Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Fail

dreamstimefree_163036Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

She has this all planned out. She has been planning her Valentine’s days since she was a little girl. The day begins with a full breakfast cooked to perfection. You leave for work with a look of gentle sadness in your eyes, knowing that you are leaving the gems of your life behind. She is pleasantly surprised to find a little love note in her purse from you. Yes, you did it again, a poem hand written by you that is perfectly in tune with her every heartbeat. She sighs gently to herself that she is the luckiest girl in the world.

You send her thoughtful texts from work reminding her that you know she is the most beautiful thing that God ever created. You instruct her to dress in something formal because there is a surprise date this evening to somewhere special. Right as she is finding the right dress, the doorbell rings. She answers it to find a delivery of the largest bouquet of roses she has ever seen. You sent a dozen for every year you’ve been married.

You arrive home looking fresh and relaxed after another day of killing it professionally. She is wholly secure in her financial future because of your great work ethic and careful planning just in case the worst happens. She looks radiant in her dress. You take one of the roses from the bouquet and with a deft hand you make a beautiful corsage on the spot that goes perfectly with her dress. You walk to the car holding hands as you drive to her favorite restaurant.

She is so surprised when the waiter beings you to a private table. You order for yourself and then show how carefully you have been studying her all these years by ordering what she would like as well. You check with her to be sure, but you were exactly right. As you sip champagne together you reminisce over all the great times you have had over the years. You tell her that when God made the world, he made her just right to be the perfect match for you.

You drive home holding hands in the car. When you arrive, you hurry over and open her door. When you go inside, you dim the lights and turn on her favorite romantic music. As you take her in your arms, she breaths a gentle prayer thanking God for such a wonderful husband. As the evening progresses, well, let’s just say it went well from there.

Not intimidating at all, right?

The real you wakes up on February 14th, nearly forgets to shave, hurries to work. Yells at the dog on the way out. Has a very stressful day at work. Rushes home and decides to fix that leaky faucet in the basement. After a long and exhausting day your head hits the pillow and you look into your dear wife’s eyes. Those hurt, angry eyes.

Crap, you forgot again. At least you weren’t away fishing this year.

None of us guys can live up to the Hallmark commercial. She won’t smile as big in real life as the girl in the Kay Jewelers commercial did. The fact is that only one word describes Valentines Day.

Intimidation!

We aren’t up to this. If she just liked sports more this would be easy. But no, she has dreams of romance and kindness. Less beer and more wine. What is a guy to do?

You have a couple of options. The worst one is to ignore the day. Sure it’s scary, but I promise she knows it’s coming. If you forget/ignore the day, she won’t. Minimal effort really is worth more than no effort at all.

Nearly as bad is a passing mention. “Happy Valentine’s Day honey” with a kiss on the cheek. She has dreams of being romanced and a simple well-wish will not cut it. You need to do more.

Some men fall into the trap of thinking this is about money. If you spend sufficient funds on flowers, chocolate, and a cute night gown (let’s face it, the night gown is a gift for you). To be sure, money helps. Particularly if you are a tight-wad or gifts are her thing. But let’s not pretend that money is honoring and showing her that you prize her. Money spent is only as good as it shows her that she is precious to you.

So let me show you the most excellent way. Demonstrate she is precious to you the other 364 days of the year.

I was recently discussing with my wife an idea I read in the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Every day, he writes a note on the 3×5 card to his wife affirming her in some way. She loves these notes so much that she has shoe boxes full of them from many years of notes. Even when he travels, he leaves prewritten notes for her.

My wifes’ response was priceless. “I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t love that.”

Hint taken.

As of last week, I have written a 3×5 card every day I work. My friends, this works. It is good for her to read these notes but it is also very good for me to write them. It is good to be reminded about the things I love about her. It is not that we don’t fight, but it created a very affirming atmosphere for us to fight in. It has been so good that I will be writing one to each of my children once a week.

Gentlemen, the best way to love your wives is not to show her you care one day a year with a glorious and romantic evening. She would much rather you did a few little things the other 364 days. If we have done well, Valentines day will be the culmination of a previous year’s work. It doesn’t help me much if God loves me on Sunday but has no help for Monday. Your wife needs you to love her well the rest of the year so that you can give her a single rose on Valentine’s Day, but she knows that rose is from a man who deeply loves and affirms her.

Will this solve all your problem, not by a long shot. Loving is hard. But if all loving has this kind of payoff, then loving her well is wonderful indeed.

Now go tell that woman specifically what you love about her.

-Chip

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Entitled to Nothing, Given Everything

man-prayingOn October 5, 2007 at 2 AM, I was afraid. Sitting in a car in Fridley, MN I prayed.

“Lord, don’t take my son. Please, don’t take my son.”

My wife was 28 weeks pregnant. We were in a strange city on a very stormy night. My wife is in labor and my son is in serious danger. 28 weeks is way too early. I didn’t know the exact risks, but I knew they were serious.

Sitting in the car and soaked with the pouring rain, I looked toward the upper floors of Unity Hospital. My wife was there and I was sure she was scared. What can I do to support her? If I were in some movie I would promise that everything would be just fine. But she and I both know that I have no power to keep that promise.

I got out of the car and ran through the rain. Hurrying back to the floor, we met with the obstetrician who was working that night. he explained that the baby was coming and that he was quite premature.

“Tell me the worst case scenario” I said.

“Well, the blood vessels in his brain are fragile and when he is delivered, if any of them were to burst, he could have serious brain damage.”

Oddly, it was good to know what the worst was.

Unity Hospital was not equipped to deal with a child that premature so they asked for Children’s Hospital to send an ambulance so that the baby could be sent to Children’s right away. Unfortunately, the ambulance was busy on another call. The staff slowed Sam’s labor in the hopes of putting off the delivery until they arrived.

It was over two hours before they arrived and Sam was allowed to labor. shortly thereafter, at 4:57 AM, my son was born. He let out a loud cry which to this day brings tears. He was gently put into what I call the Baby Baker (an incubator on a stretcher) and was whisked away to Children’s hospital.

We named him Chase after me. He was Charles Gruver IV.

I tell this story to ask a question: Does God owe me Chase?

We heard lines like “God wouldn’t let him die” and “just believe that he will be fine.” These were meant to be comforting, but they weren’t. We knew that throughout the Bible God not only allowed terrible things to happen, sometimes he commanded them. God could have stopped Herod from killing every child under two in Bethlehem, but he didn’t.

The fact is, terrible things happen to believers and to their children. God does not spare his children from suffering, even awful suffering. I recently was reading on the Holocaust and there is a picture of a Hungarian Jewish mother walking with her two young sons on their way to the gas chamber. Was God wronging them? He could have saved them from the gas chamber.

As heartwrenching as it is, the answer is that we are God’s and he can do with us as he pleases. That night, I knew that God could take my son and he would not be wrong to do so. Chase was not mine. He was God’s and I was begging for the privilege of caring for him.

Despite the months of fear, this story has a happy ending. Chase is alive and well today. God did grant my request and he spared my son. The happier ending is that Chase and I are believers, we will live with Jesus forever. One day he will not be simply my son, but a brother who will turn one million the same year I turn one million twenty-four.

As frightening as it is to know that God could take Chase at any time, it is also freeing. God is not random chance. If he takes Chase from me, he has a purpose. Far from being meaningless, God’s actions are deeply meaningful. That is full of meaning!

The heartbreak we feel should be felt. The pain in this world is because of sin but it is also in the hands of a Father who loves us. We are allowed to grieve, but we “may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If God had taken Chase, it is in the end for my joy.

So brothers and sisters, do not hang onto your things, children, spouses, jobs, and friends as if God would wrong you if he took it away. That is a recipe for losing your faith when he does take it away. Instead give him everything. Know that it is his to start with and be thankful that he has let you enjoy them.

The strange part is that when I give them up, I am more thankful for them. Tonight is not just any night, it is one of the finite number of evenings I get to spend with my wife in this world. Maybe it is even the last one. How grateful I am for each one!

-Chip

Whiplash of the Soul

neckpainRecently, I have been experiencing the whiplash of the soul. During the last two weeks I have felt sad and tempted. Like every vice in my heart was given fresh power to overcome me. Within hours I will feel full of desire to be with Jesus. Every moment I speak with him and read of him is water to my parched soul.

I suspect that both realities are the same condition with God providing grace. My dry soul is relieved by his grace only to be dry again within hours, needing more grace. Maybe the very temptation I am experiencing is a new opportunity to drink deeply from my Father.

How can I wake up one morning and feel alive and revived by Jesus and by noon I am fighting hard not to stare at the girl walking by my cubicle at work? Why is the temptation so strong even while the joy in Jesus is so deep?

One factor may be that my sweet moments with the Holy Spirit are making my conscience more sensitive to “the sin that so easily entangles” me. I fear losing those moments and this makes me more afraid of my sin. Additionally, maybe the dryness I feel is me knowing more deeply how desperate I am for God. I don’t need him weekly or even daily, but I need him every hour and every minute.

It’s strange to think of grace being enough to deeply satisfy for this minute, but only for this minute. I need to go back to my Father and ask for more delight in the next minute as well. It is a sweet dependence, but one that takes a constant reminder to go back to him.

I wish I had all the answers on this one. How is it that I feel both very strong and very weak within the same day? I’m not really sure. God knows and he loves me.

That’s enough for this minute anyway.

-Chip

Same-Sex Attraction, the Uncool Sin

191141339_1380817739In the church, we can at times have cool sins and uncool sins. We often give a pass to the sins we like and heartily condemn the sins we don’t. This is even more apparent in the world of sexual sins. We will more often give a pass to a sexually active adult unless they are sexually active and gay. We act as though heterosexual sin is somehow less sinful that homosexual sin.

This difference reaches its tentacles into the world of pornography. The church will often look thoughtfully at a man who struggles with pornography but will be repulsed should he admit it is gay porn. Far from loving that man, we back away. He is a leper and we want to keep our distance.

We need to be very careful to keep the broader cultural debate about homosexuality from being a barrier to loving people. There is nothing mysterious about their sin. They, like all of us, are twisted by sin into desiring things that will harm them. Like us, they need a savior who will take away their sin. More than being like us, they ARE us.

There are many men and women walking in our churches today with a secret. They struggle with same-sex attraction. They feel that there is no home for them in the church. This is tragic. That is the hospital turning away the sick. That is the food shelf turning away the hungry.

There is an excellent article by a courageous man named Nick Roen called An Alternative Script to Same Sex Attraction. He argues that the men and women who have same-sex attraction need the community of the church (and certainly not to be treated as lepers). His willingness to step out and discuss this is exceptional. Most of us are not so brave.

There are not cool sins or cool sinners. There are only very broken fools who shake their fists at God and demand their own way. There are only two types of people in the world: bad people and Jesus. Let’s not get caught up in whose sin is the most vile and love people where they are. Let’s confront heterosexual AND homosexual sin with grace and truth. We are not the healthy reaching the sick. We are the sick pointing to the doctor. Let’s make sure our hospital invites all sick people to come and meet the doctor.

-Chip

Count Vicegrim’s Letters: Chapter 5 Responsible and Tolerant

The Count Vicegrim LettersThe Demon Mudpot’s Annual Review regarding the Temptation of the Patient in His 19th Year

Mudpot, I Hate You!

I really do. No sooner do you show some success and then you allow a failure like this. While you were taking short trips away to enjoy yourself, you left the Enemy’s Spirit unsupervised with your patient. Am I surprised? No. Am I angry? Yes, with the fire of Hell. You better get this turned around soon. By soon, I mean right now.

So, let us proceed with your review.

What Went At Least Sort of OK, Maybe

Unlike your previous failing year, there was some good done. Unfortunately, I am not in the mood to discuss it. So let’s just skip to your failures.

What Went So Badly I Could Vomit

First, how could you leave your assignment alone? Mudpot, it is your job to watch and carefully monitor your patient. This is a deadly serious business and you left your patient by himself with the Enemy’s Spirit. You are a weak tempter but I didn’t expect this kind of naivete. Don’t let it happen again. I have instructed Count Pageslip, the demon responsible for the patient’s University, to check on you frequently. If he finds anything not to his liking, he has free reign to… how shall I put it…correct the situation. Having known Count Pageslip for a long time, I would advise you to make sure everything is in order at all times.

As I understood your report, you left your patient and he met a female vermin who invited him to a Bible study at a local campus ministry. He went to the study and the Enemy’s Spirit woke him up there. By the time you returned several days later, he had moved out of the fraternity and was reading the Bible regularly. Wow, Mudpot, how many days were you gone?

We need to work with double effort to remedy this very dangerous situation. Don’t forget that he is still listed as high risk. If this one becomes a prominent servant of the Enemy, I will take this out of your hide!

First, get him to stop reading that Bible. For him, I think the most effective way to accomplish this is to have him trade Bible reading for something less threatening for us. Try to get him busy helping the poor or feeding the hungry. In his current state, we won’t be able to get him to stop by attacking directly. We need to drown out the Bible with other “good things.” As one of the their author’s says, the greatest enemy of the perfect is the good. The shortest path to destruction sometimes goes through the outskirts of heaven.

One gigantic advantage of “good deeds” as a way of drowning Bible reading is that the human ego is often stroked by praise for helping humans. It is very hard to convince a vermin looking into the Bible that he is great and wonderful. No, that vermin is far more likely to say that the Enemy is good and they they are sinners: exactly the opposite of what we want.

Second, I think it is time to press your patient into a romantic relationship. You will have difficulty getting him to abuse pornography right now (thought keep the temptation coming). Guide him to a girl who at least says she believes in the Enemy’s Son but has a history of fornication. The advantage this brings is that a real female is closer to the Enemy’s plan for him, but if he can be led to fornicate with her, she can bring him back to us. Just because he has stopped staring at the naked vermin does not mean that all of those years of looking haven’t caused him to have serious misconceptions about the vermin female.

You see, most of his education about sex has been from those magazines and websites. He will really believe that the females want sexual intercourse in all of those absurd positions. He will be surprised when the female is not interested in sex several times a day or that she really wants him to be her friend before he is her lover. You see, he views sex as being about his enjoyment and he is not aware that the path to that enjoyment is to serve her. None of those magazines or videos or images showed vermin males sacrificing and loving the females. No, they show the females giving them sex for nothing. Your patient can be lead to deep disillusionment and you can derail the work of the Enemy’s Spirit if you handle this right.

Third, as I instructed you last year to press that your patient should sin “Responsibly”, you should also now press him to be “Tolerant”. He is going to develop some deep convictions from the Enemy’s Spirit. You need to press him to ask if any such conviction it “tolerant”. You see, other vermin who are sinning will be offended at your patient’s view. Make sure that he feels that their offense means he is “intolerant”. We have made intolerance on college campuses to be almost on par with genocide. Everyone avoids the label and it would be very helpful if your patient also was skiddish about being intolerant. Many a dangerous vermin has been neutered by attempting to be tolerant.

For example, if he is tempted to talk about the Enemy’s Son to another vermin, make absolutely sure that the word “intolerant” is said by someone in the room. It makes me laugh because by definition, the person who says this is trying to silence your patient. Yet, is silencing someone “Tolerant”. Anyway, between keeping him “responsible” and “tolerant” you might be able to avoid the some difficult situations.

Finally, I am going to be making a site visit in the next few weeks. Get things in order or I will discipline you properly. You should be grateful to have a tempter of my caliber to help you.

I am not so lucky.

Count Vicegrim

Image created by Cavin and used with permission

Women Are Really Suffering Gentlemen, Pay Attention

I recently visited a blog for women because of an intriguing article about a man’s confession of his porn use. The article is good, but what floored me was the comments flowing from the article. Page after page after page of women whose husbands were abusing pornography and they didn’t know what to do.

I would encourage any guys out there who are struggling to understand their wives’ struggle. Read the comments on this article. These women are desperate and their husbands are callous. Don’t be these guys. Repent, seek help, confess your sins to your wives, join a recovery group. This is not a matter of a private sin and nobody gets hurt. I just read wife after wife after wife who were not simply hurt, they were devastated.

Be better than that men. Be better.

-Chip