Standing in the Storm…Together

 

Right now many of us are feeling very concerned–even fearful.  There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now as we face things that we’ve never faced before.  But nothing about this life is ever easy. God never promised it would be.  He did, however promise to never leave or forsake us.  Because of this promise, we are able to see hope.  Life can get  little lonely when we get caught in a storm.  The truth is that life gets a lot less scary when we realize we’re not standing in the storm alone.  Even if we can’t get together, we can still be there for each other.  “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give it a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.”  (Deut. 31:6)

He won’t leave you.

Always Love One Another

A story is told about a frail, old man who went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and young grandson.  Every night, the family ate dinner together, but because of the old man’s shaky hands and blurred vision, he had difficulty eating.  Peas would roll off of his spoon and he almost always sspilled milk on the table as he tried to take a drink.  His son and daughter-in-law became very frustrated and decided to have him sit at his own table in the corner where they would’t have to deal with his mess.  Because the old man had broken a dish or two, they gave him a wooden bowl to eat out of.  One night, the old man’s son noticed his boy playing with some wooden scraps, and he asked him what he was doing.  The boy answered, “I am making a wooden bowl for you and Mommy to eat from when I grow up.  The boy’s parents were speechless and in tears.  From that moment on, the grandfather ate at the table with the rest of the family, and somehow the messes he made never bothered them again.

As I get older, I occasionally find myself being more clumsy and drop things I never would have dropped before.  I can’t imagine what it would be like for my friends and family (especially my wife) to feel the need to isolate me because of my old-age failings. We need to remember the words of Paul the Apostle, in Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

The Key to Old Age

After a meeting several days ago, I couldn’t find my keys. I quickly gave myself a personal “TSA Pat Down.”

They weren’t in my pockets. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot. My wife had scolded me many times for leaving my keys in the car’s ignition.  She was afraid that the car could be stolen. As I looked around the parking lot, I realized she was right. The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, confessed that I had left my keys in the car, and that it had been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all–the one to my wife: “I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.”

There was a moment of silence. I thought the call had been disconnected, but then I heard her voice. “Are you kidding me?” she said slowly, “I dropped you off!”

Now it was my turn to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, can you come and get me?”

She replied, “I will, as soon as I convince this cop that I didn’t steal your car!”

Welcome to the golden years…Not me! (yet)

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)  Thank God He wasn’t talking about keys, but instead, about you and me.

Look for the Stars

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

You don’t have to sit outside in the dark.  But unless you do, you’ll never see the stars.

A piano holds endless music.  But it remains silent unless someone plays it.

A child has incredible potential with a reservoir of capability and creativity.  But adults must take the time to listen, train, encourage, correct, challenge, support and model.

Time, which is, by itself, directionless and vacant, can be filled with meaningful activities and personal accomplishments.  But to make that happen, you must think through a plan and then carry it through.

Your mind is a blank slate.  It will absorb whatever you feed it:  imaginary worries, fears, filthy and seductive thoughts, hours of television or games…or good books, stimulating conversations, exciting risks of faith and learning new skills.  The mind neither requires it nor demands it.  But, if you want to experience the joy of discovery and of learning new and doing exciting new things, you must put in the effort.

So, what are you waiting for?

Miss U….

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saint. (Psalm 116:15)

Last night was the Greater Gardner Relay for Life.  It was a special time for us as my wife walked for the first time as a survivor.  It was also bittersweet because it was the first year that my late sister-in-law was not a member of one of the fund-raising teams.  This was always an exciting time for her and important because so many of her siblings and other family member have died of various types of cancer.  It brought to mind some of the many things we are missing since her death Christmas Eve.  Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

She would host Super Bowl parties at our house (while we were away vacation).

She would call in the middle of the night to let me know that the Red Sox had just done something great.

She would call in the early morning of every birthday and sing Happy Birthday.

She loved making puzzles at our house–whether we were there or not.

She visited and became my mom’s best friend in the last years of her life.

She transferred those visits and friendship to my sister, who had lived with my mom for those last years.

She would go on vacations with us and various other family members ( her sister, nephew and family, my sister, etc.).

She took pictures for every holiday and family gathering–and sometimes just for the sake of taking a picture.

She would play Scrabble with her cousins and my wife (and Dominoes, too, with the cousins).

She would clip news and sports articles from the local paper for every friend, relative and neighbor for miles around.

We would join her in celebrating her 29th birthday year after year after year.

There were so many ways that she impacted our lives, and each day we remember another.  And each time it hurts like an emotional wound that has reopened.  And, these are just a handful of memories that I will always have of the woman who became my sister when I married her sister.  There are many, many more.

Watch out for the boomerang!

Have you ever been the recipient of some sharp criticism by someone who either should have known better or someone who didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with?  Have you ever been in a crowd where you saw such criticism take place and wondered, “What in the world were they thinking?”  Worse yet, have you ever been the one to speak that stinging criticism?  I’m sure if each of us would be honest, we’ve all been a part of all three–unfortunately, including the last one.  I know I’ve been guilty of looking at certain people through “black-colored glasses,” and seeing in them only the negatives that I think I perceive.  I recently saw a situation where several people became so upset with what they thought they were seeing in someone, that they separated themselves from him and from his friends.  It turned out that what they were accusing him of had a perfectly logical and appropriate reason behind it.  Unfortunately, the accusers had made a big deal of their criticism and were unable to take a step back and offer their apologies.

While some people have a hard time with the Bible, read what Matthew had to say in chapter 7, verses 1-5: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

Sounds like a great suggestion to me–unless you like being bombarded by boomerangs.

Who are you?

I was listening to my pastor in church this past Sunday, and I was struck by something he said about human beings.  It seems like many of us are human “doings.”  We seem to want to define ourselves by our jobs, our careers, the things we do to fill up our daily lives.  He asked, though, do we do what we do because that’s our life’s desire or simply to get a paycheck to survive from day-to-day?

When I was much younger, I was simply looking for a way to have some spending money, or to pay for my driver’s license and , eventually, to pay for my college tuition.  Those jobs (jack-hammering out a new cellar hole, kitchen worker at our local hospital, mail room at the factory where my dad worked, painting houses with my future bother-in-law, working night shifts at the nearby paper mill, cooking at a local restaurant–the last three all at the same time!) were, for the most part simply to make money–although cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies.  I didn’t want to make any of these jobs my life’s work.  At this point in my life, I was a human “doing.”  Unfortunately, many of us get caught in getting a steady paycheck and find ourselves getting locked in to something we really don’t want to spend the rest of our lives doing.  Ask a mix of some of the people you know and find out how many are working to simply get money to survive and how many love what they are doing.

I was going to become a lawyer.  I loved words and I loved arguing.  Perfect match, huh?  Two years into college, I discovered that I didn’t really want to become a lawyer.  I wanted to teach kids.  So, I earned my teaching certification and as soon as we got married, my wife and I began to teach little kids at our church.  Then I began to teach a Sunday School class.  Then I started coaching.  Then came substitute teaching and full-time teaching.  Then more coaching jobs.  And then, finally becoming a youth pastor.  I was never happier than when I was teaching, coaching and pastoring–all at the same time.  Sure, I got paychecks.  And, while these various types of teaching were my jobs, I wasn’t limited or “stuck” with them because they were what I wanted to  do.  It was who I was–and still am though in many different ways.

God made us human beings to accomplish the things he gave the talents and abilities to do.  How sad it would be to simply do what gives a paycheck and never to enjoy the opportunity to become what He designed to be.