Monday, December 31, 2012

Aren't we Blessed?

Tom didn't have an easy life. His parents had drinking problems, and sometimes beat him and his little brother. His brother ran from the family at every chance, spending most of his time with friends and even some strangers. Tom tried to help his parents when he could, and tried to do what he was supposed to. A neighbor invited him to church at 7, and Tom learned about a God who could help him through the pain of his family. When he was 12, his dad was arrested and spent the next 6 years in prison. The family's financial condition got worse, and his mother more difficult.
But Tom's Sunday School teacher told him something that encouraged his natural optimism. She was crippled, with difficult arthritis since early adulthood. But she started every class helping the class to see how blessed they were. That resonated with Tom, who began every greeting with "Hi! Aren't we blessed?" His faith, attitude and hard work helped him in school, in the first of many after-school jobs, and with others.
When we met, he was in his 30s. He had a beautiful wife, a good job and two wonderful kids. He was blessed. He didn't count that his wife had been in a terrible fire and wasn't the beauty that God had created her to be. He didn't count one child with Down's syndrome and a work environment where he was challenged each year to do more. He counted his blessings- and he was blessed.
As we start a new year, I echo Tom's words. "Aren't we Blessed?"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

War & Football- Instruction for Life

I grew up with three men in my family who had fought honorably in war (my father & brothers-in-law), and in a state where football had become somewhat of a reaction to losing a war 80 years before and resulting poverty, social upheaval and a bad national reputation (Alabama- Roll Tide!). So I learned was that life has analogies- and sports or war teach about life.
Lessons from that: Love your team, hate the enemy (not really in sport- some get that wrong). We prepare harder and do our best and we don't have to worry about others. You don't choose who or where you play or fight, you just strap it on and go do it. Life is a team game- the guy next to you depends on you and you on him. Don't let your team down. Fighting with honor isn't easy, but living without it is worse. I am here because of the sacrifice of others for us- I must make sacrifices for those after me. Fighting with honor is hard, and may kill you- but living without honor is worse.
Love God and your team, and be willing to die for both at any time- then you will learn what life really is.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Power of the Pause

Although slightly interrupted by some work, most of us are in the midst of the holiday lull. Except for those places where unplanned emergencies (my other job) or organizational anxiety (my wife's work) require extra effort, a good portion of the nation slows down during these two weeks at the end of the year.
And it's amazing what happens. Life really does seem better for most. Most families really do enjoy being together. People do the things- work, rest, play, service, celebration- that they would do if they could do whatever they wanted. People reconnect- again, mostly in good ways- and renew.
We can live in Kairos- right time- until we feel the returning pressure next week of Chronos- measured time.
I'm deciding not to overachieve next year. No radical plans  goals or programs. Just living, loving and discipling- to enjoy each day as if it were the only one. I want to be the child of God, husband, father, friend and pastor that I would if I had all the time in the world. That won't prevent there from being Chronos pressure- but it might make all year feel more like Christmas- and isn't that our goal, anyway? Take time to be who God calls you to be- instead of pushing for more quicker faster. Enjoy the power of the pause!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Headed into 2013 - again

I have many blessings and gifts in my life- but persistence and discipline haven't been chief among them. At this time of the year I, like many of you, find it easier to find places I've dropped the ball than places I've made the 100 yard crawl from "Facing the Giants." I have a journal that goes back to many bad and good things- but lots of restarts. Even since I've been using a computer, the days starting over are more than the days finishing.
Two good things-
1- God's grace is better than my failure. God's love really is more powerful than my past. I am thankful- and forgiven.
2- Holiness is, in the end, allowing God's power to change my habits of addiction, failure and weakness into the character of Christ. So eventually, I have to do the disciplined work to allow God's grace to overcome the hurts, habits procrastination and laziness that I allow to keep me from who God calls me to be.
So here we are- you and I, with the Lord watching. Are you ready to start now and make 2013 the year of the Lord's grace overcoming your past & present? May God bless and strengthen us!