John Markum

26 Questions for 2023

As 2022 closes out, I once again observe the spectrum of attitudes about another revolution we’ve made around the sun together. They range from optimism and relief of a new year approaching to animosity over the notion to the point of cynicism of change.

The truth is, I love this time of year. It reminds us to take inventory, celebrate where appropriate, and learn where required – if we’re humble and wise enough. You can make your resolutions, yearly goals, or vision boards, but this isn’t intended to be a Pinterest post for ideas of any of those tools. What I do want to offer are the necessary questions I believe we should all consider as we look into the next year, regardless of how you may choose to organize your ambitions.

Consider unpacking these questions, maybe even journaling them out…

General Life Goals…

  • What would I have done in 2022 that I didn’t do?
  • What would I quit if able to in 2023?
  • If all my plans fall apart in this year besides one thing, what would I prioritize?
  • What advice would I give someone else in my exact situation?
  • What are the small pieces I can achieve toward bigger goals?
  • How will I make modest improvement this first week (rather than the year)?
  • What new skill will I commit a minimum of 3 months to develop and evaluate?
  • Who do I want to be in 10 years, and what would it look like to aim for that this year?

Spiritual Growth…

  • What can I trust God with that I shouldn’t be carrying?
  • If I’m not already, which church will I commit to serving and belonging to?
  • What is a single fruit of the Spirit I should focus on more this year?
  • Will I consider fasting at some point this year?
  • How will I be more faithful in my generosity?
  • Who has God put in my life for accountability I should reach out to?
  • Who has God put in my life to share my faith with?
  • Who has God put in my life to disciple/mentor me in my current season?
  • Who has God put in my life for me to disciple/mentor in this current season?

Relationship Goals…

  • (Single) If I want to find a spouse, how will I go about looking?
  • (Single) If I want a spouse, how I be the kind of person that would attract someone I’d like to marry?
  • (Single) If I don’t intend to marry any time soon, who will I do life with to be my best self?
  • (Married) How will I love my spouse as Christ loves the church?
  • (Married) When will I take my spouse on our next date, and where?
  • If I have kids, what do I want to help them achieve in this next season?
  • Who have I not forgiven that I need to forgive?
  • Who do I owe an apology to?
  • What boundaries should I maintain or establish?

Our first middle schooler

I’m writing this post, knowing full well that the subject matter of my children is increasingly something they will eventually become aware of. Yet I had to commit my thoughts and feelings on their journey, since so much of my life and identity is inextricably linked to them. Enter, Emilee Markum. My oldest child…

Emilee, by the time you get the chance to read this, it’ll likely mean you’ve finally got your grades up and earned your first cell phone. Congrats, baby girl! I knew you would do it. Everything about you has forever changed who I am. You’re my first kid! Every new season of life you encounter also marks a new season for me.

Your birth made me a father for the very first time. You were my first child to take their first steps, go to their first day of school. Everything about being a dad – you were the first in all of it. I still remember being 23 and having your mother run in to tell me we were going to have a baby… that we were going to have you in our family. I’ll never forget that flood of emotions as I managed uncontrollable waves of love, excitement, and to a lesser degree, panic!

Now you’re in middle school, and trying really hard to become a young woman. Despite my best efforts to slow you down, time seems to be consistently marching in your favor. There are so many things I want to tell you, but I want to give you just 4 things to cling to in this season of your life:

  1. No matter what you do, or where life takes you – both I, and your Heavenly Father, will always welcome you back with open arms.
  2. Remember who you are! You are not who anyone tells you to be, you are who you know you are. A child of God. A dearly loved daughter. You are strong, able, resilient, and growing.
  3. Mistakes are just opportunities to grow. When you fail, instead of beating yourself up, choose to rise up. There’s nothing you can’t do.
  4. I will always love you. I’m so proud of you, girl. For good and otherwise, you have so much of me in you. I see it every time I look at you. And you’ve got what it takes, kid! Even if you don’t know it yet.

One day, you’ll be a grown woman despite my earnest protests. Just be patient with your mom and me. And know that as much as we want to keep you to ourselves, we understand and are completely committed to what God wants to do through you. While we have a responsibility to protect you, we also know we’re called to train you – to unleash you to do all God put you in this world to do. And before you figure all of that out, we just want you to know – we believe in you, Emilee. And we’re already proud of you.

All my heart,

Affair Proof Marriage

AP marriage“He cheated on me. He finally admitted it. I never thought this would happen to us.”

I’ve heard some version of this sickening story enough to make me want to puke just thinking about it. And I’ve heard it from the men almost as often as I have the wife. Sadder still, several of the couples broken by sexual deviance were pastoral homes – men and women who at some point were serving as a ministry leader in a church. People who were suppose to be examples in their community of what a healthy marriage should look like.

Truth is, none of are any better – we’re capable, as we are, of doing the same thing. The only thing that will make any of our lives turn out differently is if we choose to set ourselves above temptation and opportunity. But those things require commitment, discipline, and hard work. But the payoff is worth it by far. Here are a few things that my wife and I try to live out, and what we teach other couples to do if they want an affair-proof marriage:

  1. No opposite sex besties. When it comes to women, I only have one best friend, and she married me over 11 years ago. That kind of emotional intimacy to a different person other than your spouse will always cause tension. It’s inevitable. Yes, I know of a small few exceptions, but I know overwhelmingly far more broken marriages.
  2. Never alone with another man/woman. We have rules about who’s at our house when the other is not here. If I’m home alone, no other woman comes into the house with me. And kids don’t count. The opposite is true with Tiffany. Yes, I know that being alone doesn’t lead to sex. But it does lead to stray thoughts, temptation, and suspicion. I’d prefer to keep a clear conscience. I don’t even ride alone in a car with another woman. Sound weird? Fine by me. My wife trusts me. And her opinion matters more to me. Maybe we should all be called weird for the sake of affair-proofing our marriages.
  3. Open tech. Tiffany and I have unlimited, open access to each others’ phones, tablets, Netflix, emails, social media, private messages, web browsers, etc. And since I know she can see any of my stuff at any point in time, I’m never tempted to look at something, or communicate with someone in any way that I would be ashamed to show her.
  4. Work on our problems. We don’t get to sleep until we work through our arguments. That has led to some very exhausting, tear-filled late nights. It’s been 3am before problems finally found resolution. It’s not over until there are sincere apologies (on both sides), forgiveness, and a plan to work forward from that point. What does that have to do with affairs? Many of them begin because the grass looks greener on the other side. Usually, that just means you need to pull some weeds and water your own lawn.
  5. Date each other. Not having time and money are excuses. You make time for what’s important, and you can be cheap – just spend time together, and focus on each other. You don’t even have to go out every time. Staying in the habit of investing time and effort into your marriage pays dividends in multiple areas. It reinforces your connection, builds trusts, and fulfills emotional intimacy that often leads to keeping good sexual intimacy between each other.

May your marriage and family never be scarred by the wound of an affair. And to those of you who have endured it and made it with your marriage intact, I find you phenomenally gracious, committed people.  To those who didn’t make it, my heart breaks for you. Healing and hope are still yours to be had. I pray you find both in due time.

Pastor John

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