One cannot watch the news of late and be unaware of the civilian casualties resulting from Israel’s counterattack against Hamas in Gaza. We don’t see so many pictures of the devastation caused by rockets launched into Israel by Hamas. Israel continues to do what it can to minimize Palestinian civilian deaths by sending out warnings before it strikes. Israel continues to act in good faith while Hamas has never honored an agreement. I’m asking why Israel should be so careful. I suppose it has to be with its position among its Arab enemies so precarious and its allies so fickle, but I think it’s just possible that the entire Palestinian culture is so evil that it does not deserve to survive. Its children are taught violence and hatred. When given a chance to choose its leaders, it chose terrorists. Such a thing would not be without precedent. When God sent the Israelites into the land the first time, He commanded them to kill everything breathing (Deut 20:16-18.) This was the judgment of a just God on a wicked people (Deut 9:5.) Israel might well be justified in wiping out the entire population, but to do so would almost certainly bring about its own destruction.
Since a few of my friends and family know what we’ve been up to over the last month, I thought now would be a good time for an update. Again I am hesitant to write too much detail because I don’t want to offend or betray a confidence, so please forgive me if this comes across a little vague at times.
The first indication that this was not to be an ordinary holiday season was my kind hearted wife informing me that she had invited a guest to come along with us for our Christmas visit to my grandmother. Admittedly I wasn’t happy about this, knowing that Grandmamma would prefer Christmas to be a family affair. Nevertheless, not willing to rescind the offer and personally liking the idea of reaching out to others in the true spirit of a birthday celebration for Jesus, I gently broke the news to Grandmamma and was granted permission to bring our guest along.
I must interject here that Grandmamma is one of the most giving people I know and has reached out to others throughout her life. I love and respect her and do not want her to be perceived as anything less than the wonderful person that she is.
A short time later, my beloved learned that another member of our church would have no place to be, and before I knew it we had gained a second passenger for our trip. I wasn’t sure how to deal with this development, but again couldn’t gracefully back out. Linda was acting in the love and compassion that I talk about, but I was just trying to figure out how to resolve an uncomfortable situation.
Enter number three, and this one sleeps on our sofa. I confess I wasn’t in any kind of Christmas spirit. I like to say that the Christmas spirit has horns. Mine certainly did. Through no choice of my own I now had a problem with no good solution. I’ve written about doing the “right thing.” That’s extremely important to me, though as you know if you read my post I question my motives for it. In this case I had no clear choice. I could either pack them all into our minivan and impose three unexpected guests on Grandmamma, or I could break my promise to her to come for Christmas and stay home. Not being prepared to incur the hotel expenses of bringing everyone along, I opted to stay home.
Despite my reluctance, I’m glad we were able to do what we did. I think this is the first time in my life I really gave Jesus a present on the day we celebrate His birthday. It was a wonderful day. I hope we can do similar things in the years to come.
Presumably, our homeless houseguest is still with us, though it remains to be seen whether she will return after leaving us a few days ago. We have come to the conclusion that she needs help from more capable hands than ours, and we have made an effort to find those hands for her. What she does remains her choice, but we have set a date by which she must make a decision. Though I am less certain than my beloved about what needs to happen, due to circumstances I don’t feel free to mention here, we will not be able to help her much longer. Pray for her and for us.
This season has caused me to take a hard look at myself. Granted, it doesn’t’ take much to get me to do that. I’m pretty hard on myself. As usual, I’m not happy with what I see, but I think there’s a degree to which that is a good thing. If Jesus is our standard, we always fall short and should not be content with ourselves. What I need to learn is to trust that He loves me regardless of my shortcomings. I am truly amazed at the mercy He has shown me. I’ve missed His best countless times, yet he is making something good of all my error. That He is willing even now to bring me to a place of joy and fulfillment seems too good to be true. He seems to be doing just that, and I am moved beyond my ability to express. So, I thank Him for this difficult but rewarding season and hope that I have learned a little something from it.
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.