Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Today I wrote an email to my brother Brian with the purpose of encouragement. You see, about 19 months ago, his beloved wife of 17 years Cathy passed away due to brain cancer. She was diagnosed with the cancer in November of 2006 and passed away February of 2007. He’s still in shock and is really having a hard time moving on. I wrote these words hoping to encourage him and after reading it, thought that other might also be encouraged. Read on.

I was thinking about Steven Curtis Chapman and the recent tragedy in his family, in which their youngest adopted daughter Maria was accidentally struck and killed in the drive way at their home. I don't think there could be anything worse than that. Check out this link to their blog pages and check them out. I thought maybe reading the blogs or viewing Steven's video blogs might help you some. I know it encourages me. I think God wants us to be about his work, but when we're so caught up in ourselves that everything around us is (not purposely) ignored, that can't happen. Here's something that I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit laid on my heart the other day:

God allows trials in our lives to grow us and he gives us the tools to handle them. How we handle trials depends on the whether we are internally or externally focused. When we're self-focused, trials begin to resemble a personal assault from God (How dare he make me go through this!) and we get angry and in turn become ineffective Christians. When we're externally focused, that is focused on God (and his work), those trials become a chance to
glorify God and advance his kingdom, and we become more spiritually mature in the process.

I've been struggling with anger at myself and at God for the way my life has turned out. I didn't really do anything I really wanted to do. I've always lived in the current moment, but lived for myself. I've never had anything to look forward to because I've always been so caught up in myself that I couldn't see beyond the end of my own nose. I've wasted so much time doing stupid unproductive stuff and being angry at the world and God because it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Mid-life crisis? Probably. And for you, the mid-life crisis is exacerbated by the untimely and unfair passing of your wife.

Oh how I wish I would have had the faith 30 years ago to believe the God-breathed words written by Paul in Romans 5:1-5. "Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts
with his love

A very wise friend and counselor told me that mid-life regret is very real, but the key thing is how we respond to it. We can choose to throw up our hands and say, "what's the use" and turn back to our old ways of doing things. Or we can allow God to change us for the better and follow Him into the future.

So where do we go from here? I'm sure the answer is pretty clear by now. I hope this has encouraged you. Thanks for reading. Blessings.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lines in the Sand

I was perusing my high school yearbooks the other day for a photo of a former classmate who recently posted a message on my Classmates page. I remember his name, but don’t remember much else about him. But it got me wondering about all the people I could have known but didn't. Why is that?

You probably recall what it was like in high school. In my school there were three types of kids. I gave them these names: the “haves,” the “could haves”, and the “have-nots.”

The “haves” were the jocks, cheerleaders, and other kids whose parents were pretty well-to-do. These were the “popular” kids and most of the time they were cruel and unkind to the “could haves” and the “have-nots.” Some of them were good athletes and some were not. Some were good musicians, vocalists or actors and some were not. Some were straight A students and some were not. However most all of them were popular merely because they’re parents were in the higher income bracket.

The “have-nots” were the kids who came from the other side of the tracks and in my small home town of Willard, Ohio this was a literal term. I think we called it the “East side”; although I don’t know why, because the part of town that most of the have-nots lived in was actually north of the main railroad line that ran through town. Some of them were good athletes and some were not. Some were good musicians, vocalists or actors and some were not. Some were straight A students and some were not. But most were “unpopular” merely because they’re parents were much less well-to-do than others.

Then there were what I have termed the “could-haves.” These were kids who sort of teetered between the haves and the have-nots. Some of them were good athletes and some were not. Some were good musicians, vocalists or actors and some were not. Some were straight A students and some were not. Their parents were in the middle income bracket and lived in the areas of town that were between the Eastside and the newer homes. None of them had any particular advantage over others.

I’m not sure why we drew lines in the sand except to say that we all tended to gravitate towards others in similar situations. We were all above average in some ways and below average in other ways; but most were average (see the italicized descriptions above). We all wanted to have some degree of popularity. None of us liked others looking down their noses at us as it made us feel less than important. What was it that makes us want to be better than others?

As I looked through my old year books I couldn’t help but wonder who people were; but not merely because I of the 30 year time span between then and now. I wondered what it might have been like if we hadn’t drawn lines in the sand. I think we all wanted desperately to belong in some way. How different might it have been if we all realized that we were all God’s children and made in his image: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) This is the one thing that we all had in common and still do to this day.