Saturday, May 18, 2013
There’s a certain level of encouragement simply from knowing you’ll be thought of, even if it’s just for that moment when it’s spoken. I mean, what bad can come from anyone loving you enough to earn a place in their prayers? It’s comforting. And, still, something lingers, just kind of hangs there, as you think about what may come.
Allow me to be clear: I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Offending with or taking offense at my reflections here isn’t my point. I write to stimulate thought, to promote varied ways of thinking for ourselves and others. Nothing different here.
… A death of someone close to you, or a serious health concern for yourself or someone close to you, and people pray for you to recognize that God has a purpose for challenging you or taking them from this life with you.
… You lose your income and ability to provide for yourself and others, and people pray for you to recognize that God always gives us what we need, and to realize we have much to be thankful for.
… Sins are committed (as we all do), and people pray for you to fix yourself in the eyes of God and others.
“It’s what they need. Prayer isn’t about what they want, it’s about what they need. And, sometimes, you have to love someone enough to do that.”
Really? Spare me. If there’s anything God wants to teach me, He’ll take care of it. I’ll tell you what I need, and that’s your love. I don’t need your “tough” love, or your prophetic insight; no, I just need your love. Anything less than that is insulting to me, you, and God. If I’m giving anything less than unconditional love to someone else when I pray for them, then not only am I not loving them, I’m also perpetuating the selfishness of my own heart.
Pray for me, you say? Thank you. But, let’s not beat ourselves and others up then. Thank you for praying both for what I need, and you need. In fact, let’s do it together … let’s do it right now.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I've prayed for the impossible.
But, it's not just about praying. It's about believing. And, it's not about the impossible. It's about the possible.
I used to think it was the big things for which I didn't have enough faith. "I'm asking too much," I would think. "I'm living in a fantasy world," I'd laugh. "It'll never happen for me - Too good to be true," I would settle for with certainty. But, I've been kicking it around here long enough to know that the big things aren't the problem. I've seen them, lived them, believe them. I look onward and upward in wonder, in awe, in amazement.
No, it's really about the little things.
But, they aren't little. They're far more than I can handle. And, breaking them up so I can haul them out of His hands only to bury them inside of myself doesn't make them any more manageable.
Life is made up of miniscule moments. Just the right words shared at just the right time with just the right person. Waiting patiently for that critical connection. Communicating encouragement, interest, excitement - faithfully and consistently. Loving others at inopportune places or in uncomfortable situations. Stepping out in faith, and trusting that He will catch you, hold you, carry you, and lift you up.
Faith isn't something that happens to us.
Faith is something we create.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
It was breathed into me like an injection of loving persistence. Lifted up and pushed out into this world, I was given an opportunity. And, every choice I've made along the way has been mine to make - They've all been mine to make.
Would I make them again?
I've made decisions that destruct me, and inflict pain on others. I've followed my heart, and filled others with love. In ways I deeply understand, and in ways I will be perpetually left confused, I've been cursed and I've been blessed. My thankfulness of this is not in question. My certainty that I'm not alone in forging my path is not disputed.
I just wonder.
If I led another life, the self-destructing decisions, and the pain inflicted on others, might not happen. My heart may follow another path, with others being filled with my love. My curses may be absent, and my blessings may be different. My thankfulness would be for other things. My certainty may be disturbed.
I don't lead a parallel life.
This is the one I have. It's here and it's now that opportunities are presented to me. Caring for myself and electing to not harm others is before me daily. Love truly is everywhere - right before us, hidden from us, waiting to be found, and attempting to be released. Pain will never be absent, and blessings will forever flow. And, I will thank Him, hold His hand, and ask, "What's next?"
He will take me there.
And, I will follow.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I look for things like that when I'm struggling. Those miniature vacations that take me away from reality. They're gifts, I know - answers to my prayers. And, if I'm not paying attention, I miss them ... and, far too often, I do miss them.
It's not always like that, though. He doesn't always bring me that spring snow. Sometimes He brings me a storm. Sometimes He brings me precisely what I feel like I am not asking for. It doesn't feel good, and it doesn't make sense, and yet - somehow - it leads me exactly where I need to go.
I like that.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Many of us are obsessed with God’s wrath, and despise His love.
It made me think of Khan. Wrath, that is, not God or Jesus or love. I’ve never really been a fan of Star Trek, but I certainly understand enough about story telling to know that watching one on the tube or in the theater would be pretty lame without some conflict. Even if that conflict exists in our own hearts. Even if that conflict seems to drown out the real message. Even if that conflict is allowed to consume us to the point of resisting resolution.
A friend of mine recently reminded me that the opposite of love is not hate; rather, it’s apathy. Hate still expresses a great deal of interest, a fair amount of passion. Apathy, on the other hand, is demonstrative of indifference - not just lukewarm, but absolute disinterest and unwillingness to engage at any level and in any way.
We can get distracted from the gift of grace when we fail to recognize that our life isn’t an episode of Star Trek. Our life isn’t even a series of real events that follow the patterns of a tale. Our life isn’t even our own. The story is too amazing to be understood with our fallen selves as it requires a faith in knowing that all that has happened, is happening, and will happen has already been forgiven. Fully. Completely. Without exception.
Sometimes wrath is all that makes sense to us, because love is simply beyond us.
I wonder, though, if a good place to start is by abandoning our tired messages and failed ways of approaching others. Perhaps we should stop scaring everyone into thinking God is just like us, anything like us. Maybe we could focus on how much He is the exact opposite of us. And, when the Jesus I know and others know becomes the Jesus we all can know, wrath becomes less our obsession, and love becomes more our passion.
I think we should start telling that story, the real story, because it truly is an amazing story.
Friday, January 4, 2013
I used to take pride in how bizarre my behavior could be. My words, my actions, my indifference - all designed to demonstrate my unwillingness to not only conform, but also my desire to stand out as negatively as possible. Pathetic cries for attention, no doubt. I never cease to be amazed how my tattered self is still so intensely desired by the perfection of Christ. Yet, even in my redemption and my salvation, I have discovered that my journey still bends toward that broken path. Perhaps I'm less destructive in my ways, but now, instead of heading straight into the fire, I run away with cowardice. My knowledge of how imperfect I am has led me to have constant excuses as to why I should never even pursue perfection.
I know I have a fickle heart, and a bitterness, and a wandering eye, and a heaviness in my head. ~ Adele
Where I once explored new and exciting ways to sin at will, I now passively, apathetically, and willingly succumb to the contentment of doing nothing. Deceived into believing this is much better than the days of yore, I consistently fail to even attempt anything that might be considered perfect. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do. Are we perfect? No. Can we be perfect? No. Should we pursue perfection? Yes. My ability to analyze my errant thoughts and actions on a daily basis is no different than my ability to analyze my correct thoughts and actions on a daily basis. Knowing I am a sinner is too often equated with not knowing the difference between right and wrong. Oh, we know it. All to well we know it.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
My wife, Cristin, turned 35 on Friday, December 14th, 2012. She was a 4th grade teacher until my youngest daughter, Eden, joined us on December 19th, 2008. A Pinkalicious birthday party on Saturday, December 15th, 2012 marked the 4th year of her life. My oldest daughter, Gwenyth (who blessed us on August 9th, 1999), recently became a teenager, and she gathered with us as family and friends, to celebrate life, to celebrate love.
I thought about my girls. I think about my girls. What would my wife be feeling if she was trying to protect children in her care? What would she have been thinking as she was struck down in the line of duty? What would have been going through the minds of my daughters as their friends were being removed permanently from this world? What would the last look on their faces be, and their last wonderings be, as they realized the end was coming for them?
I thought about me as well. I think about me. As a former elementary school principal, and a current middle school assistant principal, I wonder if I would rush to protect others, knowing that I would likely meet my Maker. Quite honestly, I consider it often. I have the privilege of working with so many children, but many times I am interacting with them and their parents when things are not going well. While most consider me helpful, I’ve far too often had people - young and old alike - express a great deal of anger and hatred toward me. I don’t live or work in fear, but I do live and work in reality.
It can overwhelm a person. Feelings of helplessness, of hopelessness, can drown our spirit. Thinking about it makes us feel so sad, and grateful, and guilty all at the same time. And, then, the debates begin. We observe, and participate in, verbal sparring over what’s wrong, and what must be done to fix it. Answers are sought, not found, and we are left with the feeling of just giving up. So, the cycle continues: Life goes on like normal until the next tragedy that strikes a chord with us puts things at the front of our minds once again. Well, at least for a little while.
Instead of simply giving up, I wonder what we’d actually be willing to give up to bring an end to this depressing and frequent cycle. Would we give up our rights, our money, our lives, to save our own partner and children from being taken from us before we’re ready? Would we give up our pride to yield humbly to another, if it meant saving the life of our family, if it meant saving our own lives, if it meant saving the lives of others? Would we give up our need to be right, our hatred of being wrong, and our unwillingness to listen, if it meant the tragedies that befall ourselves and others may be extinguished? What would you, will you, be willing to give up?
Temptation draws me toward cynicism. While I feel somewhat uncomfortable, I smirk as the debate about guns rage with a smug, self-righteous, and vitriolic rhetoric. I raise my eyebrows when comments fly about holding people responsible for deaths, while at the same time whining about putting any amount of “my” money toward helping provide care and health and education for “those” people. And, then, “those” people are standing over my dead family. So, fixing it becomes about taking away weapons that we feel we have a right to - for defense, for sport, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for whatever. Fixing it becomes about “those” people taking personal responsibility with little or no resources. Or, fixing it becomes about penalizing more strictly “those” people … long after it’s already over.
I’m not interested in a debate. A debate is just a more civil way of arguing. None of us, in our rational and sane minds, hope to see our loved ones suffer and die, so it doesn’t make much sense to argue about it. No, I’m ready to listen, I’m ready to give, I’m ready to do whatever it takes. Are you?
~ For all lives lost, everywhere and everyday. May each one find the way home again.