Tag Archives: metaphor

a word to a young couple

Given as the message at the wedding of my nephew and his fiance, June 19, 2009. Part of it was crowdsourced through an invitation on Thursday.


Here we are.

All those people watching, they are ready to get to the “for better, for worse” and the “Ladies and gentleman, Mr and Mrs.”

I understand. I am too.

But this is a big deal. So I want to talk to you two a bit more, and then to them and then we’ll get to the promises and the party.

When we were talking a couple weeks ago,  I said that I didn’t understand the faith that it takes to be a farmer. Every year, a farmer takes their whole life and buries it in the ground. And if it is a good year, then life is good. And if it’s a bad year, with storms at just the wrong time, then life is stretching.

And then I started thinking about what I could say to you, what would help you think about today differently.

And I realized that I do understand the faith that it takes to be a farmer.

Here’s a bag of dirt. [I handed Adam a plastic bag of dirt]  It comes from land that you know well, Adam. Your mom knows it better. Your grampa knows it even better. It’s part of the second Kies farm.

[Note: The Kies family has owned a farm in Hillsdale county Michigan for 175 years. They have owned a second farm, the one where Nancy and her twin Jodie, Adam’s mother grew up, for more than 50 years. That farm is being farmed by Nancy’s dad, brother, and nephew.]

The reason that this farm is being plowed by the third generation of Kies’, the reason the original land is being plowed by more generations of Kies’ that I can count, is the same reason that your marriage can grow.

Generations of Kies’ have taken the dirt, this thing called a field, and they have cared for it.

  • In the middle of the summer, when the last thing you want to do is to walk the rows of soybeans pulling up corn from last year you do it. because if you don’t, it will mess up the yield.
  • In the winter, when the last thing you want to be doing is riding on a tractor pulling a machine that is throwing manure around, you do it. because you know that it will help the field work better.
  • In the fall, you start before sunrise and you work until it’s dark because after you put so much into this field, into this crop, you aren’t gonna let winter take it.

Just owning a field doesn’t make you a farmer. Farming does.

Kids, you are like young farmers being handed your own field. It’s called “Adam and Becci Dobbs.” It is yours. It’s scary. You really don’t know what difference being married is going to make.

And now you get to decide how well this field is going to produce.

You could just throw some seeds in and come back in a few months and see what happened.

Some people do that with their marriages.

They wonder what happened.

But you don’t want that.

  • Instead, you can spend time together preparing the soil, talking, walking, breaking through the crust that can form in the busy-ness of life.
  • You can pull out the weeds together, the arguments, the ideas other people have about what you ought to be doing, the distractions that pop up.
  • You can take turns going out and spreading manure. I know that everyone is coming up with their own images of that…but those of us who are married know that there are things that you have to do that are miserable, but help the relationship grow. Spending the night up with a sick child. Cleaning up more than your side of the room. Incredibly unromantic things.
  • In the crisis times, you can be working side by side, bailing out the basement, holding each other when someone dies or someone is attacking your reputation or your job.

People will tell you how to take care of your field. People do that to farmers all the time.

Last night, when we were rehearsing, I said that i was asking the internet for what to say. Some people laughed. I was serious.

I asked a lot of my online friends what to say.

And they answered.

  • have fun together. Play. laugh.
  • tell them not to be so serious in serious times, not to be so happy in happy times. tell them to Have Fun Together.
  • It’s easy to call it quits. It’s harder to stick it out. So put on your armor to survive the MANY challenges a marriage faces.
  • Tell them to always be kind to each other.
  • Complete Honesty. Sense of humor. Lots of intimacy
  • That the deepest measure of love is choice!
  • Chose to love every day. You don’t get to be angry because they are angry and you don’t get to mad because they are mad. You get to love.
  • After 40 years of marriage (May 30), there are several key words. I’m sorry! (and mean it) I forgive you (and mean it)

[Note: I had many more responses, but I was already talking too long. So I edited.]

Lots of people have lots of suggestions that are very good. Lots of people will be very happy to tell you how to live.

But here’s the deal.

You, Adam, are the only one, starting in a few minutes, whose job is Becky. You, Becky, are the only one, starting in a few minutes, whose job is Adam.

When you make these promises to each other, God is handing you the responsibility to care about and to care for each other. And to break all the rest of those responsibilities that people think they have.

We can support them taking care of each other, but we, parents, family, friends, have to let go of being the ones who run our kids lives.

One year from tonight, I will look at a young couple as say those same words, as a parent of half of that couple. And I will understand how hard that is. But it is still true.adam and becci

If you have any questions about this marriage, questions about how right they are for each other, dismiss those questions right now. If you are looking forward to probing, to hearing about what Adam did or what Rebecca said, let your dream of divisiveness vanish. For when they leave their families, they are turning to each other. And as I have told them, if you hear about the problem but not the reconciliation, you will be cheering against them, and they don’t need that at all.

What they need is for each of us to encourage, to pray, to celebrate, to rejoice and weep with them.

What they need—is to be married.


Just yesterday stories

line drawing of a coffee cupJust yesterday, someone told me that I tell stories well. She said, “you have a gift.”

She’s right. There’s a gift. Two of them, really.

An academic dean was looking for a speech teacher. He found me, in Texas, finishing the first half of my doctorate. He invited me to interview and then, when some people weren’t completely comfortable with me (imagine!), flew down to Texas to meet Nancy and to see me teaching at UT.

That was twenty-four years ago this month.

I started teaching at Fort Wayne Bible College in September, 1985. I taught three sections of public speaking and two courses in broadcasting. For the next five years, I taught two or three sections of public speaking every semester as well as courses in study skills, critical thinking and Christian worldview.

Richard gave me the gift of incredible amounts of time in front of people helping those people figure out how to be thoughtfully effective in front of people.

One of the things that I started very early in my teaching was telling stories to illustrate points. Richard labeled one type of those stories. He called them “just yesterday” stories.

You know them. A person will be making a point about the value of a product and say, “just yesterday, I saw…” A teacher will try to explain how this abstract concept relates to these sleepy students and will say, “just yesterday, Jim was asking me how to make his roommate quit …”

Somehow, in a classroom, “just yesterday” is far more compelling, far more relevant than “here’s a story I learned in grad school” or “when I wrote this lecture five years ago, here’s the story I made up” or “let me tell you this joke I found in Reader’s Digest, but you can pretend you have never heard it before.”

Richard didn’t teach me to tell stories, but he gave me the gift as a young faculty member of the label for a powerful kind of story and the encouragement to use those stories in my teaching. And after more than two decades, I have spent a lot of time finding stories and analogies and metaphors in my daily life.

Today, when I tell stories to illustrate points, and there is a glimmer of understanding because of a story, it’s because Richard gave me permission and a platform for practicing.

I moved on from that school seventeen years ago. Richard died several years ago of cancer This week, the latest version of that school dies, after a couple name changes and a merger that never quite worked.

But sometimes, I remember those days like they were just yesterday.

making sure the gauges work

The gas gauge in one of our vehicles quit working several months ago.It was a gradual failure. At first, when the car started the level would be accurate. The needle would then start to drift, bouncing high and low. Over time, however, the movement stopped and the needle stayed close to full.

I checked with a mechanic who said the unit that measured the amount of gas in the tank and sent a signal to the gauge was in the gas tank. Repairing it would mean removing the gas tank.

We didn’t want to spend the money. We realized that we could still figure out how much gas we had in the tank by looking at how far we traveled. Our car has a trip odometer, allowing us to keep track of how many miles we have traveled since that gauge was reset. All we had to do was to reset it each time we filled the tank, and stop for gas again about the time we had traveled 300 miles.

It wasn’t an accurate report of how much gas we had, but it would help. It did take some energy to remember to do the math rather than look quickly. And it took awhile to convince one of the drivers in our house not to trust the gas gauge.

And then the odometer light started to fade. Over a couple of days, it flickered and then faded completely. In our car, it’s not a $2 bulb. It is, I discovered, an LED, a light connected to a panel requiring removal of the dashboard.

We drove for awhile without knowing how much gas we had. We couldn’t track the actual level, we couldn’t track distance. It is amazing how unsettling that lack of knowledge is.

I finally went to the shop to find out about the odometer light. $1200. So I asked about the gas gauge. $900. We got the gauge fixed because it was more important to know how much fuel than to know how far we’d come. One was about history, the other about potential.

It was amazing to me that we had to spend nearly $1000 just to get a piece of data. It didn’t give us any more gas. It didn’t give us any more fuel efficiency. It didn’t give us anything but a fact, but that fact gave us peace of mind.

I think there are several lessons.

Tell me what they are.


8 ways to fall off a horse.

1. Forget that horses are built to move.

2. Climb on a horse that you don’t have enough experience to handle.

3. Climb on a horse that no one can handle because it is completely irrational.

4. Forget to tighten the saddle.

5. Provoke the horse to anger with spurs.

6. Ride until the horse collapses because you were going too far too fast.

7. Forget to feed and care for the horse.

8. Assume that riding comes naturally.

Of course, you can substitute lots of other words for horse. Relationship, organization, and social media network are three ideas that I can imagine to apply to this metaphor.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit down with a friend, and spend some time this weekend figuring out why that last horse tossed you…and how you can get back in the saddle.


For daily updates on Advent, visit advent2007.wordpress.com

For more 8 ways…

To waste your blogging time
To ruin your day
To be thanked
To increase your stress

To explain 2.0 friends to 0.0 parents
To lose your faith
To make yourself angry
To make yourself jealous
To make yourself depressed
To ruin your marriage

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