Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

I promise

The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines the word promise as “a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future.”  In Western culture, a promise is not something to be taken lightly (unless perhaps you’re a politician).  Anyone who has raised a child knows that a promise carries weight.

If you’ve ever planned to do something with a child—say a Saturday afternoon trip to the zoo—and subsequently had to cancel, then you have probably had a conversation like this:

Dad: “Sweetie I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to go to the zoo tomorrow.  Something came up at work.”

Child: “When are you going to take me?”

Dad: “How about next Saturday?”

Child: “Do you promise?”

Dad: “We’ll see.”

The “We’ll see” response is a rather hollow attempt at not having to break a promise the dad made to the child. No parent wants to break a promise made to their child.

There is a special kind of promise called a covenant.  Covenants typically entail a personal relationship between the various parties to the promises made.  If you’ve ever been a member of a home owners association (HOA), you’ve probably read, or at least heard of, the HOA covenants.  These are the rules and regulations that all home owners belonging to the association agree to follow.  Human covenants typically contain stipulations, a condition or requirement that is specified or demanded as part of an agreement.  For example, your mailbox must match the color of your house, or boats are not to be parked in driveways for more than 24 hours. For breaking or violating these covenants, there is usually some sort of penalty that must be paid.  In the case of a HOA, this is often a monetary fine.

For Christ followers, marriage vows are a form of covenant and a pretty demanding, “for better or for worse…in sickness and in health…until death do us part.”

The Bible contains many covenants.  While the exact number is a point of debate, there are five core covenants forming the foundation of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind through faith in Jesus Christ. These covenants were made with Noah, Abraham, Moses/Israel, David and finally the New Covenant of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Noahic Covenant God promises to never again destroy mankind or other living creatures. This covenant was without stipulations. Instead, God will fulfill the redemptive promise of Genesis 3:15.

 Abrahamic Covenant – God promises to make a great nation out of childless Abraham, assuring him that his descendants will outnumber the stars. Abraham is to forsake his land and follow God wherever he leads.  All the while, Abraham and his family are to walk blamelessly before God and to follow the practice of circumcision in every Generation.

Mosaic Covenant (with Israel) – God rescues the Hebrew people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and promises to make them his own people and a nation of priests.  In turn, the people must abide by the laws given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.

Davidic Covenant – God establishes David as Israel’s king. Through David’s royal lineage he will fulfill the promises He made to Abraham and Israel. In return, David and his lineage must remain faithful to God and obey God’s covenantal laws.

The New Covenant of Jesus Christ –   Jesus is the culmination of God’s saving grace for his people. Christ is, as John the Baptist called him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This is a covenant of Grace without stipulations.

There is a major difference between the covenants of man and the covenants of God. People routinely violate the covenants, while God never breaks a promise.  The covenants of God do not replace the ones that came before—they build upon them, because it is impossible for God to lie or break a promise. Before the foundation of the world, our omniscient God made a plan for the redemption of sinful mankind.  Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of man’s redemption, which was planned out through the five covenants discussed herein.  Thanks be to God that his promises are faithful and true!

 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. –Galatians 4:4-7

My Lenten Journey

Labyrinth

I thank God for my Lenten journey this year.  I’ve learned so much already. It began with a total knee replacement surgery on February 28, which was Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove Tuesday is the first Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  It officially ends the season of Epiphany and is the vigil for the beginning of Lent. 

The surgery went well, but there were complications that nearly landed me in the intensive care unit.  Consequently, I suffered three days of migraines and severe nausea, which left me exhausted and unable to eat. My anticipated three-day hospital stay for surgery ended up being six days instead.

Among the lessons and reminders of my journey, it was comforting to see so many caring people on the hospital staff. It reassured me that there are still many good and loving people in our society, despite all the violence and hatred we see every evening on the news. 

It has given me insight into the pain and suffering so many handicapped and elderly people endure every day. I have to use a walker and my physical therapy has, at times, been torturous.

I’ve been so happy and encouraged to see how concerned and eager to assist our eldest grandson (age 9) is. It’s a sure sign that the hard work of his parents is paying of.

It has reminded me how blessed I am to have a loving wife and a marriage that has endured 40 years.  Marriage is a lot of work, but the rewards of persevering are tremendous. 

It has helped me begin some very healthy lifestyle changes. I’m an active person who enjoys exercise. At present, I won’t be able to do any serious exercising for several more weeks. I’ve had to closely watch what I eat and drink while incapacitated–something I should have been doing all along.

But most of all, it’s reminded me that, no matter how much I try,  I can’t handle everything by myself. How comforting it is to have a loving God to help me with every aspect of my life.  We’re only 12 days into the 40 days of Lent and I pray the lessons will keep coming as I recover at home and dig deeper into the scriptures.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the
Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch. Psalm 5:1-3

How sweet are your words to my taste,
   sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
   therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path. Psalm 119:103–105

Faith, Family, Friends and Freedom

                                  cornucopia-by-edvard-munch

Cornucopia, oil on canvas by Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

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And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  –Colossians 3: 15-17 (ESV)

Besides getting senior discounts in restaurants and AARP rates on hotel rooms, one of the benefits I’ve reaped by growing older is developing a clearer understanding of what really matters in my life. When I was young, most of my attention was focused inward, which I suppose if fairly normal. 

As a new Army lieutenant, fresh out of college, I loved the excitement of living a soldier’s life.  I liked going out and having fun with friends. I also enjoyed playing all kinds of sports and outdoor recreation like skiing and cycling. Sadly, there were many things I neglected during this phase of my life.

As I got a bit older, I began to pay more attention to the incredible woman I had married. I grew to realize that Linda’s physical beauty was exceeded by even greater inner beauty. I grew to admire her patience—especially with me and my antics—and her fortitude.  When she sets her mind on something, it’s going to get done.  I also began to comprehend how wise Linda is—blessed with more common sense than anyone I’ve ever known.  She is also one of the humblest and most generous people I know!

Having our first child was a wake-up call greater than any drill instructor ever delivered to a barracks full of sleepy-eyed soldiers.  It was one of those ‘blinding glimpse of the obvious’ moments when selfish me suddenly realized I’m responsible for more than just myself.  While a wife is easily neglected, a screaming newborn is an entirely different matter.  Sad that I didn’t figure this out earlier!

My newfound sense of responsibility led me back to the Church, something I’d managed to neglect since the time I entered college some seven years earlier. This sudden change of direction came as quite a surprise to my then, non-Christian wife.  Thankfully, she was steered towards God.  Sadly, it happened without much help on my part.  Thank you Holy Spirit!

Over the course of my 24-year Army career there were many long deployments and other periods away from home.  During these busy years Linda faithfully kept the home fires burning, managing a busy household and doing the lion’s share of parenting our two daughters. My military travels around the world helped me develop a deep appreciation for the blessings we enjoy as Americans—something that many of us simply don’t recognize.

Fast forward to the present and I can’t help but feel blessed every day. Linda and I are reaping the benefits of having honored our marriage vows for nearly 40 years.  Our daughters are both grown and successful, we have a wonderful son-in-law, and we’ve been blessed with three adorable grandsons. We’re fortunate to be able to see our grandsons daily. We have loving, extended families in diverse locations around the world. We’ve made many lifelong friends along the way, all of whom have blessed and enriched our lives. Most of all, we’ve been blessed by a loving God who was willing to sacrifice His only Son to redeem our souls.

This is the day that many Americans pause to give thanks to God for the blessings in their lives.  I urge everyone to take a few moments to consider your blessings and give thanks for your Faith, Family, Friends and Freedom—the  things that truly matter in life.

Simple Weddings

For the most part, I don’t like reality television shows.  At the top of my “don’t like” list is one called, Say Yes to the Dress.  In case you haven’t seen it, the show is about women selecting their wedding dresses.  It’s filmed in an upscale bridal salon where the customer is fawned over and treated like the “princess” she envisions herself being on the day of her dream wedding.

Each woman tries on a dozen or more dresses, which they parade in front of an entourage of friends and family who accompany them to the store.  The selection process is deliberate and agonizing.  Frequently, the bride-to-be to bursts into tears from the stress.  It’s not uncommon to see a customer spend two to three times more for a dress than she had budgeted for.  Dresses costing over $10,000 are common and some cost more than twice this amount.

In my opinion, the show trivializes marriage and even worse, it demeans women.  Many of the poor ladies come out of their dress buying ordeal looking like mental midgets and as emotionally distraught as a Chihuahua with its head stuck in an empty peanut butter jar.

If the bride-to-be’s family and friends would spend as much time and energy scrutinizing her future spouse as they do scrutinizing her choice of wedding dress, perhaps the divorce rate for first marriages in America wouldn’t be hovering around 50%.

I’ll never forget the wedding story a coworker shared with me.  His sister and her future husband, both in their mid-30’s, were business professionals with good jobs. It was the first marriage for both, so they decided to have a dream wedding. Their dream ended up costing over $50,000.  The reception alone accounted for over half of the cost.  They borrowed about $30,000 to help pay for the wedding and a honeymoon at a Caribbean resort.

The couple’s wedding day was everything they had hoped for.  Two years later they divorced.  When their story was shared with me, they had been divorced for three years and both were still paying off their wedding loan as part of their divorce settlement.

Sadly, their story is not unusual.  While not every wedding costs $50,000, it is not uncommon for couples and/or their parents (traditionally the bride’s parents), to spend exorbitant amounts of money for a wedding, particularly for first marriages.  Is this really a good idea?  I think not.

Typically, couples entering a first marriage don’t have a lot of money to start with.  In all practicality, wouldn’t it be better for the parents to stroke the newlyweds a check for a cool ten grand than to spend that much or more on a lavish wedding and reception that’s over in a day? And let’s dispense with the worn out tradition that the bride’s parents should bear most of the financial burden of a wedding, as if paying a dowry to be released from the responsibility of providing for their daughter.

I’m not knocking wedding celebrations.  I just believe it’s possible to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day without breaking the bank.  Americans could take a couple of lessons from the Japanese, even though a typical Japanese weddings cost over $30,000.

While some Japanese women wear modern wedding dresses, many still choose to be married in traditional, ornately hand-embroidered silk Kimonos.  Some of these are handed down from generation to generation, but more and more they are simply rented for the wedding ceremony, much as American grooms typically rent tuxedos for their weddings.

Why is it OK for men to rent tuxedos while women have to buy their wedding dresses?  It is solely because wedding marketing and advertising is aimed at women.  If the truth be told, most grooms are more eager to see their bride out of her wedding dress than in it!

If you go to a Japanese wedding reception, you won’t see a table full of beautifully wrapped boxes containing toasters, electric blenders and other gifts.  Guests attending a Japanese wedding reception are expected to bring “Oshugi,” a cash gift in an elaborately decorated envelope. What a grand tradition!  Usually, the amount of Oshugi is based upon the wedding guest’s relationship with the couple.  It can amount to the equivalent of several hundred American dollars. Sometimes the amount to bring is listed right on the wedding invitation.  In this case, accepting the invitation implies acceptance of the recommended Oshugi

Here in western Pennsylvania we have a few great wedding traditions of our own.  It is not uncommon to see wedding receptions held at the church where the marriage ceremony takes place.  Typically, women of the church help with cooking and baking for the reception, significantly lowering the wedding cost.

If you’re looking for a reception that’s awash in booze, a church probably isn’t the reception venue for you.  But who says you have to spend a fortune on alcohol for a wedding?  The bar bill, even for a modest wedding, can be enormous.

Per her request, for our oldest daughter’s wedding the only alcohol served was champagne, which was poured for the traditional toasts.  There was plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks, lots of good music and dancing, and no drunks embarrassing themselves or bothering others. Several guests commented it was the most enjoyable reception they had ever attended.

Another common practice here in western Pennsylvania is to hold wedding receptions in fire halls or similar venues where you can arrange your own catering. Arranging your own catering can save you thousands on the cost of the reception.  As a cost cutter, you can also plan a late morning wedding followed by a lunch reception or even heavy hors d’oeuvres in lieu of a meal.

With today’s MP3 and other digital technologies, it is also becoming more common for couples to forgo a DJ and instead provide their own music.  Just remember to record the traditional entrance song and first dance music at the beginning of the tracks. You can connect to the venue’s sound system, rent a system, or bring one from home.

The bottom line for weddings is they shouldn’t cause anyone extreme financial hardship.  It’s possible to have a simple, yet elegant and memorable wedding without breaking the bank. Good planning is essential. The Internet has dozens of websites full of ideas on how to plan a low cost wedding without sacrificing quality.  Here are a few to get you started:

Cheap Ways to Have a Fabulous Reception

http://www.cbn.com/family/marriage/cheap-ways_davis.aspx

Have a Charming (and Cheap) Wedding

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/inexpensive-weddings.asp#axzz1ufNALgN6

Seven Steps for an Awesome $2,500 Wedding

http://20somethingfinance.com/cheap-wedding

Ten Ways to Save Money and Have a Cheap Wedding

http://weddings.about.com/od/weddingplanningtools/tp/Costcutters.htm

Need some extra time? Try this simple trick.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…                                                                                                                                                                        (taken from “Simple Gifts,  a traditional Shaker tune by Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. – 1848)

Are you one of those people who never seems to have enough time in your day?  If so, there might be an easy way to fix that.  It just  requires a bit of  simple behavior modification…and it’s easier than giving up chocolate for Lent.

As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, my first assignment after completing the Officer’s Basic Course was at an isolated air defense missile site in the German state of  Westfalen (Westphalia).  The year was 1977. Westkirchen was truly a village in the purest sense of the word.  With a population of only several hundred,  it had one stoplight, a church, a butcher shop, a bakery, a barber-drugstore combination and a pub, more properly called a “gasthaus” in German.  Westkirchen was surrounded by similar villages.  The county seat of Warendorf , which was nearly 10 miles away, offered only a few more conveniences.

Military duty in Westkirchen was tough on the soldiers and their families alike, mainly due to the isolation.  Counting soldiers and family members, there were less than 50 Americans in the village.  My wife and I were fortunate to have lived in Germany previously, so we both spoke the language passably.  Unfortunately, few of the enlisted soldiers or their wives spoke German. Most of the soldiers were young and single; the majority were teenagers or in their early twenties.  Few were married.  Of the married ones, most were young with young wives and infants at home. The American elementary school was located in the city of Muenster, about a 45-minute drive to the north.  Fortunately, there were no teenage children, as they would have been required to be boarding students living in a dorm at the American High School in the city of Giessen, nearly three hours to the south.

One particular aspect of our family life in Westkirchen was quite unique for Americans.  For the year my wife and I lived there, we had no television in our home.  There were two reasons for this.  First, there were no American stations available.  It was 1977 and there was no cable TV, just German broadcast stations.  Second, German television programming was abysmal in those days.  Stations didn’t sign on until late morning and signed off around midnight. The stations offered a very boring line-up.   There were a couple of decent weekly series, but German TV consisted mostly of news programs and a lot of dry documentaries.  The later had deep subjects like “sheep farming in the north German plain,” or “the trials and tribulations of life as a prostitute in a Berlin brothel.”  You get the picture!

Life without the “boob tube” was a bit difficult at first, but we soon adapted and developed a routine without TV.  Like our grandparents and parents before us, we turned to radio as the entertainment medium of choice.  In Westkirchen, we could pick up the American Armed Forces Network (AFN) and British Forces Broadcasting System radio stations on the AM dial.  The AFN station was best by far, as it provided news from home, familiar music selections and old-time radio serials.  It didn’t take us long to become fans of  Dick Tracy, The Shadow, Jack Benny, and the Lone Ranger.  Although one might have some difficulty finding these programs on the radio today, there are still lots of great programs available on broadcast radio and on stations that stream their signals over the Internet.

If you want to simplify your life and add some much needed time to your day, try turning off the TV and turning on the radio.  Radio has some great advantages over television. Foremost is that radio doesn’t require your undivided attention, because it lacks a visual dimension.  You can listen to a radio program and do something productive simultaneously.  I like to work with classical music playing softly on the radio.  Best of all, unlike TV, you can listen to radio and interact with other human beings simultaneously, providing you don’t have the volume blasting.

Another feature of our television-free Westkirchen home was board games.  We must have purchased a dozen during our time there and we still have many of them.  Unlike TV, board games require interaction with another person.  Generally speaking, the more people playing the game, the more fun it is for all.  Baby Boomers might recall a Monopoly game many years ago, with a roomful of players packed around the board.  If you think back hard enough, you’ll probably remember the talking, laughter, eating, drinking and people generally having fun.

Compare this to a common scene today, where a teenager sits alone for hours in front of  a computer screen, playing video games with earphones on and the volume cranked up, totally isolated from reality.  Many of these games, like  Dungeon and Dragons, have dark themes.  Ask yourself which scenario is healthier.

According to the Nielsen Company, in 2010 Americans watched more TV than ever–an average of 34 hours per person, per week. That’s enough time to work a second job!  Try taking this challenge. For one week limit your TV viewing to two hours per day (OK, we’ll make it three hours on days the Steelers or Penguins play). At the end of the week, do an assessment of  your time utilization and you might just discover that television viewing has become a time thief in your life.

Many readers will find that by limiting TV viewing, they suddenly  have a lot of extra time on their hands.  If this is the case with you, try filling your time “bonus” time with something productive.  Give the kids some extra help with their homework, begin reading that good book you’ve had by the bed for a long time, take an online course, or start a new hobby…maybe even blogging. Just turn off the tube and turn on to life! It’s really quite simple.