Sex vs. Batman

Once upon a time there was a man named Batman. He had lots of money, lots of skills, and kicked some major booty. He fought injustice. He ruled minds of many men, young and old. But one thing he lacked: he did not rule their hearts.

Now sex does not equal love, but when a man and a woman do pledge their love to each other in marriage, sex is a physical expression of that love.

Batman is imaginary. Sex is concrete. Batman is about me. Sex is about us. Batman evokes my inner child. Sex evokes my inner and outer man. Batman is an expression of untamed masculine striving. Sex is an expression of my masculinity meeting my wife’s femininity (as we tame each other?).

I might not see the new movie any time soon and that’s okay. Married life is grand.

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House-Husband

Newly-married, my wife and I figuring out how to make our household work. Since I am a full-time student and she is a full-time graphic designer, our typical days look very different.

She wakes at 6:30am and works from 9am-5pm.

I wake at 8am, in time to eat breakfast with her, and do “whatever I want” for much of the rest of the day. There are times when I have a lot that I must do… and there is always a lot that I should be doing.

The bottom line is that she has 40 hours of scheduled work each week and I have 10 scheduled hours with 10-60 very flexible, very variable hours. This means that I am the one who is shopping for groceries, washing the dishes, cooking dinner, and doing the laundry much of the time. We attempt to share these duties whenever possible, but it’s more possible for me than it is for her most of the time.

How has this affected me?

It’s not like I’m a stay-at-home Dad and home stuff is all that I’m doing. That would bring with it its own challenges. We dream of the day when — should we be so blessed as to have children — we will have the flexibility to both spend time at home on alternating days, managing childcare/working from home. We’ll see.

The biggest difference I have noticed is that I goof off less than before. If I’m not doing “housework” (can include “fixing” things), I should be doing “schoolwork,” even if that tangentally includes such interfaith-dialog/prose-style-honing pastimes as blogging. No time for free cell or mid-day movies.

At the end of the day, she comes home and I clock out. That’s the best part. This is far from being thankless work.

A Very Waterpark Michael Jackson Karaoke Christmas

I love my family.  I have always been aware that my family is a little bit weird.  I am, too.  But the older I am, the more openly weird my family becomes.  And so it was that we all spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day at the indoor water park at our hotel, going down the slides, singing karaoke, and watching old Michael Jackson music videos. 

 

The warm water rushed us down, giving birth to us a few dozen times.  Our voices frayed after hours on end singing songs to which only my father knew the words, laughing ourselves silly.  Our eyes blurred before the slow metamorphosis of the King of Pop, who managed to dance his way out of every imaginable crisis:  The thugs attack?  Dance!  Your peers question your badness?  Dance!  The pharaoh tries to kill you for your past fling with his wife?  Dance! 

 

And so it was that we, too, used music to resolve each crisis.  Grandma and Uncle Bob have subjected the love of my life to three hours of family history and show no sign of stopping?  Let’s sing!  Grandpa has lost his ability of speech and sits staring blankly at the nursing home ceiling?  Let’s sing!  Sing of the newborn King, of healing, of hope!  More than the presents, more than the laughter, and the reason for them both: Christ is born!

Life Outside of Time?

Time is uneven, if linear, for mere mortals.  We do not experience it with the regularity of a stopwatch.  We all remember summer days that seemed to last forever, bittersweet goodbyes that did not last long enough, or your life flashing before your eyes of your last car accident.  In moments like these, the subjectivity of time peeks through. 

God is outside of time.  If He created time, why should His experience and perception of time be as linear and constrained as it (usually) is for us?

If the God you follow is outside of time, could He ever bend the “rules” for you?  The idea is this: God blesses us when we do not deserve it, but he also loves to be generous to us in the ways that we are generous toward Him and to others.  If we give freely of our resources (money, time, service, care), should we not expect Him to give freely of His?

I think of God’s admonition to His people to bring true sacrifice in Malachi.   “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me.   Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.   Malachi 3:8-10 

I think of Christ’s promise to His disciples.  Instead of running after food, drink, and clothing — what your body needs — “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33 

In this passage, God does not promise free food and clothes.  Do not quit your job.  Be a responsible worker, but remember that those responsibilities come second.  You are more than your job.  Seek first the Kingdom of God.  Live in light of your love of Him and of your neighbor, by His grace. 

We can be courageous in sacrificing time and energy in order to serve others and to pray, even if it means that we won’t be putting in twelve hour days at the office.  But don’t be surprised if God blesses you even more abundantly with what you truly need than if you had spent a month of twelve hour days. 

And we must be wise, knowing that some days we should love God and other by putting in those extra hours.  But we cannot make the mistake of depending on a lifestyle of long hours and our own efforts as the source of blessing.   

You may end up with more time than you think you had.  Joshua tells us (10:13):  the sun stood still for him over Gibeon. 

Love vs. Usefulness

Somewhere on my way to class yesterday morning, it hit me.  My life’s goal has pretty much always been to be useful.  This is how I was raised.  We’re all hard workers in my family and we typically express our love for each other by doing useful things for each other.

But this mindset often leads me astray.  When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself: “How can I get the most work done today?”  The problem is that I often get burnt-out and put people on the back burner, whether I intend to or not.  Plus, this isn’t exactly what the Bible teaches.  I think of Jesus chastizing Martha (Luke 10:38-42).  Work is important, but God and others are what is the most important.

“How can I love people today?”  Working hard is part of the answer.  But I need to look up from the grindstone, slow down and see who needs some extra encouragement.  When I’m reading John Henry Newman for class, maybe I’ll start wondering “How can I best respect and represent his ideas?” not “How can I turn this into a paper?”  (And not Jerry Seinfeld exclaiming with disgust, “Hello, Newman….”)  Maybe I’ll be in less of a hurry and start to love what I do.  What could be more useful than that?

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 9:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Be a Blessing!

God’s original promise to Abraham was to make him the father of all nations, “so that through you all nations might be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Orthodox Jews want to fulfill that promise, but the believe that they must bring all Jews back to God first.

Why wait?

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

I hear a lot about Christians going around and cursing people: not “cussing them out” cursing, but “calling down fire and brimstone” cursing.  I don’t think that Jesus leaves us any room for that.

Why pray for riches for yourself, which do not satisfy, when you can pray: “God, make me a blessing to others!”?  Your co-workers.  Your spouse.  Your children.  Your parents.  Random dude on the street.  Use your imagination.

The world is changed by such simple, small prayers as these.  You might not make any headlines, but you will make someone’s day, if not someone’s eternity.  What could be more satisfying than that?

Why Straight, Christian Men Should Listen to Lesbian, Agnostic Songwriters

When I bought the Indigo Girls’ Retrospective, I endured some awkward questions from the cashier. 

“Is this a gift?” she asked. 

“No, it’s for me.” 

“I thought most of their fans were… you know….” 

I shrugged.  “They’re amazing lyricists and musicians.” 

And it’s true.  Whatever criticism one might have of their views, one cannot deny that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers speak with great clarity and beauty.  To be sure, in their protest songs they may shout at you.  But, in their love songs and life songs, they warmly invite you to walk in their shoes.

What is the nature of love, as expressed by the Indigo Girls?  With shocking Biblical imagery, Amy Ray presents it as “Strange Fire.”  This is a reference to Leviticuts 10, when two priests gave an unauthorized offering to God and were destroyed by his wrath.  But here, that fire is love, which is offered to each other, not to God, and forms a “refuge from the wrath.”  The poet then lashes out against those who oppose that love, with “haughty eyes and lying tongues and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17, quoted verbatim in the song).  At the very least, the song illuminates the greatest transgression of Christians toward those experiencing homosexual desires: by stigmatizing the struggle and “casting stones,” we have committed greater sins than the sin we sought to oppose.  (“Is it a sin?” is a conversation for another day.)

It is not my place to attempt to summarize the entire body of the Indigo Girls’ work, but I would be amiss not to at least mention “Ghost.”  Emily Saliers captures the utter bitter-sweetness of unrequited love: “I burn up in your presence and I know now how it feels to be weakened like Achilles with you always at my heels….  I can’t swim free the river is too deep, though I’m baptized by your touch, I am no worse than most…. in love with your ghost.”  Is this unrequited love the same as that between a man and a woman?  How can you know if you don’t listen?

The Midwest as the Promised Land

Marilynne Robinson, Garrison Keillor, and Sufjan Stevens on the Blessings of Middle America

What was monotony in my teen eyes has metamorphosized: green vistas and golden fields spread flat as far as the eye can see, undulating slowly with the passing miles.  Anyone who has traveled across the American midwest can attest: boring can be beautiful.

From the outside this might appear to be a land of flatness and cold.  But those who have rested within its embrace know the truth.  Miracles happen here.  Epic betrayals, too, but hope springs eternal and the fields are ripe with redemption.

In Gilead, Marilynne Robinson provides the text of a dying father’s letter to his 7-year-old son.  “I was thinking about the things that had happened here just in my lifetime– the droughts and the influenza and the Depression and three terrible wars.  It seems to me now we never looked up from the trouble we had just getting by to put the obvious question, that is, to ask what it was the Lord was trying to make us understand….  And what is the purpose of a prophet except to find meaning in trouble?” (233)  Every life is a miracle, every act of forgiveness is an act of God.  The more prodigal the son or prodigal the land, the more bold a “wild gesture” it is to stay on and love anyway (247).  Even a dead father can reach from the grave with the promise of unconditional love.  Such wonders can happen in the city, too, but in a simple land, stripped of all worldly sophistication, such blessings taste all the sweeter.  Only in the darkness can a light shine the brightest.

Somewhere in Minnesota, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon eckes out its existence.  The mix of nostalgia and parody helps sweeten the sometimes bitter truth: life is difficult.  The title of last week’s headline: “In Lake Wobegon, all of the beautiful weather makes ones thoughts turn to death, of course.”  Yet this is “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”  Even ordinary places can know greatness, however contrived, and in the dead of winter, thoughts of God and his provision are never far from the locals’ minds.

The strangest proponent of the blessings of the Midwest is Sufjan Stevens.  They say that he will write one album for each of the fifty states.  Maybe so, but he is taking his sweet time with the land he knows best.  Michigan wavers between the hopes and questions of faith.  “For The Widows In Paradise; For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti” reads like the promises of  Jesus to the widows and ophans of southeast Michigan.  Yet we hear also the longing of “Oh God, Where are You Now?”  The land is “paradise,” but it is greatly in need of God.  llinois is the haunt of aliens and of serial killers.  This is a land of repentance.  The most memorable refrain is “I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” from “Chicago.”  This is also a land of love, but of a love that loses, whether to the complications of pre-adolescent same-sex attraction, or to the complications of cancer.  Yet thoughout all this, the glory of God can be seen.

This flat land speaks of wonders, if this land can speak, any land can.  It’s enough to “make me homesick for a place I never left” (Gilead, 235).  Love where you are!

Your New Super-Power

What If You Had a Super-Power?  Wait… You Already Have One.

I can’t tell you how many small group ice-breakers and conversations I’ve had centering on the topic of super-powers.  And this isn’t just a conversation for the boys.  Everyone loves this one.  Who wouldn’t want to choose their super-power?

The sticking point in the mythos of any super-hero is that the hero never chooses his (or her) power.  The power chooses the hero.  It is never asked for.  It is often rejected, neglected, and misused.  Shoot, if you’re Spider-Man or the Hulk, your power doesn’t even work on command.  “With great power comes great responsibility,” and responsibility is something our culture deals with poorly.

You have great power.  You probably just didn’t know it.  Blogging.  At the push of a button, you can listen in on any number of people’s deepest thoughts and desires.  You can do so without the interference of corporeal existence (it’s without your body, dude!).  More importantly, you have effectively unlimited time to meditate your response.  No more not listening.  No more putting your foot in your mouth due to lack of forethought.  Your words have the power to give life or to take it away, to encourage or to discourage.  Choose them wisely.

Information vs. Relationship

The academic study of religion teaches you to love God the way psychology teaches you to make friends and the way that biology teaches you how to make love to your wife: it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a professional student.  But the academic disciplines supply us with information and with ways of seeing things, some but not all of them helpful in reaching our ultimate goal: closeness with each other and with the Eternal.

What we believe is important, but secondary to who we follow.  Information is no substitute for Person.  Just like in any relationship, you must never fall in love with your idea of someone more than in the actual Person!  We are saved by God, not by our theology; by Who we know, not by what we know.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that… and shudder.”  James 2:19