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Posts Tagged ‘expectations’


I have a love/hate relationship with pre-marital counseling. I enjoy doing it, and it is important to do. I have yet to find the best material for me to use. I’ve tried a variety of options. I want a balance between structure and freedom (this is generally true of me). I want to be faithful and cover the basics. But I want the freedom to follow what I discover. We aren’t just dealing with topics, but with people who have real histories that need to be uncovered because their relationship is unlike any other.

I feel like I’ve ping-ponged over the abyss as I’ve tried (in my own perfectionistic baggage) to find the perfect balance. I apologize to the many “guinea pigs” I’ve worked with over the years.

With a couple preparing for marriage I’ve waded into these murky waters again. Last time I adapted some of the materials in my “soon-to-be-published” book. I’m sure of of that will hang on, but I wanted to cover some of the standard topics better.

As a result, I purchased two books. One of them was Tying the Knot by Rob Green. This is an attempt to have Christ-centered pre-marital counseling. “Jesus” and “Center” are part of each chapter title. He covers your life, love, problem solving, roles and expectations, communication, finances, community and intimacy. His desire is to see all of these things in light of the object of your faith: Jesus. Each chapter has homework to process the information and apply it in your relationship. It is intended for use with a pastor or mentor in preparation.

A pastor or mentor is important precisely because we need to be pushed. There are things we would rather not talk about. This is the way we are. We want to duck the hard questions. People “in love” don’t want the boat rocked. They think they have arrived, they have found their soul mate. The search is over, but hard questions can question that conclusion. A good mentor will be able to tell a couple there are serious concerns. Struggles are okay- they deepen love or reveal we’re really into self-interest not actual love. So don’t deny struggles, or make too much of them. What matters is what you do with them.

He does start with each person’s relationship with Christ. He wants to encourage them to have Christ as of utmost importance to each future spouse. Too often people cling to a cultural form of Christianity. We treat Jesus as an optional add-on to life as opposed to the most important person in our lives. Jesus is a king, and Christians are part of His kingdom and are to keep that kingdom central. When we don’t, we become more like neighboring nations that continually fight for control. Our kingdoms begin to matter too much and the person who threatens our kingdom must be conquered or eliminated.

Green then distinguishes between a worldly understanding of love and a biblical one. Real love isn’t about epic dates and woozy feelings. It is about sticking together in the midst of adversity, short-term and long-term. God doesn’t bail on us. He enables us to not bail on each other whether it is the flu, job loss, cancer etc. He expounds 1 Corinthians 13, and reveals how we have been loved by Christ.

Problem solving is a problem for many of us because we are “hurt hoarders”: we do keep a record of wrongs which creates long-term problems in a relationship. He focused on recording their wrongs and the growth of bitterness. We can also record our wrongs and withdraw out of a sense of guilt, shame and failure. Both make solving problems increasingly difficult. He covers some of the lies we can believe about problems that create more problems. He then lays out some basic principles to keep in mind. He brings the freedom we should experience due to the doctrine of justification to confess our sin, and to forgive theirs. For couples or individuals who really struggle with this I’d recommend When Sinners Say “I Do”.

With roles and expectations Green briefly delves into the reality of roles as God-given, and the differing expectations we have. I think he does a good job of distinguishing between roles and expectations. Too often they are confused. Expectations are person-relative. Roles are God-established. An overly progressive or liberal view makes roles all person-relative because men and women are interchangeable. Some conservatives try to cram expectations into roles. There are no divine dictates about who cooks, does dishes or takes out the trash. Each couple works through those things in light of the gifts, interests, competing time demands and responsibilities etc. Each person comes from a different family culture and the couple needs to form a new family culture that is faithful in that to which God speaks and loving & wise in that to which He doesn’t.

In communication he focuses on words as the overflow of the heart. We all need renewed hearts. Only Jesus can renew our hearts. Too often we speak in ways that diminish, wound and degrade our spouses. When your kingdom is on the line you will not care about collateral damage. And this is the problem.

In discussing finances, Green wants us to see ourselves as stewards. This means that how we spend our money is tied to our relationship with Christ. His kingdom, not our own, should determine where our money goes. Too many people give little thought to Jesus when they think about cars, homes, vacations, snack food etc. We’ve been trained to think about the environment, or “fair trade”. But most haven’t been trained to think about stewardship. That’s important too! More important actually.

He includes a rarity in pre-marital counseling material- a chapter on church. He talks about community and one of those communities is the faith community. It is one of the ways we keep Jesus in the center, and a manifestation of Jesus being in the center. He loves the Church! It is His Bride. How can we love Jesus and not love His Bride. Oh, unlike Him she is far from perfect. She’s like us, and therefore hard to love at times. Loving the Church is part of how we learn to love like Jesus.

He wraps up with intimacy, or sex. We tend to keep Jesus out of our sex lives. I am reminded of Only the Lonely when he brings her home for dinner together. Mom has gone out and this is going to be the big night when they finally fornicate. In the bedroom there is a statue of Jesus, so he puts a hat over the statue thinking then God won’t see. We fail to see Jesus as the Creator of our bodies and therefore of sex. He has authority over our sex lives and does regulate them. Sex is intended to strengthen the one flesh union as an expression of love, not self-interest. That shapes how we talk and do sex in marriage.

Tying the Knot covers almost all of the essential topics. It is a very readable book and is not verbose. He gets to the point, sometimes a little too quickly.

He could have spent a little more time developing Christ as the Creator and Lord of marriage and His supremacy and sufficiency in all things related to life and marriage. But better a book this size than the size of mine. He was able to stay focused and that is helpful for young couples on the road to marriage.

I’m surprise that child bearing and rearing is not really covered. I say this since “be fruitful and multiply” is part of the creation mandate (and Noahic covenant and Abrahamic promise), and forms one of the purposes of marriage. We live in a culture where marriage and children are increasingly separated as evidenced by more children being born outside of marriage, and more couples choosing to be childless (a national magazine had this as its cover story a few years ago). It is one of the topics I encourage friends to discuss before they are engaged. If you can’t get on the same page regarding children and how they will be raised there will be many conflicts surrounding those topics. I found this to be a glaring omission.

But all together, I thought this was a very good book. I plan to use this book and not the other with the young couple coming for pre-marital counseling this summer. It doesn’t say everything, but what it says it does say well.

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Photo by Christopher Evans

As many have noted, the Red Sox have hit the reset button on the team. The unthinkable happened as many people’s grandest dreams have been fulfilled; Beckett is gone and so is Crawford’s albatross of a contract.

I’ve been on record for not liking the Crawford deal, even before it happened. I hoped it would work out. It hasn’t. He is (was?) a very talented guy. But the burden of the contract, and Boston, worked against him. Even in a recent interview, he couldn’t avoid talking about being a $20 million/year man.

In Tampa, the expectations were not high. The team hadn’t left the basement of the AL East until 2008. So Carl only played on a winner for 2 years, and no one expected them to be any good. The Ravine will be more to his liking. People show up late and leave early. What they really care about is the Lakers. The Dodgers? Eh.

Beckett remarkably exhausted all of the good will from 2007 and what should have been in 2008. He was dominant last year until late August. And never recovered. Worse, he didn’t seem to accept any responsibility (unlike Lester), continued to do stupid things (unlike Lester) and continued to stink (unlike Lester). He probably has some injuries, but significantly he’s lost velocity on his fastball (not a good sign going forward). Dodger fans got a taste of our frustration as Beckett gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in Blue.

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For the most part, women just aren’t into pornography (I think this is a great thing).  In recent years the use of pornography among women has increased, sadly.  But I haven’t seen evidence that it has quite the same addictive quality for women as for men.

For years, I’ve considered the romance novel the equivalent of pornography for women.  Some women collect them like some men can collect magazines and DVDs.  I’ve noticed a similar effect taking place.  Men end up having unrealistic expectations for their wives’ appearance.  They inevitably compare them to the women they viewed in magazines, movies or on-line.  In a similar fashion, women begin to compare their men to the men in the books.  They have expectations of behavior- romance- rather than how well put together he is.

You mention this, and people think you’re a little strange.  It is just a book (which, oddly, is similar to what men who enjoy pornography say).  But thanks to some researchers at Boston University (Go, Terriers!), perhaps I’m not as strange as you thought I was.  Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam (I have no idea how to pronounce their names) put their findings in A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

Like pornography, romance stories (they can be movies!) typically follow a pattern.  The rough-edged alpha male finally succumbs to the wiles of the heroine, becoming slightly domesticated.  He often rescues her, but they live happily ever after.  Like pornography, there is no sequel.  There is no loving through the thick and thin.  There is just the idealized moment, in one case sexual and the other romantic.  Both stop well short of real relationship with a real person with weaknesses, character flaws, signs of aging and gas.

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I am not really part of the intended audience of Lisa McKay’s You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes (and other great advice from an unlikely preacher’s wife).  That’s okay.  CavWife didn’t expect to be a pastor’s wife but married into the role.  She got a crash course.  With a new call on the horizon, I thought I would pick up a review copy to 1. better understand some of her struggles, 2. give her a resource in dealing with some of the realities of being a pastor’s wife.  In fact, if she ever gets around to reading it (in her defense, we have lots going on right now) I hope to have a Q & A with her about the book.

Despite the fact that I’m not in the intended audience, I found the book interesting and helpful.  She shares some of her personal experiences, brings Scripture to bear on important issues.  Lisa also utilizes interaction from her blog to provide other viewpoints on the topics at hand.

Lisa sounds like a Calvinistic Baptist.  She loves John Piper’s books, and often refers to book by John McArthur.  Her husband went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He has served primarily in the South.  But the relationships she has developed online transcend those particulars.  Of course, the human condition being what it is, the problems pastor’s wives face also transcend those particulars.

Among the things she addresses are false expectations, stereotypes, having good expectations for your kids, protecting your kids from knowing too much, leaving one church and embracing a new one (CavWife may want to fast forward to that one).

This was a funny book!

Perhaps it is because I’m a guy, but I didn’t find it a witty and funny as the cover and some blurbs claim.  Really, I have a good sense of humor.  Okay, a strange sense of humor.  Being married, I know that CavWife and I don’t always agree on what is funny.  So maybe she’ll laugh as much as I did reading Blue Like Jazz.

A minor thing that annoyed me was her talk of “mutual yielding” though she says she loves Piper’s book What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.  Perhaps I’m being too simplistic, but in Ephesians 5 we see that wives submit and husbands sacrifice.  Those are different.  She recognizes his authority and responsibility before God, while he is called to do what is best for her (listening to her may help him figure that out).  Minor thing.  But the quote by Tony Evans at the beginning of the chapter was very funny.

“Submission is knowing how to duck so God can hit your husband.”

This same chapter, I Can Potentially Be My Husband’s Worst Enemy, best illustrates my other issue with the book.  Maybe it is another one of those male/female things.  I like linear arguments, and knowing where an author is going.  Not very much of the chapter is about how a wife can undermine her husband’s ministry or just plain make his life miserable.  There were sections on how he can be on the phone too much at home (maintaining boundaries in ministry is difficult), pastors neglecting their wives and similar things.  Certainly need to be addressed.  It just didn’t seem to be the right place.    Or the chapter was not titled properly.

These minor issues aside, this was a good book.  It was easy to read.  It was informative, and I thought much of her advice was helpful.  I think my wife will benefit from reading this book, and so will many pastor’s wives.

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I’ve been holding my metaphorical tongue on this issue for some time.  I am thoroughly convinced that most Americans, particularly those who hold office just don’t get it.  In a number of ways.  They don’t really understand the problem.  And if you don’t really understand the problem you will not put together a good solution.  It seems that the media & majority politicians portray the problems as 1. insurance companies and 2. Republicans.

Here are some of the problems that need to be addressed, but don’t seem to even be mentioned.

  • Health Care Providers. Often they are concerned about their bottom line, and not your wallet or your health.  As a result, tests are repeated instead of examining the results from just an hour ago.  I’ve seen it in my job in health care.  The patient goes from the ER to the main floors and all kinds of tests are repeated.  It is as if the tests done in the ER didn’t occur.  Well, the patient wishes they didn’t because they have to pay for them.  One contributing factor is health insurance providers who pay according to the test, not knowledge & expertise.  But it is also the health care providers who want to pay off their MRI instead of the one at the other hospital you went to last week.  Health care providers also do not have a fixed rate for services.  Often they are re-priced so the people who can least afford to pay more actually do.  Of course there are irresponsible people who don’t pay their bills, and the health care providers recoup the losses by charging responsible people more.
  • Drug Companies.  They now advertise convincing an unenlightened populace that they have a problem that can only be solved by medication.  The use of these new drugs drives up costs, and therefore the cost of insurance.  They seem to be in cahoots with the medical establishment which keeps changing the “normal” results for blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
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