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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An Oscar...for achievement in the Christian faith

Oscar Time Again……The Envelope Please (drum roll)

 So I heard the Oscars were going to be on.  I was a little disappointed, though, when it turned out they didn't end with Grouch, Madison, De La Renta, or Mayer!  Turned out they were talking about the little trophies movie stars give one another to honor those they believe did the best job, as well as a time to show off obscenely expensive clothing (which is sometimes just obscene), and to receive adulation that borders on idolatry.  (This year, though, some are saying that political correctness was also part of the decision making process, as certain films were neglected that maybe should not have been.  I don’t know, just passing on things I hear and see.) 

Anyway, got to thinking about some of those awards, and made me think of some others.  What if there were such awards given out for achievement in the Christian faith, what kinds of things would we see?  (And let’s acknowledge right up front, there ARE awards going to be given, because God has said that He will…..but the list may not be what even some Christians would expect, at least not based on the highlights in Hebrews 11 or Jesus’ comments about those who THOUGHT they would get the honors but won’t.)

So let’s have some fun, shall we?  The first category could be, “best picture.”  The nominees would have to include things like the image of Noah trying to deal with all those animals in that little bitty boat, the conception of using a giant fish of some sort to transport Jonah from the Tarshish area over to Nineveh (imagine the sunbathers who were watching when the fish spit him out....clearly a comic moment to remember), and the expression on the face of the Babylonian king as he observes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking around in a fiery furnace with an unexpected friend!  However, it seems to me that only God can win best picture, because at the moment of creation, after spinning the stars into space and casting the seas into the oceans, God’s pronouncement was that it was very good.  And all of us who have gazed at the night skies, relished the blossoms of the flowers, enjoyed the shifting hues of the sunrise or sunset skies…..we all know there is nothing that can compare.

Best actor.  Hmmm.  Without mentioning any names, I wonder if this would go to those people we know who pretend to be such great Christians, but really only live selfishly for themselves and don’t really let God change their hearts at all.  Or maybe it ought to go to Satan, who sometimes disguises himself as an angel of light, convincing us that the temptations he offers are really good, and won’t hurt us at all.  He certainly has a lot of takers.  Maybe the best actor could go to Jesus, who took on human flesh, who took on the form of weakness, who accepted the role of victim, even though He was God Almighty and could have stepped out of his circumstances at any moment….even on the cross.  He played the role assigned to Him with perfection….eventually leading to the surprise ending of a grand finale resurrection….one day to be followed by the sequel of a return to earth in power and in glory (release date yet to be announced). 

How about best supporting actor?  That would need to go to people who, like Barnabas and Andrew in the New Testament, give their lives to helping others succeed.  People who feel no need to be in the limelight, people who do not care if anybody notices the good things they do, people whose greatest joy is to see things go well for somebody else.  Maybe it ought to go do the Holy Spirit, because according to John 16, this supporting role is the role of the Spirit.  The work of the Spirit as described there is to glorify Jesus.  Maybe that is the way each of us ought to be pursuing best supporting actor ourselves.  Nope, you know who it would have to be?  The widow that Jesus brags on there in the temple…the one who put two copper coins into the offering, because they were her last two coins….all she had to live on, but she believed supporting the work of God was more important than buying herself some groceries.  I have known folks like that, too.

Best director?  Hands down, that has to be God.  Who else could send a vain guy like Joseph captive into an Egyptian prison so that, years later, he will be able to rule the land and save the family from famine.  Who else could capture a city by sending his army to march around it until the walls fall down?  Who else could take a cast of hundreds of thousands and provide for them as they wander through a desert, or feed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread?  Or think of all the ways God has done something in your life that, at the time, you didn’t even realize it was God’s doing.  I think I’ll just give this one to Him, because to make a list would be endless.

Best musical score?  Modern praise music?  Old time hymns?  Handel’s “Messiah”?  I don’t know, the songs of the Psalms are pretty good.  And I really like that choir of Jehoshaphat’s who sang their way into battle.  Deborah, Moses, Miriam, Servant Songs of Isaiah……I think I have to give best musical score to the angels on the night of Jesus birth:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men of His good pleasure,” in Luke chapter two. 

Well, as I said before, the things God celebrates in Hebrews 11 are not the same things as most people here on earth find so compelling.  But since God is the final judge of it all, it is the envelope He has written into that is the only one that really matters.  Although, my wife showed me something really cool called the Movieguide awards, which seek to support and honor those who make inspirational and uplifting kinds of films that are family friendly and teach good values.  Supposedly, some call them the “Christian Oscars.”  You can google it yourself…..kind of interesting, especially when you discover that those kinds of films actually make the best money, too. 

Enough of all of this.  Personally, I am glad the hooplah is over, and that, if it is your thing, you enjoyed this year’s Oscars.  In Hollywood or here on my blog!  As for myself, I’m still pretty torn between Oscar the Grouch and Oscar Madison.  Will have to let you know how it turns out.

TL:dr  Honoring award winning acts of God and His people, and imagining the Oscars God might give out.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Life's Meaning and Mindy McCready

If Only I was Rich, Famous, Successful?

I don’t about the rest of the world, but there seems to be such a drive here in the United States toward success as defined by wealth, fame, popularity and/or power.  It comes out in the forms of the “if onlys”…..if only I had more money, if only I could get that lucky break, if only I could be on stage giving that concert, if only I could play professional sports.  It kind of sums up in the form of “If only my life was as easy or wonderful as all these famous people we see in the movies and on the television.”  The assumption is that when these “if onlys” turn into realities, I would be happy, fulfilled, have no more problems, find life easy and meaningful.  But, really?

The news broke with another tragic end of a famous person the other day, with the apparent suicide of Mindy McCready, a country music singer from down in Arkansas.  This on the heels of the murder of the model Reeva Steenkamp with her boyfriend, Olympic star Oscar Pistorius charged as the killer.  While Major League Baseball passes over names for the Hall of Fame due to the use of steroids and Lance Armstrong is stripped of honors for the same.  They all sound so happy, so successful, such easy wonderful lives, don’t you think?

No, fame, wealth, power and popularity are not all they are purported to be.  Partly because even the people that have them, are still just people.  Regular people, with regular struggles, as well as other struggles that come with the things they have acquired.  Too many of us are pursuing illusions that promise happiness and fulfillment, but can only provide emptiness and hardship.  Now, don’t get me wrong, any of those success attributes can be a good thing, and can be used to accomplish a lot of good.  And, I believe it is important that we DO strive to be and do our best, as I believe only our best is honoring to God.  But true happiness and meaning in life has more to do with what is within us, than external trappings like what we have, where we live, or whether society considers us successful. 

I want to think about Mindy McCready.  It is truly a sad thing when a person as talented and apparently well loved by people as this woman was.  I don’t know her, am not a country music fan, so am not going to be speaking about her life as if I know her.  Like many of you, I only know what I have read and heard in the news.  It seems she’s had some troubled relationships in her life.  Lots of people have these problems, and they are hard, they break your heart.  They report at one time, she had been engaged, and then that relationship ended.  Those of you who have been divorced know two things about that:  1) you know how hard it is to lose someone you love so dearly; 2) you know that, hard as it is, it is better to have a broken engagement than to marry and end in divorce.   It would be interesting to know how many divorce/broken engagements lead to suicidal behaviors.  It is certainly an extremely trying time in life. 

In regard to Mindy, the news also says that her recent boyfriend committed suicide himself not long ago, and she was in deep grief over that…..and who wouldn’t be?  That is a tragically tough thing to experience, and now her loved ones are experiencing the same thing.  Finally, they reported that she has spent some time in rehab, and has had some other difficulties since her boyfriend’s death.  All these things apparently overwhelmed her to the point that she just could not take it anymore.  Or, sometimes, people commit suicide believing that, in so doing, they will join the loved one they miss.  Sad.  Tragically sad. 

Might I suggest that her hardships and tragic death can remind us that all these things beckoning to us promising happiness and easy lives are simply not the answers we need in life.  If they were, she would never have had the problems she had.  I would suggest that what matters is what it is we hang on to for meaning in life, and what we turn to when we need help in times of hardship.  Perhaps for poor Mindy she invested too much of her life’s meaning in other people, like her boyfriend who died.  Perhaps in her hardship, she turned to those prescription drugs or whatever other things she needed rehab from to get her through. 

As I said, I don’t know her personal life, so cannot speak for sure, yet one can’t help but wonder whether things might have been different if she had more actively sought the help she needed at the feet of Christ.  It is possible she tried, but didn’t feel like she got the answers she needed…..that happens to even the best of us at times.  But it is at that point we must persist, continuing to seek God through His word and His people, until God comes and meets those needs.  You know, it is in those hardest of times that God will give us the greatest strength and the deepest meaning…..if we honestly and diligently give Him that opportunity.  It is possible Mindy did try, I am not saying she didn’t.  But it is clear she also let other things cloud up her life to help her get by, rather than following Christ in obedience and self-discipline.  What is even more sad is that, because she apparently was such a success, it is even possible that there were Christians in her life who didn’t bother to tell her about the Lord.  They may have believed she didn’t need God, or that she already had her act together, or that it wasn’t the right time yet…..and now it is too late for her. 

Join me in prayer for Mindy’s family and friends, who must be suffering terribly in this time of loss.  And while thinking of her, look around yourself to see if there are others nearby who might be successful, but are struggling in their lives.  Perhaps now is the time, and you are the person God can use to change their life path forever.  Will you speak up?  And, also look within.  What are YOU chasing in life, where is YOUR source of strength and meaning?  Are you caught in the same mistakes that so many in our society make, believing that wealth, power, fame and popularity are the path to happiness and meaning?  If so, you need to take a second look at those all around us whose lives prove that the answers are not to be found there!  God alone can give the life meaning we all need.  I encourage you to give Him that opportunity.

TL:dr  The death of Mindy McCready can inspire us to evaluate what really is important in life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is your desire?

Close Encounters of the Godly Kind

So in the group I was in the other day, we talked about the idea of being close to God, discussing what is involved in being close to God, what it takes to experience that intimacy.  We talked about how often we confuse FEELINGS of warmth we take as closeness to God with actual biblical INTIMACY  with God based on more than just our variable emotional responses.  Some folks discussed prayer, time with other Christians, worship and time in the scripture as things that helped them be able to draw near to God.  In fact, we even pointed out that James 4:8a indicates that if we honestly are seeking to draw near to God, then God will respond by drawing near to us…..that this is a promise of God.  The upshot of the whole time was for each of us to evaluate whether or not we thought we were close to God, and whether we are willing to do what it takes to be closer.  Because, the truth is, we are as close to God as we really want to be….our priorities, our use of time and energy, and the wear and tear of our Bibles proves it. 

But I got to thinking about it later, and thought that there is something else we might want to consider when we wonder whether our relationships with God are all that they could or should be.  In our discussions, we focused on whether we are as close to God as we would like to be.  But let me flip that around a bit, and ask you to consider it this way:  Are you as close to God as GOD wants you to be? 

One of the most famous verses in the New Testament is John 3:16, in which God is described as loving the world so much that He gave His unique Son, Jesus, that through His sacrifice on the cross, we can know God and experience eternal life with Him.  What I want to notice today is that this illustrates the depth of God’s desire to be part of your life, to have you close to Him.  Jesus wants you and I with Him so much, that He was willing to lay down His life on the cross, that God the Father would allow the awful suffering Jesus experienced if that’s what it took for you to be able to know Him personally.  And, apparently it was, because even Jesus prayed that if there was some other way, God should use it……yet if that crucifixion was what it would take, then Jesus was willing to go through it.  Because you and I are just that important to Him…we are more important than even Jesus own life and all the pain He would experience.  God wants you to know Him that much! 

Around a hundred years ago, the English poet Francis Thompson, wrote a poem describing God as the “Hound of Heaven.”  God, like a blood hound on the path of its quarry, has been on the trail seeking you and seeking me, seeking that we would be turned from the things in life that distract us and impede our experience of God.  (Might be worth reading the poem for yourself.)  God’s desire is that our lives would be lived in such a way that we are drawn closer to Him every day and in every experience, and He follows after us to turn us back toward Him, away from those things that would capture us and drag us far away.  God’s desire to be close to you is extreme!  God doesn’t want us to experience just a tidbit, but to dive in to the depths of a committed relationship in which we know God and are known by Him.  He promises time and again in scripture that if we truly seek to know God, then He will reveal Himself to us.

(The link below will take you to the full text of the poem)

So, do you really think God wants to spend more time with you?  Do you think God is pleased or impressed with how much of your life is available to Him, how many of your resources are offered for His use?  Is your image of God of a God who sits on a throne far, far away, looking down on the world in an impersonal way?  Or do you believe in a God who dwells within your heart and not only knows every detail of your life, also CARES about all the things you experience and struggle with in life?  And is your belief that He is within your heart based on scripture, or just your own idea of what God is like?  According to scripture, God does, indeed, dwell within our hearts through the Holy Spirit…..but only for those who have opened their hearts to receive Christ.  God desire is that you would be His and spend all of eternity with Him, starting right now and right here.  What is YOUR desire?

TL:dr  Does our desire to be in close relationship to God match at all God’s desire to have close relationship with us?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What kind of person are you?

So There Are Two Kinds of People….

I heard somebody say the other day that there are two kinds of people.  The first kind is the people who believe that there are only two kinds of people.  The other, of course, is the rest of us.  However, I had some experiences the other day that made me realize that there ARE two kinds of Christians in the church (granted, there are more than two, but there is an issue in which there are two points of view that are predominant).  But before I tell you what they are, let me illustrate with what I experienced.

So at the recent book signings for my book, Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce, I was at the table and would visit with people while there.  Often, people would look at my book with kind of a blank or uncertain look on their faces.  I would then explain that it is a daily devotional to help people who are going through a divorce.  Sometimes they would tell me how grateful they were that they didn’t need a book like that, because their marriage is intact, or because they have never gotten married.  One couple told me they had been married 30 years, and didn’t expect to need my book, because they had a good marriage.  More power to them!  I hope they celebrate a 40th and a 50th, and who knows how many more! 
But sometimes, I got a different reaction.  Sometimes the people would say that, though they didn’t need the book themselves, they knew someone who did.  One woman took one, and then asked me to personalize another for a friend of hers who was struggling with divorce.  A pastor picked up three, because he said he had three people he knew who really needed something like that.  And as I was driving home, I realize I had experienced a sort of microcosm of what happens with my book, which illustrates more than just my book.  Do you see the difference in the responses? 

In the first case, people looked at my book to see if it was relevant for their lives, and then when they realized it wasn’t, went on to find the materials that would be useful for their situations.  (Although, I might point out that they didn’t stop to think that it might have helped them understand the struggle of people they know, or will come to know, who are facing divorce.)  These people are always looking for things that will help them grow in Christ, things that will enrich their lives, or meet the needs they are experiencing. 

The other group of people were those who go through life looking for things that will help them be able to minister to the needs of OTHERS, ways that they can be used by God to make a difference in SOMEBODY ELSE’S life.  Those people looked at my book, not for its relevance for their own lives, but for ways they could use it as a ministry tool in the lives of others.  And I would almost guarantee that there wasn’t a person who saw the book who doesn’t know somebody (or will) whose life is torn with the ravages of divorce.  And these are the two types of Christians I consistently meet in the churches. 

Realize the book is just an example.  In our churches, though, there are Christians who evaluate pastors, select churches, choose music, get involved in events and ministries based on whether or not it will be of benefit to themselves, and they are always on the lookout for something that will be useful for themselves.  Then there are those who evaluate pastors, churches, music and various ministries based on how they can be used to meet the needs of OTHERS, and they are always on the lookout for something that can make a difference in the lives of OTHER people.  Kind of stark when I say it like that, isn’t it?  The first group is kind of big contrast from Jesus, who went way out of His way to a well in Samaria for a woman of broken relationships, because He believed she was important and needed help.  Interestingly enough, she became the best evangelist He had there in that town.

It kind of reminds me of a few Bible verses.  Like Mark 10:45---For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV), where Jesus describes His own mindset.  Or some things Paul said, like in 2 Corinthians 4:5---“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.”  (ESV), or Philippians 2:4---“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV).  In these verses, it makes clear that a commitment to Christ compels us, no commands us to be concerned for and involved with the needs of others.  Christianity that is focused upon self, or even focused on one’s own relationship with God with no thought for others, or even Christianity that practices putting oneself ahead of potential ministry with others….well, that is a faith that does NOT follow the footsteps of Christ.  And, it seems to me, the sooner we learn that lesson, the better off our churches and their ministries will be. 

So let me suggest again that the purpose of my book is for it to be a tool people like YOU can use to express your care and provide needed help to folks going through divorce and its aftermath.  And I believe it is a critical tool in a realm in which the need is great, but Christian help available is very limited.  If you know someone, and want to get the book to them, you can obtain signed copies directly from me via the email address on the blog.  You can also order copies (ebook or paperback) from westbowpress.com or christianbook.com or in the United Kingdom, through www.whsmith.co.uk  as well as the normal online outlets.  I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open, not only to those caught in the struggles of divorce, but needing other ministries and caring, because that is the way Christ walked through our world, and it is the way He wants us to walk as well.  There is somebody you know, or will know, who is waiting for YOU to show you care.  And your care will represent God’s care!

TL:dr  The two kinds of Christians can be seen by whether we are concerned about ourselves, or concerned about the needs of others, and the response of people to my book illustrates the difference.   

News from the Homefront

Slowly, but surely

There are several quotes from the book that are really helpful when you are trying to get through the day....in the case of anyone separated from a loved one for any reason.  I have been working to get them into a meme format to get them onto the facebook page and eventual website!  Here is the first one I have completed...I know, I am less than professional, but I'm learning more each day.

Go to facebook and "like" our page in order to see them as I get them completed.

In addition, Richard works hard each day on the editing for the second book...yes, there is a spring and summer!!  We hope to announce a publication date in the near future.  Very exciting news on our behalf!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wrong on so many levels....

Can You Sue An Attorney For False Advertising?

I heard on the news that there is an attorney up in Michigan who is having some kind of contest by which he is offering a “no cost divorce” as a Valentine’s gift for some couple whose story is somehow deemed best.  Now  this just seems wrong on soooo many levels.  For Valentine’s Day….the day that celebrates LOVE?!?  Only an attorney could come up with something like this  If you don’t believe me, go back and read some of the ridiculous laws that are on the books…..things like sleeping in bathtubs or ice cream on cherry pie.  But basically, I think he is offering something that does not exist, don’t you?

Oh, I know, what he plans on doing in skipping his fees (which, of course, if you’ve ever been through a divorce means that he will probably select a couple who already has all the settlement worked out and agreed upon…not someone who is going to have to go to court time and again over issue after issue).  Don’t know how he plans on handling court fees, though….maybe he’ll donate them, too.  But really, don’t you think it makes more sense to discourage people from getting divorced if at all possible, rather than encouraging them to do it as a Valentine’s gift?

But the idea of a “no cost” divorce is crazy.   Try to tell that to the single parents out there, struggling to make ends meet on the one income of the household.  Tell it to the divorcee, eating popcorn for supper, alone in an empty house.  Or tell it to the children who only see one of their parents every other weekend, and one evening a week.  Tell it to the grandparents who didn’t get to see the grandchildren last Christmas because they were at “the other parent’s house.”  Tell it to the lonely woman, whose husband left her for a younger woman after 25 years of marriage.  Tell it to the divorced person going out on a date with someone he or she cares about, nervous about telling that person about the fact that they are divorced, feeling like damaged goods or second-hand merchandise.  Tell it to the couple who are in their second marriage, when they don’t have shared memories about the birth of their children.  Tell it to the kids of the “blended” family who are suddenly having to adapt to a new step parent whose expectations and discipline style are far different than they are used to in their house.  Tell it to the dad who lives hand to mouth while a major chunk of his check goes in alimony/maintenance to a woman who no longer loves him.  Tell it to the teachers at the children’s school, who have to make sure there are duplicate copies of grade reports and that the parent picking up the child today isn’t prevented by a restraining order from doing so.  Or tell it to the person who was divorce decades ago, but who still has moments of sadness when that anniversary comes around or pictures of long ago vacations fall out of a drawer. 

No cost divorce?  Really?  Don’t you believe it.  In today’s world, there are many who try to convince folks that is the truth.  But it never is.  Oh, I am sure there are those who pretend it doesn’t matter, that they just have moved on in life.  And there are those for whom the divorce was a necessary evil, to protect their safety and/or sanity.  And there are parents who manage to work together in an amicable way for the sake of the children.  But the fact is, the children will never again be able to experience growing up in an intact home with both biological parents present.  And the adults will never forget that they have experienced the trauma of a broken marriage and faded dreams, or feel the sadness of a failed marriage, even if they believe they gave it their best shot. 

The greatest attorney in the world could never deliver a “no cost” divorce.  However, we do have an attorney in heaven, who will help those heal who have had to go through one:  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  ----1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)
And our attorney, Jesus, ALWAYS keeps His promises, and always has our best interest at heart!

TL:dr  The costs of divorce are far more than financial.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day for the Newly Divorced and Widowed...Ten Tips

Top Ten Ways to Make Valentine’s Day Special for a Newly Divorced Friend....or your newly widowed friend

Ever see “When Harry Met Sally?”  Remember how awkward they both felt on New Year’s Eve when all those around them were kissing at midnight, and they were without dates?  Valentine’s can be even worse.  Want to help?  Try one of these suggestions:

(Valentine's Day Caveat....or consider your audience carefully.  When following the suggestions for sending cards, gifts or flowers, as well as an invitation out, gauge your relationship carefully. Be clear about your intentions!  One of the most unkind Valentine's Day gifts is mixed signals and confusing messages!)

1)  Send a Card---a real, paper card, that can be held, read and reread, and kept as a memento, can let someone know they are not forgotten.

2) Send flowers or chocolate---the usual Valentine’s Day gifts aren’t going to be there unless somebody like you sends one, again, just to let them know somebody cares. 

3) Send a flower to work---for a female friend, a simple bouquet or single rose at work can mean a lot, when all her coworkers are receiving bouquets and she might feel left out.

4) Be kind enough to NOT arrange a blind date---for some people, doing so could be a good thing….but probably NOT on Valentine’s Day.  If it turns out to be poor match, it would accentuate the awkwardness. 

5) Take your friend out to lunch—If you are celebrating with your spouse or special one in the evening, the lunch hour could be a good time to life your friend’s spirits. 

6) Give your friend a chance to talk—give him or her a call, stop by the office or home to visit, say hi, ask how they are doing, or just let the friend know you care.  Being a listening ear for someone struggling is a great gift…..but don’t overdo, don’t let your friend obsess into depression. 

7) Double date….maybe---if your friend isn’t freshly out, and if you aren’t overly pushy, and if your friend’s date is someone they already know and are comfortable with……an evening out could be a good thing, if it is a lighthearted time, it can be a real lift.

8) Politely check in with them---ask the day before, and the day after, about the holiday, their plans, their activities, their mood.  An open door ahead of time can help them be intentional and thoughtful facing the day, and the same door afterwards can provide a chance to process and vent. 

9) If you are single, too, consider spending the day together.  While Harry and Sally had a rather odd relationship, it is a good thing for friends to be able to spend difficult days together doing something fun.  Again, if you are doing this with a friend of the opposite sex, be wise---mixed and confused messages can create additional problems.  And the truth is, God can do more to help your friend make it through days like this, and to heal, than you or I ever could.

10) Pray for your friend---that’s right, it’s often overlooked, but the truth is, one of the greatest things you can do for a friend is pray for them. 
And the truth is, God can do more to help your friend make it through days like this, and to heal, than you or I ever could.

If this sounds like a bit of a kink in your own holiday plans, a real inconvenience, I would encourage you to remind yourself of a few scriptures.  If you think this is a good idea, I’d remind you of these same scriptures to give you some context to your kindness (all quoted from the English Standard Version):

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”---Romans 12:15

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”---Philippians 2:4

“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”---Galatians 6:2
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”---John 15:13
You see, doing this isn’t merely a nice idea, it’s following the example of Christ, it’s the essence of what it means to live like a Christian. 

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Valentine's Day and Divorce...on the road to healing

Top Ten Valentine’s Day tips for the Newly Divorced

1)    Be Wise---Don’t go where you will stir up painful memories or set yourself up as an awkward fifth wheel.
2)   Be Healed---Allow yourself time to heal from the loss and grief of your divorce instead of caving to pressure and start to rebound date out of neediness and loneliness.  (Just because friends say, ”It’s time to get out there, to get over it” doesn’t mean they are right.)
3)   Be Joyful.  Don’t let your own loss overwhelm the day, find a way to do something to bring a smile to your face for Valentine’s Day.
4)   Remember, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love…..so celebrate love…..with friends and family you love, or by showing love to someone in a nursing home or homeless shelter.
5)  Adjust..... If you have young children, don’t get wrapped up in yourself and forget them.  They, too, are experiencing a different kind of Valentine’s Day, and may need YOUR love and help to adjust.
6)   Celebrate love by spending some time with the good memories of your marriage…thanking God for the good times you had, remembering that it wasn’t all bad. 
7)   Do something special for yourself for Valentine’s Day…..buy a box of your favorite chocolates, nice dinner with a friend, or go to a movie.
8)   Get outside of yourself a bit.  Find somebody you can make the day special for….send flowers to that newly widowed friend, candy for a neighbor’s kid, maybe invite a lonely friend out to a play or ball game.
9)   Cry.  That’s right, weep a bit this Valentine’s Day, somewhere privately or with a special friend if you prefer.  You have lost something precious, and if you really ever loved your spouse, that loss hurts.  Part of valuing love is being able to grieve love lost.
10)  Read 1 Corinthians 13, to remind yourself of what love truly is like.  It may help you understand how far your marriage had drifted from God’s design for loving relationships.  And let it remind you how much God loves you, even if your ex doesn’t!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Nail in the Road

Opportunities Wandering Life’s Pathways

  So my wife suggested that I need to lighten up for a blog or two…..said too much thinking can make a person’s brain hurt.  How about running back to a variation on a topic from last summer.  You may remember the posts about pennies from heaven last summer and fall.  If you don’t you can dig into the archive if this one inspires you to do so. 

  To set the stage a bit, I often take the dogs out for a long walk early in the morning.  That way, it feels like I have more of a reason to get my exercise than just moving my legs.  I see and hear all sorts of things when I go…at least once the sun comes up enough to see.  The other day I was walking my usual route, and happened to glance down.  Nope, it wasn't money.  It was a nail.  Just an old rusty nail.  I picked it up, put it in my pocket and brought it home to throw away.  (I have to put that part in, because there are some people who think I don’t ever throw ANYTHING away!) 

  That isn't the first time I've picked up nails or screws along the side of the road.  But it was early in this walk, and as I continued on my way, I got to thinking….always a dangerous proposition I know.  I thought to myself, “You know, nobody driving by that spot will ever know I picked up that nail, but who knows, it may have just prevented somebody getting a flat tire.”  And then I thought, “I hope somebody out there is picking up nails out where I drive, watching out for me, too.”  Now normally, I wouldn't even bother to tell you I do this kind of stuff.  (And you probably would just as soon not hear it, too!)  But I ended up over at my cousin’s factory, and was telling him the story, then got a good chuckle.  He said, “You know, I’m always picking up nails and screws, too.  Especially over at the parking lot by the store.  Seems like there’s always a nail or two that fell out of somebody’s truck.”  Maybe this means the trait is hereditary.  I wouldn't bet on it, though.  But we laughed, and realized that, truthfully, we probably have prevented a flat or two down through the years.

  In this day and age when everybody seems to be so out for themselves, for getting what they can get no matter who it affects, and where hostility, violence and road rage are rampant, maybe we need the antidote of doing something nice for people who will never know.  And, doing those things whether anybody ever knows or not.  (You wouldn't know either, except I needed a blog topic!)  Like those bumper stickers that talk about random acts of kindness.  Seems to me if more of us were taking time to watch out for one another, instead of finding ways to nitpick at each other, or demanding that our OWN “rights” don’t get trampled, we’d have a kinder world.  I guess, to me, this is a lot like the places where Jesus talked about folks who give someone a cup of cold water, or who visit folks who are sick or in prison.  In those cases, they find out later that God notices things like this.  And God rewards things like this.  But not because you do it seeking a reward.  Because you do it as your way of showing God’s love to somebody in simple little ways.

  One of the most impressive acts of kindness I ever saw was a young woman I knew who had a terrible case of MS.  Nearly bed fast, scrawly handwriting, balance and speech ability seriously impaired, she used to send get well cards to people she knew in the hospital.  I can’t tell you how many times I’d visit a person in the hospital who would pull her card out of the stack of cards they had and say, “Can you believe this?  As hard as her life is, she took time to send ME a get well card.”  I told her a time or two, but I don’t think she ever really realized how much those cards of hers touched the lives of others.

  There are lots of ways to reflect the love and kindness of God to others, some more visible, some unseen.  What are the ways YOU make your corner of the world brighter?  Maybe it’s time to find some new ones, cause there are a lot of nails out there just waiting to flatten the tires of somebody’s life!

TL:dr  Kindness in simple deeds never goes unnoticed by God.