Repost: The Fun Theory

A couple of months ago we wrote about how sex and boring should never be used in the same sentence.  While some would agree that sex is never boring, it may sometimes feel like a ho-hum event or “task” to check off the list.  Due to this, we thought this would a good time to introduce “The Fun Theory” into your bedroom activities.  Here is a clip that inspired this post (well, kinda)

A small simple change got 66% more people taking the stairs.  They were different.  Unique.  Fun.

Within the marriage relationship, we’re of the opinion that there is great freedom in sexual intimacy between husband and wife.  This freedom gives us opportunities to be different, unique…and fun.  While the idea of “fun” may make some feel uncomfortable, we’re not talking about kinky or crude practices.  Just simple advice about how to laugh, have fun and enjoy your spouse.  After all, their body is yours, and yours is theirs.  You enjoy your time together at the movies, or over dinner…so why not take practical steps to make sex more fun for you and your spouse?

Here are a few suggestions to include more fun in the bedroom.

1. Get your flirt on.  Flirting is great for your marriage.

Think about it: when you dated you flirted with your to-be spouse on a near daily basis.  Each of you put a tremendous amount of time and energy in dating, flirting, and winning over your future mate.  Some of that continues the first few months, or even years of marriage.  But then the thoughts come, “Why put energy into winning them over?  Why not just jump in the sheets?”  Well, jumping in the sheets will come, but you have to constantly be battling for your spouse.  Our culture, for lack of better words, is flirting with him/her in a variety of ways.  Music, Television, Movies, and perhaps even pornography.  Culture is constantly looking for your time and your dollar.  Your spouse, on the other hand, only craves you…and only really wants to be won over by you.

When is the last time you looked at your spouse and raised an eyebrow?  Or snuck up behind her and whisper something in her ear?  Or lifted up your shirt when nobody else was  looking to show off your breasts?  How much time to you put into flirting with the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with?  If you’re not yet experiencing freedom behind closed doors, one step to take is to actively flirt with your spouse. Do it often.  Do it daily.

2. Try a new position.

It’s true that different positions are sometimes more fun than functional (if you catch our drift).  But trying a new position can still be quite exciting and educational.  Our bodies are made to connect and you may discover that connection can happen in sexual positions you didn’t think your bodies could twist and turn into.  If you’re not sure where/how to discover new positions, then try playing a fun game of Twister…naked.  Or if you have a smart phone, there are some apps that give suggestions for positions that are clean sketches and directions for how to get into the position.  No real images.  No temptation to lust over someone other than your spouse.

When trying a new position, it’s important to remember that orgasm may not happen for either or you.  But you’ll often get a view of your spouse that isn’t typical.  Throw some candles in the room and you’ll even see their shadow flicker on the bedroom wall.  That shadow is merely a reflection of the beautiful time you and your spouse are having with one another.  Who knows, trying out a new position just may get those shadows to dance 66% longer than they normally would.

3. Pick a new place to have sex.

J over at Hot, Holy Humorous had a series recently about different places to have sex.  With lots of humor and some practical advice about the subject, we recommend you check out what she has to say.  If your brave, let us know in the comments what you look forward to trying out.  As for us, we’ll just use those ideas as a way to flirt with one another in future conversations.

4. Come up with a code word for sex and use it in random conversations throughout the day.

There is something so fun about having a secret language that only you and your spouse know.  Sometimes it’s a secret word.  Sometimes it’s a secret sound.  Maybe you’ll text the secret phrase to him while he’s at work.  Maybe he’ll write it on the bathroom mirror with a wipe-off marker.  Whatever it is, it’s something that only you and your spouse know about, and it’s something gets you both excited for what’s coming later on that evening.

5. Have sex more often.

It sounds simple, but the more often you have sex, the better sex you’ll continue to have.  We’ve read some articles stating that the average sexual experience (from time of entry) is anywhere from 8-13 minutes.  With this being an average, it means that for some couples it’s much longer than this time frame, and for others, it’s much shorter.  This isn’t speaking poorly of him in any way, but maybe she gets him all rowed up and he just isn’t able to last more than a few minutes.  The solution: have sex more often.  The more often you both have sex, the more sexual stamina you’ll build up.  The more stamina you have, the longer you have sex.  The longer you have sex, the more positions you can try.  The more positions you try, the more fun you have in the bedroom.  The more fun you have in the bedroom, the more you flirt with one another.  The more you flirt with another another, the more often you want to have sex.  We understand this is basic circular reasoning, but it’s circular reasoning at it’s finest…and it’s worth it.  So, don’t just have sex.  Enjoy sex more often.  Make it fun.  You’re spouse will thank you, and you’ll thank yourself as well.

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How do you keep things fresh and fun in your marriage?  Your sex life?  Are you willing to join The Fun Theory: Bedroom Edition?

Finding Peace

Peace.

Such a simple concept.

Peace.

Depending on how you look at it, it involves rest, well-being and contentment.

Peace.

Far too many look for it in all the wrong places.

“Maybe when I get married, then I’ll experience peace.”

     “Maybe when I have children, then I’ll experience peace.”

          “Maybe if I have a nicer car, or a bigger house, then I’ll experience peace.”

               “Maybe if I experience sex more often, then I’ll experience peace.”

But the experience never comes.  They’re off to the next thing.  And the next.  And the next.  And then one day when it seems that true peace finally comes upon them, it disappears like a whisper.  Here one day.  Gone then next.

In a marriage, experiencing peace is even more challenging.  Not one, but two individuals are seeking peace at the same time.

Personality conflicts.  Financial difficulties.  Parenting styles.  Hobbies and interests.  The peace they thought would one day comes continues to elude them.

This subject of peace and contentment often comes up in pre-marriage counseling sessions I hold.  How can you know that your marriage is going to be strong in all seasons?  How can you know it’s going to survive no matter what?  How can you know you’re going to live and experience true peace when everyone else seems to be experiencing hell?

Answer: The Marriage Triangle

It’s a simple illustration, really.  Almost too simple.  But every time I walk through this illustration with a couple experiencing difficulties I can tell whether they’re implementing the marriage triangle or not.  Here’s what it looks like:

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The premise is simple.  The more the husband and wife grow closer to God, the closer they draw to one another.  Not only that, but the closer they draw to God, the more they experience contentment in His grace.  The more they experience contentment, the less likely they are to look for contentment somewhere else.  The more they don’t seek contentment elsewhere, the more they experience true peace themselves.  And in their marriage.  And with others.

Maybe you don’t believe in God.

Maybe you think this illustration is ridiculous.

Maybe it gives you something to think about.

Maybe you know you’re not experiencing peace yourself, or in your marriage.

Maybe there’s something to this whole God thing after all.

Maybe you should stop what you’re doing and read the Gospel of Mark.

In one sitting.

For real.

Maybe it’ll bring you peace.

Maybe it won’t.

Maybe it’ll provide you some answers.

Maybe it’ll give you more questions than answers.

Maybe you’ll keep seeking answers to those questions.

Maybe you’ll find peace.

Real peace.

Maybe your marriage will find it, too.

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To discuss with your spouse:

  1. Is there any area of our lives / marriage we’re not currently experiencing peace?
  2. What are 3 things we can do this week to experience God’s grace and love and show it to one another?
  3. Commit to read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting.  Then discuss this subject of peace.  What is it?  What isn’t it?  And what can we do to help others experience it, too?

Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage: #4 Understand the Seasons

Phillip: “What are you doing?”

Janet: “What do you mean, ‘what am I doing?’  I’m sitting next to you on the couch as we watch TV.”

Phillip: “But you’re also putting your arm around me.”

Janet: *smiling* “Oh yeah. I thought I’d do that, too.”

Phillip: “I can’t even remember when the last time you’ve done that was.  What’s the occasion?”

Janet: “No special occasion.  I just wanted to be close to you.  That’s all.”

Phillip: “Well, I don’t want to offend you or anything.  But I think I’d rather have more room to stretch out.”

Janet: “Well, I don’t want to offend you or anything, but I thought maybe I’d turn off the TV and try to turn you on, instead.”

Phillip: “Sorry to say…but that’s just not going to happen.”

Janet: *playfully* “What?  You don’t think I can fulfill that goal?”

Phillip: “It’s not that.  I’m saying…I guess I don’t want you to try.”

Janet: “Why not?”

Phillip: “I’m not sure why.  Now, can we just get back to the movie?”

Janet: *turns TV off* “No, we can’t.  We obviously need to talk about this.”

Phillip: “About what?”

Janet: “About the fact that we haven’t had sex more than 1 time in the past 3 months.  In fact, we’ve rarely had sex at all the past year.  It’s gone way down, since…”

Phillip: “Since what?”

Janet: “Since you were ill.  That’s it.  We had a long break when you had all those health problems, and we never recovered.”

Phillip: “Recovered?”

Janet: “Yeah. Recovered.  You did…at least physically.  But we didn’t.”

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During the first five years of our marriage, Megan and I enjoyed life to the full.  We had no children and we spent vast amounts of time with one another.  We learned a lot about one another during that season in life, but as in every area of life, this season didn’t last.

Since that time we’ve become parents to two beautiful little girls.  Careers have changed.  Work hours have, too.  Times of sickness have invaded our lives.  Depression.  Hard struggles in our extended family.  Other struggles in our immediate one.  Yet through it all we’ve come to understand that various seasons in life will happen, and we’ve taken opportunity to not allow them to hinder our marriage in any way.

Our guess is we’re not alone.  You’ve also experienced difficult seasons of illness, depression, career changes and so on, too.  If you don’t take the time to think through and understand these seasons, some of them may hinder your marriage and sex life in profound ways.  But if you DO take the opportunity to think through and understand these seasons, you’ll learn a great deal about sexual freedom.  In fact, here are few things to consider when different seasons come your way:

You are free to please your spouse:

When your spouse is struggling with a pretty significant illness, it’s still quite likely you are able to sexually arouse and please him/her.  Whether it’s recent surgery, a broken limb or back problems, it’s still quite possible for you to experience full-blown intercourse.  Simply work together to find a position that is relaxing for them yet gives you full control of your time together.  Openly talk through what’s working and what isn’t, and do you best to connect as often as possible.  If full intercourse isn’t a possibility, then strongly consider taking opportunities to orally stimulate him/her to climax.

In seasons such as this, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that one of your primary roles in marriage is to serve your spouse.  Men have a responsibility to serve their wife by loving, caring and providing for them.  And men have a responsibility to serve their wife sexually as well.  Women share an equal responsibility.  As the Scriptures say:

2 Corinthians 7:3-4 (NLT)

3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

You are free to do it morning, noon, or night:

It seems odd that we even need to say this, but we feel we must.  If something like a career change or work hours is hindering your sex life, remember that sex doesn’t need to only occur after dark in a locked bedroom.  You can wake up a little early and enjoy a quick romp in the shower.  Once a week you can take a long lunch break and connect at home.  Husband, you can rent a hotel for a day and meet her there after meeting a business client there for lunch.  Wives, you can walk into his study/den and lock the door behind you and give him a lap dance he’ll never forget.  Just remember that pure sexual freedom frees you from engaging sexually in the same place at the same time in the same way every single time you connect.

You are free to get help:

Far too many marriages today are struggling, and far too many of those are too proud to ask for help.  Men, for the most part, are embarrassed to admit to a pastor or counselor that their marriage isn’t going so well.  (Yes, we acknowledge some women experience embarrassment and pride, too.)  This embarrassment often leads to a very unsatisfying marriage.  So our advice to you, is to get help.  It never hurts to have a trustworthy pastor or counselor talk through your marriage and sex life with you.  In fact, couples who have a rough patch yet agree to work on it together often have a longer, more fulfilling marriage than couples who (in pride) agree to stay together but not seek help.

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In short, seasons will come and seasons will go.  And in order to maintain sexual fulfillment throughout the entirety of your marriage, you need to remember that you have a responsibility to sexually please your spouse and that responsibility can be fulfilled in a variety of ways.  And if you struggle to fulfill that responsibility – if you struggle to get on the same page in any area of your marriage – seeking help doesn’t make you a failure in any way.  In fact, seeking help makes you a hero, showing that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to fight for the sanctity of marriage.

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This is Part 4 in our series on Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage.  Additional posts in the series can be found at the links below.

Part 1: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom In Marriage #1 – Believe

Part 2: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage #2 – Silence Outside Voices

Part 3: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage #3 – Bring the Awesomeness

Part 4: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage #4 – Understand the Seasons

Part 5: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage #5 – Create Opportunities

 

Feel free to answer one/all of the following questions in the comments below, or discuss them with your spouse.

  1. What is the most difficult ‘season’ you have gone through in your marriage?  Did it have a negative sexual impact?
  2. What is another “you are free to __________” point you think couples should remember when experiencing different seasons?
  3. Discuss with your spouse: If there’s just one thing I could do this week to serve you in a sexual way, what would it be?

2014: The Year of Friendship

We wanted to start off the new year by being a little transparent.  2013 was a rough year for our family.  Probably the most challenging year we’ve ever experienced.  We’ve seen a family member we love very much suffer from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  She’s gone from having laugh-filled conversations to needing a feeding tube and an inability to speak or move within a year’s time.  And her diagnosis was just the start to our 2013.  We’ve had other family members we love very much commit adultery against their spouse.  In one of those situations divorce immediately followed.  In another, something much different. Polygamy.  And no, we’re not making this up.  It all happened, and to be completely honest, it’s not getting any better.  Family members we dearly love have essentially cut-off communication with us and many others.

While none of these situations have occurred under our own roof, the impact it’s had in our lives is tremendous.  We’ve re-learned a valuable life lesson: The decisions we make don’t only impact our own lives, but the lives of everyone around us.  In fact, if there’s one thing we hope you take from this post it’s this:
Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 11.12.38 AMYou may want to write it down on an index card and put it on your bathroom mirror so you can memorize it.  The decisions you make will not only impact your own life, but the lives of others around you.

Where exactly are we going with this?  Well, if there’s just one New Year’s Resolution you can make this year, if there’s just one thing about your marriage you can look to change or improve, make it your friendship.  Make the decision today to become a better friend to your spouse.

Outside of improving your relationship with God, this is the one decision you can make that will have the greatest impact in your life.  It will impact yourself, your spouse, your children, and everybody else you come in contact with on a regular basis.

Some of you may be reading this and you’re thinking, “That’s a great idea, but HOW can I become a better friend for my spouse?”  Well, there’s no easy answer to that question.  You know him/her better than we do.  All we can do is offer a few suggestions.

1. Find something in common you enjoy doing together.

Megan and I are about as different as two people can be.  Many of the interests and hobbies I have are completely uninteresting to her.  Likewise, many of the interests and hobbies she has are completely uninteresting to me.  So over the years we’ve worked really hard on finding some things we enjoy doing together.  One is that we work on this blog…together.  Another is that every year we read at least one book on the subject of marriage, and we discuss it…together.  We’ve also found some specific games that we can both enjoy…together.  Through this process we’ve both put aside some of our personal interests for the sake of our own friendship.  This decision helped us get through the challenges we experienced in 2013…together.

If you’re anything like us and you don’t feel that you have much in common with your spouse, take some opportunities this year to work on that.  You’ll both have to give up some things in the process, but the end result will greatly benefit your marriage.

2. Grow in your love and knowledge of God.

There are a whole bunch of One Year Bible Reading plans online.  Most people fizzle out somewhere around Leviticus.  Others keep going and learn a whole lot about themselves and the plan God has for their life.  Dare I say it, but these are the ones that usually have stronger marriages, too.

If you’re never read the entire Bible, start with the New Testament, then go to the Old.  Or if you’d like, find a reading plan that includes something from the Old Testament / New Testament / Psalms / Proverbs each day.  Or find some other Bible and/or Marriage study to work on with your spouse, together.  Taking daily, or at least weekly opportunities to talk about what you’re learning will help your marriage grow to a whole new level.

3. Enjoy sex together regularly.

Need we say more?  OK, we will.  Sex can be done for a number of wrong reasons in a marriage.  It can be used as a control mechanism to selfishly get what you want in another area of your relationship.  It can be used for your own personal fulfillment and not the fulfillment of your spouse.  It can be used in a number of ways that can bring more harm to your relationship than benefit.  But it can also be used to reconnect.  To reaffirm your love for one another.  To remind your spouse that your main desire in life is for their satisfaction, pleasure and joy.  To remind you both that you’re in this life together.  That you’re one flesh.

If you’re not connecting on a sexual basis regularly (and by regularly we mean at least 1-2 times a week), make that a goal for 2014.  Here’s a good read for the month of January to help you start the new year off right.

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There’s just one more thing we wish to note on this subject of friendship: every marriage we’ve seen fail has failed because the friendship failed.  Think about all the couples you know who have had their marriage fail.  Were they good friends?  Or did somebody make a decision to become better friends with somebody of the opposite sex instead of becoming a better friend to their spouse?

Make the decision to improve your friendship this year.  Your friendship is THE decision that will most greatly impact your marriage and the lives of everybody around you.  So what are you waiting for?  Don’t just be there, be their friend.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~Elbert Hubbard

Friction in Marriage:

Justin recently had the opportunity to teach a message on the subject of “Friction in Marriage” in our home church.  Below is a transcript of the message for all who may be interested.

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If you would happen to be a guest of this morning my name is Justin and I’m one of the pastors here at the church.  And we are currently three weeks into a message series on the subject of “Friction”…and when we talk about Friction, we talk about friction in different kinds of relationships.  You know that feeling when somebody just rubs you the wrong way, that’s what we’re talking about throughout this series.

In the first week of this series we started off with the point that your friend is not your enemy because your enemy is not of this world.  Let me say that again just to be certain everybody got that.  Your friend is not your enemy, because your enemy is not of this world.  For example, if somebody offends you it doesn’t automatically make them your enemy.  Your real enemy is the Devil.  This is what the Bible says and we would be amiss if we didn’t consider this every time we experience some relational friction.

And then last week we talked about Friction in relationships – specifically, our friendships – and how each of us has a responsibility to go to the person who has offended us.  If somebody has offended you in any way, it is your responsibility to seek reconciliation with that individual.   Oftentimes we kick into fight or flight mode, and for many of us, “flight” is the avenue we choose to take.  But the scriptures indicate that the best way to overcome conflict is to go to the person and hash things out.  It’s not always easy…but it is the best way to overcome conflict.

Now today, we’re going to talk about Friction in the Marriage relationship.  For those of you who are married, you KNOW that you’ve experienced friction in your marriage.  In fact, I think we should start off this morning in this way…if you’re married, hold your spouse’s hand or put your arm around them for the rest of the message here today.  If you’re the husband, you can probably turn to your wife and just say the words, “I’m sorry.”  If she asks what for, just reply by saying, “everything.”  🙂 Just cover everything.  But seriously, we are talking about friction today, and I want everybody here to think about the types of friction they have experienced (or may currently be experiencing) in your marriage, and use this time today as an opportunity to lay aside those things, and instead focus on the oneness of your marriage.

Now, I’d like to start off this morning by admitting something that I hope doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody here…Megan and I experience friction in our marriage.  There I said it.  Through the years there have been some big issues (or some big areas of friction) and there have been some are little areas of friction as well, and we know – Megan and I KNOW – that we’re not the only ones.  All you married couples out there have experienced friction as well.  Sometimes these things happen on a daily (or at least near-daily) basis.  Here are a few examples for you:

Example #1: She thinks, “I’d really love to go out to dinner and talk.”  He thinks, “I’ve worked really hard all week long, I’d love to veg-out and play some Call of Duty with my friends.”  (I know this won’t ring true for some of you, but it will ring true for many others.)

Example #2: He thinks, “We really need to save our money.”  She thinks, “These shoes (or this purse – or this hand bag) is ‘on-sale’ for a really amazing price.  I’m sure he won’t mind.”

Example #3: She thinks, “Can’t you put your phone/ipad/etc. down for one night.”  He thinks, “I provide well for my family, why can’t I get a little me-time?

Example #4: He thinks, “Maybe tonight we can go to bed early and roll around in the sheets.”  She thinks, “Oooh, look at all these new recipe’s are that posted on Pinterest.”

Example #5: She thinks, “I’m not quite sure about this outfit.  Maybe I should ask my husband what he thinks.”  He thinks, “She’s standing in front of the mirror for a long time.  Please, please, please don’t ask me my thoughts.  That didn’t work out so well for me last time.”

Example #6: He thinks, “We get to see your family all the time.  I think we should give all/most of our Holidays to my family.” She thinks, “We chose to live here and we can travel to see your family during some holidays, but we’re not traveling for all of them.”

Example #7: She thinks, “I really wish he would be the spiritual leader of this family.”  He thinks, “I don’t really know how to lead, so I’m going to spend my time and energy doing the things I’m good at.”

…and just like that, if anybody here thought, “we don’t really experience any friction in our marriage” are brought back to reality.

Now, what I’d really like to do today is to break down the message into two different parts.  To be honest, I’m probably trying to cover too much information in just one message.  But we’re going for it…we’re going for it.  So, the first thing I’d like to cover this morning is – what causes conflict in marriage?  What causes conflict in marriage?  And the second part is – how can we handle conflict in our marriage?  For those of you not married, it’s my belief that these same principles can work in other relationships you have as well.  With your parents, children, friends at school, and so on.

So, we’re going to begin today with probably the most well-known text in scripture on the subject of marriage, beginning with Ephesians 5:21.  If you’ve never read or studied out this passage, take the opportunity to do so soon.  If you have a good study Bible, read the notes it has on this passage.  If you want to learn how to be a godly husband or godly wife, study this passage thoroughly. It’s just really great stuff when it comes to the subject of marriage and why we experience conflict in marriage.  Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

What causes friction in marriage?

  1. Self-centeredness.

For those of you who maybe didn’t know, outside of my ministry here at SRC, my wife Megan and I write a blog on marriage and intimacy.  And a couple of years ago we read through the book, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller and decided to write a study guide for the book that we made available on our blog.  And here at the church, we ended up having a “Meaning of Marriage” small group study that a number of our groups went through.  And I’ll be honest, it was a tough series.  Not only because there was a lot of material for people to go through, but because the first two chapters of the book aren’t necessarily everyone’s favorite.  In Chapter 2 Tim Keller goes on and on and on and on about how self-centered you (the reader) are.  You read it and you think, “Well, I guess maybe he’s at least a little bit right,” but then he continues giving reasons as to why you’re self-centered.  We had one guy in our group who came in for that week’s discussion who said, “Man, I’d rather hit my head with a sledgehammer than to have to read that chapter over again.”

It’s difficult for us – each one of us, myself included – to think about how self-centered we are.  And do you know what the #1 cause of self-centeredness is?  It’s the lack of submission to one another.  It’s the mindset of saying, “I don’t care what you need in this moment.  I want what I want and I want to do what it is I want to do.”  And when a marriage relationship has two people with this mindset, two people who don’t desire to submit to their spouse, it causes a tremendous amount of friction in the relationship.  But there’s something else we can learn from this passage as well.  Something else that causes friction in a marriage relationship.  Ephesians 5:22-30 (NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

So, the first cause of friction in marriage is self-centeredness.  There’s no real way around that.  A second cause of friction comes from:

2. A lack of fulfilling your God-given role.

I readily acknowledge that this is a passage that is not at all popular in today’s society.  Men and women are (and rightly so) to be treated as equal, but this subject of “equality” has been translated in our society as men and women are the same.  Our culture treats equality as sameness.  But men and women aren’t the same.  Men and women are equal – fully equal.  But we’re not the same.  God made men and women different and he gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.  And when the husband and/or wife are not fulfilling their God-given role, friction is going to happen within the marriage.

First, we see here Ephesians 5 that the role of the wife is to submit to her husband.  While this may cause tension for many here in the room I’d like to point out that this comes directly after v.21 which states “submit to one another”.  Regarding the wife submitting to her husband, this doesn’t mean she is to do everything he wants her to do.  It doesn’t mean she is to be at his beck and call.  It doesn’t mean she’s supposed to put up with him if he’s abusive.  It doesn’t mean any of that.  It means that she is to recognize her husband as the leader of the family.  It means that if there is ever an impasse in a difficult decision, somebody needs to break the tie.  According to the scriptures, that person is the husband.  Again, this isn’t a very popular notion in today’s society.  However, I’m not sure that the role of the husband is a very popular notion in today’s society either.  Ephesians 5:25-30 (NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

This passage indicates that the husband is to love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. – He died for her!).  Jesus did everything he could for us, His church, and husbands are to do the same for their spouses.  And in the dozens and dozens of conversations I’ve had with husbands and wives about this passage, I’ve never once met a woman who said, “I won’t submit to him even if he fulfills his role as it’s presented here.  I won’t submit to someone who treats me, loves me, honors me, sacrifices for me in the same way Jesus did for His people.”  I’ve never heard those words.

Men – if I can talk to just the men for a second – your role in marriage is the single most challenging yet rewarding role you will ever have in your entire life.  It’s more challenging than any promotion you can think of.  It’s more challenging than any difficult decision that will be brought your way.  It’s more challenging than any parenting decision you will ever make.  It’s more challenging than anything you will ever experience in your entire life.  And it’s not easy.  But if you fulfill your role, if you love your wife the same way Christ loved the church, if you agree to – as the passage says — submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, the conflict in your marriage will be much more minimal than perhaps it is right now.

As a matter of fact, I’m aware of seven – yes SEVEN – marriages right now that are either just divorced, on their way to divorce, or who have at the very least began a conversation about separation or divorce.  And I’m aware of many, many more couples who have already taken that step and experienced divorce.  And many of them (I want to be careful here and not say it’s all of them) but many of them are a result of men not fulfilling their role, not loving their spouse in the same way Christ loved the church.  If men would do this, the divorce rate would plummet.  If men would study out this passage, and study out what the Bible has to say about marriage, and about being a godly husband, friction in marriage would be much easier to deal with.

So, these are the two primary causes of friction in marriage.  1) Self-Centeredness (i.e. not submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ) and 2) not accepting/fulfilling your God-given role.

With that aside, there is still going to be some friction in marriage.  Even couples who follow-through on this passage and who live out their God-given role really, really well experience friction.  There’s friction about putting the dishes away or picking up dirty socks off the floor.  There’s friction in fulfilling (or not fulfilling) household chores.   There’s friction in how the toilet paper gets hung, and where the tube of toothpaste gets squeezed.  And sometimes there’s friction in areas such as continuing education and whether or not it’s worth it or not.  Small things and large, every single aspect of marriage and living life together has the potential for friction.  So what I’d like to talk through, through the remainder of the message today is how to handle conflict in marriage.

If you happened to have missed it, in the first week of this series, we asked a question which was, “Do you believe that conflict is good in the marriage relationship?”  Maybe a handful of you have changed your minds on that question over the past couple of weeks, I’m not sure.  Some of you said, “Sure, conflict can be good for the marriage.”  Others thought, “No, conflict is always, always, always a bad thing.”  But I wholeheartedly believe that conflict can be very good for relationships.  I believe conflict can be good for the marriage relationship, when it’s done right.  I believe that in the case of couples who don’t experience conflict in their marriage, one or maybe both are holding some things in…and if they hold those in long enough, their marriage is going to end in disaster.  How can we handle conflict in marriage?

  1. Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship better, not bitter.

I’m stealing this point directly from Mark Driscoll who in his book/message series titled “Real Marriage” indicates this very point.  Conflict should make the relationship better, not bitter.   What happens far too often is that we use conflict to either A) Make a point, B) Get what we want or C) Both.  But conflict shouldn’t be used to make a point.  Conflict shouldn’t be used to get what we want.  Conflict should be used with the mindset of making the overall health of the relationship better.  It isn’t to point fingers.  It isn’t to blame or accuse or blackmail.  It is to be used with the goal of making the relationship better.

Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  Let me say that again just to make sure it sinks in.  Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  You can use conflict as a way to maintain and hold onto bitterness if you want.  But if you do, you’re going to continue on the path of marital bitterness.  But you can also use conflict to make the relationship better.

There was a time in our marriage that Megan and I experienced conflict over something that when you really take the opportunity to think about it, was quite miniscule.  It was a situation that, I confess, for days, maybe even weeks and into months made me a little bit bitter.  It was a time when I didn’t love my wife in the same way Christ loved the church.  (Can any men in the room relate with me on this one?)  I tried to use this conflict in order to get what I wanted, not with the goal of making our marriage better.  And for a season in our marriage, I was miserable for it.  – Whether you’re the husband or the wife, you can use conflict with the goal of making the overall health of your marriage relationship better.  Use it in this way.  Bring up difficult topics/conversations with the goal of helping your relationship grow.  And do this always remembering to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

2.  Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship one.

31 For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh.

32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Remember that conflict is caused from 1) self-centeredness and 2) a lack of fulfilling our God-given role.  When we are not fulfilling our role…when we are being self-centered, we are thinking only of ourselves and not our marriage.  But the scriptures state over and over and over again that in regards to marriage, two become one flesh.  It’s so hard to comprehend that Paul even declares it as a profound mystery.  But there’s something inside every husband, and something inside every wife that acknowledges the truthfulness of this.   I recently performed a wedding where the to-be bride had been married in the past and divorced, but the to-be husband had never been married.  And she acknowledged in one of our meetings together, “There’s something different about being married.  Something changes when two people are married…something that I can’t really even explain.”  She was right.  Something does change.  Two people become one.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.  Something changes.

And when tension occurs, it occurs because something (or someone) isn’t recognizing the oneness of the relationship.  But that tension can be brought forward.  Instead of hiding from conflict, the conflict can be used to make the relationship whole.  It simply takes two people who are willing to lay aside their own wants and desires and be willing to sacrifice for the overall health of the marriage.

Finally, I just want to make one additional note:

3.  Have conflict while keeping your focus on Christ.

Like I said before, this passage is a challenging passage for both women and men.  Women read this passage and see the term “submit” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  Men see phrases such as “love your wife just as Christ loved the church” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  But if you read and study through this passage you’ll discover that the sole character of this passage isn’t a wife…nor is the sole character a husband.  The person most often mentioned is Jesus.  The words Lord, Christ, Savior, are the central aspect of this passage.

So, when friction comes into your marriage, take the opportunity to think about it.  Ask yourselves questions such as:

  1. Are we submitting to one another in light of this conflict?
  2. Are we fulfilling the role God gave us?
  3. Are we using this conflict with the goal of making our relationship better (or one)?
  4. Are we focusing on Christ?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the message, I again acknowledge that I’m trying to cover a whole lot of information in a very short period of time today.  But I want to conclude by sharing something that Tim Keller stated in one his messages on the subject of marriage.  He said, “If everything around you is a mess and in weakness but your marriage is strong, then nothing else matters, you move out into the world in strength.  But if everything around you is strong yet your marriage is a wreck, you move out into the world in weakness.”

The strength of your marriage has a way to influence every other aspect of your life.  This is because the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.

I don’t know what kind of friction you may be experiencing in your marriages right now.  But it’s my sincere desire that you move out into the world in strength.  For those of you who may want to better understand passages such as the one we looked at today, again, I can’t recommend the book “The Meaning of Marriage” enough.  Let’s close out here this morning in prayer.

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Additional Questions for Discussion:

Questions:

  1.  What are some specific situations that cause conflict in marriages?
  2. Do you think conflict is good in marriage relationships? Why or why not?
  3. Ephesians 5:21 reads, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  What do you think this verse means?
  4. Pastor Justin mentioned that “God made men and women different and He gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.”
  • What do you understand those roles to be?
  • If husbands and wives are fulfilling their roles, what would be their individual responsibility in resolving conflict?
  • How should one respond when their spouse refuses to fulfill their specific role?

Digging Deeper: Study 1 Peter 3:1-7

  1. How could this passage be helpful in handling conflict with a difficult spouse?
  2. What are some of the concepts in these verses that are counter-cultural? List as many as you can. (also see Ephesians 5:21-33)
  3. What parts of this passage do you find difficult or uncomfortable?
  4. What is one selfless thing you could do this week that would make your marriage relationship better?

Providing Safe Passage

The storms of life eventually reach the shores of every marriage. Whether or not the storms of life are raging around you right now be assured, they will come.  Justin and I (Megan)  are facing quite a few storms right now. It’s not our own marriage that is being hit hard but the issues we are facing are directly affecting our marriage. While we could easily write a post about weathering storms within marriage this post is geared towards those outside influences that impact the way we relate to our spouse. Watching marriages of those we love fall apart. Seeing a loved one slip further into the grips of disease. Witnessing the devastating effects of poor life choices. How can we as married couples provide safe passage to one another in difficult times?

Here are the principles Justin and I are applying in our current situations and we hope they will be useful to you.

1. Don’t fear vulnerability.

Most likely whatever situation you are facing sucks. It’s got you upset, frustrated, angry, depressed or a combination of all that and more. Admit it and give voice to those emotions. Going through difficult times without truly admitting and facing what is going on inside your head and heart will undoubtedly bring more pain to your life. Vulnerability can be absolutely ugly at these times but it is also necessary. Vulnerability paves the way to greater connection and healing. By being vulnerable, your spouse is able to support you, understand you and compassionately care for you. Fear of vulnerability and showing your brokenness hinders the “one flesh” relationship God has designed in marriage. Allow yourself and your spouse to truly come together during these vulnerable times rather than grow distant.

2. Find an effective way of communicating.

Generally, when life is hard there are two common ways to react in regards to communication:

1. Sometimes retreat and withdrawal come knocking on the door when life gets overwhelming. The problem is that if you retreat and withdraw from your spouse you are shutting them out. Your spouse no longer has the ability to know you and provide a soft landing place for you. Maybe you do need some time to process things. Be encouraged that writing, music, art, long walks and the like can be part of the communicating process. Confess to your spouse that you have a lot going on in your mind and you are trying to process. Then don’t forget to make a point to follow up with your spouse. A spouse will generally grant room to deal with emotions but ultimately a marriage will grow stronger when we lean into each other in order to process and work out the difficulties of life together.

2. When emotions are running rampant in your heart they often spill out your mouth. The problem with this overrun mouth syndrome is that while it is directed at your spouse it’s rarely related to your spouse. The chore that didn’t get done or the misplaced keys are not the real issue. The small inconvenience seems so much larger due to the difficulties of life. If you tend to over-react to the small things during stressful times, come up with some easy out ideas. Perhaps you just need to tell your spouse that everything feels like a trigger today and you just need a moment to yourself. If dinner or household chores seem too much, find someone outside your family who can lend a hand. And yes, the truth is that maybe something just doesn’t get done.  Ask for forgiveness when you mess up. Tattoo the words “I’m sorry” on your forehead but whatever it is breathe in and breathe out grace. You need it, your spouse needs it and your life will be better because of it.

3.Speak Life.

Find some way to encourage one another with words of life. Notes, messages on mirrors or pillow cases, encouraging texts, the unspoken words of a long hug or passionate kiss. You have the unique ability as a spouse to speak life during difficult times, make the most of that opportunity.

4.Laugh daily.

We can’t tell you what this will be for you but find something everyday that makes you laugh. Trust us, you need this!

5. Pursue intimacy and connection.

Stress, exhaustion, depression and other symptoms of difficult times push sex to the back burner of life. This is understandable at times but is not appropriate for extended periods of time.  Sex is designed to be restorative and healing and it’s the times we want it least that sex can surprise us the most. Make it a point to connect physically with your spouse whether you feel like it or not. Sure the warm up may need extended and it may not be the most explosive time you’ve ever had together, but then again, maybe it will. The important thing is that you make sex a priority as the hidden and mysterious nature of sex has the power to right wrongs and release us from deep insecurities.

6. Uphold each other in prayer.

Together or separately you need to uphold each other in prayer. We may never know the importance and the influence our prayers have but we can be assured they are heard by the God who created your spouse. God loves your spouse even more than you do so when you lift them in prayer, God hears and will work His will.

These are just a few ways to help provide a safe passage through life’s storms. Our marriages will encounter difficult and painful situations but God has given us a way to navigate them. Together.

Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom: #4 Inhibitions

Sarah: “Can you please turn the lights out?  Thanks.”

Jonathan: “But we almost always have the lights out.  Can I at least light some candles or something?”

Sarah: “I’d prefer we not.  Alright…let’s do this!”

Jonathan: “Let’s do what, exactly? Romp again in the dark?  Don’t get me wrong, you totally turn me on.  But I’d love to not just feel you during sex…I’d love to SEE you, too.”

Sarah: “Oh, please. You don’t need to see this body, that’s for sure.”

Jonathan: “Perhaps I don’t ‘need’ to.  But I’d sure like to.  I find you breathtakingly bathroom-scalebeautiful.”

Sarah: “Yeah, right. Breathtaking?  Get real.  There’s nothing breathtaking about this body.”

Jonathan: “Don’t I tell you how beautiful you are every day?”

Sarah: “Of course you do, but…”

Jonathan: “And don’t I enjoy putting my hands on you?”

Sarah: “Yes, I just…”

Jonathan: “You just what? You just don’t believe me?  You don’t believe I find you to be beautiful?”

Sarah: “Well, when you put it that way…I guess…I just.. I don’t even know what to say.  Can we just please leave the lights out?”

Jonathan: “You still find yourself unattractive.  So much so that you won’t even let me in on what you’re thinking.  To be honest, now I don’t even know what to say.”

Sarah: “OK.  Well…can we go ahead and get started?”

Jonathan: *Sarcastically* “Sure.  We can get started.”  *Jonathan turns the lights out and walks out of the room*

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Thus far in this series we’ve discussed three different hindrances to sexual freedom.  These include ego, differing personal interests, and sexual history.  It’s our hope that you’ve taken some serious opportunities to not only read these posts, but think through whether any of them are currently preventing your marriage from experiencing sexual freedom.  (For those of you who haven’t yet read through these, we’ve provided links at the end of this post for each part in this series.)  Today we want to bring up another issue that can destroy sexual freedom in marriage – personal inhibitions.

Inhibitions are an interesting beast in a marriage relationship.  They wreak havoc not only on the sexual aspect of marriage, but also on the marriage friendship itself.  Holding on to physical or emotional inhibitions is one way of saying, “I like you, but I’m not sure I fully trust you enough to put my whole self out there just yet.” It’s saying, “Yes I know we made a vow.  But this part of my life is off limits to you.”

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  But think of it this way.  Let’s say that your spouse is availing their everything to you on a regular basis.  They put it all out there all the time.  Mind, body, and soul.  They love and trust you not only physically, but also bring out every life struggle they have.  They share their fears.  They share their joys.  They share what God is teaching them and what areas He’s working on in their lives.  They share everything.  And there’s only one person in the world they’re sharing this with – you.

And over time they begin to notice you’re not quite sharing everything.  There are some areas of your life that are still off-limits.  Sure, maybe you don’t have any physical inhibitions like Sarah in the story above.  But there are other areas you’re not quite ready to put out there.  Even after 5, 10, even 20+ years of marriage, your spouse still isn’t your best friend.  They’re not the person you share your most intimate thoughts and struggles with.  They’re not your shoulder to cry on.  Maybe they’re not even the first person you think about calling when something awful happens.  You have inhibitions, and full-blown sexual freedom isn’t something your experiencing on a regular basis.

We write this post simply to give you (both men and women) the opportunity to think through whether you are currently experiencing any inhibitions in your relationship with your spouse.  And as we’ve done in each post throughout this series, we’re going to provide a series of statement below in which you can answer with a simple one-word answer.  Simply fill in the blank with either the word GOOD, BETTER, or BEST.

  1. I do a _______ job of trusting my spouse when they compliment my physical appearance.
  2. I do a _______ job of sharing the details of my day with my spouse.
  3. I do a _______ job of loving my spouse as a FRIEND and as a LOVER.
  4. I do a _______ job of sharing my fears and life struggles with my spouse.
  5. I do a _______ job of not being physically embarrassed when naked with my spouse.
  6. I do a _______ job of discussing with my spouse what God is teaching me.
  7. I do a _______ job of sharing all of my emotions with my spouse.
  8. I do a _______ job of being completely uninhibited with my spouse.

To conclude, we want to note that if you are experiencing any inhibitions in your marriage, you will need to take gradual steps to open up physically and emotionally with your spouse.  One of the best ways to do this is to confess your inhibitions to your spouse and then discuss together how you can work on them.  Simply allowing them to be part of the discussion will reap dividends on your friendship, and before you know it you’ll be opening the door to a new world of sexual freedom in your marriage.

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What inhibitions have you worked through in your relationship with your spouse?  Feel free to let us know in the comments.

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This is Part 4 in our series on Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom in Marriage.  Additional posts in the series can be found at the links below.  And stay tuned for our next series: Five Ways to Sustain Sexual Freedom in Marriage.

Part 1: Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom #1 – Ego

Part 2: Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom #2 – Personal Interests

Part 3: Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom #3 – Sexual Past

Part 4: Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom #4 – Inhibitions

Part 5: Five Hindrances of Sexual Freedom #5 – Busyness

 

Marriage Challenge: The Hidden Seam

Lime Green.

That’s the color I chose to mend a small hole in the pocket of Justin’s shorts. There’s no particular reason that I used green instead of white, the color of the pocket, but I did. As I did so, I was reminded of the secretive nature of marriage. The things that happen in a marriage that are unknown to any other. The hidden seams that make a marriage strong.

With my words, I can tear down or build up.

With my actions, I can bless or ignore.

With my attitude, I can invite or reject.

Marriage is a journey of hidden things. The hidden things we can do for our spouse without their ever even knowing it. The hidden things we do with and for one another that others are not permitted to know. The information that is shared, the inside jokes, the passion, the things that are hidden.

Today’s marriage challenge is this: Spend a few moments to think about the “hidden seams” in your marriage. The areas where you can bless your spouse without their ever knowing. The intimate moments you share together to which the rest of the world is not privy. Invest in the hidden seams of your marriage and you will be stronger when you are together as well as when you are apart.

 

“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Marriage Challenge: True Compliments (Giveaway winners announced)

“You had the finest, most powerful, most resonant voice of any of the young male swans in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.” “I did?” said the cob. “Yes, indeed. Everytime I heard you say something in that deep voice of yours, I was ready to go anywhere with you.” “You were?” said the cob. He was obviously delighted with his wife’s praise. It tickled his vanity and made him feel great. He had always fancied himself as having a fine voice, and now to hear it from his wife’s own lips was a real thrill.” 

The Cob’s wife to her husband – The Trumpet of the Swam, E.B. White

When was the last time you complimented your spouse? I mean really complimented them. Telling them something about themselves that they don’t know or even more important reminding them of something they have forgotten in the midst of the demands of everyday life. In the above example, the wife’s compliment delighted her husband and thrilled him to know how she really felt and what she really thought of him. Today’s challenge is simple, think of a way to compliment your spouse and then do it! The idea is not to go about it selfishly, desiring a compliment in return. Compliment your spouse because of the positive impact it can have on them and your marriage.

And now for the winners of our giveaway:

The Simply Romantic Wife – Katie Adauto

31 days to great sex – Lindsay Harold

Please email us your information and we will get those resources to you.

Thanks everyone for continuing to read.

Piggyback Ride Anyone? (Giveaway)

“Faster Mommy! Faster Daddy!” cheer the gleeful voices of our daughters. What’s not to love about a piggyback race!?! Justin and I can tell you, we were the ones doing all the work! And so it is with piggyback riding, the rider gets to enjoy the other persons hard work.

I believe that our marriages can apply the foundations of a good piggyback ride. If you want some fun, need a creative idea for a date or just need some motivation or inspiration to keep running the marriage race, piggyback off the creativity and ingenuity of others. Justin and I will readily admit that we have a piggyback marriage. Romance is not our thing so if we desire to up the romance, we look to people who have ideas that can help us out. Communication problems? We will talk to other married couples, read a book or find a way to work on it. Whatever situation you encounter, chances are there is someone who has “been there, done that and has the bumper sticker to prove it” as my mother says.

Today we want to share some great sites that provide opportunities for you to take a “piggyback ride” on their creativity, romance and general marriage advice.

The Generous Husband/The Generous Wife – Day in day out Paul & Lori provide a mixture of inspiration, practical advice and wisdom to give you a vision of what marriage is meant to be and can be. Take the opportunity to be reminded daily how to grow your marriage.

The Romantic Vineyard – Romantic and fun date ideas and thought provoking insights make this site a great resource to piggyback.

Looking for something to do this summer? Becoming His Eve recently shared 67 ways to Celebrate Summer. Pick something to try it this week. Check out the rest of the site for other great date ideas.

If you’ve yet to go on vacation, Gaye of Calm Healthy Sexy shared 12 great tips on how to have a calmer, healthier and sexier vacation.

Group dates, free printables, family ideas can all be found on The Dating Divas website. There are countless ways to benefit from the hundreds of ideas shared.

The CMBA is another great resource to find marriage bloggers that desire to encourage and uplift marriages. Check out the list of bloggers who are part of that association.

We also wanted to offer a mid-summer giveaway to get your creative juices going. By leaving a comment on this post you will have the opportunity to be given a copy of either, The Simply Romantic Wife: 150 fun and creative ways to romance your husband or 31 Days to Great Sex (pdf file) ebook by Shelia Wray Gregoire.

To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment on this post. (No need for multiple comments)  We will choose 2 winners at random on July 31st 2013 and contact the winner by email.  Thanks for reading!