Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Momentary Marriage...

When I was newly engaged and then newly married, I read half a dozen books on marriage. Now that I am 12 years into marriage, I assumed I had a good handle on this marriage thing. Hmmm…

Recently, a single friend of mine gave me a book called This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. Odd title, I thought. When I read the book, I realized that I still have much to learn about marriage. This book is not a “how to have a happy marriage” guide but rather, how to be married as God intended. What is the difference? The priority in marriage is on demonstrating Christ’s permanent love for His church TO the church and TO the world. Piper writes, “I pray that we will all recognize the deepest and highest meaning of marriage---not sexual intimacy, as good as that is, not friendship, or mutual helpfulness, or childbearing, or child-rearing, but flesh-and-blood display in the world of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church” (175). The focus is not on our happiness, but the glory of Christ. Marriage is a “parable of permanence”---that is, a temporary illustration (“until death do us part”) of the real, lasting union between Christ and His church. In glory, there will be no marriage, no husbands and wives, only THE Husband and His wife, the church.

John Piper has a tendency to turn my thinking upside down on just about every topic he writes or speaks about. Piper has been married 40 years, and yet the heart of his marital wisdom is not from his experience with his wife Noël, but rather, the truth of the gospel. So, Piper focuses my attention---rightly---on Christ. My marriage is not for my benefit, but for God’s purpose. Granted, marriage IS beneficial to husbands and wives, children and society. But, that is not why we get married and stay married.

This is a book written to the church, not to married couples. So, this is a book newlyweds and seasoned marrieds should read. This is a book that singles should read. This is a book that widows and widowers should read. This is a book that divorced people should read. This is a book that parents, grandparents and non-parents should read.

The church has much to learn on this subject, especially in a day and age where four out of ten marriages end in divorce and many weddings have become a self-indulgent and hyped-up prom. Reviewer Wayne Grudem writes, “I have taught about marriage for over thirty years, and I still found much that I could learn.” This is one of the best books on marriage I have ever read.

Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. Crossway: Wheaton, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Coffee Wars

Tim Horton's was the genesis of my coffee drinking. In my earliest days of imbibing of the "coffee bean" nectar, I ordered the "double double". As my palate matured, I moved to just one cream. Despite the history I have with Tim's, I have since converted to Starbuck's coffee. I realize that Tim's is a national institution, and I admire the way Tim's brings people together to talk. There is always a hum of chatter when I go into a Tim's. People always hold doors open. People are friendly and familiar. For some, Tim's is like Boston's "Cheers" or an old English pub, where "everyone knows your name."

But, I find that the coffee is too bitter. Very few people actually drink Tim's coffee "black"---it seems to need double cream, double sugar... or, I frequently hear, "triple triple".

Starbuck's coffee is, in my humble estimation, the best coffee available. It tastes authentic. Authenticity is hard to come by these days. The only problem with Starbuck's is the associated "snobby" image. I often see people sitting alone, peering into laptop screens, marking papers or reading books. No hum of chattering people, just softly playing jazz music in the background and the occasional squeak of bottoms on plush leather seats. The clientele seems elevated and superior. Not that BMWs can't be seen in Tim's drive-thrus, or that Chevys aren't seen at Starbuck's parking lots... it is just a general impression one gets. Starbuck's is for the elite; Tim's is for the common man. So, even though I prefer the common man venue of Tim's, I have a greater preference for Starbuck's coffee.

To add to the dilemma, however, is McDonald's. Here you will find very inexpensive coffee. In fact, I ordered a huge coffee and a muffin this morning for $1.93 (tax incl.). To make matters worse, the coffee is superb. I am not sure how authentic it is... (with McDonald's, no one can be certain what you are eating or drinking) ...but, it tastes almost as good as Starbuck's coffee.

In addition, the cup is well designed. It has an extra paper layer surrounding the cup, providing insulation for your hand and the coffee is hot to the last drop. My Tim's coffee is always too hot at first and then gets cold near the end. Not so with McDonald's coffee. The lid is large, like Starbuck's lids, but it has a convenient lift-tab over the hole, that actually stays open when you press it back. I find that Tim's lid tabs sometimes fail to stay open. You know what I am talking about. Most embarrassing. Everyone around you acts like an expert because everyone has had a million cups of Tim's coffee in their lifetime and have had relatively few problems. Even so, one in a hundred lids seems to malfunction. Inevitably, I tear the tab off and I am stuck with a sharp plastic bit digging into my lid. McDonald's design, on-the-other-hand, is made for the customer's supreme enjoyment. The high lid also means that your lips press against the rounded drinking hole rather then against the paper cup (a la Tim's). This is usually not a major problem, unless the Tim's employee places the lid opening over the cup-seam. You know what I am talking about. Your lip doesn't seal properly to the cup because of the seam and you dribble coffee on your shirt. Another problem with the Tim's lid is the "overfilled cup." I have spilt coffee on a number of occasions because of overfilled Tim's. This never happens at Mc'D's because of the high lid, and Starbuck's always asks "room for cream?", so they leave appropriate space.

In the end, I make coffee at home more often than not. It is cheaper and porcelain cups make the coffee tastes a whole lot better. I must add that I still go to Tim's occasionally. Canadian identity has a fragile existence, and a coffee shop founded right here in Hamilton by a hockey player is too Canadian to pass up. Besides, the doughnuts are excellent bar-none.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Canoeing in Killarney

I have heard Killarney Provincial Park described as the jewel of Ontario's parks. Now that my son and I had a chance to visit Killarney last week, I have to agree. I was impressed by the rugged, natural-beauty of the the park. The first lake we canoed was Bell Lake; it was calm, glass-like and gorgeous. The portages were deserted and our campsite on Johnnie Lake felt remote and tranquil. We had a gorgeous little beach at the mouth of out site and we had a wonderful view of the setting sun.

We did not see any wild life, which gave me the authentic sense that we were truly in the wilderness. Bill Mason, the legendary Canadian outdoorsman, always said that seeing wild animals in the wild is actually very rare. He ought to know.

It was wonderful to be out with my oldest son, exploring new territory and discovering for ourselves the "jewel of Ontario Parks!"