Saturday, June 28, 2014

Necessary Endings or “What just happened?”

I just spent five days dismantling a 6000 square foot warehouse facility, tearing down shelving units, moving desks, cabinets, tables, computer equipment, etc. It was tedious, physical labor. It was also the culmination of 44 years in the same career.

The last thing I did was sweep the floor. I swept every corner. It was the same job I started with 44 years ago, and as I did it I thought to myself “This is the last time I will ever do this, and I want to end well.”

It was really a very spiritual experience shutting down the building. It gave finality to a huge part of my life that I didn’t feel when I stopped working my regular sales route a couple of months back. There simply was no time to think about things in the rush of transferring accounts, consulting people, and signing papers. But last week there was all kinds of time to reflect while doing the mundane tasks of unscrewing shelves and cutting stuff up.

But it was a necessary ending. The next phase of life was begging for my attention.

There are all kinds of necessary endings. Here are a few I thought of, some of which we may let go of reluctantly.

  • Living at our parents house
  • A bad relationship
  • Our school years
  • A comfortable but dead end job
  • An affair or an addiction
  • An unrealistic dream 
  • The single life

For most of us, we will struggle with some of these necessary endings. It will require embracing loss and allowing ourselves to grieve. It will require us to look beyond the present and to believe that there will be good days ahead. Even death offers the possibility of a perfect future. 

I did not have to end my career -- a job was offered to me when we sold our business. I had to actively make a choice to let go and move on. The decision was bathed in prayer for a long time, mine and many others. But it was essential for other dreams to materialize.  

Jesus had a necessary ending, too. It was not an easy decision. It required unbearable suffering and totally surrendering his will to God. 
Hebrews 9:22 (NLT) In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. 
It was necessary that Jesus end his life so that we could be forgiven. And it was an act of unimaginable love for our sake. 
John 15:13 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Isn't it comforting to know that Jesus calls us His friend?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Importance of Fathers

Father’s Day brings up so many varied emotions in people – respect, love, sadness, anger, fear, longing and often apathy. It is rarely neutral, however. I am always touched when I see the loving connection of fathers and children at church. I think “These kids will have a distinct advantage in life.”

I could roll out all kinds of statistics showing the correlation between those who are in the prison system and fatherlessness. But those are well known to most of us and there is little disagreement. But the impact of fathers goes far beyond simply being physically present or absent in a child’s life. The emotional connection is a huge force in the life of a son or daughter.   

I have seen grown up men break down and cry when talking about their fathers. I have seen gentle men tense up and get uncharacteristically angry when the subject of father came up. I have seen girls weep over the relationship that never quite solidified because their dads did not try to really know them.

But I have also heard many really warm stories about how dads are heroes or role models or protectors. And I am not just talking about bio-dads, but those who have stepped into the role and done a remarkable job.

Interesting facts: 

  • Girls with a good relationship with their father are less likely to be promiscuous. 
  • Kids with a strong father relationship are less likely to get in serious trouble with the law. 
  • Kids with a father to back up their mother are more likely to learn to accept authority. 
  • Kids with a father in the home are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. 
  • Boys with a good father model are more likely to respect and treat women well. 
  • Kids with a strong father connection are more likely to take necessary risks and be more self confident. 
  • Having a positive relationship with a father dramatically shapes our view of God 

This is in no way to dismiss the incredible jobs that many single moms do, but most single moms I know wish they had a strong good man in house to share the load.

I am going to post a link on my Facebook page to my Dropbox with an audio file worth listening to. It is from a recovery series by Daryl Pitts on the View of God. I really recommend that you listen to it – and send me feedback. It is my Father’s Day gift to you.    

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Plugging Up The Leaks

I have a really bad habit of eating while driving. I developed it from years spent driving from office to office during traffic hours. Although things have changed recently in that department, old habits die hard. So on the way to counsel this morning I was driving with one hand and eating a breakfast burrito with the other. Since I had my eyes on the road (aren’t you thankful for that) I didn’t notice the back end of the burrito leaking through 3 layers of napkins. Drip, drip, and drip onto my shirt and jeans. I couldn’t see it and I couldn’t feel it. But Nan could.

That’s kind of a picture of my life, and maybe yours as well. While my attention is focused in one direction, my bad habits are leaking in another, and I’m either totally unaware or cognitively impervious.

What am I leaking?

It could be all kinds of things. It could be my proclivity to be short or critical with my words when I am focused on getting somewhere in a hurry. It could be my tendency to be stingy with money when we are supposed to be celebrating. It could be my need to be heard, trampling on other people’s feelings who want to be included in the conversation. Whatever it might be, others are observing the drips and their effects, but I am not.

Where I make things worse is when I don’t want those drips to be brought to my attention. I was grateful when Nan wanted to help clean my shirt and pants, but there are other areas where I would rather she just ignore the flaws. And sometimes it is wisdom on her part when she lets some of those things go. But the Bible says:    
Proverbs 27:6 The Message (MSG)
The wounds from a lover are worth it;
   kisses from an enemy do you in. 
I like that translation – other versions substitute the word “friend” instead of lover, but those who truly love me will risk telling me the truth, even if it is awkward or risky.

Ask yourself this question:

“Am I correctable?”

Can I hear what I don’t want to hear, even if it is good for me and the relationships that I value, or have I put up barriers to protect a fragile sense of self, or an arrogant persona? That condition will separate me from intimacy with others. I have done that in my marriage and perhaps you have too. When I am yielded to Christ I am much less likely to do that – but oh, how hard that can be when my defenses are up and my habits are entrenched.

Where do you think you might be leaking? Is it because of an oversight due to having your eyes fixed on the wrong things? Can you be gentle but honest with yourself?

By the way, the spots came out of my shirt and pants, albeit reluctantly. There is always hope, and with some perseverance and a little assistance from caring others you can clean up the mess, and plug up the leaks as well.