Posted tagged ‘wedding ceremony’

When You Journey Together For 39 Years

July 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 29, 2018

                          

It was a hot day in Clarendon Hills, Illinois when Carol and I stood at the front of Community Presbyterian Church and said our wedding vows to one another. It was July 28, 1979 and the baby of the Wolfe family was marrying the middle child of the Faletti clan. I had graduated form Northern Baptist Theological Seminary less than two months before that, began a ministry position at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan, and was entering a new phase of my life that could optimistically be entitled “New Discoveries”, but more accurately be called “Clueless!”

We said our vows to one another and headed down the aisle towards the exit. When a bride and groom leave a wedding ceremony they never know what they’re headed into. No, I’m not referring to the reception and honeymoon. I’m talking about the journey of walking into life together. The starry eyes of saying “I do!” soon enter the planned and unplanned happenings of a shared life. 

39 years later Carol and I have said goodbye to each one of our parents, my dad being the final one to depart this past February. We’ve had one dog and five cats. In order of their stays with us there has been Eusebius (C.B), our only experiment into the canine world, Tickles (who lived to be 20 and a 1/2), Prince Charming Kisses, Duke, Katie Katie Cocoa Puffs, and Princess Maliboo (Boo). Our daughters always named the cats, in case you’re wondering!

We’ve lived in two apartments and four houses in the 39 years. We still remember the couple that lived in the apartment beside us the first few months of marriage. They were rather loud as they engaged in their romantic activity. Carol and I thought that maybe there was something wrong with us since we didn’t make noises that sounded like someone was in pain.  We soon got over it!

The journey took us to three different hospital delivery rooms to experience the incredible blessings of God upon us of three children. The birth of our  child, Kecia Corin, involved a Code Blue as she had swallowed some fluid. I stood beside Carol’s bed in the delivery room holding her hand and praying as they worked on our first-born just a few feet to the left. To hear that first scream trumpeting from her lungs was an answer to prayer and reason for praise.

We’ve lost friends that have gone on to Glory, walked the final days of life with several of them, and cried the tears of heartache. We’ve also said goodbye to so many people because of relocation from one place of ministry to the next. The toughest part of ministry is leaving, knowing that the people whose lives have been intertwined with yours for so long will no longer be those that you walk with. We moved from the certainty of what was to the uncertainty of what is to come. 

Carol and I have journeyed together for so long that we know the story that is about to be shared by one of us without even a clue as to what is about to be said. We know our tendencies and our bad habits- my desire for Starbucks coffee in the morning and her Diet Coke from Kum and Go, with a few ounces of regular Coke mixed into it; my snore and her punch in my side; her desire for something sweet while I like something salty. 

When we exited that church sanctuary 39 years ago we didn’t know the valleys we would have to cross or the exhilaration of the mountains we climbed. We weren’t thinking about 39 years when we galloped down the aisle. I wasn’t thinking about much at all except what was to come later on that night! 

It has been 39 years where we’ve trusted in the Lord, but, quite frankly, at other times we haven’t trusted in the Lord. The grace of God has been a dominant part of our journey.

And we love each other more today than every before. Thank you, Lord!

Missing God

September 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 30, 2017

                                             

Carol and I were driving home from a wedding recently and she said to me, “I think that’s the first wedding I’ve been to where God was never mentioned.”

“You’re right! No prayers, no blessings, nothing with any spiritual meaning to it!”

Of course, why invite the presence of God if he isn’t a part of your life? Seems a bit contradictory to do that! At least this couple was being authentic in their ceremony. How many other marriage ceremonies have been spiritual in appearance, but the One who created love goes missing afterwards?

I don’t want to create a whole divine conspiracy on the basis of God not being invited to one marriage ceremony I attend, but I think we’d be idiots to think that the importance of the Almighty has not taken a dip! In many lives he’s segregated from the daily routines and opportunities. He’s like Uncle Fred who never gets invited to family gatherings any more because no one feels comfortable around him.

Instead of God being at the center of our lives many of us now look for how he might fit into our lives. He’s like that weird puzzle piece that needs to go somewhere, but I’ll put it to the side until most of the rest of my puzzled life gets put together.

The secular wedding ceremony was like a wake up call for me. In what areas of my life do I relegate God to the luggage rack, attached to the top of the vehicle of my life but strapped to a place where I can’t hear him?

In what ways am I “faking it” with my Jesus journey?

In what ways is the church faking it? In what ways is the church hindering the relevance of the spiritual faith of its people?

Those are all tough questions which are being asked by less and less people the more God goes missing.

Years ago one of the young ladies on my basketball team responded to a directive I gave to the team before the season started. I had told them that if any of them had boyfriends that they were to put them on the back burner for the next three months. This delightful young lady (who is now in law school) looked at me and said, “Coach, boyfriends are like a pocketbook. They’re just an accessory!” We still laugh at that storyline years later!

But, you know something! God has become an accessory for many of us, and has been easily shoved to the back burner!

38 Years!

July 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 28, 2017

                                         

38 is a weird number…illegal for any basketball jersey except the NBA! Rarely…okay, never requested by one of my middle school football players! I went and asked Google who was the best NFL player to wear the number 38 and got George Rogers of the New Orleans Saints. A good player, but not exactly someone who easily comes to mind! #39 is Larry Csonka, that one I could remember!

But today is a special 38. It’s our 38th wedding anniversary. On July 28, 1979 Carol Falettu and I joined hands at the front of the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Much of the day was a blur for me. I knew what I was doing…and yet, I didn’t know what I was doing! You know what I mean? Kind of like when a young boy goes in for his first kiss. He knows what he’s doing, and yet he doesn’t…and back in my day there were no YouTube videos for instruction!

I met her at the front of the sanctuary. My seminary roommate and friend, Randy Saunders, performed the ceremony. Two weeks later I officiated at his wedding. Unfortunately, a few years later he and Marlene split up.

My six groomsmen lined up to my left as I looked down the aisle. David “Hugo” Hughes stood beside me as my best man. A year later I’d preside over his wedding ceremony. A couple hundred people were there…I think! Doug Loomer sang and played his guitar, like we were two flower children merging together. I remember Don Francisco’s “The Wedding Song”, a Summer of ’79 wedding favorite!

Carol was radiant as her dad escorted her down the aisle. I could tell she was nervous and excited, and maybe wondering what in the world she was doing marrying a Baptist minister who was going to move her to Michigan? Just three years before she had been teaching pre-school deaf children in a Victoria, Texas school. She couldn’t have envisioned this day three years later when Rev. William D. Wolfe would promise her the moon…or, at least, his devotion!

I brought…not much into the marriage. A ’66’ Chrysler Newport given to me by my parents, a bunch of seminary books, leisure suits, and a toaster. When I had graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary about seven weeks earlier I didn’t even have to rent a U-Haul to transport my belongings to my first full-time ministry position in Davison, Michigan. Carol was the one with the wealth! She even had a couch, a twin-size mattress, and a twelve inch black-and-white TV! She was loaded! Her Mustang Fastback was hot, just like she was! In essence, we were a two-car family. We didn’t have two of anything else except toothbrushes and forks, but we had two vehicles!

On that wedding day we looked into each other’s eyes, glistened over with moistness, and vowed words to each other that dealt with devotion, perseverance, wanting the best for one another, and journeying hand in hand for the rest of our life together. We were naive’ and completely in love, but not completely naive’! I was marrying the third daughter of an Italian-American father and North Dakotan Mom. In my family “whine” was prominent at the dinner table growing up as we surveyed the dinner of neck bones, green beans, and boiled potatoes. In Carol’s family “wine” was prominent at dinner, and I don’t think she ever had to look at a pot of neck bones!

An unusual union, the two of us, but it’s worked in the midst of church drama and church celebrations, being surrounded by saintly people and people who ain’t! One of those saints, Rex Davis, loved a certain restaurant in Colorado Springs. When he passed away last fall at 95 and I was asked to do the funeral service, his family gave me a gift card to that favorite restaurant. We’ll celebrate our anniversary there tonight, thinking of him and all the other people who have graced our lives in this journey that has more often than not resembled Lake Wobegon comedy instead of Chicago drama!

Three kids, all grown and pursuing their purposes in life…three grandkids, who seem to have more energy than Colorado Springs Utilities…and an abundance, a multitude of friends who we cherish and love!  Marriage is not just two people. It is two people taking the lead in a caravan of hundreds who have journeyed with them.

Both Carol and I would undoubtedly say we have been, and are, blessed! We have now been married sixty per cent of our lives to one another! There will be no “whine”, or neck bones, at our table tonight, but perhaps a bit of “wine!”

Wedding Rain

July 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 3, 2016

                                          

I am fortunate in many ways. One of those is being asked by couples to be the officiant for their weddings. I get the privilege of guiding them through their vows, grant the groom permission to kiss his new bride, and introduce them as a newly-wedded couple. Most of the time it’s a pretty cool experience. I stand up front in my marrying and burying suit and give the bride’s mother the nod as to when to stand.

In a time when a lot of people seem to trash the covenant of marriage it seems that a wedding is still seen as being that blessed event, a time of celebration and recognition of this new union.

When I meet with couples who are looking to get married we don’t talk about the wedding until the last session. All of the sessions we have are focused on what it means to be married…the challenges, the adjustments, hopes and dreams, expectations and dealing with frustrations. We talk about communication, deep and meaningful versus shallow and meaningless.

After those sessions then I guide the couple through the wedding ceremony, creating a celebration that is God-honoring and representative of who they are.

Weddings are also unpredictable. One ceremony I officiated was interrupted by the curtain in the chancel area of the sanctuary beginning to fall down. At another ceremony years ago one of the groomsmen passed out for a few moments. We got him propped up and continued. I tell those stories to the couple and make the point that we will not let the unplanned and unpredictable ruin the day; that the ceremony is about the two of them, not about perfection. It’s about them saying their vows to one another, not the fluff of the event.

This weekend I had the honor of presiding over the wedding ceremony of two young people who are awesome “kids!” I’ve known the young lady for seventeen years, coming to be her pastor when she was seven years old. The young man works at the same restaurant that my son is the chef for. He’s like a six foot three inch teddy bear who is deeply in love with his new wife. Fitting their personalities, the wedding was at a ranch. “Big Mike” and his groomsmen were decked out in blue jeans, dress shirts, ties, and black western hats. It fit! I was the only one in a suit, but they let me do the ceremony anyway.

And, of course, the weather reports were as indecisive as a kid with a dollar bill in a candy store. It could be okay…it could be raining…it could be sunny…it could be sunny with rain! The bride took a stand. “We are not getting married inside! If it rains, it rains!”

We pressed on, and at 1:55 the cousin of the bride began escorting grandparents down the aisle. At 2:00 the bridesmaids started their walk.

At thirty seconds after the clock struck two the rain started!

I took my glasses off and put in them in pocket. I motioned for the bride’s uncle to the front with an umbrella. He took his place, looking like my bodyguard/assistant, as the bride came down the aisle. The closer she got to the front the heavier the rain came…and there was no turning back!

We began as the bridesmaids wiped the raindrops off their brows. I trudged ahead, abbreviating statements without minimizing the sacredness of the ceremony. The bride smiled the whole time. The groom grinned as wide as the corral. We moved ahead through vows and the exchanging of the rings. My prayer got shortened a little bit, and Big Mike literally laid a wet kiss on his bride’s lips. I had them turn and face the umbrella-ed audience and as I pronounced them man and wife the rain stopped!

Eleven minutes! The ceremony took eleven minutes. It rained for ten minutes and fifty seconds!

And they were okay with it! In my prayer I asked that, just like the shower, God would rain down his blessings upon the newlyweds in the coming years, that they would look back at the day of their wedding…the rain and the gathering of family and friends…and see it as a symbolic reminder of how blessed they are.

I’ve always sensed that God has a sense of humor…God-humor, I guess you could call it. And wouldn’t you know it? About thirty minutes after the wet wedding the sun emerged to shine down upon the two “kids”, who now seemed a little more grown-up!