The Day My Life Got Better. Forever.

On this date 34 years ago my life changed.

The college group at church was having a special meeting on a Friday night. A new pastor had been hired and he was being introduced that evening. I wanted to go but didn’t have anyone to go with. I was new to the group and only knew a handful of people and could not truly call any of them friends so I called a friend who went to another church and asked him to go with me. He agreed and we walked into the meeting together a few hours later.

I do not remember anything the new pastor said that evening. It was not his words that changed my life. It was something that happened later, during the reception, that altered the course of my life.

I scanned the room looking for faces I recognized. Off to the right of the room I saw two guys who I had met a few weeks earlier at weekend retreat. We met that weekend in the mountains and when it concluded we drove back down together. I had only met them once but I knew them better than anyone else in the room so I migrated in their direction.

Standing with them was a petite and pretty girl with light brown hair. We were introduced. Her name was Lisa and she had a wonderful smile. I do not remember much of the conversation, other than me joking that I drank so much Coke that my blood was carbonated.  I talk a lot when I am nervous. I also tend to crack a lot of jokes and tell stories. Miraculously, Lisa laughed at my jokes.

We saw each other again two days later at church. (She saw me approaching and placed herself strategically near the door. She was impossible to miss.) We talked, and I ended up walking her to her car. As we walked across the parking lot I found the courage to ask her out. She said yes. (Another miracle!)

Our first date was a church square dance. We talked more than we danced. Talking to Lisa was easy. The next day I called my best friend and told him that I had met a girl I could totally fall for. “How could you know that after only one date?” was his incredulous reply.

Three weeks later I asked Lisa to marry me. She said yes and less than 5 months later she were married in the room in which we met. My life was transformed. Before Lisa I was self-doubting and alone. She gave me her heart and that gave me courage.

34 years have passed. I still melt at her smile. I thank God every day for miracle of her love.



Parenting by iPad

I see it more and more in the office. Little children with an iPad or an iPhone in their hands. Some are too young to speak in full sentences yet they can clearly communicate their desire to watch a movie or play a game. Mom and dad rapidly comply with their wishes as it accomplishes their primary objective, a quiet child. While I can understand the desire to be able to interact with another adult without being continually distracted by your child I fear that there are unintended consequences ahead for these parents and children.

My concerns are increased by how often I see  this parenting behavior outside my office. It can be seen almost anywhere we see parents and their children. Children riding in the child seats in shopping carts, at tables in restaurants, in church pews and even at family gatherings can be seen sitting alone staring at a miniature video screen. The children appear to be happy, content and quiet, yet I wonder. When did quiet children become the ultimate parenting goal?

While the unending questions of a toddler can be wearisome, they are an essential part of intellectual and social development. Through them the child learns not only how to speak and communicate but also how the world works. These repetitive conversations help forge a relationship of trust and respect with parents. Parents learn the personality and interests of their children and strengthen the bond they share. Children learn from what goes on around them. They learn appropriate social interaction from watching adults interact. They also learn patience and self control. None of this happens when the child sits in a corner with an iPad.

While a child's quietness may make a parent's life easier for the moment, this is not a healthy goal. Good parenting has never been easy. I fear that the current generation of parents has either never learned or has already forgotten that we do not have children for ourselves. Children are not toys or playmates to be called upon when entertainment is desired. They are a gift from God, made in His image, given to parents to be loved, trained and served. Children need parents who will sacrifice for them, who will answer the repeated questions and play the silly games, who will love them, listen to them and give them attention.

There is no app for that.

- Bart

Thanks for reading and especially for sharing posts with others. Questions and comments are welcome. I can be followed on twitter @bartbarrettmd, you can also find me on vimeo (vimeo.vom/bartbarrett) or get posts in you mailbox by subscribing to the blog

You're an Adulterer. You Just Don't Realize it. Adultery Part 7

The tendency to commit adultery and to think immorally about sex is a characteristic of all humanity. It is a natural expression of mankind’s sinful nature.

God gave Moses the commandment against adultery knowing full well of man’s tendency to commit sexual immorality. An infinitely wise and all-knowing God would not have given a prohibition against adultery if only a few people were apt to fall into the sin. God knew then, and knows now, that sexual immorality is common. In my many years of practice I have seen this truth proven over and over again. The natural sex drive that God designed to be fulfilled in marriage is easily perverted into something else. Research provides further confirmation. I have seen surveys in which 5–25 percent3 of married individuals admit to infidelity. The sin is remarkably common.

The fact that 75–95 percent of individuals claim to be faithful does not mean that these people are guilt-free. When we consider Jesus’ teaching that men who wrongly view women are guilty as well, there are very few innocent people. It appears that the majority of people struggle with adultery. “You shall not commit adultery” is clearly on God’s top ten list for good reason. Just as murder resulted from devaluing human life, so too, adultery is a result of devaluing sexual intimacy.

As plain as it is that God intended sexual intimacy to be a foundation for the marital bond, I believe that there is much more to the union than a physical connection. Faithfulness in marriage means more than simply avoiding sexual sin. Physical intimacy is the most tangible expression of the intimacy of marriage, but the bond goes far beyond mere sexuality. The oneness God described in the Genesis account includes intimate emotions, thoughts, and words, nonphysical things that are not to be shared outside of marriage. Jesus’ words on adultery illustrate the truth that such thoughts and feelings are important.

When Jesus warned against looking at a woman with lust in the heart, He was referring to a woman who was not a man’s wife. (It is rather difficult to commit adultery with one’s spouse!) I believe it is appropriate to look at one’s wife with desire. The longing to be with one’s spouse is part of a healthy marriage, desiring someone else is not. Implied in Jesus’ teaching is the truth that the desire for sex, and the look that accompanies that desire, are the sole property of one’s spouse. If a husband gives such a look to another woman, he is giving away something that only his wife deserves. The marital bond is weakened not only because a lustful look separates sex from marital intimacy but also because the look itself belongs only to one’s spouse.

When a marital partner shares with another that which rightly should only be shared with a spouse, he/she violates intimacy and trust. This breach makes adultery especially harmful. There are things in a marriage that are meant to be unique to a marriage. The marriage bed is the most sacred of these trusts, but there are others as well. Just as looking at another person as a source of pleasure is a type of adultery, so also is giving to another person anything that rightfully belongs only to one’s spouse.

As I reflect on my own marriage I can think of a number of things that belong only to my wife. In addition to my physical self, only she deserves my sexual desires. To her alone belong my admiring stares and flirtatious smiles. To her alone belongs my heart. No other woman deserves to know my deepest thoughts and fears, my greatest hopes and dreams. The deeper things of my heart are hers and hers alone.

There are words that belong solely to my wife as well. There are compliments that carry with them an admiration and appreciation that rightfully belong only to my wife. While I may tell another woman that her new haircut looks nice or compliment the color of a new outfit, I should not give any praise that communicates any sexual desire. Compliments such as “You look beautiful,” “You have the prettiest eyes,” or at times even something as seemingly innocuous as “You look really nice today,” may be wrongfully giving away admiration that belongs to my wife. Wisdom demands that I be careful in what I say.

Out of love and respect for my wife I have chosen to avoid giving other women any compliments that might make a woman think she was an object of my desire. I will never compliment another woman in a way that might make my wife uncomfortable or jealous. Years ago I was discussing these things with a neighbor of mine. He thought I was being foolish and legalistic. To him words were harmless. As a salesman, he regularly would compliment other women, telling them they were beautiful or that they looked great. I shared with him that I thought that was “verbal adultery,” that certain types of praise, particularly praise of someone’s physical appearance, could easily be interpreted as expressions of desire or as a type of flirtation. For that reason I felt it best that no woman except for a man’s wife should be addressed in this way. Although he could not understand it at the time, as he grew in his faith he realized the wisdom in what I was sharing and changed his behavior.

I have taken steps to intentionally put these attitudes into practice. As a man who has female employees I have learned what to say and not say. I carefully choose words that cannot be misinterpreted as flirtatious. I am very careful in how I compliment female patients. I make a conscious effort to compliment actions (such as losing weight) rather than appearance.

It is not just words of praise that should only be given to my wife. There are specific types of attention and time that should not be shared with other women either. Included on the list of things that belong to my wife is intimate time alone. It is very dangerous for a man to spend time alone with another woman. Great caution should be used when it comes to lunches, dinners, or meetings in private. There are very few men who spend so much time with their wives that they have any extra time to share with another woman! I believe that intimate friendships with members of the opposite sex should be avoided, as it is inevitable that things will be shared with such a “friend” that rightfully should have been shared with a spouse.

If we truly desire to follow the spirit of God’s instructions regarding sexuality and marriage, we will do whatever we can to preserve all of the types of intimacy marriage includes. Practically speaking, asking ourselves the question “Do these words, actions, or thoughts rightfully belong to my spouse?” will keep us out of a lot of trouble! Just as wrong thinking leads to sin, right thinking leads to godly behavior. When I began to consider all of what belongs to my wife, my behavior changed. Movies with nudity and sexually provocative content became even more inappropriate. I did not want to give desirous looks to any woman, including one on a movie screen. I began to carefully watch my words. I starting turning down some invitations. As I did, I grew in love and appreciation of the wife God gave me.

- Bart

This is the 7th post in a series on adultery excerpted from my book Life Medicine. The book can be purchased on Amazon. A small group study guide is available here. If you have a church group interested in the book, I will gladly donate the books for a group study. Contact me through this site. If you have questions or comments please share them! Most of all please consider sharing this post with your friends.

The Loneliness that Cancer Brings

Two young children and a husband with cancer. It was impossible not to worry. She tried to be positive and supportive, but the fears were inescapable. What if the cancer spread? How many years did they have left? If her worst fears materialized, how would she make it?

Her husband either did not share or fears or did a much better job of suppressing them. Like so many cancer patients I have seen he decided that talking and worrying didn’t change anything, so he focused on getting back to work and a sense of normalcy. He kept the details of his Illness a secret to his friends and his extended family, preferring to avoid the questions and the scrutiny.

While this modified form of denial seemed to work well for him it was difficult for her. Unable to share the secret she often felt alone in her grief and worry. She longed to be able to tell others, shed tears, and receive hugs and prayers.

Theirs is not an uncommon tale. A cancer diagnosis is typically more difficult for family members than it is for the patient. The patient focuses on treatments and recovery, the family just worries.

The stress of family members illustrates another common aspect of our society, isolation and lack of community. Deep friendships and meaningful relationships are increasingly rare. People focus on work and family with little time for anything else. Acquaintances are made with other parents through youth sports and activities but there is little opportunity for serious conversations at soccer games and pizza parties. When difficult times come people often have no where to turn.

Years ago I heard a pastor bring this point home by asking the question, “If your husband or wife was in the ICU facing death, who would you want sitting by your side?” Most people struggled to come up with more than a handful of names.

The pastor’s question and the young mother’s struggles serve as a powerful reminder of how important it is to develop friendships and invest in the lives of others. We never know when we may need encouragement and support or when others may need us.

- Bart

Comments and questions are welcomed. You can subscribe to the blog by clicking the button on the page, or you can be notified of posts via twitter @bartbarrettmd. You can share posts with others by clicking one of the share icons that follow the post, it is the only way others learn of the blog

Adultery and the Road to Destruction

12 divorces. When I add together the divorces in the immediate families of me and my wife there have been twelve divorces. I have had a front row seat to the tragedy that divorce wreaks on those it touches. As a result every time I hear of a patient’s marriage ending my heart breaks. I mourn for the couple and I mourn for their children. Too often divorce is a direct result of sexual failing.

God made marriage and with it He made the family. It is the primary vehicle for religious instruction and training and it is designed to be representative of man’s relationship with God (Eph 5–6). As a result, God has a vested interest in healthy, intact families. Robust, godly families are the objective of the commandment against adultery. Adultery destroys families and is (understandably) hated by the God who created them.

To see the horrible consequences of adultery one need look no further than the story of the Israelite King David and the woman Bathsheba (2 Sam 11–12). David’s lust for another man’s wife led to adultery, murder, and ultimately the death of a child. As the years passed, David’s family was plagued by idolatry, immorality, incestuous rape, and sibling murder. David’s unfaithfulness in adultery weakened the foundations of his family––with devastating long-term effects.

From David’s story we learn about the roots of adultery as well. David’s sin was not a spontaneous act arising out of a chance encounter. Although he pursued Bathsheba only after he had unintentionally observed her bathing, the seeds of immorality had taken root many years earlier. A close look at the life of David reveals that his sin with Bathsheba was not the first time he had made a wrong decision about a woman. As with all sin, David’s adultery began with a wrong attitude of the heart. Just like David, if we do not avoid the attitudes and desires that can lead us astray, we will fail in our quest to live sexually pure lives.

The story of David’s relationships with women began many years prior to Bathsheba. When David killed the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Sam 17), he was promised the daughter of King Saul as his wife. Although the promised daughter was eventually given to another man, Saul ultimately gave his other daughter Michal to be David’s wife. David’s response to Saul’s offer of his daughter’s hand tells us much about David as a man. We see from the story that David was a humble man who did not consider himself worthy to be the king’s son-in-law. This initial attitude of believing himself unworthy of such a wife suggests David began with a healthy appreciation of the blessing that a wife is.

David’s attitude is well described in the text:

Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.’ They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” (1 Sam 18:22–23)

At this point in David’s life he was a humble shepherd boy. Although he was adored by the people of Israel, who danced and sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” when David returned from killing Goliath (1 Sam 18:5–7), David refused to view himself as better than anyone else.

Unfortunately for David, this attitude did not last. Not long after David took Saul’s daughter Michal as his wife, Saul turned against David and tried to kill him. David and a small band of soldiers found themselves on the run from Saul and his men. They moved from place to place to avoid being captured and killed by King Saul. Eventually they arrived at a desert in a place called Maon. Near where they were staying lived a wealthy but unpleasant man by the name of Nabal. Nabal was married to Abigail, a beautiful and intelligent woman (1 Sam 25:3).

David sent men to Nabal and asked if he might give some blessing and aid to David and his men. Nabal responded to David in a rude and demeaning way:

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (1 Sam 25:10–11)

Nabal said of David something very similar to what David had said of himself a short while earlier. Nabal asked, “Who is this David?” Although David had once questioned his own worthiness when it came to marrying the king’s daughter, the events that followed show that the humble Who am I? David was gone. In his place was a man filled with a sense of importance and entitlement. Who am I? David had been replaced by How dare he talk to me that way! David. Nabal’s response was an insult to this new David, so David and his men took up arms and set off to avenge their impugned honor.

With vengeance in their hearts they approached the place where Nabal lived. It was their intent to kill not only Nabal, but also every man who worked for him. Only the wise intervention of Abigail prevented a terrible slaughter. She met David and his men while they were coming to attack, bringing food and gifts to appease David’s anger. Her thoughtful actions saved the life of her foolish husband and the lives of their servants as well.

Ten days after Abigail’s shrewd actions, Nabal died. The beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy Abigail was suddenly single and available––all of which certainly did not go unnoticed. Travelling with David were some 600 men. I have no doubt there was at least one single man among those serving David who would have loved to be blessed with such an amazing woman as a wife. As ecstatic as one of David’s men would have been to marry Abigail, none of them were given the chance. Even though he was already married, David decided that he deserved Abigail more than anyone else did. He took her as his second wife.

David had changed. He had gone from someone who felt he did not deserve a wife at all to someone who felt entitled to more than one. He had gone from someone who served others to someone who believed that others existed for him. Here, in his decision to take Abigail, we see the beginning of the attitude that led to his moral failure with Bathsheba. The act with Bathsheba revealed the culmination of the mindset that he was entitled to any woman he wanted. Instead of being a physical expression of the union of one man and one woman, for David sexual intimacy became about his own personal pleasure. He exchanged God’s beautiful plan of intimacy for irrational lust, a compulsion that led to his adultery with Bathsheba and the resultant devastating consequences.

It is my prayer that we all learn the lesson of David and take intentional steps to guard ourselves and protect our marriages. It is the greatest of all earthly endeavors.

- Bart 

This is the 5th in an 8 part series on Adultery, taken from my book Life Medicine, an exploration and application of the principles of the 10 Commandments. The book is available at Amazon. If you are interested in purchasing copies for your church or small group, please contact me through the site to get the books at cost. A small group study guide is linked from the book page on this site, and my sermon series on the book can me accessed on my vimeo page.