Monday, May 23, 2011

The Path

On April 1, 2010, a friend showed me this path, and we walked it together. I thought it was going to do me in with all its steep inclines. Despite the fact that the path is replete with numerous hills and that the temperature was hot most of the time, I walked this path over and over again last year until it got too cold to walk or college football season started, I can't remember which.

I started walking this path at a time when I felt like my life was stagnating, and this path let me think things through. It was a constant that could have felt repetitive as the path didn't change day after day, but there was such a sense of completion in walking the 3.4 miles up and down those hills. That path became a great reminder that sometimes we are supposed to just keep walking the path, even when it feels circular, as we wait on God.

Instead of a circular path, you might be traveling a steep path in your own life right now. But I would encourage you to stay on it until you hear God directing you to go another way, and hold onto these Truths as you walk your path:

My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. Psalm 17:5

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. Psalm 23:3

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, received the promise. Hebrews 6:15

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Safe Life

Do you ever find something that you've written in the past and wonder how you lost the passion for the topic you wrote about? Over the weekend, I sifted through drafts of blog posts that were half written but never finished. This one caught my attention and demanded to be finished. So here's a blog post I started back in January.

Now that Francis Chan is back in the States, I've been listening to a lot of his sermons. Several months ago, I saw a link on a blog to a sermon Chan gave in 2006, and it describes me to a T:

For whatever reason, I was not born with a sense of adventure. It takes a lot for me to try new things. This was a positive as a teenager because I was not bullied by peer pressure. But on the negative side, I've lived a pretty routine, safe life.

But lately, I keep reading books and hearing sermons on how life wasn't meant to be lived safely, all cocooned away.

Chan preached at Passion 2011 in Atlanta on Philippians 1:27: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel."

He talked about how he questioned whether he was living a life worthy of the Gospel and put the Bible on one side of an old-fashioned balance and used the other side to weigh his life. He ultimately concluded that he needed to go to Asia to see how courageous Christians were leading millions of people to Christ, even in the face of being tortured and beaten, because he wanted to know what it takes to have faith like that.

The stories he told upon his return focused on how those Christians in Asia expected persecution and clung to their faith despite whatever was thrown at them. I heard Chan tell some of these same stories at Passion 2011 here in Fort Worth, and they stirred up a sense that the balance is definitely off. When he told those Christians in Asia that we, here in America, aren't persecuted for our faith like they are, they asked why not; they pointed out that the Bible promises persecution for those who believe.

They pose an interesting question. Are we doing something wrong? Are we serving up Gospel-lite instead of the full force of the Gospel (if we are serving any at all)? Are we not living any differently from the world, and so we blend in enough to not be persecuted?

I'd have to say that I'm guilty. Guilty of thinking that a safe life is one that will be rewarded by God. That if I say enough of the "right" prayers, I can stay cocooned away from seeing the tragedies that happen every day. That if I give, I will be excused from going and serving.

But this isn't the Truth.

Instead, the Truth states, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) And more Truth, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:19)

This hit my radar in January and, like many things, fell off for months until I saw the draft. I know I have sat idly by for too long. I'm involved in some ministries for orphan, but I've never gone anywhere. Looks like I need to be praying about the where. Even if it's just across town to the parts that I usually don't travel to. That would be a start in taking baby steps away from the cocoon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Life at the Diamonds

Many who live in Cowtown have no clue of the buzz of activity that goes on down a remote road near I-35. Even after you turn off on Old Hemphill Road, you might think you've turned onto the wrong street. But less than a half a mile down, the cars lining the road will clue you in that you've come to the right place.

Boys and girls with gloves and bats file into the gates and head toward their assigned field. They have to weave in and out of kids standing in the concessions line and dodge baseballs that are being pitched back and forth to warm up before a game.

If you are able to zigzag through all the above activity and make your way to the peewee field, the pint-sized players with their uniforms on, especially those with pink bats and helmets, will steal your heart. Some are more serious about the game than others, or at least as serious as their attention span will allow.

The seven-year-old team has seen its share of hard times this season. They are a young team that's had to face some stiff competition. Hits are hard to come by, and so are plays to get three outs on the other team. Sometimes the excitement of grabbing the ball boils over into throwing too hard, and a base hit turns into a double or a triple. Thankfully, losses seem to be easily overcome with after-the-game snacks from the concession stand.

But this little locale has more than just a few games going on. There's a lot of life being lived between the plays. As parents catch up with one another, wisdom and encouragement are served up left and right. One man shares pictures on his ipad of his son meeting Colt McCoy at an event earlier in the week and shows how his daughter was featured at the event. A mother tells about her trip to New Mexico that made her miss last week's game, but another mother is quick to fill her in on the fantastic play her son made. After the game, parents mingle with the parents of the older kids and cheer on their children, exchanging parenting advice in between plays.

Even as fun as it is to watch these young kiddos playing America's favorite pasttime, it's just as fun (and more beautiful) to watch this little community doing life together.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Trusting His Love & His Plans

Back on Easter Sunday, our pastor taught on how God's plans are better than our own, and his wife, my friend Krista, shared her personal story of walking through infertility and trusting God through the adoption process. She was kind enough to write out her remarks, and you can read them here.

The parts of her story that grabbed my attention were (1) how her Sunday school teacher challenged her class with how their view of God might change if they didn't get married or have children and (2) how Krista later responded by writing out Psalm 136 in her own way as a reminder of God's enduring love for her, no matter her circumstances.

I took the challenge to do the same.

If I never get married,
His love endures forever.

If I never have children,
His love endures forever.

If I never adopt another dog,
His love endures forever.

If my mother dies during my lifetime,
His love endures forever.

If my sister dies during my lifetime,
His love endures forever.

If I get cancer,
His love endures forever.

If I get a crippling disease,
His love endures forever.

If I suffer pain daily,
His love endures forever.

If I lose my job and benefits,
His love endures forever.

If I lose my house and belongings,
His love endures forever.

If I become poor financially,
His love endures forever.

If I am ridiculed and mistreated,
His love endures forever.

If my reputation is trashed,
His love endures forever.

If I have no friends,
His love endures forever.

If I can’t deliver on my promises,
His love endures forever.

If a crime is perpetrated against me or my family,
His love endures forever.

If the world around me is chaos,
His love endures forever.

And even if I don’t feel His love,
His love endures forever.

To be honest, I need to repeat those lines every day for my heart to get in sync with them because I'm not all the way there yet. I'm kind of like the father in Mark 9:24 who says, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief."

I'm glad I wrote these out and challenge you to do the same.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Comforter

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

In the midst of grieving Annie's loss, I have said over and over, "God is amazing!" And I've meant it. He has been my Comforter in so many ways over the past several weeks.

Every day since Annie's death, God has used people in my life to shower me with His love. I have received countless texts, phone calls, emails, comments on her tribute, and cards that have been a balm for my hurting heart. And then, on top of all those comforting words from precious friends, He provided good gifts: dinner brought to me, beautiful plants, a tree planted in Annie's honor, dinner at a friend's house, memorials made in Annie's honor, the book Dog Heaven, a painting, a cross, a box of new clothes (to make up for those I returned to pay for part of Annie's medical bills), and a dog ornament.

Even today, more than two weeks later, two friends came up to me at church to comfort me on Annie's loss.

I share these things as an example of how God has shown me His presence steadily in such tangible ways. In every way, these gifts have not been about me or anything I've done; they've been grace gifts. I have been humbled by them and have been reminded that God has surrounded me with the most thoughtful friends, who teach me daily about what it looks like to love others well.

Father God, You alone are my Comforter. Thank You for showing me Your love in more ways than I could have ever imagined. May others who are experiencing loss and pain feel your tangible presence in their lives. Amen.