Tag Archives: Marriage

Making it Home

So this coming Sunday is Homecoming for ACU, and at the Highland Church that means a lot of friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while are back in town for worship. This video is a promo that we shot for this weekend back in July. It’s about the series we are going through this Fall, but for me it’s a lot more special than just some promotional video.

It’s the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, the place were Elvis was married, where Sinead O’ Conner was married, where Brittany Spears got married….twice. But for me it was Holy Ground, because I got to make this video in the very room my parents got married in 50 years ago.

They eloped to Las Vegas, and were married in the middle of the night by a Church of Christ “Reverend”. Their only witness was a woman in a Chanel House coat (who I actually got to meet back in July!) It was holy ground not because of the place, but because of the promises made there. My parents had promised to give their lives to each other, and for the past 33 years I’ve watched them do just that.

So Mom and Dad, thanks for making that promise. Because of that promise you didn’t just give me a house to grow up in, that promise was how you made it home.

And If you are in Abilene this weekend, we’d love to see you at Highland. I’ve never seen somebody do what we are going to try and do this weekend, and I’ve been dreaming about it for years. But you’ll have to come to see! Services are at 8:15 and 11:00 and our Instrumental service is at 5:00 P.M. at our Grace Campus (N. 9th and Cypress St.)

So if you happen to make it to Abilene this weekend, we hope you can make it home!

The Sequels: Adam and Eve

Jonathan Storment and Richard Beck – Adam and Eve from Highland Church on Vimeo.

This week I’m at a conference for preachers and haven’t had time to write. So I wanted to share this sermon that Richard Beck and I did this past Sunday. The sermon came out an observation. We noticed that much of the discussion between and about men and women in marriage lacks very much imagination, and even less generosity. And so we wanted to ask what does it mean to try and live out the cross in our marriages?

Here are my favorite points of the sermon:

  • The problem isn’t just the war between the sexes (women vs. men) it is the war within the sexes (men judging other men, women judging other women).
  • This isn’t a new problem, blame and shame started in the Garden, and marriage was the context for the first sin.
  • Mary and Joseph are an example of a reverse Adam and Eve.
  • We ask the question what is a man like, what is a woman like? But the better question is What is God like? (This point was Beck’s idea, but he let me say it).

We were trying to cast a vision for Mutual Submission that everyone could buy into, and Beck brilliantly came up with the parable of Duck Dynasty. (You’ll just have to watch)

One of the best parts about being at Highland is having so many gifted people who care deeply about the local church and living out the Gospel. This series has been a great example of that. From Jeff Childers, to Sally Gary, to Richard Beck, (and in a few weeks the one and only Leslie Storment will be talking with me!)

If you are interested in more about this series, or for a free accompanying E-book go to www.thesequels.org

A Better Marriage Fast

sequels-screensaverAnd really not just marriages, and really not that kind of fast.

At Highland Church of Christ we are talking right now about how the dominant stories that we hear day in and day out are so greedy. And these are our love stories!

For more information about this series, or to get a free E-book you can go to www.thesequels.org

So this past Sunday we talked about the way we are taught to consume everything including each other. We are taught to ask the most insidious question, “Are you really satisfied?” But that’s not a question that we are taught to ask to lead us to happiness, it’s much darker than that.

Always A Bridesmaid

There’s a lot more backstory to this, and if you are interested you can hear the whole sermon here. But the gist of it is that in the early 40’s and 50’s a guy named Edward Bernays changed the world. Bernays was the inventor of what we call Propaganda, he was the most effective weapons that America had in World War II. He learned (from his uncle Freud) that we have a few base desires, like fear, or to have sex.

And if you could just tap into those desires you could make people think a certain way.

And he did…and he still does.

After the war was over, Bernays learned that he discovered this new power but no longer had a purpose for it.

So he went into marketing. And now most of the way we have grown up thinking about the world has been shaped by Edward Bernays.

But we are largely unaware how much.

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Have you ever heard that saying “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride”? Do you know where that saying comes from?

This 1950’s Listerine Ad.

It’s an ad that taps into our deepest fears of being alone and not being connected. Not so that we can connect, but so that we will buy mouthwash. Thank you Edward Bernays.

And that’s why at Highland this week, we ended the sermon by asking people to engage in the ancient Christian discipline of fasting.

Not just married people, but for people who were wanting to get married, and for people who wanted to learn how to live better in community.

Because for the past few decades we have been taught to consume. We have somewhere around 5,000 advertisements a day that raise and increase our desire.

We’ve been taught to think that the world revolves around us, and that we should get what we want. And then we approach our relationships this way.

But this ancient practice of fasting teaches us that we don’t live by bread alone. We don’t live just to consume.

And that if we really want to be happy, occasionally we need to step back and stop looking for things to consume, and start looking for things that we are grateful for.

C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay about love and Christian Marriage and he said:

People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change—not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one.

This is at the heart of why our marriages disappoint us. Edward Bernaise taught us to ask the question, “What does my spouse or future spouse owe me?”

But fasting helps us ask another and better question, “Why have I been given so much? Why has God been so good to me?”

I like the way Marcel Proust says this:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

This is why one of the main commands in the Bible is for us to remember, because if we don’t keep remembering how much we already have, we might just forget.

So try it out. If you want better relationships. Fast.

The Romantic God

Chances are you’ve already seen this video, it’s winning the internet right now. But I love this on so many levels. There is something pretty great about adding a flash mob to your proposal. But that got me thinking. I’m doing a couple of weddings this month, and it’s always a time of great joy and celebration. But there are always some hiccups in every wedding, all the family dysfunctions can bubble to the surface (and every family has some dyfunctions!) But Did you ever wonder why weddings bring out the best and the worst in us? There is something primal about two people giving their lives to each other. As If, it is tapping into the nature of the Universe.

And we love to talk about it.

There’s a reason why the #1 grossing movie of all time isn’t Star Wars, it’s Titantic it grosses  1, billion 835.4 million dollars. There’s a reason that you can’t turn on your radio without hearing someone sing about how much they love someone else.

Romantic love for many is the end itself, but that fails to grasp how big it actually is.

I like the way C.S. Lewis talks about this:

The Event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transistory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interest of another in the center of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even preparation for that.

On some level, I have always been a romantic person.I believe Whenever a man kisses a woman no matter who he is, he is in over his head. But Romantic love is never the end in itself, it always points past itself. It progresses, it forces us to make promises, and ultimately to give ourselves away to the other person.

It progresses, a lot of times, to a wedding.  Continue reading The Romantic God

The Middle of Marriage

So about a year ago, Leslie started watching that show, “John and Kate plus 8.” She doesn’t like to watch T.V. that much, but that show became like crack for her. Now, I am assuming that the less estrogen-prone among us probably don’t watch the show, but whether you watch the show or not, chances are you’ve probably heard about the drama surrounding that family.

Last night they announced their pending divorce, and the fans of the nation felt a sense of collective disappointment. At least the ones I am Facebook friends with did. Maybe it was because they had fallen in love with that little family, maybe it was because it brought back memories from their own family history, or maybe it was because there is a sense that divorce, no matter who is to blame, is always a tragedy.

I was trying to count the other day how many weddings I have done in my five years of ministry. I couldn’t recall, but a couple dozens times I have stood in front of a couple and led them through vows they said to each other, to God, and to their friends and family. I couldn’t remember the number of weddings, but I had no problem remembering how many were divorced.

I always wonder, where did I fail them, what counseling did we miss, how could I have equipped them for the bumps of sharing life with someone better. It’s made my pre-marital counseling more intense. I am now the Nazi version of Dr. Phil.

I was listening to NPR last week, when a guy came on who had just written a book on marriage in America. He said that a child who is raised by two non-married parents in Sweden is more likely to be raised by those same parents through adulthood than a baby born to married parents in the U.S.

Disturbing, I know.

When he was asked why divorce was so prevalent in America, he gave an interesting answer. He said it’s because there are two philosophies of marriage that are bouncing around in the average citizens head. When someone is asked, “Should a couple ever be divorced for any reason, outside of infidelity, physical or sexual abuse?” The overwhelming majority of them said never.

But when that same person was asked, later on in the interview, using a different wording, “If a person was unhappy in a given marriage should they get a divorce?” They said yes.

So never, under any circumstances, get a divorce. Unless you are sad.

Now, I am not belittling the pain that comes with some marriages, or the hurt that comes with divorce.* I know the church has hurt a lot of people by their unwillingness to forgive divorced people, and I hope I don’t sound like I am adding my voice to that mix. If you are divorced and reading this, than I hope that you grasp just how forgiven you are, and I hope you do not sense a spirit of condemnation in this post. But the statistics of Christians divorcing more than non-Christians, all while following a man who says we shouldn’t divorce, says that something is badly wrong.

Leslie and I have our problems, mainly my problems that I give her to deal with. And Lord knows that there are times that she would like for the “death do us part” to come soon. But we have never thought that this was a temporary gig. Now I know we have a long way to go before we are a success story, but I think will get there.

And here’s why.

Movies always show us the beginning of love stories. The puppy love stage. You know, he meets her in an antique book store, they’re browsing for the same book and then “it” happens. They may let us see the initial stages of the relationship, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. And then the story fades to black.

And sometimes movies show us the end of the relationship. The elderly couple die in each other arms, or she cares for him as he passes on. And we cry and dream about how that’s going to be us one day with our significant other.

But what is absent from our mass-produced story telling is the middle of the relationship.

Because life isn’t made up of puppy love, and reality doesn’t end walking on a beach holding hands.

Life is made up of a series of Tuesday’s and Veteran’s days and March 12ths.

Life is made up of millions of opportunities to take out the trash, and wash the dishes, to not say that one clever thing you know will hurt her, or to wash his car because you know he’ll appreciate it.

Marriage is an agreement to live all those days together, to let someone matter to you, even if they don’t to anyone else, and to make those days count for each other.

That’s what’s behind those stories of the older couple dying together. It’s so powerful because we know the sacrifice that went into those years. These people for decades chose repeatedly to serve one another, and now when their story comes to an end it matters.

I think that’s what is missing in our collective idea of marriage. We have forgotten that the bedrock of marriage is habitual sacrifice. It’s not flashy, and you won’t always feel like doing it, so you go to counseling (which we have) when you need help, you work on your sharp edges (which I am doing), and you re-learn how to love each other year after year.

Because behind the end, is decades of the middle.

*Did you know that a person who is divorced is more likely to die of early age than a person who has smoked for 30 years? Did you know that surveys show that people who divorced, 5 years later are less happy than when they were married? I think it’s indicative about how deeply divorce affects us, it’s not just a simple legal proceeding. It’s in a very real sense more like an amputation.