Strengths Based Marriage

The Clifton StrengthsFinders assessment is used to assess the top five strengths of an individual. While everyone has all of the 34 signature strengths themes in the assessment, everyone is unique in the combination of those strengths that make up their top five. While there may be others in the world with the same combination of strengths as you, the probability is fairly small. Understanding your strengths is key to growth and development.strengths-based-marriage

StrengthsFinders’ emphasis is to focus your energy and efforts on the strengths that are your top five, the strengths where you have the most capacity for growth and development. Focusing on your bottom five strengths is actually an exercise in futility as you not only focus on areas where your capacity is at the least but it also takes the focus away from the areas where you have the greatest capacity.

As a certified Strengths Communicator, I was very interested to read “Strengths Based Marriage” by Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey. As I’ve studied strengths, I have been curious to know how those strengths affect and impact our relationships with one another as well as the various roles which we fill in our lives. Evans and Kelsey look at marriage from their areas of expertise as marriage counselor and strengths expert, respectively.

They begin their book with an introduction to strengths, which is helpful for those who have not had significant experience with StrengthsFinders. I imagine that most people who pick up this book will have had some experience with StrengthsFinders to even open the book. The standard assessment for StrengthsFinders simply gives one their top five strengths yet Evans and Kelsey talk about the top ten and bottom five strengths. In order to get the full assessment with all thirty-four themes, the price is significantly more than just the standard assessment. Many books that talk of StrengthsFinders include an assessment code, something that this book does not include. It would be helpful to at least include an assessment code for the basic assessment and give the reader an understanding of the cost of the full assessment, even possibly offering a discount code for the full assessment.

Evans and Kelsey tackle each subject from their respective expertise, dividing each chapter into two parts, from a marriage counselor perspective and then from a strengths expert perspective. They share out of their own experience and give some practical examples of how strengths play out in their own marriages. They also share from their experience with various individuals and couples that they have worked with in the past. For those who are unfamiliar with the language of strengths, they use the language simply enough to be understood, in my opinion.

While there are times when they seem to repeat themselves, I think that “Strengths Based Marriage” was a good book. The authors offer practical steps toward improving communication, bringing healing, and strengthening a marriage. If nothing else, this book could help couples become more self-aware and more intentional and observant in their relationships.

The authors are realistic in their use of strengths as well, never claiming that the language and application of strengths can act like a “magic bullet” of sorts to bring complete healing and restoration to broken marriages. As Kelsey writes, “What I am trying to point out is that our strengths act like lenses, coloring the various activities of our lives and making us choose one thing over another.” StrengthsFinders is simply one more tool to help communicate and possibly improve relationships. The relationships that this book addresses are marriages. Whether your marriage is on the rocks or doing well, “Strengths Based Marriage” can be a helpful resource for improvements.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

15 Years

jon carrie bermuda 2001How do you sum up fifteen years? How do you find words to describe an adventure that’s taken you to places you never imagined, that’s helped you to learn things you could never have dreamed of, that’s made some of the things that you longed for seem so inconsequential compared to what you actually got? How do you find words to describe the gift that God has given you?

Fifteen years ago today, on a very hot day in upstate Connecticut, my wife and I were married. Even though it was hot and there were some hiccups along the way, it was a perfect day. The storybook wedding that my wife had always dreamed of took place in a country church in Woodstock, Connecticut followed by a reception under a tent.

If you had told me that day where we would be today, I’m not sure what I would have said. I don’t know that I would have believed you, but I don’t know that I wouldn’t have believed you either. My wife married an engineer. We lived in Connecticut for the first three years of our marriage. I eventually left engineering when God called me to be a pastor.

We’ve hardly been the perfect couple or had the perfect marriage, but we’ve knew early on that the big secret of our marriage would be to make sure Christ was at the center and to make sure that we always worked together. We eventually adopted the phrase “better together” as our motto, realizing that separately we might have been good, but together we were so much better.

I don’t know that I would have believed that we would have three kids, but we do. After I held the first one, I didn’t think I could ever love another human being the way that I loved him, but I did. After having two boys, I wouldn’t have imagined that we would have had a little girl, but we did. I wouldn’t have imagined how crazy, funny, sweet, and unnerving that those kids could be all at the same time.

I never would have imagined that I would have lost my parents at this point in the game either, but I also don’t know what I would have done had I not had my wife by my side through all of the storms. Her empathy and experience in counseling was exactly what I needed to help me through the struggles. Her quiet strength, faith, and trust in God were just a few of the qualities that would be so essential for me to weather these storms.

People who have been married for a long time might look back at their own fifteen year mark and think that it feels like yesterday. I think that we can say the same thing about that day fifteen years ago, that it feels like we blinked and we got here. Time has both flown and crawled at the same time, if that makes any sense. There are days that it feels like all fifteen of those years have passed while there are other days when it feels as if I stepped into a time machine to fast forward to this day. Then I just need to look in the mirror at the face I see staring back at me to know that there was no time machine, but in fact, I can see all fifteen of those years lined out on my face, in my hair, and in my body.

No, I can’t adequately describe fifteen years, but it certainly hasn’t stopped me from trying. The one word that means the most to me in all fifteen of those years is “grace.” If it weren’t for grace, those fifteen years would have never happened. If it weren’t for grace, my wife would never have put up with me. If it weren’t for grace, I wouldn’t be able to wake up every day and realize that no matter how badly things went yesterday, there was today before me, allowing me a second chance.

Today is a day of celebration, and for that I am thankful. God is good and I am blessed. Happy fifteenth anniversary to my wife, I love you. Here’s to many more.

We Cannot be Silent – A Book Review

we cannot be silent

There is a revolution sweeping the nation and the world. Some are rejoicing over it while others are mourning the loss of what used to be. According to Albert Mohler, this revolution that is sweeping through our country and our world is wiping away sexual morality and redefining an institution that has been in place for thousands of years.

While some may think that this revolution sprung up overnight and suddenly appeared, others may realize that the revolution has been years and decades in the making. In fact, Mohler claims that the revolution came long before the legalization of same-sex marriage. It is this revolution that is the subject of his book “We Cannot Be Silent.”

In his book, Mohler walks through how he believes this revolution began, looking back at the sexual revolution within the United States. He carefully and thoughtfully walks the reader through this revolution, looking at the technological advancements that have taken place to aid and abet the revolution. Mohler suggests that the institution of marriage had already begun to weaken and experience structural integrity with the advent of birth control, artificial insemination, and other advancements. Mohler suggests that Christians began to compromise as well by failing to maintain “a vital voice and the ability to speak prophetically to the larger culture concerning matters of marriage, sex, and morality.”

Separating sex and procreation through the advent of birth control enabled a more carefree approach to sex. As long as sex was connected to the possibility of pregnancy, there was a biological check on sex outside of marriage and promiscuity. Birth control opened up a whole new opportunity for the two to no longer be so connected. Not only birth control, but the social acceptance of extramarital sex and cohabitation were among the other factors, “that have fueled the expansion of that revolution into terrain that the early sexual revolutionaries could never have imagined.”

Technological advancements were not the sole perpetrators, however. Mohler suggests that no-fault divorce also eroded the institution of marriage, making marriage more of a contract than a covenant. Mohler even suggests that, “In the end, we will almost surely have to concede that divorce will harm far more lives and cause far more direct damage than same-sex marriage.” Statements like this throughout the book helped me to gain respect for Mohler for his honest assessment of the situation.

Over and over again, Mohler points to the Christian church as compromising its own morals and values, not necessarily by condoning the behaviors that were embraced by society and culture but by simply not speaking out in opposition to what was being widely embraced outside of the church. Mohler is not accusatory of those with whom he disagrees but, like Jesus, reserves his greatest criticisms for the religious right who must share ownership of the current state of affairs and degradation.

Throughout this book, Mohler uses resources from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. While he certainly has an agenda and viewpoint, he presents it fairly and humbly, without accusations to anyone but those who are within the church. Perusing the endnotes and the resources referenced there would likely interest those on both sides of this debate.

Mohler offers a humble confession and apology to the homosexual community for behaviors against them by the church. He says that the church has failed, “to reach out to our neighbors with true love, compassion, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The church has been guilty of an idolatrous pursuit of comfort which has lead us to associate with those who are like us. Mohler boldly states that, “Both love and truth are essential as we establish a right relationship with our neighbors in a way that consists with our ultimate commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Humble confessions like this, in my opinion, go a long way to trying to restore and repair the relationship between those within the church and those in the LGBT community.

He honestly confronts the cries of millions of evangelicals who have claimed that we live in a Christian nation when he says, “At this point, we must respond with the sobering reality that America has never been nearly as Christian as many conservative Christians have claimed.” While he still points to the Judeo Christian values on which this nation was founded, he doesn’t use them as a false support to claim that our nation is Christian.

Mohler addresses the transgender revolution as well. He is critical of the new ideology and mindset among many within the culture who are changing definitions that have been in place for years. He writes, “Arguing that we should draw a clear distinction between who an individual wants to go to bed with and who an individual wants to go to bed as requires the dismantling of an entire thought structure and worldview.” While he clearly states his points and leaves no room for misinterpretation of his own viewpoint, he still maintains a humility and Christlikeness by claiming that there is a need for the church to “develop new skills of compassion and understanding” in dealing with those who find themselves in the midst of their own personal struggles in this area.

As Mohler talks about this shift within our culture, he raises consciousness of the breakdown that is taking place regarding tolerance and religious liberty. Mohler writes, “The remaining question is whether champions of tolerance are prepared to tolerate proponents of a different ethical vision.” Mohler rightly asks this question, wondering whether or not those who claim to be so tolerant are tolerant enough to be able to accept opposing opinions and ideas. It would seem that tolerance is an easy word to trumpet while not being quite as easy to actually live out, especially when it comes to tolerance of ideas that fly in opposition to your own.

He also speaks of the death of religious liberty, writing, “This is how religious liberty dies – by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet and get in line or risk trouble.” He raises the alarm on the breakdown of religious liberty that he sees. While the erosion of those liberties may seem subtle, over time, these subtle shifts can result into a significant shift over time, a point that Mohler hopes to get across throughout the entire book.

Religious liberty is dying and tolerance is being advocated while seemingly only being a ruse for the tolerance of ideas that are embraced by the majority. What happens when there are those who embrace a minority viewpoint that is in opposition to the majority? The evidence up to this point has not shown that tolerance means much more than tolerance for the majority viewpoint, all others must fall in line and succumb.

The last chapter of the book is dedicated to hard questions for which Mohler provides his own answers. While that might sound harsh, if the reader has gotten to the end of the book, Mohler’s viewpoint won’t be a surprise. Those for whom this book was intended will most likely find this chapter helpful. Mohler may not change the viewpoints of anyone, but he does offer helpful insights. His status and position within his conservative denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, may be helpful to those who might not look as objectively at this topic as Mohler tries to do here.

At the end of the book, Mohler adds an addendum as the book had gone to press prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Mohler claims that this decision is not just a legalization of same-sex marriage but a redefinition of marriage, opening up the possibilities for further expansion in the future into areas such as polygamy and other distortions of traditional marriage.

The majority decision and the rationale of the majority of the justices alludes to the fact that, “…any opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in moral animus against homosexuals. In offering this argument the majority slanders any defender of traditional marriage and openly rejects and vilifies those who, on the grounds of theological conviction, cannot affirm same-sex marriage.” Mohler’s frustration is evident here, implying the obvious question, “Is it possible to hold an alternate viewpoint without being accused of bigotry or prejudice?”

I appreciated Mohler more in reading this book. While I was familiar with him prior to this book, I felt like this book gave me a clearer picture of him and his views. His honesty and humility were evident throughout the book and I think that it would be hard for even those with opposing viewpoints to accuse him of being unfair, harsh, or hateful in laying out his viewpoints.

I have been personally impacted by the cultural shift about which Mohler writes. I have friends who are gay, some who have embraced same-sex marriage and participated in it. While I don’t embrace their viewpoints, I still love them just the same. My disagreement does not mean that I hate my gay friends any more than my dislike for Duke or the Yankees means that I hate anyone who embraces them as “their team.”

I think it’s important that both sides of this issue begin to address and answer some difficult questions. Whatever happened to good, old fashioned differing opinions? Why is it that we can’t disagree without somehow wanting to discriminate? Regardless of whether or not you agree with Mohler, the opinions laid out within this book are important to consider and formulate our own opinions, not simply embrace the opinion of the majority or masses.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

3/3/00

Every year on this day, I can’t help but thinking what happened in the year 2000. On March 3, 2000 (3/3/00), I asked my wife (then girlfriend) to marry me. I’ve blogged about it before (see here), but every year, I am astounded at just what happened that day.

Now, my marriage is far from perfect. If I’m honest, I can see my own deficiencies and inadequacies come through. I see my faults and foibles, my sins and missed marks, but there is something about marriage that shows me a picture of God.

We were made for relationship. God did not create us in order that he would have something or someone to play with, robots to heed his every command, or groveling servants who simply obey his every whim. God created us to experience the relationship that had existed between the persons of the Trinity from eternity past. Marriage gives us a picture of that when two people come together to make one.

All too often, we can look at our marriages and think that they are there to fulfill our every wish and desire. We want what we want and when we don’t get it, we think something is wrong. But the longer that I am married, the more I see my own selfishness, the more I see just how deep it runs, and the more I realize that marriage is about being changed and transformed. I’m not who I need to be, but I’m moving in that direction……I hope.

I got married a little later than my peers. It’s not that I hadn’t had relationships that had been serious before, but I just don’t think I was ready or in a place where marriage would have been viable had I not waited as long as I did. I fear that my marriage would have ended in divorce had I got married earlier than I did.

But on March 3, 2000, I was given a gift. She said, “yes.” She said, “yes” to an engineer who eventually became a pastor. She said, “yes” to a home that was only a few minutes away from family but eventually was a half a day’s drive to family. She said, “yes” to not one, or two, but three kids. She said, “yes” to walking alongside me when I buried not one, but two parents. She said, “yes” to an adventure that would lead us to North Carolina and Virginia. She said, “yes” to watching her husband be beaten, battered, and bruised by those who claimed that they were striving to be like Jesus.

In front of a small group of friends and family, I asked her to marry me and she said, “yes.” We celebrated the next day with our family, a few months later at a party with a larger crew, and fifteen months later, we were married.

There are many days when I look back and I wonder what I did to deserve her, and then I realize that I didn’t do anything, that’s grace. Many days I wonder how much more she can put up with, and then I realize that’s grace too. As I wrote in the song with which I proposed to her, “Your love makes me more than I dreamed of, more than I wished for or ever thought I could be.” Every day I get a picture of God’s grace through the gift that he has given me in my wife.

Like I said, we’re far from perfect. We both have issues, I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t have issues, but we’re moving through them. It’s not been an easy road, but the journey has been rewarding and the changes that have taken place in us are not of this world.

I celebrate the gift of grace that came to me through a woman saying, “yes” sixteen years ago. She’s said, “yes” every day since and in that “yes” is a gift that I experience every single day.

I love you, Carebear!

Love and Death and Memories

Our family road tripping continued with more adventure this summer. We started out our adventures a few weeks ago when, on our way down to Orlando in our family van, the transmission blew out on us. It was fortunately under warranty and a friend graciously loaned us an extra vehicle that fit our entire family. While it was a bit smaller of a vehicle, we were so grateful for the generosity of this friend.

We came home to find that the initial transmission replacement was not adequate, so we waited a second time, knowing that we had another road trip coming up. Once the transmission was replaced, other stuff started happening to the van. Sensors quit functioning and were replaced but lights continued to go off and we continued to scratch our heads. You know that it’s not good when the mechanic gives the car back to you and says that you would be better off going to the dealer.

After going to a dealer close to home, we thought that we were in the clear for our trip to Connecticut. After getting the car back from the dealer, I test drove it on the highway, on the back roads, and all around town, putting a decent amount of miles on it to ensure that we would be okay for our trip.

We left at our usual 4AM time slot and got about an hour and a half from home before the car started acting up again. There’s nothing like the tension one feels in one’s shoulders and back while driving another five and a half hours wondering whether or not your car is going to make it to its intended destination while packed with belongings, family, and all.

We made it to our destination and dropped it off once again at a car dealer to see if our problem could be remedied. We quickly realized the difference between the pace of life and busyness back at home in Virginia versus in Connecticut where much of our family resides. In Virginia, we dropped the car off and got it back fairly quickly. In Connecticut, we waited a few days just to have it seen.

Amidst all of this, we attended a family wedding and had a chance to catch up with family that we only see a few times a year. The wedding was simple and fun and we enjoyed our time together. That night, our adventure would continue.

I woke up the next morning to texts from my brother alerting me that my uncle, my father’s brother, had passed away during the night. My wife and I had hoped to have a chance to see him before this happened. His health had begun to decline more rapidly over the last few months and we missed an opportunity to gather with family a few months back when they knew that the time would be short until his passing. Life doesn’t always afford us the breaks and getaways that we desire, and that was one time when it didn’t. Weekends are always tough for pastors to get away.

I spent the better part of that day processing through the news of my uncle’s death. I could spend a whole lot of posts expounding on the life lessons that I have learned in the last few days, and I expect that I probably will. There is much to be shared about redemption, about reconciliation, about love, about grace, and about forgiveness. There is much to be shared about family, about brotherly love, about protection, and about stories that sometimes come to us much later than we would have hoped.

I’m looking forward to sharing in the days ahead. As I said to a friend when she privately offered condolences to me over the loss of my uncle, I have seen the fingerprints of God throughout this situation. I haven’t tried to look for God in the midst of every circumstance, he made himself abundantly known in the midst of every. single. One!

Soli Deo Gloria!

We Need To Talk – A Book Review

we need to talkWhen we hear the words, “We need to talk” it usually conjures up negative feelings within us. It’s usually a phrase preceding some kind of confrontation. When we are confronted, particularly with our own shortfalls or inadequacies, we have a tendency to get defensive and even feel hurt. We might lose sight of the fact that the confrontation is for our own good and, if we respond well to it, will result in our growth.

Conflict is a way of life. No matter what, if we are in relationships (which is how God created us) then we will experience conflict. Conflict in marriage, conflict in our families, conflict at work, conflict is all around us. How do we respond well? How do we use that conflict to our advantage and let it contribute to our growth?

Dr. Linda Mintle, in her book “We Need To Talk” writes, “Successful relationships are like successful stories. Both need conflict to grow. Since conflict is a natural part of any relationships, we do need to get comfortable with it and manage our differences in ways that value the other person.” She then spends the rest of the book talking through the potential conflicts that we will experience. You might even say that this book is a primer on conflict and relational issues. It could easily be used as a textbook and a handbook, thumbing to specific chapters when you experience a specific kind of conflict.

Mintle lays out 3 assumptions that she has when it comes to conflict: 1) conflict is a part of all close relationships 2) conflict, under the right conditions, can grow intimacy and bring satisfaction to relationships 3) in unhappy relationships, conflict escalates problems and distress and needs to be addressed. She talks through conflict in yourself and even how to respond when others won’t deal with conflict themselves.

Conflict is caused when sinful creatures try to get the upper hand in a relationship. Conflict is often caused by a difference of opinion, approach, upbringing, or any one of many factors. When those differences collide and we are unbending in our own ways, conflict is inevitable. Mintle talks through the importance of compromise and resolution when it comes to conflict as well.

There are chapters dedicated to some of the most common conflicts such as marital conflicts, both leading to divorce and the impacts on the divided families as well as sexual conflict and tension within a marriage. She talks through the contributing factors to these conflicts and how deadly they can be, things such as pornography and infidelity and how to work through those issues as well.

Mintle talks through how to deal with difficult people to lower the anxiety in a situation to move more successfully towards a resolution of conflict. She also talks about the fact that there are times when conflict can’t be resolved because of the personalities of different people.

Overall, “We Need To Talk” is a worthwhile resource. It can be wordy at times and there were moments when I wondered whether she could have said what had been said with half of the explanation. But for a handbook for those who aren’t experts or educated in the area of counseling, this book is worthwhile to keep handy on your bookshelf, especially if you are someone who has to deal with conflict on a regular basis. It’s a good mix of both theoretical and practical advice on dealing with the inevitable conflict that you will face throughout all of your relationships.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Among the Best

2015-02-27 10.22.3315 years ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life. Well, technically, the decision was made before that day, but the culmination of that decision happened on that day. On March 3, 2000, I asked my wife to marry me. My life has never been the same since, and for that, I am grateful.

Now, granted, I’ve made a whole lot of bad decisions in my life, but I’d like to think that some of my better decisions might counteract those bad decisions, and this is certainly one of those decisions that I’d like to think that about.

She was still in school at the University of Connecticut at the time, so I had conspired with her roommates. Although there were a number of people present, it was only her roommates and me who were in on the plan. It was not uncommon for us to have game nights with our friends. She wasn’t into the party scene by the time that she got to college, so hanging out with friends was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Friday night. So, we planned it out that her sister, who was at the same school, and her brother, and a few other close friends would come over to the apartment on that Friday night.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do it all so I was talking to one of her roommates who informed me that she was expecting that music would be involved, in other words, she thought that I might sing her a song.

No pressure, right?

Forcing creativity is a bit intimidating, but I concocted the whole plan assuming that it would come at some point. We would be playing a game where I would make up a question and then sing a song that I had written. No problem at all, as long as I could actually get the song written.

I’m generally a planner, so this was all in place about a month or more before the date actually came. I would set aside time every week to work on the song in hopes that it would be finally ready by the time the date came.

But time ticked on. 4 weeks……..3 weeks………2 weeks………1 week…….

It came down to days before this whole thing was to take place and the well continued to be dry…..I mean, BONE DRY! Nothing would come. I couldn’t get anything written, I mean, nothing. It seemed that the harder I tried, the harder it became. At that point, I knew that I needed some diving intervention.

I wasn’t going to settle for using somebody else’s song, it just wasn’t “me” to do something like that. It seems fitting, in retrospect, that the place where I would generally do most of my writing was in the sanctuary of the little Baptist church where my dad served as pastor for nearly 40 years. I would spend many a late night in there, playing the piano or guitar, hoping that the “muse” would find me. I had a key and would come and go as I needed to and I wasn’t afraid of disturbing anyone but the church mice.

So, I prayed and prayed for something that would be acceptable….

And it finally came, on February 29, 2000, just three days before the planned date. Talk about cutting it close. At some point, in the wee hours of the morning, ideas began to flow and they kept coming until I was finally finished.

Over the next few days, I did what I could to polish things up. I practiced until my fingers ached to get it just right. Everything was in place.

At the last minute, things always get even more hectic. This was no exception. M I practiced until my fingers ached to get it just right. Everything was in place.2015-03-02 08.14.43

At the last minute, things always get even more hectic. This was no exception. My wife’s sister decided she wasn’t so certain that she would be coming at the last minute. I told her that she really needed to be there, it was important, but I still never revealed the truth of what would be happening.

The day finally came, after coaxing and convincing, everyone was there, a few showed up a little late, but we were all there. We finally got around to the game and as we were going around playing, my brother-in-law nearly won the game right before my turn. Hadn’t thought of that possibility. My turn came and in the form of a question in the game, I asked my wife to marry me and told her that she needed to listen to a song that I had written.

When all was said and done, she said, “Yes.” We celebrated with our families the next day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The other day, I found the notebook in which I had written the song. It’s always fascinating to watch the genesis of a song, especially one like this that meant so much to me. Good memories and I am grateful that I have a record of it all.

All along the way during the evening of the engagement, I had her roommates taking pictures to document the moment. I was so glad that we did that. Not long after we were engaged, my mom put together a collage of the pictures surrounding the words of the song that I had written for my wife. This is a picture of it. And in case you can’t read the words, here they are:

 

Your Love Makes Me by Jon Gibson

Chorus

Your love makes me more than I dreamed of

More than I wished for or ever thought I could be.

Your love makes me more than I could ever imagine

Your love is setting me free.

I always knew that God’s promise was true

When He said He’d provide all that I need.

But I never dreamed I could find such a love

That come straight from a story you’d read.

There was a day when I looked at you

And I saw a girl, no more than a friend.

Then something changed, how I looked, how I felt,

And I knew I’d found a love with no end.

Repeat Chorus

In your eyes lie the answers to questions

I ask of myself about who I should be.

You’re always there with the words

That can show me all of the things I can’t see.

A gentle touch or a warm embrace

Can change stormy skies from gray to bright blue.

Nothing could replace or compare to the love

That I am sharing with you.

Repeat Chorus

Bridge

When the seasons grow cold

And the storms cloud our way

When we can’t find the words

Or the right things to say

I will be there for you

I’ll show you my love by the things that I do

‘Cause your love is making me into all I can be.

When I open my eyes to the sunset

And see all the beauty of God’s mighty hand

I realize that the gift I’ve been giv’n

Is a woman intended to complete this man.

I see in you the true reflection of the One

Who once died to make us His own.

I stop and think what the world might be like

If I had to face it alone.

Repeat Chorus

 

Funny to look back at those words 15 years later. Some of them make me cringe at the “cheesy” factor while others seem as appropriate today as they were back then.

Today I am grateful for that day and the outcome of it. I’m glad that it turned out the way that it did and I’m looking forward to celebrating this day again and again, along with all of the other days that we can share together.

I love you, Carrie!

When Did Love and Sex Become Synonymous?

This weekend marks one of Hallmark’s most successful holidays (next to Christmas): Valentine’s Day. So why not spend it watching a good romantic comedy or a classic love story? I mean, it’s a holiday whose sole purpose is to celebrate love, right? Better yet, you can go to your local theater and watch a little movie (based on the largely successful book) about S & M between clean cut, young, white people called “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, methinks you’ve been living under a rock. Since its publication in 2012, the book has sold more than 10 million copies and the film version has finally arrived. Desperate housewives and husbands as well as those with curiosities killing them like cats have flocked to the book and will most likely flock to the movie in much the same way. There is a deep irony in this movie being released on Valentine’s Day weekend, a holiday as I mentioned which is purportedly focused on love.

The movie, despite bad reviews from many critics, will most likely have a big opening weekend. Just the hype alone is drawing more attention to the movie than it would if it were to have to rely on its sheer brilliance, which based on the reviews so far, is non-existent. In fact, I hesitated to even mention it within this post for fear of perpetuating such drivel.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” in both book and movie form represents a bigger problem seen across our culture. Somewhere along the way, we’ve cast aside good old fashioned love stories and love songs and replaced them with seductive stories of one night stands, of sexual escapades in the back of limousines, of drunken experiences that still remain hazy in the heads of those who have experienced them. We’ve replaced the notion of love with a cheap imitation.

Consider the recent Grammy event where many of the songs nominated for awards were focused on sex. “Take Me To Church” isn’t really about wanting to get up on Sunday morning and go listen to a sermon. Many may have read about Kanye West’s further antics of standing up when Beck was awarded album of the year. Kanye thought that Beyonce’s album was more deserving because of its artistry. Containing songs like “Blow”, “Drunk In Love” and “Partition,” Queen Bey’s album contains enough material to make the prudish among us blush. Is it really necessary for us to sing about our sexual experiences? What Jay-Z and Beyonce do in the privacy of their bedroom is not really something that I’m particularly interested in. Should the rest of the world be?

The list could go on and on. These are just some examples of a bigger picture of the fact that there has been a radical shift in our society. I’m not exactly sure when it happened. It might have been something subtle. It would be easy to simply point to the free love of the ‘60s as the cause. Regardless of where it had its genesis, there seems to be a problem within our culture and our world. Our terminology has been skewed and jaded. We’ve lost sight of real definitions and embraced vague terms which become too interchangeable to have any real meaning. Somewhere along the way, we got confused and someone thought that it was a good idea to unite love and sex together in such a way that the two became synonymous.

As I see it, there are some severe problems with this. The first of which is that we make love shallow when it is so inherently tied to an act. If love is defined by the sex act, it’s really no wonder that marriages are failing and commitments are waning. If love prevails because of the sex act, when the sex act becomes boring or unfulfilling, because our notion of love is so tied to it, we will abandon that “love” for something which better resembles our faulty definition. We will move from relationship to relationship thinking that those relationships are defined by their sexuality rather than something deeper.

We are holistic creatures, we are not simply physical and sexual creatures. If our relationships are not holistic, then they will fail us, or we will fail them. We will simply seek out things that will fulfill the physical and sexual rather than seeking out the longer lasting emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our relationships.

But what happens when their sexual experiences slow down? What happens when the urge isn’t there anymore? Sure, it may be many years down the road, but if our relationships are built upon the foundation of sexual experiences, what happens when that foundation is removed? Will what has been built on top of that foundation be strong enough to withstand the collapse of the foundation?

For me, there is nothing like walking in a public place and seeing an elderly couple walking hand in hand. My eyes will inevitably fall upon them and become glued. I’m watching. I’m listening. I’m observing what I see to try to get an idea as to how they got to that point. While Viagra can go so far, I think we would be foolish to think that the same passionate sex that one might have experienced in their earlier years would be as easily achievable in the twilight of life. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I can guarantee you that if you were to talk with a couple like this to find out the secret of their longevity, they would most likely not point to the fact that they had defined their relationship simply by how much they “loved” each other through their sexual relationship. In fact, I would guess that if that had been their focus, they would most likely have abandoned that relationship a long time ago.

The other disturbing thing about this is that it doesn’t really work both ways. We might say that love can only be fulfilled through sex, but the opposite is not true. It’s possible, and even likely in this day and age, that sex can be completely loveless. We can have sex without love but we can’t have love without sex? Is that right? Can this be true?

The more that I see this distortion, the more I wonder what I’m missing.

I want to be one of those elderly couples that young people look at and wonder about our secret. I want to have a relationship that incorporates sex but is not defined by it. If my marriage relationship and my love for my wife is simply defined by the sexual aspect of it, then I don’t think we’ll make it to those twilight years! My foundation will crumble when the very thing on which I’ve built my relationship is taken away.

I’m sure there will be some who will accuse me of being a prude, but such an accusation is missing the point of what I am trying to get at here. What you do in the confines of your bedroom are your business, don’t make them everyone else’s business too.

Somehow or another, we have to redeem the notion of love as something much greater than an act, something much bigger than a few moments of pleasure. The oversexualization of our culture isn’t going to do anything to move towards that redemption.

The Chair

2014-10-13 07.56.16I have a chair in my media room. It’s not the prettiest chair. While it’s pretty comfortable, there are probably way more comfortable chairs out there. The thing about this chair is that there’s so much more attached to this chair than comfort and aesthetics.

When my wife and I got married, like many young couples, we didn’t have a whole lot. I was working in the engineering field and she was working at our church. I also volunteered at our church, playing in the band and leading music, filling gaps wherever they might be. In all of my time and travels, I met some incredibly gifted people, and among them was a drummer named Steve.

Steve and I became friends as soon as I met him. He was a PK (pastor’s kid) like me, so there was an instant bond there between us. We were musicians who played multiple instruments as well. I think that we were both troubled souls as well, like most musicians, there was a deep longing within us, a restlessness that came out through the creative process of making music.

Steve was real and genuine. There was no pretense to him, and I loved him for that. Life’s too short to cover stuff over with fixings that simply hide what’s really going on inside. Every time that I spent with him, I would stand in awe of his abilities on whichever instrument that he was playing. In fact, on more than one occasion of listening to him play, I wanted to hang up my musician’s clothes and never touch an instrument again. But, alas, I continued.

When I got married, Steve mentioned a chair that he had. He and his wife were getting rid of it. Never one to turn down a handout or free stuff, I willingly accepted his offer. He delivered the chair and it began as just one piece of furniture at the onset of this journey that we call marriage. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.

Steve is gone. He’s been gone for a few years. I can’t remember how long it’s been since we lost him. A bass player friend whom we used to play with all the time informed me of this loss when it happened. I was kind of numb when I heard the news. Two young children and a wife. Incredible skills and abilities. The troubled soul had finally found rest. My only solace was the knowledge that his faith stood throughout all that he had wrestled with and gone through. That solace usually doesn’t take immediate action though, it usually takes some time to set in.

Through more than 13 years of marriage, 3 homes in 3 different states, the chair still remains. There’s something about sitting in it. It brings me back. I can’t help but think of Steve when I sink into the chair. It represents something so much more than a simple chair.

As I looked at it the other day, I thought about the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” When Harry and Sally’s friends, Jess and Marie, are getting married and getting rid of some of their individual stuff, they argue over a wagon wheel coffee table. The coffee table finally goes in the trash after some arguing back and fort

One day, this chair will probably end up in the trash too. It seems inevitable.

But, for now, I’ll milk every minute that I can sit in it. I’ll dream of another time and place, of the times that I enjoyed playing music with my friend. It will serve as a reminder to me of the beginning of my marriage as it was among the first pieces of furniture that we ever hard. It will also serve as a reminder of Steve. Sitting there among my music and instruments, my pictures of Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, I think it kind of feels at home…….but furniture doesn’t really have feelings!

Lucky 13

Carrie and Jon wedding bubblesToday, my wife and I celebrate 13 years of marriage together.

As I look back over the pictures from that hot and humid day in Woodstock, Connecticut all those years ago, it’s hard to not get emotional as I see so many faces of loved ones who aren’t here anymore. Life has changed since we got married. Friends have changed since we got married. We have changed since we got married.

A little less than 3 months after we got married, the world changed on September 11th, 2001. It’s interesting to think about our honeymoon in Bermuda and how it would have been different had it come a few months later.

We’ve wanted to celebrate our anniversaries more significantly than we have. We’ve wanted to take another trip, but life hasn’t afforded us that privilege. The last three years have been a roller coaster, not between us, but in our family, in our church, in our life.

Through it all, I can’t think of a better person with whom to spend this time. When I need a laugh, she is there. When I need to cry, there is her shoulder. When I need a gentle word, she speaks it. When I need silence, she offers it.

She has endured much through these 13 years. She married an engineer who turned into a pastor. She left her family behind to move states away. She finished her Master’s degree by distance and travel, enduring much of the home stretch through the sickness of pregnancy. She supported my seminary education and ordination process and made it possible for me to be gone for studies and classes.

In some ways, it feels like yesterday, in other ways, as I look back over this landscape of our lives, it feels like 13 years. God has done work in both of us, we are different, I think and hope that we are better.

Yes, today we celebrate. God has made my world brighter because of who he’s given me. God has made me stronger because of the training partner that I have had. God has made me gentler because of the precious and tender gift that he has given me through my wife.  We’ve been blessed with three great kids that always keep us on our toes, pushing us, challenging us, and making us laugh.

I’m looking forward to celebrating more with you in the future.  Today, here’s to you and all that you do!

With all of my love!