Category Archives: Personal

Marriage: Great Risk, Great Reward It's not in what you get, but what you give. And give up.

Marriage is hard.

If you’re soon to be wed and you hear those words, you eschew them as the trite acrimony of bitter people. That will never be true for us, you say to yourself, sure of the truth of your conviction.

Without fail, you discover that the union of two lives into one is never smooth, easy, care-free, or any other blissful thought we hold before marriage.

I love my wife. I love her more than anyone ever. (Sorry, Mom…) She is so special to me, everything about her. It is truly difficult for me to imagine my life without her. I love her laugh, her smell, her eyes, her joy; her long, beautiful hair, her passion—be prepared for fiery discussion if you hit upon one of her passionate topics, of which there are many—and I love her gentle spirit maybe most of all.

But some days are so hard! So hard. When two people share life, it is not a 50/50 split. In marriage, the math doesn’t make sense. It’s one hundred percent, each way. Well, that’s hard to do! (It doesn’t “make sense”, remember?) But it’s the only way it works.

With that math, you are completely in the hands of another. That is the greatest risk of marriage. You are 100% vulnerable. All of you, with none in reserve. In that equation, you are giving up control. To work well, a marriage requires both spouses to contribute their all—100%—to the other.

Thus, success depends as much on your spouse as it does on you.

That is the great risk.

And, that is the great reward.

If marital success could be achieved by your own efforts (i.e. the things you have control of) then it would stand to reason that many more marriages would succeed. Why not “try” to have a great marriage, if all it takes it to “try harder”. That is obviously not the case, and most would agree, doesn’t make sense. Even if you are giving your all—and, likely, that’s an exaggeration of your own ego, more than a factual truth—your marriage could be a shambles if your spouse is not also fully in.

The risk, then, is entering into to this life-long commitment, knowing that you are actually giving up control. You can not produce a great marriage simply by your own efforts.

But…

The reward of giving yourself fully to another, whom you are then trusting to do the same is, even in concept, astounding. The joy in that journey is incredible. To share all of life’s moments—euphoric, crushing, and in between—with another, as one…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT

That quote is so often misused. It is not to require submission, or assign dominance. In the paragraphs before that one, Paul explains how a wife respecting her husband is like the church submitting to Jesus’ lead—in essence, trusting—and how the husband’s love is to be like Christ, who died for his bride (the church).

Both husband and wife are giving up themselves for the other.

I like how Paul refers to marriage as “a great mystery”. It is mysterious. How can two individual lives become one? There are still two individuals, but there is one new creation. A mystery.

We can have a great marriage. But the greatness comes—as in all of our relationships in life—by humble submission to one another. Giving up control, placing trust in the other, and enjoying the fruits of that rich soil.

[agree] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4

The great reward of marriage comes not from what you get, but what you give. And also what you give up.

Speaking Of Death The difference between not fearing death, and not really living.

cemetery

A good friend remarked recently that death or dying came up frequently in our family’s conversations. His comment was more a good-natured jab, I think, as we were all enjoying funny thoughts and stories, joking around.

But I have thought about that since. I wondered if we perhaps give death—one of God’s enemies, defeated by Jesus on the cross1—too much air-time in our daily conversations and thoughts?

I do not imagine us to be morbid, by any definition. But neither do we fear or avoid the biological fact that each of us will expire at some point in the unknown future. The passing of our good friends, family, and friends of friends is, of course, a constant reminder of that fact of life, just as it is for you.

One reason we can so confidently discuss our own deaths without fear is that we are confident in what lies beyond. When we die we are with him in paradise2; to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord3; this world is not our home4. All of those truths (and more) assure our hearts that death is nothing to be feared, rather it will be a welcome door to our true, eternal home.

On the other hand, while it is right to so fully trust God with our souls that we do not too tightly grasp this life, a point can be made that too much focus on the next life will cause us to miss where we are right now. Where God has placed you, and is with you, right now.

We just released a new song last month. (My wife and I are musicians, working on a new album.) The song is called This Journey. I sometimes wonder if people will interpret the lyric of this song incorrectly.

“All along this path of life is where the real treasures are”

I know that our true home—that goal toward which Paul reminded us we press forward, our whole lives—is heaven, eternity with God and his people. I know that. That is the “real treasure”. What I hope to inspire with the words (and music) of that song is a renewed joy in sensing, seeing where God is right now, right here, right where we are. In the beauty of the things he has made, in the people whom he has surrounded us with, in the very fact that we are breathing, our hearts beating.

There are two extremes. One focuses entirely on the eternal and misses the present, while the other focuses entirely on the present (which will pass away, just as we will) and misses the eternal. I think there is a balance found between the two, where God is with us all along our journey.

A quick, related aside:

There is a man we know from our college days at Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University) who has battled physical ailments for quite a while now. His name is Rod. Rod is always smiling, always loving other people (like, beyond-your-imagination loving), that’s just who he is. I happened to catch a Facebook post of his (actually posted by another on his behalf) that was essentially a good-bye to all his friends. It seemed his body was most likely ready to give out, and he would be home with Jesus soon. He wrote that he was not afraid, but would also be glad to stay, much like Paul in his letter to the Philippian church.

The short version of the rest of Rod’s story—which, as far as I can understand, is amazing—is that God has brought him through that! For now, he has much (or all?) of his health back. He is grateful to God for more time to serve him here, with the people he loves.

And this is my point. While we can be fully, confidently, supremely unafraid of death because Jesus has overcome that, and death is not our end… there is still an amazing joy (even in hard times) of waking up to a new day God has given us here, now.

I’m sure that when I die, whenever, however that will come to me, there are seven people in this home who will miss me. (They seem to be rather fond of me.) There are others, too, I know. (Hi Mom and Dad!) But my hope is that I can, do, and will live my life in such a way that it is fully known that I will be where I am made to be, and any sadness will only last for a short time. And, mostly, that all would know I lived my life to its full, with and in Jesus.5

It may be after I pass a hundred years in this body, or it may be next week. We can’t know, and I understand that is what can cause us to fear. But if our trust, our hope, our life is in Jesus, we have nothing to fear.

And we will also truly live here. And forever.

Eleven Years

eleven-years

This blog is getting old. Already well into its second decade. (Well, into, at least.)

Today is the day, eleven years ago, that I first set out on this blogging adventure. You can read the post here. Many of the August Twenth-Sixths since, I have linked to that first “blog”. It was not of much consequence, but it was the beginning of much thought and heart shared, many stories told and re-told, and generally just life shared with you, Dear Reader.

You’ll note, if you are the observant sort, that the next most recent post here at GregsHead dot net is from the month of June. (At least it is still in the year Twenty-Fourteen…) The writing has been sparse, selective, and even somewhat nonexistent for quite some time. There are reasons, but the main reason of course is my own choice not to write.

Why does that happen? The reasons I mentioned above include excessive busyness, choosing to spend time on other things, feelings of an unimportance placed (by me) upon my writing on any topic, and even sometimes being so beat down by life that, “I just don’t feel like it.”

I have taken some moments to get thoughts out. Perhaps you’ll recall when I wrote about how truly Special God has made each of us to be (not as sappy as that synopsis makes it sound); or two posts [one, two] about our strength being found in our weakness; or maybe you saw the post titled Christians Being Christian, and my aversion to gatherings where those of that ilk are present in greater numbers.

(If not, today might be a nice day to click those links and catch up?)

Perhaps as the Fall begins so many things anew, I will make a concerted (joyful) effort to put fingers to keyboard and once again process the thoughts that constantly churn in my head and heart. I love to share them (and in so doing, refine and learn from them) and I love to hear back from anyone in whom they might strike a similar chord—or a discordant one.

It will resume. The words have flowed for eleven years now. I don’t imagine they will ever cease completely, so long as God breathes his life into me, and there is Internet to share these stories by.

Thanks for reading along.

Untended Strawberries

strawberry-plants

It turns out, nearly every year we plan, work, plant, tend, and harvest a garden of edible treasures, there is inevitably some deeper truth mined from the soil and its produce.

We’ve just begun this summer’s work, and already our strawberries have reminded me of a truth I often forget.

strawberries-1

See, we didn’t actually do anything for these strawberries this year. Last year, because we all love eating strawberries, we decided to buy several plants (maybe twelve) to “try it out” in our garden. The plants seemed to thrive, producing many of the small, white flowers. Anticipation grew as we expected the sweet, juicy strawberries to begin appearing in the dozens!

But they didn’t. They really didn’t. By the end of the summer, the flowers that did appear and disappear only managed to produce less than half of a dozen berries. And really, we didn’t get to eat any of them, because the bugs got to them before we did.

Disheartened by the obvious failure—but only slightly so—we thought we’d give it one more try next year, and so, we left the strawberry plants in the ground, over winter. (Though I can not recall exactly why we did this, since we removed all the other used-up plants.)

After the long, hard, very cold winter, spring once again sprung. As everything came to life again, the strawberry plants followed the same pattern of rejuvenation. The leaves broadened, the plants stood taller on their thin stems, and after a very short time, the white flowers appeared again!

This time, there were more. Many more. And we saw bees buzzing, doing their handiwork.

And then we saw berries. LOTS of berries! Some of them already much larger than anything we saw last year.

What has occurred to me several times as we watch this bountiful future harvest take shape before our eyes is this: We did not do this.

Last year we bought the plants and brought them home. We carefully planted, tended, weeded, watered, and watched. And we reaped next to nothing. (You could accurately just call it “nothing”.)

But this season, we didn’t do any of that. We did weed out a bit of the unwanted extra plants around the strawberries, but we also left quite a few in amongst them. We did not till the soil. We didn’t really take any care whatsoever of these plants in this process.

And yet they bloom, and bring forth fruit. In abundance!

Perhaps things go better when we leave them alone?

I have clearly applied this thought to parenting our children. As our oldest quickly approaches adulthood, I am constantly finding myself questioning how much (if any) I should involve myself in his decision-making. I’ve tended toward less or no involvement (though my own self struggles against that, too) and I think he is and will be the better for that.

It’s hard to not do anything.

But the strawberries from our untended plants will exceed last year’s tended produce times relative infinity.

It’s hard to not interfere. But it would appear that some things in life are better when we just let them happen.

strawberries-2

Special

A Crowd of Someones

This morning, as I passed a line of cars heading the other direction, waiting for their light to turn green, I began to notice the faces of their drivers. Most were nearly expressionless. Some seemed to have more than driving on their minds, faces betraying the distraction. Other faces were relaxed, even smiling.

As the faces I passed numbered into the dozens, I began to think about how each of the people I saw were special. No, not the platitudinal “God Loves You” kind of special. (Though that doesn’t need to be completely discounted, it’s not what struck me.)

They are special to someone, or someones else.

Each of those people are a daughter or a son; maybe a husband or a wife; related by blood or shared life-times to people who value them, perhaps even more than they value themselves?

Their faces may or may not reveal the hurt they felt when they pushed themselves out of bed this morning; the happy tiredness of a sleepless night with the new baby; the joy of the new job, or relationship, or realization of some wonder of God’s creation redeemed.

Everyone is special to someone. You are. You know people who are special to you. And every person—even the ones who are “just faces” to us—is beyond-words special to someone. Usually several someones.

I’ve had this experience (and chronicled it) before. Perhaps that means it’s really true.

You are valued.

I hope you know it. I hope you hear it. Often.

It is true.

What you can do, is make sure that you remind the people that are Special to you, that you esteem them, you love them. That’s important. And easy, all at the same time.

Recently a podcast I regularly enjoy reminded me that the Special is all that matters. “The trajectory of the world is changed one life at a time. It’s you loving the people God’s put around you today.”

The world is changed by how we love even just one person.

The people you see every day around you… the “extras”… are actually someone incredibly Special.

And so are you.

A Grain of Salt (What Does That Mean?!)

Photo found here: http://www.grainofsalt.com/2010/10/what-does-with-a-grain-of-salt-even-mean/

“Take that with a grain of salt,” says your friend regarding somewhat dubious news. “I’d take that draft rumor with a grain of salt,” says the NFL Draft Expert, who says a lot of things. (Most of which apparently need salt…)

But what does it mean? Why do we say that? Where does it come from? What is the origin of that phrase, “Take it with a grain of salt”?

Let’s find out!

Taken With A Grain Of Salt

Apparently, we head (figuratively) all the way back to the first century. In the year 77 AD, a Roman author named Pliny (the Elder) shared the story of a Roman general, Pompey, in his book Naturalis Historia1, which included a “recipe” for an antidote against all poisons. (Impressive!)

In sancutariis Mithridatis, maximi regis, devicit Cn. Pompeius invenit in peculiari commentario ipsius manu conpositionem antidoti e II nucibus siccis, item ficis totidem et rutae foliis XX simul tritis, addito salis grano: ei, qui hoc ieiunus sumat, nullum venenum nociturum illo die.

(After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day.)2

Since the year 77 AD, some have (wrongly) used the Latin phrase, “cum grano salis”. But as you can see in the text above, Pliny wrote “addito salis grano”. (“With a grain of salt” just sounded better in English, so… we made it say that in Latin, too?)

There are two different views on what Pompey (or P. the E.) meant. One, the salt was an essential part of the potency of the antidote. Two, the salt just made it palatable enough to swallow, and thus receive the antidote’s protection against “all poisons”.

A third take on the usage of the phrase is as follows:

The Latin word salis means both “salt” and “wit”, so that the Latin phrase “cum grano salis” could be translated as both “with a grain of salt” and “with a grain (small amount) of wit”.3

Interesting! So it had a double meaning, as it does now. And, since we use it to mean something like, “this should be understood with some degree of skepticism, or doubt”, one could equate skepticism to wit, no?

Lastly, the first usage of the phrase, “This should be taken with a grain of salt” was found in a commentary on the book of Revelation, by John Trapp, published in 1647.4

And there you have it! But, since all of this information was pieced together from the articles referenced in the footer of this post, well, I think it should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

😉

  1. Read the full Latin text of the story here, if you’re awesome enough.
  2. This Latin/English version was found in an article at WordOrigins.com
  3. Thank you, Wikipedia!
  4. You can find anything online these days!

I’m (Not) The Awesomest Person Ever

superman

I’m really good at a lot of things. I think I always have been. My sister-in-law once called me “golden boy”, or something like that (even before I was her sister-in-law), because everything I touched “turned to gold”.

And yet, I’m really not awesome.

I wish I was. I would have lots of uses for supreme awesomeness. I think of what a fantastic Dad I could be; always there for each of my kids with complete understanding, compassion, enthusiasm—whatever they need, exactly when they need it. I know I could be the perfect husband to my wife; empathetic, again understanding and compassionate, kind, gentle, humble, gracious, and always considering each moment from her perspective, and for her good.

If I was really awesome, I’d treat every person I spent time with each day as though they were indeed the Son or Daughter of the King—which they are. It wouldn’t matter what they looked like on the outside, or whether I was in a good mood at the moment, or even if I had time in my day to give to them. I would see them, and know them, and listen to them, and give them the honor they are due as another of His Masterpieces.

I’d also probably do some pretty amazing things along the way; whether through my music, or writing, or even through some tasty culinary creations. If I was the awesomest person ever, the world would be full of my most amazing works.

But I am definitely NOT the Most Awesome Person Ever.

(Just ask any of those people listed above.)

And I’m glad I’m not. I’m glad for the reminders that my life is only full, complete, real, meaningful… LIFE… with, and in, and through Jesus, who IS the Awesomest Person Ever. (See Colossians, Hebrews, and several other sections of the New Testament for more on that.)

I fail my wife all the time. When she needs me to show her grace, I’m often at (or past) the end of my own reserves, and instead I offer her insecurity; words and actions originating in my own lacking. I fail my kids even more (if only because there are more of them to fail) with busyness, tiredness, selfishness, all taking me from them more than I care to admit.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matt 5:3)

Jesus said that.

And this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

As I was reminded by the book I recently recommended here, Jesus is clearly, far-and-away, without-rival, The Most Awesomest Person Ever.

Remember what Paul said, when he wrestled with wanting to be better (more awesome)?

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

No. I am not awesome. Neither was Paul (who was likely more awesome than me… even if he might not admit to it), and neither are any of us who are not Jesus, the full embodiment of God the Father.

His grace is all I need. All we need.

We may not be awesome, but he is. And that IS awesome!