Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

This week is surprisingly a good one, that is when one considers the fact that the town I live in just went through massive flooding, when I was on vacation.  Check out these photos to get an idea of the damage. It' pretty insane. I read in one article that there was 60 billion gallons of water dropped on Chicagoland. As I said. Insane.  We had 4 feet of water in the basement.  I spent 13 hours today dragging stuff out.  We lost some memories and some stuff and a lot of carpet and drywall and we might need a new washer dryer air conditioner and furnace. But I also learned some things and have had my heart put right, and for that I thank God.

I have been reading here about a gratitude list.  And figured now is a good time to thank God for lot's of things.  

1) I thank God for getting us out of Chicago on Friday night, before we were planning and mere hours before the flood.  Now my wife and kids are with the rest of my family vacationing as they should be. 
2) I thank God for my Dad who happened to have a layover in Chicago and could hop off the flight to help me take apart the basement.
3) I thank God for this time with my Dad.
4) I thank God that there was a flight and a seat available for me the moment we drove into Denver so I could come home asap.
5) I thank God that on that flight I was able to sit next to, talk to, and pray for a woman who had just lost her sister. A 48 year old mother of 2 and grandmother of 2.
6)  I thank God for the modern conveniences I take for granted. 
7)  I thank God for all the stuff we have.
8) I thank God for the chance to clear some of that stuff out.
9) I thank God for making our time dealing with all of this headache pretty easy. We weren't here to experience the stress, when I arrived the flooding in my neighborhood had receded so that I could drive up to my door.

I also learned that no matter what you do you can't protect things or people perfectly.  Your stuff, and your kids can't be held onto too tightly.  I mean they need to be held onto tightly, your kids need to be loved, but no matter what, things will happen. When they do we all we can do is trust God. We need to trust that he is in control, that all those things I can be thankful for in this hard situation are a product of his divine intervention. I don't know what will happen to Star. This woman that I spoke to on the plane and prayed with, but I do hope she comes to know Jesus as he works in her now to draw her to himself. 

On the drive we listened to a CD my mom made for the kids, they were about family mostly, but one I really like (my adaptation) goes

All I really need is God's song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.  


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vows: With my Body I thee Worship

Since I re-read the vows that Dani and I said at our wedding I've been really thinking a lot about the phrase, "With my body I thee worship,  and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." This phrase while surprising to many of us as American Christians I think uncovers 2 of the areas of constant marital strife.  Our sexual relationships and our financial ones.  Today I'm going to deal a little bit with the sexual relationship side of things and later address finances.

The first thing we need to discuss is the idea of worship.  Fundamentally worship is giving appropriate worth to someone or something.  So when we worship God we ascribe to him the majesty and glory he deserves.  When we worship our spouses, we don't elevate them over and above God instead we give them appropriate value which places our spouse in a secondary position beneath God.  Of course, a spouse can become an idol, but in this context it speaks to honoring our spouses, and that we live out that appropriate honor, by giving our spouses what they deserve and desire through intimacy.

It has often been said that men desire respect in the husband/wife relationships more than anything.  That as the head, and leader of the family, a man desires his reasons and opinions and decisions to not be challenged and undermined.  Of course, constructive challenges and criticisms are often necessary, and the wise and loving husband will seek his wife's input and perspective on decisions in order to include her, understand her and care for her needs and well being.  In short to show her love. 

This same situation applies to the marriage bed.

3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent...

So here we see that both spouses should seek to fulfill each other sexually whenever the other is interested. I believe this supports the primary desires of husbands and wives.  

Husbands who desire respect experience a woman's acceptance of his advances as respect. Her willingness affirms that he is worthy and she wants to express and reward that. In the same way that he wants his wife to accept his decisions as wise and good he wants his wife to accept his advances. He wants his wife to submit to his will and choices both in life and in the bedroom. When she says yes, she is in essence saying you are good, I trust you and want to please you. However, when the advances are denied it undermines that respect.  Men don't want excuses, I'm too tired, I'm too busy, headache, whatever.  All those things communicate, you aren't good enough for me. I'd rather sleep, work, clean whatever than be with you. That is some pretty crappy stuff to rank beneath. All of those things communicate the opposite of respect and certainly don't give a husband the worth he is due. 

Women want to be given appropriate value and worth as well, and men need to remember that and realize how we can love our wives in a way they feel worthy. Women desire to FEEL loved, rather than respected.  For most of us men, if our wives will give it up at all times, (which is God's plan btw, and is  awesome) we'd likely stop doing all the loving, caring things that score us enough points to actually get us what we want. Its our sinful and selfish nature.  Honestly, If I wasn't regularly rejected I wouldn't try so hard to make SURE it happens "this time."  If I wasn't regularly rejected, my negligence would probably make my wife feel used, rather than honored.  It would make my wife feel unappreciated and not loved.  And I think this is the key for guys.  That is, make sure that we listen to and understand our wives preferences and needs and not simply expect that she be available.  Then we will seek to do the things for her, that make her feel loved. In response she'll want to be available. So give the massages, buy the flowers, just cuddle (I don't get it either!) all those things just because we want to honor our wives with our bodies, not because we want to get something out of it. We need to love through doing the things that she enjoys and that give her pleasure and not simply expect her to bend to your (my) preferences.  Because if we do that, women feel used and not like she is being given appropriate worth.  
So the command to both husband and wife, the promise Dani and I both made is that we will worship each other with our bodies. For me that means putting her first, loving, caring, serving, giving, all the time no stopping, no putting my self first. All her all the time.  

I just hope she is reading this, and is way better at her job than I am at mine. 

Monday, July 19, 2010


This past weekend Dani and I went to a wedding.  It's always a good reminder for those of us married to hear others taking those vows, making that promise. To love:  to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I think it helps us to refocus on the part we play in making things work.  It reminds us of the difficult commitment we have made, but that indeed we did commit.  It reminds us of the joy and expectancy and hope of that day, a hope that still exists in us all as we continue to grow in that love or at least striving for that beautiful perfect love that we know exists.

Sometimes in that pursuit however, we get lost.  We get things backwards and messed up. I was reflecting on my vows.  The Old English vows written by Thomas Cranmer.  It's usually presented like this, "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you." but the original reads this, "With my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. Pretty big difference, right? I mean you can see the heart of the original in the revision.  It's a lot more palatable to modern sensibilities, but it loses the power of the original and the thrust of what marriage really is.  Marriage is a complete commitment to the other person for their good.  Usually we get married because we love who we are when we are with that person.  They make us happier, or smarter, or safer, or braver, or whatever, but all too often we love ourselves when we are with them.  Marriage and life together helps us to learn what it is to love someone.  

We see this progression in Song of Solomon.  in 2:16 it says this 

My lover is mine and I am his.

In 6:3 the order changes

I am my lover's and my lover is mine; 

In 7:10 we see a further evolution

10 I belong to my lover,
       and his desire is for me.

Notice how in the first verse (pre-wedding) the beloved is focused on possessing her spouse.  He is mine.  First and foremost this is about what he can do for me.  This is essential and a normal part of our growing into love.   The same thing happens in our relationship with Jesus.  We want what he can do for us.  So we accept the proposal.  

However, that's not the aim.  That's not what we hope for and ultimately, a possessive me focused relationship is unsatisfying.  In Chapter 6 we still see possession, we still see ownership, but we see the order changed.  There is a recognition of belonging to the other person, we begin to give up our rights to ourself. We begin to understand love as a place to give, but our sense of self and rights and desires are not eradicated.

In chapter 7, we see the difference.  A complete abandonment of self interest of possessing and owning the other.  We are now free to give ourselves completely to our spouse.  Here is the beautiful thing though.  She knows she is loved.  She knows her husbands heart is committed to her and without that love we don't get to this point.  There can be relationships where someone gives up their rights to themselves, and it's a messed up out of whack relationship that does not honor God.  There can be relationships where men demand women serve them and give themselves up for them, abusive, oppressive relationships. There can be relationships where women control their husbands, manipulating, nagging and operating in a way to suck all the joy out of the relationship in order to get what they want.   There are a lot of ways to mess up a relationship, for sure. But there is only one way to get it right, and that is for both spouses to see that every aspect of marriage is about caring for the other.  Giving all that you have and all that you are to each other.  That means mentally and emotionally, that means spiritually and physically and that means financially and sexually.  This is where we pick up these vows that Dani and I said 8 years ago.  

These are areas of conflict for a lot of couples, but these need to be areas that we both see as essential to the health of our relationships.  We need to seek to serve and care for and love each other through these areas. I'm going to deal with how to do that in later posts since this is already a monster as it is.  Here is a good article in the meantime.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


A while back my son got lost.  I started to freak out and panic.  I was so panicked I started yelling out "Gabe!" Of course this was done in public to the other parents judgmental and derisive looks. Eventually, I found him.  I was upset.  I've decided some time when we are out I will hide on him so that he feels the panic and fear that I felt.  I'll have to think of something else to help him understand the humiliation I felt by exposing my poor parenting to people I don't even know....

Ok, so actually I'm not going to do that.  I've already dealt with it with the words I forgive you.  Sure, I said some other stuff before those words. But I can and did forgive him because I don't need to have justice in the situation. I don't need to make sure things are fair because I was "wronged." I get a chance to forgive and in forgiveness we find mercy.

These days justice especially social justice is often held up as the highest moral virtue.  Maybe Love still holds the #1 spot, but we hear a lot about justice.  And I think justice is important and essential and I love that our God is a just God who will judge the evil and hate and all the things that bring about pain in our world. I'm glad for all the ways and chances we have to be involved in bringing justice to broken people and systems. I think the church needs to take a greater stand against oppression and unfairness inherent in America.  But I think it is important that we remember a few other things about God and the role of Justice, Mercy and Grace in the redemptive story

Justice is getting what you deserve, what is fair. I have a lot of things that I don't necessarily deserve more than others just because I was born at a certain time in a certain family, had certain opportunities.  All things where its not fair that I had an advantage and others didn't and so I want to work to provide fair structures and opportunities for all people. But there is another side to justice, to fairness.  I hurt people I love.  I get angry and impatient. sometimes people get mad back, but sometimes they can't exact justice and I get away with injustice. We all do. Ask my kids.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.  For all the wrongs that we do we could get justice. God keeps track of them. Some of the people in our lives keep track of them and hold them against us. In reality that is fair, it is just it is right.  But there is another way.  A way of forgiveness.  A way to say, I know you wronged me but I'm not going to hold it against you.  That is the story of Jonah. I'll be preaching on it through July and into August. I'm excited to learn more about mercy and God's compassion for individuals, and nations and even animals. And I'm really really grateful for mercy.  Mercy extended by God, by my family especially by my wife, by my church and friends. Mercy should be met with gratitude.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve. So basically grace is beyond justice and beyond mercy.  It is something that we can't earn. It is something that goes beyond forgiveness. It is something that looks at all our failures and wrongs and the hurtful things we do and say.  It sees the times we turn our backs on justice.  It says in spite of all that, in spite of the evil in your past and in your heart. I will not only forgive you, I will bless you.  When we understand true Justice we can understand the good news.  We get to see the gospel and grace for what they are:  The true gift of God.