23 simple pleasures

One of the things I like about WordPress is that it gives me the ability to
categorize my posts. When I moved over from Blogger, I
went
through
my
archives
and categorized my old posts. It took a while, but I feel like things are
more organized now. (Still thinking about redesigning everything, btw. I haven’t
forgotten all the helpful comments.) However, now I can see that a few categories
are sparsely populated. I don’t know why, but I feel like every category should
have at
least ten posts.
So I’ll be working on bringing those numbers up. The 23 Things category
is particularly pitiable, with only three posts (four if you include this one),
so tonight I’ll add to that.

Life offers a few big, memorable moments. It also offers a lot of small things
that just warm your heart. These 23 things are part of the latter group, though
some are certainly bigger than others.

  • The way a happy dog smiles with its whole body.
  • Firefly.
  • The music of Roger Miller.
  • A book sale at a public library.
  • The taste of my favorite food or drink after I’ve gone weeks without even
    smelling it.
  • My wife’s laughter after I say something funny.
  • Comments on my blog.
  • A high-speed internet connection.
  • The look on a child’s face when he starts to ask me a question, then suddenly
    realizes I’m not his mother.
  • Reading a Bible passage I’ve read a hundred times before, but learning
    something completely new from it.
  • The way my wife rests her face against my neck.
  • Singing to my unborn child.
  • The
    Princess Bride
    .
  • Discovering a new link to this site.
  • Playing my ukulele.
  • Talking to someone who loves their spouse and loves marriage.
  • The comfort of my bed at the end of an exhausting day.
  • Chocolate.
  • Two-dimensional video games.
  • Talking to someone who loves grammar.
  • A good Broadway musical.
  • Talking to an old friend.
  • Making a new friend.

Marriage links for the week

A child asks you whether a cohabiting couple is married. How do you answer the
question? Marla
tackles the issue
from all sides and discovers some additional
questions she must answer for herself before she can adequately explain the situation
for her 8-year-old.

Bowden McElroy has made a career out of dealing with marital issues and counseling
people in matters of the spirit and mind. If he
can’t read his wife’s thoughts
,
then I don’t feel so bad about my failure in that area.

There wasn’t much about marriage in the blogosphere this week. I did get some
more responses from pastors regarding ways a congregation can encourage a pastor.
Check out the links on the
permanent page
, which now include links from pastors Peter
Bogert
, Jason
Dollar
, Bowden
McElroy
(with two more parts),
Pat Morley,
and
Pastor
Russ
.

An interview with Julie Anne Fidler

I wrote yesterday about Julie Anne Fidler’s new book, Adventures in Holy
Matrimony
.
I submitted a few questions to Julie in an e-mail after reading the book. Here’s
what she had to say:

Why did you write this book?

When I was approached about writing
a book, my marriage was the dominant topic in my life. My husband and
I were going through a period of great healing, and we both felt like God was
telling us that He wanted to use that to minister to others. So it seemed
like it was "meant to be".

Why do you blog?
Honestly, when
I started blogging back in 2002, I did it because I wanted to work on my writing
skills, but now I’d have to say
it’s just because it’s my favorite hobby. Why do some people knit? It’s
relaxing, it’s their thing. That’s how I feel about blogging.

Why did
you and Scott decide to marry?
My husband and I had a really
passionate romance. I knew we were soul mates by the second date. We
probably really nauseated our friends, because we didn’t like to be apart and
nothing seemed as cool or as fun if we weren’t together. We COULDN’T
be apart. One thing I can honestly say about my life is that I married
for love — nothing more, nothing less.

Why did the two of you decide to
stay together when the seemingly insurmountable obstacles arose?

We didn’t
believe divorce was an option, deep down. We WANTED to get a divorce,
but there was something in us, emotionally, that kept us from doing that. We
have always believed that God hates divorce. We’ve also always believed
that God does not put a couple together, just to let them fall apart while
he steps back and watches
it happen. Even though it would have been easier to just split up and
go our separate ways, we knew that if we submitted ourselves fully to God,
and did the things He wanted us to do, we really had no excuse.

If you could
rewind time and be 18 again, what would you do differently?


I’d go to
college, and I’d work really, really hard! I
went to college, and partied hard, instead. Who doesn’t? But my
partying burned me out and I dropped out after a year. It’s my biggest
regret in life.

You talk in your book about how you plan to use your experiences
to minister to other couples experiencing difficulties. Does your husband support
that idea?

Absolutely. Now it’s just a matter of figuring
out what that means. My husband’s best buddy is a pastor, and he’s in
the emerging church movement, and he keeps talking to us about moving to the
Gettysburg area to work with the young adult/marriage ministry. We’ve
been praying about it, to see if we feel led.

What is your hope for the future
of your marriage?
I used to hope
that my husband’s health would drastically improve, and that we’d buy a nice
house, and have two kids, and drive a minivan, and it was this really aesthetic
dream. I still hope for my husband’s healing, obviously, but now I realize
it’s not about those things. My hope is that my husband and I will fully
develop into the people God has created us to be, and that our marriage will
do the same. I want to be people who reach out and help others, and inspire
them.

Adventures in Holy Matrimony, a review

I just finished reading Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the
Absolute Worst
by fellow marriage blogger Julie
Anne Fidler
.
The book is a celebration of marriage at its most difficult, and it is filled
with harrowing scenes of anger, frustration, disappointment, despair, and undying
hope. Julie
relates how her hopes for marriage began to be dashed on the day following
the wedding. She fell ill and was unable to do much of anything for a week.
Scott,
her
husband,
then began experiencing symptoms related to a chronic high level of iron
in his blood (symptoms that include chronic fatigue, swollen joints, Irritable
Bowel Syndrome, and impotence and loss of libido). Julie’s bout with bipolar
disorder, coupled with a past that included abuse in her
childhood
and an
especially
chaotic
adolescence,
proved
to
be
as
debilitating as Scott’s condition. The combination of physical
and psychological difficulties, along with crippling financial troubles, almost
killed their marriage.

The Fidlers’ story is one of hope, but not yet of conclusive triumph.
This book is a picture of a marriage in the process of healing. Julie doesn’t
offer canned advice or educational marriage counseling here. She doesn’t pretend
that her experiences give her any sort of general or specialized expertise.
She simply demonstrates how they have dealt with their difficulties in the
past (sometimes productively, sometimes destructively) and are now building
a life together after coming to the brink of divorce. In the process, she shows
how any marriage can fall victim to circumstances beyond anyone’s control,
and how a foundation of faith in God is vital for any marriage to last and
thrive:

"The intended message of this book is simple. Don’t give up, don’t give
in, and don’t throw in the towel. If we can make it, so can you. You are
never without hope as long as you have God in your corner. You can find love
and commitment where it appears your bonds have been all but destroyed.…[H]ealing
can be yours." —Julie Anne Fidler

Julie was kind enough to grant me an e-mail interview, which I will post tomorrow.
In the meantime, spring
for the book
. It’s definitely a profitable read (especially
for just $10) for everyone who values marriage.

Ministering to the ministers

I wrote the following e-mail yesterday and sent it to about 50 blogging pastors:

I’m writing to you and other blogging pastors because I have a question only
a pastor can answer. I’ve been growing increasingly aware of how difficult
the job of pastor can be. I know that pastors often receive a lot more criticism
than encouragement, and that can lead to all sorts of bad feelings. I think,
though, that most congregations truly love their pastors but don’t understand
how much encouragement is needed or how to practically provide that encouragement.
I also think that pastors are generally and understandably reluctant to ask
for
such encouragement or display any human weakness at all.

I personally love my
pastor, and I’m keenly aware of many things that beat him down in his ministry.
Most of those things are entirely out of my control
or
influence. I would like to provide encouragement to him myself and incite others
to do so as well. But I know enough to know that I have no idea exactly what
issues a pastor faces that members of the congregation could alleviate. I just
don’t know what to do or how to go about providing the most effective encouragement
for him.

My request to you is that you respond with a blog post (or a link to
a post if you’ve already written one) listing some practical ways a congregation
can
encourage
their pastor. If you’re reticent about revealing that sort of thing on your
own blog, I would be happy to post something you write on my blog and remove
your
name from it–sort of an "advice from an anonymous pastor" kind
of thing. I really want to know this, and I want the flock to stop being
unaware
of their shepherd’s humanity and needs.

If you decide to write a post about
this, please let me know so I can read it and link to it.

Sincerely,
Curt Hendley
The Happy Husband
http://www.thehappyhusband.com

This is really weighing heavily on me right now. Being a Godly pastor must
be the most difficult job in the world. CEOs of corporations must weather attacks
from competitors, and leaders of countries must deal with other countries’
leaders as well as politicians within their own countries, but pastors have
to protect themselves, their families, and their churches from attacks by Satan
himself. The fact that so many pastors get little love and support from their
congregations goes a long way toward explaining why so many pastors resign
every day.

I’m going to set up a permanent page on this site with links to pastors’ blogs
where they offer advice on how to encourage your pastor. I have already received
a few responses as well as a few promises. Check out these links and see how
you can serve
your pastor:

  • Steve
    Pedersen
    : "My Pastors’ Prayer Group met today on a 30 foot
    sailboat.…I asked the guys a question to start off our conversation:
    How can a congregation encourage their pastor? The guys on the boat responded
    with these ideas"
  • Tod
    Bolsinger
    : "If you ask any of my executive staff, they will tell you of
    how many people have come along side them, joined them in ministry and cared
    for them personally. And it is my confidence in this community of people that
    allows me to promise my staff that together we will all aim to have ‘a
    great ministry and a great life.
  • Mark
    Van Der Hurst
    : "What has my church done to encourage me? I have shared
    this with several pastor friends and have had a blogger ask for some ideas
    to encourage his pastor. So, here is my experience/feeble attempt at talking
    about a time OUT."
  • Craig
    Williams
    : "Begin here, trust and respect, until we prove untrustworthy
    or unreliable."
  • Glenn
    Buzbee
    : "Churches can be like middle school. Or like playgrounds beset
    by a handful of bullies. It only takes one or two kids on the playground to
    stand up to the bullies and say ‘Stop! No more!’ God just may be
    calling you to be one of those kids to stand up and speak out; but while it
    is scary to defy a bully in your congregation (and even a best friend could
    be one) if you don’t, then who will?"
  • Noel Heikkinen:
    "For me, [this question] takes more the form of ‘Things I Wish
    People Knew.’ I
    think if these things were realized, more encouragement could happen organically. "

I will share more responses as they come in, and I’ll keep adding them to
the permanent page once I build it. If you’re a pastor who doesn’t
blog or I didn’t include in my e-mail, please feel free to respond in
the comments or in an email to happy-at-atimelikethis-dot-net.


Update: I have created a permanent
page
with a link in the
sidebar. I will post further responses on that page alphabetically rather than
continually updating this post.

MCF’s Blog Party 4.0

Here’s my entry into MCF’s
Blog Party
, which asks for "Your top femme fatales
and/or formidable females of all time, from Comics, Cartoons, Television, Film
and MORE!":

No. 5 Formidable Female—Your Mom

If there is any single larger-than-life woman in everyone’s life,
it is Mom. Life giver, lawmaker, character molder, ruthless enforcer, and provider
of the tenderest loving care, Mom may be the biggest influence anyone has.

No. 4 Femme Fatale—Bathsheba

I’m never quite sure how much to blame her for leading King David
astray. On one hand, it seems like it would take an awful lot to seduce such
a man of God into such atrocious behavior. On the other hand, he was a man,
so maybe it took very little. In any case, both she and David were redeemed
through their offspring and became part of the earthly bloodline of Jesus.

No. 3 Femme Fatale—Jo Polniaczek

For some reason I can no longer fathom, this character portrayed
by Nancy McKeon on the ’80s sitcom The Facts of Life embodied my prepubescent
ideal woman fantasies. She resembled no one I have ever met in real life, and
yet she was what I thought a woman should be. Seriously, I was just a kid.

No. 2 Formidable Female—Eve

We could argue all day about whether Eve ruined it for all of
us or Adam failed in his duties and thus ended paradise, but either way she’s
the mother of us all and casts a shadow over time and history that we will
never escape as long as we’re on this earth.

No. 1 Formidable Female and Femme Fatale—Mrs. Happy

For sheer life changing influence, this one trumps them all for
me. Shattering my notions of what I needed/wanted in a wife, she showed me
how much love I’m capable of and how much I could be cherished.

Marriage links for the week

Miss O’Hara is upset by the state of masculinity in the modern world and reminds
us of what men were like
before Queer Eye.

Steve Lynch begins
his review
of the book Covenant Marriage: Building Communication
and Intimacy
by Gary Chapman.

Jollyblogger
reviews
Julie Ann Fidler’s (of Fidler
on the Roof
) new book Adventures
in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst
. I have my own
copy and plan to offer
my own review
some time next week.

Keith Plummer advises
people contemplating marriage
to "consider what their
expectations of each other are and to enter into the covenant of marriage with
their eyes open to each others faults." He also reviews the
book Spiritual Relationships That Last: What the Bible Says About Dating
and
Marriage
.

Rey’s wife explains
Jesus
to their three-year-old son.

His and Hers: Multiple Media

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage.

What is the last song you listened to, book you read,
and movie you saw?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Song: You And I Both, by Jason Mraz
Book:Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz
Movie: Moonlight Mile

Curt’s response

Song: Oh My Child, by Matt Nightingale
Book:
Sutter’s Cross, by W. Dale Cramer
Movie:
Moonlight Mile

Dating

I have a tip for you if you want to sneak some heresy into my brain: tell
it to me offhandedly as if it really doesn’t matter. That way it might soak
into
my subconscious mind and eventually surface somewhere in my thoughts entirely
unexamined. On the other hand, if
you
preach
it
and
diligently try
to
convince me, I’m more likely to think you’re compensating for some weakness
in your argument. At least that’s what happened in a college Sunday school
class
once. The teacher was droning on and on about dating and how we have to be
so careful
about who we go out with and put God first and be content alone and not have
sex and not be unequally yoked with a non-believer and blah blah blah blah
blah.
I
can’t
remember
exactly
what
he said that triggered
my opposing thought—it had something to do with every date being a potential
mate—but I do remember that I interrupted him and said, "Why?"

He shot me an incredulous look. He was not the regular teacher, but he had
taught our college group enough to think of me as intelligent. He seemed
to think I should already understand this, because he wasn’t really saying
anything we hadn’t all been hearing in church since our puberty began. I’m
not sure why he was trying to teach these particular dogmas when he thought
we should already know them, but he finally either bored me enough or challenged
me enough to question him. He said, "Well, if you don’t approach a date with
the right attitude and perspective, then the relationship won’t last."

"So?" I said. "Would that be so bad? Is there anything wrong with two people
having a great time hanging around each other for a couple of weeks? When two
people feel sparks, that’s an amazing feeling. If it only lasts a short time,
then they go their separate ways, is there any harm done? I understand
that real intimacy is possible only under the conditions you’re describing,
but is there something morally wrong with just having fun for a while?"

The man had a fair amount of respect for me, but every ounce of it visibly
drained out of his face in that instant. His definition of a successful date
was one that eventually led to marriage. A date that did not lead to marriage
was, in his book, a waste of time and life for both parties. This
article at Christianity Today
reminded me of that Sunday school lesson.

I don’t quite agree with the CT article, which asserts that dating is "an
end in and of itself." But neither do I fully agree that dating is worthwhile
only if it leads to marriage. Reality must lie somewhere in between.

I
was never a successful dater. I have always been physically unable to feel
comfortable around people I don’t know well, so I make a horrid first impression.
That
goes
double for girls, and triple for girls I find attractive. I have had three
different girlfriends in my life. Apart from them, I never had more than two
dates with any girl. I had established friendships with all three
of my girlfriends before we actually dated. This leads me to believe that I
have no real perspective on dating as it applies to most people. I’m just glad
my best friend and I didn’t care to date for several years, and only dated
for four months before
I put the ring on her finger. So my only dating advice is to marry your best friend. That’s
working out pretty well for me, anyway.

Meme3

I spent the evening in the company of my wife and a visiting pastor and
his wife, which has left me no time to blog. I always mean to blog six times
a week,
but I usually only post five times, and one of those typically bears the title
RLTB.
I didn’t blog at all yesterday, and
I’m getting antsy about not writing. I guess I’ll take this opportunity to
complete the
meme that Jerry tagged me with
:

Three screen names that you have had: eeyore, flapwilson,
TX Curt

Three things you like about yourself: toenails that curl
upward, a dry wit that few recognize, the fact that my wife finds me both lovable
and attractive

Three things you don’t like about yourself: my (at times)
debilitating insecurity, a burgeoning pot belly, a mild case of tinnitus

Three parts of your heritage: Christian, East Texas, West
Texas

Three things that scare you: life without God, loss of my
wife or child, bears

Three of your everyday essentials: physical contact with
my wife, verbal contact with my wife, emotional contact with my wife

Three things you are wearing right now: wedding ring, eyeglasses,
gym shorts

Three of your favorite songs: The Old Rugged Cross (hymn),
King of the Road (Roger Miller), If I Stand (Rich Mullins)

Three new things
you want to try in the next 12 months
: be a father, buy a house, get
a dog

Three things I want in a relationship: respect, loyalty,
love

Two truths and a lie: I have milked a goat, eaten rattlesnake
meat, and wrung a chicken’s neck

Three things you can’t do without: the Bible, my wife, books

Three places you want to go on vacation: Disney World, a
cabin in the Rockies, California

Three things you just can’t do: punch someone (except, once,
MCF), use God’s name in vain, a back flip

Three kids’ names: Victoria, Isabelle, Gummo

Three things you want to do before you die: meet an angel,
save someone’s life, write a book

Three Celeb crushes: Kate Hudson, Salma Hayek, Orlando
Bloom