Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ecology Friendly Wedding Favors

Here is an earth friendly wedding practice I'd like to encourage and spread to others. I think it is definitely an idea that should be promoted.

I recently officiated a wedding (I also was a guest) where the couple was environmentally conscious. As the centerpiece on all the reception tables amongst the ribbons, flowers, and baubles were glass containers with tiny evergreen trees. There was a tree for each guest that sat at the table. The centerpieces were gorgeous, befitting the beauty of the wedding itself.  

There was a card at each place at the table. "Thank you for being part of our wedding. We will remember this special day as long as we live, and we would like you to be able to remember our day too.  Please accept as our wedding gift to you one of the trees in the glass containers which are part of your table centerpiece. 

Please take it home and plant it in an appropriate spot, give it water as it settles in, then watch it grow. Five, ten, fifty years from now you can look at the giant tree it has become and remember that you got it at our wedding. 

We hope you will enjoy our gift to you. We know the earth will benefit from the planting."

There were Yugo Pines, cypress, white pines, fir trees, junipers and more, a very nice selection. Each guest could select which tree they wanted to take home and plant.    

If the tree type you wanted had already been selected you could trade with others or pick one that was left on another table.

What a nice wedding guest gift. Ten, fifteen and twenty years from that special day guests who took home a tree and planted it will still remember where it came from.

I checked on line (Googled live tree wedding favors) and came up with some sources.

Prices start at $1.25 and go up.

Sources of Trees:


If we could do this at every wedding we could reforest the earth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Fight Fair

How to Fight Fair . Courtesy, Compromise and  Common Sense in Conflict
It's so logical....why is it so hard to do
Because nobody taught you how. Not just you....really, who do you know that has taken conflict training. Almost nobody has. That compounds the problem. Not only has nobody taught you....guess what? Your spouse hasn't been trained either.

This topic that has been written about many times and will many times more. The trick is to disagree (argue, fight) to resolve the quarrel without damaging the relationship. This week's blog is a compilation of principles taken from a seminar I did with Dr. Harry Bradley, psychologist and new material I have pulled from articles found in my additional research.

When you don't fight fair you add to the baggage that you carry around with you about your partner and how you feel about the relationship. And as I am fond of saying....eventually there is too much baggage to be made into matched luggage. When you don't end up with matched luggage it leads to separation and divorce.

Anger is our enemy.

Terrible words spew out of our mouths and our "winner takes all" attitude takes over. Often it causes us to be our relationships own worst enemy. Remember you can win the argument and over time lose the war (marriage.) Terrible words once said, may be forgiven because of your love....but it will never be forgotten.

Every Fight Has A Goal

If it's worth fighting about have a goal on what will happen at the end. Think about what you want to gain with the argument. Know where you want the conversation to go. Get an idea what you are willing to comprise. Focus on what will make the issue not an issue or solve the problem. Concentrate on a win approach for both of you.

State the issue.

 No "You " statements.

Be clear as to exactly what the fight is about.  Stop. Let's look at that again. Be clear as to exactly what the fight is about.  Stop. Again avoid "You did this." Express the problem in terms of how the actions made you feel. You are on firm ground when you talk about how you feel. You only make them defensive when you talk about what "they did."

Watch Your Language

Avoid following with character assassination, your amateur psychology insights, your psychic knowledge of what they were thinking have no place in fighting fair. Those types of statements are controlling, presumptuous and very damaging to your relationship's future.

Keep the argument on topic

The problems that define the fight are best not put out there as you did this" statements Put things in terms of how whatever happened....How does it make you feel?

I can't say this enough. Keep talking about what the fight is about. Avoid tearing down your partner personally

Listen don't plan

Listen carefully to what your partner is saying without interrupting or thinking about what you are going to say. Show the other person you are paying attention.  One word notes only if you are taking notes.

At the conclusion of their statement, repeat back to them what they said as you heard it. Use their words when you can to make them understand you heard them. "If I heard you correctly, you said ."

Keep Down the Volume and Speed

When we're angry we tend to get louder and faster in our communication. Our heart rate gets up and so does our's an automatic reaction.  Screaming at each other almost unintelligibly isn't a relationship building activity. Honest. No matter what you saw your parents do.

When you find yourself or your partner being too loud....stop and slow the pace and volume down they will follow. It's almost as automatic.

Don't keep going back to old issues and old hurts.

Most everybody has a tough time staying with the current fight. If you manage to avoid attacking your partner with character assassinations on them personality it's half the battle?

The other half that trips most couples up is bringing up old issues and old hurts and inserting them into the current argument. You really can't fix what happened before that didn't get fixed. Concentrate on the here and now. Something you can get fixed.

Everybody Gets Equal Time

Just like the Presidential Debates, everybody gets a turn to speak without interruption.   Very important. Without Interruption. See Listen Not Plan above.... Now we have Listen Not Plan or Interrupt.

Save the Anger for Big Stuff

Not every issue deserves equal anger. Lots of things can be confronted and resolved without being in Maximum Anger Mode.
Lose the desire to deliver ultimatums and vent your anger.

No physical or emotional abuse

I shouldn't have to include's just not permissible and obvious,  but will be critiqued if I don't.

Sometimes its good to take a break

Sometimes things get heated and nobody is budging and bad habits of arguing are begining to take over the argument. Take a break.

Give your mind AND your body a chance to slow down.

Take the time to think about the other person's viewpoint and think of possible ways including compromise to solve the issue.

How long. If you have to take a break then break for at least a half hour. It's best though if you don't wait too long. I think 24 hours more or less is as long as I would put off trying to come to a solution.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Last Minute Cancelling Ministers and wedding contracts

In the last few weeks I have received a lot of calls from folks needing to find someone to officiate their wedding at the last minute.

The reason. The minister had cancelled. I was horrified, so I attempted to find out what had happened. In most instances the couple had gotten a friend or family member (most ordained on the net) to do the wedding to save money, or because they volunteered.  Then at the last minute they cancelled. They had to work at their real job, had to travel for their real job. Or, there mother was sick in another city or (enter any number of excuses here.)

I'm going to give you a  personal opinion here.

First, the cost of the officiate is one of the smallest costs of most weddings. During the wedding all eyes will be on three people....the bride....the groom....and the officiate.  Why anyone would put an amateur in this important position to save a little money is beyond me.

A wedding is an event that marks one of the most significant moments in the life of a couple, Why would you give the job of creating a performing that ceremony to someone not experienced at planning and officiating weddings? 

Some one told me that theirs wasn't a money issue,  they chose a friend because they wanted to be able to do the ceremony "their way."  There are many professional wedding officiates that will let you plan your wedding just the way you want it. And, if they are experienced they have the knowledge to avoid the pitfalls that others have when planning their wedding with someone who doesn't know what works and what doesn't.

Another issue to consider with an amateur. In the last several years a Pennsylvania couple got married using a friend who got ordained on the net so he could be their wedding officiate. Sadly the marriage didn't work and in the divorce one party argued that the marriage was not valid at all, as the friend officiate "wasn't really a minister.."

A few of the cancelling ministers were from wedding companies. I started to write professional wedding companies, but obviously these folks were not very professional .

A professional will give you a contract. And that means they will show up for your wedding. And if they become ill or have some other issue, the professional will always have a backup plan.

Since 1993 we have never cancelled or missed a wedding date. And we have four available ministers, so if one of us is ill, we have backup. 

Doesn't that all sound like a better idea that asking an amateur or a less professional wedding ministers?

That's all for this week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Love. And 1st Corinthians 13

Love and 1st Corinthians 13

Love is our topic of the week because Love has been on my mind a lot this week.  This blog isn't as clearly defined because it is a very complex subject.

First Corinthians 13; 4-13 is a very popular Bible reading at weddings because it's central theme is about love. The language changes depending on which version of the Bible you read from. There are over 50 versions of the Bible in English alone to pick from. The version below is a popular one.

New Testament  1st Corinthians 13; 4-13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and I have not love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in differences, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Love never fails. It's a beautiful thought.  But is it true? We're going to look at love this week. Does love conquer all? Is love all that is necessary for a successful relationship?  ( A complete analysis of what 1st Corinthians means religiously follows my ramblings.)
Most of us fall in love (or what we may think of as love) more than once in our lifetime. But often these love relationships don't last. Otherwise we'd all get married about the time we're 13 and live happily ever after.  Was this a bad thing to fall in love? Did we make a mistake falling in love?  I say no. We learn things about ourselves and about love by being "in love."  And one of the things we learn is that just because we fall in love with someone doesn't mean that we are meant to spend our lives with them. That's true even if they love us too.
Because a successful long term relationship requires more than love. It requires and deserves daily attention to keep it strong, backed with the will to make it last. A successful relationship requires common values in the couple, not common interests.... common VALUES. Common values, combined with honesty among partners engenders trust. And trust is an imperative for a successful long term relationship. Can you love someone and not have common values...yes you can, so clearly love doesn't account for all here.
 And it requires skills. Skills that you were most likely not taught. Effective communications skills. How to recognize your partners communications style and temperament and then how communicate with them for maximum effectiveness.  How to negotiate power and decision making in the relationship. Parenting and discipline. Family and friends. Finances and goals. How to fight fair and a lot more.
Without these skills you will never have a successful relationship long term, even one built solidly on love.
 How do you acquire the skills? Lots of reading. Work with a counselor....not when the relationship is in trouble but early on when you establishing the patterns you will use in your entire relationship.
We will feature discussions on these skills in future entries.
Additionally, we have a testing and pastoral counseling program that we offer to couples to help make this happen over a period of three months.  We'd be happy to discuss the specifics of the programs and costs with you on a person to person basis.
Lastly, what follows is an analysis of the Biblical passage 1st Corinthians 13.  I pulled it off the internet years ago and I can't find the name of the author....but I want to state that this is not my original writing.

The Way of Love - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the best known and best loved passages of the Bible. The structure and beauty of the chapter are evidence of a highly skilled author. The unusually high literary quality of the chapter and the strong connection between 12:31 and 14:1 have led to the theory that someone other than Paul wrote chapter 13 and inserted it into 1 Corinthians at a later date. Regardless of one's conclusions on that question it is a fact
that 1 Corinthians 13 has most frequently been studied out of context as a source for understanding the Christian view of love.

First Corinthians 13 has been called "The Hymn to Love." It is more structured than much of Paul's writings. The chapter can be divided into three clear divisions. Verses 1-3 contrast love with other religious actions and attitudes. Verses 4-7 describe love (primarily in terms of what it is not). Verses 8-13 return to the contrasting of love with other religious and theological concepts. The similarity of verses 1-3 and 8-13 has led many
commentators to describe the chapter in terms of an ABA' pattern. This pattern of writing was considered an evidence of stylistic expertise in the biblical world. Further, the sentences are more balanced than is usually the case in Pauline writings and the vocabulary is powerful. These facts have led some to conclude that Paul did not originally compose chapter 13.

If he did not compose the chapter two possibilities exist. Someone else prior to 1 Corinthians could have written it and Paul, knowing it, quoted it here because he thought it fit. The other possibility is that someone inserted it into 1 Corinthians after the letter had been written. This is the less likely explanation. Though chapter 13 interrupts the connection
between 12:31 and 14:1 it does not interrupt Paul's flow of thought. The language of prophecy and tongues figures prominently in chapter 13. These gifts were mentioned in chapter 12 and will become the main subjects of chapter 14. Chapter 13 certainly appears to be part of the flow of thought
not a later insertion.

Close examination shows that the literary quality of the chapter can be exaggerated. Though it is much more artistically written than most of Paul's letters, chapter 13 is still prose. All efforts to interpret it as poetry and to put it into verses have failed. The idea that Paul was quoting a hymn to love that he had heard and memorized is not the most likely explanation.

A very probable explanation of the unusual nature and structure of chapter13 is that Paul was adapting some "sermonic" material that he had developed in the past. Through several years of preaching and polishing it Paul had developed the balanced sentences and the pointed vocabulary. The adaptation to the Corinthian situation provides the emphasis on prophecy and tongues and keeps it from being as evenly structured as we might expect in a hymn.

The key word in chapter 13 is love. The Greek word throughout the chapter is agape. It is often said (correctly) that agape does not refer to emotional love, but to seeking the best for the other person without regard to the closeness of relationship with that person. It is important to remember that linguists and Bible scholars do not have an ancient dictionary full of definitions (Webster's Greek Dictionary, 3rd edition, A.D. 47). Rather the
meaning of biblical words is determined by close observation of how those words are used. First Corinthians 13 is one of the major resources for understanding the meaning of agape. Paul's use of the word throughout chapter 13 helps us understand that agape seeks the best for the other person.

Verses 1-3 describe the importance of love. Three conditional sentences are worded and ordered to hammer away at the Corinthians' absorption with speaking in tongues. Fee (p. 630) makes a very important observation:

It is hard to escape the implication that what is involved here are two opposing views as to what it means to be "spiritual." For the Corinthians it meant "tongues, wisdom, knowledge" (and pride), but without a commensurate concern for truly Christian behavior. For Paul it meant first of all to be full of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, which therefore meant to behave as those "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be his holy people" (1:2), of
which the ultimate expression always is to "walk in love." Thus, even though these sentences reflect the immediate context, Paul's concern is not simply with their over-enthusiasm about tongues but with the larger issue of the letter as a whole, where their view of spirituality has caused them to miss rather widely both the gospel and its ethics.

If the Corinthians - or we - miss the message of chapter 13 the purpose of the whole letter of 1 Corinthians will likely fail. This may be the reason Paul gave his best writing skills to the message of this chapter.

The point of verse 1 is that speaking in tongues without love is meaningless noise. The inter-testament Jewish book, the Testament of Job, speaks of people speaking ecstatically in the angelic dialect. Paul does not commit himself to such an understanding of what the Corinthians were doing as they
spoke in tongues. Rather, he is open to the possibility that the Corinthian phenomenon was a human matter or angelic speech. Either case does not matter unless the speakers have love. Without love the most elevated and religious speech is empty, hollow, meaningless and perhaps even pagan. Thus verse 1 is frontal attack on the Corinthian pre-occupation with speaking in tongues.

However, Paul moves to other religious values in verse 2. Prophecy, understanding mysteries, knowledge, and faith are all weighed in the balances and found wanting if not accompanied by love. Prophecy is the gift Paul will promote in chapter 14. There is no need to rehearse the centrality of faith in Christianity. Paul is not "picking" on the Corinthians in verse
2. Any religious value or expression is meaningless without love.

Verse 3 moves beyond spiritual gifts into sacrificial religious commitments.
The Greek literally speaks of parceling out one's possessions presumably to feed the poor. The verb means to feed by putting little bits [of food] into the mouth. Though such acts of mercy would have been highly approved in Judaism (see Matthew 6:1-4) Paul sees no value in it if done without love.

The final clause in verses 1-3 is textually uncertain. Some ancient manuscripts read, "If I hand over my body that I might be burned." Others read, "If I hand over my body that I might boast." The evidence suggests that the "boast" edition was more likely original. In either case the important part of the phrase is in handing over his body. To totally give up oneself to God brings no benefit for the person who makes that sacrifice of
self without love. Whatever our most significant spiritual achievement may be it is nothing without love.

Verses 4-7 attempt to define the character of love. The sentences of this section are short, several times a single Greek verb expresses the whole idea. The first two phrases are positive. Love is long suffering and kind.

The next eight expressions describe love negatively. The first three reject the idea that love is boastful or arrogant. The fourth denies that love behaves inappropriately. Love is not self-seeking. The sixth and seventh elements are especially relational in nature. Love is not easily angered or provoked. It does not keep record of wrongs. The final negative element in this list states that love does not rejoice in evil. At this point Paul
returns to a positive statement. Instead of rejoicing in evil, love
co-rejoices in the truth. The shift from rejoicing to another Greek word, "co-rejoicing," indicates the fact that love operates in the community of faith.

Verse 7 concludes the central section of chapter 13 with four positive, parallel sentences. All four consist of two words in the Greek text and the first word is identical in all four. That first word is "all things" (one word in Greek). The first and last sentences are parallel in that they seem to refer to endurance or patience. The two middle sentences are related in that they deal with faith and hope. The first phrase of verse 8 sums up the
four elements of verse 7. Love never fails. It endures, it believes in the present, and it hopes for the future. Even more than the Energizer bunny,love just keeps going.

Verses 8b-13 return to the meaninglessness of religious virtues without love. Paul points out the lack of value in prophecies, tongues, and knowledge by reminding the Corinthians that those virtues will someday cease. In both ancient and contemporary culture permanence is the mark of quality. No matter how highly one might value prophecy, tongues, or knowledge those virtues are temporary.

Verses 9-10 further points out that prophecy and knowledge are partial rather than complete. As a result there is built in obsolescence in prophecy and knowledge. Paul could have easily moved to verse 13 at this point.

However, he inserts two illustrations before coming to his conclusion. The partial quality of the spiritual gifts valued so highly by the Corinthians compares poorly to the final relationship that God intends. In fact, their fascination with their spiritual gifts is like childish immaturity. What God has in mind is as different as adult maturity. The Corinthians have a long
way to go. Their understanding of spiritual realities is no better than the knowledge gained by gazing into a poor quality mirror.

Paul's conclusion is a bit surprising. We would expect him to say that only love abides forever. What he states is that faith, hope, and love remain forever. But the greatest of these is love. The importance of love is not that it is the only eternal reality. Faith and hope are also eternal. Love's importance derives from the fact that its absence makes faith, hope, and any other religious virtue meaningless.

We may or may not be tempted toward a Corinthian understanding of spirituality. We may or may not swing to an opposite extreme of reducing life in the Spirit to correct creeds. But we dare not forget Paul's powerful exhortation of the centrality and eternality of love. However we may end up
being religious, we will never be Christian without love. The teaching of Jesus and of the New Testament confronts us with the demand for love of God and of neighbor.