A Rat Wall

As many of you know we are in the process of building a new barn. The barn is a pole-barn structure. According to our township ordinance, we have to dig and pour a concrete “rat wall.” This is a 4 inch thick by 24 in deep concrete barrier that goes underground from post to post. As the name suggests, it’s intended purpose is to keep varmints and rodents from burrowing underground into the barn. Our concrete guy says its pointless and it just makes him more money, but we have to do it.

It was a lot of work, too, to dig that rat wall. Anna gathered the nephews, nieces and friends, and they worked hard for a whole day digging that trench for the rat wall. We have a lot of clay to dig through, so it can really get exhausting doing all that digging.

But it got me to thinking. The concept of creating a barrier that keeps bad critters from coming in is certainly a good idea, at least in theory. Our 5 barn cats are probably the best “rat wall” we have, though.

In our marriages, we need to think of the barrier that must be created to help keep the Devil’s varmints from invading and destroying our space. The rat wall will take a lot of hard work, and we have to dig deep and sometimes it is exhausting to go through the effort. In the end, however, it’s worth all the hard work.

In order to put a good barrier down to critter proof your marriage from Satan’s rats, here are a few things we need in that rat wall.

We need honesty and openness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16)

We need love.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:14-15)

We need forgiveness and freedom from bitterness.

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:19)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32)

Men, are you willing to dig deep with your wives and create an open and honest environment with them? Are you willing to pour that barrier of love that will protect against the biting and devouring rats of sarcasm, cynicism and cheap shots? Don’t we all need a good foundation of forgiveness and love to keep our hearts from becoming bitter from past hurts?

I may not be convinced that a rat wall is needed in a barn, but I certainly know we need to dig down a create a solid barrier in our marriages to shelter our precious and sacred relationship from the Devil’s critters.

Be nice

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

I like what Albert Barnes said about “being kind” from this verse.

Christianity produces true courteousness, or politeness. It does not make one rough, crabby, or sour; nor does it dispose its followers to violate the proper rules of social contact.

Being a Christian should produce a polite spirit. As Barnes said, we should not become rough, crabby or sour. But that happens, doesn’t it, men? We get into the busy-ness of life and things keep piling on, and sometimes we get cranky with those we love the most.

That’s when we may hear something from those wonderful wives of ours…something like, “Be nice.”

Guys, don’t forget to be nice. Even in all the crazy twists and turns of life, saying nice and kind things to your family members is not only helpful for having peace and harmony, it is what God expects of us. Being too tired or “stressed” to be nice is not a good excuse.

Can you imagine if God barked at us like we sometimes snap at others? Yikes, we couldn’t survive that. But God is at His core a kind being. So, just like at the gym, it’s time to work on your core.

It helps sometimes to stop, breathe a little bit, say a prayer for God to help you to chill out, and look at your wife and kids and just smile.

Be nice.

The Silent Treatment

Do you know about “the silent treatment”? I’m sure you do. We have either been on the giving or receiving end of this one, or both. There are a lot of ways we can give the silent treatment in our relationships. One is simply turning a cold shoulder and refusing to talk to the other person until they “learn” the lesson we want them to learn. How well does that work?

Other ways we can show the silent treatment is by avoiding direct confrontation, but instead we use sarcastic jabs or disgusted looks to make our point. Or we can talk in broad generalities of how “everybody” does something or “we” need to change this, when it really isn’t everybody. You are just hoping that your broad sweeping statement will hit the person you think needs to hear it.

Regardless, the silent treatment just isn’t going to lead to effective communication and restored relationships, is it?

Let’s take a lesson today from the life of David, specifically in regards to his relationship with his sons, Amnon and Absalom (2 Samuel 13-14).

Absalom had his brother, Amnon, murdered, because Amnon raped their sister Tamar. Absalom had every right to be angry, but went about it the wrong way. David was angry, too, but did not address Amnon’s sin head on; instead David went silent (2 Samuel 13:21).

Absalom also went “silent” for two years before he had Amnon murdered, for the Bible says here that:

And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar. And it came to pass, after two full years… (2 Samuel 13:22-23).

Two years passed. Nothing. No words, either good nor bad. Did that silent treatment help this relationship? Was Amnon’s sin/crime dealt with properly? Did it heal and restore the hurt? No, all it did was fuel Absalom’s hatred and his scheming commenced as to how he would payback Amnon for raping Tamar.

After Amnon was murdered, Absalom fled. David was angry and sad, but again, David went silent. He did nothing. Notice the Scripture. 5 years passed before a word ever was spoken between David and Absalom.

But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And King David longed to go to Absalom. For he had been comforted concerning Amnon, because he was dead (2 Samuel 13:37-39). 

So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, “Let him return to his own house, but do not let him see my face.” So Absalom returned to his own house, but did not see the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:23-24).

And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, but did not see the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:28).

This may be an extreme example, but I believe the Holy Spirit gives us a great illustration of how the “silent treatment” can completely blow up a family and destroy relationships.

Let’s take some time today to reflect upon this in our relationships. Are we the type to give the silent treatment? Do we understand how hurtful this is to those we love when we behave this way? If so, how will we begin to change this, and directly deal with relationship problems head on with love and tenderness? Avoiding confrontation and running away from problems will never bring healthy and restored relationships.

One book you could read, along with the Bible (Proverbs, Sermon on the Mount, James, etc.) is the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. We are reading this right now at home, and it is proving very helpful to us.

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
(Matthew 18:15)

But Only In Expressing His Opinion

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).

Solomon says a lot about fools in Proverbs, of course he says a lot about wise people as well in contrast to the fool. What is a fool in the Biblical sense? You might want to search the book of Proverbs for that word and see all Solomon has to say about it. If you boil it down to the essentials, it comes down to this: a fool does not listen to anyone but himself.

The above proverb teaches us that a fool’s delight is not in understanding wisdom or receiving instruction. He only wants to tell you what he thinks.

It is just another reminder that a big part of communication is listening. A huge component of learning is listening. But if I’m always talking, and I really love the sound of my own voice, how can I learn? How can I effectively communicate when I’m the only one talking?

My daughter Lindsay calls this a “versation,” not a “con-versation.” She’s right on the money about that.

Do you notice how some folks just dominate a conversation? They just don’t know when to take a breath and let someone else say something. For some reason, they don’t recognize social cues to see that someone else is trying to talk. A person may be done listening a long time ago, but do I recognize that, or do I just keep prattling on? We may be perfectly comfortable in teacher mode, but are we just as comfortable in “student” mode? Do we assume that we have the right approach and answers to each situation and that others are indebted to hear us talk about it?

It’s not that we want to call ourselves or others fools, but it would be good to take a cue from the proverb here and recognize that maybe we talk too much and listen far too little. And when we behave that way, we lack a true heart and desire for understanding. We won’t understand other people, because we really aren’t interested in it, and we won’t understand God’s truth, because we really are only in love with our opinions.

Ask more questions to engage others in conversation.

Be willing to let someone speak freely even if he or she has a different opinion or approach than you do.

Commit to hearing someone else’s story instead of being in such a hurry to tell your own.

Devote yourself to prayer for the Lord to give you courage and understanding to close your mouth and open your ears.

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health (Proverbs 12:18).

The focus for this week has been complaining. Words as we all know, have incredible weight and influence. The above proverb provides a great contrast. A stab wound doesn’t promote health, does it? My words can be a sword thrust through someone or I can promote health. Our words at work and school today can promote health: healthy attitudes, healthy dialogue, healthy teamwork, etc. Or, our complaining and criticizing words will just bring everyone down in the dumps.

Here are a couple of examples:

10 of the 12 spies sent by Moses to look over the land of Canaan brought back a bad report. They were faithless and their words discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:28). Caleb, one of the 2 faithful spies, said decades later that the discouraging words of those 10 spies “made the heart of the people melt” (Joshua 14:8).

In contrast, consider King Hezekiah. When surrounded by the powerful army of Assyria, Hezekiah took his stand in faith with God. Not only did he prepare the people militarily, he spoke words of faith and encouragement to the people and directed their hearts to God’s power. “And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).

See the contrast? I think we all, that means me too, sometimes lose sight of how powerful and influential our speech can be. That’s probably why there is so much in Scripture about our words and their power. Hezekiah strengthened his people while the 10 spies made the hearts of Israel melt into discouragement.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

I found an interesting passage in Isaiah where the Messiah (Jesus) is speaking in the 1st person about what He is coming to do. In that section there is this statement:

The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary (Isaiah 50:4).

Jesus, the Messiah, has the tongue of the learned (educated, trained, wise). He knows how to speak a word in season (at the right time) to him who is weary (considering the audience and what is appropriate).

May the Lord give us this same tongue today! Let us train and educate our tongues and hearts. Consider what would be the right thing to say, not what would be the easy thing, or sarcastic thing or funny thing to say.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

Past articles that might be helpful to you in connection to this topic:


See, I Have Listened To You

Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request” (1 Samuel 25:32-35).

Please read 1 Samuel 25 to get whole context of this discussion between David and Abigail. But for now, let’s quickly summarize what happened.

David was the anointed next king of Israel and he was being chased for his life by the current king of Israel, Saul. If you read everything about David up to this point, you can see why God called him a “man after His own heart.” David showed, up to this point, great faith, courage, humility and trust in God. But we come to 1 Samuel 25 and David snapped. Have you ever snapped, men?

A very rich and self-absorbed man named Nabal had treated David and his men with utter contempt and complete disrespect. Nabal by the way, was Abigail’s husband. Up to this point, David had shown great restraint and patience in God, but when Nabal treated David and his men the way he did, David went off the deep end. He was ready to slaughter the whole household of males by morning light (vs. 22). He geared up 400 of his soldiers and they were laser focused to deal out death and destruction.

In comes Abigail. Again, you will have to read 1 Samuel 25, but Abigail quickly came to David and his men and put herself in harm’s way to reason with him and call him down from this path of destruction. She reasoned with him about God’s working in his life, and about the dangerous consequences of the actions he was about to take.

David listened to Abigail! Any man who has ever been charged up with testosterone and adrenaline can understand and appreciate how hard it is to come down from that course and calm down…but David did. I do not want you to underestimate how amazing this was for David to stop, listen to Abigail, calm down, and change his course. Men, there is a great example for us in this.

  • He acknowledged God’s working in and through Abigail.
  • He recognized her discernment in how she handled this situation.
  • He admitted the course he was on was destructive.
  • He was willing to back down and calm down in front of his men.

Men, if you have a good, godly woman in your life…number one, thank the Lord Jesus for her! Secondly, listen to her. She just might save your life, and your soul.

Things to Say to Your Wife

Today’s MDB has some practical advice regarding things to say to your wife, as you seek to love her and honor her.

“Let’s pray about this.” When you have big decisions to make, sit down or kneel with your wife and pray about it. When life seems to be falling apart, take her hand and say, “Let’s talk to God.” When wonderful things are happening and you are overwhelmed with the goodness of God, say, “Let’s take a moment to praise God and thank Him.” Take time to pray with your wife.

“I’ll think about what you said.” This one is about valuing her opinion and input. This may be easier for some men than others. Some guys instantly argue, downplay and find fault in what their wives say instead of taking time to listen and really think about what they said. Value her, and that means take time to hear her out without picking apart her ideas.

“You were right.” Have you seen Megamind? I love when Megamind said to Minion, “Okay, Minion, you were right…I was…less right.” He just couldn’t say it. A lot of people (not just men) have a hard time admitting that they were wrong and someone else was right. I know in some relationships, the wife can make this harder because she really likes to tell her husband, “I told you so.” But develop humility, men, and give her the honor she deserves by acknowledging that she was right.

“I am sorry, please forgive me.” Again, very hard to say sometimes, but if I have been unkind and rude to my wife, then I need to “fess” up and tell her that I was a knucklehead. By the way, men, an apology is not an excuse for why you said or did something. For example: “I said this, because you said that.” That’s not an apology; that is saying “I was mean to you, dear, because you were rude to me.” That is not accepting and admitting responsibility for your own words and behavior, that is placing the blame upon her. Take ownership, men. “Honey, what I said to you was unkind and hurtful, and I ask you to forgive me.”

“How can I help you?” I know for me in the early years of our marriage, I spent a lot of time offering help to others in need instead of looking at home to my wife with small kids. Men, remember you made a vow to your wife, not to your buddies at work. You made a vow to your wife, not to the friends at church. If someone needs to be helped first, it is your wife. When she wants a night out, make that happen, and don’t make her feel bad about it. When she wants to get the house straightened up, you get right in there and help. In time, you will learn to help without her asking, and by the way, don’t brag when you do help. That’s hard for a lot of guys. We like to strut. We like to spike the football. I’ve tried that. “Honey, I did the dishes,” as if I did something amazing. She was very thankful, but not impressed. Anna replied, “I gave birth to six children.” Now, she did not say that to put me down, but Aaron needed a reminder that when I do something around the house, I shouldn’t expect a parade for it. Just saying.

“I’ll get right on that.” When you do commit to do something, get on it. Or if you tell her, “I will do that next week on Saturday,” then you’d better do that next week on Saturday. Make sure that she trusts you fully when you say you are going to finish a project. That shows her that you value her and cherish her. Think of the opposite, what statement is made to your wife, when you keep saying you will get to projects and you never complete them? How would your boss at work take that? If you can’t get to something, be honest about it; don’t make false promises.

For the lighter, funny side, watch this YouTube video by Tim Hawkins on “Things You Don’t Say To Your Wife.” Hilarious, but, really, don’t say these things to your wife!