Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Marriage Movie: My Review of THE SONG

On Saturday, my husband and I went to see The Song, a movie described on its website as follows:

Aspiring singer-songwriter Jed King is struggling to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his famous father when he reluctantly agrees to a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival.  Jed meets the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose, and a romance quickly blooms. Soon after their wedding, Jed writes Rose “The Song,” which becomes a breakout hit. Suddenly thrust into a life of stardom and a world of temptation, his life and marriage begin to fall apart.

Song Movie WallpaperThe advertisements say that the movie is inspired by the Song of Solomon. And it is. However, more accurately, it’s inspired by the life of King Solomon. This story is something of a modern-day retelling, and the movie is saturated with scriptures from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

Going into the theater, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen other faith-themed films, and they’ve varied in quality and popularity. So while I dared to hope, I wasn’t walking in with great expectations.

I was surprised by the structure of the film — the sequence of protagonist Jed’s life and the way a narrator integrates Bible verses into the scenes. To me, this film struck an intriguing balance between biblical foundation and real (and sometimes messy) life. This is not a family, feel-good film. But it is a very real portrayal of how our choices in love, work, and faith impact our lives.

This film gets a thumbs-up from me. My husband and I both smiled at the humor and the tender moments in the film. We tensed when the characters began making poor choices (because we remember how that feels in a marriage and what bad consequences can come). We ached and even wept when things fell apart. We yearned for a happy ending. The story drew us in, tugged at our hearts, and reminded us of what matters.

As I said, the story is real — so yeah, there’s some sinful stuff on the screen. I didn’t think it was egregious, but it’s there enough to make the point. The acting is superb, and at times the performances hit close to home. (Honestly, if this wasn’t a biblically based movie, I wonder if lead actor Alan Powell would be up for some acting awards.)

Alan Powell & Ali Faulkner in the lead roles

Alan Powell & Ali Faulkner in the lead roles

What I appreciated most was both husband and wife were flawed. There are many lessons spouses could draw from this movie. It’s the husband’s story, so we follow him more. But you can see how these people slowly slide into a terrible situation and, once there, don’t know how to get out. In fact, there was one scene that channeled certain feelings from my past when my own marriage was a wreck — when we were both in such emotional pain that we just wanted the pain to stop. And we sent ourselves further into hurt before God pulled us out of the pit.

I also related, very sad to say, to the temptress in the movie. The way she flirted was familiar from my long-ago days of premarital promiscuity. So I believe the filmmakers cast her character in a believable light as well.

Some time ago, I wrote about avoiding adultery, based on Proverbs 5. My post aligns well with this movie, since the progression was displayed right there on the screen. (However, intimacy after an affair is more than possible when God becomes the focus of your situation.)

Of course, adultery isn’t the only seemingly insurmountable problem in marriages. My own marriage has never experienced adultery, but at one point, we were hanging on by a thread. Yet I still saw the trajectory of my marriage in The Song — the neglect and pain, the choices and consequences, the heartbreak and redemption.

Let me assure you that — thank God — my marriage has a happy ending! A very, very Happy Ever After!

As for The Song, you’ll have to see the movie for yourself.

I’m glad for all the Christian voices out there proclaiming what God’s Word says — that marriages often have problems, yet “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Hot, Holy & Humorous is one of those voices. And so is The Song.

I pray that we reach out to people through as many means as we can. Movies can be especially powerful. And maybe some of those unaware that the Bible speaks into marriage and sexuality will see this movie and discover the modern-day relevance of God’s Word.

Have you seen The Song? If so, what did you think? And what questions do you have for me about the movie?

My Awkward Marriage Class Moment

Roadsign saying "! - Awkward Moment"My husband and I have twice taken the general marriage course provided by Joe Beam’s Marriage Helper and offered at church. It’s based on His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, which posits that there are 10 primary needs in a marriage relationship. Five of them lean more toward husbands, and five lean more toward wives. As you might expect, the His Needs list includes “sexual fulfillment,” while the counterpart for Her Needs is “affection.”

However, the course recognizes that individuals may not follow the typical pattern, so each spouse takes an Emotional Needs Questionnaire to determine his/her own top five needs. When you come back together in class, you share your list with the group. The first time I took the course, I was the only female who had sexual fulfillment in my Top Five.

It was awkward. Like really awkward to stand up in front of a group of people and admit that sex was super-high on my list. (It was #3, in case you’re wondering. And by the way, sexual fulfillment was #1 on several husbands’ lists.) When I announced my results, it felt like this moment from A Knight’s Tale:

Yep, for some in the classroom, I might as well have been speaking gibberish. A Christian woman who really “needs” sex with her husband? It was a bit like the speech from this guy. When I finished my statement, there might have even been crickets.

Recently, I’ve been thinking and talking about the need to discuss sex in churches — whether from the pulpit, in Bible classes, or in specialized programs like marriage courses and retreats. I suspect my story is one of the reasons we just don’t go there sometimes. It’s flat-out awkward.

And we worry we’ll end up revealing something that paints us in a strange light. Or even learn something about others. We could learn about the sexual struggles of people we see every single Sunday. We could discover others are having better sex lives or worse sex lives or no sex lives, and we don’t know what to do with that. We might end up admitting that we experience conflict over this topic or don’t understand how to reach godly sexual intimacy in our own marriage.

We don’t want to hear or reveal information that makes us feel like we’re stuck back in that junior high classroom where the video of How Your Body Is Changing plays on the screen . . . and you’re either in that group doing everything you can to avoid eye contact or the group cracking jokes and snickering because it stirs up jitters you don’t know what to do with.

Interestingly enough, the second time I took the course, I had a compatriot — another wife who placed sex in her Top Five. Her presence felt like that moment in the film clip when the second man yelled “Yeah!” and his encouragement started a crowd uproar.

Frankly, I think that’s what we need in order to get past all the awkwardness — just some voice or voices from the crowd saying “Yeah!” As in “Yeah, we’re all in this together!” Because as Christians in the Body of Christ, we are.

Of course, what happens in your marital bedroom is a private matter! I don’t need details of your stuff, and you don’t need details of mine. But our marriages matter in the larger context. You and I both having fruitful marriages contributes to the well-being of our families, our churches, and the effectiveness of our message to the world. I feel invested in you making it! And I have tangibly felt others supporting my marriage as well.

Once that first “yeah” comes, it’s surprising to find that it really wasn’t a big deal. In the marriage classes I’ve been in, we all had different needs, and they were all important. They all contributed to healthy marriage, and we all wanted to thrive in being all we could be in our marriages — to fulfill our covenant love to our spouses and to honor God and His beautiful design.

Maybe the awkward moments are what we need. Maybe it’s okay to stand up and be the one to admit what’s going in your marriage and where you need help. Maybe we need to confess that sex is a strong part of our relationship to our spouse, and sometimes we need the prayerful help and godly wisdom of other Christians. Maybe we can move past the awkwardness toward openness, conversation, and health.

Maybe we need more marriage-focused learning opportunities in our churches, ones that involve the subject of sexual intimacy.

Have you been to a marriage class or retreat in your church? Did you deal with the subject of sex? Were honest comments welcomed and respected? What do you wish your church would offer when it comes to learning more about marriage and sexual intimacy?

A Message to Your Pastor (and Mine)

Last Thursday, I asked, Will Your Pastor Preacher on Sex? Only a handful of people commented that their pastor had indeed spoken publicly on the topic of sexuality in their church. Which is sad.

Especially since the Bible has so much to say about it.

Pastor's hands holding Bible & blog post title

But before we get frustrated with preachers for not speaking up and speaking out about sexual intimacy, I want you to know that I have compassion for pastors. I’ve been in close relationships with them and seen the pressure they receive. Many hear from church members to preach on this and not on that, to say more of this and less of that, to say it this way and not that, etc. And yes, I’ve been there when a preacher mentioned sex from the pulpit and got an earful from parents of young children who thought it was inappropriate.

It’s easy to say that pastors should ignore all those voices and simply preach the Word, but:

  1. They are human. And have you ever been under heavy fire like that? It can be very discouraging.
  2. Their jobs and family livelihood are tied to these choices. Surely, you consider how what you say at your job could affect your employment. Just consider that they may face the same concerns.
  3. Most pastors try to both preach the Word and be responsive to their congregation. If their churchgoers don’t seem to want a sermon on sex, they may conclude that they can deliver the message in a different way or simply use their precious time to preach on something the congregation does seem to want and need.
  4. Some pastors don’t feel like they’re in a good place to preach on sex because their own marriages are not in a good place regarding sexual intimacy.

I believe what pastors largely need is not our frustration and criticism, but our reassurance and support. Maybe we can counteract the voices that object to mentions of sex in the pulpit with a message of encouragement. Maybe our words can embolden our pastors to speak on the tough stuff and reach out to those in need of godly wisdom regarding sexual intimacy.

Could you take your pastor aside and give him that message of encouragement? Could you write your pastor a note or letter explaining why you believe this topic is important, and why you trust your pastor to deliver a good sermon? Could you speak to the elders and let them know you desire and support efforts to speak up on sexuality as a church?

Look, I’m just little ole me in my church — one of many sitting on a chair in the sanctuary on Sundays. I’m not on church staff or a pastor’s wife or in any formal leadership position. But I believe the voices of the congregation matter in encouraging those in leadership to be bold and faithful to the Word. A swell of voices from the sanctuary could be just the gentle push your pastor needs to speak what God has put on his heart to speak.

Here’s my message to your pastor (and mine):

While engaging in my online ministry, I have heard so many stories of hardship and heartache regarding sexual intimacy in marriage. For many spouses, there is confusion, pain, and temptation surrounding the sexual act. But I have also heard stories of redemption and revival, once couples begin to experience sexuality in their marriage the way God intended. I know, as a pastor, you’ve heard such stories from individuals and couples as well.

You have many topics competing for attention as people try to navigate this topsy-turvy world, but I want to encourage you to preach from the pulpit and/or teach in a Bible class on the subject of godly sexuality. With so many wrong messages out there, the Church must be even more bold about teaching the truth of God’s design for sex. Not only have some in our congregation been impacted by adultery, pornography, and sexual assault, but many marriages are suffering from sexual deprivation and lack of intimacy or conflict and bitterness surrounding the marriage bed.

You have my full support to speak up regarding these matters according to the Word of God. I will speak to the elders on your behalf and actively defend you among those in our congregation who may struggle with this private act being appropriately discussed in public. If we need to provide additional care or programs for children during sermon time so that you can be free to say what needs to be said, I will help in any way I can. If I disagree with something you say, I will speak to you respectfully and privately, and I will encourage others to do the same. I will be an advocate for you and the importance of dealing with this topic head-on in our church.

I appreciate your willingness to speak where the Bible speaks. Please know also that I will pray for you and your own marriage. May God bless you and your ministry!

Now what would you like to say to your pastor? How could you encourage him to speak up and speak out on the timely issue of sexual intimacy in marriage?

Will Your Pastor Preach on Sex?

Photo of with blog post titleIn my many years of church attendance, I have rarely heard a lesson or sermon on the subject of sex. Even though the Bible has quite a bit to say about it, churches tend to shy away from the topic. And I sort of understand why.

One year, our church camp included the story of David and Bathsheba. Being the children’s curriculum leader, I had to write the lessons for elementary age children about that adulterous affair. We ended up talking more about David wanting another girlfriend, rather than getting into the particulars of sex with a group of kids whose parents may or may not have yet informed them about what happens in bedrooms between men and women. Likewise, a lot of parents are very uncomfortable having the preacher mention sex from the pulpit, because their children are sitting beside them on the pew.

But more than that, I think we’re just uncomfortable with the topic of sex. Maybe because we were wrongly taught that it’s so private or so distasteful, it shouldn’t be brought up in polite company. Maybe because we’re experiencing sexual problems in our own marriage and don’t want to be reminded or convicted. Maybe because we struggle with what God says about sex itself.

But I wish more preachers would say what needs to be said. We should let our pastors know that we are willing to hear what the Bible has to say about everything, including our sexuality. And today, I salute one preacher who did stand up in the pulpit and talk about it. Kevin A. Thompson preached on 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to his congregation, and here’s his sermon on sex.

(For a sampling, I suggest starting at 6:34 and watching until 10:17. And no, I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen on my blog.)

You can also watch the video here.

Has your pastor ever preached on sex? What messages do you wish your church would present on the topic of godly sexuality?

When the Sex Drive Is More Intense

Blog post title with "Sex" in flame fontI wrote last Thursday on What’s the Aim of His Sex Drive? and made the case that the majority of husbands aren’t just after the sex. Rather, sex is a way to be intimate with their wives. Their goal is less the sex (although, sure, that’s a big part of it) and more the connection with this woman they love.

Not surprisingly, I got a bit of push-back. Which got me thinking about when the sex drive is more intense.

A male friend once stated that the longer it’s been since sex happened, the more the drive itself is focused on the sex. And I think that’s likely true.

It’s like anything else that you crave. If you know it’s in abundant supply, you can savor the thing itself — whether it’s good food, great music, or sexual intimacy. But when you feel this deep need that goes unmet for a long time, it becomes far more like a hunger or even, for some, can become almost an obsession. Thus, the higher-drive spouse who seems to be all about the sex, and the lower-drive spouse who feels like an object.

Yeah, I get it.

And neither one of those roles is a good place to be. In this case, it’s hard for the higher-drive spouse to keep that focus where it should be. Their physical need seems so intense, it’s like pangs of hunger and a growling stomach. Sure, you want to be able to take your time, let things unfold, and savor that lady (or man) of your dreams, but at some level you just need a cheeseburger from the drive-thru, so to speak. And no, no, no, I am not comparing any spouse to a cheeseburger. Heaven forbid! It’s simply an analogy to make a point.

Meanwhile, for the lower-drive spouse . . . well, who wants to be a cheeseburger? That’s just insulting. Especially for women who’ve already coped with being ogled pre-marriage by at least a few idiots, we hardly want that kind of groping-eyes-and-hands thing happening with the guy who’s supposed to treat us like we’re a princess. Or princess-like, at least.

So what’s the answer here? What about when that sex drive is so intense that it leans toward being more about the sex itself and not quite as much about the deep love for this person you’re with?

Since you can only change yourself, you have to ask which spouse you are in this scenario. Are the higher-drive spouse? Or the lower-drive spouse? Because each of you can make some changes to effect a better outcome.

Higher-drive spouse. In all honesty, you’re where I currently reside. If I go a long time without, I definitely feel the absence. And my desire for sex becomes even more need-like.

Here’s the advice: Take a chill pill, as they say. Back it up and remember what your real goal is. Remind yourself that a purely physical relationship is pleasurable, but not satisfying. And you’re not willing to settle for less than God intended. (No, really, you’re not!) You can make some real strides toward better intimacy by focusing on your mate. Consider their needs.

What in that moment would make him/her feel loved? How could you bring pleasure or happiness to them? What would reassure them of the love underneath your longing?

Dwell on those thoughts and cultivate those feelings that foster a unique attachment to your spouse. Our minds can be powerful actors on our bodies. Pray for God’s view of your spouse. Show patience and self-control when needed (Galatians 5:22-23). Remember to give your spouse honor (“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” — Romans 12:10).

Of course you can ask for and pursue sex, but seek intimacy in all areas of your marriage.

Lower-drive spouse. Yes, I know you don’t need sex as frequently as your mate desires, and it can be a bit of a bother to engage so often. But — still using that inadequate, but useful food analogy — it’s easier to relax when you know where your next meal is coming from. That is, your spouse may relax a bit about the sex thing if you regularly communicate and cooperate with sexual intimacy.

Look for possible ways and times to engage, rather than putting your energy into avoidance. If you can’t have sex when he/she asks, suggest a better time (and then follow through). If can create some consistency, that could help you both avoid that situation in which he’s pleading and you’re resisting and everyone ends up in a bad mood.

Also be willing to express what you need to make it a more meaningful experience. If you want it to feel less rushed and climax-driven, go ahead and ask for the massage or the time in the bubble bath or a slow dance before you begin. You may find that your beloved is willing to add some romance and flair to the moment when they know what you want — that they actually enjoy the full experience more than an off-to-the-races, get-er-done approach.

What ideas do you have for helping both sides experience deeper sexual intimacy? What helps your sexual encounters move from merely physical to a more meaningful connection between husband and wife?