Sunday, August 29, 2010

Questions, Peace and God

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

“Christians would share this verse with me about ‘peace that passes understanding,’ but I felt no peace. Laying there in the hospital, I questioned my salvation…” I asked my friend if he ever received that peace. The answer surprised me. “No, I haven’t.” Four years since his car accident and my friend, a mature follower of Christ, hasn’t known peace.

This chunk of conversation rattled me so that I’ve been chewing on it all week. I understand lack of peace. Finances are ever an issue. I look at my bills, eyeball my bank account and walk away overcome with anxiety. Guilt is an issue too. Guilt projected by others, guilt piled on by self-you should visit your dad in the hospital, you should be the perfect parent, you shouldn’t have gotten into this financial situation. The car dying when I couldn’t afford a new one, the marriage ending period; all trials potentially rob us of peace.

Scripturally, peace seems the end result in the process. And it is a process. First fight anxiety by thinking rightly about God. Think rightly about circumstances as well. Having my material ducks in a row allows me peace. Ducks in a row make great targets for Satan and circumstances though. Which ducks did God promise would remain standing? Perfect health? Owning a house? An intact marriage? Peace eludes me, too, when I insist on having things never promised by God in the first place.

Peace is seen as smooth and happy circumstances when it’s often the opposite. We think of it as the lake without ripple, its water like glass. Truly it’s more like the old beer commercial-the bull is running amok in the cafeteria but your table is calm though the bull rages. The internal and external pain may still rage, the questions still persist, peace permeates all.

Peace is derived from the right perspective. We give thanks because all things come from the hand of God. The grappling and the pain, the qualms and the questions God will honor when they are based in scripture and set against His true character. It will never arrive via false facts and fairy tale expectations.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lasting Friendship

Three months is a long time to a girl of thirteen years. It is a tenuous age and having one close friend by your side a strong security. Times are turbulent and the friend must move where the family goes—where the work is.
“Three months isn’t long,” I say.

My daughter sees not only empty time but perpetual distance saying, “You’d feel badly if Matt moved or you couldn’t talk to Glenn,” alluding to some of my friends. The conversation doesn’t take place in a vacuum. We are driving home from a visit to family of a friend I’ve had since fifth grade. In his kitchen, days earlier, John had noted, “There probably aren’t many folk like us; who’ve been friends since childhood.”

75 % of us have close friends, while 25% of us have no close confidantes, according to a controversial article in the American Social Review (June 2006). “These close bonds of friendship don’t just happen,” I say, “They take work”

What makes for lasting friendships; camaraderie of close confidantes, as opposed to an acquaintance you’ve known for years? How have we built on that initial connectedness?

Thinking through my rich connections two key components are factors in each friendship I have. We make time to talk; phone-to-phone and face-to-face. We take time to construct common experience. In each strong friendship I have I can name hikes and dinners, bike rides and shows, gut busting laughter and spirit breaking tears. In all these things we aggressively take time to touch base.

My daughter’s only begun that rich adventure we call friendship. You’re well into the journey. What’s set your friendships apart from the rest? What would you say to my daughter? En route I’m hoping that my having more than a handful of heart-healing, soul-stirring friendships speaks through these months and into her years.

Picture courtesy of Collection of The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Death The Elephant In The Room

The rage percolates and pours out on family and caregiver. Violence hurled at the nurse during the ultrasound, “You poke me with that one time and you’ll be wearing it.” Scarier still that minutes later he said he couldn’t remember the incident. The anger deep inside, spilling out from a soul still in rebellion.

Dad’s in the hospital again. Talk of congestive heart failure and rehabilitation, going home and getting better. We make small talk while he eats his lunch. Death is the elephant in the room.

“What do you want on your tombstone,” the counselor asked. The answer easier now than ten years ago: Lived large, laughed out loud, fought his fears, quit posing and pretending, taught his daughter all the above.

The Preacher wrote, “It is better to go into a house of mourning than into a house of celebration for that is the end of all men; and it causes the living to take notice.” How are you doing at unpacking your pachyderm? What do you want on your tombstone?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Problem With Prosperity

" I spoke to you in your prosperity; But you said, "I will not listen!"

When cancer comes or the lover leaves it’s God’s fault. When there is food on the table, money in the bank, and health in relationships it’s due to personal discipline and acumen. That’s been my paradigm most of my life. Growing in my knowledge and experience of God I still teetered between two beliefs: 1) God is the giver of all good things 2) Things come my way because I deserve them.

A chunk of my life was spent on cruise control. Got married, had a kid, went to church, went to work, rode the bicycle, hugged the wife, went to sleep. I made time for prayer and bible reading, went to meetings with men and dinners with couples. Funny thing about cruise control, it’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel, to trust in pride, arrogance and the way you’ve always done things.

“God needs to heal this marriage or blow it up,” I choked out over the phone. The threat of restraining order came quickly after. Three weeks of confusion as night after night found me sleeping in hotels. Pride and arrogance weren’t much help.

The marriage blew up. At the end of my rope I was ready to listen. One of the lifelines God threw me happens on Tuesday.

I spend every other Tuesday with a bunch of men. A group of guys that pray like this, “Grant me continued humbling, brokenness and transformation.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…the gentle…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers…” Most of these guys were controlled by demons, drugs and even basketball. Today they count it joy to be controlled by God.

Prosperity isn’t the problem. If it were the book of Job wouldn’t end with God restoring his fortune twofold. The problem is with me. Prosperity allows me to be complacent, money in the bank fools me into thinking I’m good without God. May I remember that Jesus blessed those poor in spirit, but to the man who relied on silos full of grain he said, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you.”

Photo courtesy of:
George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).