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Last Days, Lasting Love

Last Days, Lasting Love

Today is my mom and dad’s 47th wedding anniversary.  Today is also one of my dad’s last days.

In 1967-68 he served a tour of duty as a drafted soldier in Vietnam.  While there he was exposed to Agent Orange.  Almost immediately upon returning home he began having migraine headaches.  These episodes lasted on and off for three decades.  In 1996 he had a seizure which led to the discovery of a brain tumor.  In 2003 he suffered a debilitating stroke.  In 2012 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  For the last 21 years he has gone through a regimen of steadily intensifying neurological treatments.  

There is no way to know for sure, but the prevailing thought is that his issues are linked to his exposure to the world’s most notorious herbicide.  Some men die in war.  Others die from war.  Either way it rings ever true, war is Hell.

When a couple is married they make a vow, for better or worse.  As a family we have seen better days.  We have enjoyed blessed days.

My dad taught me how to ride a bike.  He taught me how to play tennis.  We played a hundred games of football in the hallway with a wad of socks substituting for the pigskin.  I will never forget what it felt like for him to be on his knees, no way to get around him, and to run smack into his chest.  He would pick me up and throw me down.  It was awesome.    

My dad taught me how to suffer as an Atlanta sports fan.  When I yell at the TV it is because he convinced me early on that the idiot refs can hear my protest.  Herschel Walker is my favorite player because of him.  I dance whenever there is a beat because of him.  I try to hit the key of Bee Gee because of him.  I shake my leg when I sit still because of him.

Dad’s leave an indention on the souls of little boys that only grows bigger with age.  The older I get that indention becomes imitation.  

My mom has one solution for every ailment.  If you will get up you will get better.  And if you will not get up, she will get you up.  

As aggravating as her nursing skills can be, it is probably her dogged determination that has helped my dad survive so much and live so long.  They should have sent her to Vietnam.

And now we are in the worse days; dad’s last days.  She can’t get him up.  Today she laid down beside him.  

Dad is to the point that his lips barely move and there are no audible sounds, just breaths where the words used to be.  But he opened his eyes.  She took his hand and she said, “Happy anniversary.”  He touched her face and said, “Happy anniversary.”

Life can be good.  Even still the curse of sin in death eventually comes and is ever cruel.  As a pastor I have walked with many in their final days.  And now, as I watch my father fade, the hope of the gospel does not fail.  It is enough.

I am thankful to have parents who exemplify that marriage can last.  The hell of war, the pain of cancer; not even a daily, progressing, debilitating disease can extinguish committed love.  These are the “worse days” and she is a faithful wife.

Whether you are 4, or now nearly 44, you watch that sort of thing.  It leaves an impression.  Today as I considered the crush of losing my dad, I knelt beside my bed and committed even this unto the Lord.  Tonight, it was as if God said through them, “Watch this.”  And so I am.

I am thankful to have had my dad for as long as I have.  I am thankful to have had a dad like him.  It is as if these last days with him have flipped an “on” switch in my mind that contains reel upon reel of marvelous childhood memories.  It is imperative that we as parents fill our children’s hearts with great memories.

I am thankful to have a doggedly determined mother who has raised a doggedly determined son.  If I don’t have much sympathy for your whining and griping, thank Brenda.  Get up.  You’ll feel better.

I am thankful to be a 43 year old boy still watching his parents love one another just a few more days.              

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Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Don't Give Up On Your Marriage

Marriage is hard. Most people start out in romance and end up with wrestling.  There is a reason marriage contains so much tension and the Bible explains it.  In this 90 Second Sermon learn why marriage is hard and why you should not give up on it. 

 

 

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What Your Wife Really Wanted for Valentine's Day

What Your Wife Really Wanted for Valentine's Day

I’ll go ahead and say it.  A male . . . posting about Valentine’s Day . . . on February 15.  Typical.

Like the typical male I do fall short when it comes to Valentine’s Day.  Not only do I get there late, as with this post, but most of the time I fail to see it coming.  On Sunday afternoon my wife and I were walking down the sidewalk and she said something about Valentine’s Day coming up on Tuesday.  My reply, “This Tuesday?”

So late Tuesday afternoon I find myself standing in an all male line being served by an all female staff at our local fruity bouquet store.  I would like to send a consumer complaint to management if I may, that’s not fair!  

The dude coming out of the door as I came in looked beaten down.  His eyes met mine and without saying a word I read his mind, “It’s bad in there . . . like Saving Private Ryan bad.” 

The poor Hispanic man in front of me pointed sheepishly at a giant helium balloon in the store that read, “I love you” and in broken English asked if he could have one attached to his fruity assortment.  The lady behind the counter alerted him that all she had left were balloons in “Ain-glaaaaiiiiis”.  “Isssss ttttthhhhaaaaattttt OOOOO.KKKKKK?”  I think she was also attempting some form of Spanish sign language as she exaggerated every syllable.    

“Si?”  

Hey sis, it’s 5:00 on Valentine’s Day, Desperado will take one in German if that’s all you’ve got.  You’re holding up the line!

So it was my turn.  

“I need . . .”

“Well all we have is a box of 12 chocolate covered strawberries.”

Which was EXACTLY what I wanted!

“Well you’ll have to wait.”  Which in femal-ese translates to, “Go rot in the loser husband line Mr. Last Minute.”

“No problem.”  

Finally she arrived with my box and asked if I needed a card.

“Nope.”

Though verbally holiday assaulted I was unfazed.  She couldn’t believe it.  She had one last shot at me with which she would now take it upon herself to whip me on behalf of my wife.  And so; began the verbal tongue lashing as she punched in the total on the cash register.  “You men always wait until the last minute . . .”

I cut her off as I took my debit card and box of chocolate love.  “Mam, I’m taking my wife on a cruise to Jamaica next week!” 

BAM!

One guy gave me a high five as I headed out the door.  I could hear the distant applause of men all over the strip mall.  I strutted out of the eat your gift store as a Valentine’s Day hero for every man.

So, whereas this post may come too late for this year, allow me to save your skin next year just in case you don’t have a cruise in your back pocket. Here are 5 things your wife and family really wanted from you on Valentine’s Day.

Affirming Words

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  One of the prominent themes in Scripture is the power of words.  It is with His words that God created the world.  In John 1 Jesus is the Word made flesh.  Throughout Proverbs we read that words have the power to heal and to destroy.  My wife tells me often, “Use your words.”

As excited as my wife is about going on our cruise she also let me know during a conversation on Valentine’s Day that she wants me to cherish her with my words.  She doesn’t just want me to tell her I love her.  She wants to to expand the thought, elaborate, string together some sentences and come up with some paragraphs.

While men aren’t completely non-verbal, we do tend to be low-verbal.  We have to be intentional to speak up and express our love with our words.

Undivided Attention

Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

When I came home yesterday my youngest daughter was in the after school position.  By after school position I mean recliner, blanket, and TLC.  Somewhere along the lines The LEARNING Channel has deviated from educating us about oddly shaped deep sea creatures with no eyes to counting pounds and kids.  If you have birthed double digits or you weigh nearly 4 digits, TLC will probably give you a show.  

My default move in a time like this is to immediately grab the bike and head outside (and it was an incredible day) or go downstairs and hit the weights.  But it was Valentine’s Day, so I stayed and counted kids on TV with my daughter.  While it was excruciating in some respects, it wasn’t about the Duggars I assure you, it was about her.  

I stayed off my phone.  I stayed off the computer.  I did my best to remove distraction and focus on my family.  We played a game.  We sat around the table at dinner.  The result was a lot of laughs and some meaningful conversations.  

Next year on Valentine’s Day, give them your undivided attention.

Meaningful Touch

I would recommend a timely article by Rob Moll on Christianity Today’s Pastor website entitled The Spiritual Power of Physical Touch.  Moll draws attention to not only our physical need for touch, but to the power of touch throughout the Bible.  The prodigal son was embraced by his father.  The elders of Ephesus weep over Paul as he departs.  The beloved apostle leans on Jesus’ chest at the last supper.  

Moll speaks to the increasing isolation that is caused by social sterilization in our culture.  Because we link all physical contact with sex we have lost the kindness of a simple touch.  

“Touch is an essential human need. When we shake hands or put an arm across a friend’s shoulder, the body releases neurological chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin that feel good, while also inhibiting chemicals that cause stress. But touch doesn’t just feel good; it is vital to being human. When babies and children are deprived of touch, their brain development is permanently impaired, which can destroy the growth of social abilities and result in lower intelligence.”

“When we do touch, it is often marked by awkwardness. A loved one is hurting so we give a ‘side hug,’ reassuring ourselves perhaps that she ‘needs her space.’”

While it is true that we do need to buy a few things on Valentine’s Day, you can’t put a price on hugs and kisses for the wife and kids.

A Helping Hand

The Bible talks often about the Christ-likeness of serving others.  Hebrews 6:6 calls the Lord “my helper.”  Verse 16 in the same passage tells us that doing good to others pleases God.

My wife often reminds me of the pressure she feels on holidays.  There’s a great deal of that I can’t remove because she’s mom.  No one can do it like she can.  She is the heart of our home and her influence on special days is irreplaceable.

However, an incredible gift for any day, not just Valentine’s Day is to make your wife feel less like a slave and more like a queen.  

My wife doesn’t mind doing it, but she wants to know I love it.  

Acknowledge the effort.  Tell her it is special.  It is no big deal to her to do it if you will make a big deal about it!

Clean up.  Cook something.  Contribute - don’t just sit there! And by the way, don’t think you have climbed Everest just because you did the dishes once.  They may not throw you a parade, but I promise you a little effort in service is much loved!

A Special Memory

In his epistles Paul often talked about his fond remembrances of the people to which he is writing.  There has been no greater special memory given to a human than when Mary is told she is carrying the Son of God.  The Bible says, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Give your family something for their heart to ponder.  One of my staff members said that it is a tradition for her family to get a heart shaped pizza from the same restaurant every Valentine’s Day.  In times past ours was to cook steak and have a family candlelight dinner . . . until we went through an unfortunate string of Valentine’s Day stomach viruses.  Now we cannot stomach steak in mid-February.

So this year we joined the greasy heart shaped pizza crowd and played a game.  I’m not sure it is our new tradition, but it created a great memory.

Memories and family traditions are important.  They provide anchors for the heart.  They are comforting points of stability for the soul.  

It is good to interrupt life, break the cycles of life to create traditions and make memories.  Give your family something to remember.

Those are five great gifts, affirming words, undivided attention, meaningful touch, a helping hand, and a special memory.  And to the fellows, I know we often use the line, “Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday for card sales. . . yada, yada, yada . . . we ought to show our love everyday, not just Valentine’s Day.”  Bingo!  Those five gifts never get old.  Give them daily

Before you go, what’s your favorite family Valentine’s Day tradition?  Leave it in the comments below.  I would LOVE to hear from you!

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