Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some things are just too good to pass up

As I was studying for a message recently, I ran across a quote by A.W. Tozer from his book The Root of Righteousness. I had so many requests for it, I decided to put it on my blog:

"A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest; and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge. The man who has met God is not looking for anything; he has found it. He is not searching for light, for upon him the light has already shined. His certainty may seem bigoted, but his assurance is that of one who knows by experience his religion is not hearsay. He is not a copy, not a facsimile. He is an original from the hand of the Holy Spirit.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

The best is yet to come!

As far as I'm concerned, I have pretty much always approached life with the sense that the best was yet to come. I still believe that. With that mindset, at the moment I'm really caught up in launching a brand new ministry in our church, a ministry designed for those 55+.

To that end, I've been reading lots of books that deal with the subject of life in the "2nd half." If you haven't figured it out yet, you can toss about everything you have ever known about aging out the window. We are in a new space, with increased life expectancy, a much longer time to need resources, and options that never existed before. Instead of entering into the "golden years of retirement," we find folks at that stage of life launching entirely new careers, some finding themselves more productive than ever. At the very least, people are thinking fresh, new thoughts, considering options that have lain dormant for years.

As I have been pouring over material having to do with this subject, I came across the work of G. Stanley Hall, the gentleman who coined the term "adolescence," and in fact helped our society to understand that stage in life in the early 20th century. But what most don't know about him is that he did the same thing with the 55+ years, a period of life he called "senescence." Disagreeing with the common wisdom about those growing older, namely that they had little to do but wait comfortably for their demise, he stated something that rang so very true to me. This quote is from his book, "Senescence," published in 1922. He's speaking about how differently "older" people (chose your own age here) feel about the way they see life versus the way younger people assume they feel:

"How little there is in common between what we feel about it and the way we find it regarded by our juniors; and how hard it is to conform to their expectations of us! They think we have glided into a peaceful harbor and have only to cast anchor and be at rest. We feel that we have made landfall on a new continent where we must not only disembark but explore and make new departures and institutions and give a better interpretation to human life. Instead of descending toward a deep, dark valley we stand, in fact, before a delectable mountain, from the summit of which, if we can only reach it, we can view the world in a clearer light and in truer perspective."

Man, do I resonate with that! That is exactly where I am in my life, and in relationship to this new ministry. I see a whole new world out there filled with folks plus or minus my age who desire a whole lot more out of their lives. They just don't know what that might be. What a spot to be in - I get to help them understand not only what will bring them joy now, but forever! And along the way, I get to encourage them to develop all those things in their lives that have been lying dormant for years.

To that end, I'm reminded of G.B. Shaw's words, written when he was 65:
"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"

I firmly believe the best is yet to come, and I couldn't be more excited to see what God has in store!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peace, peace, when there is no peace...

How do you experience peace when it seems to be in such short supply? Indeed, it seems like the deck is stacked against having any peace in our hearts at all. If you dare to watch the daily news, it's little more than a police blotter and reasons for despair. As if living in a land of tightening our belts ever more daily wasn't enough, we're informed over, and over, and over, and over, and over again just how bad things are. If your job doesn't get you, then the tumbling of the stock market will. If the spoiled turkey doesn't upset your stomach, then the latest child kidnapping will. How does a person hope to sleep at night?

Believe it or not, it isn't all that difficult. It boils down to a simple trust in the Lord. When he was just hours away from his crucifixion, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you that in me you might have peace; in the world you will have tribulation, but cheer up, I have overcome the world." (John 16.33) Wow!

People can debate putting their faith in Jesus til the cows come home, but I've got to tell you this: I'd much rather find peace in him personally then have one more debate over who he really is. He said he was God, then he proved it in more ways that can be counted. So if he says if we put our faith in him, we will find peace (and life, joy, comfort, and a boatload of other good things), I believe him. I take him at his word.

The deal about a simple faith in Jesus is this. Either what he says is true, or it isn't. Either we can find peace, or we can't. There's no door #3. For me, I choose to believe him. So even when I find myself navigating the white waters of life, I know that if I just rest in him, his power, promises, and presence, I will find peace. I hope you'll join me in that decision, and find peace, no matter what's going on around you!

Be blessed!

Monday, February 7, 2011

One more thing

British theologian Alister McGrath has some very helpful things to say about the Kingdom of God. He writes,
"The dominant theme in the preaching of Jesus is the coming of the kingdom of God. This phrase is rare in contemporary Jewish writings, and is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive aspects of the preaching of Jesus. This term, or closely related ideas, occurs some 70 times in the Synoptic Gospels. The use of the word "kingdom in this context is potentially misleading. Although this English word has been used regularly since the sixteenth century to translate the Greek term basileia, the term "kingship" is more appropriate. The term "kingdom" suggests a definite geographical region which is being ruled, whereas the Greek term refers primarily to the act of ruling itself. In New Testament scholarship, the term "the kingly rule of God" has often been used to make this point clear."

I find this to be an extremely helpful statement, especially in light of Jesus' many teaching on the Kingdom, and his statements like, "the Kingdom of God is within you." Clearly he was talking about his leadership in the lives of his people, not some destination or location.

I love the idea that Jesus wants to have an active role in leading my life, i.e. intends to be my King, my leader. Yet it struck me today, as I was listening to more of the conversation about the debacle in Egypt, that none of us is really comfortable with a King, with anyone who can tell us what to do. To be sure, in many cases, the political leaders being replaced today are tyrants, individuals who have used their people for personal aggrandizement. But I think all of us still wrestle with anyone having the right to tell us what to do. We want to reserve that right for ourselves, and even though our own decision making hasn't yielded the best results across the years, we still would rather trust ourselves than anyone else, God included.

So what does the kingly rule of God look like in your life? How are you seeing that reality worked out day by day?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A happy dance...

For the last couple of days, I've been doing "the happy dance" even though I have no idea how to do it. To understand why, I need to give you a bit of background. Hopefully, it will be understandable.

Since having been treated for prostate cancer in Summer '08, I need to have a psa (prostate specific antigen) test every 3 months for three years to make certain my psa number is low. Without getting technical, when it comes to psa numbers, lower is better.

With the kind of therapy I had (proton beam radiation), you still have prostate tissue when you're done being treated, so still produce psa. The assumption is that over time, the radiation slowly but surely destroys all the cancer cells. So unlike surgery, where your number is instantly 0.00, with any form of radiation it will slowly go down until you reach your "nadir" (low point) by 2 yrs or so (though it can take up to 3 yrs). A continuing low number is a strong indication that the cancer has been destroyed. On Saturday I got the results of my 27 month check, and my number was 50% lower than 3 months ago, and it has been pretty darned low for the last year anyway. That is absolutely incredible, and I am filled with praise for what God has done. So you can see why I'm dancin'!

Through this process, I've been reminded of an important lesson . We really are all different, and the only helpful thing is to compare ourselves to ourselves, and not to anybody else. I say this because some of the guys I went through therapy with hit lower numbers than mine much more quickly than I did, and that bugged me. While I knew that we didn't begin with the same numbers, and our bodies are different, nonetheless, it was way too easy to do the comparison thing, and worry about the fact that my number wasn't dropping as fast as somebody else's. Frankly, that is neither helpful nor of any value. The point is not "is my score as low or lower than somebody else's," but rather, "is mine doing what it's supposed to do - go down"?

How easy it is for us to assume our lives are supposed to work like somebody else's, even in our spiritual lives. We worry that we aren't as prayerful as somebody else, or as compassionate, or as knowledgeable, or whatever, when God is not comparing us to anybody else at all. The point isn't how do we stack up with somebody else; rather, it is how are we doing now compared to how we were doing a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. God sees each of us as unique individuals, and works with us exactly where we are. As for me, I'm asking the Lord to do with me what he wants to do with me, not what he wants to do with somebody else. How about you?



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God is good all the time...

Sometimes it's a challenge to remember that "God is good all the time, all the time God is good." Why? Because it's easy to get overwhelmed by challenges of the day, things that seem greater than your ability to cope. At those times, deep down inside, most all of us wonder: is God really good all the time? The answer, of course, is "yes." It's just that we don't see his goodness at the moment.

As we navigate Betty's breast cancer, we've hit a few bumps in the road. But for us, it causes us to draw back, catch our breath, and trust God more. Figure it out: we'd be hitting the same bumps with or without him. How much better that he is walking with us!

I hesitate to continue to write about Betty's treatment because so many other people are facing difficult issues. Our lives are no more important than anybody else's. At the same time, I know that we are to bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. How can people be expected to do that if they don't know what those burdens are? So with that in mind, I continue to update, usually on Facebook.

Today Betty had a good second chemo treatment. The first went sideways, and she ended up in the hospital. Then one of her surgery incisions began to separate, so she had to go back for another surgery. That caused the chemo to be postponed. On and on it went. So finally we feel like we're back on track. Thus far (about 6 hours into it!), things are going much better than they did the first time. The doctor tweaked one of the chemo drugs a bit, and changed the drip solution they use, hoping this would make things work more smoothly. It appears his decision was the right one. Coupled with all the folks who are praying, it should work well!

If you're like me, you're getting pretty tired of cancer! Every time I turn around, I bump into somebody else who has just been diagnosed with one form or another. In the last two weeks, I've come across 3 gals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer of one form or another, and are in the throes of deciding what to do. We feel blessed that Betty has already been able to share with them in that process.

While all this is going on, God is drawing us closer and closer to himself. Though we have more than a few candles on our cakes at birthdays, it's like we are in a fresh time of learning with the Lord. How good that is! If only we can pass on a fraction of what he is teaching us, we will feel most blessed.

May the Lord be your strength,


Monday, August 16, 2010

Time to think

Betty and I had the joy of spending this last week
with our entire family in Idaho. One of the things
we did while there was the 17-mile bike ride on the Trail of the Hiawatha. Not only do you have to go through a 2 mile tunnel with only the light on your bike, but you cross over a series of bridges like the one in this picture. It is breath taking in every sense of the word! A great time was had by all.

During some of our down time, I was reading a most fascinating book on my iPad. One of the chapters dealt with the value of intergenerational ministries, something that has been a concern to me for a number of years. For some time now, the church seems to have become far more comfortable with "silo's", i.e. self-contained ministries for each age or interest group, than it has with the "Body of Christ" truly being the "Body of Christ," embracing and celebrating all ages.

One of the things noted in the book was the fact that recently the Fuller Youth Institute released a report stating that many young people who were once highly involved in a church youth group during middle or high school stopped participating in church as young adults. Why? Well, it seems that while teens, these folks were in their own worship services, with their own music, fellowship, and teaching, and rarely if ever engaged with the Body at large. Hence, when they left high school, they didn't know how to connect with the larger church, and thus failed to do so. What a pity!

How many ways can we say that we need each other. The younger need to hear the stories of the older, and vice-versa. We all need to know what we're going through, and learn to pray for, encourage, and support one another. This past week as we were together as a large family, there were three generations of us. The diversity that represented made for a whole lot of fun. I'd like to think we all not only enjoyed each other, but learned more from and about each other as well. We even had the opportunity in a bunch of ways to serve one another. That was a good thing! Surely, that is how the whole church is supposed to look but doesn't. Think we can do something about this? More thoughts about this later.

I hope you're having a great summer. May you be blessed!