A Little Piece of Heaven

Every neighborhood has one. The house where all of the kids end up. This house is easy to spot; there are usually a lot of bicycles in the driveway and the grass is matted down from impromptu baseball and soccer games. The two bushes at the corner of the flowerbed are broken and a little brown. They serve either as goal posts or second base, depending on the game being played.

A Little Piece of Heaven

There’s usually a lot of noise there too. Children running in and out of the house, laughing and squealing, hiding and being found, riding bikes over jumps made with bricks and boards. There’s just a lot of life there.

Love is a magnet, and if kids can find anything, they can find love. No matter what else is going on in a kid’s life, they know if they show up at this house, they’ll be loved. Adults find it too and come up with all kinds of reasons to go to this house—a cup of sugar, to borrow a tool—any excuse at all to take home a little love.

One of the most important, but overlooked, aspects of a Christian marriage is this: every Christian home is to be a little outpost of heaven. I don’t mean to sound overly romantic or maudlin, but as Christ-followers we have to recover the image that we are sojourners and strangers in our world. In order to make Himself and His kingdom known, our Lord establishes outposts—little colonies of heaven—around the world. This happens in churches, small groups, and in our homes. Jesus establishes places and fills them with people who can show in real life what the love of God looks like.

And that may be why Christ has put you and your home where you are right now. Too many people can’t believe something until they see it, and most people don’t believe in love because they haven’t seen it.

Until they come into your house and see love in real life. Then, they see what Jesus has been talking about all of this time. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll start to believe.

Because they came into your house—a little outpost of heaven.

How to Spiritually Lead Your Children [Podcast]

In today’s episode of Creating Real Marriages that Last, Darrel and I discuss how to spiritually lead your children. I often say that children “catch” what you say much more often than they listen to what you actually tell them. You can’t teach them to become someone you’re not. You must be the example to your children. My dad taught Sunday School for over 40 years. Week after week, I watched him sit in his chair with his Bible in one hand and Sunday School quarterly in the other as he prepared to teach the lesson. That’s where I learned to love God’s Word. I saw that he was captivated by the Word and that made me want to study it too. You influence your children more than you realize.

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The Adventure Never Ends

When people find out I’ve been the pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church for 24 years, they want to know how I’ve stayed at the same church for so long. In reality, I haven’t been at the SAME church all of this time. I’ve had the privilege of being the pastor of 4 or 5 churches, all at the same address. Present day Brentwood Baptist Church is a much different church than the one I came to in August of 1991. I’m sure the members of the church would tell you I’m a much different pastor than the one who came as a 35-year-old, know-it-all punk 24 years ago. (The church has been very gracious to me.)

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You know what? The same is true when you talk about my marriage to Jeannie. Jeannie and I have been married for 35 years. Yes, I’ve been married to the same person for all of this time. And yet, the Jeannie I’m married to now is very different than the girl I fell in love with so long ago. If I had to try and explain the difference, here’s what I would tell you, “She’s still Jeannie…only more so.”

I’ve watched her grow more and more comfortable in her own skin. She has embraced what it means to be “Jeannie.” She knows she’s good at some things and not good at other things. She’s learned to spend more time working in areas she’s good at and letting the rest go. For instance, she takes care of the insurance issues in our family. She has the determination to keep calling and calling to finally get the answer she’s looking for. Me? I’d just give up. She takes care of our home. I take care of the cars.

I watched her change when she became the mother of two boys. She found a power and a determination I’d never seen in her before. Seemingly overnight, she developed “Mommy radar” where she could read what was going on with our sons from across the room. Her intuition about them was uncanny.

She never thought she was funny. I think she’s hilarious. She has a quirky way of looking at the world that makes me laugh so hard I choke on my coffee. Now, she celebrates her sense of humor.

Day in and day out, I’ve had a front row seat to one of the most intriguing, captivating, and amazing miracles in all of the world—Jeannie fully becoming Jeannie. Here’s the good news in all of that—she’s showing no signs of slowing down. She continues to discover things about herself, try new things, and grab hold of new adventures. This story doesn’t seem to have an ending.

People do change. One of the great gifts of a committed marriage is finding a safe place to try different things. If you fail, so what? You’ll still be loved. And if you succeed? Well, if you succeed, we all win.

When people ask me how they can know if they’re really in love, here’s my answer, “Are you your best self when you’re with the other person?” True love unfolds and expands like the blooming of a flower. False love causes your life to shrivel. True love always makes you more. False love makes you less.

I find myself falling in love with Jeannie again and again. Being with her is fascinating. And this adventure called love never ends.

A Big Pile of Little Things

Now that I’ve been doing what I do for as long as I have, people want to know about things that have surprised me. Well, that’s a hard one because I’m surprised every day by something. Every day I see something I never thought I would see. I’ve seen a human being walk on the moon and then, I watched as we got bored with going to the moon. Think about that. People got bored hearing about people going to the moon. The evening news doesn’t even cover it anymore.

A Big Pile of Little Things

But what has surprised me the most is how big of an impact little things make. Little things left unattended can add up to a big pile of trouble.

Take marriage for instance. Most marriages don’t fail because of an affair or some drastic, unforgiveable act. Most of the time love is frozen under layers and layers of anger that has built up over the years as small things have not been addressed.

A “thank you” goes unspoken, and a wife feels taken for granted.

An “I’m sorry” isn’t said, and a husband feels ignored.

None of these issues are insurmountable or even difficult to overcome in and of themselves. But, when thrown into a pile with all of the other unresolved issues, you have a big pile of pain before you know it. You can deal with this pile one incident at a time. It’s possible, but it takes a long time.

The other way is to recognize the power of each moment, no matter how small, and use each moment as an opportunity to bring your marriage closer together. Small kindnesses and gentle words are little knots that hold the whole thing together. Just like small things can add up to big problems, little acts of love add up to a very rich and satisfying marriage.

The truth is, it works both ways. Little things add up, and we get to choose whether they add up to something beautiful or painful.