Tag Archives: love

Manifesto: The Primal Creation

What makes a marriage a marriage? We need to define it before we re-define it.  What is distinct about it?  What makes marriage…marriage?

I think we misunderstand it, and that is pure tragedy.

Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were created beings who were able to relate to God; sentient and self-aware; in His image because they possessed spirits. Out of all that God created, man is the only being who is able to commune with God.

God called this creation something special. Together they were His joy, His most cherished creation. We were created for this relationship with God, and cultivating this relationship with God is man’s responsibility and his privilege.

God created man. Then woman was made from man. Note that she was not created a separate being or species.  They are two manifestations of the same created being.  She was made from him. So intrinsically was she created to be the one who completed him. They are inseparable.

Genesis 2: 23-25:

The man said,

         “This is now bone of my bones,

         And flesh of my flesh;

         She shall be called Woman,

         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

The fundamental creation was the man and the woman in exclusive, intimate relationship. We call that marriage. Marriage is primal in two ways in terms of human societal significance: it was first or primary; and it was the original creation from which all else followed.

In sexual intimacy between a man and wife, that which was once complete in one being, then separated into two, joins again into one. One flesh, one union.

Either marriage is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the church is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the nation is created by God, or it’s a human construct.  As such, either God is sovereign over them, or there is no authority over them except whoever exerts and maintains power over them.

The Breaking of It

Marriage has been understood everywhere, by everyone, at all times. Heterosexual marriage is what has been understood as marriage. Even where other sexual relationships are tolerated, monogamous marriage is the standard to which all other relationships are compared, and no society in human history has ever defined non-heterosexual unions as marriage.

Marriage growing from the root of the special sexual relationship is more primal than any law; its violation more basic, fundamental and outrageous. Cultures everywhere know this without regard to their knowledge of Judeo- Christian culture.

Socially and historically, its violation is often perceived as more egregious than murder.

When comparing codes of law across world civilizations, there are very few laws which are truly universal. The one law which is common to every culture is a man’s exclusive relationship with his woman.

In some cultures, this is understood as the man’s ownership of his woman. It is not an egalitarian rule: a man may have multiple women, wives or concubines but the women are regarded as in exclusive relationship with the one man. I’m not defending; only explaining.

And in some primitive societies, it is lawful to kill in order to protect this relationship, and it is lawful to avenge its violation by killing. Murder then is considered a virtue under the circumstance of protection of one’s woman—one’s exclusive “ownership” of the relationship with one’s woman. That relationship is understood to be the foundation upon which that man’s family or clan is built. If he loses her, he loses all.

Everyone everywhere always understood the meaning and importance of marriage. Til the enlightened new age, now.

But What Is It?

We often say that the family is the structure supporting civilization. And it’s so, but let’s look deeper.

God designed marriage first. It was the first human society or institution.  It is before and underlying all codes of law ever invented.  It is fundamental to everything else. This is God’s design.

Not only is the family the tiny society upon which all other social structures are built (such as communities, clans, and governing bodies small and large);

…and that the husband and wife couple are at the foundation of, and are the beginning of that family;

…but that the exclusive sexual relationship which is the signal defining feature of that relationship is the foundation of ALL of it.

There are many kinds of human relationships. Many of them can be intense, close and beneficial.  But there is only one human relationship in which two people become immersed in one another, intertwined, and complementary to one another.  In this relationship, two people become one. This is the male-female marriage relationship created by God.

And this union is strong enough to create other people, socialize them, and teach them to create more families, thus continuing a civilization, with its culture and heritage.

The male-female exclusive faithful sexual relationship lies below the foundation of every culture and society. It is utterly unique.

What makes that relationship so special? That our society has begun to seriously question its specialness is foreboding.

There is only one valid physical way that two people attain that complementarity, that intertwining, that immersion, that real union. It is the “one flesh” union which confirms and consummates that unique union. One male and one female in the physical act made obvious by our complementary anatomies. It is an utterly unique sexual relationship, this “becoming one flesh”.  It is only that specific physical union which signifies marriage in the eyes of God and those who honor Him.

Jesus is quoted in Mark 10: 6-9: But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Two singular people combine and become not a union of two, but a union of one which is greater than the combination of two. One becomes greater than two.

There is only one sexual act which causes two to become one. In the wedded heterosexual union, there is a union which is not only physical; it is emotional, spiritual, and volitional. Two hearts find expression of affection and intimacy which is so intense it defies description. Two wills choose to give selves entirely to the other in mutual trust. And, in the case of two people who understand that their relationship is created in the mind of God, and express their joy in each other and Him, there is spiritual union.

What is Sex?

Our modern world has come to believe that the essence of sexual union is the orgasm. We define sex as the achievement of orgasm, and the person we are committed to experiencing that orgasm is…me, the self.

Any variety of relationship can unite in a variety of sexual acts where each one reaches satisfaction. Several different anatomical configurations are on the menu, and sometimes inanimate objects are needed.  All loving sexual practices are equal, right?

There are problems with this belief. Orgasm can be achieved in many ways with any assortment of partners or alone. (Can one achieve oneness by himself?) One may achieve an orgasm for oneself without any care for the partner, at the expense of the partner, or by using another human being. Sex can be a cold, selfish, sterile act, and often is.

And a loving heterosexual couple may enjoy their oneness without both of them reaching orgasm.

And one may legitimately question whether some sexual practices can be selfless and loving.

So can orgasm be what sex is?

Isn’t sex supposed to be intrinsically meaningful? Is it not an expression of the joy of unique relationship? Then we must look for its meaning elsewhere than the orgasm.

Sexual intimacy as the result of a covenant between a man, a woman and God in a permanent relationship intended to (at least potentially) create family and continue a heritage, sexual intimacy which validates and gives to the other selflessly, sexual intimacy as a powerful expression of emotional, spiritual and volitional oneness, sexual intimacy as physically designed by our Creator…is an entirely unique thing.

Song of Songs 2:16: My beloved is mine and I am his…

For the best testimony on behalf of the unique experience of marital love, read The Song Of Solomon.  It has never been surpassed.

We seek after the sublime and transcendent sexual experience. But it is not a result of the orgasm. The oneness is achieved in the will and finds expression in the act.

This is what happens in married sex: the two shall be one flesh. God knew what he was talking about when he described the relationship this way.  Jesus, confirming Genesis, said:

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall be one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” Mark 10: 6-8.

The power of a faithful, committed, selfless, affectionate sexual relationship to create a transcendent and meaningful bond between two people of opposite sex is a mystery, a miracle. Those who are privileged to experience it know that they are blessed.  But our world does not understand it, and that is a wide-ranging tragedy.

DNA

Marriage is consummated by sex; sex , as designed by its Creator, defines marriage. Marriage is the context God has designed for that relationship.

Our world, across societies and cultures, across the centuries, everywhere and always, is created with the committed heterosexual union woven intrinsically and seamlessly into its fiber. It is in our world’s DNA.

 

Hebrews 13: 4: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

No matter what you call other unions, they aren’t marriage. They do not consummate the union. They aren’t even having sex.

I am saying that any other arrangement is not legitimately marriage because they cannot consummate their union. Just as heterosexual marriage is not equivalent to any other grouping which calls itself marriage, heterosexual married sex is not equivalent to any other sexual practice.

We have already un-defined sex. When we UN-define marriage, we are at the point of the dissolution of everything. It’s in the fabric of the universe. If we deem other relationships  equivalent to marriage, we are reaching the point of the dissolution of everything.

The Real Forgotten?

Understand that no matter what our society prefers or legislates, real marriage as God created it is untouched; marriage will not be altered by our attempts to ape it, abuse it or to alter it cafeteria-style to suit ourselves.

But society’s perception of marriage matters because if it is undefined, its enormous grace and helpfulness, the variety of familial special relationships it creates…disappear. Future generations will be unable to reap the benefits of an institution of which they know nothing.

The Erasing of It

Gay marriage is a watershed issue. It is dividing the population in terms of public opinion. It is dividing the church between the faithful and the preferential-cultural.

To judge by the rhetoric surrounding the conservation of traditional marriage, even the evangelical church does not understand the true value of marriage. Redefining marriage is absurd and disastrous, but its defenders do not seem to understand why.

We must base our persuasion solely on God’s truth, whether it is believed or not, whether it is deemed offensive or not. Arguments from practicality and from behaviorism may be valid, but they do not convince, and they aren’t the real reasons.

As Christians, we must talk about what marriage is, what sex is, and what they mean. Because no one else knows.

The people of the world don’t really have a chance of understanding the significance of sex, or even of the sexual experience. They are blind and unconnected to its spiritual attributes, and hardly able to comprehend its true meaning and power. They talk about it as though it’s merely a physical rush accompanied by a transient emotional high.

And that’s how we find ourselves fighting the belief that all kinds of sex are equal, that all kinds of “marriages” are equal.

When we forget what marriage is and what it means, as we clearly have, we misunderstand the differences between male and female. We lose the distinction between men and women. And the family disappears.

We lose everything.

Because everything is built upon the male-female distinction and relationship.

We lose marriage completely when we define it out of existence.

We lose the concept of family, and we lose all family relationships.

We lose the significance and the enjoyment of sex.

The Disappearance of It

When marriage by definition is the recognition by God and society of the permanent exclusive commitment between a man and a woman consummated by sexual union as designed and sanctioned by God;

and we re-define it to mean:

the state’s recognition of a semi-exclusive (relative) commitment between any two people of any sexes, defined by non-normative sexual practice,

yet unconsummated by God’s design for sexual union;

when both and all cases are recognized as having equal validity as marriage; we lose marriage.

There is no more marriage. There are only couples of any variety seeking temporary approval and validity from the state.

The logical, inevitable outcome of the legal re-definition of marriage to include gay marriage is that the state is now sanctioning a contractual relationship based on the self-report of an intense emotional state of a couple. Once that is the case, there is no reason why those criteria cannot be applied to any relationship involving any number of any types of persons.

And then that which is sanctioned by the state and society has become a legal contract between any number of persons who wish to enter into that contract for any reasons of their own.

Do you see how we are moving, step-by-step, away from a religious commitment based on a faith promise recognized legally by the state? The state then is in the business of recognizing legal relationship contracts…the state is the solemnizer, the legitimizer, the approver… because the method for solemnizing and (making official) is now only legal.

The state will then cease to recognize religiously solemnized marriages. Recognizing faith based marriage will be outside of the state’s scope.

The real effect, and perhaps the real purpose, of the marriage equality movement is to separate any connection of a religious nature from the societal and state sanctioned approval of marriage.

Thus making religious marriages second class, unsanctioned and “illegal.”  Am I cynical enough to believe that was the plan in some activists’ minds from the start?  You bet I am.

Utopia

Marriage, irrelevant and superfluous, dries up and scatters in the wind. It is forgotten. What happens then?  Imagine a bit into the future, when all the change agents have had their way with our society and taught us their lessons.  What will their utopia look like?

When we knock out the frame of the house, the structure soon collapses. What happens to the family when it only exists as a copy of an outmoded form which has lost its purpose?  Then family no longer means husband-wife-and their children.

We lose family relationships. Everyone becomes an individual arbitrarily connected to people of his choice. Familial roles like fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts become more tenuous and arbitrary.

We lose the concept of permanent commitment.

We lose any understanding of what sex is, what it means, what it is for, how to enjoy it. It loses its significance and becomes a recreational activity. And disconnected from meaning, it becomes dull and pointless, merely a pressure valve to let off steam.

Ironically to some, it might be the seriously religious, the fundamentalist Christian monogamous married couples, who keep the treasure of authentic sexual intimacy safe for a waiting future, while the hordes sweep civilization’s memory of it away and replace it with a crass caricature. Like a handful of Irish monks who kept safe the secrets of literacy, culture and faith for the revival of western civilization.

In Marriage, Set the Bar High

Here’s how it works:
If you set the bar low on your relationship, you will both live down to expectations.
If you set the bar high, you will probably both live up to expectations.

And you set the bar.

Remember that after you’re married, you are a union.

But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

That union is stronger than you, or him, and even stronger than you + him if this were any other kind of relationship. You will have become one, two individuals with souls and spirits joined together into truly one flesh, one being. The strength comes from things that we can only feebly understand because it is a mystical equation worked out at the beginning of Creation by a Supreme Mathematician whose very being is love. He adds to our 1+1 so that it equals infinitely more than 2. He adds love to the mix, love so crazy selfless that we cannot comprehend.

What does that really mean? All of your being will be joined to all of his being like two droplets of water joined to one, like two branches of the same vine intertwining again so closely that the two can no longer be distinguished from one another.

You can open up to partaking of that vast unconditional love; or you can DIY and hope you don’t run your relationship into the ground. Your choice.

How many marriages have you seen in which the two partners still seem to see themselves as individuals promoting their own self-interest in opposition to their spouse? They actually seem to believe that they can hurt their spouse and improve their own position.

This should never be the way with you, my friend; not for one second.
What you sow into the marriage, you will both reap. If you add your bit of poison to the relationship, you poison it for yourself. What you do to him, you do to yourself.

And you do to that sacred relationship that has been handed to you from God in heaven. Sometimes I feel like this is a secret known to very few. We always understood, somehow, that our love was a gift, an entity separate from me or him, always to be highly esteemed and valued. We would never think of trespassing against that sacred gift; it didn’t entirely belong to us. We would have to answer to the Giver for how well we honored that gift.

This is one reason why 50-50 relationships don’t work. They are built on a false premise which understands marriage as only a mechanical arrangement between two de facto competing individuals. 50% + 50% never equals 100%, even if the parties could explain exactly what 100% would look like in their marriage. Another reason is that those two are alone in that marriage, without that Supreme Mathematician; 1 + 1 = 2.

Setting the bar high means truly living out the “Love Chapter”, I Corinthians 13.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Have you ever known someone who thought so well of you, loved you so affectionately, that you wanted to be just the way they thought of you? Setting the bar high means choosing to be inspired like that by your husband.  If you admire him, let that compel you to respond with a faithful reach to be better than you are. Be who he thinks you are when he loves you best.

Set the bar so high that you may never reach it. That way you keep improving.

Ridicule

It’s so refreshing to hear a woman spontaneously praise her husband. That’s because it’s extremely rare. Even those women who genuinely admire their husbands feel a bit embarrassed to speak up. It’s just so counter-cultural.

I’m supposed to be a bit disapproving about some aspect of my husband’s behavior, and I’m expected to share it with a laugh or a roll of my eyes. Otherwise I’m a vapid Stepford Wife.

Our culture is saturated with this attitude. It’s even parroted in our churches. You don’t need me to rehash the many ways we belittle men in our world. Did you manage to miss the Facebook memes today about the superior intelligence of wives, or was it about the selfish stupidity of husbands? That new joke? I’m still laughing.

Actually we’ve been working on the humiliation of men for a long, long time, and the origin is infinitely more unsavory. The first set of judgments from Eden predicts that the besetting sin of womankind will be to resent the place of mankind, and particularly her own mate. To lord it over him, to choose to live in a state of conflict with him.

One of the ugliest things I have seen is a wife who ridicules her husband in front of others and passes it off as a joke. But it’s such a good joke, every single time, am I right?

Is it ever pretty when someone makes herself look good by making someone else look bad? The one-upsmanship can take many forms. It is easy for us women to manipulate before we realize what we’re doing. Do you know why it’s easy? No resistance. Because, usually, he is gracious about it. Because when you are using your power over your husband to manipulate him, you are counting on him to treat you with grace. How does it feel to use your husband’s own kindness against him?
Then there’s the compulsion, like a habit, to put him down. Sometimes it’s subtle. You may put down something he cares about, remotely, as if it’s not a personal insult. I guarantee that he knows he’s been slighted.

And then there’s the outright ridicule. It’s always so funny when a woman points out that the one person in her life whom she had the option to choose is an idiot. But I don’t understand how that makes him look bad.

A woman who makes jokes at the expense of her husband, or who eye-rolls or smirks while he’s talking, is missing something very fundamental about being in a marriage. More so if she believes she is part of a union comprised of herself, her husband, and Christ.

Ridicule is contempt. It’s betrayal. It’s embarrassing to everyone present. It puts her to shame far more than him. I don’t know what response she receives from her man, but others who hear her jibes are inwardly wincing. The person who is looking unfavorable is not the husband.

We women forget how much power we possess.

We possess the power to cultivate or to poison our own sexual relationship. How emotionally close to your husband would you feel if he made it clear to all your friends that he was embarrassed by you? Would you be able to be trusting, without barriers? It’s hard to really trust someone who hurts you. That’s rather important in sexual intimacy.

We possess the power to make or break a home.” The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1. This is exactly what a ridiculing wife is doing to her husband, her children, herself. How you value and respect your husband, or how you don’t, will become a heritage that your heirs will build upon.

We have the power to make or break our society. Ladies, we set the tone, we drive the future. We rock the cradle; we teach the next generation more important things than potty-training, manners, math and reading. We teach them how to navigate and cultivate relationships, how to navigate adulthood in a hostile environment, how to become responsible adults.

Whether to love or hate. Whether to take or give. Whether to value or dismiss. Whether to respect or humiliate. Whether to build or destroy. Whether to serve or use.

We have all the power we dare to exert. We have power we never use. I have no patience with the supposed oppression of women in modern first-world western society. I think we’re afraid of the responsibility if we should dare to righteously use all the power God has given us.

If you want to re-orient your attitude, it might be best to study up on what a man was designed to be. I suggest going to the resource written by the One who invented men.

Once you’ve gained some understanding of what a man is, you may not need my suggestions. But here they are anyway:

Encourage him to be a man. If he knows you support him in being who God means him to be, you will receive the true man God wants for you—and you will be amazed at who he is and what he can do. Your children for generations will be blessed.
And because he is a fallible human being, he will need your support in reaching for who he is meant to be. We all need encouragement for the task to become more than we are.

He has been given talents by God. Be careful not to criticize something which is an expression of his gifts. Heaven forbid that you should belittle how God has gifted him. But you are supernaturally gifted with the gifts of the Spirit, so you can do this.

Treat his thoughts and opinions with seriousness and respect. Don’t only do this only outwardly.

Most importantly, encourage him to lead by respecting his decisions. Give him deference and trust. I sometimes wonder why women have chosen to be in relationships with men who they are unable to respect.

The best men I know are also the most graceful, meaning they treat others with grace. ( Grace= treating someone with more kindness than is deserved or necessary). They are not petty, as we women are apt to be. They humbly return kindnesses for slights. Do not abuse this awesome grace or take it for granted.

Why do we fear ceding too much power to our husbands? Do we try to live down to the canards that a husband “behaves” so as not to risk his wife’s petty wrath?

Your husband will not dismiss your wisdom, your opinions, your convictions, your feelings or your intuitions because he already loves you for those very things. He will value and respect your views and will be guided by your intelligence and your convictions. You need not fear submitting to a loving husband who knows your worth.

You can trust his “final-word” because he is basing his decisions upon your guidance added to his own. And GOD has given him his own portion of wisdom. In trusting him with final authority, you are trusting God.

What kind of a husband do you want? Do you want a man who is afraid to irritate you? Do you want one who obeys you? One who slowly learns to adapt to your spoken criticism, who learns to be what you say about him?
Or do you want a MAN—a man who feels free to become all that God intends him to be?
A man who respects the power structure. He answers to God, not to you. He knows who he is. A man who does what is right regardless of the reactions of the people around him is strong, admirable and noble. You can see by now that you are putting down more than your husband.

Always be the kindest person in his life. Who else if not you? A marriage can endure against many threats. But no relationship can survive unkindness.
The vital importance of simple kindness cannot be underestimated. Just be kind—it’s so easy to know when you are and when you are not being kind. Be kind to him at all times. Be kind when he deserves it and when he doesn’t. Be kind when it’s not necessary. There is no downside; you will receive a better relationship and more love in return, and you will have become a kinder person. You lose nothing; you gain a lot.

If you still find yourself truly being embarrassed by your husband’s behavior, if you think one day that he is actually being foolish, then take a look in a mirror.
You are the one person in the world who has chosen, of your own free will, to be identified with this foolish man. You have stood before witnesses to declare your willingness to be one with him. You picked him.
Then have a laugh on yourself.

The Waning of Desire: Thoughts on Modesty and Its Opposite

In our media culture, sex is portrayed as explosive, all-consuming, and irresistible.
Sex is everywhere. Or at least a caricature of it is.

Dancing now consists of real physical contact with only minimal clothing to separate partners. Young couples post “exercise” videos in which they mimic sexual positions with, again, only a layer of clothing to keep it unconsummated. I’ve seen beautiful young couples lying in a park on top of one another in skimpy bathing suits.
And then they laugh, get up, and walk away.

I am aghast. Not at their boldness, but at their impotence.

Because contact such as this is supposed to result in a particular response, and it doesn’t. They are doing things which ought to rev them up, but it does not seem to. The most powerful impulse known to mankind has lost its power over them.

As a culture, we have managed to desensitize ourselves to sex.

Do you remember gloves? It used to be that proper attire for a lady included gloves. Not winter gloves for warmth, but thin little white gloves with your daytime dress, thin long black gloves to the upper arm with your evening gown, gloves to wear to a prom or a dance.
A generation earlier, and women wore gloves and hats with their dresses anywhere but at home.

Why gloves? Because everyone understood that even the touch of hands could be potent.

In a potentially romantic setting such as a dance or a ball, romance was the object. But outright sexual provocation was not. Sex was understood as having a proper context; an ideal place, time and circumstance was expected to be achieved for intimacy to happen.

Brides often wear gloves still. And veils. What could that mean?

When I see someone who is dressed modestly on purpose, I see someone who might understand how powerful sex is. This is a person who respects sex enough to give it its own place. This is a person who has the potential to experience sexual intimacy full-strength later in life.

And I fear that the person with no modesty is a person who has little understanding of his or her own power, and who might pass over an ocean looking for a series of little glasses of water.

When sexually explicit messages and images are calling for your attention everywhere, what is being reflected is not sexual satisfaction but sexual emptiness. If you’re accustomed to eating satisfying home-cooked meals, do you constantly cruise the fast-food joints? If your bank account is in the millions, do you go on a search for pennies on the ground?

If you can count on a satisfying sexual experience of your own within a faithful and emotionally supportive relationship, you will not be interested in thinly veiled soft porn, no matter how relentlessly it is offered.

And since sex fills not only physical desires, other kinds of hunger are unfulfilled as well. People in our culture are thirsting greatly for emotional connection, true fidelity, and a unique oneness with one person. These things are not found in the crass caricature of sex that we see in our world.

People hunger for something sublime and special. And we teach everyone everywhere, even children, to seek the distorted echo of something real. There are hints of this in chick flicks, Disney romances and popular vampire lore. But the fulfillment offered is less than satisfying: impotent and gender-vague at its best and soft porn at its worst. What is sad is that this popular version of sex cannot deliver what it promises. Computer altered media stars and airbrushed almost naked ads cannot satisfy.

I think those modest people are on to something.

 

The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.

PASSENGER 008

Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.

PASSENGER 009

I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.

New Mercies

There is nothing really new or special about a morning. After you’ve been around awhile, spent a few sleepless nights, or pulled a few all-nighters, you realize that morning follows night without a break, and that time is continuous. There’s no barrier between the old day and the new.

But God says otherwise.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.      Lamentations 3: 22-23

What a relief to read a verse such as this when we are distressed. At the close of a day, when we lie down to sleep, we can put that day away. We can rest, and in the morning we can have a new chance to start over. Another chance to renew, repent, re-do, reconcile, resolve, and be refreshed.

Put this into perspective. Realize that God is holy, and that we certainly are not. In spite of all that we did yesterday, God gives us a new day in which to receive his mercies.

If God can allow us to start fresh each day, can’t we offer the same chances for resolution and forgiveness to those in our lives? Our mercies and compassions ought to be available every morning too.

Put it into perspective again. Here is Matthew 18: 23-35:

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Can I really hold a grudge against someone in my life? Can I hold something over his head when God has utterly put away all of my cruel and self-serving hours? If our holy God can offer us new mercies and compassions every morning, how can we who are sinful withhold mercies from those in our lives?

His mercies are new every morning. Are ours?

The Humiliation of Getting into a Boat

This passage from Mark 6 demonstrates the everyday mundane but also the awesomely sublime qualities of Jesus’ love:

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out,  because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,  for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. ~ Mark 6

There are many remarkable things about this account.  But I am struck by this: why didn’t he keep walking and meet them on the other side? Jesus, walking across the sea as though about to pass them, gets into the boat with his disciples.

He was already walking across that lake with no problem. But he decided to get into that boat and join his friends in getting across the slow way, the hard way, the way we get across a lake.

He is the Creator of the wind and the waves, buoyancy, water displacement, gravity, as well as the fragility of our human bodies.

He is called: King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Prince of Peace; The Word of Life; Alpha and Omega; True God; Author and Perfecter of Our Faith; and The Way, The Truth, and The Life. But he chose to share in this difficult experience with his disciples, his dear friends.

Just as he who is God submitted to being born a helpless baby to a poor family.  As he submitted to a life of humility and trial.  He came to be one of us, and to experience the tragedy, the difficulty, the futility, the poverty, the sadness, just as we do.

Rome’s emperor was Caesar Augustus (The Grand, The Majestic) and held the civilized world in Rome’s powerful grip. Say what you will about the accomplishments of Ancient Rome; there was certainly a cost to their ambition.

Jesus chose to be passive in the midst of  this culture. He chose the place. He chose the moment in history. He chose the instrument, Rome. He let them kill him.

It was the most humiliating death available at the hands of one of the most aggressively brutal and perverse worldly authorities possible.

And so Jesus getting into a boat is no small thing. He came here to get into the boat with us.

 

Artist: Tintoretto