Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

How do we empower ourselves? A surprising answer….

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
There is always this question about empowerment. How do we become empowered human beings?
I love Sam Wells’ surprising answer.
We empower ourselves when we come to see ourselves as “a sinner who can be forgiven, rather than a victim who can protest.”
What a surprise!
Follow the surprise …. In your most treasured relationship, how well does it work to see yourself as a victim limited to protest?  Versus the flip… in your most treasured relationship, how well does it work to see yourself as human being, warts and all, in need of forgiveness, in need of grace, in need of kindness?
I would argue, when we place ourselves in the role of flawed humanity … blessed and broken… we place ourselves closer to our true selves and closer to God.   We become, in a word, empowered.  The edges soften and the heart grows.
A stark choice maybe. A marriage of two individuals who each clutch tightly to playing the victim role has neither joy nor a future.  A marriage of two individuals who correctly see themselves as flawed human beings has embedded deeply within the relationship the lasting seeds of joy and of a future.

Sometimes a Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Sometimes a picture is actually worth a 1000 words.  This picture is…

This is Bill and Carol.  Married 50 years. Celebrating that threshold with friends and family at a church service in Sarver, Pennsylvania, my hometown.

I know this … that at the end of work done well, there is this preciousness, this realization of the very deep goodness of life.   And that “end of the work” circles right back into what is new and alive.

So we gathered that day.  We heard from Billy, from Hank, from Kate.  There was laughter and tears.  Cherished memories. A group blessing.  “All joy is a remembering.” And this sure was that.

Is There Marriage In Heaven?

Friday, August 5th, 2016

I officiate at a lot of weddings.  A beautiful part of this work.  A marker of a young congregation.

And one thought – marriage can be an eternal blessing. It can last.  It is why we define marriage simply… two angels walking each other home.

That is not to sound cute.  A great deal of work there actually because it means we are called to make decisions with a much longer time frame than we usually do.

The concept of an eternal marriage – the broader concept of time – also provides room.  Room for growth.  Room for mistakes.  Room for change.

Does it mean that every marriage finds a renewed life in heaven? No.  Some marriages don’t. If partners are miserable, hard to see the blessing there.  However….

For people who desire true married love, the Lord provides a partner, and if they are not found in this life, He provides them in heaven. (Married Love 229)

That is beautiful.  There is indeed a “Happily Ever After.”  If not now, then.  And we can build it even in the storms of life.

Every human marriage has crisis times, moments of truth when one partner or both is tempted to give up.  Older married couples will admit that during these times they questioned the entire relationship.  Now, though, they retell the stories with humor and even nostalgia, for crises fit together into – indeed they helped form – a pattern of love and trust… The couple’s mutual response to stormy times was what gave their marriage its enduring strength. Phillip Yancy



A Valentines Weekend Wish…

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Here is something to be “for” this Valentines Day weekend.  Something we can be. But first the challenge…

The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all.

Instead we live out of all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the wind’s weather. (Frederick Buechner)

So the problem is that we often live from our “other selves.”  What then is the solution?

To see in each other, to see in our loved one, to see as God sees “the original shimmering self.”   Just see it.  Despite appearances to the contrary.

Your loved one will notice.

Happy Valentines Day.

Blessings on Valentine’s Day! (And some thoughts on marriage)

Friday, February 14th, 2014

We wish all of you a blessed Valentine’s Day!

As a Pastor, and as someone married for 26 years, I have experienced large parts of the journey of marriage, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Since ordination, I have walked those very same steps with many couples, from joyous weddings, through painful challenges, even through divorce.   I remember officiating at a wedding and noting in the charge that marriage moves through seasons, one of which will be not feeling in love.  The bride very quietly whispered to her groom, “That won’t be me.”  I would imagine, with a smile, all these years later she no doubt would change what she said.

So what can remain the same in the often tumultuous reality of marriage?

I think this is what can remain the same …

  1. We are always free to offer our best intentions on God’s behalf.  My intentions are more often than not, to put it kindly, limited.  But my best God-given intentions, often buried beneath my own hurts and neediness, are there.  God is the one who reminds me those best of intentions hold the most significant offerings I can bring to our marriage.
  2. We are always free to ask God’s help and the help of others in finding perspective.  There is a way in which when we can step back, problems, even dire ones, gain more manageable proportions.  We need others, not others who will agree with us no matter what, but others who will help us develop the more rounded, less harsh perspective within which marriage thrives.
  3. We are always free to love.  Some days that freedom looks like a non-reaction.  Other days it looks like forgiveness.  Some days a gift.  Other days passion.  But while I may not be able to choose feeling in love, I am always free to choose whether or not to be loving.

Our endeavor towards these three things is imperfect at best.  But that is why marriage presents us with the incredible opportunity to grow … to grow as individuals and to grow together.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Can we really marry the “right” person?

Friday, May 31st, 2013

In the midst of wedding season, I want to share again this powerful observation by Stanley Hauerwas.

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.  We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. For it is through the need of another that the greatest hindrance to my freedom, namely my own self-absorption, is finally not so much overcome as simply rendered irrelevant. It is through the other that I am finally able to make peace with myself and thus have the power to make my life my own.”

Marriage, for many, is an incredible blessing.  For others it falls far short of its promise.  And yet in either case, holding marriage in its proper context appears important.  Marriage does not make one “whole.”  Marriage does not solve all problems.  Marriage is about a struggle, a blessed one, but a struggle none-the-less in which we wrestle with our inherent self-absorption, seeking to put that very self-absorption – seeing it rendered irrelevant – as we learn with the years the gift of unconditional love.

Joyful Joyful on Dependence Day

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The word “utopia: comes from the Greek literally meaning “No Place.” Utopia is no place.  And we spend much time vainly striving for that very “no place.”

And yet heaven and joy are actually some place. To the extent that we accept heaven, even in this life with all its limitations we too can be “receptacles” as it were of heaven.  Heaven then is not far off.  Far from a utopian “no place,”  it is instead some place.

And how do we know we are there?  Joy.

That joy is not a “I have” but a “We share.”  It grows more from a sense of dependence than from an outsized sense of independence.   Our job is to place ourselves in those very places, pulling our vision down from a never-attained utopia into the very blessedness of the here-and-now we share.

This week filled with those “sharings.”  They included trips to the Ronald McDonald House where a 13 year old proudly asked me to feel the seem of a plate in her cranium from brain cancer surgery, to Wyeth’s baptism and his parents tearful desire to raise there son into a life of deep integrity; from smiling emails from a group in the Catskills who organized a retreat on Joy,a  retreat that included a rope swing and cold water, to a picnic lovingly filled far beyond what we anticipated in temperatures far greater than we would have liked but did not matter, to a wedding in which the wave of joy of Ivan and Amy rode through town in a joyous tsunami of sorts picked up and carried many of us along for an evening.   We shared!

All of the above are clear reminders and calls to the joy that is before us, not a joy born of independent adventure but of dependence, one to another, in God’s creation.  Joyful, joyful.


Moving from “Grey Water” to Fine Wine

Friday, February 25th, 2011

In discussing the challenges of moving from “grey water” to “fine wine” the question becomes, “How do we do it?”

First, what is the challenge?  The challenge centers on moving our intimate relationships from the “grey water” of simple maintenance into a place of the best of what a loving relationship offers.

That is a hard threshold to pass through.  Maybe, one possible way to view it is to look at what holds us back.  And one possibility is the idea of “perfection.”  There is a way in which couples and friends who are deeply connected appear to have moved beyond needing the other to be perfect.  They manage to dismiss areas dominated by our impoverished selves and to celebrate areas of true strength.

New Church theology is clear – the concept of “fault” unnecessarily complicates the vicissitudes of  life.  Restated, the ups and downs of relationships won’t kill us.  It is the application of “blame” and “fault” that will.   Blame and fault often are simply the ego’s attempt to control – an attempt growing out of a selfishness loved concerned only with the individual’s agenda.

I look forward to hearing what Mary Ellen and Paul Mundy – married 50 years – have to share this week.  I know most of us I imagine are still in the “grey water.”  I know a blessed few who appear to really be in the fine wine time.  It will be fun to celebrate it!

What If?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Views of church evolve.

For many of us church begins as the bastion of law, order, tradition.  Religion then plays out as morality, as codes, as creeds, and as attendance.  What if though church, like our faith, was designed to evolve?

Christian New Church theology is filled with numerous references to what can be described as “mutual indwelling.”   In the Gospel of John, Jesus offers a wonderful prayer of oneness, or as one theologian phrased it, of “cascading unity” that speak to mutual indwelling – unity with Him and the Father, with us, with those who will know Him in the future.   The unity literally spills out of the prayer.

In our faith system, that very unity spills out again into areas such as marriage, work, service – all areas where the unity can be experienced.  It is also experienced in our connection with the spiritual world, not a connection of soothsayers and swamis, but a connection of heart and thought.  When experienced, “belief” in a dogmatic sense becomes less a priority and caring and the wisdom growing from it gains its rightful seat.  Morality, codes, creeds, and attendance follow a similar path – giving way to compassion, simplicity, intuition, and engagement.  Divinity becomes grounded in our humanity.

What if?  What if church evolved to a celebration of the mutual indwelling we have with God and with one another?  Such a shift is not without pain – I am absolutely convinced that opening to God and to others actually opens us to more synchronicity in terms of pain.  Likewise it opens the joyous space for co-creation.   And such a shift may be just where the Christian church is headed.