Pay Up, Show Up, and Shut Up


Father of the BrideWe’ve all seen the movie, Father of the Bride. Both Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin, decades apart, portrayed the hapless father of the bride, whose primary function in putting on his daughter’s wedding, is to take out a second mortgage on the house, open his wallet, and close his mouth. Spencer TraceyThere is only one more powerless position on the earth today, and that is parents of the groom. After all, the bride has been planning her wedding day all her life. The groom is essentially a last minute, fill- in-the-blank; the last puzzle piece, whose face and name have only recently been added.

Deer in the Headlights ASo there we were, about thirty minutes before the wedding ceremony, and the father of the groom greeted me with the usual deer in the headlights look in his eyes. He was doing an admirable job of holding it all together. Just an observation, it’s hard to look cool as a cucumber while wearing a suit and tie in hundred degree weather. He turned to me and asked me if I ever get nervous doing weddings. This being about my 100th wedding to officiate, I answered him “I was nervous officiating my own children’s weddings.” Other than those, the only wedding I was nervous officiating was my very first wedding. Then I was almost as nervous as the groom.

As I watched the parents of the bride and groom, I wondered what medieval torture master dreamed up all the traditions, etiquette and responsibilities foisted on parents to put on weddings for their adult children. One insightful father boiled it down to these three, and it wasn’t Faith, Hope and Love. It’s Pay Up. Show Up, and Shut Up.

Empty Wallet DadPay Up – By the time you pay for the dress, the reception, the church and a million other accoutrements, you’d think you’d done your part. But No! It’s not enough to spend, on one day, enough to purchase a small country, or a home in the suburbs for cash.

You still have to Show Up. Yes, dressed in your finery, you’ve got to be the gracious host, exchange pleasantries, tell a few jokes, shake everyone’s hand, and give a speech worthy of an academy award. And oh yes, dance like Fred Astaire.Fred Astaire and Bride Little do they know that behind the smile, you’d give another million dollars to be on some sandy beach a thousand miles away in shorts and flip flops, sipping something cold, with an umbrella sticking out of it… but not today. You’ve got relatives and friends to visit with today and shuttle to the airport tomorrow. About this time you lament the fact that you don’t have omnipresence as your superpower.

The final instruction to the parents of the groom is to Shut Up. This is not your party; although you wouldn’t know it by your bank account.   Weddings are all about the bride. I mentioned this at a recent wedding and the mother of the bride laughingly corrected me and insisted it was all about her. I laughed and agreed with her and thought, this is truer than we’d all like to admit.Wedding Party At the same time the bride and groom just soak it in, celebrating with their friends, eating drinking and living the good life, leaving it to you to clean up and take care of the relatives and all the loose ends.

So what sage advice can I give the parents of the bride and groom? Precious little, except to quote a Keith Green song: “Just do your best, and pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest.” Ah yes, rest. Here’s some good advice. Plan to have at least a week off after the wedding to recuperate, get everyone where they need to go and then have several days just for you and your spouse to rest.

After all those months of preparation, stress and worry about measuring up, you did it! And yes, you did measure up, contrary to those voices in your head. Your speech was superb. Your dress looked lovely, and everyone is in awe of how well you pulled it off. Now all that is left to do is work on your new superpower: Satisfaction.Couple on Beach

Uncommon Courtesy

Sock DrawerI recently came to the startling realization that my sock drawer does not fill itself. I know that’s shocking, but it’s true. And not only that; just because there are checks in the check book, doesn’t mean there’s money in there. No, I’m serious. Somebody must be putting stuff in there when I’m not looking. Maybe at night, when I’m sleeping, the refrigerator fills itself. Hazel does the laundry and the leprechauns sweep the walkway and weed the garden before dawn.Leprechaun
Do all these things magically happen around your house too? I hope so.

Seriously, I trust that you thank your spouse for doing them, or that you race to be the one to do them first. In any case, it’s a lot of work just to carry on a normal life. Have you noticed that work is so much more fulfilling and easy to do when we are appreciated for doing it? A simple but important way we can serve our spouse is to express our appreciation to them for doing what they do. That’s right, actually saying it.  Guaranteed to put a smile on their face and a song in their heart.
Geese Flying in FormationHave you ever had one of those days when it is just hard to get up and do it all again? We can be our spouse’s best cheerleader. We don’t have to break out the pompoms, but a little encouragement goes a long way. When you hear geese flying south for the winter, all that honking you hear is the flock encouraging their leader. Sled DogsThe same with sled dogs; pulling a sled in the Iditarod is hard work but all that barking is the team telling the lead dog, “We’re with you!”
Uncommon Courtesy
“Please pass the salt.” “Thank you for washing the car.” “This meal is delicious.” These are  phrases that I hope are used regularly in your home. Common courtesy has become rather uncommon in our culture today. Miss Manners used to be a popular syndicated column. Good manners make good relationships. I kind of miss manners, don’t you? I believe we need to reintroduce them to our families, in our own homes, beginning with our spouse. Our children will emulate what they see mom and dad practicing. Then with God’s help we will infect the neighbors, and gratitude could become a worldwide epidemic. The World in His Hands“Please” and “Thank you”…they could change your world.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col 2:6-7

Eat, Drink and Be Married

Couple having Coffee“Let’s meet for coffee.” We say this all the time, but is it really about the coffee? When you go to lunch with your best friend, which is more important, the food or the conversation? It doesn’t really matter if it’s McNamara’s or McDonalds, coffee or cabernet; something important happens in our relationships when we’re eating and drinking.
Laundry on Dining Room TableWhat could be more basic to everyday life than enjoying a meal together? Yet we keep ourselves so busy that sit-down dinners are no longer a family value but instead have become nostalgic. Many people today, spend thousands of dollars upgrading to gourmet kitchens, only to make the microwave the most used appliance. The dining room table has been relegated to folding laundry and Thanksgiving dinner.
TV DinnerGrowing up, I always envied my friends who got to eat dinner in their living room on TV trays. Now I’m reconsidering. I grew up in a big Italian family. When dinnertime came, the whole family gathered for the meal and the TV was always turned off. Thanks Mom and Dad, for making sit-down dinners a family value.100_1539 Our nuclear family has grown and changed, but to this day, here’s how family gatherings on holidays work: We start with a meal, clean up after the meal together, take a walk together.100_0852 Throw in some Italian songs and dancing in the kitchen while we prepare the next meal together. Repeat.
Jesus knows we open up to one another in a unique way when we break bread together.

He said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20)The Last Supper In the final hours before His crucifixion, Jesus had a meal with his friends, we call the last supper. It is interesting that after his resurrection, almost every time we see Jesus, he is eating with his friends.
When Andee and I got married, we decided in order to stay connected; we’d have breakfast and dinner together.Breakfast At 6:00AM we ask each other, “How can I pray for you today?” And at 6:00PM we catch up with one another on how the other’s day went. We’d rarely see each other in between those times, but we were still “together”. As we raised our children, mealtimes were always the important touch-points when our family would connect. We’d discuss everything from schoolwork to politics, to interpersonal relationships. We often read a devotional book after dinner and discussed whatever lesson we could draw out of a chapter. Whenever we had company, they’d join in the conversation. Andee and I have maintained this practice for 30 years through all the different stages of life, and it is still working.
100_7586Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:1-4










Pruning Your Family Tree

Leave it to BeaverWe all had a very different experience growing up. Some of us grew up in families like Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet. We came from “functional” homes with a mom and a dad and 2.4 kids. Others….not so much. Because the divorce rate has skyrocketed since the 1960’s, many of today’s adults come from “broken” homes or “blended” families.
Child Copying ParentThere is no denying that we are all a product of our upbringing. There are definitely things that we inherit from our parents like red hair or male pattern baldness. But there are other things we pick up from them that are not inherited, but are learned traits.
Before I go any farther, most people want to blame their parents; I want to commend mine. I still have my “original” mom and dad who are going on 59 years of marriage. They raised 5 kids, lived modestly in a middle class neighborhood, drove Chevys, took us to church on Sundays, and family dinner was served at 6:00 pm every night. I don’t take my upbringing for granted. Quite the contrary, I consider it a stewardship. My parents weren’t perfect people. Nobody is. But they provided a stable home where we knew we were loved and supported. That is something all of us can, and should, do.
The apostle Paul told Timothy: Be an example to the believer, in word, in conduct, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12
Child Emulating Bad HabitsWe’ve all heard the saying: Do as I say, not as I do. Some of us have even said it to our children because we know that we are not living up to our ideal. I discovered in raising my children, that they emulate what I do more than what I say. When my grandson Nathan was about 6 months old, his dad confided in me that there were a couple of words that had crept into his vocabulary that he would no longer be using. Suddenly we realize our children are little sponges, and even more startling, we discover that they are like little parrots. The truth is, more is caught than taught.World Revolves Around Me Our children are learning how to be a husband and how to be a wife as they watch mom and dad interact with each other. Our little girls will look for a husband just like their daddy and our sons will look for wives like mom. So as our daughters and sons grow up it is important that we give them a living example of the kind of husband or wife they should look for. If we are a self-absorbed spouse, our children are likely to marry spouses just like us.
You may be thinking “But I didn’t have a good example growing up. I came from a dysfunctional family”. If your experience growing up was less than ideal, all is not lost. You can prune your family tree. The first thing we need to understand is that although we are products of our past, our past does not dictate our future. If you came from a family with a long line of failed marriages, you can stop the cycle.



Begin to prune away any destructive habits, and replace them by grafting in healthy interaction with your spouse.

The bible says it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Phil 2:13. That means God will not only give us the power to change but He’ll give us the will to do it.

Luis Brendes said “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” I’m sure the Wright brothers encountered a fair number of skeptics until their airplane actually flew. But it did fly.Wright Brothers' First Airplane
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2Fruitful Vine
We all know couples with functional marriages, so we know it can be done. What we don’t usually see is that it takes some careful pruning and grafting to accomplish. Better still, let’s not just settle for functional; let’s go for sensational! Regardless of our past, with God’s help, our marriage can produce a harvest of health and joy that will last for generations.

The Wonder of Christmas

treeMany families have traditions associated with the holidays. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve, and the whole family gets together for dinner and presents. Some families invite all the relatives to celebrate Christmas morning, and stretch the celebration out all day.

When I’m doing pre-marriage counseling, I casually ask where the new couple will spend Thanksgiving.  The bride-to-be quickly answers, “At my parents’ house, of course.  It’s the only day of the year we get the whole family together.” I look at the groom and he has a troubled look on his face. With a little coaxing, he chokes out that his grandmother expects them to be at her table that same afternoon… and you don’t want to get on grandma’s “naughty list”.

Does the wonder of Christmas, turn into “I wonder who will be offended this Christmas”?

Most young couples face the challenge of family expectations early in their marriage. The bible says, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2: 24) When a couple gets married, the relationship changes between themselves and their parents. But change doesn’t always come easily. All their lives children have been told to obey their parents. Now as married adults, a new authority structure is established. Young married couples sometimes have difficulty with this. But guess who else has difficulty? It seems that well-meaning parents and grandparents didn’t get the memo. They sometimes put tremendous pressure on their adult children to follow the “family script”.

Wise in-laws will invite their newlyweds to family events, and will be very understanding if they are unable to attend. Ask them when it works for them to get together, and then enjoy the holiday. Some families alternate holidays; some split Christmas Eve and Christmas day. MangerWise newlyweds will decide together what is important to them. There may be some new traditions they want to establish for their new family. They should do their best to communicate their plans graciously to the people who love them. That will take the wondering out of the holidays so everyone can enjoy the wonder of Christmas.