Monday, August 31, 2009

Coincidence? Twist of Fate? Accident? Or something even more strange?

Call it whatever you like but if the unexplainable can't be explained then what is the explanation? Is it more logical to "blame it on the rain" as the 80's song claimed? Or is there another option, one that, while seemingly unbelievable, becomes obvious when compared to the alternative?
When reading the book of Esther I am amazed every time at the incredible number of "coincidences" that exist in this one small history book. The strange circumstance that doesn't seem to have ever happened before that led to Queen Vashti being deposed. The Coincidence that ushered in Esther as Queen. It just so happened that her surrogate Father was known by the King and his officials. It was an accident that Mordecai overheard the plot to kill the king. It was happenstance that the night before Haman was to kill Mordecai the king couldn't sleep and was read the record from the day that Mordecai spilled the beans and foiled the assassination attempt. Sheer dumb luck that brought Haman to the lowly place of escorting Mordecai around town on the kings horse and in the kings robe, proclaiming about his enemy, this is one the king delights to honor.
And it goes on and on. A mystery? A quandary? The unknown? Or something more real. More concrete. More believable though it seems crazy at times.
There is a God who loves us and works in ways we cannot see to lead and guide and protect and move and comfort and bring about.
How many things in your life can you "not explain"? Did you ever think it might be the one thing you thought it couldn't be? A God who loves you? Nah, you keep believing in fairy tales, like luck, and chance.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I like to Stand Up... but I don't always do it.

It's Friday morning. Andi and 3 of the kids have left for school and I'm reading alone on the couch (Trent's still in bed). And I'm thinking about times to stand up.

One of my favorite things has always been going to a major league baseball game for the national anthem. I am always in awe when the person comes out on the field, everybody stands up and by mid way through the song just about everyone is singing and facing our flag. Brings tears to my eyes every time.

I went to a Promise Keepers event at Texas Stadium one year and there were 50,000 guys standing and singing songs to Jesus and it was awesome. And I cried.

It's easy for me to stand up during those times and take in the moment, when everyone else is standing. Everyone else is involved. Everyone else is doing it. But would I stand if I were the only one?

Esther's surrogate father, Mordecai, knew what it was like to stand alone.

Haman, the kings second in command, would pass through the king's gate every day and every day everyone in the square would bow down, drop to one knee, show respect and honor. But Mordecai always stood. Regardless that it meant death. Even though that act, standing, brought about Haman's plan to "cleanse" Persia of the Jews. All of them.

See, Mordecai believed in God and as such, that he should not bow to anyone but God. Call it stubborn or foolish or even a death wish. Mordecai didn't bow.

When "everyone else is doing it" what do you do? Can you stand when everyone else is bowing? Can you raise your voice when everyone else is silent? Can you give when everyone else has decided to withhold?

I don't know about you, but I want to be a Stand Up guy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time Sensitive

Well, it's on to a new OT book this morning. Esther comes after being really interested in the history of the kings, and the exile, etc. Oh well.
-Did you hear that Ted Kennedy passed away yesterday morning? I, like others will not get into his politics, just want to say a prayer that he hopefully had a relationship with Jesus Christ.
-Did you know that, supported by the CARS program over 700K new cars have been sold? Good for the automotive industry... if they ever get paid, maybe not so good for me, since my tax dollars went to help someone else get a car. I myself am looking for a used car - cheap. So, my tax money helped someone else get a car that I can't myself afford.
-Talked to a friend who is a minister in Michigan, you know the place Jeff Daniels is always talking about, he says that Michigan has the worst economy in the Nation.
-Oh, one more, I heard the aircraft industry here in KS is now at 9.9% unemployment.

Why does all this matter? Who cares what is going on in the world around us! We're Christians and aren't supposed to care about "worldly" things.

Okay, calm down. I read this morning that when King Xerxes had a problem he called together his advisers (the smartest guys in his kingdom) and asked them what to do. The text in Esther chapter 1 says that they "were wise men, who understood the times."

You see, while the death of Kennedy and the Cash for Clunkers program doesn't really affect me, politically (republican) or where our new (old)- $1500 or less) car is concerned they do affect others. And as a Christian who wants to see every person possible find real life through a relationship with Jesus Christ it's important for me to "understand the times" so I can best reach out to those who right at this moment, driving to work or eating breakfast or headed to school, don't care at all about Jesus.

I must understand the times so I can, more effectively, find ways to reach out to those who need to know the hope I have in a God they can't see.

So here's to being informed and informing. May we use every opportunity that presents itself to share our faith - understanding these times.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Will I be remembered?

Have you ever thought about what the world will be like when you are gone? Come on, everybody dies, it's a part of life (and for believers the best part!), so have you ever wondered who will remember you? What will they say? Will life continue for them with barely a nod to your life? Or will they never be the same?
I think about this sometimes. It seems a bit morbid but it makes me desire even more to do something worthwhile with my life that benefits people and cities and humankind.
But this morning I'm wondering, "does it matter if people here remember me after I'm gone?" What difference will it make to me whether you recall my life with fondness or with disgust? I'll be dead. So how ever you feel about me won't affect me, right?
In Nehemiah 13 there is a recurring phrase. Nehemiah is essentially listing the things he did to restore God's favor toward His people. Restoring the tithes and offerings for the priests and Levites. Making sure the people had remained pure and not intermarried with the people around them. And over and over he says, "Remember me for this, O God." He lists what he did and then asks God to remember him.
Huh. Maybe I shouldn't be concerned with how people will recall me when my spirit leaves my body in the dust here, but instead be concerned with whether or not God remembers me when I see Him. Maybe I've got a little mixed up on whose memory is most important!

Remember me with favor, O my God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God, put it in my heart...

The average Joe, Nehemiah, has returned from Persia (Babylon) to rebuild the walls of the city. Despite great odds and few people, he mustered their best strength and even got the fat-cat nobles to pitch in and they finished the job in record time. Chapter 7 of Nehemiah's life, says that they not only rebuilt the walls but also hung the gates! Which means that they were a protected city again. There was some confidence there, among the people. The wall meant security. It meant status. No longer was the city they loved exposed. No longer could any neighboring town or people simple walk through or over the wall and kill or take captives. This was BIG! Having the wall up was like getting the deluxe ADT security package for your home! They had done it! They had withstood the ridicule and those who were trying to discourage them and they had completed the job.
Now it was time to sit back and relax. To rest a bit and enjoy their security and comfort. Look, less than 50,000 people had finished this huge undertaking, it was time to party! To rest. To marvel at what they had done.
But not for Nehemiah. Verses 4 and 5 say that Nehemiah looked around and saw that the houses had not been rebuilt yet. And that God "put it into my heart to..." well, to do something about it. So Nehemiah set out to begin the process of counting and registering the people so they could be given space and protection within the city.
Here's my prayer today. God, it is easy to sit back and relax and take it easy, especially after a big job or a completed task... but I ask you to "put into my heart" the next thing that needs to be done. The next mountain that needs to be moved. The next task that's been left undone. Don't let me relax or pat myself on the back... there is more to do. There is always more to do... and I want to do it. Put it into my heart - what Your plan is. And then give me the strength and ability to finish it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Steps 1 and 2.

When I was taking classes for my psych degree the thing we heard over and over was that the first key to success in treating someone with an emotional issue (that was serious enough) was therapy but the second key was also very important (kind of like that second key in the movies that does everything from arm the torpedoes to start the super large drill that is aimed at the center of the earth) and went right along with the first, which in this case was drugs. The mantra was always therapy and drugs (I think they called it "medication"). I was reading in Nehemiah this morning and I saw a one/two punch just like I learned in school. But what I also noticed is that most of us forget the second part.
Nehemiah has brought back to Jerusalem a group of people and has mustered the strength of those already there and they have begun to rebuild the walls and gates of the City, an incredibly huge undertaking. When they are busy building the people around them begin to plot how they might stop the Jews from rebuilding and once again becoming a power nation in the region. Well, Nehemiah learns of their plans and devises this two step process, here's how it happened, "They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat" (Neh 4:8,9).
Did you see it? How were they going to deal with the threat of their neighbors? First they prayed (good idea right?!). And then they Posted a guard. One. Two.
For many of us when we feel attacked by others, or sin (temptation) or the prospect of failure we do only one of the two steps. Being very spiritual you may pray to God, which is great, unless you just go, "well I prayed, get to work God!" For others you may do really good at posting the guard (trying to handle it on your own) but you neglect to pray. When dealing with the issues that you and I face every day we need to employ both of these steps! We need to pray to our God who WILL hear and WILL act but we also need to post a guard, to stand watch, to tighten up security so that we can do our part as well.
Therapy and Drugs. Pray and stand guard.
Today God, while I rely on You to fight for me and meet my needs, help me also to get off my butt and get involved!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Simple - Profound

So I'm reading today in Nehemiah chapter 2 and in the midst of this great story one little statement jumped out at me. Nehemiah is the cup bearer to the king of Persia (formerly Babylon) which was a pretty big deal. Anyway, the king sees how depressed Nehemiah is and asks essentially, "what will make you feel better?"
And then it comes, Nehemiah writes of himself, "Then I prayed to the God of Israel, and answered the king..."

There it is. I prayed to the God of heaven. Simple. Something we take for granted everyday. I pray to the God of heaven. Profound. The God of heaven. The One who created and sustains life. The One who keeps the planets from falling out of space. The One who has the hairs on my bald head (shaved) numbered. AND the subsequent end is this... the God of Heaven listens.

Happy praying, happy Friday!!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Day of School - God IS in control

Good morning, haven't woken Trent up yet. Reading in Ezra Chapters 7-8 this morning.

Ezra said something interesting to me. God had moved the heart of the king, Artaxerxes and all his officials to not only send Ezra and whoever wanted to go with him back to Jerusalem, but they freely gave gifts of gold, silver and bronze both from the treasury of Babylon and as individuals. The hand of God was certainly on them to do this, no doubt.
But as Ezra and the people were camping three days before setting out on this long journey they fasted and prayed that they would have safe journey for themselves and their children. Cool. Understand that, praying before a trip or something for protection, good idea. But the reason they were doing that was because Ezra said he did not feel right asking the king for soldiers or horsemen to accompany them since he had told the king that, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him."
Ezra didn't want to ask for soldiers because he had already told the king that God was on his side. He didn't want to be two-faced. He didn't want to have faith in God and yet rely on someone else.

Today, Father, may my strength and faith be in You and You alone. Because it is only You and always You who can offer any real protection. Everything else is false hope. But You alone provide.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

...only more frustrated.

So the family all came into the living room last night to watch that 20/20 show about the autistic girl who can communicate by typing, has a blog and is writing a book about autism.  It was an incredible story and we were all very moved by what she typed.  When she typed about being trapped in her body, not being able to control her body, etc. it was almost more than I could take.

We are very happy for this family and the new-found relationship (with communication!) between them all... wait for it...


Shows like that only make us hurt more.  Andi and I so desperately want to talk to Trent, to know what is hurting him (while he bangs on the walls, bites himself till he nearly bleeds, screams, jumps off the furniture and pounds his fists on the floor), we would love to know what he is thinking, if he is hungry or has a stomach ache.  But we get nothing except more banging, more biting.
Does he feel trapped in his body like she does?  Does he want to be "normal" like she does?  Does he really have any feelings for us and what we do for him like she does?

The sad truth is that for every autistic child who finds a way to break free and communicate there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands who are still trapped.

So I sat here on the couch (still am) with Trent this morning.  Looking into his eyes and trying to see something, anything that would give me a clue to how he feels.  I even busted out the laptop and tried desperately to get him to type something to me (he is a very good typist) even offering him goodies if he did... nothing.  Well, I take that back, he typed "lion" several times and then deleted it.  (yes, we know there is something significant about a lion to him but we don't know what it is... because he can't tell us.)  

While we are happy for that family on tv last night it only highlights the fact that we still live with a child that we really don't know, can't figure out, and live in fear that he feels the same way that girl on 20/20 felt.  If it would do any good I would just cry as he sits here next to me rocking back and forth saying "McDonald's Madagascar Escape to Africa Marty" (and every other character from their happy meal toy line as well as ...Kung-Fu Panda TyLong and all the others).  

There is something going on in that mind of his, that incredible, photographic mind... I would so love to know what it is.   But my prayers fall to the ground, no answer comes... and then he scoots closer to me and puts his hand on mine.  

Good enough for now...

Thank You Lord for Trent, someday, I'd like to meet him.