Category Archives: Marriage and Family Counsel

Rise Up, My Love (224): Twin Fawns in Fields of Lilies

112-newborn-fawn  Song of Solomon 7:3 The praise given in this verse is a beautiful metaphor repeated from the husband’s earlier description of his bride, where he speaks of twin fawns feeding among a field of lilies. Can’t you just imagine such a wonderful scene from nature as if you were a hiker who had the privilege of being at just the right place at just the right moment? You are out walking in the woods on a sunny spring day. You’ve been following a gurgling stream lined with azure-blue forget-me-nots and wild purple irises, and suddenly you come out into a meadow where an open, breezy hill rises in front of you. The hill is covered—not with “a host, a crowd of golden daffodils”— but with the breathtaking splendor of huge, white-throated lilies, and high on the crest of the hill you see a fawn, up to its neck in flowers, with only its head peeking out as it grazes silently.

Double that image, and you have the sense of wonder the husband feels when he sees his beloved’s body. It is as if her breasts were hills covered by vast fields of snow white lilies dappled with two young deer—perfectly symmetrical twins, soft and rounded—quietly grazing among the flowers. And, for the wayfaring pilgrim who lingers to meditate thoughtfully on the picture, a message on gentleness appears.

twin-fawns-09-14-04What would be your first reaction to seeing a young fawn? Oh, how soft and lovely! Wouldn’t you love to be able to touch and pet it? to befriend it? to be gentle enough to win its trust? But, what would happen if you rushed up the side of the hill in an attempt to capture the fawn? It would disappear instantly! The analogy is obvious and instructive. Just as a man couldn’t win the trust of a fawn by rushing at it, so he will not be able to win the privilege of “petting” his wife without the long process of building and maintaining trust through love and gentleness…the way one might win the friendship of a fawn.

113-spring-twin-fawnsFor any husband who feels the frustration of not being given enough liberty with his wife’s body…try a new approach. Try thinking of your wife as if she were a fawn…easily startled…reactive to perceived aggression even if no harm is meant…slow to trust if trust has been broken…saddled with an inborn sense of vulnerability and insecurity…quick to flee rather than fight.

No matter how hardened women may appear on the outside, this delicate emotional nature is their almost universal heritage, and—except when they are driven by lust—women will react instinctively to advances not couched in genuine, gentle love! Does your wife brush off your advances? If so, ask yourself, “Do I truly love her…with the sacrificial love of Christ?” Are you thinking about what she needs more than what you need? Perhaps the most common cause of a woman’s rejection is just plain tiredness. Ask yourself, “Is my wife exhausted and in need of my help instead of my indulging my own desire to have my physical needs met?”

I never cease to marvel at how much more energy my husband has than I. He sleeps about an hour or two less most days. At that rate (if we live to 70), I’d have to live eight years longer than he lives just to be awake as many hours. (I wonder if that has anything to do with why women typically live longer!) Did you know the average man’s hemoglobin count is about fourteen…two points higher than the average woman’s? Unfortunately, a woman can’t just take iron pills to put more “iron” in her blood, because her blood won’t assimilate it beyond her genetically determined point.

Men, by the biological giftedness of God, tend to be stronger and have more energy. I have no trouble believing that women are indeed weaker than men, and I am glad for I Peter 3:7 which teaches, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them (wives) according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” If a man sees that his wife is exhausted, the loving thing to do is help her with her work, not add to her load!

Wives, on the other hand, need to understand that their husbands have tremendous physical needs that are the wife’s responsibility and privilege to meet. Yes, of course you’re tired at the end of the day. And yes, you probably aren’t as driven for sex as your husband is (if you’re more in the middle of the bell-shaped curve). Wives generally are more driven emotionally and experience the lion’s share of appetite for emotional intimacy, but husbands typically possess the lion’s share of physical drive. Just as women normally don’t need as much food as their husbands require, neither do they crave as much physical intimacy and release.

If I ate as much as my husband did, I’d be fat in no time, and yet there are plenty of times that I’ll fix him a snack and sip a cup of tea while he eats just to keep him company. As women, we need to be willing to be do the same thing for our husbands sexually. Even if we aren’t “hungry” for love, can’t we at least minister to our husbands’ needs by accepting their love?

My theory is that if “I ain’t dead yet” then I can be a conduit of God’s love by accepting my husband’s love. Sound right? This, I believe, is the sensitively worded meaning of I Corinthians 7:2-5. “…The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other…”

Rise Up, My Love (221): A Heap of Wheat and Sweet Communion

monet-haystacks-dorsay-museumSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.” We can’t leave this beautiful text yet, because there’s still a lot left to glean! During the fall harvest festival, piles of wheat decorated with flowers were often placed in parallel rows on the eastern threshing floors. At this time of harvest, the wheat was fully ripe and glowed with a golden sheen, and to these middle-easterners, a body the color of wheat was believed to be the most beautiful.* (Lloyd Carr. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 554).sheaf-of-wheat-holland-miIt is easy to imagine Solomon thinking back to the beauty of an abundant harvest festival…noticing in his wife’s belly the same golden sheen and soft roundness that reminded him of “a heap of wheat set about by lilies.” Lilies—trumpets fragranced with an almost intoxicating scent— but the snow-white symbol of purity. “Set about with lilies” can mean “to be decorated with,” but it can also mean “to be guarded by.” white-lily-chateau-de-chenonceau-05-15-16Her belly, the overlay of her womb, was enhanced by an almost irresistible aroma but also guarded by her purity. The secret passageway to her womb was “set about with lilies”— wondrous, but kept only for him. And here, we are brought once again to the tabernacle door where we sense the glow of the Shekinah glory within. bread-and-wine-juiceHer navel like wine…her belly like wheat…wine and bread…the two staples of a feast…the two elements of communion. How often in marriage I have sensed the holiness of the marital sex and recognized it as the physical counterpart to spiritual communion. Truly the marriage bed is holy (Hebrews 13:4), and marriage is intended as the physical testimony in this world to the spiritual realities that exist in the marriage between Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:21-32).  Is anything blocking your fellowship, or are you celebrating communion with joy these days?

Rise Up, My Love (220): Being Well Rounded

la-venus-de-milo-at-the-louvre-parisSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies.” The imagery of the navel being like a full wine goblet didn’t make a lot of sense to me when I tried to imagine it in physical terms. Navels normally neither look like— nor are thy filled with—any type of liquid! The word for navel is sarr and is used only two other times in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 16:4 it is without a doubt used to mean the place where the umbilical cord is cut…what we call the “belly button” today. But, sarr is also rendered “navel” in Proverbs 3:8, with a much more figurative meaning. field-of-yellow-rapeseed-in-franceThe entire context from verses seven to ten adds light to its use in the Song: “Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Verses 7 and 8 admonish us to humble ourselves, fear the Lord, and depart from evil with the promise of (if I understand correctly) a fruitful womb (“health to thy navel”), good health and strength (“marrow to thy bones”).

Verses 9 and 10 admonish us to honor the Lord with the first fruits of our labor, and in return we are promised an abundance of good food (wheat in the barn) and drink (wine). There is also another verse in Proverbs that sheds light on the imagery of “a round goblet that wanteth not liquor”: “The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul, but the belly of the wicked shall want” (Proverbs 13:25). In this verse, we are taught that those who a righteous before God will have fully satisfied souls, but that the wicked shall go hungry. Seen in the light of these verses, a beautiful spiritual image appears. field-of-rapeseed-near-mont-saint-michel-france-05-14-16The navel—source of life and birth— like a full wine goblet represents a spiritually fruitful womb overflowing with grace…”bursting out with new wine”…a spirit that is filled with the wine of joy and abundance of spiritual fruit…the promise fulfilled from Psalm 126:5-6, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” The bride had walked through the veil of tears to find her Lord and gather fruit for him. Here she is—again in his presence—her sheaves with her and exuberant in the delight of his praise. The belly—center of her being, receptor of his love, womb for their children— like a “heap of wheat”… is like a barn “filled with plenty.” The bride, having learned to live out the admonitions in the Proverbs, has become fully fruitful. Hers is not the belly of the wicked that “shall want,” but her belly is “a round goblet that wanteth not liquor!”

(PS—As a comfort to all of us, the “wife” is the Church universal—men and women—and the “fruitful womb” is also spiritual, referring not to the birth of many physical children, but to the birth and nurturing of spiritual children. If you have never had nor will ever have physical children, remember that what our Lord really values is our spiritual fruitfulness. Do you love the Lord? Proclaim the joyous news of redemption through Christ. Feed His lambs. Love like He loves. Care for the widows and orphans. Help the poor and needy. Reach out to the lonely foreigners looking for refuge. You will be one whose “navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies.”

High Teas and Birthday Parties: Killing Three Birds with One Party

high-tea               Well, hopefully we didn’t really kill any birds, bees, or bodies, quichebut we really did have fun last week with our annual high tea, and I wanted to share recipes for a couple of high tea staples: cucumber sandwiches and scones. lettuce-wraps      But first, the story, since if there’s anything I love, it’s to repeat a good tale! candle-in-a-tea-cupAfter meeting for several years to spoil each other on our birthdays, Cindi, Susan, and I started feeling a bit guilty for not including our spouses somehow,birthday-cake-flourless-chocolate-torte since they were always working hard to make it possible for us to be “at home” moms who could celebrate birthdays together (now that our kids are grown up).birthday-cakeSo, we started the tradition of a winter high tea (given that the way to a husband’s heart is half through his stomach). birthday-partyRex and Steve’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it’s pretty easy to celebrate both their birthdays by scheduling the tea on the weekend in between! korean-beef-kabobsWe each bring two savory and two sweet offerings, drink many cups of tea, savor the sweetness of a leisurely evening together, and go home feeling quite happy. sesame-seedWhen I was a young bride, one of my mentors said her theory on marital contentment was, “Keep him jolly from a little too much eating and groggy from a little too much lovin’.” sharing-a-high-tea-together     In forty-three years, I haven’t found a reason to dispute her wisdom!  🙂

Here’s my recipe for cucumber sandwiches, which I’ve eaten at every high tea from the great Northwest’s Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, to the Southeast’s Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian in Disney…to London’s Harrod and on many a Princess cruise sailing in the deep blue seas of the world. If you’re going to have an authentic high tea, you really need cucumber sandwiches, and they’re about the easiest thing in the world to make!

cucumber-finger-sandwichesCucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 cucumber sliced very (key word) thin, preferably in a processor. I learned this secret from someone married to an Englishman: Press the cucumber slices gently between paper towels to remove the excess juice.

8  oz. well softened creamed cheese. Stir together gently (not in a food processor).

truffle-saltFlavor with a pinch each of truffle salt (okay, sea salt or table salt works too), pepper, garlic and onion powder (powder, not salt; be careful not to oversalt), basil, dill weed, and chives. Chill.

To serve, slice the crusts off plain white bread and prepare them, but don’t fill the sandwiches until the very last minute, because they’ll get soggy in no time if they sit around. Make up your sandwiches and cut them in half  just when you’re ready to serve them.

gluten-free-blueberry-sconesGluten-free Blueberry Scones

Scones with clotted cream and jams are another classic staple of high teas. Susan needs gluten-free options, so I made these with gluten-free flour, but you can make them exactly the same way using regular flour:

gluten-free-bisquick2 cups Bisquick (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter
3 eggs
1 T. milk

Blend in a mixer only until all the ingredients are mixed. Don’t overblend, or it will make them tough. Add 1 pint blueberries, stirring them in very gently by hand with a spoon. The mix will hardly stick to the blueberries, but it needs to be coarse or the scones will be too wet when they bake. Form into 12 balls (flour your hands if you need to) on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350° for 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 400° for 5 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.  Serve warm with whipped cream and jams. (The classic term is “clotted” cream, but I make mine “clotted” by whipping it until it’s almost stiff…but not yet butter, and I add 1 T. sugar per cup of cream, but I’m a sugar hawk. You don’t have to do that.)

plate-of-finger-foods-at-high-teaThere is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)salami-and-pepper-roll-ups

 

Rise Up, My Love (219): The Beauty of a Full Wine Goblet

vase-of-lilies-chateau-de-chenonceau-loire-valley-franceSong of Solomon 7:2 “Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies.” Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 7 begin a beautiful love song which offers very intimate, explicit details about the bride’s body…and it has been said that “God does not stutter” when He describes the sensual delights of marriage (Craig Glickman, A Song for Lovers, p. 83). louvre-mademoiselle-caroline-riviere-by-jena-auguste-dominiqueIn chapter 4, the bridegroom detailed seven features that He especially loved about his bride: her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, temples, neck, and breasts. If Solomon had been a sculptor, this would have been called a “bust” carving…just the head and chest. marble-statue-at-louvreNow, three chapters and many experiences later, he repeats (with some expansions) his original praises, but adds several more descriptions that were not mentioned in the previous sonnet, carving out an exquisite “marble statue” of her complete form, toe to head: her feet, thighs, navel, belly, breasts, neck, eyes, nose, head, and hair. Some commentators suggest that this fuller description would seem to indicate a greater knowledge…and a deeper love.

And yet, no one contests that the praises recorded in chapter 4 follow the wedding. Certainly the groom would have been able to behold his “Eve” in her entirety at that point. Why did he praise only the “top half” of her body at first, and now praise everything? It almost seems as if King Solomon delighted in “what worked”…in those aspects of her body that were actually functioning… fulfilling their purpose.

In a marriage, I believe this happens. A man is often attracted first to a face and figure, but what he grows to appreciate more deeply as the marriage progresses is all his wife does: her busy feet, the wonder of mothering their children…and then all the things he loved at first. Notice the model wife in Proverbs 31; it isn’t her great beauty that is praised, but her diligence and good works.

This seems consistent with the spiritual model as well. In the early season of our “marriage” (first years of salvation), the king delights to find us watching, submitting, learning, speaking, thinking, standing, and nurturing…and he praises us for these beautiful qualities. Later—after the anguish of learning how to treasure Him more than we do ourselves…to love him more than our own life…and learning to be fruitful for him— we find that he delights in our busy feet which carry the gospel of peace… our “jeweled thighs” that move to do his will with the precision of a master clock maker’s own, prized “seventeen-jewel” watch…and our navel and belly, from whence come spiritual offspring.

No, I do not think King Solomon was praising her more completely because he now had some greater knowledge of her physical body and its visual delights. I believe he praised her more fully because she had learned to delight him with her whole body, and he took pleasure in that.

Rise Up, My Love (217): The Fisherman Creator

female-baltimore-oriole-in-our-cherry-tree-05-10-14Song of Solomon 7:1 “The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.” Who made this beautiful bride? Have you ever heard the little nursery rhyme that goes, “Little bird, little bird, who made me?” Ah, the Scripture gives the answer. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14). The word translated “cunning workman” in the King James (translated “master hand” or “skilled craftsman” in other texts) is the Hebrew amman, which is only used this once in the entire Old Testament, although the verbal stem amam is common and means “faithful; true” (Lloyd G. Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 157). Who crafted the bride’s wonderfully soft and rounded thighs? The ever faithful and true one, the Lord Himself, as he reminds us in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him [the Son of God], and for him.” Our Lord not only gave us the shoes and made us a prince’s daughter…he created our entire body…and a beautiful body at that. “In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me” (Isaiah 49:2). A polished shaft…straight, true, and beautifully rubbed to a lustrous sheen…“the work of the hands of a cunning craftsman”…carefully made and lovingly kept in his own quiver. dragon-fly-near-victoria-falls-zimbabweI have never seen a man make an arrow, but I have seen a man tie a fly in preparation for a trout fishing adventure, and I believe what an arrow is to a bow hunter must be similar to what a fly is to a fisherman.
fishing-on-rogue-river-miGeorge was my husband’s best friend from college days, and he was an avid fisherman. When he went fishing, he didn’t just buy artificial flies to attract the fish, he made his own. One time he showed us how he did it. He had a special mechanical contraption to help him and all the finest, specially selected materials. Everything had to be “just so!” He explained the whole procedure as he went along, but at the critical point, he stopped talking…his mouth open just a bit…and his tongue slightly out and curled up at the tip as he tied off that fly. It made me laugh to see such utter abandon and enthusiasm over making an artificial fly, and I had to get him to do it again so I could take a picture. It wasn’t the fly that intrigued me (not being a fisher woman), but his absolute precision and his delight in that funny little creation. fisherman-in-zambezi-riverNow, a tiny artificial fly is hardly to be compared to the creation of a human being, nor the art of a man to the wonder of God…but do you get the picture? God created us with absolute precision and total delight. He is the Almighty One, and his Son, Jesus, was the ultimate fisherman who made us exactly the way he wanted us! Isn’t that precious?!

Rise Up, My Love (215): King’s Daughter or Prince’s Daughter?

mother-and-son-playing-at-the-john-ball-petting-zooSong of Solomon 7:1. “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” Prince’s daughter? Commentators generally agree that the bride is a woman of unknown identity and apparently without any pedigree (although one theory is that she might possibly have been the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter). Even if she had been the pharaoh’s daughter, how did she come by the title Solomon gave her? Why he didn’t call her “king’s daughter?” Whether or not she was the pharaoh’s daughter (and I don’t believe she was from chapter 1:5-6), as the bride of Solomon, she would have become the daughter-in-law of David, the king, so she could have been called “O king’s daughter!”

I think he called her “prince’s daughter” because he was not speaking of her earned title. Have you ever heard of an honorary PhD? It is a title earned by outstanding work in a certain field that is recognized by someone(s) with the authority to confer degrees. Rather than earning a PhD by the usual process of taking classes, writing and defending a thesis, the person is given an honorary title out of respect for their accomplishments. This is what has happened to Solomon’s wife. Having been proclaimed “Mrs. Solomon…Daughter of Peace” by the daughters of Jerusalem, now Solomon himself gives her a title: “prince’s daughter.”  visiting-the-john-ball-zooThis praise was special and I believe more intimate and spiritual than simply a commentary on the external reality of her official position in the family. Solomon was indeed the present king, but he had also been the prince…the “son of peace” and the foreshadow of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6). This Shulamite, the “daughter of peace” was the daughter of the Prince of Peace. Solomon was claiming her as his own in the most intimate relationships possible for a man and woman; he was giving her not only all the privileges of wife, but also all the privileges of daughter. In the same way, we as believers are not only the “bride of Christ,” but “Christians”—the sons of Christ! God intends for us to become children of the Prince of Peace…so like him that we not only act like him, we even look like him!   four-siblings-from-the-same-familyHave you ever noticed how people from the same family have many characteristic habits as well as similar physical features? Have you ever watched a toddling boy attempting to imitate the manly gait of his father? How many times have you heard, “She has her mother’s smile,” or “He sounds just like his dad!”  john-ball-zoo-sitting-with-sonsOh, dear Lord, thank you that we are your children! Thank you for the knowledge that “He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)…for knowing that because we are your children, we will grow up to look like you someday! “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, (2 Corinthians 3:18). the-avenue-des-champs-elyseesPlease help us to learn to walk and talk as you do, and may we become as beautiful as the Prince of Peace! Thank you for the truth of 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

(I don’t have any literal royalty in my family, so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve used photos of my family to illustrate. By faith, God makes us all royalty!)