Saturday

Engaged #1

ENGAGED #1

The engagement period is exciting for a young couple. It should be. After dating and falling in love, the couple is now seriously envisioning a future together and are making concrete plans for it. The engagement period signals to the world that this couple is committed to a lifetime together.

There is an element of ecstacy during the engagement as the man and woman draws even closer together. Intimacy develops naturally and deeply as the couple continues to learn about each other, talk about their love, plan the big day, and dream about their future. The world seems like a wonderful place when you are engaged to the person of your dreams and are about to take that joyful step into committed and intimate connection.

Participate Together

There are a few things couples can keep in mind during the engagement to make this transition period to the wedding be meaningful and bonding. One, be aware that while the engagement period is exciting, it can also be a time of stress, especially for the bride, as she plans the wedding. Guys usually get out easy on this, much of our contribution being, "Yup, oh yeah, that’s nice, sure, whatever you say."

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But as most of us know, men are not as concerned about matching plates and linens, dresses and suits, and the host of other details that are planned for the wedding during the engagement. But, guys should be aware that it is important for the bride, so we shouldn’t discourage her attempts to make the wedding as nice as it can be. This is a time for us to participate in something meaningful with our future bride.

For me, this participation was shopping with Cheryl for the cake knife. I didn’t know people shopped for cake knives! The first store we went to had a nice knife and Cheryl said, "I like this one." I said, "Good, let’s get it." She said, "No, we have to go look at some other stores first." So we did. Several stores. And I don’t remember for sure, but I’m certain that while we were there we also looked at other things as well. Then Cheryl said, "Ok, let’s go back and get the knife"

"Which one?" I asked.

"The knife at the first store."


"Why didn’t we just get it when we were there the first time? We did all this other shopping for nothing," I said.

"No," Cheryl corrected me, "We had to go to all the other stores to make sure the first one is really the one we wanted."

"Well, I was sure."

"Maybe so, but I wasn’t."

Boy, I had a lot to learn. One of the things I had to learn was that marriage is sharing of hearts and activities. It is a participation in the life of the other person, even shopping for knives. The engagement is a good time to learn that.

Part 2 next Sunday

Warren Baldwin

Special thanks to Amy Free Photography for permission to use these pictures.

Note: Link up with Marriage Mondays.

Tuesday

Thanksgiving & The Jonah Story

Thanksgiving & The Jonah Story


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks to everyone who has visited the blog and expressed good-will for this great holiday.

(Pictured above is our college daughter enjoying left-overs. She leaves Friday morning for the Arkansas-LSU game on Friday).

Author Rosslyn Elliott did a guest post on Family Fountain blog for Thanksgiving. If you haven't read it, and have a few moments, please give it a read and leave her a comment. She has her first book coming out soon.

I was impressed with the oratory skills of the five-year old girl featured in the following video. This is making the roads by email so you may have seen it. If not, give this girl a hearing and get re-acquainted with one of the great stories of the Bible told in a unique way.



Starting this Sunday I will have a three-part series about thoughts on that period of time sandwiched between dating and the altar. It is entitled "Engaged." Please check back if you can.

What is one of your favorite Thanksgiving memories this year?

Warren

Sunday

Thanksgiving: Rosslyn Elliott

Thanking God for the Dark Parts

Go! Remember God's bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!
--Henry Ward Beecher


Hide the dark parts, Henry says, except so far as they are breaking out in light.

This year at Thanksgiving, I am grateful, of course, for the happiness and peace and blessings of my life, and there are many.

But even more, I am thankful for the dark parts. And I’m thankful that they all break out into light, eventually.

Would I be fully aware of God’s love, without the years I spent as a non-believer?

Would I be deeply thankful for my friends, without my times of loneliness?

Would I be as thankful for my comfortable home and my possessions, had I not spent years scratching and scraping hand-to-mouth?

Would I appreciate the miracle of my beautiful, intelligent daughter, without the agonizing days after the ultrasound doctor told us she had every sign of a genetic condition that would kill her within a year of her birth? (We prayed. Many others prayed. She didn’t have it. Draw your own conclusions.)

Would I understand that each year of my life is a gift if I had not almost died at 31, in labor and delivery?

Would I treasure my family members as much if I did not know of their dark parts, and how they made it through?

At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims were thankful because they had survived the winter that killed so many of their loved ones and threatened the survival of their colony. And they had hope, with their successful harvest, that this next winter would be different. Their darkness was breaking out in light.

Had they still been in the Old World, without the awful experience of starvation and loss, Thanksgiving as we know it would not exist.

This Thanksgiving season, I will take time to be thankful not just for my blessings, but also for trials and suffering that have enriched my life and worked for my good.

How about you? Can you see now how the darkness of your past is breaking out in light?

Rosslyn Elliott



Rosslyn has a doctorate in 19th c. American literature. She writes inspirational historical novels about ordinary people of faith who find extraordinary strength in hard times. Her debut novel is Fairer than Morning and will be released by Thomas Nelson Publishers in April 2011. She the proud mom of a second-grader and wife to a talented salesman. You can keep up with Rosslyns work at Inhorn Blue.

Thursday

God in the E-Mail

GOD IN THE E-MAIL

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

I get e-mails from teachers, friends, preachers, news sources, and from kids. Usually when I get an e-mail from one of my own kids it has been forwarded a dozen times, sometimes with one hundred or more names attached to it from previous forwarding.

I received a multi-forwarded e-mail from my daughter Kristin when she was in the sixth grade. It came with the usual long list of addresses. The names in the most recent forwards were other sixth-grade girls I recognized as my daughter’s friends. I was glad to see all their names on this e-mail. I was glad to see they thought this was worth forwarding on! I hope they all read it. The letter was short but pretty insightful. I don’t know who wrote it, but I thank all these sixth graders for passing it around until it finally got to my computer. Here is the e-mail:

If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it.

Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God
.

It is a short but theologically profound message. "Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." We have our plans. We formulate our dreams. We set our goals. We determine our purpose. But there is a bigger purpose for our lives, one that can frustrate our selfish plans, dreams, and goals, or one that can expand them beyond anything we ever imagined. That is the purpose God has for us.

I have two friends who came from wealthy families that owned their own successful businesses. Both of these young men had their purpose in life planned for them by someone else—to return home after college to work in the family business. But both men had decided on a different course for their lives—ministry. Both men were led to Christ while in college, both were led by God to reconsider their futures, and both turned down lucrative offers back home to pursue full-time ministry. They both experienced the happy, difficult, quiet, and painful moments that the poem above refers to. But through it all, both men felt the purpose of God for their lives, and they sought him. Their purpose became praising, seeking, worshiping, and trusting God. "In every moment, thank God."

"Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails."

I don’t know if the sixth graders passing this e-mail around realize the full significance of what they are forwarding. But I hope they keep this message and read it often through the years. Right now and in their future, they will be tested. Their faith will be tested, their goals will be tested, their morality will be tested, and their purpose in life will be tested. I hope they remember that "in every moment, thank God," and "many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Because no matter what our purpose, God’s purpose is the one that will ultimately prevail.

I hope we are sensitive to God’s tug in our lives and we give ourselves to his will. When his plans become our plans, we are functioning in God’s purpose and we are emboldened with God’s presence in our lives.

Warren Baldwin
This article is from Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs


Note: a new review has been posted at Loren's From the Heart of a Book Worm.

Wednesday

Are Airport Scanners Safe for Pregnant Women (or Children?) #2

Are Airport Scanners Safe for Pregnant Women (or Children?) #2

My first short post about Pregnant Women and Airport Scanners #1 has become one of my most-read articles over the last few months. I posted it simply to provide readers with the opportunity to view both sides of this very controversial issue. I'm not a scientist or doctor so I don't know all the technical issues involved, but am concerned about people's health. I am also very concerned about people having the right to all the information available on the issues that impact their lives and families.

Dr. Douglas, the medical doctor I quoted last time, has more on the subject. In another post he wrote: "Government claims about the safety of the intrusive, invasive full-body X-ray scanners now being used in airports are based on a deadly lie. And now ... scientists are warning that the radiation dose delivered by these things is much higher than anyone has admitted — up to 20 times higher than previously thought."

"Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research says it’s because the X-rays don’t distribute evenly. Instead, they concentrate on the skin, which is extremely sensitive to radiation — and that opens up the possibility of chromosome damage and even cancer."

Who is at risk? Children, and "anyone who has a genetic mutation that makes the body less able to repair DNA damage ... at least 40 million at-risk travelers would be exposed to high levels of dangerous radiation once these machines are rolled out nationwide."

There is more to the article here: Hi-Tech Strip Search Packs Massive Radiation Punch. I don't know what all the facts are, and I don't know what the answers are. But, at least we can be glad that there are some doctors who are saying, "Wait a minute!! Don't believe the government reports just yet!! Too much is at risk!!"

Dr. Douglas' website is called The Douglas Report. He has a lot of interesting reading on health-related issues.

Warren Baldiwn

(Picture above is a CBS News photo)

Monday

People of Value

People of Value

An update ...

On Saturday I peformed a funeral in Wyoming for a mentor and friend, Marion Phillips. He was 88. On Monday morning I performed a funeral near Shawnee, OK for the infant son of a family from our church in Kansas. Their boy lived only a few minutes after being born.

The contrast struck me. One person got to live 88 years, a very rich and full life with a devoted spouse and loving children and grandchildren. The other got to live only a minute or two. How do you explain that?

One thing both funerals had in common is that there were people gathered to honor the life of the deceased. Both lives, one 88 years, one two minutes, were valuable. The value cannot be determined just by length of years or accomplishments. The value is determined by two things: one, both individuals were loved by their families and both were made in the image of God. And even if the first factor wasn't present - being loved by their families (and it was in both these cases), the second factor still makes every life valuable - they are made by God.

"God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:27).

We all want our lives to count. So, we discipline ourselves, work hard, try to help others, and seek good things. And that is good! But, even if we don't manage to succeed in these areas as we would like, take heart, we are valuable already. God made us.

(Note: here is a column I wrote about Marion for Titus2InAction).

Warren Baldwin

Friday

Funnies

Funnies

No, this boy does not attend where I preach :)



Pre-psychology days
I will be peforming the funeral for an old friend this weekend so I will be out-of-pocket. I will post about him next week. I won't be visiting many blogs for a few days.
Have a good weekend! And thank you for visiting Family Fountain.
Warren

Thursday

Rhinoceros Skin: Ministry Insight

Rhinoceros Skin: Ministry Insight


Our meeting with Don McLaughlin was a hit. Don is an amazing communicator of God’s Word. This morning John E and I drove him to the airport at 4 am. Even at that early hour Don was a storehouse of insight into the Bible and ministry situations.


Don said, "Jerry Jones used to say a minister had to have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child and the hide of a rhinoceros."

Well said, and applicable for anyone who works in a church context: Sunday School teachers, youth ministers, preachers, deacons, elders, small group facilitators, visitation leaders, benevolent chairmen, you name it. Criticism seems to come with the territory. So, we need minds that will study and learn, hearts that can feel the pain of others and empathize with them, and yet we need skin tough enough that we won’t be broken by some of the things that are said and done.

Don said, "Hurting people, even those we minister to, are looking for a safe target they can unload on. They want someone who won’t throw it back at them as hard as they threw it to begin with."

Another professor of mine said of the harsh and unjust criticism some people give: "They are carrying around a lot of junk mail and they don’t know where to put it. Your mailbox seems safe."

Many of the readers of this blog minister in various ways, in teaching, benevolence, teen ministry, preaching, missions and in other ways. You receive some unjust and cutting attacks that sometimes makes you wonder if you want to keep on. Yet you keep on, because you know it is the Lord’s call for you. Bless you! Keep your mind devoted to study and learning, your heart sensitive to the genuine hurts of people, and your skin a bit thick, and you’ll be ok.

Remember, there is someone out there for whom your ministry is going to make a BIG difference.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Warren Baldwin

Wednesday

Young People Overcoming Early Mistakes #2

Young People Overcoming Early Mistakes #2

Falling, failing, being hurt or just bum breaks ... we all need another chance sometimes. That is what this song celebrates.



Note: I first saw this video on Heidi's blog, 2 Thinks To Share. If you link over there, Heidi has a good story that goes with this video.

Check out a powerful video testimony by a young woman whose life was turned around. It is posted at Young People Overcoming Early Mistakes #1.

Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:48). He wants to say that to all of us.

Warren Baldwin

Sunday

The Three P's of Dating

THE THREE P’s OF DATING



"What are the three p’s of dating?" I asked a high school Life Skills class.

"Pregnancy," one student answered immediately. He had good reason for that reply, since three of his freshman classmates were expecting babies.

"Not what I had in mind," I said with a smile. "There are three p’s, and the first one is Purpose."

PURPOSE

Dating has a number of purposes, including having fun. Fun can be pure and holy, and when two young people with high standards date, there should be wholesome enjoyment of the experience. Expanding friendships and developing relationships are important purposes as well. As we date others, we actually learn a lot about ourselves. We learn what we like and don’t like in other people. A very important purpose in dating is to identify qualities we want in a future spouse. Hopefully, if we have good self-esteem, we learn that we like being respected, treated with dignity, and being cherished by someone else.

This leads to the ultimate purpose for marriage: to find our future mate. At this point, a student in the skills class exclaimed, "It’s not that for me!" Can we expect high school freshmen to anticipate that dating is a precursor to marriage?

Yet every time a boy and girl goes out it does lead to that ultimate date of walking down the aisle. It might not be this boy or this girl, and it might not be for another ten years, but each date is another link in the chain of building relationships, gaining wisdom, winnowing out the rejections and finally concluding, "This is the one!"

Most of us have had dates that were simple and fun without long-terms thoughts or deep commitments associated with the date. It was simply a night of enjoying another person’s company and having a good time. But even these simple and innocent outings build toward the ultimate purpose.

PLAN

This leads to the second p, Plan. If every date leads to marriage, it makes sense that both parents and young people have a plan for that process. Since young people begin dating with the thought of having fun and not to get married, parents must help them begin the process responsibly and carefully.

Age is an important aspect of the plan. I know kids who begin dating when they are thirteen, and some girls at this age begin wearing outfits that make them look eighteen. I think dressing alluringly and dating at that young age is a recipe for disaster. Most young teens are not emotionally mature enough to handle the pressure, and young girls especially may lack the internal resources to resist a boy that is too flattering with his speech and aggressive with his behavior.

Parents can help themselves and their children enter the dating years by setting standards when the children are young. When you see a teenager from your church on a date, you can smile and say to your kids, "Hey, John is on a date. You’ll be able to start dating when you are sixteen." Don’t wait until they are thirteen, when some of their friends are already dating, to begin laying the ground rules. Establish them years before so they become a fixture in your kids’ minds. You’ll still likely have to fight some battles, but at least you’ll go into them with the upper hand.

Here are some other specific suggestions for a healthy plan for young people when they begin dating. Protect your self-image. Don’t let your date put you down, ridicule you, or physically bully you. These are techniques for manipulation and a sign to end that date very fast.

Date someone you are comfortable with and that accepts you for who you are. If your date does not like you for the morals and family values that make you the person you are, date someone else. Don’t change who you are for someone who doesn’t respect you.

Never comprise your standards in such areas as smoking, drinking, using drugs, or expressing physical affection beyond limits your parents have taught you is appropriate. Compromise in these areas will lead to feelings of guilt and shame and may lead to even greater compromise.

Finally, never go all the way on a date. Remember, dating leads ultimately to marriage. Full sexual expression is appropriate only in the covenant relationship of marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

A date who tries to pressure you into having sex is selfish. He or she is not thinking about your physical or spiritual health, but is seeking to gratify their own selfish pleasures. Don’t become someone else’s victory notch or bragging rights.

PURITY

The third p is Purity. Hopefully, we are teaching and equipping our kids to date responsibly. That means they will only date someone who will respect their morals and won’t try to undermine their commitment to purity for marriage.

Disease and pregnancy are obvious reasons to avoid sexual activity before you are married. Some of the diseases are incurable, and simply are not worth the risk. Pregnancy often ends the dreams and aspirations of young boys and girls. Yes, we all know the exceptional boy or girl who provides responsible care for their baby and still finishes high school, college and enters the work force prepared and confident, but they are the exceptions. Too often an early and unplanned pregnancy completely alters a young person’s future. (Note: I have tremendous sympathy for a girl who becomes pregnant in high school. I don’t write this out of judgment, or because I think meaningful life or relationships are over for them, but because it creates such obstacles for their lives).

Developing a low view of sex is another possible consequence of sex before marriage. The biblical view is that sex is a binding covenant enjoyed only by a husband or wife. God himself sanctifies the relationship with his presence in it (Malachi 2:15). Engagement in sexual behavior before marriage ignores this spiritual dimension and reduces it to something casual and noncommital. It can also become a weapon for manipulation (which can also happen in marriage if it is not guided by love), and can lead to resentment for intimacy and one’s partner.

Finally, sex before marriage can lead to seriously damaged self-esteem. If the relationship is casual for one, it is easy to end it end abruptly, leaving the one who is more committed feeling deeply wounded. The one who is left often equates intense intimacy with being abandoned and hurt. If they marry later on, they often take these wounded feelings into the marriage with them, harming this very important relationship before they even enter it.

Ultimately, the reason we maintain purity until marriage is because it honors God (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Honoring God with our bodies before marriage enhances the wedding day and allows us to enter the union unencumbered with painful and regretful behaviors.

Dating eventually leads to marriage. We don’t marry strangers; we marry someone we have dated and grown to love. Every date, from the first to the last, leads to that moment we stand before the world and declare our love and commitment to the one we have chosen. So, date responsibly, carefully, and biblically.

On a closing note, even if our dating life has not modeled the purpose, plan and purity God desires for it, please don't despair of having the healthy relationships God wants for us. We can at anytime surrender our will to his and realign our lives with his. A host of emotional needs can drive us into relationships that are harmful to us, and only later do we realize it. At such a moment I hope an article like this can help us feel, not condemned, but enlightened, to a better life God calls us to.

Warren Baldwin

Note: It is my privilege to be able to perform the upcoming wedding ceremony of the couple in these two pictures (Dec. 2010). The young lady was a member of the church I preached for in Wyoming years ago. He is a minister and she is a school teacher.

Please link to Marriage Mondays on Julie's blog.

Thursday

Crafting Words

Crafting Words

The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse. Proverbs 10:32

Inappropriate speech doesn’t just emanate from those with impure and wicked hearts, nor is it limited to that which is immoral or offensive. Inappropriate speech is that which fails to take into account people’s feelings and situations.

One year after losing their oldest son, friends of ours were asked by a lady at church, "Are you still grieving for him? It’s been a year." She has no idea how she cut the heart of our friends. It wasn’t wickedness that prompted her cruel comment; it was simply an unsympathetic and undiscerning heart. Because she didn’t know the heart of God, the heart of her friends, or even her own heart, she spoke words that tore the spirit.

To know the heart of God is to be compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving and faithful (Exodus 34:6). To know his heart is to walk in his kindness, showing compassion to the hurt and suffering. Someone attuned to the heart of God would never so callously dismiss the constant ache felt by grieving parents.

Secondly, to know the heart of another person is to place ourselves in the drama of their lives and feel, as best we can imagine, the joys and hurts they experience. Though our children may be alive and healthy, can we imagine what it would be like to visit our own child in the cancer ward or make their funeral arrangements?

Finally, to be able to speak words that are fitting, we must know our own hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"(Jeremiah 17:9). We all have an amazing capacity for thoughts, speech and behavior that is inconsiderate, selfish, and even evil.

It takes a craftsman who knows wood to fashion furniture so that the pieces fit and are aesthetically pleasing. Likewise, it takes a craftsman who knows hearts to fashion words so that they fit the setting, offering peace, comfort or even rebuke, as the situation may demand. To become a craftsmen of words, studying hearts, beginning with the heart that yearns to make us righteous: God’s.

Warren Baldwin

You can read the fuller version of this article on Bible Fountain.

Note: My son Wes is writing at his blog again. For an article about a coach who made a difference in the lives of young people, go to Sports Inspiration. This wold be a good article if you need an illustration on mentoring, teaching or coaching.

One more thing ... don't forget to sign up for the book give-away at Mel's Coffee Break.

Wednesday

Young People Overcoming Early Mistakes

Young People Overcoming Early Mistakes
Can young people overcome bad decisions they make early in life? The shame and guilt can often be overwhelming, crushing their spirit and plunging them into a downward spiral of more bad decisions and self-destructive behaviors. Their self-esteem crashes, leaving them feeling unworthy of anything good. Because they think they are bad, they perpetuate bad behavior and can even expect abusive behavior from others.

Can anything stop this downward, self-destructive cycle?

YES!!

Listen to this powerful interview with Faith Harriman. And rejoice that the God who gave new life to his son gives it to us, too! (Note: click twice on the box to get the full image of the video).



There is probably a young person in your life who needs your time, your compassion, your open heart and your willing ear. Your ministry to this young person, in God's name, may turn their life around.

Warren Baldwin

Note: I saw this video on the Fruitful Bearing Family Treehouse.