Musings — April 2017

Returning from a family vacation (and a blogging break!), it’s great to be rested and to have stored up some delightful memories with my patient husband, our two youngest sons, and with dear friends who love us so much and so well that they even welcomed our big slobbery dog!

Did you know that the roller coaster was invented by the French in 1817? Two hundred years later, our guys enjoyed this “history lesson.”

 

Obviously, the cool people are sitting on each end.

On the Nightstand

Not because I deserve it, but because God is gracious, I have a friend who has stuck with me through a dozen or more years of reading Scripture together.  Even though we are geographically far apart, we read the same passage each day and hold one another accountable to the practice of showing up in the presence of the Word.  Our plan for the foreseeable future is to read through the book of Jeremiah, using Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses as our road map.

“Before I shaped you in the womb,
    I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
    I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.”

Jeremiah 1:5  (MSG)

Already, the first chapter is breathtaking with its reminder that we are known before we know, that we have been enlisted by God before we were even qualified for anything.  Then, since “giving is the style of the universe,” we have been given to our families, our friends, our neighbors — and to our enemies.

“Our life is for others. . .  We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried.  But the sooner we start the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping grace of life.”

This was true of Jeremiah, and it is certainly true of believers in 2017.

On the Blog

In April I shared my first offering as a contributor to God-sized Dreams, an on-line community where you can say your dream out loud and find the glorious encouragement of others who are also familiar with the joys and pitfalls inherent to dreaming.   When fear threatens to extract all the air from my dreams, I’m thankful for the courage and strength that come from an upholding God.  You can read more here about letting your fear drive you to the One who casts out all fear.

Ruby Magazine included a couple of my book reviews in their April edition.  I always enjoy sharing children’s books, and, of course, the best part is test-driving the books with the adorable grandson.

The most viewed post in April was my review of Gary Thomas’s book, Cherish:  The One Word that Changes Everything for Your Marriage.  Gary encourages his readers to go beyond merely loving our spouses and to live our way into “a marriage that feels more precious, more connected, and more satisfying.”

Just for Joy

What is it about fiction and the imagined words and experiences of well-developed characters that can leave the heart aching with the beauty of truth?

In The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, Toby leaves his wife Lou and moves to Maine with Deary.  Twenty years pass, and with Deary in the process of dying, Toby falls, breaking both arms.  He returns to Lou and asks her to care for them both.

Spoiler alert:  She says yes.
All incredulity aside, this excerpt from Lou’s processing of the decision stopped me in my tracks:

“At this age, forgiveness could be child’s play if you know the ropes.”

Is this “knowing the ropes” another word for grace?
Am I better at forgiving now than I was twenty years ago?

What are you working on these days?
Are you seeing evidence of God’s knowing, choosing, and launching you into His agenda?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and am thankful for your eyes in this place at the end of another month.
Blessings and love to you.

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Your Marriage: From Disappointing to Delightful

Wood stoves do not render their comforting warmth without regular tending. Fires must be coaxed along with frequent ministrations, and I never give this much thought — unless my good husband is away, for he miraculously tends to this important detail, and our house stays cozy and warm.  Similarly, since the beginning of our marriage, he has changed the oil in our vehicles, paid our bills, balanced the checkbook, and locked the doors every night, leaving me with the delightful sense of being safe, cared for:  cherished.

Gary Thomas writes that this variety of practical love is reassuring to me because it demonstrates that our life together is a priority that is worthy of my good husband’s time and effort.  Now, with his one-word title, Cherish,  he challenges readers to go beyond merely loving our spouses and to live our way into a “marriage that feels more precious, more connected, and more satisfying.”

Many marriage vows include a promise to “cherish,” but do we understand what that looks like from the perspective of our spouse, the cherished one?  Gary unpacks the concept in terms of learned behaviors that can change everything in a marriage:

Cherishing means learning to hold someone dear.

The Message to the Cherished:  “You don’t have to be anyone other than who you are.”

When we allow our spouse to define “beauty” (or “handsome-ness”) in our minds, we have begun to rewind history to Eden when each was the “only one” in the world to the other.  Choosing anew every day the one you chose on your wedding day is the antidote to disappointment, discontentment, and critical comparing.

 Cherishing means learning to showcase your spouse.

The Message to the Cherished:  “How can I support you today?  How can I make your day better?”

For the believer, this includes enhancing one another’s ministry opportunities. We want our beloved to shine!  It is based upon the assumption that we have ended the love affair with ourselves.  Gary uses the vivid example of a male ballet dancer rejoicing in the standing ovation a ballerina receives because he has “supported, tossed, caught, turned, and showcased” her.  It’s all about helping your spouse to realize his/her potential in the world.

Cherishing means noticing and honoring each other.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will put your needs above everything else.”

Here’s the truth in a nutshell:  “You can honor someone without cherishing them, but you can’t cherish someone without honoring them.”  Wives will feel noticed if their words are taken seriously; husbands are looking for physical affection.  For either gender, we honor our spouses when we take an active interest in what interests them.

Cherishing is about protecting each other and killing contempt.

The Message to the Cherished:  “When I scan you, I will be looking for something to praise – not to criticize.”

Gary traces the tragic journey from newlywed infatuation through disappointment, frustration, and bitterness to contempt, which is the single biggest threat to a marriage’s survival and happiness.  Practicing fierce gratitude is the antidote to contempt.

Cherishing teaches us to indulge our spouses and, thus, to help heal their spiritual wounds.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I am committed to your healing and wholeness.”

When we nurture our spouse, we provide a picture of God’s cherishing heart.  We make our spouse’s needs a priority and work to discover what actions we can take to help them address their weaknesses and to breathe life into them every day.

Cherishing teaches us to carefully and deliberately use our ears and our words to express our affection.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will be deliberate and specific in verbal affirmation and mirror God’s acceptance and affirmation in my words and in my tone.”

This may not come naturally, but developing (and maintaining) a curiosity toward our spouse’s words and activities communicates value.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer sums this up beautifully:

“Just as love to God began with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.”

Even unintentional verbal slights can be devastating to a marriage.

Cherishing is about treating our spouse as a unique individual.

The Message to the Cherished:  “I will help you complete your one-of-a-kind story.”

It’s time to cast aside generalizations and stereotypical assumptions about what “all men” or “all women” do.  Understanding bypasses judgment and empathizes while genuinely investing the effort to understand and to accept.

Cherishing means being patient with your spouse’s sins.

The Message to the Cherished:  “We both stumble in many ways.  I will thank God for you, and, together, we will grow in holiness.”

Gary offers six words that can save the day:  “This is how your spouse stumbles.”  Accepting that your spouse will never be perfect makes allowance for imperfection without diminishing our appreciation.  Apart from this, it is impossible to maintain “a cherishing attitude.”  Furthermore, it is counterproductive to think, “I could cherish them if only they wouldn’t do x, y, or z.”  “Half of holiness centers around being patient with other peoples’ sins.”

As he did in Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas has melded practical theology and behavioral principles to encourage believers along in a life that goes beyond the mere fulfillment of marriage vows.  Just as my wood stove responds to regular tending by yielding comfort and warmth to my home, a cherishing mindset that is deeply rooted in the Gospel truth that we are continually cherished by God will result in a marriage that radiates a lifetime of warmth and love.

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Gary Thomas has written a blog post that applies the principles set forth in Cherish.  Click here to read and learn more!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.