Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Covet (a poem)

I wrote this a while ago. I post it in reponse to a post on another marriage blog here .

What images of passion
delicious kisses words
and hot embraces
are forgotten in the
of our desire?

Doors of opportunity
open themselves to us
and we stand blinded
hearts and minds coveting
more and more

That which we do not yet have
hanging beyond our reach
taunts our grasping hands
shines bright obscuring all
that we’ve been given

We grasp and stretch and lunge
at ripe red apples and
fields of luscious green
while our own grass withers
our fruit
spoils at our feet

Monday, May 23, 2011

Still here? (or, "recalculating..." )

(not ONLY about marriage, but intrinsically tied to the ideals, so it fits)

Said Keith Bauer, truck driver and May 21st rapture believer, "I was hoping for it, because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth."

I'm making this guy, for the purpose of this blog entry, the poster child for how Christians these days seem to be completely missing the point. There's a whole lot of people out there (Christians and otherwise) who seem to have given up on this world, this time, this life. The "Left Behind" series of books are indicative of the view of a lot of people that they would much rather be whisked away to some peaceful, magical place instead of stay here. In the now. In this world that - I'll agree - we are doing a pretty good job of mucking up.

I'll posit that this is a cowardly and lazy attitude. I'll draw a parallel that is a particular sore point with me by asking this question: how many divorces happen because one or both people involved assume they are in the wrong "place" with the wrong partner? Suffering from the "grass is greener" syndrome, they let their union fall apart, with devastating effects on those around them so they can seek their own happiness. Tony Hawk just walked away from his third wife to run off with the wife of his best friend. The former governor of South Carolina ran off to South America to be with his "soul mate." Sorry, wife and kids. Ah-nold boinks members of his house staff rather than pursue his wife. Hey Maria, I'll be (stabbing you in the) back.

My theory here is that rapture madness and selfish relationship trends are part of the same problem: the unwillingness (or inability) to look critically at the world around us, at our relationships, at ourselves, and simply get to work. Isn't it just easier to start over and hope for the best than to do the work necessary to make our current situation all that it can be? All that it is meant to be?

Let me quote N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham, England, from his book Simply Christian.

Despite what many people think, within the Christian family and outside it, the point of Christianity isn't 'to go to Heaven when you die.'

Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what's going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn't a matter of doing things to earn God's favour. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God's new world.

Right there in the Lord's prayer it says "Your kingdom come, your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven." in Revelation, do the believers all ascend into some world of clouds and harps and halos? No God's city, the new Jerusalem, comes down. Heaven bows down to earth so that the two are (re)joined. As Christians we need to grasp the fact that God, through Christ, has given us a glimpse of what the nature of the kingdom will be, and it is our job to help usher it in. That will take massive amounts of work. Think on the descriptions of the kingdom in Revelation. No more hunger, no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears. No hatred. No anger. Look at the world we're in; we have a lot of work to do. Its very easy to look at the world we are in and lose hope; to be overwhelmed. Just as its easy to look at a relationship that has begun to sour and think how much easier it would be to throw it away and start a new one. Much harder is rolling up your sleeves and doing the work necessary. In a marriage it often means changing yourself; your expectations, your willingness to let go your own needs and meet your spouse's instead, to look at yourself critically and work on being the partner that your husband or wife needs you to be. "That's no fun," many say. "Why should I have to change? Why not just find someone who will give me what I need as I am?" Concerning this world it's not much fun to work at alleviating hunger, poverty, and disease. It's hard to love those that hate you, to bless those that curse you, to forgive those that hurt you, to comfort those who mourn, to make peace where conflicts occur.

But what is the cost of turning away from that work? At what price our own comfort? By thinking small we rob ourselves of the joy that comes in selflessness, in giving, in compassion, in helping to further the cause of God’s vision for what this world can be. Rob Bell said in his book Love Wins:

The people who are most concerned with going to Heaven when they die don’t throw very good parties here and now.

The real danger in focusing on getting to heaven (and salvation can’t be earned, anyway) is that is fosters the belief that this world is disposable. Why work for making it better? Why try when I’m just going to leave? God called his creation “very good” in Genesis. It is not meant as merely a soul incubator. Throughout the Old and New Testaments the recurring theme is the redemption of all things, the making right of all things, the reconciliation of the Creator with creation. The universe isn’t meant to be thrown away when its usefulness has expired.

The New Testament is indeed full of rules on how to live this kind of life, one that works towards the redemption of all things, but it is important that we see these rules for what they are. Again, N.T. Wright:

The rules are to be understood, not as arbitrary laws thought up by a distant God to stop us from having fun (or to set up some ethical hoops to jump through as a kind of moral examination) but as the signposts to a way of life in which heaven and earth overlap, in which God's future breaks in to the present, in which we discover what genuine humanness looks and feels like in practice.

Why would anybody hope for a ticket out of that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Marriage Moments

(The theme of all my articles in the newsletter has been "Marriage Moments." I guess it was just a matter of time until I titled an article eponomously)

In the course of a day there are four particular points where you can exercise great influence on the direction of your marriage - four 'marriage moments' you could say. If you and your spouse commit to connecting at these four times every day (or as often as possible), you will stay connected and stave off the 'drift' that is so easy to succumb to. Your marriage will definitely get better and your love for each other will grow stronger. These four times during the day can be ports in the storm of your hectic lives where you can feel safe and secure. They are opportunities to actively make your marriage what you want it to be. If you spend five minutes on each that's twenty minutes total, or just 1.39% of a whole day. It's a small amount of time to invest, but one that can pay dramatic dividends.

> When you wake up <
The love of your spouse should be like manna, a nourishing gift from God that can sustain you and get you through your day.

Gather it morning by morning, each as much as you can eat. -Exodus 16:21

> Before you leave the house <
None of us knows what the future holds, not even an hour from now. Let there be no doubt of your mutual love when you leave each other's presence.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. -Proverbs 27:1

> When you return home <
Tired and weary from a day out in the world, when you get home let your relationship with your spouse be for you an oasis - a place of refuge, solace and rest. Put aside all the stress and fatigue, and take your spouse in your arms.

My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.
-Song of Solomon 1:14

You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water
and streams flowing from Lebanon.
-Song of Solomon 4:15

> Before you go to sleep <
Whatever has occured during the day, kiss each other before falling asleep. If there are things to be discussed - lingering anger or hurt, any unresolved issues - agree to discuss them... tomorrow. In the meantime, remember your vows to love, honour and cherish are sacred, and more important than anything else. Choose to let anything that stands between you fall to the wayside, and let the kiss remind you of everything you love about your spouse.

Be angry and yet do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger.
-Ephesians 4:26


The relationship between husband and wife should be like armor, there to shield and protect you both against everything life throws your way. When the relationship between husband and wife (and between both spouses and God) is right, then you feel invincible; nothing can get to you, nothing can shake your faith or threaten your union. Use these four opportunities each day to make sure your armor is on. Revel in these moments; intentionally remember how blessed you are by having each other to lean on, and be grateful.

Friday, May 6, 2011


1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up

It is critical for all of us to not become stagnant. We must keep growing as people, and in our walks with God. Spouses have a unique opportunity to (gently!) push each other along, to help each other grow. A marriage should be a environment that fosters this kind of development. Are you two not only encouraging each other, but are you pushing each other towards personal growth and self-expansion? An article I read in the NY Times posited that might be a key to having a marriage that lasts.

article here:

To wit: "Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship."

For example, I've spoken often about how my wife and I have pushed each other musically. She has grown to enjoy some heavy metal (a love of mine since middle school). She is an avid fan of classical music (her mother was a voice teacher and all-around music afficionado) and as such she has led me to discover and enjoy some opera and orchestral that I may have never found on my own. She has also developed a love of fantasy literature, and her sense of culinary adventure has spurred me on to be willing to try any food at least once!

It is important to retain some interests that are your own, and it certainly isn't necessary to adopt every one of your spouse's interests, but discovering new things that you can enjoy with each other has definite advantages. You remain separate people - but you ALSO become more fully a couple, one flesh as it says in Genesis 2:24.

These points of common interest can be seemingly small; forwarding interesting articles to one another, reading a book and discussing it, critiquing a new CD together. You don't have to agree about everything of course, but the discussions become shared experiences, chances to bond and gain insight into each others' head and heart.

We should all be continually learning about our spouses. The human soul is infinitely complex, and it takes a lifetime to really get to know that person you've chosen to spend your life with. In the NYT article, Dr. Lewandowski says, “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.” So, keep learning about each other. Keep growing together. Push each other as you go.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


In the post titled "Dating" I cited 1 Corinthians 7:5 as justification for giving your all to your spouse, not withholding anything. I will mention it again, in the context of verses 3 and 4. (from the New Living Translation, so there is no ambiguity)

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

I love Kevin Lehman's summary of this verse from his "Making the Most of Marriage" study:

What the apostle Paul is telling married folks is 'do it.
Then pray together.
Then do it again.'

Some book, that Bible... I don't think I've ever heard a priest or pastor do a message based on this verse, and that's really too bad. The church has always shied away from discussing sex openly. Again, as Lehman said, "If there is anybody who should be talking about sex, it is the church!" But on the whole, we don't, and our world is the worse for it. In the absence of talk about its place in God's plan for marriage, we have let the world define its place in our culture and our lives. Sex is a gift from God, and it is meant to be enjoyed by husbands and wives. Married folks should claim it as their privilege to revel in each other's embrace without shame; indeed, with unabashed joy.

Like all gifts though, sex needs to be both given and received in the right spirit. As soon as it is seen as a "duty" it loses its magic. All other emotional and relational needs must be met and fulfilled before sex can take its rightful place. A Florida pastor challenged the married couples in his congregation to make love to each other every night for a month. Article here:

(A pastor in Texas issued a 7-day challenge; more modest, but in the same spirit) In light of all the other articles I've written, I’ll suggest that the real challenge here is not for the one spouse whose libido is lesser to "just do it" for the sake of the couple meeting the goal. The challenge is for the spouse whose libido is greater: can they be the partner (in all senses) that their spouse needs? Can they kindle desire in their spouse over and over? Can they be the someone their spouse wants to make love to every night for a week – or a month?

In one sense, sex in a marriage is akin to the good works the Bible tells us we are created for. (see Ephesians 2:10) Good works are not an end unto themselves, or the price of admittance into Heaven. What they are is the appropriate response to the love God has for His people.
Sex - passionate, fulfilling sex – is not a duty, or a bargaining chip, or a goal. It should be the joyous response to the love of your spouse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It says in Proverbs 5:18-19:

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always, may you be intoxicated always with her love.

Every marriage eventually reaches the disillusionment stage, when reality sets in. Expectations are not met, hopes are unfulfilled. It is easier at this stage to believe that what we don’t have must be better than what we do; but the grass is not greener. It is a trick of the eye - or more to the point a trick of the heart and mind. It plays upon that aspect of human nature that always wants what it doesn’t – or can’t – have. Humans tend to be lazy, to not want to do the work required to transform what we have into what we want; especially if that involves changing ourselves.

When we took our vows though, we said some variation of “Until death do us part.” If we meant what we said, then we must remain devoted to our spouse, committed to making the marriage we have work – for both people! When our devotion wanes, when we start to believe the lie that it is better “out there,” we stop enjoying our life. That runs counter to what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 9:9.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your life that are given you under the sun.

I've heard it said that "women marry men thinking the men will change – and they don’t - while men marry women thinking the women won’t change – and they do." It is important for everyone to accept their spouse for who they are, and not pine for who they were, or yearn for who they could be. Love your spouse for who they are each minute - for all their virtues sure, but also with all their quirks and flaws. In Mark Twain’s “Diaries of Adam and Eve” both protagonists come to this conclusion in their own way.

Eve writes “The garden is lost, but I have found him, and am content.” She then goes on for pages trying to figure out why she loves Adam, listing many of his qualities and stating that she admires him and is proud of him for these - but they are not why she loves him. She states finally, “I think I love him because he is masculine, and he is mine.” He is Adam, and for her that is enough.

Adam, being a guy, comes to his epiphany in far fewer words. At her grave he remarks, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”

If you have drifted, take the time to once again DEVOTE yourself to your spouse. Recognize that God put the two of you together for a reason, and do everything in your power to make the best of what you’ve been given. Do it well, and the grass on the “other side of the fence” will look far less green.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


1 Corinthians 10:31
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Does how you love your spouse honor God, and give Him glory? Are you loving your spouse as best as you can, using all the tools you possess? God brought the two of you together because in His eyes you could love each other as no one else could, because you could love each other *just* the way you each needed to be loved. He equipped you uniquely with abilities and interests, with memories and experiences that make you precisely who you are. It is God’s plan that who you are fits who your spouse is in ways that make you both better, that allow you to live and grow together in joy and love. Are you using these gifts as He intended?

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

If you are, God is not the only one who will notice. If your love, your marriage, honors God with the depth and breadth of the love contained within it, it will shine with His light and others will notice. It will be an example of His plan that others can learn from. Much has been made of the fact that the divorce rate for Christian couples is no different than the rate for the un-churched. According to the General Social Survey (2000-2004) though, this is not true. (48% for all non-Christians vs. 41% for all Christians) What is more interesting though is this: broken down further, FREQUENT Christians (defined as going once or more per week) have a rate of 32%. More than once a week could mean they are involved in small groups and bible studies, or just that they go to multiple services. Either way, these are couples who are constantly in the Word. They are concerned with their spiritual growth, with progressing in their journey towards God, with making the most of their gifts according to His will.

What is your spouse if not a glorious gift to you from God? Loving that person in ways that are holy and good, as best you can is the way you thank God for that gift, and honor Him.

Monday, May 2, 2011


tic toc tic toc tic toc

Is there a more important gift we can give to our spouses than our time? How often during a regular week does your husband or wife have your undivided attention? What are the things that take up your time – or rather, what do you choose to spend your time on? There are so many ways we could reclaim time in our marriages - but this month let’s focus on one.

I read an article suggesting that when a couple marries, they should vow to turn of their TV - until their first anniversary! Another article on Lent posited people would have a harder time giving up TV than anything else. It would be too great a sacrifice for most - what about you? Could you give it up for a year? A month? A week? There is an official "natiaonal screen free" week, but you can try it any time. As the apostle Paul wrote in Phillipians 4:8:

...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

How much of what is on TV or the web embodies those qualities? Are there better things you could be dwelling on - like the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with, perhaps?

For you it might not be TV. There is a multitude of other gadgets and things that consume our precious time; internet ready cell phones, video games, social networking sites. What could be gained if you and your spouse spent the time one or both of you would have been watching TV (or surfing the net, etc.) talking, asking each other questions, discussing dreams, or just walking around the neighborhood holding hands? One of the challenges in the Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (as seen in the movie Fireproof) is to become a "student" of your spouse. It is too easy to think you know them fully and thus wind up taking them for granted. A human soul is complex though... there is ALWAYS something new to learn if you take the time to seek it. A woman once commented to me, "I've been married to my husband for almost forty years - and I'm still finding out things about him of which I had no idea!"

So, where are you at in your "education" concerning your spouse? Do you have your "high school diploma" yet? Your associates or bachelors degree? Have you started grad school?
Wherever you are in the process, recommit yourself to getting to know that person better, for bby doing so you will learn how better to love them. Commit to spending more of your time together.