A Love Letter to My Wife


It seems that maybe more than most of the thirty-nine before it, I’m thinking about my upcoming fortieth wedding anniversary. This might be spurred by the heightened assault on marriage in our society. Or by a number of weddings seen lately-especially by work colleagues, and children of friends. It could also be because of the work that I am currently doing, especially on two manuscripts, one by Richard Warneck and the other by Jonathan Fisk. If I may then, let me share with you what is basically a love letter to my bride.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” Genesis 2:18a. And so, God created for Adam his Eve. His wife was a gift from God, a wondrous merciful act from a loving Father so that man would not be alone. So, put together by God, Adam and Eve learned what love was.

[Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Matthew 19:4–5

Almost forty years ago, God put my Eve in my life. When I met Judy, I certainly knew what attraction was. Those feelings ran hot. But I didn’t know what love was, not really. But, Judy was to be God’s gift to me. He used even my lust for her to bind me to her, to see that I could build a life with this woman. I can’t imagine where, in stupidity, evil, and vice, the old Adam in me could have taken the nineteen-year-old me had I ventured out alone. When the world of the 1970s around me was lauding being unattached and “free,” God called me—certainly by His Word, but also through this woman—to not listen to the world. We know that we are never really free. Either we are sons of God or sons of perdition. We are either bound by grace to life everlasting with God or we are bound in sin to life everlasting with the devil and those who chose to reject God’s grace. In a world that is discarding marriage, I thank God that he gave Judy to me to have and to hold all my days—from November 3, 1977 until death parts us.

For my parents, especially for my Mom, it was the wrong priority. Certainly, I was committing myself to path that wouldn’t take me to college, would condemn me to end up living less than middle class. Mom had not finished college, so her ambition for her oldest son is that he would. Nineteen was too young to saddle oneself with a wife, with a family. I was closing doors that I hadn’t even explored. But the Lord knew the plans he had for me. For surely it was that I would go to college and to seminary and succeed because, I truly believe, because I had at my side, my dear wife.

I have come to know what love is, thanks be to God. My love for Judy is eros. It has been and continues to stoke my passions, it is romantic. My love for her is the heart-piercing arrow of Cupid run deep. My love for Judy is philia, a goodness that is borne of mutual benefit, companionship, dependability, and trust which we have for each other. This is the love that still draws our hands together as we walk together, even if the short distance of a parking lot. This is the love that is comfortable in shared silences, and that draws us together, if even to each read a book or iPad together in the same room. It is the shared laugh, a common regard for this or that, a gentle ‘poke’, and a considered nudge to get it done. It is this love, I believe, which gives us a ‘oneness’ that transcends romance. It is in this love that we are like two pieces of a puzzle that once put together, cannot be separated.

But above these, and binding them together, is agape love. Agape love is certainly nothing that I, on my own possess, and yet it sustains, shields, and maintains our marriage from the assaults of the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ has modeled for us this love: love that sacrifices all, even life, for the benefit of another. A love that sacrifices all so that He can hold up His Bride blameless. And while I can give such love only imperfectly, it is this love that I have for Judy, and she for me. I dare say we didn’t have this love deeply in the beginning, but I rejoice wading in its depths now. It is the love that has given me the courage to strive and endeavor and work hard to accomplish. It is the love that forgives when we wrong each other. It is because of Judy’s love that I was ‘free’ to go to school for ten years to prepare for a call into ministry in the Church. It was only because I knew I was so loved, that I alone was her man, and she my girl, that I could confidently be a parish pastor—walking out the door in the morning, not returning home until after the evening meeting, knowing that she would be there, and that the household and children were in her care. It is our agape love for each other which spans opposing sides, keeps us together during disagreement, and gives us strength during sickness, injury, recovery, and growing older.

It is because of our love for each other that we have problems saying “no” to each other, but know that, knowing our willingness to sacrifice for each other, we also come together to make decisions for our mutual care and good. It is our love, first for each other, and then for our children, that has allowed us to be there when each has come back to live with us as they transitioned from one place or circumstance to another—each time knowing we would be impacting our life, taking time away from each other and resources, sacrificing our comfort now, and, with some likelihood, an impact in the future as a result. She is the one person I would do anything for, and the one whom I always consider before doing anything else. I treasure that Judy and I have eros and philia love for each other, but it is our agape love which sustains me. It is in our love in which I live and move and define my being in this life.

The world around us continues to devalue the joining of one man and one woman in marriage because it is considered weakness to give up yourself for another. What they are missing! They are missing that marriage is a gift from God. “It is not good that man be alone.” What joy that God has bound me to Judy and more than not being alone, I am loved! XOXO

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Unexpected


A neighborhood cat adopted our yard last week. We have a small garden fountain and he joined the squirrels and birds who drink from it on a regular basis throughout the season. He didn’t look too healthy, he was skinny and . . . reliant. I had my thoughts, which I did not share with the grandchildren, that he had picked our yard for his hospice—a comfortable place to be during his last days. He’s an orange tabby. Green eyes. Terribly thin.

It almost hurt to look at him.

After sitting by the fountain for most of the afternoon, I suffered my spouse’s scorn, and put out a small plate of cat kibble. To the children’s surprise he wasn’t much interested. They brought the dish back in and I added some milk to the dry kibble and popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. Warm milk and softened food, and our little visitor was eating. Some, but not all. And then he didn’t leave.

He’s not the only stray cat in our neighborhood. So over the next few days we have had opportunity to talk with the children about pet ownership and the responsibility we take on when we take a companion pet into the family. We talked about how it is really unfair to a cat or dog or whatever—an animal that has been meant and trained to be our companion—to take away our care and turn it out to live on it’s own, or care so little about it, that the pet has to try and live in a way it was never intended. These abandoned pets, these former companions, often don’t have the skills they need to find food, stay warm, or be safe. They may ‘survive’ for a while, but they seldom thrive.

Our visitor didn’t ever get too far from the fountain. Only one evening over the past few days did the kids not find him somewhere in the garden. Most days he took over the black Welcome mat at the back door, sunning himself most of the morning. We had fewer squirrels and birds in the yard last week. They evidently found a different place to get a drink instead of take a chance on the cat. I don’t think he had the interest the give chase, but they didn’t need to know that.

I threw an old towel down under the bush that became his favorite napping spot. He took a lot of naps, the kids tell me.

This morning the kids had been up, and after feeding our indoor cats, a bowel of milk and kibble was prepared for the visitor. When I came down after my shower, there they stood; the granddaughter even had her toddler-brother in her arms—I think more for the comfort than anything else. “Grandpa, Sandy didn’t move this morning.”

Yeah, we named him.

I knew this day was coming. I went outside and donned my leather garden gloves. There were three small faces at the back window. Their Mom and Grandma were there too. Living in the City we’re pretty ruthless when it comes to disposal of dead squirrels and birds in the yard (a couple of dumb birds tend to drown in the fountain each season). But the cat, Sandy, I knew would be different for them.

I pulled a few branches aside, “See,” I hear over my shoulder. “I tried to see if he was breathing (hands going up and down to make his point), but he’s not.” I hadn’t heard the grandson come out but I shooed him back in the house. Our visitor clearly died in his sleep. I am sure not too many strays get to do that, under a favored bush, in the yard of a family who showed him some kindness. I gently removed the stiff form from our garden and put him in the bin for the City to take care of.

After I returned from the grim task of such an undignified disposal, I put away the gloves and went into the house. The granddaughter needed a hug; tears glistened in her eyes. As I held her tight for a moment, we consoled each other that while death comes to all our pets eventually, we thank God that he provides us with such wonderful companions. And tonight in our devotions we’ll say a prayer of thanks to God for Mona our Great Pyrenees, for Klondike and Merci the cats in our home, and for Bailey and Denali, Pepper and Raven, and the other several pets who have occupied our home and our hearts over the years.

There are all kinds of lessons we teach our children along the way. Some of most important lessons are unplanned. This one walked in on four paws and gave us opportunity to show kindness and care. And taught us a lesson on how to say good-bye.

The End of the World as We Know It — or maybe not?


In Brief

The apocalypse scheduled for December 21, 2012 has been postponed.

Mayan Long-count Calendar

There is a great section in Lutheranism 101 called “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” in which the speculations about how the world will end is contrasted against Scripture’s account of what will occur when Christ returns on the Last Day. One of the interesting features peppered throughout the book appears beginning on page 55: Great Predictions of the End of the World As We Know It. One of the earliest predictions noted is that from AD 992 when the convergence of Good Friday and the Feast of the Annunciation that year was believed to be the harbinger of the end times; and the last is that of scheduled for December 21, 2012 according to the Mayan calendar.

Today, Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience.com reports that 2012 apocalypse scheduled for December 21, 2012 has been postponed. It would seem that the dates the Mayan “Long Count” calendar may have been incorrectly converted and could be off by as much as 50 to 100 years.

The author in Lutheranism 101 writes:

The Book of Hebrews says that now we are in the last days (Hebrews 1:2). The last days began when the God sent His Son to be born as the God-man Jesus. And the Son made it clear to us that no one, absolutely no one (not even the angels!), knows the date of the very last day. The day, the hour, that last minute—only the Father knows when that will be (Matthew 24:36). Be suspicious of anyone who tries to pinpoint an exact date for Jesus’ return. It has always been a waste of time trying to “decode” alleged messages hidden in Scripture that supposedly reveal the date of Christ’s return.

You can read the report from LiveScience.com here, among other places.

Impudently Green


There it was so impudently green among the dreary remains of winter. Just four blades, but upright and broad they made their entrance into the ersatz summer day of late February. What combination of gene and season and canine fertilizer came together to bring this grassy presence to leaf is unknown and likely unknowable. Yet the unknowable had become a compelling presence and captured my attention as I sat with my morning cup on the back steps.

Morning Joe

With disheveled head and slippered feet I had settled in to sip and contemplate the array of needs and tasks that would entail enticing my small estate from its winter slumber. And while these important matters waited my reflection, I could not widen my gaze from this proud grass. The wood that failed under the assault of winter and needs to be restacked mattered not to this green upstart. The cache of fall leaves needing a rake and the bushes that needed a prune fazed it not one little bit. As the blades shivered in the breeze on this irrepressible morning they did not regard the akimbo brick border or the sun-silvered deck as work of any consequence. The inevitable amendment of soil and planting of flowers and vegetables were without thought or regard by this mistimed plant.

Pulling on my coffee I thought of the lives that had passed on such a patch of grass as this. The backyard picnics and the gathering of friends around a carry-in meal; the boys horsing around at tag football over there and the adults throwing horseshoes in the back; the pie and salads laid out down the center of flannel-backed-cloth covered tables and everything from wieners and hamburgers to ribs and steaks blackening to a delicious finish on the grill.

I recalled a toddler, just, who could be tended and restrained by grass. With the surface of the lawn too yielding to this little one’s tentative steps to venture to walk upon it and its texture too unnerving to bare hands and legs to crawl over it, his mother could set him upon a blanket in the midst of the lawn, tend her flower beds, and nary have a thought that he wouldn’t be there when she again looked.

I ached as I remembered how forgetting to spread the requisite chemicals one spring resulted in a carpet of summer dandelions. And a little girl with her sun-lightened hair carefully sitting in their midst picking mommy and daddy bouquet after bouquet of sunshine and smiles. I never have looked at a dandelion again without marveling at the magic of a little dandelion pollen under a little girl’s chin – “butter”!

The boy is off at college and the girl is raising memories of her own, and so this lawn belongs more to a dog’s game of catch than to child’s summer tent. As I observed the robin entering the yard in search of a meal I resolved to bring my reverie to a close. With the last swallow of cooling coffee I hoisted myself off the step to begin the day. For if the grass is beginning to green there are things that need to be done. After all, there is no little girl to pick golden heads this year.