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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Let Battle Begin - Tuesdays at Ten

This post is linked to Tuesdays at Ten - please visit KarenBeth's site!

"We fight, therefore we are." Menachem Begin

For those who may not remember, Menachem Begin was prime minister of Israel through some of its hardest years in the 70s. It was he who was willing to meet Yassir Arafat for the Camp David accords, which led, if not to peace, to a certain level of understanding between Jew and Arab.

OK, so I' am cheating - I'm using the surname 'Begin', and not 'begin'. Too bad.)

What he is saying here is that our battles define us; our willingness to risk pain and death for a greater cause are what forms our legacy.

The same is true - sometimes - in marriage. We don't want to be unequally yoked, with divergent vision.

And if we are, we should be understanding and forbearing.


There are some battles in marriage we simply have to fight. We have to fight against adultery, obviously - we can;'t just say,"well, dear, as long as you're happy..."

We have to fight against "emotional adultery", a rather new category of dreadfullness to which the Internet has given birth. How lovely that we can reconnect with old friends.

And how revolting that we can reconnect with Old Flames.

These are things we have to fight, because if we don;'t, we sacrifice not only who we are, but the person our mate expected on that Wedding Day.

We were expected to bring not only a warm hug, but a bracing shout.

And now may be the time.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Not On The Same Page?

There have been times when my wife has said that we just aren't communicating at all.

We're talking, but it's like we're speaking different languages.

It gets frustrating for both of us, because everyone wants to be heard, but when we're not on the same page, it's just not happening. We're exercising oratorical skill in an empty lecture hall.

This is a recurring season that happens in every marriage; but that can be really hard to believe when your're courting.

In those halcyon days, every word that passes your beloved's lips is a drop of wisdom-nectar to be cherished, savoured, and remembered.

But after a few weeks of marriage, we start to forget them. And then we may forget why we thought we understood this individual in the first place.

But it is a season, and seasons pass.

Which doesn't make the question go away...how do you deal with communication that just doesn't work?

First, accept that this does happen. It will get better. And then it will happen again.

Second, don't try to force it. When we run into folks whose command of English is limited, we tend to try to make ourselves understood by speaking loudly. Sounds stupid, and it is, but most of us do it anyway.

Don't do it to your spouse. Speak your case, and let it go. You won't push understanding, and if you try, you'll only build resistance.

Third, listen more carefully. We change over time, and so do the nuances of our speech. I was once loud and confident; now I'm a lot quieter, and very, very reserved. For my wife it's a bit like being married to a whole 'nother person...and I have changed. I really am a whole 'nother person, and we have to meet somewhere in my difference...and hers.

Fourth, observe. What is your husband or wife reading, what do they prefer to watch on television, what kind of music do they listen to? The messages and images we ingest are both an indicator of where our hearts and minds are, and a predictor of where we're going.

Fifth, don't pull away. If talking doesn't work, okay, but don't quit holding hands in church, or walking around the block. Don't withhold hugs. Don't shy away from sex, if it's mutually desired.

Sixth, remain loyal. Do NOT complain to anyone (except a therapist) about the perceived distance that's opened up, because stuff like this tends to find its way home,..and back to your spouse's ears.

It's not fun. You work so hard to be a good mate...and this stuff isn't fair.

No. But it is life.

And if you give it a chance, and some care, it will pass.

If you have a chance, please visit my other blog, Starting the Day with Grace. You'll find a "grace quote" from a source you might not have expected, and a short commentary.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Married, at Church

Married Christians should attend church regularly. Period.

There are some very good reasons for this:

  • It helps keep you on the same spiritual wavelength. We usually begin marriage with a common worldview and a common spiritual outlook, but it;'s surprising how outside influences can cause divergence...and one day you can wonder how you ever believed the same things. Going to church together isn't a magic cure, but it does give a basis for discussion so that you can catch differences before they become chasms.
  • It provides an opportunity to service, through ministry teams. Serving together, in a common cause, is one of the best ways to strengthen a marriage.
  • It provides a way to meet other couples for fellowship...and to provide accountability partners. Fellowship, in this context, does';t necessarily mean talkathons about witnessing; rather, its the chance to hang out with someone whose views you can trust, someone with whom you're both implicitly and explicitly comfortable. Same with accountability partners, though their function is to act as your Christian conscience when temptation hits.
  • Going to church together sets an example for younger members of the congregation. Teenagers are surprisingly observant, and almost astonishingly wistful when it comes to marriage...and they are watching. Hold hands in church, walk with your shoulders touching, and you will give young women - and young men - an image of what can be.
But, surprisingly, a lot of Christian couples fall away from regular attendance. Schedules get busy, weekends are the only chance to sleep in, the kids are unruly and rebellious, there are parents and grandparents to be visited...and church falls down the list.

Besides, the Christian community begins at home, right?

Exactly. It begins at home, but it's supposed to extend out into the wider world. The light of faith isn't supposed to be hidden under a basket, and the first step in carrying it openly is...you guessed it - going to church.

It's a two-way street. The Christian influences from your marriage are supposed to flow out into the secular world, and become a living testament to the Gospel.

But it works in reverse, tool the temptations of secular culture are sometimes superficially attractive, and if all you have is a living-room-fireplace-mantle church, you quickly lose the backbone-stiffening consistency of message that you'd otherwise get every Sunday...if you were there.

So, go.

nd make it attractive, if churchgoing seems a bit of a chore. Stop at Starbucks afterward for a treat. Go miniature golfing. Go for a hike. Sure, worship is supposed to be its own reward, but that'snot always the case, so why not give yourself a treat,to mark having done it?

The most important thing, on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, is that you show up.

If you have a chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting the Day with Grace", for a "grace quote"and a mercifully short commentary.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stay Married For Christmas, Pt. 3 - No Common Ground

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and expectations in most households are high. Expectations of how things will go, how things will feel...

...and some of these have already fallen by the wayside, unrealized.

One of the biggest problems couples have at this time of year - golly, at any time of year - are expectations that simply don't meet. Like railroad tracks, their lives and hopes and dreams stretch to the horizon, close put always separate.

It's magnified at Christmas, because...well, we're supposed to be close at Christmas. It's the season of renewal, the Birth of Hope.

We naturally apply those images as metaphors for our own lives, for our own marriages. And they are true,but God is not Santa Claus, and He doesn't bring the Instant Marriage Repair Kit and set it under the tree.

It takes work, and Christmas isn't a terrible time to work on it. In fact, the emotion and sentimental ambience can give relationship repair a head start.

To begin the move closer together, start with the Three C's - communication, cooperation, and compromise.

  • Communicate what you hope and expect for Christmas. Don't hold back, don't try to scale your dreams down to what you think is possible. Be honest. You owe that to your spouse - and yourself.
  • Cooperate in bringing your spouse's expectations to fruition. Trust hi or her to do the same with yours, but don;t make this any kind of quid pro quo arrangement. Christmas is also the season of giving...so give, and make the decision not to look at what you may be given in return
  • Compromise on the things that you find difficult in your spouse's "expectation portfolio". If your husband wants you to watch all the football bowl games that run through the holidays with him, and you can;t abide the sport...agree to a set number, the ones that are really important. And as part of the compromise, take the time to learn about the game, and the teams involved...on your own. You may find that i's more interesting than you expected.
The main point in these categories is to be looking outward, putting your mate on the same level of importance that you occupy in your worldview.

It's not that we're "born selfish"; that is not the point. We just have easiest access to what we want, what we think we need, and it takes an act of will to see the world through the eyes of another.

But it's sure worth it.

What about you? Do you have any ideas or suggestions to add?

If you have a moment, please take a moment to stop by at my other blog, "Starting the Day with Grace", for a quotation and a mercifully brief commentary.

And have a WONDERFUL Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Message For Grief - Shove Off!

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

So here's my contribution.

Dear Grief,

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

Or something.

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

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

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

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

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

So, Grief, why are you here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adore Like Mongo - Five Minute Friday

And here we are again.

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

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

Today's word is adore.


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

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

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

Road kill?

What do you do?

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

So, what do you do?

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

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

It's a gift.


Whoa! FOUR minutes!

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stay Married for Christmas 2 - The Money Pit

Do you hate the January credit-card bills?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's survivable.

And working together can be fun.

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Book Well Worth Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to see the Amazon page.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare To Meet Thy God - Five Minute Friday


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

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

Today's word is prepare.


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

Same difference.

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

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

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

Scary, eh?

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

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

This is not a God of Our Sunday Best.

This is an Everyday God.


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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stay Married for Christmas, Part 1

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

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

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

We'll focus on three areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your own traditions, as a couple.

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

Maybe it'll be a cooking project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

What We Hold Dear - Five Minute Friday

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

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

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

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

Today's word is dear.


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

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

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

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

Because you made a promise.

That stuff happens in marriage - all of it.

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


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