Monday, October 12, 2009

Forgetting What Is Behind

We were out on an adventure the other day and my two year old was running out ahead of us, eager for the next part of the fun. The path we were on was paved with gravel, so there were both smaller and larger rocks along the way. Stephen was running well as long as he kept his eyes on what was ahead of him, but occasionally he would turn his head to see if we were still following him and he would trip on the larger pieces of gravel and fall down.

Michelle pointed out to me that we often do the same thing in our lives. We will get out ahead and we will be doing well at leaving the past behind and then we will turn around and lose our focus on what is ahead by paying attention to what we have left behind. And that is when we’ll stumble.

The sins of our past have been dealt with at the cross of Christ. If we continually look back at them, they will cause us to stumble over and over again. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he talks about what he does in order to obtain the victory that Christ has already won. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)

Is there anything in your past you need to leave behind? Do it!! There is so much more in store for us when we allow God to really set us free from the burdens that have weighed us down and kept us from moving forward.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cleaning Out The Inbox

I cleaned out my email inbox today. It had been over a year. It’s funny the things you leave behind, and the story that is told as you look back at the events of your life. There were articles that I had intended to go back and read. There were strings of emails from my fantasy football league that were entertaining at the time that I just forgot to delete. There were emails reminding me of the challenges that we’ve faced in the last year. And there were the pictures I had sent myself from my phone of my children.

All in all, my inbox told me a story of growth and of the things that caught my interest in the past year. It reminded me of joyful times and of hard times, of challenges and of successes. Half of my son’s life has happened in the last year. He’s gone from walking to racing, from babbling to talking.

Personally, it has been one of the most challenging years of my life. And yet it has been one of the most formative years of my life. This blog has been silent since April in large part because of some of the challenges with which I have been dealing. They just didn’t need to be made public. But though it all, I have discovered and been reminded of one important guiding principle of my life—God is faithful.

Psalm 36:5 (NIV)
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Restoring an Old Classic

My father-in-law owns a 1970 Ford Mustang that he is slowly, but surely, restoring back to it’s original glory. It has spent some years in pieces in his garage. It has also spent time under a cover in his driveway. There were also some years when it spent too much time in his friend’s back yard surrounded by overgrown weeds and grass with a primary purpose as a haven for black widow spiders.

Dad has big plans and dreams for this car. It is currently an automatic transmission, but he would like to add “four in the floor” someday. The car, right now, is undriveable not because the engine doesn’t work (it does) but because Dad has taken the dashboard out so that he could replace it with a newer, cleaner one. Truth is, this “classic” car would probably be much closer to restoration if someone hadn’t had to pay for a wedding a few years back or if someone hadn’t been so distracted by a new grandson the last couple of years. My father-in-law takes great pride in that car and will finish restoring it someday because he has invested his time and his money into it.

I have always been impressed by people who take the time to restore cars, homes, antiques or whatever happens to be old or broken down. We like to watch home improvement shows on HGTV or TLC’s What Not to Wear because we get to see the old made new again. ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover is a smash hit television show because homes that were once broken down are made new for the much deserving residents. That show has changed it’s format a bit over the years. It used to be that the show was primarily about the tension and the struggle and the hard work that happened over the course of the makeover.

But isn’t that what restoration is all about? Don’t things have greater value for us when they have been restored? It might be less work for my father-in-law to have someone else do the work on his “classic” car, but it would mean less because he didn’t get the joy of restoring it himself. Restoration is a ton of work, and a lot of times, it isn’t fun, and forces us to do things that may be hard for us to do.

Especially when it comes to the work of restoring old and broken down relationships with one another. The easy thing to do (it seems, in our minds) is to just move on to the next relationship. Because, maybe, just maybe, if there is restoration needed in a relationship it is because something within ourselves is broken. It is too uncomfortable to have to change ourselves. We would rather watch a reality show where someone else is getting fixed than work on our own issues that led to the breakdown of the relationship

Think about it though. Restoring a relationship, any relationship (a marriage, a friendship, someone you work with, someone you disagree with), takes a lot of time to fully restore. It requires the extremely difficult work of selflessness. It forces you to deal with the issues someone else may have with you. It takes up too much time and emotional resources. It drains us, and causes to question if it is really worth it. In the end, I think we have all benefited from going through hard times with someone else. In the end, many of us have a relationship that we can point to that was restored and now has more value to us than any relationship we may have previously had. A relationship that has been fully restored ends up stronger than it was before.

In fact, a restored relationship becomes a Classic. Kind of like that old 1970 Mustang sitting in Dad’s garage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dealing With Crisis: Fear or Faith?

I’ve been thinking a lot about crisis lately. I’m in the middle of helping some friends deal with struggles in their marriage. My great aunt unexpectedly passed away in her sleep a few weeks ago. And then I read this morning that someone was robbed at gun point and shot in the leg on my street a couple of nights ago. Crisis is also on the minds of many this month because April is the month where Americans remember the tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University .

It is easy to start living in fear when things begin going on around us in which we have no control over. There is a huge difference in being prepared and aware of our surroundings as we go about our daily living and between being paralyzed to the point of inaction. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to be afraid.

But, then, how do we handle crisis? In this article, Barry Shafer shares two scriptures that deal with people facing crisis. The first is Daniel 3:16-18:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king…“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

I can imagine that our crises can feel like fire that is about to consume us, but here, these three young Hebrew men are trusting God to deliver them from their crisis “but even” if He doesn’t they are not going to react out of fear and waiver in their faith. They are facing their personal crisis with faith in the Savior.

The second scripture Shafer directs us to is Acts 12:1-3; 6-11:

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. … Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. … “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. … When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches…”

Here, two prominent disciples are captured, one killed, one rescued. Perhaps it doesn’t seem fair, like many of our crises often do, but Shafer reminds us that “Isaiah gave us the image of God's grieving people receiving beauty from crisis instead of ashes.”(Isaiah 61:3) We live in an extremely broken world and unexpected, unexplainable things are going to happen to us and cause pain. But what is important is where we take that pain.

In this article, David Olshine quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader: the story of Eustace, a young boy who becomes a dragon due to having been selfish and stubborn. Oldshine summarizes the scene before quoting Lewis: “Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, takes Eustace to a well to bathe, but the boy can’t get in the well because he’s a dragon. The only solution is to shed his skin like a snake, layer by layer. Later, when Eustace asks Aslan how many more layers he must shed, Aslan undresses him.

“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you,” Eustace says, “but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep I thought it had gone right into my heart.
“When he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve felt…then he…threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious, and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found all the pain had gone…After a bit, the lion took me and dressed me…in these new clothes I’m wearing.””

The pain from crisis can help bring healing to our lives, but again, the important step is where we bring that pain and what our response to it is. Sometimes doctors will break a bone in order to help it heal correctly. Sometimes we need to be broken by our creator in order to heal correctly. Olshine writes that “God often uses painful means to change us. Unless there is some situation to create discomfort, people often reject change” and later that “the pain of change is better than the pain of being unable to change.”

It is important that as we go through crisis that we trust God to deliver us while also leaving room for Him to allow the pain of crisis to help us grow and change so that we can experience His salvation. Bring your crisis to the cross and leave it there for God to deal with.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Happy Dance

We call it the happy dance. It happens when Stephen sees one of his favorite people unexpectedly. The happy dance resembles a gallop or a skip or merely a hop, and it brings a smile to my face every time. It is an expression of pure joy. He simply cannot contain the excitement of the moment and the dance is his response. And when I am the cause of this expression of joy, my heart, too, does the happy dance. Then I also participate in the physical act of the happy dance. I am positive it is more entertaining to watch an 18 month old toddler do the happy dance than it is to watch a 33 year old man, but at the time I don’t care. As my son delights in the presence of his father, his father begins to delight in the presence of his son.

Psalm 149:3-4 instructs the people of God to “Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” God wants his children to take delight in his presence and do the happy dance.

I want to express pure joy about my Father God like Stephen does about me. I want to be so anxious for my Daddy’s presence that when He arrives, I cannot contain the excitement, and I have to dance, and sing, and laugh. I want my response to Him to bring Him delight so that he joins with me.

We call it the happy dance.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Wisdom I Lack

"Man versus himself.
Man versus machine.
Man versus the world.
Mankind versus me.
The struggles go on,
The wisdom I lack,
The burdens keep pilling
Up on my back.
So hard to breathe,
To take the next step.
The mountain is high,
I wait in the depths.
Yearning for grace,
And hoping for peace.
Dear God...Increase."
--from Every New Day by Five Iron Frenzy

I wanted to title this blog Every New Day, but that was taken already so I have settled for The Wisdom I Lack. Perhaps, though, it is more fitting for me, because while I have always loved to write, the truth is I lack the wisdom to use words to say anything that hasn't already been said. The words of wisdom from my faith come from the scriptures of the Bible. The words of wisdom from my life experiences come from those who have spoken into me over the years and from those whom I have read. And at the risk of sounding falsely humble, any wisdom readers may gain from this blog will be not my own, but a gift that has been given to me for the edification of others.

The wisdom I lack is also the wisdom I am seeking. The posts here on this blog will reveal what I have learned from books, articles, and blogs that I am reading. Posts will deal with truths of life that I am wrestling with. The wisdom of the scripture in the Bible will often be a subject of my posts. I imagine some posts will actually reveal the wisdom I lack. Especially if those posts have anything to do with USC football.

If you have gotten this far, thank you, and I hope and pray that with each entry on The Wisdom I Lack that you too will pray and sing with me... Dear God, Increase.