Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Marriage Debacle

I’ve recently become more concerned with the state of marriage.  I recently spoke with a friend whose story is devastating.  Two marriages plus two divorces equal one giant train wreck.  Of course there are good memories and great kids involved, but the sum of the marriages has taken its toll.  Grief, pain, and no desire to ever marry again.
As a pastor I’m privy to a few more stories of broken relationships – not that we all don’t know enough of them.  But I have to say I’m stunned that so many people have rotten marriages.  So many couples so genuinely unhappy, even loathing one another.
From my perspective, most of the time, men, it comes down to us.  Some of the things we do have selfishness written all over it.  Your responsibility is not being the financial provider.  Sure, most of the time you bring in more money than your wife (whether or not she works outside the home) which enables a family to survive.  But you are designed to be far more than a bank.
No, our spouses are not perfect – except mine of course.  They’re sinful too.  But most wives are the anchors of their households.  Dissecting the communities I’ve lived in, I’ve found that women are typically the spiritual leaders, the more involved parent, and the harder worker between 7am & 10pm.
All these little girls who grow up wanting to be princesses, having desires to be swept off their feet – end up marrying men who slowly develop enormous sticks in their backsides – forgive that crass picture.  It’s as if the qualification to be voted man the man of the year is to be somewhat involved, to not yell at their wife, and to throw in the occasional load of laundry.  Wow, how is it that we dare to use phrases such as “the sanctity of marriage” when this is the reality in so many marriages.

I’d love to write a full chapter on this topic, but a simple post is all I have time for.  So here’s a practical suggestion.  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote a book called “Love & Respect.”  I’m half way through and there are some good points.  Here’s one:  though they may not deserve it, men need to hear that they are respected.  Yeah women love their husbands – even the worst of them.  But it can smack of “I’m just putting up with you.”  You love your dog and coffee too.  Men need to hear how they have value – the things they do or have historically done that demonstrate character.  Women may have to dig really deep to find it – or to look in the past for it.  But it’s there!
On the flip side, Eggerichs says men need to understand that deep down your wife doesn’t despise you and that if you feel disrespected, to articulate it.  You’ll need to step in faith to apologize, express in kind your love and respect to your wife, and to act selflessly.

OK, that should fix everything right?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Aloha is French for Hello!

You read that correctly.  Yesterday I was asked, "Dad, do you know how they say hello in France?" 

"No, how do you say hello in France?"


Ah yes.  The world according to our 6 year old.  What a funny kid.  There's no way this middle child is going to be invisible.  Report cards came out Friday.  And I don't really care what their grades/numbers really say unless there's something glaring.  We're not going to Harvard anyway.  (Heck, affording Southeastern Washington Central University will be a stretch.)  Bur her teacher commented, "Working on containing her enthusiasm at appropriate decibels" essentially.

What things do you believe with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?  To what degree do you put it on the line?  Do you really believe "aloha" is French for hello?  Maybe you believe that electric cars are the answer to the world's oil crisis.  Maybe you believe corporate greed is killing our country.  Maybe you believe your kid is best off involved in four extra-curricular activities.  Perhaps you believe your best years are ahead of you.  Or you're convinced you blew an opportunity you'll never have again.

This month our Sunday school kids are learning about Conviction - believing and doing what's right even when others don't.  My hope is that I'm living out my conviction just like my kids hold on to theirs'.  My biggest conviction is that Jesus Christ is the hope of this world.  Even though people across the world have to walk hours everyday just to fetch water.  Even though that makes as much sense to some people as "Aloha" in France.  Even though people find more joy shopping for expensive clothes than attending a worship service.

It's 3 weeks to Easter - go to church that day.  Check it out.  Come to mine.  Go with a friend.  Bring a friend with you.  It's way more than bunnies, eggs, and fancy dresses.  Of this I am convinced.

Aloha! (That means good-bye...I'm sure of it.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Tooth Fairy and the Six Year Old

What's the greatest thing that's happened to you the past year:  an income tax return?  Your team won the big game?  You got a new job?  A vacation to Aruba?  Well if you ask a six-year-old, chances are they'll say...I mean shout, "I lost my tooth!"  It has been a topic for months.  That tooth slowly got more wiggly.  Slooooooowly.  And then it happened.  I heard a shriek from the other room that made dogs run and small children cry.  For five seconds I thought that she had broken a limb or a tresured toy.  Nope!  She lost a tooth.  It finally happened.

I was more relieved than anything that her reaction didn't accompany a wall splattered with blood.  It was the yelp of the century!  She raced into the room holding her newfound treasure with a smile that spanned ear to ear, if not beyond.

She was thrilled with the tooth fairy's note and the fact that the tooth fairy was purple - yes, a weird tradition requiring food coloring and water.  (Thanks a LOT Jeff and Katie.)

What her mom and I love about her is that constant enthusiasm for life.  It's often the Kindergarten way. 

For example, "Dad, is there school tomorrow?" 
"Yes, honey."

Or..."Mom, is tomorrow Saturday?"
"Yes, dear."

We're thrilled about birthday parties and going to McDonald's is the equivalent of winning the Boston Marathon.  I pray she NEVER loses that excitement.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Night at the Theatre

Tale as old as time...what a blast we had on Monday night at the elegant Paramount Theatre.  When you have little girls, I think most dads dream about taking them to the theatre (that's the fancy way to spell "theater" - they don't sell popcorn at these kinds.)  They dress to the nines and can hardly contain their emotions.
We saw Beauty and the Beast.  One of Disney's masterpieces with some real redemptive themes, such as sacrificing one's agenda for the other's good.  The music is great, straight from the movie with a few extra songs as well - stretching the performance to a good 2 hours, 40 minutes (including intermission).  Our six year old got a little restless, but both girls were largely riveted to the stage.

There's a great dancing scene featuring metal beer mugs with sounds mimicking a tap dance.  The performers' voices were incredible and in most cases nearly indistinguishable from those of the movie.

The night at the theatre is one when everything is near perfect:  little faces with unmatched joy; sparkly shoes and frilly dresses; an opportunity to feel alive; a moment when the world seems to spin in slow motion allowing moms and dads to stare at each other with pride and thankfulness for their little people.

With the constant onslaught of illness, tragedy, chores, and other difficulties we face, a night at the theatre is a small respite that reminds us of God's goodness.  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  Not that a musical in the city is a worship service, but do you ever find those special moments and just worship God for giving you these magical moments of clarity?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


If you follow the Church calendar, you probably know that today is Ash Wednesday.  It is the first day of Lent in which we await the resurrection of Jesus of Easter Sunday.  Ashes signifying death.  Resurrection signifying life.  Ashes are painted on the foreheads of believers in the shape of a cross.  It is a reminder of our mortality and the hope we all have through the life of Jesus.

I just had lunch with a friend whose wife's health turned upside down this year.  (Hey, that sounds familiar.)  Though recipients of different diagnoses, our wives (and their spouses) have sniffed mortality a little closer since last Easter.  With each passing day I have noticed myself gain an appreciation for life though ever so slightly closer to death.

Last week I found myself running on the beach witnessing carefree teenagers laughing, flirting, and frolicking. (Do teenagers frolick?  Well, maybe six-year olds.) I knew I was old when I couldn't help but think how much more I appreciated my hour at the beach than they did.  My pasty white legs and bleached face exposed to the direct sunlight.  The smell of sand, seaweed, and saltwater.  The chill of the Pacific on my feet.  A wave of thankfulness for those I communed with that weekend.  That was my beach!  And someday they'll probably do the same thing.

Ruth Hailey Barton says that too often we pursue success (however we define that).  She says that though Moses because of his sin never reached the Promised Land, that he found something even better.  His communion with God trumped any kind of success or destination.  It was his real promised land.

Whether you're thinking about ashes today or doing your best to avoid those thoughts, you too are offered the peace that Moses had.  Peace beyond my spiritual moment at the beach.  Peace that whether or not you reach your "promised land" that the God of the Universe is whispering in your ear - telling you that you're loved, valued, and offered redemption.  And you don't have to wander the desert for 40 years before you get there either.  You can be a teenager who frolicks or a six-year old or the parent or a grandparent of a frolicking child.

Embrace the ashes!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is in the Air

Happy Valentine's Day!  I've heard of all sorts of great things done today in the name of love:  people singing to others, expensive flowers, e-cards with talking heads, and even I'm wearing a red shirt today.  People seem to go the extra mile to express their love on this day.

I checked out a few Facebook posts where there are a few people equally unhappy on this day.  For some, "love stinks."  For others, love is "in the air."

I can tell you that our love is deeper on Feb 14, 2012 than in 2011. You know the story.  I think suffering heightens your senses and increases your compassion.  It also slows life down. Yeah, time passes quick. But this year has inched by. 

If I were a true writer, I'd come up with some sappy poem for my wife.  But I can't write poetry.  In lieu of a poem, here are some bullet points (I'm a pretty good bullet pointer.):
  • I love how my wife bought Valentine's shirts for our kids - I wouldn't have done that.
  • I love how my wife gave me Brad Paisley tickets for Christmas and that when we went on Saturday she just closed her eyes and held me.
  • I love how my wife cares for her patients - even the nasty ones.  And follows up with them - even the nasty ones.
  • I love that my wife loves honey badgers (the clean video of course) and proclaimed herself a honey badger for being "tough" this year.
  • I love that my wife tells me she loves me far more times than I deserve everyday.
  • I love that my wife was more nervous than I was for my ordination interview.
  • I love that my wife loves me enough to put up with my terrible laundry and cooking skills.
We are all offered amazing love.  Though you may not know unconditional love, there is a God who offers it.  It's love not predicated on perfection or wealth or style or intelligence or connectedness.  It's a God who chose to leave heaven, join us on earth, live with us, and suffer for us.  Because he loves us.  Plain and simple.

Whether or not you're a fan of Feb 14, you gotta be down with this kind of love!  (I wonder if my wife loves that I can't pull off lingo like that?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Presence of Evil

If you live near Seattle you know this story too well.  If you're out of state, you may or may not have watched the national coverage on it.  Superbowl Sunday was trumped by the tragic news of the end of a horrifiying story.  Since 2009 the Powell family has often dominated the headlines here.  I don't remember all the details, but here's the general storyline.  Mother goes missing in Utah and the husband is the chief suspect.  Her body has never been found.  Meanwhile the husband's father is charged with voyeurism, possessing child porn.  The husband loses custody of his children.  Finally the husband premeditates and follows through the murder of his own children.

If you need more details you can check the headlines; it's unspeakable and a slam-dunk case of evil personified.  Very often we throw that term around casually.  I mean even I watch Star Wars and tell my kids it's good v. evil; or sometimes I quote Mike Myers who says "e-VIL."

But in following this case, it's not wrong to use the term "evil."  How does one family's actions destroy the lives of so many without a conversation about "evil?"  Who can deny an evil presence in this world after following this story?  Even children being exploited and murdered.  Ephesians 6 is a passage in the Bible that talks about putting on the armor of God.  What is that armor for?  Verse 12 says that a follower of Jesus' struggle is against more than flesh and blood, but against "rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

If you are a follower of Jesus reading this post, I encourage you to pray for protection of kids and for healing for the Cox family (in-laws), and remember that evil is real.  If you are not a follower of Jesus, I implore you to take a step of faith.  Ask God to show you he is real; look at the horrfic events of this case and know that Satan, sin, and evil are real.

And yes, there is good.  God in the flesh - it's Jesus.  He comforts; he saves; he is love.  Amidst the evil he offers real hope.