I Got Married – Again

Here’s the context: I was raised in a home completely void of demonstrative love and romance. Even hugs were few and far between.

Hence, unlike all the elaborate, carefully & lovingly planned out marriage proposals we see on FB nowadays, I never really proposed to Michelle.

We were driving around in Lubbock, TX, in 1984 shopping for engagement rings and, while stopped at an intersection, Michelle said, “You know, you’ve never actually asked me to marry you.” In pure embarrassingly (now), ignorant, 19 year old, moronic fashion, I popped off, “You wanna get married?” She said yes.

She deserved better.

Well, 33 years of marriage, and three kids later, I decided it’s never too late to do the right thing.

I’ve been planning this “marriage proposal” since July.

The scene: 2pm; 11/20 (her birthday) at the “Poetry Garden” (a private section at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens); i had the entire family in on it; I spun the outing as a “family photo.”

I had asked Joe Price, my best Man 33 years ago, to serve as my Best Man once again. His family drove all the way up from Houston to be a part of this moment.

We all arrived at 2pm. Joe and his family entered the private garden a few minutes later. Obviously, this shocked Michelle as she had no idea what they were doing there.

It was at that moment I turned to Michelle and said, “We are not here for a family photo…” (At that point my mouth went dry and I thought I was going to throw up )

As i conveyed my loved to her, my family began to take their places as Michelle’s dad (he performed our wedding 33 years ago) stood before us and prepared to “marry us” once again.

My best man, Joe, stood at my side, holding a picture of Jordan.  Our daughters, Kelsie and Macy,  stood at Michelle’s side.

Then I looked at Michelle and said, “Before we get married I need to ask you something.”

It was then that I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. (I thought I was gonna have to get Joe to help me back up )

At the end of the ceremony, Jordan “sang” (via one of his albums) his song that begins “when I see your smile I see the sun.”  The pic below was taken during that song. We are both grieving, but rejoicing that our marriage has survived that loss.

Then, Harry (Michelle’s Dad) pronounced us husband and wife (again) and and I kissed my bride. Michelle thought it was over. But it wasn’t.

We had to have our “first dance.”

One of my youth asked me back in the late 90’s, “Hey Nick, what’s yours and Michelle’s song?” I said, “What are you talking about?” That teenage boy said, “Come on man – every couple has their special song.” His passion cut me to the heart. So Lionel Richie’s song, “Still in Love” quickly became “our song.”

Back to our “first dance”: Macy hit “play” on her Bluetooth and Michelle and I danced to our song. (Well, we mostly just swayed back and forth.)

After that, I told Macy to hit play again where I had included the 1976 classic, “Still the One” by Orleans. And we partied and – yes – took lots of family photos.

To all you husbands out there, I am a complete mess. I have blown it worse, and more often than you can imagine. There have been times when i genuinely believed our marriage was over. (Just ask our daughters.)

But, I’ve found it’s never too late to do the right thing.

Jordan, we’re making it. I proposed to your mom and she said yes. You were there. I learned how to become romantic and swallow enough of my insecurity to express my love, in large part, by watching you. One day, we will sit together again at the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” What a celebration that will be. ❤️

It was… the perfect day.

I love you all, Nick

Not Guilty (For those living under the crippling weight of guilt.)

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We’ve all blown it in one way or another.

And when we do blow it, Satan dispatches a battalion of demons assigned to deceive us, relentlessly filling our mind with this lie:  your failures define you.

For those who succumb to that lie, what follows is a life lived under a crippling mentality of  oppressive guilt.  “How could God ever love or forgive you?”, the enemy whispers. “You certainly can’t go to God with the mess you’ve made of your life,” he hisses.  “He’ll only be angry with you, lecture you, and berate you. And, frankly, why shouldn’t he? You’re worthless.”

These whispered accusations of the enemy are, in today’s vernacular, what we would call “fake news.”

Never forget:  satan is a pathological liar.  And the God he describes above is found nowhere in Scripture.  For example…

The younger son in Jesus’ story in the latter half of Luke, chapter 15, had publicly insulted his father, humiliated his family, and wasted his entire inheritance on every vice one could think of. Further, it was only when he was broke, broken and starving that he finally “came to his senses.” (vs 17)

He knew the people in the village in which he once lived hated him for the humiliation and heartbreak he had caused his father and family.  In first century Jewish culture, when a son dishonored their father on the level that this son had it was not uncommon for a village to hold a “funeral”, of sorts, declaring that son “dead” to the family. (This is most likely why, in vs 24, the father shouts, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…”)

To echo the lying thoughts Satan places in our minds, the young man thought to himself, “I can’t go to my father with the mess I’ve made of my life. He’ll only be angry with me and berate me. And, frankly, why shouldn’t he? I’m worthless. I’m no longer worthy to even be called his son.”

But Jesus shocked his listening audience with the rest of story.

Luke records that his father was anxiously waiting for news of his son. One can only imagine how many hours a day the father stood at the highest point of the village trying to see as far as he could see to try and catch a glimpse of a miracle: the return of his beloved child.

Jesus’ story is dramatic and pregnant with meaning. And it’s not difficult to imagine Jesus’ Jewish audience sitting on the edge of their seats as, one day, the father notices a figure on the horizon. The suspense mounts. What will the father do? Fold his arms and stare down the disrespectful child?  Publicly scold and punish him? Loudly announce to the village, “Here comes the scum who claims to be my son!”?

But nothing could prepare the listening audience for the scandal that was about to transpire – a scandal of love.

Luke records it this way: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The early 5th century theologian, Peter Chrysologus, commenting on this passage wrote, “This is how the father judges and corrects his wayward [children]: not with beatings, but kisses….The father redeemed the sins of the his son by his kiss, and covered them by his embrace, in order not to expose the crimes or humiliate the son (the father shielded the son from hate-filled accusations). The father so healed the son’s wounds as not to leave a scar or blemish upon him. ‘Blessed are they,’ Scripture says, ‘whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”

When the repentant son began his rehearsed apology in verse 21 (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son”), the father, already knowing the brokenness of his son, seemingly ignores his son’s apology and orders his staff, “Quick!…Let’s celebrate!”

The legalist (portrayed in the older brother in Jesus’ story) demands justice in the story.  And, rightly so. We can’t expect to simply waltz back into our father’s presence hoping to get away with this level of rebellion.  Someone has to pay for the younger son’s sin! 

Someone did.  Twenty centuries ago.  On a hillside just outside of Jerusalem.  His name is Jesus Christ.

Are you weighed down with guilt?  Has the enemy convinced you you’re worthless?  Jesus is saying to you:  “Are you tired? Worn out?… Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me… Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Love Is Risky Business – But It’s Worth It

“Love hurts” sang the rock band, Nazareth, in 1975. But, the only alternative to never being heart-broken is to never allow oneself to love. So goes the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

C.S. Lewis comments:

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  (from “The Four Loves”)

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The Very Serious Issue of Love

“But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.” Jesus Christ; John 5:42

Holy mackerel – If I were sitting across a table at a coffee shop with Jesus,….would he say this very same thing to me?? His piercing statement haunts me.

Here’s the thing – the “love of God” in me loves not only people I like, but people I don’t like – people I DON’T like. That includes people who’ve hurt me or my family, betrayed me, and said ugly things about me. This is hard teaching. But, I can’t just pretend it’s not there.

Jesus, the Word made Flesh, inspired Paul to write, “Love must be sincere…Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-10)

And….

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Finally, John the disciple wrote, “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)

This is hard teaching. When Jesus looks at me, I do pray he sees the love of God within me.

Help me love like you, Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

A Halloween Miracle

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Few people knew much, if anything, about Hunter “Patch” Adams before 1998. That’s when Universal Pictures cast Robin Williams in the lead role in a movie about Adams’ life.

In his book, Gesundheit!, Adams shares that, following a series of traumatic emotional experiences that caused him to become suicidal, he told his mother, “I’ve been trying to kill myself. You’d better check me into a mental hospital.” He continues, “My mom called the family doctor, who called a psychiatrist, who admitted me to a locked ward at Fairfax Hospital. I spent Halloween there.

Adams goes on to share about his roommate, Rudy, and the following two week period that became, in his opinion, the turning point of his life: “Talking to Rudy, I realized the importance of love and the people who loved me. I had been surrounded by love but hadn’t let it affect me. I perceived a deep personal truth: I needed to be open to receive love. Without it I was not a strong person. And I realized that if I continued living as I had been – without tender, human love – I would end up like Rudy. He represented the Ghost of Christmas Future that I would become if I refused to surrender to my [need for love.]”

In his book, Adams never indicates that he’s a believer. Nonetheless, his story is universal: he had spent his life underestimating both the power and inherent need of one thing: love.

Patch Adam’s miracle came at Halloween. As believers, our miracle came on a hillside outside Jerusalem on a cross, twenty centuries ago– a miracle resulting from supernatural love.

Have you, due to anxiety, anger, bitterness and the like, forgotten just how much God loves you? Don’t allow satan to steal the abundant life Jesus died to give you.

In 1973, Glenn Frey & Don Henley, of The Eagles, wrote their hit-song, Desperado, which concludes with this warning, “You better let somebody love you…..before it’s too late.” That’s good advice. Embrace the love of Jesus – His heart-pounding, infinitely compassionate love.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

What Atheists Wish Christians Knew About Them

In light of various quote/articles/thoughts i post regarding arguments for the existence of God, I thought this video clip was a wonderful resource for remembering that “atheists” are, first of all, people. And, in many way, just like you and me.

Neil Carter is a high school Geometry teacher, a tutor, a swim coach, a father of five children, and a skeptic living in the Bible Belt. A former church elder with a seminary education, Neil mostly writes now about the struggles of former evangelicals living in the midst of a highly religious subculture.

A year ago, Carter was invited to a church to be interviewed in front of their congregation. The video clip here is an excerpt from that interview. You will find he is kind, articulate, and personable. And he does not, in any way, believe in God, that the Bible is true, etc.

Watch the clip (it’s 15 minutes so you’ll need to wait until you have some time). And when he says things that are contrary to God’s Word, try not to roll your eyes, smirk, snicker, laugh, etc. Listen to him. Understand him. Try to see this man as Jesus would see him – as a person God deeply, deeply loves, and died for – a person God wants to reach. Then, when the video clip is over, pray for Neil. Pray he would know the love and power of the risen Christ.

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I love this rendering of Matthew 11:28-30 from the Message Bible. I’ve taken this “prescription” for my various “maladies”many times over the years…..

[Jesus asked them], “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Let Jesus love and hold you today. nw