Tag Archives: marriage

Wedded To a Faithful Grand

Today Carolyn and I celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary.  I wrote about our romance a couple of years ago here. Though we have had our share of struggles, she continues to bring joy and love into my life.

Family Selfie

Family Selfie

One place where Carolyn excels is in her love of family, our children and grandchildren.  When our children were younger, she set aside her career as a pastor to give time and opportunities for our children, Jonathan, Suzanne and Christina.  She made sure our children had the best overall educational opportunities for each child, using a combination of public schools, private schools, public charter school and home schooling to provide the best learning environment for each of our three children.  She served as an informal college guidance counselor as each child flew from the nest to out-of-state colleges.

Grandparents and GrandkidsNow with two grandchildren, she has embraced her new role as “Grand” (grandmother) .  I know people who struggle or even reject the title of grandparent, since they see it as a sign of aging.  Carolyn has embraced her role, savoring every opportunity to interact with Jack and Grace.  I am so thankful that we are able to share in this honor together as grandparents and her devotion continues to teach and inspire me.  She sees this as part of her calling from God, to share the wonder of Jesus Christ with our children and grandchildren.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.  (2 Timothy 1:5)

Lord Jesus, thank you for Carolyn.

Today’s Wedding Anniversary

Carolyn and I at our son’s wedding in 2011.

Today is the 35th anniversary of my marriage to Carolyn McCrary Keller. We met in college, at the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Christian Fellowship, near Philadelphia. I always joked that she came from “Tea” with the President of Bryn Mawr, dressed to the nines, and I showed up in overalls and a backwards baseball cap. I was a senior bouncing around in my manic way greeting all the newcomers. Carolyn was with four or five other first year women from Bryn Mawr.

When Carolyn said that she was from Kansas City, MO, I told her a story about a prayer experience I had traveling through Kansas City. The story was short and not particularly profound, but Carolyn later wrote about it in her journal. The story had given her spiritual comfort as she was missing her Bible study group in Kansas City and wrote that my way of praying was similar to hers. The friendship and then the romance grew from there.

We were married by Carolyn’s father, a Presbyterian minister. His only premarital advice to us was, “You can walk down the aisle on your wedding day, fall flat on your face, and still pick yourself up and have a good marriage.” However he made sure Carolyn did not fall by proudly walking his oldest daughter doing the aisle of his Kansas City church and then turning around to preformed the wedding. It was all a blur to me, except for gazing at his beautiful daughter.

Robert C. Roberts thinks the best example of the spiritual virtue called perseverance or steadfastness is marriage:

When two people marry, they make an extraordinary commitment, a promise not just to stick together until death do them part (that in itself would be bold enough) but to love one another than long.

The marriage service warns that some of the bumps this love may encounter along the way: for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others . . . . But these words are only slender indicatory beams of light pricking the darkness of the future. When we commit ourselves to married love, we have only the dimmest intimations of what will threaten to break commitment down—boredom, disappointment, inattention, work, sick children, changes in personality and interests of one or both parties—and the list could go on.

Like every married couple, Carolyn and I have our list. I have never embraced her love of opera; she has never backpacked in the mountains with me. We disagree on where to live in our metropolitan area. Still we remain steadfast in our love for one another, trusting in God’s grace and power to keep us together.

Last night we celebrated by going to the Guthrie Theater for the production of Roman Holiday. It is a romantic story of a princess who escapes her royal confines for 24 hours to experience Rome as a private citizen. She meets an American reporter who first tries to turn their budding friendship into an exclusive news story. As the day progresses the friendship turns towards romance, but the duties and obligations of the princess pulls them apart. It is a bitter-sweet ending.

What a contrast to decades of marriage. Yes, there can be many moments of Holiday bliss, but marriages persevere because husbands and wives stick to the duties and obligations of marriage even when bliss is hard to find. I am thankful that Carolyn has persevered in her love for me and pray that together we will experience many more years of marital joy.  I still like holding her hand when we pray together in our own way.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of marriage and for your steadfast love.

A Wedding Song and Holy Apples

Wedding Rehearsal

Yes, it really happened.  My son Jonathan is now a married man, wedded to Maggie Thomas.  I am glad that I chose to be a proud papa instead of presiding pastor, since it allowed my wife and myself to simple rejoice in the moment.  And it was a joyous celebration of song and word, in which I was able to shout “Amen!” during a few choice moments.   The couple selected  Colossians 3 which includes,

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Col 3:16)

Kyle Jackson, on of two pastors, admonished them to actually practice this verse, singing to one another in the kitchen or the shower.  And during communion they sang with the congregation, while the wedding party distributed the elements.   It was a holy time.

At the reception, I had the opportunity to bless the meal, but first I told the story that when Jonathan was born, I gave out “Jonathan” apples to friends and staff.  Now that I have new daughter-in-law, I want to give out the new Sweet Tango apples for it takes the two of them to tango.  Finally, after reminding everyone about Pastor Kyle’s admonition,  I invited the whole wedding reception to sing as table grace, Jonny Appleseed.

O the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed.

Jon and Maggie at Afton Apple Orchard

So what did Jon and Maggie choose to do on their first day as a married couple?  To gather many of their friends and family for an apple picking outing at Afton Apple Orchard.  Made me think of Psalm 17:8

Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

I am pretty sure one of the twelve heavenly  fruits in Revelation 22 must be the apple.

Lord Jesus, bless all married couples that they might delight in each other as the apple of your eye.

Persevering on Valentine’s Day

Holding on to the love you share

I confess that I am not a great fan of Valentine’s Day.  I sense that it is more about momentary commerce (cards, candy, gifts) than lasting love.  I do believe in love and romance and want to share a mental/spiritual exercise that might enhance it for yourself.  It comes from a small book that continues to shape my spirituality, The Strengths of a Christian, by Robert C. Roberts.   It’s an exercise that helps build perseverance and attachment in a marriage.  Roberts writes to a wife about her husband named Henry.

Take a memory that endears Henry to you, a memory of happy common life or of some special affection shown you, and use it as the grid through which to contemplate that aging person across the table.  See him in the eyes of that pleasant memory.  Do not do anything yet, or say anything, but just take some time to look at your partner in this complimentary light. . . .  You may have to shed some grudges (as Christians say, “die to yourself”) just to admit to yourself that this is the person of whom those happy memories are memories.  But if you succeed in seeing him this way, you will find that some affection will come over you. You will love Henry because he looks more lovable to you.  . .  I think you will find that when you explicitly share with each other the happy memories of your past love, those memories will have an even stronger tendency to arouse present affection in you both.  

This technique for persevering in love is just the reversal of what happens in grudge bearing. The grudge bearer also dwells on memories of a relationship with another person and sees the other person through those memories.  But instead of dwelling on happy experiences . . . he or she dwells on offenses (many imaginary, no doubt).   Thus the grudge bearer descends into a confirmed disposition of seeing the other in an uncomplimentary light, which we call hostility.  When we become aware of the dynamic of grudge bearing, we can turn it to the service of love by practicing the contemplation of happy memories of our relationship and the praiseworthy actions of our partner.  When this practice becomes an ingrained habit and skill of self-management, then we have one of the powers of perseverance in marriage. (p. 95-96)

What habits of the heart keeps your love alive?

Trust in the rope

Three fold cord

Trusting Jesus can seem easy at times.  Like on the bright and sunny days, surrounded by friends and family.   Or on the mountain peaks when the vistas are magnificent and the air is clear.  Yet life is rarely all sunshine and mountain tops.

In my wedding sermons, I remind the bride and groom that not all of life will be like their wedding day, filled with excitement, joy and celebration.   The couple will not always be surrounded by the support of family and friends. Like all people, they will need to face life’s storms and life’s valleys.   As a married couple, they will have the strength of each other, but they can also learn to trust in Jesus’ power and love to carry them through such challenging days and months.

The fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes describes the benefits of two people working together.  It ends the section with this phrase:  a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecc. 4:12). The thought shifts from the strength of two to the strength of three.  What is the third cord in the rope?  That third cord is Jesus Christ, woven into the fabric of  life, especially a marriage.  But that woven strength is not limited to married couples.  Jesus is the strong cord that can carry any individual through challenges that come with the storms and valleys of life.

And a big part of that “challenging” strength grows out of the daily attention given to our trust in Jesus.  Trust is something that deepens over time.  It rarely appears like magic, on demand.  Our trust in Jesus grows through reflection, prayer, study and grace.

More on that in a future post.