Not Giving But Gaining

1012057_10201538991017531_1427808434_nYesterday I was blessed with the privilege of giving my daughter away in marriage. I don’t really like that phrase though. It sounds so “end of the story.” It’s more like gaining a new son. Actually, it’s the beginning of a whole new story and Jenni and I not only got to be part of the story and help launch it but now we get front row seats to watch the rest of it unfold and we now have a new son to enjoy and share life with.

It was also awesome to see a group of young people, in Marissa, Casey and their friends, that have Christ at the center of their lives. I am confident that Marissa and Casey are well grounded in Him which made this weekend much easier for me but as always I do have a few words to pass on to them and all others that are getting married or already married.

Love God and love each other. Keep Christ at the center always. With His example of unconditional love as your focus you can reflect that on each other. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Treat love as a verb. We often treat love as an emotion instead of an action. Christ showed us His love with actions and we need to follow that example. Not for reciprocation or for “love points” but because, as spouses, it’s what we have committed to by joining together in a covenant marriage. and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2 NIV)

Always have Christ centered friends you can turn to. Also, give them permission to call you out when they need to and ask them to lift you up when you need it. Marriage is tough at times and you need friends that understand what your marriage means to you, even when you don’t want may not want to hear it. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20 NIV)

Laugh! At yourself, at each other, at life. Don’t forget to laugh because nothing should be as serious as we make it out to be. a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV)

Cry. When you need to, lean into Christ and lean into each other and cry. You will find comfort in the arms of Him and your spouse. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. (Luke 6:21 NIV)

Forgive often. Look at what Jesus has forgiven us for… everything! We need to follow that example with our spouses and forgive quick and often. Don’t confuse this with trust. Trust may be broken and it may take time to rebuild, but forgiveness should happen immediately. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)

Communicate!! All of things listed above require communication. I have sat with couples that thought they were at the end but once we reestablished some communication and they started verbalizing some of their issues things started working better. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19, 20 NIV)

I can say from experience, I did not follow this path for the first 17 years of my marriage and I nearly destroyed it. If I had not gotten in line with the above things and what God designed marriage to be I may not have had the blessing I had yesterday. My daughter may not have been where she is now either. I’m not saying it’s easy or that I’m on it all the time but It’s a lot easier than the previous way (my way).

I thank God for His direction and instruction for my marriage. I thank Him for my wife and daughter for their patience with me and now I thank Him for my new son.

My Hero

A hero is defined as:
1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

I’d like you to meet one of my heroes. Her name is Marissa, she is my 20 year old daughter. Last weekend she graduated from Anderson University. She acquired a four year degree in three years. She accomplished this by taking college courses during high school and working very hard to finish early.

She’s my hero because when I was in high school I didn’t tend to focus any further ahead than the next party. I certainly had no ambition or drive to go to college let alone finish early. While I tested as gifted, just like she did, I chose to make poor decisions and just eke by. She graduated high school with a 3.87 gpa and graduated college with honors, Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.875 gpa.

She is my hero because she keeps her eye on Jesus. I didn’t know Him or care to know Him at her age. I gave my life to The Lord at the age of 36. Up to that point I was pretty much only concerned about me.

She is my hero because she has a clue what she is going to do with her life career-wise. She has a degree in communications and wants to work in the public relations field. I joined the Army at 17 because I was clueless and had no way of getting into college at that point. After 6 years of that I became a carpenter for 5 years before figuring out what I was going to be when I grew up and settled into a career in massage therapy at the age of 28.

She is my hero for being true to her beliefs and saving herself for her future husband whom she will be marrying July 28th. Me? Well I didn’t wait, ’nuff said. This decision made for a lot of turmoil and trouble in my marriage. Problems I thank God she and her husband will not have to face.

She is my hero because she has already been figuring out how to be a wife to her husband. She has read about the “5 Love Languages” and sees them as an important part of her future marriage. I did not do this. I caused her amazing mother a lot of grief and heartache in the first seventeen and a half years of our marriage.

She is my hero because she is is fun to be around and knows how to have fun in a safe, clean, moral way. Rather than seeking the drunken often vulgar party lifestyle I chose to live in my earlier years, she has chosen what I consider a better path.

She is my hero because she doesn’t have a smug, superior or holier than thou attitude. Even when those she knows, loves and cares for, like my past self and others her own age, are making poor choices and running headlong in the wrong direction. She exhibits a Christ like love for others instead.

Now of course she’s not perfect. I know that and I’m not trying to paint her out to be. But I truly admire her faith, her character, her tenacity, her drive, her determination. Also her obedience, her ambition, her morals. While I may be a bit biased it is my opinion that she “has heroic qualities.” I love her dearly and she is my hero.


Know the “One” in order to meet & know your “two”

This book is primarily geared toward those preparing for marriage some day but don’t let that stop you from reading it if you’re already there. In this book, author, Craig Groecschel offers many insights into relationships, past present and future. It is invaluable information you can pass on to others as well as heed for yourself.

Love, Sex and Happily Ever After will give you great advice for your future spouse (your #2) as well as guide you in your relationship with the “One” (Jesus Christ). You first need to meet and know the “One” and develop your relationship with Him to truly be able to understand and develop your relationship with your “two”.

Craig’s openness in his own failures and successes in relationships with the opposite sex are very real and even painful at times (such as the pick-up line he first used on his wife Amy).

I believe I could have made things much easier for myself but especially for my wife had I read this 25 years ago. So, whether you are just dipping your toe into the dating pool for the first time or you’ve been married for years, Love, Sex and Happily Ever After is a great book for staying the course or getting back on track.

I will certainly be giving a copy to my 19 year old daughter and her boyfriend soon.

Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. Meeting in multiple locations around the United States, and globally at Church Online, LifeChurch.tv is known for the innovative use of technology to spread the Gospel.

With a passion for serving the Church and partnering to reach people for Christ, LifeChurch.tv develops and shares resources and applications with churches worldwide.
Craig, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in the Edmond, Oklahoma area where LifeChurch.tv began in 1996. He speaks at conferences worldwide and has written several books, including his recent release: The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Answered Prayer?

Does God only answer the prayers of the believer?

Some would say scripture supports that only the prayers of the believer can and will be heard by God, other than the prayer of salvation of the non-believer.

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”. Isaiah 1:15 says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” And Proverbs 28:9 has, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”

These scriptures might support that but can’t a believer also fit here? Can a believer “…cherish sin in his heart”? or “…turn a deaf ear to the law”? I have, and I don’t question my salvation, I know in my heart that Jesus Christ died for my sins as well as the sins of all man, even the ones that choose never to believe in Him. The difference is where that salvation will take me and where that missing salvation will take them. But, that’s another discussion. Let’s get back to prayer?

Now, I’m not talking about prosperity prayers or prayers that are self centered in nature. I don’t believe those are answered for anyone if it is outside God’s plan. I’m talking about righteous prayer that is in line with God’s will.

Long, before I was a believer I prayed for the safety of my wife and unborn daughter through a difficult child-birth. My daughter is now 18 years old, healthy and a faithful servant of Christ. Wait a minute, I’ve only been saved 4 1/2 years?!? But, isn’t that an answered prayer? I also added in “I’ll straighten up and change my ways…” Some would say I’ve done that and some would say that is an answered prayer for them too but that event occurred 14 years later. All in God’s timing not man’s, maybe? If, God had not answered that prayer, if Jenni or Marissa or both had not made it through would that have driven me further from God? Was this a coincidence or was this the starting point of a belief that would eventually emerge in my life. There were other times I prayed. I prayed for a safe return from The Gulf War. I made it home, some didn’t. That was even two years before that prayer for Jenni and Marissa. If I hadn’t prayed for that safe return or if God had ignored that prayer because I didn’t believe, where would I be? Where would Jenni be? Would Marissa be?Again, as far as we can tell, these prayers appear to line up with God’s will. You could say the prayer for a safe return was a selfish one but I had a wife, who would become an amazing sister in Christ, to return to. And a, yet to be conceived, daughter that is now turning into that same kind of woman. That is now an answered prayer of mine, albeit after the fact of my salvation.

Muscles don’t just appear one day. We have to build them. How can we build our faith muscles if we don’t excercise them? And how can we reach the strength to take that first huge step and ask for God’s forgiveness if we don’t exercise a little first? I’m not saying that’s all it takes but it’s a flex in the right direction.

God saved me from what I had turned my life into. I know that is an answered prayer of my wife’s. But, God gave me the life I was ruining. Maybe that initial life was an answer to someone else’s prayer. Where they a believer? Will they be someday because of that first step 40 some years ago?

What say you? Is prayer a private club only for the members that “said the oath” or is more than that? I would love to hear your thoughts.

What’s Next…

Last week my daughter, Marissa, graduated from high school. Being a member of the school board, I actually got to hand her the diploma. She was also in the top 10 of her class, received numerous honors, some great scholarships and gave the benediction. What a proud moment it was for me and  Jenni. But, I think I tend to be more of a realist when it comes to these types of things. Our kids grow up. It’s an inevitability, we can’t stop it, so why not embrace it for the momentous occasion it is.

While I remember and cherish the memories of her first steps, I celebrate her accomplishments that have now led her to her next steps. She will be going off to Anderson University in August, just days after she turns 18. I am confident that she is ready for it. Through her choices in life, so far, and her faith and beliefs, she has instilled in me a sense of comfort that makes it easier to let her go.

I do hope that I have been able to help her learn and grow over the years. I pray that she has been able to learn from the stupid things she has seen me do, in my life. I have given her the opportunity to learn from my mistakes more often than not. Even though I am the parent, I feel as if I have learned more from her than she has from me, over the years. I think I have a better understanding of unconditional love. I have grown closer to God by better understanding the sacrifice He made for us in His own Son. Not necessarily the why, but a better understanding of the love He has for man to have given His Son’s life for our own. While I would lay down my life for her, I cannot fathom seeing her hurt for others.

While I want Marissa to experience only good things in life I know that is not realistic so I pray for strength and courage

for her. I pray that she will learn and grow from the right and wrong, the good and bad. But, more importantly I pray for  a continued, strong support system of friends and family and the wisdom for her to rely on them.

I anxiously await whatever comes next in her life. I joke with her a lot about boyfriends and such but I have been praying for a special man for her for some time now. I pray that he will be a Godly man, a good husband and father. That he will not only provide for her physical and financial needs but for her spiritual needs as well.

I will always have fond memories of her childhood but I am so excited to see how God will work in her life next. I love you Boo.

Because I Said So…

So, the other day we’re getting ready for church and my daughter yells down from upstairs “can I wear sweatpants to church?” to which my wife immediately responds “NO!” Now, we do attend one of those come-as-you-are jeans and t-shirt kind of churches but apparently my wife draws the line at sweatpants.  My 16 year old daughter did not rebel or scoff in the least but responded with a simple ok. “Because I said so” was a perfectly acceptable answer to her.

Now, wearing  sweatpants to church may not seem like a big deal to some and it may seem sacreligious to others. That’s not the point here. This whole exchange got me thinking about Gods Word and His commands for us. I’ve heard a lot of people question Gods motives or answers. Why can’t I have sex outside of marriage? Why can’t I take things that aren’t mine? Why can’t I kill that guy that cut me off in traffic this morning?

While the answers to these questions may vary some, ultimately the only answer we really need to know is “because I (God) said so!” God loves us and had our best interest and safety in mind when He gave out the commandments and other life instructions as told by Jesus. But for some reason we feel that we need to question His answers. What kind of world would it be if we could still be like children and accept the old “because I said so” answer? I think this may be what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:3 when He said “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We must leave behind our defiant, diobedient behaivour and become like trusting, obedient, innocent little children, because our Father knows and wants what’s best for us. If we don’t, do we truly have that so important relationship with Jesus???

(for those who may have read a different version of this yes, I did a rewrite. It’s not about the sweatpants. I’ll write on that one later.)

What I want for my daughter…

booThis is my daughter, Marissa. I know things can’t be perfect for her all her life. But if I can do anything to protect or prepare her for troubled times I desperately want to do that. She recently started driving which I am excited about for her but at the same time it scares the crap out of me. She has begun to look at colleges and is exploring her options of career choices. Again, a very exciting time to share with her but it means time is short. Have I given her my all? Is she ready for what lies ahead? Although I’m sure I wasn’t the father she deserved at times. I hope and pray I have been the best father I could be and that she can forgive me for the rest. I want her to always know, as long as I hold breath in my body, I am here for her, no matter what. There is nothing she can’t bring to me or ask me.

There are certain things I want for her in her life.

  • I want her to pursue Christ… I want her to live a Godly life and never stop following Christ and reaching others for Him.
  • I want her to know she is beautiful… We are all created in God’s image and that makes us all beautiful, so many women never hear enough, how beautiful they really are.
  • I want her to make the most of her life… That may sound corny but I want her to have as few regrets as possible in her life and I want her to hear those words “well done My good and faithful servant”.
  • I want her to never know a stranger… She can be the sweetest person I know, when she wants to be, I want her to use that to touch as many lives as she can.
  • I want her to never settle… To always do her very best and never settle for good enough in school, work, love or life.
  • I want her to fall in love (in the far future) with a certain kind of man…
    • He needs to love God… I want him to be the spiritual leader she needs to guide her, lead her and protect her.
    • He needs to love her… I want him to love her with all the passion and attention she wants, needs and deserves.
    • He needs to make her happy… Not with material things but with what her heart truly desires.
    • He needs to make her laugh… Marissa has an infectious laugh that needs to be heard as often as possible.
    • (guys if you’re not up to these tasks don’t even bother)

Finally, I want her to know how important she is to me… I have not done well providing, supporting or emphasizing the things listed above for Marissa. I am praying that God will help me to see and sieze each and every moment that I can use to prepare her for what ever He has for her. Please keep me in prayer that I will do better in the future. Marissa, please forgive me my shortcomings, I love you Boo.