Yesterday's wedding:  Jie, Weijing, Lisa (

Weijing's daughter) Stacy, and myself.  Jie translated the wedding into Chinese.
Personal Notes from Mike

  • Congratulations to daughter Alison who turned 32 yesterday.
  • Jie leaves to day for Springfield (Illinois) where she will be in License to Preach School, helping equip her for her ministry with the Chinese scholars at the Wesley Foundation (University of Illinois) where she continues to work part time.
  • Congratulations also this past week (Monday) to our daughter Scarlette and son-in-law Tristen, who celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
  • Reading Corinna Nicolaou's book, A None's Story:  Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism & Islam.  Nicolaou is among that 20% of the American population who have no religion.  They check "none" on the religious surveys.  She visits a variety of congregations in America and writes a very thought piece helping all of us understand a little better how some people think who are not affiliated with any religion.  Among people under 30, 30% now check "None."
  • You can CLICK HERE for the Mattoon First UMC website.  The site includes all sermons preached recently in the church.  It may take a day or two for the sermon to get posted.  

July 24, 2016
Why Married People Are...Looney
I officiated at the wedding of Zeng Weijing and Stacy Womack, yesterday.  The odds of this marriage surviving are not good. 
It's their differences that cause this marriage to be 'iffy.'  She speaks very little English; he can't tell the difference between Chinese and Swahili.  He's sixty; she's forty.  She's the extrovert; he's the introvert.  He thinks like a guy; she thinks like a gal.  She takes nourishment with chopsticks; he might shrivel away to nothing if you don't hand him a fork and a spoon.  Las Vegas bookies would maybe only give this marriage a 40-1 shot of success.  But hey...Jesus is always beating the odds, and I work for him.  So I decided to be Stacy and Weijing's accomplice.
To be honest and fair to this couple, NO marriage has any better than a 40-1 odds of succeeding.  If you are looking for a "common sense"..."play it safe"..."fool-proof" life, then don't get married.  Marriage is an extreme experimentation by two people determined to be creative despite legions of lethal differences dividing them.  This is true no matter who you are, not just for Weijing and Stacy.  

In every marriage, there will always be a handful of wedge issues ready to check-mate the relationship and knock it off the board...unless some miracle comes along.  If not language differences, then gender differences.  If not gender differences, then family-of-origin differences.  And then there are differences of sexual desire, ways of handling money, religion, child rearing, pet rearing, dirt thresholds (as in 'who will be the first one to break down and clean the toilet',) division of labor for family chores, romantic needs, politics, thermostat control stand-offs, how much the spouse should weigh, who controls the remote control, or who can possess a back-seat driver's never ends. 
I have only met one couple in my entire 40 plus years of ministry who claimed to be perfectly compatible.  They confused me.  I finally concluded that they were masters of "apathy-on-demand."  They just didn't notice, or mind, or remember their wide range of differences.  But apathy doesn't come easily.  For an ordinary couple, apathy takes years to grow...and it often grows only in unhealthy relationships...and then merely transforms misery from being consciously acute to unconsciously chronic.
It amazes me that individuals who would never jump out of an airplane, never climb Mt. Everest, never go skinny dipping, never run with the bulls, never eat chicken feet with chopsticks...verily...never even splash in a mud puddle, will nevertheless tie the knot in holy matrimony.  People are indeed irrational...looney. 
I used to think that my pastoral role in a couple's wedding was to give them wise premarital counseling, inspire them with syrupy stories, motivate them with lofty words, and admonish them to avoid the rocky shoals upon which marriages are wrecked.  But that's all a crock:  marriage is an extreme experimentation in being creative together despite legions of lethal differences.  Therefore, the only valuable thing I can actually do is to keep my head down and pray furiously for least one miracle a day...for each and every married couple.
Why then do so many of us get married?  Perhaps it is some yearning born of a mystic memory from a long lost Eden.  It is the soul (not the rational mind) that can recall a time and place that had no loneliness:  recalling that the two were naked and had no shame. Bushes and trees were for food and delight, not camouflage for trespassers.  Relationships were good and simple and harmonious...not marred by blame. An assisting partner was always at hand.  It is the memory of this distant paradise that beckons us.  

We believe that some spirit filled person will come along and become loyal to us through better or worse, through wealth or poverty, through health and sickness.  We have seen enough manna along the paths of our lives, enough helter-skelter divine miracles, enough outliers, enough surprises...that we dare the odds and take the leap into this extreme experiment.  

Thanks be to God.  I love all these crazy people.  Stacy and Weijing need a do we all.  So pray furiously along with me, for all who are in this extreme fantasy we call marriage.   --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS




J. Michael Smith | #3 Western Avenue Heights | Mattoon | IL | 61938