Video

Developing Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be spiritually intimate with your spouse, and why it is an important aspect of your marriage.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Its no secret that marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale ending: it can be messy. A great marriage, however, does not need glitz, glamour and even excitement. On the contrary, what we really need to be focused on is how much depth there is in our relationships. Depth can be given through good communication, and being kind to each other. The bedrock for an enduring and deep marriage, however, is Spiritual Intimacy.

Developing and maintaining spiritual intimacy in a marriage isn’t easy. It’s important to read your Bible and pray, but it’s a lot harder to show and demonstrate what spiritual intimacy is, especially in marriage. If you gain one thing from todays conversation and developing spiritual togetherness in your own home, it’s to live according to Galatians 6:9 and to NOT GIVE UP!

The Value of Spiritual Intimacy

One of the key things to keep in mind going into this is that Spiritual Intimacy will NOT make your marriage perfect. What it will do instead is keep you in touch with the CREATOR of marriage – the One who has the answers to your most deep-rooted marriage challenges. Spiritual Intimacy allows you to connect with one another at the deepest levels of your soul, as well as link you with God’s purposes and plans for you. It allows you to bless each other with God’s love, and unify both of your deepest desires and values.

As you and your spouse grow spiritually intimate and submit to the teachings of scripture, your biggest goals and beliefs will be in harmony with one another.

Think About It:

What are some Hindrances to developing spiritual intimacy in marriage?

Tending the Soul of your Marriage

Faith in a personal God who loves you and is concerned for your well-being is fundamental to a deepening spiritual intimacy in your marriage. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Experiencing God together helps develop spiritual intimacy

There are many ways for you and your spouse to experience God together:

  • Worshipping together – At home, in small gatherings, at church
  • Read the Bible or a devotional book together
  • Talk about what God is teaching you in your individual devotions and studies.
  • Attend or lead a Bible study with other married couples
  • Make your devotions simple and brief
  • Be accountable to each other, sharing and receiving correction from each other
  • Compliment your spouse on his/her spiritual growth (no matter how small it may be. 

Together, you should seek God’s will for your life and marriage, while also counting the blessings God has given the both of you. Encourage the expression of spiritual gifts in ministry as a couple. You may have different interests, but if you can find a place where you can minister as a team, you will strengthen your spiritual togetherness.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-6

Les and Leslie Parrott report that couples who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriage as being highly romantic. These couples also report considerably higher sexual satisfaction and more sexual delight. While these are certain great benefits, prayer can mainly:

  • help you with your perspective on problems.
  • help you reorder your priorities.
  • Give you a sense of purpose.

With the importance of prayer established, how can you make it a significant part of your marriage?

  • You can agree together that you will make prayer a priority in your marriage. 
  • You can keep the prayer time brief. It is not necessary to pray for hours as a couple in order to have a meaningful prayer life. If one of you is not comfortable praying aloud, the shorter time will be encouraging, and you can always extend the time when it is mutually agreeable. 
  • You can include words of thanksgiving for your spouse, along with praying for his/her needs. 

Define and Understand your shared core beliefs, allowing those beliefs to be lived out in your marriage.

Ask yourselves:

  • What do you believe about life, death, God, marriage, family, etc?
  • Do your core beliefs include a personal relationship with God?
  • What do you believe about Jesus and his teachings?
  • What are your beliefs about forgiveness, hope, or pain in the world?
  • What difference do your core beliefs make in your daily life?
  • If someone looked at your life and marriage today, what would they say are your core beliefs?
  • Are you living out your spiritual core beliefs day by day, or is your faith in a God a “Sunday thing”?

Having shared core beliefs lived out in the lives of couples is related to higher marital satisfaction and a more connected relationships.

Video

Be Nice

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and Pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be nice to your spouse, and why it is so essentially, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Watch the full video on Vimeo and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Throughout the years of Covid lockdowns, people are finding that they are spending a lot more time with people that they don’t usually spend 24/7. Families are stuck at home, with parents needing to find space to work while their children are always around.
Some spouses are even afraid that, through all the time they are spending with each other, that their significant other is getting tired of them.

Extended time with those close to you may reveal things you didn’t want revealed, such as the fact that you might not necessarily be as nice to them as you probably should be.

It is important to approach this issue by applying Galatians 6:9 to our lives: “Don’t get tired of doing the good things in your marriage that will be a blessing to you.”

In a time of upheaval, it’s important that we don’t get tired of doing what is good, as there will be a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time. Because of this, we should strive to be nice to one another.

Think About It:

What are three “Nice” things your spouse did for you this past week?

There need’s to be a balance between positive/negative in order to maintain a healthy relationship, as noted by marital researcher John Gottman. “To offset one negative word or deed, you need five positive words or deeds.” Knowing this and keeping this in mind is key to establishing a safe space between you and your spouse.

The 7 Ways to be Nice to your Spouse
  1. How do you greet each other after being apart?

You might think this isn’t applicable, considering you seem to always see your significant other during this Covid season. However, this doesn’t just apply to long periods of time being apart: this could be when coming together from being in different rooms, or small periods of time being apart. Research shows that the first four minutes of a conversation can define the interaction between two people for the rest of the day. It is important that you are intentional about how you greet your spouse.

2. Kiss your spouse goodnight or when you leave

Research sadly shows that 8 out of 10 couples no longer kiss each other before going to sleep. Shows of affection, even during times of anger or tension, is a way of being nice to your spouse. As Willie asked during the discussion, if you or your spouse were to pass away, what would you want your last memory with that person to be? It is good to show them you love and care for them, even during times when you might feel like brushing them off.

3. Say Thank You to your spouse as often as possible

You should strive to take note of what your spouse is doing and thank them for what they do. It is important, however, to NOT compare or make it a competition. If you must make a list, track all the good things your spouse is doing and thank them for it. Thanking your spouse and letting them feel appreciated for what they do is key to sustaining a healthy marriage.
Don’t wait to start when your spouse starts: take the initiative!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

4. Watch your words and the tone you say them in

Choosing your words and being meaningful with them is key to good communication within a marriage. Words themselves can give off different impressions, such as the difference between “You SHOULD clean the room” versus “Could you clean the room”.
While words are powerful, the tone in which they are spoken also hold great impact in a conversation, as nice words can be interpreted by your significant other differently than you maybe intended.
Instead of a tone of compassion, we can have a tone of cold-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of kindness, we can have a tone of hard-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of humility, we can have a tone of arrogance.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

5. Find ways to serve your spouse

One of the biggest enemies to being nice is selfishness. Having a selfish spirit, looking out for yourself over your spouse and family, is very toxic to any relationship. Part of working past the temptation to act on selfish desires is to work on being more of a servant leader, and developing a heart for service to others.
Gary Chapmen, author of The Five Love Languages, found that he and his wife were not getting along, an issue that both sides wanted to fix. Something that Gary did to help rectify this was asking his wife three questions at least twice a day:

1. How can I help you?
2. How can I make your life easier?
3. How can I be a better spouse?

A something to keep in mind with these questions is to understand where the heart of the giver/receiver is at. If you are being asked these questions, you shouldn’t give your spouse a laundry list! One or two small, immediate tasks, followed by a show of appreciation. To the one asking, it could be being mentally and emotionally prepared (especially when it comes to asking the third question).

6. Look for ways to say “Yes” more often

Most of the small regrets you will have someday are refusing to step out and say “yes” to do things. This goes back to the “If I or my spouse died tonight…” question: would a decision someday come to haunt you because you thought you had more time and didn’t simply answer “yes”?

7. Learn how to let things go

This goes back to point 2: being nice to your spouse means loving them, and not holding a grudge over something that happens.

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Ephesians 4:26

Its the small, nice moments that fill a marriage. And in these times of anxiety, uncertainty… and too much time together, we want to encourage you to be nice to each other. Even if it feels contrived, don’t stop striving to work on and improve your marriage.

Roy Baldwin

All Things Come to an End

All things come to an end: life, seasons, a job/career, a calendar year, summer camp, a decade…and the list goes on. The end of a year can bring with it a chorus of different emotions and thoughts.

The end of every calendar year brings a time of reflection and evaluation for most people. I believe we naturally do this as humans because we are ultimately seeking answers to life’s 3 biggest questions:

“Who am I?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Where am I going?” 

Did you ever notice that people tend to ask us these questions indirectly? People are always wanting to know how we are doing, what we are doing and where we are going. Depending on where we are at in life, these questions can sting when we are in between careers and relationships, what we want to be when we grow up and why we are still single.

As I reflect on the past year, wrestle with what has transpired and grapple with what the future of Monadnock holds, I have found myself really wrestling with these bigger questions of “Who I am?” “What is my purpose? and “Where am I going?”  These questions are not just applicable to me as a ministry leader but more importantly as a husband and father. I feel the weight of not just answering these questions for myself but in leading many others.

The circumstances of life and the answer to these BIG questions can be extremely overwhelming and daunting. One of the biggest things that can exasperate this natural and spiritual process of reflection and evaluation is our busyness and hurriedness.

Why do I share these things with you? My fear for all of us is that if we don’t take the time, we will ultimately miss the blessing that God has in store for us and for those God has called us to love and serve.  It’s at the heart of what we find in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  You will see throughout the Old and New Testaments, and specifically Jesus’ teachings, that there is an emphasis on “looking forward.” The Lord guided, encouraged, inspired, pushed, pulled, challenged, humbled those he was calling to something greater than themselves, in order to fulfill his ultimate kingdom purposes.

Why do so many falter in taking possession of the things Christ has called them to?  The book of Hebrews reminds us that those who have gone before us, the heroes of our faith, (Hebrews 11) had a faith we need to emulate.  What kind of faith did they have? They had a faith described as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Would your faith be described as “the substance of things hoped for…”

To be very candid with you…I am tired of telling others or even myself, “This has been a challenging year and hoping this next year is better.” I keep thinking, “it cant get any worse” and then each year seems to get harder and more challenging.  

Ann Voskamp writes in her advent book, The Greatest Gift,  “You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone. No matter what intends to harm you . . . God is never absent, never impotent, never distant. You can never be undone.”  If this is true, which I believe it is, means that regardless of our past or future, blessings or challenges, joy or grief, peace or anxiety; in Christ, we truly can do all things in Him. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4)

As we look forward to the coming year, The Greatest Opportunity for you and for me, is how do we make known to others the hope we have found in Jesus Christ. When we see those around us struggling with the 3 big questions of life, can we point them to the author and answerer of those 3 questions? How can we allow Christ to take all of the circumstances of our lives and use them not just to strengthen our faith, but for others to see faith played out and to experience the hope and joy of knowing Christ on a deeper level.”

Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Fragile

When you hear that word what comes to mind? Webster Dictionary defines fragile as: “easily broken or damaged; delicate; not strong.” We quickly assign this word to things like glass or fine china.

Some of us might describe our hearts and lives as fragile. Our hearts can be as easily broken by a hurtful word as a glass is when dropped onto the kitchen floor.

Have you ever experienced a broken promise? Our promises can also be seen as fragile.

How about your family? Have you ever noticed how fragile our families are, how quickly the family “boat” if not cared for can quickly take on water and sink?

How about your mission or calling? Have you ever thought about the things you aspire to be as being fragile?

God has been reminding me recently in both positive and not so positive ways of how fragile our dreams and callings are and how we need to handle them with care.

WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

A few years ago I noticed a piece of paper lying on my office floor. Now, if you ever saw my office you would not be surprised that I had papers on my floor. But this piece of paper looked old. It was folded and creased and had a tinge of yellow around it.

I picked it up and turned it over. At the top it said, “Personal Mission Statement.” My heart warmed as I saw it. It was over 20 years old and must have fallen out of one of my boxes I still had yet to unpack.

I kept reading.

At the top of the paper it had a scripture verse and a quote “Never choose to be a worker, but once God has placed His call upon you, woe be to you if you turn aside….to the right or the left…” (Deuteronomy 28:14) and “He will do with you what He never did before His call came to you, and He will do with you what He is not doing with other people. Let Him have His way.” – Oswald Chambers

I then had a list of my priorities in order: my relationship with Christ; my relationship with my wife; my relationship with my kids; etc.

Now, it has been a long time since I saw that piece of paper. As I read my thoughts, I realized how fragile life is. I was also reminded of how far I still needed to grow as a follower of Christ, as a husband to my wife, and as a father to my children.

OUR CALLING IS FRAGILE

If I asked you to state your calling in life, could you do it? Would that statement line up with the choices and decisions you are making each day? Why or why not?

As a follower of Christ we might be quick to say, “My calling is to tell others about Jesus and to love God and love others,” and you would be correct in that answer. Each of us has been given that as a part of our calling. The problem with that approach is that we forget our mission and calling are as unique as our fingerprints.

Your mission in life is to be found faithful to the personalized calling God has given you. You live that out each and every day by the way you work, live, love, and lead. The secret to being found faithful to your calling is what Oswald Chambers writes: “Let Him have his way.” Fully surrendered.

A fully surrendered life is your calling and mission and as you live that out His story is brought to life in your story.

While I was at Focus on the Family (2009-2014) I helped dream and launch the Dad Matters Blog along with a couple of other key staff. It was very near and dear to my heart. It was one of those things that I hoped would live way beyond me. It was legacy thing for me. Focus on the Family decided to end the blog after I left in 2014, after two years of dads sharing their reflections and most intimate moments as fathers, husbands, and sons.

To be honest, I was devastated. I was hit with the fact that my dreams and longings are quite fragile. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of fathers and affirm them in their God-given role. I wanted the blog to far outlive my life.

This is the challenge we are faced with daily. Am I OK with what God determines with my efforts? Am I good with the fact that I practice and compete to win the prize that God has called me to run and then trust him with the results of those efforts regardless of whether it lasts two years or 40?

In his book, Victorious Christian Living, Alan Redpath writes:

Therefore, in relation to any duties which you would undertake for God, I want to say very earnestly that the supreme question is not, “Are we qualified?” but “Are we called?” Are you grasping for position, or are you called of God? Answer that to the Lord, in His presence. Nothing is more important in your life than the answer to that question.

Roy Baldwin, Uncategorized

The Right Question

Imagine for a moment that the CEO or boss of the company you work at is this huge toddler, meandering his way around the office, asking this simple yet profound question, “Why?” Now, I am not talking about the occasional why. It’s the “Why” about everything.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

Well, the truth is, we need to always be asking and evaluating the “why” behind our decisions and processes. It helps you stay on mission. As someone who has had 3 major job changes in the past 12 years and twice as the leader of the organization, asking lots of why’s are critical to the assessment the leader makes of the organization. I feel like anytime you make an assumption about any decision, process, or program you leave yourself open for problems and challenges.

You see, I believe in not just asking any question or questions, but asking the right question or questions.

You see, I believe that great leadership is about asking the right questions. The day you stop asking questions about who you are (yourself and others) and where you are going (of yourself and others) is the day your leadership has failed.

By asking the right questions, we can then arrive at the right answers.

I believe there are many benefits to asking the right question:

  • It can reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of a person (or organization) who is answering the question, as well as the person (or organization) who is asking the question.
  • The right question allows for ownership of the issue or problem at hand.
  • The right question can not only teach responsibility but it models what responsibility looks like.
  • It creates teachable moments and lifelong learning. (Deuteronomy 4:32-33) What do I mean by “lifelong learning?” It’s the belief that learning isn’t just what happens in a classroom. All of life is about learning and the learning will continue as long as I draw breath.
  • It provides opportunities to process truth and dispel lies.
  • It creates the right moment to have courage and take a risk versus accepting the status quo and what’s comfortable.

Did you ever notice how Jesus interacted with people? He almost always asked a question to get to the heart of their need.  John Marshall, Bishop of Burlington, Vermont, and later Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled But Who Do You Say That I Am? In the book, he collected and listed all the questions Jesus asked in the Gospels and there are over 100 times Jesus asks a question.

Some of Jesus greatest miracles started with the right question? He was able to get to the heart of the matter by his ability to ask, listen, assess, and then he acted. His work was always redemptive and purposeful.

So often we fail to listen. We start with lecture and stating our position, and in all sense shutting down the conversation or relationship before it even has a chance. I would encourage you to look at the benefits of asking the right question and see how your situation, regardless of the environment, can lead to better outcomes.

Karen Baldwin

How Great is our God

How Great is our God…
And All will see how Great,
How Great is our God

This song played on January 26th, 2007 at 5:29am, the moment my daughter , Emily, came into this world. I can guarantee I would have never known had the midwife not mentioned it’s perfect timing and started singing along. It had been a hard week for Roy and me as we found ourselves in the middle of huge changes; ones we weren’t ready for. It wasn’t Emily’s birth, but our whole life, our work, our home, and our family.

At a time that should have been full of joy, we found ourselves devastated in our circumstances and crippled by the uncertainty of our future. Yet the birth of our 3rd child, a moment frozen in time, brought great joy and peace. What a blessing she became that night, as she continues to be in our lives. 

How Great is our God

It’s funny how, in the fall of 2006, Roy had somehow programmed our phones to play this worship song whenever someone called. I was always conscious of it, as I knew we probably paid an extra charge every time it rang!!!


But over time it proved to be a way for God to speak directly to us, as though He was constantly reminding us that He was in control of our circumstances and that He truly was a Great God.

And All will see How Great is our God

As our life began to unfold and we began our journey, we quickly fell to our knees. Our prayer for years now has been that God would receive all the glory in every part of our lives. During those months we didn’t know where he wanted us to be, where we would call home, or even where Roy would find work. There were many days where we failed to see God’s plan in our lives, and there were days we felt a lack of hope. 

But God took care of us. 

When one of us was down, the other always seemed to have the stamina to pray and encourage. God sent so many people in our path who prayed with us, shared meals with us, cried with us, and just loved us. So many of our kids from our nine years at Milton Hershey School called, wrote, or visited, sometimes without even knowing our situation. Our family, of course, stood beside us through it all. Our church pastors and staff, and many friends from within our church became a family to us in a way we can’t even begin to share. Roy and I could only give God glory for using so many people to show us His love. 

This verse is a true reflection of what we’ve tried to live up to. When times of misfortune come our way, we will still give God praise. God used that time to refine us. 

Our full dependence on God was all we had. And once we completely surrendered ourselves to Him, He began to work in mighty ways. We knew He allowed us to be stripped of everything we found comfort in so that we could find comfort only in Him. 

It’s amazing to me how this song has become our life song. In some of our darkest moments our phone would ring, an offertory would be played, and my three year old daughter, as loud as possible, would sing:

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

“Healing rain comes with fire, so let it fall and make us higher. 

Michael W. Smith

How Great is He?

On July 31st, 2007 (Exactly 6 months after our final day at Milton Hershey School), Roy had a job interview with Northwest Human Services. On August 1st, he spoke at a diversity conference at a local college (sharing his group dynamics and bullying training). On August 2nd he was offered a job as a supervisor of therapeutic foster care in Harrisburg, specifically in charge of recruiting, training, and retraining foster care parents and case workers. That same day he was asked to be a keynote speaker at a bullying conference in the area because of the response from his training the day before. On August 5th, we signed a contract to buy our first home. On August 6th, Roy began working. 

In 6 months time, God was often quiet when we pleaded for direction. At times we thought He was taking us to places as far away as Utah and Georgia (which he would someday do), but every “perfect” door was slammed shut, and we were left waiting. We knew it meant He had something better, and though at times we couldn’t imagine it, we knew we had to have faith in that. Within ONE WEEK, He gave us ‘the desires of our heart’ and allowed us to stay in what had become home for our family. This only tells bits and pieces of our journey, and there are so many other amazing ways He has proven Himself to us. His faithfulness in our lives is something beyond comprehension, and we often are in awe of what He has done and how our number one prayer was answered….

We can only give Him the Glory.

Roy Baldwin

What are You Known for?

Before I came to Christian Heritage, I had seen the best and worst life had to offer many families and kids. My path from Edwin Gould Academy to Milton Hershey School to Focus on the Family to Monadnock Christian Ministries has shown me a great deal about the pain and brokenness of the breakdown of the family. During our summer and winter camps at Monadnock I often wondered if we were a camp or an emotional “triage unit.”

The pain and brokenness that many teens and adults had experienced, whether of their own decisions and choices or the impact others had on them, defined them. The decisions and choices we make every day flow from these identities and they begin to define our future. They reveal what we believe about ourselves and our worthiness for love—both to give and receive it. It also reveals what we believe about God.

What Would People Say of You

If I were to interview your family or your closest friends and I ask them, “What phrase or words would you use to describe ______ (your name)?” what would they say?

“He loves his family!”

“She loves her husband!”

“She loves to give to others!”

“He is committed to his job!”

“He loves to drink and party!”

“She loves to shop!”

“She is a straight A student!”

“He loves God.”

What are you known for?

A few years ago Karen decided to give out our Valentine’s Day candy a little differently to our family. She placed a basket of candy in the middle of our dining room table after dinner and said, “You can grab a piece of candy but you need to give it to another person and then tell them something you love about them.” Our kids’ hands dived into the basket.

As we sat there going around the table I loved seeing the interaction. Then Emily said something that surprised me. She said, “Daddy, the way you love mommy!” Huh??? She loves me for loving her mom. I was shocked by her response.

Isn’t it amazing what our kids see? Now, I confess I don’t always get it right. I often feel like I fall short as a husband and dad. But this is the point….people are constantly watching. People can see, especially our family, those things that have grabbed the attention of our hearts and time. I am glad that at that moment my wife made the list of what is most important to me and my kids noticed.

You see, all of us are known for something. Maybe it’s our way of having a good time and letting off steam, maybe it’s the way we express our anger, maybe it’s the way we express love. Maybe for some of us we are known differently depending on who we are around.

Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

As we strive to live up to our calling and mission in life, my prayer is that we would be known by those same virtues as Paul describes. I would also pray that they would be evident to my wife and kids, my friends and extended family. That is how I would like to be known.

One word of caution: Don’t let your busyness and schedule define your value; your schedule simply lets you know what you are pursuing. A quick way to find out about what is defining you is to pull your calendar from the past week. What have you spent the most time on? What does your activities say about your pursuits and identity. It might be time to re-prioritize. “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” ― Brandon Sanderson, “The Alloy of Law”

How about you? What qualities would you like to be known for and are you actively pursuing them? 

Roy Baldwin

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I have been feeling that those championing the cause of social justice are well intentioned but are doing one of two things: they are “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”—which means “to lose valuable ideas or things in your attempt to get rid of what is not wanted” (Cambridge Dictionary) OR as expressed in the book by Amy Tan, Saving Fish From Drowning, “that even what seems noble has severe and devastating consequences.” She writes,

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”

C.S. Lewis sums this up well for me in how I have been thinking and contemplating about the social justice movement and what seems like “cancel culture” is really after. He states, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

In an attempt to rid our country and ourselves of the shame of the past and present we are forfeiting our very freedoms; this in itself is creating something shame worthy. Shame cannot heal shame which I believe is at the root of the hypocrisy and our “whataboutism” we see and are experiencing. We have moved away from relativism—your truth is your truth—to a culture of shame and blame.

You see, I find myself grateful for my faith in Christ, because He has stated a different case for our lives. In our sin, He didn’t come to throw the baby (humankind) out with the bathwater (sin). He allowed Himself to be thrown out with the bathwater. He died, conquering sin and death AND the shame associated with sin and death, and He redeemed what was lost by dying the death I deserved. The beauty of the cross and empty tomb is that he conquered shame. Shame is not just feeling guilty about something. Shame at the core says, “I am not worthy of love or value.” I know my moments of surrender, as I pursue this deeper understanding of my faith, always came in the moments I knew I could not carry the burden and weight of my life and the sin and havoc I was causing myself and others. My experience of Jesus has never been one of shame…but of forgiveness and the opportunity freedom in Christ gave me.

The conflict I often experience with my faith and my understanding of His Gospel is then how it is played out in our churches. We either reject the mercy or grace our faith offers or we reject truth. Our churches have to embrace both grace and truth, mercy and justice. Jesus often commanded us to “love our enemies,” “speak truth IN love,” “to stand firm…knowing we battle not against flesh and blood,” but typically many are turning away from the very truth we have been taught to uphold because of the hypocrisy of our doing not lining up with our being.

A world that is broken and seeking answers sees the very hope I cling to as nothing more than religion: a bunch of rules that are oppressive. If that is what we are teaching, we have become the very thing Christ detested. Did Christ die for nothing then? Of course not but I have to wrestle with the significance of my salvation.

Is there evidence in my life that his death and resurrection have actually made a difference in my life and those around me?

The answer I believe is found in Philippians 2:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

I am glad Jesus’ approach wasn’t “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I am glad He saw in us something of value and significance, that our sin and all of its messiness was worth redeeming. It cost Him everything…and I cannot be afraid of it costing me everything.

Here is the full quote from C.S. Lewis.

May you contemplate your own life, like I am, to see the truth of what really is at stake.My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insults. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

Roy Baldwin

Stalwart Faith

My son and I are HUGE Lord of the Rings fans. We have read the books, watched the movies on opening night, and played the video games. When my son turned 13 we did a “rite of passage” birthday celebration. He received a photo frame of three pictures: a photo collage of his family and friends, a passage of scripture (Proverbs 3), and the meaning of his name. We also gave him a necklace with the word Stalwart and Joshua 1:9.

I LOVE the meaning of stalwart as defined by Tolkien’s novels and it is summed up so well in this theme analysis from Litcharts:

The Fellowship’s journey reveals this is not the case, as the hobbits surprise all with their continuous abilities to overcome hardship. Most tellingly, the humble Frodo consistently rejects the Ring’s evil power, despite a man as traditionally heroic as Boromir yielding to its temptation. Tolkien therefore implies that one of the most physically inconsequential and least talented characters is the most heroic due to his moral integrity—Frodo’s resilience in persevering towards a doomed quest while overcoming his fears and failures is the ultimate form of courage.

It is selflessness, particularly in the forms of humility and service, that Tolkien promotes as the key aspect of courage and heroism…These forms of selflessness arise from a loyalty to one another and to their home, contrasting with the goal of earning personal glory that drives traditional heroes. Furthermore, The Fellowship of the Ring does not suggest that heroes are fearless, but rather that courage requires individuals to acknowledge and deal with their fears—even if there is little hope in defeating them completely.

One of my favorite quotes from Lord of the Rings is near the end as Middle Earth takes one last stand against evil and their king, Aragorn states, “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day.”

Being stalwart is showing selfless courage in the face of insurmountable odds. This is not determined by our size or strength or our intellect…but by our heart.

This week our son is graduating from college. We had an amazing conversation around this theme as he was presenting his capstone project on being a “Stalwart Writer.” This is what I wrote to him and want to share with you…and my desire for you and me is that we would be stalwart in our lives:

Being stalwart is embracing the reality that failure is likely…but do it you must. Its why character counts and more importantly knowing God uses all experiences for His glory and your good.

Failure doesn’t have the final say in your life.

God does.

The cornerstone piece of having a stalwart heart is found in Romans 8:37-39. Our courage is found here: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels or rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Roy Baldwin

The Gifts of Failure

After 45 minutes of deliberating, the church leadership took the offer back off the table. The promising opportunity to work for the church was gone. The offer not only had employment implications for me and my family but the offer we put on a house. What was supposed to be icing on the cake became a moment of failure for me. I learned that day how powerful perceptions are, regardless of whether they are true or false.

We had so many questions, as Karen and I were left picking up the pieces and figuring out what was next. How could a God that is good and worthy of our praise lead us into a situation where everything seemed to be lining up and then at the finish line pull the rug from out under our feet?

Have you ever wondered where God was in your situation?

FAILURE

It’s a word we hate so much that we like to pair it with others words such as “but” or “however.” We don’t like the story of failure without a dose of good news with it. We like reading the feel-good stories of Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or Abraham Lincoln — all of whom experienced failures in their lives but somehow were able to overcome the odds. We like their stories because they give us hope.

But what about the rest of us?

For every Steve Jobs, there are many of us who haven’t experienced success at all, but what feels like one failure after another. If we just look at our Facebook feeds, for every “feel good story” we see story after story of setbacks, loss, illness, job loss…you name it. We might not necessarily see those as failures but for those experiencing them, it sure does feel that way. Am I cursed? Did I do something wrong? What could I have done differently? All these questions go through our minds and at times can be quite paralyzing.

What do you do when your story hasn’t started upward yet?

The truth is many of us don’t like these stories until we know there is a good ending…maybe we need a new perspective.  How do we see failure as a gift?

THE GIFTS OF FAILURE

Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons like when the job offer was taken off the table; let go because of organizational restructure; camp closing down and I am now seeing these lessons as gifts:

Gift One: God is worthy of my trust.

God is asking, “Do you trust me even when it doesn’t make sense? Will you obey my leadings in your life as you step into the unknown?”

F.B. Meyer wrote in Streams in the Desert: “The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God’s providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. …One way or the other, we must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver.”

Gift Two: Obedience doesn’t always lead to blessing.

What is the point of obedience—my comfort or blessing? Obedience to God’s leading in our lives is for Him to determine what He does. I have to relinquish all control, all of my rights to myself. Yet, that is exactly what He demands.

Did you ever notice how parents demand obedience from their children? There is a BIG difference between the parent who says, “Because I say so” and the one who says, “Because I love you.” Ultimately we want our children to obey, even if it hurts or costs something at that moment because we have a better future in mind.

The job offer being taken off the table made absolutely no sense to me. We had friends especially in the church who were grieved just as much as we were. Some even expressed their hurt by saying, “how can you even stay here based on what they did?” Our simple response, “it’s our home! How can I call something home and only accept the good?”

Gift Three: Obedience can lead to a transformed view of self and who He is…if you allow it

So, you might be wondering why they took the job offer back. One of the concerns raised about my role of leadership in the church was the perception I was a troublemaker. I stirred up problems. If this was true and I was supposed to live a life “above reproach” then there was no way I could “hold office” in the church.

Now, I admit I am not a perfect person. I have definitely made my share of mistakes…but the notion I was a troublemaker was false.

After the offer was taken off the table, Karen and I stayed at the church and continued to serve. We did not speak falsely of anyone, although we expressed our pain over the decision. Over the course of the next few months God made it very clear He wanted me to walk a different path vocationally. Those months were very difficult ones for us. However, God gave me many opportunities as we served our Church (Sunday school teacher, nursery, etc.) to absolutely destroy the perception that I was a troublemaker, especially when the opportunity to create troubles were gift-wrapped for me.

Gift Four: Obedience serves His purposes not mine.

This was probably the biggest takeaway for me. 2 Chronicles 16:9 is one of my favorite verses…”The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”

The goal of obedience is not for my personal comfort or blessing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the verses that say that God will never leave us or forsake us; that He has good things in store for those who are His; and that He will see me through to completion. I love those promises. But those promises are based on my willingness to live surrendered to His purpose, whether there is anything in it for me or not because it’s not about me. It’s about something bigger.

THE TAKEAWAY OF FAILURE

Failure is inevitable. In fact, God can use it powerfully in our lives. The reality for us is: Do we trust Him as we step forward in obedience?

As I look back on that time, God was preparing me to work in adoption and therapeutic foster care, which prepared me for my season at Focus on the Family, then as a Director of Monadnock Ministries, and now at Christian Heritage.  I find it fascinating that God guided my steps into foster care after the offer was taken off the table and here I am 13 years later leading a foster care agency. All of these experiences were leading to the next thing.

We need to bring a different perspective to the failures we experience in life because ultimately, as we walk the path in front of us out of obedience, we will experience failure and success. The true question is, “Will I trust whatever I experience as a gift from a loving and generous Giver?”