this is our story, this is our song

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“For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness.  For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.”
~Psalm 18:28-29~

The heavens opened again last night.

Early in the morning while the snow was still dark we laid awake and talked it out.  Twelve years into marriage and I think we’re finally identifying the causes and patterns of our communication breakdowns leading to the repeated and unintended hurt and offense.   You really have to be student of your own spouse and your own self.  Generalizations only go so far before they collide with the individuality of a person.  Gender, personality, family history, personal past and present, this all plays into the marriage dynamic.

People say marriage takes work.  The hardest work by far for us has been the work of communication.  Taking out the garbage and sharing a bathroom has really been the least of  our issues.  We worked together at Camp CILCA for four summers doing all kinds of no-makeup mundane and laborious tasks and it was a joy.  But something happens when you get physically and emotionally close to a person.  Something happens when you become one flesh.  Your entire being is far more sensitive to the words, actions, habits, and life of another person.

It reflects who you are.  It affects who you are. It becomes a part of who you are.

This is why it is so important, so very important, to remember whose we are to begin with.  We are sons of God.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are one in the Spirit.  Lutherans talk all the time about remembering our Baptisms.  I don’t always think along these Sacramental lines because I didn’t grow up with it.  It isn’t ingrained in my thought process, at least not in those terms.

But Song is a language I have understood since my beloved early days of Sunday night hymn sings.  Song breaks the chain of demonic brainwashing attacking the one-flesh and pitting the other person against you, particularly in how messages are received.  We are discovering Song has a powerful effect to halt the downward spiral and/or uplift the weaker partner from the terrible depths of communication disaster.

In other words, come hell or high water, one of us picks up the hymn book and sings.

God’s own child I gladly say it
I am baptized into Christ
He because I could not pay it
Gave my full redemption price
Do I need earth’s treasure’s many
I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free
Lasting to eternity

Song opens the eyes.  Song clears the air.  Song draws out the truth.  Song turns us back around.  Song looks us in the eye.  Song can’t help but smile.  Song softens the heart.  Song makes a way when there seems to be no way.

Our Song saves the day and makes us strong enough to keep going.

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culture of gifts

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There’s something peaceful about Epiphany.

Our trees are still up and I have yet to tuck away the decorations and find homes for all the new toys.   It’s our way of saying welcome to all that is new, please, make yourself at home and stay awhile.  It’s how we say that even though Christmas is over Christmas is still here.

This is the time to enjoy.

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Daddy has the annual voter’s meeting this afternoon.

I don’t go to voter’s meetings anymore.  It is neither my time nor my place and I am okay with that.  Our marriage is stronger when I am here and not involved there. I used to try to go.  When I was part of ladies Bible study, VBS, and on the local Lutheran high school board, I had to go.  I either asked one of the high school girls to come over for a few hours or I brought the kids with me and they played in the cry room.  Looking back I know it was all too much.  I didn’t need to do all that though it was never a matter of needing to but wanting to.  Being part of a congregation meant being involved and being with people.

But it couldn’t mean that for me.  For me it means separation.  It means being cut off and removed.  The gut honest truth is that my heart has been shattered because of it.  I have had to undergo painful change.  I’ve had to relearn what it means to be part of a church.  I have no idea what that means anymore.  I just know I’ve made mistakes trying to figure it out.

It’s so hard though sometimes.  I still wrestle with this sense of confusion in this culture so different from the church of my upbringing.  I have deeply missed the simple joy of Christian fellowship.   On Epiphany we went to church as a family to the circuit service and it was like I was in a completely different world.  Many other circuit pastors and their wives and children were there.  The circuit wives have always had a good relationship even though we don’t see each other nearly enough.  It was wonderful to see them all.  There were smiles and hugs and throwing our arms around each other and asking why in the world we cry alone when we know there are others struggling with us.

It felt like family.   It felt like friends.  It felt like church.

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But God is good and somehow in all the pain and deep loneliness there has always been the daily bread.  Where this culture may not be the familiar one of fellowship, relationship, and hospitality, we live among a generous and thoughtful culture of gift-giving.   Every home-grown tomato has been growing something in me.  Every card and gift welcoming our babies, every plate of home-baked cookies, every bag of Christmas gifts for our children, and yes, even the cardboard box on our porch full of leftover Christmas program paper bags of peanuts and even more candy has been a testament of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us.  He has provided.

For that I am forever grateful.

 

Christmas and the True Meaning of Marriage

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(originally written for Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife)

Life is fertile ground for marriage conflict.

The thorns. The rocks. The birds and the bees. Days go by. Years go by. The man and woman trudge along, East of Eden, choking down their doled out lot of sweat and sorrow. Bodies wear and hearts grow callous, more and more unable—and unwilling–to walk with one another, to walk toward one another. The farther down the road they get, the more they hurt, the more they ache, the more they mourn what was, what is, what never shall be this side of heaven’s shore.

The man and woman thirst for Hope. No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, the marriage, the one-flesh union, shrivels in shame. The Promised Ring from long ago feels too far off. They look around and all they see is devastation. Neither male nor female can tell you why or how they got there. And yet, you know they know, for they cannot escape the pain, cannot tame the pointing finger–it’s no use.  The blessing of Heaven has become a gangster’s paradise.

But then the sky opens. Heaven tears apart the veil, the thick covering of hopelessness and evil deeds, exposing the darkness. “Fear not,” the angel says, For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.” But how can this be? After all the ways we’ve failed, everything that’s happened, everything we’ve done, everything we’ve been through. How can this Joy be for all men, all women, all children, all those running fast and furious from the Light of Light?

God tells us how.  For unto you is born this day, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  The promise rings out on a Bethlehem hillside. He is here! The King of kings has risen! Newborn lungs exercise a prehistoric authority. The bleeding Mary soothes her child. A dragon hits the ground. Demons fall on their face. O Holy, Holy, Holy night! Sorrow and sighing flee away for the earth is once again full of His glory. Peace on earth and mercy wild–God and sinners reconciled! The miracle of reconciliation—this is what your marriage begs for. This is what the earth cries out for. This is what the angels sing for.

She who has an ear let her hear.

The Lord exhorts wives to respect and submit to their husbands. As a woman it can be hard to know what submission looks like and how a man defines respect. But upon giving us ears to hear the Word, the Spirit also gives us a heart to understand. The Prince of Peace pursues the common ground. By coming down to earth, Christ humbles himself, being born in the likeness of men. Perhaps a woman begins her approach to her husband, not by understanding his manhood, but his personhood, his humanity. Your husband is a man. The man is human. He has a human nature. He has a deep and primal need that hasn’t changed since the day he came forth naked from the ground, naked from his mother’s womb.

He needs another.

The story goes like this–For God so loved the man he gave a woman. For God so loved the world He gave a Man. The Son of God submits to the womb, the skin, the birth, the pain, the cross.

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits because He cares. Care says your life has value and inherent worth. With my actions I can say to my husband, “You, my love, are worthy of care. You are worthy of life and breath and all the wonders this world has to offer. You are worthy to be fed and touched and held. You are worthy of attention, of admiration, of all my heart’s deepest affections. You are worthy to be spoken to, spoken for, to be praised and sung over by the gentle voice of Yahweh.  You are worthy for you are redeemed and beloved in the sight of the Lord.”

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits to bring us comfort. Comfort comes to ease our suffering. Comfort gives hope to disperse our despair. Comfort comes and speaks the most beautiful and healing words the man has ever known, “Your sins are forgiven.” Comfort submits to serve alongside and ease the burden. Comfort says I will wash your feet, pick up your socks, eat at your table, laugh at your jokes, hear you out, bite my tongue, kiss your lips, give you my body, and speak no more of your sins. Comfort says go and sin no more, weep no more, sigh no more, grieve no more. Our union is restored. Man and wife are one again, friends again, lovers again.

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits to give us courage. Courage says we don’t have to be afraid anymore. Courage assures Joseph he needn’t be afraid to take Mary as his wife. We fear not what love requires—even obedience unto death–for Christ has risen and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We needn’t be afraid of failing—for Jesus finished the work on the cross giving us the glory of His eternal inheritance. Courage leads us to acknowledge and confess the sin residing and warring within our members. Courage forsakes the way of old Adam who threatens the fidelity and life of a marriage. Courage isn’t giving in–courage is giving and asking nothing in return.

O Joy to the world!  The Lord has given us His one and only Son. God walks with us again for Christ submitted His life to the will of His Father and the arms of His mother. Submission paves the way for reconciliation. Submission pursues the path to peace, to comfort and joy. Submission displays the image of God to your husband–to the world–that the Word of God may not be mocked. Dear wives, most beloved in the Lord and fellow heirs of the grace of life, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Love your husbands. Respect your husbands. Submit to your husbands, and behold, a great and mighty wonder—

Submission paints a picture of Christ’s love for His Bride.

Your marriage is the Lord’s fertile ground for the Gospel.

this at last

wet“It’s always in the evenings, when the lights dim and the house quiets, that I feel it most.  To describe it as a throbbing is insufficient.  It is pent-up energy, primal and magnetic, drawing outward.  Always outward.  Its pull is like the tide, toward the ocean, toward the moon.”
~Seth Haines, Coming Clean~

We were in Florida.

It was me and my better half, along with Jake and Tara, Nick and Candace, indeed, we all go together.  Everyone was talking, well, everyone except for me.  I don’t typically speak inside groups larger than four.  Instead, I sat there frustrated–not angry–but frustrated.

The energy was not content to be contained.  It escaped out my heel and my foot began tapping under the table.  This only made the feeling worse.  My palms began to sweat and fingers followed in my foot steps to reinforce the building tension.  The sun was setting.

The sun was setting, two blocks from the restaurant, and we were sitting inside. The talking in that moment was nothing exciting, deep, or meaningful.  My heart exercised everything in its beating power to pay attention.  My heart was begging me to run.

Someone finally got the picture.  I don’t mean to be dramatic, but for crying out loud, the sun was setting.  The sky was exhibiting a free art show, the ocean offering a crashing freedom and Divine intoxication.  Finally someone suggested we go outside.

I needed permission and finally had it.   Why I didn’t speak up, why I didn’t leave sooner, why I endured the time-wasting frustration of a setting sunset for so long, I don’t know.   What I really want to know is what this feeling is and what I’m supposed to do with it.

It needs somewhere to go, so that’s where it went, straight to the sea.  I hit the sand and it was like my feet suddenly had wings and I was flying into the Gulf of Mexico with all my clothes on which made it all the more exotic and crazy and unpredictable and satisfying.

I tried to tell them they were missing out but they wouldn’t listen.  They all laughed and looked at me like I was nuts.  Except for him, my better half. He knows better, that’s exactly why I married him, because he knows me better than I know my own eclectic self.

He did what any man in his right mind would do.

He ran in and joined me.