Posted in Ministry

An enjoyable wedding experience. Yes, I’m serious.

12715536_10100704524155148_7594547818748202885_nI traveled to Orlando with my wife this past weekend to perform a wedding. As the ceremony was about to begin, I realized something quite unusual for me. I was actually enjoying the experience. This is quite evolutionary for me. For many years, weddings were the part of pastoral ministry I enjoyed the least. Now, suddenly, it is a pleasant experience.

Granted, it was a beautiful evening at Paradise Cove, a very nice venue on Lake Bryan. We even got to spend the night at a the Diamond Grand Beach resort on the other side of the lake before heading home the next day. But it wasn’t just the setting. Something else was different.

Clueless couples, demanding mothers, horrid musical requests, frequent late starts and irreverent guests contributed to my aversion to weddings in the past. Graciously, I never had to officiate at more than three or four a year, but even that was a monumental strain on my patience. I almost always declined the last minute invitations to rehearsal dinners and receptions, because I rarely enjoyed sitting off in a corner with strangers. I did my best and concealed my displeasure because I didn’t want to ruin someone’s special day. But it was tough.

But lately, it’s been OK. Better than OK, it’s been enjoyable. What’s up? Have I mellowed in my old age? Are the couples I’ve been marrying more savvy, polite, reverent and prepared? Probably not. So what’s up?

Well, for one thing, I am older. And most of the weddings I do are for a younger generation, around the age of my adult children (20-somethings). I think I relate to them the way I relate to my own children, and am a little bit of a dad to them. I enjoy sitting and talking to them as much as I enjoy my own. Maybe they fill in the gap since I don’t get to spend as much time with my out-of-town son and daughter.

Also, we spend as much of our pre-marital counseling hours getting to know each other as talking about the realities of two becoming one. The relationship formed is at least as important as the information conveyed. By the time we’re done, we’re friends. Kind of like getting to know Jesus is as important as knowing  what he taught. I’m not just performing a service, but sharing an experience with them.

I think I’ve lowered my expectations, too. (Whoa, you say, don’t do that. If anything we should raise the bar of expectations for marriage! Whatever.) I’ve learned that much of what I say and do isn’t going to make or break that day or their lifetime together. That kind of thing is far beyond my pay grade. So I can relax, have some fun, say what’s on my mind, and make everyone laugh a little. After all, if I make a few of the pictures, I’ll be pastor “do you remember his name?” who got them through the ceremony in one piece so they could enjoy the reception afterwards. I’ve always said that you can’t take yourself too seriously to survive in this business.

I’ve known Brett and Corina for years before this past weekend, and we started meeting together over a year ago in preparation for their wedding day. I’ve been close with Corina’s family for a long time, too. I wasn’t just doing my job. I was giving them a gift.

In addition, Brett made a batch of excellent beer for the occasion. Nice touch. Brett and his groomsmen arrived in a speedboat which pulled up on shore when we were ready to begin. Too cool. Brett and Corina made everyone put their phones and cameras away before the ceremony began. Wise touch. And the cake was better than most I’ve eaten.

So there you go. An enjoyable wedding experience!



Posted in Grace, Life

I’m being watched

4-QuartersMy phone buzzed, I glanced down and saw this text: “Why did you give money to that man?”

It was a text from one of the young people from our church who had seen me hand four quarters to a man on the other side of the Kangaroo station gas pump. I had just finished filling up when I heard him ask, “Sir, can you add anything to this dollar?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t have anything.” I rarely carry cash. But when I got in the car, I saw four quarters in the cup holder, left over from when I put some air in the tires. Not much, but what the heck. I got out and handed the man what I had, apologizing, “It’s not much, but here’s a few quarters.” That’s when I got the text.

She was in the car with her grandmother on the other side of the parking lot. I texted back and explained what had happened. She came back, “Ohh…you did a good deed.”

“Yep. Jesus said helping others is like helping him.” Plus a lot more, apparently. Because you never know who’s watching (and in these times someone is always watching). Something like this, which I did without even thinking, made a difference in more lives than I realized.

I’ve been in lots of discussions about who we should help and who we shouldn’t. We get frustrated when we’re taken advantage of, or when someone isn’t grateful, or by the sheer number of people who need our help. It’s good to have these discussions. But it’s also important to remember who’s watching. Like our kids. Or our friends. Or someone we didn’t see.

Posted in Life

No shocks today

I took one of our cars in for some routine maintenance today, and to replace the rear shocks. I dropped it off took at the dealer where we always get good service, and walked up the street to get a cup of coffee and do little reading.

Shop-car-lift-XSmall.jpgA little later I got a call from the service rep. They had a little problem with the repair. The replacement shocks were bent, and they had to order more from California. When I got back to the dealership, I asked, “How often does something like that happen? Did you have the car up on the rack when you noticed the parts were damaged?” I can just imagine having everything apart, you reach for the new part, and discover you can’t use it! You’d have a few choice words to say at that moment! Fortunately for the tech, the parts guy stopped him before he got too far into the job.

This doesn’t happen very often, and you can’t just run over to AutoZone or Napa to grab a new pair of shocks. My model is manufactured in Japan and the parts are model specific. They did find a set at another dealer in Atlanta, but I can’t go back till next week to get it taken care of.

Shocks are the Achilles heel of this model of car, of which I own two. I’ve hardly ever had to replace shocks on other cars I’ve owned, but these will be the second and third replaced in under 70,000 miles.

I find it interesting that many car parts are very make and model specific. That reality alone means jobs for lots and lots of folks.

Posted in Life

Eye doc

100922-N-5821P-032I went in for my annual eye exam today. I’ve been doing this since I was ten years old, when I first discovered I was near-sighted and got my first pair of glasses. Today I was again impressed at the expertise of my optometrist, who from my vague comments was able to tweak my vision correction and improve my eyesight.

My visits are a lot more complex nowadays, having gotten much more near-sighted, requiring reading glasses wearing contact lenses, and having been through repairs for a torn retina. With correction, my left eye is cool: 20-20 or better. Right eye (the one frozen and lasered) is fuzzy, cloudy, and out of alignment. That eye isn’t going to improve, will quickly develop a cataract, and will need a procedure for that in the near future.

But for now, it needs some assistance, and the doctor gets to work. Holding a card in my hand, I read the smallest line I can. Not too bad. Looking at the wall, though, I can only see the largest and next-to-largest letters. I used to laugh at the chart. Who wouldn’t be able to see those monster-sized letters? Looking through holes in a mask-like device, the doctor changes lenses and asks, “Which is better — number 1 or number 2?” In a few minutes he has determined the correction for near and far, astigmatism, and the prism to align the images from each eye. All from my comment, “Well, it’s a little fuzzy and not lined up.” To me, it’s a miracle.

After he checks the pressure in my eyes (I aced that test!) he steps out of the room for a minute and returns with a new pair of contact lenses. He pops them in and immediately I can see better. Those little, fragile, kind of pricey pieces of hydrophilic whatever bring my world back into sharp focus. I never cease to be amazed. After I test drive them for a few days, I’ll order a few boxes of multi-focal (like bifocals) lenses. That technology boggles my mind. Additional amazement.

I only wear glasses first thing in the morning and at night, so I haven’t gotten a new pair for a while. Insurance pays for part of new ones each two years, so a nice young lady helped me pick out a new pair. When you wear glasses or contacts getting a new pair is exhilarating!

I’m giving God thanks tonight for a really great optometrist, contact lenses, glasses and the gift of sight,



Posted in Ministry

A surreal phone call

o-TALKING-ON-CELL-PHONE-facebookLord Grantham had just spewed blood all over his dinner guests on “Downton Abbey” last night when my phone rang.  I recognized the name on my phone, so I answered, since calls at that time of the night from church members are usually important.

Usually. The person on the other end wasn’t who I expected. It was a different member of that family who had been enjoying a few cocktails that evening. He asked, “Pastor, can I talk to you?”

Sounded serious. I said, “Sure.”

After a longer than expected period of silence, the caller asked me, “So what do you want to talk about?”

What? I said, “You called me. What’s up?”

“Oh, not much. What’s up with you?”

“You know, it’s kind of late,” I said, “Can I call you back later on this week?”

“Sure.” Click. And just like the call was over. And none too soon.