The Anniversary

"Come magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together." Psalms 34:3

Dana and I were married on January 1, 1977. It was an eventful day on so many levels. For the weak at heart, you may want to stop reading now.

We had a rehearsal at the church on New Year's Eve and it was followed by a dinner for our wedding party at the home of friends in Fort Worth. We were looking forward to the big day, a night at the bridal suite at the brand new hotel at the DFW airport, and then a road trip to beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico for our honeymoon.

It had been a hectic week before the wedding. The lady that was going to bake the wedding cake was involved in a car accident, and broke her arm. The florist didn't have the floral arrangements ready, and this required a last minute trip to wholesale vendor and taking on the task of decorating the church ourselves. Still, we were good to go.

The rehearsal went smoothly enough, and the dinner at the Taylor's was a gracious evening filled with good food, family and friends. When Dana and I said goodnight, we thought the worst was behind us. We were wrong.

When I arrived to decorate the church the next morning around 9AM, I was met by our Executive Pastor, and the words, "The church flooded!" I laughed, and said, "Very funny, Charlie, I don't need any more challenges." He wasn't kidding.

The beautiful, blue Texas sky, and the brisk winter air didn't tell the whole tale. After we left the rehearsal, Dana had left her wedding dress in the Bride's Dressing Room of the church, for safe keeping. That night the temperature had dropped and the copper pipe in that very room burst. It flooded the room, and the water flowed from there, soaking the brand new carpet in the worship center, and collecting in a six inch pool at the foot of the stage. Charlie was right. The church flooded."

My future mother-in-law discovered Dana's dress floating in the water, in the Bride's Room. The scream that came from that room was something that made my knees buckle. I turned around and didn't look back. My father-in-law was an insurance claims adjustor. He called Blackmon-Mooring, and Charlie called the fire department. I got on the phone and called the men of the church and said something like, "All hands on deck!" They came. What took place from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM still rates, in my estimation, as one of the finest hours of the church. I'm not kidding.

For the uninformed, January 1st used to be BOWL DAY. I mean one day, with no VCR, DISH or recording system available, the biggest college football venue was experienced. If you weren't in front of the TV, you missed it.

Firemen, adjustors, and 50+ men worked all day to squeeze water out of the wall-to-wall burnt orange carpet, and pump it out of the church. Stay with me, remember this was the Seventies. Fortunately it wasn't shag, just something called Autumn Rust. It stayed until 1992, with just a faint aroma of mildew. But I digress.

Using huge, long-handled squeegees and pushing them down the aisles of the church hundreds of times, forced most of the water towards the altar area. From there it could be suctioned pumped out into the street. It was a long day, but about a half-hour before the wedding, the fire chief said it was damp, not dry, but close enough. He took the squeegee out of my hand and said, "Son, you've got a wedding to go to. Go get ready. We'll finish up." I went to pack, grab my tux, and get back to the church in time for the next challenge.

All day long, the blue sky had been turning gray. In Texas this is called a "Blue Norther." From somewhere north of Canada, an ice storm came barreling into the DFW area, just as people were making their way to the wedding.

Some guests had accidents along the way, and others ended up in ditches. The young people of the church who had promised to really deco my car were thwarted by the sheets of ice pounding down on them and covering my car with almost an inch of protective ice. I admit to standing at the window, watching them suffer, and laughing at them. Nothing personal. Still warms my heart.

Well, Dana had not been told about any of this. Her first sign of a problem came when she felt the squishy feel of the carpet under her feet as she walked down the aisle. I remember two things at that point. She was beautiful and I was there. It had taken me two years of selling from both sides of the desk to get her to see this as God's plan for her life. I was relieved she showed up. Between my Dad, Dr. Swank, Rev. Charlie Gilmer, Ron Harris, and Dr. Curtis Vaughan the knot must have been tied pretty well. It has lasted 37 years.

Not to belabor the point, but that night during the wedding reception there was a fire in fellowship hall. The firemen returned for cake and punch. I asked the Fire Chief to stick around and be my best man. As we headed out the door to the brand new Marina Hotel at the DFW airport, we were not aware the airport had been shut down.

When we arrived in the lobby of the ONLY hotel anywhere near the runways, it looked like a scene out of the Fall of Saigon. Angry people were packed in the lobby, and holding up $100 bills shouting at the desk clerks, offering to rent a couch for the night.

Dana and I looked at each other and waded into the fray. When we got to the desk, we were told our room had been given away. I explained that a pre-paid room can't be given away, but it can be upgraded. It took some clarification to change the clerks mind and our accommodations, but there was room for us at the inn. We were so exhausted, we decided to eat breakfast. Neither one of us had eaten all day.

The next day we slid and skated over icy roads all the way to New Mexico, only to be hit with a snowstorm when we arrived in Ruidoso. We left town ahead of another storm, and arrived in Forth Worth, unannounced and hid out, and set up our one bedroom apartment.

Looking back at that series of events, leaves me exhausted. I remember wondering if God's hand was on us. It felt more like we were under His thumb. Still, 37 years later, I sometimes wonder the same thing. Can I get a witness?

In June 1980 Dana and I surrendered ourselves to apply Psalms 34:3 with a new level of intensity. Since then we have prayed our way through crises marked by economic downturns, real estate booms and busts, cancer, chemo, chaotic churches, and child rearing.

Talking always seemed to prolong the crisis du jour, but praying together has proved to be the best way to provide God's perspective in the middle of it. Praying doesn't always end a crisis. It just gives courage for it, and develops character in it.

Recently, I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" with my family. The George Bailey character is sitting at a bar, covering his mouth to disguise his despairing prayer, "I'm at the end of my rope." Crises always have a way of driving prayerless people to pray. Unfortunately, for most people, once their crisis ends, so does their praying.

My favorite line in the movie is the statement made by George Bailey, after he gets punched in the mouth, shortly after he tells God he is at the end of his rope. He says, "That's what I get for praying." Been there. Often. You too?

Note to self: When you come to the end of your rope, STOP MAKING ROPE. Start praying.

Making rope can tie a person, a marriage or a nation up in knots. Man-made solutions are a poor substitute for Christ-centered living. Praying together magnifies God, and exalts Him in the middle of the crisis. Prayer makes much of God. Talk makes much of the crisis. Which one do you want more than the other?

Talking is a form of self-medication, and it leads to an addiction to the sound of one's own voice. Praying improves one's vision and hearing all at the same time. Prayer provides night vision to see what God is up to in the darkest moments of our lives. Prayer also tunes our ears to hear God's voice to receive His direction, protection and correction. No matter what the crisis may be, and no matter when it hits...TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!...TWO-GETHER.