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

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Visiting Hours {Five Minute Friday / The Weekend Brew}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. 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.

Today's word is visit.

We're also linked to The Weekend Brew.


Used to be, folks would set (not 'sit'...why?) on their porches and visit with the neighbors for a spell...

What's a spell?

And when did you last see a modern house with a porch? (When I lived in California Suburbia, I hung out in the garage, with the door open, and the neighborhood kids positively flocked to the place...but not for me. They wanted to cuddle up with my Pit Bull, Kareem.)

Visiting with them was fun, but time snapped the reins and I wound up in laces where visiting wasn't practical. I got out of the habit, and lost the knack.

And I recently realized that I don't know how to visit at all, any more, even with my wife.

Sure, we talk, en passant, in the kitchen or in the living room or in the yard, but I cannot recall the last time we sat down together and just visited.

It's been years. The last time I remember, we went out and looked at the stars, and exchanged the odd word. (The occasional word, I mean...most of the words themselves weren't odd...well, some were...uh, where was I?)

Oh, right. It's a nice memory, but we just don't do that now. Early this morning there was a big glowing cloud in an otherwise clear predawn sky, and I asked Barbara to come look at it as it grew and turned salmon-pink, long before the sun touched anything.

Still don't know what it was...if a cloud, wouldn't it have been there when the sun came up? It was gone by then. Totally.

But we didn't visit. We talked about what it might be, and that was it.

And in a way...this is bad...but in a way I was relieved.

Because visiting is a form of intimacy, and that can be scary.

Even, or especially, with one's wife.


If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fearless? {Tuesdays@Ten / Wedded Wednesday}

A meditation on fear, the keyword for KarenBeth's Tuesdays@Ten challenge.

No Fear...remember the moto t-shirts?

Fear not, for I am with you...in perfect faith, yes, but in the real world...kind of hard to do.

I do know fear. With a really nasty illness, I live with it every day.

And I can create fear. I'm pretty well trained in things like "enhanced interrogation". Everyone breaks.

So how do we deal with it? If fearlessness isn't possible, where do we turn?

Control and compassion.

I think that the goal of faith isn't to overcome fear, but to control it, to be able to operate in spite of being scared out of our minds.

To know, deep down, that even if we hit The End, it's not really the end.

And compassion, for those moments when fear does take control. Compassion for our own scared and wounded hearts.

Circling back to marriage...there are things that are scary.

What if my spouse gets sick? What if he or she dies?

What if he or she stops loving me?

What if...what if...what if...

The whatifs don't go away because we want them to, or because we pray them away.

They  get controlled, fenced in. We live with their presence, yes, but their presence is offset by a Larger Presence.

And that is God.

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

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!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Surviving Porn 3 - Evil for Women {Wedded Wednesday}

Are women targeted by the pornography industry?

Yes and no.

Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed squarely at a female audience, but it's quite different in both content and character from what is produced for male consumption (see part 1 and part 2 of this series for more).

For one thing, it has a storyline, and there is the key.

Men are aroused by images; Playboy magazine and its ilk are proof enough of that.

Women are engaged - and arousal requires engagement - by emotional appeal, and this is where FSOG traps its audience, with the story of a pure woman redeeming a Bay Boy.

There's the frisson of living on the edge, as it were, but in the context of a story that has an arc, and has a purpose, however far-fetched.

The danger is greater than that found in men's pornography - men are, essentially, retreating into adolescence, resorting to self-arousal to hide from real relationships.

Women, on the other hand, crave the relational, and turn to their version of pornography when real life is wanting.

The danger is this - Why isn't my life like that?

Women's pornography goes under the name erotica, but I think it's broader than that, and can...and please don't stone me for this...include romance.

OK, I said it. yeah, go ahead and toss the stones...because romance is what I write.

Romance can be wonderful, giving a good feeling for the potential of life. It can make you look up, see the reflection of the Almighty in the person you love, or might one day meet, and love...and I hope that what I write does that.

But it can be dangerous, when it begs the question...Why doesn't my husband make me feel like that?

We're married to ordinary people. A wife typically does not look like a model, and a husband does not look like the Fabio, the archetype for the romance-novel hero.

And as a wife is typically not a "guy with different plumbing:" in her sexual appetites, neither is a husband the sensitive yet passionate romantic leading man.

But the difference is this...men can easily...too easily...disconnect romance and sex. Most women can't, and don't want to.

Most men know, at least subconsciously, that they would not want to be in a relationship with one of the women in their visual pornography. They'd be overmatched, overwhelmed.

But when a woman is given an emotional longing that her husband can't meet, the marriage is in trouble.

And there lies destruction.

And there, in the creation of that itch, that frisson of dissatisfaction, that emotional arousal, purposely created to ensure that there is an itch that will be scratched...there is the definition of pornography.

If you have a moment, please stop by at my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace.

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!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Open-Heart Marriage {Five Minute Friday / Inspire me Monday / The Weekend Brew}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. 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.

Today's word is open..

We're also linked to Inspire me Monday.


Can you be open in your marriage? can you open up your heart?

Emotional intimacy is one of the key points of a good marriage...but it's much harder to achieve than it might seems, because as the relationship deepens, we learn more about the person with whom we've chosen to share our life.

Including how to hurt him or her, and we we often - too often - use that information, either deliberately, or in reaction to a perceived hurt...or even a perceived threat of hurt.

It's a vicious cycle, and we learn that marriage is not a terribly safe place, sometimes. We're vulnerable...too vulnerable.

How can we step out of this conundrum? Can we even get out?

I think, yes, we can, but it takes an act of will, and no little courage.

  • First, we have to learn that pain is a part of the deal, and that we can absorb the blows - without hitting back. We can be bigger than the arrows loosed against us. We can let it go
How? By trusting the marriage, rather than the moment. The promise, and the history, are worth far more than a few words said in anger. let it go.
  • Second, we can guard our end of the conversation, and check - every time we speak - that we are not about to say a hurtful thing, or that we're hitting back.
Not easy, but what this really takes is the discipline to think first, then talk. Don't try to implement this in the heat of argument, first off!

Practice on the easy stuff. Like, before you say, "Good morning", think about how you might want to phrase it differently. get into the habit of thinking first. then, when the chips are down, it won't be so tough.

And you'll have taken the first step to being a person with whom your spouse can open his or her heart...and helping your spouse become someone to whom you can open yours.


If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Surviving Porn 2 - Killing Evil

This is the second part of a series aimed primarily at women who find that their husbands are viewing pornography - one of the most heartbreaking discoveries a woman can make - let there be no mistake about that. (You can find the first part here.)

To recap, there were two takeaways from the first post -

  • It isn't about you
  • It's an addiction,. stemming from chemical changes in the brain that viewing pornography creates
Now we've isolated the problem. Let's kill it.

The first step after recognition is confrontation. Not an easy word, not an easy process, but it's something you can't avoid, to fix a problem you can't ignore.

First, remember...your husband's use of pornography has nothing to do with you, or with your relationship. That's hard to accept, I know, and very, very hard not to feel hurt, slighted, or set aside.

Remember - use of pornography is an addiction coming from chemical changes, and it began long before you met.

And remember this - pornography is not about sex. It's about a reversion to adolescent self-stimulation.

it isn't really about infidelity either...your husband is enthralled with and stimulated by images and imagination; it's an entirely closed circle. Yes, it can lead to infidelity, but the causal link is not firm. Don't make the problem bigger than it is.

So...how to confront?
  • Be direct. If you've found obscene images on the computer, or links to pornographic websites, say, "I found this on the computer." And stop. Wait for a response; you'll get one, and it will be delivered in shame.
  • Be firm, but not cruel. Pornography is unacceptable in your home and your life; say that, in as many words. It's bad for your relationship, and you've been hurt; say that, too, but please don't begin describing how you've been hurt. A man will begin to tune you out, and build defenses. Men are best spoken to in short sentences, with as few syllables as possible...I'm not kidding, here.
  • You will probably get an apology, and a promise to change. Accept the apology, and be appreciative of the desire to change...but...
The next step is to get help. Professional help, either from a counselor, or, if you have a solid church connection, from a clergyman (has to be a man, sorry).

Insist on this. Quitting smoking, or dieting is nothing compared to ditching pornography. Your husband will have a hard road, and he needs bracing-up from someone who knows the challenges...not just personally, but from a professional, academic base of knowledge.
  • Once you've accepted the apology, insist on counseling...and both of you have to go, initially. Not because you're somehow 'involved', but because, if you're not there, your husband might minimize the problem, short-circuit the process, or just skip the appointment. A man caught red-handed is like a child who will do anything to save face.
  • Do allow your husband the choice of counselor. Few things will obstruct the process more than if your husband can somehow feel like you and the counselor and 'ganging up' on him; that kills more marriage counseling programmes than anything. If he's made the choice, it's his responsibility.
  • Follow the counselor's suggestions for an appointment schedule to the letter. Don't modify it to suit your needs; you're too close to the problem.
Different counselors have different methods, but you'll undoubtedly find some of these:
  • Finding an accountability partner - your husband will be encouraged to find a trusted male counterpart with whom he can be open and honest, and who'll hold him responsible for his promises to change. Again, the accountability partner has to be his choice, and you can never ask about their conversations. They're completely privileged, with the exception of private talks with the counselor.
  • Removing the sources of pornography - this means installing blocking software on the computer, loading software that tracks website visits, and keeping the home computer in a common area.
  • Removing the sources can also require ditching the 'easy private avenues', such as smartphones or tablets. Dumbphones are still easily available, and if the job requires a smartphone it can be limited to that use...and the employer can track website visits. Tablets are convenient, but not vital. This is a place where a choice has to be made...killing access to pornography, or convenience of apps.
  • Time management skills - often, a return to pornography comes from having too much time (especially private time) on one's hands. Eliminating pornography will require a change in lifestyle, a change in the way time is spent. You'll have to cooperate in this; and yes, like a child, he'll have to be kept busy to keep him out of trouble. Not by 'honeydos', mind, but by attractive and fun activities.
  • The realization that this will be a lifelong temptation - because it will be. the chemical changes can be minimized, but they can never be fully reversed. Freedom from pornography is wonderful, but remember - discipline is the price you pay for freedom.

And what about sex? That always seems to be the million-dollar question.

If I were preachy...and male, which I am...I'd say, be generous, be forgiving, be understanding.

But that would be, pardon, me, crap.

Ladies, the truth is this...you should do what you feel you can do, and no more, and no one should make you feel guilty about not going further. If you don't feel you can be physically intimate with your husband at this point...don't.

This is an issue that belongs in counseling, but let me offer one bit of advice...if you do choose to continue an intimate relationship, do not accept suggestions for new positions or techniques. They probably came from viewing pornography, and believe me...you don't want that in your bedroom.

For you guys who are still with me...next Monday (February 23, 2015), we'll talk about what to do if you find your wife reading erotica...women's pornography.

Guys, if this is the case, be warned, right now...it is about you.

If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

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!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Surviving Porn 1 - Facing Evil

Fifty Shades Of Gray has done one positive thing, and that is to open up the conversation on the threat and exploitation inherent in pornography, and how to fight it.

Today we'll talk about the situation every wife dreads...discovering that her husband is viewing pornography. (and we'll look at the reverse, as well...but female use of pornography has some distinct differences.)

(You can find the second part of this series, Surviving Porn 2 - Killing Evil, here.)

The vast majority of pornographic material used today is viewed over the Internet. Numbers are hard to verify, but it;'s said that up to 30% of all websites are pornographic in nature.

So the stuff is out there, it's easily accessible...and with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it's private. Gone are the days when you might find a stash of Playboy magazines in the woodshed.

Today, it's in the air around you.

So, what do you do, when it comes as a surprise, or a verification of a long-held suspicion...that the man you have chosen as a life partner is using pornography?

How do you deal with the heartbreak, and how do you move forward?

First and foremost...it's not about you.

The vast majority of men who use pornography start in adolescence, partly through peer pressure and partly as a wrong but understandable manifestation of an excess of hormones.

If that were all it were, the situation would be simpler, as testosterone levels peak around the age of eighteen and diminish from there. The problem would go away of its own accord...withering from boredom, as it were.

Unfortunately, this isn't simple. The use of pornography causes chemical changes in the brain related to serotonin levels), that demand new and "bigger" levels of arousal. Dropping levels of testosterone cause something of an overcompensation, accentuating the process. It's a vicious cycle.

It's like the high that a drug user's chasing, with more and more potent...and more lethal...drugs.

So, to the second point...

Use of pornography is an addiction...and addictions are disease.

Make no mistake...it's also a choice, but the ability to choose well is compromised by the forces of addiction.

To fight a disease, you need three things -
  • A recognition that a problem exists
  • Professional help
  • A consistent following of the programme of treatment
And to prevent a relapse, resistance must be built up.

Next time we'll talk about the disease-fighting strategy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

When Marriage Turns Boring {Five Minute Friday}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. 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're also linking to The Weekend Brew.

Today's word is when..


What do you do when your  marriage becomes so routine that every conversation seems like it's played out a thousand times before, when you feel like you can predict what your husband or wife will do in every situation?

When you feel that nagging irritation at things you used to find charming?

What do you do?

Look inward,

Chances are that your spouse has not gotten dull, or has taken a stupid-boring-so-YESTERDAY pill.

You've just stopped paying attention.

We all grow, and as Tennyson said in his wonderful poem "Ulysses", we are a p[art of all that we have met.

Your mate is meeting life, every day, just like you.

but are you listening? Do you still care?

Do you want to hear the refinements, the enrichment of a soul you once held in esteem above every other?

Or do you just want something new...like the driver who trades in a serviceable car for the latest model, or the job-hopper who's looking for the next big career move?

It's an important question; you have to chose between the bright surface of the new, roiling in flashing rapids, or the deep, still water of the known but undiscovered country.

Think of it as a treasure hunt...you're not likely to find a treasure chest in the rapids.

it'll be hidden in the deep water.


If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Shade For Great Sex

There's really only one shade you need in the bedroom.

It's the one that you pull down to cover the window.

It's a symbol, the one that says, "I'm here for you, and no other. What happens here is ours. I won't talk about it with friends, I won't describe our intimate life on the Internet."

"Here, you have me, completely."

Why is this so hard? Why the provocative selfies, and why the perennial locker-room talk (in both men's and ladies' locker rooms)?

Why does this most intensely personal part of our relationship need an airing?

Was Andy Warhol right? Do we all need our five minutes of fame, and will we do just about anything to get it?

I don't think so. I think we're better than that.

I think we mean our vows, and while the world may pull us onto descending paths, we can still look up, find that upward trail, and set our feet and our hearts to make that gift of exclusivity our mate's, renewed and given again as if it were new.

Because with every renewal...it is.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Can Fifty Shades Help Your Marriage?

Uh, no. It won't spice up your marriage. It won't give you a fresh outlook on physical pleasure.

Any more than going to a peep show at an adult bookstore will.

Fifty Shades Of Grey is not about empowering women. It's about using explicit sex to make money, and to create a demand for more of the same.

Fifty Shades Of Grey is pornography. It puts simulated sex acts - abusive ones - on the screen for the titillation of the audience. That's pornography.

Well, what's wrong with that? After all, it's becoming kind of mainstream, and young people are accepting it as OK. Almost seventy percent of young men, and 49% of young women, polled recently, found that watching pornography was acceptable.

No offense to them, but these people are delusional idiots. And I'm not jumping up and down waving a Bible here...I could, but I don't have to.

It goes far beyond my personal religious beliefs. this stuff is just plain wrong. This book and film should offend Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, New Agers, agnostics, and atheists. It should offend anyone with a heart and a brain.

To begin with, pornography is the main gateway for human trafficking all over the world. Women and children are bought and sold, and coerced into making pornographic products. they're threatened with violence, drugged, and psychologically abused to the point where they feel they can't escape.

They feel like trash, and the user of pornography, participating in a 100 billion dollar business, made them that way.

Put it another way - do you think slavery's OK? Should we pull African-Americans off the streets, and send them back into the cotton and tobacco fields?

Then why is it OK to force women into prostitution? Why is that acceptable?

Because it's based on a widely-read book that you can buy in Barnes and Noble?

A lot of people read Mein Kampf. Feel better?

Pornography isn't self-perpetuating; it's self accelerating. Crossing one line of use makes the next line of depravity easier to cross, and more attractive.

Pornography affects the chemistry of the brain. For real. See Fifty Shades, and in a short while you'll find yourself wanting something a bit...more. And them more after that. What excited yesterday will not excite you tomorrow.

So the temptation will be to move from the high-paid stars of this film to the sex slaves of the adult film business, because they are the ones who will supply the more.

Can your marriage be made better by victimizing people you've never met?

Second, Fifty Shades depicts an abusive relationship - with intimidation, isolation, and stalking.- as being attractive.

The female protagonist's consent is circumvented by the use of alcohol, and she shows classic signs shown by abused women, including a sense constant perceived threat and an altered identity.

This is called sexual violence.

Hey, don't blame me for this assessment. These standards come from the Centers for Disease Control. The same folks who are keeping us safe from Ebola.

Will your marriage be helped by introducing CDC-defined elements of sexual violence and emotional abuse?

Third, what you do during the day defines your legacy. Do you want your legacy, the things your kids and community remember, to include a tolerance for human trafficking and abusive, sexually violent relationships?

Will watching torture-for-pleasure bring you closer to your husband or wife?

Fifty Shades enshrines the "BDSM Lifestyle"; the S stands for sadism.

Yes, right, hurting someone else for one's own sexual pleasure.

Most Americans disapproved of the use of torture to extract information from terrorists, yet they'll support a film that depicts the 'empowering' of this 'lifestyle'.

No one wants to be intolerant, after all.

(And please hold the thought of "mutual consent"; the M stands for masochism. I know a lot about experiencing pain; I live with it every day.

Anyone who gets sexual satisfaction from experiencing pain needs counseling; masochism is crazy.

Will seeing this film be something you'll be proud of having as a part of what you leave behind?

So what can you do, beside not buying the book, and not seeing the film? It feels a bit like spitting into the ocean, when the book outsold the entire Harry Potter series in England.

There is a bit more you can do. At West Point, there's something called the Code of Honour.

A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, and will not tolerate those who do.

If you believe that human trafficking is wrong, that perverted sexual relationships should not be glamourized, and that your behaviour leaves a legacy...the path would seem to be clear.

Be intolerant. Be reactionary. Do not take the attitude of "to each his own", when faced with a friend, acquaintance...or family member...who sees nothing wrong with seeing the film, or buying the book.

Speak out. Speak harshly, and make it clear that because of the destruction this garbage causes...you won't show respect for their choice. Show them that you've got limits, and that you have principles.

Take the high ground, and hold it. You may lose a friend...or more than one...but you'll be standing up against evil.

You may not reverse the tidal wave, but you can start the undertow...of shame. And who knows how strong that may become?

We're linking to Inspire Me Monday.

If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

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!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Keeping Secrets In Marriage {Five Minute Friday / The Weekend Brew}

Time for Five-Minute Friday , hosted by Kate Motaung. 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're also linking to The Weekend Brew.

Today's word is keep..


Do you keep secrets in from your husband or wife?

There are two types of secrets in marriage. Secrets of the past, and secrets of the present.

Secrets of the past are usually the shameful, humiliating, or just plain stupid things you did when you were younger...or things that were done to you.
They come from a time before you met your mate, most likely,.

Do you tell, or do you let sleeping dogs lie?

Depends. if it's something that will eventually be something your mate will have to deal with, or, like childhood sexual abuse, may affect part of your relationship, you've probably got to plan on sharing.

But other stuff...like the pack of gum you shoplifted when you were twelve...maybe not.

Think about these, when deciding.

  • You can't unsay things. Once it's out there, it's part of your relationship
  • Your spouse is not your therapist
That last word...therapist...there's the key. If you have doubt, talk to a therapist (or a pastor) first. Just tell your mate there's something bugging you, and you want to talk to a professional...believe me, most spouses don't want to be pressed into therapeutic service, and will happily drive you to the office and wait outside.

Then there are secrets of the present. Not the "I got you something for Christmas but I'm not telling you!" kind, but the "I did something horrible and I hope he/she doesn't find out!" variety.

These are the secrets that hurt.

First, stop the behaviour.

Second, therapist time.

Third, with the therapist's help (and, probably, presence)...come clean, if that's indicated.

Secrets of the past, you can sometimes keep.

Secrets of the present, you've got to throw them away. They're grenades, the pin's pulled, and the spoon's sprung off...and there's the little hiss that tells you the fuse is burning.

Kinda stupid to hold on to the thing, eh?


If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

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!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

LOVE-U : U For Unbend

Four weeks ago we started a new series - LOVE-U For A Better Marriage.

L- Linger
O - Observe
V - Validate
E - Empathize
U- Unbend

Today we're at the end, the last letter U for Unbend.

In one of my favourite novels, Handling Sin by Michael Malone, a rather rigid and formal character is told, "Get the rod out of your a**, man!"

Exactly. Unbend.

Many of us go through life so very conscious of our own dignity. It's not really, pride, though that does play a role...it's the sensitivity and consciousness of what others may think of us.

We're always on stage, and the world is our audience.

So we dial back our responsiveness, and pretty much take spontaneity out of the picture.

We may have learned it from our parents..."What will people think!"

Or learned a twisted message from church..."Jesus is watching you!, so behave!"

Youthfulness can carry the ball of spontaneity pretty far, but by the time most of us start families...we start to become what we think our parents are.

Not much dancing in the moonlight, there.

What it takes away, specifically, from marriage is the magic and fun of courtship. The silly, goofy things we did when we were not yet committed, or in the early years of our marriage, are left behind, flowers unwatered left to wither and die.

But the seeds are still there.

You can water them, and awaken the fun, the joy...yes, the childish joy...that is even now trying to kick down the walls of the cage in which it's trapped.

That imprisoned joy is shouting at you - Jesus said that you can only get to Heaven if you're like a kid! Be like one!

It's hard. It takes intentionality, and the putting aside of the feeling that people are watching, and judging.

Most aren't. Most people are full of their own cares. Some will look up, and smile - you might make their day.

And the busybodies who'll say, "Tsk, tsk!" ?

Who cares what they think.

So dance with your husband or wife in the park, or on a wide sidewalk.

Skip, arm in arm.

Kiss passionately in WalMart.

Sing a love song in public.

As for the last...to demonstrate that I do practice what I preach...in 2004 I was on a business trip to Washington DC, and having some free time, I visited the Air and Space Museum, which had an Apollo Lunar Module on display.

Light bulb...I called Barbara on my cell, and started singing - loudly - Fly Me To The Moon.

Did I draw attention? Yes, I did. I had an audience buy the time I finished. They clapped (though maybe because I did finish).

Did security escort me out? No...they asked if I might come back the next day.

And I did.

How do you think you and your husband or wife could unbend, and be "as children in public?

If you have a moment, please visit me at my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace".

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!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

So I Married A Sniper

There's been a lot of buzz about long riflemen recently. The book (and now the movie) American Sniper, the story of Chris Kyle, has brought this reclusive profession out of the shadows and into the limelight (and a lot of guys are not happy!). There's also Nicholas Irving's The Reaper, another fine entry by a thoroughly decent man.

Personally, I think it's a good thing. Chris' story is so accessible, so human, and in the end so tragic that he's become something of the perfect ambassador to an oft-misunderstood profession of arms.

Since this is a forum about marriage, let's look at the question...what's it like to be married to one of these guys (or, rarely, gals...like Ruth Westheimer...yes, Dr. Ruth herself, who was a sniper with the Haganah in Israel's War of Independence).

First, some basics...

  • Snipers are not psychopaths - thought I'd get that out of the way early. They are carefully screened so that only well-balanced individuals can even enter training. There are two 'syndromes' that are particularly vital to weed out...first, the Texas Tower Syndrome, in which being on the gun gives such a sense of power that the operator will keep shooting after legitimate targets are down. Second is the Stockholm Syndrome, in which the shooter develops sympathy for the target (who he's been watching through optics for minutes...or hours) and can't pull the trigger. Shooters have to be able to kill, but only in the lawful performance of duty, governed by the Rules of Engagement (ROE).
  • Killing is not the primary duty - contrary to what Hollywood says, the sniper's first job is to observe, assess, and report. The ability to move quietly and unobserved through the battlespace is honed with this end in mind.
  •  Snipers are not nihilists - most are men with a strong faith, often Christian, but at the very least "spiritual". A true nihilist would go mad, given the weight of responsibility.
So, what are some of the traits you can expect if you're planning a trip to the altar?
  • Intelligence - shooters have to be able to do complex calculations concerning the flight of the bullet while on the gun, and adjust the optics accordingly (the crosshairs are always on the target). This takes a fairly sophisticated knowledge of math and trigonometry. They must also be able to blend into their surroundings, which calls for a thorough understanding of the environment, and of the psychology of vision. And they must be able to both analyze and effectively act upon situational awareness of what is often a confused and, yes, frightening battlespace.
  • Patience - how long could you wait, fully alert, for a target to wander into your sector of observation? A good sniper can stay on the gun for hours, and work a hide for days, with appropriate rest intervals.
  • Tolerance of discomfort - would you be willing to lie in a sewage-filled ditch under a smelly piece of fabric, counting the passage of military-age males along a path? The best hides are in places most people would avoid. Oh, and you shouldn't mind bugs crawling on you. Slapping them's a no-no, as movement draws attention.
  • Organization - snipers have to be meticulous about their work, and that means having everything needed ready to hand, and relevant information on tap. This doesn't always equate to being a Neat Freak; the organization is mission-specific, so the professional ducks will always be in a row, but the living space may not be.
  • Good powers of observation - since the main job is observation, snipers tend to notice far more of what's going on around them than most people do.
  • Good memory - it's not always possible to consult a range card, so hide-specific information (on which distances are computed) have to be committed to memory, as do the ballistic of the round used. The sniper you marry will probably remember your birthday, and your anniversary.
  • A highly developed sense of time - moving to consult a watch isn't always possible in a hide, so a sniper will be able to estimate, say, twenty minutes to within less than a minute.
  • The ability to compartmentalize - the profession of deliberately killing individuals one has 'gotten to know' through observation is psychologically tough, and typically has to be put aside until the emotions can be dealt with. This can come across as coldness; it's not. It's simply doing the thing that is immediately before one.
  • Quiet character - a hide is not a place for conversation, and for most snipers having a quiet nature makes the job easier. This is not to say that demonstrativeness is lacking, but expressions of emotion are usually fairly low-key.
  • Independence - the traditional role of the sniper pair (shooter / spotter) is solitary; two guys attract less attention than a fire team, squad, or platoon (and SEAL snipers often work alone). Snipers are therefore pretty self-reliant, and this can be maddening...they can make one feel like they don't need anyone else. (Sniper doctrine is changing, and clearing the battlespace ahead of advancing troops can utilize a sniper squad, or a dedicated platoon...read Dan Mills' Sniper One for a good introduction to the modern paradigm.)
  • A strong sense of duty - when on the gun, the sniper's job is to save lives by eliminating threats to their comrades in arms. This goes beyond the 'guy in the next foxhole' that the movies portray; the responsibility is more abstract, and is shouldered for people whom one will never meet.
One could go on, but I think - I hope - that the picture's becoming clear.

The sniper you may grow to like, or love, is someone who's conscientious, motivated, and subject to a strong moral and spiritual code. He cares about those around him, and has committed to protecting them.

He's someone who may be a lot like you.

Please drop by my other blog, Starting The Day With Grace, if you have a few minutes.