Today is a Special Day

“You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. Today marks the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of my life. It has been going on now for 16 years and I can’t wait to see what the next 16 and beyond will bring. Today is the day the woman i love more than any other said, “Yes.” Today is the anniversary of the day I married my beautiful bride. Today is a special day.

As good as today is, it really had its start 17 years and two months ago, not merely 16. That was the day I got out of a van and nervously headed for the door of the dorm I’d called home for the six weeks on the campus of Spalding University in Louisville, KY as a Bible study leader for Passport youth camps. Before I could even reach the door, it burst open and the leadership staff already there came out to greet us for the first time. I don’t remember much else about that day or even that moment, but I do remember the beautiful girl who captured my heart with one glance of her eyes. Just that, and I was hooked.

It took a few weeks for me to convince her I wasn’t just your average nerd. It didn’t hurt that in a skit the staff performed all summer one of the lines was, “Yes, but you’re my nerd, and everyone needs a nerd.” But eventually, I wore her down. A little illegal matchmaking by our assistant camp director who was fully on board with the blossoming relationship we weren’t even supposed to have finally put us on the same page just before the summer’s end. From there, it was a whirlwind of cross country trips between her home and mine, lots of hours burning through cell phone minutes (remember when cell phone plans weren’t all unlimited?) and wearing out our fingers on AOL Instant Messenger (there’s a blast from the past for you), and graduating from college before we could start our life together.

The journey since has been one of a few challenges but far more joys of every sort. There have been things I haven’t gotten right along the way, and she has been more than gracious more times than I can count. I’ve learned far more than I could have ever imagined about how to be a husband, a father, and a man. She has been with me every step of the way, confirming again and again and again just how good the decision to marry her really was.

Lisa is amazing. There’s just no other way to put it. Besides being breathtakingly attractive, she is smart. Really smart. And incredibly talented. She’s got a mind for administrative details like no one else I’ve ever met. Our family would quickly and easily fly apart into chaos without her doing the things she does. More than that, she is wise. She has a strong sense of what is right and a drive to pursue it. She can look at a situation – whether hers or someone else’s – and know quickly what is the right way to go. More even than that, she is willing to share it with humility and graciousness. If I am at all a good man today, she has more to do with that than anyone else in the world. If I have been a successful pastor in any sense, she has played the most profound role in every part of it.

Not only is she an amazing wife, but she’s a superb mom too. We have three remarkable boys who are growing into fine young men. It is a true delight to watch her engage with them to give them all the gifts and wisdom a mother was designed to give on a daily basis. They will be a gift to the world and she has a great deal to do with that.

When I proposed on the morning of New Year’s Eve sixteen and a half years ago, I woke her up and recited the words to the Ben Folds song, The Luckiest. Sixteen years later, I can still say with absolute certainty that I am. Lisa, thank you for being the wonderful woman God created you to be. Thank you for never giving up on me or us. Thank you for showing me the love of God each day in ways I’ve never experienced by any other means. I love you, and more every day. Happy Anniversary! I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Digging in Deeper: Mark 14:3

“While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

At various times in the church’s history, there have been certain places the current culture of the church expected believers not to go. For a long time in our fairly recent past, one of those places were bars. It was simply understood that Christians in good standing didn’t go into bars. Those were places of sin and you didn’t want to be associated with that. Of course, cultural expectations and personal behaviors are two different things. And, when desired behaviors and cultural expectations aren’t in sync for some reason, the result is often a twisted mess of hypocrisy and deception. That’s a sermon for another time. Starting as early as the 1970s and accelerating from there, some young believers began to have entirely different attitudes as to what was and wasn’t appropriate for followers of Jesus to do. Alcohol gradually became one of the things they were okay with where their parents and grandparents were not. One of the consequences of this was that they began to see places like bars as fair game for ministry. Some even went so far as to plant churches in them. Well, plunking the Gospel down in a place most folks don’t expect to find it can lead to some interesting, but powerful, ministry encounters. That’s what we see here as we continue in Mark’s story about Jesus’ life.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 14:1-2

“It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priest and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him. ‘Not during the festival,’ they said, ‘so that there won’t be a riot among the people.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

All good spy movies let viewers in on both sides of the story. What I mean is this: Rather than telling the tale from only the perspective of the hero, they let us peek behind the curtain on the villains as well. It gives viewers the sense that we know more than the characters do. Of course, the best ones manage to keep a few surprises waiting for the end just to keep things exciting. When I read the Divergent series a few years ago, the whole thing drove me crazy because it was entirely written from the main character’s perspective. The whole thing was in first person. We never knew anything more than she did. It didn’t add any drama to the story for me; it just made it boring. Well, here at the beginning of Mark 14, as we are preparing now for Jesus’ final hours on earth, Mark gives us a quick glance behind the scenes at what the “bad guys” were planning. If we do some careful thinking here, though, there’s even more than meets the eye.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:28-33

“Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that he is near – at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Now concerning that day or hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven nor the Son – but only the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Do you know what a paradox is? Unless you’re boned up on your literature lessons from middle school, it may be one of those words you know, but not really. I’ll help you out. A paradox is a statement that takes two ideas often considered to be opposites and puts them together in a way that makes them both true at the same time. For example, take the adage, “The louder you are, the less they’ll hear.” On its face, that seems totally counterintuitive. If something gets louder, it seems you would be likely to hear it better. When I’m watching TV and can’t hear what’s being said very well, I’ll turn it up louder to fix the problem. And yet, when when I get angry enough that I yell at my kids, they don’t really hear anything I say to them. A quiet conversation with someone is more likely to convey information accurately than if you shout at them. It’s a paradox. In this last part of Mark 13, Jesus is summarizing His conversation with the disciples about future events. As He does so, He offers them a paradox. Let’s explore this together.

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Something Special

This week, as we continue our series, Standing Firm, we are talking about the third part of the foundation Peter builds before getting into the meat of his message. We’ve talked about the hope we have in Christ and the fact that we actually need to live out that hope if we want it to do anything positive for us. This week we’re talking about what that foundation can do in and for our lives if we’ll embrace it. We all want to be someone. Peter here tells us how.

Something Special

We live in a celebrity-obsessed world. Hopefully you don’t waste too much time doing this, but have you ever looked at the magazines in the racks at the checkout counters in stores? Almost without fail, their front covers are filled each month by one celebrity or another promising to tell readers about something they couldn’t possibly have known yet and on which their whole lives are hanging. Why are they covered with celebrities like this? Because the marketing folks know that you and I are more likely to buy something because Dwayne Johnson has something to tell us about physical fitness. We’re more likely to shell out some dough because Scarlet Johansson promises to give us the skinny on the squabbles her co-stars had on the latest movie set. The same thing goes with TV shows. We are much more likely to tune into the latest game show if it features a rotating celebrity cast than if it is just filled with…normal…people. News programs regularly include celebrities on their round table panels, not because they are particularly knowledgeable about the subjects being covered, but because they want more viewers and celebrities are the way to do that.

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