Reflecting on 10 Years of Marriage

I am usually hesitant about out writing posts about love and marriage and revealing this part of my life but our little martial milestone has been occupying my mind as of late.  While I won’t be sharing thoughts that belong inside of anniversary cards nor will I get into some matters of intimacy here, I thought I’d share a few lessons learned along the long, sometimes difficult, but many times, beautiful road of marriage.

I know some read that sentence and say, “Difficult? How dare he say that?” That reaction usually means you are in for a tough time in the marriage department. I’ll be praying for your spouse ;-)

The truth is that ten years has gone real fast and real slow and sometimes it’s felt like 10 years. In a few years, I will have known Susan majority of my living years. I’ve always been intrigued by crossing that threshold. In the beginning of marriage, some have the inclination of feeling that you are still your parent’s kid even though you are married to someone else. After you have known someone for 18-20 years, you become someone’s spouse who may still have parents living. I find these dynamics striking in light of celebrating life-long vows.

They key is to not lose hope together.
I suppose one of the most important aspects of marriage is to continue hoping and striving for a beautiful future. In ten years, you have some tough days, especially for Susan since she has to put him with me. For me, it hasn’t been that bad because I am a heartless, insensitive soul so she has had to carry both our burdens ;-) So I tell her, “Honey, we can’t lose hope.”

Truth is, we regularly revisit the changes we need to work on. We pray about them ask God to strengthen for us, and try to take on the sacrificial nature of love.  Along the years, some of these changes have been easier, some have proven to be more difficult than anticipated, and some are beyond our control.

Don’t always make a big deal out of important matters.
Important matters are important. And while pretending something didn’t happen or enabling unhealthy patterns is obviously not helpful, neither is dwelling on certain matters. A lot of prayer, space, discernment is needed here. Sometimes the problem is not as insurmountable as we think it to be and sometimes the reaction to the problem is bigger than the problem.

Don’t always downplay non-important things.
This one is probably more directed to husbands (but probably depends on personality types as well). If it’s important to your wife, it’s important to you. While you may not be able to respond in the same way, because you are a heartless, insensitive stump (or at least I’m told ;-), try real hard. It has helped me to try to reenact the feeling of watching Chien Ming Wang pitch this season, “You’ve got to be kidding me! She said that to you!?! Oh that’s worse than a 22.48 ERA!” (Phillies fans will have an easier time understanding this but please don’t go too far and throw snowballs and batteries.)

It helps if you marry someone great.

And love conquers all.
The moment we fail to realize this, the solutions to our problems become something that books, professional counseling, and beautiful memories cannot fix.

First Impressions of Our New Indie Coffee House

This is a repost, hope you enjoy. Originally posted this summer:
This post was born out of an email I just received regarding a local coffee house that opened up in our area earlier this year:
I will never be able to repress the moment when I walked in soon after they opened and said, “Congratulations, the place looks great” (it does, fireplace in the corner, some leather chairs, nice tables) and I asked, “So what are we brewing today?”
The answer was “Regular, Decaf and French Vanilla”.
What??  The answers I was looking for were “Guatemala, Costa Rican or French Roast.  For decaf, we have Ethiopian. And of course, we would never insult our patrons by brewing flavored coffee.”
But I figured, he’s probably a guy that the owner hired to help him out and that he would learn along the way.
So then I said, “Oh, do you know where the “Regular” is from?”
Literally he looked at the bag and said, “It’s from Arabica”  (He actually included the ‘c” – I am not making this up!).
It’s cool, I’ll stop asking questions to this poor employee who doesn’t know coffee and just order a “Medium Regular” for $2.  As we made small talk, he then revealed this bombshell – HE WAS THE OWNER!!!  I kid you not, he should have told me he was my father and cut my hand off with a light sabre and I would have had an easier time dealing with it.
I know I’m a bit snobby when it comes to this but you can’t open a coffee houses, charge Starbucks prices and talk like this.  I’m even aware that I do not know enough about coffee to open a coffee house (but I also don’t know enough about small businesses either).  And while we’re talking about this place, don’t put up a big screen tv over the cool fireplace and show Headline News, Fox & Friends and CNN all day.  It kills me to go in there and when I do, I take on the same attitude of entering a port-a-potty.  Take a deep breath, get in, don’t look around, do what you got to do, and leave.
My prayer now is that I win the lottery, buy the place, remove the big screen, brew One Village Coffee and get people like Tim Nye to run it.

For those moviewatchers who have ruled out seeing Avatar …

… change your mind. At this posting it’s made a billion dollars. (Imagine how much it would have made if we weren’t in a recession).

I was among the many that dismissed seeing it after seeing the previews. It looked nice but so do many other wannabe epic movies. Then I would hear Michelle Rodriguez’s voice while flying that weird helicopter and say, “You should see your faces.” When she betrayed us on Lost, she betrayed us forever. (After watching this movie, I am working my way towards forgiveness but if she somehow appears in another Fast and Furious movie, it’s off again.)

Anyway, the previews didn’t appeal to me. Even knowing that James Cameron was at the helm didn’t convince me. What changed my mind was my twitter friends. Granted, there were some who didn’t like it, but majority did and their tweets changed my mind.

While I like some sci-fi movies (like Star Wars, Matrix, etc.), I’m not a real sci-fi person. I just don’t have the energy and lack the proper skills of remembering how to pronounce the names of all the foreign races, planets and characters. Undoubtedly this is why my Arabic suffers as well and probably why Greek was my poorest performance in undergrad. Anyway, I really liked this movie. Typically, this would be the type of movie that I would make fun of but what can I say, I’m a fanboy on this one.

As simply as I can put it:
It’s beautiful and visually stunning.
Like most epic fantasy movies, it is not the “most amazing plot ever” but I found it to be a much better than expected story line.
I was pretty intrigued about the avatar concept.
While there are some intense serious parts, a lot of it is pretty fun.

We saw it in 3-D because the theater needed to make a few extra bucks off the holiday crowd. When we looked, there were only two showtimes available that were not in 3-D. Cameron insists that 3-D is the only way to see this movie but the skeptic in me says, “You’re just trying to make us come to the movie theater.” Whatever, while it was fun and there are some cool things about the 3-D experience, me and my movie-watching friends left wishing we’d been able to watch a the regular showing.

For those considering taking children, know that the movie contains mild profanity and some sensuality. Remember the blue Na’vi characters are cute but the movie is PG-13. I have heard some call it borderline pornographic but frankly, I found that to be ridiculous. In fact, I think the moviemakers showed a lot of restraint. Should one finds themselves lusting over these blue creatures, they got some real problems.

The value for Avatar for me was that it allows the viewer to see important themes in life from a safe outside perspective. That’s not to say that you will agree with them and it’s not to say that the movie gives a fair or completely accurate analysis, but I think you will feel more than what you did before you entered in. And that’s always a good thing.

Lastly, for those that like to be culturally relevant and speak the language of the day, I think this is an obvious moment to be a part of. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve been in now where this movie has come up.

There are some solid themes and it takes a solid 2.5 hours to give them. I happen to like long movies if they are good.  Remember, i walked into the theater with pretty low expectations (I wouldn’t have had any unless I was on Twitter.) If you do the same, I think you may like it.

Monday Morning Brief

My favorite moments of the past few weeks.
1. I loved celebrating Christmas with my family.
2. Watching Nathan play with the Hess race cars with my cousins’ kids on my parents’ kitchen floor was great. I literally remember playing with similar cars on the same floor.
3. Loved seeing my brother hold our son Dylan. Two weeks ago our baby had an iv drip going through his hand.
4. My niece Lina is adorable! She’s a miniature version of my sister. Same face, same hair, same smile. I’m told she has my brother-in-laws elbows.
5. The days are short and almost everyone was in the same house. Susan, my parents, siblings, in-laws. cousins, aunts, uncles, it was great.
6. The next day my sister’s family and ours gathered at my cousin’s. They too had a baby born this past May. She’s beautiful and she fits right in.
7. Susan and I trekked into Manhattan the other day and had some time for ourselves.

The sermon I preached Sunday …
went well. I feared it may offend some (and that may be) but the feedback I received was very positive. Which is kind of rare, I usually don’t get a lot of immediate feedback. Maybe I spoke clearer but good sermons (the ones that have moved me sitting in the pew) are the ones that allow the Spirit to work and it’s nice to be a part of that. It seemed to connect with what many of us have been feeling.  I find myself encouraged by the MEFC community this morning.
Basically the message was that we as individuals and as a community are in constant evolution and while many like to say that they don’t like making New Year’s resolutions, the fact of the matter is that we are always resolving towards something. The American Evangelical church is in decline, a steep one and we are evolving towards irrelevance. The text was from Joshua 24, (you know the one, “Choose who you will serve … as for me and my house we will choose OURSELVES!”. Sorry that’s not what it says, but that seems to be more of what I/we practice). I may blog more about this later but if you are inclined, you can listen to it here.

Loved …
seeing Avatar with some current/former students. Highly recommend it.

Reading …
John Franke’s Manifold Witness. I’m almost finished with it but I really love it and trying to soak in as much as I can.

Listening to …
my Christmas playlist and the same Christmas albums.
Manchester Orchestra
Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
Mars Hill Bible Church podcast – Love Your Enemies 11/29/09. In it Rob introduces a pastor from Rwanda telling the story of the genocide, his escape and his return home. All the parts are intense (even returning home). It’s a beautiful story of demonstrating love towards those that have hurt you.”. Link here.
Relevant Magazine podcast – They have been featuring their favorite interviews from 2009: Shane Claiborne, Don Miller, Jon Foreman ….  Click here.

Looking forward to …
The return of youth group. I’ve missed those crazy kids.
returning to seminary for the last half of the year. It’s been a great experience and I’m hoping we all finish strong.
a new year, decade of life, joy, hoping in spite of the pain.
Susan and my ten year wedding anniversary.
a whole lot more that this medium cannot contain.