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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Weddings on the Web

'Wedding Photos' photo (c) 2011, Katsu Nojiri - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) recently launched a new website with both a men’s and a women’s channel. I have really enjoyed the women’s channel and they are currently doing a series on weddings that is definitely worth checking out.

Today’s post by Jenny Manley looks into how planning a wedding points us toward the greater reality of “Preparing for the Ultimate Wedding Day.” She describes what we do when we plan weddings and how this reflects the working and waiting for our union with Christ. I love this quote:

So, dear bride, prepare for your earthly wedding day.  And as you pick out the dress and the photographer and the wedding cake, remember your calling to prepare even more diligently for that ultimate day.  Preparations are already underway in heaven.

Last week, Courtney Reissig wrote about sex and expectations for the wedding night in a post called, “When the Wedding Night Isn’t Perfect.”  This is something that is rarely discussed, but super important and I’m so thankful she tackled it (and did so with much grace). Courtney writes:

Virginity is not a down payment on the guarantee of amazing sex. And that’s not the point, anyway. Sex, like every good thing (including marriage), takes work. Contrary to nearly every movie’s breathless, raucous, and perfect portrayal of sex, the reality is that sex doesn’t always end up that way. And when we promise nearly married people that this is what awaits them if they simply hold off until the wedding night, we are doing them a grave disservice.

And a couple of weeks ago I was privileged to kick off the series with my post, “What I Wish I Had Known When I Planned My Wedding.”

Stay tuned to the CBMW “Karis” channel for more grace-filled posts on a variety of topics.

The Lord is Near

Philippians 4:5b-7 – The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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.

When my husband and I were dating he would point out this “worry spot” I got between my eyes when I was concerned about something. Somehow in the past 8 years, that spot has all but disappeared. I would like to credit this solely to sanctification–to a deep understanding that the Lord is at hand. That He’s near and I don’t have to worry. Sometimes, this is true–I’m resting and trusting.

Much of the time, though, I’m just being optimistic.

The problem with optimism is that my trust isn’t in God or His sovereign love. My trust is in “bright side” thinking. The ability to look on the bright side of every situation is something I used to consider a strength. And it can be. But sometimes it lets us down.

Sometimes the bright side just isn’t there.

Sometimes we can’t say, “Well at least…” or “Yeah, that’s horrible, but think about it this way.”

Sometimes there’s no visible silver lining.

If my trust in God is dependent on seeing the bright side of things, there will come a day when my trust falls apart. When I can’t see the silver lining and I am forced to really contend with God.

When homes in our neighborhood are broken into, our neighbor tells us she just doesn’t want anyone taking the things she’s worked hard for. I pridefully pity her, thinking I’m wiser and able to trust God more. After all, it’s just stuff. But my “trust” falls apart a bit when I think of someone taking not just our old hand-me-down furniture or electronics. What if they harm my children?

The problem with optimism is there are some situations I can’t imagine being optimistic about. And harm to my children is certainly one of those.

And so I’m learning my trust has to be deeper. It has to be in Someone greater than me and my ability to think positively.

The Lord is near. If you tell me not to be anxious, I can’t do it. But if you tell me, “Don’t be anxious, the Lord is near. He is at hand–returning soon! Come to Him with your requests and your concerns, thank Him for His faithfulness. And you will have peace. Amazing peace that surpasses understanding. And it will guard your heart and your mind,” that is what I need.

Not optimism.

Trust.

Not “don’t worry about it…things will look better tomorrow.”

Trust in a God who is near; a God who has suffered in my place; a God who loves me deeply as His child.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. – Psalm 145:18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:13 –

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;

you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

that I may tell of all your works. – Psalm 73:25-28

Music Monday – “Beautiful” by Phil Wickham

The lyrics for this song by Phil Wickham are below the video. I’ve heard of this being used as a processional for a wedding, but it would work great for corporate worship or a special number during the ceremony. I particularly like the last two verses. And the time lapse video images below are just gorgeous.

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You’re beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

Real Wedding: Aylin & Ethan

I defy anyone with a heart to watch this video and not cry. This is one of the most humble, Christ-exalting things I have ever seen. I do not know this couple personally, but they graciously agreed to share their video and story with me for the blog and book. Here are the bride’s words about their wedding:

We wanted it to be very clear that our marriage was built on His grace and His alone. Both of us are pastor’s kids, with desires to serve the Lord in ministry. People kept saying, “You deserve this marriage.” “Look how God has blessed you for having waited to well in His time.” We both knew the many struggles we had with our sin during our singleness. We wanted it to be very clear that if the Lord blessed our marriage it was all because of Him, not because of anything in us. So, we had a time of public confession of sins, and then we nailed those sins to a Calvary tree “sculpture” that we prepared. As we nailed the list, our pastor read Col. 2: 16. Then we sang The Power of the Cross.

Please, take a few minutes and rejoice in the power of the cross and the great love of our Savior.

Aylin + Ethan from Studio 16×9 on Vimeo.

Music Monday – “Holy” by The City Harmonic

I had never heard this song until Tim Challies posted it on his blog several days ago. A couple in his church used it in their wedding ceremony and I can only imagine how beautiful that was to behold.  The lyrics are included in the video below–watch and rejoice!

Why I Rarely Blog About Weddings (on a blog called “Don’t Waste Your Wedding”)

Someone commented on a link to this blog from Facebook that I should start a new blog so they don’t have to go to a wedding blog to read my posts about non-wedding topics. It’s true–I’ve been writing a lot about things other than weddings. For a while I thought maybe I was just a little burned out on weddings. Once the book was finished I was excited to think about anything else. And as things come up and are on my heart, it’s natural to write about them.

But the more I thought about it, I realized the real reason I have a hard time blogging about weddings. Yes, I know. It’s a wedding blog. Clearly this is a problem. But I think it makes sense, and hopefully it will translate as I write about it here.

The nature of wedding blogs and books in general is to give couples ideas. This can be super helpful. You see something creative or unique, you “pin it,” implement it in your wedding planning and move on. I’m always impressed with wedding bloggers who build a substantial following. In my mind, it’s a marketing nightmare. You have readers who come to look at pretty pictures, get ideas, and then leave. Once the wedding is over, who cares about the wedding blog?

But in writing this book, my mom and I both felt strongly that we didn’t want it to be about “tips” for planning a Christian wedding. And the reasons for this are:

1. We could try to give a “Gospel-Centered Wedding Checklist.” Couples could follow it, checking off each task as they planned. But this would not guarantee what really matters. Because what really matters is the heart–a heart changed by the love of Christ and the grace of our great Father.

2. A true understanding of grace and the freedom of the gospel should lead to a gospel-centered wedding. But I had neither a true understanding nor a truly gospel-centered wedding. And so the book is far less about tips and ideas, and far more about the gospel. Because it has to be in that order. As God opens our eyes to the beauty of Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, it should change everything. Including our weddings.

3. A photographer friend said she is tired of shooting the same wedding every weekend. Sometimes all these tips and ideas we’re sharing and pinning end up making the rounds at every wedding. So what was maybe unique once is now standard issue. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but I believe God’s work in the lives of a bride and groom is far more interesting and glorious than the details we so easily obsess over. So I’m hesitant to share a lot of practical tips out of concern that we might create some sort of “gospel-centered wedding” culture that limits the freedom couples should have to express God’s grace in their own way.

So for these reasons, there aren’t a lot of tips on the blog. And to be honest, I have a hard time coming up with things to blog about that aren’t just practical. I know the practical stuff is helpful; I’m just hesitant for it to become law.

That being said, I’m hoping to post more regularly and more often about weddings.

But I’m always trying to balance the freedom of the gospel with the practical ideas people might want to read. And if a week (or two) go by without wedding posts, I apologize. I guess I’m still figuring out what this blog is.

Thanks for reading it, whatever it is.

Radical or Normal? Or Neither?

'Old Globe' photo (c) 2007, Kenneth Lu - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

Update: The article referenced below is now featured on the World Magazine website. It was written by Anthony Bradley.

Recently I have been reading critiques of what some are calling the new legalism of being “radical” or “missional.” One writer suggests young adults are constantly under guilt and pressure to do something amazing for God. He states this leads to a new culture of narcissism and shame within the church. Are you radical enough? Are you doing enough? Or have you settled for a conventional, suburban life?

I get what he’s saying, and I have struggled with this in my own heart. I wonder if I’m doing enough. Am I sacrificing enough? Am I wasting my life? Should we move from the suburbs? Should we move overseas? What am I doing? It quickly becomes legalism, and I judge others by the same standards, or even stricter ones. Why do they live in such a big house? Why don’t they go on mission trips? Legalism is exactly the word for it.

The solution given by some of these writers is a “normal life.” We’re told we just need more people content to live a normal, suburban life. We need people who have kids, grow the church through our children and just live faithfully. We don’t have to leave our current context, but should stay here and serve and love where we are.

But then I have conversations like one I had with a young friend today. She has dreamed of going overseas for years and desires to start an orphanage or some sort of orphan care ministry. But she knows there’s a mission field right here in Nashville–right out her suburban front door, in her school, at her workplace, even in our church. So she almost feels a little guilty for going overseas, as if she’s saying the mission field here isn’t good enough or big enough or radical enough.

This is what happens when we bounce from extreme to extreme. Either everyone should move to the ghetto or overseas, or everyone should be content to live in the suburbs. I don’t think anyone would actually say those words, but when we react to one idea so strongly, we risk this effect.

In essence, we leave out one important component–the Holy Spirit.

When my husband and I were actively praying about and pursuing a possible adoption of a child with special needs, many people thought we were crazy. This particular need scares many people, but it didn’t scare us at all. And this isn’t because we’re super-human. It’s because the Lord had clearly put this on our hearts. It just seemed obvious. Other families who adopt kids with other needs seem crazy to me. I can’t imagine doing what they do. But I get it–it’s not radical to them; it’s just where their hearts are.

When we tell people they don’t have to move overseas to be missionaries, we’re right. But let’s not quench what the Spirit may be doing in their hearts. And when we say everyone could move to the ghetto or work overseas, this might be true too. You could do it. But let’s not mistake the possibility for a commandment. It could be we are called to be right where we are.

Either way, the Great Commission is for all of us. “All the world” includes suburban Nashville and outer Mongolia. The mission is the same, but the placement is up to the Holy Spirit. I have to remember, Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission, then gave them instructions to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. It’s all Spirit-powered.

We can tell one another, “You don’t have to do this,” but let’s not forget that it might be just what we have to do–just what the Spirit has put in our hearts to do. This is what it means to abide in Christ (John 15). If we’re there, abiding, we will bear fruit. We can’t do it apart from the vine. My friend Marci says, “As we draw near to Christ He bears the fruit through us. We can dream big as we think about how we would like to participate in the kingdom of God, but we have to let the Lord put us there.”

So I pray we will come alongside each other, praying for the Spirit’s guidance and power in directing each of our paths. May we encourage those serving in the suburbs as well as those in the inner cities or undisclosed locations. May we not assume our passion is from us, but instead given to us uniquely by a loving God who graciously created us for this very purpose–proclaiming His gospel for His glory. May we celebrate and encourage those with other gifts and pray as they use them by the Spirit’s power. May we focus on international missions and local missions–may one fuel the other, in a cycle of excitement and rejoicing at the power of our great God.

Wherever we are, let us love. And let us assume nothing–the gospel is for each of us, every day of our lives.