What is God’s Standard for Marriage

 

Happy Couple

There are so many Bible verses directed at husbands and wives, it is easy to get overwhelmed and throw your hands up in defeat – “How can I do all of this”, “Why does it have to be so hard?”

Yes, there are dozens of verses and several entire passages directed at marriage and relationships in general – but there is one verse that supersedes  them all. This verse trumps all other verses and actually lays the foundation upon which all the other verses are built.

We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God in Exodus Chapter 20, but we may not be as familiar with the 11th commandment given by Jesus in John 13:34…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Yes, you may have heard that one before – but I want to draw your attention to five words that make all the difference…. “as I have loved you”. Jesus commands us to love one another (especially our most significant “one another”) in the same way he loved/loves us.

How does he love us? This answer you should know also….. unconditionally, unselfishly, completely. There is nothing we can do to make him love us any more than he already does, and nothing we can do make him love us less. He loves us….period.  We don’t deserve it; we didn’t earn it; we didn’t love him first; and he will never, ever stop.

We are called, even commanded, to love our spouse in the same way Jesus loved/loves us. If we decide to ignore or simply disobey Christ’s command – we cannot expect him to bless our marriage.

If we choose to obey his command, the next question we must ask is…how?

How exactly do we love our spouse in the same way He loves us? Let’s tackle that one next blog…..

Rob

3 Things to Never Do When You Disagree

 

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We all disagree. When a disagreement happens, the last thing you really want to do…is have it escalate into an argument. So…don’t do any of these……

Start an argument – all married couples disagree on things. This is normal. What is not normal and not Biblical, is to allow these disagreements to escalate into arguments. Arguing involves raising voices, threatening body language, anger, and harsh words – but above all, arguing involves selfishness. We argue typically because we think we’re right, or won’t bend on our demands or expectations (see James 4). So, if you find yourself in a disagreement, or should I say “when” you find yourself in a disagreement, take the time to pray together before things have a chance to escalate. Simply grab each other’s hand and ask God for direction and wisdom as you discuss the issue at hand. You will be surprised how many issues never escalate into arguments again, and also how much closer you will feel as a couple.

Assume you are right – we all have a tendency to assume we are right. Whether we’re driving, or playing or embroiled in a conversation – our way is the “best” way by default. We are born selfish and it really shows when someone challenges us or disagrees with us. As was mentioned in point #1, because of this natural bent, we dig in our heels and fight for what is “right”. It takes a real man/woman of character and maturity to have the courage to set their way aside and honestly listen and consider another person’s feelings, insights and desires. Remember – God put the two of you together to be “one” and to work together as a team to glorify Him in your relationship. Sometimes you will actually be right. Sometimes your spouse will have a way that will work better than yours. We have to be mature enough to work together and embrace each other’s opinions and feelings in order to make progress on our journey.

Walk away – when confronted with a differing opinion or challenging point of view, some of us have a tendency to simply walk away. We tell ourselves that our retreat is going to help matters by diffusing the situation and that somehow by avoiding the issue it might magically go away. Problem is – it never does. If your spouse is having a problem, or wants to talk through a troubling issue, he or she will only be exasperated by you avoiding it. This is never the answer. Even if you are a peacemaker or a harmonizer personality, you have to have the courage to hear out your spouse, accept their viewpoint as what they really think and feel – and then, in love, respond. Again, the goal is not to be right. The goal is oneness, harmony and the glory of God.

Arguing doesn’t ever solve anything. Arguing inflames. Arguing separates. Arguing damages. And arguing does not glorify God.

The only way to avoid arguing is to walk in the Spirit. A sure sign of not walking in the Spirit – is finding yourself arguing. When that happens – take the opportunity to reconnect with God before re-engaging with your spouse. What is at stake is not the problem at hand, but your personal walk with Him. Always look vertically before your look horizontally at your spouse. He/she is not the problem.

Keep these scriptures in mind when you are tempted to fight for your rights during your next disagreement….

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Starting a quarrel (argument) is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Proverbs 17:14

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  I Peter 5:5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 

Rob

Does Your Husband Know What You Want?

Have I Made Myself Clear?

A great post from my friend Lori at The Generous Wife. (http:///www.the-generous-wife.com)

Last year I spent the entire year speaking clearly about what I wanted and needed. No hints. No manipulating. No hoping my husband would read my mind.

Just clear talking.

It was an interesting year (possibly the understatement of the year).

I knew I had communication issues, but, honestly, I didn’t realize how much I let go by without saying something. Or I hinted. Or looked surprised or miffed. You get the idea.

I didn’t communicate my needs and wants clearly. Now, a part of that comes from my messy past, but most of it came from not learning to speak clearly and reasonably with others. Most of this stuff is learned behavior which meant I could learn something different.

So, I practiced. And then I practiced some more. I missed opportunities and I messed up, but over the year I got better.

Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I encourage y’all to practice clear speaking. It’s refreshing, honest, and respectful (to you and your husband).

A half truth is a whole lie.  Yiddish proverb

Don’t Be “This” Spouse….

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Proverbs 21 mentions twice that it is better for a husband to “live in a corner of the housetop” or “live in a desert land” than to live in a home with a contentious woman. Proverbs 25 mentions again the “live in a corner of the housetop” idea.

A contentious woman is like a “continual dripping on a rainy day” says Proverbs 27:15.

It is plain to see God recognizes that a man would rather live alone, in the corner of his attic or in a desert wasteland, than have to endure a wife who continually complains and quarrels. Interestingly, the Bible even says “it is better” for him to live that way.

Proverbs 26:21 talks about a contentious man who continues to sow strife by stirring up coals that are trying to cool off and burn out. He is like someone “who keeps adding wood to a fire” instead of letting it die.

I don’t think any spouse desires to live with someone who enjoys quarreling and continually nags, complains and whines; or won’t let an issue die but keeps adding wood to the fire and stirring up strife at home. The picture that sticks in my mind is of that spouse who can never make his/her spouse happy; who never gets it right; who just can’t win. How exasperating!

So, the obvious question is – are you like this? The dictionary defines “quarrelsome” as – someone likely to cause disagreement or argument or someone with a wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes. Do you have a tendency to pick a fight (argument)? Do you lose your temper easily or have a tendency to argue or nag?

What about completing your spouse’s sentences, or interrupting them in order to say what you want to say – or always correcting your spouse when they tell part of a story inaccurately?

Here is an idea that will help you decide if you qualify and should therefore get serious about changing your attitude and behavior…. sit down with your spouse and ask him/her a simple question – Am I a contentious spouse? If they look confused, add further clarity – do you think I am argumentative? Am I quarrelsome?

You obviously have to be man/woman enough to NOT ARGUE with your spouse if they say you are this person. That won’t help a bit. You should be willing to 1. humble yourself, 2. sincerely apologize for such behavior, and 3. ask for forgiveness.

According to our Bible, the only way to stop being this person and start being the opposite is – to “walk in the Spirit”. That is a deliberate lifestyle, a daily choice you and I have to make. But if we do, we will find our marriage improves significantly and our life as well.

Why not start today?

Rob

3 Ways to Stop Arguing with Each Other

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Amos 3:3 asks the question,  “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The implied response is, “no”. It is very difficult, and not very fun, to walk with someone you are continually disagreeing with.

What most couples end up doing if they disagree over money, the kids, hobbies, etc. – is argue. They get frustrated; that leads to getting angry; and so they fight, say things they shouldn’t say, hurt each other’s feelings, retreat, sulk, and walk on egg shells for days (or longer). Others get angry and simply stuff it. They avoid the difficult conversations; they don’t like confrontation; so they swallow it and hope it will go away…..but we all know it doesn’t. So, eventually those feelings of hurt and resentment resurface and things are even worse.

So, how do we keep from getting to this awful place?

1. Decide that arguing/fighting is not Biblical and you will not go there anymore. God says we argue because we’re selfish and we’re not obeying His word. Galatians reminds us that if we are walking in the Spirit we will produce fruit in our lives….and arguing/fighting is not on the list. Jesus also commands us to love each other “as he loves us”, and that means sacrificially and unconditionally. So, stop being a spoiled kid, stomping your foot and pouting when you don’t get your way.

2. Allow your spouse to complain without losing your temper, getting your feelings hurt or retaliating. Jesus loves us when we mess up, don’t do things right, or treat him unkindly. He requires the same from us. We must allow our spouse the grace and freedom to come to us and share their heart. If they have a complaint or hurt, we need to be man enough (or woman enough) to listen with grace and respond appropriately (i.e.: say we are sorry, ask for forgiveness, pray together, etc.). Your relationship is far more important than proving your innocence or that you are right all the time.

3. Make it a priority to go on an annual marriage retreat. Instead of disagreeing or battling all year long, schedule a weekend retreat together to discuss the “state of your union”. Enjoy yourselves during most of that time; have fun; relax – but schedule some time to pray, then sit together and decide you will come to agreement on the key issues you have agued about in the past – kids, money, sex, hobbies, etc. Write all this down so you can refer back to it during the year and remember that you agreed together, and what you agreed to. Pray over every decision and commit it to God and ask for His help to live accordingly.

Finally – remember neither of you will be perfect at this (or anything for that matter), so don’t expect perfection. Be deliberate about keeping your end of the bargain and choose daily to walk with Christ and agree with him when he said “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Selfishness is marriage’s #1 enemy. It is our nature to look out for ourselves and defend ourselves. If you choose to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5) – you will find you will stop arguing and clinging to your rights, and learn to love each other “as He loves us”.

Don’t argue…walk with Him…and love each other.

Rob

3 Communication Secrets You Have to Know

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First, watch your tone. Between a husband and wife, tone is everything. We have to be extremely careful about the tone we use with our spouse.

For one thing, tone communicates care. A lack of caring in a marriage is deadly. It is impossible to reach higher levels of communication with a person who does not care.

Your tone also communicates to your spouse how you feel about his or her needs. Early in our marriage—during the days when we were struggling—Karen used to tell me “I wish I could record the way you talk to me. I wish you could hear what you sound like.”

When God finally made me aware how I spoke to her, I heard the tone of a husband who was frustrated, angry, and who had checked out of our marriage. My tone spoke loudly to Karen of my dissatisfaction. It caused tremendous insecurity in her.

Second, give your spouse the right to complain. I was dominant in our marriage and became verbally abusive. If Karen shared with me how she felt and I didn’t like it, I would make her pay for it. That attitude destroyed any trust she ever had in me.

A husband or wife absolutely must have freedom to complain about something in your marriage—your behavior, how you treat them, how you make them feel—without having to pay a price for it.

Giving a spouse the freedom to complain says to them “I want to know how you feel. I may not understand it or agree with it, but I will respect it. You will never have to worry about how I’ll respond.” This builds security and trust.

An inability to complain causes spouses to bottle up those concerns. This creates bitterness and all kinds of problems. Be approachable to your spouse. Be humble enough that you can accept gentle instruction from him or her. Be prepared to say you are sorry.

Third, speak the truth in love. The Bible says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to follow Him by speaking the truth in love.

This is a balancing act. Truth without grace is mean. It is truth-telling without any compassion—like looking at someone, saying, “You’re ugly,” and walking away. But grace without truth is meaningless. It’s a cheerleader in the 4th quarter of a football game cheering on her quarterback when the team is down by 60 points.

Marriages need truth and love. The truth can be unpleasant, but truth spoken without grace and love destroys trust. Many couples never talk about the things that matter because the truth makes them uncomfortable.

But research shows conflict can be important to the strength of a marriage. Relationships that avoid conflict are not as satisfying as those that experience conflict…then know how to resolve it.

Your tone, giving your spouse the freedom to complain, and a commitment to truth spoken in love: These are the things that must be present in a marriage marked by good communication.

Thanks to Jimmy Evans for a great review of some great insight into marriage communication.

 

Rob

Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?

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When a college freshman received a C- on her first test, she literally had a meltdown in class. Sobbing, she texted her mother who called back, demanding to talk to the professor immediately (he, of course, declined). Another mother accompanied her child on a job interview, then wondered why he didn’t get the job.

A major employer reported that during a job interview, a potential employee told him that she would have his job within 18 months. It didn’t even cross her mind that he had worked 20 years to achieve his goal.

Sound crazy?

Sadly, the stories are all true, says Tim Elmore, founder and president of a non-profit, Growing Leaders, and author of the “Habitudes®” series of books, teacher guides, DVD kits and survey courses. “Gen Y (and iY) kids born between 1984 and 2002 have grown up in an age of instant gratification. iPhones, iPads, instant messaging and immediate access to data is at their fingertips,” he says. “Their grades in school are often negotiated by parents rather than earned and they are praised for accomplishing little. They have hundreds of Facebook and Twitter ‘friends,’ but often few real connections.”

To turn the tide, Growing Leaders is working with 5,000 public schools, universities, civic organizations, sports teams and corporations across the country and internationally to help turn young people — particularly those 16 to 24 — into leaders. “We want to give them the tools they lack before they’ve gone through three marriages and several failed business ventures,” he says.

But why have parents shifted from teaching self-reliance to becoming hovering helicopter parents who want to protect their children at all costs?

“I think it began in the fall of 1982, when seven people died after taking extra-strength Tylenol laced with poison after it left the factory,” he says. Halloween was just around the corner, and parents began checking every item in the loot bags. Homemade brownies and cookies (usually the most coveted items) hit the garbage; unwrapped candy followed close behind.

That led to an obsession with their children’s safety in every aspect of their lives. Instead of letting them go outside to play, parents filled their kid’s spare time with organized activities, did their homework for them, resolved their conflicts at school with both friends and teachers, and handed out trophies for just showing up.

“These well-intentioned messages of ‘you’re special’ have come back to haunt us,” Elmore says. “We are consumed with protecting them instead of preparing them for the future. We haven’t let them fall, fail and fear. The problem is that if they don’t take risks early on like climbing the monkey bars and possibly falling off, they are fearful of every new endeavor at age 29.”

Psychologists and psychiatrists are seeing more and more young people having a quarter-life crisis and more cases of clinical depression. The reason? Young people tell them it’s because they haven’t yet made their first million or found the perfect mate.

Teachers, coaches and executives complain that Gen Y kids have short attention spans and rely on external, instead of internal motivation. The goal of Growing Leaders is to reverse the trend and help young people become more creative and self-motivated so they can rely on themselves and don’t need external motivation.

Family psychologist John Rosemond agrees. In a February 2 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he points out that new research finds that rewards often backfire, producing the opposite effect of that intended. When an aggressive child is rewarded for not being aggressive for a short period of time, he is likely to repeat the bad behavior to keep the rewards coming.

Where did we go wrong?

• We’ve told our kids to dream big – and now any small act seems insignificant. In the great scheme of things, kids can’t instantly change the world. They have to take small, first steps – which seem like no progress at all to them. Nothing short of instant fame is good enough. “It’s time we tell them that doing great things starts with accomplishing small goals,” he says.

• We’ve told our kids that they are special – for no reason, even though they didn’t display excellent character or skill, and now they demand special treatment. The problem is that kids assumed they didn’t have to do anything special in order to be special.

• We gave our kids every comfort – and now they can’t delay gratification. And we heard the message loud and clear. We, too, pace in front of the microwave, become angry when things don’t go our way at work, rage at traffic. “Now it’s time to relay the importance of waiting for the things we want, deferring to the wishes of others and surrendering personal desires in the pursuit of something bigger than ‘me,'” Elmore says.

• We made our kid’s happiness a central goal – and now it’s difficult for them to generate happiness — the by-product of living a meaningful life. “It’s time we tell them that our goal is to enable them to discover their gifts, passions and purposes in life so they can help others. Happiness comes as a result.”

The uncomfortable solutions:

“We need to let our kids fail at 12 – which is far better than at 42,” he says. “We need to tell them the truth (with grace) that the notion of ‘you can do anything you want’ is not necessarily true.”

Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts. Every girl with a lovely voice won’t sing at the Met; every Little League baseball star won’t play for the major leagues.

• Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It’s okay to make a “C-.” Next time, they’ll try harder to make an “A”.

• Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank.

• Collaborate with the teacher, but don’t do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences.

“We need to become velvet bricks,” Elmore says, “soft on the outside and hard on the inside and allow children to fail while they are young in order to succeed when they are adults.”

 

Tim Elmore

2012

A Life That Matters

 

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As I have gotten older, it has become increasingly obvious to me why I am here…on earth…for the years I am granted. Don’t we all wonder that from time to time? What is the meaning of life? Why I am here?

Here is the conclusion I have reached:

I am here to have an impact, to leave a footprint, to influence others for the glory of God. What I didn’t really realize, was the path to making this kind of imprint is a calling to die. Yes, you and I will all eventually cease breathing and physically die. What I mean is – I am here to learn to die…. to myself….to my inborn self-focus. And until I do, I will remain a selfish, unfulfilled, mostly unhappy man who will make no lasting, positive footprint or produce lasting fruit for God’s glory.

As I reflect back on my life I have seen nearly every endeavor, activity and relationship has been purposefully placed in my life path in order to teach me this lesson.

Parents were given to me to help teach, lead, mentor, discipline and love me so I would hopefully learn not be a selfish, the-world-revolves-around-me brat. Then came school (I’m talking about school in the good ole days of the 60s and 70s) with teachers. principals and coaches – all of whom had permission and authority to raise their eyebrows, raise their voices, paddle your backside, suspend you from classes, flunk an exam or even repeat a grade – if you didn’t behave or learn what you were “required” to learn back then.

Did I like all of that? No. Did I learn amazing life lessons about manners, respect, learning, hard work, getting along with others, respect for my elders/authorities, behaving, following rules, etc.? Absolutely!

I learned how to die. I learned how to obey when I didn’t feel like it or want to; to work hard when I would have preferred an easier path; to be a team player; to take responsibility (sometimes painfully) for my actions/conduct.

All of those people were strategically placed in my life to prepare me for “real” life, and more importantly – to teach me how to lay my life (desires, preferences, deserve-its) aside for someone else. I could not have imagined at the time how valuable those lessons would be in my life when they really mattered…….

Childhood, education and sports were all practice for what matters most in life. At age 22 I married the love of my life. Soon thereafter, three wonderful sons were entrusted to my care, protection and training. If I had thought life was hard beforehand, it was a cake walk compared to the next 20+ years. Anyone who is or has been married, or has raised children knows that this venue is the ultimate workshop for God to teach us what it means to die – to voluntarily give your life up for another person.

Now the kids are gone and having kids of their own. My wife and I are about to celebrate forty years together. And – the dying continues. Every day, in multiple ways, I continue to learn that my highest calling in this short life is to learn what Jesus taught and learned Himself….

“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”Matthew 20:26-29

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24

If you and I want our lives to really count. If we want to make an impact during the few years we have here – an impact that affects generations behind us – we have to learn to give our lives away; to become servants; to fall to the earth and die. It is only when we do this that our lives will “bear much fruit”, and have an eternal impact.

Let it be, Lord.

Rob

Marriage is for Losers

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Re-Post from Dr. Kelly Flanagan (2013)…

“You can be right, or you can be married; take your pick.” I can’t remember who told me that, but I do remember they were only half-joking. The other half, the serious half, is exceedingly important. Because if marriage is going to work, it needs to become a contest to see which spouse is going to lose the most, and it needs to be a race that goes down to the wire.

When it comes to winning and losing, I think there are three kinds of marriages. In the first kind of marriage, both spouses are competing to win, and it’s a duel to the death. Husbands and wives are armed with a vast arsenal, ranging from fists, to words, to silence. Spouses destroy each other, and, in the process, they destroy the peace of their children. These marriages account for most of the 50 percent of marriages that fail, and then some.

The second kind of marriage is rife with winning and losing, but the roles are set, and the loser is always the same spouse. These are the truly abusive marriages, the ones in which one spouse dominates, the other submits, and in the process, both husband and wife are stripped of their dignity. These are the marriages of addicts and enablers, tyrants and slaves, and they may be the saddest marriages of all.

But there is a third kind of marriage.

The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all — themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

And they are revolutionary, in the purest sense of the word.

We live in a culture in which losing is the enemy. We wake up to news stories about domestic disputes gone wrong. Really wrong. We go to workplaces where everyone is battling for the boss’s favor and the next promotion, or we stay at home where the battle for the Legos is just as fierce. Nightly, we watch the talking heads on the cable news networks, trying to win the battle of ideas, although sometimes they seem quite willing to settle for winning the battle of decibels. We fight to have the best stuff, in the best name brands. We fight for attention and approval and a sense of worth, and when we finally look at each other at the end of the day, we fight, because we are trained to do nothing else. And, so, cultivating a marriage in which losing is the mutual norm becomes a radically counter-cultural act.

A rebellion.

What do the rebellious marriages look like? When my blood is bubbling, I try to remember a phone call we received from my son’s second grade teacher. She called to tell us there had been an incident in gym class. After a fierce athletic competition, in which the prize was the privilege to leave the gym first, my son’s team had lost. The losers were standing by, grumbling and complaining about second-grade-versions of injustice, as the victors filed past. And that’s when my son started to clap. He clapped for the winners as they passed, with a big dopey grin on his face and a smile stretched from one ear of his heart to the other. His startled gym teacher quickly exhorted the rest of his team to follow suit. So, a bunch of second grade losers staged a rebellion, giving a rousing ovation for their victorious peers, and in doing so, embraced the fullness of what it can mean to be a loser. When I’m seething, I try to remember the heart of a boy, a heart that can lose graciously and reach out in affection to the victors.

In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heartache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally — because they are a broken creature, too — and loving them to the end anyway.

Maybe marriage, when it’s lived by two losers in a household culture of mutual surrender, is just the training we need to walk through this world — a world that wants to chew you up and spit you out — without the constant fear of getting the short end of the stick. Maybe we need to be formed in such a way that winning loses its glamour, that we can sacrifice the competition in favor of people. Maybe what we need, really, is to become a bunch of losers in a world that is being a torn apart by the competition to win. If we did that, maybe we’d be able to sleep a little easier at night, look our loved ones in the eyes, forgive and forget, and clap for the people around us.

I think in a marriage of losers, a synergy happens and all of life can explode into a kind of rebellion that is brighter than the sun. The really good rebellions, the ones that last and make the world a better place, they are like that, aren’t they? They heal, they restore. They are big, and they shine like the sun. And, like the sun, their gravitational pull is almost irresistible.

Follow Kelly M. Flanagan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrKellyFlanagan