The EXTRAordinary Moment of Weddings (Part 2 of 3)

“When the world sees the way that I love you/they will see the way Jesus loves them”

That’s the final statement in the grooms vows when I perform weddings.  I get a lot of compliments on that line.  In fact, just the other week, as I was walking out of what a beautiful reception I was chased down by a gentleman who wanted to tell me something I’ve heard more than a few times:

“That was the most worshipful wedding I’ve ever attended”

That makes me sad.

Don’t get me wrong.  It makes me feel good to be complimented.  I like when people tell me I’m good at something, or funny, or that the way I play fantasy football reminds them of Francis Underwood.

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It makes me sad because people go to a LOT of weddings!  One year Kristan and I watched like 16 knots get tied.  That was the year I finally bought dress shoes, spent more money at Bed, Bath and Beyond than the rest of my life combined, and got all of 1 Corinthians 13 memorized.

How do we sit in wedding after wedding and let it not be about what it’s supposed to be about?

Easy.  Because we are convinced it’s about us.

When it’s OUR special day, it can’t be HIS special day.  If it’s about us, it’s not worship.

We have settled into a habit, even on the most ordinary of days, of turning everything inward.  We work for ourselves.  We have hobbies for ourselves.  We exercise for ourselves. Day after day goes by and it becomes increasingly difficult to find God in the mundane.  Only in the EXTRAordinary does God emerge.

A wedding is an extraordinary moment.  It’s a special day.  It’s that rare pause in our lives when our attention is naturally drawn upwards…if we will let it.

It’s often missed.

Autostereograms.

Otherwise known as Magic Eye.  You remember these nightmares.  2D pictures that, if you stare at them long enough you’ll either see a 3D image or a schooner emerge or blood will start coming out of your ears.

I hated these things.  I lacked the patience and discipline to find the hidden picture.  Nevertheless I had a few of the posters in my room when I was a kid.  I was content with the wavy lines and colors.  Obviously I believed there was something else there, but I never bothered really trying to see it.

Life is like that.  Even on the most mundane days there is a lot more going on – a 3d image hidden in the 2d routine of our lives.  It’s natural for us to settle into life and struggle to consistently find God in the ordinary.  It’s not good, but it is natural.

Weddings aren’t ordinary.  They are extraordinary.  They are one of those moments when we can so easily stop and see past the regular 2d pattern of man and woman to find the image of God in husband and wife.

We just have to try…

 


The Thing Everyone Should Stop Saying at Weddings (Part 1)

“Don’t unity candles have to stay lit forever for them to actually serve the intended purpose?”

Ok, that’s not it.  I’ve just always wondered about that.

Weddings.

They are beautiful, fun cry-fests for all, shared around the bond between a loving couple and a mutual hatred for the wedding planner.

“No Samantha!  We don’t need to practice WALKING again.  I’ve been doing it since I was four (I was a late bloomer)”

We love weddings.  I’ll admit, every wedding I do there is a fair to likely chance I’m going to start crying the minute the bride and groom make eye contact for first time.  Although, as a Dave Ramsay fan, a part of me dies inside when I see flowers that cost more than my annual gas budget; I really do love the spectacle of it all.

But there is one thing that bothers me.  One thing that you will hear at EVERY wedding…heck, you’ve probably said it.  Every time I hear someone say it I want to make farting noises into my elbow and blame it on the bride.

I don’t.  I just want to.  Don’t judge me.

Here it is:

“I’m so happy for you on your special day”

PPPFfffttttpppllllhhhhh…..”um, she did it”

Ok.  I get it.  It comes from a really nice place.  A place of celebration and shared happiness.  It also comes from our culture and our worship of the wedding above the marriage and the bride above the groom (ducks and hides).

It’s not your special day.  It’s not about you…

Well, not completely.  It can be special for you.  It obviously IS!  It’s special for the bride, the groom, the parents, and everyone in attendance.  It can be special.

It’s just not “ours”

“For from him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36

Everything, even marriage, is designed for God.  The wedding isn’t our special day.  It’s so much bigger than that…


Running with Kristan

I don’t like running with Kristan.

She’s faster than me.  She has more endurance than me.  I’m afraid that if she sees me run she’ll realize that, despite doing it regularly for a while now, I still look and sound like 18 year old overfed pug.

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Yea, it’s not pretty when I run.

But I love my wife & I knew it would make her day if I invited her on my run this evening.  It felt like such a great idea at the time.  Granted, that was before two delicious fish tacos from Rio Bravo…and a butterfinger ice cream cone for dessert.  If I had it to do over again maybe, eh who am I kidding?  I’d do the exact same thing.

Anyway, running with Kristan is like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play the Generals.  I kept waiting for her to throw a bucket of confetti at me.  There are moments, and this is very hard for me to admit, that she is LITERALLY running circles around me as I make my way down the street.  I run.  She orbits.  Ugh.

Yet here we are.  I have about 225 miles on the year (significantly more than I’ve ever done).  It’s August so I’ll likely get there sometime in late September or early October.  You know what?  It’s an amazing feeling!

Long term goals are tough.  Anyone can say they are going to run today, but calling a 300 mile year takes commitment from summer Mike.  Sometimes summer Mike doesn’t stick with January Mike’s plans.  I’m a quitter & I know it.

Don’t look at me like that!  Most of you do it too.  Only 23% of New Years resolutions are kept (and most of those are probably the easy ones like “I’m going to try new menu items at Wendy’s”).  We are all quitters.  If we really wanted to do the thing that we “resolve” to do in January, we would have been doing it in December.  The same reasons we had to force ourselves to START are the same reasons we are probably going to STOP.

We don’t like doing things we don’t like doing.

I hate running.  225 miles in and I don’t enjoy it any more than I did on January 1st.  I find reasons not to do it: It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’ve had too many fish tacos, The coyotes are howling (ok, that’s actually really reasonable).  Nothing has changed!  I still hate it.

But I do it.  I’m going to do it tomorrow.  Next year I’m going to run 400.

And I’m going to complain about it after every run just like I do now, because that’s what discipline is: It’s work when you don’t want to work.

That’s how you get results.


Waves

“The waves don’t look very big from up here”

Just a little while earlier Asher and I were out riding waves on boogie boards.  Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic, but I pushed him out on the board in front of a large wave that he rode for a few seconds before slamming him down under water.  Then, just as he stood up, coughing salt water and looking like The Flash on Halloween he got hit with another one.

Isn’t that how it always goes?

Sometimes painful moments just build one upon another until, if you aren’t careful, you can start losing hope that things will ever get better.

But Asher got up.  He made his way to shore.  Then we went to the pools and the lazy river and eventually decided to make our way back to the room for lunch (read: oreos).  As we sat on the balcony he dropped one of those unintentionally profound observations on me:

“The waves don’t look very big from up here”

He wasn’t saying this in a general way.  He was commenting that the waves that once seemed so relentless and overwhelming were small and insignificant when he could step back and see them from a distance.  Perspective, as it always does, makes all the difference.

 

 


The Privilege of a Destroyed Home

It was 4PM on a Tuesday afternoon in March.  The short walk had me sweating because it was Houston, and in Houston you sweat even if you think about taking a short walk.  So I opened the front door of my friends house, walked inside and grabbed a soda out of the fridge.  Then, I plopped down on the sofa and grabbed the Sports Illustrated that they had sitting on their coffee table and waited for them to discover me in their house.

It’s pretty easy to remember the details of that day….

Because it wasn’t that day, or maybe I should say, it wasn’t JUST that day.  That’s what I did every day.  Every day I got home from school, dropped off my stuff and left for Mike’s house (Yes, his name was Mike too.  Our last names both start with R as well.  I’m not sure why people always thought that was funny, or even interesting, but whatever).  Every day I walked right in and grabbed something to drink (usually I asked).

I remember reading once that you know you have real community when you can walk in a friends house and grab something to drink without asking.

Sometimes I wonder if they felt as much community with me as I did with them?  Did I get on their nerves?  Did they want me to go home?  I’m sure they did.

I sit here looking out my office window and watch a half-dozen neighborhood kids running around my front yard spraying each other with our hose.  Pretty soon a few of them will come running inside soaking wet and shaking like a big shaggy dog until our foyer looks like a public men’s room.

Last night one of those kids had a sleepover.  They were up laughing and yelling until 1 in the morning.  It was…fun.  Before that the all those kids rode bikes and created a mess everywhere they went up and down the street.

You know, now that I think about it, there hasn’t been a day this week that kids from around the neighborhood haven’t filled my house with chaos like the first scene in Home Alone.  Too often I find myself wanting, like Kevin McAllister, to make it all just disappear.
But I don’t want that.  Not really.  I want our house to be the place kids come to play.  I want them to grow up having a “home away from home” where they have fun.  The parents on this street are all so great, but I really want to be involved in the lives of my kids and their friends as they grow up.  It’s easier when they are around.  I get to see my boys live out their friendships.  When they are kind and encouraging I see it.  When they treat someone poorly I see that too.

I always thought that my friends parents were just strangely nice people.   Maybe they were.  More than likely, however, they felt the way I do.  They had moments grumpiness, asking if it’s worth the cost of having a perpetually destroyed house.  For them, it was, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today if they decided otherwise.

We have a big opportunity here, and I’m not gonna screw this up by asking them to go play somewhere else.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than raising up the next generation” – C. Everett Coop

 


The Most Romantic Conversation & The Top 10 Reasons I Love My Wife

Something special happened this evening.

After dinner, Kristan and I were sitting on our back patio.  It had been a long day and I was actually falling asleep on the couch when Kristan broke the silence…

“Um…Did you….”

(I sit up) “Huh?”

“Um…I actually don’t have anything to say.  I just wanted to talk to you”

“I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said”


TOP 10 REASONS I LOVE MY WIFE

10. We have two amazing kids and it didn’t happen by accident.  Kristan’s an amazing mother & all you new mothers should be paying attention.  She will never act like she is some “Super-Mom” who never gets frustrated or impatient, but that’s exactly why she is so great!  Kristan is vulnerable and honest with others about the parenting journey and new parents need to hear that.  There is tremendous pressure to have your life so together and it’s just not realistic.  Sometimes kids get under your skin.  Sometimes you give them too much lee-way and they take advantage.  Sometimes you let them have a little too much screen time because you want a few more minutes of peace and quiet.  That’s parenting.  Kristan is incredible with our boys.  Not only do I know it, but they know it.

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9. She’s so freaking competitive.  People have made fun of me for being competitive, but at most I am the 3rd most competitive person in our family.  I love that.  It’s driving Kristan insane that I have run more miles than her this year.  INSANE!  She will catch me by the end of the year but I’m enjoying it for now.  Also, I love that she destroyed Nolan and Asher in Monopoly and made Asher cry!

8. Grace. I’m not great with grace.  Kristan keeps me tuned in to God’s heart when it comes to other people’s failings.

7. Off the top of my head I can think of 3 projects she is currently working on (or wanting to work on).  “Making things better” is who Kristan is.  Everything she comes in contact with – friends, ministries, ideas…me – is better after Kristan touches it.

6. The way she looks at me.

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5. Two weeks ago Kristan was off work on a weekday.  I missed an opportunity to see Captain America: Civil War with a friend the day before so she suggested that we go see a matinee showing.  We like to arrive early to the theatre and talk before the previews.  After sitting there for 30 minutes she finally leans over and says, “I never saw any of the Captain America movies or the second Avengers”  Kristan organized a date to go see a movie which, to enjoy it, you had to have seen the previous installments of the franchise.  She did that for me!  She always does stuff like that.

4. There is a running joke that Asher goes to the ER every October (3 years running).  Typically, he’s the one getting hurt.  A couple of months ago, however, Nolan broke his leg.  Now, in a crisis I’m pretty good at keeping my cool and not freaking out (at least visibly).  I was able to carry Nolan home, get him comfortable, and make him laugh to get his mind off the pain.  However, when it comes to the ER, Kristan is ALWAYS the one who takes the hurt child while I hang out at home with the other.  It’s never even a discussion.  She knows that once I get to the hospital I would come down from “crisis” mode and get extremely frustrated and impatient.  Kristan, on the other hand, is the epitome of patience.

3. A couple of years ago we were in Riviera Maya and I wanted some Tacos al Pastor.  It was important to me and Kristan knew it.  Unfortunately, I am a notoriously bad navigator and I get very frustrated when I’m lost (I’d be terrible on The Amazing Race).  Between the heat and all the walking we had done around Playa Del Carmen that day I was ready to just call it quits…which I really would have regretted.  Kristan took control and suddenly her Spanish was back to full fluency.  She commandeered a taxi and got us in minutes to a hole in the wall, yet famous for it’s tacos, little restaurant.

2. She’s gorgeous.

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1. Kristan and I have identical toothbrushes.  The only difference is mine has a TINY square on the handle and hers has a TINY triangle.  I love my wife, but I would never never never never never share a toothbrush with her.  That’s weird.  I know, we kiss…what’s the difference – I don’t know.  There’s a difference.  Anyway, Kristan knows I’m far too lazy to always check for the square.  She doesn’t think I notice this, but I notice – My toothbrush is ALWAYS placed closer to the sink and hers is always in the back where it’s a little harder to reach.  Always.  If you don’t know why this is the #1 reason I love my wife you don’t understand the unexplainable joy of having someone who puts even your smallest, most inconsequential needs ahead of their needs.

We were watching Community but she said she needed a 3 minute nap break.  Little things like that make up the infinite list of “Honorable Mentions” of reasons I love my wife.

Time to try to wake her up so we can finish this episode.


Dare or Truth

“Dare or Truth?”

“Um, I think you mean ‘Truth or Dare’ Asher, and how do you know that game?”

“School.  Truth or dare?  I dare you to go to McDonalds on the way home and get me a milkshake”

“It doesn’t work like that.  I get to pick, and I pick truth.  Ha!”

“Will you go to McDonalds on the way home and get me a milkshake?”


As the game went on I thought back to the times I played as a kid – always selecting “Truth” as the lesser of two evils and hoping the question wouldn’t be too intrusive.  Eventually, there comes a point when disclosure is no longer fun and comfortable and the game comes to an end.

Truth: Sometimes I cry while watching movies with Kristan and will try to  play it off as a yawn.

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Whew!  That feels good to get off my chest!

I’ve been married to Kristan for almost 13 years and I still don’t want her to know that Sweet Home Alabama makes me tear up every time.

In the beginning Adam and Eve were naked & perfectly happy.  Then the fall and suddenly man and woman hid themselves from one another.  Vulnerability was replaced by shame. Comfort with being fully exposed to another person would never come naturally again.  Now it takes work.  Work that most people will never put in, because vulnerability is hard.  No one wants to feel naked.

Truth: When I was 11 years old I dove into a pool and my swim trunks came all the way off.  I was completely naked in front of all my friends.  Scarred me for life.  To this day I wear two swimsuits just in case.  

I think vulnerability is the most important part of a healthy friendship.  To know and be known is foundational for love to be real, to be truly accepted for who you are, and to be able to really challenge one another to become better people.

The problem with vulnerability is that it always hurts.  It hurts your pride.  It strips you of every facade.  It leaves you with a nagging urgency to hide and flee from the intimacy of being fully exposed.

Truth: I have an amazing family and some really great friends, and I still struggle with feeling really lonely sometimes.  

For a long time I was afraid of going to the dentist.  The longer I waited the more difficult it was to finally sit down in that chair.  After years of avoiding it I eventually chose what was right even though it scared me to death.

And it hurt.  I paid for my mistakes.  In the beginning the poking and drilling and scraping (not to mention when they take a mold – that’s the worst) made it feel like my mouth was getting worse instead of better.  Then my visits started going more smoothly.  Now, I haven’t had a cavity in years and, though I don’t look forward to the dentist, it’s not a scary experience.  I see it for what it is: A necessary component to health.

Vulnerability in friendships is a lot like that.  It’s easy to hide and keep people out, but the longer that goes on the harder it will ever be to open up and let people see what’s going on inside of you.  The problem is, in our culture, we have actually deluded ourselves to thinking that it’s somehow ok to not let others into our lives.

It’s not good for man to be alone.

You and I need one another.  I’m not going to lie, it can hurt.  Most of the time any hurt you sustain from vulnerability is a necessary hurt – a hurt to make you better.  And we want that.  We need that.  The only way to get it is to allow yourself to be known and trust that you just took a step towards true Biblical community.

 

 

 


Fanny Packs & Making Friends Can Save Your Life

In elementary school my best friend was a guy named Jason.  All I remember of our friendship is that we both liked baseball, girls really liked Jason, and one time he made fun of my fanny pack.

A few years later I met my new best friend, Michael, also through baseball.  What began as convenience (he lived right around the corner from me) grew into a lifelong friendship.  I’d say he was more like a brother, but I tried to date too many of his female relatives to be comfortable using a family metaphor.  I was at Mike’s house just about every day.  To be honest they probably grew tired of me, but I never knew it.  We snuck into movies, watched every Rockets game, at all the Mexican food, and I was even invited to join his family on vacations.

When I was young all my friendships were primarily centered around shared interests: sports, movies and watching TV and…um…well, that’s about it I guess.

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Something is different in adulthood.  Shared interests are important, but they are more of a spice than a key ingredient.  You don’t make friends around shared interests.  You share your interests with your friends.  I’d say, you share yourself with your friends.

I have been thinking a lot about friendships recently.  It is an area in life where it is so easy to fall out of balance.  We live in a world where there is the very real phenomenon of “Crowded Loneliness” – the ability to be surrounded by people but still feel very alone.  Over the past several years more people than I can remember have confessed to me feeling like they aren’t close to anyone.

It is not good for man to be alone.

Relationships are as much a need for health as diet and exercise.  People with close friendships live longer and experience a greater feeling of contentment and joy in their lives.

I asked on social media what people look for in friendships.  Unsurprisingly we want, “Loyalty, love, trustworthiness, honesty, acceptance, laughter, & thoughtfulness”.  It’s no surprise that the people who manage to find individuals who fit that description describe their lives as more full of joy!

Sadly, it’s also no surprise that the average American has less than 2 friends

How can we want something so good that we know will bring so much happiness to our lives, yet fail to obtain it?

It’s because you don’t fall butt-backwards into friendships like that when you are an adult.  In elementary school Jason sat next to me in my kindergarden class.  Mike was the only kid on my baseball team that was as bad as I was.  When you are a kid you look up and you have friends.

When you are an adult you have to make it happen.  Building friendships defined by those characteristics above don’t occur by accident.  It’s something you have to cultivate.

And I think we have forgotten how…

 

 

 


Breaking the 2nd Rule

When I was a kid I loved the Tom Hanks movie, Big, where the12 year old Josh Baskin was transformed into a full grown adult by the power of the (terrifying) carnival fortune teller, “Zoltar Speaks”.  It was easy to put myself in that situation and dream of how I’d be as an adult – everything would be fun, there would be no such thing as discipline, and kids would love me as the “greatest adult in the world”

I’ll be honest here, I didn’t hate 13 going on 30 either.  I mean, it was no Big, but that “Thriller” dance scene was pretty great.

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Anyway, the point is, when you are a kid you know exactly the kind of parent you are going to be.  For the most part, you grow up and realize there is a reason that your parents treated you the way they did.  As the the comedian Sinbad said, “They weren’t always that way.  You made them like that”.  My dreams of growing up and allowing my kids to have all the candy they want, making school optional, and encouraging all disputes to be settled with a Thunderdome battle in the back yard all fell away…admittedly mostly because of Kristan.

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But a few things remained.  We have a couple of rules that made it through the filter of adulthood.  Two come to mind right away (one that everyone loves and one that everyone hates).

Rule 1: Never say “No” to a book.  If the boys want a book we buy them a book.  Reading is important to us and cultivating a love for it is a family value.

That’s the easy one.  The other one gets us looks like we are absolutely insane.  Really, people look at me like somehow 12 year old me is living inside my 36 year old body making all the decisions.

The rule: Always believe my kids.  Always.  If they tell me something I’m going to operate under the belief they are telling the truth…even if I know they are lying.

I’ve been told this is stupid, naive, and irresponsible.  Perhaps it’s irresponsible, but it’s not naive or stupid.  I get that Nolan and Asher will lie to me, and it’s possible they use the knowledge of this rule (I’ve told them I’ll always believe them) to take advantage of me.  In the end I would prefer my children grow up knowing that their parents trust them entirely.  We talk about lying and why it’s wrong – we just tell the boys that we expect the truth from them so much that we choose to believe they won’t lie to us.  We want them to have the responsibility of truth.

Anyway, yesterday I broke the rule!

Nolan jumped off the back of his bunk bed which he often does (between the bed and the wall) and landed on the pillows beside the bottom bunk.  He hasn’t done this a lot recently since he broke his leg and this time he found himself stuck.  Unfortunately, he has joked about being stuck before and it didn’t occur to me that he really couldn’t get out.

It was time for prayer, and we were tired, so eventually I said (in perfected Dad voice), “Nolan, stop playing and get out.  You’re not stuck”.

And then I saw the tears start to well up in his eyes.

“I am stuck” he said meekly

He wasn’t upset b/c he was stuck.  He was upset b/c this was the first time (that I can remember) that I didn’t believe him.

So we pulled him out, apologized for not believing him…

and re-told the story of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

 


Asher’s Party

“Look dad!  It’s a party!”

Asher came running into the room, tightly gripping a single green balloon.  Both the boy and his prize looked primed to burst.  Asher is contagious in everything he feels.  When he smiles you can’t help but join in.  His eyes, his teeth, that little scar on his cheek from the time he wrecked his bike all invite you in to the joy he is experiencing.

He loves everything.

After jumping off the couch a few times as though the balloon would carry him up to the ceiling Asher inexplicably rolled around on the floor for a minute before yelling “DINNERTIME!” as ran out the door.  I watched his single green balloon float up and bounce around for a few seconds before it came to a rest.  Just like that the party was over.

The balloon was never the party.  It wasn’t the joy.  Nothing about it was contagious.  It was Asher that made it happen.

 

When I write blogs I very rarely know where they are going to end up.  It’s pretty much stream of consciousness writing.  Most of the time I don’t even edit (which results in some pretty bad grammatical errors from time to time).  Anyway, I’m sitting here thinking that I can take this story and apply it to materialism or church culture; or materialism in church culture.

I’m not going to do that though.  I think that Asher deserves a blog that’s just about him, his balloon and his joy and nothing else.