“I’ve got a secret!” –Popular television game show of the 1960s and 1970s.
A man I know once wrote of the secrets his family was harboring as they struggled to deal with an addictive, out-of-control relative.
“You know how the family gets ready to host a guest and the house is clean and in order and nothing out of place? The guest is impressed. He wishes his house could be this neat and organized with nothing out of place.”
“But what he doesn’t know is that there is one room where you have stored all the junk and clutter. If he were to open the door to that room, he would be amazed.”
That, he said, is how things are for a family that tries to keep up an image when they are about to come apart.
They push things back into that private room, whose door they dare not open.
It’s about family secrets.
When you’ve been in the ministry as long as I have–I began pastoring when JFK was president!–there are few things you haven’t seen or experienced. This one is about weddings I have done (or had done to me!).
There was this one wedding….
–Which was attended by Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know it at the time, and learned it later. The famous movie star was all of 10 years old. The bride was her aunt or a cousin of her mama’s or something. (I wonder if she remembers me. lol. )
–Where I called the groom by the name of the best man. Oops. (Thereafter, I wrote the names of the bride and groom in large letters at the top of my materials.)
–Where I dropped the ring. For years in rehearsals, I would instruct the bride and groom, “If it drops, let it go. No one will know and we’ll get it later.” So, when it happened I’m the one stooping down to pick it up. Oh, well. Not that big a deal.
–Where the groom was wearing cowboy boots with his formal tux. During the picture-taking, I said to the bride, “Debbie, you should have worn yours.” With that, she hiked her dress up and showed me. She was wearing her boots too.
–Where the bride fainted. See below.
God brought her to Adam. And Adam said, “At last!” –Genesis 2:22-23, pretty much.
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. — Romans 12:10 In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. –Philippians 2:3
My wife and I each think we got the better part of the deal.
That’s it. That’s our “secret.”
After 52 years of marriage–she to Gary and I to Margaret–Bertha Pepper Fagan and I met four years ago, February 15, 2016, and knew that week that the Lord had put us together. We were married the following January 11. Next week we celebrate our third anniversary.
Everyone on my side of the family delights in my bride. And, as far as I can tell, Bertha’s side all seem okay with her pick of a hubby. So, we’re doing great.
We could wish every couple felt this way.
Have you ever known anyone who felt they married beneath themselves? That they could have done better?
And so it came to pass in the morning, that, behold, it was Leah. (Genesis 29:25)
Jacob was neither the first nor the last to find that the person he married was far different from the one he had proposed to and thought he was getting!
I’ve known a few pastors over the years whose marriages were crosses they had to bear. I thought of that while reading Heirs of the Founders by H. W. Brands this week, as he commented on the marriage of John and Floride Calhoun.
John C. Calhoun was a prominent political figure in America the first-half of the 19th Century. A senator from South Carolina, he served as Vice-President under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. His home, Fort Hill Plantation, is located in Clemson, SC, and is open for visitors. Calhoun was a fascinating character about whom no one back then (or now) was neutral. His son-in-law founded Clemson University.
To say the Calhouns’ was a difficult marriage would be an understatement. And yet, it had a romantic beginning, as most probably do.
“Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13).
This is one of those lessons almost no pastor learns except by personal experience.
Someone told you a joke years ago. In my case, it was an older cousin and I was a young teen. The joke was dirty by any measurement and some would say it was funny. But it was filthy and has stayed with me all these years. The joke is still in my mind and I am unable to get rid of it.
I wish I’d known.
“But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
In Matthew 19, the Lord touched on two difficult issues with which His church has struggled and contended ever since: Does divorce exclude people from usefulness in the kingdom? Do the saved have to keep the Law?
He addressed the first subject with the Pharisees while His disciples were listening in (19:1-12). The second subject He addressed to a man identified as “a rich young ruler,” but again, overheard by the disciples.
Are divorced and lawbreakers excluded? (Part III will take up the second question, the matter of the Law.)
Before moving on, let’s revisit the subject of adultery and adulterous remarriages. I feel a need to add a word or two.
First, the text. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
That appears pretty open and shut. But it isn’t.
My wife and I are still learning about marriage.
Bertha and I were both 76 years old when we married. I’m five months older than she.
But don’t take that the wrong way. In no way are we old. We are not infirmed, crippled (thank the Lord!), or elderly. We both still work. She teaches English for a local community college and teaches online for a Christian university in Indiana. I’m retired, but always on the go to preach and sketch people for events. I write (blogs, books, articles for various publications) and watch a lot of sports on television (and she’s all right with that!).
We are loving our lives.
Bertha and I were each married 52 years, she to Pastor Gary Fagan, and I to Margaret Ann Henderson. God took Gary to Heaven in May of 2014 and Margaret eight months later. Bertha and I met in February of 2016, and were married a year later.
When Margaret and I married, she was just short of 20 and I was 22. We were both children with hardly a clue what we were doing. An accounting of the mistakes we made would fill an encyclopedia. I’ve not asked Bertha about her and Gary who married about the same time. But I’m confident she’s a different person now from the 22-year-old who stood beside Gary and took the vows.
Who wouldn’t be different? We live and learn.
“I could wish everyone were like me.” — Paul (I Corinthians 7:7)
That the Apostle Paul was either a lifelong single or widowed seems to be the consensus of scholars.
There’s an old joke about a committee telling a young pastoral candidate why they would not consider him. “You’re not married.” He responded, “The Apostle Paul was not married.” A member of the team said, “Yes, but he couldn’t stay out of jail long enough to take care of a wife!”
It’s not that pastor search committees are against singleness. Every member of the search team either is now or has been single at some point. It’s rather that they believe marriage has a good effect on a man, and they prefer a pastor who has the balance in his life which only a loving, faithful, dedicated female can provide.
Also–let’s admit the obvious here–they’re deathly afraid of what might happen if the preacher starts dating someone in the congregation! Horrors.
Jimmy, a single pastor, tells me churches fear the notion of calling such a person as their shepherd for various reasons:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either falls, the other will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when no one is there to lift him up…. And if two lie down together, they keep warm. But how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
A friend whose wife died several years ago said to me recently, “I don’t ever plan to marry again. If God has something different about this, He will let me know. But I’m a long way from anything remotely like that.”
His reason for telling me that? Probably so I’d quit trying to come up with a good match for him.
Bertha and I have been married 15 months. We love this time of our lives so much–we were each wed for 52 years before the Lord took Gary and Margaret–we wish all our friends could share the joy!
Every pastor is faced by the dilemma of whether to marry certain couples. And I’m not referring to the scarier twosomes that come in, where the immediate answer is “Sorry; not in this lifetime.” Some of the decisions get complicated real quick.
I had honestly forgotten about this one until it popped up in my journal from 20 years ago. A friend recently filled me in on the rest of the story.
A highly respected pastor friend called me from another state. A couple from his church wanted to be wed in my city, some 200 miles away. Would I be able to do the ceremony? A simple enough request. That happens a lot. New Orleans, where I lived from 1990 until October of 2016, seems to be a wedding destination for a lot of people. One time the bride’s family was from New England and the groom’s folks lived in Texas. So, New Orleans was a convenient spot for everyone to meet in the middle.
So, nothing complicated about this request, I assumed. The wedding would be at a hotel and my congregation would not be involved at all.
I cleared the date on my calendar, called the groom and we set up a time for the bride and groom to visit in my office.
A day or two later, in chatting with someone from that pastor’s city I happened to mention in passing that I would be doing this wedding. She said, “Oh no. You are? You don’t know?”