Father of the Bride

Papa & GrandsThis is a re-post of an article I wrote many years ago. Charlotte and Paul are still happily married and now have three daughters of their own.

The rental shoes of my tuxedo made a funny noise on the stone floor of the country club. I felt a little self-conscious. People I didn’t know swirled around me laughing and talking. The photographer’s assistant pinned a flower to my lapel and I looked around for a familiar face. The impression was joyful but I still felt awkward. My baby girl was getting married! I knew this was an important moment that I needed to remember but what did I feel?

It was going to be a hot one. What were they thinking? An outdoor wedding in Arizona in summer! But they were passing out fans and water and I knew it would be fine. I reached in my pocket for a handkerchief and realized I forgot it.

There is John Michael and there is Jennifer. But where is Charlotte? Someone pointed me to a door and someone else opened it for … for… “The father of the bride.”

I was quickly pushed through and surrounded by bride’s maids and mothers to shouts of “Door! Door!” It wouldn’t do for the groom to see the bride before she came down the aisle. It didn’t matter to me. I was transfixed by my beautiful daughter sitting on a little stool in the midst of a sea of silk. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A little veil was pinned to her blonde hair. She held a bouquet of fall colored flowers and she looked up at me and smiled.

Somewhere under all that satin and lace, make-up and under-pinnings was my little girl. She was so happy. I tried to remember her whole childhood at once. The memories flooded past me now: pre-school Charlotte rappelling off the freezer in the garage in her “footie” pajamas, her and her brother scuba diving in the bathtub, learning to ride a “two-wheeler bike” in the park and watching her ride away as I bent over double out of breath. I thought of all the hikes and camping trips: her little teddy bear’s head sticking out of the top of her rucksack, watching her learn to throw a tomahawk and shoot a rifle at scout camp. Sailing together, catching fish, and most of all, reading bedtime stories.

Too soon it was time to go. Too soon we walked down the aisle. Too soon I shook the love of her life’s hand. Too soon I sat and listened to the beautiful words of two young people deeply in love. Warm tears slid down my cheeks. Someone passed me a handkerchief. Then they marched back down the aisle “Mr. and Mrs. Bentz.”

The reception was a giant party. There was food and drink and laughter and dancing and everyone had a wonderful time. I still felt a little lost. I made small talk and ate my cake. I strolled outside and someone tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s time for you to dance with the bride!”

Dancing? I don’t dance! Then I remembered twirling Charlotte in the kitchen. My little girl loved to dance and she judged a skirt by how it would twirl. Of course I will dance with the bride!

Every eye was on us as they cleared the floor. I took my little girl in my arms, kissed her cheek and we began to move. She made me look good and I began to relax. We laughed and her blue eyes sparkled. She twirled once more her skirts flying. I saw my little girl again. She is so much in love!

“Do you want to dip me?” She whispered as the song was coming to an end. “Of course!” I said. Everyone roared their approval and we were blinded by the flashes of every camera in the room. This joyful moment was frozen as I held my little girl in my arms one more time.

Being a father is one of life’s greatest rewards.

Bad Moms of the Bible (and one terrific mom)

Bad Moms of the Bible

Every year on Mother’s Day, ministers typically choose one of the great moms of the Bible to talk about. This year I considered looking at the “Bad Moms of the Bible.” There are actually quite a few to choose from: Athaliah, the wife of King Jehoram, the daughter of King Ahab and the only queen of Judah, was certainly bad (2 Kings 11). After the death of her son, she killed all the members of the royal family and took the throne, but I guess we can’t count her since technically, she was the worst grandmother of all time. If only she had remembered the names of all of her grandchildren, she would have realized she missed one (who was crowned king a few years later, 2 Kings 11).

My nomination for the worst mom in the Bible is Herodias, Herod Antipas’ wife. She was responsible for the death of John the Baptist after her daughter’s famous dance (Mark 14:8). We don’t give Herodias the credit though for taking Salome to all those dance lessons and recitals. Why she may have even worn her fingers to the bone making those cute little costumes for her daughter, although I doubt it. Apparently there wasn’t much to them.

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Wanda McKeel
Wanda McKeel in Petra, Jordan

On the other hand, I had a great mom and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to just have fifteen more minutes with her to tell her so. She died suddenly during a routine procedure. I had taken her to the hospital where we told stories, laughed together and shared a hug I will always treasure before they wheeled her into the operating room.

Mom’s death was sad, but it wasn’t a tragedy. Dad died a few years before and I always had the feeling she couldn’t bear to be apart from him. In fact, when we buried dad, mom had her name written on the grave marker with her birthday and a place to fill in the date of her passing. It gives me great joy to know they are together again and it fills me with great anticipation to look forward to the day when I will see them once more.

Happy Mother’s Day mom!

 

Balance

Rachel & Papa

So how hard is it to steer a straight line? It’s actually much harder than you think! Our oldest granddaughter, Rachel, loves to steer, but she thinks it’s all about turning the wheel. Hang on! If Rachel is at the helm, everything is in chaos.

Navigating though is mostly about holding a steady course, however the wind and the waves and the boat itself can conspire to work against you. Sail handlers will talk for hours about the different forces that react with the sails. There is the “center of effort” and “overlaps” and “exit angles” and “aspect ratios.” Helmsmen talk about angles of attack and how to steer through a set of waves. Basically, what they are saying is, if your boat and sails aren’t balanced, you can’t steer a straight line. On an old cruising boat like Santa Teresa, with her long deep keel, if you set the sails properly, you hardly need touch the wheel at all. She’ll hold her course and you can relax and enjoy the ride.

Likewise, people need balance in their lives. Some people are experts at organization and time-management. They remind me of a well-organized hat rack. There they are, all the hats neatly arranged and on display. I can grab my daddy hat, my work hat, my husband hat, my social hat, my guy’s night out hat, and my church hat. They are all there. Unfortunately, I often have to wear several of them at the same time and that looks a bit silly.

When I was a boy, I loved my bicycle. It gave me my first taste of freedom. I could ride to school, to a friend’s house, to the movies and deliver my newspapers. I loved my bike but I also loved taking things apart to see how they worked. I remember one day I completely disassembled my bicycle on the driveway. It was beautiful: carefully arranged with all the spokes in a neat row. The frame was there. The rims and the chain were there, carefully laid out side-by-side along with the seat, the handlebars, and the pedals. It looked great but it was worthless. It couldn’t deliver papers or jump over garbage cans. I was stranded until it was all put back together.

Some people are like that too. Their lives are neat and in order but really aren’t going anywhere. To do that, the spokes need to be firmly attached to the hub. There must be a center to your life. Just like sailing, if you are not going to be constantly making course corrections, there must be balance.

So what – or better – who, is the center of your life? What holds it all together? If it’s your job, what happens when you retire? If it is a person, what happens if that person leaves? Hobbies are too transient and causes are too nebulous. Only God is a worthy center. He gives my life meaning. God advises me not just about what is right and wrong, but also about what is good, better and best. My faith isn’t just worth living for; it’s worth dying for.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6).