I’ve been thinking about marriage a lot lately. Our first child to reach adulthood, our son, was married two years ago. Then this past year our eldest daughter married. Almost as close to home…almost…we will attend our nephew’s wedding next month. Weddings are an awesome time to see the beauty of marriage in all its glory. But weddings are just a snapshot. Is it possible for such marital bliss to remain?

It doesn’t seem like it, does it? With celebrity marriages lasting months now (rather than the short number of years we used to expect) and the divorce rate in the church not being much better than the world’s, one would think this is an institution to be avoided at all cost. I mean who signs up to fail?

If you haven’t checked out this video of Ian and Larissa yet, I’d encourage you to. While it may not represent the norm, it certainly gives us something to aspire to…an example of the beauty and the mystery of marriage…a picture of selflessness…and a story that illustrates the things that matter most about marriage and relationships in general.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this year and I’ve gotta say that it just keeps getting better. We are SO looking forward to the next 25. Things haven’t always been perfect but they’ve always made us better and stronger. We decided a long time ago to stay together no matter what and to work through any difficulties or even tragedies…together. When we made that decision it was pollyanna at her best. We had no idea how many curveballs life could throw or just how much it could sometimes hurt…or how much we could hurt each other. Financial calamities, unsought career changes, the loss of children, dangerous health concerns, heck, even deportation by foreign governments. Life is a roller coaster…full of peaks and valleys. In the end though, there is nothing sweeter and no moment more restful to my soul than walking that path with my soulmate, holding hands, snuggling together, and smiling at each other. I see that same joy and peace in Ian and Larissa against even more stark circumstances.

Yep, marriage is beautiful…and mysterious. Ian and Larissa reminded me of that today. May the Lord continue to bless their marriage…and ours.

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more about “Episode 1 – Mystery “, posted with vodpod

There are times in every person’s journey when the reality of mystery collides with their carefully constructed life.  I love how Michael Kelley describes “Mystery” in this video for Small Group Life.  You see I was one of those spectators really comfortable with the idea of mystery because it didn’t really bother me.  Up to that point in my life, mystery had never demanded anything of me. In fact, mystery only became real to me a few years ago through a very painful experience.  When mystery finally invaded my constructed reality, it went by the name “divorce”.  Suddenly I no longer had the luxury of of living with mystery as a concept or a theological discussion.  Mystery absolutely and irreversibly demanded something of me, and I was on a razor’s edge for the outcome of that merciful collision. In the battle to make sense of being unwillingly thrust into the middle of mystery, I could either talk to God in ways I had never talked before and in the process share parts of me and emotions I had never shared before, or I could completely lock down and climb even deeper into the shell I was living and perhaps never feel again.  Thankfully,  I accepted the invitation to let God answer my hard, angry questions with “Who”, and as I discovered, that put an end to my relentless need for “why”.

As a small group leader, if one or more of your group members (or maybe your entire group) has a raw encounter with mystery, I hope you are able to guide the discussion with an appreciation for mystery that often only comes from a personal collision. Avoid the easy, cliche’ answers and embrace the mess that typically comes from the hard work of wrestling with mystery. Lean into these moments and pursue the invitation into a deeper intimacy that comes like the backwash of  rough, turbulent rapids.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways” – Isaiah 55:8

If the idea of mystery connects with your group and you would like to spend more time exploring how God works through mystery, let me recommend a Bible study from the Canvas series called Mystery. Canvas is hosted by Pete Wilson who has a new book coming out called Plan B and is an incredible communicator and creative force.

alice-in-wonderlandGiven my daughter’s Alice in  Wonderland ballet recital, a recent trip to Disneyland, and a little buzz surrounding the new Alice in Wonderland movie, I thought it might be a good time to give Alice a little bit of a “shout-out” here at The Gypsy Road.  I can only conclude that Walt Disney was accurate when he said, after being asked about Alice in Wonderland‘s lackluster reception: “When we got down to it we realized that it was just a bunch of weird characters.”

I read the Lewis Carroll story back in the fall after putting it off for many many years. As a result of that experience I will add that Alice is a very enlightened character in a postmodern sense. Since we need to become comfortable with the mysteries of the world if we’re going to be serious about traveling the gypsy road, I thought this quote from Alice in Wonderland would serve to connect us to the fairy tale we all find ourselves in—the spiritual journey. We’re also using it in the first Small Group Life release.

“I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole—and yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

In order for a small group to be authentic, it helps to remain aware of these 7 perspectives:

The Mysteries of God Found in the Bible
Even God has secrets (Deuteronomy 29:29). As we’ve grown up surrounded by empiricism, vast amounts of information, and the cognitive focus of the modern age, we have been led down a theological path that requires us to come to final conclusions about everything … assuming we’re smart enough. There is a place for proposition. There is also a place for awe and wonder. Allow the mysteries of life and faith to captivate.

That Life Is Messy
Life is a series of surprises—some good, some bad, and some downright debilitating. Ecclesiastes 3:4 just blows out of the water any proposition that summarizes life as formulaic and mundane. Small groups should acknowledge this without giving into it.

Personal Imperfections
Yes, you have imperfections. If you don’t think you do just ask your spouse. (I prefer to own up to it without asking my spouse.)

That God Is Always Present Even When He Feels Distant
God doesn’t always seem close to us. There are times His silence during our struggles is intended to help us face our deep desire for connection and intimacy with Him or to persevere with hope through those dry times so that He can bring unexpected joys to us and others through them. God’s presence can be manifested in authentic community.

Honor Others as Individuals Without Having to Agree with All They Do and Say
God created us as individuals, and no two of us are exactly alike physically, philosophically, or spiritually.

Confessing our Failures at the Right Time with the Right People
Fear of exposure makes the mere thought of confession seem intimidating. Many people are afraid to become vulnerable. In a small group, the confession of sin will be most possible if members naturally, by their own accord, confess to those specific people in the group they have come to trust.

Satan Is at Work in Our World

To most people, Satan is a fictional character instead of “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) until Jesus returns to establish His eternal kingdom. Satan is an enemy who is on the attack, “looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He destroys friendships, family members, and belief systems. He kills hearts.