Adversity, Bible

Big Tom

This coming Saturday my nephews, our family, our friends, and I celebrate the life of my Brother Tom. Our loss on March 26th was heavens gain. A few days before he left, I was reminded of something I learned from him…

“As I sit here at Tom’s bedside watching him sleep comfortably, I’m reminded of a family reunion on our Mom’s side. All the aunts and uncles were there except Aunt Peggie (we were all reunited with her many many years later). The gathering was held at Grandma Alpha’s and her latest husband Emory. They had a small farm somewhere in the outback of Idaho. Among the many incredible memories is one of both love and pain. While it never needed any help remaining seered in my memory, our Uncle Chuck kept it alive for everyone else as he would regale us with it absolutely everytime we had the pleasure of visiting either by phone or in person.

All the dad’s and boys were camped out one night in a big tent (in fact, I think it was actually an old white parachute, however I’m reaching the downward years of memory so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this little tid-bit of the story). Of course, there were all the usual suspects in that testosterone fueled environment…boys, teen males, and men on vacation. So there’s no need telling what it sounded and looked like…mayhem was afoot should suffice as a descriptive picture.

However, the hour finally approached when the dads finally obeyed the hollers from the moms in the house, “Paul, Chuck, Ed, John, get those boys settled down. It’s time for some sleep!” It took awhile, but sure enough the grunts, shouts, belches, woops, yee-haws, and laughs began to subside. I, on the other hand, was in rare form. Big Brother, Tom, joined Dad and the uncles in giving me increasing demands to pipe down. Nothing doing.

Through out the years Uncle Chuck held us all spellbound over and over with his telling of the tall tale that grew a little taller with each telling. It always concluded with Chuck’s final line and his acting out the scene…

“Then Tom reached the end of his rope and said, ‘Rick, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times…wham!!!!'”…as he acted out Tom’s blood producing punch to my nose.

Now as fond memories go this should rate rather low on the Human Fondness Scale, but oh nay nay. It’s one of my greatest childhood memories. Here’s why…it has come to represent for me the balanced dance of two unlikely partners…pain and love. Tom meant well. He loved me. Still does. I knew it then. I know it even better now. He knew I was well on my way to Dad’s end game. Much more shenanigans on my part were bound to arouse the flames of the old sarge. It was time for me to invite sleep into my disposition. Sure, there would be some crying as Tom carried me into the house to assist Mom in cleaning up my bloody nose, but there would also be some sweet brotherly reconciliation as he brought me back to the overnight camp out. Pain and love…like the Lord offers…the same Lord we read of in the Bible: “Who the Lord loves he also disciplines.” Hebrews 12:6

And now, now my brother’s love continues to instruct through the pain. He sleeps and I admire him all the more as I reflect upon his life time of overwhelming patience and compassion. He has offered them to everyone he has ever known…and I love him for it no matter the agony I feel now nor the grief which is to come.

Sleep well, Tom. Please wake up again. I have more to learn.”

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Adversity

3 Words That Scream Adversity Is Winning

Adversity can make you better or bitter. Adversity can be a kick in the pants. It can also kick you in the teeth. Obviously we want the former, not the latter. But how do you know? How can you tell when adversity has become your master?

Three words can help: critical, apathetic, and sullen.

If these adjectives paint your life picture, adversity is winning.

● When finding fault sprints to the lead while compassion and understanding struggle to keep pace…adversity is winning.

● When indifference and insensitivity climb the leader board while concern and kindness fail to make the cut…adversity is winning.

● When pouty pessimism scores all the goals while cheer and hope get shut out… adversity is winning.

It means you’ve lost purpose. You’ve lost your way. Helen Keller once said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

If a worthy purpose puts criticism, apathy, and sulleness in their places, imagine the power of ultimate purpose.

“Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing… remains…”
by Jesus Culture

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Bible, Life's Moments

Where is he? Where am I?

Saw this spoken word by way of a random search. Awesome.

Think I’ll get a coach and learn how to do this. I really like what young people are doing with different forms of communicating the hope found only in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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Bible, Life's Moments

50 Years of the Rolling Stones

Recently, I read a brief article regarding longevity. You know, the ability to stay the course for a long span of time. The featured evidence in the article? The Rolling Stones. That’s right, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards et. al. I found the article in the Bloomberg Businessweek. I know nothing of the magazine other than my nephew, Ricci, has a subscription.

Check this out…

In 2012, the Stones celebrated their 5oth anniversary. Other celebs not so fortunate (at least not yet):

The Beatles
Johnny Carson
Led Zepplin
Michael Jackson
Madonna
Michael Jackson (or any other Jackson)
U2

Even Tower Records came and went telling us the Stones have not only out lived and out-performed many, they have even out lived some technology.

When the Stones started out a 45rpm record (two songs for those too young to know about 45’s) would cost $1.00. In 2012 dollars that would be $7.60. Today the top iTune price for a single is $1.29. Stuff cost a lot in the good ol’ days!

The average age of a Rolling Stone is 68.75. The average age of a Supreme Court Justice is 66.11. While the Stones seem to get better and better, I’m not so sure about the other guys.

The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. My sons were little fellas then and my 21 year old daughter had not yet been born. Still, the Hall of Fame didn’t slow them down. Since 1989 the Stones have played live concerts in front of 25 million people. Do the math. That is over 10 million people a year.

The Stones most recent tour, A Bigger Bang Tour, pulled in $558 million dollars. The gross domestic product of the nation of Tonga is $439 million. One tour!

And just for the record (no pun intended) the Stones have 42 gold albums, 28 platinum albums, 12 multi-platinum albums, and a diamond album. Gold albums equal 500,000, platinums a 1,000,000, diamonds 10,000,000. Only Elvis, The Beatles, and Barbara Streisand have done better.

So what’s the point in all of this information? Well, besides just the sheer impressiveness of the Rolling Stones career, it tells us something about sustainability. Purpose, desire, attitude, and more can help a person or group overcome the odds, reach and maintain success, and achieve and sustain a vision. The Bible talks about this kind of truth. A person or a group literally can will something to come about. Determination and drive can propel us to great things. And they should…except for…

…except for salvation.

King Solomon learned this truth centuries ago. In his book, Ecclesiastes, he chronicled the pursuit of meaning through desire, profit, achievement, success, wealth, power, education, and fame all wrapped up in a package called longevity. Read it. It won’t take you very long. You will find that this “wisest man in all the world” discovered something quite sobering. He learned that no amount of short or long term success, not the pursuit nor the catch, could fill the hole in his heart. Somewhere deep down inside there would always be a severe sound screaming in his soul so long as he attempted to silence it with success.

In the end, God revealed to Solomon a wonderful truth: a person can only find real and lasting meaning in the source of his being…the Creator. Ecclesiastes 3:11 puts it this way: “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Did you get that? God has set eternity in our hearts. We long for it. We yearn for it…and God alone can give it, because God alone is eternal. Anything less will never fill that hole in the heart.

Now while I understand the specific nature of the Rolling Stones song, Satisfaction, I can also see how it reveals this biblical truth: I can’t get no satisfaction. Without the eternal God there will be no victory in the vacuum of our hearts.

Outside of his music, Mick Jagger has been quoted as saying, “The elusive nature of love… it can be such a fleeting thing. You see it there and it’s just fluttering and it’s gone.” Even love cannot sustain us.

He also said, “Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.” Even our dreams, our hopes, our vision will not satisfy the longing in our lives.

Statements like these might also be why he said, “I’d rather be dead than singing “Satisfaction” when I’m forty-five.” Mick sounds a lot like Solomon: “Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Longevity is not the measure of success. If it were than one might just as well attend church for fifty years without ever really knowing the Lord.

In fact, success itself is not the true measure of success. If it were than the person dying with the most toys really would be the winner.

Longevity and success, while not irrelevant, simply are not enough. They were not enough for Solomon. They are not enough for Mick Jagger or the other Rolling Stones. And they are not enough for you or for me.

Sure, work hard. Do your best. Be your best. Never give up. Never get old. Stop being childish, but never stop being child-like. Give it your all from start to finish with as much energy as you can muster. Don’t settle for empty houses or empty accounts. Do all of this, but not when it comes to the hole in your heart or the severe screaming in your soul. For this kind of emptiness you need the Eternal.

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Adversity

The Mother of All Water Fights

The fresh air and beautiful sunshine of early February were a joyful pause in the midst of a long, wet and gray winter. The relief from old man winter’s grasp renewed my expectations for life. A day earlier everything seemed dark, but the coming of the dawn sun brought light of another kind. It was a gift from God.

That winter had been unusually stressful. The difficulties my son faced day to day seemed too large to overcome. His impulsiveness and hyperactivity stirred most people to anxiety. Few in his life could refrain from pointing out his weakness and fault. In pain, my wife and I endured the long winter with him. His heart was broke and ours was breaking.

One night, during early February, when the days were sunny and warm and the nights were crisp and clear, I slept like I had not slept in weeks. There was no tossing and turning. My mind seemed unusually calm. My spirit rested. Shortly before the morning alarm erupted, I dreamed.  If the dream’s author was not God, I would be surprised.

Standing atop a very tall building, I looked below into the crowded city streets. People moved quickly and strategically. If not all, then most were engaged in the mother of all water-fights.  They tossed water-balloons. They carried water-guns. They held hoses streaming water at full force. Some even wielded high-tech water devices only found in dreams and only used in George Lucas films. There were hundreds and thousands. The odds were several thousand…

…to one.

The one was my little boy.

In the crowds of the city’s chaos he stood alone. From my vantage point high above the city streets, I could not reach him. All I could do was watch as he moved between the cars, as he dodged one water blast after another, as he drenched his opponents, and as he maneuvered himself with the tactics of a special-forces soldier.

Oh, how my heart stood still. Remorse and pride commingled in the depths of my emotions.  Suddenly, I began to cheer. Words of encouragement fell from my lips.

“Go, son, go.”

“Yes, yes, that’s it. Look out, he’s coming up on your left.”

“Alright! Way to go! Great job!”

He took on so many. He stayed in the battle. He fought a good fight. Finally the numbers overwhelmed him. From front and back, from right and left, he took water, shot after shot, until he was drenched. The odds against him were just too great.

Sitting in the middle of the street, people standing all around him, he looked up. His eyes met mine. A lump formed in my throat. Tears gathered in the corner of my eyes. “Oh no,” I thought, “not again, not again.”

We looked at one another. Our eyes met. I expected sadness. But…but…he smiled.

He smiled! He didn’t cry. He didn’t frown. He didn’t stomp his feet. He smiled. All I did was cheer. He did the hard work. He engaged the battle. He met the resistance of a world filled with uncaring and uneducated enemies. He won. He won! He may have been drenched. He may have been overcome by the sheer numbers. Yet, he had his victories. He won.

As I awoke, I felt the tears running down upon my pillow. Pulling myself from bed, I stumbled into his room. His breathing was soft. His face was relaxed. His sleep was peaceful. The dawn once again brought early February sunshine. The light of the morning broke the night of darkness. The Light of the World broke the spell of darkness. My son had an advocate, a cheerleader. If no other would stand on his behalf, I would.

I bowed in thankfulness to our Savior and I realized then my son had an even greater advocate. His name is Jesus. And that greater advocate was calling me to be like him…filled with grace and compassion.

How about you? Do you need an advocate? Do you need to become an advocate? Start with Jesus.

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Bible, Life's Moments

The Dreaded Wood Stove of the Family Room

Toddlers never cease to amaze me and usually astound me.  I have a few twitches to prove it.

In our old home there were certain items that had been “forbidden” to our little ones.  For instance, the ever lurking and always fascinating electrical outlets were always labeled “Authorized Personnel Only.”  I could just see it, I would turn my back for the briefest moment and one of them would plant a giant, slobbery kiss on one of those little electricity spitting menaces and…ZOWIE!!!  “Waaaaaa!”  “Child, haven’t I told you…”  (Most fortunately, this one never happened to us, but I’ve been told other parents actually suffer nightmares from it.)

No we have not endured any electrical exhilaration, but there was something else.  That something, for our oldest son, was a high and looming object in the corner of the family room.  Black, hard, austere, I’m sure that from his vantage point it looked to be a mighty fortress just waiting to be conquered.  It just stood there.  To him it must have been almost mystical.  From the top there arose a tall tower.  In the front there opened and closed a creaky-hinged door.

Like any fortress it never seemed unprotected either.  Always, always, our son knew the guards were not far away.  Giants they were.  Sentries on the prowl.  Never mind they were also known as Mom and Dad.  When it came to that thing they were like Ninja.  For a toddler this all added up to high adventure.  The pages of a Little Golden Book turned themselves in his very own house.

Yeah, that’s it.  You guessed it — the Dreaded Wood Stove of the Family Room!  Many was the time our oldest heard the order being issued by one of the sentries.  “Thou shalt not touch the wood stove; for in the moment you touch it you shall surely feel much pain and scream thy little head off.”  But, remaining true to his species, he constantly marshalled his forces (two teddy bears, a purple pig, and a funny looking lion).  He developed strategy and plotted tactics.  Finally, he would launch a full frontal assault on the “Fortress Wood Stove.”

See, like every human, our son hears from the “United Front of Dark Espionage.”  It seems their reports are always contradictory to the commands of the sentries who stand their ground on behalf of the Great King.  Filtering through the airwaves, or brain-waves, or whatever, comes that age old intelligence report:

“Have they indeed said, ‘You shall not touch the wood stove?'”

Our son, would peer across the vast plain of the family room.  His brow would wrinkle.  Pondering.  Mulling it over.  He would then hear the final message:

“You shall not surely feel great pain and scream thy little head off.  For in the moment you touch the wood stove you will be like them.  You will really know things then.  You will be your own boss.  You will be in control.  Yes, you will say when it is the best time to eat and sleep.  You will decide whether it is good or bad to break your mother’s fine china.  You will be like them!”

Then, sadly, our son would heed the report.  With a shrill scream and flailing arms, he would launch that attack.  Complete with diversionary tactics and commando like energy, his invasion upon the “Fortress Wood Stove” looked bound for success.  Five feet.  Four feet.  Three.  Two.  One.  Only inches left.  The screaming was about to begin.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere would come the long arm of a sentry.  Swooping down, Mom or Dad squelched the rebellion as suddenly as it had started.  The battle ended.  Nothing remained except the retreat.

“Why, Papa, why?  How tum tan’t I tush it?”

Good question, huh?  It’s no different then yours or mine.  Or Adam and Eve’s.  Though we rebel, God forgives.  Though we run, he never loses sight of us.  Though we fall, he picks us up.  It takes time to learn when we’re little.  It takes time to learn when we’re big.  Life and death, light and darkness, obedience and rebellion crowd the adventures of history and everyday living.  Sometimes the learning is painful.  Sometimes we’re spared.  Sometimes, if we are open to it, God will prevent us from touching the heat.  Because he is holy and full of grace, we can be equipped to accept the freedom of saying “No!” to the Fortress Wood Stove of the Family Room.  It begins by saying “Yes!” to Jesus.

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