Category Archives: Relationship

Hero Fathers

I attended my aunt’s funeral recently. She was the last of her generation in my mother’s or my father’s family.

Two of her children and one grandchild eulogized her and spoke of her affection and her infectious love of fun. It was acknowledged that she had had an unusually tragic childhood.

My uncle, her husband, passed away about fifteen years ago. Only honor was spoken for both parents. Yet I know there was such turmoil in that home. How does it all add up?

An extremely conflicted marriage which bore legendary stories produced five upstanding, moral, faithful, loving people. And each one produced functional homes and happy families of their own. Such is not always the case.

Somehow a couple who clashed tragically, worked together. They persevered to guide five children to responsible adulthood. The kids had two models who together covered most of the bases and who somehow taught them well to discard the bad examples and to emulate the good.

He was everything good in this world and protection from everything bad.

My cousin had this to say of her Dad. She borrowed it from her brother who wrote it for his eulogy.

It was certainly true for them and their siblings. I knew that he stood in the way between his kids and a lot of negative outcomes. The fact that all five turned out well is the proof of his success.

I knew him as a guy who had a way with stories, who loved to visit his elderly mother (my grandmother, who lived with us) on Wednesday nights for a glass of wine and a lot of laughs. According to his kids he was also a rock-solid course-corrector. In the face of nonsense, he was no nonsense. He poured out his whole life, all of his energy and time, for his family and for his kids.

And here is the thing that I think makes him truly remarkable: he stuck with a marriage that most today would have abandoned. This marriage was not one in which he found comfort, peace, or support. Clearly there was nothing in it for him for many years.

He stayed with his children.

Would anyone say this about him:

He was everything good in this world and protection from everything bad

if he had not chosen to stay and face the conflict every day, and owned the responsibility to keep his family on a straight course?

Today we are encouraged to live our own lives, to pursue our own particular brand of happiness, and to let go of what–and who–makes our lives anything but happy. Just walk away if you perceive another person as “toxic.” In other words we are encouraged to jettison difficulties, and to exclude what–and who–does not serve us.

How will we ever know what kind of people we are? If my uncle had not lived in the crucible, would he have known the steadfastness of which he was capable? Would his children know he was a hero?

It was a different time. He lived by an old code. Men were men. He stood up and did his duty. You can say all these trite things.

But it seems to me old codes and doing one’s duty, being a man and living according to a different time…knowing how men are expected to behave and committing to being a man…are all things that work. Thank God there are people who fulfill their promises, no matter how much it takes from them, who commit without turning back, who endure no matter what comes.

Fathers can be heroes, and my uncle was one.

 

 

Advertisements

Social Media Reveals

When you can’t say hello to your high school friend after a couple decades without a disclaimer: “Even though we would not agree on politics or religion, I have decided to acknowledge your greeting”–you reveal a lot.

Word of advice, when you can’t even say hi to an old friend without establishing your tribal identity, you have joined a cult. You’ve given yourself over, body and soul, to a controlling party.

You’ve bought into identity politics and applied it to yourself. Peer acceptance is essential, and the virtue signal to the self is as necessary as air. In every social interaction, your identity must be validated.

I’ve been lectured to by a close relative, who actually knows me apart from any cultural caricature, who applied abusive accusations based on a cultural caricature which she supposed fit me. I wasn’t even the offender in this situation but I was close at hand.

I’ve been unfriended, post-hidden, and even once blocked (I was relieved about that one; the blocker was actually getting scary). All of this long after I announced that I would no longer make political comments. I no longer do; I decided that social media is for socializing with new and old friends. Sharing news and pleasantries, songs we like, amusing anecdotes from our lives, and re-connecting with long-lost friends.

But re-connecting can be deflating at times. Warm and funny friends in high school reveal themselves to be cold and distant. Greetings after 30 years need disclaimers. It’s not enough to be politics-free. I am not sufficiently deferential to the essential political consensus. I’m not in the tribe, and so social interaction will be impossible.

All this is very sad. We’ve turned over social reality to social media virtual-reality, and we mistake the one for the other.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

DSC04327

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.