Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a Christian businessman's seminar together with my Superintendent and a few of the men from our church, and wow! What a blessing it was!
The morning sessions focused on our relationship with our wives, and it was refreshing yet at the same time sobering to hear the testimony from one man who related how he had become involved in an extra-marital affair. The scary thing is that this kind of thing doesn't just happen to Hugh Hefner wannabees - it can happen so easily to good Christian men as well. It was a stark reminder to me that, although I have never strayed from the nest (thank God), the first 17 years of my marriage took work and commitment, and it will require more of the same if it is to last the next 17 (and beyond).
Then we had a session on financial management in the home. As an accountant with a Masters in financial management, I thought I'd "heard it all", but there were some amazing insights that had never occured to me. The one I really enjoyed was how the speaker taught his children financial management skills: From age 12, he declared that as a parent he was responsible for the roof over their heads, washing, and three square meals a day. EVERYTHING else would come from their allowances. Each child also had to keep a journal showing their income and expenses, complete with vouchers, and only once Dad had signed off the journal for this month, would next month's allowance be paid out. Credit facilities were NOT available - they had to learn from the pain of running short. Watch out James - you turn 11 soon, which means you only have one year left with Mom as your benefactor!
The next session, however, was the highlight of the day. In order for us to be able to relate to God as our heavenly Father, we need to understand our relationship with our earthly father. For me this was difficult, since my parents separated when I was 9 and finally divorced (after an aborted reconciliation) when I was 11. We never really had much of a relationship, and I began to harbour feelings of resentment towards him as an adult once I began to understand some of the things he did, particularly to my mother.
Part of the session included a time of prayer, where our facilitator would "stand in the gap" for our earthly fathers, seeking forgiveness and praying for us. Now I thought that I had forgiven my father, but evidently there were still some things in the basement. When Bill started praying for me, his voice was somewhat broken as tears welled up in his eyes. Clearly the Spirit had revealed some of my pain to him, as once he had finished praying, I started sobbing uncontrollably. Now bear in mind that I'm an accountant, and am generally not an emotional type. But this wasn't just a few tears, this was loud, body-shaking, wrenching cries that could probably be heard around the hall.
I was vaguely aware that I was crying like a baby in front of my Superintendent and 100 other men, but I didn't care - the Lord was giving me release from the bitterness that I was harbouring. Sometimes big boys NEED to cry like that!
Turning to the final session, which was conducted by a sex therapist, it was a bit of a letdown as I felt rather uneasy. Firstly, I'm 1000 km away from my wife, so I really SHOULDN'T be hearing about 101 ways for my wife and I to arouse each other sexually at this particular juncture. Secondly, the "toys" that were on display just seemed a little too far out, probably because I can't exactly see myself going to an outlet where such items are sold, let alone actually purchasing such items - especially with my dog-collar on! Thirdly, what happens between my wife and I behind our bedroom door is, well, private, dammit! I aint gonna share that with nobody! Finally, I could not contextualise what the presenter was saying within the context of a Christian marriage - it all sounded a bit too "wham, bam, thank you, Ma'am" to me. Maybe that's just my conservative streak coming through, as I haven't had a chance to discuss it with the members of my church that attended.
Listening is the beginning of prayer - "God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer." - Mother Theresa This is such a simple, yet profound idea. So often we be...
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