I don't love Valentine's Day. Sorry. We don't go out to eat on February 14th. We don't do roses, chocolate, or gifts.
I bought my wife flowers last week. A spring bouquet with tulips, daffodils, and a sunflower. Why? Because she likes spring and sunflowers.
And because I said something stupid.
Love is the long, perilous work of giving your life to someone else. It's more than flowers on one day. It's the act of selflessness every day. It is not proven in the diamonds and gifts. It's proven in the times we utter regrettable words. The times we mess up, struggle to be happy, and want to scream.
I've learned something from mentors married for decades:
It's easy to buy chocolate and flowers. Try loving someone for 60 years.
The following is what I believe about love. It's an excerpt from my book, Loved & Sent. Happy Valentine's Day :)
A stillbirth. A miscarriage. There is a peculiar pain when you lose a child that you held, but never met.
What do you say? How do you go on?
If you know someone struggling after losing a child, first give them a hug. Sit, be, and cry with them. And after a "ministry of presence," here are some things to say at stillbirth or miscarriage.
Longevity and fidelity are harder and harder to come by these days. We glorify the fast-paced instant gratification of an always changing world.
Let's reclaim the patient, long-term, gut-it-out, in-for-the-long-haul persistence that most of life requires.
Anyone can do something for a day.
Try doing something day after day for 60 years.
Last Sunday, I was honored to participate in the renewal of vows for my dear friend and colleague, Ed Dubberke, and his wife Joan. They walked to the front of the chapel, arm in arm, just as they had 60 years ago. They repeated their vows to one another . . . "in sickness and in health . . . until death parts us." And they asked all in attendance to join them in praising God.
With the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, many Christians have responded in fearful panic. We are entering an era very different from the last century. Among American Christians, there is fear of changing societal norms and the continued marginalization of Christianity in what was once believed to be a “Christian nation.”
By contrast with the “Christian panic,” I am really excited about being a Christian in this new era. Why? We are returning to our pilgrim roots.
A pilgrim is one who journeys a long distance; a traveler and wanderer in a foreign place. God’s people have a pilgrim history, living as strangers in a foreign land, exiles in a country not their own (Gen. 12:1). Augustine wrote, “The Heavenly City, while on its earthly pilgrimage, calls forth its citizens from every nation and assembles a multilingual band of pilgrims.”
While pilgrims make a home in lands that God has given, they are never quite comfortable in any one place. If we put too much faith in an earthly dwelling, we find ourselves disappointed. So we tread on, our feet walking the earth below, our eyes set on a land beyond. Because we know of a heavenly City, we live lives on earth that are distinctly hopeful.
The church in this modern era must reclaim the pilgrim way, discovering what it means to be a church “at the margins” and not at the center. What is the pilgrim way?
Here are five pilgrim traits:
I have two frustrations with the word "love." First of all, the word “love” is so overused in our culture that it’s empty of meaning. It has become a complete cliche. For instance, "love" can mean:
“I, __________, in the presence of God and these witnesses, take you, __________, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death parts us, and I pledge you my faithfulness.”
Love requires law. This statement sounds backwards in our modern society. It sounds odd because we typically associate love with free and spontaneous passion. When you bring “laws” to love, then it would seem restrictive and stifling. Law, rules, and duty seem to be the antithesis of love’s passion.
The biblical nature of covenant gives us a picture of how “law” actually makes for deeper, more intimate love. In the Bible, God makes a binding promise to his people (Gen. 17:1-14; Psalm 105:8-11). In spite of their unfaithfulness and failings, he binds himself in a legal and contractual format called a covenant. Most contracts are quid pro quo, this for that. But God’s covenant with his people is different. While there are obligations for his people, God’s love for them is not predicated on their obedience. His love is the foundation. His covenant is proof of that love, and a call for them to respond in obedience.
Marriage gives permanence to love by linking love with law. In marriage, you aren’t just saying, “I love you.” You’ve probably done that already. In marriage, you are cementing that love, binding yourselves together by vows. The "law" of the vows is done first and foremost before God. Second, the vows are binding before those gathered to witness your public declaration. Third, they exist as legally binding before the state.
Tim Keller writes, “Real love desires permanence . . . So the ‘law’ of vows and promises fits our deepest passions at the present. But it is also something the love of our heart needs in order to have security about the future.” The law ensures safety and security. The binding law of wedding vows offer love a safe and secure place. Bound by this law, I can show my wife my deepest vulnerabilities, insecurities, and scars. And after she has seen the worst of me, I know she won’t leave. Her love has proven itself in vows.
The binding “law” of vows makes marriage far more significant than “dating” or “living together.” The “law” of marriage makes love tangible and concrete. Marriage is a binding promise that shows love at a deeper level. Together, love and law make something far more durable, binding, and unconditional.
For all my single ladies. Tell me what you think of these 8 principles for dating. Being a male, I'm unqualified to speak to some of the things this female author says.
As a pastor, I am observing an undeniable trend: Strong, faithful, God-fearing young women dating immature boys. I'm concerned for our young women who are looking for a husband. Our society is overrun with irresponsible, porn-addicted, under-achieving adolescents who happen to be 28-years-old. On top of that, I regularly interact with a disproportionate number of young men who have no room for Jesus in their life.
So young women, I'm praying for some godly young men. And I'm working really hard to raise some up in our church. We've got some already . . . just in case you're looking.
Posted on our church's website two weeks ago by my beautiful bride, Bobbi Jo Cloeter.
I’ve spent a third of my life as a wife. Remember that I am young, so it’s not as long as you think. I met my husband 12 ½ years ago when we were both camp counselors. I knew the moment I saw him, I was going to marry him. Needless to say, he didn’t stand a chance.Back then he was a quiet, serious, thoughtful college student.I was pretty much the opposite. We instantly clashed. In fact, I’m pretty sure the staff was taking bets as to how long before there was a brawl between the two of us. As it turns out, we didn’t hate each other, but were actually attracted to each other. We would spend hours talking and sharing stories and dreams and silly jokes and confessing our deepest, darkest secrets.
At the time, I didn’t know how important those hours were. We still think back to those days with a wistfulness for more times like that and probably a bit of disbelief that we could survive on two hours of sleep a night. In all my years of wifery, I have learned a few things that I think are keys to a strong, loving, God-centered marriage; a top ten of sorts.
10. Say “I love you” everyday. Text it, write it, pantomime…get that message out there!
9. Sleep on it… I actually think going to bed angry is OK. Then you don’t argue while crabby. Start fresh in the AM.
8. Do stuff together. Take walks together. Cook together.Never stop dating. Even grocery shopping is more fun with your spouse…usually. Sitting by each other while both on your smart phone doesn’t count.
7. Dream together. What do you want to do as a couple? Where would you like to travel? Where do you see your family in the future? Plan your dreams together.
6. Support each other. I know this may come as a shock, but sometimes Jeff and I don’t see eye to eye on everything. Still, I try to show a united front. Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader.
5. Have fun together. It’s ok to be goofy with your spouse. Let your silly side come out and laugh with each other.
4. Trust each other. Share your secrets, your thoughts, your fears. Learn to rely on each other for the important stuff and the “unimportant” stuff.
3. Forgive each other. Though some of us are close :), none of us are perfect. It isn’t fair to expect perfection from another person.
2. Pray together. Share a prayer journal, say it out loud, hold hands during worship. All of these connect you to each other and to God.
1. Be humble. Aim to put your spouse above yourself.Jesus humbled himself for us. This isn’t a suggestion to neglect yourself, but to consider the wants and needs of your spouse.
This list is not comprehensive. It’s also not a check list of rules to be followed. It is merely a few suggestions on how to approach marriage and make it work. There are people who’ve been married for decades longer than us, and we often set them and their marriages up as models for our relationship. My parents still date each other. Jeff’s parents spend a week in the Boundary Waters camping together. John and Sharon are each other’s biggest supporters. Bob and Lynn share a passion for ministry together. All these couples have been married for decades and are still committed to each other and to God. God created man and woman for each other and the list above is our approach to ensuring our marriage lasts.