The good old days are alive and well

Yesterday Chris Cornell, an icon from my younger days as a seeker of real music, died. I remember when his band Soundgarden first came out with their heavy, grimy guitar riffs and his unmistakable voice driving their songs all along the spectrum of vocal abilities - it blew my mind! I will admit that my air guitar game was strong in those days. The early 1990's were a time when bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots were swooping in to rescue all of us from the nefarious clutches of hair metal and the really bad 1980's electronic stuff that they tried to pass off as music. I'm not too biased, am I?

As I get older I will inevitably experience the loss of those who not only entertained me in my younger years but also those whom I knew personally. Many of my friends have lost one or both parents and all of my grandparents have already passed on. Every once in a while social media lets me know that someone I knew in high school or college has succumbed to cancer or died from some other cause. Every single time that happens I pause and reflect, trying to conjure up memories of these old friends and acquaintances from places in the far corners of my mind.

This is not intended to be a sad or depressing post. Rather, this is celebration of memories if not all out nostalgia. I find my self consistently referring to the experiences of my younger years as I converse with my children (can you feel their eyes rolling through your computer screen?), realizing that I have become "one of those" adults who believes that everything was not only simpler but better back in the day.

It's not that I - nor any of my contemporaries - are going kicking and screaming into the future. I love today's technology and depend upon it just as much as today's generation does. The fact that I haven't had to walk across the room to manually turn the television channel in years has been life-changing for me. My life today has the ability to be so much more efficient than it was when I had to write all of my college and grad school papers on an electric typewriter. Can you imagine trying to type anything today without spell check?

But I have to admit, my fondest memories come from when I was younger and life for me WAS simpler. Sure, I didn't have to carry the weight of a job or family responsibilities (which I love, by the way), but the whole process of experiencing life for the first time was exhilarating. My mind wasn't cluttered with worries and anxieties like it sometimes is today, and relationships were at the forefront of everything that I pursued. That's why when I read of someone from my younger years passing on, it causes me to stop in my tracks to reflect on what, for me, will always be the good old days.

There is no doubt about it, life is short. I recently turned 47 and I can't believe how stinking old I am. Yet instead of living in the past, I relish seeing my own children create their own futures right before my eyes. Other than leading a life that points my children to the truth of Jesus, my highest goal is to live in the moment with them as they experience relationships, heart aches, achievements, and failures. As sad as it can be to see others from my childhood pass on from this earth, it's even more exciting to watch my own children and those around me blaze their own trails into the future.

Oh, one more thing. Today's music can't hold a candle to the songs of the 1990's. Thank you Chris Cornell for the memories and for Eddie Vedder and the other remaining old rockers who are still keeping it real for us today.

LIfe as a "wedding guy"

Over the next two months I will be officiating nine separate weddings along with two beach vow renewals. Now I ain't complaining because beach weddings are a lot of fun and I usually get to wear shorts and flip flops when I do them. But performing this many weddings does mean that many of my weekends are going to be tied up with rehearsals, dinners, and really fun receptions with great food. Tough life, huh?

I didn't really set out to do this many weddings and there are times that I have to say no, but at the same time I consider it an honor to come alongside couples both young and old who are ready to walk that aisle and embrace life together as a unit instead of going at it solo. One of the coolest aspects of doing weddings for me comes during the premarital counseling portion, and that's because when at all possible my wife and I tag-team those sessions. After all, if she has survived me for almost 18 years then you know she's got mad wisdom to give to any nearly newlywed!

Since I have had the privilege of performing so many wedding ceremonies over the years, I thought it would be cool to compile a list of marital wisdom to pass along, things that I have discovered on my own but also many nuggets of goodness that have been passed down to me.

Successful marriages will be 100%/100%, not 50/50.  Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, taught my wife and I this principle as we sat down with other couples to receive counseling almost 20 years ago. On the surface it may sound like semantics but it is truly so much more. If men and women aren't willing to give their full effort in marriage, then they are opening themselves up to the greater opportunity for failure. In marriage, you shouldn't go half and half. You must go all in.

Communication is key. Approaching marriage from a biblical perspective (again, creds to Dr. Gary Chapman), there are two primary forms of communication styles for couples: The Dead Sea and The Babbling Brook. I believe that those terms adequately describe themselves. The key is to recognize which style you are and which style your spouse is and then work to accommodate so that both sides can be equally heard. If you are a talker, i.e. a babbling brook, then this will take some practice but it is so worth it. Just as no marriage will be fully healthy unless it is 100/100, most marriages will struggle to survive if the conversation is always one-sided.

Marriage gives birth to a whole new family. I love to see a couple exchange vows and then pronounce them husband and wife because it is at that moment that I get to witness the birth of a whole new family unit. When the two come together as one, they share more than just a common last name - they embrace a new identity. And let me tell you, this can be a tricky point for some! I encourage newlyweds to focus all of their energy in at least the first year of marriage on this new family that they have created. This means that if he does something to hurt her feelings, she resists the urge to call her mother or her girlfriends but instead goes to him to work it out. This means he gives up his weekly poker night with the guys in favor of taking his wife out on a date so that they can strengthen their relationship. Are you used to going to Sunday lunch every week at mama's house? Start your own family tradition and go with another young couple or even on your own. I have had some balk at this suggestion, claiming that they don't want to stop doing some of things that they have always done, and I tell them that is just fine. This doesn't mean that you cut all friends and family out of your life completely But if you want to grow your new family in a healthy and holy way, then focusing more - not less - attention on each other is an essential ingredient in that formula.

Make sure to plan ahead. Almost all the weddings I have played a part in have occurred during the spring and summer months, the bride and groom taking advantage of the beautiful weather and leaves on the trees. A June wedding date is perhaps the most popular choice and there is much competition for wedding venues during that brief window of time, but I leave that up to the bride and groom-to-be to determine the dates and the details. What I mean by planning ahead is that in just a few short months the holidays will be upon them and couples suddenly realize that they can't be in two places at one time. Whose house will they choose to go to for Thanksgiving dinner? Around whose family tree will they gather at Christmas time? These decisions are very important and they go back to my previous point about focusing on each other as new family unit. Bottom line is that you can't please everyone and therefore you should not try to do so. Divide and conquer may be the best alternative - his parents for Thanksgiving, hers for Christmas, or vice versa - but either way there is no need to kill yourself to accommodate all sides when there are only two of you. This is another one of those less-than-fun conversations for married couples to have, but it is far better to have it earlier on than before the seasons are almost upon you and promises have been made.

"Submit" is not a four-letter word. The ceremonies that I lead are usually fairly brief in nature, typically no more than twenty-five minutes. A big reason for that is because you didn't come to hear me preach - you came to celebrate seeing loved ones and good friends get married! My ceremonies are also completely based upon concepts of marriage as spelled out in the Bible, and I speak from passages from Genesis, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians. Inevitably, when I speak from Ephesians chapter 5, there will be some that balk over the word "submit," especially since the Bible says that women are called to submit to their husbands. I do my best to explain this concept not only to the bride and the groom, but also to all who are in attendance in an effort to not have tomatoes thrown at me (none yet to date). If you are at wedding or about to get married and you are worried about the word submit, let me break it down for you just like I do in the weddings that I perform:
  • The word "submit" doesn't mean that the man cracks the whip and the wife does whatever he says. Rather, it carries with it the greater idea of respect, and in the Ephesians 5 passages mutual submission for the husband and wife is what we see first.
  • So when a wife is asked to submit to her husband, she is being called to respect and follow his leadership...
  • ...which in turn puts a huge responsibility on the husband to be the kind of leader that his wife wants to follow.
  • In summary, the wife is not asked to submit because she is anyway inferior to her husband, but rather because God, in His creative order, set man to be head of the home.
There are still some that think this is too old fashioned, but in doing so they are missing the point. Having the wife remain barefoot and pregnant is not in mind here. Rather, God has established a healthy balance of leadership that both the husband and wife have an equally large role in which to play.

Marriage is a wonderful thing but it can also be incredibly difficult. It takes lots of work and constant attention. I have been blessed to be married to a women who for almost eighteen years has worked tirelessly to see that our marriage is successful. We both truly enjoy passing along our success (and sometimes not so success) stories to couples both young and old who are considering entering into this amazing covenant relationship with one another. Feel free to share any other words of wisdom that you have learned in the comments!



Underwear is meant to be comfortable. Life, not so much.

I am serving as camp pastor at a placed called Laurel Ridge in the NC moutains this week, so today I decided to go hiking on some trails in ...