The model of marriage as a model for more

Sixteen days until Jen and Dan’s wedding, so says the Countdown app on my Sony Dash (love that thing!).

It seems like Craig and I are long past the years when we attended the weddings of our peers. Now we are going to about one wedding each year, mainly those of couples whom we’ve mentored through the “Couples Mentoring Couples” program at our church. There are even a few weddings of friends’ children that have worked their way into the mix. I love weddings, but let me just say right here: maybe we need to find some younger friends.

In any case, mentoring engaged couples is, first of all, humbling. The time comes to mind when we postponed one mentoring session because an after-church argument sapped our enthusiasm for the cause. If nothing else, we are real, right? It’s a good thing for a couple to see a genuine example of a not-so-perfect marriage, I suppose, especially when Christians and Christian literature tend to water down our real problems to something akin to this: “He spends too much time washing his truck” and “She spends too much time in Bible study.” I wish I had those kinds of problems.

Most of the arguments in my house, admittedly, are related to such nuances as tone of voice, choice of words, sleepiness or wakefulness, and enthusiasm for this or that activity. While we (I) sometimes panic about money, we rarely argue about it. For us (me) it’s more like, “I can’t believe you said that” and “Don’t look at me like that.” I swear, it’s like kids on the playground with me sometimes. Note to self: grow up.

Next to being humbling, mentoring engaged couples is just plain enlightening. For example, one of the things we cover in our sessions is the role of men and women in marriage. The Biblical model is that the man is the head (read here as “servant-leader”), and the woman is to submit to him by being a helper-lover (that is, a helpful encourager and lover of her man, his children, and their family together).

Now, I know that this is the model that the Bible describes in Ephesians 5:22-33 and other places, but I don’t know that I agree with the book that we use in our mentoring sessions. It describes this model as the best because it is practical to have one person in charge rather than two people competing for leadership. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I don’t think that co-leaders necessarily compete for leadership. I think that many egalitarian-style and co-leader arrangements work out well, especially when the partners (in classrooms, in business, in marriage) recognize that one person is good at some things and the other is good at other things. And whatever one is good at, that is what he or she should do (plus the things that no one wants to do, because, let’s face it, somebody’s got to do them).

Nor do I agree with those (few, I hope) who suggest that the man should be the head and the woman a helper/lover because they are, by virtue of their gender-based hard-wiring, naturally better at those roles. This natural bent toward their assigned roles may be true for some men and women, perhaps for many or most men and women. But I would suggest that there are not a few guys who are happy to relinquish the driver’s seat to someone more able simply because they have an easy-going attitude…or because of fear, lack of confidence, or secret shortcomings. I’m not saying that those guys shouldn’t step up to the plate and be men in their family responsibilities—just that they may not be naturally good at leadership.

Likewise, many women are intense, lack fear, overabound with confidence, and act as if they have no shortcomings. Decision-making, planning, and needs identification and alleviation are a snap for them. These women are experienced, capable, and assertive—real “get-it-done” girls. Playing the role of the meek helper/lover is a stretch for them. It can be done, but it comes with a lot of character reassignment and a lot of suggestion swallowing—not natural for some, and certainly not easy.

So if these roles are not practically ideal or universally borne out as our true nature as men and women, then what’s the real reason for them? I think I’ve found it.

In his book “That You May Believe: New Life in the Son,” Skip Ryan talks about the Wedding at Cana, as documented in John 2. There, the party runs out of wine, and Jesus replenishes the supply by turning into wine the water from large jars used for ceremonial purification. Ryan suggests that this is not just a miracle showing Jesus’ supernatural power. It is also a signpost that reads, “This way to the real wedding.”

Consider what he says about the role of Jesus and the church in the wedding that Jesus describes. He says, “John is giving us a signpost to the greatest wedding of all, and telling us that the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, will have His bride, the church, presented to him spotless, because she will be wearing his righteousness. Why does a bride wear white? It is a direct indication that, in the plan and economy of God, He intends His church to be white and spotless. That is the historical background to the white dress a bride wears. It is the purity given to the bride of Christ by the Bridegroom, who gives to her His own perfect righteousness.”

You thought the white wedding dress was a symbol of virginity, right? Wrong. In the marriage ceremony, the groom is a representation of Christ and the bride is a representation of the church. Together they are a model of God’s heavenly intent for his people: perfect righteousness effected by ultimate sacrifice.

Would it be too much to say, then, that in practicing our marriage roles as God intended that we will gain a deeper, even more profound understanding of what Christ has done for us and of who we are in Christ? In fulfilling his Biblical role as servant-leader, wouldn’t a self-centered man or one who feels ill-equipped to lead his family come to understand more deeply the humble sacrifice that Christ made for us as an expression of his love for us? Wouldn’t he be able to see that just as a man can create security and stability for his family by serving and leading them, even more so, Christ has created eternal security for us by redeeming us?

Likewise wouldn’t a capable or even self-sufficient woman be able to see that in submitting to her husband’s leadership, she is demonstrating the trust and obedience that the church should have in Jesus Christ? In receiving the direction that her husband offers, isn’t she acknowledging our powerlessness as believers to be effectual in our own righteousness? In allowing her husband to do the work that he sees fit in their relationship, isn’t she being the object of transformation that the church is to Christ?

In this sense our marriages are a lifelong devotional exercise. In them we rehearse what it means for Christ to be who He is and the church to be who He intends us to be.

It is a challenge to fulfill these roles because of our imperfections and our lack of trust for the other person. Don’t get me wrong, in many cases the lack of trust is more than justified. A man may not lead or lead well because he is lazy, unwise, unwilling, or simply because his wife overpowers him. A woman submitting to this kind of man may be walking with him down a path that leads to destruction. But a man must not lead blindly, indulging his whim or vices, without thought of the consequences or of his responsibility. To the man, this is the message: be more like Christ, leading as one who is pure and worthy.

Likewise, a woman may not be willing to submit or play the “second fiddle” role of helper because she is productive, capable, and self-assured, or simply because she doesn’t trust her man. Burned once she may be unwilling to set herself up again, even to a man who is repentant and committed to not only their marriage but to his Christian life as well. To the woman, this is the message: in submitting do not stagnate, but grow in sanctification, trusting more.

I’m not sure how to advise a man who leads where his wife will not follow. Nor am I sure how to advise a woman who has only a poor leader to submit to. I trust that I will be enlightened on these points as well. Stay tuned.

Spontaneous combustion–rubbish?

That old rubbish pile in your garage? Watch out. It may ignite.

That’s what they told me in elementary school. Only you can prevent the rubbish pile fire that will burn your house down to the ground. [Fast fact from Discover magazine’s “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Fire”: “…a typical house fire will double in size every minute.” (October 2011)]

It’s true. The chemical reactions in decomposing rubbish, defined here as piles of old newspapers and magazines, oily rags, and sawdust can generate enough heat to ignite. [Consider this, from an article in Popular Science magazine, circa 1946: “Such fires aren’t ‘black magic.'”]

Convicted by the rubbish pile risk, I got off the bus and went right to work on the mess under my bed. I don’t know if books and stuffed animals count as rubbish, but I don’t even think my flame retardant PJs would save me if my bed went up. Thank goodness I wasn’t storing any pistachios under my bed. [Another fast fact from Discover: “Pistachios have so much natural oil and are so prone to heat-generating fat decomposition that the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code regards them as dangerous.”]

The phenomenon in rubbish piles (‘rubbish’ being a word I have now used more in this blog entry than cumulatively in my life to this point) is not unlike that of haystacks that, given the right temperature and moisture conditions, can spontaneously burst into flame. [Consider this, from William T.W. Woodward, of Washington State University: “Wet hay is more likely to lead to a spontaneous combustion fire than dry hay…High moisture hay stacks can have chemical reactions that build heat. Hay insulates, so the larger the haystack, the less cooling there is to offset the heat. When the internal temperature of hay rises above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees C), a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gas that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough.” The wetter the hay, the higher the risk of spontaneous combustion. The enigma that is fire, right?]

Spontaneous combustion: it’s just another hazard of living on earth, the only known planet with enough oxygen so that fire can burn.

Thanks, Discover. I did not know that.

Memorial for a difficult person

Sometimes death catches us off-guard.

It happened to me this summer. Someone died, and being me, I immediately took up the self-imposed charge to create “something to say” about a person who was, frankly, not that easy to get along with. She wasn’t surrounded by friends…ever, as far as I could tell. She wasn’t particularly nice…although with medication she was nicer.

Standard funeral readings didn’t seem to fit. Too many lean toward the grandiose, seem overly spiritual, or make the person sound like more than she was. Hardest of all, most readings I found didn’t seem to fit my aunt, who was a troubled person and often brought trouble along with her.

Writer that I fancy myself to be, I came up with the paragraphs that follow, and I gave them to my mother to read at her sister’s funeral. The feedback from another aunt was that it said everything she wanted to say. I share what I wrote, not to shine the light on myself, but to offer to anyone else in a similar situation where positive memories are limited. Please feel free to use it for your personal reflection or for a memorial portion of a service, at no charge from me. If you do use it though, drop me a comment.

If you have found this because you have lost someone, please accept my condolences.

-Cheryl

Death is the end, but it is also the beginning. It’s a time to look back on what has passed, to mourn over the person whom we’ve lost, and to rejoice that her suffering, seen and unseen, is over. As one life has ended, we begin to live knowing that our days on earth are limited, but that our presence here is valuable. We begin to look forward to our own futures. We live knowing that for as much as God has ordained the events and circumstances of our lives, He is also walking right alongside us to guide us. All we have to do is let Him.

Death is the closing of a door, but it is also an opportunity. As we look back on what Diane walked through in her life, we see what has gone before in all of our lives–highs, lows, joys, sorrows, pleasant memories, and deep regrets. As the door has closed on her life, each of us has the opportunity to transform our pasts into a force for future good. Where we have suffered, we have the opportunity to sympathize. Where we have fallen, we have the opportunity to pick others up. Where we have seen God’s blessings, we can rejoice and share those blessings with others, making ourselves the greatest blessing of all.

Death may seem like the final word, but it also represents a blank page where we write the story of the rest of our lives. Diane’s story lives on in our memories and echoes in our hearts. We have seen her life come to a close, but the rest of us don’t know how our stories will end. We don’t know, any of us, how much time we will have. In the meantime, ask yourself–what do you choose? How will you contribute? What good will you do to honor the God who made you and encourage the people around you?

The rest of your story is yet to be written–the big question is this: What do you want your story to say?

I Heart BTR

Saturday evening found me with the family in York, PA, making up for the Big Time Rush concert we missed in Harrington, DE. Yes, on 9/10/11 we made the 2.5 hour interstate trek to see the Nickelodeon boy band that we failed to get tickets for when they were just a piece down the road from us at the Delaware State Fair. Crazy? Perhaps. Worth it? You bet.

For one thing, I’ve never been to the Delaware State Fair, but I don’t think I would be far off in estimating that the temperature of Saturday night’s concert was easily 30 degrees cooler than that of the July 24th Delaware tour date. Summer heat, combined with the extra 10 degrees generated by the VERY excited girls in the audience likely made BTR’s Delaware appearance a blistering 110 degrees, compared to York’s almost autumn temperature of 80. My blistering eardrums were likely due to all the Beatlemania-style screaming about 2 rows behind me, and, despite reports, was not heat-related.

Unfortunately, the cooler temperatures didn’t keep the lead singer of the opening act from taking off his jacket to reveal what is probably one of the top 10 least appropriate message t-shirts to wear in front of an audience of the Nickelodeon demographic. Kendall Schmidt of BTR wore a Spiderman T-shirt. Nice. Ryan Follese of Hot Chelle Ray wore a shirt that said “VAN F***IN’ HALEN” in huge capital letters, minus my placeholder asterisks. Huh? Can somebody give that guy a detention? This is an audience of 11-year-old girls, dude! They don’t know who Van Halen is!!!!!!

I am thankful, though, that before our trek to York, the Target store right here in Dover, DE still had a couple of extra BTR t-shirts to unload, at the bargain price of $4.48. The money we saved compared with buying a shirt at the concert surely covered the half-gallon bag of swedish fish my kids bought at the concession stand and the 16 oz pre-concert pickle that my son and husband split while we watched Shane Speal, three string cigar box guitar manufacturer and performer, belting out what the York Daily Record describes as “blues and gospel and country and Hawaiian and ragtime…[put] through a meat grinder that’s missing some teeth.” Check him out at his website. It has to be heard to be believed–and heard on a recording to be understood.

All in all, the BTR concert in York was a great experience…all except for the part where the BTR boys dedicated a song to all the parents in the audience. I’m not sure what song I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Listen up, BTR guys: Paul Mcartney is older than my dad. Maybe you should talk to the Van Halen guy from the opening band…that is if he’s not getting beat up behind the tour bus by a couple of outraged parents. He may be missing some teeth after his York appearance, but maybe he can give you a more age-appropriate recommendation for next time.

Attender vs. Attendee: a rebuttal

My grammatical faith in Americans in restored! This just in from Jeff Rakes, Pastor of Worship and Administration of Grace Church in Dover, DE:

we did research this at one time – here are a couple of things I’ve run across. you may have seen the same ones

the best distinction I found was
ATTENDER:

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
attender
(especially BrE) (AmE usually attendee) noun a person who goes to a place or an event, often on a regular basis: She’s a regular attender at evening classes. PowerExif – the best choice to edit EXIF data in imagesLongman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English:
attender
at·tend·er /əˈtendə US -ər/ n [C]
someone who regularly goes to an event such as a meeting or a class
 Daniel was a regular attender at the Baptist Church.

ATTENDEE:
(only found in Longman, no result in OALD)
attendee
at·ten·dee /əˌtenˈdiː, ˌæten-/ n [C]
someone who is at an event such as a meeting or a course

See also an interesting tidbit on English vs. British usage
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Talk:attender

We chose attendee because it can include people who attend occasionally and not necessarily regularly
Not that most people have thought about whether there’s a difference, but we were trying to be consistent, at least when we can remember 🙂

Blimey! I guess Briticisms don’t rule after all. That’ll show me for being so cheeky about the church website. Thanks, Jeff, for the well-reasoned and spot on response. If my rants weren’t permanently singed on the landscape of the Internet, you bet they’d be in the dustbin right now.

Last week’s rant, continued (Unrighteous avoidance, Part 2)

What gives?

The new website for my church calls me and all my fellow congregants “attendees.” Not “attenders.”

Huh?

It may sound like quibbling to you, but this one small element of an otherwise perfectly lovely website is making me writch around not unlike the unwitting princess who still felt that pea under her mattresses. (Perhaps despite appearances, I’m fragile.) Adding to my somewhat repentant 9/1 post describing my unwillingness to watch the church website tutorials, I find that I now have a grammatical obstacle in my way, the likes of which I have not had since I went an entire dictionary-less day wondering whether the name “Stealth Bomber” implies that ‘stealth’ is an adjective, despite its normal usage as a noun.

You’re on your own with that one.

Research on englishforums.com suggested that ‘attendee’ works like ‘retiree’ (one who retires), ‘escapee’ (one who escapes), and ‘abscondee’ (one who absconds), the last of which I used just the other day, when I said, “Fie!! Thou hast absconded with my tankard of gruel, thou heartless abscondee! Nay, I shall slay thee anon!” Thus, ‘attendee’ would mean one who attends, and in the case of the church website, someone who attends the church.

A bit of a controversy, though, comparing this to research on grammartogo.com, which advised me to think about the relationship between ’employer’ and ’employee.’ The employer employs and the employee is employed by the employer. So the ‘attender’ attends and the ‘attendee’ is attended to. Got that?

Does this imply that my church attends to my needs? That is sweet, isn’t it? I could use a personal attendant sometimes, mainly to hold the hymnal at an appropriate reading distance when I forget my progressive lenses. Isn’t that nice of them?

The best word on ‘attendee’ that I found was in the British Medical Journal (Vol 323, published 8/18/2001) There, Andrew West, specialist registrar in child and adolescent psychiatry (whatever that is) at Oxford wrote a short, decidedly non-medical piece on how he doesn’t use the word ‘attendee.’ He reports the results of his own research in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, which revealed no meanings for the suffix ‘-ee’ that identify the person doing an action (such as one who attends a meeting). West describes himself as one who has taken refuge from a meeting, perhaps making him a refugee despite the fact that the meeting necessitated rather than provided the refuge.

Interestingly, West also refers to the meaning of ‘-ee’ as being a diminutive suffix, as in a ‘coatee’ being a small coat (does that make a ‘goatee’ a small goat?) This makes me wonder how in the world we came up with ‘Slurpee’ (by this definition, possibly a small slurp), a beverage that can be ordered as an oxymoronic ‘Big Gulp.”

Stupid Americans.

I think I’m with West. ‘Attender’ is A-OK. Anything else makes my head hurt.

Remind me–what did I read this summer?

OK, my book club meets next Friday at my place, and we’re supposed to report on what we read over the summer so that we can choose a book from that batch for our next selection. Trouble is, I can barely remember what I read over the summer. I read it, it’s done, I forget it. Worst of all, it was my bright idea that we report on what we read. Brilliant, right?

So I dug deep into the cobweb covered recesses of my so-called memory, and here’s what I came up with:

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
So tragic, but somehow I couldn’t put it down. This National Book Award Winner interweaves the stories (the sad, sad stories) of several fictional characters from 1970s New York City with the story of tightrope daredevil Philippe Petit, who actually walked a high wire between the Twin Towers in 1974. The fiction is gritty at times, but the backdrop of the high wire walk is astonishing, and the contrast is absolutely brilliant. Watch the documentary Man on Wire as dessert–not to give it all away, but it shows Petit alive and well after the walk. Just keep your finger on the button for a brief inappropriate scene. Darn that Petit–he documented everything.

Marley & Me by John Grogan
I know you’ve heard of it. I’ll bet you’ve already read it. But just humor me, here. I kind of avoid books that reek of sentimentality or that are featured on/endorsed by Oprah. But let me tell you, this book was wonderful. It documented all of the stages of a dog’s life, and reeked not of vain sentimentality but true love and commitment of a family to its dog. The cover says it’s the story of the World’s Worst Dog (the current title holder lives across the street from me, by the way), but the stories will be familiar to any pet owner. As my unkind, but wise cat-loving next door neighbor used to say, “Either you have pets, or you don’t.” If you do, read this book.

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
Not The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo nor The Man from Ipanema, The Man from Beijing is a bit of a generational epic/mystery/thriller/Swedish-Chinese tour book. The book features a Swedish judge called Birgitta Roslin (referred to at least 75% of the time by both names) who stumbles on a sensational crime and follows it as therapy for her extraodinarily high blood pressure problem. Not the solution I would have chosen, but a good read, nonetheless. Speaking of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’m wondering how it is that such bloody stuff goes down in Sweden, and whether American movies/TV/novels make them think the same of us.

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I know I’m late to the game on this one, but my 11-year-old daughter and I are reading this series, and I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love it. It’s been a great adventure to read alongside each other (though I am now 2 books behind her). The vocabulary is wonderful, the definitions are so clever, the jokes are funny, and the story keeps chugging along. Who would have thought orphans could be so much fun to follow.

In Spite of Everything by Susan Gregory Thomas
This is a memoir of how divorce and alcoholism may (or may not) have destroyed the author’s marriage–a marriage she thought would last forever. It’s a bit of a study on Generation X (people, like me, born between 1965 and 1980), whose parents are documented as being the “most divorcing” of all time (evidenced by the highest divorce rate in America occuring around 1979). The author’s childhood and marriage go through the meat grinder, maybe because of the destabilizing force of divorce, maybe because her dad was an alcoholic, and maybe because her mother was a clueless academic. It’s tragic but eye-opening, and, like some memoirs, it makes you wonder whether the author got her conclusions right. I’m hesitant to recommend it, but I want so much to know what other readers think about this one. A word of caution: parts of this book may lead to bad moods and temporary, unintended spousal conflict. Best when read alone.

Rejected 8th Grade Social Studies current events stories (No. 1)

Title: Another Human Foot Washes Up In British Columbia (source: FoxNews.com)

Priceless quote: “The discovery marks the eighth human foot to wash up in British Columbia since August 2007 and is the 12th to appear in the coastal region from British Columbia to northwestern Washington in that time….two [of the eight washed up feet] found in Richmond, British Columbia, have been confirmed as belonging to the same woman. Police said they do not suspect foul play and believe that the feet detached naturally in the water.” (emphases mine)

I don’t know how it works in Canada, but my feet have never naturally detached at the Jersey Shore. Not even in the ’80s when all that medical waste was floating around.

Ugh.

Unrighteous avoidance?

I am not a boy scout. And not just because I’m a girl.

I am not a boy scout because if you tell me to do something, I will most likely not do it, simply because you told me to. Seriously.

I know it’s backwards. It borders on disrespectful. But I just don’t like being obligated…to do anything.

And in case you’re worried, it’s not you. I am an equal opportunity ignorer.

My quandary of late: to educate myself on the mechanics of the new website for my church per the request of a church staff member. All he wants me to do is watch a couple of tutorial videos. And it’s a minister asking, for goodness sake. But I haven’t done it. And maybe I’m not gonna.

Here’s the background: I participate in and lead a couple of church ministries (6th grade Sunday School, mentoring for engaged couples, missions, and others). I’m sure the website can help me to connect to the church community in a variety of ways. I’m sure that it can take my ministries where they’ve never gone before. I’m sure that uploading my photo there will open doors of social mediation (mediation?) the likes of which Facebook only dreams about after a really big birthday dinner (OK, that last comment had a mocking tone, but this is my blog, and I have to be snarky, right?).

But I’m having a serious block for watching these videos. Believe me, it’s not procrastination. It’s not a protest. It’s…I don’t know. I guess it’s me. Me and my not wanting to get on the computer for one more moment than I need to. That’s really what it comes down to.

But if you’re reading this, though, you’re probably wondering, “If she’s blogging then why doesn’t she just watch the videos and quit whining? Same difference.” Well, you got me there. If I have time for this, I have time for that. But I’m still probably not going to watch the videos (I’m such an enigma, aren’t I?).

Maybe my unwillingness to watch the tutorials is the techno version of not reading the directions. I think, “I’ll just poke around, and I’ll figure out what I need to know. Besides, what’s it going to hurt? If the website asks me whether I want to play a game of global thermonuclear war, I’m going to say no. Feel better now?”

But even as I write this, I believe I’m waxing smug. And nobody likes a smug churchgoer, except perhaps the smug churchgoer herself. So fine, I’ll watch the tutorials. I will. I promise.

Drop me a comment about something you’ve been avoiding and why. And don’t worry—I don’t judge people.