Remnant


This morning during prayer Lauren shared a vision she had: A big concrete slab that couldn’t keep the growth of green below it from bursting forth and splitting the cement into pieces. Drought and development giving way to Life.

I frequently walk my neighborhood, which, while though not as green as it could be (not as green as I am used to in Northern Michigan), is a haven from the common “neighborhoods” we are seeing popping up all over. In a matter of weeks, century-old forests are cleared and green gives way to dusty orange clay… which soon becomes cement. Huge houses are crammed into the streets. It’s harvest season, but instead of daisies and corn and berries the fields are full of strip malls and Wal-Marts.

So I frequently walk my little neighborhood called Quiet Acres (where there are still a few farms with horses and goats) and I pray. I pray protection over these things I value: trees for my kids to climb and explore, God’s beautiful handiwork for us to behold, fresh clean air for us to gulp, fields for the wild flowers, foxes and deer to roam. Already I am seeing a few clearings, but I do not lose hope.

One day on a walk God told me that no matter how many clearings man will do, there will always be a Remnant of trees. Sound silly? I an no tree hugger. But my soul comes alive outdoors. A Remnant, I thought to myself.

Of trees. Of His people. Of good.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. I said to Matt, “Will God receive glory on this day? Will His enemy taunt Him at the end of this day because His people were too lazy to make prayer a priority? Will His enemy taunt Him that no one really cared? Will the enemy boast that his own army of followers are more dedicated in their curses and seances than the people of Almighty God are in crying out to Him?” I was very concerned about this. Matt said to me, good man that he is, “Lana, all it takes is one. One heart crying out to Him, and He receives glory.” I got up from my seat and hugged him. I needed that simple, faith-filled affirmation. God is not concerned with numbers. He is passionate about His Remnant. He is looking to and fro throughout the earth to find ONE soul, ONE heart that is dedicated to Him.

I don’t want to lose hope. No matter how many bulldozers, no matter how much complacency, no matter how much despair, no matter how much evil, no matter how much temptation, no matter how much love grown cold… there will always be a Remnant.

And as for me and my heart?

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. – Psalm 27:8

New

I heard Jesus say to me, “I make all things new.” He spoke it to my mind so clearly I could almost feel His breath on my face.

New. This idea of newness, we’re always looking for it. Magazines are made to directly appeal to our desire for New. New clothes, new gear, new linens, new gadgets. All to soon become old. New packages. New bodies, new skin. New schedules, new jobs. New start. All to soon become old.

And what about love? There is a reason movies are made almost always around new love. We love to see the freshness, the nervousness, the wonder, the friction, the excitement of new love. We love to see the hero or heroine go through all odds, stay up all hours, sit in the rain and walk many hours, solely on the strength of the desire within new love.

Will love become old? I’ve seen it happen, for sure, and I don’t mean old in the good, warm worn blanket way. I’ve seen it happen in the way that old means stale.

But it doesn’t have to.

Matt and I have been married almost five years. When we were dating, we would walk hours and hours down the streets of Chicago. It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the night and we both had exhausting days. We would walk until the sun came up. Now we both have life roles that challenge this sort of behavior, but that doesn’t mean our love is old or stale. For love to retain its newness, what would this look like? The answer lies I believe in what Jesus said. “I make all things new.” Jesus. What a promise. He said ALL things. That includes love.

Surrendering to Jesus. At first, it might not look like the answer we’re looking for. It means serving someone else when you’re really tired. It means refusing to be easily offended. It means overlooking some hurts or disappointments instead of hanging on like you deserve something. It means spending yourself. It means talking, always, in a gentle and sweet voice.

Isn’t this the way we act when we are first falling in love? Sure, you say, but when you’re falling in love you really feel like doing all of these things; you don’t even have to try. To that I say, perhaps when we first fall in love, we get a taste of the divine nature in terms of how He loves; for not only does He love well, but He always feels like it and He never has to try. It is His very nature.

But as time goes on for man, his divine love feeling–that is wholeheartedly selfless, focused on the good, deeply compassionate, sacrificial and even heroic in action–begins to fade like the radiance upon Moses’ face.

And as Moses veiled his face, we begin to veil our hearts. That’s when things get stale.

But. But! Not so for those who abide in Christ, always open to Him, unveiled before Him. He’s the Center, He’s in charge. For those of us who love Him, we do things He asks whether we want to or not. Hopefully. And He asks us to love selflessly, all the time. And He says it’s when you lose yourself that you really gain your life. He says it’s when you seek to find yourself that you lose your life. And love, to keep it new, has to be given over to Him. And like the great Gardener that He is, He tills the heart so it then bears this luscious, satisfying, delicious fruit. And it is new every day.

Remembering My Student Who Died

Nick was one of my first students. He had brown hair, bright enthusiastic eyes, and he was just the kind of kid that made me love my new job–he was smart and confident, also brash and rebellious. At the appropriate time, he was studious and respectful, but at other times tough and defensive. He was real.

He had been enrolled in the little school for probationary reasons. As far as I could tell, he’d been kicked out of the big public school and part of his court agreement was to relocate into a healthier environment. He’d been caught with pot or something like that. I never saw his file, wasn’t a big deal to me. Everyone had done stuff. He was a great kid.

Nick died today. He was eighteen. This morning our principal pulled me out of class to tell me Nick had been in a car wreck, suffered extreme brain damage, spent all weekend in a coma–and was soon to be taken off life support, once the heart transplant to a needy recipient was completed.

He left after that first year, after the legal obligation was over. He left as one of my all-time favorite students. He came back once for a visit with his friend T., also at the school that first year, but who had later been expelled for cussing at the principal. T. and Nick’s visit didn’t end well–after disagreements with the administration, they were asked never to return.

Today as the principal, eyes misty, offered an informal eulogy during a hastily organized assembly, he made the comment that “Nick didn’t know his dad so well.” I don’t know much about Nick’s dad myself. But I wonder what he’s thinking as he hears of this sad fate met by his only son–does he think of his only daughter, is he moved to contact her and reconnect–and salvage…something?

*******

When this sort of happens–death, especially early death–I feel torn up, cheap, false. Like a real person living in a paper world, but doing papery things, with papery priorities, and for papery gain.

I don’t want to move beyond this moment. Not until something in me changes. People are dying all around me–some slowly and predictably, but many go unexpectedly and shockingly. I don’t want to be shocked, surprised, or scared–even if I go tomorrow. I want the eternal perspective that always sees myself and those around me as fleeting, fading images–as the exhalations of breath that we are. Our tenure on this planet and in these bodies is brief. Lord, it is short!

So many people have died. And we’re all going to die. Look out, people, we’re all going to die.

Are you listening, Matt?

*******

Near the end of that first year of teaching, Lana and I were offered a three-day “baby-sitting” job. We were to stay with and oversee two of my students–a sophomore and an eighth grader. Brothers, good guys.

As I am now, I was then readily mischievous and eager to play. So I brought an arsenal of blow guns and hard plastic pellets. Those playful “weapons” became our lives over the next few days–evening and morning. The house where we stayed was a three-floored, sprawling mansion, with two distant staircases leading to the top floor. We established territories, teams, and spent valuable dinnertime and homework hours chasing one another (me, my wife, the boys!) through the halls–shouting and howling when struck with the pellets. On the second evening, having heard about our antics in the school, Nick drove over to join us.

Over the next few hours, I watched a side of him emerge that I’d never seen before. He laughed, yelled, tore through the halls like a little kid. As I reflected how he engaged those “blowgun wars,” it seemed as though he’d discovered a newfound freedom. Later I wondered to Lana if he’d had carefree moments in his childhood, if he’d had childish joys, or if he’d been too weighted down by the absence of a father, the responsibilities of being the man for his mom and sister?

And what was his life like in the years after?

*******

I haven’t seen him in a couple of years. It’s not like we were in contact. But I feel such a loss.

Nick, I’m going to miss you, buddy.

Goodbye Aliya Joy (For Now)

“May the two of you hear in your hearts together the songs the angels sung upon the Lord receiving your child into His presence.”

Those words were written to us from a friend, and they provided a beautiful picture for us on this little one’s homecoming.

God gave Matt and I a sense of the child’s sex (independently of one another) after we learned we had lost this baby, and I believe it was so that we could name this little one and honor this life. I prayed for the name to come, one that God had chosen. It jumped right out at us: Aliya Joy (pronounced “ah LEE ah”). Aliya is Hebrew and it means “to ascend; to go up.” It was perfect. This child is now in heaven with the Lord, living a life free of sin and suffering. Today I read, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil” (Isa 57:1).

I praise the LORD that He has spared this little one from evils in this old world, and will rejoice to see her in heaven… for I know I will (see 2 Sam. 12:23). Another friend gave me a wonderful picture of how Jesus had comforted her when she miscarried her little boy:

Jesus gave me a vision/picture of Himself holding my son. He told me “I’ll raise this one.”

Who better than Jesus to raise our little Aliya? Praise be to His name.

Spiritual Junk

These fruits are full of Life, full of life-giving nutrients. They are good. God has called them good. Compare them to the following.

But don’t we just crave the junk? Haven’t we lost our appetite for the good stuff?

I was thinking about this because today in my Oswald Chambers reading he said, “It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit.” Someone once said that when you are truly hungry, you don’t want to do anything but eat. That is all you think about. You don’t want to sleep, you don’t want to be entertained, you don’t want to laugh or talk or hug… you want to EAT. So can we very often say we are truly hungry for more of the Holy Spirit, so much so that we will trade sleep and food and entertainment to get more of Him?

I thought, Lord, how can I be more hungry? That is when I thought of the fruit. How do you get more hungry for fruits and vegetables? Simple. Stop stuffing yourself with junk, and guarantee, you will begin to get hungry, so hungry that fruits and vegetables will become so wonderfully appealing to you again.

Stop stuffing yourself with junk. “Let us lay aside that which contaminates body and spirit.” How have I been stuffing my spirit with junk? When I begin to eliminate the spiritual junk food, I will begin to develop a deeper hunger for Spiritual Real Food. Good food. Holy Spirit food.

One day might look like…

A woman wakes up before dawn, washes her face and brushes her teeth. She does a few quick stretches to get the blood moving, and pours herself a glass of water. She walks around the house, opening the blinds so that when the sun comes up its rays will give the area new life. Her day is a long day, though usually never long enough.

She looks at her watch, a nylon blue Timex. 5:22. She has just over an hour before her 14 month old ball-of-energy little boy will stir, at which point the day will catapult into lightening speed. She likes mornings best. It is the only point of day where time seems to stand still. It is the time of day for just her and her God.

On her knees. She falls down on them easily now, her head burying into the couch cushion. Her husband has been up since 4a.m., and he is gone now. But coffee has been made and it awaits her in a red thermos on the kitchen table. Sometimes her husband even sets out a cup for her beside it. She will enjoy that in a bit.

Thank you for another day. She has learned not to take one for granted. The words that follow from her lips are too precious, too intimate to write. But just as His Word promises, He has satisfied her in the morning with His love. This moment, this time, sets up the rest of her day with joy and peace no matter what chaos will present itself. Everything she does, every decision she makes, and the success or failure of it all hinges on this moment. When she misses it, she runs around like everyone else… too much to do, not enough time to do it, too much to worry about, not enough energy to tackle it, too many things “needed,” not enough money for it all, etc., etc., etc.

But today she has met with grace. She has been emptied, and filled again. The exchange is one she would make any time: her baggage and worries for His peace and strength. She marvels at how she could ever let herself miss this, though it has happened many days.

His Word. It is like a treasure to her, a fine meal, she takes it all in, savoring every bite. It comes alive to her now, and especially after prayer. The words jump off the page and speak to her, like a friend, one that loves enough to speak truth. The truth often cuts, but the voice is always tender, full of love.

Time flies by and she hears him, her little Isaac Bendigo. He is playing in his crib, but if she doesn’t act soon his playful sounds will turn to cries. She warms his bottle, thinking it is time to be done with the bottle. She runs in to meet him. He is standing up, holding onto the railing of the crib, legs bouncing with excitement and she walks toward him. He says, “Dadda!” She is not sure if this is because he wants his daddy or if he doesn’t know how to say mommy yet. He will say “dadda” all day.

She sweeps him up into her arms and kisses his face. She talks to him normally as if he understands everything she is saying. She changes his diaper, gets him dressed and takes him to the living room where he will sit near her and drink his bottle. The fireplace is turned on, and he points. “Yes, fire,” she says.

They will do many things together today. They will go outside and see the flowers and watch for doggies. They will hit the wind chime and rock the rocking chair. They will go play with the steering wheel in the car. They will pray and eat and walk. They will read stories and cuddle.

They will also do things separately. Isaac will play in his room alone. He will take two naps before the day is over. That is when she will write, when she will clean, do laundry, make phone calls, dishes, make dinner, pay the bills, and do research.

Her husband will come home and rest, because his day is even longer than hers. After his short nap in the hammock, he will come in and play with Isaac until dinner is ready. They will all eat and talk, because the fellowship of family is found at the table. Before the sky darkens they will go on a walk through their old, quiet neighborhood, where they will see goats, horses and plenty of dogs. If they are lucky, they will see a deer or a fox.

The loop they do is usually about a mile, and sooner than they realize they are back to their small brick home where the dishes of dinner await on the table. It is not a bad feeling, it is a warm feeling. The woman’s husband gets the bath water going for Isaac… it is time to clean up after another full day.

After bubbles and rubber duckies and foam bath toys and many giggles, things quiet down. The bedtime routine is simple: PJ’s are put on, lights go down, Isaac and the woman sit in the rocker for a few books. He picks them out. They will most likely include balls and cars and tractors and doggies. Daddy comes in to pray and Isaac goes down, but not alone. He has not one, not two, but three stuffed animals he likes to have nearby: a small teddy, a giant teddy and a doggy head attached to a blanket. He rolls around with all three until they’re all, Isaac included, tangled in a pile. He will end with his butt in the air, fast asleep.

The woman and her dear husband will cherish the next few hours of stillness together. They might read by the fire, they might sing a few songs, they might have to do work on their laptops… but they will seek to end with an early night in bed, with plenty of time for
pillow talk and prayers.

hearing God’s voice

My childhood memories are often of solitary activities. Once, when skiing in the front open field on a sunny day, I heard something. It may have been a squeak of a mouse or a squeak of my ski along the wet snow, but I told mom and dad. That Sunday after church I found myself on the platform being interviewed by a white-haired pastor. He asked if I thought it had been God’s voice speaking to me. I wasn’t sure, I said. Did I often hear voices, he wondered. No, only once, I told him. What did the voice say? He asked. I wasn’t sure what it was, I said, it was probably just a mouse. Secretly my biggest fear was that I had killed it.

Being Allergic

As a kid, the main reason I cried in social settings was because I didn’t fit in, or at least thought I didn’t. In first grade I was different from the other kids. While they all drank regular white or chocolate milk at lunch or during snack, I had grape juice in a clear plastic bottle with an aluminum foil lid that I punched a hole into with a pointy straw. “Why don’t you drink milk?” One of the boys asked. I began to sob, and little Joanna Bergmann said, “He can’t drink milk.”

Eventually my milk allergy faded away. Was I ever even allergic? I doubt it. Now I love to drink cold creamy glasses of milk. My favorite is Horizon Organic, which has a distinct dairy taste, exactly the taste that my allergy kept me from enjoying. Now I fit in with the other kids. Now I don’t care.

Words Said at the Wedding of Lovers

Words Said at the Wedding of Lovers, Matt Shaw and Lana Felten, on September 13, 2003 at the Living Gospel Church, Lake Odessa, Michigan

Given that afternoon by Mike McDuffee sometime after 4:30 p.m.

Matt, Lana, I have written down what I have to share with you for a number of reasons. As you know, I have never done this before. I would not want my lack of experience to keep me from saying what should be said on this solemn day of your wedding. That which is solemn by its very nature is serious. This day you stand before God to take one another as husband and wife. That is a deeply earnest affair. It should arouse feelings of awe in all of us assembled here today. Such a solemn ceremony could easily make me nervous enough to forget what I should say. Important things ought not be forgotten on such occasions. To prevent this from happening I have written the thoughts the Lord has allowed be formed by way of reflecting upon the Scriptures in preparation for this day. I expect you two might be a bit nervous too. That is a good thing. But it is hard to hear well when we are a little nervous. I will leave these remarks with you trusting the Lord will bless your later reading them together.

Of course there are other reasons why you are not able to listen carefully to what is said today. Your sense of timing conspires against your being able to do so. You hear the new rhythm of your hearts beating together. This new sound like a loud drum in your ears draws away your attention. You aim to take this special day in deliberately, savoring every moment of it, determined to fill its passing in being absorbed with one another before the Lord. Though you do not mean it to happen, this leaves little time in your thoughts for the rest of us. This does not upset us assembled here. We have come to witness, to pronounce and to celebrate your pledging of one another to become husband and wife in the name of Christ. We judge it is most fitting for such a striking groom and radiant bride to work so single-mindedly to change the fleeting moments of the present into an enduring memory, which you will carry together for years to come.

As you set about doing this, at the very same time you also want this day to be over all at once. You are rushing ahead in your thoughts to its close when you will begin your lives together as husband and wife. This too is good. But being so busy, how could you possibly hear all that will be said this day? Beyond these things, everything you hear will not immediately resonate with where you are today. “Yes,” you might say, “Those things are true, but they do not relate to us.” This is true. In the warmth and the glow and the joy that you now share with your hearts and hopes so freshly and fully intertwined, you do not need to hear these things. Trust in the Lord’s timing to consider them later. May all that He desires about these matters come to mind when they should, so you may continually grow before Him together for His glory and pleasure.

Lana, Matt, Jesus calls the two of you to become one flesh. Your oneness of flesh becomes your new identity in Christ. You must live to please one another. From out of this priority of calling will grow your ministry, your testimony and your legacy. This is God’s design; this is God’s desire for you as husband and wife. Rejoice in His wish and fulfill it with thanksgiving. Each of you is His gift to the other. Receive each other accordingly. “One flesh” speaks of your intimate union. Give honor to your marriage, remain faithful to one another. Know God will surely judge the immoral and those who commit adultery (Hebrews 13:4). Cast each other in the secure light of loyalty and always seek to see one another only in that welcoming light.

Beyond this, “one flesh” means the new ties, the new bonds of friendship and family you two bring into being by your becoming this day husband and wife (Genesis 2:23; 29:14; 2 Samuel 5:1). Your setting out to build a home together will give life to these new relations and offer them a place to prosper. Heed His call to be good stewards of these relations, which He has set aside for you by name. As husband and wife rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Care for those with whom the Lord surrounds you; remain open to the entertaining of angels by being hospitable to strangers. Treat all whom you invite in your home with warmth and affection, realizing you do so best by remaining most affectionate with one another. Above all, offer up prayers in behalf of these dear people, confident that the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

Witnesses assembled here today will undoubtedly be woven into the wreath of lives that will ring your home. I ask those present to know this about Lana and Matt. They live among you before the Lord as His own possession. They will take you by name with them in prayer when they go boldly before the throne of our gracious God. There they will trust to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need. See them as they truly are. They are Christians. They are children of the King. Respect them as such; know their King watches over them. If you do not know Him and want to, you can speak to Him now in the silent voice of your heart that only He understands. The Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated God’s own righteousness and His undivided love for each of us by dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus was handed over to die because of our sins. He was raised from the dead to make us right with God. He invites each of us to be honest with ourselves and to be reconciled with Him. Jesus assures us, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” Speak to him in the language of trust. Cry out in your heart, “Help the helpless Lord. Be merciful with me a sinner. I come to you to receive what only you can give. Forgive me of my sins Lord, free me to live for you, and let me be with you forever.” Be confident that whoever believes in Him for these things will not be disappointed, for anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Lana, Matt, the Spirit inspired Matthew to record the Lord’s teaching on marital commitment directly after His teaching on forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). In the Gospel according to Mark our Lord prefaces His teaching about marriage by a warning not to cause little ones who believe to stumble. He follows it by insisting the children be brought to Him to be blessed (Mark 9:42 through 10:16). Fashion the golden purity of your marriage in the setting of such supportive silver beauty. Look into one another’s eyes (Go ahead!) Realize that through the one upon whom you now gaze the Lord will teach you some of His most difficult lessons about what it means to become more like Jesus. What a wonderful way to learn to love, by becoming more like the author of love in our love for one another. But do not be deceived; marriage magnifies the effects of our selfishness and silliness. It is a law of life in this world that the more intimate the relationship, the deeper is the cut made by the slightest misunderstanding or littlest offense. You have such power over one another! Be merciful! Resist becoming hardheaded or half-hearted. Adorn your faults with godly repentance. Embrace the shortcomings of your life partner; bear one another, forgiving each other just as the Lord forgave you. Don’t hold your love for one another hostage to a grudge, or to a point in an argument, or to a right you demand, or to a pleasure you expect or to a thing you want. Prepare your home for the arrival of little ones. Prepare for the day when you will give each other the titles ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ for the sake of your children. From this day forward treat one another the finest way you know how so that your example of love will help little children honor their parents that it may be well with them, and that they may live long on the earth.

Matt, as head of the household, you should take this truth to heart. Honor Lana. Hold her most dear in your heart. Seek to discover daily a different facet of her precious value to you and your steadfast love for her. She is uniquely made in the image of God. She is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life in Christ. God has gifted her that His generosity might flow through her. Help her to serve Him, as she should with all the strength and energy that God supplies. She is an individual part of His masterpiece work, the church, which will be on display for all eternity for His glory. Help her to do the good that her Lord has prepared before hand that she might do these things for Him. Resolve in your heart to live through all the seasons of this lifetime to sound the depths of your true love’s wonders and worth. I remind you now, if you do not treat her as you should, your prayers will be impeded. Let me remind you what Chicago mayor Richard Daily did to Meigs Field. He sent bulldozers in the middle of the night to tear up the runways, gouging out large strips of asphalt to ruin the purpose for which they were constructed. It is impossible for an airplane to either land or take off from Meigs field. Matt, that is what will happen to your prayers should you fail to honor Lana as she deserves and the Lord demands. Your prayers will no longer serve their purpose, you will be held back from following the truth. Do not let this happen, bestow honor on your wife.

Lana, submit to Matt as to the Lord. Do this to teach the Church to submit to Christ. Do this to remind Matt by way of your godly life to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Allow him to behold you with the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so delightful to God. Submit to Matt to showcase your trust in the Lord. Do this, which is right, without fear. Live to be commended like Sarah, who considered Him faithful who promised, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Matt, realize Lana submits to you confessing, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.” Love her Matt, lover her as you love your own body, that you two may continually grow closer together in the Lord.

There is a German saying, “Everything has an end except a bratwurst, for it has two.” This is not true. Love has no end. May your marriage be a picture in God’s book of mighty deeds that illustrates the never-ending story of Christ’s love for His church. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Live together as one to learn what is pleasing to the Lord, and allow His love to live through you in your doing this. Lana, see to it that you respect Matt as to the Lord. Matt, nourish and cherish Lana, just as Christ also does His church.

O Lord, the years of our life are few, their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Teach us Lord to number our days that we may acquire a heart of wisdom. Matt make it your mark in life and in your marriage to become one of the older men in the church, to be a man who is sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. And even as you become these things, might you remain intoxicated with the wife of your youth. Lana, make it your mark in life and in your marriage to grow to become one of the older women in the church who are reverent in behavior, teaching what is good, and so training the young women to love their husbands and children. Live wisely and be pure. Take care of your home; be kind and submissive to Matt that the word of God may not be reviled. I charge the both of you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God do your part in the building up the Body of Christ, the church of the living God, which is the pillar and support of the truth until we all attain to the unity of the faith united in our knowledge of the Son of God, knowing that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. May God keep you from turning aside from this charge. As husband and wife may your greatest joy in life always remain meeting it together. Amen.