“What were you thinking of?” she whispered as she turned and fluffed the pillow, and snuggled against his chest.

“To be honest?” he said, his arm under her cheek, his breath caressing her forehead. “There’s this woman at work with a drop dead gorgeous body, and sometimes I picture her when we’re making out. What about you?”

“My ex-husband. I mean, don’t misunderstand, I’m glad I left him, but he was much better at this part of our life than you are.”

SERIOUSLY! Are you nuts? Do you really think you can tell every stupid thought that goes through your brain and come off looking like a nice person?

Years ago in my struggling-to-develop ministry, with a church that was sometimes divided over issues, I got tired of people coming to me and saying, “Can I be totally honest?” Like, what was I going to say? “No, I’d rather you lie your head off”?

I got to the place where I started saying, “Only if I can be honest back.”

I discovered that when people ask, “Can I be honest?” what they really mean is, “I’m fixing to be very rude to you and insult you, and I’d like to get by with it by calling it honesty.”

If you haven’t learned it yet, marriage doesn’t always require total honesty. It’s like that Geico commercial where the narrator asks, “Was Abe Lincoln really honest?” And then it shows Mrs. Lincoln asking Abe, “Does this dress make my backside look fat?” And he studies it, then holds up his fingers in a pinch: “Just a little.” And she storms off with hurt feelings. At least they got it right. Some honesty hurts. And it’s not necessary.

I don’t want my wife telling me she wishes she had married someone else, even if it’s true. She doesn’t want me saying, “Just a little,” even if it’s true.

That doesn’t mean we have to lie. Jesus was a master at redirecting. When He was asked things He didn’t want to answer, He didn’t blurt out the truth. He often countered a question with another question. He redirected the conversation.

The classic might be the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers told Him, “We caught her in the act. Moses’ law commands us to stone her. What say you?” If He tells them to let her go, they’ll fry Him for heresy against Moses’ law. If he questions her guilt they’ll remind Him she was “caught in the act.” Instead, He just said, “Let he who is sinless throw the first stone at her.” He redirected their attention. Now instead of looking at her sin, they had to look at their own. Clever!

It’s a good trick to learn in marriage. It might work like this.

“What were you thinking of?” she whispered as she turned and fluffed the pillow, snuggling against his chest.

“I love the feel of your breath on my neck,” says the silver-tongued fox, grinning in the darkness.

No holiday affects marriage quite like Christmas, because, in part, it “requires” much more financial expense than other holidays. These days the majority of couples have to squeeze the dollar, and live month to month paying bills and having nothing left over. Then Christmas comes, and the demands to buy, buy, buy, can be disastrous. When the bills for Christmas-related expenses come due, and there is not enough to go around, tempers flare, embarrassment prevails, and the results can be devastating on a marriage.

It’s a shame. What could be one of the most meaningful and enjoyable times of the year becomes one of the most dreaded. Parents fear they won’t be able to buy the presents their children expect. Couples overspend trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” Spontaneous visits to the mall result in silent drives back home as the mind is trying to calculate how we’re going to pay for what we just put on a credit card, and the sinking feeling of despair cannot be brushed away by the giggling of excited children in the back seat of the car.

It is not our duty to buy our children a lot of nonsense. A generation ago the purchase of presents at Christmas had special significance to children because they didn’t get much during the year. Toys weren’t purchased every time a new one came out. Or every week during a mandatory trip to the mall. So opening presents at Christmastime was special. But kids get toys and gadgets all year long now. And they get clothes when they need them. It seems that the idea of opening a bunch of presents at an annual moment should have outlived its purpose or value.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to make Christmas about memories, and family, and, oh, I don’t know, Christ? Perhaps that’s why so many stores have begun dropping the “Christmas” and calling it “Holiday.” Maybe the marketers are afraid we’ll remember that the “holiday” was really supposed to be about “Christ.”

I don’t suppose for a moment that a short article from me will cause anyone to save a few dollars this Christmas. But just in case it could, here are a couple of tips that might save you some pain in a couple of months.

  1. Don’t go shopping with your friends. They’ll spend more than they should to impress you, and then you’ll spend more than you should so they won’t think you’re broke.
  2. Have a talk with your spouse and be brutally honest about whether you have any excess money lying around that you can just blow on the kids or each other. And then stick to your personal financial ability. No cheating. No lying.
  3. Plan some kind of activity that your family can do that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and which gives you a chance to talk about love and life and… the meaning of Christmas.
  4. Go to a church’s Christmas program, and sit back and enjoy the fact that your family is sitting there beside you. And since most churches’ programs are free, it won’t cost you a dime. You can even ignore the offering plate if they pass one.

Above all, be sensible at Christmas time. Share the story of Jesus, a Savior born like men, given by a loving God. You won’t fall out of favor with your family if you don’t spend a lot of money. And you’ll be miles ahead if you perpetuate the beautiful story of the baby in a manger who became the Savior who died, and now lives. In you. In your family.

Have a MERRY Christmas this year!