Friday, September 27, 2013

Column in Kingsport Timesnews 9/27/13

“Hope in a Cup, East of Eden”

This month Miley Cyrus made an imbecile of herself, fears of WWIII were escalated once more over Syria, and the shooting at the Washington Navy yard all washed over the the newswaves like an avalanche.  Meanwhile, our family quietly drove down to Arkansas to welcome our first grandchild into this world.   Holding our newborn grandson in the hospital, I was instantly aware of the contrast between his pristine innocence and this vile world he now inhabits.  Though I know he’s in capable hands with our son & daughter-in-law, I desperately wanted to hold him close and shield him from the world.  

Between rampant immorality on the TV/Internet, incessant saber-rattling in every corner of the Middle East, and gratuitous evil on every street corner, how can we possibly be optimistic about this world?  I can’t help but reflect on the regression and complete moral decline our culture has taken in my lifetime -- I have grave concerns for the world our first grandchild is inheriting.  This all reminds me that the world seems to grow worse with each passing generation.

As the Bible says, in the end of time, worldly conditions will worsen: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.... while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  (2 Timothy 3:1 and 3:13 ESV)  “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12 ESV)  So maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised when everywhere I look, this world gets bleaker with each passing year.  

It’s amazing to me the progress we can make in medicine and technology, we can live longer and have a better standard of living, but we seem more corrupt than ever.  I’m reminded that we are truly East of Eden; this world is so filled with sin, strife, and hatred.  I wonder how we have survived this long, when Sodom and Gomorrah were incinerated, looking almost mild compared to a lot of what surrounds us today.  

But then... then I’m reminded of the dual promise given when we share communion, while we participate in the Lord’s Supper, the blessed Eucharist, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV)  The promises: Jesus died for our sins, and He is returning to make all things right.

I find hope in this present darkness, by looking into my newborn grandson’s eyes through the lenses of faith.  I’m once again reminded of the unconditional love of Jesus.  I’d do anything for our grandson, though he’s done nothing to deserve my loyalty, other than being so cute!  I also find in experiencing the birth of our new grandson, a renewed energy to spread the influence of Jesus and His Kingdom -- because that is the only hope for the future of his new world.  Maranatha!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Talking through your ears:

Have you ever felt really good after a long talk with a friend?  On the contrary, have you ever felt like you couldn't get a word in edgewise with someone, and you felt a great sense of relief when it was all over?

Why is this?
Because everyone enjoys talking and we all appreciate being heard.

Good conversationalists listen much more then they talk.  They also ask more questions from you, rather than feeling compelled to give "all the" answers.  It almost seems like a contradiction, but it's true, those who are the best conversationalists hardly talk, instead they draw you out in the conversation.

If you are engaged in a conversation, don't make it one-sided and all about you, or you'll quickly find you have an audience of one...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Explanations are terrible excuses

I had to laugh when I read this sign today: "Uneven pavement"
Biking on the Greenbelt, I've seen these signs all up & down the trail.

This one made me chuckle, because obviously with a smidgen more of extra effort, they could've avoided installing the sign and just fixed the problem with the pavement.  Then it hit me, there are a lot people in life who'd rather warn us of their shortcomings instead of making the effort to improve themselves.

The wise Charles Siburt often quipped, "Your past explains you, it doesn't excuse you."
After seeing this sign today, I'll go one step further and say, your best explanation -- if you aren't careful -- will become your worst excuse:

  • "I have a bad temper, because my older sibling...."
  • "I lie a lot, because I never knew when I could..."
  • "I'm clingy, because once when I was..."
  • "I have to take control, I can't trust anyone since..."
  • "This is just the way I am, you have to accept me because..."

Reflect on the sign up-top. People will always evaluate us by our actions, not by our intentions.
Instead of maintaining a victim identity and acting like you aren't responsible for your own actions, be proactive and make some healthy changes wherever they are needed.
I appreciate people warning me of their issues, but I respect people who do the hard work of changing.

When I worked concrete in Chicago, Jimmy Deetchen used to say, "Don't tell me what you can't do -- show me what you can do."  Don't make excuses, make the effort to be the healthiest you, you can be.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to remember Sept 11th eternally:

Today it seems like everyone has on tee shirts, or posted on Facebook something, to memorialize the NYC/Pentagon/PA terrorist attacks with words "Never forget"

I doubt I'll forget.  I was in a high level philosophy class in seminary when the planes hit. 
My first thoughts were of my wife & children and how I couldn't wait to get home from Lincoln to hug them.
My problem isn't the inability to remember that dark day -- the problem is remembering the proper response:

  • “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6:27-28 ESV) 
  • "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36 ESV)
  • "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)

I love the old hippie saying, "fighting for peace is like having sex for virginity" (loose paraphrase)
I hope our patriotism and zealousness can find its proper place in the order of things eternal.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Parenting is a lot like capturing a sunset...

Tonight as the sun was setting, I was wrapping up a great bike ride.  I saw the sun setting through the trees, but couldn't snap a good shot of it till I pedaled further down the road.  I pumped my pedals like a fiend.  No good, I missed the best of the sunset.  This shot isn't bad, but you should've seen sky while the sun was still on the horizon, it was breathtaking.  

Right after I snapped this shot and started to pedal my way home, it hit me.  I realized the art of parenting is like trying to take a photo of the perfect sunset.  Timing and actually being there when it happens are essential.

Over the years I've learned I don't have all the answers.  10 years ago I had all the answers and felt like an expert on parenting -- well on life in general.  Now?  Now I'm either more humble or more realistic or somewhere in between.  I'm embarrassed of the overconfidence I projected back then... 

Don't let anything get in your way of a good sunset, and, don't let the busyness of life rob you of the joy of parenting.  Be there and take it all in while your kids are under your care.  Your kids will grow up and the days of parenting will fly away as fast as a setting sun -- leaving you wondering where the time went...