What Did I Get For Father’s Day This Year?

Today’s guest post comes from my good friend, Paul Gittemeier. I’ve known Paul for over 10 years, and he and his wife Kelly lead in the marriage ministry at Watermark Community Church. We’ve served together in our premarried and newly married ministries. Paul and Kelly said, “I do” 37 years ago, and have four kids along with a bunch of grandkids – you’ll get to hear more about them in a moment. Paul is a mentor to me, and is the type of man I hope to be like when I grow up. 
A few weeks ago (Father’s Day week), Paul posted the following to his Instagram account. With his permission, I’ve copied it and shared it on my blog for you to read today. It brought tears to my eyes and encouraged me. I hope it does the same for you.
It’s Father’s Day Week. Well, that’s how I look at it – everyone else seems okay with just the day! This is my 35th one, and it struck me that sometime in the last few years, something changed. I’m still a father, and better still – a grandfather. But a door in my life has quietly closed – it’s not bad or sad – rather it’s ordained by my Heavenly Father whose very hand gently closed it.
It’s the door through which I walked to spend countless hours and days being physically present with my kids. It’s the door through which we departed for trips to far away continents, oversaw the building of extravagant forts in our backyard, watched five-year-olds walk out of to their first day of school, to sports practices and dance recitals, to college, to a wedding. It’s the door through which I first saw the reflection of a beautiful man or woman who would take my place as the most important person to them.
My “kids” are now adults, with wonderful spouses and growing families. I remind them frequently of Proverbs 17:6 – “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” Their ambitions have grown, and their horizons have expanded, but the luster of the time I’ve invested in their lives hasn’t faded. Even the most distant memories are still fresh and seem only a few weeks old.
It’s bittersweet in some ways – but satisfying – because I don’t have any big regrets about my role in their lives up to this very day. To be sure, I’m a dim reflection of God’s perfection – but I’ve been present, I’ve been intentional, and I’ve loved them as best I know. Not perfectly, but well enough that, when patched with necessary refinements and timely apologies, it’s worked. [Note to self: I should ask my kids how they feel about the second half of that Proverbs 17:6 verse, “the glory of children is their father.”]
I love Psalm 84:11: “The Lord God is a sun and shield, He bestows favor and honor, and no good thing does He withhold from those who love Him.” Fatherhood and husband-hood have proven to be those “good things” for me. They’ve made me a changed man – better and happier. 

Better because:

Happier because:

You can cherry-pick the previous paragraphs for the Father’s Day gifts I’ve received; none were advertised or for sale. Instead, they were earned or learned over 35 years. Here are a few others I must mention:
Another favorite scripture is Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a heritage from the Lord. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth, blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Kids are arrows we shoot into the future and from where I stand – I am that blessed man with the full quiver. And a blessed husband. And the blessed son of a loving, generous, and Almighty Heavenly Father.
Yep, it’s been a good Father’s Day week. Thank you, Lord. I owe all to You.

School’s Out For Summer, and So’s This Blog (Kind of)

In high school and college, I did everything I could to avoid all classes related to English, grammar, reading, literature, and writing. I preferred the classes with numbers, equations, and charts – the fewer letters and words, the better (i.e., I loved science, math, biology, and human anatomy).

In my freshman year at Wake Forest, I decided to go pre-med, and a few months later switched to Health and Exercise Science so I could become a physical therapist. I graduated from Wake in ’95 and attended graduate school at Emory University to become a Physical Therapist (PT). After a few years as a PT, I went into full-time vocational ministry (Marriage Ministry at Watermark Community Church).

Somewhere along the way, I developed a love for reading. I don’t remember when it started, but I began to build a fascination with books. I didn’t hate reading growing up, but I know I wasn’t obsessed with it like I am today.

Good writing has changed my life, whether through God’s Word, influential books by other men and women, and blog posts/articles. I love the written word – God has used it to change my life and grow my love for Him and others.

A few years ago, several friends encouraged me in my writing. I never set out to be a writer, but my love for books and reading helped grow a proficiency in writing and communication. With fear and trembling, I started this website in 2014 to start exercising the writing muscle. If I’m honest, I thought it would last a few months, and then I’d run out of things to say and move on with my life.

When I started this blog, I set out to encourage and challenge others to follow Christ and grow in their relationships with their spouse, children, friends, and family. I also developed a growing burden to write practical, biblical, and authentic books to help premarried and married couples. Writing a book became a dream that I thought might never come true or even happen.

Today I’m thrilled to share that I’m officially working on my first book. It’s called Ready or Knot: Questions Every Couple Must Answer Before Tying the Knot (subtitle subject to change, title credit to Sarah Fultz). I signed a contract with the great folks at Baker Books in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The manuscript is due November 1, 2017, and the book will come out in February 2019 (projected).

It’s truly a dream come true for me. Thank you to so many of you out there who have encouraged me along the way and helped this dream come true. Any of you who know me on a personal level know how much I value my community and friendships. I really couldn’t do this without you. My wife has been the greatest encourager and helper in this project.

So what does this mean for you and why should you care?

  1. Please pray for me and the book. Pray that God will use it to change and help many premarried couples in the future. I’m excited for couples to read it. Please pray with me that it will help couples discern if they’re Ready or Knot for marriage.
  2. I will cut back on blog writing for the next few months. You’ll see less new posts from me and a handful of guests posts from friends. I’m excited for you to hear from other voices. I need to cut back to work on the book, and I need to spend any remaining discretionary time trying to take better care of myself (see #WellnessWeek17). Meanwhile, I have a family I adore and a job I love. I’d like to keep both of those things, thank you very much!
  3. I hope to start doing some short, marriage videos on some of the same topics I write about on this site. I’m hoping Kristen will join me for some of them. To be honest, videos will take less time and can be just as helpful.

So, in conclusion: Yeah for Ready or Knot. Thanks for the encouragement, and see you less in written form, and maybe more in video.


Photo Credit: Unsplash, Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani

Saying What You Mean, and Meaning What You Say

A few days I got to do one of my favorite things in the world – officiate a wedding for two friends who both love Jesus. As I sat at my computer working on the wedding message, the vows this couple shared with each other blew me away. I know I’m an emotional guy, but wedding vows never affected me like the promises this couple made to each other. I’ve used these vows before in prior weddings, but for some reason, this time, they floored me.

I love what Tim Keller says about wedding vows in his outstanding book, The Meaning of Marriage. Keller writes,

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now — that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.”

Loving your spouse on your wedding day is easy. You both look good, and a bunch of people come together to celebrate you and all that God desires in marriage. You walk away with a bunch of gifts and money, and you get to enjoy sexual intimacy as God intends. What’s not to love?

If you’re married, however, you know the challenge comes the next day. You realize that even though you’re saved by the blood of Christ and sealed by the Spirit, you’re one sinner married to another sinner. You’re stuck in a broken world, and still often ruled and controlled by your selfish desires.

In your vows, you commit to be loving, faithful, and true regardless of how you feel or the circumstances around you. You promise and vow to remain committed in the future, to love without condition, and to provide safety and security in a world that tries to tear you apart and an enemy that seeks to steal, kill, destroy, and devour (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8).

Sometimes we need a reminder and some encouragement to keep going even when the going gets tough. Below I share the vows my friends Justin and Summer made to each other on July 1, 2017. Read through their vows, which are followed by a few of my comments.

I, Justin, created in God’s image solely for His glory, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, promise to love you, Summer, not only with words, but with actions and truth so that God’s love is brought to full expression through us. I promise to be considerate and treat you with respect, to feed, care for, and manage our family well. Not to be harsh, quick-tempered, or overbearing. I will keep myself only unto you. I will put God first and you second, striving to love you better each day as your husband and your best friend. As Christ taught us to love by laying down His life, I too will gladly lay down my life to protect you. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death separates us.

I, Summer, created in God’s image solely for His glory saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ promise to love you, Justin, not only with words, but with actions and trust so that God’s love is brought to full expression through us. I promise to submit to you as you submit to Christ, to bring you good, not harm, to honor you with the dignity and reverence of my life keeping myself only unto you. I will put God first and you second, serving alongside you as your helper. I will strive to love you better each day as your wife and your best friend. Where you go, I will go, and your God will be my God. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death separates us.

When I read through these yet again, there’s so much I want to say to you and me. But, instead, I’ll share a few highlights, comments, and questions:

1. Words are easy to say, but are they backed up with actions and truth? I’m studying the book of James right now, and over and over throughout the book, the reader is challenged to back up his professed faith with a lifestyle that is consistent with the profession. Words are cheap unless they’re backed up with action. Don’t be like the person in James 1:22-25 who looks in a mirror and walks away and forgets what he looks like. Rather, be someone who backs up his words with action.

Question: Do your actions line up with your words?

2. The roles and promises are different for the husband and wife. This comes directly from Ephesians 5:21-33. The husband leads and lays down his life to love and protect his wife. She submits to him, as he submits to Christ. A right understanding of marriage follows a right expression of God’s designed roles in marriage. Both are Christlike, and both the man and woman possess equal worth and value (Galatians 3:28). But, God designed marriage for the husband to lead and for the wife to submit to his leadership as he submits to Christ.

Question: Do you embrace and live out your God-given role in marriage?

3. They keep their priorities in the right place. Notice how both the husband and wife commit to putting God first and their spouse second. Any time we mess this up, we walk away from God’s design and His best for marriage. Anytime we worship our spouse or think they’ll complete us, we miss out. Whenever we place a child above our spouse, we get the order wrong. God first, spouse second, children third, and all else after that. Work, community, friendships all follow after God, spouse, and child(ren).

Question: How are you doing in keeping your relationships in the right order?

4. They respect the significance of the marriage covenant and ask The Lord to deal with them severely if anything but death separates them. In other words, if this couple chooses to divorce each other, then they’re asking God to hold them accountable and to deal with them severely. This is BOLD. You don’t make this claim or this ask unless you realize, as best as our finite brains can comprehend, the significance of the marriage commitment and the nature of the marriage covenant.

Question: What’s the nature of your marriage commitment? Do you keep your marriage conditional upon your behavior and your spouse’s behavior, or do you see your marriage as an unbreakable, unconditional covenant?

5. Remember, none of this is possible without the grace of God, received through faith in Jesus Christ. This is not about anything you and I have done, but it’s only possible because of what He’s done on our behalf through God’s only Son, Jesus.

Question: Have you taken time today to thank God for His love for you, best expressed through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus?

Your Turn:

Photo Credit: Anne Edgar, Unsplash Anne Edgar