Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Grand Canyon and Life Choices

Last year, my spouse and I visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Pictures do not adequately show the grandeur, size, scope and beauty of the canyon.  Another bonus was the night sky:  I saw stars I never see at home due to light pollution.  All this beauty but still a potentially dangerous place when a choice goes wrong.

During our visit, there was a 30 mile per hour wind blowing.  This added a sense of adventure to walking the trails near the lodge but didn't seem to deter people from climbing on rocks, standing on top of rock formations or getting close to the edge.  It seemed as if these individuals did not comprehend their choice might have an effect on other people.  One slip of a foot or one big gust of wind could have sent these adventuresome souls over the rim.  Then rescue people would have to risk their life to retrieve an injured person or worse a body and the person's family would have to deal with either the resulting medical issues or getting the body home for burial.

This is the same with life: we make choices without ever thinking of how a choice will, might, or could affect people around us.  The affair which negatively impacts the children due to gossip at school or the damage to a spouse's self esteem.  The binge drinking that brings sorrow due to the drinker's death or death of others due to driving while intoxicated.  The examples are endless but the common denominator is the actions are self initiated without any thought of the effect on others.

Sometimes, we realize the choice is incorrect but spend a large amount of time and effort justifying our choice: you just don't understand what I'm dealing with, you can understand because you have never experienced what I'm going through.  You may be correct: I don't know what you are dealing with or going through but I can clearly see your choice has potential, detrimental affect on others.

I have an acquaintance who is currently experiencing some upheaval in their life.  They have chosen to dull the pain through natural pharmacology.  I so bad want to "DiNozzo" them.  For those, who don't watch NCIS, a "DiNozzo" is a whack to the back of the head.  This person is of reasonable intelligence and is supposedly a Christian but attempts to justify their behavior.

This person doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that natural pharmacology can negatively impact their health, brain, and/or their family.  They just want to escape the pain they are experiencing.  My question is: do you realize less mature Christians and especially non-Christians are watching you? What does your cavalier attitude say: it's okay to dull the pain when life gets too rough and turn your back on your Christian values?

What would have been the result if Christ had dulled His pain?  Would He have been able to be a witness of God's holiness to the disciples?  Would He have been able to effectively minister to people?  Or would He just have been "that dude with long hair" spouting off platitudes?

I strongly empathize with this person.  I too have wanted to "escape" from life's pain but choose instead to "escape" through prayer and Christian fellowship.  These "drugs" provide benefits unattainable with natural pharmacology.  Fellowship provides a communal experience of support, love, understanding, guidance, and sympathy.  Natural pharmacology is self centered and isolates one from caring, supporting people by creating an opaque barrier preventing an individual from reaching out to others for help.  Also, the pharmacology induced euphoria dulls the senses to the downward spiral occurring.

In a way, this person's choice is like the windy Grand Canyon: one step too close to the edge or one big windy gust will trigger consequences from which it will be very difficult to recover.  In my acquaintance's case, the consequence will be serious damage to their Christian witness and testimony plus their Christian effectiveness will be diminished.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pulling the cloth off the table

Are you familiar with the magic trick of pulling the cloth off the table and nothing moves, breaks or falls off the table?  Great attention getter....if you can pull it off (no pun intended...okay...just a tad).  The trick is similar to juggling.  For the experienced practitioner,  the challenge is how many items can you juggle and/or how many different items can you juggle.  For the less experienced, the challenge is: what can you afford to drop.  I jokingly tell people at work: "I can juggle, the question is do you want the Fostoria Crystal or the Corelle Ware to hit the floor?".

I think we sometime view our Christianity as a juggling act or tablecloth pulling act.  If we don't perform the trick correctly and we break something, we want to yell at the magician who taught us the trick.  I understand the physics and science of juggling and tablecloth pulling but I don't try either trick with breakable objects.  I'm not that skilled.  I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for those who can perform either trick.

Christian life is very much a juggling act: worshiping a magnificent, unbounded God, getting "pulled" off the table by life; slapped in the face by illness, disease, or death; dreams crushed or delayed.  Some might think it offensive to question God about life events such as a father being taken from a daughter; death of a spouse due to an aggressive, terminal illness; a failed crop that was supposed to provide financial benefit.

 I do not have a rock solid, verifiable, concrete answer to why "bad" things happen to Christians other than Christians live in a sinful world.  Yes, I know that might be considered a cheesy, easy out answer.  What I do know, by personal experience, is God is always with you listening to your heart, mind, and voice.  God doesn't take offensive when you question why.  Think about this for a moment: God freely gave His Son to die a horrible, painful death for His creation.  Don't you think God is touched by our illness, suffering, and losing a loved one?

Yes, it is difficult to wake up day after day when your life has been touched by illness, suffering, death, or broken dreams.  Acknowledging who has allowed you to wake up and have another day of life makes getting up possible.  I believe one of the greatest witnesses a Christian has is their response to life's challenges.  Do you get angry and ticked off and then stay that way?  Do you get upset, yell and scream, and then turn to God for guidance, support, and endurance?

There a two women, Mrs. T and Mrs. N, in my church who are, to me, examples of asking God for guidance, support and endurance.  Mrs. T has been in remission from breast cancer for several years but  the cancer has recently returned in her bones.  Mrs. T always seems to have a pleasant spirit even on her "bad" days when the cancer is bothering her.  My thought is: if Mrs. T can get up each day and present a pleasant spirit in spite of the pain and disease, so can I.

The other woman, Mrs. N, has lupus and is in some degree of pain most of the time.  She is also an encouragement when I look at her: she always seems to have a smile on her face or presents a pleasant spirit through her pain.  Mrs. N causes me to view my problems as insignificant compared to daily being in pain.

From listening to their testimony, I know each has a security that God is in control and will take care of them either by providing them the strength to daily participate in life or provide them a painless life with Him.  I'm sure, based on human nature, each has their days when they get discouraged and feel they have been "pulled off the table".  Their pleasant spirit seems to indicate they don't "stay on the floor".  Instead, each asks God for strength to live another day, witness to another person, love their spouse one more day and give a kind word to a stranger.  Last but not least each acknowledges God is in control and is the daily provider of their strength, endurance and life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Attending Weddings and Sharing Your Salvation Experience

I recently attended the wedding of Mr. K and Miss W, a Christian couple committed to witnessing in far away lands and to people encountered on a daily basis.  The wedding was not elaborate but simple and elegant.  For me, attending a wedding has a two fold purpose: show support for the couple and as a reminder of why I wed my lovely bride.

The support aspect is important as a public acknowledgment of the couple's commit to each other and as a non-verbal way of encouraging the couple. Supporting a newlywed couple is similar to supporting a new Christian: the more experienced, married couples need to be available to assist the newlyweds through difficult times and present a witness to the institution of marriage.  New Christians need the same things: encouragement, support, and survival tips.

As with newlyweds, "older" Christians need to disciple new Christians.  This is why sharing your salvation testimony and your Christian life experience is necessary.  Not all people experience life in the same way.  Some "easily" learn life's lessons and others need to stumble over the same rock multiple times.  Honest sharing of your testimony has a two fold purpose: self-encouragement and encouragement of others.  The self-encouragement is a form of saying thank you to God that you didn't have to stumble over the same rock nor go through difficult times.

If you did stumble over the same rock or go through difficult times, you don't know how your words might  encourage others or help them by knowing someone else had trials and problems.  Just knowing someone else is having a difficult time or has had a difficult time can be the difference between giving up or continuing the fight.

I strongly believe one objective of each Christian is to verbally and non-verbally encourage other Christians.  I don't like difficult times but if I can provide a positive, supportive witness of God's goodness and provision to another Christian, then the difficult times had a purpose.  Therefore, do not be hesitant to offer your personal salvation testimony nor your Christian life experience to anyone especially other Christians.