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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Music Monday – The Church’s One Foundation

I have received some great recommendations for wedding songs so I thought I’d start featuring them on Mondays. If you have any songs to recommend, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

This one was recommended by my amazing mother-in-law (no, really, I’m not just saying it…she’s amazing). She is a pianist and a bride requested she play this at her wedding, and Carol thought the words were particularly fitting. I agree. It would be great as a processional or for congregational worship.

The version I’m posting here has an updated melody, but you can find the traditional hymn as well.

Telling Your Story/Telling God’s Story

One of my favorite aspects of this book-writing process has been meeting fellow believers around the world who have, by God’s grace, done some pretty great things with their weddings. I met Alyssa Poblete through Twitter and she and her husband, Chris, agreed to let me post this video here.

The video was shown at the reception after the speeches. It was made by Lauren Myering and the first time Chris and Alyssa saw it was at the wedding.

Here are Alyssa’s comments on the purpose of the video:

“Each one of us has a story that is part of God’s bigger story and Chris and I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight that for our guests. The wedding video was a tool that Chris and I used to communicate the story of God’s absolute sovereignty in our lives and the abundant grace he has shown us. Many of our guests were loved ones that we only get to see every few years. For many of them, we are not sure if they know Jesus.”

Thanks, Alyssa and Chris, for sharing this!

What is Love? – A Short Video

I’m not posting much on the blog these days as I’m in the middle of a week of book-writing, but I ran across this video this morning and wanted to share it.

Tim Challies posted it on his blog with the following comment:

“Whenever I do pre-marriage counseling I tell the groom-to-be, ‘I know you’d die for her, but are you willing to live for her?’ This is what it looks like to live for her.”

Cue the tears.

Encouragement for the (Wedding) Weary

'To Do's' photo (c) 2011, Courtney Dirks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Maybe you are planning a wedding and the pressure and details of it all are getting to you today. Maybe you’re not planning a wedding, but the pressure and details of day-to-day life are getting to you today. I’m at that place almost constantly, and here is what God is graciously teaching me.

In light of eternity you might think, What does is matter which chairs we choose? Or, Who cares what the centerpieces look like? These are mundane decisions—the banal details that can send an otherwise sane bride over the edge. But while planning a wedding is an unusual experience, having to carry out seemingly pointless tasks is not.

I have two small children, and at this stage in my life many days are a series of seemingly pointless tasks. I change diapers, I wipe noses, I do laundry, I build block towers just to have them knocked down. There are many moments when these things seem pointless. And yet I know they are not, and here are just two of many reasons why:

First, they are the tasks given to me for this season of life by a sovereign God who loves me dearly.

Second, these little moments are the means by which God uses me to accomplish a bigger task—loving my children and teaching them the truth of the gospel.

In your wedding planning, you will most likely not care about every decision you must make. And this is not a call to place more importance on things than necessary. I don’t make a huge deal out of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s a sandwich. But I must do it so that my children’s tummies will be full and they will know they are loved and cared for. And if I get to teach them about Jesus while they’re eating, that’s great! But have you ever tried to teach a toddler something when they are hungry? It’s not happening.

Similarly, the chairs, the dishes, the food, the centerpieces—in the light of eternity these little decisions just do not matter. What does matter is having seats for your guests and feeding them as you celebrate together. The decisions are not the end in and of themselves. Rather, they are the means to an end. And even accomplishing the means can be an act of worship as you faithfully complete the tasks God has given you to do.

The act of making a pb&j or hand-crafting a centerpiece will not earn God’s favor, any more than teaching or preaching will. These actions do not save us, and they do not even sanctify us. All of that is the work of God through His Son. I frequently must remind myself of the truth of Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We were created, in Christ, for good works. But the joy comes in knowing God prepared these works beforehand, and all we must do is walk in them–in the faith He has given us.

So today, walk in the Spirit. Pray over each step–the big decisions and the small. And then just make a choice and rest, knowing you cannot earn anything through your work anyway. Rather, you can walk in faith, fully equipped for what you are called to do, to the praise and glory of Christ Jesus.

Alternatives to the Bouquet and Garter Toss

Ulmer Studios Photography www.ulmerstudios.com

Melissa Marie Floral Design, courtesy of Ulmer Studios

Last week we discussed the reception “tossing traditions” and it would seem opinions abound on this topic. At the heart of the matter, as with all of life, is our motivation for what we do.

Sometimes, particularly with weddings, we include certain elements as a nod to tradition. So we looked at where these traditions came from. In my opinion, the origin of these traditions does not mandate they be included in your wedding. Really there are just a few things in your wedding that are necessary–for the rest, you get to choose!

So as you are making your decision, here are some alternative ideas:

* My new internet friend Tricia did not want to do the traditional bouquet toss so she said: “we made a ‘gift bouquet’ which I tossed to anyone/everyone at the reception. It had some flowers, a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, and movie snacks. We treated it as a big ‘thank you’ for attending our wedding and it was a huge hit. Our photographer said he’s never seen so many people vying for ‘the bouquet.'”

I think this is a great way to include everyone but still get the fun pictures of the bride tossing the bouquet if that’s something you want. It doesn’t single out any one group, or leave anyone on the fringes. And it’s a means of honoring those who chose to spend their day celebrating with you.’

* If you are having dancing I’ve seen couples have a special dance where they invite all the married couples to dance, then gradually have people sit down based on the amount of time they’ve been married. For instance, the emcee would ask those married 5 years or less to sit, then 10, 20, 30 and so on. At the end of the dance the couple married the longest is given the bouquet. This is such a beautiful idea and a great way to give testimony to what God has done in His faithfulness to these two people in their marriage. What a privilege to honor those who have kept their commitment to one another and God for 50+ years.

* We did not dance at our wedding (thankfully…I’m not particularly gifted in the rhythm department) so we modified this dance idea. We had everyone married for at least 25 years come to the middle of the room, then gradually counted up from there. The florist had saved me several long-stemmed roses and a small bouquet. So as we got to the final few couples we gave them each a flower, and gave the couple married the longest the bouquet.

Interestingly, people were not attentive to the cake-cutting or other reception components, but this was the one time everyone was focused on the same thing–the gift of marriage. Knowing the particular stories of the couples made it even richer for us, and I still cry watching this part of the wedding video. Erik and I were able to publicly honor his grandparents, who are two of the most amazing people I know. And I knew I would be giving the bouquet to my grandmother, whose husband of 57 years–my sweet grandfather–was unable to come because he was battling the cancer that would later defeat his earthly body.

It was a bittersweet, precious moment, and one of the most treasured of my wedding day.

* I have also heard of brides presenting the bouquet to an honored relative. It worked out for me that I could do both, knowing the person married the longest would be my grandmother. But had that not been the case we might have chosen to honor our grandparents anyway.

What else have you seen as alternatives to the tossing tradition? I would love to include other ideas in the book!

Christian Compartments, or Why We “Spiritualize” Things

'Mail slots' photo (c) 2009, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Since writing my post on bouquets and garters I have been thinking a lot on the idea of the sacred/secular split. Basically this is the idea that certain aspects of life are “sacred”–attending church, reading the Bible, prayer, evangelism–while other things are “secular”–sports, movies, non-Christian music, etc. This dichotomy presents itself in weddings as well. As Christians we easily say, “I want the ceremony to be sacred,” but assume the reception falls into the category of “secular.”

One of the things for which I am most grateful in life is my liberal arts education. At my college I was taught that all truth is God’s Truth, therefore we can apply a Christian worldview to all areas of life. It was something I began to take for granted, with “worldview” being the Sunday School answer to every college test question. But when I graduated and was no longer surrounded by believers who had been taught in the same way, I realized how rarely this line of thinking is taught in the Church.

It is so easy to see life as a series of compartments: the church compartment, the entertainment compartment, the exercise compartment, the friend compartment, the work compartment, etc. 

Francis Schaeffer wrote a good deal on this subject and in his writing he questioned how we as Christians view the Lordship of Christ. In essence, is He only Lord over our souls and the religious aspects of our life? Or is He Lord over all–our bodies, our minds and our souls? This kind of submission requires thought and prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, though, which is really much harder than just making a list of “secular” activities that are, or are not, permissible for Christians.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a film guy. He loves movies, particularly redemptive dramas, including classic and foreign films. In the past several months he has begun hosting occasional “Manly Movie Nights,” in which he invites a few guys over, they watch a movie and then discuss it. At first this was a somewhat awkward thing, I think, as we are not really taught to think of movies as more than just entertainment. Yet as Erik began pointing out Christ-figures and redemptive elements in the movies, they became obvious to the guys viewing them as well.

At the same time I often hear people give Erik a hard time for “spiritualizing everything.” 

At the beginning of January my pastor preached a sermon in which he called us to look at our identity as Christians. He said we should be thinking every moment in every action that we belong to Christ and should therefore be living for Him. I was extremely convicted, knowing I could not look at 2012 and say, “This year belonged to Christ.”

The problem is we take this and say, “I am Christ’s so I shouldn’t watch R-rated movies or listen to non-Christian music.” But instead of taking every thought captive, we’re choosing not to think at all. Rather than watching Schindler’s List and examining it for truth and fallacy, we watch a “safe” Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that espouses “family values” with some watered-down picture of perfection for us to idolize. Rather than listening to and examining the lyrics and musicality of a Mumford and Sons album, we choose a romanticized, watered-down gospel in contemporary “Christian music.”

Or we feel free to watch and listen to whatever we want, but neglect to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. We don’t examine what we take in, but turn a movie on, turn off our brains and take it in without thinking.

I guess what I’m saying in this rant, which is more for me to get my thoughts out than for anyone else to read, is that we’ve been bought with a price. I don’t think I was bought by Christ’s precious blood so I could turn off my brain and choose to not think about art and culture and society. I wasn’t bought by Christ to look like the world, but I also wasn’t bought to sit at home and avoid the world.

I was bought to participate in the Kingdom work of redeeming culture through motherhood, writing, neighboring, reading, listening, examining. I was bought to worship God with every part of me. 

And you, you were bought for Kingdom work also. Therefore glorify God in your body, and heart, and mind and soul.

So in weddings, there really shouldn’t be this secular/sacred divide, as if somethings are “spiritual” and others are not. A wedding itself is a picture of a future reality–it is a hopeful portrait of our marriage with Christ. You are a spiritual being, you have been bought with a price, you are not your own. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

Your worship is your whole self, presented to God through His mercy and the work of His Son. You are an ambassador for Him, the aroma of Christ.

And when it comes to choosing whether or not to throw the bouquet or the garter or dance or drink or whatever, know you’re free. You’re free to do it, and you’re free not to. I shouldn’t tell you, because much depends on your particular circumstances. But know this–you have a new identity. You aren’t a slave to tradition or to other people’s expectations or opinions of you. You are a slave to Christ. And that is true freedom, leading to true JOY.

What do you think? Am I off-base? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I think through how to write about the big picture of weddings.