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Monday, July 28, 2014

I have two primary passions: marriage and worship. The truth is I've been a worship leader and musician for much longer than I've been involved in marriage ministry, but I don't tend to touch on that here very often.

So when I found something on Facebook that brings music and marriage together, I just had to share it.

This video beautifully portrays the truth that, in marriage, two become one. Watch and be amazed.

Here are a few marriage lessons I can see:
  • Two can create something that one cannot hope to create alone.
  • Both parts are critical to the song's beauty and effectiveness. 
  • It's okay if, sometimes, one carries the song alone for a short time.
  • Staying in sync requires you to give as much attention to listening as to playing the song
  • Confidence and trust in one another is essential.
  • Sometimes you need to make room for one another.
What other lessons do you find in this marvelous metaphor?  Leave a comment

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five rules on public discourse for married couples 

Traveling for business this month, I saw a couple interacting in a way that was totally dismaying to me.  I felt it would be worth re-telling.

This actually happened. 

I took my customary aisle seat on my packed flight and pulled out my tablet to begin reading.

A couple who looked to be in their thirties boarded together. His seat was across the aisle from my right; hers against the window to my left.

He gallantly announced that he would take the middle seat next to me and offer his aisle seat to whomever was assigned to the middle - a noble gesture offered, I assumed, in an attempt to have them sit together. She smirked and said with a huff, "no way." She then proceeded to plunk herself into his aisle seat without so much as a glance in her husband's direction. I noticed a confused look on his face as I stood to allow him into the window seat that would otherwise have belonged to his wife.

As I settled back into my seat, I heard the wife justify her actions by muttering to no one in particular something about him just falling asleep anyway and snoring the whole way. (As a snorer myself I took particular offense at that statement.)

Just then a mother with a fussing (screaming actually) child pass down the aisle. The woman across from me muttered again, to no one in particular that she was going to need a strong drink to get through this. Her husband muttered in reply, also to no one in particular, "I hate kids. I have kids and I hate kids."

Turns out that their concern was in vain.  The screaming child ended up more than 20 rows behind us.

I suppose in response to her comment about needing a drink, the husband ask sheepishly across me, toward her, if he could also have a drink. "No way!" his wife barked in his direction without looking his way. "You're on water!"

As he settled into his magazine, she dug into her bag for her novel. Pulling it out, she announced, to no one in particular, "I'm gonna' have a drink and go off to France."  On the book she was waving I noticed something about Paris in the title.

As I shifted my attention back to my tablet I thought to myself, "There's definitely a post here."

I Know You Would Never, But...

I am sure that you and your spouse would never interact like this, especially not on a crowded airplane. But for the record, let me just draw a few lessons from this unhappy couple.
  1. Keep your private issues private - Maybe you've got stuff going on between you. Maybe you fought that morning or one of you said something harsh to the other, but don't drag your issues out in public. Either fix it in private or stuff it until you can. Ugly public displays are just that: ugly.

  2. Don't cut each other down in public - I honestly don't get this. How can you treat your spouse worse than you would treat a total stranger? Watch your words, and if you can't say something kind, keep it to yourself. You shouldn't cut each other down at all, but a public dissing cuts ten times deeper. At the same time public praise counts ten times more. It says to your spouse, "I'm proud to be married to you."

  3. If your spouse tries to make a kind gesture, respond in a like manner - None of us are going to bat 1000 when we try to do something kind or helpful, but acknowledge your spouse's effort when he or she tries to make a kind gesture but ends up annoying you instead. A kiss with bad breath, a shortcut that makes you late for the movie, or a bad choice of a new restaurant are all opportunities to smile and show some grace.

  4. Don't neglect each other in public - You probably see it all the time. A couple sitting in a restaurant both occupied with their cell phones. Do your best to focus on each other when you are out and about together. Chances are it doesn't happen that often, so take advantage of the time you have together.

  5. Lastly, if you have a passive-aggressive habit of speaking out loud to "no one in particular," please don't. Just don't. "No one in particular" does not want to hear what you have to say.
Maybe you aren't "that couple." But perhaps you can take this opportunity to consider how you treat your spouse in public. What would people say about your marriage from watching you interact with your spouse? Can you think of any areas where you might do better?

If "that couple" happens to read this post, thanks for giving us all a lesson in how not to interact in public.

What other rules of public engagement would you have to offer?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

image credit: cluckva /

Friday, July 4, 2014

The wholesale abandonment of marriage in general and traditional marriage in particular is one of the greatest threats to our country. What can we do?

Apologies in advance to my readers outside the US. Chances are, however, that what I'm about to say probably has bearing on your own country. In fact, I'd love to hear how the state of marriage compares in your own country.

It is not popular to stand up for marriage in the US these days, especially if you take a more traditional and sacramental view of the institution. If fact, those who do so, especially if they have any kind of public profile, often face severe chastisement and abuse by those who disagree. There seems to no longer be space in our society for courteous public discourse about the important topic of marriage.

Here are just two recent examples of the kind of vitriol I'm talking about:
  • Brandon Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox browser, was forced to resign over outrageously insane reactions to the revelation that he donated money to support California's proposition to define marriage as between one man and one woman. What free speech?
  • In a recent Harper's Bazaar interview, actress Kirsten Dunst expressed her personal views that support more traditional gender roles in marriage. Her suggestion that females might actually be feminine prompted vicious and profane attacks from the left. Most of what I read is not fit to print.
I could offer more, but I'm sure you get my point.

Good News?

Is it really all that bad? Is marriage in the US really in trouble? I believe so.

Shaunti Feldhahn has a new book out called The Good News About Marriage. In it she debunks some common myths about divorce and marriage statistics, such as the oft-quoted 50% divorce rate. She counters that "according to the Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married, are still married to their first spouse." That is good news.

However, it's a definite good news/bad news story. One of the trends contributing to a lower divorce rate is that young people are delaying marriage or doing away with it altogether. According to the The National Marriage Project's (TNMP) Knot Yet report, the average age of marriage is higher than it has ever been (27 for women and 29 for men). In 2011, there were more unmarried females than married females for the first time in US history. Along with that, cohabitation has soared from about 1.6 million people in 1980 to 7.6 million in 2011.

Another alarming trend is fatherlessness.  In their State of our Unions 2012 report,  TNMP reports that the rate of out-of-wedlock births is now approaching 50% for low-to-moderately educated women, almost twice what it was in 1982.

If we ignore or try to whitewash these statistics, we do so at our own peril. In the foreword to The Good News About Marriage, pastor Andy Stanley states the following:
We have been both accepting and adding to a deep sense of cultural discouragement about marriage. A discouragement that instead of motivating people, leeches hope from marriages. A discouragement that, it turns out, is based more on myth than reality.
Admittedly, I haven't read the book yet - it's in my reader, but I've read enough of the promotional material to give me pause. I'm a little concerned with the apparent premise that marriage in our country really isn't in trouble. Yes, the divorce rate is down, but the underlying reason is that marriage is in an even deeper decline. And that's not good news at all.

Where is the Hope?

These trends are very disturbing to me as a marriage blogger and as an American, I'm an unashamedly patriotic individual, and I happen to think America is a unique force for good in the world. However, as I observe our steady slide away from marriage, I can't help but wonder what the future holds for my children.

Shaunti Feldhahn's book notwithstanding, I think we are in trouble. Yet we are not without hope. I agree with her statement in a recent article for Catalyst, Everything we Think We Know About Marriage is Wrong, which is obviously a book promo piece::
What marriages need today is hope. And of all people, we in the Body of Christ should be the most ready to offer hope – not just for our spiritual life but for our marriages. And now, we can.
We, as believers have the inside track on marriage. We hold the hope. We have a close, personal relationship with the One who created marriage before time began. We have also been given the relationship of Jesus and the church as a model for marriage. I often say that the marriages in the church should be so compellingly beautiful and strong that people should get save just by observing how we do marriage. Yeah, I'm a bit of an idealist.

The National Marriage Project supports a pro-marriage legislative agenda to reverse some of the deleterious trends in marriage. I don't think government policies are the answer, though they may help stem the tide.

Only the church can save marriage.

Happy Birthday from the Church

So here are the seven gifts I think the church should give to our country to help re-establish marriage as the strong central pillar of our society.
  1. Be more proactive in supporting and strengthening the vast number of okay marriages, and stop focusing so much on divorce/crisis intervention and divorce recovery. The goal should be for every marriage to be great, not just okay.
  2. Speak boldly about the sacred, holy and wondrous nature of marriage from the pulpit, not just to married folks in marriage seminars, but to everyone in the church. Often.
  3. Be willing to talk frankly about sex in a healthy and open manner. When we drive sex into the shadows, all kinds of unhealthy fruit grows in its place, such as porn use, extra-marital affairs, and sexless marriages.
  4. Begin giving young people encouraging messages about marriage, even in their teenage years. The media and society are speaking loudly and clearly to kids with false and counterfeit messages. We need to be louder and clearer.
  5. Hire more marriage pastors. Why do most churches have children's pastors, youth pastors, teaching pastors, outreach pastors and pastors of every kind except marriage pastors. What does a marriage pastor do? See number 1 above.
  6. Start and/or promote marriage small groups using excellent curriculum and strong, well-equipped leaders. Encourage organic marriage mentoring programs, where every married couple is connected with another couple or two.
  7. Every pastoral/leadership couple should work hard to make their marriages a stellar example to their congregations, but at the same time, should be transparent about the realities of married life. It is well known how the demands of pastoring often wreak havoc on these marriages. It may require a little less focus on their congregations and a little more focus on their marriages. 

What else do you think the church can give our country on behalf of marriage? Share your thoughts with a comment.

photo credit: a fabulous fruit flag treat made by my daughter

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