Friday, May 27, 2016

Loss And Overcoming: Rethinking Story

I’m reconsidering what it means to live a good story.  Dream and fame; couch and comfort, a nice city in a picketed community---the image in my head.  I’m on this road now where I’m paying attention to different stories.  A married couple in their twenties face the wife’s massive brain stem stroke; a popular preacher faces the death of a five-year-old daughter from sudden asthma attack (one day here, next day gone); the teen dives into shallow water leaving her a quadriplegic.  The good story isn’t in the loss.  The good story is in the overcoming.

I don’t know if it’s the age I’m at or the age I’m living in but all around me people are facing difficult personal trials.  Friends with cancer, parents with cancer and children with cancer startle me at every turn.  I can easily name friends that live in pain from the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning until their muscles settle down under the sheets at night.  On top of that friends face income issues and aging parent issues.  All of these bring with them unique battles for spiritual perspective; prayers for peace in the midst of soul-shaking storms.  Some simply endure while others pursue the best of stories in less than perfect circumstances.

Life is a process of re-calibrating.  I just reviewed some previous blog posts.  There is a honing and sharpening of my perspective and my direction; sharpening the point of life while it pushes in to sharpen me.  I say sharpen but life pushes in with tremendous pressure.  God does whatever sharpening He wants.  I try to submit and learn.

Good story isn’t the perfect life.  It’s the unexpected kidney punch life gives.  It’s how the hero deals with the unforeseen circumstances—character forged in the journey.  Finally, it’s God’s grace we see in the overcoming.  As MercyMe sings; “like a hero who takes the stage when we're on the edge of our seats saying it's too late, well let me introduce you to grace, grace God's grace.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Safe and Vulnerable: The Beauty Of Being Known

My friends are vulnerable.  It’s not something males are prone to.  I’m not certain females do it better than we do.  Close friends know my failures.  They’ve heard me when I’m caustic and bitter.  I’ve shared moral failure and perceived failure.  They’ve put arms around me---and not stabbed me in the back.  Stranded on an island the most difficult thing for me would be to not connect with friends.  I am, we are, wired for friendship; our souls long for deep vulnerability.  This open place can be a place of peace and beauty.  It can also be an unsafe, shaky and scary place.

A friend once broadcast a personal failure that only they knew about to my email list.  That is one dark side of vulnerability.  That our real selves including the darkest parts will be used to embarrass and malign us.  Friendship must be a safe place.  Our personal relationships and our small social groups must be safe.  The bible study groups I am involved in all have a rule: What’s shared in the group stays in the group.  

We all present one face to the world.  Some attempt to live their whole life with game-face on.  Our Instagram and Facebook posts present all our perfect moments to our audience.  We don’t air our kid’s tantrums or arguments with our spouse.  Even at church (especially at church?) we present Mr. Perfect Peace when chaos and crumble are what life really looks like. 

I know of three suicides in my circle in the last years.  All male by the way.  How depth of friendship may have broken through.  Not surface friendship—but deep honest, transparent friendship.  That’s the treasure in friends.  That’s the privilege of prayer.  It is soul shaking stuff to let people in.  It goes against grain.  Vulnerable and committed is the safest and freest place to be.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Periods of Pressure and Future Escape

“Mommy, is Pharaoh’s army going to kill us?”  The little boys’ mom hesitated.  The Red Sea in front of them and the army behind them left little room for a positive answer.  Remembering their spiritual father Abraham, she responded, “God will deliver us.”

Often what makes a trial bearable is the assurance of future escape. Trials present us with this Red Sea motif; we are stuck in a situation.  The options for escape look grim; diving into a churning, dark river. My job feels that way today. 

 Weeks ago the wife and I went to Yosemite!  We had the chance to see Yosemite in the spring for a week-long vacation.  Before going we spent an evening choosing lodging.  We viewed waterfall live-cams and sunset still pics on Instagram. After days at work we whispered, “We are going to Yosemite!”  Before sleep we’d share with each other our expectations. Our upcoming escape pulled us through; tough day after tough day.

Heaven should have the same affect.  Not some dreamlike escape but a solid place that I’ll be at home in soon.  The still-pics stir imagination.  Being close to Jesus; an eternal escape from sin and pain; mansions of glory and fullness realized.  The New Testament refers to heaven 217 times.  Obviously I should focus on it more than I do.  Much, much more.

The blessing in a period of pressure is this crying out for escape. The hand is jarred loose.  Eyes, God willing, are refocused on heaven; on deliverance, on deliverer.  “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”