If I had preached my daughter’s wedding…

Before my daughter married her beau in March, many asked if she invited me to ‘perform the ceremony’, and they did, but I said I would rather be DAD. I wanted to watch her stand giddy next to the man with whom she wants to spend her whole life. I wanted to see him look at her and smile as her eyes lit up when he promised his heart – for a lifetime. But truthfully, when the vows were exchanged, I did not want to accidentally call her by her mother’s name or accidentally replace a name with the family dog – either.

But you know, there is one dad in Scripture with whom I related as we prepared for that day. There was a dad at wedding feast in Cana that could have seen their joyful feasting turn into a nightmare (John 2:1ff). Jesus’ mother Mary discovered that the wedding provisions had practically been depleted. While most Americans might worry about cake. However, for that father of Cana, it would have been “a social faux pas that would become the subject of jests for years (since) the host was responsible to provide his guests with adequate wine for seven days” according to some resources. Seven hours, I get that. Seven days. Wow.

Additionally, “the women’s quarters were near the place where the wine was stored; thus, Mary learns of the shortage of wine before word reaches Jesus and the other men. Her words probably suggest that Jesus should do something (since) guests were to help defray the expense of the wedding with their gifts. It seems that their friend needs some extra gifts now” (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993).

Had it not been for Jesus’s mother finding out and Jesus Himself gifting this miracle, the fond memory of these parents for a beautiful wedding for their daughter would have unraveled to a fiasco that likely would have made them a laughingstock among neighbors and sharp-tongued gossips too. I am certain that father was grateful without fully appreciating the scope of how lucky he was that Jesus had been invited. Jesus saved the day.

So, in my wedding sermon I would have said, “we invited Jesus here today!” The reason is because…

We invited Jesus to her life when she was born. We brought her, with her brothers, to hear His word and celebrate His worship. We read to her Bible stories and sang songs of worship as we drove down the road. We held hands when we prayed. We laughed. We cried. And we felt the broken heart and the brokenness of the world in which we were raising her – but we wanted her to know Jesus, to follow Jesus and to love Jesus.

And we invited Jesus to our family time and vacations. We would stop for worship along the way and meet Christians we had never met. We would battle the skip services for “convenience” because “no one will know” syndrome but because Jesus had already been invited, we tried to put Him first in front of our children always. I’d never say temptations never came, but we tried to bring Jesus along every day – doing on vacation what we would want other Christians to know we did. In our home, we prayed around our meals. But we also argued – even the father of the bride. And when I spoke harshly – or incorrectly – I had to acknowledge that if Jesus was going to be invited to her wedding, I had to invite Him to my home to stay and then apologize. Every man (woman and child) needs to see that.  Jesus needs to be the reason you love your wife. He needs to be the reason that you stay together. And He will be the reason that your marriage will be to you all God ever intended it to be. But, you have to invite Him now.

So, I invited Jesus to my daughter’s wedding not because I was afraid we would run out of cake or coffee. I wanted Jesus to be there for them so that when they ran out of love, of hope, of kindness, forgiveness and compassion, Jesus would be there for them – as He has been for me – to help me supply in me what keeps running low. Marriage was God’s idea. And it will be everything our hearts really need and everything we need to experience.  But if you forgot to invite Him to your own wedding or even now realize that He is missing in your marriage, Jesus takes late invitations. Even if it is “the day of” He will come to those whose hearts realize marriage is all about finding in each other what God has found in us.

Invite Jesus now to your marriage. That’s what I would have said because He would indeed, as He did in Cana,  save that day – and every day thereafter.

God is a marvelous knitter.

God is a marvelous knitter. A friend recently pointed out to Anna and I a connection between two “knittings” in the Bible. One is how God knit the human body together including the joints and ligaments in the mother’s womb (Job 10:11; Psalm 139:13). The other “knitting” this friend pointed out is how God knits together His church with its joints and ligaments (Colossians 2:19).

“…and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God (Colossians 2:19).

In both instances, God gets the glory. The growth is from God, Paul said. That precious baby and the church both serve as a testimony to the marvelous power of God.

God is a marvelous knitter.

Considering that today is Tuesday, and our theme on Tuesdays is a focus on marriage and honoring the women in our lives, I want to take this concept and apply it to marriage.

Is not God also “knitting” two people together to become “one” in every sense of the word? Think of the marvelous handiwork of God in our marriages. When we embrace the working of God in our marriages, God will knit us together in body, mind, soul and spirit.

He made them one (Malachi 2:14-15). “So then they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6).

That happens through being one with the word of God and prayer. We are knit together by our common experiences. This also happens through facing the trials and pain of life together. God’s knitting is not always the most pleasant of experiences for us. Growth and the creation of true spiritual union in marriage will sometimes take pain. There will also be great times of joy. But what is the end product in God’s eyes? A glorious marriage that resembles the beautiful relationship Christ has with the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So, embrace God’s knitting. He is a beautiful artist and His handiwork is second to none, especially when you see what He can do with a marriage.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Shop Around

We were listening to an oldies station online a few days ago, and the song “Shop Around” started playing. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles released this catchy tune in 1960. “My mama told me, you better shop around…Shop! Shop!”

The meaning I get from this song is be very careful before you say “I do” and get married. Make sure that this person is the one with whom you really want to spend the rest of your life. Great wisdom! There are other parts of this song someone might take issue with, namely that you should not marry the first girl you date / court. Some of best and strongest marriages have come from that “first love.” Regardless, the lesson in this song is powerful and relevant to our young men and women as they consider marriage. Be careful! Don’t be sold on looks, “pretty girls come a dime a dozen…”

Click here to watch the YouTube video of the song performed live.

Shop Around

When I became of age my mother called me to her side,
She said, “Son, you’re growing up now pretty soon you’ll take a bride”
And then she said, “Just because you’ve become a young man now,
There’s still some things that you don’t understand now,
Before you ask some girl for her hand now
Keep your freedom for as long as you can now.”
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

Ah, there’s some things that I want you to know now
Just as sure as the winds gonna blow now
The women come and the women gonna go now
Before you tell ’em that you love ’em so now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

A-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around.”

Ooh yeah, a-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’.
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
Make sure that her love is true now.
I hate to see you feelin’ sad and blue now”
My mama told me, “You better shop around (Shop, shop)

Don’t let the first one get you
Oh no ’cause I don’t want to see her with you
Uh huh before you let her hold you tight, ah yeah make sure she’s alright
Uh huh before you let her take your hand my son
Understand my son, be a man my son I know you can my son I love you”

Publishers: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics data from Lyricfind.com

My first wedding

If you are wondering…”My first wedding” means the first wedding I performed…just to be clear.

19 years ago today, I performed my first wedding. My wife’s sister, Karen, and her husband, Jason, were joined together in marriage by God on October 18, 1997.

I remember being so nervous that I forgot to have everyone be seated. After my father-in-law said, “Her mother and I do,” I was supposed to say, “Please be seated.” Well, I just went on and preached the wedding, not even realizing that everyone was still standing! After several unnoticed attempts my father-in-law finally got my attention, and I got the memo! “Oh yeah, please be seated!” What an embarrassing moment.

Another memory is that Anna was pregnant with Joseph then. She was the matron of honor. That was October and in the following February we would have our first child. Man…time flies.

We were so young. Good grief, I had only been married just over a year and at the reception I was sitting with three couples who had each been married for over 50 years! I remember saying, “There are over 150 years of marriage experience here!” Two of those couples were Anna’s grandparents. All four of Anna’s grandparents have passed away since then. Again, time flies.

Marriage and Time – Two great gifts from God.

There’s not much of a point here except that marriage is such a special gift given to us by God. So is time. Put both marriage and time into the hands of people who value both and you have one special relationship.

My parents will be celebrating their 50th in 2018. Anna’s parents will celebrate their 44th anniversary this year in November. Again, time flies. Tom, my father-in-law, will say this year that “the first 44 years are always the hardest.” Last year it was the first 43. He has said that every year that I can remember on their anniversary. Of course, he says it with tongue in cheek, but he is saying that marriage takes a ton of work and commitment. And a lot of love.

Happy Anniversary, Jason and Karen! You are such a blessing to have as family, as brethren in Christ, and as best friends to Anna and me.

My “Perfect” Life

Happy Anniversary – My “Perfect” Life

All you married couples, have you ever felt the pressure? You know what pressure I mean, the pressure for a “perfect” relationship. And “perfect” is defined in many different ways by many different sources. It starts when we are very young, watching all the Disney movies where the characters find their “one true love” and live “happily ever after”. Every young girl grows up looking for her knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet. The pressure continues to be applied by romance novels, romantic comedies, TV sitcoms, reality TV like the Bachelor, and every other form of media you can think of.

By the time we are young adults we’ve been convinced that there is one true “soulmate” out there for us and like Jerry Maguire we want the one person that “completes us”. Once we meet that special someone our attention turns to the “perfect” proposal (captured on video and spread over all forms of social media), the “perfect” wedding with the “perfect” dress, etc., etc., etc. As newlyweds we expect every day to be filled with romance and excitement and adventure and passion. As we live our lives and experience the reality of hardships and struggles, the “perfect” relationship continues to be thrown in our face by all our friends on Facebook who have better houses, better vacations, better kids, better cars, better, better, better.

We live our lives buying into this illusion of the “perfect” relationship, wondering what is wrong with us or with our spouse. We might even start playing the game ourselves, presenting our own relationship as some fairy tale story where every day is better than the last. Unfortunately reality will eventually overwhelm the illusion and that is when many people quit, get divorced, and start looking for someone else…their new true soulmate that actually completes them…this time…not like last time…it will be different…you’ll see.

19 years ago, on August 2, 1997, Kristine and I were married in Livonia, MI. Over the last 19 years I’ve learned a great deal about the “perfect” relationship and I’d like to share my insights. Let me start with a little transparency, at the risk of TMI, and shed some light on Kristine’s knight in shining armor.

  • I’m pretty disgusting. For example, I can go for a long run in 90 degree heat with 65% humidity and be perfectly content not showering for the rest of the day. I know some of you gagged when you read that.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve got ADHD. At any given moment I’ll have 5 or 6 projects going that I’m “really, really excited about” and I’ll usually complete at least two of them. Kristine is constantly putting up with my “passion of the week”. I’m like a squirrel on crack.
  • I sure can be a big moody baby. I’ll be going along all happy go lucky and one thing won’t go my way and I can turn into a little spoiled brat.
  • I’m a bit of a control freak. And when I say “a bit” I mean I really, really, really like to be in control. You can all imagine how much fun that is to live with.

Now I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I could also list just as many of Kristine’s more “charming” characteristics that are such a joy to live with (sarcasm intended), but I’ve already told you I’ve been married 19 years so I’m not stupid enough to do that. In addition to listing some difficult personality traits, I could tell of fights and arguments and struggles and sin and selfishness and bitterness and all the other experiences that make up a marriage with any mileage behind it. But with all that being said, we still have the “perfect” relationship and let me define that for you.

Our relationship is perfect because no matter how bad the fight or how big the disagreement, I know that even if we have to walk away for a bit that we will come back together and work through it. It is perfect, not because every day is warm and fuzzy but because every day is filled with the little sacrifices that demonstrate love.

I see perfection when Kristine takes a deep sigh and cleans my crumbs off the counter even though she’s asked me a thousand times to clean up after myself. I notice perfection when she’s had a rough and chaotic day and I stop what I’m doing to do the dishes and sweep the floor because I know that those two things will bring a sense of order back to her life. The perfect relationship is when we laugh during the mundane routines of life and we turn a trip to the grocery store with no kids into a “romantic” date night.

Our relationship is perfect because we are learning to let go of ridiculous expectations and show each other grace. Our relationship is perfect because when I look back over 19 years I see failure and sorrow and disappointment and frustration, but most of all I see growth. Our relationship is perfect because Kristine loves God more than she loves me. Our relationship is perfect because I love God more than I love her. Our relationship is perfect because we are committed to Christ and to each other no matter what comes our way.