Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How One Person Can Change A Marriage

The Butterfly Effect
Q.  My marriage has been unhappy for a number of years. We argue or are distant for a week or two each month. When things get tense I suggest counseling but my husband refuses to go for help. What can I do?

A.  Change in a marriage is possible even when only one person seeks help. Change makes a difference when one person makes minor but meaningful changes. In fact the relationship may improve dramatically. This is due to “the butterfly effect.”  “The butterfly effect” was discovered by a well known meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, who discovered that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil may create a tornado in Texas. Michele Weiner-Davis in her book Divorce Busting cites evidence that “the butterfly effect” also is at work in relationships. One person can change a marriage.
Do Something Different
Small changes by one spouse make a difference. This information gives hope for troubled marriages in which only one partner is willing to make changes. Weiner-Davis says if things aren’t working do something different. Stop blaming your mate and study the interaction patterns between you. When you see the problems as the other person’s fault the solution is out of your control. For example, it takes two people to argue – so don’t argue. Listen and get a clear understanding of your husband’s viewpoint. Summarize what you’ve heard him say. This doesn’t mean you agree. It will show him you understand. Do you want to be right or be happy? I’m not saying you should give in to him. But choose your timing and your battles. And hear his viewpoint before sharing yours.
Most couples, in attempting to solve their marital problems keep using the same solutions over and over again even though it’s obvious that these solutions are not working. In fact, when the one attempting to fix the problems finds that his or her first efforts aren’t working the next tactic usually is to increase their efforts and do even more of the same thing. This approach maintains the problems and may even increase them. The solution then becomes part of the problem. For example, someone seeking more closeness from a partner who is distant may actually be creating more distance.
Do More of What Works.
Note the times you and your partner are getting along well. What are you doing during those times that you are not doing when things are difficult? For example are you smiling or frowning? Are you listening with interest or is your mind wandering?
Small changes such as smiling more or listening with real interest are affirming to the other person and can make a difference. A change in your interest in your husband’s activities and viewpoints can make a huge difference. If you’re usually serious – say something funny or off the wall. If you nag about chores stop this but put up a list of chores. Communicating in writing often works.

Look for minimal results. Don’t expect perfection. No marriage is perfect. All marriages have difficult times. The troublesome times will never vanish but they can be less frequent, less destructive and shorter in length. Surprise your husband and do something different! Think of yourself as a butterfly flapping its wings! One person can change a marriage.

“A woman of gentle grace gets respect.” Proverbs 11:16 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Commands of Jesus

Matt. 7:7-11 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and your will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

Mark 11:22-24 Have faith in God. I tell you the truth if anyone says to this mountain, “go, throw yourself into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

John 16:24b Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.


Dear Father,
In Mark’s gospel he starts this section with “Have faith in God.” I think all versions presuppose this. We need to have true and trusting faith in you. Lord, increase our faith in you. When we seek you our faith grows. It’s reassuring to know from Scripture that you want us to pray; you want us to ask of you, seek you, and knock on doors, persistently.

As I was writing this I ran across these verses from Jeremiah 29:12-13: “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Thank you for the assurance that you hear us and will give us good gifts, whatever is best for us. Help us keep your will in mind when we ask. Help us ask, seek and knock in keeping with your kingdom. Help us persist in seeking you. Help us pray with intensity. Help us understand that if we don’t receive what we pray for, it’s because you have something better for us. 

It’s awesome to think that our faith in you can move mountains. It’s amazing to realize that in some mysterious way our prayers release your power into the lives of others, even those who don’t know you - healing or saving them. Increase our faith, Lord.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finding a Healthy Church

Choosing a church is quite an adventure, but one that must be entered into prayerfully. In my book, Changing Churches: A View from the Pew, I describe in detail our search for a new church. Here are some of the things we found helpful on our journey.

My husband and I listed our hoped for criteria. Yes, we wrote down and talked about each item. We wanted to find a biblical church that exalted Jesus Christ. We hoped for a friendly church, reverent worship, good music and a deliberate Communion service. We assumed any church with these qualities would also be mission and outreach minded. We narrowed our search to churches nearby so we could be active at any age. We also hoped for a smaller church so we could get to know others.

Roger Olsen in The Mosaic of Christian Belief says that many people today have little concern for beliefs and often base their decision about a church on the worship style or the programs for children or teenagers. These may be important to you, but be certain to consider the beliefs of each church you visit or you may be in for a disappointment.
Choosing a church is complicated in today’s world because what you see may not be what you get.

Olsen says:
"Many and perhaps most churches have seriously down played theology and doctrine in the second half of the twentieth century. It is very difficult to find out exactly what a  church believes and whether or not it actually takes the beliefs it says it holds seriously....You could find yourself in a church that advertises itself as Christian but denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and a host of basic Christian beliefs."

A church that is vague about foundational Christian beliefs would not be a healthy church. Does the church require those who join be committed to Christ? Are members expected to be “born-again” Christians? The urge to enlarge a church by watering down the “entrance” requirements dilutes the effectiveness of the church.

We learned a great deal about the churches we visited from their websites. The statement of beliefs shown there will vary. Some are lengthy; some are short. Some are detailed and specific; some are vague. Meet with the pastor to learn more.

 Look for unity in the church. Look for transparency – openness in addressing any question or issue. Look for a church where Scripture is taught in its entirety. Look for a church where Jesus Christ is Lord. Pray as you search and the Holy Spirit will touch your heart when you attend the church where God is leading you.

A healthy church will accept you warmly, welcome your questions and give complete answers. A healthy church will inspire and challenge you to grow in your faith.

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Q. I have been married for 15 years and have three children. About a year ago my husband lost interest in sex. I've tried to talk to him about this but all he will say is it's not because of me. He says I'm a good wife and a good mother. He just doesn't feel sexy anymore. What should I do?

A. You need to find out what is causing your husband’s loss of interest in sex. Is he experiencing a lack sexual potency that he's too embarrassed to reveal? Is he having an affair? Is he under extreme pressure on his job which leaves him exhausted? Does the intimacy of marriage scare him? Perhaps he has told you in the past about things that bother him, which you dismissed as minor. Does he feel dominated by you? Can he disagree with you? How do you settle differences? Answers to these questions may provide some clues to what may be troubling him.
Your husband's loss of interest in sex also could be due to grief. Have there been any deaths or serious illnesses in the family (including extended family) or among close friends within recent years? Was he a victim of sex abuse as a child? This can happen to boys as well as girls and affects the adult sex life of many victims.

You need to lovingly confront your husband in order to obtain answers. Pick a time to talk when he is rested and you won't be interrupted. Tell him that you need the connection, intimacy and love that marital sex offers. Tell him that you want him to go with you to see a counselor.

He may be blaming himself for problems that are caused unwittingly by both of you in your interaction together. Insist on getting help. This is crucial to your marriage. Find a Christian marriage counselor and go to the counselor with him. This is a marital problem, not just a sexual one. A book that may help is When Victims Marry by Don & Jan Frank.

“Unrelenting disappointment leaves the heart sick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.” Proverbs 13:12 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Friday, July 5, 2013

Leaving a Church

Leaving a church is a serious issue. Changing churches must be done prayerfully. For more on how to make the decision see Deciding to Leave Your Church. Also, consider the issue of beliefs below.

Do Beliefs Matter?
As you prayerfully approach leaving, what do you look for when searching for a new church? What do you hope for in a church? Do beliefs matter? Do you simply look for a worship style you enjoy or a friendly congregation? Certainly these are important and it's reasonable to list the things you hope for in a new church. But do you learn enough about the beliefs of churches you visit? Roger Olsen writes in the Mosaic of Christian Belief,

"Many people have such little familiarity with or concern for beliefs that they don't even know what to look for other than clues to how churches worship. Many people base their decisions about churches more on worship styles or programs for children, youth or adults than on what the churches believe."

This rings true. Many Christians are naïve about gospel beliefs. Coming from unbelief we certainly were. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Methodists base their beliefs on Scripture, experience, reason and tradition (SERT). The experience part appealed to me. Like most women, I am tuned into feelings and experiential ways of knowing God. Faith based on reason pleased my husband. The pastor made it clear that Scripture trumped all other aspects. Doctrine and Scripture should be emphasized more than it is in many churches. In depth Bible studies taught and fed us, challenged and changed us over the years.

Michael Horton, a pastor and theologian, says, "I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself." This is the danger. In today's world it's important to investigate the beliefs of a church before deciding to join. Pastor David Smith, editor of SBC Voices, says:

"Those who refuse to exercise doctrinal discernment swim in shark-infested waters with open wounds. They invite on themselves and their churches the deception of Satan and the excesses of human emotion and impulsiveness. Without an anchor to hold it, without a rudder to guide it, the church is cast about by every wind of deceit that blows. God's Word is that anchor, that rudder, which helps us navigate through the lies Satan has sown in this world."

Christians, we need to take our faith seriously. Why do we go to church? Are we true believers? Have our lives been changed by knowing Jesus? Are worship and prayer significant in our life? Without Bible study how do we understand our faith? How do we continue to grow? How are we able to pass our faith along to others? I'd love to hear your comments.

Christians, have you truly committed your life to Jesus and his church? As individuals we need to recommit ourselves to Him, study his word, pray daily, even hourly and jump into a church with both feet. Just make certain the church you join is biblical, will teach you, disciple you, and hold you accountable.

Blessings, Dottie

P.S. For much more information on Changing Churches my book is available on Amazon. It describes our journey in three churches and also raises questions about changes in the church. See my reviews on Amazon.

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 4th – A Time to Celebrate and Pray

“America, America….God shed his grace on thee.”

"We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

This Fourth of July we are thankful for our freedom. We must guard it well or it could be lost. How could it be lost? 

We are on the brink of losing it due to our moral slide as a nation. Individual morality is a separate issue. The moral slide of our country occurs in relationships, in the way we do business with each other. When we are dishonest in the way we govern or in the way we run a business the entire country is affected.

Our founding fathers understood the relationship between liberty, morality and faith. Many of our early leaders stated, in one way or another, the fact that liberty couldn’t thrive without morality and morality couldn’t flourish without faith. When we manipulate or con others in the market place or when we attempt to cut corners in business, or make under the table deals to gain power – our country suffers.

Our founding fathers understood from Scripture that “all men are created equal” that all should be free to pursue happiness but that these relied on a moral culture based in a strong faith in God. They understood that the standard of righteousness was not tied to time or culture but was universal. It applied to all nations at all times, based on the character and nature of God.

What is God’s character? He is righteous. His kingdom is righteous. Deuteronomy 10:17-18 says “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."

We are human – we need help to be moral in all spheres of life. We need faith in God in Christ Jesus. Pray for our country to recognize their need before it’s too late.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34

Blessings, Dottie

This blog appeared originally in my Faithnotes blog here.