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Thursday, October 29, 2009

the veins, not just the vine...

This is where it gets a little more sticky.  The troubleshooting of diseases isn't fun at all.  Thoughts like, "Can it still bear fruit even with disease?" or "Shouldn't the vine self-heal?  Why am I responsible for the strains of virus that it catches along the way?" or "Why not just pull the vine and plant a new one?" (a.k.a. - divorce)  All these questions and more flood my mind when it comes time for the vinedresser to treat the diseases that creep in along the way.  I'm looking for a way to avoid this part of the husbandman's responsibility.  Anyone else feel this way about Grapvine virus diseases? 

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Grapevine Virus Diseases

NEPOVIRUS DISEASES
This virus group includes at least 13 different viruses that can cause disease in grapevines. They share in common transmission by nematodes and a polyhedral physical structure when purified and examined with an electron microscope. This is the source of the name “nepovirus”: “ne” for nematode, “po” for polyhedral. Fortunately, only a few of these viruses are reported to be of importance in grapes in the U.S.

Fanleaf Degeneration — Grapevine fanleaf virus — GFLV 

GFLV is perhaps the best characterized virus of grapevines, causing fanleaf degeneration in affected plants. It is widely distributed throughout the world. Fanleaf disease is a major viticultural problem in California, causing reduced yields due to poor berry set. The reduction in yield can be over 80% in some varieties. Symptoms include fan-like distortions of leaves and chlorotic yellowing as ringspots, vein banding, and mottling or mosaic patterns. The virus is transmitted by the nematode Xiphinema index and can infect all Vitis species. 

Yellow Vein — Tomato ringspot virus — ToRSV

ToRSV causes yellow vein disease. A similar disease is caused by tobacco ringspot virus. These viruses are transmitted by several species of nematodes including X. americanum, X. californicum and X. rivesi. Symptoms of both diseases include shot berries, shoot stunting, and devigoration of the vine. These diseases are common in vineyards in the eastern U.S. and in fruit trees, but are rarely seen in California vineyards. The symptoms of yellow vein resemble those described for fanleaf, and they can be easily confused.

Arabis mosaic virus — ArMV 

This virus is widespread in grapevines in Europe. Although not found in California vineyards, it has recently been reported as common in Missouri and some infections have also been reported in Canada. Infected grapevines show symptoms similar to those of fanleaf, and ArMV can be present in a mixed infection with GFLV. Several nematode species can transmit ArMV to grapevines, the most common being Xiphinema diversicaudatum.

LEAFROLL

There are at least seven distinct viruses reported to be associated with leafroll disease. These viruses are collectively referred to as grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaVs) and are designated GLRaV 1 through GLRaV 7. ELISA tests are currently only available in commercial labs in the U.S. for GLRaV 1-5.

Symptoms of leafroll disease may include downward rolling of leaves, leaf reddening in the fall of red-fruited varieties, poor fruit color development, and delayed fruit maturation. Yield losses of 10 to 20% may occur. In cases of mixed infections with more than one virus, vines may be severely weakened and vine death may occur.

RUGOSE WOOD COMPLEX 

Diseases in the rugose wood complex are characterized by trunk and stem disorders (pitting and grooving). Foliar symptoms similar to leafroll may also occur. Diseases in this complex include corky bark, Kober stem grooving and rupestris stem pitting. Their effects on grapevines vary from mild to severe. Disease severity is compounded when multiple infections of the rugose wood complex occur, or by the presence of other viruses such as leafroll.

In recent years, individual viruses have been discovered and characterized which has made the detection of these disease agents much easier. There are still some rugose wood diseases for which the agent has not yet been described, making it necessary to perform laborious and slow biological tests.

Rupestris stem pitting-associated virus — RSPaV 

RSPaV is associated with rupestris stem pitting of grapevines. This disease is usually of little consequence. Decline due to rupestris stem pitting has been reported, but is not well-documented. RSPaV is widely distributed and is not targeted for elimination in most certification programs. 

Vitiviruses — GVA, GVB, GVC, GVD

The vitiviruses are a group of viruses associated with the rugose wood disease complex. Four vitiviruses have been discovered in grapevines: grapevine vitivirus A (GVA), grapevine vitivirus B (GVB), grapevine vitivirus C (GVC), and grapevine vitivirus D (GVD).

GVA is associated with Kober Stem Grooving. Affected vines may show swelling at the graft union and fail to thrive. Ungrafted vines may be infected, but usually do not show symptoms. 

GVB is associated with corky bark disease. The disease affects only grafted vines. The severity of corky bark is more pronounced in vines infected with other rugose wood complex viruses. 

Neither GVC nor GVD have been proven to cause disease in grapevine but their structure and genetic profiles have shown that they belong to the vitivirus group.

FLECK 
Grapevine fleck virus —GFkV

GFkV is a graft-transmissible virus that causes symptoms of disease only in V. rupestris. Other Vitis species can be infected but remain asymptomatic. In infected V. rupestris, symptoms include localized clearings (flecks) in the veinlets of young leaves. In older leaves, the symptoms diffuse into a mosaic pattern and the leaves wrinkle and curl upward. Symptoms persist during mild weather and disappear with the onset of hot temperatures. Very little information is available about the economic importance of fleck virus.

OTHER VIRUSES

Many other graft transmissible diseases, likely caused by viruses, can infect grapevines. These include asteroid mosaic, enations, vein necrosis, and vein mosaic, among others. These diseases have been studied to varying degrees, but have never been demonstrated to be common or severe.

Occasionally, new diseases appear that are significant. Recently, a new stem lesion virus disease was discovered in California (see California Agriculture, July-August 2001). Also known as Redglobe virus, this disease can kill vines on certain rootstocks. Continuing research is necessary to identify important new diseases like this and to develop diagnostic tools to help minimize their future impact.

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I am struck by the nuanced nature of disease.  You can't see it by just looking at the vines, sometimes it can only be seen by looking at the veins, those little darkened spiderwebs within the leaf that can only be seen by drawing close.  It's like the difference between the tree and the twig.  You can think the tree looks great all the while the twigs are speaking a different story.  

And here's the skinny...until you get closer to your wife, you will keep seeing her as a tree instead of a collection of twigs.  You will see the leaf (the vine), but miss the life (the vein).  Some diseases can be seen from the watchtower within the vineyard.  Discoloration is detected in a section of the vineyard that needs some attention.  But often, the diseases can't be seen without walking through the vineyard, taking each vine in hand and feeling the texture of the the leaf's skin, looking at the changing colors within the vine's veins.  Without this vine-dressing, without this botanic EKG, the wife-vine can begin to die a slow death and unknowingly be left for dead by her husband.  She will even bear fruit during her diseased state, but the wine will start tasting sour, wild (but we will get into that another day).

Suffice it to say, that woman-wine comes forth when she is handled as a veined vine.  The disease/dis-ease that can be avoided with early detection and early treatment is quite profound.  I've found some viruses that have crept into my wife over the years that I've had to treat with Truth-pesticide.  I call it truthicide.

Things like...

- Insecurity stem virus (ISv)

- Replaceable anomoly (Rp A-2)

- Lonley bark syndrome (LBsyn)

- Significance vein strain (SgnVS)  - this strain of disease can't be seen on the surface.

- Discoloration of Face/Joy Disorder - DF/JD

It's been good for me to see my responsibility in fighting these diseases that creep in along the way.  I can't just hope the vine heals itself.  I can't just say, "It's not my fault she has such a low immunity to viral infection."  I'm the vinedresser.  I'm the husbandman.  I have to be protecting the vineyard that is my wife.  

So I keep my eyes on the veins, not just the vine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crawlers...

I'm intrigued by these little buggers found on vines...they are called crawlers...

My wife has thousands of these things sprawling out looking for something to attach to.  The crawlers are questions that need answering like...

1. Do you really love me?
2. Can I rest under your banner of love?
3. Am I secure in your strength?
4. Will you give up on me?
5. Will you abandon me if I don't change?
6. Can I trust you?
7. Do you care about my heart?
8. Am I worth your pursuit?
9. Do you think I'm attractive?
10. Can I hold your attention until "death does us part"?

I wonder what other crawlers could be identified by soul-searching husbands?  Something to think about today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Husbandman...

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.
 1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, 
       who walk in his ways.

 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor
       blessings and prosperity will be yours.

 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine 
       within your house; 
       your sons will be like olive shoots 
       around your table.

 4 Thus is the man blessed 
       who fears the LORD.

 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion 
       all the days of your life; 
       may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,

 6 and may you live to see your children's children. 
       Peace be upon Israel.

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A piece of writing written quite obviously to men.  This makes me immediately curious and inquisitive.  What could the author be trying to stir up?  Who was he writing to and how was this guy struggling with his home life?  I'm not gonna lie, there is hardly a subject the interests me more than the home.  The family.  The marriage.  I'm not telling you something you don't already know if you frequent this blog with any regularity.  But I might as well state the obvious if for no other reason to "name my passion".

I have found my heart mulling over this passage for weeks now, each day unfurling a new fold of tender truth.  Each week ushering me into a fresh metaphorical magic of sorts.  Deep magic as C.S. Lewis describes it.  There is something magical about marriage, especially as it is treated in the Scriptures.  

The description of the the wife being a "fruitful vine" jumped off the page a few weeks ago longing to reason with me, reckon with my former judgements and ideologies as it relates to marriage.  I felt invited into new round table discussion, unlearning as much as I could about my preconceived notions and opening myself to new analogical pictures and textures tucked tenderly in the Hebrew text of the Psalter.  It's no secret, this is a fetish of mine...finding neglected nuggets of truth that for years have been left for dead in the Old Testament.  Especially nuggets that relate to men and women.

How is it that the woman could blossom and bear fruit when a man lives and loves well?  What would it take for me to live in such a way as to provoke/evoke such fruitfulness in my wife's heart?  How could I pick the fruit of my loving labor, a toil of chivalrous ilk?  How could I tend the vines of my wife's life to drink of the wines of her soul?  

It didn't take long in in my exploration of this metaphor to happen upon a beautiful, lost word.  Husbandman.  I love how the word husband is rooted in this ancient word, this almost ancient occupation of Husbandry.  I looked up the word looking for a cross-pollinating picture of marriage.  I was pleasantly surprised to unearth some hidden treasure.
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Husbandman/Vinedresser:

A vinedresser, or husbandman, is more than a mere farmer. Grapes are more than an annual crop. The vinedresser's grape vines remain with him for decades. He comes to know each one in a personal way, much like a shepherd with his sheep. He knows how the vine is faring from year to year and which ones are more productive or vigorous than others. He knows what they respond to and what special care certain one's need. Every vine has its own personality. And the vinedresser comes to know it over the years. The vinedresser cares for each vine and nurtures it, pruning it the appropriate amount at the appropriate times, fertilizing it, lifting its branches from the ground and propping them or tying them to the trellis, and taking measures to protect them from insects and disease.
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Robert Scott Stiner writes in his article called [Lessons from a Venetian Vinedresser]… "The rolling hills obscured my view from seeing very far ahead, but as I walked I heard someone singing and stopped long enough to recognize a man’s Italian voice nor far ahead of me.  I approached with caution.  Slowly, I moved into position as if to look at a wild deer before it spots you and leaps off into the forest.  Just as I  go to the crest of the hill, down the same row and about fifty yards ahead of me, was a man.  He didn’t see me, so I  squatted down and watched him working.  He was an Italian man that looked to be in his sixties with silver hair and a few darker traces still left from his younger days.  He had on a long sleeve shirt, work pants and boots.  Hanging out of his pockets were handfuls of those green rubber tubes and in his hand was a pair of small pruners.  He worked alone in this vast vineyard.  After watching him for only a few moments, it was as if the Holy Spirit said, “that’s the vinedresser”.
My mind reeled with excitement as I watched this man and for the first time I saw John chapter fifteen come alive before my eyes.
Here was an old man singing to the vines as if to serenade them as he did the work that only he could do.  Each branch he touched and ran his fingers along it; inspected and trimmed it in such a way that would cause it to bear the most fruit, the best fruit.
He wasn’t in a hurry and the time this process took seemed to be irrelevant to this vinedresser.  It was the end product, even if it would still be a long time away, which was of the utmost relevance."
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I'm continuing to hunt for more of these little jewels.  The forthcoming posts will be the journal entries of my findings.  I hope they enrich you as they are enriching me.

Further up, further in.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"I think marriage is overrated."

I'm on somewhat of a "marriage" kick lately.

Someone commented on my facebook recently, "Sometimes I think marriage is overrated."  Something about that sentence just lodged into the soft tissue of my heart.  I can't say as I blame 'em for feeling this way.  It does seem to offer much less than is hoped for in our culture.  I think a good many, men and women, would put a pithy "thumbs-up-symbol/like" to this sort of facebook status.  On the surface, it would appear that marriage is grossly over-rated, a thing of Disney animation/fantasy and syrupy chick flicks.  But the opposite is true.

Marriage is horrifically under-rated in my opinion.  It is not an issue of over-estimation, but of under-estimation that is causing it to be under such unguided ridicule.  

I lead young couples through marriage counseling several times a year and I'm amazed how little couples know about the weight and gravity of this ordained "union".  I remember one couple in particular that, when asked the basis of their attraction to each other, stated nonchalantly after a near 20 second pause, "He's just there for me."  I turned to him and looked for his two cents.  "Yeah, same for me." He replied.  

Maybe I'm being a stickler, but I'm sorry, being "there" for each other as the bedrock of your relationship ain't gonna cut it for very long.  That kind of cornerstone will turn into your capstone. (RIP - here lies a couple who founded their relationship on "being there" for each other.)  It's cute, but you might as well be "going out" in 3rd grade exchanging little crush-notes with do-you-like-me-check-yes-or-no boxes to be filled in with a number 2 homeroom pencil.  The disintegration of this sacred relationship is not to be blamed on over-stating and over-rating marriage, quite the contrary.

The fact of the matter is that marriage is labor.  It is not an institution for slackers.  This is why you look for someone who has a work ethic, not just cute dimples.  You want someone who won't throw in the towel when they wake up with a headache.  You want a spouse who knows how to "run toward the roar" and face conflict with poise and power.   You want a partner who knows the difference between their passions and their passion.  This internal ethos has to be taken into account before crossing the threshold into the honeymoon chamber.  Is the person I'm sleeping next to every night a laborer or a loser?  Hmmm?

"Marriage is overrated."  Really?  REALLY?  I didn't see that last night while watching television.  I saw two women kissing each other in a trailer for a movie.  I saw someone wearing a neckless like a gangster with the words "Open Marriage" dangling from a gold chain in between his collar bones.  I saw people making fun of a couple who was waiting to have sex until they dated a couple times. (Not until marriage, just a couple dates...and they were mocked like they rode the short bus to the bar.)  I watched a man put down the woman he was dating because she was mad that he was fooling around with other women.  He scolded her for her narrow thinking and proceeded to tell her that if their relationship was going to work, she was going to have to be o.k. with his need for polygamous partnerships to compliment the marriage.  I saw women being used to sell underarm deodorant to men, who expect to spread a thin layer of antiperspirant under their arms and have women flocking to them with the dilated pupils of a pack of wild wolves.  She was ripping off his clothes like a gift wrapped Christmas present just because he used the right hygienic product. Clever marketing, but marriage isn't about marketing now, is it?

I watched marriage being ripped to shreds right before my very eyes.  Devalued.  Underestimated.  Underrated.  In many ways, berated.  So no, I don't think the issue is the "overrating" of marriage.  On the contrary, I believe we think it to be within the same category as the civil unions between dung beetles and/or tapeworms.  And we wonder why we think marriage is the problem, the ball and chain, the grim reaper?  We wonder why so many people are drowning in a sea of debt and doubt, a season of endless winter fraught with sleet and high winds?  We question the institution of marriage, blaming it as the culprit, the object of our contempt?  We think marriage is the overrated fanciful idea of folklore and mythology?  

We have bowed to the nonexistent idols of Zeus and Aphrodite for too long.  We have lost the quintessential substance of this sacred union, this sacrament, this symbol of God's very heartbeat for humanity.  We have taken a dump upon the marriage bed and then asked it to smell like a bed of roses when we climb into it.  How can this be?

Unless and until marriage is elevated to its rightful place, treated with the divine respect it deserves, and entered into with sober-minded fear, it will continue to disappoint its window-shoppers.  It was not meant to be a recreation for hedonists, it was meant to be an institution for purists.  

Marriage Purists and Marriage Hedonists...where am I at?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jason knew Heidi...and she conceived...

Genesis 4:1 - "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain..."

I love that the Hebrew word for sex is the word "knew", not "screw".

When you engage in the delicacies of sex, you are entering into a world of knowing or not knowing.  When you share the deepest of delights with your spouse, they are shared on the basis of knowledge or lack thereof.  To the degree you know and are known, you will share that depth of sex.  You can't enjoy any more than you know.  You can't know any more than you've studied.  So becoming a student of your wife is sexual.

Does your wife know you?  Does she get to see into your soul?  Do you let her into your world?  Do you feel that she stays there very long when she gets there?  Are you embarrassed to show her around your heart?  

Does your husband know you?  Does he ever ask you the "why behind the what" or is he content to just know the what?  Does he listen well when you're sharing your heart?  Does he seem interested in your thoughts?  

If sex is anything, it is knowing.  It is knowing or it is nothing.

Here are some things that surfaced today as I thought about whether or not I know my wife:
1. When I talk to her, do I look into her eyes or affect to look away because of some nameless awkwardness?
2. Do I listen with my eyes when she's talking to me or am I nervous to stare at her?
3. What is it about gazing at my wife in conversation that is unnerving?
4. Am I more concerned with my dreams coming true or hers?
5. When I affirm her, am I specific enough with my supposed affirmations or do I stay vague, general and generic?
6. Have a studied the lies she believes and prepared a combative response that fights away those insecurities with potent and custom-fitted truth?
7. Do I know her tones of voice that speak of lost joy, lost confidence or lost identity?
8. Do I know how to read between her lines and see her handwriting of the wall?
9. Have a spent concentrated time watching her interact with other people looking for what makes her come alive?
10.  What makes her laugh from her belly?  Why makes her cry from her core?  What slight margins make all the difference between one emotion and the other?
11. When I'm walking the tight-rope measuring where to shift weight from one moment to the next, what am I looking for to determine those delicate fulcrum alterations?
12. Who knows my wife better than I do?  How are they handling my wife's heart differently than I am?  What can I learn from their tending, their tendencies?
13. Am I listening for the things she loves?  Has she been giving me signals, signs of life, and I am not picking up on her holy hints?
14. Has my desire for the physical connection gotten in the way of my desire for the spiritual connection?  
15. Does she know that I am proud of her?  Does she have any idea of her value to me?  Have I forgotten how important it is for me to communicate those sentiments to her out loud?
16. Do I keep asking her questions about her childhood, those seasons of her life when I didn't know her and wasn't there to witness her story?  Do I care where she's come from--coming from--or am I content with face value?
17. Do I know her name?  I mean, do I know what "she" means, who she is at the crux, what makes her tick, what makes her blood stir, what sweeps her away into daydreams?  
18. Do I think about her when she's not around, does she doubt her place in my priorities?  Does she feel "out of sight, out of mind"?
19. How long has it been since I just snuggled with her on the couch and tenderly touched her face with the reverence of catching a butterfly?  To catch and not crush?
20. Have I written to her of who she is to me?  Do I remind her of things about herself that she's forgotten?  Am I her biggest fan?
21. Have I really looked upon her lately?  Have I gazed upon her beauty following that trail to the heart from which it grows and glows?
22. Am I looking for new ways to say "I love you"?  Am I fighting to keep things fresh?
23. Do I know what makes her hesitate?  Do I know what makes her shake her head?  Do I know what makes her talk herself out of things or beat herself up?  Do I do anything about it when I see these things happening?
24. Are my children basking in the radiance of my love for my bride, my pride and joy.
25. If she died, would I die?
26. If I died, would she die?
_______________

Jason knew Heidi and she conceived.

She was born and born again.  Day after day, born again with every new bit of knowledge exchanged, every bit of knowing absorbed.  Day after day she became pregnant with new life, new joy, new hope, new dreams.  She lives continually conceiving because I injected a vaccine of strength that came from the study of her holy heart.  I mastered my wife over the years.  I studied her every move, the darting of her eye, the twitch in her eye, the falling of her face, the resurrection of her resolve.  I studied the words that she spoke and the words she needed to her.  

And more than anything, I studied her eyes, her face, her smile.  I gazed beyond her body into her being.  I had sex with her being.  She was mine, I was hers, and nobody knew us better than we knew each other.  And out of this knowing, my wife conceived, becoming the women of God's dreams instead of the daily still-born woman I see in so many wives I meet.

I want to know her.  I want her to know me.  This is sex.  This is good.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A letter from John Eldredge...



 This was a letter I received in September from John Eldredge and Ransomed Hearts Ministries.  I love his little snippets of truth that he sends out every so often.  This one was timely.  I feel that marriage is under attack right now in our church.  When I got this letter, I couldn't keep it to myself.  It's an excerpt from his book, Love and War, that will be coming out mid-December.  It couldn't come at a more opportune time.  I hope this provokes some new thoughts as it relates to marriage, and helps you to ask better questions and pursue better answers.  Enjoy!

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September 2009 

Dear Friends, 

Just this morning Stasi and I were talking about marriages we know, and we came to a pretty sobering realization - we can't name one marriage that hasn't been through deep waters in the last three years.
Not one. And we know a lot of people, and a lot of marriages. You'd think we'd be able to point to some couple who is trouble free. We can't find one. Not one. Every single marriage we know is either currently struggling, or they've just passed through some major struggle, or they've thrown in the towel. What's with that

Is it just a bad time to be married, like the 90's were a bad time to live in Rwanda? Is it a bad time for marriage generally, like last fall was a bad time to be in the stock market? Or, maybe it's something else. Maybe there's something about marriage, something inherent to it, that we'd all do well to go ahead and admit, face head-on, come to terms with. Marriage is fabulously hard. 

Everybody who's been married knows this. Though years into marriage it still catches us off guard, all of us. And newly married couples, when they discover how hard it is, they seem genuinely surprised. Shocked, and disheartened by the fact. 
Are we doing something wrong? Did I marry the right person? The sirens that lure us into marriage-romance, love, passion, sex, longing, companionship - they seem so far from the actual reality of married life we fear we've made a colossal mistake, caught the wrong bus, missed our flight. And so the hardness also comes as something of an embarrassment (don't you feel embarrassed to admit how hard your marriage is?). Maybe it's just us. 

Nope. This is everyone. We might as well come out and say it. 

The sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we'll find our way through. Of course marriage is hard. For heaven's sake, bring together a man and a woman - two creatures who think, act and feel so differently you'd think they'd come from separate solar systems - and ask them to get along for the rest of their lives under the same roof. That's like taking Cinderella and Huck Finn, tossing them in a submarine and closing the hatch; What did you think would happen?

When it comes to high-level expeditions, one piece of advice that veterans unanimously urge is this: 
"Choose your tent mate carefully." For you are going to spend weeks to months on end shut-in by foul weather in the forced intimacy of a tiny fabric cocoon with this person. By the time it's over everything about them will drive you mad - the way they eat, the way they breathe, the way they hum show tunes or pick their nails. To keep yourselves from a Donnor party ending, you must start with people your are utterly compatible with. 

God does the opposite - he 
puts us with our opposite. Our mutual brokenness plays off of each other so perfectly it's frightening. It's like throwing a dog and a cat in a dryer. Is he absolutely mad? Why would God do such a thing? 

Because marriage is a divine conspiracy. It is a conspiracy divinely arranged and with divine intent. God lures us into marriage through love and sex and loneliness, or simply the fact that someone finally paid attention - all those reasons that you got married in the first place. It doesn't really matter, he'll do whatever it takes. He lures us into marriage and then he uses it to 
transform us. 

Come back to the fairy tales - in everyone of those stories, the boy and the girl each carry a fatal flaw. If they refuse their transformation - which is essential to the plot of the story - they'll never make it. Evil will win, they will lose heart and split up, and there will be no happily ever after. Beauty and the Beast, The Horse and His Boy, The Golden Key - in every one of those stories, happily ever after waits upon a peculiar turn of events, at the center of which is their transformation. 

We all have a style of relating, we have a way that we do life. Our carefully crafted approach colors the way we work, the way we love, the way we handle stress and the way we look for life. Our style is borne out of brokenness and sin, and it is 
the number one thing that gets in the way of real love and companionship, the shared adventure and all the beauty of marriage. It's really this simple - the number one thing that gets in the way is your way. And we have absolutely no intention of giving it up. Not even to love. So God creates an environment where we have to. It's called marriage. 

Now listen carefully - God wants us to be happy. He really does. He simply knows that until we deal with our brokenness, our sin, and our style of relating, we aren't going to be happy. Nobody around us is going to be very happy, either. Most of what you've been experiencing in the last twelve-months is God's attempt to get you to face your style of relating, and repent of it. 

This is the old Christian understanding of the world, the understanding that happiness is the fruit of other things, chief among them our own holiness, and so we 
must undergo a transformation. Just like the fairy tales, we must share in God's holiness before the story is finished. This flies in the face of the more popular view of the world that's crept in recently - the happiness view. This is the idea that frames most people's expectations of marriage (and everything else) - the view that we're here for our happiness and so you'd better make me happy. It comes as quite a disruption when we begin to realize that God might have other things in mind!

But once we accept the plot of the conspiracy - our transformation - then we can get on with cooperating with God, and that opens the door to all sorts of good things.

This is an excerpt from the book Stasi and I just finished on marriage, entitled Love and War. It comes out at the end of the year. But we thought we might begin sharing some of it with you now. We think everyone - married and single - will find the themes true and helpful. 

Thanks for all your love, prayers and support!! We couldn't do this without you! 

John

PO BOX 51065 • COLOR.ADO SPRINGS, COLORADO 80949 • WWW.RANSOMEDHEART.COM
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So many marriages are under attack right now.  I wanted to post this to dump some more intelligent dialogue into the cauldron of conversation.  Sometimes I feel like the way we talk to each other about marriage lacks weighty, thoughtful content.  It is reactionary at best, vitriolic at worst.  I need better conversation to move me to a place of enlightenment that leads to transformation...I don't need identification with my depravity or the "me-too-ism" that is so prevalent in our culture.  I need solution oriented conversation that comes from good thinking, God-thinking.
Just thought I'd throw this pouch of ingredients into the stew.  Let's keep stirring this pot of porridge, ok?
"Struggling with all His energy which so powerfully work within me"  Col. 1:29
Jason  

Me and Gramps...


This is me with my 94 yr. old Grandpa.  I call him "Gramps".

He has a picture of when he was in the military in the '30's and I'm a spitting image of him.

So when you look at this picture, you're essentially seeing me at age 94.

I love this man.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hogwash from Hell...

I love getting these emails from complete strangers who, in a self-congratulatory way, create their own "Nobel Peace Prize" of sorts and proceed to hand it out to complete strangers across the globe via email to give them a bloated sense of self-importance.

I have to admit, I'm honored to be considered one of the worlds most accomplished individuals.  The only difficulty in me accepting this invitation to throw my name into this honored hat with some of the worlds most luminary leaders is that this "Chris Jespersen" has never met me, and furthermore, this "Chris Jespersen" may not, in fact, actually exist.  

But he/she accomplished his/her goal in sending this email blast.  They got my attention.  I read their email.  I dreamt of what it would be like to win such a prestigious award, all the while knowing that it's a bunch of bunk like most of the unsolicited affirmation given to us by "figments of our imagination".  The scarier reality is that I have these sorts of conversations in my head with my diabolical-ego all the time whispering to me how amazing I am and how unique I am and how lucky people are to know me and how the world wouldn't be able to carry on without me.  I have a "Chris Jespersen" living in my head trying to convince me that I'm "special", and furthermore, I'm more "special" than I know or other people know for that matter. It's hogwash from hell.  Hogwash from Hell, I tell you.

So without further ado, here's the generic email I received this morning to stimulate my ego, like it needs any more stimulation than our consumeristic culture already gives it (you owe it to yourself, you deserve it, you're better than that, etc.).  Thanks, but no thanks.

________________________________

Dear Jason,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 
2009-2010 Heritage Who's Who of Business Leaders and Professionals registry. Your reported accolades have earned you special recognition in the special Honors section of the registry.

The 2009-2010 edition of the registry will include biographies of the world's most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year.

On behalf of the Executive Publisher, we wish you continued success.

Sincerely,
Chris Jespersen

Managing Director
The Heritage Who's Who
_________________________________________

Thanks Chris, I'll get back to you.  Hopefully I don't miss the registration deadline.  I would hate to not be in the Heritage Who's Who club.  It sounds like a place filled with a lot of really neat and spiffy people.    

Monday, October 12, 2009

Questions...

1. Why do I always get that tight feeling in my stomach when someone doesn't like something I said or did?
2. Do my daughters understand what I do and why I do it?
3. What is it about Texas Hold 'Em Poker that I love so much and why isn't it called Texas Hold Them Poker?
4. Will I ever write that book that is burgeoning in my heart or will the faceless fear of "only-God-knows-what" scare me off?
5. Why is it so hard for me to affirm my wife verbally and so easy to affirm people in my ministry verbally?
6. What causes my heart to slip into depressive, despondent thoughts so quickly?  Do I struggle with depression or is this just the typical human condition post-fall?
7. From whence did this inordinate desire for deep friendship come?  Is this unnatural or am I in keeping with universal fraternal instincts?
8. When will these raging hormones cease and desist?  They know I will not relent in my convictions, why do they pester me so?
9. Will I ever be a part of a revival?  If I was, would I know it?  Am I a part of one right now and unfortunately I'm looking for something else so I'm missing it?
10. Does anyone else lay in bed at night wondering if there is more than what they are experiencing?
11. Why do I love movies so much?  Is it the alternate reality, the therapy of narrative, the vicarious escape?  What enchants me so?
12. Does my wife feel loved, wanted, pursued, valued and beautified? 
13. What is the next hill that I'm supposed to take, the next rock face I'm supposed to repel, the next gorge I'm supposed to ford?
14. This love for words I possess...what is this for?  Where did this come from and what I'm I to do with it?
15. What am I currently not doing with my daughters that will cost them dearly?
16. What am I currently doing to my daughters that will hurt them deeply?
17. What patterns have I fallen into that I'm not aware that I have and how will I get out of them without knowing that they exist in the first place?
18. Who has God put into my life that I haven't tapped into?
19. Who can I get to disciple me?  
20. How are we going to pay for heat this winter?  Should I be investigating a wood burning stove and where would I put it even if I found one?
21. Should I tear apart the pool in the backyard or try to salvage it?
22. Will I know how to hunt by the time opening day rolls around?  Is this supposed to be instinctive to my masculine nature or is this a learned art form?
23. How can I protect my schedule so that I'm not spread so thin that I tear like a page in my Bible?
24. What areas of bitterness are poisoning my perspective?  What can I do to relieve my compassion fatigue?
25. What recreation could I pursue that would balance out my state of being?
26. What would take our church to the next level and what weaknesses do I have that are putting a lid on my leadership?
27. Should I take the car off the road and ride my scooter until the snow flies to save money?
28. Am I protecting my flock from wolves or am I too scared of wolves that I shy away from conflict?
29. What is stealing my joy away?  How can I move beyond employment to enjoyment?
30. Why is prayer continuing to be the dejected discipline in my faith?  How am I viewing it or engaging it that makes it so listless and lifeless to me?
31. Where do I see myself in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, etc.?  Am I doing God's will right now?
32. Where have I settled in my life?  How do you know the difference between contentment and complacency?
33. Is the church in its current state the vision God had in mind when he hung on the cross?
34. What has God blessed me with that I'm not thankful for?  How does that sort of discontentment frustrate the heart of God?
35. What was that feeling in my heart last week when I happened upon the public radio station serendipitously and listened to the New York Philharmonic playing something written by Bach?  What is it about that scratchy music over static airwaves that just transports me to another time and another place?
37. Why are marriages under such a furious assault right now?  Am I to do something about it?
38. What grudges am I holding onto that are eating me alive inside?  How can I mend them up?
39. What are my deepest desires?  Am I working toward them or away from them with my life?
40. Have I given up on something prematurely?
____________________________

These are several questions that fill my mind this day...

Friday, October 09, 2009

Daughter textures...

The last two mornings I was able to have breakfast at Backwater Cafe' with Kami and Aly.  These are the intentional Daddy Dates that keep me from losing track of their little hearts along the way.  These are the times when you're sitting across the table from this little person that bears your likeness wondering where the time has gone and what you can do to seize what you have left.  These are the times when you look into their eyes and see their particular glory, the shape of their heart, the style of the soul, the way of their life.  I mustn't neglect the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25).  I'm great with the church part of that verse, I'm not so good at times with the family part of that verse.

It became all the more clear how distinctly different my daughters are from each other.  Kami likes sausage patties, Aly likes sausage links.  Kami wanted orange juice, Aly wanted Sprite.  Kami wanted hash browns, Aly wanted pancakes.  Kami wanted to talk about friends, Aly wanted me to quiz her on random words to see if she could spell them.  Kami likes to talk about emotions, Aly likes to talk about events.  Kami struggles to pay attention, Aly has a mind like a steel trap.  Kami didn't want to do any homework, Aly wanted to make up new homework that wasn't even required.  Kami is more relaxed, Aly is more rigid.  Kami let me hold her hand, Aly made me hold her hand.  Kami shook her head at my jokes, Aly giggled at my jokes.  Kami listened to the conversations around us, Aly was fixated on just us.  Kami likes to talk more, Aly likes to do activities more.  Kami was comfortable sitting across from me, Aly wanted to sit next to me.  Kami wants to discuss people, Aly wants to discuss problems.  Kami initiated conversation about God, Aly tolerated conversation about God.  Kami waited for me to say "I love you" when I dropped her off, Aly said "I love you" three times in between the Cafe' and the School.  Kami is more independent, Aly is more dependent.  Kami is more rebellious, Aly is more compliant.  Kami is a pusher, Aly is a pleaser.  Kami is messier, Aly is cleaner.  Kami loved that the waitress called me Honey, Aly asked me why she called me Honey.  

And the distinctions go on and on.  You can't see them as distinctly unless you get away from familiar surroundings and pay attention to attributes as they're emerging in real time.  "The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates  I believe this with my whole heart and then some.  The more thorough the examination of one's life, the more potential there is for appreciation that leads to emancipation.  That freedom, that robust freedom that we are all after doesn't just happen.  It must be voraciously explored and excavated from the deep places.  I have a hard time living "tuned in" to my daughters, and my wife for that matter, when I'm just waiting for life to come to me.  When life happens to me, I'm the victim.  When I happen to life, I'm the victor.  

And I happened to my daughters these past two mornings.  I examined their every move, their every word, their every voice inflection and nonverbal.  I watched them eat.  I gazed into their eyes as they shared looking for duplicity.  I was trying to get a read on their freedom.  I was trying to get a taste of their dreams.  I was trying to get a clue on how to love "little women" in every season of their mysterious development.  I was trying to let them know that they are safe under my heart.  I was asking questions and listening for hesitation.  I was gauging the freedom of their laugh in comparison to a couple months ago.  I was charting the journey of conversation to see what I was forcing and what they were divulging without my inquiry.  I was hoping to get a sense of their comfort level with just me out in the public.  Were they embarrassed about anything.  If so, what?  Were they shielding me from any parts of their heart, where they honest in their answers or were they becoming too edited?  Did I sense they felt like they could be honest with me or were they giving little signals that they weren't sure of my response to their disclosure?

This is know: I want to know them.  I want to know them by looking at them.  I want to hear something in their voice and respond accordingly.  I want to see something in their face and intervene.  I don't want to lose touch with their hearts.  And I don't know any other way of making sure I don't then taking them out to a "greasy spoon" and talking with them, laughing with them, joking with them, listening to them, eating with them and playing with them.

I love them with all my heart.  I hope they felt that the last couple of mornings.

Friday, October 02, 2009

My soupy life...

Last night the fire licked the cherry chunks of wood I stole from Doug Olin's when I was over there three days ago feeding his horses diseased apples from the wild apple tree in our backyard, the last of the remains of an old orchard from years gone by.  

I sat and stared at the fire with my friend.  We talked about a little bit of this and a little bit of that, moving from one theme to another with the relaxed strokes of a speed skater.  Some themes were deep and took heaps of brain power to carry on.  Others were frivolous sliding along quite nicely all on their own needing very little assistance, heavy lifting if you will.  I love conversation.

Conversation is creation.  It is forming something out of nothing, something that didn't existent before you caused it to be.  Words come forth strung together haphazardly and spontaneously.  You don't get to think them through, that is if you're in a good conversation.  If you're over-thinking your every word, things get weird and the conversation dies.  The birth of conversation is almost the opposite of a babies' birth.  You don't get nine months of gestation and preparation.  This word-birth allows for very little gestation.  You are gestating while you are conversating (not a word, I know).  You are learning what you think while you share it.  Sometimes you can surprise yourself with some bit of new learning that you'd never put into words before, heck, you hadn't even thought about it before.  Conversely, there are times when you come to realize for the first time how stupid you really are, realizing as you try to form phrases to communicate inner substance that there isn't much there to begin with.  This is why conversation is vital to growth.  Both surprises are needful and move us toward a better story.

The air was filled with the pungent smell of wet autumn earth.  You could smell dirt and dying leaves.  Oxygen felt cleaner, smelt cleaner.  There was no wind.  There were no sounds.  The backyard was mystically dark, beautifully away from the chaos of life.  And it's only one acre. 

Licking fire puts me into a trace.  It's hypnotic and therapeutic.  It puts me into a coma, self-induced and fire-induced all at the same time, neither taking credit, both receiving it.  When I'm under it's spell, I feel like a shrink could have his way with me, conjuring up old memories like a snake charmer, summoning old skeletons in my closet like a necromancer.  I'm half-awake...and yet somehow fully alive.  Suspended between worlds, a borderland of naked emotion and clothed responsibility.  It's a vulnerable place, a place I would imagine one would open up about some hidden secret long buried in the past.  A place where you would regret the next morning that you shared such stark details about your dreams, or your nightmares.  A place where someone could get you to say things that you wouldn't say in the broad light of day and then use it against you as blackmail.  This is a special place, a sacred place that mustn't be tampered with by clumsy hands, trifled with by uncoordinated steps.  You tread lightly, like with angel-fear lightness.

Face to Face.  Not facebook to facebook.  Conversation that demands depth, else it dies.  Conversation that doesn't allow for too much premeditated editing.  Nor does it demand a spastic conversationalist that is sweating to keep things afloat.  Awkward silence feels less and less awkward.  Incessant talking feels more and more awkward.  Good conversation slices the heart-cold-cuts much thinner, so thin you can see shadows through them.  Paper thin.  And you don't know that you need something to flay you that thin until you happen upon in for a moment in time.  Once you come across that sort of encounter with another, it's hard to settle for anything else, like a baby that is being forced from her mother's warm breast to an unfeeling plastic bottle with a rubber nipple.  Once you've experience the one, you just know the difference between rubber and skin.  What I'm trying to say is that authentic conversation has a skin feel.

You're forced to feel in a real conversation.  Not project or protect, but to really face the music and sing the music that is actually in front of you.  You can make stuff up, but it's more obvious when you're in front of somebody that has been equipped by God with what I call a "crap detector".  It's harder to pull wool and fake feelings.  You can't make yourself out to look better than you are, and if you do, you look like a poser and the person you're with can sense it.  It's just easier to be honest even if it leads to exposure.  Exposure feels normal and natural when you're sitting by a fire showing another human the warts that you usually cover by crossing your arms a certain way in public.  When you're sitting by a fire, you just uncross your arms, roll up your sleeves, and "warts and all" just hang out there to be seen and scrutinized.  

I can't believe how much energy is consumed by obsessively cover your warts.  Sideways energy nothin'.  It's forward energy that is swallowed up.  Cover-up is time consuming and energy draining.  Good conversation reintroduces us to the beauty of disclosure, and the nourishing healing that accompanies honesty.  Healing can't happen outside of honesty.

"Can I be honest with you?"  I love when the conversation gets to this mile-marker...every bit of ice-breaking dialogue up to that point will feel like dung once you cross this threshold.  You have now just begun to "Talk".  The rest is merely sizing-up, role-playing and buttery foreplay.  But this is the consummation of conversation.  The place where the honest weight of one's glory is unveiled.  Without honesty, what is the point in the first place.  We might as well be sitting around the fire playing pretend with G.I. Joe figurines, or sitting across the table from an interrogator trying to outwit the lie-detector test.  It's just alot of personality-positioning, psychological posturing.  It's alot of crap to use layman's terms...probably the only terms that need be spoken in many regards.

So I'm sitting by the fire lapping up the moment like a thirsty dog, watching the flames lick the logs like an excited dog.  (wow, lots of talk about dogs, who knew they were the overarching metaphor of life itself?)  The flames danced like little girls in the summer sprinkler.  The colors pressed into my retina burning into my brain like a firebrand.  The smell of the fresh cut grass melded with the smell of hardwood smoke was more glorious than mixed wine, mixed bodies under thin honeymoon sheets.  The mixture was written into our hearts by the Author of Life himself.  All these mixtures in life are the only things that warrant the continuation of it.  What's the use without mixture?  What's the point?

And that is why conversation by firelight shall be, must be, forever guarded by us, humans.  We can't settle for cheap substitutes.  We can't stop mixing it up with someone.  We can't abort the glorious mixture that occurs when two souls sit still with each other, honest and human.  

Mix me.  Mix me up.  Mix me up in the stew of story.  Mix me up in the stew of story and above all, please make the stew taste good should someone need the warmth of my soupy life.