Poem: we are not hens’ eggs

We are not hens’ eggs, or bananas, or clothespins,

to be counted off by the dozen.

Down to the last detail we are all different.

Everyone has his own fingerprints.

Recognize and rejoice in that endless variety.

The white light of the divine purpose streams down from heaven

to be broken up by these human prisms

into all the colors of the rainbow.

Take your own color in the pattern

and be just that.

— Charles R. Brown

Religious, not Spiritual

I remembered a factoid from one of my pastor’s homilies that the root of the word “religion” comes from the Latin “religio,” which means to be “bound again.”

To the uninitiated, this makes the idea of religion not sound very attractive. I can see why so many people like to say they are “spiritual but not religious.” But after praying about it I’ve decided I am more like “Religious, but not Spiritual.”

I checked on this etymological factoid later and found that, as with all historical tidbits streamlined for popular consumption, the roots of the word “religion” are not quite that simple.

Sure,  “religion” does come from the Latin root “religio,” but the origins of that root are disputed. Cicero asserted that “religio” comes from the verb “relegere,” meaning “to re-read or go over a text,” religion being a text-based tradition requiring study and transmission. The Christian writer Lactantius, among others, assert the most popular hypothesis that “religion” comes from “religare” which means to be “bound again.” Augustine preferred that version to Cicero’s, but offered that it also could come from “reeligare” meaning to “choose again.”

From what I have read so far, I am not sure I have a preference. As a Catholic Christian, I bind myself to study the Gospel of Jesus Christ and transmit it with the way I live my life. I am bound by the obligation to serve others in Love — a bond made most immediate to me in my role as husband and father.

When I rise each morning, I put on my wedding band, pocket my wallet and keys, grab my “wireless leash,” aka my phone. All of these are symbols of my vocation and life’s mission. I take them on each morning as a prayerful practice, taking up the yoke Christ offers me before going out into the world where I am bound to serve in myriad ways.

As with distractions in prayer, I get distracted in life. I drift away on a regular basis (sin,  you can call it) and must “choose again” each day, each hour, each minute, to come back.

On the face of it, to the modern sensibility, this sounds like a big drag. Nobody nowadays wants to be tied-down, to be bound, by anything.

But in my heart of hearts I long for Love and Mercy. What better way is there for me to encounter Love and Mercy than to submit my whole self to them? This means I submit my hands, heart, head, feet, body, soul, and spirit all at once — a complete package. I cannot describe myself as “Spiritual” because I seek to be all in when it comes to Love. I can’t just give my “spirit.”

So I seek to be “Religious, not (just) Spiritual.” And I’ll take “Religious” in any sense of the word since all of them work for me.
Read more: http://forward.com/articles/10776/roots-of-religion/#ixzz3wJ1IdDe6

My Philosophy of Chili

So, I am participating in a chili cookoff this weekend. Not a sanctioned event. Just a friendly competition at church. But one of our requirements is to produce an ingredient list and, as is my style, I can’t resist the opportunity to think on the purpose and vision of things and philosophize. So my ingredient list turned into my “philosophy of chili.”

Elevation Chili Ingredient List (and Chili Manifesto)

Every culture has a dish they use to transform humble ingredients into something heart-warming, satisfying, and culturally iconic. Whether it’s gumbo, curry, stew, hash, minestrone, wat, pho, or goulash, the idea of taking ordinary foodstuffs and making them extraordinary by artful combination and extraction of flavors is universal. And the idea of taking ordinary things and elevating them is at the core of my faith.

In Texas, that dish is Chili and, for me, it is a sacred experience. If I do my job right, the lowly will be exalted and all who partake will go forth with full bellies, dilated capillaries, and praise for the Lord on their lips! So let’s introduce the cast.


The name of the dish is “Chili,” not “Meat Mush.” Chiles should be the superhero of the dish. Not only do chile peppers direct the complex orchestra of flavors in the pot, they elevate all the humble ingredients into a magnificent gustatory team.

If your meat is the star in your pot, you’re doing it wrong. (More on this later.)

Chili should be spicy, sure, but if you use chiles in your pot to create some sort of macho capsaicin dare for your tasters, you’re doing it wrong too. You don’t need to burn their faces off. Chiles should elevate, not dominate. In my chili base I use:

Guajillos – They establish a complex, deep base of flavor

Anchos – They lay on a sweet smoky layer of flavor

Jalapenos – They top it off with bright, grassy heat


At home I use ground beef and meat scraps from the refrigerator. But since I am cooking for company today, I am using a ground combination of lowly, tough cuts of beef. No leftovers for you.

Please, please, if you have a nice piece of meat, like a ribeye or tenderloin, please step away from the chili pot! Respect that noble beast by grilling it properly! Enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed; medium rare on a plate with a baked potato and a maybe a beer.

Chili wasn’t invented to grind the best parts of the cow into a mush. Its purpose is to elevate the tough, cheaper parts, the scraps, the cast-offs. Redemption of humble fare is what chili is all about.


I use lager for the dark notes and the sweetness, but I mainly use it for the alcohol. There are flavor compounds in many foods, such as tomatoes, that are only soluble in alcohol. Almost all the alcohol cooks away and, if I do my job right, you won’t taste the beer.

Beans and Tomatoes:

Yes, I put pinto beans in my chili. And my tomatoes are visible, yes, against chili purist rules. My core mission is not just to make something that tastes good. I want to feed people. Beans are probably the most nutritious thing in the pot and, as a Dad, I never lose a chance to amp up the wholesome factor when I can. If that means my chili is not officially sanctioned, so be it. I’ll choose making a crowd of hungry people full and happy over a trophy any day.

Aromatics, Spices, and Seasonings:

Like the background singers and the horn section of the pot. Earthy and sweet, they round out the flavor profile.

Onions, Garlic, Cumin, Cocoa Powder, Backstrap Molasses, Salt

There you have it. Relatively simple. As with many things, the magic is in the combination, the relationship, the team.

Poem: Save Your Knees For Dancin’

I wrote this for my Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary party last week. Thought I’d post it here with the rest of them.

For 50 years of marriage mom and dad tilled the soil.

They never struck paydirt, never found gold nor oil,

but instead they raised a family, with its troubles and joys,

full of friends, love, and laughter, and two very grateful boys.


The boys grew to be men and took wives of their own

and so appreciated the wisdom their parents had sown:

Keep learning, love a lot, take care to listen.

Take time out to play, but never play “Christian.”

Nope, if you’re gonna play, use your noggin. Try to win.

Keep each other sharp. You’ll have more fun in the end.

Stay together, hang tough. It’s not for sissies, this life.

And if you want to be happy, you better listen to your wife.

Every problem can be solved if you think and work together

Create opportunities to make memories you’ll treasure.

Work hard but set aside time for romancin’

Save your money, save your health, and save your knees for dancin’


A Conversation with my Teen about Lunch, God, and Dinner

In adoration yesterday this conversation came to me. i know I need to have this very conversation with my kids as they start to transition into adulthood. I promised this conversation back in the letter I wrote a few years back about the deeper reality of Santa Claus. I get a lot of ideas in adoration. But I knew I just had to write this down. It’s only a start, but it’s a start.

In it I imagine Aaron coming home from school with a complaint.

Did you pack my lunch this morning Dad?

Yeah. What about it?

Really, Dad? Juice box? String cheese? Animal crackers? You even cut up my grapes.

You used to love that stuff.

Yeah, like when I was like four years old.

In fact you wouldn’t eat a whole lot else back then. What? This lunch not good enough for you anymore?

Dad, I’m older now and this just doesn’t cut it. I need meat. Bread. Something to fill me up. At least make me a sandwich. You don’t have to cut my food up for me.

Yeah I know that. I gave you that lunch to make a point.

I knew it. It’s never just lunch with you. Amiright?

You know me well.

So what’s the point?

You outgrew your lunch. What is your ideal lunch now?

Pizza, burgers, cheese sticks, tacos. You, know. Real food.

Yeah I thought so. I was like that when I was your age. Look where that got me.

Oh no, is this a nutrition lecture? I think I have some studying to do…

No, no. Just pointing out that you will outgrow your current ideal lunch like you outgrew the one you loved when you were five.

I don’t think so.

I sure hope so. If you eat like that until you’re my age that diet will straight up kill you. It’s developmentally appropriate for you to like that food right now.

But you don’t let me have it that often. So…

So… I know that you’re there, but I also know you can’t stay there. You need to learn the grown up versions of things. You can’t always eat what’s easy, what’s most pleasurable. You can’t always eat for yourself. When you are older, you eat for others’ sake as well.

(blank stare)

You know how I told you that when you are an adult your job is to live for others in some way. You need to eat to be healthy and strong so you can be around for others. When you have children you will need to eat as an example for them. You’ll need to eat for your wife to show her that you’re serious about sticking around to love her and not abandon her. You eat for a lot of reasons besides, “Mmmm… that looks yummy.”

You’re not making adulthood seem very appealing.

Well, it’s not developmentally appropriate for you to think so yet. That’s okay. But as your father I have to nudge you along.

So this is a nudge? So you’re trying to get me to eat more salad or something?

Nope, I want you to get to know God better.

That was random. I thought we were talking about eating healthy and stuff.

We were. Do you know what the word “segue” means?


It means to make a smooth transition from one context or subject to another. No segue for you. Stay with me. Do you believe in God?

Um… yeah, I guess. I’m supposed to, right?

It’s okay to say no.

I didn’t expect you to say that. I want to say no because I just don’t see how something like God can exist in the real world.

Then say no.

No. I guess I don’t believe in God.

You know what I hear when you say that?

What? That I’m grounded?

You’ve outgrown your five-year-old lunch.

You’ve lost me.

The God you thought you knew. The God described to you in bible stories when you were in preschool. The wise bearded superman in the sky. That’s not God. That’s more like Zeus. A primitive image. That’s an image of God that you’re supposed to outgrow. It was appropriate to describe God that way to you because that’s an image of benevolent, powerful authority that you could relate to. Something that looked like a parent, which at the time was pretty much your whole world. We weren’t lying to you then about God. We were just cutting God up into pieces before we served him to you.

I see what you did there. Like the lunch, right?

You always were a clever one. Here’s the first thing any adult has to understand about God. You can’t understand God. Anything you say about him is imperfect. Any God that fits tidily in your brain is a rather sad, limited kind of God. God is bigger than that.

Okay, so you’re going to get to the part where you tell me what God is?

Patience, grasshopper.


Sorry. I’m old. Remind me to see if we can find “Kung Fu” on Netflix. Anyway, any image of God is limited and imperfect. But some images of God have benefits that exceed their limitations. They help you develop your faith at a certain stages in your progress. You are supposed to outgrow them. Use them to seek him, but don’t cling to them. Do you know what “idolatry” means?

Worshipping statues and stuff?

It means confusing the symbol with what is symbolized. Worshipping the image that points to some aspect of God instead of God. Any mature Catholic should at least be partially agnostic because he knows his understanding of God is woefully inadequate. That there is way more he cannot say about God than what he can say.

Well, if God can’t be known, why bother?

I didn’t say God can’t be known. There are images of God we can know are true. And those images can be very helpful. But – remember this well – when you find yourself questioning your belief in God it means that the limitations of your concept of God have outweighed the benefits for you. Part of that image is still probably true, but you’ve outgrown it.

So I don’t believe in God like I did when I was five? And I need to change my image of God?

Yeah. Kinda.

So anyone can choose any image of God they want? Just what feels good? That doesn’t seem right.

Well, you sure can do that. Too many people do. They select a God that fits in a convenient box and keep him there. But no, that’s not right as I, and the Church, see it. We hold in common that there are some things that the Church says are definitely true about God. Then there are some things the Church says are definitely not true about God. But there’s way more that no one can say about God.

That’s if I believe the Church’s version of God, right?

Right. I hope, eventually, you will.


Because I am your father and I want you to grow up and be a fulfilled, happy person.

I do not see how a concept of God will do that for me.

It won’t. God. The real, living God. The God of the Catholic Church and the Judeo-Christian tradition will help you do that. Everyone has a “God” whether they call it that or not. The one you choose to follow makes a big difference in your life.

Even atheists have a “God?”

More or less. But it would be very impolite for you to say that to their faces. Their connotations of the word “God” tend to be negative. Probably because they’ve obviously outgrown whatever image of God they had as children. Somebody either crammed it down their throat for too long or they did not get help in finding their next understanding of God. Imagine your parents insisting that you eat string cheese and animal crackers for lunch your whole life. “God” to them is a lot like the limited, sad God I mentioned earlier. I don’t blame them for not believing in God. But they still have something that functions for them as “God.” We all do.

So what kind of God does an atheist believe in?

Remember, that’s not polite to say. But everybody has some context that guides the “Why” and the meaning of life. Science can tell us lots of facts about the world. But meaning has to come from somewhere else. People have to answer questions like, “What is the purpose of life?” “Why am I here?” “What is my best life?” When they are presented with the findings of Science – I am a big believer in science and reason – something provides the “So what?” There are lots of ways to answer those questions. Some are somewhat helpful, some help you coast aimlessly through life, and some are downright disastrous. Everyone chooses something that defines their context and meaning.

What if they refuse to choose?

They can’t. Saying that life has no meaning, that we are pointless, that everything is random is still a choice just like deciding that Love is the guiding purpose and meaning of existence. At some point you choose. Even those who just go through life following their biological urges, instincts, and desires are choosing with their actions if not their conscious minds. My first hope for you is that you make a conscious, reasoned choice, whatever you decide.

And so you want me to believe in your God.

Will all my heart. Actually I think you already do. I think your mind just has to catch up with your heart. You have a lot of love in your heart. I can see it through your actions. I am confident you have a lot of experience with God.

Okay, so catch my head up. Explain to me how I’ve experienced this God I don’t know how to believe in with my head.

I will, but not all at one time. We’d be here forever. But I can give you a few short things to think about until we have time to talk again.

And I bet that will be soon.

Because we’re on a roll.

Is that what you call it? Fine.

Well, to start, the name “Yahweh” in the Old Testament translates roughly into “That which holds all things in existence.” You do exist, right?

As far as I know.

Me too. And I am grateful for that fact. There is a famous theologian who said, “God is not a being. God is Being.” About sums it up.

God is Being? That’s it?

Imperfect image, remember. One of the oldest, least incorrect ones. But still an image. But, to me, it’s the most basic experience of God. I am. That’s what God told Moses to say who God is, remember? “I am.”

Pretty basic.

But here’s the next thing. The book of Genesis also tells us that God created the world from nothing. That means at some point there was nothing, and there was something. Creation “Ex Nihilo.”

So who created God?

God is not a being, remember. God does not do time. God just is. God is Being.

So you say.

So the bible says. And we have to decide that we’ll believe that.

Why should I?

Because, well, think about the implications of creation “ex nihilo,” out of nothing. At the beginning, God was God. Perfectly cool with being God. He did not need to make some little followers to adore him that he could boss around. God does not need anything. God is just God. So that means that, if creation wasn’t for him, it was for us. Creation is a gift. And then after he created, he pronounced it to be “very good.” We are very good. A gift from God.

So I should just believe that because the bible says it? We know the world wasn’t created like that.

Sure. Genesis is not a scientific document. It’s a theological document. The creation story communicates truth, not scientific fact.

So why should I believe that everything is a gift and my existence is “very good?” Why shouldn’t I believe everything is just random or that life has no meaning?

If everyone has to choose the way they see the world anyway, I want to see it in a way that makes the world more fulfilling and meaningful for me. I want to choose a worldview that is consistent with the stirrings and yearnings of my heart. I love and want to be loved. I have passion. I am grateful when I receive a gift. I am relieved when somebody forgives me and we’re cool again. I experience God in my heart. I want my head to keep up.


And I want my actions to be guided by this way of looking at the world. Because I know that my experience of the world is better when I choose to love others and when others choose to love me. God is love. And that sets the agenda for everything. If you let it.

I thought God was Being?

Limited image, remember? The next least incorrect way to think of God is that God is a special kind of love. A love that gives itself for the sake of the beloved. “Self-gift,” if you will. Remember when I said that everything is a gift? That’s God pouring himself out. Emptying himself out for our sake. Everything in the world is oriented to that kind of love. It holds all things in being. We can work with that or we can work against it. Our choice. My job as your father is to convince you that working with it is the best choice.

Or I could choose to see the world some other way.

You could. Many people do. Some people don’t see why they should give themselves away in love. They think that’s a sucker’s bet. There are many people who go through life looking out for “numero uno” and that’s it. It’s just that, I don’t think that’s truly what’s in their hearts. They’re just confused, lost, or hurt. I don’t want to believe anybody is just plain selfish by nature, even when they are habitually selfish. Creation is fundamentally good, right?

That you say.

So which world do you want to live in? The one where people love each other and look out for each other, even if it means sacrificing for one another? Or the world where everyone has to earn their right to live? Where might makes right? Where everyone looks out for only themselves?

You make that second choice sound like a bad thing. Kidding.

Well it’s not my choice. You can live in that world if you wish. Many do. I choose love. Love isn’t magic. It doesn’t make the hurts and sufferings of this world go away. It does not magically shield you from bad things. It just is a way of approaching the world that makes the most out of suffering and hurts. It is a way of life that reaches out and helps others get through the hard times. You live this paradox where, to truly live, you give up your life. To lead, you have to serve. To gain, you have to give everything away.

Again, you’re not making it sound attractive.

Well, let me put it this way. Without God, you would not be here. In this famiy I mean. If mom and I were just looking out for ourselves, if we were not looking for ways to pour out our lives as a gift to others, as God does, do you think we would have adopted you? Every payday we’d have been like, “Woohoo! Let’s go party and buy stuff!” If we didn’t believe in God’s brand of Love, we’d never spend thousands of the dollars we earn on you. We’d keep it for ourselves. We’d be a lot richer right now. But we’d also be miserable and wretched. Because selfishness is not the path to any kind of happiness or fulfillment. To me, living as if the God of Love, who created the world as a gift and judged it to be very good, is the best way to align my life so that my life is fulfilling and has a meaning that transcends my little span of time on earth.

So, it’s time for dinner….

Provided by God, aka Love, in the form of your Mother who used her time after work to do more work so that you could be fed. She could have just plopped down and watched TV, you know. So that stroganoff you’re about..

Stroganoff! Yes!

That Stroganoff you’re about to eat is yummy. Not the healthiest choice, maybe, but a tangible experience of God’s Love. Brought to you by a woman who is devoted to that kind of Love. So that’s why we pray before dinner. And your responsibility is to receive that love, be grateful, and respond by giving yourself as a gift in kind.

You’re hinting that I should offer to clear the table.

That’s a start. Also I want you to think about God as Love. Creation as a gift that is very good. And what kind of world you want to live in. I also want you to know more about who God is. To be cool with the idea that the “superfriend in the sky” does not exist, you need a better idea of who, what, whatever, God is.

But… we don’t have time for that because we’re about to eat…

Stroganoff, yes. But here’s something to think about. God is a relationship. Not a person. A relationship.

Um, okay.

That’s what we mean by the Holy Trinity. But that’s another day. My brain is full and my stomach is empty.

I’d say that it looks like the reverse is true but that would not be very loving of me.

I’ll show you love. Come here and let me smack you.

To be continued. (No, I don’t smack my kid. Very hard. In front of people.)


A message across time to my 16 year old self

Hey, I don’t have much time, but I want to tell you something.

Adulthood is great, but it’s not what you think.

Remember when we were six and we thought it would be so cool to be able to shave and use the lawnmower just like daddy? You know how that turned out, right? Yeah. Adulthood is like that but on steroids.

Sure, you make your own money and drive your own car and own your own house. But you find yourself doing things like driving your own car across Houston to protest the valuation on your own house so that your escrow sucks up a smaller portion of your own money. If you don’t know what “valuation” and “escrow” mean, believe me you will. No rush.

Don’t get me wrong. Adulthood will be awesome. It will be most awesome in many ways you are not mature enough to appreciate yet. Don’t be in such a rush to be “mature.” If you skip past your teens trying to be “mature” more quickly you’ll actually end up being less mature when you get there. Do your maturing as a teen. It’s way more painful to become mature once you become an adult.

I appreciate all your hard studying and your intellectual curiosity, I really do. But dude: Look around. Pay attention. Enjoy things. Make friends. Those are important too.

And now that I look at you, well…  I am still glad you’re a pretty much a nerd but I am damned grateful that you don’t have access to Facebook.

Okay, I gotta go. Someone who claims he’s “me at age 70” is on the other line. Says it’s urgent.

Love you, you knucklehead,

You in your late forties

To my teenager on using social media

I feel obligated to coach you on some netiquette issues because I don’t want you to end up being “That Guy” online.

Basically, there are four main reasons to use social media.

  1. Share yourself. Let people who are interested know what’s up with you
  2. Share cool stuff you honestly think others will enjoy
  3. Encourage, appreciate, and help others
  4. Facilitate real world relationships

 That’s it. Don’t try to change people’s politics. Don’t try to convert them to your religion. Don’t try to impress people with what a great guy you are. That only happens, but only rarely so, through the example of your actions offline, never from what you say online.

 Remember that you are conducting yourself in public. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want me to read. It may be a free country, but this is not a free family. I, your Father, am to be regarded as “Most Benevolent Dictator and Overlord.” I also moonlight as the secret police.

 And, hey, I was a teenager once. I was socially awkward. I said stupid stuff because I desperately wanted attention. I (gasp) used the occasional inappropriate language with my friends because I thought it would make me cool and ingratiate myself to the “in” group of the moment.

The thing is, I didn’t have the internet to capture it all so that everyone could read it. You do, so you have it harder than I did in that way. It’s like you need to be more mature than your developmental age to protect your future self from humiliation at the hands of your younger self. And, lacking that, the police state that I, your Benevolent Dictator and Overlord, have cobbled together will try to help with that. So remember that Big Brother is watching always.

So run out and play, but remember these things…

Emoticons are a poor substitute for non-verbal communication. People could not see your face as you typed that last clever post. Many boisterously enthusiastic things you say can come across as loud and obnoxious. Sarcasm and inside-jokes translate badly across social media and make you look like “That Guy.”

There is nothing you have to say in social media that requires more than one exclamation point. Ever. And, unless your team just won the national championship, or unless there is a medical emergency requiring an ambulance, you never ever post in all caps. Again, don’t be “That Guy.”

I see you participate in several niche groups. Fine. Let your geek flag fly, I say.

But you need to be aware that not everyone who sees what you post cares about what you care about. On general social media sites like Facebook all of your groups and interests are “collapsed” into one list. Sociologists call it “context collapse.” Church friends, geek friends, fanboy niche friends, school friends, family —  all of your “contexts” are “collapsed” on Facebook. They all look at what you post. You can’t post just for one context all the time.

So be well-rounded. Don’t post arcane song lyrics or change your profile pic to an obscure anime character and expect everyone to appreciate your sophisticated grasp of some cultural backwater. Save the uber-geeky stuff for the group’s bulletin board and keep your Facebook page kind of generic.

And you do not want to be “That Guy” on Facebook or whatever social site who’s all. “Ooh!! Ooh!! Look at me!!”

In social media you need to remember this guiding rule: Everyone who posts stuff on social media is saying “Hey! Pay attention to me!” in some way. You need to give 10x  more attention than you get. Positive attention. Encourage people.

Don’t create your own group and ask people to join you. Instead, join others’ groups and be a model member. Spend most of your time commenting on other people’s stuff. Comment on and encourage everyone else at least 5 times more than you post your own stuff.

Word hard and stay humble. Comment way more than you post. Be a producer, not just a consumer. And, as in real life, listen more than you talk.

That’s what you need to remember when you click the “status” icon.

Love you lots,

Your Father

How to have an awesome marriage

  • Get married young. Be poor. Work six jobs between you. Scrape your life together.
  • Know, love and accept yourself. Continue to learn about your spouse.
  • Look for stuff to admire about your spouse. Seek awesomeness and you will find it. There’s plenty there.
  • See your spouse’s flaws as the flip side of their essential awesomeness. See her flaws as a chance for you to step in and be awesome yourself.
  • Stand shoulder to shoulder. In front of the kids, and the rest of the world, your spouse is always right and you stand with her. Keep disagreements between you.
  • Let the kids know quite plainly that you love your husband/wife more than them. Nothing personal, but in your house the family comes from Mom and Dad’s love, not the other way around.
  • Understand that giving (in the right spirit) is receiving. You can “pour yourself out like a libation” and be totally fulfilled in your marriage. (Prayer is a prerequisite for this step. For you non-religious folks, substitute some practice that allows you to transcend and subdue your own ego, whatever that looks like.)
  • Adopt children, foster animals from the pound, take in stray teenagers, invite people over all the time, be that home that tends to accumulate neighborhood kids. Cram your life to the gills and be overwhelmed often. Then you can watch God do some awesome things through your marriage and you can see your sacrament bear fruit.
  • Become a marriage geek. Keep up with the research. Read books. Approach marriage as if you’re a professional spouse and you’re bucking for a raise.
  • Teach others about marriage. Because, even if you feel sort of like a hypocrite standing up there talking about marriage in theory when you know marriage in reality lately, that stuff sinks in.
  • That said, here is the essence of every marriage course we’ve ever taught: 1) You and your spouse are different in various ways 2) Know yourself and accept yourself 3) Know and love your spouse as they are and don’t try to change them 4) Get out of yourself and relate to your spouse in a way that suits them, not you (See prayer prerequisite above)
  • Don’t ever stop dating. Do fun stuff together. Laugh a lot.
  • Communicate well and communicate often.
  • Sex is does not count as doing fun stuff. Sex is communication.
  • Get a bunch of others around you who love marriage. If there’s not a couples’ dinner group around you, start one.
  • Find stuff to talk about that does not involve kids, gossip, work, money, or household logistics.
  • That said, find regular time to communicate about kids, work, money, and household logistics.
  • You can do all the above and still screw things up if you do not speak kindly to one another.  if you avoid speaking at all and let resentments build up. Sarcasm, yelling, avoidance, and disrespect are all toxic.

Ultimately, like Gene Kranz said, “Failure is not an option.” And like Tim Gunn said, “Make it work.”

Works for us. Twenty-six years of marriage today. To my best friend. Praise God.


Poem: murmurs and glimpses of eternity


I’ve not been a big fan of Archibald MacLeish, but I stumbled across this poem and found it encouraging. A balm for these hectic times.

Not to be conquered by these headlong days,
But to stand free: to keep the mind at brood
On life’s deep meaning, nature’s altitude
Of loveliness, and time’s mysterious ways;
At every thought and deed to clear the haze
Out of our eyes, considering only this,
What man, what life, what love, what beauty is,
This is to live, and win the final praise.
Though strifes, ill fortune, and harsh human need
Beat down the soul, at moments blind and dumb
With agony; yet, patience–there shall come
Many great voices from life’s outer sea,
Hours of strange triumph, and, when few men heed,
Murmurs and glimpses of eternity.

For me, poetry is one of those “great voices from life’s outer sea” from which come “murmurs and glimpses of eternity.”

And I found a pretty neat new (to me) poetry site — Poetry Genius.