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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is there a drought in your soul?

Rain for Soil and Soul

  Guess what!  We got rain over the weekend.  Lots of rain.  Like 3 or 4 inches.  Won’t solve everything, but certainly makes a dent in the drought.  I quickly got outside when I could to do some serious weed pulling.  Yes, I think it is amazing, too, that everything dies in a drought EXCEPT THE WEEDS!  They don’t seem to mind it a bit. Still have lots to pull…..it is a big yard……but at least got started. 
  And guess what else.  The weeds weren’t so hard to pull.  Even this big one that I don’t know what is called, but it has a humongoid big long root that goes straight down that you can’t normally pull out.  Very exciting.
  Seems to me there could be some good lessons in all this.  Like how in the drought times if our lives, the weeds can take over if we aren’t careful.  Or, better yet, it was amazing how easily the weeds came out after the ground got soaked really well by the rain.  Could that be a parable?  Jesus talked about soil and weeds and roots and rain.  How about this:  If we keep the soil of our lives well watered with the Word of God, then the weeds of Satan that try to take over can be much more easily removed than if we neglect the word and allow our hearts to grow dry and hard in the things of God. 
If that is the parable, and I think it is probably a pretty good parallel, then
Ask yourself, how well watered is the soil of YOUR heart these days.  Might be time to turn on the word and let it soak in.
  And guess what else.  Been back and forthing it with the publisher a lot lately, trying to get final changes in place.  I’ll be surprised if they get the book completed by the end of August as expected, but shouldn’t be too much longer.  For those of you who have told me you are waiting for it, I am sorry it is taking so long…….but should be soon.

TL:dr  Keeping your heart filled with the word of God is great protection against infestation!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Politics and Christian Speech


So I really am not interested in getting into politics with this blog.  But there is something going on that I do think worth mentioning.  You have probably heard all the flap going on about Congressman Akin from Missouri, and his ridiculous comments regarding rape.  I mean, as serious a matter as that is, I would think a public speaker would choose words extremely carefully.  Anyway, since it has happened, there has been lots of backpedaling, redefining, etc, etc, etc.  
  It reminds me of so many things.  Like President Clinton who “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” or the first President Bush and his “read my lips, no new taxes,” or presidential candidate Obama and his statement that if he doesn’t get the economy fixed in 4 years, he doesn’t DESERVE a second term in office…..until, of course, the time for reelection comes around.  The most striking commentary on all of these kinds of things came from an interview I saw with Nancy Pelosi, who when questioned about something President Obama or somebody had promised, replied, “oh well, people say LOTS of things when they are running for office.”  Probably the best description of politicians I have ever heard from a politician.
  It isn’t just politicians, but we see it among them a lot.  And how do they I handle these things?  “Well, I misspoke.“ “The words were chosen poorly.”  “That was said without full information.”  Lots and lots and lots of sidestepping and fancy footwork, but rarely a statement of, “I was wrong.  It was a stupid thing to say.  I guess I just was ignorant of the realities, and need to learn.  I so regret the hurt I have caused, and realize that because of my actions, I need to step aside.”  Even when one of them says they take responsibility, they don’t really. 
  I wonder how people would have reacted if Congressman Akin had said that he understands now how wrong his statement was, and has signed up to attend some seminars in sensitivity training, instead of running for Congress.  In fact, I have often wondered what would have happened if President Nixon had, at the very beginning of Watergate, come out and told the people that there has been some illegal activity among his reelection crew, and he had done nothing to stop it, and would resign if that was the will of the Congress.  And then followed that with the list of individuals who had committed the crime, and full disclosure of his own involvement.  The American people can be pretty forgiving of honest people.  But even if they didn’t, the process wouldn’t have taken the years that it did, with the subsequent toll on the nation.  The same, of course, is true of most of the other scandals around….like the GSA leaders who have not chosen to step up to the plate and take responsibility, or, (could you imagine?) PAID BACK all the money they stole from the taxpayers.  The CEO of Enron could have done the same. 
  Remember how often the scripture teaches the importance and the healing value of confession?  Or that Jesus told us to simply be straight in our talking, say yes, say no, don’t pussyfoot around about it.  Or the many times we are taught to speak the truth, in love. 
  In a day and age of rephrasing, dodging issues and responsibility, and words that get spun and respun, we Christians need to be careful that our speech is different.  We should be the ones setting an example in our own speech and responsibility.  If we did, maybe we’d see the day our politicians said what they meant, and meant what they said.  Okay, that may be stretching it a bit.  But at least people would know that WE DID!

TL:dr  Unlike political speak today, as Christians, we need to make sure our speech is true and we are trustworthy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lessons from My Uncle Jiggs

Have some folks who may do some occasional guest blogs for me you will meet along the way.  Today is one of those.  My uncle passed away yesterday, and my cousin, Leland, wrote a really powerful piece about his dad.  I asked him to share it on my blog, so it is below.  What is amazing is that, with a few variations here and there, he is actually describing his dad’s siblings as well, all part of that “greatest generation.”  I might suggest as you read it, that you consider what the list would be if your kids were writing about you especially if yours is now a single parent home, as is the case with many after divorce."  So, here is Leland’s blog, which you can also see at his blog address:  http://blog.speakerhardware.com/

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Things I learned from my Dad.

1. The inherent value and dignity of hard work. "Put your nose to the grindstone". Just get it done. He could work harder than any human I've ever seen. The house I grew up in he built. Somebody was coming the next day to install something, and it had to be sided. He and Mom sided the entire house in one day. Dad drove a 50lb keg of nails that day, Mom cut the lumber. He couldn't lift his arms the next day. 

2 Take the time from work to do something else. When Mom and Dad were in their late 50's early 60's they pretty much traveled the world. When we were kids we always loaded up in the car and drove around the US for 2 weeks. I'll be first to admit that this lesson I didn't learn well, but I'm "working on it". 

3. Honesty. I hope I learned this one well. 

4. Truth. Dad spoke the truth. Whether you wanted to hear it or not, no matter who you were. Never harshly, just truth. 

5. Love. Exemplified with Dad's care of Mom. Mom's parkinsons the last 3 years of her life left her immobile. Dad took care of all of it. He just about wouldn't let us help. Every night after she died Dad touched her picture before he went to bed. And in how he was the rock around which all of us revolved. When you had a problem, needed help, he was there. He and Mom were a love affair that lasted over 50 years. 

6. Entrepreneurship. Growing up in a hardware store, run by my parents was much like what you hear farm kids describing their lives. Everybody works, everybody shares responsibilities. I gave the corporate world a try for a while. I couldn't do it. Owing your own business is a dream for many. But the grunt hard grind it can be makes a "job" with benefits look pretty good sometimes. I know when I left Boeing for the hardware store Mom and Dad asked me several times if I was sure. 

Dad would come up with crazy ideas for the store, house, whatever. Mom would fix that with a "now Jiggs" and that was the end of it. But their instincts for business were almost unerring. They never got rich, but did put 3 kids through college with no debt and retired pretty well, and had long lives after.

7. Life. Going through this with first Mom, who's illness was protracted for a very long time, and now with Dad in a much shorter span has shown me something. Life is more powerful than anything. Yes, death gets us all, but the titanic struggle I have witnessed between my father and death, even though he wished it, convinces me that death wins, but death is not the winner. The life lived, the lives left behind, those are the winners. I recently read that physicists are coming to the conclusion that everything is just information. So conservation of energy and mass rules apply. If that's true, nothing is lost, the religions are right. The universe (heaven) is gained. Maybe not pearly gates, but maybe it is.

8. Respect. The biggest fear we all had was disappointing him. It was never mean, but you knew when he disapproved or was disappointed. He was such a figure of respect to everyone who knew him.

9. Don't take any of it too seriously. Seriously. :-)

10. How to do/fix/make stuff. Working with him was like working with a tornado. Fast and furious. You better be watching, because it's probably not going to get explained, just done. He about killed a couple of grandsons when in his 80's roofing the kennel building. Just like he about killed a couple of sons in his 60's roofing the house. We couldn't carry shingles fast enough. No nailers, 1-1/4 roofing nails, 1 hit to start, next to drive flush, every time.

G.S. "Jiggs" Crooks Aug 1 1921, Aug 21 2012.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Divorce in your Church

Spiritual Risks in Divorce

       The process of divorce is one that all too often leads to individuals turning away from the church, from their faith, from God.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  Partly because of the devastation and shame that divorce can bring with it.  Sometimes because churches aren’t very good at connecting well with individuals going through divorce.  And there are other situations in which an individual simply is unable to find good connections in their church after their divorce.  If you attend church, I am pretty certain that if you think hard, you can identify church friends you recall who have gone through a divorce and then simply disappeared from your congregation, and maybe from church altogether.  What can be done to prevent this?  How can a divorcing person protect themselves?  What can a church body do to intervene?   
       Let’s talk to the divorcing/divorced person first.  Realize, you are at risk! 
I believe there is a satan, and he will do everything possible to use this time to drive you away from God.  There will be feelings and thoughts telling you that God doesn’t love you any more, that nobody cares, that you aren’t good enough for church, that you don’t belong or fit in, that if God really loved you then He shouldn’t have let this happen to you…..on and on and on.  In addition, satan will also make sure you run into Christians who will tell you that very thing, and add on plenty of extra guilt to make sure you know that if only YOU had followed God’s perfect plan the way THEY have, then you wouldn’t even be divorced anyway!  There is one word you need to remember when all these things come your way:  HOGWASH! 
       The truth is, God’s heart is breaking as He sees you….or any other person for that matter…..enduring the tragedies of this world, including divorce.  And God’s desire is to help you. But it is up to you to find a way to be faithful to God in this time, to seek to draw closer, to turn to Him for strength, to give God the chance to help you through it!!!  Instead of going to church less, go MORE!  Instead of letting the overwhelming feelings take away your desire to pray, use them to force you to pray!  Instead of letting the new altered time pressures rob you of time with God, make time with God the first priority so that you handle appropriately the new pressures.  You have to CHOOSE to hang on to the rock of your salvation, to run to your refuge, who is God. 
       I don’t want to ramble too long, but I do want to say some things for those of  you church folks who are willing to be tools God uses to keep those divorced folks close to God.  As a pastor, I have been around way too many struggling marriages, some of which ended in divorce.  I have been amazed many times at how often church friends will conclude that partner or the other is the better Christian, and the divorce is the other person’s fault.  The reason I have been amazed is that, having spent time with the couples in counseling, all too often church friends draw these conclusions based on outward appearances, and I have often thought….”if you only knew what REALLY had happened inside that home.”  So, if you want to help a person divorcing, stay out of it.  And be smart enough to not pass judgment on things you really don’t know for sure.  Don’t decide who is right and who is wrong.  Just let the one you are helping know that you care, that you are still their friend, that you are praying for them (if you really are). 
       The one other bit of advice I’d offer is this.  That divorcing person probably feels pretty awkward, even in church with the closest friends.  So it may be up to YOU to let them know they still are important.  Don’t neglect the person just because you don’t know what to say. That person needs your friendship now more than ever.  Give them a call, take them out to lunch, have them over for a game of Monopoly, send them a card, drop by a pot of soup or plate of cookies….tangibly express your love to them.  They may not come play Monopoly, or you may not hear about your card.  But your caring can have impact….it is something God can use, give God that opportunity.  Just don’t take in your own agenda….that person may need alone time, or to cry, or somebody to sit with at church, or somebody to stay with the kids a few minutes so they can run to the store, or……I don’t know, you are going to have to ask THAT PERSON. 
       And, by the way, you can also let them know this blog exists, and about the book coming out.  I have already seen myself that the blog and book can make a difference for individuals….and part of the purpose IS for you to have a tangible way to help a friend. 
      My heart grieves over the way satan has used divorce and church folks responses to divorce to drive great Christians away from God. Let’s reverse that trend, okay?

TL:dr  it isn’t too long….read it anyway, this one matters

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gabby Douglas and character

Glorifying God with your HAIR????

Sorry I've had few blog posts out this week.  Have had kind of a wild week, in lots of ways.  Part of it is kind of exciting, because it relates to working out with the publisher final details for the book’s release.  We are getting the cover design completed, and so it shouldn’t be too long before print copies are available.  You will be the first to know!

 However, today, I just HAVE to say something about something I saw the other day….wouldn’t surprise me if you have, too.  Remember the young Olympian I wrote about the other day….Gabby Douglas?  So have you also seen all the flap about the hair style she had during the competition?  I’m not going to link to it, you can do a search if you really want to, but be prepared, there are LOTS of comments out there!  (So I guess I’m adding mine!)

My main comment is this:  Really????  All the gymnastic ability this girl has, all the feats she performed, the gold medal around her neck, the hard work she did to get to the Olympics, and even managing to do that from a difficult home life of divorcing parents, and all they could see to write about it her hair style?  Really?  I hear it started with some London tabloids, but don’t know that for sure, and don’t even care…….her hair style?  Kind of reminds me of Hillary Clinton, who had a hair style she apparently liked….until she got to Washington and all the clucking hens gathered around to criticize until she finally conformed to the demands of the trendy.

Seems to me that GABBY likes the way she wears her hair.  And, based on the medal around her neck, it seems to work well in her routine.  After all, it IS HER hair!  And frankly, I’d be surprised if the folks causing the flap could even do a cartwheel, let alone win an Olympic gold medal!  Her hair?  Really?  Really????

Makes me think of the scripture in Peter that encourages women to be careful of spending too much time and effort on outward adornment, but to focus instead on the beauty that is within.   I don’t know the young woman, but it sure sounds to me like that is exactly what she has been doing.  Through all of this hubbub one can sure see that the way of the world really is to focus on those external, less important things in life.  Perhaps you also remember that, in 1 Samuel, scripture teaches that God looks on the heart, not the external appearance.  Somehow, this all smacks to me of people with inferiority complexes trying to make themselves feel bigger by seeking to diminish others who have accomplished more.  Pretty sad.  No, VERY sad.  And pathetic.

I think Gabby would be better served by paying attention to the character God wants to build within her, and following the dream God has planted in her heart.  I mean, have you ever seen any of the “Real Housewives” shows?  As near as I can tell…..and I have seen only a small portion….they always seem to find women who have the eternal appearance thing going pretty well, but watching those shows (at least the little I’ve seen) very clearly illustrates that there is a vast difference between a woman (or man) being physically attractive and a woman (or man) being desirable!  And the more of those shows I have seen, the bigger the difference!  Almost the Grand Canyon I’d say.  Guys, I’d go for desirable, if I were you…..and desirable isn’t going to be seen by observing the outside.  If you don’t believe me, spend five minutes watching one of those shows!  No wait, skip that….bad advice, not worth the time.  Just take my word for it.  (And the same applies to you ladies, as well…..don’t get caught in the outward appearance cesspool.)

Bottom line, I guess we all have to make the choice of whether we want to waste our lives with the shallow and superficial, or for our lives to be filled with meaning and purpose that will stand for eternity.  Not that there is anything wrong with making ourselves presentable.  It is the degree that can be deceiving.  Wow….really got on a soap box with this one, didn’t I?  Sorry. 

So to Gabby, who, again probably doesn’t read my blogs anyway, I’d say, “let the sad little people with too much time on their hands fret over their hair.  You shave your head if you want to……because you know that what is important can’t be seen on the outside, anyway!  And please, please, please, don’t let yourself get swept up in the madness.  Keep your eyes on the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”  Might be good advice for the rest of us, as well.

TL:dr  Gabby’s hair debate reminds us of what is important, the person within God is creating!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nursing Home Caregivers are a Special Lot

Greatest People on Earth

  So think I have mentioned that I have an uncle passing in the process of passing away.  I have taken my father out a number of times to see his younger brother, the only sibling he has left.  As we drove away, two things struck me I decided to share.  One was how incredibly hard it must be, because my father has known this brother of his for 91 years, and for much of their lives they lived in the same town.  Great people.  I am truly glad I have known them in my life…..I know that privilege doesn’t happen for everyone in their family situations.
  But what I really wanted to share came from something else.  As we walked in, we chatted with the nurses and aides at the desk, and last night, as we were leaving, a nurse was walking down the hall, and stopped to chat in a very cheery way.  And it made me think that I ought to share some thoughts about these folks.
  You know, these nurses and aides who do all the direct contact work with patients and residents in nursing home facilities are very incredible people.  And I am thinking not only of this place, but others I have been involved with in the past.  Most of them are way underpaid.  Most of them work very long, hard hours.  Most of them do things most of us would never do.  And most of them do all these things while smiling! 
  I pass by residents who are pretty immobile and uncommunicative.  I see others who are rather cantankerous.  And, of course, there are others who are just delightful people if you are willing to take the time to actually talk with this person sitting in a wheelchair.  These committed individuals do that every day of their lives.  And love doing it.  I suppose it is because they know that what they are doing is important.  And that they are doing something for people who desperately need the help.  People whom our society isn’t very good at acknowledging their significance. 
  Well, I don’t want to go one forever, but I do want to say how much I appreciate all these individuals….mostly women here…..do for people I have known in so many different places.  Thanks for their commitment, their caring, their love, and their cheery attitudes which many days must be very  hard to maintain.  I couldn’t do what you do.  Not the way you do it.  And I figure that when all is said and done, there are going to be some extra beautiful heavenly crowns upon their heads.  At least until they cast them down before the feet of Jesus.  Thanks all you nurses and aides….God notices even if nobody else does!

TL:dr  Nursing home caregivers have a special God given talent and ministry.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Christian and the Olympics... here is a whole different idea

Let the Games Begin!!

So the Olympics are winding down.  Remember when Paul’s life is nearing the end, and he writes in 2 Timothy that he has fought the good fight, finished the course and so on?  I wonder if that is how our athletes feel about now, too.  Having been involved in some things myself (not at all on the scale of the Olympics), there is always at the time of the close of a big event, a feeling of let down, kind of a “can’t believe it’s over, hard to let go” sort of moment.  But there is also a sense of satisfaction in a job well done.  You probably know what I mean.

Anyway, those games are ending, and I got to thinking, I wonder, if we looked at the Christian life as a parallel to the Olympics (and, remember, Mt. Olympus was the home of the gods in Greek mythology)…..then what would be the various events we could enter in the “Christian Olympics of life”?

Some folks I think would decide the competitions would include events like:  quoting Bible verses relay, winning souls for Christ competition, longest prayers marathon, Sunday School attendance, the righteous living slalom, best dressed at church, fanciest worship, biggest choir, most worshipful praise team…..

But, I think there is a mistake in that.  First off, the US soccer women’s soccer team this year did NOT medal by competing against the US soccer team!  Those of us in the body of Christ are ON THE SAME TEAM!!!  To win, we must beat the competition, not the teammates!  And secondly, I have heard people say God’s desire is more about who we ARE than about what we DO, so wonder if there might be some other possibilities. 

I think our competition would be against those things that would pull us and others away from God, things that could cause us to lose our focus and forget out goal.  Seems to me the Christian Olympics should include some of the following events:

The “endure to the end” Marathon
The “flee from temptation” dash
The “pass the baton discipleship” relay
The “be perfect as your father is perfect” high jump
The “entangling sin” distance shot put
The “trusting God with it all” high dive.
The “carry one another’s burdens” weight lifting competition
The 10k compassion walk
The 70x7 forgiveness relay
The block that shot intercessor’s soccer game
The “2 Peter 1:5-8” climbing challenge

Interested?  You don’t have to prove yourself to be good enough to get into the competition.  All you have to do is sign up at your local church altar or your prayer space at home.  Good luck! (except, I don’t believe in luck…)

TL:DR  Our christian olympic competition should be against those things that pull us and others away from God.

NOTE:  The individual in the picture is Robin Govier, a retiree who was chosen to carry the torch through a section of Wales.  He was chosen because of his commitment to Christian Aid, a Christian group in England that responds to crises in the world.  This is the link to a short video on You Tube, which is touching and quite funny as well.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tom Cruise and Marriage

Marriage Hospice

     So, saw on the cover of “People,” a picture of Tom Cruise and a headline about how tough his divorce has been.  It makes mention there that he is seeking answers in Scientology.  Without going into all of that foolishness, I would point out that headline as a clear insight into the reality of the crisis divorce creates that causes people to search for answers. 
     Churches have figured out that as an individual approaches the end of their life, that creating a ministry called, “hospice” is an important way to help some individuals through a tough time of their lives.  And yet, when we hear of someone getting divorced, all too often we have nothing to offer in our churches.  In fact, I have even known of pastors and church leaders who actively turn against individuals who have gotten divorced, sometimes without even knowing or inquiring about the full story.  No wonder people look other places.  And yet, it is such a prime opportunity to help individuals find the meaning they need when their lives are falling apart. 
     Maybe somebody should start a hospice for those who are losing their marriage.  At the very least, many of our churches need to learn how to better minister to people in this time of need.  Maybe you could become an advocate for such a specialized ministry in your church.  I can tell you from personal experience that such ministries are truly a godsend when you are in the midst of the divorce upheaval…..it hugely was for me.  Later, maybe I can make referrals or links to specific ministries, to give you some ideas.  In the meantime, there a people out there who could even just use a hug or a card that lets them know you are praying for them.  I still have every card that was mailed to me 14 years ago when people were praying for me.  But then, I’m kind of a sentimental sap, too!

TL:dr   The crisis of divorce creates a huge opportunity for believers to show God’s love.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Talking about Gabby Douglas

Talk about ANYTHING…..well, not Jesus, though.

  So here’s the deal.  My wife loves the internet.  I use it here and there, but would call somebody on the phone long before I’d ever tap into skype……kind of a “crooksosaurus” I guess.  Anyway, the upside of it all is that the other day she told me to check out some articles she had found on the internet about a young girl in the Olympics.  So, I did, and it is a good illustration of an ongoing debate/ battle in our society.
  The articles were about a young gymnast named Gabby Douglas.  Lots to see in these things.  What is really bad, is that I LOVE the gymnastic events, and somehow missed them all……that is really disappointing.  Anyway, so if you missed it, too, then know that 16 year old Gabby won the gold medal in one of the women’s events spectacularly.  Before and after, she acknowledge Christ as her source.  In addition, her parents are in the process of going through a divorce, so that also makes her relevant for us.
  Posted some thoughts on the public witness of folks the other day, here is another example.  The articles she sent me to included three from various places (maybe I ought to post the links below….you can check).  One lady didn’t like the idea of Gabby speaking about God, because it doesn’t fit her image of what God should be like or how Christians should behave.  (So is it okay for some of us to not like how THAT LADY practices HER Christian faith, too, or is it only people like Gabby that are out of bounds?)
  Then there is another person who wrote about the issue of whether Gabby believed God helped her win the gold medal, believing that she does.  Well, of COURSE she does.  In fact, God helped every medalist there to win!  There is air to breathe, right?  They do have brains and muscles that work, right?  It’s just that Gabby is one of those who recognizes that God has done things like that for her, and some others are oblivious to it.
  What may be interesting, and what I suspect will be the case….certainly hope so, (but haven’t seen cause have been pretty tied up of late), is whether she understands that God is her source and help when she loses as well as when she wins.  I hear she didn’t win in another event and was disappointed.   Does that mean God didn’t back her anymore?  Ridiculous! 
  Athletes (and other professions as well who really understand the scriptures), understand that God’s help is for us to be able to be the best person in character that we can be….because the kind of person we are is what God really cares most about.  They also understand that we seek God’s help that we may do our best, and do so in a way that brings HIM glory rather than simply ourselves.  And that what God does through us might be something God can use to make a difference in the lives of others.  These things are true whether it is bouncing around on floor mats, or throwing footballs, or mounting brakes onto cars, or serving in Congress, or writing blogs!  It’s all one and the same, all we do is to be done for the glory of God, to the best of our ability, with the strength and gifts that God provides. 
  So Gabby, keep going.  God is using you, because I don’t even know you, didn’t even see your performance, and yet find that your stand for Christ is being bounced around the internet to somebody like me, thousands of miles away.  Gabby, have fun, enjoy the ride, life is too short to worry too much about all the garbage that comes our way.  And, Gabby, I am sorry you had to go through watching your folks marriage fall apart.  Maybe that will change one day.  But I am glad you have learned already that your life does not have to be limited because of that one event over which you had no control.  You are an example of the fact that God can still do great things through people committed to him, even out of circumstances that don’t seem so good at the time.  (Gee, I wonder if she even reads my blog?  Maybe I should invite her to subscribe!)

TL:dr  Can’t do one sentence, but Gabby Douglas is creating a buzz, and it even landed on MY blog!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Broken Heart

Oaken Broken Heart!

  One of the most powerful images I experienced in scripture is found several places.  I most noticed it in Psalm 34:18, 147:3 and Isaiah 61:1 (you can look them up yourself if you want to do so).  These texts describe the unique and especially intimate way God cares for a select group of people.  That group of people is those who are broken hearted.  God promises to be near to them, and describes Himself as seeking up bind up and heal their broken hearts.  And that is a huge part of so many experiences in life, especially in divorce.  When a marriage ends like that, there are broken hearts all over the place.  One spouse’s heart may have been broken years before, as they* saw their marriage decay and their spouse fall so far short of what they had hoped and dreamed their marriage would be.  That is usually the person who files.  The one who is filed upon is often surprised, and their heart breaks as they experience this once beloved person turn against them in what feels like betrayal.  And, of course, the children’s hearts break as they see mommy and daddy fighting, crying or struggling.  And the grandparents’ hearts break as they watch their child and grandchildren go through the upheaval and agony of divorce.  Plenty of broken hearts to go around in a divorce.
  But not only in divorce.  Yesterday, I went out to the hospital early to see my 91 year old uncle who has decided it is time to call in hospice and end all the treatments, medicines and therapies.  I took my nearly 93 year old dad in with me to see his brother.  Lots of heartbreak in that room.  In losing a loved one, it is helpful when we see that the individual has lived a full and long life, but the truth is, one is never really ready to let go.  But we have to, ready or not. 
   Hearts break as boyfriends split up from their girlfriends.  Hearts break when long loved pets die.  Hearts break when hopes are dashed by test scores, rejection letters and pink slips from the boss. 
  You can tell already that this topic is dear to my heart (which has had it’s own share of breaks), and so you know it is well covered in the book itself.  But here I want to point out something simple in case you are experiencing some kind of heartbreak in your world.  When your heart is breaking, there is a unique and special opportunity to experience a precious intimacy with God, because in those tender moments, God chooses to draw near to you because of those wounds.  Don’t neglect to embrace those loving arms in the midst of YOUR heartache.
*For those of you who haven’t seen the book, I do explain in it that I DO REALIZE that grammar expects plural nouns to go with plural verbs, and when referring to an individual, we are supposed to use the singular.  But my thing is that I am frustrated that we haven’t developed an effective gender neutral pronoun (calling a person “it” just doesn’t evoke positive responses, unless you are playing tag).  So rather than have somebody ticked that I tried to include women in “him” or men in “she,” I choose to use the plural and let the grammarians pull their hair.  Just so you know.

TL:dr When our hearts are broken, God is near if we look to sense His presence. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thankful for the rain!

Yes Virginia, there really is rain!

Well, we had skywater fall down the other night!  I have heard from ¾ to 1 ½ inches.  But pulling weeds, there wasn’t enough rain that it went very deep…..soil was pretty dry at root level.  But I wanted to tell you something I came across today.  Was out early, walking the dog (no, no money was found!), and was surprised to discover that, for the first time, as I walked along, I would run into groups, herds, flocks, gaggle…..what do you call a whole bunch of mosquitoes and gnats flying around together?  Anyway, there were several times walking along I would feel myself (it was dark) walk into a bunch of the bothersome insects, and have to shoo them away with my hands.  Which means that, during all this drought time, they have been doing whatever those pests do when there isn’t stagnant water standing to gather round.  So, even in a drought, there was something good there if I had only noticed!  And, with all the relief that we have with the rain, there is also the problem of mosquitoes that wasn’t there before.  (And I will have to mow the lawn sometime soon now, too.  I really don’t remember how many weeks it has been since I last had to mow the entire lawn!)

So the point is simple.  In even the worst of droughts, there are things for which we can be thankful if we don’t just pay attention to the rough things.  And in the best of times, there are still things that aren’t so great.  So no matter what the weather, or the circumstances of life, we always are choosing whether to find something to complain about, or something about which to give thanks.  Which one describes you?

TL:DR  In even the worst of droughts, there are things for which we can be thankful if we do't just pay attention to the rough things

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Christian and the Olympics..another story

Olympics one more time…….

So did you hear the story on KLOVE about the David Boudia, winner of a Bronze Medal at the Olympics this year.  You can hear it if you want by going to the following link:

Seems he was in the Olympics 4 years ago to compete, but between then and now was led to Christ by his coach at Purdue.  He now realizes that the bronze medal he has won is just temporary, and that what really matters is that his life glorifies God.  He is a diver, and his event was the men’s synchronized 10-meter platform event.  I’m not sure of all the events, but think that is the same as the women’s event I saw some of the other day. 

It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?  We seem to be hearing lots of stories these days about Christian athletes, and most of them are pretty good about giving credit to God, and making sure to emphasize that it isn’t all about winning.  The news media seems never quite sure what to do with these things.   Like the whole “Tebow” items……..now they talk about people “tebowing.”  (If you don’t know much about it, he plays for the Denver Broncos, and publicly kneels to give God thanks, while also being a positive influence on his teammates.  Kind of funny, the news media calls it “tebowing” as if it is something new.  It is only new to them.  Jewish folks and Christians have known of the act for years…..we call it, bowing our heads, kneeling, bending the knee, prostrating oneself…….all of which simply means to put oneself into a humble posture before a God who is greater than we are. 

We do need to be praying for these folks.  They face plenty of ridicule for their stands for Christ, and they do have unique opportunities to speak out for Jesus.  It may not be everybody’s way of doing things, but anything that sets an example is a good thing.

TL:dr  We need to be praying for those who speak for Christ in a culture that doesn’t always agree with what many Christians believe.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fresh Moves from God

Chocolate Chip Cookie Diet??????

Hey, before you read this one, you might want to look up 2 Samuel 6:12-23…..it comes up later in the blog.  So, I keep bumping into the ongoing church hassles over what kind of music the service is going to have.  Mainly because God tends to have me involved with long standing churches rather than the new starts, and so the churches I have been involved with have had to deal with facing the possibility of making changes or dying.  And they hate making changes.  All too often, some people in those churches seem to be clinging to the past as if that is where their salvation and security rests, when in fact, their salvation and security rests in Christ alone, and Christ moves fresh in each generation and each period of our lives.  Why is it so hard to let go of the past and embrace something fresh God might be doing?

Well, the context of this time the topic came up arises from a conversation with an out of town friend who has observed such a dispute in relation to music in something she was involved with.  As we discussed it, I suggested that the real issue isn’t about music, it’s about “me,” about whether I am truly open to God doing whatever God wants and my willingness to get on board with his moving, or whether I am the one in charge and what God can and cannot do in my church and life is limited by whether or not it fits in with what I want or what I like or what I think is best.  God’s choice of calling us His children is sometimes very apt.  But I know very few parents who will feed their children only what they want and like, or few teachers who will only teach children what the children think is best.  If they realize it isn’t best to let children always have their own way, why do we think God should do that in our lives?

In the Bible, that story in Samuel about David and his dance when bringing up the ark……or perhaps some of the Acts stories about the early church…. make the best parallels to this modern dilemma.  David was lost in worship, dancing his heart out, not paying close enough attention perhaps, but so enamoured and excited with God and what God was doing, that he just didn’t notice or even care!  Michal sat in judgment on it.  If it was today, she might have said, “You know, we just don’t worship that way.  It isn’t very respectful of God, it seems to me.  We have to set an example, you know.”  And she was rebuked and punished for daring to berate the exuberance of David’s love for God.  Not a good choice on her part.  And probably not a good choice by many Christians, today, either.

Just saying.  When Paul makes a big thing about the diverse gifts and roles in the body of Christ, I don’t understand why so many Christians think every other Christian should think and act just like they do!  The saddest thing in all of this is that when we put these limits on God’s work in our midst, it is US who get shortchanged.  We miss out on all God COULD accomplish through us, all the “beyond imagination” sorts of things God wants to do in our lives and in our world.  I guess, though, if all we want is peanut butter and cookies………   Just sayin’……..
TL:dr  It is critical to be open to fresh moves of God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pennies from Heaven!

Laughing with God….aka…..Pennies from Heaven!

Do you believe God has a sense of humor?  I do.  I have seen it lots of times in my life and ministry.  So I have had some pretty funny experiences, lately.  At least, I think the are funny.  Let me set the stage.  We moved in recent years to our new location because we felt God was leading us to do that so as to be available to assist my aging parents.   And we felt pretty confident that it was God leading……have seen multiple confirmations over the passing months.  Additionally, over the last year, I have taken to going on early morning walks, several miles, brisk pace, partly for the sake of the dog’s bladder,  and partly to get this old body of mine into some kind of physical condition.  (And no, they didn’t invite me to try out for the Olympics.)  The other tidbit that is important to the context is that in our Bible study group, we were reviewing the Exodus story, noting especially how God provided for His people during the tough wilderness times of their lives and journey.  Now, to the story:

As many folks are during this tough economic climate, we have to watch pennies pretty closely, and some months things get awfully tight.  I handle much of the financial work in our family, and so, when bills mount up, I especially feel it.  (That, and my wife probably has greater faith than I do in these matters……but that’s another story, too---see the book.)  Anyway, a couple of months ago was out walking the dog about 5:30 in morning, headed on my usual route, and talking with God as we walked.  Since bills were awaiting my return, money was on my mind, and so I was raising the idea that since we were here doing what we felt God had led, surely He would look after the financial aspect of things for us, too….but that I wished it would happen a bit more speedily or in ways other than I was experiencing.  And preferably it should happen before the due date of the bills!  The story of manna from heaven was fresh in my mind, if not actually part of the conversation with God. 

So walking along, just having finished that conversation with God, I happened to glance down to see a shiny nickel laying on the ground.   As I picked it up, I felt as if God was laughing with me and saying, “See, I could drop money to the ground in front of you just as I did the manna for the Israelites when they were going through their wilderness time.”  I laughed, but responded, “yeah, but it’s going to take more than just a few nickels for some of those bills!”  Walking further on…..about a mile or two down the road…….happened to glance down to see a dollar bill on the ground!  I really laughed as I picked it up.  I figure God was, too.  Although, I was also aware the bills needed more than a dollar bill, too.

Time passes, bills get paid one way or another, life goes on.  Another morning the other day.  Same route.  Same dog.  Another month of bills.  Same prayers.   But then, realizing that I wouldn’t have the usual amount of time, I changed my course a bit.  Know what happened?  Sure enough, found money on the ground again.  I took it to mean that God was reminding me He was still around, still aware, still able and willing to provide.  But this time, it was a five dollar bill!!  I laughed.  God probably guffawed at me……if that isn’t too unholy of a thing to do!  Better, I think, but still, not very many bills are only five dollars, are they?  But my little brain is running the numbers…..first a nickel, then a dollar which is twenty times greater, then a five dollar bill which is five times greater……maybe a 50 next, then, who knows?

A couple of days later, still dealing with the monthly bills, still chuckling about the five and God’s little jokes.  Out with the dogs again, but this time, had finished the walk with my wife’s dog, and had my older dog on her shorter route, over by the railroad tracks.  Happen to see a cosmetic case sort of thing laying on the ground….maybe a kid had been playing.  Started to go on, and then thought, maybe I better see what that is, since it was such an odd thing to be in such an odd place.  Pick it up and open it, see a social security card, and realize it is not a makeup case, but some lady’s wallet thingy (a clutch or some such thing).  Figure she must have dropped it, or it had gotten stolen.  Kind of glanced through it a bit to see if there was a driver’s license or something with an address, cause I assume she lives close by.  Don’t find it, just the social security card, the library card, a few credit cards, so decide not to dig too much, and just ran it by the police station later.  Figure they can get the address from the library or something if it isn’t somewhere else in the wallet. 

Are you ahead of me yet?  First a nickel, then a dollar, then a five……now, CREDIT CARDS!!!!   Isn’t God good?  Except I don’t think it was His name on the cards.  And, I took them by the police before I even THOUGHT of using them…..which I wouldn’t have anyway. 

So here’s the deal.  Remember Philippians 4:19…God supplying the needs, or Ephesians 3:20….God doing beyond our imaginations?  Well, I’m kind of figuring I need to keep my eyes open on the upcoming walks.  Expecting maybe some negotiable bearer bonds or T-bills or something.  I’ll let you know.  (Although, Publisher’s Clearing House does keep telling me that I am DEFINITELY in the running…..)

TL:dr   God can teach us important lessons in funny ways as he meets our needs. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Christian and the Olympics

Thinking about the Olympics, again...

So how about revisiting the Olympics?  Are you up to being a bit playful with me about it?  Let’s think about some of the events as pictures of other things in our lives.  Hokey, I know, but hey, sometimes hokey can teach us, too! 

First, how about foot races?  Like the sprint……sometimes in the life of faith, people run it like a sprint, they come to God and then have a quick dash of an experience, then it is all over.  Not the best way to live for God.  On the other hand, there are temptations that come into our lives, traps and sins that would drag us down, and in that case sprinting away         is exactly the right response!  However, I think we need to think of our life of faith more like a cross-country or marathon…..we have to be in it for the long haul.  Like a cross-country race, our life’s path may lead through all kinds of terrain, up and down, around unseen bends and dark valleys, but the winners runs faithfully through it all, never quitting until they cross the finish line.  But the image of the relays also applies, because we are to continually be making sure we pass the baton on to individuals prepared to carry it through the next leg of the race.  It is sad that sometimes we Christians neglect to do that, instead clutching the trappings of our faith too tightly, leaving no opportunity for those who will follow after us in life. 

Or maybe you like swimming.  In the swimming competitions, there are the variety of strokes found in some of the events, each stroke with it’s own difficulty and beauty.  Certainly our life contains that kind of variety, if we will observe the value of variety and appreciate the beauty that each stage of life, each relationship, each new day brings.  Sometimes, in swimming, speed is important, but very often, form is the critical factor.  Even when speed matters, the form determines the drag which then affects who wins and who loses.  Maybe in our lives, we need to pay more attention to the form, the way in which we do things, the character issues, and not get too caught up with the fast paced pressures all around us.  I also think about the divers…..again, form is such a big thing.  But I also think there are a lot of people who spend their lives like those divers……it sure is pretty, and makes a big splash, but it’s all over in a minute, nothing that lasts throughout their lives or into eternity.

The gymnasts always impress me.  What a lot of work.  What training and strength, all tempered by grace and beauty.  I was never able to do that kind of stuff.  One of the daughters is good at things like that……I am always amazed when I watch her doing flips or performing on a balance beam.  Anyway, the Olympian gymnasts have to bring everything together to win the medal.  If they do only a simple routine perfectly, they won’t get the points another might who takes on more difficult challenges.  If they focus on the flips and jumps but don’t pay attention to grace and flow, they may win lots of technical points, but lose the meet because of the unbalanced routine.  In your life, is there balance?  Don’t we need to take on challenges sometimes, even though there are easier things we know we can do perfectly?  Don’t we need to mix our lives with music, motion, strength and challenging activity? 

I think about the uneven bars, and the parallel bars.  I don’t know how it doesn’t hurt to slam your body and hands into those bars time and time again!  Maybe it does, but they do it anyway, because they have a goal in mind.  Maybe we need to take on things that hurt, if we are going to make the goal of Christlikeness a reality in our lives.  I have seen relationships that seem to live on the uneven bars…..marriages of spouses with different spiritual goals and priorities……and often, those relationships create problems.  But those folks whose relationships are in parallel, in tandem one with another, work side by side through the various drills that life brings. 

Okay, enough with the events themselves.  However, the overarching theme of Olympic athletes is discipline and the development of maturity in a skill. Christians should really connect with these concepts.  After all, we are expected to be “disciples,” the very root of which entails discipline.  Discipline of your mind, of what you allow in your body, of your handling of time and money.  And maturity in faith, like the development of any Olympic skill, requires time and practice to become all God would desire.  Nothing comes automatically for the growing Christian any more than it does for the Olympian.  We train, we practice, we make mistakes, we learn new ways, we have to break old habits and eliminate flaws.  So with that, let me simply close by saying, how about if both of us, take our role in this world as Christians as if we are Olympians for God, and see if we can win the crown he has waiting for us!  You might remind yourself of Paul’s end of life comment on the race he had run that is found in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

TL:dr  The faith life has aspects that parallel many athletic events….but we must chose to mimic the right ones if we wish to win. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Finding God helpful in the middle of a Divorce

Divorce is a breeze…..right???

If you have to leave your home, find another place to stay to try to start over…..and especially if you have to do so in a very short time span as I did, just that task alone can be overwhelming.  On the other hand, if you are the one who stays in the home, that can be hard, too, as you walk from room to room filled with memories that weigh on your heart, and pass by empty spaces where once your spouse’s belongings were.  Dividing things up is hard, as so many of the objects remind you of so many memories….sometimes producing tears, sometimes anger, sometimes a gnawing hurt.  Walking into your home at night is hard……in some cases children are not there who used to be, in most cases the house is empty and quiet where perhaps once was a “welcome home.”  In other cases, an individual foolishly throws him or herself into another relationship, trying to numb the pain and loss, but in fact forcing it underground where it wreaks inner havoc.

Finances are hard in lots of ways.  Sometimes because there is not enough money to pay bills with just one income.  Other times, it is hard because one spouse refuses to fulfill court ordered obligations such as child support or other expenses that should be divided.  And in all cases, it is hard to see so much money handed time and again to attorneys for every conversation and every piece of paper.  And dealing with all the details for court while trying to work out agreements with a hostile spouse is extremely hard.

Friendships are hard, because often they don’t know what to say, nor do you.  And sometimes, it is easier for you, or for them, to simply avoid contact, which is also hard as loneliness is often already a hardship for a divorcing person.  Church attendance can be hard, as the row seems much emptier without your entire family there, and the sense that somehow either you have let God down, or God has let you down.  (Whether or not that is true is irrelevant…..it is the doubt and the feelings that make it hard.)

Holidays are hard as traditions fall apart and finances limit celebrations.  Time with children is hard because there isn’t enough time, and you see them hurting and confused, while trying to be careful with what you say, sometimes hearing words from their mouths that imply things said in the other home that you know not to be true. 

Well, I think that is MORE than enough to give you a sense of what I mean (although, those of you who have experienced divorce don’t need me to tell you, anyway!).  I know that some who have not been through divorce have been coming to a greater understanding through this blog, so thought it was worth giving some description here.  Now, to the main point.
I think in times like this there are two extremely helpful things.  The first is the promise of God found in Isaiah 43:2 (which I want you to look up for yourself) that in essence promises God will be with us no matter what life brings, and that God limits the damage in our lives according to His wisdom.  Those going through divorce desperately need to know that God has not abandoned them……….although, sometimes the divorcing choose to abandon God!   

The second helpful thing is to have those around who care…..friends and family who have made it plain that they haven’t given up on you, and that they will continue to care about you no matter what happens.  And that is important for anyone reading this blog to know.  Either there are divorcing people around who need to know that YOU care and haven’t written them off, OR, YOU are the divorcing person and you need to make sure you cultivate friendships and contacts with individuals who can offer the encouragement, companionship and friendship you need in these tough times.
If this blog does nothing else but keep one individual from being isolated through the agony of divorce, it will have been well worth the effort!

TL:dr  The experience of divorce is unimaginably difficult.  God and good friends are crucial to make it through.