Every couple’s love/hate relationship with intimacy (Part 2 – Key #1)

Here we go. As promised, we will explore 9 keys to cultivating and maintaining intimacy. Check in on Thursday mornings for the next little while to get your weekly key.

Intimcay series key#1

Let’s begin with Key #1 – Your story

We are complex beings; a mix of beauty and brokenness. We are, each one of us, a story being written. Our stories are unique and yet they all insert themselves in a bigger narrative.

You are a story. A story that wants to be told, heard and understood. A story that wants to be known. You carry dreams, desires, expectations, joys, hope, sadness, fears, wounds, disappointments, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, etc. You have a past that was shaped by a variety of factors, most of them outside your control. You have inherited things you never asked for. You have made decisions, good and bad, that have contributed to the path you are on.

Being in a relationship amplifies and multiplies this complexity by merging two very different stories. Both stories wanting to be known, told, heard and understood. That is why it is good and necessary to be aware, to accept, to be open and honest with what is going on inside. Whether we understand it all is beside the point, but being true and letting our partner in on it is a key element to intimacy and growth.

To be aware is to see and acknowledge what is there. To accept is to embrace where you find yourself regardless of what went into getting your there. The good and the bad. It is what it is. To own is to take responsibility for your story (not in an “it’s all my fault” kind of way but in a “this is my story and I will be honest about it” kind of way). To discern is to know the difference between the good and the bad, what you did and what others did to you, what you control and what you don’t.

Your story is yours alone. No one else can tell the same story. You. Who you are. What makes you who you are.

Intimacy involves letting someone know you and enter your story. It also means you are willing to embark in this person’s story as well. There aren’t many things that can be both exhilarating and haunting. To know and be known truly.

The idea of being known creates fear and anxiety. Will this person still love me once they know me? Will they stay if I let them see who I really am?

Intimacy is risky. Like anything risky, it’s tempting to stay away. For those who enter into it properly, high is the reward.

 

Every Couples Love/Hate Relationship With Intimacy (Part 1)

intimacy series picIf you’ve been in a relationship for any amount of time you know that intimacy doesn’t just happen. You know that simply being together does not guarantee intimacy. You probably have many stories to tell of moments when you felt distant from one another, maybe even somewhat disinterested. This distance in a relationship can happen over time but it can also happen overnight. Continue reading

My 6-Step Daily Sit-up Routine

Daily 6 step sit up routine picI’ve been thinking about fitness. I’ve tried many workout routines in my time and have found that most of them simply don’t fit in very nicely with the daily rhythms of an ordinary joe. Many of them require that I go out of my way to get them done. Others are expensive and simply not appealing.

Now that I’m 40 I thought I’d share the daily 6 step sit-up routine that has served me well thus far. Let’s call it the secret to my longevity. Some of you might recognize the routine.

Step 1 (Up): sit up and get out of bed – this is the tough one. You’ve been resting for hours and your body is in a warm and comfortable position. Much determination and will power are needed. If you can get passed this first sit-up, you should be good to go.

*Note: many have found they are good to go only after step 2. This is a matter of preference or personality. If you’re unsure which one you are, take your queues from people around you.

Step 2 (Down): sit down and drink coffee – after what your body just went through with step 1 and to move on to step 3 in a somewhat decent way, step 2 is very important. This is when your body gets its morning shake and the needed energy for the remainder of the sit-up routine. It’s a good idea to have your coffee maker pre-set to brew as you are going through step 1. This will save you some time and will make step 1 easier.

*Note: others who share this routine have reported needing to repeat step 2 one or more times throughout the day.

Step 3 (Up): get up and get ready for work – This next step also requires motivation. It is not as difficult as step 1 and not nearly as pleasant as step 2. Mind over matter. If you’re thinking to far ahead, this sit-up will be excruciating. Just get up and do what needs to be done. What you do here will determine what kind of looks you’ll get throughout the next few hours. Not to be taken lightly.

*Note: there is room for flexibility here. How you prep yourself during this step really depends on where and how you will be setting up for step 4.

Step 4 (Down): sit down and work – Step 4 brings mixed feelings. Some days it’s relatively easy and fulfilling. Other days it can suck the life right out of you. This is the longest part of the routine. It requires focus for multiple hours at a time.

*Note: for most, this step is done with other people. Not all of whom are necessarily as good at it as you are. Requires patience, team work, perseverance and the ability to suck it up.

Step 5 (Up): get up and go home – as step 4 winds down, you find yourself looking forward to step 5. This is the “second wind” part of the daily routine. You’ve worked hard and you’re tired yet you suddenly feel a little rejuvenated. During the last few hours you’ve wanted to give up but you pushed through the pain and now you’re experiencing a new burst of energy.

*Note: as you make your way home this step is a good time to reflect on how good or bad step 4 was. Think about what you’ll do about it during the next routine. Also a good idea to do mentally prepare for step 6.

Step 6 (Down): reward yourself with some down time – Your workout is complete for today. Now you can do everything else you want or need to do. Be mindful however. Tomorrow’s sit-up routine is just around the corner. Reward yourself, but don’t overdo it. Soon you’ll need to put your body to rest so you can repeat the routine tomorrow.

*Note: You need to remain realistic during step 6. While this may sound like an easy do it with your eyes closed kind of step, you will find that the tension between ‘want to do’ and ‘need to do’ can sometimes put a damper on things.

There you have it. The sit-up routine for the ordinary joe.

Something tells me I may need to start adjusting my routine … that’s for another day.

The Older I Get the Better I Cook

Georges' chocolate eclairsA few days ago, I hit 40. I’m not much of a birthday person so I can’t say it’s a big deal. I think people around me enjoy it way more than I do. Is it because I’m boring, dull and lack the ability to simply have fun? Maybe. Maybe not. I can seriously overthink this.

Regardless, I might as well seize the “oh my gosh, I’m 40!” moment and reflect. Thinking. Now that is something I love to do.

So, 40. Happy belated birthday to me. I’ve never wished myself happy birthday before. 40 is the year to do it.

Is this when I can start pulling the “When I was your age” or the “if there’s anything I’ve learned in my time here on earth” statements? To be clear, I’ve been saying these to my kids for quite some time. But maybe now I can start using them more frequently, like at work or when I’m chatting with the cashier or barber. When I was just 39 I didn’t have much to say. But now! I mean, come on, I’m 40. Time to get cracking. Maybe 40 is when I finally start writing on this blog with a hint of regularity.

I may be imagining this, and my mom can correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall (back when I was young) something in our house that read “The older I get, the better I cook.” Mom, am I making this up? Is it the old age making me imagine things?

I do cook better today than I did before and those chocolate eclairs are a demonstration of my superior skills. But this little post is not about my culinary skills. It’s just about being 40. It’s about getting better at life and what we learn from it as we journey along. Not all of us get better at it I guess but I like to think that I do.

This past week I discovered the song ‘You’ by Gungor (posted below). Go ahead, listen to it and then come back. I’ll wait.

The song got me thinking about my 40-year spiritual/religious journey and where it has lead me so far. I think I’m at a place of better understanding and maturity. Some of you might disagree!

I like how the song describes a journey that is not a rigid straight line. It is rather multilayered. At times certain, at times confused. At times holding on, at times letting go. A journey filled with turning points and markers that help us identify what we’ve been through.

The older I get the more I find myself wondering if there is a God and yet the more I find myself trusting that there is and hoping that this God is as good as the Bible says (although not always very clearly). The older I get, the more I embrace uncertainty about things I thought I was certain about for most of my life. The older I get the more I think the church needs to let go of doctrinal certainty and its desire to control if it wants to follow Jesus and change the world. The older I get, the more I hold onto the hope that Jesus did come to change the world and that all things can and will be made new.

The bible begins and ends with the beauty and order we all long for. Everything in between is a series of stories showing humanity (for the most part through the lens of individuals and a one group of people) trying to figure out what the hell went wrong and wrestling with the way God works and how the story we are invited into is meant to engage our entire being. Through it all, this God steps into our mess and at every corner tries to be known (even to the point of taking the blame for some absurd and awful things – try genocide). Then, Jesus comes along and says look at me and you’ll see God.

Simple? Not always. Beautiful? Definitely.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular. I was just listening to a song and it got me thinking.

It’s ok to Doubt

Church is often the riskiest place to be spiritually honest. – Pete Enns

I don’t think it’s possible to be spiritually honest without acknowledging the reality of doubt and its part in the journey of faith.

I know there are many people in the church who have their doubts and questions about it all. I also know most of these people wouldn’t feel comfortable coming out and being honest about those doubts for fear of being told they lack faith or that they must not be true Christians. If church is your community, where your friends are and where you’ve spent many years, if not all your life, then risking the loss of that in any way is scary. (there are those looking at the church who are interested in coming in but fear rejection because they can’t embrace everything that the church seems to hold so tightly – but that is for another post)

It’s ok to doubt. It’s ok to question. Yes, doing so is very uncomfortable. Being open to the possibility of being wrong or having misunderstood is not a pleasant process. Maybe you’re not wrong but for some reason are questioning and aren’t certain if you are correct. Not knowing what will happen when you come out on the other side of your questions, is a very, very, scary place to be.

Some deal with their doubts by anchoring themselves deeper in their tradition’s accepted beliefs. They may even become fierce advocates of the faith, numbing down their own true sense of everything and putting on a mask of certainty and anger toward anyone who would question their belief or dare to offer any alternative way of thinking.

Others will see their doubts as a lack of maturity or the result of sin in their lives. They will humbly tow the party line and feel guilty about having those second thoughts. They will repent. They will keep going, sincerely pursuing Jesus and hoping their doubts eventually go away.

When it comes to faith, certainty is not necessarily a mark of spiritual maturity. One can trust God without being certain at all.

There are different things that cause people to doubt. For example, doubt can stem from the thought that the foundation for your belief system mostly rests on a book that was written and compiled centuries ago, in a land far away, by people whose understanding of the world was very different than yours. It’s normal to doubt when that very same book, ever since its contents were gathered, has been the object of debate by many sincere individuals trying to figure out what it “truly and clearly” claims. It’s normal to doubt when scientific discoveries and what we learn about how the world works seemingly contradicts the Bible.

If God is all that the Bible makes him out to be, and If, as the Bible claims, God is capable of anything (except of course creating a rock he can’t lift – Isaiah 67:1), then I think it’s safe to assume that he knows who I am and where I am on this journey (Psalm 139). If he is love, his love does not depend on my ability to perfectly understand and master “correct doctrine”. God is not diminished by my inability to understand him. My lack of knowing, my inability to fully comprehend and even my certainties do not change what is true about him. This does not need to make me insecure. Those who are the most ardent, and sometimes arrogant and angry, defenders of “the faith”, can be insecure individuals who find it difficult to handle the idea that something they hold to be true may not be true or that absolute truth about God may not be something we can handle.

If you are someone who has doubts and simply likes to ask questions, to say that “the Bible says it, I believe, that settles it,” doesn’t really settle anything. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

What is one to do? Pack it up and walk away or embrace doubt and let it lead you into a deeper and honest pursuit of truth and the One who claims to be the Truth? Can faith grow amid doubt? Does following Jesus require certainty?

I Know Nothing of Calvary Love

I know. It’s harsh.

Most of us appreciate a good inspirational quote now and then. We share them on our Facebook page or via our Twitter feed. I do it. It might be an encouraging or thought provoking quote from a book we’re reading or something we heard. Christians really like to quote dead missionaries and theologians. Many of these quotes are wonderful and are worth noting and pondering.

But.

Many of them, while they seem nice at first glance, are rather concerning and problematic. Interestingly enough, while the person posting them usually means well and intends the quote to be a gospel affirming quote (in the Christian context), they are not always that great. Of course, much of this depends one’s definition of “gospel affirming”.

Here is an example of a quote that came up on my Facebook feed today. Have a look at it, then I’ll tell you what I think about it.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love. – Amy Carmichael

First things first. I have no idea of the context in which this quote was originally said or written. It could be that my reaction would be tempered if I had the full context. But I don’t and no one who reads the quote does either. All we have is the quote as it stands.

I think it is bad. Actually, to be honest, I think it is a damaging quote. I can see the potential, but stated the way it is – Yuck.

Now, if we could point the finger at someone who is constantly characterized by everything mentioned in the quote I guess someone could argue that this person has not yet tasted Calvary love (which, for the record, means Jesus’ love shown in what he said, did, and, ultimately, his death on the cross).

However, the quote seems to suggest that any one of those traits would mean an absolute lack of knowing Calvary love. Nothing. Nada. Rien du tout.

So then, I know nothing of Calvary love.

You see, there are times when the praise of others elates me.

There are times when the blame of others depresses me.

There are times when I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself.

There are times when I love to be loved more than I love to love.

There are also times when I love to be served more than I love to serve.

I get it. It is quite freeing to be able to live daily without feeling the need for the praise of others or feeling depressed when blamed or criticized.

It is also freeing to love for love sake and not expecting something in return.

And yes, there is also great joy to be found in serving others.

Why then does the quote rub me the wrong way?

It’s the end of the quote that ruins it for me. To have issues with those things means to “know nothing of Calvary love.

You know nothing Jon Snow

(image found at giphy.com)

N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

Really? Is that really true? Nothing? Not even a little something? No baby steps? No figuring things out? No growing? Nope. Nothing.

If being perfect is required so that it can be said of us that we “know Calvary love” then we’re all pretty much screwed.

(Side note – what does it even mean here to “know” Calvary love? Does it mean having a perfect understanding of it? Who can even claim that!)

The potential. I think the quote has potential if only it had been worded a bit differently.

Something like:

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, there is freedom in Calvary love.

Or maybe:

When the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; when I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; when I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, Calvary love compels me to find my identity and rest in Jesus.

Or:

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, it is a reminder of how much I still need to know and grow in my understanding of the depth of Calvary love.

But to say that one knows nothing! Such a statement is over the top and, not to mention, not really gospel affirming.

How about you? What do you think about the quote? Do you have some insight that might help us here? Have you ever come across a quote that somehow just didn’t sound quite right?

Sorry, missed it. Was gazing into my awesome phone

gazing into my phoneRecently I have become more sensitive to the sad reality of how technology, while providing me with much appreciated advantages, is also robbing me of much more than what I get in return.

I am certainly not the first to bring this up and I know it can spark much worthy debate. I love technology as much as the next person and I do appreciate having it on hand.

We could discuss the upside of holding mini computers giving us instant access to pretty much anyone and anything, but this is not about that. It’s mostly just a conversation starter about something else.

While our smart phones and tablets allow us to be instantly aware of what is going on in the world, not to mention who is eating what and where, they are also stripping us of our ability to be connected with what is going on around us, right here and right now.

I’m not saying we should stop using our phones and various screens but I am convinced that many of us are in need of some serious re-assessment of how much and for what purpose we use them. Mostly though, we need to take a step back and have an honest look at everything we are missing out on while we’re busy looking at the latest text, tweet, Instagram, snapchat, Facebook, email, sports update, news report, ect. And for what exactly?

How much have I really gained reading the Facebook status update of a long lost friend (God bless them) when in the process I miss what is taking place right in front of my eyes in the lives of those with whom I actually am doing life with!

“Sorry son, I missed that great move you made. I was reading what one of my college buddies I haven’t seen in 16 years was having for lunch.”

“Yes. Hmm.” I say, nodding my head, half listening, while my daughter tells me about her day.

“Yes honey, I know you’ve got a lot going on right now but if you could just let me get to this text message and I’ll be right with you,” I tell my wife hoping I’ll also have time to squeeze in a short clash royale battle.

I’m not suggesting we get rid of Facebook or stop following long lost friends. No. I think it’s pretty cool that we can stay ‘in touch’ that way and I have discovered some pretty good eating spots thanks to Facebook updates. But let’s face it, while it’s great to be informed about what our friends are doing and what is going on in the world, it is not always very significant information for us in the moment.

We’re addicted and we can’t stop. It’s like our screens are mini masters holding us with an invisible chain. We’re their slaves. It’s almost as though we can here our screens talking to us : “Look at me. Touch me. Don’t put me down. Bring me with you. Don’t look up. Just one more minute. Never mind them, look at everything I can do for you. Please hold me. Take me with you. Don’t let me go.”

It’s a challenge. It’s hard enough to set limits and clear guidelines for our own use as adults. Multiply that by 100 when trying to set limits for kids who think their screens are the best thing in the world.

If there’s ever to be a zombie apocalypse, I would say this is pretty darn close to being it. Maybe we need Daryl to put an arrow through some of our screens.

I’m generalizing and exaggerating but some re-thinking needs to happen. If my smartphone or any other screen is a thief robbing me of precious moments in my day to day life, I want to keep it in check.

Here are a few simple steps I have taken to help myself: 1) at home I leave my phone somewhere I can’t see it all the time or be drawn to it every second; 2) I don’t feel obligated to reply to text messages and emails right away; 3) I’ve started reading real books (the paper kind) again; 4) on the bus ride home, if I’m using my phone it is to listen to something and I keep it in my pocket to reduce screen staring.

What about your screen time? What precious moments are you being robbed of? What limits have you set in order to avoid the trap of excessive screen gazing at the expense of true connectedness? Is there something worth thinking about here or am I just rambling?