Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow the Money

A few weeks I ago, I found this article on Yahoo's front page about the 20 Worst Paying College Degrees this past year which got me thinking about money issues and vocation.

As I looked over the list, it actually made me really sad for our society and what we value. The first sentence of the article says it all: "If you want to avoid the worst-paying college degrees, think twice before choosing a college major that involves children." Beyond industries with children, food and health, jobs took the second biggest hit followed by the art industry and then religion.

It seems to me that these four areas are some of the most important things in our lives so why are they so undervalued when it comes to what people are willing to pay for them?

The fact that teachers and child service people are underpaid is nothing new. It's always been that way but yet these people are crucial to our culture and society. Our children are the leaders of tomorrow and we need to be pouring into them, loving them and helping them become the men and women that God has destined them to be. Without the teachers that you had in childhood, where would you be now?

The food industry surprised me to be honest, especially in light of the push over the last couple years about getting America healthier. Why is our health and nutrition something we take so lightly? America is insanely over weight as a nation and the health of many people is a grave concerned. Scripture talks about our bodies as the Temple of God and many of us don't take care of them the way we should...myself included on that one!

The last two weren't much of a surprise but yet are so important and undervalues within our culture. For more about the importance of art I'd encourage you to check out an article Melissa just wrote for called: Why Art Should Matter to Christians. When it comes to religious studies, we really need people in life who have taken the time and energy to understand God and His Word. People like Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Peter and Paul all represent this field. Where would we be with church and religion without them?

Now that I have taken enough time to wax on about these under appreciated fields, what do we do with this?

First, I think there needs to be a reminder to all of us that money isn't everything in life.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal."

The article has a tone of "don't go into these fields" but I would argue that making less money to invest in areas like the above are so important and worth it in the end. Our jobs are #12 and #13 on that list  but we wouldn't trade that for anything. Sure, things get tight every so often and we talk about how it would be nice for one of us to make $100,000 a year but when we really get down to it, 1) we'd rather do what we love and 2) we understand the value of what we're doing in other people's lives. This can be a huge point of tension within a marriage and relationship, as we have learned, so it's important as a couple to set our priorities on supporting one another in our passions and skill set rather than just what brings in a paycheck.

The second thing I think we need to do with this information is realize that these positions are so under- paid and under-valued because we have allowed certain industries to be more important in society and others to be less important. The more we spend and drive a market the more focus and attention is going to be put there. That's where the business saying "follow the money" comes from.

As Christians, we need to follow something (or someone) else and that's Jesus and the things He stands for. That's not to say that other jobs or markets aren't important but we need to think critically about how we support those industries and how it compares to things that you could argue are of greater importance in life.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:21 that, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." By taking some time to explore your spending habits as a couple, will help bring the things we really treasure to greater light - as a society, families and as individuals.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Engagement Woes

A reader asked, "What were some of the struggles you guys went through during the engagement process; how did you get through them? After getting engaged, I feel like some issues that my fiance and I had were magnified times a bazillion. My sister who has been married for over 2 years now said that arguments with her now-hubby got worse after getting engaged. How come nobody talks about the fact that this could happen?! It feels like everyone just expects you to be 100% joyous all the time because now you get to plan a wedding."

Good question! We've actually been talking to engaged couples lately who are going through the exact same thing.

To be honest our engagement wasn't super stressful. Mostly because dating had been a hell ride of dealing with pasts and problems.

However, we know a ton of couples find that getting engaged seems to create more tension. It makes sense that this would happen because now the relationship is much more serious. Now you two have to get down and dirty on important life issues. Engagement is the time where a couple truly starts to mesh their lives together....and realistically this takes a lot of work and solution finding.

It can seem that maybe you're not "meant" for each other, but most likely you and future hubby are totally normal. Sometimes engagement can bring out problems or issues that couples actually can't seem to work though and they call the marriage off. But usually most issues can be worked through and compromised on.

It just seems so much worse because everyone expects you to be blissfully happy. Oh, and on top of all that planning a wedding in this day and age is ridiculous. It's intense and uber time-consuming. Many brides get engrossed in wedding details and couples fight more about wedding stuff then actual relationship issues.

I don't know why there is the social stereotype of crazy-happy engaged couples and sex monkey newlyweds (yep I said it!) when realistically these are the years of your life together when you should be expecting the most tension in the relationship.

The good news: It's normal! Just ride it through, work on the issues, and have hope. Being married 5 years now, I can say (knock on wood) that things do settle down and get to a much calmer place.

Hope that helps!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dating Someone With A Different Faith

In one of our previous blogs, Melissa talked about five signs that you are not ready to be married. For one of them, she said the following: "You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs." (To see that full blog, How Do You Know When You're Ready To Marry, click here.)

Because of that comment, the following question was sent along by a reader: "What are your opinions on dating someone who has no faith, or at least not yet."

This is a great question and one that I think has a couple of different things to think about.

When deciding to date someone of another faith we need to explore what the purpose of dating is. In my opinion the purpose of dating is to find a spouse. The whole process of dating is beginning to mesh two lives together with experiences and conversations that could one day lead to marriage. One problem that dating someone of an opposite faith is that a major aspect of your lives simply doesn't mesh. There can be equal respect for your differing opinions but faith is something that effects too many aspects of life for it to just be a casual "agree to disagree" issue within a committed relationship.

Think about some of the different issues different faiths would having on a dating relationship:
  • Should you have sex or not?
  • Should you live together?
  • Should you go to church together?
  • Should you pray together?
  • Do you seek God's discernment in your decision to get engaged?
  • Where should you get married and who should marry you?
Melissa and I have found a shared faith simply invaluable to our relationship - both while we dated and in marriage - and one of the main reasons we are still together. We just celebrated our five year anniversary and in September 26 will mark us being together as couple for nine years and we both know that God is the top reason for that. We have often commented how we don't know who those who don't know Christ do it. Prayer, Christ's call to humility, purity and serving, as well as seeking God's wisdom and discernment all play such an important role in the life of any Christian (or should anyways) and a committed relationship with someone who has different values will prove to be a difficult thing.

Now, there are some people who would disagree with my definition of dating and would argue that there is such thing as casual dating. The focus here isn't on anything long term or deeply committed but yet simply going on dates with different people. If this is where you are with dating, I would say there is nothing wrong with having dates with someone who has a different faith. It gives you the opportunity to learn about relationships and interactions as well as provides a context for witnessing and sharing Christ.

The other big issue our reader brought with their question concerns the topic of dating someone who has no faith as a way of sharing Jesus with them, aka missionary dating. Here are a few thoughts on that issue.

1) In my experience, missionary dating doesn't work very well. I've seen many people try and in almost every situation the Christian ends compromising their faith and standards more often than not.

2) When it comes to missionary dating, I have always asked people the question, "Why do you have to date the person in order to share your faith with them?" What's wrong with being friends, or even good friends, and sharing your faith in many of the same ways but yet without opening yourself up to some of the deeper questions that I mentioned above.

3) The last thing I will say is that in everything I have said, I am always very leery of establishing hard and fast rules about dating. That being said, I think prayer and wisdom should be huge factors to discerning whether to start a dating relationship to begin with. Regardless of who the person is or what their faith is, take some time to pray and ask God for direction and take some time to talk to trusted friends or mentors as well. As much as I would warn against missionary dating, I am not closed to the idea that God could possibly lead in that direction.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Let's Get Together

Today at work I listened to two sermons (I'm allowed to..which is sweeeeet). One was from New Spring Church in South Carolina. The other sermon was from Mars Hill Church in Michigan. Curiously they were podcasts from the exact same week (namely, last week) and they talked about exactly the same thing. So across the country...or diagonally the country...whatever, I'm not good at geography. What I'm trying to say is that it left me with a feeling of, "This is something to pay attention to. This is a problem and it needs to be addressed."

What both these pastors made very evident is that there is a HUGE generational gap spreading in our churches. Younger and older people are being split apart into different services, different events, and different small groups. And we're losing something. We're losing true community and we're losing the wisdom, understanding and experience of older generations.

Both pastors said something to the extent of, "There are people in this service who have been married for 40 years. And we NEED you. We have other people in this room who have been married for one year and are thinking of divorce. They NEED you. There are all kinds of things you have gotten through and us young folk could sure use a hug and a lifetime of experience from which to draw. It is vital that older and younger generations interact more."

I tell you what, I could not more whole-heartedly agree. It doesn't even need to be in the context of church. You got some neighbors who've been married a long time? Get to know 'em. They'll teach you things you didn't even know you needed to know.

As a married person I can say with weight that mentors or relationships with older people really matter when it comes to keeping a marriage together. There is so much that we haven't lived through yet and we desperately need to know how other people made it through. Sometimes solutions can only come from others because we get so stuck in our own endless circles of emotion and hurt, we need older, wiser couples to speak up and speak into our marriages.

Because honestly, our generation is not doing so hot with the whole marriage thing right now. We can agree on that right?

So if you're a younger couple, really be persistant in reaching out to older folks. A lot of people shy away from the word "mentor" just have them over for dinner and ask questions about their lives. I'm not saying to be sneaky...but really mentoring is by nature relationships between generations. So go get yourself a relationship.

If you're an older couple. Please, please, please put yourself out there. We young 'uns would love to have someone to talk to. To get to know. To hear about your life and what you've learned so far. We would really value your advice.

Let's do something about this together.
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.