How Did Our Marriage Get Here?

Marriage Vows Under Fire 1

Everything that attacks a marriage can potentially land the relationship on its back. Adultery. Pornography. Secrecy. Meddling In-Laws. Neglect. Sins that tear us apart but can be overcome.

In Marriage Vows Under Fire, the harsh world of success, temptation, and greed surround two vulnerable families and threaten their relationships with catastrophe. But faith and prayers of a few confront the fiery trials that seem to promise devastating endings.

With comedy, suspense, and melancholy to entertain readers who can relate during moments of leisurely escape, this inspirational romance series mirrors the marital issues of couples throughout time. Set in modern-day Texas, parts one and two take us through the turbulent journeys of Natalie and Joseph, along with other couples within their families.

“Little disappearances here…inappropriate communications there. They all build up and lead to what can destroy us.” – Quoted from the heart of every desperate spouse screaming inwardly and trying to hold on to a wayward whose interests have been landing elsewhere.

Engage in the stories’ authenticity that comes within marriage along with the heartbreaks that can be overcome on the long journey of “new beginnings”. Find sweet romance in Marriage Vows Under Fire. Find the suspense and adventure. But also find reality in it. And relate.

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“If our marriage survives this…”

“…can it makMarriage Vows Under Fire 1e us stronger?” The ongoing love story of Marriage Vows Under Fire relates to the many fiery trials of married couples. The main couples in the novel series (parts one and two – and continuing) reflect the longings of spouses today, the wounds of betrayal, the co-dependencies with meddling in-laws, the disruptions of life in the face of society’s criminal acts, and more.

With the message of salvation and breakthrough in Jesus Christ, Marriage Vows Under Fire presents a pure form of fiction to engage readers’ quest for the entertainment of romance. Marriage and courtship are personified through the characters of this novel and identify with us today.

Joseph and Natalie Reyes long to reignite the love of their early years as they face a meddlesome mother-in-law, high-maintenance children, and growing tensions rooted in secrecy.

The couples within their circle:

Despite neglect that leads to the loss of her confidence and drive, Tiphany Taylor hopes to finally marry the wealthy father of her children until those hopes die by the hand of betrayal. A harsh new reality leads her to a crossroad she never could have imagined.

Marriage Vows Under Fire Series 2 is now available.
Marriage Vows Under Fire Series 2 is now available.

Psychotic patient, EmmaJean MacNeal, is captured and held hostage by two serial killers who have every intention of slaying her along with frightened newlyweds, Louis and Tammy Goldsmith. But when tables turn in the home of the lonely woman whose heart’s desire has always been to run a family of her own – by any means necessary – a desperate kidnapper cries out to God while the newlyweds attempt to escape the delusional world of EmmaJean.

Shasta and Javier struggle to restore trust after infidelity practically destroys their marriage.

Tired of seeing her meddling mother strain the relationships within their family, Alicia Reyes sets out to find a man for the lonely widow. The only suitor? A homeless man to groom for her mission.

In a hostile, ambitious endeavor to win the open vice-president’s position within his father’s company, Tony Taylor fights his growing feelings for co-worker and contender, Amelia Conrad, who acts more like an enemy toward him. A bitter past that neither is willing to mention only fuels their ongoing clashes and confuse their feelings they once thought they could identify as anything but love.

With a backdrop of other marriages and courtships, Marriage Vows Under Fire continues a series of humor, adventure, drama, romance, and faith. Series 1 (published/released July 15, 2013) and Series 2 (published/released October 16, 2013) are available in ebook form on all major online bookstores. The third series is due for release in March of 2016.

How Christians Can Trade In Halloween Parties For Noah’s Ark Parties On October 31

Bible PagesOn October 31, combat a fear-engaging tradition. Instead of partaking in the celebration of death and demonic tales, spread the word on how to utilize a Noah’s Ark party, to counter Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, to celebrate Noah’s Ark significance in the Old Testament and now under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Take the idea and entertain others in the Lord with food, goodies, Noah’s Ark animated movies, Noah’s Ark storytelling, and spreading of the gospel. Share the idea with your church or open your home. Halloween does not limit us. It’s actually a practice to aggressively counter with the everlasting message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s how I hosted a Noah’s Ark party in 1997:

I encouraged invitees to dress their children up like any animal to represent their presence on the ark. I prepared food and goodies for attendees. In addition to games, I made a Noah’s Ark animated movie or two available to watch throughout the party to encourage parents and children alike why Noah’s Ark was so significant and how the eight souls saved on the boat compares to salvation through Jesus Christ. Making literature available for take-home or sharing at the party, a Noah’s Ark party serves as a celebration of life through Jesus Christ, an evangelistic way to spread the gospel, and an entertaining party for believers to come and allow their children a way to enjoy themselves in the Lord on October 31.

As a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, I learned at the very beginning of my walk to embrace God’s Word to the fullest extent. “Fullest extent” came to include denying myself the familiar worldly practices that are not aligned with God’s Word. From that point, Halloween celebration, among other worldly practices like wild partying and horror-movie watching, became a thing of the past for me. I no longer wanted to celebrate any practice that resembled the devil, the enemy of our souls, in any form whatsoever – even if the action is done with no intent to regard that adversary.

When I became a mother, I knew that teaching my child about the unbiblical appearance and undertone of Halloween’s death-related, fear-related celebrations (regardless of the subtlety within the celebration that convinces many of its pure fun apart from any grave connotation) could lead to better practices on October 31. Many churches actually counter Halloween celebrations with fall festivals (while others support the unbiblical practice of Halloween). Finding churches to visit ahead of time over the years has become labor intensive due to the number of churches that have changed the way they book activities. (Simply put, times have so changed across the board – even the trends practiced in many churches, some of which no longer even open their doors on certain evenings, including Sunday evenings.)

From this burden for Christian families with their children on October 31, I hosted a Noah’s Ark party on October 31, 1997. I also spread the news of what I was planning in order that friends and associates in the faith would take the practice and make it available to children in their own neighborhoods as well as to children within their churches.

So, again: Spread the word on how to celebrate Noah’s Ark significance in the Old Testament and now under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Take the idea and entertain others in the Lord with food, goodies, Noah’s Ark animated movies, Noah’s Ark storytelling, and spreading of the gospel. Share the idea with your church or open your home. Halloween does not limit us. It’s actually a practice to counter with the everlasting message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As A Leader, Do I Love Or Do I Just Minister About Love?

Bible Pages

written by Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire

Over the years, ministering to others through speaking and writing, I have learned how more easily words of wisdom can be imparted as opposed to being implemented. Ministering about love is no exception.

God’s Word shows us how to love in a number of passages beginning ultimately with Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world. When we thoroughly examine Jesus’ sacrifice for us, who were deserving of God’s wrath reserved for sin, we could humbly realize our ongoing need to learn how to replicate God’s love toward others.

Why do I say we have an ongoing need to learn to show love? Because unexpected challenges occur constantly in our lives. When do we respond to challenges with affection, when do we respond with encouragement, when do we respond with a sharp rebuke, and when do we even respond with distance? All of these and others are responses which our Lord Jesus Christ gave as examples in each unique situation He faced. And while He gave these responses, He never gave them apart from love. Learning which expression of love applies in each situation and challenge in our lives is an ongoing learning process.

As a servant who ministers love in blogs, in books, and in person, there are a few points that I have learned and am continuing to learn about the love walk to which I am called:

There is an ever-impacting difference between whether any minister actually loves or only ministers about love.

If I love…

1.  I minister love in word.

2.  I demonstrate it in deed.

3.  I show love in the face of favor and strive to show it (while I make a firm decision to maintain it) in the face of challenges against me.

4.  I communicate about what I disapprove of – with either a light or firm approach, depending on each circumstance – and still genuinely promote peace toward that person I have to challenge, but without dropping my love for him/her.

5.  I affirm and confirm the grace I have for others despite their faults (some faults being directed against me) because of the grace God always shows toward me despite my faults.

6.  I actively, repentantly depend on Jesus to forgive and purify me when I fall short of my call to love.

 

If I only minster love…

1.  I can’t stretch my limited supply of love to reach beyond the boundaries of my emotions, my mood, my human tolerance level, or any popularity I might gain as a “good preacher/teacher/singer” on love.

2.  I can’t ensure that the love contained within my boundaries will last toward people who haven’t yet offended me to the extent that others, who stepped outside my love boundaries, have dared to offend me.

3.  I can so gravely mistake flattery as being love – flattery toward me and flattery from me.

4.  I can’t recognize the need for correction (even when it’s to be delivered boldly) as an expression of love from me or towards me.

Synthetic Vs. Authentic Love

Bible Pages

Written by Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and publisher of MillennialEdge.net eMagazine.

How in the world can “true love” for one person turn us against another person? As believers in Christ, are we really able to find God-fearing love within our hearts if, while we embrace some people, we shun others for reasons that God’s Word would not validate?

Experiencing divisions within families, cliques within churches, and broken relationships in which one person was chosen to love unconditionally while others were branded to avoid, I have learned that synthetic love exists right alongside authentic love –  everywhere.

Like any other born-again believer, I am learning more about God’s Agape love from His Word gradually – never at a point of complete understanding and never at a point of perfection, though I press toward that perfection as I surrender to the heart-cleansing power of Jesus Christ. I’m like any other believer abiding in Him. Having said that, I can add that I’ve learned a few truths about love. There is human love, and there is Agape love.

Synthetic Human Love

Have you ever been in a relationship that required or strongly compelled you to turn against someone in order to support the person with whom you have that special relationship? Did you honestly think that true love made you come to the decision of shunning one person (for no valid reason) in order to demonstrate loyalty toward the other? True love does not influence such a decision. Human love – synthetic love – influences such a decision.

This kind of love has broken up families, alienated thousands of church members who eventually left fellowships where they had once perceived as loving environments (and hopefully left for Word-based fellowships elsewhere), stolen spouses to spin off families in the appearance of pseudo-honor, formed cliques that give friendship a twisted meaning, and resulted in other issues that complicate life to the point where God has often become the problems’ blame during consequences.

Who can really count on synthetic love? You’ve got to keep up charades, appearances, and acceptable behavior in order to retain it. Don’t believe me? Mess up once or too many times and see what happens. In most synthetically loving relationships, just repent and embrace God’s truth; then, see what happens. A disassociation takes place.

People begin to avoid those who disrupt a carnal flow that once felt comfortable for everyone trapped inside it. Sometimes that comfortable flow is deception.  Sometimes it’s a co-dependent relationship that allows one person to wreck havoc on others who passively foster the chaos for the sake of a peace that really doesn’t exist. Sometimes flattery is all people can tolerate in relationships based on human love. I believe this statement has dwelt in the back of most of our minds: “As long as you tell me what I want to hear about myself, you’ve got a friend in me.”

Here is what synthetic love requires:

1)  Secrecy to cover up lies

2)  Flattery

3)  Formation and upkeep of pedestals

4)  Clique activity

5)  Disassociation from one in order to maintain association with another

Is there forgiveness for synthetic love and all the problems stemmed from it? Absolutely. God gave His only begotten Son as the Remission for our sins in order that He can readily forgive the sins of those who surrender to Jesus Christ in repentance. Through this loving gift, He empowers His followers to distribute that love, which we’ve experienced.

When Jesus explains in His Word to us how to love our neighbors, He gave an unfailing model that was a sure outline to follow. He said that we were to use our love for ourselves as an example of how we are to love others. “Love your neighbor as yourself” means love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. (Mark 12:31)

Agape Love (The Love of God) Which Is Authentic

Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down His life for His friends.” Primarily, Jesus was referring to Himself as He made that statement and as Himself setting an example of how His followers (born-again believers) are to love.

I Corinthians 13 is one of the most frequently read chapters when defining how we are to love others with God-fearing love. Paul very thoroughly elaborates in the entire chapter how we as Christ-followers love. We love in self-denial, in truth, in humility, in kindness, in simplicity, in hope, in forgiveness, and in perseverance. It’s a life-long lesson that we learn through triumphs relying on Christ and through failures from which we rebound in faith after loving in our humanly way.

Where there is opportunity to engage in the complacency, shallowness, and even elementary easiness of synthetic human love, can we dare to take the high road by choosing God’s Agape love that instructs us how to do so in His Word? Agape love within a believer never flatters, never deceives, never forces decisions on someone to choose “us versus them”, and never stops standing corrected on how to love. But Agape love may require distance with forgiveness while ensuring that the love does exist. Agape love may require a sharp rebuke where praise may have been the option – but the wrong option – in the face of an offense (like adultery, violent tendencies, or traumatic negligence).

Agape love can be tough at times yet always gentle. Dealing with so many people in our lives, there is no blanket solution in dealing with all problems in a Godly loving way. But because God’s wisdom accompanies His love, there are unique ways to deal with each person in our lives without setting aside Agape love in order to do so. We can continue to learn firsthand that It never fails.

Understanding The Heart Of A Hurting Wife

Marriage Vows Under Fire 1Written by Lanette Zavala, Author of Marriage Vows Under Fire Inspirational Love Story Series a Family Review eMagazine

Just like a husband, a wife has a need to actually experience the love professed to her. In most cases, demonstration of this love reaches her heart more effectively when it’s presented tenderly, verbally, and creatively over a far longer period of time than those moments during which sexual contact can occur. Her need for value can be shown in your affection, your sacrifice, and expressed interest in her intellect.

Over a period of time, usually after the honeymoon, marital problems can present themselves in various ways. Problems occur when needs aren’t met. But crises occur when these problems linger for too long or begin to form into more severe problems such as betrayal, abuse, and neglect. Genuine reconciliation can be just as challenging to grasp when a wife is hurting as it can be when a husband is shut down. But where the Lord made reconciliation a must in marriage, He made it possible in His Word.

Marriage Vows Under Fire was written from a woman’s perspective concerning a number of issues that preoccupy our hearts. The characters face in-law problems of co-dependency, infidelity, mental illness, co-habitation, domestic violence, and other issues that so many wives and single women agonize over. While the ebooks are love stories, they are also bold series of fiction reflecting our realities. Of course, life is not fictional. To deal with our problems in relationships and to minister to a hurting wife, Biblical solutions are needed:

1 – If you realize you’ve done something that has hurt your wife – whether you betrayed her trust or shut her down with a form of dominance – don’t just apologize. Express genuine sorrow. To apologize is to remove the burden of your offense from your plate in order that you can move on. But to express sorrow is to remove the burden of your offense from your spouse’s plate in order that she can move forward.

2 – On the same note of the above point, reconciliation from a problem involves more than the hurting person’s forgiveness. Have you ever heard someone make this statement? “I have already told So & So that I’m sorry. If he/she can’t forgive me, then that’s his/her problem.” This statement or even unspoken attitude violates a passage in God’s Word.

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells us, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (New King James Version of the Holy Bible)

Forgiveness is a dominant message when reconciliation is discussed. But the other part of forgiveness is often missing in reconciliation messages. Reconciliation is approached from two, not one, angles that Jesus presents. Many times, when we’ve offended somebody, we fail to understand the depth of our part in reconciliation because of pride we harbor and sometimes even arrogance. If one spouse harbors an unforgiving attitude while the other harbors an attitude of stubborn entitlement to forgiveness (with no intention of reaching out to ensure security within the hurting loved one’s heart), which spouse is doing the will of God? Neither.

If you see your wife battling unforgiveness, which is a sin, Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (New King James) Help her forgive you. Don’t stick your chest out patting yourself on the back for a few moments of effort. Is she sinning if she doesn’t forgive you? Yes. But persevere. Help her out of the sin with some tenderness and demonstrations of loyalty if that’s the necessary distance to go in order to reach her. Show enduring love and don’t require from her unconditional love if yours is fragmented by stubborn entitlement.

3 – Marriage involves traveling this life’s journey together. If you and your spouse are running a partnership marathon together, and your spouse trips and falls for any number of reasons, why would you keep heading toward the finish line by leaving your spouse on the ground to agonize in that injury alone? Do you know how many onlookers would be willing to tell you, in all honesty, how much of a nincompoop you’d be for that? Not many, if at all. (People don’t like additional problems and therefore shun correcting somebody in areas where it might really matter to somebody else.) Don’t sprint toward a finish line that can only be crossed by a husband-wife team. Lift up your injured wife and let her rest her weight on you.Marriage Vows Under Fire 2

Well, marriage is more than a mere marathon. And injuries do occur. Those injuries can be imposed by any number of offenses. But, with God’s Word, what are you willing to do to Biblically restore security within your wife? Especially if you had something to do with her inner wounds?

In Marriage Vows Under Fire  love story series, there are characters who represent a number of couples today sitting with their lips stuck out – not to kiss but to pout. Anger has set in, betrayal has resulted in resentment, and wounds have become scars. With so many reasons to forgive and to pursue loved ones for that forgiveness, the women of Marriage Vows Under Fire resemble many of us – wives and singles.

Marriage Vows Under Fire Series 2: Tender Rivalry is the second installment in this series.

What If We All Gave One Bag From Each Grocery Trip?

Woman with groceriesThe “most wonderful time of the year” is right around the corner. It’s a time when families gather around decorated tables prepped with feasts and around a bunch of gifts to distribute. It’s a time to curl up in front of the fireplace and rest in shelter from the winter. It’s a wonderful time for only a fraction of the world’s population.

There is another part of the population who will spend the Christmas holiday reflecting on past events that led to their hunger, or their homelessness, or both. There is an even larger population that is surviving – but just barely. What many of us tend to do in privileged American society is reach out to the poor during the holidays, if at all, and shut our eyes to their needs the rest of the year. Too often I’ve been guilty of this.

All of the above mentioned dilemmas can be remedied. Local food banks and mission centers manage food pantries as well as clothing centers that accept donations for free distribution – year-round. If a significant number of givers (those with hearts to give) were to make a personal decision to donate at least one small to large bag of groceries from each grocery trip to a local food bank or mission center, imagine the significance from the receiving end! With additional opportunities to donate clothing and other items that might not be needed in our homes, imagine the additional covering that we are providing others who may need clothes on their backs or necessities that they wouldn’t be able to afford.

Here is a blog where I’d like to offer my knowledge of centers that take donations for free distribution. But you may also know of places where donations are accepted. Please feel free to send your input in the comment section. (And as with blogging on any Biblically-based topics, you are also welcome as a guest blogger on this subject. Just comment and I can re-upload it as a blog.)

Second Mile Mission Center, 1135 Highway 90A, Missouri City TX 77489 (281) 261-9199

Timon’s Ministries, 10501 S.P.I.D, Corpus Christi TX 78418 (361) 937-6196