Category Archives: Relationship

Return to Respect for the Marriage Bed

I am appalled when I hear of a young married man and woman being asked to spend nights apart because of ministry duties.

God created human society. At humanity’s core is the intimate relationship between man and wife.  It is the nucleus of the relationship between man and woman; it is the Big Bang which creates the family; it is the center of all human relationship. Church, village, nation, world–all human society springs concentrically from the source of this physical/spiritual union between man and wife.

God designed the marriage relationship as a human mirror of His most intimate, unconditional and expressive love. His love for His Bride.

The marriage bed is respected and set apart — or made sacred — by God the Creator. Have we bought into the world’s evaluation of married sexual relationships? The newly married couple–wink wink–now can have some legal fun. No big deal if they have to put other priorities before this bit of self-indulgence.

No, no, no. This is what God has to say in His Word about married sex:

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4

Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Proverbs 5:15

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15

God designed the first years of marriage as a special time when a couple nurtures and builds their love. He knows that physical expression binds the two together in a connection so close that we can hardly comprehend. It is a mystical union meant to reflect the faith, constancy and intense affection that He has for us. It is how we seal the ownership of one another, heart, body and soul. It is a time to develop a new wordless language unique to each relationship. It takes time, intentional effort, and self-sacrifice.

But I’m in a struggling ministry and I’m needed, you say. If you are married, you will never have another ministry which supersedes your marriage. It is your Number One Ministry Priority. The cultivation of your marriage as an expression of God’s gift, and its maintenance as a representative of God’s unbounded love, far surpasses any other ministry goals over time.

We are here to represent God to a world which needs Him. We are here to love God through loving (verb) His other human creations. How better to do that than to live out a marriage as He designed, since your marriage is an example of how God loves each of us?

The marriage bed is not to de slighted. It is the far more important than the world knows. Let’s be the ones who respect the marriage bed. The freedom of the married man and woman, particularly the newly married couple, to cultivate this most vital foundation—unhurried, unhampered, undistracted—should not be infringed by anyone. No one should tempt a newly married man or woman away from the marriage bed, from the right to spend private time together overnight in their own home. The marriage bed takes precedence over other relationships. The marriage bed comes far before any other ministry responsibilities.

And no man, and no woman, having recently married, should submit to a request to spend an overnight apart from his or her spouse. To do so is to slight the other, and the marriage, and the Lord who sealed your union.

How do I know? This is what God has to say on the subject of young marriage:

“When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Deuteronomy 24:5

God is not winking and nudging at honeymoons. He does not think the man and wife self-indulgent who enjoy their new intimacy. Even our Creator respects the marriage bed and tells us that it is of first priority over virtually all others.

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Who Will Stand?

We are lost in an unfamiliar town. We are–all–looking for familiar reference points. But in our search for home, we are only getting more lost.

The world where we grew up is long gone. The world we felt we had mastered as adults is past. The world we recognized as changing quickly–but still secure–is quickly vanishing. The world you depended on just last year, obliterated by a furious need for quixotic social micromanagement, gone.

The culture of the left is imploding. Hollywood, no longer content with lecturing the Man and its audience, has turned its newfound strident sanctimony inward and is cannibalizing itself.

And the sanctimony will not be satisfied until every molecule of what we called culture–sports, entertainment, social media–is policed, weighed, and certainly found wanting. According to whose scale no one really knows.

Many commenters left and right have observed that progressive culture is eating itself as well. Upholding unexamined faith in a hundred contradictory premises is exhausting. The political left is splitting into increasingly smaller and increasingly self-important factions. Substitute tribes for families, congregations, and communities–and you get war.

Washington culture is sick and highly contagious. The political right is ineffectual because it is complicit.

Some on the right may cheer the downfall of the culture of the left. But let’s think about this for just a minute. What will replace it?

If it is true that our progressive elites are going down, if we are about to enter a new paradigm…what will that be? If it is true that the chickens have come home to roost, that the world that the change agents worked for is unsustainable, that the practically-atheist context is about to collapse under its own weight of illogic and to vanish in its thin moral vapor…

Are we who watched and shook our heads and abstained, we who prayed and criticized from the margins, we who talked good games about the world we would prefer…are we prepared to come into the vacuum and be what we were meant to be?

We gratefully accepted those margins because that little space gave us cover. It’s much easier to feel righteous when you can shake your heads at the unrighteous from the CCM-approved safe space.

Are we, the faithful, ready to take dominion over the earth, not in any political or socially-engineered sense, but as living representatives of the Creator? The people whom He has redeemed and called His own, the people who are called by His name, the people who He has commanded to represent who He is to an uncomprehending world—we have a calling. And it may be that, instead of hiding our lights under bushels in our contemporary Christian ghetto, we will soon have an opportunity to refresh the culture with His presence.

Are we ready?

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Home

It turns out I’m nostalgic and sentimental about places. Today I said goodbye to my house–the house I was born into, the house I lived in until my marriage, then returned to, to raise my family for nine more years. After that we moved halfway down the block.

I have had free access to my old house all my life. The last few years I was there nearly every day.

Today I went in very early in the morning, walked through its empty rooms and took pictures. You see an old house much in need of cosmetic repair but I see many, many memories. One empty corner is where my play kitchen was in the TV room. Another is the attic closet where my boys played spaceship. And so on. There really are a million memories.

I have never lived more than a mile or two from this house. Can’t believe I’m saying goodbye to it. Now I will be able to see the new family take ownership and make their memories. That doesn’t feel good yet but I hope that it will.

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The First of Several Musings about My Family Home

We have cleared out my mother’s home. She is still with us, but must live in the nursing home now. We have to sell the house.

It’s my home. It’s always been my home. I was born into that house and I’ve always had free access to it; I have never lived further than one mile from it. Even now, I live only several houses down on the other side of the street; I can look into her foyer from my foyer.

But it’s empty now. She is not there. No one is there. And all the stuff: the items that filled the home I knew, gone.

Except for what I saved, which is quite a bit. That all sits in my first floor, waiting to be gradually assimilated into my family’s life, into our home. Into our history.

There is a lot of family history. I have books from the 1870’s forward. Books with my father’s mother’s signature on the first page: this book belongs to Mary Elizabeth Holden, and her address. She would have been a teen or young adult. A postcard she wrote from Atlantic City with her photo, aged 18. It is dated 1904.

My mother’s father was presented with a book labeled to him on the inside cover while in the service in World War I: The First Battalion: The Story of the 406th Telegraph Battalion. Inside the cover is a folded page. It is a propaganda leaflet from the Germans. It begins: “The German Peoples Offers Peace.” One side is in English, the other is in French.

There are many items like this, objectively interesting as objects which preserve our past, or things which keep alive the memories of relatives long gone.

Here is one which anyone but me would have thrown in the trash. After all, we couldn’t save everything and my parents were Depression kids and hoarders. It is meaningful only to me. Some context. My father was not an overly affectionate fellow, he tended to be difficult and I must admit that, as a child, I was uneasy when he was home. He was not abusive in any way toward his children but he was an anxious person. Enough said.

It is a corner of a loose leaf sheet about 3″ x 3″. My father tore it off and kept it. In my “fancy” printing: Get me up at 6:30 to do my homework. Madelyn.

Above that, in my father’s unmistakable hand:

Madelyn

age 9

1969

note in mirror

 

 

Wife Receiver, Part 2

Wife Receiver

Men. You like football! You think about sports all the time. Maybe you should think about your wife a little. Think of her as a football. Don’t leave her laying on the Astroturf; hold her next to your ribs on one side.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of creature is making editorial decisions. If my husband uses “porcupine” and “pigskin” in one sentence in which I’m the subject, and then sends out the video for all the world to see, I’m filing for divorce.

How did we get here? You start walking down a hall to get to some place. The hall goes on and on, it turns and meanders. You lose sight of your destination. You vaguely forget where you came from. You keep adjusting your context. Eventually you’re creating a pseudo-reality almost completely disconnected from where you began, or from the reality outside the hall.

The Christian media culture is desperately irrelevant. This is cultural dementia. A piece of video like this actually speaks to almost no one. But the tropes are so deeply etched in the unexamined narrative that they take on a kitschy facsimile of reality. Something once real was conformed to the trendiest version of popular culture, stylized again and again, frozen in trope and repeated for a couple decades until it seemed like truth.

Dementia creates its own narrative, tenuously connected to reality. Hunks of memory are lost, the blanks are desperately filled in with invented content, accommodations are made to the newly invented parts. This cultural narrative is deconstructed and postmodern at its core.

We could study the regression of the sitcom husband over the last 60 years from all wise father to dumb self-absorbed fratboy-in-recovery (recovery supplied by long-suffering bitchy wife). Sometime in the 90’s, translate that caricature to the Christian media culture. Plunk that boy down in “teaching” videos and  use him as a don’t-be example. Then have famous sports figures and media-culture leaders themselves assume the caricature in confession sessions meant to relate and instruct all their bros, who are assumed to have the same issues that swollen-headed celebrities do.

How many times am I to be “taught” how to be married by someone who nearly wrecked his marriage? I was an adult responsible for my actions but I chose to be a complete jerk to my wife for 25 years. But then I suddenly understood something obvious. Learn from me.

Those are your problems, buddy. My husband never fell for such stupidity. Why don’t we hear from people who’ve had good marriages all along? Might they not have some wisdom?

I think the essence of marriage is that you do not “come at” one another. My husband is the one person in all the world whom I can expect will be with me, on my side. If, in your marriage, someone is still coming at someone, you have not earned the right to instruct me on marriage.

The Christian media culture requires little any more but a very, very simple analogy to go to the presses or the cameras. When this one appeared in my Facebook newsfeed I knew I had to speak up. They’re getting worse– insultingly dumb, almost completely lacking substance, and in this case, difficult to find useful.

What can this analogy mean? How is one to apply this piece of wisdom? Should you compare your wife to a tightly stretched pigskin filled with air? Should you express your love by running up a field with her, forcefully knocking people over if they come close? Should you pass her to another receiver so he can get her over the goal?

Is there some mystical knowledge about “receiving” the ball that only your sportball brotherhood understands?

My husband suggests: Finally! Now I can be a wife receiver! I can’t wait to tuck you under my arm and cross the goal line, then watch the place kicker boot you through the uprights for the extra point! YAY!!!

Football is pretend war. It’s a game; it is not designed to reflect real life. As such, it does not seem a fitting place to find analogies for marriage.

But the worst thing about the marriage support media stuff is that it has bought into the unbelieving world’s premises. It teaches compromise and patching-up for a relationship seen as intrinsically combative. God has made married men and women one flesh, uniquely united in a way no other human relationship is.  The ideas promoted here serve to  sustain division where we ought to be promoting unity.

 

 

 

Never Give In

We were asked to move my Mother to a second nursing home because she became too difficult. She has dementia. She cannot remember that we’ve been taking care of her 24/7 for the last three years. She cannot remember that my Dad’s been gone for 30 years.

No one’s going to tell her what to do or keep her against her will. They tried calming her with a mild sedative, then a stronger one. The stronger one effected her paradoxically; it enraged her. They eliminated the drug to no avail. She made for the exits. They put an alarm band around her ankle. But she kept trying to make a run for it.

So the powers-that-were politely asked us to find her a new home.

I wanted to say:  She’s a ninety-six year old woman in a wheelchair with the strength of a kitten. Was she too much of a challenge?

I could have argued but I realized the truth: they were not willing to handle her.

She’s articulate, clever, intelligent, sarcastic. She also has almost no short-term memory and is often confused. She can get belligerent. But I thought nursing homes were where one went to get care when one became disabled, particularly when one was cognitively disabled.

Apparently not so, unless one is cognitively disabled in a compliant sort of way.

In the span of six days at her new place, she has tried to take the elevator down, pulled the fire alarm, and threatened to press charges against the staff. She doesn’t cooperate even when it’s to her benefit, hanging on to the table’s edge when they’re trying to pull her chair out from where she’s wedged herself.  Never give in. She’d make a wonderful protester.

To be fair, when we pushed the elevator button to go home, there was a bag taped to the wall next to it. Yes, they have installed the fire alarm right next to the elevator button. In a dementia unit.

My 96 year-old Mom: kicked out of one home, making the second home create new procedures.

When we get there, she gradually calms down, she jokes, she brags of her badass-ness. We re-orient her, we reassure her. We talk about her grandchildren. We explain that she cannot take care of herself at home right now and so she needs to be there. We take her out to the gazebo. We manage to persuade her to submit to another overnight, we promise to be back next day.

And try to be nice to the staff; they’re just doing their jobs. We’ll be back tomorrow.

This must be repeated every day. Her kids are her only link to stability. She cannot remember new people so everyone else is a stranger. Sometimes our reassurance and persuasion go down fairly well, sometimes it takes hours, and sometimes she still isn’t buying it. She’s going home.

She will never not want to go home. She is nursing home-resistant. I hope the new place is ready for permanent non-compliance because she is not going to assimilate.

I am trying to plant an idea in her mind. Although it may seem cruel, I’m trying to suggest that when you are almost 100 years old, it’s no shame to lean on others. It’s no shame, and maybe even necessary, to accept some help. She could be so much more content.

So far it’s not working.

 

Simple Advice

Be honest about what you ultimately want from your life. This is tricky because we’re dishonest with ourselves about this. And when we’re young we think there’s endless time and endless opportunity to change direction.

But time passes so quickly, along with opportunity.

If you want to look back at your life from the end and see a happy home and family of your creation in partnership with a person of the opposite sex, do not pussyfoot around with politically-correct posturing through your twenties and thirties. Stop trying to impress your peers and social media contacts. Get to work looking for that partner and developing yourself into a person who can create that home.

Decide what you really want from life. Shut out all the other voices around you and think about what you would regret not having done when it’s too late. Too late comes much faster than you expect.

If that’s the career of your dreams, go for it. If it’s public significance and gravitas, go for it. If it’s purpose without recognition, go for it.

If it’s a lifetime working together, shoulder to shoulder, with the person you admire and respect most in the whole world, go for it. Get to work.

Is there a person in your life who is kind, dependable, willing to commit to you? Do you think this person will support you through life’s rocky road? What more do you need?

If it’s you standing at a sink of dishes with a toddler or two roaming around wrecking havoc, go for it. If it’s watching your kids become unique and valuable human beings who better the world by their presence, go for it.

None of the options will just happen. You have to be intentional about what you pursue. Yes, sometimes things mysteriously fall into place, and God does drop things in our laps. But we must be able to discern those things as gifts, and not devalue them and throw them away.

I’m afraid we throw away gifts like garbage all the time.

Do we imagine that God’s methods, the ways he designed us to actualize those chances, are too outmoded for our enlightened times? What pride.

We are made for relationship. There is not one thing on earth more significant than building good relationships. The question is: what kind of relationships do you want as you walk through your life? How deep, how lasting? What will you have when it’s too late to change direction?