Monday, November 9, 2015

Feast Or Fast?

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Of late, Cathy and I have been spending one evening a week with our friends, Drew and Lesa. This young couple is making plans for their wedding next month.  They came to me in the summer, asking if I might do their pre-marital counseling.  At the time, they told me they knew the stories about the number of couples who came to me for help preparing to join their lives together and who, instead, called the wedding off after a few weeks with me.  (True story!)  Drew and Lesa obviously knew the risks!

Once we agreed that I would help them, they made me aware that they also knew how Cathy and I had together done pre-marital counseling for our friends, Logan and Kenra.  That was a few years ago.  Drew and Lesa told me that they had hoped we might do the same with them. To clarify, I have done lots of pre-marital counseling over the years, but rarely have we done anything quite like what we did with Logan and Kenra (who will soon celebrate their third anniversary).  Our weekly sessions with them often lasted 3 hours, included dinner, lots of laughter, some tears and (when possible) a table game to decompress.  Now Drew and Lesa were asking us to counsel them with the same format.

We said “Yes” as we considered similarities between the two couples.  Both couples have a strong background in missions and both are searching their hearts about how their future includes serving God wherever He calls.  The stakes are high with couples like this and conversations need to be about far more than communications and conflict-management.  Cathy and I began to meet weekly with Drew and Lesa.

Part of the process of counseling in this way includes Cathy and me recalling our early years of marriage.  What were the choke points?  What did we struggle with?  How did we work through the often-fun-but-sometimes-painful process of molding two unique people into one?  The discipline of remembering and gleaning lessons from those days long past often stimulates memories long forgotten.

One such memory is how differently our parents showed love and support to their children. Cathy grew up in a home in which the big days — especially birthdays and Christmases — were celebrated with abundant gifts. My parents, meanwhile, didn’t give that much at those times.  My parents made up for that, though, but having a keen sense of genuine financial needs we had in our early years.  We were surprised with unexpected and much needed gifts on a variety of occasions.  Because of the way our families viewed the big days, we had to make decisions about the way we would raise our own kids.  Big celebrations or small?  (If you are in the early years of marriage and haven’t talked about this, it’s time!)

It’s not just families, but larger groups — groups like businesses or non-profits or churches — that much decide: how often do we celebrate?  What should that celebration include?  When God’s people Israel were in the wilderness, across the Red Sea from Egypt, God told Moses that they were to have a feast three times a year.  That means that they were to slow down long enough to have a big party, remembering what God was doing among them.  Similarly, there were days set aside for fasting.  Those fasts sometimes included solemn assemblies, meant to bring the people face to face with their own weaknesses.  This would — hopefully — cause them to seek God’s favor and recommit their lives to Him.

I must admit that, having grown up in a family that didn’t make a huge deal of what many consider big days, I don’t party enough!  I know that some of you are laughing right now — I could almost hear you as I typed those words!  I find it easy to keep moving ahead to the next order of business and I forget the need to stop and celebrate God’s goodness.  FORTUNATELY, I have a few “party animals” around me and they help me remember just how important it is to stop and celebrate...

…so that’s what we will do this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.  In fact, we’re going to take a risk and do something we haven’t done for years.  We’re bringing the whole church family together for one, big, outdoor “Celebrate Together” service.  It will take place at 9:00 this Sunday morning, November 15.  Those who normally attend Saturday at 5:00 or Sunday at 11:00…PLEASE find a way to change your schedule this week.  The breakfast burritos alone will be worth it!  But the REAL CELEBRATION will be about what God has been doing, changing lives and helping us reach into the broken places of our community.

The Service will be outside in our courtyard.  The morning will be cool — dress appropriately and wear sunscreen.  Believe me, this is one party you don’t want to miss!

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