Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Life Is Bigger Than A Single Moment

I was getting ready to go grocery shopping with my mother the other day. I grabbed my keys and clipped them to the belt loop of my shorts as I always do. I gathered up my wallet, my water, double-checked that I had my coupons, and headed for the door. The second I opened it to leave I realized I didn't have my keys. I ran back upstairs to find my keys hanging on the hook where I always keep them. Now, some of you who know me may shrug this off and say, "Yeah, she can be pretty scatter-brained." And I can. But I wanna tell you, not this time. I know. For a fact. I clipped my keys to my belt loop. And it got me thinking about time. What could it have been about those twenty seconds it took me to back track? Was God saving me from something, or saving me for something? And yes, I do believe it was a "God thing."

Scott and I witnessed an accident today. A guy was pretty badly hurt. How could five seconds -- three seconds either way have changed his life? How did one simple, seemingly insignificant decision determine the course of events today? What if he had decided to stay home? or go a different route? What if the other driver had stopped just a second longer at the Stop sign three blocks back? or caught the green light at the last intersection? What if Scott and I had decided to shorten our walk? or leave just a minute later?

Some people think that God is like an investor, laying out His capital, relying on someone or something else to do all the menial labor. He sits up on His cloud, and only checks in on His investment every so often, just relaxing and lying back reaping all the dividends. Outside of the fact, I can't imagine there'd be huge returns on a world full of people who seem bent on killing one another, I don't believe God is that impersonal. Matthew 10:29-31 tells us:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
 Sparrows like to nest in the ivy on the front of our house.  Not some cute little family of Dad and Mom, little baby sparrow and, maybe her protective older brother. No, family after family. Flitting in and out constantly. Dive-bombing me when I go to leave the house. Chirping loudly and frantically at all hours. Dropping dead babies out of the nest, right onto our doorstep. And let's not mention their bathroom habits. Dir-T. But God cares. He knows when that littlest one leaves the nest and soars into the blue -- or doesn't. How much more will He care for you?

The decisions we make everyday, some of which seem inconsequential either way, affect things, affect us, affect others. Let's live like life is bigger than a single moment, and let's be thankful we have a caring, loving God who sees the big picture.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Are You Tough Enough?

We buried my uncle a couple of weeks ago. He was 94. The last time I'd seen him, he told me the story of how he'd gone in for surgery and his lungs were so deteriorated, they packed them with talcum powder and closed him up. That was four years ago. As a child I loved family get-togethers; sitting at my uncles' feet and listening to their outrageous tales. They were a wild bunch. And tough, every last one of them.

As a kid, I was a brainy little butterball with Coke bottle glasses and bad hygiene. When it comes to being bullied, I was asking for it. What I didn't ask for, was to be betrayed by an adult; to have my childhood ripped from me and to experience the most heinous feeling of helplessness -- for years. I don't think my high school diploma had grown warm in my hands before I decided no one was ever going to tell me what to do again. And I would never, ever, ever be anyone's victim. I smoked, I partied, I fought, I drove like the devil, I lifted weights, I engaged in reckless behavior (the more reckless, the better) and I cussed like a sailor's potty-mouthed parrot. Smile was something I did when I cut someone down or pissed someone off. Laughter was always at the other guy's expense. Crying was out of the question. And sincerity was -- well, sincerity was a myth. I never told people I loved them, or I told everyone I loved them. It really didn't matter, because I wasn't going to love anyone anyway. To love, you had to be stupid enough to trust someone. To love, you had to be weak enough to need someone. To love, you had to be willing to do what you were sometimes asked to do. None of that was going to happen. 

As a more than middle-aged adult, I have begun to realize something (and it might just be making a few people uncomfortable) but being tough is the last thing I want to be. Being tough doesn't do anybody any favors. Tough doesn't keep you from losing people that you really love. Tough doesn't keep you from cancer, or divorce, or problems with your children. Tough doesn't keep you from going through the same things others go through; it just keeps you going through them alone. Tough is like a callous, or a piece of shoe leather. Sure it keeps stuff out or protects you from wear and tear but is that really what you want? To indiscriminately keep everything out, or to arrive at the end of life with absolutely no signs of having lived it? I'm learning how much better it is to be strong. Strong takes the hit, but having taken it, emerges victorious; Tough sort of avoids the hit altogether. Tough says,"This doesn't hurt;" Strong says, "Sure it hurts, but I'm gonna make it." Tough says,"I'm not scared;" Strong says, "I am terrified, but I'm going through it anyway." Tough is more like denial; Strong is more like actually living courageously. 

A few years ago, I apologized to a roomful of people -- about a hundred -- many of whom I'd known all my life -- for the way I'd behaved when I was tough. I don't think I've ever felt stronger. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What Kind of a World

What kind of a world is this where a mother turns her children against their father out of spite? What kind of a world is this where those appointed to serve, enslave and abandon instead ? What kind of a world is this where grandchildren steal from their elderly grandparents? What kind of a world is this where friends have exchanged the hard truths of the Bible for something more user-friendly and marketable? What kind of a world is this where good people struggle and ruthless killers are rewarded with perpetually updated law libraries and ample commissaries? What kind of world is this where a judicial system rewards a parent for their bank account rather than their parenting? What kind of a world is this where only some people have rights and others have entitlements?

The world.

Jesus' words: "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

One of my co-workers -- she's a great girl; would give you the shirt off her back -- but she wants everything to be right -- I mean, right, as in, the way it should be. She's where I was just a few years ago. I loved my job; I loved the company -- was proud to work for such a great company. Then, I began to realize my employer did not have the same enthusiasm for our relationship. I realized that even though I used to be a partner, I had become nothing more than a pleb. My co-worker? She's just getting the picture. And it hurts. She doesn't understand why an employer would do the things our employer does. She doesn't understand why her ideas -- which are clearly better -- are shot down, even condemned and ridiculed at every turn. She doesn't understand why things have to be this way, and she is taking it very personally. Why? Loyalty. Character. Integrity. Values she, and I, and millions of others have been raised with over the years. Values society reminds us day after day, time after time are passe; mere afterthoughts in our interactions with one another; something you hold onto until you can't.

The world.

God's Word: "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

This terrible, broken, troublesome world is loved. By a great, mighty, awesome God. I'd hate to see what it will become when He no longer holds evil in check. But I place my trust firmly in Him and His goodness, in His kingdom and not in this world.