A Contentious Woman

“A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” Proverbs 27:15

As in many of the Proverbs, there’s little explanation that follows except to say that containing this type of woman is like containing the wind or holding oil in your hand. Maybe one of Solomon’s wives was looking on and he didn’t want her to know whom he was writing about. Maybe his reference to the wind led her to believe it was the wife who talked too much. Or his allusion to oil was a nod to the woman who used more than her fair share of the perfume.  

What a shame that the wisest man to ever live had to do so with an argumentative woman/women. I can see him now, on his throne, head resting patiently, thoughtlessly on his fist with his wife, standing above him, her ever thrusting finger in rhythmic time with her verbal barrage. “Yes dear,” he would say hoping it would bring him a moment’s peace, no doubt remembering what he had previously written in chapter 21, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” By chapter 27 he had probably worked up enough courage to say what he really meant, but made sure the words were hidden between the parts about blessing a friend with a loud voice and of iron sharpening iron.

Little is said of a contentious woman other than she will drive you stark raving mad. Rain doesn’t stop while it is rain. As the verse states, it continues dropping, dropping, and dropping with no thought of your feelings or the fact that you are wearing your suede jacket. “Maybe if I let the rain completely cover my shoes, it will be alright,” you think. “Darker suede, like a new pair.” But no, the rain ruins them all the same.

Similarly, a contentious woman cares little that her words tear up her husband’s manhood, and by doing so he is not becoming the man she thinks she wants him to be. Rather, she is beating him like a helpless puppy and probably becoming her mother at the same time. This is a thought that never occurs to her but that would do her irreparable damage were the observation to be made. Her family thinks, “we should tell her what she’s doing and how she acts.”

Would it be so bad to tell her? It’s likely that in some rickety gym bleachers during a high school pep rally she uttered the words to her BFF, “don’t ever let me become my mother.” Probably because of a fight they had over her short skirt, but telling her that her pseudo-prophecy is coming true would do no good. It would just be more ammunition to throw at her targets. As though she needs more. “You said I was just like my mother so I guess I need to live up to the expectation.” Visions of the Wicked Witch of the West come to mind as well as the large collection of wire hangers I have in my closet.

While the husband is often the hapless victim in circumstances like this, the children also get a good lesson in manipulation and family dysfunction. If you cause people enough guilt yet make them feel sorry for you at the same time, you are in charge and can get whatever you want. The daughter might view her parents’ relationship much like the relationship she has with her hamster, locked in his cage in her room. “I’ll play with it,” she pleaded at the pet store, so giddy and ready to raise a national champion hamster . . . if there is such a thing. Weeks have past and he sits in his cage until she finally takes him out to clean it. “You dirty rat. I can’t stand you,” she mutters as her once prized possession is now little more than an inconvenience. When she finishes with her task, her disposition is more solidified as she hears her mother yell, “Have you swept the floor yet you lazy man?”

The other lesson contentious women give here? “Men are scum, and if we don’t tear them down, they’ll be lazy, good-for-nothings and will probably cheat on us.” It’s true. For generations men have been scoundrels, competing masses of conquering adrenaline that are not fit to be in the presence of refined women who are about the only things we don’t hit over the head anymore. Most of us anyway. And this is for the better because we should be domesticated by now. If I lose at a card game, my instinct is to jump up, allow my chair to scrape against the wooden floor and then punch the guy. Next, if old western have taught us anything, the piano will strike up as we duke it out until being thrown into the horse trough outside. But society and my wife say that this is wrong. I should be a good sport and not a sore loser.

Men are domesticated thanks to women, but in our hearts most of us are still wild. The desire to conquer is strong in us. We still retreat to the woods, we still eat hoards of meat and the desire to drive recklessly is tempered only by the loving eyes of our family. To deal with this, women have two options. First, she can be the type of woman a man longs for, and if he’s smart, he will pursue her with all the gusto he can muster. This will result in a happy and productive marriage along with the occasional trip to the woods or river. We’re still wild, remember? The other option is to be a Trojan horse to him. Lure him in with her seductive ways and promise him happiness until she has him around the throat and his other sensitive parts. This places her in a prime position to get exactly what she wants from him, which may be a child, money or simply the satisfaction that she can rule his life because of her low opinion of men. These women are sick. Her husband bought a ring as a token showing he can care for her and she has slowly become something that he can’t do anything with. She sees no wrong in her selfish actions and everyone is left with an open heart where a loving mother should be.

Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous woman, lauding her business sense, piety, and care for her family. Women are one of God’s most precious gifts to us. They are gentle and loving, but when they do not take their place in this world seriously, or worse, use their talents for selfish reasons, everyone suffers.

BOOK REVIEW: The Marriage-Friendly Church by Daniel F. Camp

I am a marriage counselor and a minister. With these two dynamics at play, I definitely see the need for the Lord’s church to do more in respect to marriage. In his book, The Marriage Friendly Church, Dr. Camp has developed a method by which congregations can effectively assess the state of marriage among their members and work to turn it into what God would have it be.

It is important to note what this book is not, since it is easy to go into it with some preconceived ideas. Camp states very plainly that it is not a guide to a better marriage. Also, it is not a study on any doctrinal issue (i.e. marriage, divorce, & remarriage, or woman’s role in the home/church.) It is also not a “30 Days to a Great Marriage Ministry” guidebook. However, this book does outline a thorough “assessment process” that can change your church culture into one that helps strengthen marriages.

Camp addresses several issues within the church that may actually hurt marriages. He discusses the “church face” phenomenon where spouses act as though all is well when in reality they are crumbling. He challenges the idea that a busy church is a healthy church. Your over-packed schedule may do plenty for certain subgroups of your membership while actually destroying marriages in the process.

Much of the book is about listening to determine how your membership views marriage. This will give your marriage ministry a solid start as you work to minister to a portion of our society that is in desperate need of God’s love and direction. Camp then lays out a plan to get you started in a marriage ministry that will affect your families positively for years to come.

The book (with accompanying workbook) lays out an assessment plan that will work well for larger congregations, but anyone who wants to improve marriages within their membership will learn a great deal from this well-written book.

Where are Our Principles?

I was listening to the “This American Life” podcast where they interviewed a woman who had a list of seven things you should never talk about in general conversation. It was just her opinion, but I found it amusing. Listen to the podcast here, and find out what she considers to be boring topics.

What intrigued me most about this story was not the list itself but rather the fact that she had a list. She had a principle that said, “I draw the line here.” 

A principle involves a person’s basic view and practice of life according to the values they possess; what they believe is right and wrong. 

Our society’s principle supply seems to dwindle each year. It is a lack of principles that steers poor parenting and makes spouses feel justified when their actions are nothing but selfish. Wonder why your family is dysfunctional? Can you name the principles you live by?

I was raised in the 90s so very little is sacred to me, and boy do I miss out sometimes. I crave uninterrupted dinner time with my family and the foundation that a strong Biblically based worship service offers. It is the sacred that grounds us and makes us human in a world that is ever-changing for whatever random reason it has decided upon at the moment. Without principles, we commit to nothing and believe in whatever we are told. 

A movement that is beginning to lurk into sacred territory is that stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day. Blogger Matt Walsh handles this topic extensively in his post, “If you shop on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem.” For those families and individuals who are hurting, it is the unfulfilled promise offered by consumerism that maintains your pain and emptiness.

In the podcast, Mrs. Matthiessen, as she prefers to be called, gave me a nice chuckle about a lesson that we all need to consider long and hard. What are the guiding principles in your life? What do you say no to?

Heritage Christian University Elevate Seminar Recordings

October 14-16 was this year’s Elevate Seminar at Heritage Christian University. The theme was “The Sexual and the Spiritual.” My lesson was entitled, “Human Sexuality: A Return to the Garden.” In this session I discuss the spiritual side of sex and how married couples can improve this intimate relationship.

Other sessions included discussions on the Song of Solomon and marriage/divorce & remarriage. All were incredibly grounded in scripture and applicable to today’s world.

Speaking at Heritage Christian University

October 14, 2013
ELEVATE, a spiritual enrichment seminar, will be hosted on the campus of HCU October 14-16. The theme for ELEVATE 2013 is “The Sexual and the Spiritual”, and will address a host of issues facing Christians today. Over 35 sessions will be presented, including:
* Marriage Enrichment Seminar
* The DNA of Relationships for Parents and Teens
* The Biblical View of Homosexuality
* Marriage Counseling and the Minister
* Ministering to Children of Divorce
* The Church’s Role in Sex Education
* Preaching/Teaching the Song of Solomon
* How to Have “The Talk” With Your Children
* And many more
Whether you are a minister, elder, parent, spouse, or church member, there will be something to help you grow in your own faith and encourage others in theirs. A stellar lineup of qualified speakers will ask the hard questions and discuss biblical solutions.
More information and full schedule will be available soon. If you have questions, please contact us at 800.367.3565 or rpettus@hcu.edu.
My topic is “Human Sexuality: A Return to the Garden”

Our sinful nature that was realized in the garden can continue to keep us in a state of shame, hindering us from truly connecting with our spouses in the sexual relationship. In this session, Dale will discuss barriers to sex, the spiritual connection to sex, and ways those struggling can reestablish and maintain this precious link. 

My book on marriage is now in paperback

In 28 Days to A Better Marriage, Dale handles a variety of topics in a direct way to expedite the healing and empowerment that so many marriages need. The twenty-eight chapters are brief, enabling the reader (husband or wife) to glean useful information in short steps, moving both spouses towards a better understanding of one another and of themselves. Through Dale’s experience as a marriage counselor, he has learned that most couples in distress make the same mistakes. Twenty-Eight Days holds within its pages the knowledge and tactics that marriages need to thrive.

My Faith In Both My Fathers Has Been Strengthened

On Sunday, April 14, 2013, my dad was teaching the adult Sunday school class at the Carthage Church of Christ. In the middle of an excellent illustration of how we handle frustration, he falls out of the pulpit with a heart that was no longer beating. We discovered later that there were no blockages or any muscle damage; his heart just decided, “Hey, I’m done with this” and quit.

Quickly and decisively, a doctor, a nurse, and a member of the congregation performed CPR. The doctor was the husband of a girl I grew up with in that very building. They were visiting from Woodbury, TN. There were others responsible and we can’t say thank you enough to all of them. For seven minutes they worked to keep my dad alive until the ambulance got there with the defibrillator. Two high voltage shocks later, daddy was awake and knew everyone. No damage of any kind has been reported by the doctors. Here are some thoughts.

God wasn’t ready for dad to go. I am a firm believer in the providence of God and this is your best tool against worry or anxiety. God WILL take care of you. No matter what situation occurs, God will be there to guide you in this life or to an eternal home. So, depend on Him and let Him take care of everything.

Second, many will ask, “why did this happen?” Well, dad’s heart stopped because of an electrical issue. It sometimes gets out of rhythm and I suppose this is a side affect of that condition. I’m sure this is not the spiritual answer that most would expect from such a serious event. I believe a better question to ask when faced with times like this is, “What?” “What are you going to do now that God has spared you? What have you learned from this event?” We can ask “Why” all day long and not really be satisfied. “Why” searches for a cause in the past and “what” searches for an answer to the future. Where would you rather be?

Events like this keep us affixed to the world around us and how the simplest things mean so much. These times also make us keenly aware of our Heavenly home. Which ever you meet on this day, may you see the blessings found therein.

Finally, I am left hoping for more days with my dad and mom. We have a trip planned for the fall and if I can talk him into it, we’re going camping. I’m sure it won’t take much convincing.

Churches and Marriage Ministries

The divorce rate gets worse all the time. Who can turn the tide? In my opinion, churches can. Their mission is to minister to those who need Christ and what better place to make this happen than within the home? Is your church doing what it can or could it be doing more? What ministries do they support to help not only their families but also families within the community that they could reach with aid? Many churches want to spread the gospel and they should, but if families are breaking apart, there will be fewer and fewer families to reach. Basically, they will not listen about salvation if they cannot get along at the dinner table.

“A preliminary report entitled The Costly Consequences of Divorce in Utah: The Impact on Couples, Community and Government, indicates divorce and its direct and indirect economic consequences costs the United States 33.3 billion per year or $312 per household in the country. It is estimated that the average divorce costs state and federal governments $30,000 in direct and indirect costs (Direct costs include – child support enforcement, healthcare costs, food stamps, public housing etc. Indirect costs include – legal fees, lost work productivity, correctional facilities, unwed childbearing, dealing with drug problems, delinquency, criminality and other social problems linked to divorce). Given this information, the cost to the state of Tennessee, looking at Census 2000 data, is more than $1 billion annually.” (SOURCE: www.firstthings.org)

There is a war for our souls and the war is fought in our homes. It is not fought in the plush-carpeted auditoriums or spacious hallways of our ever-expanding church buildings. No, instead it is fought in the minds of our boys who have no spiritual guidance at home because dad left. This war is fought between husband and wife because she caught him viewing pornography again. The war is fought over the women of the house because they are trying to keep things together and are running out of options. Satan lets your members walk in your doors, but he is always there waiting when they walk out. What can you do as a church to help marriages and families?

First, regular family workshops are a must. These can give your families the shot in the arm they need on topics like parenting and how to keep their relationship fresh. The Association of Marriage and Family Ministries is a good place to start or visit the website for First Things First, a community organization in Chattanooga that has done wonders for their area. The National Association for Relationship and Marriage Education is another fine resource. They just recently had their annual conference.

Second, your preacher needs to present regular lessons on the home. He should be reading reputable authors on the matter and should of course be studying what scripture has to say about it. Your view of divorce and marriage should be taught and well understood in order to offer direction to those who have none.

Finally, if your minister is not a trained counselor, he should have a referral base to send those who come to him with issues beyond what he can handle. You should not disarm a bomb unless you have been trained to do so. Prayer can accomplish much but denying someone the help they need does a great deal of harm. In addition, encourage your couples to seek counseling when necessary. We go to the dentist when our teeth hurt and the doctor when we have a sinus infection. Why would we not go to a therapist to help our relationship; the very thing that can help us live a long and healthy life? Our homes are modeled after Christ and his relationship with the bride, the church. So, it is a natural spot for ministry to take place.

Form a relationship with an agency or a local counselor and see to it that your members get the help they need by supplementing the fees. It is simple to do. Talk to the counselor about how they handle situations that concern you. What is their stance on divorce? What is their belief in God? This can be one of your most critical ministries. Even offering free office space to a counselor can do wonders.

If you want more people to enter your doors, you should work on keeping them together. The money you invest here will save loads in the long run. You may say that your families are all strong and this type of ministry is not needed. Here is why this is faulty logic. 1) People, when they are hurting, like to put on a show as though everything is OK. Sadly, this is not always the case. 2) If you are only helping those within your walls, you must ask yourself if you are really going about the mission that Christ has set you on.

REVIEW – Why They Left: Listening to those who have left Churches of Christ by Flavil R. Yeakley Jr.

Very early in the book Yeakley, lays out in plain language how this study was developed, its limitations, and how it should be used. I appreciate his honesty and candor in writing a book that could have been a springboard for church bashing. Instead, Yeakley weaves a humble and loving sentiment throughout the text that says, “May all involved be closer to God after this study.” Those involved are of course the people who left, the congregations they once attended, and those who want to make their congregation a safe haven for the lost and dying. 
One weakness that Yeakley admits to is the small number of participants (just over 300) that contributed to the online survey in comparison to the overall membership of the Church of Christ nationwide. While the number is not a good sampling, when answers began repeating themselves, it was obvious that a reasonable amount of information had been gathered. Much can be learned from this work.
The book is divided in two parts: the background of the study and then the results. Yeakley opens up most chapters in the results section with personal stories of why people left, but always balances the narratives with obvious notes about how we are only hearing one side of the story; a strong point of the book. The names of the congregations and people are kept private. Yeakley then goes on to give a thorough analysis of the cited issue.
People left for doctrinal reasons, for how they were treated, and sometimes it is the two together. There are chapters on instrumental music (the largest reason people left), homosexuality, and even how churches viewed evangelism. So, a good study will be had on these various topics.
Yeakley is very clear when he says that doctrine should not be changed to please those who disagree. Amen! However what should be taken away from this study the most is the overwhelming idea that we should be careful with how we handle people and the Gospel; otherwise, we may lose those who need it the most. 

Podcasts and Blogs: My Favorite 12

How can you get interesting and enriching entertainment? How can you get daily encouragement when you need it? How can you find the answers you are looking for in an easy to accomplish manner? Two words: Podcasts & Blogs. Who has time to read lengthy books? Not many of us. Podcasts and blogs (from authors you’ve thought about reading) are excellent ways to feed your spirit and your funny bone.
If you find a blog you like, subscribe to it via RSS (Real Simple Syndication). This is the little icon that looks like a wireless Internet symbol. You can have articles emailed to you, but I prefer a reader such as Google Reader that is directly on my homepage. I keep it away from the hundreds of emails I get each week, and I can easily see exactly what I want to read. You can also subscribe to many blogs via Twitter and Facebook. Who do I read? Below is a list of the blogs I follow.

  1. In Search for More – This is my blog. You’re probably reading this on it right now. Even though I write it, I like to see it in the various places that my actual subscribers are seeing it too. If you want to learn how to be a better parent and/or spouse, check out my blog where I write about this stuff. Subscribe at www.insearchformore.com
  2. The Disney Parks Blog – We have a trip coming up in October to the House of the Mouse, and I’m keeping up with what’s going on through their blog. I know when the new attractions will open and I even find out about travel tips. www.disneyworld.com
  3. Instrument Rated Theology– This is a blog written by Paul Smith, a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He is also a minister in the Church of Christ, and I stumbled upon his blog when doing a little research. I liked his review of a book so much that I purchased it to use in an adult Bible class and have since been reading his views on having a Christian worldview. Subscribe at www.instrument-rated-theology.com
  4. Musings on Spiritual Matters – This blog is written by my good friend and confidant, Matthew Morine. He too is a doctoral student but at Harding Graduate School of Religion. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Matthew brings insight into the Lord’s work that can easily be missed by some. Subscribe at www.MatthewMorine.com
  5. Social Mouths – With the increase in the use of social media there are people teaching others how to maximize its potential. Francisco Rosales’ articles are well written, well-illustrated, and extremely practical. I credit the work of Rosales with me getting two Kindle books published. It was his easy to read article that showed me how to do this in one afternoon. Subscribe at www.socialmouths.com

Podcasts are also a favorite media of mine. I primarily listen for entertainment but there are others that can help with personal growth as well. Most all podcasts are free and can be subscribed and/or listened to through iTunes. You can also Google them for their respective sites. Here are the ones I listen to when I’m not listening to an audio book (another favorite past-time).
  1. Freakonomics Radio – If you’re a fan of the books, subscribe to this podcast. If you’ve not read the books yet, do so, and then subscribe. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are the hosts of this podcast that can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes long. Learn why your house’s false alarms have a hidden cost and why the president of the United States has a lot less power than you think. Levitt is an economist so he looks at things a little differently than most people and Dubner is an award-winning author. Their synergy is what makes the show so enjoyable, not to mention the curve ball they throw you on a lot of topics.
  2. A Prairie Home Companion’s News from Lake Wobegon – I’m not readily able to listen to the entirety of Garrison Keilor’s show, but I can listen to its most famous segment. Keilor started his “old-fashioned” radio variety show in Nashville, TN and he continues to carry the nostalgic theme well in a post-modern world.
  3. Focus on the Family: Focus on Marriage – Dr. James Dobson has done a lot of work in the name of families, and this short yet insightful podcast can improve your marriage in no time. In the podcast, experts are interviewed on a variety of marital topics so there’s no shortage of information. Typically one large recording spans over several podcasts so you receive tidbits of information that are easy to digest.
  4. The Moth Podcast – “Stories told live without notes.” Authors, actors, and everyday people tell stories that are funny or life changing or both. Very entertaining and quick with most shows being less than 15 minutes.
  5. NPR: Live Concerts from All Songs Considered – Recorded concerts from clubs, music festivals, and even from behind the desk at the NPR studios. If you like live music and want to hear some cool jams, subscribe. Through this podcast I discovered the music of First Aid Kit, Kat Edmonson, and I rediscovered Jakob Dylan (Bob Dylan’s son and former front man for the Wallflowers). Very eclectic in their choice of other performers including the Soweto Gospel Choir.
  6. This American Life – Journalist Ira Glass weaves a narrative of stories, typically in four acts, that are designed to make you think, care, and wonder about the world we live in. Unlike talk-radio, they don’t spend hours discussing what most people forgot about two weeks ago. Instead, they have stories that are good sometimes for no other reason than they are interesting. Although, relevancy is also a typical characteristic. Its popularity has grown to a TV show and they are working on an event that will be broadcast live in theaters across the country.
  7. The Truth – My newest subscription. “. . . a contemporary re-imagining of what audio drama is and can be . . . .” That’s right! They are working to revive one of the oldest forms of entertainment to go across the airwaves; radio drama. There are no story arcs that I’ve found. Just good short prose that captures the imagination because it is well written and true to life.