Saturday, September 22, 2012

consider the birds...

 i think its fairly common place for people to worry.   we often look at our situation and our circumstances and we worry about things.  we worry about finances, we worry about health issues, we worry about relationships, we worry about people in our lives who seem to be making wrong decision after wrong decision.   worse, we look in the mirror and worry about making wrong decision after wrong decision.  

i have been very guilty of worrying.   i do it often.   for a long time i worked very hard to maintain this image as this guy who didn't worry about anything.  i went out of my way to make it seem like i had it all together.  but inside i was crumbling.   collapsing on my self.   i actually had very real, vivid, frightening dreams of myself carrying my family as i sprinted down the hall of a building that was collapsing all around us.  i was running as fast as i could towards the end of the hall but the end never came, and i just felt like i would run out of time, and the building would crush us before i made it to the exit door.  then, one day, it did.   it collapsed.   it all came down.   and my life, and my families life changed, dramatically and forever. 

its actually cliche to say that it changed forever.   i mean, isn't the very definition of change that it is different forever.   can we really ever go back to exactly the way it was.   the other aspect of that phrase is that it is often given a negative slant.   like our lives were devastated by this event or change.   but even if the event was devastating, our change doesn't need to be.

and that's where i have found myself.  in a place of recognizing that this worry thing is doing nothing to help me.   or anyone around me.   i am not saying that we disregard those things in our lives that we are concerned about.  i am not saying that we need to just let happen to our children whatever happens and we shouldn't be concerned about them.   but there is a a difference between worry and being concerned.   worry consumes us.  concern helps us to be more aware.    being aware is a good thing.  it allows us to be more present in our circumstances and relationships.  worry draws our attention away from the reality of the situation. 

author and pastor Francis Chan has a passage from his book Crazy Love that is one of my favorite "reality checks" about worry.  its a quote that i have often referred back to for myself when i find myself worrying.  he says:
"When I am consumed by my problems --- stressed out about my life, my family, and my job --- i actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important that God's command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a right to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.

Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.

Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.

Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won't be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small, indeed.

We are we so quick to forget God? Who do we think we are? I find myself relearning this lesson often. Even though I glimpse God's holiness, I am still dumb enough to forget that life is all about God and not about me at all."
its a wake up call.   to think that i allow myself to be consumed by worry, by stressing about a situation that in my mind i convince myself that God has no interest in, and in turn means that He has no interest in me and how its effecting me.  

it takes being reminded of the passage of Jesus' words from Matthew 6 where he says to us not to worry.  don't stress about even the very essentials of food, shelter, clothing any of that.   and then in the next verse, an image that i have begun to allow to infiltrate my thoughts daily, hourly if neccessary.  this phrase that says "consider the birds..."   i have found myself adopting this phrase as almost a mantra.   when i find myself consumed with worry, overwhelmed by my own stresses, i simply need to "consider the birds"   to know that God cares for them, and provides for them, and cares for them deeply. 

instead, i need to, as it says in verse 33 and 34 of Matthew 6
 " first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
its when i do this, then i am able to see the invitation to what God is doing, i am aware of how God is working and i am able to see that i am not just permitted, but eagerly invited to be part of it.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

for the love of what?

over the last few weeks this huge debate has sprung up from a comment by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy.  essentially Cathy said that he believes in the "Biblical" definition of traditional marriage.  as a Christian person, and a company that strives to base itself on Biblical principles, this really isn't a shocking statement.  i have been more shocked by the response to this statement then the statement itself.  
its never been a secret about the Christian background of the company, its long standing policy of being closed on Sundays being on of the biggest, most visible expressions of those principles.  so the fact that groups of people found this statement so shocking is confusing to me.   maybe what is shocking is that someone was willing to share their views.   i think we are in a place where the majority of people have a fear of sharing what they believe because of the backlash of being called either intolerant, hate-filled or whatever.   this doesn't just mean in the debate of gay marriage.  i mean this across the board.  our society has become consumed with the idea that who ever is the loudest is the most right.  that is simply not a true statement. 

Cathy shared his personal feelings.  that is his right, his first amendment, plain as day, written in black and white in the Constitution right.  the backlash that has me most concerned is the number of people, people of power, that have made ultimately illegal statements infringing on Cathy's rights to free speech.   agree with him or not, that first amendment is pretty clear.   but i don't seem to remember any constitutional right for anyone to get married.  gay or straight. the trampling of that first amendment right is disturbing and disgusting.  and i think its a terrifying example of the direction this country is headed.  political correctness has driven us to a place where our fear of offending anyone has brought us to the point where our genuine, laid out before us in the constitution rights are being tossed out the window.  i do not care, AT ALL, about where you stand on the gay marriage issue if it means that myself or anyone else in this country is not able to speak freely about what i believe.  this issue that has been born of Dan Cathy's statement should really be the story here, it is truly terrifying the statements and threats being thrown about because one man shared his personal opinion. 

as for the main stream Christian response... i think what has disturbed me the most has been this rallying behind the Biblical traditional marriage being this grand point we stand on.  but, lets get off our high horse for a minute.  stop fooling yourself.  can we honestly say that we hold this Biblical definition of marriage in such high esteem as we watch many, many of our friends and family members getting divorces.  really, how sacred do we hold this idea of marriage when we stand by watching countless marriages fall apart and we do nothing because we "don't want to interfere"  that's garbage, and it makes this cry of holding to the Biblical definition of marriage to be garbage as well.  this issue of gay marriage is something worth discussing, i do not deny that.  but stop pretending like we as Christians have really done our part of modeling the Biblical definition of marriage much of the time. 

wherever you stand on the issue, i thank God that we live in a country that you are free to express those feelings.   at least for now, at this rate, in could be a matter of months until that changes.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

maple sap and a legacy

i have just arrived home from a really surreal time. i had the opportunity tonight to be a part of a worship and prayer time in the wake of this tragedy in my hometown of Chardon. i live a fair bit away from Chardon and it was a long drive, the ride up was relatively uneventful, i spent the time praying for the community, for the families and for the students. when i arrived at the church building, as i walked in there was the clear heaviness surrounding you, you could feel the hurt, the pain in the air. it was hard to be there. there was some time of prayer, some songs and some sharing.

after the time at the church wrapped up, i stuck around to talk to people. to pray. to try and focus on all that i had seen through a computer screen as i spent the day watching Twitter and Facebook and and local television websites. i then left. the church building is really very close to the high school so i decided to drive past it. it was a very, well, i am not even sure of the word, but strange, unreal, disconcerting, image to me. i drove down the dark street towards the school, there were countless TV news satellite trucks everywhere. Five and six trucks all from one station.

i drove slowly past the school, it was quiet and dark, a far cry from the chaos i had seen on the screen earlier in the day. i rounded the corner and i noticed for the first time something. i saw the many maple sap buckets hanging from the trees along the road. you see, this is what Chardon is known for, or was anyway. sure, it wasn't nationally known, it was barely known outside the Cleveland area, but those of us who grew up there, that's what we knew. we knew that this time of year, this season, its tapping season. but now, now we are known for this tragedy. and not just in the Cleveland area, national, and internationally, worldwide.

my prayer is that this tragedy is not the legacy that this small town carries. my prayer is that this tragedy is just the spark of a revival in this community. that in this chaos, in this madness, in this pain and hurt and sadness, that Christ shines. that as a result of this evil moment, hearts and minds will be open to Jesus. that it won't be maple sap buckets, it won't be a school shooting, but it will be a legacy of love, a legacy of compassion and a reflection of Jesus Christ that this town carries. i am praying for you Chardon.