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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Gift of Forgetfulness

I heard a story in the church I visited last Sunday that was both poignant and humorous. A man told a story about taking his mother to church shortly after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  The sermon that day was based on James 5:16 – “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

As the preacher talked about the value of Christians confessing their sins to each other and not carrying the weight of guilt by themselves, he also warned that confession should only be made to trustworthy people who would not allow the information to become a seed for gossip.  At the end of the service, the dear lady leaned over to her son and said, “That’s me! People can share whatever they want with me.  In five minutes, I won’t remember a thing!”

I would probably be cautious about telling that story if I hadn’t heard it spoken directly by this man who was respectfully and lovingly remembering the gracious heart of his mom. I have seen both family members and friends have their lives devastated by the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s. To lose a loved one, mentally, long before losing them physically is especially painful.  And for those persons who can no longer trust their minds to be truthful with them, the inability to remember is certainly one of the most frustrating and fearful conditions.  It is hard to imagine many things worse.

There is one exception – when memory loss is an intentional choice.  No, I’m not talking about deliberately forgetting to buy the skim milk that was on the shopping list because it tastes like dirty water. Or forgetting that it was your turn to take out the trash, knowing that your brother would have to do it. Or intentionally forgetting that neither of those are hypothetical!

Actually, I’m talking about something that is not humanly possible.  We do not have the capacity to choose to forget.  We can choose to ignore, deny, or forgive, but we cannot make an intentional choice to forget. That is an ability that belongs exclusively to God.  Jeremiah 31:34 records these amazing words spoken by God - "And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."

Wow!  Did you get how powerful that is?  God, who is the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, unlimited Creator of all that exists, says He will deliberately choose to forget the sins He has forgiven.  He doesn’t say He will hide them away in a secret place in case he needs to pull them out and hold them over our heads.  He says He will use His unlimited power to cause Himself to completely remove them from His unlimited memory. 

I’ll be honest with you.  (Ok, I have been honest all the way through this, so let me rephrase that.I am going to make a confession.  I can’t completely wrap my mind around that reality.  And I think the problem is that I can’t forget all my sins. Sometimes some bad decision, impure thought, harsh or careless word from long ago creeps back into my memory and I feel guilty all over again.  How could God really forgive and forget?  

I can’t completely understand it, but I have to trust that His word is true and that my life matters enough to Him that He has forgotten my sins, but has never forgotten His love for me.  

What an amazing gift!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lend Me Your Ear

The comments have been humorous.  “Hey,Van Gogh!  Mr. Spock!  Is that a listening device?  Biggest Bluetooth I’ve ever seen!”

I guess that is to be expected when you have a bandage the size of a small satellite dish covering one ear.  Actually, the comments aren’t as funny as the sideways glances and outright stares from people who don’t know what to say.

I had a little surgery on my right ear last week to remove a basal cell carcinoma.  The bandage seems really out of proportion for the size of the site, but it has been sore enough that I have appreciated the extra padding.  I’ve also had some fun with it when asked about it.  My favorite response is that my wife told me she didn’t want to hear one more word out of me, to which I responded, “But …”

Of course, anyone who knows Mrs. Sweetie knows better, but after 27 years of marriage she’s used to my warped sense of humor.  She’s also become accustomed to my not hearing everything she says, so having one ear partially covered has really not caused any additional misunderstandings.

My doctor tells me that, if there were an ideal place to have a skin cancer, this is it.  On the backside of my ear, it will be invisible to most people once the bandages are gone.  Someone will have to get really up close and personal to notice the scar.

As I have pondered this latest episode in the continuing saga of goofy things that happen in mid-life, I am struck by some parallels between hurts that are physical and those that are emotional or spiritual. 

Our personal response is often denial.  That little bump on the back of my ear has been there for months.  Even though I have had some pre-cancerous lesions removed before, and I am supposed to go in for a checkup once a year, I have just been too busy to deal with it. I’ll get around to it when the schedule slows down. Yet, there was this nagging notion in the back of my mind that it really would not take care of itself.  At some point, I wouldn’t be able to deny it anymore and the longer I put it off, the risk of serious consequences increased.

The same is true with spiritual and emotional hurts.  We can pretend they are not there, but that pretending doesn’t make them go away.  At some point in time, we need to realize that the wound will not go away by itself and consult the Great Physician.  1 Peter 5:7 describes it this way, Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

For the past few days, this BOB (Big Ol’ Bandage) on the side of my head has made it obvious that I had a boo boo of some kind.  Once it is all healed up, there will be an almost invisible scar in an almost invisible location.  As I mentioned before, someone will have to get really up close and personal to notice it. 

The problem with those emotional and spiritual hurts is that there may not be any obvious outward appearances.  We have to be willing to risk getting up close and personal to let our hurts be seen and to see the hurts of others.  I wonder how many opportunities of ministry I have missed because I didn’t get close enough to see the scar. Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Sometimes we need to get close to one another to both hear and be heard so that we can remind each other how much our lives matter to God.  So, lend me your ear and I’ll lend you mine.

Just as soon as I get rid of BOB.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hello, Win Column!

The sights and sounds were amazing!  There was electricity in the air.  Literally. We had been waiting for so long for this day.  Some people said it would never happen; that the last time was just a fluke.  

Oh, yeah, the Rangers also played Game 1 of the ALCS.

I’m talking about a glorious day of refreshing, soaking rain!  Thirsty trees, shrubs, and blades of grass were dancing for joy.  You could almost hear the slurping sound as the parched ground absorbed this gift from heaven.  Pets and livestock stood confused and looking upward with only vague recollections of anything like this.

Ok, so maybe it was a little inconvenient in some ways.  The Rangers game took over five hours and Game 2 had to be postponed.  I know of a church that was going to have their Sunday morning service on the land where they are about to build their new building.  They had to get the word out quickly to their congregation to go to Plan B.  The construction that has finally begun on my office building that burned last year will probably be on hold for a few days.

And I can’t imagine that anyone with a grasp of perspective is really upset by any of that.  We have so desperately needed rain.  We have prayed for rain.  People who don’t routinely spend a lot of time praying or thinking about praying have prayed for rain.  And now that we have received a good soaking, how do we respond?

Amazingly, some of us will focus on the timing of the blessing and the inconvenience of having to adjust our plans.  If only the rain could have held off until after the game or whatever else was on the agenda.  It is easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to our plans.  We put a lot of work, thought, preparation, and even prayer into making our plans and scheduling our lives.  So, it is always a temptation to miss the big picture and even minimize the blessing when it doesn’t come at a convenient time.

Some of us will focus on the amount of the blessing.  In my neighborhood, we got about four inches of rain.  The weather folks tell us that we need about 12 inches to catch up.  So, it is pretty easy to say, “Thanks, God.  Now send us more.”  I would not begin to suggest that we should stop praying for rain.  Quite the contrary.  But it is easy to allow that sense of “not enough” to become foremost in our thoughts and cause us to minimize the blessing.

Hopefully, we can get past the timing and amount and focus on the source of the blessing.  Through all the prayers for rain, my prayer has been that God would use this time to help us understand how much we need Him—not just His blessings and favor.  We need His perspective.  We need an awareness of His presence.  We need Him to teach us how to live.  We need Him.

Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Regardless of weather, when we see that our lives matter to Him and when He truly matters to us, we win. 

And that win column is the one that really counts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Now What?

We planned it for months.  There seemed to be endless meetings and decisions to make about the preparations.  Reservations had to be made for out of town guests.  Catering had to be arranged. Budgets had to be considered.  Shopping had to be done.  And then we hoped for a good crowd to make all the work worth it.

You may not know what specific event I am talking about, but if you have ever been a part of planning a large event, you understand the process and the stress.  I could have been talking about my daughter’s wedding a few months ago.  I could have been talking about a family reunion or a Christmas gathering or a special church or community event.  Here in my hometown of Azle, a lot of people understand it, having just been through the Sting Fling community festival and Homecoming on back to back weekends.

In my case, it was an event in my ministry that we call the Annual Celebration.  I won’t bore you with the details because that’s not my point in writing.  I’ll just say that we had about 5 minutes of business, an hour of food and fellowship, and about an hour and a half of worship and inspiration.  I think the ratio was about right and though our attendance was smaller than previous years, we considered it a success. 

Now what?

Aha! Your event may not be like mine, but I am pretty certain (well, maybe not pretty, but certain) that you understand that feeling when it’s over.  Now what?  All the effort, planning, expense, and stress expended seemed to pay off in a successful event, but the question lingers.  Now what?

I guess if you are a professional event planner, you start planning the next event.  But for the rest of us, life happens.  We go back to work.  We go to the next ball game.  We mow the yard.  We buy groceries.  We do life

While we are doing life, hopefully, we really live.  Hopefully, we learn that life is not about events, but about moments and relationships.  It’s every bit as much about tossing a baseball in the backyard with your son as it is about seeing him play in a championship game.  It’s every bit as much about twirling your little girl in your arms at the end of a long work day as it is about dancing with her at her wedding.  It’s every bit as much about snuggling with your wife on the sofa as it is about taking her on a cruise.  It’s every bit as much about chatting with your neighbors in the grocery store aisle as it is about the big main street event.  It’s every bit as much about worshiping God with your church family on a cloudy Sunday as it is about that big church event that you planned for months.

When Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), he wasn’t talking about bigger events. Nor was he talking about a more exciting life with better opportunities.  I believe he was talking about abundant moments.  Every day moments filled with purpose because of the reality of Christ. 

When I build my life around the knowledge that my life matters to him and that my life has purpose because of him, it changes my perspective.  Events are just larger moments along the path that require a little extra time and attention.  They are no more valuable than the simple encounters of today.

Now what?  I think I’ll get back to the business of living.  What about you?