Made herself ready…

Six months of preparation culminates in a single day… invitations have been sent and answered, people are travelling in from far flung places, venues are booked and paid for, flowers and decorations are in place, dresses and suits are hanging in readiness, place-cards, table settings, music, cars, speeches, bonbonnieres, food, wine, and all manner of trimmings are all set and ready to go…

All that is left is for us all to get dressed and show up at the appointed time and I will have the incredible privilege of walking my daughter down the aisle and joining her hand in hand with my new son-in-law.   It is going to be a great day and one the whole family has been waiting for.

Whilst it has not been the only thing going on, this wedding (like all of them) has dominated its far share of time and effort. You want a wedding to be just right, to reflect the nature of the couple being married and to give it a sense of occasion and gravitas. Because of this, lists are written and re-written, checked and double-checked and finally it comes down to the moment where everyone just has to do what they are meant to do.

I have never been to a ‘perfect wedding’, there is always something that doesn’t go slightly to plan, someone forgets something or technology lets you down. But no matter what little things go wrong, the outcome has always been the same, the couple who walked in as ‘two’ leaves as ‘one’.

This wedding reminds me of another wedding we are all invited to attend…

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

Just like a normal wedding, there is some preparation involved; ‘The Bride’ (the people who choose to belong to God) has to make herself ready. It is inconceivable that my Daughter would forget to put on her dress, smudge her makeup and walk into the service in a pair of dirty, ripped jeans and a tee shirt.

I know the effort she has put in and how carefully she has prepared herself to look radiant for her husband. She will be ready…

So the time has come – our wedding is here and we are ready… but the question is, for the wedding which is yet to come which signals the culmination of the age – are you ready?

Unknown Assistance

Last night my wife took on an unwelcomed intruder who had ventured into our house. It was during the middle of the night that she first heard the intruder and then saw him – a large huntsman spider crawling up the wall of our bedroom.   At first she thought about letting the ugly critter remain but she knew that she would not have been comfortable nor able to get back to sleep if she did. So she stepped out of bed, put on all the lights and dealt with the problem…all of this happened with me blissfully ignorant and asleep in the bed.

If she hadn’t told me what she had done I would never have known and it made me think about what other things had happened for my benefit without me being aware.

I thought about the police force and intelligence communities who vigilantly keep our country safe from those who would seek to attack and spread terror; I thought of the researchers who are working behind the scenes to target diseases and make our crops more resilient to pests and rigours of our climate; I thought of the hundreds of people who do hundreds of little things to make our lives a little better and found myself amazingly grateful for them all.

It is so easy to take things for granted and remain unaware and unthankful – we live in a society that has so many benefits that we become callously attached to our comfort and we lament the loss of it loudly at the first sense of discomfort…

Being unaware of what someone has done for you leads to being ignorantly unthankful, this is not a great place to live – the person who has done the deed on your behalf can feel unappreciated and you as the recipient can appear unappreciative and entitled. The best answer to this problem is to regularly take stock of all the benefits which are present in your life.   Psalm 103:2 “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all of His benefits!”

There are so many things that the Lord and others have provided for you – make sure that you are not ‘asleep in the bed’ just enjoying them. Take a moment today to list the good things that God has done and the good things that other people have done for you – approach your life with thankfulness – it is a lot more enjoyable than any other option.

Time to grow up!

I had a moment last weekend where the chaos subsided and I realised just what was happening. I stood next to my son as his eyes lit up and then started to glisten as his new bride walked down the aisle to meet him. It was a beautiful day, in a fantastic location, surrounded by friends and family, who all seemed to be having a wonderful time…and I also had the privilege of conducting the service.

This is the first of our children to be married and so it starts a new era for our family and so many things change – we have not lost a son but gained a bedroom! No really…we have gained another daughter. A new family unit has started and they will (I’m sure) do things differently, reach for different goals, experience different things and that is what makes it fantastic!

Life is all about growth and with growth comes some pain – it is bitter sweet to watch your children launch out on their own, especially when you have been so focussed on their safety, comfort and development – but to not allow them to grow would be terrible, to not see them become all they could be would be such a waste.

I did find myself looking at my son throughout the day and recalling the child he was, his growth, his challenges, the times he was sick and the times that he really needed me and I confess that it made me ‘misty’ more than once – but those feelings were balanced out but the fact that I know he is now a fine young man with a great future and a great partner to share the road with.

I have no doubt that they will do well and I look forward with expectation to what is ahead.

‘Ahead’ is a good place to look, looking ‘behind’ is fun and nostalgic but you can’t achieve anything if you dwell there.

Remember, ‘growth’ is the right option to choose no matter how old we become.

In the great ‘love’ passage in 1 Corinthians, that was read at the wedding, it says at the end

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became adult, I put away childish things… Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Cor13:11–12

Maybe it is time we all ‘grew up’ and get to know Him who already knows us so well.

Everything Changes…

In the next few days an event is going to take place that will change the dynamic of our family from that moment on. As incredible as it seems to me, my son is getting married and a new season is about to begin. I say ‘incredible’ not because I am surprised that he has found someone who is willing to have him, or because I didn’t think he would step up to make a commitment but because I don’t know if I am quite ready to be the father of married children…

I am not suggesting that I am against the wedding – far from it – I can’t wait to celebrate such a great day but it is a change that will be felt in many different ways: A new family is about to be formed; we are gaining a daughter (not losing a son); our house will be quieter (at times); a new generation steps up and we are ‘promoted’ to the next level and so on…

I have always been available to my son and will continue to do so but this step sees him launch into a different place where they will want to do things their way and that might be totally different to how we would have done it… and that’s ok.

The Bible talks about marriage like this…

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:5–6

To achieve this type of outcome takes total commitment – commitment to openness and honesty – commitment to love and devotion – commitment to change and adaptation. Without these, no marriage can survive.

If you are married then perhaps today is a good opportunity to do a quick inventory on how you are travelling and to flag things that need improvement in your own marriage.

Think of the advice you would give a young couple starting out on that journey and maybe just follow it yourself!

The best advice I can give my son is to invite the Lord’s strength to play its part in his relationship with his wife – he is determined to do this and I know that he is well on the road to success.

So married or not, that same advice is available for you…why would you refuse that, which could change everything?

A push too far…

There was no way that I could manage on my own, all I could do was sit there and wait…

It had been one of those days where things just seemed to go wrong in groups of three. My son had borrowed my car for a couple of days, my daughter’s car had a flat battery and my motorcycle wouldn’t start… I finally attempted to roll my bike down my long and steep driveway in the hope that I would be able to jump start and after a promising splutter it just died. This left me with a 250kg bike at the bottom of a large hill with no-where else to go. I push it up the hill as far as I could go and tried to roll start it again – with the same futile outcome… so I was stuck.

In an act of bravado and desperation I tried to push the bike up the hill once more but my best effort only got me a quarter of the way up. By this time I was sweating, my legs were like jelly and it was clear that if I continued, I would end up hurting myself or damaging the bike.

The only thing I could do was wait for someone to come by and give me a hand. After about an hour my two daughters and a fiancé turned up to find me sitting forlornly at the bottom of the drive – between the four of us we were able to get the bike back to the house and we all took the opportunity to sit down to recover. What I couldn’t achieve by myself was doable (although still with effort) by having others help.

It seems that this is a lesson the Lord continues to reinforce to me through the things hat happen in my life – I will admit that I am a bit of a ‘slow-learner’ when it comes to being fiercely independent – but I don’t think that I am along in this.

From the beginning the Lord has said it is ‘not good for a man to be alone’ – we were made for togetherness and community. Isolating or positioning yourself so that you do not let anyone else in, is actually harming you and robbing others of involvement and opportunity.

It is not until things get too much for us that we reach out for assistance.

Perhaps my motorbike is a lesson for more than just me – perhaps you need to let down your guards and admit that there are times when you need assistance as well.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

A Prized Possession…

I was asked this week to give away one of my most prized possessions. I have had it for 26 years and I knew (and had hoped for some time) that this day was coming. I am talking about the fact that a fine young man took the opportunity to ask for my permission to marry my eldest daughter.

My daughter is of course an individual who is free to make up her own mind but I was really glad to be asked. It was a nice ‘old fashioned’ touch that meant a lot to me. It also gave me the opportunity to ask a couple of questions of my own…

I did for a moment think of sending him out on a quest to prove his bold, undying love and commitment. I also thought about the possibility of requesting a herd of goats as a dowry…but instead I settled on a couple of questions which related to how he felt about her and how he intended to strengthen her and stand with her as they make their life together.

I am very excited for them but I could not have been supportive if I wasn’t sure that they were good for each other and that they shared love and commitment for the future. I know that there are lots of great days ahead of them, some full of joy and some full of challenge, but together they will be able to face it.

As I thought about my role as a father it gave me reason to pause and contemplate our Father in heaven. The central message of the complete Bible can be summed up in a single verse from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

The importance of the gift cannot be under estimated neither can its inherent value.

God gave each one of us the right to accept or reject, to learn from or ignore the gift of His Son. As a Father, He relinquishes the authority to you, one in whom He has the greatest hope.

As parents, my wife and I get to sit back and to watch our children make their way in the world, we offer advice, we offer help but the choice is up to each one. Your Father in heaven has set plans ahead of you but it is up to you how you will respond. I hope that you are ‘old fashioned’ enough to care and respond to all He hope for you!

Real Connection

I was doing that thing that none of us look forward to after holidays. I was catching up on paperwork, emails and of course, bills.

As I was going through the somewhat significant accumulation of various invoices it struck me just how much money and time I spend on being ‘connected’: There are the bills for our mobiles; the home phone; home internet; office internet; website fees and software costs just to keep it all running. On top of these invoices there is the time that is spent reading emails, responding to text messages, refreshing websites, updating facebook (which I hardly ever do), taking photos for instagram and of course watching youtube videos. All in the name of being ‘connected’.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of all of the modern gadgets and the capacity they unlock to enable us to share our thoughts and connect with the rest of the world. The potential would seem almost utopian insofar as we all should be able to express our deepest thoughts and be heard by everyone else – but the reality appears to be just the opposite.

This week Lifeline reported their busiest period in their 52 year history and they point to a sense of increased isolation with the effects of social media being sighted a major cause.

People are communicating more but connecting less. This is leading to loneliness and overwhelming sadness.

We do not know our neighbours, we judge our self worth by the number of ‘likes’ we receive and we present a positive image online whilst feeling less than adequate in reality.

The more we look at the latest updates, the more we start to believe that we are alone and no one understands us…this is isolation at its worst and none of us want to live like that.

We need to talk to others, we need to really connect, we need to make time, take opportunities, put down our phones, close the cover of our Ipad – it will feel strange at first but if you make a start I am sure that you will find others who are craving for the real ‘connection’ that you are seeking.

In the second chapter of the Bible it says “It is not good for man to be alone” By design we are at our best when we are in connection with God and in connection with others.

Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by a small screen – look up and connect with someone today!