Saturday, July 23, 2011

Longest Lasting Hollywood Marriages...

My dad sent me this artice.  Check it out and see what you think...

Very interesting stories from Hollywood, don't you think?  Would that we all could be as down to earth as Sissy Spaseck or Alan Alda. I am not so keen on the Dustin Hoffman philosophy.  Pretty sure I flat disagree.  While I understand needing space and respecting and allowing each other to freely pursue their own dreams, I would not say "the trick to marriage is living your own life while you share a space."  
In an ideal marriage you come back to each other and are best friends.  No one else in the world should care about the pursuit of your dreams or the goings on in your heart like your spouse.  And no one else should know what's going on in your mind more than your spouse.  That's the freedom.  Knowing that your spouse knows your rottenest thoughts and most self-destructive patterns, and loves you anyway.  I think thats the trick.  But that's just me.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Help Others...when? if? because?

I am currently reading the book Coach Wooden: The 7 Principles That Shaped His Life and Will Change Yours. First of all I highly recommend this book. It isn't some esoteric leadership strategy or never-before-seen self-help BS. It is all common sense kind of things and the personal, life changing proof that principles are not pointless and that keeping life simple, yet meaningful will absolutely impact the lives of others...not to mention how God will use it to fulfill His calling in your life.

The first principle Joshua Hugh Wooden wrote on a card for his 12 year old son Johnny Wooden was "Be True To Yourself". The second was "Help Others". It is the principle of helping others that  is really what's on my mind today.

The truth of the matter is that I love to help others. I love helping my neighbors, strangers, whomever. The author of the book, Mr. Williams makes a special point to help others especially when the can do nothing for you in return. I enjoy helping those people too. At first glance I could assume that this principle is one I have a pretty good grip on and that I should spend way more time on the other 6 principles....most of which I certainly do not have a good grip on. Thankfully, today I had an epiphany (I firmly believe that the word epiphany is yiddish for "brain fart") that I in fact do not have this principle in the bag. There is one aspect of this principle that needs continued work in my world.

Can I help others that have intentionally not helped me? Can I sacrifice for someone that has chosen to exclude me from their life to some degree? At it's most foundational level, can I help others because of who I am instead of because of who they are, what they have done or even in spite of wounds I may have from them?

On Father's Day my Dad was going to his Father's house to work around his house, catch up on some landscaping and spend what could be my grandfather's final Father's Day with him. I agreed to meet my Dad and to bring my 3 sons so that I could help him get more accomplished, see my grandfather and have my sons exposed to their great-grandfather another time. That all probably sounds pretty normal and really even expected to most people...but, there is always more to the story.

For years I idolized my grandfather. He was physically strong. He was emotionally strong and he had even earned a field commission in the Korean War. I was always amazed that he could go to Korea as a Private and be a Captain by the time he left Korea. Others must have also seen greatness in him for that to be possible. I was an adult and was already married before it hit me that my grandparents had never initiated any interaction with me. All of the phone calls that had been placed were placed by me. All of the visits had been driven one way...from my house to theirs. I don't doubt that they loved me, but they certainly were content with me in their life at a distance.

That realization was painful. I know my grandparents had their own lives going on and that I didn't always live exactly next door to them, but I still couldn't imagine someone never once, ever calling their grandson. I can't imagine grandparents never once planning a trip to visit or initiating a trip to spend time with their grandson. How did they know if I was doing well? Were they concerned about my education? Did they ever want to know if I was safe? Maybe they did, but their apparent interest and concern was lacking.

As time has passed since that realization I have had bouts of resentment and a lot of questions. Sadly, my questions will largely go unanswered as my grandmother has since died and my grandfather isn't in great health. Who am I kidding though? If they were in great health I wouldn't discuss it with them. I am not sure how to start a deep conversation with someone with whom I don't enjoy a deep relationship. I'm not sure that they have ever thought twice about their lack of involvement and even if they have, I'm not sure what a conversation today would do to improve the situation.

So my anger, hurt and resentment has at times lead to me withdrawing from their lives. I could have visit when in town and I didn't. I could have called, sent cards for holidays and birthdays, or something else people in relationships do, but I didn't. I think to some degree I didn't want to reminder of hurt for myself and in some ways I may have been punishing them for their lack of effort in my life. I never stopped loving and I never completely dealt with the hurt, but neither did I pursue them further. The result is that on Father's Day this year my grandfather had to ask the names of my sons...he doesn't know them because he has never taken the time or made the effort to know them.

Even with all of that as the background, some unexpected things happened on Father's Day. First, my sons didn't seem phased at all by having to tell their great-grandfather their names. In fact, they seemed to enjoy being around him. His lack of effort hasn't yet touched them and as his health continues to wane, it became obvious that they will probably never be effected by what they don't personally experience.
The next surprise was that my great-grandfather seemed to be energized by having 3 of his descendants in his home. He smiled, laughed and even told a few stories...some of them were even about me when I was a child. The third, and maybe most important surprise is what happened within me as it relates to helping people.

While the circumstances that exist would lead many rational and decent people to avoid, ignore and otherwise be absent in the life of their grandparents, I am now convicted of the calling of more mature followers of Jesus to help those that have intentionally or neglectfully been absent in your life. The truth is that I don't know why grandparents wouldn't connect to their grandchildren. Maybe they were wounded in some way? Maybe they never had love modeled for them in a healthy way? Maybe they felt insecure in their ability to love? Regardless of the reason, it seems right to me to lead them by loving them. I want to help my grandfather by connecting to the emotionally unavailable...not in an unhealthy, codependent and needy way, but in a way that is rooted in my identity being firmly rooted in who God says I am and how God interacts with me rather than the way my grandparents have.

It seems obvious in ways that are rather self evident now that it is is in fact Godly to help people that can't return the favor. It seems even more right to help, bless and connect with those who have never  even shown an interest in you. I'm thankful that God was pursuing me passionately long before I ever made an effort to connect to Him. His people, if we are to stand in agreement with Him and His Word, would be well served (and well serving) if we made the same efforts in the lives of others.

So here's to helping...others, often, regardless of circumstances!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Comedic Marital Relief... From the Bloggess...And Thats Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles

Found this article and so wish I had thought of this a few times.  It's hilarious... You gotta love a wife with this kind of sense of humor.  Props to you, Bloggess...  Click here to read full article.  ****Language Warning!!!****  ****Language Warning!!!****   ****Language Warning!!!****

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fighting Cystic Fibrosis...Again.

If you have been around in this world for very long tragedy has intersected your path. It may be a horrible injury that forever alters your life, some form of abuse or the death of someone close to you.

Tragedy intersected my world on June 29, 1998 when my big brother died. His name was Andy and he was less than 4 months away from his 30th birthday when complications of cystic fibrosis took his life. If you aren't familiar with cystic fibrosis you can read more about it here. CF has killed multiple members of my family but admittedly, losing a cousin doesn't effect you like losing a brother. In so many ways my world was forever altered when Andy died.. Andy was 7 years older than me and I looked up to him in almost every way imaginable. Through my whole life we always did everything together. From fight, play sports, stand up for each other and make one another better...with me always receiving more than I gave...he was always there. So many lessons in life I still follow came from him. I could go on and on, but all of it is to say that he was incredibly special to me and life hasn't been the same without him here.

Certain events in life have been bitter sweet without Andy being present to offer his wisdom, love and wit. Brook never got to meet Andy. I know he would love her and they would probably leave me with the boys all the time as they rode horses. Andy wasn't present for the birth of the boys. I know the boys would be with Andy constantly if they could. Kids always loved Andy and my boys would be no different. They would love their Uncle Andy and would likely be so spoiled by him.

Cystic Fibrosis is such an awful disease. The death one typically suffers is the person and their family. Once you go through such an event I don't think you can ever hear of someone having CF without knowing how your path has been effected and feeling a special sympathy for the person. I have said that I would do anything to keep someone from experiencing such a disease and ultimately such a death. The truth however is that next week will be the 13th anniversary of Andy's death and only once have I been able to actively approach people and/or families dealing with CF.

Prior to our kids being born, Brook and I went to Children's Hospital and took orders from the CF kids and their families. We simply asked what would make their time in the hospital better, easier or brighter. We took the list and went to several stores like we were Santa. I purposely couldn't tell any of the families why we were doing what we were and how my life had been effected by CF. I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain my composure long enough to tell them. I think the parents somehow knew...and the kids didn't need to know. That night brought a lot of joy to the families and to us, but it was so incredibly hard to re-enter that situation. That was the first and last time we did anything like that.

Yesterday I was looking online to see what progress may have been made toward treatments or possible cures and ran across a relatively new marathon and half marathon in Atlanta, GA and another in Miami, FL that benefits the CF Foundation. I decided that it was time to get back in the ring and fight cystic fibrosis so I decided to run in the race next year and raise money for the CF Foundation.
Everyone in my family that was born with CF has died from the disease so I don't know anyone directly that will be blessed by a cure or a new treatment. To me though running the race is about fighting for those who need help and running for people that can't run a marathon to save their life, maybe enough other people can run to save lives. That will be my prayer and my goal.

There will be more information to come...

Thursday, June 16, 2011


First of all let me say that we are back in the blogging business. We were posting regularly until the tornadoes ravaged our state on April 27th. We became very involved in the clean-up and recovery efforts. On the heels of that it was time for school to get out so we were in the midst of the chaos that time brings about. Add to that 2 trips out of town and we have been busy. Anyway...we are back and settled in for the summer and ready to think, write and discuss life in unique ways.  YaY!!!!

 The most significant change in our lives as of late has to be in the ecclesiological area. {Ecclesiological= Ecclesia= Church (in lay man's) ever so fancy that man o mine.}  If you know us at all you may be shocked by what you read here. In case you don't know us, let me give you a bit of background. In an attempt to balance our perspective of the truth and fairness to others I will withhold names and other labels that may overtly indicate the parties at hand.

Brook and I are workers and we are passionate people. That is an amazing combination in the right context and when kept in check. It can also be a recipe for relational and organizational disaster in the wrong context. We have no desire to sit on the sidelines of included. We will work, serve and participate often to the point that it becomes detrimental to other areas of our lives.  {All or nothing folk, if you will} The first 7 years of our married life we spent at one church {Well, we were open to lots of spiritual experiences...we went to many kinds of bible studies, etc}. We served on various committees, even leading some of them and we loved the people we were with. At some point we realized that our journey at the church was coming to a close. The reasons we felt like we were leaving caused bitterness, resentment and it was hurtful on levels too deep for either of us to fully understand at the time.

Once we officially broke our ties from that congregation we entered what a dear brother of mine appropriately labeled "church detox". We needed time to regroup, refocus and engage at some point in the future. We were in no hurry to engage at another congregation, much like people wounded deeply in romantic relationships aren't eager to go out on dates for a while. Also like fractured romantic relationships, we would be entering new relationships with churches and the people there with a touch of skepticism and hesitancy.

For over a year we did nothing in any religious-corporate way. We had family prayer time and discussions of Biblical themes and stories with the boys, but we never set foot inside a church. After a while we felt the need to engage faith in a group setting but we were in no way interested in attending a church, meet in a church building or hear a sermon on tithing, church growth strategies or any other polemic sputtering.

Brook and I began discussing what we wanted in a spiritual community and the more we discussed the various characteristics and dynamics the more it became obvious to us that we were surrounded by what we wanted. Our neighborhood had some like minded families and after discussing our vision with them individually we decided to partner together in ways that run deeper than simply living near one another. For the next 18 months we met in our homes, shared meals, disciplined {discipled} kids and increased the depth in our relationships with God and one another. Even this venture, that largely was our dream come true in so far as "church" goes, ran its course. In a very peaceful and uneventful way we stopped meeting. No hurt feelings and no resentment...just the end of a chapter.

We again were left with the desire to be in a spiritually focused community, but didn't want to return to traditional churches. We continued through life for a few months without any official church plans and largely we were content {I was a little unsettled...the soul yearns to connect with other souls, to be encouraged, refocused}. Over time though, it became clear that we should connect with others...but how? Where? When?

We decided over Christmas last year that January 1st would kickoff our quest for a new church home. We didn't know exactly where we would end up but we were determined to engage, connect and take chances. We knew that community is more important to us than doctrine at this point so the particular flavor of church didn't matter as much as the people we hoped to find there.
We decided to visit one church per Sunday for the first 7 weeks of the year and we weren't to visit a church twice until the end of the 7 week period. We visited a newer church plant and really enjoyed it. I connected well with the pastor and Brook had some friends there too.  I thought that it may well be where we ended up and we visited several times. For some reason it just didn't fit us and we knew better than to settle for "almost".

All totaled we visited 3 Presbyterian churches and 1 Methodist church. Each place we would visit was decided by 2 factors. They were not affiliated with the denominations Brook nor I grew up attending and the churches were geographically close to our home. {I also wanted to end up somewhere the kids had some school friends}

The last church we visited was Faith Presbyterian Church. It seemed different from the start. The people at every church we visited were very nice and inviting, but this group went well beyond that. During our first Sunday School experience we sat in a class of 20-30 people and listened to people request prayers for real problems. Frankly, some of the issues the people were having would be embarrassing for me to discuss in such a setting. The fact that the requests were being discussed told me the people were close, safe and loved. Nothing else would produce such transparency and vulnerability. The preaching, if I'm being honest has not yet touched me to any significant degree. That probably has more to do with me than the preacher. The church has a meaningful way they take communion each Sunday and the worship time is thoughtful and meaningful. It isn't like a concert and it isn't like an old country singing either.

As for me, I knew the criteria we had stated earlier was going to be a challenge. I am such a denominational/spiritual mut, and I really didn't have a clear grasp on what it was right now that God wanted to teach me through this next communal step, so I just tried to be as open as possible knowing that my ideal was nowhere around us, and God wasn't really interested in my "ideal" anyway.  He can use whatever he wants to teach his children.

It was still so very odd with my own spiritual philosophies to "visit churches."  I am so exhausted by the consumerism in our culture, and the process we were embarking on just seemed to be as consumeristic as it could shopping around.  Ugh.  It grates me.  I would so prefer God to just tell us where to go, which he has done before and I know he can do.  But, for some reason, he wanted us to explore.  
So many other things really grated me too:  Are we judging these families?    Are we trying to feel some sort of emotion from what we can only know from first impressions?  It was like dating!  Which, anyone who has read the blog knows I was not very good at.  Being goos at it and enjoying it are different things all together. In dating, yes...but also in church. I am admittedly wonderful at playing the church game if I am trying to provide emotional space, protect myself or whatever. Ironically, I know that those very games are absolutely detrimental to true community.

Speaking of dating, allow me to go off on a little tangent.  I promise it applies...   
My opinion of dating is, yes, there may be one person out there for everyone, and sometimes the angels sing and the stars collide, and people live happily ever after.  I can look back on my own experience and say that could have happened maybe at first, but I don't think that's most often the way it works.    It's a matter of perspective.  Call your own experience what you will, but I believe that most any two people can be put together, and with enough commitment and enough perseverance, and enough, well, about any two people can make it.  I say 'work' because I think any married person will tell you it is work.   Whether fireworks went off and you are married to your soul mate or's work to die to yourself and your own desires and blend your life with another (especially to have a good marriage, which...why would I be talking about anything else??  That's the whole point of this blog...Come on people, let's  have truly GOOD marriages!!).

So, we made it to 5.  We couldn't visit the entire 7 churches as we had planned.  Did we run out of options? Kinda not really.  Were we exhausted? Absolutely.  But I don't think that's the reason we stopped, and I in no way feel like we settled. 

I agree with Hubby (unusual I know), the first time we went to Faith, it was that spark in my spirit like, "Okay, I can't say we have been to anything like this yet."  Which is what we needed.   It was new, and fresh, and different somehow, even tho it sort of followed the same format as most everyone else (you know, Sunday school then worship with your basic prayer, songs, preaching, songs, know, the Biblical model...{rolling my eyes right now}).  It may not be something everyone experiences, but it had what we needed: 
1.)I love the smaller's intimate enough to be needed and involved, and I love the esthetic {it's English tudor on the outside, but very little mountain church house and casual inside with organic, blue-grassy type music and leaded windows looking out on the beautiful Alabama pines.  But also sort of formal and 'high church' feeling with the high ceilings, great acoustics, instrumentalists,  and chior sometimes.  It is reverent, but also very FAMILY feeling}.  
2.)Most of the people there we have talked to seem to be there out of a conscious decision.  Not just, well, my wife or husband grew up Presbyterian kind of thing.  In fact, I think most people in the congregation did not grow up Presbyterian.  I think they just came and fell in love with the grace of Jesus.
3.) I also love that they are outwardly focused. They support themselves minimally mostly making sure the children are taught, but most every service, there is a time to talk about a foreign or local ministry.  For example, last week everyone participating in vbs was asked to stand and be prayed for.  Most everyone (young and old) stood.  The week before, a sweet-hearted lady stood and spoke about a local ministry called Project Readmore, where you simply go and read to children without parents to do it.  I was amazed when more than half the congregation stood up that they had been downtown and read.
4.)  I am absolutely in love with the way they take Communion together.  It is hands down my favorite part.  {I actually cried the first Sunday.}  Blake grew up in a tradition where they take communion every Sunday, so we did that for 7 years.  It can, at times, lose the meaning and get a bit worn out.  Although I don't know that it is a Presbyterian tradition to take communion every Sunday, this church does, and they way they do it is beautiful.  It is interactive sort of like a Catholic church or something in that you have to get out of your seat and walk to take the meal, but unlike a Catholic church, it is not an individualistic thing.  You walk to the front and congregate in large circles, take the bread and wine (yes, there is wine and juice...woohoo!!!) and pray together.  It is such a representative moment of the heart of why we take communion: "When you come together... do this in rememberance of me."  It's a family meal.  I love it.
5.) RELATIONSHIPS.  That's the biggest thing.  Brand new ones getting started, and existing ones being deepened.  There is just something about raising your children together with a diverse group of like-minded people, shared experience, authenticity within a people you can trust, exercising your God-given gifts in community, etc.  that is just beautiful.  And it is the reason why we go in the first place.  

Those are the main things for now.  There are still plenty of things I don't know, am not sure how I feel about, and even just don't like (as I think there would be anywhere), but so far, I have not been disappointed with the place God is growing us.  Maybe I will let you know when the fireworks go out, and the 'work' and staying begins.

So we have continued to "visit", cultivate relationships and get involved as much as we can. I think we both feel very comfortable with the group and see ways that we can serve and be served {I think sometimes it is much harder to be served, but also a very pivitol part of community}. I think safely we can say for the first time in over 4 years that we have found a church home that isn't actually a church meeting in a  home. I increasingly think that this whole search and find has been orchestrated by God. Neither of us are Presbyterian and I can make a much more convincing argument against reformed theology than I can for it. Again, the community is worth more to us than the doctrine.

I'm sure we will be checking in and blogging more about our new experiences, but for today I can simply write that we are happy, we are connecting and we moving forward on our journey. Knowing God and knowing us I am confident that it will be an interesting and adventurous ride.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Girlie-Girl Marries Caveman

    Something on my mind to blog about lately has been the opposites portion of me and my wordsmith hubby.  I know I can't be alone out there.  Does anyone else feel like they married their polar opposite?  
Strangely, the part that bothers me the most sometimes is the recreational aspect (shallow as that may seem).  I mean, I'm really a girlie, flowery, artsy girl and Blake's a beastly, stinky manly man. I appreciate that Brook, but you forgot to mention that I'm also hairy and mean. And don't forget how well I drag you by your hair from our cave when it's time to go on hunts or gather berries in the wilderness. I am in fact the real life Shrek. As much as I also love that about him (you know one of those "the thing that initially attracted you to someone is the exact thing that drives you crazy once you get married"), I often joke that if I ever leave Blake it will be for a black, homosexual dancer with dreadlocks, simply because I can't think of anything more opposite from him. With any luck your gay dancer (not to be redundant) may even like mustard and quiche!!!

Did anyone ever give you the advice when you were looking for a spouse, to find someone who you have things in common with?  I often look at couples in the same profession, like two celebrities actors who get together, or two interior designer married teams, or a married ballroom dancing couple, and think: Okay, so you are dancing your way through life together in this one area, but who's taking care of the things at home that you can't possibly be good at simply because you weren't made to be that way?

I don't know.  I guess now days you can hire just about anything out, but I must say,  at the end of the day, I really like knowing that the things that I am just not wired to do, Blake does very well.  Sure, it can get aggravating on Saturday mornings, when I want to pop up early and go yard sale-ing...and Blake would rather go rafting or hunting or even have a root canal.  Or when it just makes sense to me to keep your closet tidy in this certain way, so I go to extreme organizational measures to make it as easy as possible to put things where they go...only to find during a seasonal clean out, he has found a way to secretly and neatly stash dirty clothes in a clean clothes drawer (Ugh!). The very fact that you said I NEATLY stashed clothes seems like a huge step forward for me. I will be celebrating and focusing on the positives in this whole thing. (For those that don't know me, I get a lot of things done and I am rarely defeated in things I set my mind to do. The downside to that is that I often leave a huge wake of destruction and mess from my "productivity". Brook likes my results but my methods drive her crazy.)
There are always huge things to deal with in marriage, and you can get into some really vicious cycles, but the little things can drive you no less batty. But, be encouraged, if you find yourself married to an opposite or thinking about marrying an opposite, there are bright sides and compromises when both people are willing to step up and sacrifice a little.  (Uh...hope that's not a new word for you on the marital circuit.)
I actually wouldn't marry someone too similar to me. The conflict produced by our differences is well worth the gift of diversity and the covering we provide one another and our kids in so many areas. For what its worth, we very much agree on the big issues of child rearing, theology and politics...for the most part anyway. In the areas in which we differ we have grown in ways that allow us to not only hear one another but to value the thoughts and opinions of each other. That has been a huge blessing for us as we journey together in this world.
For your pleasure and entertainment, it is fortunate, on the other hand, that we both terrifically enjoy...well...blogging. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letting People In

The vast majority of posts thus far have been about lessons we have learned in the past or formidable events in our relationship. Today I realized that we are in the midst of a situation and as such it would be therapeutic and enlightening to blog about my natural tendencies and the thing I should do. The two things conflict in huge ways.

Right now I am in a very stressful chapter in life. Some of it I can't go into publicly right now. It's not that I want to hide anything, but I am legally prohibited from discussing certain aspects of my professional life for now. I assure you that I will disclose the specifics as I can. For now I can only say that nobody in the practice is in legal trouble or anything like that. The main point is that this particular storm alone could completely consume me if I would allow it to do so. Every day is complicated by this issue and even the routine and relatively simple aspects of life are emotionally and even spiritually cumbersome right now. Endless meetings, stressful discussions and the aspects of the unknown are weighing on me more than I probably even know.
Hmmm...Is this going to be about stress relief?  

My natural inclination is to put my head down and work relentlessly, accomplish tasks and achieve excellence (to the utmost of my ability) but to do so without allowing another soul to know about my struggles.   In fact, writing this post about it is against every fiber of my natural being. In other stressful times I have become a loner and done my best to avoid including anyone else. I veiled my attempts by claiming to protect Brook from the details and related stress. I thought, falsely, that in keeping others at a safe distance I was insuring their safety. As much as it has never seemed obvious to me and as much as I hate it, the fact may be that I attempt to lessen the weight in life by discarding everyone and everything I can in an attempt to make survival easier. Is it possible that I choose accomplishment over relationship? Yep!
That's so weird how people act differently under pressure.  See, I would totally melt down and have a week long panic attack, and everyone would come visit me in the mental hospital.  Blake's "work" method is so much better.  I basically become useless.  Of course, I can't let anyone in either not because I'm not trying, but because my mind just goes blank.  I can't even let myself in. 

The truth about relationships, in so far as I can tell anyway, is that they assure that one doesn't have to travel through this world alone. In attempting to "protect" Brook, I am actually robbing the relationship of an opportunity to grow and develop depth. If our previous experiences hold true in this situation, Brook wants to be "burdened" by my thoughts, troubles and concerns. That's what relationships are apparently all about.   The not knowing can make things a little scary. And I can be trusted with national security secrets so I can for sure be silent when it helps me accomplish a task or survive a stressful time in life.

So as this chapter in life continues for the next 3-4 weeks it will be my goal to stay connected to Brook and the boys, if nobody else. I think doing that will broaden our relational horizons and will provide an example for the boys to experience so that one day they will connect to others in times of trouble rather than shut down relationally. I'll let you know how it goes....which will indicate a level of connection and that's always a good thing.

Thanks babe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Peter and Jesus, My Good Friday Story

I wrote this a few years ago as I was reflecting about my life as one who betrays my relationship with Jesus daily and how my story is not unlike that of Peter. As I seek to try again daily, I thought about the defeat and pain Peter must have felt as he considered his denial of Christ. How often do we all become the very thing we despise and do the very thing we swore we would never do? Here's to a joyous Good Friday...because Jesus has insured that our failures are never final.

My eyes are wide open…moist, red, swollen and weary, but wide open. The first piercing sliver of light arrives, announcing the morning, as it meets my focused gaze. As the rays penetrate the heavy slate blanket of morning fog, life begins anew for God’s creation. As the new morning springs forth, I remain constant…not constant in a state of life, but constant in a perpetual and continual death.
        Oh that my broken heart would grow numb…that the shattered pieces would bring purpose or just resonate within a calling. That a spark may be found deep within me, that a cold zeal could blaze again, it could be reworked, revived, renewed. And yet…nothing. I am as cold as the stone on which I sit. I am as still as the stagnant night air. I am as dead as Lazarus. 
        My bowels are the bowels of Judas. Sitting in the midst of his spilling is my reminder. Apparently I need a reminder, a constant one, one that will never allow me to deny him again. As the sun rises, the stench of his rotting corpse will again infiltrate and saturate my nostrils. As the heat grows more and more intense, the opportunistic, ravenous birds will reappear and the parasitic creatures will again morph before my eyes, grow wings and leave the disaster that has been their daily bread.
        My wife and friends beg me to leave this place. They stopped coming as the skies became a floating shadow of flies. Now they stand only at a distance, begging with their eyes, their number growing smaller by the day. Yet I sit here, unmoved, unwavering, unforgiving. I sit here a coward. At least Judas tossed his prize of betrayal back at his personal vipers. At least Judas had the realization of his sin, of his brokenness-and he did in the physical what was already true in the spiritual realm. But not me. I live in the physical, a fa├žade, an inauthentic replica of my rottenness. And how do I return my silver; at whom do I heave it? My silver is less tangible, not less deadly, just less sensate. How do I return dignity, to whom do I hand honor and what will one exchange for friendship…how about the betrayal of friendship? I can throw it all at myself…I can be angry at myself. I wasn’t tricked, I wasn’t controlled…it is just who I am.
        When the meat to feed the scavengers is gone and only dry bones remain, who will have me? Will my children desire a dad who fails the King in the heat of battle? Will my wife wish for a husband to return from a 3 year retreat-return after denying the very person for whom she suffered loneliness and an empty bed for the last 3 years? Who will be my brother? Who will trust me with even a little? It is laughable to think of ever walking in the light of honor, trust, love or respect. That will be my price; my contrition will come from suffering a private desolation-ironically that is so fitting since just hours ago I sentenced my Lord to an emotional wilderness with 3 statements. He died alone. I secured that sentence for him and now I will live out the sentence for him…prisoner by proxy. My life would be better contributed if my entrails also exploded over the jagged edges of the rock beneath my feet. I would best be used as another dinner for the scavengers, another host for the maggots.
        But a voice in the distance cried out to me. It is Mary and she is running toward me. She will halt once the foul odor sickens her, for who will possibly come into the darkness to bring one into the light? As she gets closer it becomes obvious that she isn’t offended by the horrific scene. My spiritual stench isn’t offensive to her, she continues running. Her moist eyes, being dried by the wind, speak volumes of hope, acceptance and love. Her eyes remind me of the eyes of Jesus. The eyes who burned white…the eyes that burned through my eyes, directly into my heart on the black evening of his capture, of my betrayal. For the first time I stood, anxiously awaiting her words, her message. “The tomb is empty”. I must have misunderstood, as my eyes questioned her words, she paused enough to slow the heaving of her chest and she clearly exclaimed that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. The stone was rolled away and he has risen. Surely thieves stole the body, I questioned. Then she said her information wasn’t from man, but from God…from an angel of the Lord, here to proclaim now and forever that He is risen. I asked her to tell me every word the angel spoke and she then spoke the words that salved my wounds, the words that instantly returned the inferno deep within the fabric of my very being. “Go tell the disciples AND PETER…” I didn’t listen to the rest of it too well. The Angel of the Lord said, “and Peter”…I am included, I am not cast out and I am not forever lost, eternally unclean. In His rising, I too can rise. In His life, I too can live. Through His stripes, I am healed. The stone has rolled back in place, only this time entombing death, shame and sin. Death, where is your sting? Sin, where are the shackles used by you for too long? You are removed, unlocked with a key, held by the pierced hands of the One who was, who is and who is to come.
        I will not fall in this way again. I will go to my own death on a cross before I allow Him to be symbolically sent there again. My lips will not deny. My life will not deny. I will repay His death with my life and His new life with my death. When again will I embrace my Brother, my Friend, my Lord? It will be soon…and then forever more.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thinking, Feeling and Knowing The Difference

Let me set the stage for you. Brook and I were engaged and sitting in our pre-marital counselor's office discussing conflict resolution, the most common reasons for divorce and other such things to prepare us for marriage.

As part of our conflict resolution discussion he presented scenarios in which one of us may disagree completely with the other and how we would handle an impasse in important situations. So in one of the scenarios the counselor asks, "Blake, how do you feel about Brook doing something that completely goes against your wishes"?

I replied, "Well, I think I wouldn't like it, but I suppose that I can't force her to do anything she doesn't want to do". For some insight here, I was certain that I had answered well and would likely be praised by him for such a great answer.

As if heading in a new direction with a new scenario, he calmly asked, "Blake, how do you feel about Brook doing something that completely goes against your wishes"?

I wasn't sure if he was testing my consistency or if he was slipping a little bit at the end of a busy day. In either case I figured it best if I went along with his question so for a second time I said, "Well, I think I wouldn't like it, but I suppose that I can't force her to do anything she doesn't want to do". He nodded with approval. I had obviously passed the test...I thought.

In the same tone and with no more urgency than before he asked, "Blake, how do you feel about Brook doing something that completely goes against your wishes?" I knew he wasn't testing my consistency this time and I didn't think he was slipping but I was having a bit of an internal conflict. I am pretty perceptive and I am the most introspective person I know. How could I NOT be getting the point he was trying to make?

This time I didn't bother answering the same as I had before. I looked at Brook for some sign of her thoughts about it and she returned a lost look. It was obvious that she was no more aware of his intent than was I. So being out of options I could only shoot straight with him and challenge him. I said, in a somewhat defiant manner, "Look, you have asked me the same question three times and I have given you the same answer. I don't know what you are looking for but maybe its time to let us in on your game".

He sat forward in his chair and paused. I knew something was coming and I had a feeling that it would be life changing. I was right. He said, "Son, I have asked you three times how you feel about something and you have told me only what you think about something. Now why do you suppose you only tell me what you think when I have explicitly asked about your feelings?" My silence was deafening and it must have been obvious how convicted I was. I had always thought myself to be decent at conversations and a pretty good listener, but I had completely blown off his "feeling" question. How could I have missed that or was it more than just missing it?

Since I obviously was reeling from this revelation and didn't answer him he continued with another question that I didn't like. "Can you name several emotions you have felt today?" I searched inside myself and was doing an honest assessment. The truth was that I couldn't identify a single emotion that I had felt that day. My blank expression told the story so he broadened the parameters for me. "Well, can you tell me some emotions, just name any that you ever feel or have felt in the past". His pointed questions had morphed into more understanding and he seemed to be trying to find an escape hatch for me. I didn't have to search myself or even divulge any personal information. All I had to do was simply name some emotions. I am a bit embarrassed by the five emotions I could name without too much thought...that's right, FIVE!

The five emotions I could identify without further prompting were, "HAPPY, MAD, HUNGRY, HORNY and PISSED OFF". He briefly challenged my separate labeling of "mad" and "pissed off" as being the same emotion. I rebutted by letting him know that they are different in my mind. "If I'm mad you may or may not know it, but if I'm pissed off there will be no doubt". He reluctantly let my differentiation stand...probably just so we could move forward with the meat of his lesson, but I felt as though I had won a small victory. He then pointed out that "hungry" and "horny" weren't really emotions. I informed him that people can certainly get emotional about those subjects but at the end of the discussion I had to relent and admit that maybe I should have named other emotions well before including my appetite, be it for sex or food.

So I had really only named 2 emotions and let's be honest; my kids could name more descriptive emotions than what amounted to happy and angry. I knew other emotions existed, but I had no clue why they wouldn't come to my mind. Why was I having a hard time thinking about the other ones and....WAIT!!! What the hell?!?!?! Was I really THINKING about EMOTIONS and wondering why my HEAD failed to intervene for my HEART? That's exactly what I was doing and the counselor knew it.

He then asked the question I most feared. "Blake, why don't you feel?" I wasn't really sure at first but I knew I could suddenly label a new emotion for me...FEAR. I also knew instantly that I didn't like this new feeling. It seemed weird and foreign. We talked through my family of origin and how emotions weren't really a part of every day life. You did what you did because it was right and when you didn't do the right thing there were consequences...all very black and white. We then moved to my time in the Army and how my ability to achieve and perform well in the military was likely a product of my ability to think, react and function void of emotions.

Now for the kicker...GOD! He inquired about my belief in God and wondered if I saw God as an emotional God. I knew the Sunday School answer was that He is indeed an emotional God. I also knew that I didn't believe that He was at all emotional. At least my internal reflections of God as I understood Him had nothing to do with emotions and everything to do with living life within boundaries, observing a code of ethics and conduct, retribution for transgressions and finally a reluctant forgiveness of our sins...but that He was probably good and pissed off (I knew that emotion well) about it.

So why didn't I feel? We returned to that question and I finally answered with the most get-level honesty I had answered anything in our sessions. "I don't feel a thing, ever, because feeling isn't safe. With feelings come vulnerability and vulnerable people are weak people. Weak people get trampled in this cruel world in which we live and I be damned if I am going to be vulnerable, weak or trampled." I had decided long before that day to never allow myself to be wounded by another person and thus far it had worked pretty well. The counselor even said as much. Unfortunately, he said more than that too.

"You see, son, if you won't allow yourself to feel, to be vulnerable or to even be hurt another person, one day this pretty lady right here will leave you and you will know that it's because you never let her in.  And what about your kids?" "What about them?" I replied. "Well, what will it be like one day when your kids don't talk to you, don't trust you and never seek a relationship with you? How well will you have insulated yourself from hurt then?" I knew what he meant and though most of my life to that point had been about taking chances, pushing the limits and often times crossing boundaries, I knew that to obtain the things in life I most be a great husband and father...I was going to have to take the first huge emotional chance of my life.

So I began a quest that day. I think I have become better at feeling and even discussing my feelings. So much so that with my intentionality I can really piss Brook off...which in my mind is still an emotion. I now over analyze emotions...mine and other people's...but it is just because it is still all so new and foreign to me and because I never want to forget to feel again. I have found that the pain from deep and honest relationships is the most amazingly intense level of pain one can feel. I have also found though that without occasionally feeling the searing pain, or at least being open to feel it, it is impossible to ever taste the sweetness of real intimacy. Though I may have denied this fact in the midst of the most painful storms, the relationship Brook and I have is more than worth the pain and frustration we introduce in the lives of each other.

In addition to relational intimacy within my family another lesson was learned that day...and I'm continuing to learn it daily. In so many ways the gospel of Jesus became more real to me since that day. The fact that God would become flesh (John 1), enter into a relationship with an adulterous people (James 4) and suffer shame and even death (Philippians 2) never makes sense in the absence of love and relationship. In being open and vulnerable to others we not only make intimacy and relationship possible with those around us, but we also imitate Christ and in so doing bring glory to our God.

Therefore be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 5)

I love that story.  Really.  Wouldn't change a thing.
It has been beautiful to watch such amazing transformation in Blake.  It reminds me what a gift marriage can be.  I forget a lot of good stuff like that, so it is good to be reminded.  Blake has gone from one of the most black and white people on the face of the earth, thinking about everything and talking my ear off those first few dates about my stance on this or that perspective, blah blah snug as a bug in a rug as a tried and true 'feeling' personality.  I cry a lot.  A lot. A lot.  I'm pretty much a giant infant:  movies, songs, church services, commercials, any deep conversation (especially with my children), adrenaline, whatever; I cry happy tears, sad tears, mad tears (not very often), frustrated tears, more happy tears (I love the happy tears)...I just cry.  The most tender thing, that I notice more and more every year, is that less and less I am crying alone.  Blake is right there beside me (this weekend we just happened to be watching American Idol...Jacob singing Bridge Over Troubled Water) with a little sniffle too.  
He has worked hard to undo some hurt, to open up where he learned never to, to stop...and feel.  It may have taken a month of Sundays (or ten years worth), but his biggest desires for intimacy with his family, he has achieved.  Let me stop there and say once more just in case you can't tell so far how big this is...
I almost never use definitives.  I almost always leave room for improvement or say that something is in the works, but never has anyone "arrived" at anything.  Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake.  Blake Thompson is AN. EMOTIONAL. GUY.   And, it is beautiful.      

So, what next, babe?  What do you do when you look around and realize all your dreams have come true?  Uh, I think you go build a chicken coop.  Just sayin.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Part 3: Sex Education for kids and A Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex

Ok, so part 1 was about the presexualization of kids. That lead right into part 2 and the need for us to be educated about sexuality, because you can't teach what you don't know. So now part 3: actually initiating the ongoing conversation about human sexuality with our kids. This is intended to be a primer.

I read this book a while back: A Chicken's Guide to How to Talk Turkey with Your Kids about Sex by Dr. Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell.  It is a very worthy read.  The authors condone open communication with your kids starting from pretty much as soon as they can talk.  Whether you are talking about what my boys call the "pee pee tatter" or the fact that Mommy is having a period, (For dads the periods are self evident. The kids will figure out soon enough that hormones lead to verbs of all kinds like rolling, jumping and throwing...rolling of eyes, jumping to conclusions and throwing fits...but I digress) it's important to be age appropriate and open.  Most importantly, it's important to watch your reactions!  {Get off my toes, docs!}  The way you react to anything and everything with your kids, directly affects they level to which they will come to you to talk about things.  Here's what else I learned:
    *At age 8-9, your kids are likely to be thinking about sex.
    *At age 10-11, they will be talking about sex
    *By age 12-13, without your guidance, they are likely to be having sex.

Ugh!  Not my sweet babies, right?  That's what our parents said too.
Well, let me think.  How old was I when I was first exposed to sex talk at school?  At school, I didnt hear anything about sex until 3rd grade. Away from school I was exposed at about 6. I am thinking definitely by the 4th grade people were talking about it, although, I can now admit, I didn't know half of what they were talking about.  By the 6th grade (that's 11 and 12 people), kids were talking about it openly, and some were for sure even doing it. I wonder how many were actually doing it versus claiming they were? I, myself, was panting (with a handful of my other girl friends who were not about to turn to each other, thank God) for my first real kiss from a boy, which came second semester that year. My first kiss came in 4th grade (age 9, almost 10) from a friend of my brother's that happened to be the time it seemed weird but now it seems beyond weird. Why would a 15 year old girl kiss, like really kiss, a 9 year old? 
So, why does any of that matter? Only to prove this point: I was thinking about sex early, why would I think my kids wouldn't be?  And how can I help them not make the same mistakes?

Our friends Tal Prince and Traylor Lovvorn with the ministry Route1520 must be credited with what not to do:


According to the books I have read, and personally watching some great parents I know, Mr. Dub and Wendi Hall, who now have kids in college, the only thing to do is talk...............and talk..................and talk...............and talk...............and talk....................and talk.................and talk..................and talk.

I can say that was one thing that I would have changed about my own childhood.  Kids need their parents to be a resource for them. To answer all their questions and help them open up.  People are just sexual (because God made us that way).  They just are.  So, even if your innocent little 10 year old is still watching Sesame Street and making marigold crowns, subconsciously he or she is thinking about sex or daydreaming about romance or lip locking or something.  

One more soapbox for me before I hand over the laptop, protect your kids.  Be the cool parents that all the kids want to come to your house, and let them come to your house and protect them!  Watch them.  Be within ear's distance.  Know your kids.  When Brook and I say to protect your kids that doesn't just mean keep them close to you at the grocery store. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members. Your brother in law that is so great with kids and offers to babysit may be a great guy but those few facts alone raise red flags for me. The uncle that comes around at holidays and seems to spend more times with the kids than the adults...that's a problem. The older step-sibling that seems to get along with and play so well with your child...don't trust it. That's what Brook means by be in close proximity to your child, never assume the best or "they wouldn't do that", never completely trust your child's future to others. You are the parent, so get busy parenting.

Yes, presexualization is rampant, but even more so, one in three girls today are being molested.  That can really warp a girl's self-image!  I know from experience.  Be around for your kids, and protect their innocence as much as you can, but when they reach that age (what most experts say is 8-10) you had better be talking and have your reactions well-documented by your kiddo.  

I had quite another experience with being taught about sex. I "learned" from magazines before anything else as stated above. Having a very open father (in terms of discussing sexuality with me) and a mom that was relatively open, a graphic-alcoholic and probable sex addict, step-father, a brother 7 years older than me that had friends and fraternity brothers 7-11 years older than me, not to mention some of the girls they all spent time with that thought I was "cute enough to eat" (among other things) and of course the "wise" and "omniscient friends" at school was enough to receive a Ph.D. in dysfunctional, incorrect, immoral and ungodly sexuality. I did not have a lack for "knowledge" or some level of experience, but I was completely void of any semblance of healthy perspectives about sexuality. Some things in life are almost impossible to "re-learn" and I can tell you that sexuality falls into that category.

Recently Brook and I heard a statistic that has improved over the last year since we first heard it. The average age at which an American kid is exposed to pornography is 11. As crazy as that sounds, the figure last year was 8 years old. That says two things to me. 1. Our kids need to be protected and in so many ways you can't be too safe when it comes to the people they are allowed to be around and the access they have to the internet. 2. Well prior to age 11, a discussion better be initiated in the life of your child. The discussion shouldn't be a single talk or something you talk about even yearly or quarterly. In the same way we discuss school work, discipline, integrity, sports, camping and chores, why not discuss sexuality?

So what to discuss? I don't think that you have to make a production out of each discussion about sex any more than you have to break out the special books and diagrams to discuss any other topic that is usually and often discussed. The conversation needs to be age appropriate. For example, I wouldn't discuss the biochemistry involved in an orgasm and ejaculation with my 5 year old. We have been having the conversation with him about boys and girls having different anatomy and the need to respect the ideals of modesty and privacy. He also knows that certain parts of the body of others (male and female) are not to be touched by him as they are special areas. The inverse of that is true regarding someone touching his body. I use our 5 year old just as an example of what we are doing. You may disagree or think we are going too far or maybe not far enough.

To contrast the differences in what is age appropriate, last summer I took our 8 year old on a "survival trip". We had to catch, kill or trap our own food and sleep out in the open...roughing it! I used that trip to step up the conversation a bit and initiated the ideas of husbands and wives participating in an activity that involves their bodies, minds and hearts to express their love for one another, their obedience & worship of God and that this activity even is what leads to pregnancy. He seemed pretty uninterested in the whole conversation at the time. I'm not discouraged or encouraged by his interest level. It is what it is. I do know this though, when he hears someone explain sexuality in terms other than what he has already heard and understands to be true he will at least be skeptical. That's exactly what I want.

Kids pick up information even when we don't tell them something too. I think the ways in which we discuss sex (or the fact that we don't) speaks volumes. If sexuality is always spoken about in whispers the child will have to deduct from that that sex is shameful and isn't something to be openly discussed. If a reaction to a normal behavior is outrageous the child can easily understand their normal and usual behavior as evil and will then think that they are evil. It is difficult for kids to understand that behavior can be bad without making the person bad. If sex isn't openly and responsibly discussed between their mom and dad (or step parents as the case may be) the message can be intuited as an objectification of women or men. If sex is something complained about by the mother of father...well, you get the idea. My point in that is how important it is to incorporate healthy and Godly sexuality into your life, into your discussions and even as openly between you and your spouse as is reasonable and responsible. Will it push your comfort level? Probably. Is it OK to be uncomfortable if you are benefiting your kids in ways that will pay dividends for years to come? Absolutely.

Last but not least, never be afraid to tell your kids that you have been wrong or you have made a mistake. I have often told my Dad that one of the best things he ever taught me is to keep fighting and never give up after a mistake. In this discussion I would say that approaching your kids with information and initiating a discussion when they are a bit older is great. It's better to start late than to never start. If you are a little late to the conversation with your kids don't try to make up by covering up. You will make more of a lasting impression on your kids and be given much more credibility if you let them know that you are late, that you now know a better way to parent and that they should expect a change moving forward. Doing those things will set you up for a great relationship with your child and it will open your child's eyes to your new reality regarding sex.

This will hopefully lead to a lot more conversations about sex stuff and kids.  And I hope to hear from you soon.  Just one more shameless plugs before I go.  
As I said earlier, some of my favorite parental gurus are the one and only Dub and Wendi Hall from right here in B'ham.  They are great about openness with their kids.  We were blessed to be in their lives during the time of their kids (Brant and Laurel's) teen years.  I was always inspired by the confidence those two teens had.  They were probably never surprised by locker room or sleep-over talk.  They were hearing all that at home from experts who were living out the blessing of a sanctified marriage.  Whether Dad was pinching Mom's hiney going down the hall to the bedroom or they were whispering in each other's ear's over coffee in the morning, Laurel and Brant never lacked for a reason to roll their eyes or say 'gag a maggot' to the people they will forever get their own sexual identity from: their parents.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Presexualization part 2: Adult Education

Kids, sex, information, too soon, too much, too late, what to say, how to say it? From discussions we have had with other parents it is safe to say that few topics invoke amazing fear in the hearts of parents like discussing sex with their kids. I personally think that fear comes from a lack of knowledge. Let's see if we can remedy some of that.

OK everybody, get your thesaurus, dictionary and maybe even a calculator out and be ready to use them.  Blake has the stage again. Usually babbling on about history and whatever gives me a headache and I tune it out, but Blake has really researched this stuff and it actually does make sense...give it a read and see what you think.

I will be speaking strictly from my experience and rather extensive research, but in no way do I claim to have a monopoly on sexual information, much less some magical approach on how to discuss it with kids. This would be a great post for some of you more experienced parents to share your successes and failures in this area...if you feel so inspired.

After an adolescent and adult life contemplating sexuality, primarily attempting to reconcile hormones, unhealthy behaviors/thoughts, faith and God, here's what I have been able to determine through experience, prayer, thought, science and a rather unorthodox yet in depth theological research project. First let me say that a few years back I started writing a book on "Sexual Theology" based on the above and I can't possibly cover it all but I'll attempt to hit the important points. Maybe this will serve as a catalyst to finish writing the book.

Let's look at some history: So God creates Adam and the Biblical text says, God created man in His image...the Imago Dei. God designed Adam for community and relationship which is also part of the Imago Dei. Unfortunately, Adam had no one with which to share relationship so God divides Adam. God's image is divided into Adam and Eve. I'll go a step further and say that God is completely masculine (i.e. Father, Son) and is also completely feminine (i.e. the Holy Spirit being a "great comforter" and other traits/roles more traditionally associated with the feminine).

So Adam, one half of the Imago Dei, and Eve, one half of the Imago Dei, are in the presence of each other for the first time ever...EVER in the history of the WORLD...and God is about to make the first introduction between two people that represent His image. He cordially says, "Adam, I'd like to introduce you to Eve"...or maybe He doesn't.
God says something relatively simple but amazingly profound. God says to do something that will confound the world for some and will make the world bright & beautiful for others. Simplistic complexity exists when God says...and this is MY paraphrase...
"Adam and Eve, get together, have sex and become "one" again. It hasn't been long since you were "one" so this will feel like home for you all. In fact, in the moments in which you are truly united physically and spiritually, you will know that I have designed the thoughts, feelings, hormones, chemicals, sights, sounds, tastes and touches found only in that place between a husband and a wife.
This will not be simply a physical act to be done to varying degrees and with ebbing interest by horny teens, intrigued newlyweds, addicted adults and senile old retirees. This will be a spiritual, physical and emotional venture that will accurately reflect my Imago Dei and through it you will be blessed in ways that will have you screaming my name".

So what the heck!?!? God's first command to a couple was to have sex? Yes. In my mind that makes it incredibly important for couples and it is proof that God is concerned about sex. Moreover, God calls sex "very good". For many that idea may seem foreign at best and at worst, sacrilege. I think it is simply the story of creation as revealed in the Bible. So what is sex for and what is it about? I think it is primarily an act of worship, obedience and celebration. It was created by God for God. How strange to the average church attender to think that God enjoys His followers having sex. Is God a gigantic cosmic voyeur? Is the Holy Spirit a peeping-tom? Well, not exactly.

I would say that God enjoys human sexuality in the same way a screen writer enjoys seeing actors and directors carrying out accurately his intent. Accurately reflecting the passions, the nuances and the details the writer imagined some time before the stage was ever set. So too has God set before his people a blessing among blessings. God knows that through Godly intimacy, which very much includes sex, His Imago Dei is revealed and His children are blessed for living out the very unity and intimacy God commanded.

So that is the overly simplified Biblical account of  human sexuality. What has happened in christendom since is nothing short of a tragedy and even blasphemy. For God's people to allow the world to largely define a creation of God, and to do so in ways that do not reflect God's heart of the matter, is blasphemous. Rather than loudly proclaiming the truth about human sexuality, christians have remained silent...largely lending credibility to the molestation and altering of God's "very good" creation (God's words, not mine-though I agree). Unfortunately, christians have been wussies in the area of sex and through our passivity (listed in the book of Revelation as one of the sins of which people in hell will be guilty) our culture has demeaned sex, cheapened sex, removed intimacy from sexuality and objectified humans. Few things angered God/Jesus in scripture like the objectification of humans.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the negative issues above are not new with the invention of pornographic magazines, porn flicks or even MTV. These issues began prior to the birth of Christ with Plato. We won't go into much detail here but Platonic Form Theory (look it up if need be) challenged the idea of a singular life. That is to say that mankind was an interrelated combination of body, mind and spirit. Plato suggested essentially that dual worlds exist (again, for the sake of brevity I am being incredibly simplistic). Plato placed a higher priority and importance on the spiritual life and left the physical life in some inferior place. So how could Plato and his theories impact christians some 2300 years later.

Unfortunately, christians accepted the platonic teachings generation after generation. Men typically known as heroes of faith or early church fathers fell victim to platonic theory. Constantine, Augustine and Eusibeus from the first few centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus all accepted this teaching. We could walk century by century until we land in our life times without ever seeing a wholesale denial of this teaching. This is important because the idea that spiritual matters are divorced from physical matters is antithetical to Biblical teaching and it also degredates the accurate placement of human sexuality in the reality established by God. For example, no wonder sexual comments, teachings and discussions are largely absent and considered inappropriate in christian churches when one of the most well-known fathers of the faith, St. Augustine, said, "how lustful is man from his birth even as he suckles at his mother's breast that it is only fitting for such a beast that he is born between urine and feces". What a nice thought, right?

So here we are at some sexual crossroads. God creates it, places amazing blessings in the confines of it and calls it very good. The world, aided from years by a silent and misguided church, has defiled the creation and now assigns sexuality somewhere between temptation to "be real and free", a banal conquest and a great marketing idea. So where will we fall on this sexual paradigm? What will our kids hear from us? How will we lead them to healthy sexuality in a world awashed with dysfunctional sexuality? Will our kids find sex and intimacy that binds, heals and blesses or a sexuality that divides, hurts and curses? Well, that decision is up to you. Brook and I have personally lost too much in the fall of sexuality from its divine intent to risk our boys walking a similar path. So let's get into the specifics of what our kids should know, when they should know it and how we can best frame the discussion so that it is an ongoing conversation rather than "the talk".  It seems to me that this will require a part 3 to this discussion....stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Presexualization of Children; How to Protect Through Education (Part 1)

It has recently come to our attention that a child we know is showing an unusual interest in sexuality. This child is discussing sex in ways that a child their age should not understand and claims to have "seen movies about sex". While some may want to pass this behavior off as simple "child's play" or innocent, this behavior is incredibly troubling and is an incredibly strong indicator that this child has been "presexualized."

We thought it a timely blog topic to discuss as we have been aware of such potential threats to our boys and want to raise awareness with any reader in an attempt to know what presexualization is, how to prevent it, what to do if it has indeed occurred in your life or already in the life of your child. Then, in part 2, we hope this to flow into a discussion about the specifics involved in discussing healthy sexuality with our children. That seems to be one of the more intimidating tasks any parent faces and I would suggest that this is the case because far too few parents have a good grip on healthy sexuality. It's always difficult to explain and discuss issues with others that one doesn't understand. Let's see if we can develop some healthy opinions and move to better places in this area.

Presexualization refers to a person who has been presexualized in childhood. This can take the form of actual sexual abuse, but is often the more subtle form of the child being exposed to sex, sexual stimulation, pornography, etc.

Presexualization could be more simply stated as the introduction of sex or things of a sexual nature to a child that is not yet at a maturity level to appropriately label, understand and categorize the event and/or information. It is a form of sexual abuse that seems on the surface less damaging than physical acts of child molestation. Some consider presexualization as "passive sexual abuse" or "passive sexual trauma." That is to say that the child has not been physically assaulted in a sexual way but the effects (short and long term) can be identical to those who have experienced the physical molestation. 

As you think about presexualization and how it could have occurred in your life or in the life of your child remember that it does not always involve someone that intentionally exposes someone to sex. It could be, as was the case in my early childhood, finding pornography that had been discarded with trash in the woods. It could be, as also occurred in my life and in the lives of many people, stumbling upon porn videos late night on a movie channel. No one sought me out and nobody intentionally introduced sexuality into my life but it occurred just the same and such an unhealthy introduction to such an unhealthy and ungodly form or sexuality was damaging. 

If you were presexualized or even think you might have been I think it is vital for you to seek the advice and help of a professional. The professional may tell you that what you experienced was normal and you shouldn't worry about it. However, if a particular event or person comes to mind it is very much worth investigating your history. I personally think Steve and Pam Moore at The Moore Institute are great people to contact for this. They are personal friends of mine and we have worked together with more people than I could begin to count. You can learn more about them and even contact them HERE

If you have experienced presexualization and continue to see the effects of it in your sexuality, compulsive behaviors, addiction to sex and/or porn, relationships, etc. I think you would be well served to seek the help of a professional as mentioned above but also contact Route1520. Traylor Lovvorn and Tal Prince minister to the sexually broken and approach the issues, regardless of how seemingly disastrous or benign, from a place of personal experience. You won't find judgement or ridicule from these men or others in their groups. Information on Route1520 can be found HERE

So how do you protect your children from being introduced to sexuality in unhealthy ways and/or prematurely? There are so many ways in which presexualization can occur that the defensive measures have to be vast and varied. Computers, smart phones, print, neighbors, family members, teachers, clergy and even classmates can all have detrimental effects on our children through presexualization. Some great resources are available for defensive measures specific to electronic devices. The most recommended service to me personally has been Covenant Eyes. You can find their information here

When it comes to people in your life that may seem harmless but are in fact dangerous I think the videos found at this website say more than I could. For the record, this will be the only time I will ever suggest anyone watch Oprah. This video was touching and eye-opening and it came straight from the mouths of the men from who we all want to protect our kids.

OK, that's probably enough information to process for one night. The next post will deal with the next step in protection...educating our children. That means educating ourselves first. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dominant or Accommodator

    A dominant theme in complimentary sort of relationships is that one person tends to be the dominant one, and the other tends to be the accommodator.  Guess how that works out with B and B? 
   I think it's really interesting how complimentary people are attracted to one another. I think it is really God's plan that can still be awesome, but has also been corrupted.  I have heard before that if you put one alcoholic in the room with a thousand attractive people, only one of which is codependent, the alcoholic will find the codependent every time. Because of the degree of our oppositeness, and some other really weird coincidences, our relationship has been just that bizarre. 

**Because they are just so cool to me, I think I will take a second to list a few of those "really weird coincidences":  Although Blake and I had never met or heard of each other until the night we met, it turns out that 1.) Our names both start with B and have 5 letters.  
                     2.) We both go by our middle names
                     3.) We were both named after our father who happen to have the same name: Randy.  My first name is Miranda after my dad, Randy.  And Blake's name is Randy after his dad, Randy.
                    4.) Both of our parents are divorced, and we've experienced step-parents and step-siblings.  We also both have half-siblings, however, we are the only children that both our mom and dad had together. Which in so many ways causes us to want to stay married. It's just not ideal to introduce other relationships into the world of a child, even in some really good situations like some of our "steps" or some of the worst situations like some of our other "steps".  Oh, my dear Blakely, how you do have your ideals.  
                    5.) Our moms both have the same middle name: Lynn and Lynne.
                    6.) We both came from families whose primary field of work and study was medical.
                    7.) Although, I never lived there, and Blake mostly grew up in Vestavia, we are both originally from the same county in north Alabama: Lawrence County.  We both have deep roots in Moulton, Alabama.  My family (currently or in generations past) never lived in Moulton as that was too close into "town", but Moulton is the county seat so it's the place more people know.
                   8.) Blake's last name is Thompson, and my grandmother, I call her Nana, who I was always super-close to's last name was also Thompson.  I always idealized my Nana's marriage to my Papa.  They have been married now 67 years, and I am honored to wear her maiden name. And who says cousins don't get married in Alabama??? Can anyone else hear the banjos playing and the pigs squealing? That is a pig, right?  Didn't we figure out we are only like 16th cousins or something crazy distant like that?  Related by our 16th great grandmother Rebecca Love Terry (no, seriously).

   Back to the original subject...  In case you haven't guessed, I was/am the accommodator.   I was raised by a mom who was an accommodator, and also brought up to sort of believe that's what the woman does (Biblically speaking).  Now that I am older and have been through a lot of marriage classes (and therapy),  I realize that this Dominator/Accommodator dynamic is really common, but I don't believe it's supposed to be or even usually is the woman's place.  There's as many hen-pecked husbands who let their wives make the decisions and wear the pants as their are fibromyalgia-ridden, lip-biting wives. Can of worms: officially opened.
Dear Hen-Pecked Men,
Grow a pair, stop squatting when you pee and be a real man. Not a jerk, abusive or controlling, but stand up and stop letting your wife usurp your share of the authority and responsibility in the house. It isn't fair to you or her and that kind of horrible example is setting your kids up for a nightmare of a future in relationships. If you can't step up I recommend you start wearing a skirt, referring to your time as a man in the past tense and figure out how to consume enough prolactin so that your man-teats begin to lactate so you can fully embrace your femininity. That is all...for now anyway.  Okay, then, welcome to the comedy club.

   "Spiritual leader" is a term I heard a lot growing up.  It was something I was told I was supposed to be looking for in a husband.  Someone to be my "spiritual leader." So, naturally, when I showed up at this fluke Bible study at a UAB (Satan school to my southern baptist english ivy covered Samford university) campus house, invited by a random acquaintance, at a time when I had been praying for any sort of sign that there actually was a God,  of course I was going to be attracted to the hot, muscle-y college senior (with the bad haircut) singing and praying and leading the thing.  And, then there was the fact that he approached me.  Dude.  I had never been approached by a guy in my life.  All my past relationships, I had been the instigator (you know, you tell your friend so in so to tell his friend so in so that you might be interested in so in so...the small town way, right?).  That is so gay (and I mean "gay" in the most PC sort of way I can muster without violently vomiting)...Dear Wussy Guys...see my above statement. Never been approached??? Good Lord!!!

  Then there was the fact that I was...hello!...19 years old.  I had lived through and lost relationships of various kinds, been varying degrees of rich and poor, but I just had not had time to develop that many opinions yet (of course, the fantasy land I liked to live in didn't help me meet reality too much either).  Unlike Blake, who had, let's see...been homeless, lost a brother, lived with a brother suffering with a terminal disease, lived with a mom going through medical school since he was in the 3rd grade, turned over his life to the United States Army That's a good way of saying it or as GSGT Hartman said, "You can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs to me", walked side by side with a best friend who ended up in prison serving consecutive life sentences, took his ACT test (among other exams) completely drunk I'm not sure how my sobriety (or lack of it) is an accomplishment but I'll go with it, been radically saved by Jesus at age 21, had the privilege of a mentor relationship, and set off to devote his life to unknown tribes in Africa...just to name a few.  I was frickin' star struck by his resume.How could I, at 19, have the experience to compete with his "spiritual leadership."

Oddly and honestly, I was equally as star struck by Brook and not really sure why she would think I had done anything very special in my life. Brook was unlike anyone I had ever met and I knew that it ultimately mattered little that she hadn't done some of what I had done. She had an inner strength and goodness that a million cool experiences couldn't create and I knew that we complimented one another and just really fit one another in some unusual and amazing ways. I say that not to butter her up or to be nauseatingly sentimental. I say that because a perfect storm was brewing by Brook over valuing me and under valuing herself and by me under valuing myself. This storm lead to a huge disconnect from reality between Brook and me.
We went into the relationship both feeling very fortunate to have the other one...which was and is true. The problem is that we felt fortunate because of our own lack of self-worth instead of more appropriately valuing ourselves and one another. 

   So, as you can imagine, I set off as a newlywed accommodating Blake's every whim.  But, as you can also imagine, Blake is not, in fact, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself.  And, one such little girl from La-la land can only accommodate so much for so long until she starts to have an opinion or two of her own.  

This may be a good time to point out that the dominant person in the relationship is no more or less dysfunctional than the one accommodating. The dynamic is unhealthy and requires both people to spin around in the muck and mire of relational junk. It is also important to note that neither the dominant nor the accommodating person realize what is happening until the relationship reaches a boiling point in some area. When the accommodator explodes the dominant one will think he/she has literally lost it because at no time have they intentionally dominated. In the same way, the accommodator will think the dominant person is crazy, blind or just manipulating because it has to be obvious what has been happening...though oddly, it wasn't really obvious to the accommodator until the pressure became too great.

And the pressure surely became great. Fortunately, I can say that we were stubborn enough to stick together through some major flip-outs, a month here and there of wondering if I would ever stop hating his guts, and a ton of that feeling like "I have given all I can give, when is it my turn to get?".  Truly, there comes a time, tho, when an accommodator has to have the guts to stop giving themselves away.  Like Blake said, that's every bit as dysfunctional as the person who dominates and thinks they make the rules.  
Here's some advice we got before we were married and it makes so much sense, I think I even passed it on to other newlyweds: *The goal is to give.  Husband, put your wife first, meet her needs above your own.  And, wife, do the same.  If you are both focused on meeting each other's needs then both of your needs will be met.*  Makes sense, right?  In a perfect world, it really does, maybe somewhere out there once upon a time, it did, but in the world of reality, it simply doesn't work.
What did work was finding those places, those areas of expertise, where we deferred to and relied on the other.   Sometimes you dig holes and burry each other's dreams, and other times, you say, "No, dammit.  This dream is coming true, and you are going to help me make it that way."  No one wins with one person's playing small.
It turns out that Blake and I have learned over the years to accommodate each other. For example, just this morning I found out that Blake has been accommodating me on my brand of toothpaste for years. I like smell good, taste good and smooth kind of toothpastes like the sexy Close Up. Blake apparently likes some form of liquid sand or gritty acid to clean his teeth. I'm fine with straight baking soda...whatever works.  The older you get the less "stuff" matters, and the more it matters whose foot you are sliding yours over to meet in the night.    

Much like communication, sex, faith, rearing kids and so many other facets of a relationship, this dynamic is best addressed by a dance of intimacy. The accommodator has to step out of their comfortable place in the shadows of the relationship and become assertive. The dominant one also has to step into a place of discomfort by backing up and allowing time, space and understanding as their partner finds their way in being more assertive and speaking their mind.
This new dance will yield some really wonderful fruit as intimacy always leads to depth of relationship. The dance can also cause some friction as the two learn new steps and maybe even have their traditional ways of doing things challenged. I know for us I have really enjoyed getting to know the part of Brook that for years hid behind accommodation and I have learned a lot about myself by exhibiting patience and understanding as Brook has really come into her own.