FATHER OF THE BRIDE TOAST Heidel-Masterson Wedding Reception-Dinner Atrium at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Saturday, August 5, 2017

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FATHER OF THE BRIDE TOAST
Heidel-Masterson Wedding Reception-Dinner
The Atrium at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Saturday, August 5, 2017

Good evening and thank you all for coming this evening. On behalf of lovely and heroic Alice, along with Drew and Madeline Masterson, let me say how very pleased we are that you’ve joined us to celebrate Drew and Ginny’s marriage, and we welcome you all.

It’s my honor to offer the evening’s first toast, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving to whet our appetites.

Among many immutable laws of nature is this: Chuck in front of a crowd + making remarks = high probability a grown man will cry. In that event, my apologies in advance.

So, this is the fourth of my children’s weddings. Providentially, I was prevented from actually attending the first in 2009. Eight years on, I don’t often look too far ahead with unquestionable certainty. And while cell phone video and Skype brought Chip’s wedding streaming through a rehab hospital monitor – the next best thing to being there — it’s really sweet for me to be right here with you all in spirit and body, appetite at the ready.

When I first met Drew, he struck me as a thoughtful, well-spoken, somewhat quiet guy. On a rainy afternoon I arrived at Christie Danner’s birthday shindig, and as I rolled down my van’s ramp, Drew met me, umbrella extended, and walked alongside me until we were both under cover. In his off-hand, he toted another fold-up ramp that I asked him to unfold and position to permit me to roll up and into the main celebration area. And, he helped push me up the much steeper than “wheelchair-manufacturer-recommended incline.” His warmth, friendliness and service were front and center. Meeting several of Ginny’s younger siblings that day, to my eye and ear Drew registered interest in and spoke genuinely and easily with Calvin, Gracie, Gifford and Allie. We had an enjoyable conversation-filled dinner later on at the nearby Lost Dog Saloon, before parting.

I can’t recall the particular order but in time Drew would meet the other siblings and in-laws: Emily and husband Jonatan, Allie’s husband Kenneth, and Chip and his wife, Ellie. All warmed to Drew, and in time he faced the entire mob en masse, living to tell the tale, even returning regularly through the months. It wasn’t long before he seemed at ease, working the Heidel crowd warmly — both young and old.

I learned more about Drew — growing up on the ranch, his family, his time at Davidson, the Fellows Program, and the Christian Study Center community (with which I intersected when bumbling my way through college). One evening, I overheard Drew describing the Christian Study Center model as ” . . . full-orbed — concerned for the whole individual, and characterized by hospitality, honest inquiry, spiritual formation and intellectual rigor.” That description fascinated me. His and Ginny’s friendship grew closer around experiences and interests both in common, and uncommon. They both enjoyed film and that medium’s cultural impact. And under Drew’s influence, Ginny was persuaded to don fly fisherman’s waders before catching a real trout (a brookie, I believe). I never saw that coming — but there is photographic evidence. Word is, her fly casting technique is spot on.

Ginny Waders

In time Drew and I would speak about his continued affection for Ginny and his interest in marrying her. I’ve had some experience evaluating daughter-suitors. Early on, one or two of those exploratory discussions went a bit rough — no doubt due to my youthful, merely book-learned zeal and inexperience. But when Drew and I intersected over a good steak dinner, we spoke candidly, openly, and warmly, and it was the case that his interest and intentions were in line with my paternal expectations. Our conversation then ventured in a number of directions — all at least semi-serious topics, even the smaller print “In sickness, and in health” possibilities. I appreciated those exchanges. His respect and deference meant a lot to me then, and it was plain to see his interest in and treatment of Ginny was that of a servant, not a self-server.

It is often true that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. You can also judge a man by family he comes from. Recognizing limitations of human agency, but that God ordinarily achieves His ends through means — which are sometimes relationships — as Alice and I came to know Drew and Madeline better, along with Blake, Kendall, and many of you here this evening, including the Uncles, we appreciated Drew even more.

When I first met Ginny, she was very close to her mother (pause for a rim shot and scattered laughter) . . . . We were soon very good friends. In time her creative, imaginative, artistic, literary, dutiful, agrarian, tomato-loving, chicken raising / chasing, romantic, great laughing, scholastic, dramatic, lexiconic, multi-accent-impersonating, critical thinking, museum-loving, determined, Singin’ In The Rain and White Christmas-loving, sociable self manifested. Having grown up in a Christian family, Ginny moved onto her university experience, and later the work-a-day world, and many of her presuppositions were put to the test only to emerge tempered, not torn to pieces. And, through the years, her gifts were honed. Main stage plays, illustrations, blogging, song writing, singing, handwriting, culinaria, and travel experiences, during one of which Ginny was a caregiver to a disabled but accomplished American expat play write and producer.

There is a great deal to like about Ginny. Though it may not be plain at first, all of Ginny’s qualities have somehow synthesized into an eager, not overly complicated, ministry-mindedness. When they were in college together, Ginny and her sister Emily regularly hosted informal dinners in their college apartment. Frequently, first-timers attended, and were drawn in to the dynamics of the evening – taking coats and tossing them in a back room, helping to serve appetizers, putting finishing touches on the dish they brought, perhaps not having brought a dish, they pitched in and dressed the salad. Everyone, it seemed, engaged in some pre-meal activity. Then came the meal – conversation was kindled, common bonds were discovered, differences were explored, and laughter rolled through the room. Though there was no formal agenda, not infrequently a presentation was made that proved entertaining and culturally broadening — like the time two drop-in transfer students from Holland taught the group to sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Dutch. Before long, all were acquainted and a fellowship was formed.

As Ginny related this to me, she told me about a song she likes by Patty Griffin, which I’d like to sing for you now . . . .

Kidding. But Ginny did think a line in that song was fitting:

And we’ll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us, till there are no strangers anymore.

I’m probably taking license here, but these lyrics seem to illustrate the end-game of hospitality – kindness that God grows in our hearts, extended to those around us who (we pray) will be brought into that vast number of saints — no longer strangers, no longer alienated from God.

We may have much or little in common with those we meet. Either way, by God’s grace, our mercy, charity and commitment to community can be a powerful force. Those whose paths we cross and to whom we grow closer should know without doubt they are not alone – and they have been cared for.

Drew and Ginny, I believe you get that, and I love so many of the qualities and perspectives you share, and your commitment to live together in light of them. You’ll be a great team.

So, join me now and all raise your glass.

Drew, I appreciate your manner, convictions, respect and friendship. And I am grateful to the Lord for his work in your life and to have you as my son in law. I trust and believe you will lead and care for Ginny tenderly, taking as your model Jesus Christ who gave himself up for His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:25-32

Ginny, I love you and am delighted for you to marry Drew. I have no doubt you will adorn him wonderfully. Ephesians 5:22-24

To Drew and Ginny! God bless you both, and Skål!

And now please join me as I pray.

Gracious Father, Christ the Son and Holy Spirit, we praise you, and we thank you for this gathering, for our celebrants, Drew and Ginny, for their marriage, and for Your working as four parents and loved ones in two separate families, now solidly connected, have prayed over the years for such an outcome as this, an evening like this.

We ask You to bless Drew and Ginny as they begin their life together. Bless and deepen their love for You and one another. Give them every grace they will need. Establish them in their present and future callings.

We thank you for this meal, for those who prepared it, and for the venue in which we can enjoy it. Would you grant us nourishment, good conversation, and a joyful celebration now?

For we ask in Christ’s name — Amen.

Father of the Bride Toast 2 — Heidel-McFadden Wedding Reception

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Heidel-McFadden Wedding Reception
Historic Fairfax County Courthouse
August 17, 2013

Good evening.

I trust and hope everyone is enjoying their meal having a good time.

Alice and I are happy to welcome you, and grateful for your participation in this joyful happy celebration of Allie’s marriage to Kenneth.

This week and at other times, I have thought about Monica, St. Augustine’s mother. Augustine was reputed to be a godless rogue in his youth. Monica was respected as a godly, tireless, stormer of heaven’s gates as she faithfully, over many years prayed that God would mercifully capture, constrain, and conform Augustine to the image and character of Christ — which in time He did. And to no meager result.

Well, I must admit I am no match for Monica in exercise of prayer. Allie’s mom — Lovely and Heroic Alice is a far worthier example. But, I can honestly tell you I have prayed through the years for my children to be captured, constrained and conformed as Trophies of God’s grace, and in due season to be matched in marriage with another of Christ’s Trophies.

I also know ones of you in this room who have labored in prayer for such an outcome among Alice’s and my children. And, I suspect that many of you I may not know well have done similarly.

Well, look what God has done as we have prayed!

This meal, our enjoyment of it, our laughter, our song, our dance, our happiness, our toasts, our hopeful anticipation for them, and our memories of the day in weeks, months and years to come are culminating tokens of the thankfulness that fills us for what God has done.

Kenneth and Allie, we raise our glasses to you both. God bless and keep you. God look upon you with favor. Laugh often. Love each other deeply. Make your home courageously and fearlessly, double check your pitons, and pack your own parachutes, but remember that mountain climbing and sky-diving can lead to higher insurance premiums. And, don’t forget to call your mothers.

Father of the Bride Toast — Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner

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Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner
Maggiano’s, Tysons Galleria
August 16, 2013

I was asked by Allie a few weeks ago to offer up the Father of the Bride Toast at tomorrow’s wedding reception, and had already been thinking of what I might say on this rehearsal dinner occasion.

In order to avoid being branded and ill-prepared and unoriginal public speaker, I resolved to come up with something fresh. But, some things, they say, never change and so having borrowed a bit from past rehearsal dinner remarks, I offer up my apologies in advance to those of you who were present to hear those.

Among many immutable laws of nature is this: Chuck in front of a crowd, making remarks = high probability he’ll cry. To those of you who will be unsettled by this I apologize again in advance.

This is the second opportunity I’ve had to attend a Heidel rehearsal dinner and wedding since Chip and Ellie were married and I was only a few months into life in a broken earth-suit. It was splendid to be a virtual participant through the magic of cell phones, video and Skype. Four years on, I find myself not often looking too far ahead with great certainty. So, it is doubly sweet for me to be here with you all in spirit and body, appetites at the ready.

When I first met Kenneth (a.k.a. Ken-Ken, or Ken-Ken McFab-Fab, or K-K McF-F as he later came affectionately to be known . . . even if behind his back), he struck me as a somewhat introspective, quiet man. It could have been that he landed in the midst of the Heidel mob during our mealtime tsunami. It wasn’t long before he seemed at ease, working the crowd warmly — both young and old. I observed him to be questioner and a listener. I was impressed by the range of his relationships, and his ability to dial-in to those relationships on a variety of constructive levels. More than the obligatory surface “Hey — How are you?” As he and I had opportunity to talk, I appreciated these qualities more.

In time, I came to learn Kenneth was a Virginia Tech Hokie. Perhaps not surprisingly and taking some license, in light of Isaiah 11:6 (. . . the VT Hokie laying down with the UVA Wahoo . . .), that proved to be no impediment. He even politely listened to my cover of the Univesity of Virginia Pep Band’s 1979 rendition of a Hokie-fied Ballad of Jed Clampett. See me offline if interested.

I appreciated — if only vicariously — his love for the outdoors, being active, clinging like Spiderman to sheer vertical rock faces, hurling himself out the doors of perfectly fine airplanes, and wandering around the Alaskan bush without enough bread crumbs. I noted these were things he and Allie enjoyed in common.

On one or two occasions we spoke about career alternatives in the Christian camping realm, and I appreciated his wanting to understand and carefully consider that world. I also came to see and appreciate his love for Christ and his desire (put in into action) to influence his many Burke Community Church minions accordingly.

In time he and I spoke about his affection for in Allie and his interest in having that relationship advance. I had some experience evaluating daughter-suitors. One or two of those evaluations went a bit rough early on, no doubt due to my youthful (merely) book-learned zeal and inexperience. When Kenneth and I intersected, we spoke very candidly, openly, and warmly — right? (looking directly at Kenneth) — and it was the case that his interest and intentions were in line with my paternal expectations. His respect and deference meant a lot to me then, and it was plain to see his treatment of Allie was that of a servant, not a self-server.

These conversations weren’t convenient either, as Kenneth circumnavigated the Beltway several times during or heading into rush hour traffic. He had to work hard getting to Laurel to have them.

Our culminating conversation calendared, he secretly met me in the neighborhood and drove us both to Long Horn where we enjoyed appetizers and a beer. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. He told me he loved Allie and wanted my permission to ask her to marry him. I happened to be looking down at that moment (having dropped my nacho), and raised my head to look him in the eye, and I replied, “No (emphasis on “No”) . . . prrrrrrroblem whatsoever.”

Kenneth’s face blanched a bit before regaining its ruddy swarthy color. We laughed . . . OK. Maybe only I laughed.

Our conversation then ventured in a number of directions — all at least semi-serious topics, even the smaller print “In sickness, and in health” possibilities. I appreciated those exchanges (even though he left me with the check), and was again grateful for his viewing this prospect as a servant, not a self-server.

It is sometimes true that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. So might it be said that you can judge a man by the parents and family he comes from. Recognizing the limitations of human agency, but that God ordinarily achieves His ends through means which are sometimes relationships, as Alice and I came to know Bill and Carol better, and have learned of (and now met) the siblings, I appreciate Kenneth even more.

Now onto Allie. When I first met Allie, she was very close to her mother . . . .

It wasn’t long before we were very good friends though, and her creativity, fearlessness and athleticism began to bubble up.

Hair like a Muppet, thunderous thighs, fearless in the face of stampeding chickens, consultatively pushing the envelope in play house, sandbox and dirty laundry closet hygiene, creatively combining free-fall with salad-plate landings. Later a tumbling aerialist with prehensile toes that could wring the balance beam before flipping, spinning, catapulted landings were “stuck.” Able to shag to Carolina Beach Music. A talented car radio in the driveway air guitarist and or lead vocalist (best songs were Don McLean’s American Pie and Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend). Disciplined, hard-working, and a player-through-pain. Able to adapt to circumstances: gymnast and piano student gone abroad, turned ballet teacher and church pianist. Tenacious. Dutiful: surrogate mother to 4 younger siblings while Alice and I were in Atlanta the better part of three months. A lover of Christ and the relationships He finds for her.

Through high school and off to college, her artistic abilities were honed and developed as photo-journalism met Helen Keller, River Citeeziens (Music Man), and Ariel (The Tempest).

Having grown up in a Christian family, many of her presuppositions were put to the test but emerged tempered, not torn to pieces.

And, young men began appearing on the radar.

As Allie’s father, believing I had a role to play in her relationships with these “friend-boys,” I insinuated myself into those relationships. Sadly, my involvement wasn’t always appreciated. Many times I feared that what had been a treasured father-daughter relationship would be hopelessly unraveled. But you know, God is good. He kept both of us soft. And our continuing friendship has proven to be a very favorable climate in which we would later ponder an ever more serious relationship with a certain Hokie.

Kenneth, I appreciate your determination, perseverance, respect and friendship. And I am grateful to the Lord for his work in your life. I trust and believe you will lead and care for Allie tenderly, taking as your model Jesus Christ who gave himself up for His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:25-32

Allie, I love you and am delighted for you to marry Kenneth. I have no doubt you will adorn him wonderfully. Ephesians 5:22-24

God bless you both.

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

Four Years On

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August 20th. Feeling dull today.

THE day. Four years on.

Saw it coming. Should be purposeful in some deliberate direction. Should be laying my Ebenezer here or there, or going back to visit one. No real inclination. Knackered.

For nervous earlier weeks and frantic days, I’d ridden the joyful rising emotional currents of Allie’s much anticipated marriage to Kenneth. A happy distraction whose preparations unleashed an ant colony-like pre-nuptial industrial machine. Addressing, licking, sealing, stamping, sewing, arranging (think flowers), cooking, counting, cleaning, driving, shopping, picking up, dropping off, confirming, double-checking, reconfirming, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The occasion brought back to Oxwell Lane a seeming flotilla of far and near flung family — like notes in bottles to their writers’ home — to stay, make preparations and celebrate, and to add another line or two to the story. Joined by flotsam friends and jetsam strangers-made-friends, more bottles were pushed ashore by converging streams and currents, whose notes are now scribed, stories made richer, rolled, replaced, and safely corked.

Sadly, all these bobbing glass note-bearers have been pulled back out to sea on an ebb tide, and the pre-nuptial factories have closed down.

On this fourth accidentiversary, work beckons. Nagged me for most of the three days I’d planned to be on a pre-wedding vacation. Seemed reasonable at the time. I managed to be mostly “off” post-marriage Monday, as Emily and Jonatan packed and flew back to Swede-land. But my hopes of taking off all of August 20 — THE day — on some special day-long excursion were usurped. Shoved off the calendar by a mob of meetings and calls. I did selectively speak of the anniversary with two or three colleagues that day, one of whom is four years on following her breast cancer diagnosis.

We later ordered-in sushi to compliment our typical “Taiwan Tuesday” evening repast of fried rice and dumplings. And before ending the day, I keyed in a Facebook shout out to as many names and groups as I could recall, whose support and encouragement had served in various ways to get us to this point. A feeble attempt. Hoping they’ll be skimming their Newsfeeds later and catch my Hail Mary thanks. I’ll catch up with others as our paths cross. (“Likes” and Comments later suggested some had been News-grazing” in the right spot.)

Be It Resolved and Deo volente, five years on is to be more deliberately celebrated.

Onward.