Will you be my Valentine?

will_you_be_my_valentineDo you remember asking the question, often with an accompanying small, awkwardly sized card and a box of tasteless, sugar hearts?

“Will you be my Valentine?” It’s a pretty vulnerable question to ask when you are in grade school and your heart is on your sleeve (I still remember the 4th grade when Dalene Whitney told me yes then no then yes again all in the same day).

It’s even more vulnerable years later when you ask a variation of the question: “Am I still your Valentine?”

Today is the 22nd year that Jessica has been my Valentine, and I’m desperately hoping that I’ve been a good Valentine for her. I hope that her years of having me as her Valentine have reinforced in her the reality of God’s overwhelming love. When she stops to count her blessings I hope she has overwhelming evidence that God—through me—has been good to her.

And this isn’t just a post about Jessica and me! It’s a question for all of us to ponder as we think about our many sweethearts today. Have we made them better? Have we been agents of healing? Have we lived and loved so well that our children, students, friends, family members, and loved ones have evidence of a good and gracious God? God is good and gracious and loving and kind; the question is: have our lives highlighted that reality?

One of the most remarkable things about the Gospel story is that God allows us humans to represent Him to our world. Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we fall down on the job. If you’ve fallen down on the job it doesn’t mean the story is over. Valentine’s Day is a perfect day for refreshing resolutions and charting the courses in life that we truly want to follow.


Happy Anniversary!

This Sunday, Cinco de Mayo/May 5th, is my wedding anniversary, marking eighteen years of married life with Jessica.sc00806408

The Proverb writer concluded his book of wisdom in Proverbs 31 by listing all of the things that the “wife of noble character” did well. I thought I would take a second to list some of the things that Jessica doesn’t do well.

  • She doesn’t gossip
  • She doesn’t give up on people
  • She doesn’t stay content with comfortable, status-quo Christianity
  • She doesn’t do stuffy religiosity very well
  • She’s not the best at staying serious all of the time
  • She doesn’t warm up to endless talk without action
  • She doesn’t get uptight over petty issues
  • She’s not very good at carrying offenses toward people
  • She’s terrible at watching injustice without wanting to intervene
  • And finally, her judgment isn’t necessarily as sharp as it could be…she had her pick of eligible suitors and somehow she ended up with me

Happy anniversary, Jessie! 🙂

Summer Reading Program–Week Eight

Sweethearts Box
Sweethearts Box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grace Church Summer Reading Program: Lord, Make My Life a Miracle by Ray and Anne Ortlund. Chapters Eight and Nine: “Be a Christian Wife” and “Be a Christian Husband”

“I would like him to have kind eyes, a nice laugh, and a fun sense of humor.”

“I want him to be sensitive, good with children, and a great communicator.”

“I want him to take care of his appearance and health, but I don’t want him to be overly obsessed with it.”

“I want him to be good with money.”

“I want him to be responsible but still have an adventurous side to him.”

“I want him to love nature and the outdoors—and, oh yeah, dogs, he must love dogs.”

“I want him to love God more than he loves me (but I certainly want him to be crazy in love with me).”

“I want him to be romantic, thoughtful, and kind.”

“And I want him to think I’m the prettiest woman in the world.”

Before marriage people often have a pretty extensive list of the quality traits that they’re looking for in their spouse, but after enough time has passed many couples “settle” in their marriage. No one sets out to “settle” in the selection of their mate, and yet as the busyness and daily-ness of life sets in a lot of couples settle for being roommates instead of sweethearts.

This is not God’s intention for our marriages, and in chapters eight and nine of their book Lord, Make My Life a Miracle Pastor Ray and Anne Ortlund deliver a stiff one-two punch to married couples who have gotten a little lethargic about pursuing and fulfilling the vows of their marriage covenant. In chapter eight they address wives, and in chapter nine they address husbands.

These chapters are intense and challenging—but that’s good because our marriages are worth fighting for and paying a price for, and sometimes it’s good to be challenged to re-prioritize our priorities.

If you’re married, please read both chapters in their entirety, and then faithfully pay the price to continue building a marriage worth fighting for.

For more information about our summer reading program go to www.gracechurchlaverne.org.

Will anyone live out your prayers?

My beautiful daughters, Amber and Madelyn, have a lot going for them—and it’s not just their cuteness and sweetness. They might not realize it yet in the middle of their addictions to soccer and the Hunger Games, but they are running through life before a ferocious wave of prayer.

Jessica and I have been praying our guts out for them since before they were born, and their four grandparents have probably been praying even longer than that. In fact, Jessica’s grandparents, Arnold and Jean Steele who passed away several years ago, started praying for Jessica’s future family when she was just a little girl.

It kills me to think that before they knew me personally, that precious couple was praying for me. And after Jessica and I swept each other off of our feet, their prayers through the years only intensified.

The Bible refers to our prayers as incense that ascends before the throne of God (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:4), and it’s pretty humbling for me to think that some of the incense of Arnold and Jean’s prayer had my name on it.

I wonder how well I’m doing at living out those prayers? I wonder if I’m being the husband that they prayed Jessica would have? I wonder if I’m fathering their great-grandchildren the way they prayed that I would? I wonder if the fragrance of my life matches the incense of their intercession?

And while I’m wondering all of this, and thinking about myself, I wonder if my prayers are tracking anyone else down. I hope they are. I hope, like Jessica’s grandparents, that I’m contributing to an incense-laced, prayer wave that will propel people toward their destinies.

Sea storm with rainbows in Pacifica, California
Sea storm with rainbows in Pacifica, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the magic fades

Created by Phil Scoville on June 25, 2005 Down...
Image via Wikipedia

There’s something exciting about the new—new possessions, new experiences, new relationships, and even new churches—and it’s very easy to get swept up in to the euphoria of that newness. It’s wonderful to see someone enjoying a new relationship, a new season of life, or being drawn in to a new church experience where the music stirs them, the messages speak to their soul, and the people warmly embrace them.

Unfortunately, sometimes the magic fades. Relationships lose their spark, shiny new paint jobs fade, and hope-filled expectations lose some of their giddy excitement.

I hate that! I don’t want to be doomed to either losing the magic, or having to make a life change every few years to recapture it. There has to be a way to sustain the magic for the long haul.

I love it when people are new to Grace Church and find themselves drawn in by the music and our wonderful people, but it’s even more inspiring to see them two years later when the magic has faded a bit, and they’re still contributing, engaging, and anchoring their lives firmly to the Word of God.

I think those people are on to something. I think they realize that we control the magic by how we spend our lives. Anyone can respond to an initial attraction, but mature men and women realize that the rewards of cultivating a deep, abiding love far outweigh the emotions of exciting, but untested, love.

Let’s faithfully invest in Jesus, our key relationships, and our callings, and then enjoy the magic for a lifetime.