My wife and I were deeply moved by the new film, I Can Only Imagine. I was so emotional that I had to compose myself before I could drive home– it was that powerful.
You may know the song, but do you know the story behind the song? “I Can Only Imagine” by Bart Millard of the Christian band Mercy Me is the best-selling, most-played Christian single of all time. The new film by the same title tells the moving true story of the songwriter and how he wrote the song.
The film tells how Bart Millard’s father abused him and his mother, and constantly told Bart he was not good enough. [Spoiler alert—skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know the basic plot.] Thanks to a football injury and a music teacher’s insistence, Bart discovered he had a gift to sing. When his father told him to forget his dreams, he left home, turned his back on the girlfriend who loved him, and tried to escape his troubles by singing with a traveling band.
I won’t give away the ending, because the circumstances of how he recorded the song have surprising twists and turns along the way, but suffice to say that Bart had to face his fears to reach his dreams. And yes, the film dramatically presents the full song near the end of the film.
Dennis Quaid is amazing as the actor playing Bart’s abusive father. People who have endured abuse will feel the pain Bart feels from his father, but many people with sins in their own past, like myself, will identify with the pain of the father himself.
This is a Christian film, but it is not “preachy.” The story is raw, real and unapologetically soaked with the hope of the gospel. Go see this film if you like music, if you like romance, if your dreams have been crushed, if you have been abused, if you have abused someone, if you have a broken home, if you are grieving the death of a loved one, if you need forgiveness, if you need to forgive, and if you need hope.
Guest article, Copyright by Dawn McDowell
Here are five reasons why this activity that has been growing in popularity in recent years can give your relationship a boost.
Millions of Americans tune in to Dancing With The Stars each week to watch celebrities waltz, tango and salsa in pursuit of the mirror-ball trophy. Many of the viewers have decided to give partner dancing a whirl themselves.
If you have not rushed out to your local ballroom dance studio with the throngs of others, I challenge you to consider it. Before you discount it, consider these five benefits of learning to dance with your spouse.
- Dance is a fun activity you and your spouse can do together.
To dance is to celebrate. Consider these biblical references:
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. Jeremiah 31:4, NIV
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11, NLT
Be glad at such a time, and dance for joy; for your reward is great in Heaven. Luke 6:23a, Weymouth New Testament
Dancing is customary at many weddings and holiday socials — times of celebration. And it can be a source of joy and fun for your marriage.
“The enjoyable times we spend together are the lifeblood of a marriage,” writes Greg Smalley, in an online article on the Focus on the Family website. “In fact, while researching their book Fighting for Your Marriage, the authors discovered that ‘the amount of fun [couples] had together emerged as the strongest factor in producing their overall marital happiness.‘”
Engaging in fun activities together creates memories that can be enjoyed for years to come as you reflect on them.
- Learning to dance together can rekindle romance.
A study by social psychologists at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that enjoying a new recreational activity with your spouse can rekindle the romance that brought you together in the first place.
“New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine,” writes Tara Parker-Pope in an online New York Times article reporting on the research. “These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.”
“Every marriage could use more romance,” writes Neil Clark Warren in Catching the Rhythm of Love. “It weaves you together, soul to soul.”
If you and your spouse have dance experience, choose a new style of dance and reap the romantic benefits of learning something new together.
- Dancing is great exercise. It improves your health while it improves your relationship.
The health benefits of dancing can include losing weight, reducing the effects of stress, strengthening your heart, lifting your spirits, improving your balance, and increasing your flexibility and energy level.
In a guest post on simplemarriage.net, Sean Marshall, dates and romance columnist of Family Rocketship, includes dancing on his list of physical “date night” activities. “Dancing is a fantastic way to get to know each other’s bodies and work together to create something beautiful,” he writes. “Find a dance style that you both like and go for it.
“The goal is to achieve a happy and strong marriage,” Marshall writes. “Two healthy bodies sure help you achieve that worthy goal.”
- Dancing together increases intimacy.
Intimacy is the genuine closeness that can be developed in all dimensions of a marriage. Sharing experiences, conquering challenges and generally navigating life together over time contributes to this closeness.
In a post on his Complete Life Fitness blog, dance instructor Stuart Palmer describes observations that he and his wife Tracy have made in their students:
… we continue to see that couples who dance together generally have better relationships and deeper intimacy. Not only that, but just about every couple we’ve taught proclaims that learning to dance together parallels learning to have a better relationship. And it’s true; the couples that look the best on the dance floor have learned to be better partners. They understand their individual roles and know how to enhance their partnership.
- Dancing together provides a “living picture” of scriptural marriage.
I have devoted an entire blog to exploring this “living picture,” and I invite you to visit marriagedance.org. For a sneak preview, I provide these words from author Sheila Gregoire’s blog. She describes the experience of learning to dance with her husband:
It really does change your relationship. It makes you work together. It makes you smile.
In most areas of our lives today, the sexes are interchangeable. A woman can do whatever a man can do, and vice versa. Dancing is one of the few areas of life where you have to either be a man or be a woman. You each have very defined roles, and it reminds you that you are two very different halves of one whole.
… If you’ve ever longed to hear her [your wife] say, “You decide and I’ll follow,” you’ve got to hit the dance floor.
Dancing doesn’t work if she tries to take control. You [the man] really do get to decide pretty much everything. And once she realizes that it works better that way, she can be putty in your hands. Plus, it is awfully romantic.
While you get to feel like a man, she gets to feel like a princess as you twirl her around. … It’s about treating her like she’s precious, and showing her off to the world. What woman doesn’t want to be treated like that?
Scriptural marriage affirms the equal value of men and women. It describes distinctly different and complementary roles for each of them. It is a beautiful partnership that I believe can be more completely understood by learning to dance with your spouse.
Waltz. Tango. Polka. Square Dance. There are a multitude of dance styles from which you can choose one that suits your preferences. Engage with your spouse in this fun and active pursuit, and your marriage will reap the benefits.
About the author: Dawn McDowell is a freelance writer and avid social dancer who has studied and practiced ballroom and swing dancing for more than 15 years. Desiring to see Christian marriages strengthened for the glory of God, she created a workshop that incorporates dance instruction with a scripture study on marriage. For more information, visit marriagedance.org. This article was previously published in Marriage Magazine.
I always thought that I was romantic. But having two attractive young daughters has taught me that I have a lot to learn about romance. (Sorry, guys, they’re both taken—both are now married.) According to my daughters, there are three different levels in a boy-girl relationship:
1. “Talking.” If you’re “talking,” it means you’re interested in each other, but you’re not committed to being boyfriend and girlfriend. You’re free to talk to others. A lot of this “talking” is actually “typing,” because they often do it by texting on their cell phones.
2. “Going out.” This means a commitment to being boyfriend and girlfriend. My generation called this “going steady,” but today’s teens call it “going out.” The only problem is, if they don’t have a driver’s license, they aren’t really going anywhere. Personally, I think they should call this “talking a lot more,” or “texting a lot more,” because that’s what they’re really doing.
3. “Dating.” This is for older youth who have driver’s licenses. If you’re older, you can go straight from “talking” to “dating.” Also, to further complicate things, you can be “dating” but not yet committed to “going out.” So in this scenario, you actually ARE going out, yet you are not officially “going out.”
To my daughters’ list of three levels, I would add a fourth level. If God leads you to Mr. Right, then at the proper time, you should move to a fourth level in a relationship:
4. “Married.” This is what happens when you decide to go out permanently.
I’m reminded of a conversation I once overheard in a flower shop just before Valentine’s Day. Some young men were in the shop, talking about their constantly changing girlfriends. An older man spoke up and said, “What you guys need to do is stop buying at the news stand and get a subscription.”
The Bible says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18) and “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). That’s why I’m happy for my daughters. And I pray that after they are married, they don’t forget to keep dating, and going out, and talking. I know that if they do, their subscription will never run out.
People think of love at Valentine’s. However, some of us fail to communicate.
A cake decorator in New Zealand was asked to include the reference to a Bible verse on the couple’s wedding cake. They requested 1 John 4:18 because it states, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” Unfortunately, the cake decorator wasn’t a Bible scholar so the cake ended up with a reference to John’s gospel instead of his epistle. In beautiful print was “John 4:18.” Had the decorator taken time to look up the verse this error would have been detected before the wedding. “You have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
I heard about a man who was feeling bad that he had not been romantic. So he decided to show up at his door with a coat and tie and give his wife flowers. He rang the doorbell, and when she answered, there he was in all his glory, as he handed her a dozen roses. To his surprise, she sat down in the doorway and just cried.
“What’s wrong, honey?” he asked.
She replied, “This has been a terrible day. Rachel came home from school sick, Daniel broke a window with his baseball, the microwave won’t work, and now you come home drunk!”
Even though our attempts are communicating love can sometimes be misunderstood, we should still make every effort to express our love. The Bible has an entire book, Song of Solomon, that is dedicated to the celebration of romance between a husband and wife. I know a fellow who often reads verses from the Song of Solomon to his wife. Not a bad idea. Just make sure that you read the right verse. Song of Solomon 4:9 would work: “You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes.” But you don’t want to read to her from Song of Solomon 7:4: “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus.”
So if you’re thinking about love this Valentine’s, make sure you say it clearly.