#30ThankYous “Day 29”: H.

Beloved,

I don’t know how to begin, really. You are my heart, my delight, my help, and my crown. You are beautiful, wise, compassionate, gentle, and strong. You pour yourself out for your family, your friends, your church, and even for strangers. No matter how tired you feel, how busy you are, how stressed you can become, you still stop and patiently care for those who need you. Every day, I’m reminded how blessed I am to be yours.

You are my favorite companion, my best friend, my muse, and my lady. I can’t remember how my daily life even functioned before you entered into it. I’ve come to rely on you for so much, and you have graciously worked alongside me and supported me.

You are creative and clever, resourceful and hard-working, wise and winsome. Your warm heart and welcoming demeanor have won the friendship and respect of so many. Though you may not believe it, you are highly-regarded among all who know you. Any one of them can attest that you, dear heart, are noble and praiseworthy.

My life has been transformed over the last 6 years of pursuing you and building a life together. I am a better man because of your influence, and I’m so deeply grateful for that.

And then, blessing upon blessing! Our daughter came along, and in her eyes, I see yours. There is so much of her personality and sweetness that I must attribute to you, beauty. She is an incredible little girl because–specifically because–you are her mother.

My prayer is that God will continue to give us many decades together. No matter where we are, no matter what our circumstances, I want to face it all with you. I wouldn’t trade you for anyone, ever.

All my heart and all my love, for the rest of my life,

Dave

US(It’s an older pic of us, but still one of my favorites!)

Winner, winner.

The second greatest gift God has given me (after salvation from my sin through Jesus) is my beloved wife. And both of these gifts are fully and completely an act of His magnificent grace.

This weekend is our first wedding anniversary. It’s amazing that it’s already been a year. It seems both shorter and longer–shorter because it feels like it’s flown by, and longer because life with my beloved feels so natural and right.

So, in honor of the weekend, here are 30 reasons I’m thankful to be married to my beloved H. :

  1. She reminds me of the Gospel when I fall back into thinking I need to earn approval from God.
  2. She loves the Scriptures.
  3. She writes me encouraging notes on colorful cards and sticks them in my bag without my realizing.
  4. Her eyes. They’re a rich chocolate brown, and they enchanted me from our very first “non-date” date.
  5. She cooks delicious healthy food, and is the primary reason that I’ve become a healthier man over the last year.
  6. She also cooks delicious UNhealthy food (less often, now), which has also helped me become a happier man over the last year.
  7. She creates beautiful artwork using all sorts of media.
  8. Whenever she encounters a craft idea, DIY project, or new recipe, her first thought is always, “I bet I could do that myself.”
  9. And she usually does. And it’s usually amazing.
  10. She grows things. Flowers, herbs, vegetables.
  11. She keeps talking about owning chickens one day, so we can have fresh eggs. I don’t think I’ll be able to talk her out of that.
  12. She loves children, and is deeply passionate about caring for hurting children.
  13. She will be an incredible mother one day. I can’t wait to see that.
  14. She’s insightful and empathetic. This will make her a phenomenal counselor.
  15. She is gracious with my weakness, and forgiving of my thoughtlessness.
  16. But she still holds me to my word, and expects me to follow-through, and this challenges me to be a better man.
  17. She recognizes her own sin, and is quick to repent and apologize.
  18. She reads books. This habit is becoming more and more rare in our world, so I’m thrilled that ours will be a reading household.
  19. She asks me how I’m doing, and what she can do to help me.
  20. She prays for me, and prays over me.
  21. She recognizes when I’m exhausted and insists that I rest.
  22. She is smart. She would deny it, but she is really clever.
  23. She’s determined and doesn’t give up. This has made her strong in heart and will, and it will continue to serve her well throughout her life.
  24. I love her smile.
  25. Snuggling up with her on the couch is one of my favorite things.
  26. She accepts me as I am, and makes me feel strong and respected and valued. That is huge for me.
  27. She loves her in-laws (my family). That’s a blessing.
  28. She loves our Sunday School class, and looks for ways to pour into the lives of the women in our group.
  29. She’s not just my wife–she’s my best friend. There’s no one with whom I’d rather spend time and have fun.
  30. When I realized that our budget wouldn’t allow for any extravagant anniversary presents or out-of-town travel, she smiled and said, “As long as you’re with me, I’m happy staying right here. Celebrating anniversaries isn’t about big gestures. It’s about being thankful for another year together.”

I have often joked that, in every relationship, there’s a clear “winner”–the person you look at and think, “How in the world did they get such an amazing spouse?” And as much as my wife will try to argue the point, there is no contest, folks. I’m the “winner.”

Happy anniversary, Beauty. I thank God every day for the privilege of being yours.  You are a gift of grace to me. So here’s to one year down–and, Lord-willing, fifty or sixty more to go.

Half-gone.

I dropped my wife off at the airport yesterday. She flew a few states over to be with her sister and brother-in-law, who just had their firstborn. She’s going to be gone for two weeks.

I cried when I drove away from the airport. If that costs me my man-card, then cash it in, buddy. I’ll surrender it willingly. I love my wife dearly. I missed her instantly. And I wiped away tears for a few minutes as I drove down the highway.

I am often tempted to worry; it’s a besetting sin that I battle regularly. As I drove home, I felt the stabbing fear that something might happen to my beloved, and I wouldn’t be there for her. It took a few minutes of prayer to relax, as I released her to the watchful eye of my Father (as if I really could take care of her better than He already does!).

It’s only going to be two weeks, and I know God will use that time to pull me aside and remind me that He is my true comfort and strength. As amazing as my wife is, she is not my God and Savior. I need this time apart to dwell in that truth. Although I have come to rightly rely on her, she is not my soul’s hope.

My head knows this is true. My heart still aches a bit. I felt all-too-suddenly why the Scriptures talk about husband and wife being one flesh, because yesterday half of my heart got on a plane and flew away.

[Regular content returns Monday. Y’all have a good weekend.]

A Little Anti-Social.

Well, I’m back. I won’t bore you with the usual mea culpa‘s and excuses. I’ll just say the last couple weeks have been interesting. Not terrible, not traumatic. Just a little more hectic than usual.  But hey–life, right? 

And now I’m back to blog, and the only thing I can think of to right about at the moment is more marriage stuff. I’M SORRY, OKAY? IT’S KIND OF ON MY MIND LATELY. 32 DAYS. 😉  But it’s not ENTIRELY about marriage, so don’t zone out.  And I’ll try to post about something pop-culturey or controversial soon, to break up the monotony.

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So H. and I have been talking lately about social media. She sent me this video, which I recommend you watch, because it definitely makes you think. (Of course, most YT videos that make you think don’t result in follow-up actions, but at least you think for a second, yes?)

The question of “social media replacing personal interaction” is one that a lot of people have strong opinions on, but no one does anything about.  It’s one of those classic “we’ve got to DO SOMETHING” causes. It’s the type of thing we share on Facebook, but yet it never goes beyond the share or like or even comment, if we feel really strongly.

(By the way, anyone know what’s going on with Kony? No? Okay, nevermind.)

But that’s not the point of this story. That’s just a freebie for people who are bored with marriage talk.

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As I said, H. and I were discussing social media, particularly post-wedding. There’s a good chance we’re both gonna disappear from the FB and Twitter circles for a while afterward. (Haven’t decided what will happen here, but as little as I’m blogging lately, would anyone notice? I might as well just turn over the keys to Web and be done with it.)

Another one of the ideas we are kicking around is replacing our individual Facebook accounts with a joint account.

*Cue the groans from the single folks* 

I know some of you may be rolling your eyes, convinced we’ve just become another one of those couples so into each other that their identities and FB accounts are intertwined. Allow me to pre-emptively address some of the criticisms of this idea.

  • First, give me some credit here. I’ve worked very hard to make sure the focus of my life is not solely my upcoming wedding. (32 days, y’all.)  But seriously. There’s more to our lives than this marriage, but it IS a big deal, so cut us a little slack.
  • Second, if you’re concerned that a joint FB account is proof of lost identity, you put WAY too much stock in what a FB account means.  Facebook is the highlight reel. Facebook is not real life. Facebook is a snapshot. (I think we all need to repeat this to ourselves daily.) Besides, we’ve already combined our Netflix accounts. You wanna talk about COMMITMENT…?
  • Third, it was my idea, not hers. I’ve seen this happen, where one distrustful partner forces the other to share the FB account. That’s not the case. I mentioned, a few months back, that I could see the benefit of having a combined FB account, in terms of the “living above reproach” idea. I don’t need to keep secrets from my wife. To her, I want to be as open and transparent as I can be to any living person. So what’s the big deal?

All that said, I wanted to throw this out to you, the mostly-silent 4DB community: Joining FB accounts when you get married–good idea or bad idea, and why?

Smoke alarm.

On Monday night, I decided that my Friday post would center on World Vision’s employment policy change, opening up the way for people in state-recognized same-sex unions to work at World Vision without violating the evangelically-inclined institution’s morality clause. Of course, as you likely know by now, WV has since reversed their decision, and threw in some convincing* (to my mind) mea culpa‘s, to boot. There are some in the Christian quarters of the internet that cheered this reversal, some that sneered, some that doubted Richard Stearns’ motives, and some that were relieved they personally didn’t have to make what they felt was a difficult moral decision. I was part of this last group.

I started sponsoring a child with World Vision about 10 years ago. I keep her pictures on my fridge. Her name is Meselech.  I’ve blogged about her in the past. [Please pardon some squishy theology in that post, by the way–for what it’s worth, I was still an Arminian then, so who knows what other kinds of crazy stuff I believed**.]

I’ve since sponsored several others over the years. Some left their programs, some I just couldn’t afford to help anymore. But right now, I sponsor two girls through World Vision (one in Kenya and one in Haiti), and because I take this issue of marriage seriously, WV-USA’s corporate decision gave me pause.

I saw the digital slings and arrows from indignant people mocking Christians who felt the way I did, that confusion, that discomfort. People who said that anyone who wanted to end their association with WV on principle loved dogma more than children and shouldn’t call themselves followers of Jesus.  [Yes, I saw your Facebook posts. I saw your tweets. I was offended, but I didn’t say anything, because, why? Would it have made a difference?]

I decided before making any decisions, I would talk to the person I know who has the strongest opinions on the issue of orphan care: my beloved fiancée. And even though the “issue” had been resolved by the time we could discuss it, I still wanted to hear her heart on the issue.  She’s spent the last several years of her life and career focused on orphan-care issues, and this stuff matters to her. So her measured approach, which I appreciated, was that she would have finished her committed terms with the kids she was currently sponsoring, and then moved her money to a similar organization doing similar work that fit more in line with her beliefs. But she would have made sure that the children she was sponsoring were taken care of, first. I think this is where I would have landed on this question, as well. It seems like the best possible response.

This may make no sense to you, all this sturm und drang about same-sex unions in relief organizations. That’s fine. But it matters to me, because doctrine matters to me. Theology isn’t just an academic exercise; it bleeds over into all areas of life. If you don’t believe that, it’s not because your theology doesn’t affect your life; it’s probably because a different theology than the one you vocally espouse is the one that affects your life.

Everyone is a theologian. I think R.C. Sproul said that first, and it’s true. You, right now, reading this blog post, are a theologian, because you have some sort of belief system about God. It could be an atheist theology, an agnostic theology, an indifferent theology, a socially-focused theology, but it’s there, like the rebar reinforcing your moral and ideological foundations.

My theology, my beliefs about God, they say something about marriage. My theology says something about sexuality. My theology says something about caring for orphans and widows in their distress. I cannot in good conscience selectively apply my theology to one side of this discussion OR to the other.

Well, this is all sound and fury, signifying nothing, right? After all, World Vision reversed their position. Everyone can go back to the church potluck, right?  No. Because this isn’t over. This is just the beginning of what I anticipate will be a lifetime of these kinds of discussions and decisions. This issue isn’t a fringe issue, and it isn’t going away. What we believe about sexuality, about marriage, and about God will always be an active part of how we live as humans in society and what we talk about in our communities. So it’s better to get this sorted now.

This was just a test. Like pressing the button on a smoke alarm. Screech, then silence, with just a bit of a ringing in our ears.

 

 

[*I know of several bloggers, pastors, and thinkers who didn’t feel this was convincing enough, and are assuming the apology was more in the “we’re sorry we got smacked” vein. While that’s certainly possible, I agree with Dr. Albert Mohler’s assessment that this apology went farther than the typical sheepish recoil of a chastised public figure. I also believe that the apology statement revealed a really doctrine-poor thought process generated the first announcement, and that has its own set of issues to discuss. For someone else, though.]

[**That’s a joke, people. Lighten up. I simply believed that I had the power to choose or reject Jesus of my own free will, completely unencumbered by one side or the other affecting my decision. Oh, and that I could have conversations with God “in my spirit” that were almost on par with what He tells me in His word. See? Totally rational…um…]

Water.

Some scattered threads about servant-leadership, self-knowledge, and satisfaction…

One: There’s a lot of buzz about Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in North Carolina, and the apparent cult of personality that has arisen out of it. There’s a lot of talk about “uniting around the vision of the Leader” and “following the Visionary.” This is a mindset that is creeping up in some segments of the American Evangelical church–how leaders cast a “vision” for the future of the congregation, and people need to get in line and support that vision and that leader. Something about this has always made me really uncomfortable–not the least of which is that the role of pastor in the New Testament is most often described as “shepherd,” not CEO. In my very limited experience with the responsibility of soul care, my approach can’t be authoritarian and demanding; when it starts to get that way, people don’t follow.  Instead, when I love and serve well, people listen and respond well. (I’m reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples about authority and leadership.)

I find myself a little frustrated this week with some of my church folks–particularly, my guys. I teach singles in their 20’s, and I’m noticing a particular spirit of passivity and inertia in a lot of my guys. To be honest, it upsets me–but like so many interpersonal struggles, I am upset in part because I recognize the same quality in myself. I’ve been struggling to overcome these tendencies in my own life for years. While I’m making progress, I still have a ways to go.  SO it’s most important for me to remember that, just as I needed grace AND a kick in the butt, so they need both motivation and gracious affirmation.  Yelling doesn’t work. But leading by serving does.

Two: I’m getting married in 106 days. This is both thrilling and terrifying. This week, I’ve really been thinking about the implications of that reality. I’m getting nervous. I’m fretting.  Not at all because of my bride-to-be; she’s amazing, and I’m ridiculously blessed to marry her. But I’m nervous about myself. I’m not sure how well I’m going to serve her, provide for her, care for her. I’m seeing my own natural selfishness and self-excuses in light of the prospect of bringing her deeper into my life. It’s like, when you invite people over, suddenly you can see all the messiness of your apartment that you would have been totally blind to by staying at home alone. That’s what’s happening; I’m really seeing the messiness of my life, and I’m suddenly frustrated with myself for not dealing with these things sooner.  Obviously, you can’t undo the past by worry.  But man, there’s more than a little chest-beating going on in my head and heart.

Here’s the crazy thing: I think she knows I’m a mess in some areas. She obviously knows I have a weight problem. I’ve told her about my undisciplined finances. She’s seen most of my apartment (I still haven’t let her see into my massively cluttered bedroom–that day is coming).  And repeatedly, like a living vessel of God’s gentle grace, she tells me she loves me, she’s praying for me, and she will walk with me through all of the mess as I keep growing in discipline and wisdom.  I do not doubt her love. But I still hate myself a little bit for not being more put together and mature and capable.

Three: In the desert, the people of Israel wandered. As they wandered, they grew thirsty, and complained to Moses, accusing him (and God, by extension) of being unable to care for them or unwilling to meet their needs. God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and from that rock flowed fresh water for the people to drink.  Hundreds of years later, Paul wrote that this Rock was Christ–God was their source of refreshment and life.  

Centuries after the desert wandering, and centuries before the life of Jesus or Paul, the prophet Jeremiah called out a rebellious and idolatrous Israel for digging cisterns (underground water tanks) that were cracked and corrupted.  Rather than drinking deeply of the fresh spiritual water that comes from knowing and following the true God, they have pursued counterfeit gods; in so doing, they traded “fresh water” from the living God for the spiritual sludge at the bottom of broken, nasty cisterns. The prophet called the people to forego their idolatry and repent, so that they may drink deeply of a life-giving relationship with their God.  

Centuries later, a Jewish rabbi from Nazareth sits by Jacob’s Well in Samaria. A woman with a bad reputation walks up to draw water. He asks her for a drink (breaking many cultural taboos) and when she hesitates, he says that if she knew who He was, she would ask Him and He would give her water that would satisfy her deepest thirst forever.

Not much longer after that, Jesus then stood up on the last day of the Feast of Booths–a feast commemorating the time when the people of Israel were wanderers in the desert, living in tents, trusting God to provide for their needs–and he called out with a loud voice that if anyone is thirsty, they should come to Him and He would give them a spring of living water within them.

I bring all of this up to say: we’re all driven by our needs, our soul’s hunger and our heart’s thirst. And we’re tempted to try to satisfy those needs with all sorts of self-made solutions, but like the woman at the well, we will still get thirsty and still need to draw more and more to try to ease our ragged throats and parched tongues.  The Living Water is right here, offered to us every day, but even those of us who grew up following the old time religion (and it’s still good enough for us) can forget that the life within our litany comes from the fountain of living water in our hearts. 

As I sit here, on a brilliant-bright Friday morning, my heart is a bit dry, and my fingers are stained by cistern sludge.  Yet the River is still there, still flowing, still full of love and refreshment, still inviting me to come, wash, drink.

Summation: The common element here? Love.  Love that leads by serving and motivates by modeling grace; love that frees us from fear, that gives security and leads to openness; love that finds its home in knowing Jesus and being known by Him, that finds refreshment in who He is and not in the substitute sludge-water saviors of the world around me.

Lord, give me love to quench the desert-bones of my dusty heart.  Like an errant lamb, make me stop and drink, for I’m too foolish to remember where my refreshment is found.