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.

When We Said “I Do” {the first in a three-part series on marriage}

by Elizabeth

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At eighteen years old I really wanted to write my own wedding vows. I was hopelessly in love, and I didn’t want to say the same old words everyone else had been saying for years. That was stale, passé. I wanted to be original, unique, special. (Perhaps there was a bit of pride there too?) So my fiancé and I wrote our own vows. Ten years and four children later, we renewed them — with the same minister and in front of the same congregation.

Lately I have been thinking about those seventeen-year-old vows. How they were somehow incomplete. Not that they were insincere — they were so very sincere. But they were incomplete. And they were very, very young.

In the last couple months circumstances have conspired to distress us on many levels. (Jesus wasn’t joking when He told us we would have trouble in this world.) But in the midst of these recent difficulties, I’ve been drawn to the beauty and majesty of traditional vows. Vows in which we acknowledge the sacredness of the marriage covenant. Vows in which we promise the same things married couples have been promising for centuries.

When a bride and a groom promise “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death,” it’s beautiful and romantic. But when we are young, we do not imagine we will ever be sick or old or poor. We imagine we will be young, healthy, happy, and wealthy — for always. We imagine that loving and cherishing will be easy. We say these vows, and we mean them, but we do not know the fullness of what we say. We do not imagine we will need to live them out sacrificially.

Young couples promise each other, before God and before the congregation, to “live together in holy marriage, to love, comfort, honor, and keep, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful as long as we both shall live.” In that breathtaking moment we can’t imagine that any better “other” may ever come around, but nonetheless we vow to forsake the others. These are grand promises that we make. And they are promises I intend to keep, even if I didn’t make them in so many words.

My own personalized vows skirted around these issues. I promised to respect and support my husband in a generalized “in everything I do, in every season God gives us” rather than specifying any potential struggles with “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” One sounds gentle and all-encompassing. The other is harsher, more abrasive. But I wonder now if the second one is more exactingly truthful when troubles start to rain down on a married couple: we committed for just such a time as this.

Instead of vowing to forsake all others, I told my new husband, “I pledge my faithfulness to you, my best friend and one true love.” My youthful version almost assumes that because my 18-year old self considered Jonathan my best friend and one true love, that I always would. That faithfulness was a mere matter of friendship and finding one’s soul-mate.

Now, I still consider my husband my best friend and one true love, but what if that changed? What if we grew apart? What if our relationship were strained? Would I still owe him my faithfulness and my fidelity? I believe I still would — especially in a situation like that. But I’m not sure my personalized vows were specific enough. “Pledging my faithfulness” sounds pretty, but “forsaking all others” much more accurately describes the turning away from temptation that all married people must do.

Seventeen years after I said “I do” (metaphorically speaking of course, because we didn’t actually say those words), I understand more fully the weight of these lifelong vows. And I also know what it means to live in holy matrimony with one person through the various seasons of life. It’s a big deal to commit to a single person, regardless of what happens from that point on. And a lot can happen in a life. A lot of tragedy. A lot of heartbreak. A lot of things that can threaten to swamp a young marriage (or even an older one). A lot of reasons to remember and fulfill the specific promises that we made to each other.

I want to renew our vows again on our 20th wedding anniversary. But I’m not sure whether I want to repeat my initial vows or say the traditional ones. I think about these traditional vows often, and I’ve come to consider them my own. I didn’t say them on my wedding day, but I’ve said them to my husband since then. And I’ve come to understand that there’s a reason traditional vows have held up over time. They distill the essential aspects of a holy institution down into just a few sentences. They are guidance and they are wisdom. And they are a picture of what true love looks like.

The traditional vows are hardy. They can apply universally to Christian couples. At the same time I love listening to people’s personal vows; they are lovely and heartfelt and meaningful. But they necessarily apply to only one couple. Perhaps, though, we need both universality and specificity in our marriages. Perhaps we need both unity with other married couples throughout time and a sense of uniqueness in our own love story. It makes me think that if one my children ever came to me and asked me for wedding advice, I might suggest saying both traditional vows and personalized vows. Because maybe a marriage can use a bit of both.

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For any concerned readers, infidelity is not something our marriage has dealt with. I’m only reflecting here on the magnitude of the promises we make at the altar.

Sources for traditional vows and their history.

A list of the other marriage articles we’ve written.

17 years of marriage, and this is all we’ve got

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Welp. That was a fast 17 years!

In the last several years, both of us have written various pieces on marriage, relationships, and sex, and we wanted to take the opportunity here, at the inauspicious 17-year point, to share them with you. Our hope and prayer is that you would find marriage to be the great signpost to Christ that it really is. (We hope you find it really fun, too.)

all for ONE,
Jonathan & Elizabeth

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Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)

The Purpose of Marriage is NOT to Make You Holy 

What I want to teach my daughters about married sex

When Ministry and Marriage Collide

A Marriage Blessing

Love Interruptus

3 Ways to Care for Heart of Your Wife

Intensity and Intentionality (a note about motherhood and marriage on the field)

Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)

Paul, the Misogynist?

Weaker But Equal: How I Finally Made Peace With Peter

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Top photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash. Used with permission.

Sometimes We Eat Cereal For Supper

by Elizabeth

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Some days I spend hours reading aloud with my kids. Sometimes that means science doesn’t get done. Other days we pore over science books for hours, but grammar doesn’t get done. Some days we get all the subjects done, but I run out of time to prepare dinner. On days like those we eat cereal for supper. But only if we have milk in the house.

Or we might eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper. But only if we have bread in the house. Because even with dedicated weekly meal planning and shopping trips, I can rarely keep enough bread or milk in the house. Which makes for a lot of husband-texts like “please pick up bread or we won’t have supper” and “please get milk or there will be no breakfast.” If all else fails, I pop popcorn.

Some days not every school subject gets done, but I dance with my younger kids and laugh at my older kids’ jokes. Other days I put in a good, solid school day with the kids and feel satisfied but much too tired to write. I’m almost always too tired to exercise. Mostly I force myself to work out. I know from experience what happens if I don’t. Sometimes I don’t get to my email for weeks. Or I go for weeks without having time or mental energy to write. In those times I can really become unpleasant to live with.

Sometimes I go months without spending time with my closest friends. Sometimes I have so many social, school, and ministry engagements that I don’t get sufficient time by myself to be a kind, sane person. Sometimes I’m so worn out by all this busy rushing that I lock myself away and skimp on spending time with my husband. Other times I choose to hang out with my husband regardless of what else “should” be getting done. And nothing does get done, but I sure am happy. I have discovered, in fact, that husband time is the biggest key to my happiness.

Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I can’t do everything all the time. That I can’t seem to get my life in order and pull myself together and balance all the needs. But maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe every day isn’t supposed to contain every thing. Maybe each day is only supposed to contain some of the things. Maybe something is always going to fall through the cracks.

And maybe I’m supposed to be ok with that.

I Had an Arranged Marriage

by Elizabeth

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One time Jonathan and I were at a wedding here in Cambodia, celebrating the marriage of a Brit and a Filipino. Sitting at the table with us was a young lady from India. When the table conversation strayed into the topic of marriage, this young lady asked us if we had a “love marriage” (as opposed to the Indian custom of arranged marriage).

Our first answer was yes – yes, we had a love marriage. A second later we added, “Our parents were really involved in our relationship.” And they were. They were intimately involved.

Another time we were sharing a meal with our Pakistani friends, when the conversation turned to marriage. They told us their story, and we told them ours. When we explained the way our parents had helped to guide us, we laughed and told them that at the time some people thought we were crazy.

There was another time when I was chatting with a lady from India about the cultural differences between India, Cambodia, and America. I asked if her daughter, who is studying in America, will have an arranged marriage, or not. She said she probably won’t have an arranged marriage, and that she herself did not have an arranged marriage, so how could she expect her daughter to?

I told her I got married at 18, and to her that seemed very young. (She was right. It was.) She said that in India, parents prefer their children’s marriages to take place a little later, so husband and wife and older, wiser, and more stable when they’re just starting out.

Then I explained how our relationship had unfolded – how Jonathan had talked to his dad, how his dad had talked to my parents, how Jonathan had then talked to my parents, how my parents had eventually talked to me — and she said that is exactly how marriages happen in India.

That was the moment I realized I had an arranged marriage. That was the moment I realized that “courtship” as I knew it was really “arranged marriage, American style.”

It makes sense: an arranged marriage is not a forced marriage. My friend went on to explain that even when it is a so-called “love marriage,” Indian families prefer marriage to be  formalized in this way — that children will talk to their parents, who will talk to the other parents, and so on.

In fact that is how she expects it to happen with her daughter, that she will tell her parents the man in whom she’s interested, and they will get to know the other family, etc. Parents know their kids, she explained, and they know how their kids react to certain situations and people, and they want their children’s marriages to be successful.

I like this idea of families knowing each other. It’s all too easy at university to find someone and fall in love them without any family context, and not to know what you’re getting into. But a marriage is not just a union between two people. A marriage always involves the families of origin, for we are formed by our families and bring our original family culture into our marriages, whether healthy or not.

Now that I’ve been married for nearly 17 years, I can honestly say I’ve loved nearly every moment of marriage. Yes, we’ve had conflict. Yes, we’ve had disagreements. Yes, we’ve sometimes been so busy we barely spoke to each other.

But most of the time we’ve enjoyed being married to each other.

And while I can’t attribute the success of my marriage solely to its arrangement, that arrangement does deserve some credit. Looking back, I can clearly see the way God moved to bring us together under the blessing and authority of our parents. That knowledge and belief is a sure foundation to lean upon when committing to a lifetime of love and togetherness.

Marriage doesn’t have to be as formally arranged as it was for Jonathan and myself or for my Indian or Pakistani friends. Still, it can be good for family to be involved. Or if, for whatever reason, it’s not possible for family to be involved, it can be good for someone to be involved, intentionally guiding a young couple toward marriage.

In the end, marriage is a community matter. The strength and stability of our marriages affect our churches and our culture at large. Proverbs 15:22 tells us that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” We can all use a little outside input to make wise decisions — decisions that will hopefully last a lifetime.

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Other articles I’ve written about marriage:

What I Want to Teach My Daughters About Married Sex

Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)

When Marriage and Ministry Collide

Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)

Articles Jonathan has written about marriage:

The Purpose of Marriage is Not to Make You Holy

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife

A Marriage Blessing

Love Interruptus?

A Few of My Favorite Things {September 2016}

A ton has been going on in my heart, mind, and life this month, and I cannot possibly explain it all here. But here are my favorite linkable resources. ~Elizabeth

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I have discovered tea. I know, I know, that sounds a little silly, so hear me out. I love milky, spicy, sugary chai tea. Yummy! At least, it’s yummy when other people make it for me. I’ve tried to make it myself, to no avail. But one day this month I was chatting with my friend from Pakistan, and she offered to make me some tea. I said yes. More yum! She uses two Lipton tea bags and adds milk and sugar — the exact amount I do not know, but her delicious drink inspired me to make my own double-bagged hot tea with milk and a sugar cube or two. I often drink it in the morning instead of my coffee or in place of my after-lunch coffee, as it’s much milder than coffee. I can now see how tea is so comforting to the English. (But no worries, I still love my coffee!)

I finally got a day-long date with my husband. We had planned to go out for a whole day on my birthday, but sick kids prevented us. Then busy schedules prevented us from rescheduling. We finally found a date that worked and enjoyed our married selves fully.

We started homeschool coop and are all loving it. It’s good for social time and active time, and we are learning brand new subjects together.

 

BOOKS

Do yourself a favor and start reading Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. As in, go get them right now! I link them below, but first, here’s a little bit about them:

I really appreciate the author’s willingness to let humans be human. Noble. Fallen. Complex. Just.like.us. I tend to gravitate towards heroes without flaws, but that’s not realistic. Unconditional love flourishes in the midst of relationships between fallen creatures. That’s the only place it can truly be called LOVE.

More themes in the Wingfeather Saga include questions like Where is home? What do you do with regret? And how do you remember — and BE — the person your Maker made you to be?

And incidentally, when I shared the above thoughts on Facebook, a bunch of people chimed in with their own love (fanaticism?) for Andrew Peterson books and music (yes he also writes music). So if you haven’t discovered his books yet, let this post be your introduction! Here are the book links:

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. This is the first in the four-book series. It has a bit of a slow warm up and some weird creatures called Fangs, but don’t let that throw you, because by half-way through the action picks up and keeps moving, and you no longer care that the story has weird creatures (spoiler alert, the weird creatures get somewhat explained by the end of the second book). Throughout the series, Peterson’s use of language and emotion is stunning.

North! Or Be Eaten. The entire second book is action. Whew! I barely took a breath the entire way through. More character and theme development happens here.

The Monster in the Hollows. I’m halfway through the third book and thankful for a little slower pace so I don’t stay up too late reading “just one more chapter.”

The last one is The Warden and the Wolf King, and I should get to it by next month. I’ve been assured it has a tear-jerker ending!

As you know I’m a big children’s literature fan, and these next two books are precious, loaned to me by a friend:

The Empty Pot by Demi. Set in ancient China, this story teaches that our integrity is more important than our productivity. With lavish illustrations.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran. A celebration of imagination and friendship, also beautifully illustrated. Reminds me of my own childhood imaginary world of Wonka Birds. I enjoyed both these books with my children.

I’m also reading Debbie Blue’s Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible with the Velvet Ashes Book Club. I’m not always fast enough to get through the book club selections on time, but this book has a slower-paced schedule, and I think I’ll be able to do it! So far I’ve studied pigeons and pelicans, and I’ve been left with much food for thought. You can download a free corresponding Bible study here, written by book club leader Amy Young and fellow bloggers Caitlin Lieder and Emily Smith.

 

BLOG POSTS

Welcome to the Tribe of Nomads by Bronwyn Lea. For all the global nomads out there.

Go to the small places by Jonathan Trotter. I always love what my husband writes, but sometimes, as in this post, it speaks to such deep places inside me that I have to specifically share them here.

The Sacred Relics of Memory by Joshua Gibbs. Intriguing observations on Bible reading, group learning, and spiritual warfare.

Don’t Follow Your Heart: Anti-Revolutionary Lessons from Pride and Prejudice by Angelina Stanford. Insightful thoughts on duty and romantic love.

Laziness by Any Other Name by Angelina Stanford. I’m guilty of this.

Those last three are from the CiRCE Institute, an organization dedicated to Christian classical education. I consistently find spiritual nourishment here, and their articles are challenging for both head and heart, a combination that can be hard to find.

The Consolation of Doubt: An Address to the Buechner Institute by Andrew Peterson (yes that Andrew Peterson, author of The Wingfeather Saga) at The Rabbit Room. Long, but beautiful and profound and not to be missed.

Have you discovered The Rabbit Room? It’s an online collective for creatives that Peterson founded several years ago. When I read their words, I feel like I have finally found “my people” — people who aren’t afraid to wrestle with doubt and longing and struggle and sin, but who also aren’t ashamed of their staunch faith in God or their unwavering belief in community or their high value of beauty. That’s a combination that is also hard to find.

The Longer You Look by Helena Sorensen. If anything expresses our need for awe and wonder and shows us how to cultivate it, it’s this post by the author of Shiloh. (Shiloh is still free on Kindle, and if you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely MUST read it.) On a personal note, I’m too often guilty of “looking without seeing,” so lately I’ve been forcing myself to really look and see the things and people in my life.

Approaching the Holy by Marilyn Gardner (yes, she makes it in here nearly every month). Short but good.

Save Your Soul: Stop Writing by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. Worth taking the time to read; explains a lot of things I’ve wondered about in myself and in the world at large.

 

POETRY

The following are links to the poetry of Malcolm Guite, whom I have only just discovered. As poetry is best experienced through sound waves as well as through words on a page, you can click on each sonnet to hear the author read them.

Transfiguration. (I have a mild obsession with the Transfiguration which was first brought on my Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s section on Ordinary Time in her transformative book The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.)

Descent (the third song on this page of songs and sonnets).

Holy Cross Day: Some Sonnets on the Cross (all of them).

 

ON MARRIAGE AND GENDER ROLES

After I wrote my Peter post, I stumbled upon an announcement about changes to the ESV version of the Bible. Through reading that announcement, I found the following blog posts. They provide excellent exegesis and helpful Hebrew background, whether or not you use the ESV.

The New Stealth Translation: ESV by Scot McKnight. McKnight is author of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, which my mom and several other friends rave about, and which I want to read but haven’t yet found the time. This article is long, but make sure you read to the end, because that ending, people, TOTALLY worth it.

Genesis 3:16 by Sam Powell.  Powell comes from a Reformed tradition. I do not come from a Reformed tradition, but I find his Biblical studies to be accurate, thought-provoking, and fair. Definitely worth reading.

Headship is not Hierarchy, Powell’s follow-up to his Genesis 3:16 post. You need to read both.

To the Newly Married, also by Sam Powell. Unrelated to the above articles; just good teaching.

 

ON RACE RELATIONS

I had no idea there was so much systemic racism in the missions community. Oh, my field coordinator had mentioned it, yes, but I hadn’t seen it personally. When the A Life Overseas blog stepped into the race conversation regarding missions (which is broader than race relations in America), I was surprised by the amount of misinformation, disrespect, and rudeness that Christians could generate.

I went into the conversation with my own history, of course, as a military kid raised in a multi-ethnic environment of Asian Americans, Latinos, African Americans, even Pacific Islanders; as a youth worker in the States who, along with a team of other church workers, attempted to do urban ministry and made massive cross-cultural mistakes along the way; and as an attendee in my organization’s trainings in contextualization, its emphasis on the universality of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and their deep respect for local believers. These things made me think one thing about life, ministry, and race relations; the missions conversation opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone sees things as I do.

With that in mind, I offer these three articles on privilege and race relations. I believe they are balanced, biblical, and clear.

Repenting of Systemic Racism by Heather Caliri (on Relevant). Presents a biblical model for repentance and restoration of broken systems.

A Letter from a White South African to White Americans by Bronwyn Lea. A cautionary tale from a woman who grew up in South Africa.

White Privilege Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means by Kristen Howerton. Explains the terminology, which I think is sometimes at the root of arguments about race.

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

“My Life Just Became Following the Rules of My Eating Disorder” — Former Miss America Opens Up About Perfection on To Save a Life. Just 12 minutes and worth every second.

Grace and Children’s Literature on Bibliophiles. I’ve mentioned before how I like children’s literature the best, and I think this podcast explains the reason why.

Love Stories and Romantic Literature on Bibliophiles. I love the questions these people ask and the insights they share.

Book Discussions on Banning Liebscher’s new book Rooted. You have to scroll down a little to get to the videos. I also mentioned these videos in a recent blog post.

 

SONGS

The Golden City by Marty McCall. An older song I hadn’t heard in a while, until we were going through our old CDs. Expresses our longings so well.

We will meet in the Golden City in the New Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more
We will stand with the hosts of heaven
And cry holy is the Lamb
We will worship and adore You evermore

Oh Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship. I know, I know, no one wants to talk about sin anymore. But I can’t help myself. I sin, and I struggle with my sin nature, and I desperately need a Savior bigger and better than myself. Jesus is that Savior, and I still need redemption and restoration. Every day I need it, and every day I could sing this song.

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Come as You Are by David Crowder. Continuing the theme of the above song.

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken-hearted, let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart,
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless, and all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table, come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary, rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure

There’s joy for the morning, oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal

Lord I Need You by Matt Maher. I think I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth sharing again. I love it, all of it. I have to admit, though, that I think I’ve sung this song wrong before. When we sing “my one defense, my righteousness,” I always interpreted that to mean my one defense is my righteousness: the righteousness that comes from Jesus. This time around, I realized that the two phrases weren’t necessarily connected. They could be separate needs for God: God is our only defense, and God is also our only righteousness. Still, I think I like my original impression better. Reminds me of the old hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” Love that hymn.

All I Once Held Dear by Graham Kendrick. I’ve probably also shared this one before. It’s been a beloved song of grace for me over many years.

 

QUOTES

Edith Nesbit in The Story of the Treasure Seekers:

“You should never be afraid to own that perhaps you were mistaken – but it is cowardly to do it unless you are quite sure you are in the wrong.”

“I do like a person to say they’re sorry when they ought to be – especially a grown-up. They do it so seldom. I suppose that’s why we think so much of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle in A Circle of Quiet (I finally finished it!):

“I am part of every place I have been: the path to the brook; the New York streets and my “short cut” Metropolitan Museum. All the places I have walked, talked, slept, have changed and formed me.”

“I have intense respect for all the librarians and teachers who guide but do not manipulate. I know of at least one librarian who starts her readers on what they ask for, on what they think they want; then, when she gets to know them, when she has made friends, she offers something with a little more substance, and then, when that is accepted and swallowed, something with even a little more. And without exception, she says, when the real thing is accepted, the desire for the cheap substitute goes.”

“If [Rudolf] Serkin did not practice eight hours a day, every day, the moment of inspiration, when it came, would have been lost; nothing would have happened; there would have been no instrument through which the revelation could be revealed. I try to remember this when I dump an entire draft of a novel into the waste paper basket. It isn’t wasted paper. It’s my five finger exercises. It’s necessary practicing before the performance.”

“It was during a time of transition. We had sold the store, were leaving the safe, small world of the village, and going back to the city and the theatre. While we were on our ten-week camping trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again, we drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. . . . I had brought along some Eddington, some Einstein, a few other books on cosmology – I was on a cosmological jag at that time, partly, I suppose, because it satisfied my longing for God better than books of theology.” (I can most certainly relate.)

“It’s a stage we all go through; it takes a certain amount of living to strike the strange balance between the two errors either of regarding ourselves as unforgiveable or as not needing forgiveness.”

“I had talked with several Congregational minister friends about my intellectual doubts. I was eager to be converted – I didn’t like atheism or agnosticism; I was by then well-aware that I am not self-sufficient, that I needed the dimension of transcendence. They were eager to convert me. But they explained everything. For every question I asked, they had an answer. They tried to reach me through my mind. . . . One line in the Book of Common Prayer made sense to me: the mystery of the word made flesh. If only my friends would admit it was a mystery, and stop giving me explanations!”

“Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses’s vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but afterwards, God spoke to him in a cloud. After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light.”

Thomas Merton in The Sign of Jonas, found through Audrey Assad:

“Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences.”

Malcolm Guite in this (rather lengthy) interview:

“And [George] Herbert also wrote about windows. He wrote a poem called ‘The Windows’ in which he redeems the word ‘stain.’ He doesn’t use the word, he just redeems it. Because if you think about the word “stain,” it always means something negative, except in one context. There’s only one context in which it has no negative connotations, it’s completely redeemed, and that’s stained glass.

And he wrote a poem about being a preacher, you might say being a leader as well. This is kind of a core vision…It starts, ‘Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word? He is a brittle, crazie glasse: Yet in thy temple, thou dost him afford this glorious and transcendent place, to be a window, through thy grace.’

And the ‘brittle’ and ‘crazy’ is great. He’s really into the techniques of metaphysical poets. He’s really into taking things that people didn’t think were poetic and using them in a new way. And in those days, making glass, if you’ve seen real old glass in ancient buildings, it’s all wavy and lumpy. That’s because there was a trade-off… If you got the glass real thin and clear to see through, it would become brittle and could shatter really easy. So it was better to have it ‘crazy,’ a little bit waved, but thicker. Herbert’s great. He’s saying, normally glass is either brittle or crazy, but Lord, I’m brittle and crazy.

But he goes on in that poem, and says, ‘I can be a window.’ But then he says this amazing thing: ‘When thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie, making thy life to shine within the holy Preachers.’ And he says, ‘doctrine and life, colors and light in one, when they combine and mingle.’

And again, that’s a technical thing in glassmaking. You can’t just paint color on glass. It just flakes off again. Annealing, to get the color in stained glass, you heat the glass up, which of course it used to be hot, molten silicon. You take it back almost to where it began in this fierce heat. You pour the colors in, and then you bring it back, hoping it won’t get too brittle or crazy. And it’s got this color, this stain.

And what I see Herbert saying in that poem is that we take our passions, and sometimes our faults and our brokenness and our stains, and we let God anneal his story. So there’s some point in which we become a window of grace, not, Herbert says, by being some pure, clear, beautiful thing …but by this annealing process where our colors and the colors of Christ’s passion run together in the glass.”

Weaker But Equal: How I Finally Made Peace With Peter

by Elizabeth

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I’ve written before about how Paul’s seemingly misogynistic passages were a real stumbling block to me at one time. In that post I mentioned that although Peter said some of the same things Paul said, he never bothered me quite the same way. Whether that’s because I already liked Peter, who kept me laughing with all his mouth-moving-before-mind antics, or because he didn’t write half the New Testament, so that his words didn’t carry the same metaphorical weight, I’m not sure. I only know I should probably have dealt with his household codes before now. So I’m here today to offer you the latest in these apostolic adventures of mine.

First of all let me just say that I probably should have been asking more questions about Peter. For instance, where was his wife on all those missionary journeys?? I knew he had a wife, because I knew he had a mother-in-law, but I never asked the question – or, if I did, I assumed she stayed at home while he gallivanted all over Roman territory. (Perhaps I’d been too influenced by the more modern life of William Carey.)

Turns out, Peter’s wife traveled with him. It’s right there, plain as day, in I Corinthians 9:5 (which begs the question, how exactly did I miss this??). “Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and as the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?” So he didn’t leave her at home. He valued her and brought her with him on his travels. (Many thanks to Michael Card for pointing this out in his commentary on Mark.)

Another thing Peter did? He took care of his mother-in-law, something I never questioned but that Card claimed wasn’t Peter’s cultural responsibility – it would have been his wife’s brothers’ responsibility. So it seems Peter valued his wife, and he valued his mother-in-law, and maybe just maybe he wasn’t as anti-woman as I’d always thought, either.

In the past I’d kind of fixated on I Peter 3:1-6, with verses 5 and 6 giving me especial trouble as a trailing spouse:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.

Oh I knew that verse 7 existed, but maybe only in the New International or King James Versions, which are much more patronizing.

So anyway, prompted by Michael Card, I went and read all of I Peter 3, including verse 7 in the New Living Translation:

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

And this Bible verse, this amazing, freeing, validating, liberating Bible verse, it was neither underlined nor starred in my Bible. WHY EVER NOT?!?! This is a Bible I’ve used for six years. Six years of reading the previous verses and feeling the weight of their burden, but never noticing verse 7 just below them?

These words are such a balm for my soul. Right there in verse 7 Peter calls me, as a wife, an equal partner. An equal partner. And this particular version tells husbands that they MUST give honor to their wives. Must?? That’s a much more commanding tone than NIV or KJV.

So I did what I usually do when a verse strikes my fancy: I looked up the Greek words on Bible Hub.

  • Give — to assign or apportion, to render; from the Greek aponemontes
  • Honor – to accord or apportion honor, pay respect, perceived weight or value, from the Greek timen
  • Understanding – knowledge, wisdom; from the Greek gnosin
  • Weaker – weak, depleted, without sufficient strength (mostly physically); from the Greek asthenestero
  • Equal partner – joint heir, participant, coinheritor; used of believers sharing inheritance with Christ; from the Greek synkleronomois
  • Hindered – puts obstacles in the way of a moving object (this made me wonder, is the thing that the mistreatment of women hinders the movement of the Gospel?); to sharply impede or cut off what is desired or needed; from the Greek enkoptesthai

Basically, Peter is instructing husbands to assign appropriate honor and respect (there it is again, a woman’s heart-need for respect) to their wives, because they are valuable and worthy, and to live with their wives in a wise and understanding way (“It’s not about the nail” comes to mind), because she is a joint heir, co-inheritor, and equal partner in Christ. And why should they do this? So the work of God won’t be blocked or shortchanged in their lives.

Of course Eugene Peterson’s The Message interpretation is even better:

The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.

But even if you stick with a strict translation and some Greek background, you will not get the same thing out of Peter that I have been getting for years (on the surface): a man at the top calling all the shots. Instead you will get: EQUAL PARTNER. A wife is her husband’s equal partner.

It brings me to my knees in thanksgiving to have a Lord whose gospel of life reframes everything human beings tried to twist His perfect Edenic world into. So I’m now laying to rest my last reservation with Peter. Peter and I can now be completely at peace. And I can now rejoice that Peter — and God — calls me my husband’s equal partner.