There’s not much I can say that I haven’t said before about how much I love and how much I am proud of all my daughters.
However, today is a particular milestone that I want to share.
25 years ago today was the first time I witnessed live birth. Oh, of course I’ve seen puppies being born, but seeing my daughter, Katie Marie Baker, come out of my wife, well, and I’m using a lot of commas, that was traumatic!
It was nothing like the movies. It was nothing like the Cosby show. It was nothing like anything I had ever experienced!
And it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
Like Bill Gaither might say, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy she gives!” Nothing can truly prepare a man for the feeling of holding his first baby girl in his arms.
Last Tuesday I told you that my daughter Katie was getting married that night. Well, despite my advice to walk away while there was still time, my Katie Bug, Katie Marie Baker, became Katie Marie Pearson.
Don’t get me wrong, as I stood there alone with her behind the paper-thin walls of the tent, waiting for the moment I was to escort her out into the open for the world to see, I wasn’t expecting Katie to walk away. No, her heart and mind were made up, unchangeable, set “like a flint” to walk that aisle and say, “I do.”
And man! Did she ever!
I have a few pictures, but I don’t want to share them with the world. What I would rather do is wait until Katie is able to share the professional photos that were taken of the wedding and reception. The only exceptions will be those you see here.
However, I do want to share with you a couple of other things, namely Gus (that’s my new son-in-law’s name) and Katie’s vows . . . and a video which we’ll get to in a moment.
In my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve performed over 200 weddings. That being said, I have never heard wedding vows more biblical and gospel-centered than the ones Gus and Katie shared. I was blown away! There was hardly any need to say anything else but “Kiss your bride.”
Therefore, if you don’t mind, I would like to share with you my daughter and son-in-law’s vows.
Katie Marie, from just our first few weeks working at Chick-fil-A, I knew our friendship would be a great one. Whenever I was near you, I felt a spirit of joy radiating from you, and there was no doubt where that joy comes from. God has gifted you with a joyous and bubbly personality, and it is one that I wanted to be around often. Today, I stand in front of our family and friends who have chosen to be witnesses to observe the covenant relationship I am making with you and God in marriage. I promise to spend every day I have on this earth with you dedicated and honoring this covenant we have made to each other before God. I promise to protect you and to provide for you and to trust God to do so when I cannot. I promise to love you, Katie Marie, my bride, as Christ loves us, the church, his bride. I will love you selflessly and sacrificially, and as I grow closer to Christ, my love for you will grow stronger. As the head of our household I promise to honor you as my equal in our new life together, and treat you with understanding as we begin this new journey. When hard times come, I promise to strive to exude wisdom and to point us, in our struggles, to the one that holds everything in his hands. Whether a disagreement, a concern, a crisis, that health, or anything that breaks us down, I will take it to God in prayer and seek his guidance. I promise all of these things with the hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to lead you with wisdom in the path God sets before us, and as Christ showed us by example, the best leaders are those who know how to serve. As we take the next step in our journey, I think it would be appropriate to make a reference to where it all began, and say, “Katie Marie, it will forever be my pleasure to serve you.”
Gus, From the moment I first met you, I knew there was something in you that I wanted. You were so loving and kind and warm and welcoming to anyone, and I wanted that to be in my life every day. Today, I am standing next to you in front of all of these people so that I can enter into a covenant relationship with you and with God in marriage. I promise to uphold this covenant for all of the days and nights that I live on this earth with you. I promise to be your helper and give you my time, my energy, and my focus, even if it is limited. I promise to let you be the head of the household and submit to the authority that God has placed within you to be the priest of our home. In the moments of hurt and shattered expectations, I promise to strive in showing God’s wisdom in my actions and reactions with Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And, in the times when I strive too little, I promise to seek forgiveness. I promise all of these things with a hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to be the second violin to your first, and to trust your lead wherever you feel the need to take me.
What more would make me happy? That both of them had great incomes, perfect health, huge houses in which my wife and I could take up a room when we get old?
Honestly, if they keep their vows – and I’m pretty sure they will – I wouldn’t ask for anything more than that.
But the story Jesus tells of the Prodigal is one that displays the wondrous love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of the Father. Yes, the story is really more about Him than the wayward, muddy, starving son.
When the young man reached his lowest point, there in a hog lot, starving and alone, he remembered the goodness of his father.
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.'” – Luke 15:17-19 CSB
Because he had already spent his inheritance (he thought), and since he had treated his own father like he was dead, there was no reason to expect a “Welcome home!” However, he knew his father’s slaves had it better than what he had – which was nothing and no one. He’d have to take his chances.
So, when the broken and filthy young man returns, the reception he receives is more than he could have ever hoped for. Already looking for him, the father spots his son on the horizon and runs to him! No doubt expecting the worst, the son falls on his face and attempts to make the case for indentured servitude. Maybe this would keep his father from killing him outright.
Humble, prostrate in the dirt, not even looking up to see the tears in his father’s eyes, he expects – or rather hopes for – the customary foot upon his neck, the accepted symbol of becoming a slave. But, instead…
…the feeling of a bristly beard upon his ear…
…an arm on his back…
…a rough palm cradling the other side of his head…
…and tear-drenched kisses?? Not the sole of a sandal? KISSES! Yes, kisses on his neck!
More joyful to receive his son back home than determined to reclaim his honor, the exuberant father drowns out the pitiful son’s pleas and cries out, “My son has come home!”
Instead of putting his foot on the boy’s neck, the father had humbled himself and descended to the place where his lowly child lay in the dirt. Instead of justice, He showed mercy.
And then Amazing Grace called out for a party!
God is the Father. You and I are the Prodigal. No matter how far we’ve drifted or run, He is still looking and waiting.
This is probably going to be the most morbid thing I’ve written in a while, but people expect the unexpected from my writing.
When was the last time you scrolled through the contacts on your cell phone in search of a name, then all of a sudden stumbled across a person’s name who died years ago? To be honest, every time I look for someone in my contact list it happens.
But why are those names and phone numbers still in our phones? Why is it, if you’re anything like me, we find it hard to delete them?
Honestly, what do you need a phone number for if the person is dead? Have you given any thought to what might happen should someone get that number and accidently call you while your either driving or alone in a dark room at night? All of a sudden the face of a dead friend pops up on your screen as that special ring tone blares out, “Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah staying alive, staying alive!”
So, here’s a challenge that I’m going to make for all of us: If death came calling, and they answered, delete their number.
But when you do, how about let me know in the comments how many names you wound up deleting!
Creepy, isn’t it?
Update: I found 16 names. I can only bring myself to delete a few. I think, for me, it’s that I don’t want to forget.
If the title of the post wasn’t enough to intrigue you, what else can I do?
As everyone knows, churches aren’t able to have normal services these days. That is why whatever we do is either being shared live on Facebook or YouTube, or else we are pre-recording content to be shared at regular service times.
Well, this past Wednesday my daughter Katie and I sat down and discussed Proverbs 26. It was such a blessing for me, mainly because we don’t get to see our children that much anymore. On top of that, she’s getting married, soon.
If you have a few minutes, why not watch the attached video? Besides talking about a few key passages in Proverbs 26 (especially verse 10), I share my thoughts on Bible translations, especially my personal reasons for not being KJV-only.
But before some of you get upset, let me go ahead and set the record straight. I believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the Word of God. I also believe that it is without error (in the original manuscripts) or contradiction.
Yet, for the most part, I still use the KJV when I study and preach. I would just encourage you to listen to my full, heartfelt explanation of my beliefs on the matter. Even though there’s a few of you who disagree with me on this subject, I hope you will understand that I still hold a very high view of Scripture. It is the final, revealed Word of God.
Have a great weekend, everyone! And if you want to join us live on Facebook this Sunday, look up @BethlehemBaptistWarthen at 11 a.m. 🙂
Back in 2012, I was the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Lookout Valley, TN. I was there from August of 2008 to October of 2016.
It was a mixed bag of good, bad, joyful, and tragic. During that year I was neck-deep in finishing my master’s degree, driving a school bus, preaching 3 different sermons a week, and dealing with a sick wife. What’s more, things were happening underneath the radar that would nearly destroy my family and cost my youngest daughter her life.
I don’t know why I am telling you this right now, because it has very little to do with what I wanted to do when I sat down. Actually, all I wanted to do was give a little context to a video I was going to link. However, it just seems like the words I’m typing are being guided. Maybe they’re just what’s on my heart and I need to get them off. I don’t know.
While I was pastor at Riverside, some very bad things happened (hopefully, one day, I’ll have the freedom to share more details). But one of the most painful aspects was finding out – at least being accused – that if I had not been spending so much time studying and working I might have been a better and more attentive father… The one making that accusation was evil and simply trying to make excuses for his own actions.
Yet, in some ways, it was true, which is what makes it painful. I was focused on trying to do things FOR the family and missed some critical times WITH the family. Since then, there has been forgiveness, but scars remain. Thankfully, I serve a God who can even work miracles with scars. He has some too, you know.
Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing this, but somebody evidently needs to read it. Your #1 ministry is your family, not your community, your job, or your church. There is no success in life, whether it be earning millions or having the largest congregation, that is worth losing your children to the enemy. Let me help you put things in order:
God (your personal relationship with Jesus and your obedience to the will of God)
Providing for your family (i.e., career, vocational ministry, etc.)
If you’ll look carefully, there’s a lot NOT on that list. What about hobbies? What about community service? What about politics? What about friends?
Oh, you can have those things, but if they break the above hierarchy of priorities, you’ll one day find yourself face-down in a pillow wet with regret.
But what if you’ve already made mistakes you can’t correct? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring [it] to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5
Today is a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. The race is not over, so finish well.
His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).
Here’s the video I was going to share. It’s still my theme.
I know I’ve already uploaded a post this morning, and I hope you’ll check it out – it’s a quasi-political post with a spiritual ending. Awesome stuff!
But this morning I received via text several pictures and and some video from our daughter in Charleston. They are pictures of our granddaughter, Emma, in her new princess pavilion (or whatever you call it).
Here’s the honest-to-goodness question: How’s a grandparent supposed to spoil a grandchild when the parents do things like this?
The only think I can think of is letting her get away with stuff that she’s not allowed to do when at home, like eat spoonfuls of sugar, drink coffee, play with matches, listen to three hours straight of Rush Limbaugh, etc.
If you have any suggestions, I’m happy to consider them. Thanks 🙂
She’s no longer the baby I could hold in my arms. If I hold her these days, it’s a quick hug, a slight embrace. Gone are the days when she would put her head on my chest and fall to sleep, completely trusting in me to protect and provide.
But now I pray she’d seek your embrace, your protection, provision, and peace in Your rest.
An evil lurks around each corner, in the valley where death hides in the shadows. No longer there, I can’t be her guide. If You are not her Shepherd, the shadows will prevail.
Watch over her as only You can do. Guide her, with pain, if necessary, to the prize at the end of her race. I’ll be in the stands cheering.
Today is my granddaughter Emma’s first birthday! Yay Emma!
But what I wanted to do for you (and her) is share what our daughter Alicia wrote on her Facebook page. I believe you will be blessed (and she won’t mind).
But let me tell you what, her first birthday party was the event of the year in Charleston, SC! I shudder to think what her Sweet 16 will be like!
But again, I hope you’re blessed with Alicia’s story.
One year ago today a beautiful baby girl was born into this world. Due to her prematurity she would be rushed to the NICU where she was cared for by amazing nurses and doctors. There she thrived with the love and nurture of strangers for ten days until we were chosen to be her parents. On January 16th, 2019 we got a call that flipped our world upside down and the journey it set us on has been amazing. We had waited so long to adopt that I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us. I never should have doubted God because he taught me a huge (and expensive) lesson on patience and trust.
The day we met her there was a very special nurse that watched us from afar as we cried and held our little girl for the first time. She later came to us and told us that she had been rocking her earlier that evening and praying over her. You see, she did not know at that time that her birth mother had chosen adoption for her. All she knew was the circumstances of her birth and that she had not had any visitors for ten days. She later told us that the very day we came to meet Emma was the day she had been rocking and praying over her. She prayed for God to do something special in her life and to watch over her. To bring her love and a good home. Little did she know that God would provide just that the very same day! Not only did we cry seeing her that night, but this angel of a nurse said she cried too watching from afar as we met our daughter for the first time. Whew! That still makes me all wet eyed!
For seven weeks we went back and forth to the hospital every day to see our sweet girl. We fed her, cuddled her, bathed her and cherished our quiet time bonding with her. We were ecstatic to take her home the day after Valentines Day. We were nervous, but embraced parenthood. It has been about ten months since we brought her home. Ten blissful months. Yes, there was fighting, crying and exhaustion. We had a hard time adjusting to the roles of a working mom and a stay at home dad busy with school, but we did it. Somehow together we got through it and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything in the world.. we finally have a baby girl!
She has grown to be so fun, loving and so very sweet. The way she gets excited when her daddy walks into the room warms my heart and the way she looks for me across the room when she is starting to get nervous makes me melt. This feeling must be motherhood and I love it! I thank God for choosing us to be her parents and for entrusting us with her life. Happy First Birthday sweet Emma Lou! We love you so very much and are so excited to share our life with you!!!
Alicia, Emma, and Josh Westbrook. I’m proud of all three of them!