Dec 212013

As wonderful as the Christmas season could be, as portrayed by many heart-warming Christmas movies and the powerful celebration of the birth of baby Jesus to bring peace and joy to the world, for many it’s also the time for family dynamics that can stir up a wide range of emotions with family drama, strained relationships, and/or painful loneliness. (confession: yes, I have  my share of ‘em too)

And the timing is just right to get a note from my friend Liz Swanson launching a new blog: In-Law Savvy – bookmark it at - where she actively share her own reflections and insights from the 1,000+ interviews with experts about healthy relationships for the context of growing with the quirkiness of people closest to us and unplanned things that life sometimes brings our way.


And the first blog posts show good signs of very interesting reading up ahead in the near year. Look at these salient sound bites of self-reflection:

“… that means I speak as I think instead of thinking before I speak. Being both a reactor and a verbal processor can be a lethal combination.” ~ from I need to vent

“… But my grandmother drove her nuts and apparently my mom was unaware of the fact that we all knew it.” ~ from A fresh perspective on in-laws and control

“… We were so determined to be at our own family celebrations that we actually put our lives in danger to make it work. We’ve learned a lot since then. I know the holidays can be stressful.” ~ from In-Law Stress During the Holidays with 7 Tips for Managing In-Law Stress During the Holiday

“… Looking for the cracks in others produces fertile ground for resentment to grow. Resentment is a private emotion that has little impact on the person it’s directed towards but a very destructive impact on the one who holds it.

For a whole different side of life, stop by Eric Swanson’s blog too (her husband), over at He’s notorious for food photos and drawing grids & quadrants.

Jan 052012

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark & Grace Driscoll

As a leading voice of the next generation with growing impact around the world, Pastor Mark Driscoll and wife Grace have authored an incredibly relevant book for our sexually-charged culture. The book comes with well-grounded biblical teaching to exhort married couples to live out the Gospel and what that looks like in everyday life. The Driscolls also reveals their personal and family histories to give a context for how they’ve worked at growing their marriage towards oneness as friends and lovers. An accompanying DVD set adds to this personal texture and makes it easier for small group discussions.

Pastor Mark is also unafraid to candidly address the sex questions today’s people have about whether they can or can’t do something. After all, if the church doesn’t have an answer, people are left to make up their own answers under the influence of a mainstream media-driven culture that knows no moral boundaries. The most valuable part of the book for this reviewer is the final chapter that maps out a comprehensive “reverse-engineering” framework of discussion questions that makes accessible the honest communication often advised for marriages but often incomplete in other Christian marriage books.

Addendum: Of course, Driscoll is a lightning-rod for conversation and controversy (though he’s not as edgy as he once was now that his popularity and influence has grown), so as the book releases, it is getting an energetic promotional and marketing effort, and a growing amount of blog and news buzz.

Washington Post observed how Christian leaders talk about marriage and sex with mention of  Tim Keller and Rick Warren — and I’d agree that it’s a bit late to the party, as this article noted how Joy of Sex was published back in 1972. Really, almost 40 years later? If the church and pastors don’t address the topic of sex, mainstream media and pop culture sure will and does and has for decades. Better late than never?

Rachel Held Evans has noted in Why Being a Pastor Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Sex Therapist her reactions to the book’s good, bad, and ugly. Tony Jones (A Complementarian Who Thinks Mark Driscoll Is a Misogynist) won’t review this book. David Moore blogged at The Burner that Mark Driscoll Thinks Wives Are Only Good for Sex. Raleigh Examiner stated the obvious: Mark Driscoll and Real Marriage spark controversy.

What these critiques have overlooked (or editorially left out due to length, or their emphasis on points of disagreement) is Driscoll’s emphasis on the crucial essentiality of friendship in a marriage, the value of genuine curiosity to cultivate a real relationship, and not that marriage for just sex; thought Pastor Mark freely uses the phrase, “friends with benefits.” One quote I found in the book, “The biblical pattern for Christian marriage is free and frequent sex” raised my eyebrows. Hadn’t heard that one before.

[disclosure: I received a review copy via booksneeze]

Jun 092009

It all unravels eventually. Whether it’s getting tired of hiding the indiscretion, telling a lie, living a lie. Or, getting caught red-handed.

Another pastor admits an emotional and physical affair. It’s wrong and there are tons of consequences. I think in the information age, with the openness of the Internet, more bad news is known and spreads faster. shattered livesMoral failures have been around before, easier to hide in some sense, though just as devastating. This past weekend, another pastor falls, even more in the public eye because of social media. And the online chatter perculating.

Scott Williams lists 4 Reasons Leaders FAIL, i.e. fake, attitude, integrity, lacking. Geoff Surratt warns pastors of how they’re already toast if they think they aren’t vulnerable. Ron Edmondson adds his thoughts and Todd Rhoades adds his prayer for another fallen servant.

To reiterate, from Why Pastors Fall Into Affairs: “What is it with pastors and affairs? I did a brief search through Google and found all kinds of stories about pastors having affairs with secretaries, the wives of other ministers, and who knows who else. … Curiously, many pastors fall into affairs when their ministries grow. Success has a way of turning on its master. … Of course we’re not big fans of learning from our mistakes. … I know if I started pastoring a church tomorrow I’d say to myself, “Those other guys fell, but not me. I’m going to be fine.”

Pastors know what they’re supposed to do. They teach it and preach it. And the inevitable stresses of ministry will come (or never goes away, in many cases). Pastoring the most stressful job I can think of. Sometimes the church is overly successful. The stresses of marriage and family life will show up too — nobody has a perfectly easy marriage. And there’s always someone of the opposite sex who is more attractive to the average red-blooded male. I’m one, so I know what I’m talking about (tongue in cheek.) Plus there’s the spiritual realm too. Pastors have a red bulls-eye on their back, constantly in the cross-hairs of Satan’s destructive schemes.

My own thinking is that keeping precautions and rules won’t guarantee moral & marital purity. Rules don’t change the heart. From my vantage point, I’m of the opinion that high-capacity leaders tend to be task-oriented, and not as relationally-oriented. Task-orientation is what makes them that much more effective, but it’s also is the achilles’ heel, because there’s going to be the tendency of not spending enough time in close relationships with a few trusted others — especially in transparent vulnerable friendships where they are fully known. If friends knew the struggles and temptations in the heart & soul of a leader, especially in this area of temptation, then a leader doesn’t have to bear it all by himself. It’s true that leadership is lonely at the top, and the higher you go, the lonelier it gets. No one will understand what the leader is going thru. Partly true. Others don’t have to understand, but others can know. At least get a professional counselor to relieve the stress that mere rest and sports will not.
Continue reading »

Mar 212009

Once in a while, I get a question via the contact page, and some of them are worth answering in the open for the benefit of all. Here’s one about why God made sex for marriage.

Question: I need some help. I am doing a talk to teens on sex and abstinence. I saw some stuff on your blog that was helpful. The question I never really see get answered by anyone is this: why is sex part of God’s plan for married people? I see lots of stuff on why we should wait, but not why God made it this way or when it became that way? Obviously Adam and Eve were the first 2 people around and so that was the only option for them, but when did it become only for married couples?

djchuang >> God’s plan for sex in marriage was right there from the beginning, in Genesis 2, i.e. the two shall become one flesh. While it may not have been spelled out as “thou shalt not” in Genesis, the sacredness of sex in marriage is repeatedly mentioned throughout Scriptures, e.g. Thou shalt not commit adultery (Ex 20), Jesus’ teaching on marriage (Mt 19), and Eph. 5‘s teaching on how marriage is the real-life example of how Christ loves the church.

That was my quick summary answer in a minute. What would you add?