Saturday, January 24, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

It appears that a cultural tide is shifting again. More educated young women are choosing to build a happy marriage and family instead of pursuing careers in the business world.

One man explores the neurotic habits he and his wife have developed during their thirty years of marriage. He concludes that they help keep the marriage strong. I'm not sure he's correct. I'll let you know in 25 years.

The author of the 1965 book Always Ask a Man, The Key to Femininity revisits some of the things she wrote about marriage, relationships, and womanhood. I can't endorse everything she says, but it is interesting reading.

Ryan (of Ryan's Head) is expecting a baby soon, so he and his wife have been practicing the fine art of swaddling with anything they can find that has the same general shape as a baby.

Bryan (of Clarity amidst Chaos) sees a spiritual metaphor in Batman's enemy Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two Face. Two Face constantly fights an internal battle of good spirit versus evil nature. His only solace is his wife, Grace(!), whom he simultaneously craves and despises.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Another day in paradise  

I sometimes tend to portray my marriage in a rosier light than exists in reality. I try to be honest about the difficulties involved, but sappy positive things float atop my consciousness, so those are the things that usually wind up on this page. That leads to accusations from friends that my wife and I are a couple of Smurfs living in Smurfland singing Laaa-laaa-la-laa-laa-laa Laaa-la-laa-laa-laaa all day long. It's not true, though. We have a deeply serious argument at least once every two weeks, and more often if we're visiting family. We don't let those fights get us down or come between us, though. We almost always resolve things to the satisfaction of both of us before we go to bed.

Almost every day, we argue about something completely and absurdly inane. We generally forget those arguments as soon as they're over. Sometimes we even forget during the middle of the argument if something distracts us. Here are some of the ridiculous things we've fought about:

So maybe we do live in Smurfland, but even Smurfland had its Gargamel.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A friend's love story  

I think my favorite kind of story is a true-to-life love story. Movie love stories tend to just make me mad. Hollywood doesn't seem to understand how real people experience love, affection, commitment, and sacrifice. But I love to hear a real person tell how he came to know and love God or how he met and married the love of his life. Bill (a.k.a. Theognome) shared both of his love stories in the comments section of Tuesday's post. It's wonderful. Go read it. (My comments have a limit on how long a single comment can be, so he had to break up his story over eight entries. My apologies.)

My favorite kind of love story is one in which a person's heavenly and earthly love stories are bound up in one another. Rey (the driving force behind The Bible Archive) recently shared his with me, and gave me permission to share it with everyone. Here it is.

Letting go is hard.

I was eight when I saw the Exorcist. It made hell evident to me. At a prayer meeting, one of the brothers preached the gospel and it made sense: It was a way for me not to go to hell.

Then saved, I lived my life without making God my ruler. My focus was on doing what I wanted. I was saved, but my life was mine. I realize in retrospect that even when I prayed, I prayed selfishly. My prayers were about saving me from danger and for girls to like me. Thank God that He is merciful, and even in such prayers He listens, although He may say "wait."

After some time, I wound up going to a Christian conference in Connecticut where the preacher connected the Word in ways which boggled my green mind. I knew I was saved and I knew I wasn't dedicated. I spiritually bent down then and dedicated my life to Him. I went home and read the Bible in its entirety. I prayed, got baptized.

I backslid.

High school was filled with a constant struggle of fighting the Old Man in my spirit. I came to an understanding of Paul's words: Those things I don't want to do…those things I do! Doubt crept into my life and for a time I wanted to die. I thought the answer to "Who will deliver me from this body of death!" might've been myself.

It was one night at the edge of my bed that I broke down before God and realized that I thought I could be a believer without heavenly help. Somehow, I missed the point of being saved in the spirit. While studying the book of Galatians I fell in love with the thought that "I am crucified with Christ and yet I live, but it is not I but Christ who lives within me."

I cried.

God is the one who justifies and he has declared me just in the cross of Christ. He will deliver me from this body of death. It had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him.

Letting go is difficult. Even now I still hold on to aspects of my life and it pains me.

During my junior year of college I went on trip with my church to a camp where the Word was taught and preached in a way I had never known. Vibrant, pulsating, and powerful, it gave me a taste akin to that of small group studies and private time, but magnified. The people there were saturated in the scriptures, and the singing of hymns sounded like the heaven opened.

Jokingly, I threw my arms around a few girls asking them to go play volleyball. One of the girls was really cute but I had decided that I wasn't going to be doing any chasing anymore. Plus this cute girl just kept reiterating her boyfriend's name. These girls told me about working in the camp during the summer and about how washing the pots was fun.

I've done my share of pot-washing in another camp and I never heard it described as fun. I hated it and I hated how the camp managers would yell at us saying that "You're working for the Lord! Is THIS how you work unto the Lord?"

I acquiesced that I would try to stay for the summer but I also warned that my parents were strict and that I haven't gone to camp for more than two weeks since I was 14 because I had to work in the factory where my father worked. They told me that this camp pays, and though very low, it's better than nothing.

I asked my parents and surprisingly enough, they said yes and drove me down a week later.

Away from the city, the noise, and my siblings, I studied. Man, how I studied. I loved it. I could read the Bible in the morning, run over to the kitchen to work, run over to the morning message, have a little free time and then get back to the Bible. All of this was interspersed with hanging out with those girls and some good guys I met there. I carried with me a black guitar re-made by some awesome college friends of mine. I called it the True-Dee after the people who handed it over to me.

Pot-washing WAS fun. It's where I learned to sing while I work.

Those friends are still dear to me. I wrote letters to them all, and this continues even today. At the end of that summer, those dear friends purchased a guitar and gave it to me as a gift. I named it Summer.

For it was that summer that the love for my God grew. It was that summer that a young woman became a close friend, and years later wound up marrying me on those very same camp-grounds in August of 1999.

Laura, the cute girl who I played volleyball with, who convinced me to stay at the camp, has been my greatest help since our summertime conversations on everything from the stars to work in the church. In our relationship, love came softly, entering into marriage as a natural progression. It felt completely comfortable. We've been married going on five years, have a child and we can still laugh like idiots at two a.m. about something or other.

God answers prayers in amazing ways, and in my case, usually after letting go.

By the way, if anyone wants to share their own love story, please e-mail it to me. Like I said, it's my favorite kind of story.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Christian Carnival  

Nick over at Patriot Paradox is hosting the first ever Christian Carnival today. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a carnival is a collection of posts from many different sites that all deal with a similar theme. In this case, the theme is Christianity. Last week, Nick invited bloggers to submit their posts "of a Christian nature" so that he could link to them in the carnival. I submitted my post on spiritual leadership, and others submitted their own Christian posts, so go over to Patriot Paradox and see what's there. You might just find something that broadens your horizons, provokes your thoughts, and stretches your mind.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Falling in love  

A commenter on ireneQ's site recently posed this question:

How did you fall in love with God? In an instant, or through ongoing exposure and getting to know him better? Or, because of fear of the consequences of not loving him?

I'm taking the question completely out of the context in which it was offered, but the thoughts it provoked in my mind surprised me. As I pondered the question, I realized that I fell in love with God in much the same manner that I fell in love with my wife.

I have gone to church my entire life. I met and accepted God at the age of five. I was truly pumped about my new life for a while, then the excitement died down and I didn't pay much attention to God. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I learned quite a bit about God, but I didn't really get to know Him in a personal way. At the age of 14, I attended a youth event (known locally as Disciple Now Weekend) that consisted of groups of teenagers congregating at a house and going through two days of intensive Bible study led by a seminary student. Something clicked in my mind and heart that weekend, and I finally understood everything I had been learning about God. I finally, truly understood (at least as far as I was capable of understanding) who God is, why He loves me, and why I owe Him my life. It took me nine years of knowing about Him to suddenly fall in love with Him.

I met my wife at the age of 22, in the summer of 1994. I immediately liked her friends and felt more or less neutral about her. She felt fairly neutral about me as well (actually, she thought I was a "dud," though a harmless one). She tolerated my presence because her friends liked me. When the fall came, her friends returned to their universities in other states, leaving her and me alone with the other 50,000 students at The University of Texas. Stuck with each other, we started spending time together and eventually became best friends. I developed attitudes of friendship, loyalty, affection, protection, encouragement, and intimacy toward her.

I don't remember the exact moment, but an exact moment did occur early in 1997 when I suddenly realized that I loved her as a husband should love a wife. It took a little over two years of steady emotional development for me to reach that lightning-bolt epiphany.

I had two life-changing experiences that built up for years before exploding, and both explosions continue to resonate through all areas of my life. Thank God.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Our first snowman  

It's been snowing and getting very cold on Long Island recently, at least by my standards. Even the locals say that this is the worst winter since the 1930s, and one day we even reached a temperature lower than the area has experienced since 1911 (2° F, I think, which I assume is somewhere around -50° C). It is certainly the worst winter since 2000, the year my wife and I moved here.

Compared to other places in the world, even compared to other places in the United States, and even compared to other places in New York, that's not really all that cold. Anyone from Minnesota or North Dakota who's reading this right now is rolling their eyes and wishing they could be as warm as 2°. But I grew up in Texas, where we had a two-day-long ice storm every other year to break up the winter days that averaged about 60° (um, 18° C? I really don't know).

We moved here in September of 2000, expecting to see lots of snow simply because New York is "up north," and all the snow goes "up north." The weather didn't disappoint us, giving us at least three good snowfalls, none of which melted until March. Our neighbors told us it was an unusually cold and snowy winter, but we didn't mind. We just enjoyed it.

One lightly snowy day, we trekked down to a nearby park and built a snowman. Mrs. Happy was 26 years old at the time, and it was the first snowman she built since she was six years old. It was the first I had been able to build since my junior year in high school. While other people were cursing the slippery roads, worrying about the cost of heating fuel, and grumblingly shoveling their driveways and sidewalks, we were playing like a couple of kids, wrestling in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other, and fashioning a make-believe person out of a few million snowflakes, a couple of twigs, some buttons, a scarf, and a carrot. Some people hate snow, and some love it. We love it.