Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Fifteen years ago, on October 3, 1996, my husband and I exchanged vows. We
did not do this in front of a church full of people. No, instead we stood before each other and God in a gazebo, in a park, in South Hamilton, Massachusetts and eloped. We looked into each others eyes and spoke the words that brides and grooms have said for hundreds of years.

I, Karen, take you, John, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others  be faithful only to you as long as we both shall live.

When I said these vows it was easy to pledge my life to my husband with no knowledge of what the future would bring. Our lives were a blank slate. We were beginning and we had no idea what God would walk us through.

It is in living that the sincerity of the vows are tested. Vows are unique because they are not conditional. It is a pledge you make to someone else. It is not based on the choices they make.  

In our society we take the exchange of these vows so lightly. We spend thousands of dollars and months of planning for the day we speak these vows but we give no thought or planning to all the days that follow. We live in a society where marriages last 70 days or 70 hours. Where they are easily cast aside when someone else that seems to make us happier come along.

When John and I were preparing to marry we meet with a professor who gave us some excellent advise. He said there will be days that you will wonder why you married this person. There will be days when you don’t feel “in love” with your spouse. But you have made a commitment to this person and that commitment has to be enough to keep you married until the feeling return.

Commitments can be hard to maintain when life gets hard. The unexpected illness changes the outlook of your future. The child who rebels. The mounting debt that overwhelms your finances. The spouse who chooses to engage in an affair. The everyday worries that erode a once close and loving relationship. But the commitment can encourage you to remain steadfast even in the face of adversity. The commitment can be a reunion point. A reminder of what you once pledged.

We need these reminders in our lives. If you are married, no matter what the state of that union is, take a minute to reflect on the vows you made. Are there vows that need refreshed? New commitments that need to be made?

What I appreciate most about the vows I exchanged with my husband is the grace and forgiveness found in them. Grace that says when you mess up  I will still be here. Grace that allows room for personal growth. Forgiveness for the little hurts that happen when 2 people spend a lifetime together.

Vows are a chance to show each other unconditional love. A chance to see someone’s bumps, bruises, scars, and ugly parts and to still say I choose you, forever.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When God asks the impossible.

The Bible is full of examples of God asking people to do what would not come naturally to them. When you read through the lives of Noah and Abraham, or the  command given  to Jonah you realize that God often expects what men would call the impossible. But I think the most impossible thing that God asks is what he asks of the prophet Hosea.

Hosea, a man of God, a prophet, is told to marry a promiscuous woman. A woman who will not be faithful to him. When we marry we do so with the promise that we will forsake all others and cling only to the one we are pledging to. Some marriages enter into the difficult land of infidelity and affairs. Others sail past this into struggles with infertility, money and family interference.  All marriages have times of trouble. But once again God tells us what he expects even in times of trouble. He expects the impossible. He expects us to love. He expects us to treat each other honorably. He expects us to lay down our own plans, dreams and expectations and allow him to work in the life of those around us.

Hosea does what God asks. He even goes after his wife and brings her out of an adulterous relationship back into his home and back into his life. He tells her in Hosea 3 that she is to be faithful to him and he will remain faithful to her. God was using this as a picture of his relationship with his people. What is amazing is that God’s faithfulness is not dependant on ours. He is always faithful even when we stray.

Marriage is designed the same way. Vows are not conditional. We do not say if you stay well, wealthy and faithful then I will love you and stay faithful to you. No our vows tell our spouse, no matter what you choose to do, no matter what God takes us through, I will remain faithful. I will love you until death.

The impossible task that God asks of us is not to base our treatment of others on how they treat us. The world says, If you don’t make me happy, fulfill all my needs, then I have the right to find someone who does. The world says if your spouse has an affair then you get to have one too. If your wife is bad with money, well then you can recklessly spend too. If your husband ignores you and treats you badly then you can retaliate. The world says you have the right to divorce anytime you want. Working things out, laying aside your own desires that’s too hard.

God asks  us to do the impossible every day. He asks us to follow his example and stay faithful and to treat each other with love even when we are not treated this way. It is by acting different than the world that the world will know whom we serve.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Servicable Piece

During my first two years of college I attended the community college near my house. While I took a full load of general education classes I decided that each semester I would also take a fun class. One semester I took beginning piano. One semester I took racquet ball. Another I took tennis. My last semester there I took a pottery class.

During my semester made several projects. None could be called works of art but I did complete my assignments and pass the class. After a  semester  of learning to work with clay and the wheel we were given our final assignment. We were required to make a pitcher. After watching our professor demonstrate the proper way to make the pitcher we were turned loose with our clay.

Creating pottery on a wheel requires stead firm hands. Applying to much pressure on either side and your pot begins to wobble. Too much strength and you will crush the forming pot. Several of my tries had to be reformed. Finally I had a pitcher.

The next step was to place the pitcher on a shelf and allow it to air dry. This begins the process to make the pitcher from a useless lump of clay into something serviceable. But even at this stage changes can be made. When I returned to class I noticed a crack had formed near the spout. I was able to  repair the crack using some wet clay. A more skilled potter would have been able to do this without it being noticeable. I was not that skilled. After the pitcher had air dried It was ready for the kiln.

The kiln has to reach 1800 degrees minimum to properly fire the clay into a serviceable piece  of pottery. The heat of the kiln not only tempers the clay it also can bring out the impurities of the clay. Too much air in the clay and the pot can explode sending shards into the pots sharing the kiln. This explosion can destroy the work that others have done.

The final two steps are to take something serviceable and make it beautiful. Applying a coat of glaze brings color. A final firing in a lower temperature kiln makes the color shine. A pitcher that can now serve a refreshing beverage from a lump of clay.

This class reminded me of the way that God works with us. He starts with an unformed lump of clay. He forms us using firm and steady hands. He, at times, has to crush the clay and reform it until it takes the shape he has in mind. Then he allows us to strengthen through everyday life. Sometimes the cracks form. The Master Potter fills these in, creating something whole without blemishes. Finally, when we have strength he allows us to enter the kiln. The trials and test in life that will either strengthen us into something serviceable or will cause our imperfections to crack us. For those who survive the fires of life, they are adorned with beauty of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Taken from a useless lump of clay to a beautiful work of art. A serviceable piece to be used by the master.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

God works for our good.

I don’t know a ton of people. I have a little over 100 friends on Facebook and 19 contacts in my phone. I can run errands without ever running into someone I know.

Recently, I was thinking about those that I do know and what they are going through. There is one person recovering from breast cancer, one from an iliac aneurism and subsequent strokes. One has relocated, another is putting their marriage back together after an affair. Another is raising her 2 sons alone. Another recently lost their spouse.

In all of these cases the question can be asked what good can possible come from this? We are told in Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. But is what we believe to be good the same as what God considers good?

We often think of good as a lot of money, success, health, popularity. A life without struggle, or pain. A life where joy outweighs the sorrow. But God says that this is not what good constitutes. Good in God’s economy is the development of character, the further reliance on God and the surrender of self.

In light of that what  good comes from our trials? Our characters are strengthened. We gain compassion and understanding of others. We learn that sometimes our physical discomfort brings spiritual comfort that only God can provide.  In our weaknesses we learn what real strength looks like. We become more sympathetic to those going through similar circumstances. We can act as guides to those who are beginning the journey we have just traveled.

We may, like some of the people I know, be going through a very difficult trial. We may just be dealing with ordinary life stresses. But we can be sure that in midst of our situation  God is working everything out for our good.