Archives For May 2012

Our house is in the middle of a renovation and I wish I could say it was easy. Brooke and I went back and forth for years whether we should do it but decided for the long-term use of our house, it would be worth the pain. We are definitely in cramped conditions with two young children and not having our usual amenities setup. The kids are much harder to parent and it has been easy for us to shout out in frustration and ask this,

“Why is it so hard, God?”

Perspective hit me with a 2 X 4  today at church when we saw a casual friend who just had her 5th child. She was in tears when she saw Brooke. I found out later that her family was having trouble making ends meet and living with her in-laws. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable and frustrating that must be. Our discomfort was diminished in that moment.

We as Americans thrive on being comfortable. We set the thermostat at 70, we buy nice safe cars, we stay at our nice homes to watch a lot of movies and we drive to our churches without being shot at (hopefully). We have medication for just about everything in life to make us more “comfortable.” For the past few years there has been a war on this so-called financial group, the “one percent”. What amuses me is that even those who are complaining about the one percent are the one percent of the world. They just don’t look close enough in the mirror to see it. You who are reading this are part of the one percent so deal with it.

I have read about several POWs who were forced to endure years of living in cramped conditions only to brought out to be beaten. Watch the movie, Amistad (1997) and you’ll get a glimpse of what it was like as a slave being transported to the new world. Go visit any third world country and you’ll see dozens of people living in space smaller than your apartment. I’m tired of complaining and I’m sorry for you having to hear it.

Why do we complain when something doesn’t feel just right?

Why do we complain so much about not having things just the way we want them?

Why? We are discomfortably numb about life.

Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all,

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I believe that God calls us to a hard life as Jesus commanded his disciples. It is harder for some more than others but in this discomfort God shows up.

God calls us to discomfort to gain perspective and recognize the possibilities of life.  

When we fully understand this perspective, we are awake to God’s work in us and we can move forward. The next time I catch myself complaining about things, I pray for the courage to embrace this discomfort.

 

What about you?  

How has God taught you through the hard times? Through the discomfort?

 

 

 

Is not to gloat.

I think we all know that. But we still do it for some reason. Why?

History is against us and we can sit and complain about what happened in the Garden of Eden all day long. Still today, pride and envy plague the best of us because we’re human. It has the ability to overcome us and bring the worst out of us.

My latest bout with gloating was more in my head. It had to do with the confusion on why Albert Pujols is playing so poorly with his new team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, I wish so many great things for Albert Pujols. He gave us so much and I wish he would have stayed in St. Louis. I wish the negotiations last fall would have gone better. Oh I just wished he would have just come out and said that the decision to leave was complicated and it involved so many factors that only he, his family, and God knew. As of today Albert Pujols is batting .197 with only 1 homer after over a month of play in a new uniform with a near record 10-year contract. His performance thus far is hardly the impact compared to his previous 11 years batting well over.300 and belting 30-40 homers a year. As a Cardinals fan, he has made it quite easy to gloat especially since his team is in last place and St. Louis is in first. Even though I wasn’t openly laughing about Albert Pujols, in my heart I certainly was.

I’ve made my peace knowing that the Cardinals will move on and of course be fine. Albert Pujols is by far one of the greatest players of our generation and he’ll get his game back in due time and hopefully make an impact for his new team. I pray more that he’ll continue to embrace humility in this time to ultimately give more and more glory to Christ for why he is where he is. After all, his faith made as much of a headline as did his bat.

My encouragement is this:

If you are holding that grudge, let it go.

If you have an inner smile when someone you don’t like messes up, give it up. It will eat you up for years to come and you will never live free and wise to be the person God wants you to be. 

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)

Thank God it didn’t end for Adam and Eve that fateful day because in God’s plan, Christ took on their sin. He took my sin. He took yours.

Albert Pujols will forever be my reminder that God’s grace overcomes my gloating, my pride.

Stop worrying about your “Albert Pujols” and open up your heart to God. 

When you do this, your ability to live free is glorious. 

In one of my favorite movies, City Slickers (1991), a question is asked amongst friends who were on a modern-day western cattle drive adventure,

What was your best day?  

This is a great question to ask at different points in your life to get a pulse on where your heart is. I have a firm belief that in order to discover your heart that God gave you, it is essential to look back at the moments, in this case a day, to understand what stirs you.

For me, I remember driving through the Scottish Highlands with my good friend Steve Griffin and another South African friend. It was recommended that we go to the Isle of Skye in the west highlands. We weaved through long windy roads traversing historic and beautiful areas like breathtaking Glencoe, The Rob Roy Monument, and even the enchanting Eilean Donan castle. The day started by waking up in beautiful Portree, a small fishing village only to witness small boats heading out to sea with the sun rising above them. After a hearty Scottish breakfast of tea, eggs, and sausage, we drove and walked around the island. We drank water from the streams, walked along the coast, took pictures of the mountains, breathed in the beautiful air. Believe it or not, the Scottish Tourism Board isn’t paying me to write this as my sentiment is genuine.

After we left the island and drove north, we all were in awe and marveled at what we just witnessed.

I said to my friends,

“You know what would make this the most complete and best day ever?  “What if an RAF Tornado fighter jet buzzed through this beautiful valley?”

I had heard about military jets buzzing some of these valleys and since I’ve always been a fan of British and American airpower, this would complete it. Our South African thought we were delirious Americans who only cared about weapons. We laughed of course and didn’t think anything of it because of the unlikelihood.

Not five minutes later we heard a roar of a plane approaching us. I was in the passenger seat and could see it approaching us from behind us.  With half of our bodies out the window, Steve and I went crazy screaming and cheering as a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado buzzed our car at almost supersonic speed.

After the plane roared on by, Steve said it best,

That’s the sound of freedom, baby.

I’ll never forget that day.

Our reaction to the RAF Tornado made me think of the awe and amazement of Christian Bale’s character, Jim, in the beautiful and tragic Steven Spielberg film, Empire of the Sun (1987) when he sees the P-51 Mustang buzz his concentration camp. Jim saw his “Cadillac of the Sky” as a sign that freedom is coming. I can imagine that it was Jim’s best day at that point in life, despite how hard things were.

Why does a best day ever even matter?

Since that day in Scotland, I’ve had several “best days” that have topped that one. I’ve been to the World Cup in Germany and seen amazing sights. I’ve also traveled around the Mediterranean to see Greek islands like Santorini. I think mostly about Brooke and I getting married and how beautiful she looked walking toward me at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee. I remember her smile, her grace, and beautiful blonde hair gracing her long flowing white dress all while walking along flowers. God was present that day, May 28, 2005, I know it. It was a “best day” indeed.

These “best days” matter because they give us a glimpse of heaven. It is a swagger in the golf swing, a tip of the hat, a wink of the eye. It is God showing us the way things are supposed to be and what we also have to look forward to for eternity in Heaven if we put our trust in Christ.

What about you?

What is your best day?