Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reflecting on our source strength when we struggle together #prayforDash

Dash's 1st weekend of hospitalization

Our oldest son Drew called us in hysterics the Saturday evening before Easter. We couldn’t make out what he was saying. Finally the clear message was, our grandson’s kidneys had shut down. Our year & a half old grandson Dash was in PICU. Minutes later, my wife and I jumped in the car and drove 700 miles through the night to be with our son Drew & daughter-in-law Laura and our grandson Dash.

Dash’s kidney crisis turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As the doctors began to care for Dash they discovered an unrelated problem. Separate from his kidneys, he has a life threatening heart condition, his aorta is constricted by 75%.

Yes, the last month has been exhausting. After dialysis and a lot of medical care, Dash now faces heart surgery too. If all goes well, He will have surgery today.  But thankfully, God has surrounded us with people who have loved us through this time. When any loved one goes through an ordeal like this the whole family is affected. We all lose sleep, worry, and we need encouragement too. No, it’s not “about us,” it is about the one in crisis, still, it touches all of us who care deeply for the one who is suffering.

As we spent countless hours in the hospital holding our grandson, waiting for lab reports and scans to be interpreted, we asked ourselves, “How do people without a relationship with God and a church family survive times like this?” And furthermore, believers who have a faith in God but try to meet their “spiritual needs” through TV/radio ministries, how do they make it through times like this without flesh & blood people to hug them and care for them?

We are thankful for our church family, they have greatly encouraged us. And, we are thankful for the countless people across the nation who have been praying for Dash. For me personally, it has been a time of reflection on my prayer-life and a realization that it’s a blessing to be on the receiving end of being ministered to. Various people have shown us many acts of kindness. For example, recently after our Sunday morning worship service concluded, our church family encircled our immediate family, laid hands on us and took turns praying for us. That was powerful!

If our relationships with other believers were limited to Sunday mornings only, I doubt our family would be feeling supported so well. Instead of despair, God’s love displayed through His Body of believers has sustained us. We are suffering, but we are being blessed in the storm too, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 ESV)

Realistically, it’s impossible to segregate faith in God from people and have a healthy faith that sustains. Hebrews 10:25 uses a Greek word which we lose some of its impact in our English translation. Some translations have forsake not the “assembling” or in The English Standard, we read of “meeting” together, “[24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The word to meet or assemble in Hebrews 10:25 is not the same word for the church assembly “Ekklesia,” the word here is from the Greek word “synago” which implies much more than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.

Synago is the word Jesus uses in Matthew 18:20 for being “gathered” together, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Synago is also the word Jesus uses for “welcomed” in His parable of separating the sheep from the goats, when He was a stranger and was “welcomed” by those who cared for Him, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me...” (Matthew 25:35 ESV)

So the next time you hear the imperative to “gather” together from Hebrews chapter 10, realize this isn’t a prohibition against skipping a midweek service or Sunday night worship, no, it’s much more significant than that. The instruction to spur each other on to love & good works, in the context of gathering together, is about a connected-life that happens mainly outside the “four walls” of the church building. It’s about living life as disciples of Christ within community and offering comfort, compassion, and encouragement daily. In other words, Sunday mornings prepare us for Monday mornings -- “church services” aren’t the goal of faith, they are the launching pad.

Face it, we live in a fallen world that’s filled with pain and suffering and more evil than we’d care to admit; we need each other. Christians with an authentic faith “gather” together for so much more than one hour a week in a house of worship. We come together to share life, to encourage each other, and to love one another daily, just as we read about in Acts 2:42-47 and 5:42.

Don’t go it alone, you weren’t created to carry your burdens by yourself. I guess going it alone would be like trying saccharin when your blood-sugar drops or eating eggs without salt. And, please pray for Dash, we know God has big plans for this little boy.

(Dash in the hospital, after his dialysis) 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How to move your marital bliss past hit or miss

Why is it that marital bliss seems as allusive as BigFoot, or the search for bliss feels a lot like snipe hunting?  Does marital bliss exist and can we achieve it?

The problem might be located in where most people are looking.  For example: Many people will leave one spouse for another based on seeking deeper pleasure.  Their spouse didn't make them as happy as someone else did, they weren't having fun anymore, and they found they fell out of love.  So, they found a more pleasurable partner and started over... only one day to wake up finding they have to maintain or increase that sense of pleasure to have satisfaction, but the mark keeps moving.  In other words, they realize the standard of sizzling-pleasure can't be maintained, it's impossible to keep that rush and increase it so they ask, "Surely there must be more to this?"

One reason many people can't find marital bliss is because of their expectations that their spouse's main job is to make them happy.  Should marriage bring happiness?  Absolutely.  Should it be our spouse's responsibility to make us happy?  No.  That's a big truth that only maturity brings.  Unfortunately, too many people are impatient and don't wait long enough to discover this.

Another reason people can't have marital bliss is rooted in how they treat each other.  Once I was counseling a couple and I noticed one spouse couldn't do "anything" right to make their spouse happy and the other spouse kept increasing the heat.  Finally I  asked the demanding spouse, "Does your spouse Work with you or Work for you?"

And yet another reason people miss the bliss, is because they feel it's their job to improve their spouse.  That's what will drain the joy out of your marriage quicker than flushing your toilet.  Who likes to be judged, corrected, scolded or told constantly they are inferior?

Here's how we find marital bliss in the midst of the hard work of life and family:
#1. See your spouse as a partner in life's journey.  You are equals who need plenty of grace and mercy and you are in this together.  Marriage is hard work because we are selfish by nature and it's hard to share your toys as a child, and even harder to share control as an adult.  It's not hard to share with a partner.

#2. Make an effort to bring as much pleasure into your spouse's life as you would like to receive.  In other words, when we are selfish and expect more from our spouse than we are willing to give, we kill the morale of the marriage and we miss the bliss.  When both spouses are pouring love and attention into each other, it's a win-win and the marriage flourishes.  Give more, expect less, and when this effort is mutual, you will be fully satisfied.

#3.  Finally, when your spouse is your best friend, you will have more bliss.  The person you talk with the most, share your dreams and fears with the most, the one you turn to when you are worried or share your victories with, this will be the person who can bring you bliss.  Sadly, not enough married people act like they are married.  People get married then they act like roommates too often.  Be intentional & purposeful, spend more time with your spouse, and yes, talk more.  But, the goal of the talking is to bond, not to change or challenge.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and our marriage has plenty of bliss.  Are we perfect people? No.  Do we have disagreements? Yes?  Do we know how to serve each other and walk side-by-side though life together and work things out? Absolutely.  The basis of our marriage is rooted in our theology and our desire to be happily married.  Between a great relationship with God and a willingness to love each other unconditionally sits the ability to have bliss that's beyond hit or miss.  One final secret to a blissful marriage: We have fun together!  So learn to laugh with your spouse and enjoy each other's company, because if you don't, someone else might.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Can we fight our way out of our problems with ISIS?

The current plan to deal with radical, extremist, Islamic terrorists seems to be laid out like this: If only we build up enough military might, and if only we gain enough intelligence, and if only we kill enough of the key people, we will win the war on terror.

I guess people who believe that methodology works, have forgotten that killing your enemies will only work if you completely annihilate them or if you kill enough people at once to scare the enemy into submission, like Hiroshima.  The Western world will never condone genocide and the Islamic radicals think if they die in a Holy War, jihad, they will be rewarded in the afterlife.   

So, we can keep fighting our enemies through the time tested, but failing bloodshed.  And, we can occasionally build a school over in enemy territory or maybe try to build a few roads or deliver food, some nice humanitarian efforts.  But, until we see other people as humans and as children of God and begin to transform the hearts & minds of our enemies, we will never defeat evil.   

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Free Speech is not an entitlement to insult: "Draw the Prophet" draws fire #GarlandTX

I'm sorry, but free speech doesn't grant us the privilege to antagonize other people.  No one should be surprised about the shootings in Garland Texas tonight.  After Copenhagen and then the Paris shootings, is anyone really surprised that Islamic extremists would attack an exhibit that acts like their beliefs (under the guise of free speech) or one that ridicules their beliefs is safe?  I don't condone the gunmen's attacks, but neither do I think anyone should be surprised.

I'm a non-racist, committed Christian.  Yet, asking for cartoon drawings of Muhammad for the sake of promoting "free speech" makes about as much sense as walking into a predominantly African-American neighborhood and chanting the "N" word..., just to practice your rights of free speech, or going into a White supremacist group and shouting out "cracker" and expecting everyone to bow to your rights of free speech.

We live in a diverse world, and a world that requires common sense.  People who think that free speech has given them a pass on saying what they want to say without consequences are simply naive.

The gift of free speech is one that allows us to say or write our thoughts without retribution from our government.  Free speech won't protect you from people who do not respect your rights.  Practicing free speech is a wonderful liberty we enjoy as Americans, but is isn't a guarantee that others will respect you.  That's why we need to be respectful in our use of free speech.

Attempting to rile up people or using free speech for "shock value" carries risks that have to be weighed out.  What do we prove by antagonising any group... that we won't be repressed or bullied into silence?  Perhaps?  But when stunts like we saw in Garland backfire, please don't act surprised.

I do not think Islam is the correct religion, I'm a Christian, and as a follower of Christ I know that insulting Islamic people is not acceptable.   I can't and won't excuse the gunmen who wanted to exact revenge in the name of Allah & Islam tonight, but I also do not think it is wise to hide behind free speech to make a point about rights.

The real solution to problems like the #Baltimore riots

This past year we've had too much violence and strife in our country, and it will only get worse if we don't address the real problem. Sadly, no one wants to call out the problem for what it is.
We don't simply have a poverty problem, or a police problem, or a political problem.

The riots and violence are not happening on accident.  They are happening because we have a sin problem.  There's one source for solving this and the church has the cure.  We need to spread peace and share the Good News.

Labeling and blaming each other won't uncover the root issue, and it won't solve the real problem, and this problem won't fix itself.  The Church needs to be the church, then and only then will people be transformed.