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A Father’s Day Story for the Ages

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Chuck Swindoll ministers to each of us with his writings in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, published by Multnomah Press. The following story is taken in its entirety from that volume.

Building Memories

“You guys go on without me. You’ll have a great time—I’m sure of that. Sorry, family, but I have to work.”

The place? Montgomery, Alabama.

The time? Several years ago.

The situation? A dad, who really loved his family and wanted them to enjoy a summer vacation, had to work. The press of business kept him tied to the office. But being committed to their happiness, he assured them of his desire that they take the trip and enjoy the fleeting summer days.

He helped them plan every day of the camping trip. They would load up the family station wagon, drive to California, camp up and down the coast, then travel back home together. Each day was carefully arranged—even the highways they would travel and the places they would stop. Dad knew their whole route, the time they would reach each state—planned almost to the hour—even when they would cross the Great Divide.

It’s what he didn’t tell them that made the difference.

The father took off work (he’d planned it all along) and arranged to have himself flown to an airport near where his family would be on that particular day of the trip. He had also arranged to have someone pick him up and drive him to a place where every car on that route had to pass. With a wide grin, he sat on his sleeping bag and waited for the arrival of that familiar station wagon packed full of kids and camping gear. When he spotted the station wagon, he stood up, stepped out onto the shoulder of the road, and stuck out his thumb.

Can you visualize it?

Look! That guy looks just like … DAD!

The family assumed he was a thousand miles away, sweating over a stack of papers It’s amazing they didn’t drive off into a ditch or collapse from heat failure. Can you imaging the fun they had the rest of the way? And the memories they stored away in the mental scrapbook—could they ever be forgotten?

When later asked why he would go to all that trouble the creative father replied, “Well … someday I’m going to be dead. When that happens, I want my kids and wife to say, ‘You know, Dad was a lot of fun.’”

Living With Eternal Intentionality®

“May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).

Why is that such a story finds it way into our hearts and releases a surge of endorphins in our brain?

What can you do this summer to add an element of creative surprise to your family’s collection of memories?

Afternoon Tea on the Topic of Commitment

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White linens, sparkling crystal, and gleaming china adorned four tables for this Afternoon Tea. Just to walk into the room took one’s breath away. Every detail spoke to the significance of the upcoming bridal shower.

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The hostess and her team thoughtfully orchestrated each component; nothing was overlooked. Even a printed copy of the menu (finger sandwiches, two varieties of scones, and an assortment of dessert delicacies) rested atop each table for the guests’ perusal. And soon, the first of those guests would be walking in the front door.

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Was I ready?

As able hands removed the warm scones from the oven nearby, I prayerfully reviewed my speaker’s notes. Feeling honored with the invitation to address the bride-to-be and her guests, I desperately wanted my comments to offer encouragement.

In the days leading up to this occasion, I reflected on my own upcoming 46th wedding anniversary, and I pondered the significance of one word: commitment. It would be easy to assume the young couple’s upcoming marriage, rich with a legacy of faith, held a guaranteed success. But marriage is not built on assumption; marriage is built on commitment. And to that word—commitment— I spoke.

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Now, I invite you to pour your own cup of steaming black tea, and join me to consider a marriage based on 4 commitments. 

1. A Commitment to God

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.” These Words from Psalm 34:3 offer a stellar mission statement for any couple who wants a Christ-centered relationship. God never intended marriage to be an idol. Thus, sharing the highest common goal of bringing Him glory becomes the greatest fortification to the marriage relationship.

Paradoxes emerge. The closer husband and wife grow individually to God, the closer they grow to each other. When two people look not to themselves, but rather look up to glorify God, a supernatural mystery of oneness thrives.  

2. A Commitment to Communication

Our friend and mentor Bobb Biehl, founder and president of Masterplanning Group International, teaches, “Communication is the lifeblood of an organization.” This wisdom certainly applies to marriage. Talking, connecting, chatting, listening, and asking questions all serve to blend two otherwise isolated lives. 

For Larry and me, communication stands as one of our highest values, and we guard the priority with viciousness. Date nights, sacrosanct Saturdays, and morning coffees serve as placeholders to keep us talking, and to protect us from drifting apart.

3. A Commitment to Forgiveness

Bill Bright taught us the four greatest statements in marriage:

I am sorry.

I was wrong.

I love you.

Will you forgive me?

Dr. Bright’s wisdom still ministers to Larry and me, even now, at the 46th mark of our own relationship.

Ruth Graham instructed, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Equally as poignant, we learned from our pastor, Ronnie Stevens, “Forgiveness never goes to a deserving person.”

So, in our marriages, we are admonished to keep short accounts, and to strive never to go to sleep with unresolved conflict.

4. A Commitment to Oneness

 Living parallel lives emerges as one of the greatest deterrents to relational oneness. As a vogue model in today’s culture, this chic arrangement offers freedom and autonomy, but robs us of intimacy.

 Oneness does not mean sameness, absolutely not. But it does mean that our we is always greater than our singular you or me.

Simply living under the same roof, sharing the same address, and occupying  the same bed will not insulate us from living on tracks of parallel lives. Again, communication — along with bulldog tenacity in the power of the Holy Spirit — guards against drifting into aloneness, and serves to guide our lives into a God-inspired oneness.

Building oneness — emotional, mental, physical, psychological intimacy — requires intentionality, consistency, and effort. Ah, but the joy of shared life with one’s beloved brings a rich wholeness only God can create.

Indeed, for the bride-to-be and her groom, commitment—not assumption—brings the Blessed Assurance needed to walk down the aisle with a future and a hope. After all, The One most committed to us (and most committed to them) never leaves us to assumption. Praise God, He guarantees His commitment. (I will never leave you nor forsake you, Hebrews 13:5.)

Living With Eternal Intentionality®

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built (Luke 6: 46-47).

Which of the 4 Commitments opens new thinking for you?

What is the greatest communication challenge you and your spouse encounter?

How do these three quotes on forgiveness seem relevant in your marriage?

Share your thoughts on overcoming parallel lives.

What additional commitment would you offer to a newly wed couple in today’s world?

Photos by Sandee Milhouse

www.sandeemilhouse.smugmug.com

A Golden Opportunity on a Golden Anniversary

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Excitement filled the air as we climbed the stairs to the restaurant’s upper level. This spring evening marked the 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration for our dear friends. Larry and I had known this couple for 42 of those years, and we were asked to conduct an interview with the honorees for the invited guests. We wondered, “What constituted ‘together’ for their 18, 250 days?”

In this season when weddings stack up on our calendars, it feels magical to turn the spotlight on a triumphant marriage of fifty years, five decades of living life side by side, hand in hand.

Below are the questions we thoughtfully—prayerfully—crafted for the husband and wife. A second list exists, but, due to time, these were eliminated beforehand. Still, they may be useful to you should you have the occasion to interact with such a couple.

50th Golden Wedding Anniversary Questions

1. How did you meet?

2. When did you first know you were in love?

3. Describe the proposal.

4. What details do you remember from your wedding day?

5. Who has been the most influential (human) person in contributing to the longevity of your marriage?

6. What was the most surprising discovery about your spouse—after you were already married—a characteristic that you did not care for?

7. How has being in ministry played a factor in your marriage?

8. Which decade was your hardest and why?

9. Which decade was your most meaningful and why?

10. Speak to your challenges: What has been the greatest challenge you faced in your marriage?

11. What has been your greatest blessing?

12. What shared habits have contributed to the richness of your marriage?

13. What is the bottom line, best advice, you have to offer newly weds today?

Supplementary Questions

Where did you go on your honeymoon? Have you since revisited the location?

How many moves have you made, and how have these affected your marriage?

Did you ever feel, “Oh no! I am not sure our marriage is going to make it.” If so, when?

What communication habits have helped and which have harmed?

Which location was your favorite to call home? Why?

What have you been afraid of in your marriage?

What subjects cause the most disagreements? Do you have topics you refuse to discuss because you will never agree?

What would you like to go back and do over?

How have you resolved conflict in your marriage?

What prayer and devotional habits do you have as a couple?

Living With Eternal Intentionality®

“Teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NASB).

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB).

1. What question would you like to ask a couple married for 50 years?

2. Do you know a couple married for 50 years? If so, what have you learned from their marriage?

3. If you have been married for 50 years, congratulations! Please select a question from above and offer us your advice. We are all listening.