Category: Marriage

My Sister’s Wedding

My Sister’s Wedding

I had the privilege of officiating my sister’s wedding last night. Below is a copy of what I spoke to them and all who attended.

I’ve asked myself many times over the last few weeks – what am I going to say to my sister and soon-to-be brother at their wedding. And something happened that doesn’t happen all that often. I didn’t know what to say.

As I sat in bed one night, Ashley said something that was incredibly wise and incredibly simple. She said…just speak truth.

The God of the Bible created this beautiful, messy, joyful, painful, refining and transforming partnership called marriage. He did so very intentionally and specifically. So as you enter into this promise, each of you bring something to the marriage that your spouse simply cannot. And that’s by design. Colin, as a husband, God’s given you certain responsibilities, gifts and talents that Ali may try to do, but can’t & shouldn’t. Ali, as a wife, God’s given you certain responsibilities, gifts and talents that Colin may try to do, but can’t & shouldn’t. From this day forward, you’ll spend a lifetime learning how to do this dance. Thankfully God didn’t put us down here at take off. He is actively engaged in your life and in your marriage every day. Chase after Him and He will show you how He created you and what He desires for your marriage.

If I had to choose one essential, non-negotiable ingredient that must be found in your marriage, it would be this…Sacrifice.

Now that’s not a nice word, right? It’s at times the opposite of what we see all around us. We’re supposed to get ours, satisfy our wants and desires, pursue them at all costs. But if you want to learn how to get this ingredient into your marriage, look no further than the one who knows the most about sacrifice.

God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to come down to earth, live a perfect life and die a horrific death to redeem mankind. To make a way for us to finally know the God who created us.

If you are willing to sacrifice for each other, if you’re willing to put down your own desires, wants and needs and serve each other daily – the dance God has designed will go much smoother & be much closer to what He desires.

My prayer is that you would look to Jesus as the ultimate model of sacrifice. That you would get to a point individually where you are daily asking God to help you serve one another. That the person and work of Jesus would continue to become more real to you, that God would continue to reveal Himself to you and that your marriage and your home would be a place honoring and pleasing to the Lord.

Let me pray for you.

Father, you are so good. You knew Colin and Ali before they were even born. You saw this day before it was even a thought. We ask that you would continue to reveal yourself to Colin and Ali, that you would give them all that they need to serve each other as Christ laid down His life for us. We ask that their life as a husband and wife, their work, their home and their future family will be honoring and pleasing to you. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – bless them. Amen.

Finding Faith Amidst Fatherhood

Finding Faith Amidst Fatherhood

Finding Faith In Fatherhood
Photo by

Fathers and future fathers beware. There is something that all the books and classes don’t prepare you for when becoming part of this significant club called fatherhood. It’s not the crying, the diapers, the sleeplessness, the frustration or any other gift a newborn brings your way. It’s the simple truth that while much of your life changes, so too does your spiritual life.

Regardless if its your first child, becoming a father changes the way in which you previously encountered and engaged the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I experienced this once, with our first child and now again with the arrival of our second. I’d have to say the second has been more challenging than the first.

Find A New Rhythm

What worked previously for you and God, might not have a chance with a baby in the mix. Waking up early is eclipsed by the fact you’re running on way less sleep, way less brain power and way more stress. Whatever your daily routine, it is no doubt different. I’m currently grasping for my new rhythm and as a new father, you probably will too. But it’s vital. Pursue Father, Son and Holy Spirit and be open to something new. It might be the time you have to and from work, it might be carving out a day or two a week specifically for prayer or study, it might be over lunch or in the evening. There’s no right or wrong, but find it.

Beware of the Lies

Lurking in the shadows of fatherhood are the lies of discouragement and discontentment. As a new father you will be fed volumes of lies about your identity as a Christ follower, your capabilities, your past, present and future. We have to consistently go back to the truth of the Gospel to combat those lies; to remind ourselves of who we are, the love given to us, the power entrusted to us, and the reality that we are never abandoned — even as average, ordinary fathers who fail daily.

Hold Fast to Community

Our natural tendency in times of struggle is to flee; we’ve been doing it since the garden. We’ll tough it out, bunker down, wait it out and hope for the best. But nothing could be more detrimental to fatherhood, to life — than isolation. We were created to commune with God and each other. I’m grateful for the fellow men in my life and the community who has invested in us. Run to Him and run to them. Engage your wife in a conversation not about your kid(s). Invest in weekly “date night” even if it means take-out at home when the kids are asleep. Don’t abandon community.

Enjoy His Grace

God’s grace is most evident in our weakness. Weakness is rampant in fatherhood because so much of fatherhood is out of of our control.  A newborn incessantly screams at your face unaware you have no social, mental or spiritual bandwidth to handle it. By God’s grace you have been given this life to steward over, you have supernatural strength to weather the storm and tomorrow, you might be able to try again. Through the good, the bad and the worse…His grace is often much more evident in fatherhood.

Fathers or those who one day hope to be — may you keep the faith in all the many seasons of fatherhood that are before us.

A Healthy and Holy Harbor

A Healthy and Holy Harbor

In almost every stage of life there seems to be things people tell us that we’re supposed to remember. From  the introductory “look both ways,” and “don’t talk to strangers,” to the later in life, “look out for your brother or sister,” and “finish your homework.” Regardless of the age, we are always given things we are to remember and apply. But for all the advice there are some things we inevitably overlook, minimize or flat-out forget. We prioritize some, apply a few and discard many.

Almost six years ago a wise man told me something that’s resurfaced in my brain hundreds of times since. In fact, it has been so amazingly true in my own life, so textbook in the lives of others that I’ve shared this bit of wisdom in several conversations. But what I’ve slowly learned six years later is that this truth would have to be continually, relentlessly pursued. It’s not something one “just gets.” It’s not effortless nor is it something you can tuck away in the back of your brain and recall when the moment strikes. In some senses, I wish it was as easy as “look both ways.”

So what was it? It was advice given to a young engaged man, who loved Jesus and was about to embark on the second most significant commitment of his life. It sounded simple at the time…as it was simply this…”Your closeness to Him determines how close you are to her.”

I remember hearing it and liking it immediately, so simple, so good. In some churches whole congregations would of yelled, “AMEN!” But like wisdom we prioritize, apply and discard…I would have to learn that while I agreed with it and believed it, I will spend a lifetime trying to apply it. It was not simple but complex. And if I let up in the pursuit of Him, even temporarily, my purusit of her would be directly effected.

Six years later it rings more true now than when I first heard it. It’s a lighthouse on the coastline reminding me the way to a healthy, holy harbor of marriage.

The crazy thing about this simple yet complex truth is, I often overlook it. Life gets busy, my schedule changes, something new always pops up. Amidst everything in life I try to hold together, I end up miles off shore desperately in need of that healthy, holy harbor. So is she.

The devotionals, sermons, books and tweets are “spiritual fast-food” to the irreplaceable time needed with the Creator and His love story. The “dollar-menu” will get you by in the short term but like a tiny leak in the hull of a ship, eventually the ship will fill with water and sink. I don’t want my marriage to capsize.

In the greatest love story ever written, we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Later, husbands are urged to love their wives, like Christ loves the church.

Fellow Christian men, may we be men who follow Jesus, love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and as a result, truly love our wives. May we lavish in the power of His words and experience a closeness to our Creator so we can truly be close to our wives.

My closeness to Him determines how close I am to her. May my marriage be a healthy and holy harbor.

A Year In The Journal

A Year In The Journal

December 14, 2002 is the day I penned my first journal entry. Since then I’ve collected a cadre of leather-bound journals highlighting just over nine years of life. For whatever reason I’ve never thought of looking back over the previous year and pulling out the most significant insight. With 2011 about to be history, here are the best pages from the past year.

  • God is not a God of discouragement, confusion or doubt, but a God of encouragement, clarity and assurance.
  • My fleshly desires and innate desire for rebellion are like a cancer in my soul. The Holy Spirit is constantly infusing me with healing medicine. And for a few minutes, hours, days…I’m in remission. Then the flesh, my sin nature comes screaming into existence. I hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Align with me.” And I rebel, squirm and flee. But there is nowhere I can go to escape the love of Christ, my salvation, my hope.
  • We must have a settled determination to identify ourselves with God’s cause. A faith that outlasts our feelings. Often times I don’t want to pray, I’m stubborn, frustrated, longing for an answer on my own, but I must submit. Jesus should be the first place I run, regardless of how I “feel”.
  • “Jesus doesn’t fix everything, He just makes the death purposeful” – Mark Driscoll
  • “Passivity is the enemy of discipleship” – Orion Berridge
  • God will take the most unqualified men by worldly standards and use them because by the standards of the heart they are very qualified.
  • On April 25th at 8:49pm, Malachi Daniel Burns entered the world and I will never be the same.
  • Confessions of a New Dad: …Amidst all the tired, sleepless, frustrating days and nights, it is worth it. Malachi is worth it. A gift, a blessing, answered prayers.
  • “Grace isn’t opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.” Dallas Willard
  • June 17th, 2011 – 5 years. Longer than college, longer than the average ability to remember all that has transpired. But today, 5 years ago, I married my best friend, a beautiful woman with a big heart…We have learned how to “do the dance” of two people becoming one life.
  • Test run at a life purpose statement – “To teach God’s Word & directly influence life change through the Gospel locally & around the world.”
  • Pursue Christ, Find Everything Else
  • God will wreck the expectations of a person, a nation or a world to accomplish His plan.
  • God doesn’t necessarily want to fix you or your situation. The fixing is oftentimes a by-product of increased holiness.
The Book I Often Forget

The Book I Often Forget

Photo by Kelly Jackson Photography

Typically, when you get married, you have a dump truck full of gifts and cards to sort through after the big day. Not to mention the steady stream of engagement gifts beforehand. This was Ashley’s and I’s experience over five years ago. We still have most of the things given to us.

One type of gift that never seemed to be in short supply was the marriage book. Numerous titles about relationships, finance, newlyweds, family, etc. line our bookshelves.

Many of these titles were great and gave us some foundational truths and realities to help us start our new season together. But there was one title that I received and at first glance thought was quite “cheesemo.” It wasn’t the content, because I thought the concept was good, but for some reason, “The Power of a Praying Husband” didn’t resonate with me. I immediately thought of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, Dana Carvey’s character on SNL, the Church Lady, ultra-conservative Sunday morning church service and various cliche Christian bumper stickers. “The Power of a Praying Husband” might be a really helpful book, but it didn’t jump to the top of my reading list.

Early into our marriage, interested in the content, I put Ned, the Church Lady and all my other Christian stereotypes aside and decided to read the book. Ashley read the “Power of a Praying Wife” at the same time. From what I remember, my book provided some good conversation and if nothing else, got me doing exactly what the title said – praying for my wife. That book would sit on my shelf for the next several years. And it came rushing back into memory this week.

With the arrival of our son Malachi and the advancement of the Burns Family Expansion Project, life has been full of adjustments. Figuring out the little guy is challenging. You rule out the obvious – dirty diaper, hungry, tired and then you’re left with playing 21 Questions with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Over several days, I was at a loss. Malachi’s daily routine and rhythm was absent of both routine and rhythm. Ashley was frustrated. I was powerless.

One morning, I got my butt outta bed earlier than usual and set out to specifically, intentionally do what I sometimes shamefully forget to do – pray for my wife. The adage that prayer should be our first response and not our last resort rings true. Eventually the morning at the Burns house was underway and with a quick shower I was out the door.

Two hours later I got a text message from Ashley with the words that left me dumbfounded, awestruck and smiling.

“Thanks for praying for me this morning :-)”

We never talked about praying for her! I didn’t tell her I had. It wasn’t a discussion the night before or in the morning as I headed out. But she was prompted to thank me for praying for her.

I texted back, “how did you know?” She simply replied, “I just felt it”.

There is significant power when a husband and wife pray for one another (Romans 8:26, Phillipians 4:6). Yet we often try to “fix” things ourselves and prayer becomes our last resort. Pray for your spouse today. As Christians there is untapped potential in the power of prayer, waiting for you every day.

Leader In Tent

Leader In Tent

We all have responsibilities. I carry the rolls of Christian, husband, son, brother, friend, manager, leader, teacher and yes, soon to be father.  But a conversation with a co-worker this past week accidentally gave me some insight into how I can execute each of these rolls successfully.

My co-worker was telling me about a military concept called “commander intent.” In order for the successful execution of a mission, the troops must know the exact details provided by the commander. If they know his or her intent – they know what they have to do and how they have to do it. Without commander intent, the mission would be open for interpretation and the chance of failure or mistakes would be high.

Sounds simple and makes sense. Here’s where the accident happened.

When I first heard him say it, I thought he said “commander in tent” – meaning leaders have to be present, “in the tent”, in order for a successful mission.

[pullquote]…the greatest opportunity for success for a leader requires he or she literally be “in the tent”[/pullquote]That’s when the light bulb turned on. The intent of a leader can best be communicated if he or she is “in the tent.” As a result, the greatest opportunity for success for a leader requires he or she literally be “in the tent”.

The personal application? I have to be physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally “in the tent” if I am going to have the best chance of successfully carrying out the rolls I have in life. The reality is, I’m often not fully “in the tent”. My mind is all over the place, the task list is long, the resources are few and I often can’t seem to find a few extra hours in a day.

But if I’m not a leader in the tent, completely – the “mission” will suffer. My faith, marriage, relationships, team and work won’t be getting all of “their leader”. Like a mission without details, the chance for ultimate success is significantly lowered.

How do I stay in the tent? I believe that will take a much more life to figure out. But here are some lessons I’ve learned thus far.

  • Prioritize – If everything is important, nothing ends up being important. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Look at that which takes up your time (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally) and “cut the fat”. Some things have to take priority over others based on what they are and the season of life you are in.
  • Get In One Tent At a Time – So much of our life bleeds together, but if you don’t stop it somewhere, it gets overwhelming in a hurry. If you’re still in the “work tent” and you’re at home, talking with your kids attempting to be in the “home tent” – both tents suffer. Get fully in the tent you are supposed to be in in that moment.
  • Guard the Door – There will be countless things that try and get into your tent. Other distractions (people, places or things) that masquerade as “opportunities”. These will often pull you into all sorts of tents, disrupt your focus, leadership, goals and objectives. Saying “no” to something or someone can be a good thing.
  • Know Your Tent – With all that you have to juggle in life it’s easy to abandon certain tents. We put them on “auto-pilot” and go tend to the areas of life that are more exciting or those that are in crisis. But just like a plane can’t land itself, auto-pilot is only good for so long. If you don’t know what’s going on in your family, work, relationships or any other roll you’re in – those you lead will suffer. Know your tent deeply, regularly and fully.

Regardless of the roles you carry, if you lead a family of three or a corporate team of 20, may we all be leaders who are in the tent; leaders who are physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally engaged in the rolls we are called to. The mission is too great for us not to be.

the commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation, the end state
Dangerous Man

Dangerous Man

Underneath the smile, the armor and the ego of ever man, I believe are the battle wounds of life. A mix of moments that have seemed minor or inconsequential… horrible or even fatal. From a paper cut or scrape to a gaping stab wound to the soul, I believe every man has at least one such moment. And every wound becomes the very fabric of who we are and how we live. They are after all a by-product of life, oftentimes the inevitable scars of wounds that we lug around from life stage to life stage.

The reality is we carry these battle wounds for so long we almost forget they’re there. And our “normal” is at times dysfunctional. We cope, we say “that’s how it’s always been.” We find busy lives, noble causes and popular hobbies to hide behind and we become expert “stuffers”. Bury them away, hide them away, tuck them away so they never see the light of day. While we might not have to deal with them, every relationship, every job, every interaction, everyone else….deals with them. They are responsible for the wounds we are unwilling to address or unknowingly carry.

Blinded by our dysfunction, oblivious to the possibilities of life to the fullest, we get comfortable. We get by. We give up the pursuit of something far better.

A man who never peels back the dirty bandages and investigates the wounds of his life, who never fully opens up all the doors to his Savior…is a dangerous man.

Put me in the front-lines of life with a man on my left who has come face to face with his own dark valleys and a man on my right who refuses to pull back the layers. I’ll take the man on my left every time. He has a greater sense of who he is, what his weaknesses are, why he does the things he does and how his history has shaped him but not defined him. This man has found redemptive healing that only the Maker can provide.

May you do the painful work of wading through your past and open the doors to discover a life to the fullest. May you not be lulled into believing the lies of your past, present and future circumstances. Through the work of your Savior, may you eventually become someone who is no longer a dangerous man.

This Life Journey…

This Life Journey…

After over a 2-year hiatus from the blogosphere, I am officially back. Much has changed and I’ve got a lot to write about.

The reality is I haven’t stopped writing, I just never wrote online. But over the last year I’ve had a urge to get back. The Spinning Carousel was my platform through college and post college. You can still read my past archives under “Past Writings”, some of them are a trip.

But a new platform has emerged. This Life Journey is by no means the best title. It’s a little too emo. I did however have two choices; wait another 2-years and hope I’d find a better title or run with what I got and start writing. I chose the latter.

And This Life Journey fits I think. I’m no longer in college, no longer riding the carousel. I’m older, have clearer vision, passion and a healed, sharper, sense of self.

With a new blog comes new writings. There will undoubtedly be the occasional social commentary and random life stories that are worth the read. You can’t take the story telling outta the story teller. But there will definitely be some distinct categories I write from. Faith, politics, culture, life, marriage and how those all mesh together for an almost 30-year-old, married Christian guy in the middle of middle America.

It is absolutely This Life Journey and everyone and everything this life encompasses.