In England for the Royal Wedding

Windsor Chapel Sign

My wife and I were in England during the week of the royal wedding. In fact, we visited Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel several days before Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Crews were busily preparing for the grand event. Visitors gathered from around the world. Security guards made preparations for every scenario imaginable.

Windsor Chapel

We didn’t stay in Windsor for the wedding. We had other places to go, sights to see, and things to do. At the British Library, there was a huge bronze sculpture of a book with a ball and chain, created by Bill Woodrow, and purchased for the British Library in 1997.

Ball & Chain British Library“Sitting on History” with its ball and chain signifies a book as a “captor of information which we cannot escape.” But it reminded me of the common misconception of marriage as a ball & chain. I understand that information can be captivating. On the other hand, I don’t see marriage as a prison sentence. Instead, I see marriage as a relationship that is designed by God to set us free, liberating us to enjoy life at it’s best.

Knight in Shining Armor in White TowerOn a different day, we went to the Tower of London. Inside one of the great halls was an exhibit of weapons and armor from the days of knights and chivalry. Just like I don’t see marriage as a ball & chain, I also don’t consider my role in the marriage as that of a knight in shining armor, who rides in to rescue my lady. That view is just as antiquated and unbiblical as the ball & chain motif.

Marriage, or any relationship, often seems like a maze. We know how we got into it, but we don’t know our way around once we’re inside. And when it get’s frustrating, we want out but don’t even know how to get out of it. We visited this maze at the Chatsworth House.

Maze at Chatsworth House

We spent the better part of a day at an art exhibit in the Courtauld Gallery, with lunch in the courtyard cafe. Many of the works of art were from the Impressionism and Pointalism periods, so the gallery provided magnifying glasses. These allowed us to Magnifying Glassexamine the paintings in fine detail, which was a fascinating experience. Textures, strokes, dabs of color. In a relationship, the point is not to use a magnifying glass to find faults, but to take a close look and admire the beauty, the work of art that God created when he made our spouse, looking at each other through the eyes of love.

When we do this day in and day out, marriage isn’t a ball & chain. We’re not there to find faults. It’s not a confusing maze. And we don’t have to try to rescue one another. Instead, we can simply be there to love, to liberate, and to help one another experience the best life has to offer. Just like this sign on a store that we passed in London, maybe it’s time to say goodbye to some of our old, non-helpful ideas about relationships, and say hello to love.

Hello Love

 

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When Your Ship Sinks

Dorchester 1Fifty-five minutes past midnight on February 3, 1943, the USS Dorchester was on its way to Greenland with more than 900 men on board. Captain Hans Danielsen, aware that German U-boats were in the area, had ordered the men to stay ready and keep their life jackets on, but many of them disobeyed the order because the life jackets were uncomfortable and impossible to sleep in.

Four Army chaplains  were on the ship:  a Methodist minister, a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest,  and  a  Reformed  Church  pastor.  All four had been  Boy Scouts.  All four were brand  new  lieutenants  in  the Army.  All four  were ready to  serve their Soldiers,  their country, and their God. All four were prepared to give their lives if necessary.  When the torpedo hit the ship, the lights  went out.  A lot of  people died instantly; more died in the water.  Others  were injured.  Men who were trapped  below began to panic,  looking for their life jacket, trying to find a way to the top deck so they could abandon ship.

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As soon as the chaos began, the four chaplains sprang into action. They encouraged panic-stricken young men, guided Soldiers towards the upper deck and to the lifeboats, and helped them find life jackets. When there were no more life preservers to be found, they took off their own and gave them away in order to save the lives of a few more men, knowing that it certainly meant they themselves would die.

Two hundred thirty men made it into the rescue boats that night. As they looked back at the sinking ship, they saw the four chaplains standing on deck, arms linked, praying and singing in Hebrew, Latin, and English.

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What do you do when your ship sinks? How do you respond when your world is at its darkest and there seems to be no way of escape? Or when the future holds no promise and there seems to be no hope?

If Ecclesiastes 3:1 is true and there is an appropriate time and season for every purpose under heaven (NIV), and if different times and seasons call for different actions, then how we live, how we behave, what is appropriate, or what is best, may be more a matter of discernment than following rules. There is a time to shout and a time to whisper, a time to drop the bomb and a time to lay down the weapon, a time to wear the life jacket, and a time to give it away so another may live.

An immoral man behaves inappropriately for selfish reasons. A moral man does what is right because of legal, humanitarian, or religious obligations. A hero rejects selfishness, takes his moral obligations into account, then discerns with artistic altruism a course of action that will benefit another human being, even when that act may bring harm to himself. That’s what love does. That’s what genuine spirituality aims for. That’s what Jesus had in mind when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NLT

Most societies pay tribute to their heroes, and the four chaplains of the Dorchester are heroes who deserve that honor. They could have lived longer, ministering for many more years, making a difference, perhaps for thousands of people. Yet, discerning the time and the season, they chose to whisper, “I love you.” They decided to take off their life jackets. “Here, take mine.” They loved the men they ministered to, knowing it certainly meant they would die, and in making that decision, they painted a magnificent work of art.

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Community Choir Concert

5Tonight we attended the spring concert of the Lakeland Choral Society. The title of the program was “Music of the Continents,” and we had a delightful time. My brother and his wife were visiting from out of town. They happen to be members of a community choir where they live, so we invited them to go with us.

Another reason we wanted to go was to support a friend who sings in the choral society. The music was really good, but the fact that we knew someone in the choir made it even more fun. Rachel is a literature teacher at a local university, but turns out she’s been singing in choirs for years. When the choir filed in, we noticed there was another friend in the choir, too, a friend named Daphne.

The music included songs from many nations: New Zealand, Germany, Korea, Italy, England, the United States, and others. It included folk song as well a poem of Pablo Neruda that was put to music.

1We knew from the start that there’d be music from around the world, but the surprise came when we discovered that some of the music was Christian, even though it was a performance by a community choir.  In fact, the program featured a song titled “Ukuthula,” which is a traditional Zulu prayer. In 1981, United Nations designated September 21 to be the “World Day of Peace.” Last year, a choir director in Nairobe organized hundreds of groups from around the world to sing the song as a statement of solidarity and international peace. The beautiful part of the story is that the song itself says peace, redemption, and comfort can be found in Jesus Christ.

6The event took place in the local Presbyterian church. The same church where we often attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. The acoustics are excellent, and the choir did an outstanding job. What a delight to be able to enjoy some great music in a wonderful setting with the right message.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner with several of the singers in the choir. It was a fun evening. During the performance, I leaned over to my wife and whispered, “I want to join the choir.” To show you how much she knows me, she responded with, “I thought you might be thinking that.”

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Can We Please Ignore Our Racist Past?

Chris Linzey posted a blog that upset some people. It is worth reading. Interestingly, the people of God in the Old Testament routinely established memorials specifically so they would not forget their past — both positive and negative.

The Bible Blotter

I didn’t think I was being controversial. I wasn’t trying to be inflammatory. But this past week I saw a video that gave the statistics of the top 10 lynching states over a span of 8 decades. I shared the video on my Facebook page and added the message:

2,751 confirmed lynchings over 8 decades in ONLY 10 states. There’s NO WAY the Civil Rights Movement can undo all of the damage to race-relations. We have a lot of work to do…

Here’s the video…

While everyone who saw it agreed that the content was horrific, a couple people chastised me for sharing it, saying that I was stoking the fires of hate and that I should allow people to forget and move on. One said:

Absolutely disgusting….and tell me what purpose you serve in playing a video like this? Show me in the Bible what you are teaching? Sometimes…

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Fresh Pineapple, Fresh Marriage

img_9600Three or four years ago, my friend Steve gave me the top of a pineapple his family had eaten. He told me, “Plant this in dirt and it’ll grow. It sometimes takes a few years, and doesn’t even need a whole lot of water.”

So I put the thing in a plastic grocery bag, put it in the garage, and forgot about it. A year-and-a-half later while cleaning the garage, I found the parched pineapple top and assumed it was dead. Then thought, “Oh well, why not put it in a pot and and see what happens?” I even started watering it once in a while. After a few months, it sprouted. When it got about 20 inches tall, I transplanted it out to the back yard. Now, there’s a pineapple growing in the center of the plant. Amazing!

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There are times when it seems like your marriage is dried up or dead. It might have been months or even years since you’ve paid attention or invested in the relationship with the one you used to love and care about the most.

But it’s not necessarily over. It’s not too late to plant new seeds of love and kindness, to offer a timely word of encouragement, or to start watering the pineapple.

pineapple-636562_1920If you decide to start fresh, you’ll need to be patient. My pineapple had been dried up and discarded for over a year, and when finally planted, it took months to begin to sprout, and then another year or more before the fruit appeared. My wife and I are still waiting for the fruit to ripen. It just takes time. Sometimes a lot of time.

It is just as likely that when you begin to express loving, healing thoughts and words, it might take a while before you start to see new life in your marriage. So be patient. Keep on investing in your marriage. Continue loving. Be genuinely interested in your mate’s well-being. It’s going to be hard at first, but if you are willing to hang in there and continue treating each other right, your marriage can be restored.

Paul & Linda Linzey

Several years ago, we went through a pretty rough time in our marriage. We didn’t like each other. We were pretty unhappy. Things weren’t going well. I came home from work one day and my wife asked me out of the blue, “Are we ever going to be happy again.”

“I don’t know, Sweet-heart,” I answered. And I really didn’t know. “How ’bout if we just try to be nice to each other, don’t do anything that we’d come to regret, and see what happens.”

Six or seven months later, we could tell that the joy had returned to our lives. We could smile at each other. We could laugh together. We enjoyed being in the same room. But it didn’t happen automatically, and it didn’t  happen fast. We had to invest in each other, and we had to be patient.

Perhaps you’ve discarded the idea that you can be happy, or that you can have a good marriage. That pineapple in my back yard is a good reminder that even when things look lifeless, there’s still hope. You can reignite the love and the joy in your marriage too.

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By Wisdom a House is Built

treasure-chest-619868_1920The theme verses for the Biblical Principles of Marriage are Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

The house in this proverb refers first to the marriage, and second to the family: the people residing in the home. The building, its furnishings, its decorations, and its treasures symbolize different aspects of the relationships in the home, or perhaps the character of the people in the home. It speaks of the lives, the relationships, and the happiness of the people who live together in the home.

The writer of the proverb demonstrates an understanding that in the same way people desire nice homes and nice “things” inside the home, people also desire good relationships. He uses the home as a metaphor for the kind of marriage and family that are worth striving for. In reality, the quality of our relationships is worth far more than the homes we live in.

That is why there are other proverbs that say it is better to live in a hut or in a corner where love and peace can be found, than to live in a huge mansion with horrible relationships. When the interaction between the husband and wife is good, it results in long-lasting happiness for everyone in the home. When the marital interaction is negative or painful, it doesn’t matter how nice the home is or how much money the couple has. Life gets ugly, and the relationship is headed for disaster.wood-1629185_1920

Californians in Boston

third-seatThe station wagon with the third seat facing the rear pulled into Boston and stopped at the traffic signal. My two younger brothers and I rode that seat from California to Massachusetts, watching where we’d been, rather than where we were going.

3,177 miles backwards. For a while I was dizzy, car sick, nauseous, but after a while I got used to it.

The ’59 Dodge was a big car. It seemed like Mom and Dad, and whoever else was sitting up front with them, were in a different county. The actual dimensions of this monstrous car? Just over eighteen feet long, six-and-a-half feet wide, weighing about 4,200 pounds. The advertised top speed was 120 MPH, but I never saw my parents drive faster than 115. Mother liked to drive fast. I remember my turn to sit up front and help her “stay awake” one night driving through the Arizona desert while Dad got some sleep. It was scary.

We got about nine miles per gallon if one or two people were in the car. Seven or eight miles a gallon when all ten of us went somewhere together, like we did on this cross-country trip. Nobody had seat belts back then.

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As we pulled up to a traffic light in this strange city far from home, suddenly, my dad was yelling and talking excitedly. Someone outside was shouting and talking just as fast. From way back in the third row, I tried to see what was going on. Were my dad and the stranger mad at each other? Why were they yelling? I looked out the side window of our car and saw that the driver of the car next to us had dark skin and black curly hair. Why was he yelling at my dad? And why was my dad yelling back at him?

As I listened, it seemed to me that they were not angry with each other. No, I’m sure they were not upset. Rather they were excited and happy. They were yelling for joy. But why?

As I kept on looking at the man in the car next to us, I glanced down to see the license plate on his car. We had played the license plate game all across the country, keeping track of all the license plates to see who gets the most states. There were a lot of variations to that game. Riding backwards made it easier if the cars catching up to us had front license plates, because looking backwards I could see them before my brothers and sisters in the middle seat could see them. But if we were passing the other cars, then they got to see the license plates first. The way my parents drove, nobody ever passed us, so I never won the game.

traffic-lights-686041_1920At the red light in Boston, the license plate on the car next to us looked familiar. Was it? Yes! It was orange and black, a California license plate! We hadn’t seen one of those since we left home. Was that why Dad and the other guy were hollering? Yep, sure was.

Sitting in the car at the red light on our first day in Boston, we didn’t know a single soul in the city, or in the entire state of Massachusetts. But that first traffic light placed us right next to another human being from California. It was his first day in Boston too.

That was the first time I remember seeing an African-American, and the thing that stuck in my mind more than anything else was the connection that he and my dad made with each other. It wasn’t age; my dad was forty-two and the other guy seemed to be younger. It wasn’t family circumstance; my dad had a wife and eight kids in the car, while the other guy was single. It wasn’t that they had similar careers; my dad was in the Navy, and the other guy worked in a factory. And it wasn’t that they looked alike; my dad was a balding white guy, and the other guy was black with a full head of hair.

No, the connection they made with each other was simply that they had something in common. They were both from California, and that was enough. They were both more than 3,000 miles from home, and friendless – until that moment. But they had found someone from home.

ut-friendsI often think about that experience, and why people who are different despise each other? Why do people of different color, nationality, language, gender, religion, political party, or economic status hate each other?

Why can’t we be like my dad and the stranger in the car next to us, that day back in 1962?

I was seven years old when we drove into Boston. Over the past fifty-plus years, I have tried to focus on what I have in common with other people, instead of our differences: marriage, kids, jobs, sports, music, food, weather, fears, dreams, movies, faith, or our human-ness. There’s so much we share, it’s a shame people choose to fight over their differences.

Something powerful and amazing happens when we connect over something we have in common.

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