Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Cry for Others

Somewhere in most of our childhoods, we have a recollection of a time where we were criticized for being who we are. (For the less fortunate of us, we may have several memories.) For me, this time came when a classmate was hurting, and in comforting them, tears welled up in my own eyes too. I quickly learned that this type of sensitivity wasn't received well on the playground of life, and that in order to survive the schoolyard jungle, I had to learn to deal with my emotions in a less public, less noticeable way.

Much to my own chagrin, I was very successful at accomplishing this task. However, the older I get, the more I realize the gift that it is to weep and rejoice for others. After all, I'm convinced, that a one sign of maturity is that I cry for others more than I cry for myself. For in doing so, I recognize not only how small my life is, but the greatness in helping others make their life better.  When I'm more concerned about the hungry, then I am about my inconveniences, when my care for the dying supersedes my concerns over traffic, then my life is more reflective of my Savior's  for He is the One who wept over the city He loved (See Luke 19:41)

May my cries for others always be louder than my own.

How do you rejoice and weap with others?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Prompting of Pain

If we're honest, most of us spend quite a bit of our lives avoiding pain. Of course, there's that whole "no pain, no gain" crowd, but really, most of us are striving for comfort over discomfort, peace over chaos. We like our lives to be secure, manageable, and hopefully filled with a little fun every now and then. If we are able to do this, then most would consider our days a success.

However,  the avoidance of pain has some downfalls. Ask a teacher whose student has always been protected by mom and dad and you'll quickly learn that if we never experience pain, we would never develop into a person capable of dealing with it. Even more aggregious, if we avoid dealing with the painful situations in our lives, we forgo the opportunities they afford us to look forward to the better things ahead. This doesn't mean we should go searching for painful opportunities; no, we should rejoice in the times of solace and rest that are rarely afforded us. However, it does mean that pain of any kind on this earth should prompt us to look forward to the place where pain is obliterated and Peace reigns (Rev. 21:1-7).  For in doing so, our pain is, in part, used to bring God glory, and we recognize that no earthly pain is greater than His provision for it. Also, as Pslam 23 reveals, it's in the valleys of shadow and death that God comforts us. When we are hurting, He is near.

May God grant us the fortitude to see pain not only as a trial, but also as an opportunity, and may every moment of life be used to demonstrate how great He is.


Monday, February 15, 2010

How My Parents Made a Difference - Part 2

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the things that my parents did right (at least from my perspective) as they raised me and my sister. What I neglected to mention though, was that not only were my parents great parents, there were unbelievable examples of a godly marriage. See, my parents made a difference in my life not only because of how they treated me, but because of how they treated each other. And this example, just as much as their parenting patterns of behaviors, was formative in my life. So, in honor of my parents and Valetine's Day, I'd like to share a few other ways that my parents made a difference.

One of the most important things I learned from my parents' marriage is the beauty of sacrifice. A lot of times when we hear about sacrifice, we think about the big heroic gestures. However, I learned from my parents that sacrifice was just as important in the day-to-day decisions. My favorite example of this is my mom's willingness to always eat the leftovers. It took me years to realize it, but I finally figured out that the reason she did this wasn't because she was overly infatuated with food that had already been prepared. Instead, she did it so that my dad didn't have to. It was a simple, yet incredibly sacrificial way to do something for him. She actively demonstrated her love, one reheated bite at a time.

Another way that my parents made a difference is that they always had each other's back. Growing up.  I always knew that if I disobeyed my dad, I would be in trouble. But if I disobeyed my mom, and my dad found out about it, my punishment would be worse because in that case, not only had I disobeyed, but I had hurt my mom and my dad was intent on protecting my mom from hurt. It was very clear that taking on my mom, meant taking on my dad too, and vice versa. I can not think of a single time that my parents bad-mouthed each other, gave conflicting instructions, or in any other way demonstrated that they weren't a team. If the world attacks, they are each others' defenders. If one of them has a problem, it is quickly "their" problem to solve. When one hurts, they both do; and when one rejoices, they celebrate together. It's very clear that "what God has joined together" will not be separated.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my parents invest in each other. My mom is the world's best softball scorekeeper, and it's not because she loves the game. But my dad does and my mom loves him, and so therefore, countless afternoons and evenings were spent together at the ballfields. My mom is a teacher who loves to support her students, my dad goes to the students' activities, because he loves to support my mom. They do things that are the other's cup of tea because when they do so, they're together. The investment pays off in big and small ways. Watch my parents work on a project, and you'll see it's like watching a carefully choreographed dance. They anticipate what each other will do, the words that will be said, and what the other needs. Now the choreography isn't always perfect, but it can get pretty close, and regardless of how the project turns out, at the end of the day, they're together They've learned to love and appreciate the things that matter to the other, because they love and appreciate each other.

My parents were great parents, but they were also great examples of what it means to be a godly husband and godly wife. And while the world rarely acknowledges either of these things, I know that my own marriage is stronger for it. And I know that in heaven, their reward will surely be great.


A Muted Response

For the past 2 weeks, this blog has been silent. The reason for this is because last Monday, my father-in-law had an unexpected and completely unforeseen stroke. As you might imagine, in the midst of dealing with the medical issues and all the paperwork that extended hospital stays entails, writing a blog, while never far from my mind, has been relegated to the pile of "things I'll get to later." And when I finally did get to it, I had to decide whether to write about the incident or not. I decided to do so, for one very important reason; in the midst of this, God has graciously taught and reminded me of important things, and I want to share these things with you.

1. God's graciousness has nothing to do with our worthiness - When things are going well, when we are doing the things that we know we aught, and we experience God's grace, we sometimes act as if its disbursement makes complete sense. After all, even in our sinfulness, we find it easier to be gracious to those who we perceive as being "good." However, just like the rain falls on the wicked and the saint, so does the sun, and God's acts of grace are prompted solely by His love, and never by our worth.

2. The church is meant to be a community. When it acts as such, there are few things in this life more precious. - Although I've been a part of a church almost my entire life, never before I have understood so clearly why God formed it to be a body of believers. Upon sharing the news of my father-in-law's stroke, we were immediately afforded encouragement and support. People we did not know were praying for us and offering assistance, and this in a situation where everything has more or less turned out o.k. (I can only imagine the response of my church in a prolonged crisis.) The abandonment of this call is probably the reason so many churches find themselves searching for direction.

3. Never underestimate the power of prayer. - We may never know how God uses the prayers of His people to bring about His purposes. Even when we don't see the results, they have an effect. Don't neglect it, and don't be afraid to share with others what's going on, so they may bring your needs before our loving Father. The work He wants to do may be in their life, as well as yours.

4. We are forced to take one day at a time in a crisis. This is good advice for every other day too. - God demonstrates His faithfulness on a daily basis. Worrying about tomorrow does no good, for His work for tomorrow has yet to be revealed.

4. Always write blogs ahead of time.  - You may never know when a crisis will hit, and you won't be able to posts for a few weeks. :-)


Better Things Ahead: February 2010

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Better Things Ahead