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

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Celebrity? You Have My Sympathy

I don’t know how many funerals occurred last week, but it is estimated that, worldwide, 156,000 people die every day.  Many of those happen in obscurity and have no memorial service of any kind.  Certainly very few memorial services are televised and watched by millions.  Is it unfair or unseemly that a celebrity’s death gets such attention while brave and honorable people die and are buried in near anonymity?
My answer is, "no". A celebrity’s death gets all the attention for one simple reason: a life lived in the spotlight of public consciousness.  The death is “newsworthy” precisely because the person lived a very public life.  And the more controversial the public life, the more newsworthy the death. Such media attention at the death of a celebrity does not in any way minimize or trivialize the lives and death of “real” people.
Who’s lives are more trivialized: those who have fans who love them because of their talent or those who have friends and family who love them because of who they are?
Two funerals happened last week that affected my life much more than the one on television.
 One was the 30 year old son of long time friends.  In fact, this young man’s father officiated the ceremony where Mrs. Sweetie became my Mrs. I have not seen the young man in years and did not get news of his death in time to attend the service.  But my grief was real because people I love were saying goodbye to the son they love and their lives matter to God and to me.  It caused me to want to make the most of every moment I have with my own grown up kids, to pray for them more diligently, and to send more of those “I love you” text messages that seem to be our most efficient means of communication.
The other was my son-in-law’s father, who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 57.  He lived in Iran and the last time he was in the U.S. was 14 months ago to attend the wedding that brought us into an extended family. The first time I met him was four days before the wedding.  The last time I spoke to him was a month later when he called me from the airport to thank me for all I had done for his son.  We talked about how we looked forward to his next visit.  Our worlds and our worldview were very different, but the love we have for our children brought us together as friends.
We gathered over the weekend with our “Persian family” who were unable to go to Iran to say goodbye to the father, brother, uncle they loved. It caused some of the same emotions and desires for me because their lives matter to God and to me. I will pray more diligently to make the most of every opportunity to demonstrate the ultimate reality that gives me hope (1 Peter 3:15).
I wonder how many people felt that way after watching the celebrity’s funeral.  My point exactly.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Maybe It is "That Much"

Who pays attention to weather forecasts anyway? Mrs Sweetie does, but sometimes she has a lapse in judgment and allows less clear heads to prevail. Famous last words: "It will be okay, honey. One to three inches is not that much."

This explains why I wrote this from a hotel room in Amarillo instead of my writing chair in my living room.  Just in case you ever wonder, two inches of snow with single digit wind chills on interstate highway overpasses qualifies as "that much".

The local television weather lady actually said, "If you are out driving around right now, number one, you can't hear this. Number two, it's not good!" I am publicly acknowledging that she was correct. As was Mrs Sweetie when she suggested that continuing to travel might not be our best choice.

In reflecting on this little adventure, my mind goes in several different directions. You are not surprised, are you? I am first of all grateful that all our kids made it home safely. We were on the way to have lunch together when we decided that those who were close to home should go there and those who were not should find a stopping place. It is a whole different ball game when your offspring are out in the yuckiness, even when they are grown-ups.

I am also grateful for an available hotel room to hunker down for the storm. We might have made it home, but we also might have been spending the night in the truck. It might have made for an entertaining blog, but I am really not that interested in entertaining you. Sorry.

Perspective is something else that inspires my gratitude. Everything at home and work was still there when we got home. None of it was important enough to play slip and slide on I40. I think a part of maturity is learning what is worth stressing over and what is not.

I also have to say that I am really happy for the traveling partner God gave me for the sometimes pleasant and sometimes treacherous highways of life. She thought I was nuts to drive in the snow, but she trusted me to do the right thing. That fact alone makes me want to do the right thing even more. I want our journey together to be an expression of my love for her.

And because I know that our lives matter to God, I want our journey together to be an expression of our love for Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."

He cares more about us than we care about ourselves and He knows all the best roads. Even when they are covered with "that much".

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hello, Texas!

We had some friends in from Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago. We got acquainted with them through a partnership between HarvestBaptist Association (my employer) and Bay Lakes Baptist Association, a similar network of churches in northeast Wisconsin.  They play a little football in one of the small villages in their area. 
Of course, their team had precisely the same involvement in this year’s Super Bowl as my Cowboys had. I am trying to figure out how to mention that to them without hurting the partnership.  Having been up close and personal with Packers fans for the past three years … that may take a little more pondering.
I have made five trips to Wisconsin in the past three years and have been the beneficiary of some great “cheesehead” hospitality. Of course, the tour of Lambeau field and various cheese factories is compulsory. Brats and burgers have been consumed by the pound.  Friday night fish fries at “supper clubs” are a unique experience.  Fleet Farm is a really cool store that is like a Super Walmart (without the groceries), Academy, and Tractor Supply all rolled into one.
So, what do you do to return the hospitality when they come to Texas?  Mexican food!  I told them that I did not recall seeing much of that when I have been there.  Their reply?  “We have Taco Bell.”  Seriously?  Taco Bell?  Taco Bell is to Mexican food what Velveeta is to aged Wisconsin cheddar! 
Well, we took care of that problem!  Now they know what it is like to fill up on chips and salsa before a big plate of enchiladas arrives.  They know the bliss of a full belly and the accompanying heartburn that hurts so good.  Hello, Texas!
We did have a great visit, but the best part wasn’t the food or the sightseeing.  The best part was the conversation on the way … the laughter at the table … the prayer requests shared … the prayers offered. 
You see, life is not about experiences.  Life is about relationships.  Experiences get their meaning from those with whom we share them.  Mexican food is just food I like when I eat it by myself.  Taco Bell even has meaning when it is shared with a friend.
The first book of the Bible records God saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18).  That wasn’t a one-time truth that God solved by creating a woman to go with the man.  That was an eternal principle.  God created us with an innate need to share our lives with others.  The New Testament is filled with “one another” messages.  Encourage one another.  Forgive one another. Accept one another.  Honor one another.  Live in harmony with one another. Instruct one another.  Serve one another.
You get the point.
I’m not sure when my next trip to Wisconsin will be.  Nor am I sure when my friends will come back to Texas.  There is one thing I am sure about.  When we get together, the food and the sights will be periphery.  The conversation, laughter, tears, prayers, and encouragement will be the main thing. One way our lives matter to God is the way our lives matter to each other.
I always suspected there was a spiritual quality to Mexican food.