Sad and Confused

All I know about Syria right now is what I read in the papers and see on the news, but it seems clear there’s atrocity going on. I don’t know who’s to blame. The government says the rebels are, and the rebels say the same of the government.

Regardless, people are being slaughtered every day.

Now, I wonder what the world is going to do. I wonder what the US is going to do?

There’s been countless images of piles of bodies for months now, and at least from a layman’s point of view, it seems everyone including the US is just watching. Perhaps sending advisors.

I wonder how long it will take for the world to get tired of piles of bodies? It makes me think about wars, and rumors of wars.

Maybe the end is drawing near. I don’t know.

I do know that every time I see a dead child with a bullet hole in his/her face it makes me want to do something.

Right now all I can do is pray.

Pray for a resolution to the violence.

Pray for wisdom for my country’s leadership, and the leadership of other countries contemplating assistance to Syria in some capacity.

Pray for peace in a place that seldom sees it.

Pray for understanding on my own part. I just don’t understand this little regard for human life.

All I know is something has to happen, and quickly. This is not a war-this is wanton murder.

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Aim at Heaven

You can do almost anything these days just by touching a button. We have machines that dispense coffee, and food, and DVDs. We have personal GPS devices that keep us from getting lost–no need to stop and ask for directions anymore. We talk to our mobile phones, and they talk back to us.

I could probably spend days giving a litany of technological advances over the past hundred years or so. For that matter, I’m writing this blog on my IPhone. In any case, so many of the advances we’ve made have one commonality that occurred to me last night as I was taking a shower (great place to think, by the way): they all either minimize or remove our need to interact with other human beings.

We weren’t made that way. I might joke about not liking people, but the truth is, I am a social creature. So are you.

Albert Einstein once said “It has become appallingly clear our technology has surpassed our humanity. I hope that someday, our humanity might yet surpass our technology.”

Me, too.

If you walk around any place people normally gather, you will inevitably see many of them with heads down, thumb-typing or finger flicking furiously at mobile phones, or iPads, or e-book readers.

And they aren’t talking to each other.

People will sit across a table from each other while they talk to online friends. They’ll post status updates when they get good news instead of calling someone and telling them.

We really don’t need to talk to each other anymore.

Because our technology has surpassed our humanity.

I’m not OK with that, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone.

If it were not for my astoundingly awesome and Godly wife, I would probably still be the giant a-hole I was in San Diego. She makes me a better person. She makes me want to be a better person, and fulfill God’s plan for my life.

So last night I asked myself if all the wonderful things in my life had actually made my life better. Easier? Certainly. Better? Not really…

What has made my life better?

God has, along with the helper he sent me.

Technology, wonderful as it is, is ephemeral. It’s a vapor.

If we let it sap our humanity and need for interaction with others then we are denying God, not ourselves.

We’re taking up our phones, not our crosses.

How many opportunities for ministry have we missed because we were preoccupied with something like phones, or tablet computers, or handheld games?

Let me be clear. I am no perfect Christian. I struggle with obedience, and I doubt. Sometimes I question sovereignty.

Sometimes I don’t want to interact with the people God puts in my life. I’d rather play Words, or shoot zombies.

Do those things make my life better?

No.

God does.

I need to spend more time with him and less on my phone.

I need to read less and seek out his people more.

CS Lewis said “aim at Heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

I think as wonderful as technology is, it’s still earth. And we’re allowing it to surpass our humanity.

We need (and I include myself) to aim at Heaven. Maybe then our humanity will surpass our technology.

On Penn State, and Protecting Your Camp

I read an article on CNN this morning that was talking about the utter failure of Penn State to protect children from Jerry Sandusky when they were well aware of his fondness for raping young boys.

Apparently, the image of the school and its storied football program was much more important than the physical harm, sexual abuse, and irreversible psychological damage done to a series of boys over something like a decade.

This is so hard to get my mind around. These men knew what Sandusky had done and could potentially still do. And they did nothing. Marine and blogger “America’s Sgt Major” wrote a great piece back in 2011 just as the story was becoming nationally prominent.

Let me be as clear as I am able. As a believer, I am well aware of the measure of forgiveness dealt to me, and I am grateful for it. As a man who is a father, and is not a pedophile, I think of it like this:

If I was camping with my family and a bear was threatening the camp, I would take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of my family. If a member of my family was somehow hurt, then typically the bear would be captured and possibly destroyed.

Or you could consider what would happen to a dog that bit ten people.

Either way, the animal would no longer be a threat. The men at Penn State had a chance to prevent a lot of pain and they pissed it away out of self-preservation.

I know that as a follower of Christ I should forgive Sandusky and pray for him, that he might repent of his many sins.

I struggle with that. Some things–as a man and father–are difficult if not impossible to forgive.

Now, thankfully, Jerry Sandusky is reaping what he has sown. He is no longer a threat. And he will likely be a marked man wherever he is incarcerated.

Now I find myself thinking not that I hope he turns to Christ, but that he meets a very special friend in prison that will show him what it feels like to be a victim.

I know it’s wrong to feel that way, but I am a human being. I think of the DC Talk song “In The Light.”

This only serves to confirm my suspicion
That I’m still a man in need of a savior

Challenge

All things considered, I haven’t been a parent all that long. John has only been here 9 months, but I’ve been “Dad” to David for a couple of years now.

It’s been the most incredible blessing of my life, but it’s also been probably my biggest challenge. I’m not a screamer like my Dad and my brother could be at times, but I do have a bit of a temper, and it would be a fair statement to say I lack patience a great deal of the time.

Part of it is due to the fact that my job is often a great many hours, and not very much sleep.

But that’s no excuse to show impatience toward my kids.

I need to show them Grace instead.

It doesn’t matter that I got up at 330 and worked until 7 or 8. They are my kids, not workers, and deserving of my time, and every bit of energy I have to give them.

It makes me think of how I am toward Jesus sometimes, maybe even most times. And then I think of the Grace I am shown. I think of the blood that was shed on my behalf.

And I have the nerve assume or to act like Jesus owes me anything. All I often bring to Him is petulance, and self-pity, and a false sense of entitlement.

I should bring him praise, and thanks, and lay them at his feet.

How can I fault my kids for being kids, when I am the chief of EGRs myself (EGR is Extra Grace Required)?
There are times when I greet my 6 year old with not just impatience, but outright curtness because he’s a kid, a boy, and he is LOUD. Or when I almost feel like yelling at my baby because he just…won’t…be…quiet…

This has been my greatest battle so far.

How can I teach my boys about Jesus, and about His love, when I don’t show it to them?

His love surpasses all things, and all lengths, and heights, and widths, and depths.

Mine is shallow, and dependent on my own convenience.

So I will pray for patience, that my heart is transformed, and that my mind is conformed to that of Jesus.
I want to lead my household, but I can’t do that by snapping at the heels of my children.

That stops now.

Lord, forgive me for what I’ve been, to you and to my wife and my kids. Help me to be more like you, and less like the jerk I’ve become over the past…well, lifetime. I want to be on fire for you, and have your heart for others that it seems like I only read about. I’m tired of being on the sidelines.
Please watch over the hearts and minds of my children, and make me anew into the person you always intended for me to be. I love you, Lord, and I love my kids, and my wife.

May I be a better husband and friend to my wife, and not just a father to my kids, but a Dad, too.
I can’t do it without you, because there’s so much more to it than bringing home a paycheck.

I am not a fighter or warrior by nature. I never had any reason to be. But things are different now.

It’s not just me anymore.

I need to put on my armor–I should have been wearing it all along.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Me of Little Faith

I used to think Christians had to be perfect.

I think that hindered my coming to faith more than any other thing. For most of my life, I thought a person had to have this perfect life to know Jesus.

You had to be blissfully happy all the time.

You would never doubt God, or His will for your life.

You wouldn’t have marriage, family, or friendship troubles.

Even after coming to know Jesus, I would sometimes feel like I was posing, because there were times when I still felt down, or sad. There were times when it seemed God’s will for my life was not perfect at all, and that he might have even “had it in for me” in some way.

I never really had much luck in my relationships, either, until meeting my wife. Either before or after coming to belief.

And the truth of it all is that sometimes I still doubt God, even though my life is better now than it’s ever been.

I have an amazing family, and a wife that loves me in spite of all my stupid baggage.

I doubt when I see what the world has become, and the terrible things that happen in it—things that would break even the strongest heart.

I doubt sometimes. I am not perfect, and certainly not a perfect Christian.

But.

I feel like if I didn’t doubt, if I didn’t question things from time to time, then I would be little more than a God automaton, wandering around praising the Lord in a monotone and handing out tracts at gas stations.

And here is the crux of it:

My doubts led me to thinking, and praying, and asking questions.

Asking, thinking and praying led me to scripture.

Scripture led me to truth.

Truth led me to Jesus, who was waiting for me.

And He is bigger than my doubts. He can and will handle my questions, and fears. He may not always give me the answer I want, and sometimes I’m still afraid, but that’s OK.

It’s OK because He is there with me, and always has been. And always will be.

What I want to say here is that I make no claim to having all the answers to your questions. I may not be able to assuage your doubt regarding God, and His will for your life.

What I want to tell you is don’t abandon your faith because of struggle, or because you doubt that a loving God exists.

Wrestle with God—Jacob did.

Ask Him questions. Ask your pastor, if you have one.

Delve into scripture with a disciple’s heart. Psalms in particular are filled with laments, and crying out to God with unimaginable pain.

And pray.

MC Hammer may have been one of the cheesiest rappers of all time, but I think he had it right when he said “you’ve got to pray just to make it today.”

It’s true that we live in a fallen world, and faith is sometimes hard to come by.

So when I read about writers and speakers like Rob Bell who call people into a dialogue about things that may be controversial, I think maybe it’s a good thing. It sheds lights on subjects probably lots of people think about but don’t have the rocks to mention.

Because I believe everyone has doubts, and questions.

I think writers like Bell cause people to seek answers to those questions, and once again, I believe that’s a good thing.

I will say, though, that no writer, or pastor, or speaker can lay claim to knowing the mind of God other than how it is described in scripture, and when such men and women start putting words into the mouth of the almighty they will most likely run into a buzz saw of trouble.

I don’t know what Mr Bell says about Heaven or Hell in his new book, because I haven’t read it. I probably will read it, but with the foreknowledge that he is but a man trying to stir thought in people, and hopefully get them nearer to God. And he did stir people up—not just with this new book coming out.

In my opinion, if this or any book draws people to look into the bible, and seek knowledge about God, then it’s a good thing, because I don’t believe God’s truth can be denied when earnestly sought.

It wasn’t for me.

And if not automatically branding Bell and others like him as heretics (as so many in the blogosphere have) makes me one, too, then I guess I’ll just have to live with the label.

The only one who can make that distinction is God himself.

And that ain’t me.

My albatross

I didn’t understand a thing about addiction when I was a kid. I mean, I had a concept of my mother’s alcoholism, because it was pretty obvious, what with bottles being around, and mom often being incapacitated. I knew a couple of her brothers also had serious drug and alcohol problems, too. I knew, but I didn’t really understand. I saw the symptoms, but I didn’t get what they felt like.

There was this liquor store/market that was around the corner from our house, and it was closer than the 7/11 which was down on the corner of Mission Gorge Rd and Fanita Drive. The man that ran the store was also the slumlord that rented the crappy little duplexes behind the store (which are still there, and still crappy–the landlord is long dead, though), and he did something the 7/11 wouldn’t have even thought about doing–he allowed my mother to run a tab. This was especially convenient, because when my father was not working (masonry had its lulls), she could still get what she needed. Sometimes it was groceries, but more often than not, it was very cheap bottles of wine, and lots of them. There were several occasions when the bottles were chosen over food, and we ended up eating eggs for dinner a few times when my dad was out of town working.

I was generally a pretty good kid, and accepted these circumstances as the way things were. For all I knew, everyone had the same problems. Which wouldn’t have necessarily been bad, but it taught me that food was way more important than it actually was. When you had it, you really needed to pound it down, because you didn’t know if it was going to be there later. Additionally, for as long as I could remember, food was how comfort was given in my house, usually more often than affection.

I can actually remember the first time this ever happened. I was sent to the store I mentioned above with a dollar and some change. I was supposed to get a candy bar or something for my sister and a bottle of coke for myself. I ran all the way there, and about half of the way back. Right as I got to the corner of Prospect and Fanita, I stumbled and fell flat on my face. The candy and bottle of Coke went flying out of my hands. The bottle shattered on a rock, sending out an explosion of soda. I’d scraped both of my palms up, along with one of my knees. I remember running home in tears, clutching my sister’s candy bar. She ended up giving it to me, and I think I even ended up getting another Coke. And it seemed to happen more frequently after that. If I cried, or was hurt, or was rewarded for something I’d done, I would be given something to eat. Usually it was something sweet, or sometimes my sisters would take me out for some fast food. Jack In The Box was, and remains, one of my favorites.

That stuck with me my entire life, and I still struggle with it to this day. Done something good? I deserve a treat. Feel crappy about something? A nice big portion of something will make me feel better. And it did. It does. It also was a good way to numb pain, much like alcohol would be for alcoholics. Although since I’ve been aware of my family’s tendency to addiction, I’ve tried to avoid regular consumption of alcohol. Avoidance worked for a while, but in my mid-twenties, I discovered that alcohol worked even better than food at numbing. I never became a “Leaving Las Vegas” style alcoholic, but there was a time not too long ago that when I did indulge, I binged like a maniac. My buddy and I would go to Padres games, each with a twelve pack of something, and not go into the game until the beer was gone.

I do the same with food. I didn’t exhibit a lot of the behavior that food addicts do, so I convinced myself I wasn’t one for the longest time. I don’t eat in secret. I don’t often eat when I’m not hungry (but when I am hungry, I eat way, way more than I should). Seldom is the meal when I have only one serving of anything. I try not to eat many dessert-type foods, but when I do, it’s usually like I did with the beer at those Padres games. I would often consume a pint of Ben & Jerry’s all in one sitting—all thousand plus calories of it.

My problem, I think, is that I struggle doing anything in moderation–whether it be drinking, or eating, or anything at all, really. My weight, and consequently my health, has been a lifelong problem for me, and sometimes it seems like it always will be. I guess it’s the “once an addict, always an addict” philosophy. But an addict in recovery is of course preferable to one in full bloom. I guess the problem right now is that I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon and broken both my legs.

I have made progress on and off over the years, mostly just from stubbornness and restricting the almighty heck out of my diet. A few years ago, I lost nearly 50 pounds, about 30 of which I’ve put back on. It’s slightly better than it was, of course, but still not where I want to be. I’d like to see if it’s possible to get my blood pressure down enough through diet and exercise that I don’t need to take medication for it anymore. I hate taking those damn pills.

I think my main problem is that I’ve always tried to go it alone, even to the extent of not spending any real time in prayer over my diet, and weight, and health. This is an area I’ve never truly given to God. Confessing weakness is not an easy thing for me. But in this area, I am tremendously weak.
Today, this moment, I can see that my health problems, and weight problems, were brought on not by God, but by me. My problems are because of me, and the consequences of my bad decisions (and not just the dietary problems). I choose to eat food that’s bad for me, in extremely unhealthy portions. I would choose to drink excessively (when I did drink), occasionally to the point of making myself sick. I choose to not exercise enough. A lifetime of this has left me with the very high blood pressure I mentioned a minute ago, which nearly killed me before I saw a doctor for it. Now, I have the pleasure of taking two different medications every day. I’ll probably have to do this for the rest of my life, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.

What am I getting at? I just wanted to lay the groundwork for where I am. But I also realize that changing my life is not something I’ll be able to do easily, or by myself. I need to involve God, and seek the accountability of others like myself, and people who have been through what I am only just beginning. To that end, I was briefly involved with a program called “Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.” Very similar to AA, but different from Overeaters Anonymous, mostly in its methods. FA’s path to health and weight loss is very strict, to start, and involves abstinence from all flour and sugar. You eat three weighed and measured meals with nothing in between. It was tough, and I think I did it for a month or two. It worked, but at the time the discipline became far more than I was willing to deal with, as it required me to attend AA meetings besides the once a week FA meeting. I was not down with that, and I crapped out pretty early on.

From what I can tell from the website, OA mainly consists of accountability, and planned menus, without the extremely strict nature of FA. We’ll see, I guess. I found one that meets in Yuma, and I was thinking about checking it out, and seeing if my wife would go with me.

So short term, what I’d like to do now is to attend an OA meeting and see what that’s like, and if I am more suited to its disciplines. In that regard, to those of you who pray, please pray that I am able to maintain the discipline I need to get healthy, whether or not I take part in a program.
The truth is, I’m tired of feeling bad, and tired of not being healthier. I know what I need to do, but in trying to do it on my own, I’ve failed miserably. And of late, I’ve felt myself sinking back into old thought patterns, and sin patters, I suppose. The way I’ve been treating myself feels like sin, and I’m tired of feeling all crudded up again. I guess talking about it like this is the first step. One of the guys in my small group mentioned being available to talk about this stuff, and I may take him up on it. But the very first thing I need to do, is give all of the stuff I’m feeling to God, and trust him to be in control. I think of that quote from Romeo & Juliet. “he that hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail.”

So please pray–whatever God puts on your heart to ask for on my behalf. And while I feel like I’m at peace about whatever happens with the work thing, it has been the source of a fair amount of stress lately, and more than a few large meals over the past week. In that regard, I have a meeting with the accident review board today at 3:20, and I will be very glad to get it over with and find out what my fate at work ultimately is. I’ve been on suspension since last Friday, and it’s the first time in my life I’ve felt like a discipline case. Though I suppose it’s probably standard operating procedure when you utterly destroy a government vehicle, and almost destroy yourself along with it.

25

I started reading Psalms again this morning.  I had just been skipping around lately, not really sure where to begin, not having felt connected or moved by scripture in some time.  I’m not exactly sure how that happened, but I just seemed to have lost it a couple weeks ago, and have been reading maybe 2 sentences from half the books in the New Testament before moving on to something else.  Prayer time has not gone well, either.  And to add to that, I’ve been struggling with a lot of old…”dark thoughts,” I believe they’re called.

So this morning, I just flipped through my Bible to psalms, and it opened at Psalm 23.  I read that first, and then 24.  Then I got to Psalm 25, and read no further.  I read it, and read it again.  For your convenience:

Psalm 25

Of David.

 1[a] To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

 2 in you I trust, O my God.
       Do not let me be put to shame,
       nor let my enemies triumph over me.

 3 No one whose hope is in you
       will ever be put to shame,
       but they will be put to shame
       who are treacherous without excuse.

 4 Show me your ways, O LORD,      (should have been
       teach me your paths;                    praying this all along)

 5 guide me in your truth and teach me,  (ibid!)
       for you are God my Savior,
       and my hope is in you all day long.

 6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
       for they are from of old.

 7 Remember not the sins of my youth              (how easily I forget God does this)
       and my rebellious ways;
       according to your love remember me,
       for you are good, O LORD.

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
       therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  

 9 He guides the humble in what is right
       and teaches them his way.

 10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
       for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

 11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
       forgive my iniquity, though it is great.    (most important of all, to me)

 12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
       He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

 13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
       and his descendants will inherit the land.

 14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
       he makes his covenant known to them.

 15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
       for only he will release my feet from the snare.

 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
       for I am lonely and afflicted.

 17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
       free me from my anguish.

 18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
       and take away all my sins.

 19 See how my enemies have increased
       and how fiercely they hate me!

 20 Guard my life and rescue me;
       let me not be put to shame,
       for I take refuge in you.

 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
       because my hope is in you.

 22 Redeem Israel, O God,
       from all their troubles!

 

So, for what it’s worth, I heartily recommend Psalms, when you’re struggling with freaking anything.  Especially with prayer.  If you don’t know what to pray, or how to pray, that’s Psalms, man.  They’re meant to be prayed. Sung. Shouted, even….

hopefully, this morning is the beginning of something really good….I’m tired of struggling.  Not that struggling is going to end anytime soon.  I could use a bit of rest, though.  But even if I don’t get it, God is still good to me.  I guess the better thing to pray for would be to get through whatever I’m struggling with.  Not have it taken away.  Then I wouldn’t learn anything….