Book Review: Making Marriage Beautiful

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I loved this insightful book on marriage. Author Dorothy Greco writes with transparency and humor. Because she wants to help others, she and her husband bravely share their own not-always-perfect endeavors to have a beautiful marriage.

Greco hits the nail on the head when she writes:

What differentiates a loving, joyful, intimate marriage from a disappointing, frustrating one is the willingness and commitment to be changed, to say yes to God’s transforming work, and to become increasingly holy with each passing year.

Isn’t that true? The willingness to be changed must be present in each spouse or the marriage simply will not work. And yet this is what we struggle with most. We would much rather pray, “Lord, change my husband” or “Lord, change my wife” than “Lord, change me.” But the author encourages all of us to say yes to God’s transforming power. To not only admit our failures to our spouses to receive their forgiveness but to confess our sin to God and receive His grace. Making Marriage Beautiful reminds us that we all need changing and that marriage is often the tool God uses to continually transform us to the image of Christ.

I wish I had had this book when my husband and I began our life together. The chapters on differences in family cultures and expectations would have been especially helpful! Although we have worked through these issues now, having this book would have made the ride through the bumpy waters of early marriage smoother. Greco encourages all of us to examine the preferences we have “stockpiled” and how these preferences may affect unfair expectations we place on our spouses. She also reminds us to celebrate our spouses “otherness.”

The author ends the book by using an illustration from her own backyard. She tells readers that her home is on property that is glacial till–in other words–very poor soil. It is a constant struggle to grow beautiful flowers and shrubs in this environment. She then likens her soil to the cultural environment we live in. Growing a beautiful marriage in a culture that encourages self-fulfillment instead of sacrifice and instant happiness instead of steady faithfulness requires persistent work.

But she says,

Keep clearing the rocks. Keep amending the soil and pulling the weeds. As the seasons pass, your faithful obedience will result in the gradual transformation of your soul and your marriage.

Whether you’ve been married three weeks or thirty years, this book will help your marriage become more beautiful.

Author Dorothy Greco is a talented writer and photographer. Her writing has appeared  Relevant Magazine, Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, Gifted for Leadership, Today’s Christian Woman, SheLoves, Start Marriage Right, UnGrind, Junia Project, and Sojourners. I am a featured contributor for Gifted for Leadership, CTWomen, and Start Marriage Right. Check out her website.

Find her book here.

 

How Gratitude Changes Us

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John Milton said, 
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to experience everyday epiphanies.

Gratitude changes me. Thankfulness helps me remember that everything I have is from God. He gives the gifts of faith, love, and even a sunny day in November. Gratitude definitely inspires reverence.

Milton also said gratitude allows us to experience epiphanies. My dictionary gives two definitions for epiphany:

  • a moment when you suddenly see or understand something in a new way
  • an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being

Thankfulness enables us to see our everyday lives in a new way. We can complain about snow on the ground or we thank God for its beauty. We can gripe about the toys all over the family room or be grateful the children in our lives that put them there.

Thankfulness helps us to “see” God. Of course, God is always with us. But our busy, messy lives often crowd out our awareness of Him. A small prayer of gratitude even in the midst of a chaotic morning is enough to “manifest” His presence to our spirits.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Could it be that one way to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts is to be grateful? That as we stop to say thanks we push out a bit of discontent from our hearts and make room for peace?

This week is a national celebration of Thanksgiving. At overcrowded tables all over the country, people will stop to give thanks.

Let’s carry that attitude of thanksgiving throughout the year. As we do, we will see our lives in a new way. We will discover God in the mundane corners of our days.

Next step: This week, remember to thank God for the mundane and ordinary. Say a small prayer of gratitude and experience God’s transforming power.

howgratitudechangesus

Five Ways God’s Love Changes You Part 2

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5 more ways God's love seeps into our hearts and transforms us.

 

I struggle with many things:

caring too much about what people think of me

second-guessing my decisions

accepting God’s plan for my life

focusing too much on material things of life

spending way too much time at my computer

Maybe you can relate.

This world is full of conflicts between pleasing God and pleasing others. Our life is characterized by clashes between our spiritual side and the part that simply must type the memo, get dinner on the table, and generally survive in the world.

I have found one simple act that helps me win the battle:

Basking in God’s love.

As I said in a previous post, basking in God’s love during a particularly stressful season kept my heart at peace. Simply stopping for a few minutes to contemplate my Father’s unfailing love for me helped me win the battle against doubt and anxiety.

A look in God’s Word confirms: God’s love transforms me.

Here are 5 more ways God’s love changes you and me:

God’s love enables us to stay on His path. “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3). When I am mindful of God’s never-ending love for me, I am much more confident that God’s path is the best one. I don’t walk in my qualifications or in my competence. I walk in His faithfulness.

God’s love gives us the confidence to pray. Psalm 69:13 says: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Because we know God as a caring Father, we can come to Him as His much-loved children. His unfailing love gives us the courage to come with our debilitating failures, our overwhelming dilemmas, and even our pesky problems.

God’s love motivates us to obey. Psalm 106:7 tells us the reason for the Israelites’ rebellion: “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” After all God had done for them, how could they forget His love? Yet I often do the same. But when I do bask in the abundance of God’s love, my rebellious spirit is tamed. I’m drawn to follow Love.

God’s love in our hearts enables us to please God. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11). Just like any loving dad, what pleases our Abba Father most is for His children to curl up in His caring arms–to put their hope not in their own cleverness or ambition, but in His love for them.

God’s love helps us to love others. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love others as Christ loved us. That little word as can have a couple of different meanings. It can mean, “Just like I have loved you, I want you to love other people” or “Since I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Loving others in the same way Jesus loved us is a difficult task. It’s made a little easier because God has filled our hearts with His love.

So take a minute right now and bask in God’s love. Meditate on Christ’s sacrifice. Repeat the words of God’s affection from Scripture.

Allow His words of love to seep into your heart and change you.

(Find the first 5 ways God love changes us here)

God’s Love Letter to You

God's love letter to you. Click here to discover His relentless love.

The Bible isn’t always an easy book to read. At times it seems like a long list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes it reads like a rather dry history book. Some parts read like a racy novel. Other chapters seem like an action movie with plenty of violence.

So when you hear that God’s Word is His love letter to you, you might raise an eyebrow or stifle a laugh.

But it’s true. All the way through God’s Word He has woven His theme of love.  Take a look at the book of 1 Kings which is full of tales of unfaithful rulers and tyrants. Even there in 1 Kings 8:23 we find:

O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way.

There is no God like ours who relentlessly loves.

Who continually treasures us.

Who constantly pursues our hearts.

Take a minute and let that settle into your heart.

Breathe in and allow that truth to seep into your soul.

God relentlessly loves you. He will never stop. There is nothing you can do that will change His constant, persistent, unchanging, unyielding, unfailing love. You can mess up and He will be there with arms open. You can fall down and Jesus will gently pick you up. You can be too busy to notice the Father’s loving care, but even then He will be there right beside you ready to hold your hand.

This week in your Bible reading, look for reminders of the Savior’s love. Read God’s love letter to you and find evidence of His care in every book in the Bible.

Our God relentlessly loves.

relentlessly loves

Question: How does contemplating God’s relentless love change your day?

For When You Feel Ordinary

ForWhenYouFeelOrdinaryI took a step back and looked at the bride. She was radiant in her white gown. A smile lit up her face when she saw her reflection in the mirrors all around the room. Her beauty was obvious.

During my college years I worked at a bridal salon each summer. I got to work with stunning bridal gowns, lovely bridesmaids’ dresses, and gorgeous formals. I could run my fingers over smooth satin and intricate lace. I was able to see the latest designs covered with sequins and pearls. Each dress was a work of art.

But what made the job especially interesting was to see the transformation of the girls who came in to try on the dresses. Since it was summertime, most of them came in to the store wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a tee shirt. Not particularly glamorous.

When a girl arrived for her fitting, I showed her to a room covered with mirrors and brought in her dress. I slipped the dress over her head. From the smiles visible in every mirror, I could tell she felt like a princess. In just a few minutes, she was transformed from an ordinary girl in summer shorts to a dazzling beauty in a stunning gown.

The Holy Spirit does something like that for us in our hearts. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we are born with dirty hearts. We are hopeless and helpless. But when we first receive the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit begins our divine makeover. He starts by clothing us in Christ.

Galatians 3:26-27 says:

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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What does it mean to put on Christ? When we put on clothes, they cover our bodies. When people look at us they see the outfit, not our skin. When we put on Christ, He is the one that others see. In God’s eyes we are no longer ordinary girls, we are princesses in His kingdom.   We are radically changed.  

Putting on Christ is not just playing dress-up. The Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. A beautiful gown may make you look like a princess, but when you are clothed with Christ, you truly are a princess—a child of the King.

Question: When have you felt transformed by a dress?

This post was adapted from my new book for teen girls:

Divine Makeover001Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful  Check it out!

 

 

original photo source