A Letter to Christians Living in America from a Christian Living Abroad {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

I hear you.

Some of you are angry and disenfranchised. I’m on Twitter. I know.

You see the church and politicians wedded at the hip, and you throw up.

You feel like the American church has sold her soul and is rejoicing about the bargain.

You’re embarrassed, like a cool kid with an uncool mother, and now you’re asking to be dropped off a couple of blocks away from school.

You’re not quite sure what to do. Do you fight and rant and protest? Do you take the Benedict option? Do you just disappear out the back door?

Continue reading over at A Life Overseas

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On Making Love

By Jonathan

We read way too little about sex. Sure, we might talk or joke about it a lot, we might think about it a lot, and unfortunately we may even watch a fake version of it a lot, but we read way too little about it.

In an effort to change that, I’d like to give you a list of books that I’ve read and found, um, helpful. Remember, having sex doesn’t take much skill or special knowledge, but really making love to your spouse’s heart and body, now that can take some practice. And research.

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A few caveats.

  1. The goal in all of this is NOT mind-blowing movie sex. That’s too cheap, and in any case, aiming at it isn’t likely to get it for you. No, the goal should be intimate, connected, mutually satisfying sex. Love-making.
  1. Pressure is bad. If you read these books and end up pressuring your spouse in any way, you’ve missed the whole point. The goal is not for you to compare your spouse, or pressure your spouse, or anything of the sort. The goal is intimate, connected, mutually satisfying sex. Pressure will never get you that.
  1. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says to learn something from what someone says. You won’t agree with everything in these books. Rest assured that I don’t either. But there is physiology and psychology that these folks are experts in, and we can learn from them.
  1. If your spouse doesn’t want you reading about sex, he or she probably has a very good reason. You should look into that first. For example, if you’ve violated your spouse’ trust before, or pressured them in the past, they’re probably not going to be too excited about you getting more ammunition. And they’re probably right. Have a discussion with your spouse before purchasing any of these books. Do not read these books in secret.
  1. This isn’t about frequency. A healthy sexual relationship has nothing to do with frequency. It has to do with intimacy. Do you, as husband and wife, regularly connect with each other in mutually satisfying ways, both physically and emotionally?
  1. If you are currently fighting hard against porn, these books probably aren’t for you.

 

Thermometer or Thermostat?
Many people think that a couple’s sex life sets the temperature for their marriage (like a thermostat), and that if they can just improve their sex life, they’ll improve their marriage. Or they think that their bad sex life has ruined their marriage.

But married sex is more like a thermometer, revealing what’s already there (or not). Be careful not to mix up these two terms.

 

And Now, a List
I’m not giving much commentary here, and that’s on purpose. Check them out online, use discretion, and learn!

A Celebration Of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy, Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau

She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, Ian Kerner, Ph.D.

The Book of Romance: What Solomon Says About Love, Sex, and Intimacy, Tommy Nelson

Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters–And How to Get It, Dr. Laurie Mintz  [I think this book has one or two clinical photographs of female anatomy, similar to any medical or nursing textbook.]

Woman’s Orgasm, Georgia Kline-Graber‎ and Dr. Benjamin Graber

 

More on marriage and sexuality
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife (Jonathan)

The Purpose of Marriage is NOT to Make You Holy (Jonathan)

What I want to teach my daughters about married sex (Elizabeth)

17 years of marriage, and this is all we’ve got (Jonathan and Elizabeth)

 

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Photo by Luana Azevedo on Unsplash

I’m not writing this to make money. I’m writing it because I want married couples to really enjoy making love! That being said, these links are Amazon affiliate links, so now you know.

The Questions of God, Hagar, and Genesis 16

Learning to ask good questions is a Christlike thing to do. Here’s a discussion about the questions God asked Hagar. These questions form the basis of my pastoral counseling ministry. Recorded at ICA, Phnom Penh Cambodia, November 2017.

Click here to listen to the mp3, or find this message on the trotters41 podcast here.

 

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On Fundamental Sadness and the Deeper Magic {A Life Overseas}

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by Jonathan

Some call it pessimism. Unspiritual. A sickness best treated with peppy music and cliché-riddled Christianese. They caution and guard against sadness, considering it a rabbit hole (or a worm hole) leading nowhere good. Others call it holy. Jeremiah-ish. Defending it with the label of realism – open eyes that see things as they truly are.

It is Fundamental Sadness.

Do you know what it feels like, this fundamental sadness? The sadness that seems to be part of all things?

Sometimes the sadness is very personal; it’s the loss of a sister or a father or a good friend. Sometimes it’s the loss of a country or long-treasured plans.

Sometimes the sadness is more global. It’s the emotional darkness that comes after you hear about Las Vegas, Mogadishu, the Yazidis, Paris, the Rohingya, or Raqqa. Sometimes its triggered by hashtags like #MeToo or #BringBackOurGirls.

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It is the blazing sunset that sears, not because of who’s present, but because of who’s absent.

It is the baby’s cry in a mother’s arms that taunts your empty ones.

It is the background sadness, fundamental, and seemingly underneath all things.

It’s the threat of miscarriage behind every pregnancy.

It’s the one who sees the beauty of the dawn, but feels deep in his gut that the dawn comes before the dusk – that sunrise precedes sunset.

It is the lover who knows, at the beginning of a beautiful kiss, that it will end.

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“…of all conceivable things the most acutely dangerous thing is to be alive.”

— G.K. Chesterton

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For me, this foundational sadness is not necessarily depressing, but it is always pressing: exerting force, demanding to be heard, demanding to be observed.

Do you know this feeling?

People get scared when I talk like this. I sort of do too. What will people think? This doesn’t sound right. Or mature. Or Holy.

And yet Jesus wept.

“And yet.” A powerful reminder, hinting at the deeper magic.

Jesus knew Jerusalem would destroy the prophets, and he knew Rome would destroy Jerusalem.

And yet.

Though the sadness feels fundamental, the deeper magic is there, waiting, pulsing. It absorbs the sadness, bearing it, transforming it, then re-birthing it.

Continue reading at A Life Overseas.

Five non-missiony books to help you live and minister across cultures

by Jonathan

These aren’t mission-y books. They’re not even about cross-cultural life or transition. Nevertheless, these books have been fundamental to my life (and sanity) abroad. In no particular order…

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, by Timothy Keller
Because if you didn’t have a good grasp on these concepts before moving, you’ll need to get one pretty quick after moving. I very much appreciate Keller’s deeply theological and yet tender writing in this book. Those two things do not often coexist, unfortunately.

Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller
This one makes the list because the basic story is known but the deeper message is typically missed. This book and the truths in it have the power to reshape our understanding of God’s character and of his view of us. In the world of cross-cultural ministry, God’s character and how he views us are pretty big deals. I recommend this one all.the.time.

The Psalms
I had to not-so-subtly sneak this in. Of course, this one is not co-equal to the others, but it’s often overlooked. I’ve written here and here about the importance of the Psalms in the lives of missionaries and cross-cultural workers.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero
There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor at a suburban, wealthy, primarily white church. But this guy isn’t one. So, although he writes from an American context, he also writes from a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, church-centered context. I also love how he assumes that the majority of people are going to be truly transformed and discipled, not through professional counselling, but through consistent and loving relationships.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder, by Kevin Belmonte
Life is serious, the world is a mess, and we need the aged brilliance of Chesterton. His humor, his levity in the face of a world that was no-less troubled, his talk of fairies and mysteries and paradox, it’s all for our time. Get to know the author who pretty much gave the world C.S. Lewis. You’re welcome.

Welp, that’s it. Have a great day! Oh, and if you have a book that you’d add to this list, link to it in the comments section below. Thanks for dropping by!

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*Contains Amazon affiliate links

Children’s caskets are the worst

by Jonathan

A tiny casket.

White lace.

Autumn sun.

Tearful community.

Perhaps more than any of my other siblings, Laura Beth’s short life and early death changed mine.

The death of a little one changes things. It always changes things.

It’s a giant slap in the face, wakening those near that things are not as they should be.

 

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When I slow down long enough, I begin to feel the undercurrent of real sadness. It’s there. It’s always there.

Sweet Laura Beth. I love you.

I miss you.

Yes, there is joy, there is laughter, and there is hope. There is also a deep — almost foundational — sadness.

Unanswered questions. Gaps. Unfulfilled longings. Dissipated relationships.

And sometimes the Psalm just ends.

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