Monday, June 9, 2014

Shootings - My Take

The number of mass shootings in recent years is absolutely alarming. Whether it's at a mall, movie theater, at school or work, it's hard to feel completely safe, and even worse, hard to feel comfortable when your kids and grandkids are out of your protection.  People around the country are demanding tighter gun control, and more help for the mentally ill.  But will this ultimately solve the problem?

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, you just didn't hear widespread calls for gun laws and restrictions, yet I can't remember once during my childhood ever fearing being shot at school, or anywhere else for that matter.   Everyone has their feelings on tighter gun laws, myself included, but I do think that guns are not at the heart of the issue - the real problem is a lack of hope.  People without hope do desperate things.

Life sometimes deals us "hopeless" situations - but those who follow Christ know that there's no such thing as a hopeless situation or a hopeless person.  Even though I grew up in a home where Christ was not part of our lives, society in general provided me with enough general knowledge of Jesus Christ and Christian values that when the tough times came around and I knew I'd done all I could for myself, I still had somewhere else to turn.  Society is different today - "progressive" people shun Christians and Christian values.  My heart aches when I think of kids in tough situations, and they aren't getting the assurance of an Ultimate Love from their schools or their neighborhoods or their grandparents like I did.  And it's easy to see how children without hope grow into adults without hope.  And it's easy to see how adults without hope grab guns and kill people.


Friday, May 30, 2014

He's Always There

I've been a little worried about a doctor appointment I had this morning - not so much worried about the appointment itself, but how I was going to get there.  The last couple of times it was a 6-8 block walk from my parking spot to the office, typically not that big a deal unless you have plantar fasciitis and difficulty walking distances.  I've been saying little prayers for a parking spot within a couple of blocks, and imagine my surprise when I found the closest possible spot open and waiting for me!  In a sea of parked cars, the very best parking place was vacant.  As I was parking, still not quite believing it all, I heard a voice speak to my heart, saying, "My blessings for my people far exceed what they can imagine or ask for."

In everyday ways, God is at work for our best, in ways we can't see.  How many unsuccessful and disappointing job interviews have given way to us getting the perfect job in the perfect time?  Or having numerous obstacles standing in the way of something we really want, only to find something far better on the detour we were forced to take?  Or hearing of people who have gone through unspeakable situations, and come out of them far better than they went into them?  The bad, the good, and the seemingly unimportant things of everyday life are all used by God to bless us, and to build our faith.  We can trust what He's doing, and if it's a difficult situation, we can trust that He'll walk with us through it.  He's there.  He's watching.  And He cares.

How much more will He bless us in our eternal needs?!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Year in Review

After two years of locusts, 2013 was the breakthrough year.  It was the year that confirmed God had indeed been working behind the scenes.  It was the year that I learned by keeping my eyes on Him, I could get through the troubles better than I went into them.  It was the year that I learned what to do in future times of trouble.  I learned that oftentimes the action that feels the most natural is not the right thing to do.  I learned to recognize the voice of evil in those discouraging thoughts.  I learned a little something about perseverance.  And I learned that through it all, God is right there, supplying what I lack myself.

Every day, my prayer was from Proverbs 3:5-6:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."

In two years' time, my head and heart have been through this verse every way possible. 
     -TRUST.  Believe what you can't see, or what you can't see yet.  It may look, on the surface, like nothing is happening, but you have a God who is working mightily behind the scenes.
     -Trust with ALL your heart, not part of it, and not some of the time, but with everything in you.
     -Your "own understanding" is horribly limited and flawed.  You see the tip of the iceberg.  Don't draw important conclusions about life based only on what you see and understand right now.
     -Defer to God in EVERYTHING.  Weigh decisions against God's Word.  Is this something you need to handle, or let God take care of it?  Do you need to pray, and wait, for direction?  Do you need to confess something that day that you handled that you should have left to God?

 As 2014 draws near, I can't help but wonder what it will bring.  Personally, I'm hoping that it's a year of moderation, not the extremes of the last few years.  But whatever it is, it will be perfectly designed by God to nudge me in the direction He has for me, and in the end, it will be very good.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Justice or Mercy?

I forget how that saying goes exactly... something about when you sin, you pray for mercy, but when someone else sins and you get hurt from it, you pray for justice.  Still, when we get hurt from someone else's missteps or deliberate stabs at us, we might find it hard, but still do-able, to pray for mercy for them.  However, today's events really made me stop and think hard about all this.

I think most people have heard by now about the little two year old boy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota who died today.  He was the victim of one heck of a beating, courtesy of the mother's boyfriend (allegedly).  You can read the details here

After being in critical condition, the little boy died today, and I started praying for justice.  Actually, I'll admit that was not my first reaction.   Then I started wondering if mercy wasn't what I should be praying for.  What's right?  Praying for mercy for that low-life, or justice for the little boy whose life was taken, and so violently? 

Do you pray for mercy for someone who is so dead in their own sin that they can't see the one thing they need desperately?  Of course.  Even when they commit a heinous crime like this?  I can't logically see how the reason could change, but I'll be the first to admit I find praying for the person who did this to be one of the most unpalatable things I can think of at the moment. 

I've been pondering this most of the afternoon, and have come to the conclusion that the right thing to do is probably to pray for both mercy AND justice. And that somehow, this person who is the epitome of evil can have his heart changed and his soul saved.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough

Revelation 3:15-18  "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."

Seems like the worst position to take with Christ is "lukewarm" -- if He feels strongly enough to say that He will "vomit" the lukewarm out of His mouth, that's cause for alarm if that's your situation.  Since so many of the people around me are lukewarm, it bothers me immensely.  I spent a good portion of my life lukewarm as well, and I thank God that He saw fit to show me how much I need to rely on Him, and He did so through some extremely difficult circumstances in my life - not once, but several times, each time changing me in ways that would never have been possible apart from Him.  While I would never have chosen those periods of crisis, I treasure the work He did in me during those times.

The Bible passage goes on to say, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire."  The process of refining gold in a furnace results in the removal of impurities. Is He saying to go through our life's difficulties under His direction, and He will remove our impurities?  I think so!  Going through a crisis without Him will either produce a negative change in us (bitterness, anger) or no change at all.    But done under God's direction, and handling our difficult circumstances according to God's word, we will certainly be spiritually refined.

Since I'm still quite far from perfect, I can assume there will be more "refining" circumstances in my future.  But since I've been through a few of them already, when the next one comes, I can go into it with the assurance that God will indeed bring me to the other side of it, and much better than I was.  And that's of great comfort when the ride starts to get rough.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sometimes when things get dark and you can't see your next step, it's a good reminder to wait on the Lord to shine His light as far ahead as he wants you to go.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fear, Life and Baseball

I just finished reading R. A. Dickey's book, "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball."  Being a baseball fan, familiar with R. A. Dickey from his time pitching for the Minnesota Twins, and knowing he was a Christian, I was anxious to read his story.  It was a good book, and I wasn't disappointed.  The best part though, was reading how chronic fear dominated his life, and how his faith interacted with that fear.

I can't imagine anything so challenging as dealing with anxiety in a very public way, as he did.  Any failures he had were out there for everyone to see, and trying to learn to forgive himself for any shortcomings seem almost impossible when there are booing fans, critical sports writers, and other players standing in line for his job.

For a long time, R. A. Dickey took the mound already on the defensive - with a prayer that everything would go okay, and that he wouldn't get "beat up" out there.  He was going about his business from a place of fear, hoping for enough blessing to get by, and chastising himself whenever it didn't happen.   His journey took the better part of ten years, but the story is enlightening.  And there was a lot of wisdom in the book pertaining to more than baseball.

First, sometimes trying harder is not the answer.  I think it goes without saying that life requires effort, and skills need to be practiced and developed.  But after a certain point, it's going to have the opposite effect in that it takes away from the joy and satisfaction you should be experiencing in what you're doing.

Second, concentrate on controlling what you can control.  We can't always dictate the outcome of our efforts, but we can make doing our best, and being "completely in" whatever we do, our goal.  And in that, we can succeed.  Do the very best you can, enjoy it to the fullest, and leave the outcome to God.

Thirdly, and I think most importantly, is that fear knocks on everyone's door.  As with most uninvited guests, if we open that door, let it in, and make it feel at home, it'll be back frequently.    Dickey uses the analogy of birds of prey circling overhead - we see them, we can acknowledge their presence, but we don't need to let them build a nest.

There's a lot more to this book than the little bit I've touched on here, and it's a great story.  Seeing how Dickey's faith increases and unfolds, as well as seeing him, warts and all just like the rest of us, is inspiring.  This is one book I may read twice.