Why we're here...

Love and marriage are the greatest adventures in life, and they point they way to our relationship with the Almighty.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Marriage Dare - Five Minute Friday

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.

We must all be mad. This is not easy.

The word for today is dare.


Marriage is a dare.

It's a dare to become part of someone's life, someone you probably didn't know until you were an adult.

It's a dare to commit to a life of service, a life of putting someone else first.

Not what we're used to, when we're young. Sure, we talk about it, talk about service in the church, service to our country...but at the end of it, we have the sneaking hope that there will be something left for us.

Marriage is not like that.

When you marry, you give your whole heart, your whole life. That's the vow you make, before God, your spouse, and your community.

To thee I pledge all I am.

That's why I write about marriage, both in this blog, in my other blog (www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com), and in my novels.

Marriage is the greatest adventure in life. It beats getting shot at for short-term thrills, and a good marriage beats wealth for satisfaction and joy.

I'll support it as long as I can put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. Pen to paper sounds better, eh?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Physical Respect - The Third Pillar

This is the third installment of our series on the Seven Pillars of Marital Respect. Today we're talking about the third pillar - physical respect.

A large part of this - though not all of it - has to do with sex, so let's get that one done first.

Paul enjoins us to consider our bodies to be not our own, but belonging to our spouse, and that has to be one of the most misused pieces of Scripture in the New Testament.

Taken in its full context, Paul's talking about a fully Christian marriage in which respect is so deeply ingrained that we can trust our spouses with a measure of 'control' over our bodies.

What that really means is this - that "I have a headache" means you'll get a couple of Tylenol and a hug, not a comment about "spousal duty in the bedroom".

Physical respect grows out of emotional and spiritual respect, realizing that your spouse wants to be a full physical partner in marriage...but accepting in good grace that some times are simply not good.

Physical respect does not read rejection into "please, not tonight". Physical respect trusts.

Physical respect also focuses on a spouse's fulfilment as the first priority. "How was it for you?" sinply isn't enough.

"How can I make this a special experience for you?" is better, and it should be said well in advance of time spent in the bedroom. Anticipation is important for women...and it is important for men, too, whatever popular culture may tell you.

And...I hesitate to bring this up...physical respect does not view pornography. At all. Ever.

First, pornography (usually a failing of men) is degrading to both men and women. It creates a mindset in which a woman is viewed as a receptacle. View any woman that way - and you're well on your way to seeing your wife in the same light.

Second, pornography plants ideas...and guys, can you imagine how disappointing it would be for your wife if you suddenly suggested something 'new', and she quickly realizes you got the inspiration from watching porn?

The first time that happens, you'll have lost something, a shared innocence, that you will not regain.

Enough about sex.

There are other types of physical respect, as well, and these deal with health, fitness, and body image.

Health is important, and we should encourage one another to eat healthy, avoid smoking, and so on...but we should not harangue or blackmail. We've got to credit our mates with the ability to make adult decisions, and if they don't, we have to forbear to impose guilt. That's not our job; it's God's.

I used to be a runner, and I married a weightlifter (talk about role reversal!), so fitness was important to both Barbara and me...but when we established a home, suddenly we found we didn't have time to stay fit. It hurt us individually,and it hurt our marriage.

What we didn't realize was that we owed one another the creation of opportunities to keep fit. It meant that if Barbara wanted to go to the gym, I would find a way to keep myself occupied...without complaint. And if I needed to go for a run, Barbara would find something to do, and not pointedly ask how long I'd need (which she never did).

We should encourage exercise; it's wonderful if it can be shared, but if not...encourage the separate times. Again, it;s not a rejection. Trust that.

Finally, body image. You may one day find that the slim Romeo you married has turned into Elmer Fudd, and how did that happen?

And he may be fine with it. Men can be pretty accepting of what they look like (well, maybe "in denial" is a better way of putting it).

It's not your job to correct him, ladies. If he has accountability partners among his friends, they should handle it...but from you, it's going to come across as disrespectful and critical, even if your pure motivation is love and care. That just how it is.

And guys, if your wife has put on weight...she knows it. She does not need to be reminded, ever, in any way.

She needs to be loved for WHO she is.

Please stop by my other blog, www.dailgracequote.wordpress.com, for a quick look at a quote and commentary on grace in marriage

And...we're pleased to announce that Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart is now a part of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association! This is a tremendous honor, and we're delighted!

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fear and Hope

"Any man out here who's not afraid is either dead or a liar"- attributed to Capt. A. A. Haldane, USMC, at the Battle of Peleliu, Sept. 16, 1944

I'm scared.

Scared to die, sure. I believe in God, I believe that there's a Heaven, and I've had some experiences that objectively support that belief...but the transition is frightening.

And I'm afraid of more pain. Today (Sunday October 19, as I write this) has been almost intolerable. Worse is unthinkable...but that may be where it's going.

I mentioned this to someone close today, and was told that if I had more thoughts of Heaven I wouldn't fear the pain so much.

That was not exactly the best thing to say. It calls to mind retorts that typically end up sounding like, "Oh yeah? let's trade, and you try it."

I'd love to have the serene faith and trust one typically ascribes to church martyrs, but I have a sneaking suspicion, from this end of the pond, that they were more scared than we know...it's just that they didn't quit.

After all, Jesus was scared! When He was sweating blood at Gethsemane, He certainly sounded frightened.  Good reason, too.

So I guess I'm in good company. And too ill, at the moment, to write more.

If you get the chance, please drop by my other blog, www.dailygracequotewordpress.com, for a quote and commentary on grace in marriage.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Longing To Live - Five Minute Friday

This is my first contribution to 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.

I was introduced to this unique way to deal with a Thursday evening by Jeanne Takenaka. Thanks, Jeanne! (She has a terrific blog - visit her!)

I think.

It's tough.

The paragraphs below were done with about three seconds to spare.

Dealing with what my doctor says is a terminal illness - that will kill me quite nastily - makes for some pretty long days and some longer nights. There really isn't anything that relieves the pain any more, so I just have to deal with it.

Minutes can seem like hours sometimes.

But I don't have the worst of it - what's long for me is unbearably long for my wife. She has to watch the man she choose to marry decline long (that word again!) before his time. She has to make plans for a long future without me, without making me feel like I'm becoming excess baggage.

It's something that I would not want to do. Something that I don't know I COULD do.

I have the easy bit. I just have to fight an enemy that is unseen but very active, and I can devote my full energy to that. I have to - and sometimes that makes me less than a nice person.

Survivors don't survive because they're nice. They survive because they are, on some level, ruthless. With themselves, to ensure that they don't back down when the going gets rough; and with others, because pity is weakening, and can't be accepted.

Yeah, I think she longs for the old me, and the times before I had something in common with Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti.

So do I.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spiritual Respect - The Second Pillar

Some - either Ann Landers or Oprah Winfrey - once said that an ideal marriage doesn't consist of two people looking at each other, but of two people, side by side, looking into the future together.

It's a compelling image, and nowhere does it seem more important than in our spiritual lives. We want to be equally yoked, and to have a relationship with God that is accessible to and congruent with that of our mate.

But reality will go and intrude...we develop emotionally and spiritually at different rates, and chances are that at some point (or points) during a marriage, we'll be on different spiritual pages. To keep the relationship healthy, we have to look on our spouse's spiritual place with understanding and respect.

This isn't always easy.

Some couples have small differences; one partner might be a pre-Tribulation millennialist, while the other's firmly in the post-Trib camp. It's not hard to "agree to disagree" on points of doctrine like this; it doesn't really affect the sincerity and purity of one's faith.

Where lack of respect can raise its head is the degree to which we identify with our position. This is often buttressed by a feeling of belonging to a certain group, led by a pastor whom one likes...so when we get defensive about a seemingly minor point, we're often really defending a human institution that offers us definition, It's not about faith - it's about ego.

Then there are substantive differences in faith. This would be akin to one spouse believing that the Rapture will happen,and the other looking at that event with a tolerant, disbelieving scorn.

"How can he believe that?"

"How can you ignore the Truth?"

Respect, here, has to be a choice, so that the exchange above never takes place in real life. One must simply forbear to say anything critical, because your mate has a right to his or her beliefs.

Sometimes partners in marriage develop different approaches to worship. A personal example - my wife is enthusiastic about praise & worship, while my approach is very low-key. When I was still well enough to attend church, Barb would enthusiastically take part in Praise & Worship. I'd stand politely and listen.

She felt alone, and I felt pushed. Not a good combination for a marriage,

I could have respected her through the simple expedient of participating. It wouldn't have killed me.

Barbara could have tried to understand the influences that made me that withdrawn.

We could have met in the middle, but we didn't. That lack of respect, made manifest in an unwillingness to compromise, hurt the marriage.

Finally, what if your husband or wife abandons Christianity?

This is a terribly hard question. It can quickly kill respect, because to the 'staying' spouse feels abandoned and rejected on an elemental level, while the 'leaving' spouse is entering the unknown, a life without God. That's scary, and fear longs for company.

The only way to deal with a situation like this is to respect where your mate is.You do't have to sign onto their paradigm, but you should be willing to listen.

And you should lead - respectfully - by example. Effective evangelism exists in the space allowed by mutual respect.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wifely Words of Wisdom

My wife knows me pretty well.

I don't do well with self-care when I'm sick or wounded. Recently I put a large hole into my hand (don't ask). I simply poured a dollop of rubbing alcohol into the wound and kept going.

It didn't seem like much, and even when the hand swelled up to twice its normal size (it got infected) I just opened the hole to let it drain. I also tried to keep it concealed; no point in causing undue concern, right?

Wrong. When my wife saw it, she was horrified., and asked what I was was planning to do if I lost the hand.

I joked that I'd just build myself a hook and keep going. I didn't think there was much chance of that happening, and I wasn't too concerned.

Boy, was that the wrong thing to say.

Exit wife, followed by a slammed door, but not before she said this:

"If you don't care for yourself, there will come a time when others decide that you're not worth their compassion, either. Keep pushing people away, and one day they will stay away."

She's right. My response was keyed to who and what I am, and that does not square with most people. It's not that I'm stronger or 'better'; my life experiences have made me different.

But different or not, it's incumbent on me to understand others' perspectives, and to be respectful of them. I can expect myself to take physical pain and keep going, with blood running down my arm...but not to take others' feelings into account, especially those of my wife, is simply thoughtless.

I don't have to change what I am, but I do have to learn to see and value myself as others do.

I am valued, for one thing...and being uncaring toward myself invites the question, "What will he do if I'm hurt? Will he even care?"

Ashleigh Brilliant wrote, "No man is an island but some of us are rather long peninsulas".

True. But we have to maintain that contact, because the alternative is not only the loss of the support we all need...it's the loss of what we can contribute when we lose the trust of those around us.

The trust that we care.

Today's post is my contribution to the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association October  Blog Challenge - Words of Wisdom. This week it's "Words of Wisdom from Family".

Please click on the link below to visit other blogs taking the challenge - you'll fin a ton of enrichment for your marriage!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Emotional Respect - The First Pillar

Men and women are so different in almost every way that it's a wonder we can spend more than a couple of hours together without a complete breakdown in communications.

Oh, that happened of your first date with your spouse, too?

But two areas in which we're quite similar are our needs. Men and women need love. And women and men need respect.

But again - there's a quick divergence. Men need to be respected for what they do, while women need to be respected for who they are.

Tell a woman she's a lovely human being, and she'll glow. Tell a man that, and he'll say, "Ug," and drag his knuckles back to his cage, where he'll scratch his head for minutes trying to figure out what you meant. Then he'll give it up and have a beer.

Tell a man he's a terrific accountant and he's on cloud nine. Tell a woman that, and she'll feel just a little bit incomplete...like it's not quite a full compliment. And she may spend days wondering what she's not doing as well as she could.

The same paradigm applies in giving emotional respect. Both men and women react from the heart, and often to the same stimuli, bit they do it in different ways.

Men tend to become emotional about issues relating to goal-fulfillment. The ending of Saving Private Ryan is a good example; the now elderly James Ryan, standing in a cemetery in Normandy, asks his wife if he's been a good man. In other words, he's asking if his life validated the sacrifices made to ensure his survival. The emotional content is loaded into a relatively brief scene (or set of scenes); the rest of the story builds to that point with action.

Men respond strongly to this message, to the vindication of effort (or,in some cases, the lack of vindication as tragedy).

Women tend to respond more deeply to process; films like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail generally appeal to women more than men because the emotional content is drawn out through the bulk of the film where the main characters aren't together. The process of their movement toward a central point of union is what gives these films their emotional 'meat'.

Men get restless during Sleepless not because there's no action, but because their emotional feelers are being overtaxed.

Women get bored during Private Ryan because their emotional range isn't being exercised through much of the film.

To respect one another, as husbands and wives, we need to understand this basic point - we're taking very different roads to get to a similar place.

The man has to subsume his emotional activity through action of some sort, but his reaction is heartfelt when it comes.

The woman has to ride the current of emotion over time, or else she feels cheated; her reaction is no less heartfelt, but it's a more gradual buildup.

Think of the Sierra Nevada mountains; the western slopes rise gradually through the California foothills, the feminine side; and once past the crest they drop abruptly to the Nevada high desert (the masculine).

To respect one another, first, understand. Then affirm.

Ladies, if you see your husbands tearing up at the end of a movie, don't inquire what they're feeling. You'll ruin the moment, Just be there. Give a hand on the shoulder, or on the knee (and keep it non-sexual; not every moment is right for sex, even for men).

Don't talk, because for a man, the bottled emotion is often the emotion fully lived. He'll talk if he wants or needs to.

Guys, if your wife is going through the Kleenex for ninety minutes, don't sigh loudly and roll your eyes. Hold her close (again, non-sexual touch, please) and ask, "What are you feeling?"

And, yes, guys, listen for the answer. Then ask another question, so your wife can fully live the moment.

Now, Quiz Time - what's the secret to providing emotional respect to your spouse?

Yes, good! Support, in the form of your full presence,manifested through supportive touch and listening.

Your turn - how do you show emotional respect to your spouse?

(Please don't forget to stop in at my new blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quote and short commentary that I hope will shine a light of grace...for October, the subject's marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.