Blessed With Another Year at The Gathering

imageDecember4, 2006 was a Monday.  On that day I was excited, uncertain, confident, humbled, overwhelmed and a knotted bundle of a hundred other emotions.  I was beginning my first week as the Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, the foundation upon which The Gathering would be built and I had no idea of what all was in store.

With today being the start of my ninth year as Lead Pastor, I still feel a little of all of those things.  I am so grateful for all that God has done through this faith-family and am looking forward, with great anticipation, to all He has yet to do.  He has raised up leaders that are second to none, built a community of faith that is solid.  He has matured Believers, taking them from infants needing milk to Disciples feeding on the Word.  He has, in short, done more than I could ever think, hope or even dream of.

To say this journey thus far has been easy would be a joke.  To say it has been free of deep heartaches and pains would be a lie.  To say it has been joy-filled would be a gross understatement.  Through everything so far–all of my mistakes and all of our accomplishments–I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else.

I am grateful to God for letting me be His undershepherd for a church like The Gathering, Chattanooga.  To Him be all the praise and glory!

On My Parent’s 60th Wedding Anniversary

MomAndDad

60 years ago today, Martha Gartee and Charles Price stood side-by-side and exchanged wedding vows.  They promised to love and to cherish each other for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health until death parts them.  Sadly, those words are still popular in weddings today, but not so much in marriage.  For my parents, though, it meant something on that day.  It meant that whatever lay ahead, no matter how tough it may get, they would work through it together.  That was their goal and that’s exactly what they have done.

On this day, sixty years ago, no one could have known how much those vows would be tested just a short 16 months later as they were forced to say goodbye to a baby they never got a chance to really know.  At just 6 weeks old, these still newlyweds, living alone hundreds of miles from home serving in the military, had to deal with a tragedy no parent of any age should ever have to deal with.  Yet, barely into their twenties, they did…and they did it together.

Where many marriages fall apart during such deep tragedy, this one got stronger.  By God’s grace, they came to understand the need to press in closer to each other where too many couples drift apart.  No, life would never be the same.  In many ways, the loss of 1955 defined them, determining how they would deal with each other and the three other children they would later come to have.  Through it all, though, they never lost the love they have had for each other and the commitment to stick it out…for better or for worse.

In all of this, my parent’s marriage has taught me many things and has demonstrated what marriage can look like.  It’s not perfect, as no marriage is.  They have their moments of disagreement and, thankfully, they allowed us to witness that which also gave us the opportunity to see what it means to confess wrongs and ask for and receive forgiveness…bedrock for a successful marriage.   Though imperfect, my parent’s marriage is solid and that is saying a lot in a world where marriage is not only optional among young adults who choose more often to live together with no real commitment, and where divorce is as common as indigestion, but where the very definition of marriage is being fundamentally transformed into anything conceivable under the sun.

My parents have taught me what it means to suffer deeply but to come out on the other side strong.  No one ever knows what will come their way in life, yet it is possible to not only get through it together, but through God-given strength and persistence, we can even grow stronger and closer as a result.  Through that strength, I have seen what it means to be one with your spouse.  Mom and Dad have always shown a unified front with us kids.  If you failed to get permission from one of them, there was no use in going to the other in hopes of getting a more favorable answer.  The first question was always, “What did your mother say?”  or “What did daddy say?”.  If they ever disagreed with each other on the answer given by the other one, I didn’t know about it.  There was always a singular voice.  I’ve come to appreciate just how important that is in raising children; in providing them a solid foundation knowing that mom and dad are always going to stand together…even if, at the moment, you really didn’t want them to!

My parents have also taught me what it means to keep a promise.  They have demonstrated that marriage is hard work, but it is not impossible.  Because of the example that my parents set and because of the grace of God, my wife and I determined before we said “I do” that divorce was not an option.  Seeing my parents keep that commitment has given us a living example that, though it sometimes seems impossible to fulfill (and at times we didn’t really want to fulfill as the mountains appeared insurmountable), we have forged ahead and continued working at this gift God has given us…and experienced the blessings that come through the struggle now twenty years later!

So today, on this 60th anniversary of the day my parents said “I do” and have chosen to say it every day since, I say “thank you“.  Thank you for loving your kids through it all without condition, for setting an example worthy of following and for never quitting on the commitment you made to each other all those years ago.  Happy anniversary!

I love you.

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