Thinking Out Loud

February 14, 2019

Being Able to Recognize Love

heart sandwich

I have a favorite lunchtime sandwich consisting of at least two types of lettuce and a mix of tomatoes, peppers, radishes and cheese. My wife makes them for me, and if my schedule required me to need to take a lunch every day, I could eat them every day. Sometimes they’re on a Kaiser bun, and sometimes, they’re on a whole wheat bun like the one in the picture.

Not too long ago, I was having a post-lunch phone call with Ruth and I commented that the way she had cut the bun and placed the sandwich formed a heart shape.

“Did you know that today’s sandwich forms a heart?” I innocently asked.

“Yes…” she replied but there was something implicit in the short reply that I needed to pursue.

“How long have you been doing this?”

“Years.”

Wow! …And then after a long silence, I said, “I guess I never noticed; I just opened up the package and started eating.”

We have a word for love that is not returned, unrequited love, but what about unnoticed love? What about the person who pours love into a spouse, a child, an elderly parent; and that love simply flies over their head?

Using The Five Love Languages as a template, this would consist of words of affirmation that aren’t truly heard, physical touch that is misinterpreted, gifts that are not appreciated, quality time that isn’t seen as an investment in the other person, or acts of kindness that are written off due to a sense of entitlement or are simply missed as in the example above due to distraction?

Put yourself in my place for a moment. I would have to ask myself, What other little acts of love am I missing? Probably more than just than one. What about similar ‘messages’ from my children, or my co-workers, or people in my church?

But then again, perhaps this is partially about unrequited love. Simply put, we talk a lot about the ‘I love you return.’ Someone says ‘I love you’ and there is an expectation that the context or the relationship is such that the other person will say it back. When they don’t, there’s that awkward silence.

So basically, there’s a situation here where someone has been saying they love me to me every workday at noon, and I wasn’t responding. Instead, I would phone after lunch and say things like ‘Did you remember to pay the water bill?’ or ‘We’re having a really slow day today and what’s making it worse is that…’

So I need to say something like, ‘Thanks for today’s sandwich; I love you, too;’ and by rough estimates, I need to say it about 500 times to make up for past deficiencies.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ruth.

I love you.


For everyone else, here’s a summary of the love languages from FierceMarriage.com; click the image to read the accompanying article and check out the book by Dr. Gary Chapman where you buy quality Christian books.

love languages


We were also married on Valentine’s Day. I’ve written about that twice before:

Given the nature of Canadian winters, we celebrate on a 6-month offset, on August 14th.

March 15, 2018

“What Are You Like?”

A girl once asked me the question, “What are you like?”

I had basically forgotten this, until I watched something last night where the main characters were updating online dating profiles which basically answered the same question, “What are you like?” Or if you prefer, “Describe yourself.”

It occurred to me that the order of things is now reversed. Back in the day, there was some context in which you got to meet someone: Work, school, church, neighborhood, etc. There had already been superficial contact and visual recognition.

Then you decided to deepen the relationship by probing deeper — getting to know each other one-on-one — by asking questions like the one above.

But today, couples share their self-description of their personality, guiding principles, experiences, aspirations, preferences, etc.; long before they ever come into physical proximity.

Another way of putting this: Instead of the kid you met at camp who agrees to become a pen pal (a dated notion if there ever was one), it’s the pen pal who agrees to meet up (which admittedly did happen from time to time; hence the ‘Pen Pal Wanted’ ads in the back of magazines). Intimacy (in terms of personality and mental insights) precedes contact.

There is a lot riding on your writing ability, and no, I’m not offering to help you draft your profile description. If you can say what you want to say, the way you want to say it, that’s great; but the chances of misinterpretation are many, and with some people, spelling counts as does grammar. It’s the ultimate creative writing assignment.

It’s the same with a picture. Without a budget allocation, your best bet is to at least have someone take the picture for you, and in good lighting. But no picture tells it all. I was once set up on a blind date by a friend with a girl who happened to have 8 x 10 head-shot glossy pictures. (Not sure what you call them in Europe, but the size of an A4 sheet.) I found that rather strange, but she did look good in those poses. So I said yes. She was indeed the same as her picture, but Barry, my friend at the time, had held the picture out to me at the same height as he was standing, whereas the picture should have been held somewhere around his stomach. She was short. Very short. Can’t-get-past-it short. She deserved a guy who was more on her level.

Given an hour of angst to sweat it out writing a description, with thesaurus nearby, you can probably come up with something rather appealing. But asked live and in the moment, “What are you like?” you’re probably going to be more authentic, once you get past the shock of the question itself. And better to do this sooner, than later; better to not like other things — like the physical attraction part — get ahead of really knowing the person.

My answer? I honestly can’t remember what I said in the moments that followed.

October 3, 2013

Sexual Expectations

sexual expectationsSometime last week I was reading an article that used a term that is probably widely employed in online articles, but I had simply never run across it: Porn sex. As you can guess, the article was about the fact that many men — and some women — have expectations based on things they’ve seen online that aren’t being met. There is a very real sense in which some people view internet porn as a marriage textbook and think that it models the way things are supposed to happen.

It’s not fair however to blame this phenomenon on recent technology. In a pre-online era, there was movie sex. While the line between the two is probably now blurred — unlike my Evangelical blogger counterparts, Mrs. W. and I don’t really go to movies — I’m thinking that the movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s probably presented a surrealistic image of sex that might not reflect reality for the average Joe and Joanne.

But if you think of it, expectations — both in the bedroom and in terms of what’s being served for dinner — have always been a consequence of lack of communication in marriage. Perhaps one of the couple believes that to talk about something that should be spontaneous spoils the experience. Some might even say that to set a time makes it sound clinical, like an appointment. My suspicion is that marriage counselors would lean toward the idea of more communication. If only, for example, he would say to her, “Honey, do you think tonight you can do that thing where you…

“…put raisins in the brown rice with sweet and sour sauce, and add some chopped radishes to the salad?” (Ha! And you thought I was going to say something else, which is the expectations thing happening again.) Perhaps the supper table conversation is a barometer of what’s happening in other rooms in the house.

I think the problem is that when you focus on the expectation you ruin the process. Reality isn’t always the same as what happens onscreen at the cinema, much less what happens on the smaller screen in your home.

December 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll on Marriage and Sex: Candid as Usual

The man who doesn’t mince words, is not surprisingly equally candid when it comes to comes to marriage and intimacy in marriage.  In Real Marriage, Mark teams up with wife Grace and reveals much in the way of personal details of their own marriage, both in its early days and presumably as recent as yesterday.  It walks the fine line — without truly crossing it — of too much information; while at the same time making your marriage the focus of the book’s content.

The full title is Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together though a proper disclaimer would warn you that the book is divided into two parts, with sex being the theme of the second, and probably being the focus of much that will be written about the book both before and after publication.  The book does warn more conservative types — and less urban types — to sit down while reading the Q & A chapter on what types of sex are permissible within the bounds of Christian marriage.

First person narratives written by two authors can be as awkward to read as they are tricky to write, so there are sections of “… I (Mark)…” interspersed with sections of “… I (Grace) …” but beyond that the book flows well and Grace’s background in public relations means she was undoubtedly a gifted writer long before this.

Mark — no stranger to print with more than a dozen previous books and tons of online copy — is especially vulnerable here as he is brutally frank about everything from his own sex drive to various conflicts that have arisen in their married life.  As with so many pastors today, the availability of online audio and video means that you can almost literally hear Mark speaking as you read.

God does not give us a standard of beauty — God gives us spouses.  Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way.   (p. 108-9)

Mark’s take on this subject is born not just out of theory and research, but from thousands of interactions with individuals and couples as a pastor and conference speaker.  Just a page past the above quotation is this anecdote:

He had a beautiful wife but was never sexually satisfied.  His mind was filled with sinful fantasies from pornography he had viewed, as well as sexually experiences he had enjoyed before marriage. Some would have been sinful to do even with his wife, others were not sinful but she was opposed to them because they violated her conscience. Over the course of some years in their marriage, rather than killing these sinful desires, he occasionally nurtured them by daydreaming about what it would be like to make his fantasies realities.  One day he did — with another woman.

He decided to never tell his wife because in his flawed mind, it was better for her not to know the truth and be devastated. He actually considered his lying somewhat loving but she could tell something was different and so she pressed him for answers. Eventually he confessed.  As we met during their counseling session, while his wife wept continually, he tried to downplay what had happened by saying it was only one day of their life, he did not love the other woman, and similar inane efforts to make his sin seem less sinful.

Nothing seemed to get through to him until I (Mark) simply told him he was not only an adulterer but had become an adulterer because he was first an idolator. The first commandments are that we are to worship God alone. If we obey, we then do not worship other people and things as functional gods. When we disobey we then continue to worship but do so as idolators treating people and things as gods. His sin was not just sleeping with a different woman, but sleeping with another woman as a worship act to another god. Sex was his god, a bed was his altar, their bodies were their living sacrifices, and he was a pagan priest committing idolatry.  (pp. 109-10)

Again, I don’t know of anyone else who is a forthright as Mark Driscoll and who delivers a message with such passion and authority. With sections dealing with oral sex and masturbation, Mark (and Grace) face no question too difficult to deal with.

While I probably disagree with Mark’s doctrinal position in other books dealing with other topics, I was intrigued by how he would handle this, and I was not disappointed. The book has value to engaged couples, newly marrieds, and people like my wife and I who are a few decades in.  Real Marriage releases January 3rd from Thomas Nelson.

An advance copy of   Real Marriage was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with North American publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.

Looking for more details? Check out Aaron Armstrong’s review of the book at The Gospel Coalition.

November 26, 2011

Recycle Your Marriage

Hats off to blogger and writer Carol Hatcher — I love her blog name, “Sheep To The Right” — for having a piece picked up this month by CBN’s website.  If you want to do the polite thing and click, here’s the article.  Statistically, many of you won’t so here it is for those of you whose mouse finger is arthritic today:

“What are you going to do with that?”, she reached her wrinkled hand across the generations between us and placed it on mine.

“Umm. Throw it away?”, I said in more of a question than an answer.

“Oh, this would be great to make little ornaments.” My husband’s grandmother recycles everything. She saves butter tub lids, the little cotton in the tops of the medicine bottles, and the inner wrappers from the cheese cracker boxes. She comes from a time when you didn’t throw anything away.

Even with the focus on going green, we live in a disposable society. Paper napkins, cups, and plates make washing dishes a thing of the past. At the doctor’s office, you’ll be handed a throwaway gown, and the airline gives throwaway pillows.

Unfortunately, we’ve also bought into the idea of disposable marriages. When your husband leaves his wet towel on the floor or your wife never looks your way, the world tells us, toss ‘em. It’s the same disposable mentality we find on aisle 6 of the grocery store.

Care must be given to things meant to remain. We brush and floss our teeth each night hoping they will last a lifetime. We hand wash the china passed down from our great-grandmother to protect the gold from rubbing off the edges. Hours are spent bringing old muscle cars back to their original glory. Time and effort are necessary in restoring or maintaining something we plan to keep.

With the current push for Americans to recycle, the number of recyclers still hovers between 70-80 percent depending on the area of the nation. The divorce rate, however, lingers around 50 percent.

So, why not recycle our marriages?

Webster’s definition for recycle is to pass again through a series of changes or treatments, to reuse, or bring back. If we want a lasting marriage (and we should), sometimes it’s necessary to pass our marriage through a series of changes to bring it back.

So what can you do to recycle your marriage? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started:

1. Discover your spouse’s love language and speak it.

Gary Chapman’s book 5 Love Languages is a great book to help you understand how to express love to your mate in the way they need it. Chapman’s five love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Often we show our spouse love the way we want to be shown it, not the way they need to hear it. Find which love language your spouse speaks, and use it often.

2. Practice the 10-second kiss at least once a day.

You’d be surprised what a little lip-lock can do to jump-start a marriage. Make it a habit to kiss good-bye and hello each day. Then turn up the heat by prolonging your kiss at least ten seconds – the longer, the better. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, hang in there. Before long, you’ll forget you were counting and get carried away in the moment. Trust me, some eyebrows will be rising, and they might just be your own!

3. Check in during the day.

With today’s advanced technology, there is no excuse for not communicating. Drop a quick “hope your day is going well.” Whether you text, email, or use the old fashioned telephone, contact your mate at some point while you’re apart. If you’re busy, just say so but follow with, “I was just thinking about/praying for/missing you.” A little effort goes a long way.

4. Apologize for old hurts.

If there are any unresolved issues, apologize for any hurt feelings that may have occurred as a result of you. Drop assumptions at the door and discuss the true issue. Remember, it’s important for all parties to feel like they are being heard. Use the rules of active listening, and repeat what you hear to make sure there isn’t a kink in the line of communication. Then share your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. Don’t forget to keep your voices low. Yelling only creates tension.

5. Pray for your spouse.

Praying for your mate is always a good idea, especially if your marriage is in dire need of repair. An amazing thing happens with prayer. When we pray for those who hurt us, our hearts soften, and we often realize where our own faults lie, as well. Prayer is free, it’s simple, and you can do it any time of the day.

If your marriage is cracked, beat-up, or you are just plain fed up, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the crumpled paper napkins. Marriages really aren’t meant to be disposable. With time, effort and a little TLC, you can recycle your marriage to last for years to come.

~Carol Hatcher

January 7, 2010

Duets: Quick Takes on Couples in the Bible

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 pm

Reviewing a devotional book is about as impossible as reviewing a Bible dictionary or commentary; its utility is only proved over a period of constant use.   So I wasn’t sure how to approach Duets: Still in the Word…Still in the Mood by John & Anita Renfroe other than to binge-read large sections at a time.

When you’ve spent a lifetime in church, and your reading preference is toward longer detailed chapters, the value of a devotional — often skimmed in a hurry before leaving for work, or late at night before falling into sleep — is its ability to arrest you in your tracks with concepts from the text that you haven’t considered before, or heard expressed exactly that way previously.

That being the case, Duets scores very high marks.   The 52 four digest-size page readings — which includes text from The Message bible — are light in terms of word-count, but deep in terms of the thought and consideration that went into the exposition of each text.    Each deals with a Biblical couple, although several days are spent on a couple of key characters, such as Abraham and Sarah.

Each concludes with a one-sentence evaluation of where this couple succeeded (if they did), and where they failed (if they did).  Then there are questions, followed by an application question and a conclusion.

The idea is that couples can use this together and then pray together; however I found some of the Renfroe’s take on Old Testament stories so refreshing that with some quick on-the-fly editing, I read several of the selections out loud to my kids for several days.

Duets releases this month in hardcover  from David C. Cook at $16.99 U.S.    If the name Anita Renfroe seems familiar, but you can’t remember from where, check out the comedy DVD section of your local Christian bookstore.

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