Monthly Archives: December 2013

For Better, For Worse: loving with integrity


25 years ago I wrapped up my student teaching assigment the week before and was recovering from what my fiancé thought was a very convenient case of laryngitis.


25 years ago I married my best friend.  I was young, nervous and full of hope.

25 years ago it was well below zero and we had invited several hundred of our closest friends and relatives. They all showed up; as did a good number we didn’t invite and weren’t sure we knew.

25 years ago I made big promises I didn’t have the capacity to keep; I would have to grow into them.

Yes, we were cheesy in our wedding ceremony. You can ask the wedding party and guests.  We had a lot of sappy love songs and dragged the ceremony out over an hour.  I even convinced Cathy to have a Stryper song be part of the ceremony!  It was so long we needed two pastors to get it done. We lit the candle, we gave flowers to our parents, we took time to greet the whole wedding party.  I even got a kiss from Matt, one of my groomsmen!

We also did the whole cheesy 1 Corinthians 13 thing.  That, however, wasn’t because it was cheesy.

It was how we wanted our life together to reflect the love of Jesus. We wanted our future to look like Jesus’ love.  I am now a pastor and I am deeply aware of how easily we pull that passage, which is about the life of the church and the expressions of spiritual gifts, out of context to fit the wedding occasion.

We wanted our home to be a place of patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope and perseverance. Interestingly, even though that passage was read and preached at our wedding, it would take us 25 years to begin to really understand what it means to learn how to live that way.  For smart people, we can be pretty slow!

It took awhile for me to realize that Cathy isn’t my mom and didn’t exist to make me meals, clean the house and fold my clothes the way I like them folded.  It took me a while to realize, and get over, that I wasn’t going to have sex 25 hours a day 8 days a week.  It took me awhile to adjust to the idea that Cathy just might be smarter than me and have great ideas about how to do life.

After 25 years, it is still taking me awhile.  I still blow it. I still get selfish.  I still want somebody else to fold clothes and make the bed.  I don’t mind cooking, if it is what I like to eat.  I don’t even mind cleaning bathrooms, if I can have the stereo on – really loud.  After 25 years, it is still taking me awhile. The good news is I am learning.  I am growing. We both are.

Loving with integrity means making really big promises to one another and then learning how to live into them.  It takes a lifetime to do that.

She isn’t the same girl I married.  She’s smarter and wiser than she was.

She lives with more assurance and confidence in who she is.

ImageShe lives with more passion and vision than she did then.  She is more drop dead gorgeous today than she was then – and she was smoking’ then!

I had, and still have, a singular goal in my marriage.

I want to love Cathy in such a way that every room she enters lights up with her beauty which is rooted securely in the way she is able to reflect the love of Jesus.

The Problem of Christmas Isn’t Lowes


For the last several years I have had the same recurring conversations with similar people during this post-halloween-pre-christmas season.  The conversation usually revolves around how secular and consumeristic and politically correct our Christmas has become because of any one of the following reasons: how early the stores start beating the sales drum, the shift from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays,” or the rampant spending that takes place.

The conversation always is about how Christmas is no longer about the birth of Jesus (who wouldn’t have been born during December, btw) and how it is THEIR fault.  THEY (stores, government, political correctness) have STOLEN the Christ out of Christmas, right?

Wrong. They, whoever they are, are not responsible for Christmas.  Can I say that again?  The stores, the government, the post office, the media – they are not responsible for Christmas.

I am.  We are.  You and me.

A friend of mine, Jim Herrington (he blogs here ), reminds me regularly that we are witnessing the death of cultural christendom.  As such, I believe we, the church, are also living in the midst of our greatest opportunity!  However, because we are indeed watching the slow decline and eventual death of “church” as the nation new it in the 1940’s & 1950’s, it should not be a surprise that in our culture the systems and structures are doing exactly what they are.

Stores, big box stores like Lowes, and little mom & pop shops, exist to sell goods to people who will buy them and in the selling of the goods, make money for the owners as well as the manufacturers & suppliers of those goods.  What does that mean?  It means this – Best Buy does not exist for the purpose of protecting Christmas or any other Christian tradition.  That isn’t their job.  Their job is to sell me what I need (actually, Best Buy sells a lot of what I want and very little of what I need); their job is to make money for their owners; their job is to provide jobs for workers.  See where this is going?

Years ago the USPS told their mail carriers they couldn’t say, “Merry Christmas.”  The right side of evangelicalism went ballistic.  The Post Office isn’t the church.  It exists for the purpose of delivering the mail.  But we, the church, got angry.


Because we want someone else to be responsible for our faith, our discipleship, our connection with God.  We feel better about spending exorbitant amounts of money at Toys-r-Us when the cashier says, “Merry Christmas.”

But here’s the truth, it is my responsibility to remember Jesus’ birth (which, btw, Jesus doesn’t even ask us to do…).  It is my privilege to remember not only Christ’s birth but EVERYTHING about it – from Genesis to Revelation – and be transformed by it.  My capacity to celebrate Jesus does not depend upon the box store’s decision to begin Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday (which, btw, might actually be an answer to prayer for some of the employees who worked that day and needed money for rent!).

I am glad the stores, the government, the schools and the media are not responsible for “keeping Christ in Christmas.”  During this time when the church is experience such dramatic decline and the North American version of Christmas has become about consumerism & economics, we have opportunity like never before!

Today, when people no longer have to hide the fact that they aren’t Christian, gives those of us who earnestly are being transformed by the Gospel an amazing opportunity to really be different.  Different from cultural; and, different from culture’s understanding of church.

Jesus calls us a light on a hill which in darkness cannot be hidden.  That’s cool.  I like that.  I want to live that kind of life.  Will you live it with me?