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Friday, August 30, 2013

Saved, And I Deserve It!

Recently I heard a prominent pastor speaking jocularly about the Rapture.

"Don't fly with a Christian pilot if you're not saved," he joked. "Because if you do, he's going up, and you're going down!"

Cue the laughter.

Funny. I don't hear Jesus laughing.

What this idiot - and I'm being kind - didn't bother to think about is that, in the event of the aircrew being raptured up and the unpiloted airplane crashing, the individuals left behind would have a terrifying few minutes, watching the horizon rise around them to crush in a fatal embrace.

There are not many things that I would imagine that can be worse.

At least, I hope the idiot pastor wasn't thinking. Because the other alternative...that he doesn't consider unsaved people as being worthy of compassion - is chilling.

I think that's one of the great dangers facing Christianity today, the elitism and hubris among the 'saved'. I'm putting that in quotes not because I don't believe in salvation, but because taking pride in it, feeling oneself above others, seems to me to cancel the process.

Salvation is an awesome and terrible thing. None of us deserve it, but we've been offered the gift by God's grace.

Do we accept it with humility?

Or do we hold it over our heads like a trophy we've won? "We're Number One!"

Gonna spray Jesus with a shaken-up champagne bottle, celebrating?

Just asking.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Please Excuse...What is Funny?

I don't get some humor.

Last night (Tuesday, August 27), on America's Got Talent, a stand-up comedian was running through an act that he said was supposed to be 'kid-friendly'.

I guess that was part of the joke. It wasn't. He simply told risque jokes by analogy, couching them in terms that had the veneer of innocence.

I'd repeat some of them here, but I have better taste than that. If you saw the guy, found him funny, and think I'm impugning your taste...uh, well...I am.

Making adult jokes (as in adult movies, in at least one case) sound like kids' jokes removes something from our culture. It removes a boundary that is intended to protect and preserve innocence, and it removes the boundary for a cheap laugh..and, ultimately, as a road to make money.

I'm sorry, but I won't stand with that, and I won't stand for it in my house.

Wait one...why did I say I;m sorry? I'm not sorry.

And there's another thing. You take a moral stance, and somehow you are made to feel that you've got to apologize to the people you're standing up against. They can call me a pigheaded reactionary who should be publicly pilloried, and mot everyone will nod knowingly.

I have to apologize. Not any more.

I do have a sense of humor. Recently I was welding, and my nose started itching. So I went to scratch it with the molten-hot end of the welding rod.

Well, it cured the itch!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why You Can't Abandon Your Dreams


Because they're not really yours.

Your dreams are seeds that God planted in your heart and in your soul, to start with. Turning your back on them is, to start with, an insult to the Godhead.

Not a good idea. Insult anyone else, but not Him.

Secondly, your dreams may not be entirely about, or for you. They may be intended to reach past your life to touch, and inspire others.

The film Invincible is a good example of this. It's the story of Vince Papale, who at the age of 30 went to an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, in 1976. He had played one year of high school ball, went to a college without a football team, and played league football while working as a teacher and bartender.

And he made the team, playing for three and a half seasons before injury forced his retirement.

But it was more than his dream. Philadelphia was treated poorly by the 1970s, and football was an important binder for the community. But the Eagles were a disaster, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

But things changed in 1976, when they brought an 'old man' with a fiery heart and a big dream on board. The fans had one of their own with whom they could identify, and the team had a seemingly bottomless reservoir of enthusiasm in one player.

In 1981, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Papale was no longer playing, but that victory is widely regarded as his legacy.

One man's dream brought pride, unity, and, yes, hope to a city of millions.

(The movie is well worth seeing...produced by the Disney studios, it's a great family-friendly film.)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tolerating Atheism?

What are atheists trying to prove?

A lot. And they want to change the fabric of our society so it can never be changed back.

Atheism is a faith. While many of its adherents claim that it's based on scientific fact, that's untrue. What they call 'fact' often boils down to either what they call the absence of scientific evidence for God, or quotes from 'smart people' like Stephen Hawking, who claims that a self-originating universe makes God unnecessary.

Oh, please. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Hawking, but (a) the self-originating universe is unproven and unprovable - it merely does not violate physics as we know it, and (b) to infer that such a universe could independently achieve the degree of complexity and organization that we see involves enough special pleading to beggar the imagination.

But they persist - buying ad space that says "God Doesn't Exist", and demanding the right to erect monuments to atheism in public places. One, recently built in Florida, is a bench inscribed with quotes from such men as Albert Einstein (who specifically said he was not an atheist...go figure).

Well, my dogs need a place to pee when we visit there.

And why do they persist? Why, to win people over to their faith, of course. They want you, me, and everyone to abandon God, abandon hope for a life beyond this one.

They want freedom from religion., because they feel that religion has caused too many wars, too much killing. Too much intolerance.

We shouldn't look to a God in the sky to give us our values. We should look to the innate nobility of Man.

Interesting, considering the Nazis, the genocide in Rwanda, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Not very noble.

There have been several officially atheistic societies in recent history. The Soviet Union, Communist China, and France, after the Revolution.

All three set records in mass murder of their own citizens.

Without God, we are rudderless. The only True North we have are ideas from the mind of man, which are changeable as the wind, and salted with ego and self-interest.

Nobility and good are defined by who's in power, and the strength of their support.

Is this the world you want for your kids?

Fight back. Stand for your faith. This isn't a question of tolerating different points of view.

This is survival.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Answering an Atheist

The Epicurean Paradox -

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

This is an argument that many atheists use to try to deny the existence of God. It appears on many Facebook walls, and I'm sure it's floating around Pinterest as well.

It makes a lot of Christians (and Hindus, and Muslims, and Sikhs) a bit uncomfortable. When quoted by a quick and clever thinker, it can be hard to refute on the spot. It seems to fold back in on itself quite neatly, and leave few chinks by which it can be dismantled.

I have another way...put a block of C4 on it and blow the little turkey to Mars.

The problem with the Epicurean paradox is that it's a circular argument, and one that completely depends on a straw man. The circularity comes from the a priori assumption that we know how the world should work, and that our view is unquestionably correct.

The straw man is the 'God' whose motives are inferred by His actions, and which are judged by 'our' standards.

We really have to look at the question in two parts - evil arising from free human will, and 'natural evil' like cancer.

All of the monotheistic religions mentioned above grant that we have free will, and the opportunity to choose between good and evil. This, then, would imply that the tolerance of evil was a necessary part of the creation of a world in which good could also arise. Banning free will would prevent human evil, but would also prevent human goodness. If you don't have shadow, you don't have light, and therefore no way to define 'good'.

An interim step of allowing evil intent but preventing evil action is meaningless. Even a cow knows that it can't walk through a canyon wall, and it won't try.

Natural evil follows a similar line of reasoning. We have a creation that 'works'; the parts fit together. And some of those parts are rather dangerous to us. Could God have removed them? We don't know - but we do know that He set the natural laws, and it would make Creation nonsensical if He broke them on a whim.

Think of teaching a child to drive, after having been brought up in relative isolation (rural New Mexico, maybe?) - you want her to mind the speed limits and stay in her lane. If you didn't follow the rules of the road, and she had no other role models to follow, she's be terribly confused. Why rules for her, yet none for you?

Of course, you didn't set the rules of the road. They were formulated on a social plane 'above' you. So let's look at another example - house rules, like no computer games before church on Sunday.

No law against computer games, except your own...but how would your child feel on seeing you break your own rule?

It really does come down to God avoiding "do what I say, not what I do."

We have a world that allows free will, and that obey certain physical laws. And both of these allow for the presence of evil. We may not like it, but we have to accept it as a price that God decided was worth paying.

Worth paying to raise up His companions for Eternity.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last Rites

Last Rites, or Extreme Unction, is the sacrament a Catholic priest delivers if a person is in imminent danger of death.

I've had Last Rites. Several times.

Several years ago, I was newly married, and had a problem...hemorrhoids. Bad ones. They were limiting life to the point that I finally agreed to go under the knife, for what is widely regarded as a very painful procedure.

And it was, even though the surgeon used a new technique, 'stapling' the prolapsed blood vessels. He said the post-operative pain would be reduced - somewhat.

Not having anything to compare it to, I agreed, and the morning after the surgery I woke up feeling not too bad. It was kind of like a healing gunshot wound. Sore but bearable. They let me go home at noon, and suggested I take it easy. That was no problem.

Except that when I went to the bathroom, I passed blood. I was told to expect some bleeding, but it seemed a bit extreme.

Barbara called the doctor, and was told, if it happens again, bring me to the hospital.

Barbara does not listen to dumb advice anymore.

She helped me to the living room, and I watched television for a bit, but it was getting harder to stay upright, and I thought I'd better get to bed. I tried to stand, and the room started spinning. So I told Barbara, "I'll crawl."

"No," she said. "You'll walk."

She helped me up, and three steps later the floor rotated up in front of me. I dimly remember the paramedics arriving, and the trip to the ER.

"He's bleeding out!" I remember a doctor yelling that. Not something one forgets.

And then there was Father Vic, bending over me. I don't remember what he said, or how I responded, if indeed I did.

But he was there.

And so was Jesus.

They replaced 150% of my blood, and I spent a week in hospital. Father Vic turned up again when things went very wrong, but I don';t remember what happened, and Barbara will never tell me.

Just as well.

(The surgeon was horrified, and very contrite. We didn't sue. Surgery's a risk, and he did the best he could. I survived, and the hemorrhoids are gone. We won.)

Does God Exist?

Does God exist?

If you're reading this, you probably believe He does. Whether or not that's an entirely happy thought for you may be a different story.

But can you prove it? No fair using the Bible as a reference. It's biased. To sharpen the question, is there any independently verifiable evidence that He's there?

The quick answer is, no.

Now, another question. You may be sitting in a chair as you're reading this. Does your chair exist?

It does?

Okay - is there anything that makes up the structure of the chair that is the chair?

No. The chair may be made of wood, or metal, or a combination of materials, but none of it is chair.

Well, okay - it's a chair made of wood.  So it exists.

But what's the wood made of? Lignite and cellulose.

Lignite and cellulose are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which are made of proton, neutrons, and electrons. Electrons don't really count, because they're both particles and waves.

But even if we count the electrons, we come to the realization that the parts that make up an atom are so very, very small in relation to even the atom's size, that atoms are mostly empty space.

So your chair doesn't exist, but what's keeping your butt off the floor?

Energy. The bonds between the atoms are so ferociously strong that they allow empty space to pretend it's solid. And we can't see it.

A a model, think of what happens when you try to pull identical poles of two magnets together. This close and no closer, eh? And it feels like there's something in the middle, that very quickly becomes unsqueezable. But you can't see it, and unless you have specialized instruments, you can't measure it.

But it's there, and it has a real effect on the world.

Same thing with God. We can't see Him, but we can see the shadow He casts, and feel the palpable energy in our lives. The times when we want do to something we shouldn't, and we hear a little voice asking "Are you sure?" - that's God.

If the voice said, "No!", it would likely be us.

But God gave us free will.

And yeah, He's real

Friday, August 16, 2013

Is Tithing part of the New Covenant?

Before Jesus showed up, tithing was the rule among God's people. Ten percent of your harvest of earnings, off the top, please.

Aside from being an offering to God, it also had a practical purpose - it kept the temple in good shape, paying for repairs and staffing, and it provided a reserve in times of want.

It was an unquestioned part of Jewish life, and was operative even when the Jews were subjugated and heavily taxed by folks like the Romans.

Did Jesus intend to do away with the practice, as some clergy believe? Was the New Covenant to be completely free of the Old Rules?

After all, He deliberately broke the Sabbath by healing on that day. That was a Big Thing, and pretty well drew a line between Himself and the Jewish hierarchy.

He also may not have had the intention that the church become so materially conscious as it has. When He was here, His followers me in small rooms, generally in one another's houses. Were the ecclesiastical palaces that grew up in Christianity part of the plan? Did Jesus intend the rise of the mega-church, and the high-flowing cash support it requires?

We really don't know. Jesus didn't address this directly, and neither did Paul or any of the other New Testament writers.

It doesn't really matter, though. We need to tithe, even if we call it something else, because the church is us.

Sure, and we don't know if Jesus intended the church landscape of today, but this is what we have - and it's not bad. We get services, ministries, programs for the kids (and sometimes schools). We have a place to go when we're hurting, where we can know that someone will be there, and will care.

So why shouldn't we make a significant financial contribution, and really make it our church? There's a truism that folks only truly appreciate what they pay for.

It's true. If a friend comes over and gives you a book, saying "This is really great," what are the chances that you'll read it?

If said friend handed you a slip of paper with the title, and said to look this up next time you're on Amazon, you might buy it.

And if you buy it, aren't you more likely to read it?

Kind of the same thing with Jesus, by the way. We got Him free, and what did we do? Killed Him.

If you're committed to your church, then pitch in, give them a hand.

Ten percent, off the top, sounds about right.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hunting and Stewardship

I used to be a hunter, of game that shot back. Quite a thrill.

But I don't understand hunting as a sport. I think there may be some fairly serious Scriptural issues. (I'm not talking about use of the hunting 'harvest' to control wildlife populations...that's a separate issue, and one that does not necessarily require 'sport' hunters.)

When I took a teaching job in central Texas, I was invited to go deer hunting. That meant sitting in a hut, called a 'blind', built into a tree, and waiting for a deer to come within range. And blasting it.

The current success of "Duck Dynasty" speaks to the same kind of thing. Use a duck call to lure a duck within range. And blast it.

Yes, I know that some people will track deer across the landscape, uphill and down, and get quite a workout. But when they get close to the deer, it becomes a 'stalk', a slow approach to get into "blast it" range.

Does there seem to be a common theme developing here? Once the hunter is within range of the quarry, the hunt becomes something of an execution.

Ideally, that is. A muffed shot leaves a wounded animal lunging terrified through the bush.

So the question I have is - why bother? There's little sport besides the walk, little challenge besides the stalk. You can get the same effect by using a paintball gun when it comes time to shoot. I mean, the deer (or duck) can't shoot back. And not a lot of hunters get gored by their erstwhile targets.

I asked around - why hunt? - and the best answer I got was that it speaks to our primal instincts, to go out and through effort obtain food for our families.

Well, yes. I admit that it's more exciting to lug a rifle through the bush than to go to Wal-Mart's meat department. And more fun to sit in a blind with your buddies than to look through the weekly fliers to discover what's on sale.

And then there's the excitement of the kill.

Therein lies the problem. Very few hunters in North America need to hunt for food. In Texas, a recent study found that the average income among hunters was $60,000. Coming back without a buck does not mean starvation over the winter. And selling the carcass to a processing facility means more meat on the table...at fancy restaurants. Venison is not a cheaper version of hamburger. It's a luxury in 21st century America

So the point is that they want to hunt. And in the end, they want to kill, because otherwise, paintball would be just fine. (Rather like Sioux warriors counting coup - touching their enemies lightly to show that they could have killed.)

How does this fit into the Biblical concept of stewardship? Man was given dominion over the animal world, and it was a given that we'd eat some animals. It wasn't that way in the Garden of Eden, but Great - great-great - Grandpa Adam really screwed that up.

But killing  for fun? Does God go to Cabela's, or is the Guy who knows the fall of each sparrow somewhat concerned with the sparrow's welfare?

Do we think He raised the sparrows and their ilk to be, literally, the targets of our entertainment?

Can we kill whatever we want to kill, or does stewardship mean killing when necessary, and sparing life when possible - because it comes from God?

And what on earth was meant by 'speaking the Gospel to all creatures'? It's not a misprint, and not a mistranslation.

If the very stones could cry out, what might a deer say? All creatures.

Stewardship. What do we owe God's creation?

If you found your son sitting in the backyard, trying to pick off songbirds with a slingshot, what would you do? Is it different a couple of decades later when he's trying to fill a Mallard with birdshot, or 'harvest' a whitetail?

What do you think? I have a lot of questions. But no real answers.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Dreams You Hold Close

The most dangerous enemy your dreams have is you.

We're all sent into this world with a set of God-given dreams, and it's part of our life's duty to discover and nurture them. Dreams are what keep you reaching out, and up. They put the world into a context of the possible.

They make glory real, and give substance to beauty, and put the sweat into adventure.

So why do we, coldly and deliberately, murder them?

There are a number of reasons.

  • I can't make it, so why break my heart by trying? This is the 'weak suck' excuse. It seeks to insulate from greater pain in the future by inflicting what is hoped to be lesser pain now. It's cowardly, and infectious, because the self-imposed limitation "I can't do it" will carry over to other things. And it always has a built-in shield to hide behind - "I never tried, so I never failed." It's pathetic. And this is the story of the servant, who, entrusted with one talent, buried it. "See, boss? You got your money back! All of it!"
  • No one really respects my dream, so it can't be worthwhile. Jesus couldn't work miracles in his home district, and there are going to be people who want you to fail. What better way to ensure your failure than to cut your legs out from under you? And why do they want you to lose? So they can feel like they're winning. After all...they beat you.
  • There are so many more worthwhile things, and my dream's frivolous.  Here's the biggie. This is the most destructive thing you can do to yourself. This is Judas telling Jesus he isn't worth the oil in the alabaster jar. Set yourself up as a fake Mother Teresa, and you can chase causes down the years, driving people away with your grim air of martyrdom.
The fact is that are dreams aren't small or selfish, and they don't take away from the contribution we can make to the common good. They're the investment that God has made in us, in their planting. They make our hearts grow larger, so we can spread more love.

They make our imaginations more vivid, so we can see where we can help Christ in action.

And they make our souls complete, so that God has room, and isn't cramped.

Hold onto your dreams, and you're holding God's hand.

Don't let go.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Life Falls Apart

What do you do when your life seems to come to a dead stop?

There can be any number of causes - a career or a relationship can suddenly end, or your health can change to make everything you enjoyed before inaccessible.

The feel-good authors will tell you to get back up and dust yourself off.

After all, it doesn't matter how many times you fall, it only matters how many times you get up.

Sincere Christians will tell you to trust that God has something better just waiting for you, and that you should trust His wisdom and providence.

Well, okay.

The thing is, when your life's been battered into unrecognizable fragments, getting back up can be pretty unappealing. Why bother, if you've been pink-slipped at 55, or your husband's gone to Acapulco with his secretary. His male secretary.

Sure, you have value that transcends what people may do...but at those moments, just try to believe it. You can't. (Or, anyway, I sure can't.)

And yes, God cares, but it seems pretty abstract. When you're afraid to get the mail because, what can it be but bad news? - it can feel like you're at the wrong end of God's bowling alley.

Pretty hard to 'count it all joy' when, Hello! - here comes another 16-lb ball. And God don't throw no gutterballs.


So what do you do? Shrivel up in a ball like a spider in a propane flame?

You can, but first, think about someone else whose life went horribly wrong. Or should I say, Someone else.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowds threw palm fronds on the road in front of Him. When he left, on the way to Golgotha, the same people were throwing rocks.

Could He pick himself up, dust Himself off? He probably could have, being God and all, but He didn't. It wasn't what He came for.

And do you believe for a minute that He counted it all joy? That the Via Dolorosa was kind of like a stroll down Rodeo Drive with an uncapped Visa card?

Good. Neither do I.

Jesus had to do one thing. He had to take it. All of it. He had to take the hurt and the humiliation, the sorrow and the suffering. He had to live the full measure of those things - and he had to complete the experience in a feeling of abandonment. "Why have You forsaken me?"

Modern preachers like to say that Jesus didn't really feel abandoned by God. He felt that the sin he was carrying for humanity was abandoned.

What a load of hooey. The guy was being tortured to death. He was hurting. He wasn';t splitting theological hairs.

And in the end, He rose from the dead, to a greater glory than anyone imagined.

But he had to be DEAD first!

When you're hurting, live with it. Don't let people make you feel bad because it hurts, and you can't get over it yet. Don't think that you're not a good Christian because you can't walk out whistling a happy tune.

Sit and bleed awhile. You'll be in good Company, and eventually, if you take His hand, that Company will pull you back onto your feet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saving Souls

I never led anyone to Jesus.

In most of the places I worked (colleges), I was the unofficial chaplain - the go-to guy for religious doubt, personal crises, and the occasional suicidal impulse.

I was known as being religious, and my door was always open to people of any faith. I've read the Quran, and Bhagavad Gita, and many Buddhist texts, along with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

It sounds like these would have been perfect opportunities to bring folks to the cross, but looks are deceiving. It would have been a betrayal. And I think that there is the challenge that faces chaplains everywhere - official or not.

In that role, you're a lightning rod for hurt, fear, and despair. Your first job is to simply listen, sometimes for hours, until the rush of words starts to ease.

Then you can ask guiding questions, NOT to "place the Lord in their heart" but to stop the bleeding FROM the heart.  These are questions like, "Do you have friends who'll help you?" "Do you want me to talk with your professors, see if we can get your exams postponed?"

These are questions that help the hurting find an anchor in normal.

Is it time to trot out Jesus?


The next step is to formulate a plan of action - where to get help, if further help is needed, or what to do as an individual. Oh, and now's a good time to take possession of the pistol that the guy bent on suicide brought with him.

And then, you walk the person to the next place of safety. Whether it's a friend's apartment or a counselor's office, you take the long walk with them.

And you don't talk about Jesus.

Why? Why ignore Him, when He can offer comfort?

Because it's not the time. It's not the time for the agenda of saving souls. It's about making sure that the soul stays intact enough to save.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jesus Wept...and Laughed?

I have a great sense of humor. I just never laugh. Or smile.

My wife says that I could respond to a joke, give a laundry list, or describe the end of the world in pretty much the same tone of voice, and facial expression.

Hmmm. I might be taking this 'laid-back attitude' thing a bit too far.

When you look at the Bible, you'll find that Jesus was never described as laughing. Or even smiling. He wept, He was angry, He was stern, He was compassionate...but never, it seemed, did He hear a joke He liked.

So I'm in good company, right?

Uh, no.

What we have in the Gospels are four sets of narrative, linked but distinctly separate, designed to make a point. They were written to describe what Jesus taught, and what was important to the community. Hearing about Him yukking it up didn't pass the edits.

But something has survived, a sly sense of very Jewish humor that occasionally peeks out from behind the official billboard.

When the apostles are out on the lake, in the storm, they see Jesus walking on the water...and looking as if He's going to pass them by!

Didn't He see them? Or was He off duty?

Or was He just...pulling their legs?

Jesus' audience found a lot more to laugh at in the absurd than we do - for example, the idea of someone building a house on sand, or lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket would have been hysterical.

Kind of like when I got Joseph of the Many-Colored Coat confused with Jesus' dad...my wife had a great time with that.

Or the camel going through the Eye of the Needle - yes, I know there was a gate in Jerusalem called the Eye of the Needle, but I think Jesus used it as a double entendre - to get his listeners to laugh at the incongruity of the image as it would first come to mind.

So Jesus wept...and He laughed...

And we should do likewise, to live in the full humanity He brought to us.

Friday, August 2, 2013

From Date To Mate - Falling In Love With The Spouse You've Got (Part Two)

So there you are - about to commit Holy Matrimony with someone who, you realize in flashes of scary insight - is in some ways very much a stranger.

Time to run down the church aisle, screaming? Or will someone tackle you and drag you back?

Probably. No one wants to see a good wedding spoiled.

So you go through with it, and your sideways looks at your new mate as you drive off into the sunset are love mixed with "who IS this?"

Fear not, because now comes the chance you've always waited for. This is the time of your life when you get to really, truly fall in love.

Here's how to start -

  1. Always emphasize the positive about your mate - and about yourself. In words, obviously - you never run your mate down, to anyone. But most of all, in your heart. Put your mate on a pedestal, and guard it zealously. This doesn't mean you ignore every screwup - but you write them off as being part of living as a human being. You never hold them to your heart, for use as ammunition later.
  2. Remember, that both of you chose this. This si NOT "you made you bed, lie in it". It's the recognition that you both saw something here that was worth making a major life change. You may not recognize exactly what it is you saw - it was a shape constrained within a fog of emotion - but there's something there, something positive.
  3. Give compliments freely, and criticisms sparingly.
  4. Touch, often. Make this a priority - when you meet after even a short parting, give your mate a hug. And if he doesn't seem to clue in and initiate this himself, DO IT ANYWAY. This is not the place to count hugs on an equal footing.
  5. Be sexual. A lot of Christians tend to shy away from incorporating sex into the fabric of their marriage - it's an 'extra', like a dessert. But this is exactly wrong, and can be quite harmful. That part of your relationship may not be perfect, but accept it for what it is - a God-designed avenue for intimacy that merges the physical and emotional. Men have a much more 'direct' view of the subject, but guys...you've got to try to learn that for your wives a day that might end in the bedroom begins with a kiss...two or three mornings before. And ladies - remember that you're married to a male, and while he can learn, he won't learn overnight.
  6. Pray together. I was going to say 'go to church together' but this can be bad advice. Often one partner will get more from a given church environment - or preacher - than the other, and that can start feeling of being left out. Go to church together if it works, but pray together to MAKE it work.
  7. Put your mate's picture where you can see it - on your office wall, on your bedside table, wherever it's easily seen.
And seven is probably enough. The point is to create an environment in your heart in which love can grow, and the weeds of anger and doubt can be culled.

And where you can fall in love with the person you married, a little more every day.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

From Date to Mate - Falling in Love With The Spouse You've Got (Part One)

Why did you get married? Was it because you were lonely, or was it simply time to make a change in your life, to take an expected step.

No, don't recoil in horror. A LOT of marriages started that way. Actually...most of them.

Most couples didn't start out with an unquenchable love for one another. There was attraction - yes. God designed us to like the opposite sex (in different ways, for men and women, to be sure).

There was an emotional link, a feeling of comfort in the presence of the other.

But for most couples, there was also an area of cool calculation during courtship. The part that could think, "You know, I'm kind of glad we're NOT going out tonight."

"Phone's busy...whew."

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these feelings, and others like them. They just mean you're human, and in the absence of sure knowing...you're unsure.

And how can you have sure knowing, that you want to spend your life with someone who's still largely a stranger? Whose life before you met is not a closed book, but one in which you'll only see certain pages.

I know that this goes against what we want to experience, the swept-off-the-feet feeling that we see in films, hear in songs, and might have experienced when we were younger. (And don't think for a minute that men don't get swept off their feet - they do, and they tend to fall into love or infatuation as hard as women do.)

But most marriages...yeah, they're closer to mergers than "Sleepless in Seattle". There's a mental cost-benefit analysis going on at some level - on both sides.

And we often say yes, after the analysis, after the calculation, and with a leap of faith.

And then the real work begins - of making a mate out of a date.

Of falling hopelessly, desperately in love with the person you've married.

We'll look at that tomorrow.