Saturday, May 08, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

Doug at CoffeeSwirls has some good things to say about the damage pornography can do to a person and to a marriage. He also provides some practical advice for overcoming the temptation pornography offers.

I've mentioned before that I love hearing people's love stories. Bryan (of Spare Change fame) tells the story of how his daughter came into the world. Excerpt: "She brings honor and favor to her parents by her conduct, her reputation, and her demeanor. I am incredibly proud and blessed to be her daddy. I daily pray for the wisdom, grace, and provision to be a father worthy of such a child. I ask God to bless her and protect her, but most of all to use her for His own purposes."

King of Fools had a death in the family this past week. His wife's grandmother died. They attended the funeral and visited with family. The grandparents apparently had an incredible marriage. The KoF offers his own reflections and also links to a newspaper article describing the couple on their 61st anniversary. From KoF's post:

Dealing with death is a difficult thing for all of us, but it has fallen most heavily on the Queen's grandfather. For the past several years, he has served as caretaker for his wife without complaint. The last five weeks of her life was spent in the hospital, following a major stroke. He spent each of those days and nights by her side, speaking, praying, reading and singing to her.…A few days prior to her death, he told his oldest son, "Sixty-one years with her was not enough."

Jim Priest, founder of MarriageWorks!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and reducing divorce, offers predictions and prognostications about your marriage. You can log into the newspaper's site with the e-mail me@privacy.net and the password m1a2r3, credentials obtained at BugMeNot.com, perhaps the most useful site on the Internet.

Can research and numbers tell us anything about marriage? They might help to describe it, but not to predict it, in my opinion. One watchcry for my life is the statement, "In matters of human will, statistics are irrelevant."

Friday, May 07, 2004

His and Hers X  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. (We didn't actually have time to write anything on Friday. I'm posting this on Saturday and dating it Friday in order to keep my archives consistent.—Curt.) I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

In your early 20s, what did you think you'd be doing in your current stage of life? How does your expectation differ from the reality?

Mrs. Happy's response

When I was a child, I used to fantasize about being older. I could hardly wait 'til I was 10 years old...then what would it be like to be sixteen, eighteen, twenty? Then I'd go off to college until I was 22. That's about where my future, as far as I could imagine, was completely up in the air. When I actually reached the age of 22, I realized I had still never envisioned my life beyond that year, mainly because I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and the uncertainty was a little scary. From my limited perspective, I figured I'd probably live with my parents until I got married in my mid-twenties to some faceless, nameless man (only because I couldn't imagine him, not because I didn't have extremely high standards). I would continue to live in Texas for the rest of my life, own a cute little house in the outskirts of Austin, and certainly have two kids by the time I was thirty...which is right about now. That all sounds fine and good, and I admit there are days when I long for that safe little picture, but now I realize how much more of an adventure I had in store for me, and how I wouldn't trade it for anything. At 22, I knew nothing. By 23, I had a nice job and was engaged and then married to my best friend, who encouraged me to utilize my talents and further my education, which brought us to New York by 25. That's right, NEW YORK!!! That's the last place I thought I'd ever live, but here we are! So by 29, I've earned my Master's degree, had multiple fascinating job experiences, joined the most wonderful church in the world, made some incredible, lasting friendships, and continued to cultivate and strengthen a unique and beautiful marriage. I still have about 5 months to make some twins, but that was kind of an arbitrary estimate in the first place. Now I don't really have any more projections for the future, 'cause really, what do I know?!

Curt's response

When I was in my early 20s, I could not imagine a pleasant future for myself. I thought that at the age of 31 (my current age), I would be making a barely livable wage as a reporter or copyeditor on a weekly small-town newspaper and living alone (or possibly with a roach or a mouse) in an efficiency apartment in a questionable part of town. That was my vision before I became friends with the pre-Mrs. Happy. That vision did not really change much in the following years, except that I began imagining myself with a good friend. Things have turned out much, much differently, as you can see just by reading this blog's title. I have a good job. I rent part of a house that is blessedly free of vermin. I'm married to a beautiful, wonderful woman. I'm so glad. I hate roaches.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Off topic: Bible translations  

If one thing annoys me about the modern church, it is its tendency to rifle through every obscure Bible translation and paraphrase until a unique combination of words in a particular verse makes just the right point in just the right way. When I was a child, I heard the majestic language of The King James Version read in church, and I memorized Bible verses in King James English. Later, when I could read and understand for myself, I turned to the New American Standard Bible, which updated most of the obsolete vocabulary while retaining much of the KJV's poetic power. I never have liked the NIV, though I can appreciate its mission to make scripture more accessible to those who are uncomfortable with the KJV and also to those who have never read the Bible before. I'm not qualified to comment on the accuracy of any particular translation. I can only say what I prefer (I've really been getting into the English Standard Version lately), and I respect the preferences of others in choosing a translation that fits their style of learning.

Even so, I find that I have an intense dislike of paraphrases. They remind me of a fellow student in a Shakespeare class I took in college. He drew great pleasure from reducing the Bard's flowery language into the coarsest language he could summon. For example, he once read the lines:

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.

And then he said, "So, in other words, Romeo's saying 'Juliet! Take off your clothes! I'm horny!'" I got a sick feeling just hearing him talk. I get a similar feeling when I read things like: "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life (John 3:16, The Message)." I grant that it's not nearly as crass as my obnoxious classmate, but neither is it as elegant or as credible as "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (KJV)."

So I cringed when I read Jeff's recent post in which he included the full text of I Corinthians chapter 13 from The Message. It's such a beautiful passage about the nature of pure love, with layers of meaning I've only just begun to fathom. Whenever I feel like I'm flailing around, not knowing God's will, not feeling like my spiritual gifts and good intentions amount to anything, this chapter lifts my spirits and focuses my perspective. When I was in high school, I memorized the whole thing from the NASB. When I read The Message's version in Jeff's post, I just kept thinking, "This is an interesting take on it, but it's just not right." So I reread the chapter in the NASB in an effort to refresh my memory on the "right" way for the passage to read.

It wasn't like I remembered it. There were parts of it that I didn't particularly care for, parts that I would have written differently had it been up to me. But like I said, I'm not qualified to testify to the accuracy of any given translation. All I can say for certain is which translation communicates best to me. In the case of I Corinthians 13, I find that no single translation forms a cohesive whole that connects with my thought patterns. So I gained sort of a new respect, or at least an uneasy acceptance, of paraphrases. I also opened my mind a little more and took a strong dose of spiritual humility.

In any event, here is my own version of the Bible's love chapter. It is mostly NASB, but it has touches of KJV, NKJV, ESV, and my own sensibilities.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, believes no evil; does not wallow in depravity, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But where there are heavenly secrets, they will be revealed. Where there are tongues, they will fall silent. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see our Lord in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. I know only in part; but in that day I shall know fully even as I also am fully known.

Now and forever we all have faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Update: Rey brought to my attention that The Message is not a paraphrase in the strictest sense. The NavPress.com Web site says that "It is probably most accurately called a 'translation of tone' or a 'paraphrase from the original languages.'" See the Web site for a more thorough explanation of how it came to be.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

RLTB™  

I'm sort of busy and drained today, so I'm claiming my Real Life Trumps Blogging rights.

If you're desperate for something to read, though, be sure to visit this week's Christian Carnival at Parablemania for some of the finest in Christian blogging.

Here's this week's His and Hers question to ponder until Friday:

In your early 20s, what did you think you'd be doing in your current stage of life? How does your expectation differ from the reality?

And, for good measure, here's a picture of Mrs. Happy as a superhero (you can see my superhero picture here if you're interested):

Just to be clear, my wife is much too modest to actually wear an outfit like that in public. She always makes sure the tentacles are concealed until they're needed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Quality time  

I remember one particular weekend before Mrs. Happy and I married. We spent nearly all day Saturday shopping and planning some stuff for the wedding. We spent much of Sunday the same way. On Monday, we attended our weekly premarital counseling session. At one point during the session she said, "I feel like we're not spending enough time together." At first, I was confused. In those days, we actually had very little time apart. But as we talked it over, I realized that her complaint wasn't a statement of fact based on the concrete number of hours we spent in each other's presence, but rather an expression of her feeling that we weren't spending the right kind of time together. Shopping and planning didn't meet her desire for personal connection. As long as our focus was not on each other, the time we spent together did not make her feel loved and cherished.

I remember hearing a pastor speak once about quality time. He told us that he had come to a point in his marriage where he needed to make special, conscious efforts to set aside time for his wife. So he began taking her out on dates regularly. One day, his wife told him that she felt like his work was getting in the way of their relationship. He couldn't understand why. In his mind, he was making sure that work never interfered. Trouble was, though, that he was multi-tasking, making phone calls in the car as he took her on their date. He was letting work distract him from her, therefore invalidating his efforts.

Romantic love and the inner workings of the heart can be bewildering at times. Sometimes love is frustrating, sometimes it's infuriating, but it's always worth it. Find out what you can do to make your wife feel loved. If you don't know, ask. Once you know, do it. And do it a lot.

Monday, May 03, 2004

A meeting of bloggers  

I mentioned on Saturday that I had the privilege of meeting a small group of fellow Christian bloggers in Manhattan. It was my first time meeting any blogger in real life, with the exception of Jeff and Rey, both of whom I knew before I started blogging.

Dr. Adrian Warnock, Mac Swift, Messy Christian, and I met at Dr. Warnock's hotel and chatted briefly before setting off to find a place where we could sit and converse in relative peace and quiet (there's no actual peace and quiet in Manhattan, so you take what you can get). We ended up at a Starbuck's near Times Square. Our conversation topics covered blogging, cultural differences, Calvinism vs. Armenianism, the importance of church, the significance of brain chemistry and spiritual oppression in mental illness, the merits and drawbacks of remaining anonymous online, whether English tea is superior to Malaysian or vice versa, and how a professional rugby player—even with full padding—would not survive an NFL football game in any position other than kicker. We didn't agree on all the issues (especially the whole football/rugby thing), but we had fun and loving Christian fellowship.

You can read the others' accounts of the time on their own blogs, and even see a picture of the four of us on MC's site: Adrian Warnock's UK Blog, Vessel of Honour, Messy Christian.

Most of you can stop reading now. I just have a few personal messages for my three new friends:

I hope the four of us can meet again this side of Heaven, but even if we don't, we can take comfort in knowing that we can have fellowship in eternity, provided Adrian can stay awake long enough to get us reservations at a decent restaurant.