the avett brothers, k.c. edition

On Friday Brooke and I drove to Kansas City, MO in great anticipation for the Avett Brothers show that night. Those of you who have known us for any significant period of time have probably heard us talk about how much we love these guys so you can imagine how pumped we were to see them live again. We met up with Ben, an old youth group student who joined us for the show. The three of us had dinner together and then waited around for the show to begin. The opening act was a country band from Springfield, MO named Big Smith. I'm not a country fan but they were a talented group so watching them was okay.

To make a lon story short, a second group was supposed to perform before the Avett Bros. took the stage as the main act of the evening. After Big Smith was finished we noticed that the roadies began setting up what could only be the Avett Bros. equipment. Our excitement increased as we figured that something must have happened with the second group meaning that the Avett's were taking the stage early and would be playing for a longer period of time.

At last the time had come. The Avett Brothers took the stage and it was amazing. These guys are incredible musicians and consumate performers. Ben, who had never heard of the Avett's was almost instantly converted into a fan. It was an awesome show until...

They left the stage after 40 minutes. Apparently there was nothing wrong with the group that was supposed to go on second. They just decided to change the line up for some reason. We were in a state of unbelief. When they left the stage we figured they'd be right back out for their encore but our assumption was wrong. Their equipment was packed up and the equipment for the last band was set up. The fact that the line up was changed was no big deal, the thing that bothered us was that the Avett Brothers played for about 20 minutes less than the opening act. We were so disappointed with what happened that we left without watching the final act.

The good news is that for the 40 minutes they were on stage the Avett Brothers were pure dynamite. We still love them but we'll probably never drive for any distance to see them again. Hopefully they do a St. Louis show in the near future so we can get our Avett Brothers fix. I have a pretty decent video of the Avett's that Im trying to upload to Jumpcut. I've been having difficulties uploading but I'll try to get it up soon so you all can enjoy it.


minnesota... dontchya know

Brooke and I just returned from about four days in Rochester, MN. We drove up last Thursday and stayed with our friends Denis and Margie. It was a great weekend away that started off with dinner and a movie. We went to see Stardust which ended up being a movie that only I liked. My rating for it, based on genre, is about a B- give or take. Friday night I gave a lecture on tattooing at the L'Abri branch in Rochester. The talk was titled "Art for Living or Living Art: Tattoos and Tattooing in a Post-Everything World" and was a variation of a talk that Margie and I did together last March in St. Louis. On Sunday I also had the opportunity to preach at the local PCA church. The Minnesota shaped paper weight in the picture was given to me after the worship service by a little girl in the congregation. She very sheepishly told me that it was a present to me as a thank you for teaching the church. She also confidently informed me that the stones in the paperweight were Lake Superior Agates. The whole interaction was incredibly touching and adorable.

The best part of the weekend was being able to catch up with several friends. We were encouraged by many of the folks in Rochester who are excited about our eventual return to New Zealand. However, it was also nice just to get away from the St. Louis heat for a few days even if it meant experiencing record breaking rainfall in Minnesota.


a longish post

Yesterday I had the privilege of delivering a wedding message for a couple of our friends. They wanted something a little more informal and short and so I obliged by giving a message that was less of a sermon and more of personal advice and encouragement. And at about 14 minutes I also managed to keep it short. Since I haven't posted anything in awhile I thought I'd just put up my message from yesterday. While it will make this post a bit long hopefully that will make up for my recent lack of posting. At any rate, here it is:

Zak & Lauren,

After much planning and preparing your big day is finally here. The last several months have all been leading up to this moment. Not only have you been planning the details of a wedding, a reception, and a honeymoon; you’ve also spent many hours in premarital counseling learning about each other and marriage in general. You’ve both impressed me with your diligence and desire to be as prepared as possible for the journey you are about to embark on. I can honestly say that you have learned much about what it means to be a husband and a wife. However, it’s also true that in the coming weeks, months, and years you’re going to discover that you really don’t know jack.

This thing called marriage that you are entering into will prove to be one of the most difficult things either of you have ever done. Even though we’ve spent a lot of time looking at things that can be potential landmines in a marriage the fact is that you’re both still going to step on some of them. Because of its difficulty many in our culture have become incredibly cynical and apathetic towards the idea of a committed, life-long marriage. I encourage the two of you not to resign yourself to cynicism or apathy when it comes to marriage. The two of you trust in the living God who has revealed himself to us in the Bible and ultimately in his Son, Jesus. As the one who has created all things, this God is the one who has created marriage and he is not cynical or apathetic towards it. Therefore, as his people, you shouldn’t be either. While a good marriage is a difficult thing to maintain the truth is that it’s totally worth it. It will be one of the most difficult things either of you will ever do, but the other side of this coin is that it will also be one of the most amazing, beautiful, and fulfilling things you ever do.

Since you’ve been engaged you’ve received a lot of advice from family and friends regarding marriage and because you have heard so much advice already I don’t want to waste time droning on and on saying things that you already know. However, I do want to briefly summarize the some of the things we’ve studied together regarding marriage in an attempt to encourage you to begin your marriage well this day. What I would like you to do is to remember three directions in the journey of a marriage: Inward, Outward, and Upward.

The first direction is Inward. When I mention the inward direction of your marriage I’m referring to the ever-increasing intimacy that should characterize your relationship. When the Bible describes the beginning of a marriage relationship it says that the man and woman leave their respective families and that in joining together “the two become one flesh.” The resulting goal of this one-flesh union, again in the language of the Bible, is that the man and his wife are to be “naked and unashamed.”

In using this language the Bible is obviously referring to sexual intimacy. As the two of you enter into your marriage you enjoy the right and privilege of sex as it was meant to be. Sex is gloriously awkward and beautiful and as husband and wife you get to delight in the security, vulnerability, pleasure, and fruit of a pure and faithful marital sex life. However, these biblical expressions are not simply referring to sexual intimacy. When the Bible says that the two become one flesh it is also referring to the union of two lives.

One popular assumption about marriage is that it is the logical next step of an already existing relationship and therefore a mere continuation of that relationship. While popular, this assumption is false. What you are entering into today is really an entirely new relationship. While you will retain your individuality and your personalities you are in a sense losing your lives. You are losing your individual lives to create a new life together. With this new life comes a fundamental shift in your identity. From this day forward you will no longer simply be Zak and Lauren. From now on you will be Zak, Lauren’s husband and Lauren, Zak’s wife.

This new life that you are entering into together has as one of its main goals the ideal of being “naked and unashamed.” As with the other expression being naked and unashamed isn’t merely referring to your sex life, as important as that is. It also encompasses the goal of being emotionally and spiritually naked and unashamed before one another. Christian marriage should be a relationship of unconditional love and commitment. Your love and commitment will produce an atmosphere of warmth and safety where you can expose yourselves to each other with vulnerability and acceptance. As you become increasingly vulnerable and accepting of one another your commitment and love will continue to strengthen and grow. The longer you are married the more you will be able to be naked and unashamed before one another. This is the inward direction of your marriage.

While maintaining an inward direction your marriage must also be directed outward. Another common misconception about marriage is that it’s a private relationship. While there certainly are private aspects to married life the relationship itself is actually a very public thing. You both obviously understand this to some degree because you are standing here today publicly beginning your marriage in front of a group of family and friends. God has created us for community and placed each of us in the midst of various types of communities. As you come together today as husband and wife you aren’t forming a relationship that’s separate from them. Your marriage will influence and be influenced by the communities you are a part of.

The inward direction I just mentioned shouldn’t cause you to isolate from the world around you. Your marriage will flourish and grow best when it is firmly planted in the midst of your community of family and friends. These people, and others that you meet in the future will be able to offer you encouragement and support as you wrestle with the difficulties of life and just like today they will help you to celebrate the good times. Your marriage will be more full and rewarding as you allow those who walk alongside you strengthen it.

As a married couple you are also called to serve the communities you are a part of. As Christians you are required to practice hospitality and fellowship. The warmth, security, love, joy and happiness of your marriage should overflow to those around you. I would challenge the two of you to make it your goal to have your home be a place of shelter and safety to both friends and strangers who live in the midst of a hostile and often unwelcoming world. The grace and acceptance you practice towards each other should form the basis for how you interact with all who you invite into your home. It is important for you to remember that as husband and wife you don’t exist for yourselves but are called to humbly serve those around you through your marriage. You are both ambassadors for Christ and your marriage should be a visible demonstration of the grace and power of God to those around you.

So you need to move inward toward each other and outwards toward others. The last direction you need to consider is upward. When I say your marriage should have an upward direction I have in mind the spiritual dimension of your marriage. As I mentioned earlier, God created marriage and just as he has more love for the two of you than you could even dare to hope, he also takes more joy in the commitment you are making today than either of you can imagine. There are some obvious things to consider as you think about how to live out your marriage in relationship to God. You should pray, worship, and study the Bible together. When and how often you do these things will change depending on the circumstances of life but their value as things that bring strength and life to a marriage are inestimable. While these external things are certainly helpful and necessary there is something even deeper and more profound that you are called to as a Christian husband and wife. The two of you are called to create a relationship where the Gospel is trusted and embodied. The grace of Jesus through the gospel is the source of life for your marriage.

The gospel teaches us that while this world was originally created as perfectly good something has gone wrong. When we look all around us we realize that the world is seriously messed up. The real problem is that the mess we see in the world is nothing more than a product and reflection of our own hearts. If we honestly examine ourselves we find that there is a lot of ugliness within each of us. We might call this a kind of spiritual pollution and because this spiritual pollution exists in each of you it will also exist in your marriage and the family you create. This pollution is the result of humankind’s rebellion against God. However, the gospel doesn’t just teach us that something has gone wrong, that there is spiritual pollution all around. The word “gospel” literally means “good news” and the good news is that there is a remedy to all this spiritual pollution. As the two of you know that remedy is found in Jesus the Christ. Jesus was sent here to endure all the corruption and pollution that we have created and through his death and resurrection he has brought true and lasting cleansing to the world and to individual people and he is now in the process of making all things right again. By his death and life we are made clean and receive peace with God by his mercy and forgiveness.

Since you both already believe this why would I bother to mention that the Gospel needs to be trusted in your marriage? Well, I mention it because it is something that’s very easy to forget. I also mention it because your hearts are about to be exposed in ways that they never have been before. I’ll use myself as an example here. I knew I wasn’t perfect before I got married but I really had no clue how imperfect I was. After I married my wife I saw the ugliness of my heart in a whole new light. I realized in a new way how self-centered and selfish I am. I saw how my words and actions could so easily hurt my wife. What I’m saying is that marriage helped me to see my sin more clearly and it will do the same for each of you. While sin is an unpopular and often misunderstood word the fact is that in joining together in marriage you are both about to realize how real of a thing it is and how much it dwells within each you.

You will sin against each other and hurt each other in your marriage. This sin will drive you away from the intimacy and security I mentioned earlier. Instead of seeking the good of your spouse you will be tempted to seek your own good and your own fulfillment. This sin will keep you from serving and being served by those around you. All this can lead to despair and eventually to the death of your marriage. However, there is hope. When you trust the gospel you are openly dealing with all this by acknowledging your own brokenness and inability. When you trust the gospel you know and experience forgiveness after failure. By trusting the gospel you are inviting Jesus to not just make you right but also to make your marriage right. You are inviting him to enter your marriage and trusting him to bring healing and growth to it. This trust in turn leads to each of you embodying the gospel in your marriage. As each of you receives grace, mercy and forgiveness from God through Jesus you in turn offer grace, mercy and forgiveness to each other. When you realize more and more how patient God is with you and how he loves you despite your many failures and flaws you will be strengthened to be patient with each other and love one another despite your flaws.

It is only when you practice this upward direction of marriage, the trusting and embodying of the Gospel, that you will truly be able to practice the inward direction of intimacy, vulnerability and acceptance as well as the outward direction of hospitality, fellowship and service to those around you. And when you move in all three of these directions you will find that you can always go farther. Now, as you begin to travel inward, outward, and upward in your marriage may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace.



Here are a few pics proving that I clean up alright. A few weeks back I was in a friend's wedding and we were required to wear a black suit. Since I didn't own a suit of any color I finally had to break down and go get one. I'm just a very casual guy so I was looking forward to never owning a suit in my life but I guess we don't always get what we want. However, when my time on this earth is up you'll not see me wearing a suit in my casket. I'll be wearing a T-shirt and Jeans for my funeral attire. I'm giving the message at a wedding next week though so the suit will get used at least one more time.