Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Defining Moments

There are points in a person’s life that are considered defining moments. They are those times when a decision is made, a life change occurs, or an event happens that defines our next step in life. Sometimes we miss them. When we do, we may have to go around the mountain again for another chance. Sometimes we don't get another chance. Defining moments don't always create happy moments. In fact defining moments can be horrific events that alter our lives and the lives of others. They will often cause us to stop and think and perhaps even consider our life and its course. As I have looked back over my life I can see specific defining moments that changed the course of my life. A number of these were extremely difficult to walk through. They were marred with disappointment and disillusion. There were events that took the life out of both my wife and myself, and yet we can look back and see that we are where we are today because of them. But sadly defining moments do not always cause people to go in positive directions. Sometimes they cause people to go in directions that change the course of history. Take for example Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa. Both of these individuals changed the lives of those they were involved with, one for good, the other for evil. Each of these individuals had many defining moments that they could have gone one way or another and their choices brought them to what we know of them today. I believe that part of the reason for this is because one looked at life through the eyes of ambition, while the other through the eyes of a servant. Each of us has a choice as to what we are going to do with the defining moments that come into our lives. For some it will be a trip down a lane that leads to self-service and bitterness. For others it will be a catalyst for change. You have the power to make that defining moment work for you or against you. Think about it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What's The Point?

Several months ago I had a friend come to me who was really down. His children were either in college or had already graduated. His son, with whom he hunted, now lived several states away and had his own life. His wife had new interests and instead of growing closer, they seemed be to be drawing apart. To add to this his job wasn’t as fulfilling and it appeared as though it might be changing and he wasn’t so sure of his future. He was really struggling and confided that he wasn’t sure what the point was anymore. Sadly, he like many others, had placed all of his focus on things that were temporal rather than eternal. Some have said that we’re born to die. In other words we come into this world on a journey towards death. I know this sounds a little morbid but the reality is, we’re all going to die someday so what is the point? What’s the point of life if everything we see and touch is only temporal? Is there anything eternal that we can grasp hold of to help us walked through this temporal world? I believe there is. The journey of life is just that, a journey. We however tend to live it as a destination. We move from one thing to another as points on a map. We camp out on things expecting that they will be fulfilling and complete only to realize one day that what we’re holding onto is only temporal and it too changes. So if life is a journey, then it also must have a purpose, and that really seems to be the point. When I have a purpose then every leg of the journey has meaning and I understand things from a great position. However when we place all of our hope and attention into those things that are temporal, they will one-day fizzle up and then what are we left with? Solomon, perhaps the wisest man to live said this in his final chapter of Ecclesiastes, “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” Think about it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bumps In The Road

There isn't a person alive that hasn't or doesn't experience a bump in the road now and again. Although bumps in the road come in both negative and positive forms, we often gloss over the positive ones while saving our focus for those that are negative. The negative bumps can come in a variety of ways and with varying decrees of intensity and size. For example a family member was just fired from their job. This has caused a major bump in the road as it represents half of their income and all of their health insurance. They are now asking the question, "What next?” Bumps in the road are great opportunities for learning and growth, if we choose to use them in that manner. But it would seem that more often then not, we want to quickly get through them and move on. We seem to have the belief that if we ignore them long enough that they will go away and life will return to normal. I wish that this was always true, but it is not. Recently I was talking with a retired Navy Chaplain and was sharing some of my experience in the Navy during the Vietnam era. As I shared, I suddenly became aware of emotion starting to bubble up from deep within me. With tears in my eyes I apologized and explained that this was why I didn't like to discuss that time in my life and often looked for ways to avoid it. Ultimately, I believe that there are experiences from that time that I have glossed over and stuffed that are trying to get out. Like bumps in the road, I learned that I didn't have time to deal with things, and so just moved on. Sadly, moving on doesn't resolve the conflict that has already been started, and moving on doesn't solve the problem, it only delays the pain for another day. My point is simple. Bumps in the road serve a purpose, we have a choice, work through the event and learn from it, or press on and pretend it didn’t happen. Many press on and pretend that it didn’t happen. Sadly, another trip around the mountain will be in their future. What will your choice be? Think about it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making Sense in a Senseless World

One might wonder what kind of God would allow suffering. Or, how could a loving and merciful God allow bad things to happen to good people? While you are considering that thought, remember that it was His Son who experienced a very cruel and shameful death on a cross, at the hands of some very religious people. Even though God could have stopped this, He choose not to. Man is made in the image of God according to the creation account of Genesis. Built into creation is a little thing called freedom and this freedom, as precious as it may be, has spoiled that image and corrupted it. This freedom was behind Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey the command of God. Sin or disobedience is, and ever will be, the parent of human misery. Each person has three basic needs of belonging, significance and security. If anyone of these is missing, we will attempt to have them met. In our society, there are many messages that come at us through various forms of media that tell us that we are lacking in one of these three areas. Additionally, the behaviors of others can also add to the feelings of insignificance, rejection, and abandonment. Words meant or not meant, can take root in a person’s mind and when left unchecked, can develop into full-blown belief systems that do not have their basis in reality, but rather one’s perception of reality. Dr. William Sadler, a noted psychiatrist stated, “If we truly lived a Christ centered life, half the diseases of the people in America would drop off and we would stand as a healthy nation.” I believe that means not only our physical diseases but our moral and mental ones as well. So why don’t we live Christ centered lives? The simple reason is self-will or more simply put, we choose not to. We would rather live in the “freedom” of self-pleasure and fulfillment. Sadly, as history has already shown us, freedom unrestrained leads to anarchy and lawlessness. When individuals change, society will change. Think about it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's The Question

The other day I was behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is the answer”. As I thought about it I wondered what the question was. I suppose that one might conclude that Jesus is the answer to every question but then again that presents us with another question, “Who’s asking the question?” To those that believe in Jesus, the statement seems simple enough and doesn’t need any explanation, but what about those who don’t believe. How does that statement, or the question affect them? Does it impact them at all? Is it perhaps a ‘in your face’ type of statement that really turns people off? I find it very interesting that Jesus had a much different response and approach to the religious leaders of the day than the every day person on the street. To the religious, he was direct and in their face. He was confrontational and challenging. But to the average person he was inviting and gentle. To the religious he quoted scripture, but to the rest he told truth through stories and illustrations. It was only to the religious that he was antagonistic. That’s part of the reason that they plotted to kill him. He was exposing their hypocrisy. Is there something that we can learn from this? I believe that we can. “Love is never stationary” is a quote from the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff. I like the thought because it implies that love is fluid, it’s always moving. That’s the way I see Jesus operating in the scriptures. He met people where they were. It was at that level that he loved them. It varied from person to person according to where they were as individuals. It wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’ type of approach. He genuinely cared about people and he demonstrated it on a daily basis. We may say we care about people, but our behavior and speech may only push them further away from the very one that we want to introduce them to. To truly love means to accept people where they’re at, regardless of what that may look like. To love that way can be messy and perhaps truly answers the question of what Jesus is. Simply he is love, and we’re to practice the same. Think about it.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Rear View Mirror

Not many spend much time looking in the rear view mirror while they're driving forward. Yet it is always good to check it now and then to see what's coming up behind you. I would also suppose that many don't consider looking backward as they plow forward through life. This can be a dreadful mistake. Did you know that history has a habit of repeating itself? A simple example of this is found in families. You've heard it said that fruit doesn't fall far from the tree; well this is a simple example of history repeating itself in families. But it can also repeat itself in our own lives. The problem is that we often don't look backward before we move forward. Confused? Let me try to explain. It is often said that our past is a good predictor of our future. Although this doesn't have to be so, it often is. Why? Let me simply that it is because we don't look at our past in a way that we can make course corrections for our future. Looking back over our pasts can be a great way of learning. The mistakes we've made, the attitudes we've had, and the behavior that we've exhibited can all be changed, if we choose to. Looking backward can be a way of reflecting on what our future may hold. We can have the opportunity to ask ourselves if we want to continue on the same path we've been traveling, or if we want to make a change. Change is wonderful, but we will also find that our old habits die-hard. Learning from our past means that we have to make a consecrated effort to change direction to get to where we really want to go. I've learned, and am still learning, that I have control of my destiny. Although it's true that I can't control what happens to me, I can control how I deal and respond to it. It's the same with my past. I might not be able to change my past, but I certainly have the ability to change my future. The choice is ultimately mine, but it will take looking in the rear view mirror as I go. By doing this on a regular basis we each will have a better chance of having a more positive outcome for our future. Think about it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Catching The Wind

I’m up early again this morning getting ready to head out for my third sailing lesson. I’ve always wanted to sail, but life and opportunity never seemed to connect. Recently I obtained a small sailboat and I found that a local sailing club was having a sailing camp, so I signed up. I’m learning some things that I never would have thought about had I not embarked upon this adventure. I’ve had canoes and kayaks, and I’ve ridden in powerboats. Each one of these can go where you want them to go simply by pointing them and applying power. This is not so with a sailboat. To sail you need wind and as I’ve learned from flying kites, not all wind is the same. Yesterday, we actually didn’t get to sail because there wasn’t enough wind. We would look out across the lake for wind lines but we couldn’t find any. Because we were on a 26-foot cruiser, we had an outboard to get us to where we wanted to go, but no wind. We didn’t catch any wind until late in the afternoon when we were heading back to the dock. When we have sailed, it is slow going. To catch the wind you have to angle the sail and ride a course which maybe at a right angle from where you heading. Always watching the direction of the wind enables the sailor to utilize the power of the wind to move through the water. As I’ve been going through this experience I’ve realized that sailing is like following God, you have to be observant to know the direction he is moving in. The Holy Spirit, often thought of as wind, is said to blow where he wills, to follow you will have to know how to read the signs. It also involves patience. Because sailing is dependent upon the wind, it’s direction and power will determine how you will proceed. One who is dependent upon God will also need to move in His direction and under His power to be successful. The problem is, we are often in a hurry and we want things done now. I’m learning how to read the signs so as to catch the wind. When I’ve read them correctly, I’m sailing. The same is true with following God. Are you reading the signs? Think about it.