If you’ve been following my writing, you might have guessed that I don’t have much use for special days. Someone somewhere marked this day as the beginning of the new year by virtue of creating a calendar vary loosely based around the birth of Jesus. That is really a testament to the effect of Christianity on the world, but that’s another topic for another day. We have big parties, count down to the changing of the clock, and all make our resolutions. I suppose if you need to make a change and it feels special to make it on this day then by all means take advantage of anything that helps, but why wait for this particular day, set by someone dead for more than a millennium and not all that accurate in the first place?
We rev up our emotions and set high expectations for this arbitrary point in time. What happens when it doesn’t feel so special? Whatever the problem is, it is now magnified by the dashed hope for the day. New Year’s Day is just another day. Resolve to use it to the fullest, and do the same with the other 364.25.
I hesitate to put it this way, but I think the truth is I take pride in choosing to do “the right thing” most of the time. There I’ve already set myself up for a fall (Prov 16:18,) but I’ve been asking myself a question lately that cuts to the heart of the matter. Why? First of all, my life would have taken an entirely different path if I really had always chosen the right thing. I thank God that he is redeeming even my mistakes, but the fact remains. I can be rather adamant about doing “the right thing.” If I think I know what it is, I won’t easily compromise. I wish I could put that more strongly but honesty compels me to recognize that there are times when I have compromised. Why is it that I am usually so determined? Is it love for God? Is it fear of punishment? Is it driven by a need to see myself as worthy? Is it pure pragmatism, having seen the misery that lies at the end of all other paths? This season has forced me to take a hard look at who I am, and I don’t like what I see. I find myself wondering what others see, and how many of you I owe abject apologies for my lack of compassion and understanding. Yet I cannot say that I have changed. I know that it is not possible without the work of the Holy Spirit within me. I know that this is part of the process. Please forgive me. Maybe someday I’ll learn what the right thing really is.
I hesitate to write this, because the players in the drama may read it, and I don’t want to give offense. That sounds like good enough reason not to write it, but I also think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have things out in the open that I lack the courage to say in person. Another reason I question whether I should write this in a public forum is that if indeed we are doing good I do not want to glorify us. God gets the glory. However, as you will soon see if anyone this side of Heaven deserves glory it isn’t me. I guess it’s ok if I make my wife look good. J
About two weeks ago, we took in a woman who has no place to live. Linda had met her once before a couple of years ago, but her circumstances have changed since that first meeting. I don’t think it would be right to divulge any details here, and I question how many of those details we really know. The short version is that before I knew it we were committed to have her live with us for an indeterminate period of time to help her get what she needs. At first I was angry. We hadn’t talked about it before the offer was made, and now I had someone I didn’t know or have any reason to trust staying in my home. I got past that. I can hardly fault my beloved wife for having a compassionate reaction to the situation. Knowing that the alternative was for the woman to be out in the freezing weather, how could I refuse? Since then I have had my own compassionate moments, but over all I am still on high alert. Maybe it’s the lessons I learned from my first marriage, or maybe it’s just plain ugly selfishness, but I fear we have gotten ourselves into a situation far beyond our experience and means.
This has caused me to take a hard look at myself. Some of you may have read my Christmas blog entry. I preached a variation on it last Sunday. Is my heart where my mouth is? Where is my love and compassion? I think I have to admit that for all my talk most of the time all I really want is for my normal, safe life to continue on the same as it was before. It’s fine to talk about love and compassion, but it’s too messy when it knocks on your door. Yet here I am, and I pray that I am doing the right thing. I ask all who know us to pray for our beloved visitor and for us. Pray that the whole truth will be revealed and that His wisdom will become evident to all of us.
I got an email this morning from Nathan Tabor, former owner of The Conservative Voice (tcv.com) now part of townhall.com. It said “Merry Christmas,” and not recognizing the name I almost deleted it as spam. I guess he kept the email addresses of the people who signed up to leave comments on the site. In preparation for a book he is writing, he asked for feedback on the supposition that people believe it is easier to do wrong than to do right. I decided to share my response with everyone.
Yes, it’s often easier to do wrong in the short run, but the long-term consequences are deadly. Even Jesus said, “ Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matt 7:13 NASU) The best things in life are not free (arguable exception below.) They require diligence, self denial, and commitment. We all too readily sacrifice the best pleasures in life in exchange for the temporary. What does this have to do with right and wrong? The right way leads to the long term satisfaction we’re all seeking. God’s way is the best way and yields the best rewards. The result of sin is death (Rom 6:23,) and the sad thing is, people often don’t recognize the miserable state their sin has put them in. Life on earth is not easy for any of us, but there are some things no one should have to experience. If we will choose to follow the truth of god’s word, it will spare us much heartache.
This is my life…more valleys than peaks, but mostly flat…a barren desert, the occasional oasis seemingly unable to sustain life, yet I live on. I brought myself here from the green land of new life and hope, following crooked paths chasing mirages that cannot deliver what they promise. I feel the burning heat, but the fires of Hell itself cannot melt the ice in my heart. I am traveling toward the distant mountain where I might find rest with my Lord, but I often lose site of it and wander aimlessly as time slips away. If I meet a fellow traveler, I offer to show the way and give of what I have, but I do not know the way and have nothing to share.
In David Limbaugh’s latest column, he notes that Karl Rove claims 4.1 million Republican voters simply stayed home for the 2008 election. I can certainly understand that. We were once again presented with a choice between bad and worse. I know people who believe we no longer really have a choice, and I confess I wonder if they are right. Voting Republican can hardly be considered the moral choice anymore if it ever could. Its true base has been abandoned. That’s why even though I disagree with some of the policy planks of the Constitution party, at least the last time I read the platform, I chose to list my political affiliation with it when I joined Facebook. What troubles me most is that people are staying home who need to be taking part in the process.
If you’ve been in church long, you’ve probably heard the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30.) In summary, a master gave three servants sums of money to manage according to their ability. Two of the servants doubled what they were given. The third hid the money and gave it back to his master upon his return. For this action he was condemned as wicked and lazy. If you’ve heard it preached you’ve almost certainly heard it applied to all aspects of our lives. I submit to you that it applies to the country we live in as well. With all of its problems, there is still no better place to live. It may already be too late, but we can’t make that assumption. We must proceed as if our voices will be heard. In this country we have been given the right to choose our leaders. We can choose people of character who will make the tough decisions, or we can selfishly choose those who tell us that they will take from someone else and give to us. We can choose leaders of principle who still believe in justice and morality, or we can choose wicked liars who pervert justice and applaud the death of the innocent. Judgment will fall on this country if we do not turn around. It may have already begun. Revival is needed if we are to have any hope as a nation. Pray for revival. Share Jesus’ love at every opportunity. Exercise the rights you still have before you lose them entirely. Do not bury the gifts that you have been given.
This is an updated reprint from my old blog that I thought worth saying again.
Most people in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day next week. For an excellent brief history of Thanksgiving, check out this article in The Patriot Post. Though it has lost its true purpose for many of us and though some would like to take it off the calendar entirely, it is a wonderful thing that we still live in a country where a day of thanksgiving to the one true God can be celebrated. We have much to be thankful for.
What is gratitude? Is it simply a verbal expression of thanks? That would be a good start. In our culture of entitlement we tend to think we have a right to anything we need or want. We don’t feel the need to give thanks for that which we consider our due. True gratitude is more than words. Here’s an example to explain what I mean. If you know me or have browsed around my site, you know that I don’t see well enough to drive. Public transportation sometimes doesn’t provide a way to get me where I need to go when I need to get there. Suppose you respond to my request for help and give me a ride. The least you will expect is verbal thanks. Let’s suppose again that some time later you needed a little extra money to pay for gas. You know that I most likely can spare the cash, but I turn you down. How much was my gratitude really worth? Even if you gave me your time and expense with no expectation of return, you’re probably going to be a bit less inclined to do so in the future. True gratitude affects our actions. We have been given many gifts, but the greatest gift by far is the life of the Son of God. Jesus gave more than we can ever imagine to come as one of us to die for all of us. True gratitude requires no less than our lives given freely to Him. Learning what that means starts with a decision to do so and continues as long as we live.
Thanks to the folks that invited me to join as a friend on Facebook. I have to tell you though that it is a frustrating site for someone who uses a screen reader. I’m not sure I could have used it at all were it not for the little vision I have. As you’re signing up, it has drop-down lists that update as you go. You’re supposed to click one of the choices, but if you’re using a screen reader you don’t even know they are there. I don’t know if it is essential to click one of the choices, but it appeared that there was hidden info for each choice that you couldn’t enter if you couldn’t’ see the list. For example, I can type in Texas Tech, or Oak Park High School. In the first case it might have been an exact match and picked up Texas Tech in Lubbock, but what if I had typed Texas Tech University instead? Oak Park is listed simply as Oak Park High, not Oak Park High School, and there are several of them. Chances are my entry would not be matched appropriately at all unless I could see to click the list item that showed Kansas City as the location. Admittedly that wouldn’t matter a lot to me. It was a big place and I didn’t know how to make friends. A lot of people knew who I was because I could be seen in the halls with a cart full of the extra things I needed to help with class work, and a few were unfortunately run over by it. I didn’t know many people. I think I might remember one or two names. Then there’s the visual confirmation. I understand why they do that. In fact, I use it on the church’s site out of the same necessity. It keeps malicious people from running scripts that sign up multiple accounts and spamming everyone they can find. I have an audio confirmation link so that someone who is blind can get past the confirmation, and to their credit so do they, but I couldn’t understand it either. It too must be garbled to keep someone from employing voice recognition and getting through. On the second one I encountered I finally gave up after several misses on different phrases. To get around dealing with that, you can have your account confirmed with a text message sent to your cell phone. That’s great if you can see or can afford to shell out several hundred dollars for a phone that can talk. To top it all off, they don’t give you a confirmation password box, so if you mistype your password as I apparently did you will not know until the site refuses to let you back in. Maybe it was there and I missed it, but if so why did it let me in the first time? The reset screen has the confirmation, but the page’s underlying code is not designed in a screen reader friendly fashion, so again I resorted to magnification.
I went through with it though. Our church needs to get in touch with younger people. This is one of the ways people communicate now, so I’ll eventually get around to setting up a Myspace profile too. This just highlights the need for what we’re doing. This post is a bit plaintive, but the truth is the world doesn’t conform to our needs, and should not be required to. Though I am thankful for the help I get and know I couldn’t’ do without it, I am ultimately responsible for my life. That is true for all of us. Though I have indulged in a little complaining about a less than accessible web site, it’s up to me to deal with the world as it is. I can ask for changes, but I have no right to demand them.
What I can do is make the world a little better for someone else, and that’s what we’re trying to do. I’ve always been against creating enclaves of people with disabilities. We need to be out in the “real world” doing what we were meant to do. However, I see the need for a system of outreach and support that brings people to that place. There are numerous organizations that will meet physical needs, and that’s important. I expect we’ll do that and our church certainly does. Sadly lacking are churches seeking to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of people affected by disability. That has a physical component, in that we must go to them. Many cannot come to us. I have the same problem. I’ve been known to pick churches simply because I could get there. We have in mind a network of small churches in geographically convenient locations that can meet the needs of people like us. We must give out of what we have been given. We are blessed to be a blessing.
My wife says to me, “you’re getting more distinguished every day.” I’m still not able to see the gray specs unless I enlarge one of the pictures we recently had taken, but my hair isn’t the only thing turning gray. I’m only thirty-eight. Physically I’m probably a little older, since I never did much to maintain my health, but what I notice most can’t be seen with the eye. I’m turning gray inside. I don’t think it’s an age thing. I don’t feel old. I feel gray. I’ve never been a highly driven person, but I used to think I knew what was right and what I wanted from life. That was a long time ago, and I destroyed those dreams with my own hands. I grew new ones, and I clung to faded memories of a voice that gave me purpose; “you’re going to be a preacher.” Recently I considered that old memory once more. It wasn’t a command. It was a prophecy. Well then, I guess I don’t have to worry so much about trying to make it happen, but if I heard anything at all beyond the imaginations of a boy wanting to be like his daddy, does it not require something of me? I claim to know very little anymore. My internal vision is as dim as my eyes. I do what is in front of me and resist anything that disrupts my daily life any more than necessary. I am turning gray, and most of the time that’s ok.
Recently my wife and I went to breakfast on a Sunday morning. As we sat waiting for our table listening for our name to be called I heard, “Lee, party of one.” Maybe it was Leigh. I didn’t see who responded. I just remember thinking, “I used to do that.” At first I even enjoyed it. It was part of the adventure of being on my own and doing what I wanted to do. The fun didn’t last. As the lonely years went by I stopped going out just to go out. You can’t have a party with only one. It set me wondering about the circumstances that brought this person to wait and eat alone in a crowded restaurant on a bright Sunday morning. In our disconnected society that devalues relationship, was she always alone? Is he sitting at the table sending text messages while facing the empty seat on the other side? Is this a temporary or permanent situation?
We were never meant to be alone. God made that plain from the beginning (Gen 2:18.) We were made to love and be loved. I believe that God gave us all forms of relationship to teach us how He loves us, though in our fallen world these relationships are often corrupted and do not serve their intended purpose. As children we know the need of our father’s love. As parents we get a glimpse of God’s love for His children. As spouses we see a shadow of the intimacy we are meant to have with God. Relationships are precious things to be nurtured and treasured. I know what it’s like to be alone, and though the difficulties of forging a successful marriage have at times made me think I was better off, I thank God that I may never have to hear, “Larry, party of one.” For fifteen years I lay in the painful shards of a broken relationship and crushed dreams, until God rescued me. My trust in Him continues to grow as the seemingly impossible becomes reality. This is my encouragement to those still waiting. Put your trust in Jesus and you will never be alone (Rom 8:38-39.) Wait on Him, and you will find love.