this delusion of change on the horizon.  We talked about how our “love is here to stay” and marriage was forever. We promised we would never change our commitment and passion and drive. We talked a lot about “all we would become” in those early years. Somehow we thought we “knew what we were getting” in each other, but we were woefully unprepared for real life.  “Change” was coming at us like a freight train.

First came the total spiritual overhaul as we became believers the first year of our marriage.  That is enough change to wreck the average couple who is confident of their marital choice. Our entire world system— beliefs, hobbies, friends, work, even politics—was turned on its ear. But this was only the beginning. Then came the awareness of all the addictions, coping, hiding, lying and blaming we had brought into our marriage. Our ideas of relationship were turned to dust.  Change came crashing in as  our selfish  ideas of love could not survive the reality of day to day life with another human being. We  didn’t truly understand our counterfeit selves until we began living with someone who could see who we really were.  Really see. I mean like in Avatar, “I see you.”   God’s presence gave us a supernatural peek into who was really living inside the shells we called husband and wife.  Not only was there more dysfunction than we could imagine, or handle, there  was far more God potential than either of us dared to believe. Twenty two years later,  we stand amazed. How did God do that?  We have a whole new definition of love, worth, and honor.

Another shock was the roller coaster of physical changes.  Looking at my skinny self was hard on my heart. Over the years, I  have gone through a lot of physical changes— pregnancies, weight gain and loss, sickness, etc.  I am grateful that Jesus has given me such freedom and acceptance of myself now.  But looking at our own marriage journey, and those newlyweds around us,  I don’t think people ever talk about the physical changes in marriage.  We dreamed, planned, projected, hoped, and guessed. But all the while we were doing that, our bodies kept pacing forward…toward the grave.  Not to be morbid, but  it is important that young women or couples know,  best they can, that they are agreeing to get old together.  That is a big commitment indeed. Talk about change…

Is it just me? Did anyone else think this wonderful life of change and growth was going to happen and you were going to stay young and lovely at the same time?  Forgive my sarcasm. But.  Marriage leaves no stone unturned. From attitudes to habits, from preferences to insecurities, from needs to longings,  this journey of two becoming one is ever refining. We have learned to change our idea of acceptance, truly receiving each other: for better, for worse.

How did He heal so much? How did He reveal so much? Looking at our wedding photo, I thought to myself, “who are those people?” We are so, so different.  And yet I have never felt more at home in my own skin.  Going through the battles and the victories, the drama and the outcomes  has stripped off so much sin and weakness and has deposited so much grace and mercy.  We are indeed thankful for the God who has let us share in the “unveiling” of a man and a woman He knew was in there all along.




Annual Marriage Retreat

Our annual marriage retreat is scheduled for February 3 – 5, 2012. Register today!

Do you wonder if there are ways to connect more deeply with your mate? Do you long for more intimate connections on every level, emotionally, physically, spiritually? Well so does the Lord. He longs for the two of you to experience intimacy with Him and each other.

This retreat is a time to explore ways to make that connection real.

Whether you are barely speaking, or deeply in love, the intention of this retreat is to help us connect our marriage to God’s heart. Every year the material is different, but the desire is the same, to grow more in love with God and each other.

With all that pulls against you and your marriage, this time away is a chance to discover new ways, new habits, new beginnings that help you grow closer together.

Perfect love casts out fear.” We want to learn how to live in this place for a lifetime.

To hear a testimony from a previous attendee check out the video

Retreat price includes two nights lodging in private suites, 4 meals and teaching sessions.

Retreat will be held at Smokey Mountain Christian Village.

Following You

In honor of Valentine’s Day and a momentous two year anniversary, I want to play you a song that is on the Real. Life. worship cd.

The two year anniversary marks one of our darkest seasons when Chuck and I were both stepping back to assess whether our marriage could be salvaged. We were separated and seeking the Lord for resurrection power. This morning, we prayed together with hearts full of gratitude that He indeed  had resurrected our lives out of the ashes.

What’s ironic is that I wrote this song in the first year of our marriage almost twenty years ago. I had no idea the prophetic word it would be over our lives.  God has done exactly what the lyrics say:  Burn us up/ melt us down/ create a gold that’s new.  I see that it is our following Jesus that has brought us to this point of gratefulness and joy.

I love Him. I love that He loves us so. Thank You, Lord, that You did not shy away from the heat of loving us. Amen.

Following You

Words and Melody by Jana Spicka
Guitar Framework by Roselynn Spicka

Acoustic Guitars: Stephanie Sapp

I’m following you through the fire
I’m following you through the fire
Of a burning churning love affair
I say you and you say me

We say you, me, you
It’s a fire of a lifetime
Of days turned  gray with age
and years of burning love

Stronger than rivers
Carving out canyons from stone
Stronger than tremors
Cracking the face of the earth
Greater than thunder
Rolling the passions of our souls

I’m following you through the fire
And I know we’re really scared
I’m following into the fire of hearts
and we’ll make a new home there

Burn us up and melt up down
and create a gold that’s new
It’s a fire of a lifetime
I will not shy away from the heat of loving you

Fire and flame
How we change
Past the pain
We shall rise above

Through days turned  gray with age
and years of burning love
Stronger than rivers
Carving out canyons from stone
Stronger than tremors
Cracking the face of the earth
Longer than mountains
Falling from the weight of time

Following you through fire
fire and flame

Digging Up Bones on FB

So I thought it was just me. But then I do a couple of retreats and I hear the same thing over and over. I ask women or men, “How did this crazy thing start anyway?”

“Well they asked me to be their friend on Facebook.”

Sometimes there is a reason that seasons pass and doors are closed.  Sometimes there are very good reasons that they should stay closed.

Connecting with old lovers while you’re married: not a good idea.

Talking more to your ex boyfriend on FB than you do to your husband, or he does his wife: not a good idea.

Friending ex husbands or wives?  Uhm, wasn’t the point of the divorce to NOT be in relationship?

And what if you aren’t married?  Aren’t rules different then?  I don’t know; what are you looking for?  Facebook is great for connecting people but it is also great for inserting people that have no place in your life.

I mean seriously…why on earth do I want to be “Friends” with a person with whom my only connection is sexual stupidity in high school? What is he supposed to say to me?  “Gee remember when we ——–? And now I see you have two kids? How great. And how is your husband?”

I know this is all under the blood of Christ. I have forgiven myself and them. Maybe you have too. But is it healthy to renew these relationships? I would say after talking to several men and women who are losing their hearts to phantom relationships, this breach in boundaries is just one more attack on marriage, or the hope of a healthy relationship. People can be toxic for us, even from afar.

Perhaps there is no sexual contact. But isn’t the mind and its ability to rewrite history strong enough to distract from the now? I am talking to people who just like “to watch what is happening in this person’s life.”  What do you think fosters fantasy anyway?  Watching from afar with no reality of relationship.

Brothers and sisters, beware.   Corinthians says “just because something is technically legal doesn’t make it spiritually beneficial.” (The Message) I encourage you to guard your hearts in Christ Jesus.  Guard your homes.

Don’t allow the enemy to entice your hearts away, especially when your heart is dissatisfied or hurting in your marriage or relationship status already. Don’t believe the lie that it is harmless. It is not.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10  Run to the Lord, and “defriend” the obstacles to your real relationships.

The Wonders of Men

Okay, so admit it.  You know that you’re curious as to what this blog is about…Well I just finished a really powerful marriage retreat. (Thank you Lord for coming, and thank you friends for bringing your hearts!)  And while I was prepping for that, I ran across this book, written by a man, that actually admitted that men “do goofy things.” His words. Goofy. Funny, inane and sometimes altogether inexplicable.

Shortly after reading this chapter, I had this telling experience. Chuck was flying around getting ready for work and he brought me a shirt that had some faint dirt marks on it. “Is there anything I can do for this?” he asked. I suggested a Clorox pen, but he said he was afraid the chemical would irritate his neck since the smudge was on the neck line.

“Got it.” I said. “So instead, spray some Shout on it, rub it to remove the dirt, then moisten a paper towel and dab it off.” Simple, to the point, clear and precise. He bustled off in search of the Shout spray.

“You good?”  I hollered over my shoulder as I was finishing up the girls’ lunches.

“Yes,” he mumbled.

Several minutes passed and he came back in the kitchen in his t-shirt with his dress shirt still in his hand. “Did that not work?”  I asked perplexed, being confident of my solution.



“Well I couldn’t find the Shout so I sprayed Wrinkle Release on it and it didn’t seem to help any.”

I searched his face to see if he was making a joke. He was not.

I stood there dumbfounded myself; do I laugh out loud, or cry hysterically?

“Honey,” I began carefully, “what exactly did you think Wrinkle Release would do for the dirt? Help it stay fresh and crisp?”

Now he looked at me searching my face. We both cracked up. “Is it just a lot of fun being a man?” I asked.

“Yeah sometimes. This is how new discoveries are made you know.”

Goofy. That’s all I could think of it. But you know what I have discovered, I like goofy.

There are crazy differences about us, male and female. But both are in the image of God.  And it is in these funny moments I see that God is so smart for making us so polar in some ways and then saying to us, “Okay, ya’ll, live together in the same house!”

But laughing with Chuck also made me think about how big God’s capacity must be when we do inane things ourselves with Him. He gives us clear instruction and we go off in left field and wonder why His plan isn’t working. We’re goofy. Plain and simple. I can just hear God say sometimes, “How is that working for ya? You are using the wrong remedy for the wrong issue, but still expecting the same good results.  Want to try it My way this time?”

And even better, I really think God laughs too.  I think He likes our goofy too.