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Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Message For Grief - Shove Off!

This is a slight change-of-pace, to link up with Kate Motaung's post today,"Letters To Grief". It's a follow-up to her book of the same name...only 99 cents on Amazon.

So here's my contribution.

Dear Grief,

They say your presence is cleansing, cathartic...a severe mercy that allows the soul to recover from loss, and move forward into a diminished world with the confidence gained from having once had that which has been lost.

Or something.

But there's a problem. Change and loss are a part of life, and grief is thereby sorrow at not being able to hold on to something or someone...the sorrow that attachment does not work.

And it doesn't. We have to let go gracefully, because we can't, under any circumstances, hold on.

That makes you, Grief, something like a second cousin to greed.

Everything in life is loaned to us. Everything will pass in the temporal world.

In the eternal, it all comes back, and we'll see that we never really lost it at all.

So, Grief, why are you here?

To give us the wistful sentimentality that sad songs engender? Are you here to inflict pain that we justify because "it makes us feel alive"?

Perhaps I see you differently now, because I have lived with death at my elbow, and am now close to death myself (or so the doctors say).

I don't need you. I never did, because God saved up everything good. It was never lost.

My wife does not need you. I will be waiting for her. Her life should be full, and you, Grief, have no right to tell her it's diminished.

So, Grief, no offense, but take your sad songs and sentimental slogans and wistful cards, and take a hike.

If you have the chance, won't you drop by my other blog, "Starting the Day with Grace"? It's a quote and short commentary that I hope will bring a touch of light into your marriage and your life.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adore Like Mongo - Five Minute Friday

And here we are again.

It's Five-Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Montaung. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

There will be a two week hiatus from Five-Minute Fridays over Christmas and New Years', but I will be here.

Today's word is adore.

GO.

The first thing that came to mind was a college anecdote - a young man walked into the library, and from the open door called out to the rather pretty girl at the checkout desk (on whom he had a major crush), "Je t'adore!"

Without looking up, she replied, "Shut it yourself."

Have you ever had one of those moments in your marriage, when you want to make an adoring gesture, and it just falls completely flat?

Road kill?

What do you do?

The worst thing to do is,of course, pull back, and not try that again. The thing is, marriage is all about embarrassment, humiliation, and feeling like an idiot...because you are with someone who recognizes that you can indeed be pretty dumb, and is free to call you on it.

So, what do you do?

Pick up your ego, shake off the dust and gravel, and have another go.

That's what adoration is all about. It's not expecting a specific return.

It's a gift.

STOP

Whoa! FOUR minutes!

If you have the chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace", at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stay Married for Christmas 2 - The Money Pit

Do you hate the January credit-card bills?

If you do, you're sure not alone! A significant part of the US spends far more than they have on any given Christmas, and spends the next year trying to pay back the borrowed excess.

When they succeed, it's time for the cycle to start again, and it's one of the most unpleasant issues that affects marriages.

"HOW much did you spend on presents for your family?"

"Less than you spent on that stupid sculpture for your Mom's office!"

"It's original art! She needed that, he office was too sterile...":

And so it goes. We spend more than we should, and sometimes more than we agreed to spend.

And we hide it, taking off price tags and hoping that when the bills arrive the presents themselves are just a dim memory.

Is this how we have to celebrate the birth of God into poverty?

It shouldn't be, and here are some suggestions on how to spend within your means, and plan Christmas spending together.

Spending within your means isn't hard to achieve, but it does take some concrete steps.

  1. Set a budget, based on your actual income and cash outlow. If you get a Christmas bonus, do NOT include it in your calculation, Keep the bonus.in reserve.
  2. Make a list of people for whom you have to buy something, and set a maximum dollar amount, keeping within your budget.
  3. Don't have your wallet or purse with you when you're on the Internet. Impulse purchases tend to be the ones that get us into trouble, and impulse purchases are so very easy to do from a computer.
  4. Take ownership of your shopping by posting the receipts in a prominent place...like the refrigerator.
  5. If you overspend, admit it, and don't try to justify
Working together to plan Christmas spending takes both commitment and transparency. You have to admit what you plan to spend, and you have to work with your spouse to make it less.

  1. Make a list of presents in order of priority (i.e, children first), and don't make substitutions unless it's absolutely necessary.
  2. With each entry on the list, subtract it from your budgeted Christmas spending, and write down the result.This kind of running tally shows you - accurately - exactly where the money's going.
  3. Practice giving in. If your husband or wife is dead-set on spending more than has been alotted, there is probably a good reason.
See?

It's survivable.

And working together can be fun.



(If you have the chance, please visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Book Well Worth Reading

I rarely do book reviews, but today's an exception. This particular volume moved me deeply, and I hope that you'll consider reading it.

As a straight-up disclosure, I bought this book from Amazon, and liked it so much I decided to review it here.

The book is The Last Zero Fighter, by Dan King. It's the stories of five of the last surviving Japanese naval aviators from the Second World War; but what they tell is not so much of war.

It's really about love, loyalty, and honour.

Mr. King is well-qualified to tell the stories of these men; he spent many years living in Japan, and is fluent in the language and well-versed in Japanese culture and history. He has worked as a consultant on many films dealing with Japanese history, such as The Last Samurai, Windtalkers,  Flags of our Fathers, and Letters from Iwo Jima.

The stories introduce the aviators as they were at the time of the interviews (sadly, several have since passed away), and then drops back in time to let them tell their stories, from childhood through training, to their operational assignments...and the aftermath of a war their country lost.

The first thing you'll find, as a common thread, is love. Love of country, yes, but also love of family, of comrades, and of life itself. We have a Western conception of the Japanese fighting man of WW2 as being a suicidal fanatic, but these fellows - and they are, I think, fairly typical - do not fit that mold.

They wanted to fly. They wanted families. They mourned their fallen friends, and they feared for their country. Making war wasn't up to them, but fighting to the best of their ability was, and that was their path of honour.

Hard questions are not avoided. An officer whose performance bordered on cowardice is pilloried by one of Mr.King's interviewees, who felt that with an officer's rank came the obligation to take a path that would lead to certain death. It was expected.

And one of the aviators, Isamu Miyazaki, spent some time on Wake Island, where 98 American civilian construction workers were captured by the Japanese in late 1941, and kept working on the island. This particular pilot had a dental problem, and was treated by one of the prisoners. Miyazaki liked them, and said they were "a nice bunch of guys".

During King;'s interview, Miyazaki was horrified to learn that none of the prisoners had survived the war. They had been executed in late 1943, when the garrison commander thought the Americans were about to invade.

We share so much with these men, who were our erstwhile enemies.And their stories were nearly lost, but for the efforts of a diligent few who have had the gumption to seek out these elderly, and sometimes reclusive veterans.

To hear them clearly, we have to look at ourselves, and put aside prejudice.

To see their faces, we have to pull the stereotypes from our lenses.

To know them, we have to recognize our common humanity.

And why am i reviewing a book about Japanese naval aviators in a Christian marriage blog?

Simple. We have and obligation to God and to our mates to be better than we are, for them, and for the relationship.

These stories, in The Last Zero Fighter, will inspire you to do just that.

Click here to see the Amazon page.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare To Meet Thy God - Five Minute Friday

Hi!

It's Five-Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Montaug. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

For me, it's going to take longer; and I will write less. Still recovering, and it is the best I can do, and I ask your pardon for the awkwardness.

Today's word is prepare.

GO.

Prepare to meet God...but if He doesn't show, say hello to your spouse instead.

Same difference.

Before your eyebrows raise so high they get caught in your bangs, remember this - marriage is a sacrament,

That means that functionally,it reflects, or is supposed to reflect your relationship with the Almighty.

So, you're supposed to treat your spouse like you;d treat God. or, to make it a bit more human, there should be no difference in your demeanour if your talking to your husband or wife, and Jesus walks in and sits down at the dinner table.

Scary, eh?

It means that you have to treat your spouse with respect, courtesy, and...reverence.The last is kind of hard to do when faced with morning breath, I know. But according to the rules, the ones in the Bible and the ones we agreed to before our smate, our friends, the community, God, and our in-laws...it's a must. Period. Full stop.

But there's a flip side, and that is that it may redefine how we think we're supposed to see God. Not as a stern authoritarian Judge, not even as Daddy (still an authority), but as an intimate. Someone with whom we can joke around, someone with whom we can be ourselves without fear of judgement.

This is not a God of Our Sunday Best.

This is an Everyday God.

STOP

If you have the chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace", at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stay Married for Christmas, Part 1

Okay, maybe that title is a bit extreme, but Christmas is a time during which a marriage can take some heavy blows.

Ironic, that the season of the Norman rockwell ideal of togetherness can drive couples apart.

This three-part series will offer some suggestion on how to steer your relationship through the Christmas Rapids...and, perhaps, come out stronger and closer.

We'll focus on three areas:

  1. The Dysfunctional Celebration - we all have something of an imprint, of how we hope and expect Christmas will be celebrated....and it always seems to fall short, so we blame (explicitly or implicitly) the closest available person...our husband or wife
  2. The Money Pit - anyone out there who's never overspent on Christmas?
  3. Walking parallel paths - the problem with parallel paths is that, by definition, they never meet.
Today we'll talk about the dysfunctional celebration.

Everything is more beautiful in retrospect, and this applies to the Christmases of our past. As we grow up, and leave our original families, we carry the inspiration - and shackles - of those traditions with us.

This is fine if we're single; we can build a single life as a monument to past traditions, in either a literal or symbolic way, but when we marry...surprise!..we realize that we're together with...or up against...someone with their own set of traditions.

Sometimes the traditions can be slotted together, to stand side by side in harmony, but all too often it becomes a power struggle, often made worse by pressure from parents and in-laws ("You mean you're not going to put up the wreath your little cousin made in Sunday School? It's your husband's fault, isn't it?")

What to do? The solution starts with cooperation, and continues through trust. You have to be willing to tell your spouse what parts of your Christmas traditions mean the most to you, you have to listen to what's important to your mate, and you've got to be able to trust that what you've offered as something of a vulnerability of your soul will be respected, and will be protected.

And then...implement those important traditions. Take up the "cause" of your spouse's traditions, and make sure they come to pass.

Set limits, though, to keep an approximately equal level of influence. Make the individual traditions a part of the celebration, but for the rest, make a deliberate effort to create new traditions.

Your own traditions, as a couple.

You don't have to create them all at once; that's a stress in itself. Instead, go to Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby or wherever, and find something that speaks to both of you. (Find Christmas traditions in a store? Sure, and why not? The context of our lives comes from stores; Wal Mart or Neiman-Marcus, or, a century ago, the Sears Roebuck catalog. There's no shame in this, because it's simply the most convenient way to live, a way that affords the leisure to contemplate at length the deeper meaning of Christmas.)

Maybe it'll be a cooking project.

Maybe it'll be a board game, to be played during Christmas Week.

Maybe you'll choose to go to dinner theater, with a Christmas theme.

The point is to find something that you both like, and that you've never really done, at least not in the Christmas context.

If the in-laws or the parents turn up their noses, well, it;s none of their business, because it's your Christmas. It's time to agree on a united from, and to stay with it.

How do you and your spouse cooperate to share old traditions, and start new ones?


(If you have the chance, please visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!

Friday, December 5, 2014

What We Hold Dear - Five Minute Friday

I am back...sort of. Not quite myself, but I'm going to try. And I am so very, very grateful for the prayers, support, and love I have received.

One day I will write about what happened - traumatic amnesia is a singular event. But I can't do that now.

Instead, once again, it's Five-Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Montaug. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

But for me, it's going to take longer; and I will write less. It is the best I can do, and I ask your pardon for the awkwardness.

Today's word is dear.

GO.

The first thing that came to mind was a fragment of  a poem by Richard Lovelace:

I could love, thee, dear, so much,
loved I not honor more.

We all want romance; no exceptions. Some men try to hide the longing, and some women do, as well.

But there is a price to be able to love fully, and that's loving with honor. Loving when someone is hard to love, believing when faith and trust seem dead, being loyal when you've been repaid by betrayal.

Because you made a promise.

That stuff happens in marriage - all of it.

And honor is not holding onto love, but holding onto the honor of a promise, because that's what we can most closely hold dear.


STOP


If you have the chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace", at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.