Wedding Preparation – Human Fax Reports

Preparation M 
(Not to be mistaken with H)

What should every individual do before taking those risky and beautiful steps down the wedding aisle?  It’s Wedding Preparation Time!!!

A.  Order a Human-Fax Report

Most people in this country will not even purchase a used car nowadays without finding out about its history.  For years, there were far too many lemons sold, far too many bad buys and far too many machines breaking down before the first payment was made. 

In response to this problem, some genius out there created a system by which potential car buyers could check out an automobile before making an expensive commitment and plunking down their hard earned cash.  This Car-Fax reporting system has been used by millions of people to find out whether the car they are considering has been wrecked or in any way mistreated.  People can find out about a driving machine’s repair history and then make an informed decision about the possible purchase.  With this information in hand, a buyer can know whether this car is worth the risk.

Now I am not saying that getting married is the exact same thing as buying a car, but one thing the above makes me wonder is why people insist on this sort of intense information gathering when it comes to car buying, but rarely seek to discover the detailed history of a potential mate.  I believe this level of tire kicking is necessary, not only for buying a used Audi, but also (and certainly more so) for purchasing a marriage partner.  After all, isn’t a life commitment to another human being, who might turn out to be a walking talking lemon, a bigger decision than monthly payments?  

I believe this is a huge deal and that is why I advise all of my counselees, before they get married, to fill out a “Human Fax” report (and order one from their mate.) .

While there is no actual faxing to be done (unless you want to), the idea remains the same — People providing vital and detailed histories about their brokenness, about their past wreckage and about their repair status so that someone else can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to enter into a commitment.

While it is true that someone can lie about their past and present condition, it is not likely.  After all, most people want to be somewhat honest when they step into a relationship because they want the same sort of honesty to come back to them.  Thus, the value of this “Human Fax” is huge.  It reveals to both parties potential areas of weakness and places in need of repair.  And just because a “Human Fax” report exposes these types of things does not mean that a relationship will be a lemon.  Just because someone has wreckage does not mean that they are un-drivable.  It just brings reality into the open and hopefully draws individuals into the hands of mechanics who are able to help them become “roadworthy.”

To those in pre-dating mode:  I recommend that you fill one of these outtoo.  Even those who do not yet have a significant person in mind for marriage.  It is never too early to look under your own hood and to get yourself into the shop.  (It has been interesting to work with single individuals on their “Human Fax” reports because what they find are the very problems that have been stalling their romantic pursuits in the first place.) 

On the next page, I have included an example of a “Human Fax” report.  It uses symbolic car language.  Don’t let that throw you off.  Just roll with my weird brain for a bit and answer the questions you feel are relevant. 

For those spiritual people out there:  As you fill this out, ask God to search you and show you the truth of your condition.  If there are lots of problems with your “car”, do not despair.  Simply seek repair.  If you are filling this form out with a significant other, make sure to offer grace to both them and yourself.  Talk together about what must be done so when you take this longest relational road trip of your lives, you will be able to make it to your destination with minimal problems.

Do the following exercise:

Filling out a Human Fax Report

My Human Fax Report:  When filling this out, recall that you are thinking of your relational life.  

Part One:

  • How have you been wrecked by life/by others?  Have you been in fender-benders?  Dented?  Flipped over and left in a ditch?  Did the airbag release?  Have you ever felt totaled?
  • Who/What has smashed into you?
  • Who/What have you smashed into?
  • How did the crashes come:  Words?  Physical abuse?  Sexual abuse?  Failure?  Rejection?  Betrayal?  Abandonment?  Manipulation?  Parental Modeling?  Selfishness? 
  • How much damage did each crash cause?  Did it cause visible and/or invisible wounding?
  • What did this/these event(s) bring about?  What insecurities did each crash bring about?  How much caution/protection do you now have as a result?  How much fear of rejection?  How much embarrassment?  Shame? Do you hold onto grudges and unforgiveness? Did you develop patterns of comforting addictions to help you get through?    
  • Have you ever taken your life to a good mechanic?  Met with a therapist or pastoral counselor?  Let a trained someone do some Diagnostics and a Fix?  Was there Permanent or Temporary repair?  
  • Did you try to do the mechanic work yourself?  Or did you just suppress everything under a new paint job and drive on as if the things of the past would not affect your decisions/reactions/responses of the future?
  • What damage still needs to be fixed?  What broken pieces are sticking out?

Part Two

  • How is your Power Train (spiritual condition)?  Are you connected to God?  
  • What sort of roads can you handle and do you tend to drive upon?   
  • How much mileage do you have?  Were most of the miles easy or hard?  How many miles to the gallon do you get?  (Speaks of emotional/relational energy)
  • Describe your make and model?  Are you a Porsche or a used Ice Cream Truck?  What is your current price tag?  How much are you worth in the Relationship Blue Book?  What do you base that on?
  • What parts have been taken from you?  How have you been stripped?  Do you sense that there are missing parts and what does that mean for you?  Replacements?
  • Have you been careful to have regular oil changes (emotional, spiritual, mental refills) or do you ride along until you hurt your overall condition causing permanent damage to self and others?
  • What are the seemingly benign glitches you just let be?  Why?
  • How often do you get a wash?  A detail?
  • Who else besides you do you allow to drive your life?  
  • If you keep running as you are, how long do you think it will take for you to require a push?  Who do you have in your life that you call on for a push?
  • Can you move forward or do you just look backwards?  Have good rearview mirrors?  (Are the things of the past closer than they appear?)
  • Are you high-maintenance requiring tons of upkeep by someone else or are you low-maintenance and able to roll on without much support from someone else?
  • If someone kicked your tires, would they pop?
  • What is your safety rating?  Should people worry about crashing when driving along with you?
  • Are you dependable?
  • Can you be driven long-distances or do you overheat when you are made to wait?
  • How many owners have you had?  Did they treat you well?  Rag you out?
  • How big are your blind spots?  What are things you cannot see to the right and left of you that threaten your safety if you make any sudden changes?
  • Do your lights work (for when the darkness descends)?
  • Do your brakes work?  Can you put a stop to a relationship firmly or are you a brake pumper who can never seem to let go, even at obvious relational red lights?
  • What sort of driver are you suited for?
  • Do your windshield wipers work when a relational storm hits?
  • Are there any dead things in your trunk needing to be confessed or buried?
  • Are you a tow truck who makes a habit out of hooking up with broken down humans?

Human Fax summary:  Once you get to know yourself as written about above, it is key that you do not let the information define you.  Sometimes when we decide to take a closer look at ourselves, we get depressed by what we discover and identify ourselves with the findings.  But, you are not necessarily what it is you found out. You are simply being affected by it.

Sure, the Blue Book might say you are worth five hundred dollars because you can only get around behind a tow truck.  But truth is, you can and will be restored if you let yourself enter into a holistic process of healing and transformation. (Jesus is great at restoration!) 

Yes.  You have been broken and some parts of you do not work as well as they should. And while these parts are causing all sorts of relationship problems for you right now, the time will come when you will leave the junkyard once and for all.  

Suggestion:  Get a pro therapist to help you deal with your emotional junk and then ask God to reveal your actual value.  If you can find a spiritual director in your community, I’d recommend using them to help you with this second part.  There seems to be too much self-hate in the hearts of too many of us.

The Prodigal’s Father – What God is really like

The Prodigal’s Father

Have you gotten yourself dirty in this world of ours and think you have a stench too harsh for God to handle?  Do you want to get clean so you can come back home to Him and get fed?  What do you expect God will do when He sees you heading back with your head hung low and your pockets empty from giving this world a wild whirl?

Here is Jesus, who perfectly knows how compassionate His Father really is, explaining to all of us just how incredible God’s love and forgiveness are – He is not guessing and this is no opinion.  He has spent all of eternity in community with the Father and Jesus has watched Him act like the father in the story over and over.  He knows Him and he knows how He acts, even toward the most rebellious in His created order.  He shows us this beautiful picture of the height and width and depth and length of love in its truest form.  Take a look at how the Father gives his child what he asked for and allows him to go on his own way – So much respect in the giving over when even foolish freewill is chosen.  Then, as the starving and embarrassed pig-boy comes stumbling back from a distant country, most likely stinking of some pretty serious B.O. and definitely with a shame speech connected to his wild living and failures to make it “out there,” the father (our Father) runs to his “dead” son and throws His arms around him.  And he does so without even demanding explanation or insisting that his boy take a shower.  I’ve been around people who haven’t showered in months and the fug is foul – like I loved them but I could hardly stand within ten feet of them without wanting to vomit.  Give me two days without a bath and I’m right there with them.  So, I am figuring since this child of his is traveling a huge distance most likely on foot, that he must stink.  And yet, I reiterate, the father doesn’t allow for any distance to come between his child and him because of a wretched stink.  A stink that is both of the body and of the reputation.  Our own Heavenly Father doesn’t care about getting dirty or smelly as He embraces us as we maybe even crawl our way back – He’s just so thrilled to see us again that He cannot and will not resist reaching out in a full-on embrace.

That’s hard for me to understand.  That’s hard for me to accept.  I don’t understand that kind of love.  Jesus is telling me I have that sort of love at my disposal, but I hold it at arm’s length because I know I have the smell of a dead man and the history of a bad man.  I have one of the longest rap sheets on supernatural record and I have lived as a lifetime prodigal for almost all of my days.  I look back years and I look back to today and I simply don’t trust myself.  Better said, I don’t love myself.  There have been years and years even, of hating myself for being such a terrible recidivist and thief of my God’s inheritance.  But then, when I pray, I hear this father from the story and I hear this Heavenly Abba of mine saying something impossible but true:  “You are my loved child!”  What do I do with that?  As the ring is put on my finger and the robe is draped over my shoulders and sandals are put on my feet and the fatted calf is slaughtered to destroy my personal rejection, I try to fight this inconceivable love.  I think, “Well, the son in the story is better than me.  He screwed up a bit out there but he finally came to his senses and went home to do the right thing.”  But then I am reminded by the Spirit of God that that son, that child, and me had and have the same motives in coming home.  He didn’t come home because he wanted to be a better son.  He came home because his belly was yelling for food in a land of famine and he recalled that his father was rich and had plenty of food even for the servants.  He is no hero and I am no hero.  But both of us non-heroes come home to a 
Father who just want us back in the house – who just wants to remind us despite our mistakes and gruesome foolishness that we are loved children of the One who has been parenting and protecting us from the enemies of this world since we were born.  So, lately, daily, I have been saying the following to myself:  God, I hate the things I have done and the things I do.  But since you love me so much that you run to me every time I head home and because you love the fearfully and wonderfully made being that you created me to be, I will also love what you love.  I will love the me that you made and I will stop condemning myself for losing everything out there in this stupid world that got me to buy into its charms.”

And it works.  When I say this, I can stop practicing my worthlessness speech prepped for every stupid trip on the prodigal carousel and start talking like a son – like a co-heir – like the loved child of this great Father who is willing to get my stink on him so that He can show me that self-hatred is wrong.  Do I say it every day?  Do I bypass the self-hatred every moment?  No.  I fall back into the prodigal/slave mindset often when I allow my sin to be evidence in Satan’s arsenal against me.  And I whip myself for whatever smells like the distant country that comes sweating from my pores.  But, I’m noticing more and more that God runs to me and grabs me and tells me that I am His loved child before I can complete the self-destruction.  He interrupts my hatred speech and dresses me up in fashion that bashes the lies in their heads.  And to be honest, it’s hard to argue against sonship when you are dressed like a loved son with all of the important accessories, who has been given authority and who is celebrated so mightily.  

I hope that you get what I am saying here in your own life.  Sure, we are to die to our worldly selves daily, but we all must fall in love with the created versions of ourselves who return home – even if the returning is for all of the wrong reasons – even if we are practicing the most selfish form of “repentance.”  You should try, but you will never be clean enough for this reunion.  Our righteousness attempts are filthy rags at best and so we look to Jesus who left his home and his Father to come to our distant country and become our righteousness by getting hammered to a cross and then rising from the dead.  His death and resurrection gave us a passport and an acceptable visa to go to paradise forever to be with his and with Our loving Father.  The robe will fit.  The ring will fit.  The sandals will fit.  The party will be loud.  The feast will taste amazing.  And you will never be hungry again.

This is Home!

This is Real Love!

The Ultimate Marriage Survival Guide – Looking for a Loving Relationship?

Who is this blog written for?

  • This blog is written for everyone who wants to get married but would rather not get divorced at some point (60% of couples divorce.)
  • This blog is written for those who have already gotten married and would prefer to have a really happy relationship rather than have to survive a heart-breaking day-to-day grind (80% of couples report having a miserable marriage relationship.)
  • This blog is written for those who have already been chewed up and spit out by marriage and are still trying to figure out why, so they can someday re-marry and experience marital bliss.
  • This blog is for those who want to be fully realistic and emotionally intelligent about the challenges inherent to marriage rather than living in the “Happily Ever After” dream world of how marriage is presented in both cultural myth and childhood imaginations.
  • This blog is for those who are willing to ask the important and necessary questions so they are prepared to be the best possible spouse for as long as they shall live.
  • This blog is also for me so I can read it and remember not to be an idiot to my wife.

In the pages that follow, I will give you solid tools and awesome questions to help those preparing for a new marriage, and also to provide real hope for those who find themselves in an “old” marriage, which needs a rebuild or a restoration.

So, single people, daters, engaged ring-wearers and married folks at every stage of the relationship business, read on.  I am not Dr. Phil so this might get weird, but so does marriage, and this blog will help you do better than you would without it.

Let’s begin with a few facts before we launch into this read.

Fact #1:  Of the two million couples that will get married in the U.S. this year, almost all of those polled report that they are “more in love than they have ever been” and are “positive about their decision to marry.”

Fact #2:  Of those two million couples, almost all of them “expect” to be happily married to their spouse for the rest of their lives.  (In other words, not many couples predict an imminent marital decline as they are saying or preparing to say “I Do.”)

Fact #3:  Hardly anyone gets married just so they can experience divorce.  (Divorce is not on most Bucket Lists.)

**With these three facts in mind, one has to wonder why so many people who boldly proclaim  “I Do” quickly become those who start screaming, “I Do Not.”  Honestly, how does mind-blowing love and togetherness transform into iPad-throwing hate and separation?  

Maybe the better question for this relationship blog is this:  

What can you do to make sure these things do not happen to you?

We shall attempt to answer with brevity and brilliance.

Down In It?

Down in it – Anyone ever felt deeply depressed?

My world of depression 10 years ago:

The more I know, the more grief I have.  All my hopes have been deferred.  Everything is meaningless.  I will not be remembered long after my death.  My chemicals are all jacked up.  I cannot feel joy.  I am not as happy as everyone else.  I am lonelier than I have ever been.  I don’t want to chase money anymore.  There must be More.  I am driven by fear.  I am unable to be intimate with anyone.  No one understands me.  I would prefer not to be known anyway.  I am so depressed.  I feel paralyzed.  I want to tear my skin off.  I’m sick of faking it.  I don’t want to be rejected anymore.  I don’t want to hate myself anymore.  Technology is not making me feel any better.  My distractions have lost their ability to capture my interest.  Where is the joy?  I’m desperate.  I think I am the only one.  I think it would be best to disappear.  I am ready to surrender.  I plant my white flag in the hard earth and bury my dreams.  The drugs don’t work.  The fun is not as fun as I thought it would be.  The thrill is gone.  Love is empty.  I feel alone.  I am alone? 

I’m down in it.

And so are millions of others who see life as it really is and cannot stand to face it any longer.  We dig together, but we choose to live in a solitary confinement where we bide time until death proves us right.  The psychiatrists are just guessing at solutions and their prescriptions just turn us into fatter zombies.  The side effects are deadly.  Do you know what I am talking about?  Do you deeply know it?  Are you suffering like I am?  Have you hit the wall going 100 miles per hour and still breathe out the daily pain?  If so, this is a book for you.  It’s one voice shouting out from the depths in rhymes and streams and crazy, true stories.  It’s poetry for the dying, words for the lonely, and dangerous love for the broken.  Read it aloud.  Scream it to the ceilings.  And know you are not alone.  We surrender, but we don’t give up.  

This is our manifesto for life in the wasteland.