It’s a Hate-Hate Relationship: Social Media and the Political Season

On this 14th 9/11 commemoration I am taking a break from my marriage series to reflect on some other issues that have been on my mind recently.

Earlier in the week I read a post that clearly stated that the entire constituency of a particular political party “thinks poor people are poor because they are lazy.” Presumably this statement is aimed at conservative republicans. While it is true that there are constituents of the party that are simple-minded enough to boil poverty down to one reason—laziness, it discounts the millions of party members that understand that poverty is a complex issue, that it blends a mixture of long-standing social and governmental constructs that contribute to its perpetuation in our culture. I point this out only to say that we, all of us, have a tendency to over-simplify how others, with views differing from our own, see and understand the world. For instance, I subscribe to a couple of conservative blogs. I never re-post their articles because know them to be insulting to liberals and an over-simplification of some of their views. One of these blogs frequently refers to Hilary Clinton as “Hildebeast.” I am no supporter of Hilary. Indeed there are issues over which I so deeply disagree with her and concerns I have about her that the divide will not likely be bridged. Yet I refuse to dehumanize her with those kind of insults. This is a dangerous game. The more you simplify how another sees the world and the more you dehumanize them the more likely you are to create a divide of hatred between yourself and that person. This will happen in your own heart and it will happen in the other person as well. You really don’t have to agree with or believe the same thing as another person in order to hear them. And you don’t have to shout out (or click out) insults in order to be heard.
Freak out gif
This brings me to some grave concerns that have been roiling in my spirit the last several weeks. I have this sense of greater hatred and deeper divides than I have felt in my many years on the planet and in this country. It feels more racially divided. It feels more politically divided. It feels more philosophically divided and certainly more socially divided. It feels like different groups and factions are moving farther and farther into their perspective corners. Each one seems to send out a fighter to beat living crap out of each other in an all-out philosophical brawl. It seems like since the advent and proliferation of social media the divide has grown again to a greater extent than it has since the days before and during the civil rights riots of the sixties-though I wasn’t alive then, so I couldn’t truly say how things were.

Here’s the thing about social media. It is so easy to click those keys and say the most outrageously insulting things to one another or about one another. It is easy to grab images and memes and GIFs, laugh at and share them. These images, memes and GIFs almost always boil down an issue a person or a group into one thing and rarely ever take into consideration the complexities that lead any given group or person to their beliefs, philosophies or situations. Then again, I have seen people post images supporting a group or person or idea and have seen others respond to that post, greatly offended merely because of the fact that they didn’t agree with the idea, group or sentiment. It wasn’t because the sentiment was particularly offensive toward any other person or group but merely a post that was positive towards a particular person or group. Fights and divisions then crop up because people take offense that you dare to support something that they do not.

So, now we find ourselves well into the campaign season for the upcoming presidential election. I both love and hate the election season. I love the election season because every few years we are given an opportunity to make changes we believe need implementing, to start fresh, so to speak. Or we are given an opportunity to continue with policies and elected officials we believe are doing a good job or are perpetuating our particular political philosophy. It is a time that can and should be filled with great honor, considered a great privilege and be filled with optimism. Instead, it has become a time of anxiety, anger and hatred. Facebook feeds suddenly become filled with those very memes and GIFs I was talking about earlier. Those broad brushing, sweeping statements that insult an entire group and paint them in the worst possible light.

I say that if you have to broad brush my political viewpoint, religious beliefs or philosophical stand using insults then you must have a very weak argument to support yours (or lack thereof). This political season I would like to post support for my chosen candidate from time to time. I am excited about a few people in the field of candidates. I am a political conservative. I am a Christian. I never want to misrepresent myself or what point of view I will defend and uphold with my support and vote. There’s nothing that forces me to tell you that. I want to tell you that because I welcome honest and respectful discourse.

I want to commit to something this election season. I hope to encourage others to commit to the same thing as well. I commit to posting things that are in support of my chosen candidate(s) that make a positive argument for my political point of view. I will refrain from posting insulting or broad brushing posts about any other political party or candidate(s) with opposing views. I do not promise to refrain from asking real questions about candidates that ought to be asked of each of them. But the questions will be regarding real issues that have to do with their integrity, stance on issues and ability to lead, not in an accusatory or insulting way, but in a way that gives anyone the opportunity to give a real answer. Sometimes the answer to the question will be that a given candidate is indeed weak in a particular area or there may be a valid answer.

I want to encourage anyone who will listen, begin considering what you are posting before you click. Is it worthwhile? Does it openly or sarcastically insult entire groups of people? Does it promote unity, does it further knowledge, or does it bring laughter or a smile? If it does, great, post it. If it tears people or groups down, if it promotes greater divide, if it promotes violence or hatred then please, ask yourself, is it really worth posting? And when someone else does post in support of something you disagree with, ask yourself if you really need to respond viscerally before you’ve had a chance to take a look at the world from that person’s point of view. They probably didn’t post their support in order to directly insult or oppose you. They just wanted to show support for a cause close to their hearts. See that—understand that before you fling the insults.

Having said all this I am sure I may still be tempted when an issue really fires me up. And It sure is hard to resist making fun of one particular candidate. I won’t say any names but he may have floppy hair. See what I did? I’m not perfect. Nonetheless I shall endeavor to both support my party, my faith and my philosophy with all of my heart while practicing the principles I laid out here. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we, in America, have a long history of political satire in our country. If you are really skilled writer and satirist, then have a go. But you probably aren’t. You probably just sound rather ignorant. So be careful!

Lastly, this election season as I reflect upon 9/11 my mind keeps turning to the picture of a woman, trapped above the impact floors. She stood in her business skirt looking now over the raw and jagged precipice created by the destruction, making a choice. Burn to death or jump to my death? She took her fate into her own hands and rather than be consumed by the flames she chose to jump. As she did so, she placed her hands on her skirt to stop it from flying up. How exquisitely human, this gesture of modesty even in the face of certain death. As I think of this I think about the many suffering and hurting humans in the world today, I think about the things that make us feel so divided, about where we have come since that horrible day. I reflect on the fact that social media has contributed to this divide, people willing to say the meanest things at the click of the button or to broad brush entire groups of people based on the actions of some. And I think today, I want only to reach a hand across a divide and say, I know you don’t think exactly like me, we may even vehemently disagree on some issues, but I acknowledge your inherent value as a human being. No matter what. This doesn’t mean I think the world should be consequence free or that all ideas are equally beneficial, it means only that all humans are of equal dignity and value.

Particularly this morning, I read a post that said “NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE.” To “never forget” I say, yes! Yes, never forget the sheer magnitude of loss that day. Never forget the decimated potential. Never forget what hatred, unforgiveness and enmity causes. It causes 9/11. To “never forgive” I say vengeance should not be the motivation for chasing down terrorists with extreme prejudice. Love is the reason we do it. Love for those that are in harm’s way because of the bitterness and hatred in men’s heart. So, no, I will not hold the credo “never forgive” in my heart because I always want to leave room there for both love and peace whenever it may be had. It may not always be had, but it will not be because I chose to hold on to hatred, it will because someone else did and innocent lives need protecting. It will be because good people cannot stand by and watch while evil insinuates itself on the world. So I encourage you to speak out on issues you hold dear. Fight for your values, stand up for your principles but never do so at the cost of dehumanizing someone else, even if you feel you must take a very strong stand against them. May THIS 9/11 bring you peace.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

“Do not accuse anyone for no reason– when they have done you no harm.” Proverbs 3:30

Marriage Cancer: Sarcasm (Part 3 in a series)

People brag about being sarcastic all the time. They place an “I’m really good at sarcasm” medal around their own necks and show it off like a badge of honor. But the truth about sarcasm is that it is nothing more than thinly and purposely veiled insult. Sarcastic people use it as a tool to say what they really want to say without actually saying it. They like to use sarcasm so that they are not held accountable for their words. It is a tool that is used to manipulate, belittle and shame another person. Then, when feelings are hurt, the remark is dismissed as “just kidding! Can’t you take a joke?” Like it or not, that is the real truth about sarcasm.Oxford online dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Mirriam-Webster defines it as “a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual,” and “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” The word sarcasm has its roots in the Greek word “sarkamos” which means “to tear flesh in rage; to sneer.”
Bring the attitude way down and also—be nice to people. Sarcasm truly is like a cancer eating away at the free and open communication and intimacy of any relationship, including marriage and it is not okay to use it to get your way in an argument. Can I be frank? If you cannot “win” an argument by presenting a reasoned case for your point and you must resort to sarcasm, then you very well may not have a valid argument in the first place. Listen, any two people living together will run into some troubles. They may be relatively small or they may be overwhelmingly huge problems. It does not really matter the severity of the trouble, you will not solve it with sarcastic, caustic remarks toward your spouse.
The damage of sarcasm. Sarcasm does a number of things none of which are actually beneficial.
Sarcasm belittles. It shames the recipient into feeling stupid. Be honest—sarcasm is really an insult. God’s word tells us, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matt. 5:22 (ESV).
Sarcasm divides. When you are in the midst of issuing sarcastic remarks, you are not thinking about how to come into agreement with your spouse. You may be trying to get your spouse to come into agreement with you by making them feel foolish, but there is no true reconciliation at the heart of sarcasm. Instead, it creates a greater divide. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (ESV). We are also told in the scriptures, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matt. 5:23-24.
Sarcasm controls. Sarcasm is a tool used to manipulate and bend another person to your will. If you can make another person feel foolish or stupid for his or her point of view then they have a hard time holding on to it—even when their point is perfectly valid. Perhaps your spouse is just not as adept at making cutting remarks as you so you find yourself winning a lot of arguments. Even if you get your spouse to agree via this method they are only agreeing in order to avoid further cut-downs. Nobody likes to feel stupid. And when we are made to feel stupid we will often concede the point since to hold on to it would further the feeling of stupidity. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV) If you are popping off witty sarcastic remarks, I doubt you are practicing the “slow to speak” principle.
Sarcasm inflames. Sarcasm is fuel for the fire. It escalates an argument rather than resolves an issue. Prov. 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Think back to our definition of sarcasm. It is meant to “convey contempt” and depends upon “bitter and caustic language” for its effect. “The power of life and death are in the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov. 18:21. This verse doesn’t actually tell us not to use the tongue, it simply lets us know that we will eat of the fruits of our words. Are you feeding yourself death or life with what you say?
Sarcasm seeks revenge. There are really only two goals of sarcastic remarks. They are used to control or they are used to purposely insult in an act of revenge. The revenge may be for something your spouse did or said to hurt you. Perhaps you are perfectly justified in your hurt. Or you might just be ticked because your spouse won’t agree with you. But if you choose the path of caustic remarks to inflict pain upon your spouse, realize that you are contributing to a cycle of hurt that can spiral out of control. The enemy wants you both to add fuel to the fire and say worse and worse things to one another so that a divide between you can grow and grow until it is unbreachable. Every caustic remark, even when you have a right to be mad, places another brick in that wall. Jesus admonishes us in the book of Luke “forgive and you will be forgiven.” Once those words are out, you can never take them back. And they speak volumes. “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Your spouse will always know you were thinking that about him or her.
Sarcasm is more than just a joke. When you employ sarcasm in your relationships, whether you think of it as “joking” or whether you use it to cut people down to size to get your way understand that it simply a mask for insecurity. In the first case it is a form of self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. If you aren’t insecure, why do you need to show off how wittily you can cut another person down? Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In the second case, you are using sarcasm to control a situation and get your way. Needing to have your own way is a manifestation of insecurity. Letting another person be right or letting their way of doing things be good enough threatens your identity.

We are accountable for our words before the Lord. Jesus tells us, “But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgement for every careless word they have spoken.” Matt. 12:36 (ESV-italics added). That is a sobering thought isn’t it? You may still be thinking, “Jeez—take a joke. It’s not that big a deal.” First, your words may be hurting someone more than you know. They might laugh at your sarcastic jokes, even the ones pointed towards them, but it very well could be a façade covering their real feelings. When you cut somebody down to size, you are cutting down a person made in the image of God and he clearly takes that very seriously.
Don’t worry, you can still tell a good joke! Sarcasm is only one form of humor. And the honest truth is, many people don’t actually mean sarcasm when they brag about being sarcastic. What they really mean is that they are facetiously witty. What many people call “sarcasm” would actually be classified as being facetious. Here’s a definition of facetious, “not meant to be taken seriously or literally: treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor.” It comes from a Latin word meaning “jest, witticism.” We can think of this form of humor as “sarcasm light.” We are a family that loves to laugh. We joke around and tease each other all the time. We are adept at a well-placed joke to lighten the tension. And I wouldn’t ever want to change that. Humor is, in fact, a key to a healthy and happy relationship. But humor at some else’s expense is not helpful, it’s harmful. Try removing sarcasm that is pointed at any other person from your arsenal for just one month. See if anything changes in your relationships. I think you will be surprised. And if you truly are the master of sarcasm and you simply must get it out of your system, make sure that you are the butt of your own jokes. People who can make a little fun of themselves are often the most well-liked people in the room anyway, so it’s a win-win. You can stretch your sarcastic legs and nobody gets hurt.


Marriage Cancer: An Unbalanced Sex Life (part 2 in a series)

When two people meet and feel an attraction for one another, they can scarcely imagine the future in which they are married with children and barely have sex any more. At first, all is sunshine and happiness. It’s always that way. You can’t wait to be with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You think about that person all the time and the very thought makes you smile. You’ve never been so happy. So, naturally, you decide to get married. And then, woot-woot! Let the good times roll.

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” That old rhyme is simply true. And babies are an amazing blessing to a marriage, however, this is frequently when the sex life starts to break down. Kids come into the picture, bodies (and hormones) change. Mommas are in danger of becoming more interested in their infants than their husbands. In addition, life starts to become more and more hectic. Kids come with needs. And with age and experience, responsibilities at work, in our social circles and at church also begin to increase. This can be the very space where the cancer begins. Ignore it and it will grow. Practice some preventative medicine and you can save you marriage from the brink of disaster.

Stereotypes, whether we like to admit it or not, usually contain at least a modicum of truth, even if exaggerated. When you think of the typical sexually unbalanced couple, you picture a sex-starved husband and an uninterested wife. And this kind of couple does make up the greater number of unbalanced couples. But not all. There are many women out there, suffering in silence and feeling very alone precisely because of this stereotype. They likely feel the rejection with a higher degree of intensity because it seems like everyone’s husband is a horn-dog that can’t get enough, everyone’s, that is, except their husband. This woman might actually be very attractive. And let’s be real, she sees very average looking women have to hold their husbands off with a stick, so she is left to wonder-what’s wrong with me? Just like a woman can have hormone imbalances or other sexual dysfunction that may come from a difficult sexual history, so too can men. Though it can be very hard to wrap your head around, one partner’s lack of sexual interest has much more to do with their own physiology or inner turmoil than with the other partner. Knowing that doesn’t necessarily solve your problem of achieving a more active sex life, but maybe it can take away just a bit of the sting of rejection.

Before discussing this topic further, let me make it clear. If there is a history of sexual abuse in one partner’s history OR a true medical issue, these are serious matters over which there should be no guilt and should be treated by professionals. If you CAN get healthy, you SHOULD get healthy. Sexuality is an integral part of marriage. In the rare circumstance that it is medically impossible, I encourage this couple to find creative ways to include physical intimacy in the marriage.
So, let us suppose you are one of the myriad of couples who have different sexual frequency needs. Let’s say, one partner would like to have sex every day. The other could easily go for once a month. Whether the difference were three times a week compared to three times per year or twice a day and once a year, the principle here is basically the same.

Here’s the principle: neither of you has the right over your own body any more. I know that goes against what the world would tell you—that you belong to you and you do whatever makes you happy. Let me make it very clear what I am saying. You have no right to withhold sex from your partner. You don’t have the right to say “no.” (Please understand I don’t mean someone should be forced or that concessions are not to be made in cases of illness or whatever, I’m talking in a general, regular sense). Conversely, if you are the one with the greater appetite, you don’t have the right to seek sexual release outside your partner and you don’t have the right to demand a frequency that suits only you.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
A church I went to for years did a series on marriage. The Pastor’s wife shared the following thought and it has stuck with me ever since. She said, “You are your husband’s only legitimate sexual outlet.” We could substitute “partner” or “spouse” for husband here. We need to understand this. Really understand it. Too often, those with the lower sexual appetite too readily dismiss the needs of the other partner. Because it is not a big deal to the one, there is an assumption that it ought not be a big deal to the other. That is not true. If it’s important to your spouse, like it or not, it just became important to you. That’s marriage. You said the vow, you signed the paper.

There is a huge danger here. I cannot caution you enough. You can create a situation in which your partner constantly feels at your mercy. Is that a way you would want to live? Suppose one partner has the power over the food. You do not get food except at your partner’s leisure. And you cannot get it unless you ask nicely, in a way that doesn’t get on your partner’s nerves and when you do ask, even when you wait until you’re so hungry that you can’t stand it, what you hear is “you’re too fat.” How would it feel to be absolutely famished and have zero idea when you may get to eat again? It could be days. When you withhold sex from your partner and nine times out of ten reject sexual advances you are essentially starving your partner slowly to death. Not only that, because sexuality is so tied to our view of ourselves, you are making your partner afraid. Asking for sex becomes a scary prospect because more than likely, your partner is about to experience rejection. It should not be so in a marriage.

Let’s say you find yourself at the center of a vortex of infrequent sex and an unhappy marriage. Looking back, you find it hard to pinpoint exactly which came first-the unhappiness with one another, the frequent arguing, the silent treatments or the lack of sex. Likely, the two grew in proportion to one another. When speaking in generalities-we could look at sex’s place in marriage like this:
• Women need to be at peace with their partners first, then sex follows, i.e. everything needs to be okay between us before we can have sex.
• Men need to have sex to feel they are at peace with their partner, i.e. I know everything is okay between us because we had sex.
So what do we do to fix this imbalance? How do we stop the vortex from spinning out of control and landing you in divorce court? There are a few very practical things both partners can do.

1. Understand that sex doesn’t start in the bedroom. It starts with a spirit of service. Suppose dad comes home and his wife has three little ones clinging to her and she hasn’t been able to finish dinner or the dishes. Maybe she has been touched by three pairs of tiny hands all day long and her touch meter is maxed. Without an agenda, help with the kids. Help with the dishes. Give that mom a break so she can breathe and have a little space. It will help her feel better. Whatever the practical need here, fill it. Daddies who play with and take good care of their children and do a few dishes are sexy. Trust me on this. Also, hug your wife sometimes just to hug her, not to cop a feel. Then she feels she is getting affection for who she is as a human being and not just for what she can do for you in the bedroom. It will make a difference.

2. Make appointments to have sex. It really is okay to make a plan. See, we have this Hollywood version of what sex should look like and it’s a lie! A lie from the pit of hell, I tell you. It says that the only legitimate sex is born out of being first extremely turned on. There has to be a big romantic scene that gets you in the mood. And if that does not happen, then no sex. But here’s the truth, sometimes you have sex because it’s Wednesday. Wednesday is sex day. It’s an appointment. This may seem cold or to lack spontaneity, but that’s only because you are still clinging to your childish fantasies. If you come to your sexual appointment with your spouse rolling your eyes and bothered by it then it will be a cold and less-than-useless experience, it will be a harmful one. But if you come to it with love for your spouse, ready to put aside the troubles of the day then guess what, you don’t have to be in the mood before you start! You can get in the mood. Light some candles, put on something sexy. Put on some nice music. Maybe you need to take a shower because you feel grimy from the busy day or maybe put on a little make-up to feel prettier. Whatever. You can actually decide to participate and end up having a good time. Here’s the deal. Remember the starvation scenario? These appointments help each partner to feel like he or she is not starving to death. Each knows that their appetite will be satiated making it easier to bear with sexual temptation.

3. Compromise on the frequency of sex. It is extremely likely that one partner will want sex more frequently than the other. That fact is extremely common. I don’t have stats but I bet it would be somewhere above 90% of the time. Philippians 2:4 says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This means that each partner must take into consideration the needs of the other person. This means we need to be grown-ups and be able to talk with one another about sex. It is very important that both be able to speak their needs without the other responding in shock or disdain! The man says “twice a day.” He’s not a weirdo or a pervert and should not be treated as such. He’s simply got a very active libido and lots of testosterone and sexual hormones surging-hey and maybe he thinks his wife is super-hot. The wife says “once a month.” She’s not an ice queen. Maybe little kids touch her all day. At any rate, clearly twice a day would wear the one out and once a month would leave the other in the lurch, struggling to stay pure. What can you both live with? My suggestion here would be at least a couple of times a week, but each couple must come up with a compromise that suits their life situation. Let me encourage-and I do mean strongly encourage the partner with the lower libido, initiate sex sometimes without being prompted. Decide to surprise your partner with a sexual encounter. Just having you initiate sex even once a month (more often if you want!!) will go a long way in your partner’s self-esteem. It gives the person a feeling “I was too sexy to resist” and thus will boost the person’s sense of well-being immensely.

4. For the partner who has the greater sexual appetite, don’t be offended that you have to do more of the asking. It’s really not you. It really is mostly just a hormone level thing. Your partner loves you and thinks highly enough of you that even if his or her hormones don’t dictate the need for sex, love for you does.

5. Get a sexual attitude adjustment. Honestly, sexual boundary setting could get its own article. However, understand that the Bible actually has some things to say about this matter. Read the Song of Solomon. It has some pretty sexy things to say about the marriage bed. We all grow up with baggage and idea about what is dirty and what is not. If you feel dirty about most sexual activity, you may need to renew your mind. Likely, we all need at least some renewing of our minds about sex anyway, even if we’re fairly healthy. Let go of your pre-conceived notions and come at the subject with an open heart, willing to fulfill your spouse’s reasonable desires and be willing to have your perception of “reasonable” adjusted. Having said that, there are some non-negotiables. Your sex life includes two people and one Holy Spirit. That’s it. No more. No less. Everyone needs to feel respected. Beyond that, explore what the Bible has to say and read what well-respected marriage and intimacy experts have to say. Joe Beam, president of Marriage Helper has written and spoken much about what is okay and what is not sexually speaking. You can read more at

6. Treat your spouse like you’re still dating. That means you should take some care with your personal appearance. You don’t need to feel any pressure to look twenty when you’re forty. But do take the time to bother about your appearance. If you’re going out with your spouse, look nice. It communicates something. It says, “you’re worth the bother.” Do fun stuff together. Do stuff the other one likes. My husband and I go to baseball games and the theater. I watch one football game a week during football season. I could live without it. But it doesn’t kill me to watch and show interest. We went to see a performance of Shakespeare recently. It was long. He paid attention anyway. And discussed the pros and cons of the performance afterwards. And dream together. It’s good to talk about your dreams and aspirations together and to have goals as a couple.

Good marriages start with service and sacrifice one for another. They culminate in fulfilling sexual union. The two are so intertwined so as to be impossible to separate. Trying to do so will literally break down the structure of the other. Don’t wait until your partner gets better at serving before you increase your frequency of sex and don’t wait until your partner starts having more sex with you to increase your service to him or her. If you want a better marriage, you will do both. Now. The joy and satisfaction in each will grow simultaneously. Romans 12:10 says “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV) Put this into practice both inside and outside the bedroom and your marriage in guaranteed to grow.

Marriage Cancer: Children

couple fighting

When asking the question—what kills marriages—there are some obvious answers. Clearly physical abuse is a marriage killer as is adultery. Secret addictions are marriage killers too. When a wife has an out of control spending addiction, for instance, and is hiding $50,000 of credit card debt, well that’s a betrayal isn’t it? Addiction to porn or physical sexual relationships outside of the marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, physical abuse, these things will all kill a marriage for sure. So yes, these things are great big, terrible marriage killers.
While a lot of marriages fail because of great big, heinous problems, I would say most fail because of more subtle marriage killers. Things we tend not to think of as that much of a big deal and therefore do not guard diligently against. But they are no less dangerous to a marriage. They are a cancer that eats the marriage from the inside, unseen and unknown until the marriage is already on the precipice of death. A frequent and very difficult to diagnose form of marriage cancer comes from the children that are a result of the marriage. Everyone is excited about a new baby, but if mom and dad don’t agree on how to raise the kids, it will become a real source of contention.
There is no doubt that children need discipline. I mean, have you met any of them? Not only is it evident by their behavior and sheer lack of knowledge of what is dangerous both physically and emotionally, the Bible tells us that parents who do not discipline their children might as well hate them. Proverbs 19:18 tells us, “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” (NIV).
The honest truth here, sadly, is that sometimes parents cannot even come to an agreement over the fact that a child needs discipline much less what kind is appropriate to administer. Every person must understand that they bring to the marriage a set of preconceived notions. Now these notions may be really good, healthy ones. They may also be very dysfunctional ones. Everyone simply comes into the marriage with an idea of how marriage works, how child-rearing works and it does not always align with what the partner thinks. Some families are loud talkers, some are yellers, some stew quietly in anger. Some families spank, some are very controlling, some are very permissive.
Whatever the case may be, each person will come with these deeply held beliefs. You often are not even aware you have these beliefs. They are not necessarily things you think about. Suppose a woman’s dad always kept her mom’s gas tank filled. Subsequently when she got her license, he did the same with her car. It’s not something she really ever thought about, until she runs out of gas on the side of the road. Now this is an issue because her husband isn’t caring for her as she expected. Well, his mom worked odd hours and was very independent anyway. His family just worked that way. Neither is a superior way of being. Just different. These two did not even know about the expectation until it went unmet. This is also true regarding the question of how to raise children.
Let’s take Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith. (I would love to know if that is your actual name-that would be really great, but if it is I am not talking about you!) John and Jane have been married four years and they have a two year old, Junior. The proud mom and dad take Junior out to dinner with them—a family outing! Junior has learned that he can get a rise out of momma by throwing the salt and pepper shakers on the ground. Momma picks them back and gently says “no-no” but Junior likes this game. He does it again. Momma puts the shakers out of reach. Junior is smarter than that. There are plenty of things close enough to throw on the floor. He does so with all the force his little arms can muster, and does so while looking momma right in the face, In other words, Junior is being defiant on purpose. Dad believes Junior is old enough, and has seen evidence that, Junior can understand perfectly what is meant by “no.” When momma is gone, Junior obeys dad just fine. Dad has enough of the defiance and scoops Junior out of the high chair to take to the bathroom. Jane is upset that John would swat Junior’s butt. She exclaims that Junior is “just a baby” and insists that John put him down. John complies, Junior continues to throw everything within reach and Jane is mortified at his behavior and they leave the restaurant as quick as possible. Jane decides its best to not take Junior out in public for a long while.
The biggest issue here is not whether you believe in spanking or not. By far the biggest issue is Jane undermining John. Whatever your philosophy on child-rearing and discipline, a married couple must absolutely come to an agreement on these matters. While it is not always the mother undermining the father, it frequently is. I have seen too many mothers, believing (sometimes even subconsciously) that their husbands are incompetent or not as capable as they are. In doing so, they interfere with dad’s parenting and discipline, creating a frustrated and emasculated husband who then grows too discouraged to try any more. Dad leaves the child-rearing up to mom. This, in turn creates a mom who, in turn, feels overburdened by the task of child-rearing and then there is a rift between dad and kids, mom and dad and mom and kids.
Further, mom and dad need to discuss what sorts of activities they each think are appropriately safe or have an acceptable amount of risk associated with them. Take football for example. Perhaps the mom grew up with a football coach for a dad. Her brothers all played. She realizes there is risk but thinks the benefit of team sports and her son’s love of the game outweighs the risks. Dad is an academic. He sees no value in football and furthermore, the risks far outweigh the benefits in his mind. This can be a great source of contention within the family. What age is appropriate for children to date? Is the common way of dating even a thing you want for your children? When can kids play outside alone? There are many questions in this arena that can become a source of an argument and hurt feelings. Yet they are infrequently ever thought of, much less discussed before a couple gets married or has children. Suppose your son playing football is incredibly important to you. You really believe that if he wants to he should be allowed to pursue this interest? If you marry someone on the other side of the issue you find yourself having to give up your belief or flat out go against your spouse’s wishes.
Guard yourself against this by doing two things: first, before you get married, find a pastoral team that will conduct in-depth pre-marriage counseling. There are great exercises out there that ask these very sorts of questions to get a couple discussing and coming to a compromise both can feel good about before children ever come into the picture. Second, research some books on child discipline. Get a feel for the view of the author—does he promote spanking? Timeouts? Neither? Perhaps choose one or two and read that book together. Discuss what feels right to each of you and then decide on the discipline standards in your home. Be open to your spouse’s or finance’s thoughts on the matter. Don’t necessarily insist on your own way. Come to a balance you can both live with that combines consequences and mercy, for doesn’t even our God himself display both discipline and mercy? Isn’t his discipline often the same thing as his mercy? Discipline, though it can hurt, is often a much softer consequence than allowing certain behaviors to go on.
These steps are vital. The final step once you have agreed to the methods, boundaries and standards of child-rearing is to avoid undermining one another at all costs! Children are happier, mom and dad are too, when there is unity between the parents. While paying consequences is never fun for anybody, children thrive in a home where mom and dad are at peace with one another and where they stand unified. The child knows what to expect.
The very best guard against this form of marriage cancer is preventative medicine. Get counseling and come into agreement before you ever get married. If you’re already married, but don’t yet have kids, dig up all the information you can child rearing and them come into agreement before they are ever born. If you are already married, have kids and find yourself in contention, don’t just throw your hands up and disengage. This will cause your marriage to disintegrate. Get help. Find a method for problem solving and utilize it. This will bring peace into a disorderly home. Remember though, that if the kids have been getting by with stuff because mom and dad have been at odds, you’re going to get some push back from them. Stay solid, stay united. Your home and your marriage will settle into a peaceful rhythm if you lock arms and stick up for each other.

Stronger Than This

I am not generally given to writing much poetry. I wrote a good deal of it in my early 20’s, most of driven by youthful angst. And I feel that poetry is for the young for that very reason. Time and age have worn away that youthful angst and replaced it with calm assurance. However, I do find moments in life when I am driven to write a bit of poetry yet. As it turns out, the following poem was written in response to the tragic loss of the person that drove much of that angst when I was young. But it is different now. I moved on to find not a perfect life but a very happy and peaceful one. He did not. This is for him and the for the daughter that my time with him left me. I can never be sad or sorry for that time for she is a very great gift.

Stronger Than This
Despair. It creeps into your soul slowly, taking it inch by inch.
In silence it stalks the farthest reaches of your mind, the places where
Hope tries to hide.
It lurks in shadow, waiting for long years, not deterred by time or
Human psychology
It watches lustily and remembers all your naked shame
It reaches out its bony hand and gently strokes your face, offering
“Come with me” it beckons the weary traveler, “I will give you rest.”
And violently it breaks the world.
Is anything stronger than this?
Indeed, for despair is not so strong as it is patient and deceitful.
Love is the Truth that can bring despair to its knees,
Send it scurrying back to the dark pit from whence it crawled
Trailing its lies behind
“But I loved,” you say, “and still he died.”
Would that you could understand
It is not mere human love, which perceives the need
To say it will be okay when it really won’t
That says
You deserve to be happy
You are worthy
Hollow platitudes
No, it is the love that knows the deepest recess of your
Broken heart
That reads your every thought,
Sees past your façade and knows your unrepentant
Pride, greed, jealousy, slander and glee
And every action done in the dark, caring only for the moment of pleasure
Though it wounded someone’s soul or body or both
Even, if only, your own
And understands completely your guilt and bore it
It is the love that says, though you are unworthy,
Yet still do I remove your shame
And is the lifter of your head
Look, look, oh, please look
Please look into the face of that love
That is the Love that is Truth.

Perfect Parenting in 7 Easy Steps (Okay, maybe not perfect but they got me through it)

A friend of mine is pregnant and asked a few friends to share some “words of wisdom” about parenting and I was privileged to be among that number. Since you asked and since I’m a writer you get a blog post! This is dedicated to you, Teri, my beautiful friend.
For the new mommy and daddy:
Welcome, friends to the wonderful world of parenting. You are about to embark on a journey that will last a lifetime. Your journey will be filled with adventures and missteps, occasional pain, frustration and frequent joy, if you let it. You won’t do it perfectly, so don’t get caught up in beating yourself up or wasting any time trying to be or look perfect. God has chosen you to be the mom and dad of the brand new person hanging out in your womb. The Lord already gifted you with everything you need to bring him up, so don’t worry too much.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1) The first best gift you can give your child is spiritually healthy parents. Don’t place your child before your relationship with God. Your relationship with God will make you a better parent. “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” You will need all three in abundance, cultivate them purposely.

2) The second best gift you can give your child is parents who love each other. It is easy to lose yourselves in the mundane day to day business of parenting. Wife, don’t forget to be your husband’s girlfriend and husband, don’t forget to be your wife’s boyfriend. Dream together, talk, plan, hope, commiserate together. Be best friends. Kids flourish under the light of two parents who genuinely love each other. Your relationship creates a sense of security and stability that allows them to grow in the best possible environment. Not only that, they learn what a love relationship ought to look like. Lastly, remember that someday your children will be gone from your home and it will be just the two of you again. Don’t neglect the friend you hope to have in your old age for the sake of the kids that will leave the house.

3) Develop a parenting plan. Choose a book, or a few, and read them together. A little study will save you a lot of potential heart break. There are many great books out there. They espouse various philosophies. Some advocate spanking, some advocate time out, some lean toward attachment parenting. The important thing is not so much which approach you choose, but to choose one together and to follow through with it. My personal favorite is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. And very, very importantly, never undermine one another to your child. This is important, especially for mommies to remember. We often tend to think (not always on purpose) that we know best and too often interfere with daddy’s discipline. Trust your husband. Let him be a dad. Your kids need you both, that is why it took the both of you to make them. Back each other up!

4) Think in terms of the big picture. You are, in reality, launching an adult into the world, not a child. That doesn’t mean you should start treating your new born like an adult. It means that as you think, plan and discipline you should keep in mind how your decisions will contribute to turning your child into the kind of adult you hope he will be. When you are caught up in mounds of laundry, dinner-making, sinks full of dirty dishes and tantrum-throwing toddlers, stop and remember what is most important. Laundry, dinner and dishes will always be there, but your chance to teach your child won’t. In those baby and toddler years, it can be tempting to avoid leaving the house with your child. You feel overwhelmed and that toddler challenges you at every corner. Don’t give in to this temptation. Get out, take the kid with you. Risk a scene in public. Your child learns how to behave because you teach him what is acceptable and what is not. You can’t teach him this if he never experiences being challenged to behave appropriately in restaurants, stores, museums, parks and movie theaters. Sure, you may have to abandon the activity if little Johnny flips out, but you have begun a lesson that will teach him the things he needs to know to get along in the world.

5) Major on the majors and just don’t even worry about the minors. Say “yes” as often as you can so that when you say “no” you aren’t drowning yourself out in too long a set of rules. This is best accomplished by focusing on matters of character. This will grow in importance as your child grows into the teenage years. Give your child plenty of room to be himself. If something interests him or he likes a certain style of dress that you don’t particularly like, ask yourself if the interest is a matter of character and if it isn’t, then why stress about it? Your child is an autonomous being. Let it happen. You want it to. But draw the line when matters of character come in to question. The presumption is that you want to launch a responsible, modest, hard-working, honest, kind person into the world. Hold the line with an iron fist in these matters and practice liberality in the rest.

6) Simply like your child. This may sound strange, like it would come naturally, but that is not always the case. Your child is a unique person, with a unique personality. That personality may or may not be a natural fit for your personality. Get to know your child for who he is. Remember to laugh, play and have fun with your kid as you develop your relationship with him. And, frankly, decide to like him for who he is. A tomboyish mother may get a girly-girl daughter or an artsy dad might get an athletic son, or any combination there-in. Let your kids be who they are and learn to like it! Don’t compare them to other kids, either outside or inside your home. Compare your child only to the best version of himself and help him become that.

7) Lastly, trust your instincts. You will get a lot of advice along the way. Everyone thinks they know the best way to do this thing, but the truth is, every child is unique and even within your own home you will find that discipline techniques that work with one child make no difference in another. In the final analysis, you will be held responsible for the children you were given. So whether you breast-feed, cloth-diaper, wear your baby, spank, give time-outs, co-sleep, or do them all or some or none, don’t worry about what others think of you. You must look into your own heart and soul and after you do, look yourself in the mirror and answer the question, “Am I doing the right thing?” No one else can truly answer that for you. And never forget to enjoy the ride, mom and dad. It’s like a roller coaster with ups and downs and thrills and over way too soon.

The Law of Love in a Shifting Culture

Originally posted on Faith Adrift in a Postmodern Sea:

As our society changes and evolves and I and my children and friends and my faith community are faced with ever evolving values and shifting truths and indeed shifting views on the very nature of truth and even outright denial that there IS TRUTH, I wonder, how now are we to live?

Our world has been dominated by the ebb and flow of many philosophies, cultural norms and religious ideas. Many have come and now vanished from the face of the earth. But the Judeo-Christian ethic  is one that has remained through much of human history. Whether one adheres to its philosophy or not , there can be no denying that it has a long, long tradition behind it. For many years, we had been accustomed to that same ethic dominating western thought. But today, that is no longer true. We live in the post-Christian era. This thought may feel…

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