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Choices

1 Dec

Choices

By Ernie Zarra, 2010

They say it’s time to make a choice

‘Tween going right, and what is left

And with each choice, a still small voice

Emerges from the cleft.

 

Choose ye, O soul, which path to take

The marvel of the will

With good the outcome, it to make

‘Tis better than standing still.

What’s In Your Closet?

16 Nov

They we were, in our darkened kitchen, just a few short years ago.  My wife, our daughter, and her visiting friend—surrounded by all sorts of “goodies.”  We were huddled around the kitchen table for an additional and unconventional kind of holiday goodie. 

But first a little background.  A few years back, our daughter was home from college for the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  It was such a great time.  The day was peaceful, the food delicious, and the fellowship fun.  Fun, that is, until someone suggested that I break out the old 16mm film projector.  I winced at the suggestion.  However, I am such a softie when it comes to those kids of ours—and my daughter is no exception.  So, when she began the “please dad,” routine, I gave in and headed for the closet under the stairs.  I hate the closet under the stairs.  That closet has a door for a reason.

When my kids were very young, I made up this story that a spanking machine was hidden in the deep, dark recesses of that closet.  Not sure why I said that, but it seemed to work as a deterrent for awhile.  They stayed out of the closet.  The door stayed closed and everyone was happy.  Happy, that is, until I acquiesced to the heart-tugs of the day in question.

There I stood, like a man about to head off to war—a real dilemma on my hands.  Finally, I decided to tackle the challenge.  As I opened the closet door, I was one sorry man.  How in the world could so much junk be piled in such a small closet?  I live with a group of wonderful people, but let me tell you something.  There is a philosophy that pervades my busy family. The philosophy is this:  “What we can’t see can’t hurt us.”   Sheeesh!  The converse is equally as true.  Things fell down onto my feet and I let out frustrated, “ouch!”  Snickers were heard from the kitchen. 

“Funny,” I yelled.  Snickers turned to cackles.  For a second, I thought I lived with a bun of hens.

Instead of going through the accumulated piles of junk and discarding what is NOT needed, my family loves to just transfer messes to other vacant spaces.  Believe me when I tell you this:  THE CLOSET INTO WHICH I AM STARING IS TOTALLY FULL!

There I was, dealing with someone else’s junk pile just to find the projector. 

“Happy Thanksgiving to you too!”

The deeper I dug into the middle of the pile of papers, furniture, blankets, etc., the more I became frustrated.  I was frustrated now for a little different reason.  I was realizing most of the junk I was tossing about was MINE–ALL MINE!  I could not believe I kept all that stuff.  I was surely glad no one was videotaping my search for the distant past.  But being the man on a mission, I kept my discoveries quiet.  A guy’s got a reputation to uphold, you know.  [Now, I am snickering]

Anyway, let me get to the point.  I did find the projector and the old reels of film in the same box.  I yanked the box from its mooring, which was between two chairs.  I snatched up the box and paraded back into the kitchen like some sort of hero. 

Soon, we would begin the trip down memory lane.  I thought to myself, “this is going to be fun.” 

There is something special about the clicking sounds that accompany the showing of 16mm films, as the projector labors to advance the film frame-by frame.  There is a certain synchronicity that is almost mesmerizing to the listener.  One good thing about silent 16mm films is that running verbal commentary does not at all harm the viewing.  Some people can be so rude to the elderly who just like to reminisce out loud. 

I guess the reasons I am sharing this story are highly personal and somewhat simplistic.  You see, as the projector clicked and clacked, I watched my own life roll before me.  As the images flashed on the screen in faded colors, I began to stare at my wife.  I then extended gazes to my daughter and my son.  Amidst the comments of how skinny and young we were, the baby baths and tricycle rides–and the laughter about our clothes and hair styles–there were so many nonverbal sensitive moments.  I felt a little like a god, watching his creation adore the very objects which I adored, and in which I played a role in making.

As the last film reel neared its end, I was struck anew with the reality that none of us is immutable–yet can love and be loved consistently and unconditionally.  Our lives are but whispers, non-ubiquitous and momentary, yet here we are–STILL!.  Our whispers are slowing and our ubiquity not as prominent.  The years do take their toll.

There is something about the past that provokes a sense of urgency.  For me, that night, the past cut through the present clutter of life and allowed me to resurrect reality in fresh ways.  Definitely, I am little heavier.  For certain I am a lot older, and a little grayer.  Despite these realities, I am a whole lot more appreciative.  I appreciate my wife and my children so much more.  I am struck with a line from Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  Senator Jefferson Smith, speaking via his filibuster in the Senate, stated:  “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these senators didn’t start out life as boys.” 

Some people find skeletons in their closets.  My life is no exception.  It’s just that some of these skeletons are a little younger and a lot more nimble, so as to hide themselves in life’s clutter.  There was no spanking machine at the back of the closet.  There was only a box of memories that gently patted my heart. 

This Thanksgiving will be the first holiday without my father.  He passed away from nasty brain June 6, 2010.  I plan to wear my specially made cremation jewelry, so as to keep him with me as I carve the turkey.  It was my dad’s gentle hand of guidance that showed me how to carve the delicious bird.  I am sure when I get to those special parts of this year’s ancient film festival, where my dad appears, it will bring both old and new emotions to an emotional junction.  But it’s all good.  It’s all purposeful.  It’s all from God.

God’s gift to us is people.  God’s gift to other people are our memories of them—the likes of which can never be kept hidden in a closet. 

What’s in YOUR closet this holiday season?  Care to make some special memories during this year’s holidays?  It might very well be the last ones you will ever make.  Go ahead, I dare you.  Open the door . . .

Life is a part of Death

5 Sep

We all seem to think that when death occurs that life is over.  Let me flip this whole notion on its head.  Do I have your attention yet? 

We all use phrases such as “That’s life,” or “Death is a part of life.”  We even use the phrase “Life’s not fair,” as our bumper-sticker philosophical and theological default. 

These phrases, and others, have small places in our minds and realities, to be sure.  But are they true?  Are they true as long as they “happen” in another person’s life?  Do they become unfair and an invalid statement, losing it’s truth, when something happens in OUR lives? 

I am wondering today, “Where is the truth about death these days?”  Are we avoiding it for the universal reality that us really is?  Or have we just accepted its reality, sort of like the elephant in the room no one wants to address?

Excuse my Political Incorrectness.  It is not vogue to discuss death and dying.  As my mother used to say, “If you talk about it, you might cause it to happen,” and “Stop being so morbid.”  I’d swear she thinks reality hinges on my words and that I somehow have the power to cause mayhem and malady upon the world.  Let’s face it.  People who avoid discussions of death simply do not want to consider the emotional aspects of what we all know will occur to each of us.  Welcome to my blog addressing “This Journey Called Death.”

Our Upbringing.  We all were raised with parents who said things like, “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”  We’ve all teased and told others, “Come here, I’ll kill ya.”  I could go on.  But we don’t seem to have a problem addressing the issue of death when it comes to power play and humor.  The sheer fact is, death is real.  Death is eventual.  Humor and extreme language may help to defray the deeper issue of its reality.  However, none of us make it out of this world alive, in the body as we know it.  Besides, would YOU want this body to make it out into another life?  Talk about torture!

I argue that we are all really good at evaluating the circumstances of others, but get quite blinded when similar circumstances strike close to home.  Un fairness never looks so “unfair,” as when it is delivered unexpectedly to those of us who expected to remain unscathed in this life.  I think one of the reasons for this, quite honestly, is that “living vicariously through others’ experiences is easier than living through our own.”  Because we wouldn’t do to others what life has just done to them, or us, we claim life to be unfair.  I totally understand these emotions.  It feels as if we died while we are still alive!  But where does that leave us? 

That’s Life.  (“Oh, that’s what people say.”  Remember that song?)  What do we mean by this?  Do we elevate life to some deterministic boogey-man, or is the statement a natural admission of our cluelessness about what is going on in our lives?  Moreover, is the phrase an acquiescence to a force that is outside our control?  Do we then relinquish our wills to the “whatever we cannot control” forces of life?  In my mind, the phrase “that’s life” is stated most often toward others, and not ourselves.  It is used as an attempt to ameliorate the impact of life’s stuffus upon others.  We should just say “Relax and accept what took place” in their lives.  The notion that we all face similar experiences sooner or later is a commonality and point of identification for us.  But we’d all like to defer the bad stuff, or hope it avoids us and our loved ones. 

The phrase “That’s life,” is shallow, indeed.  But the truth of the matter is, “Life happens”–another colloquialism used by the masses.  Life happens because life is not under our control. 

Death is a Part of Life.  Nothing is farther from the truth, with respect to life as we know it here on this planet.  Death is the cessation of life, and not incorporated as a part.  If it was a part, as such, it would be occurring in the string of life and be evidenced in one’s daily existence.  Death affects life–ultimately for those of us who experience it, and those who are left behind to grieve. 

Now, instead I like to use the phrase, “dying is a part of life.”  I think this adequately reflects the truth in a decaying world.  This implies that we are aging, getting older and things are literally less alive than they were in months and years past.  Somewhat interesting in all of this is that feelings are not normally affected by this process of decay, but the body certainly is.  Does that not imply that living on as a conscious, aware, and feeling individual is expected–even for those dying?  As the body ages, the “person continues to grow, apart from this process.”  In my mind, this is an evidence of life after death.  It is not the strongest evidence, and certainly not the only evidence.  But advocates of “death is a part of life” ideology–whether knowingly or not–actually provide an argument for “eternal life being a part of earthly dying.” 

Life’s Not Fair.  Define fair.  My experience is that life is fair and that are consequences that occur, along with unintended consequences for most of our actions.  If life is fair because we all get the same size piece of birthday cake, then we must be careful what we wish for.  Life is neither fair nor unfair.  It is not life’s fault that death occurs.  Is it?  Is life not fair because death, disease, and dying are mixed into the equation?  If these were a PART of life, as advocates state, then they ought to be accepted as such. 

If we were all honest, the reason we do NOT accept them is because we know the truth.  Life is of great value.  Death does not diminish life or its value–regardless when death occurs.  Life is a natural right granted by our Creator.  Life at any stage does not have the right to claim “unfair.”  But people do.  Is it fair that a person chooses abortion?  Is it fair that a baby is born with Down-Syndrome?  Who decides “fair?”  If life happens by our choices, and death is a part of life, then “life’s not fair” is to be accepted as well.  But is that the case?

With all the talk of atheism and evolution, there should be no squawking about whatever comes our way.  Yet, when things do happen in this dying world, we blame God.  Sounds a little like the way politicians like to blame predecessors for the current messes.  It is just another way to deflect responsibility for our parts in creating this mess on earth.  We wanted free will.  We got it.  We argues that we can create our own truth, contrary to life.  It is irresponsible to blame God for gracing us with what we deeply cherish. 

Do We Know?  Since none of us knows for certain, by personal experience about the existence of life beyond this physical realm, we really can’t say for sure that life is completely over at death.  In fact, the only reasons we would ever imply that life is over at physical death is (1) we know for certain that nothing exists after death, (2) that life as we know it is the ultimate, (3) life as we know it does not have an eternal aspect, viz. eternal life, etc.

I am not a proponent of universalism.  It is not popular these days to believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell (place of eternal torment).  But may we be reminded that we just didn’t sit around making up these beliefs.  Christians, like myself, are followers.  We place our trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.  So, the beliefs for which we are judged as intolerant come from Him.  Is Jesus intolerant of people choosing to reject Him? 

I find it quite intolerant to judge a follower of Christ as intolerant, for just holding a belief and obeying the command of sharing this belief.  Life does not remove ultimate truth.  But show me a life that removed the ultimate experience of universal death, then I am paying attention. 

Not believing something doesn’t make it less true.  Discarding as intolerant does not remove the fact that Jesus taught something and followers believe it.  Now let me move this provocation along a bit by the following statement.

There is No Such Thing as Universal Afterlife.  We are all NOT on the same path, moving in the same direction.  We all die at different times, so the path is not one.  Is there REALLY anyone who lives as if loving someone deeply as another human is a ticket to ride?  Is there a human love that can override truth?  Are there wrongs that are just wrong to us, but not to God?  Are there “rights” we possess and act upon that are wrong to God?  You know, where all is said and done, death is universal.  Then what?  Do we even care?

Where are we Headed?  Our spiritual GPS is not loaded and focused on the same destination.  One religion has the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Birth, another does not believe in the death of Jesus, but allows for dozens of virgins for eternal pleasure.  Wisdom for the ages is good to live by, but terrible to die by.  The path we take does matter.  Who and What Jesus is does matter.  Do you care?

Again, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I submit my understanding to His exclusive statement.  John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  Either statements like those are lies, deceptions, myth, or sheer ego-mania.  Statements like those are exclusive to Jesus. No other religious leaders, founders of religions, etc., make such claims.  Could it be that this uniqueness is worth listening to, or rejecting?  But if statements like those are true and we reject them, then what?  

Life is a Part of Death.  No one can reject away death by one’s beliefs.  One’s beliefs will be proven true, or not, in the end.  Scientology and Christian Science can “believe away,” or even pay for the privilege of “feeling cleared” of all past baggage.  The stuff is still there and its effects just as certain.  Death happens.  L. Ron Hubbard and Mary Baker Eddy are proof.

As a guy, I am told that I do not stop and ask for directions when I am lost.  But I am atypical then.  I ALWAYS stop and ask for directions.  If I reject the directions and try to find a shortcut, or believe all ways lead to my destination–or that my way is better, then I must accept the consequences.  Today we blame the direction-giver for why we chose to get lost. 

Where is the Hope?  I think we have it quite backwards in society.  We no longer provide hope for people.  We have taken hope and called it tolerance, thereby reducing truth to levels of “truth for you,” and “truth for me”–as long as it is watered down, so as not to cause a stir.  As long as it works for you and me, truth is subjective enough to be elevated to THE truth.  Once that occurs then the argument is made, “all truth is subjective.”  This is pure nonsense, in my thinking.  Just think about applying this principle to a marriage, or to justify a behavior to a boss, or whatever.  Is all truth subjective because YOU say so?  That statement alone seems like an exclusive and objective claim.  How then can ALL truth be subjective by a universal declaration that is objective?  Do you see the way we elevate ideas in our culture?  Here is an example.

“Jesus cannot be the only way to God because there are many ways.”  Pure nonsense!

Faith has its Place.  We place faith and trust all in the here and now, for fear of offending someone else.  Then we get bummed out when life doesn’t pan out like we expected.  In terms of our nation, in reality, minimizing Jesus’s deity equates Him to the rest of religious leaders.  But they have no answers of security for the next life.  Now what? 

Likewise, placing faith in men and elevating all the other religious leaders to the level of Jesus Christ places them in positions which they did not intend as mere humans.  Now what? 

How does either of those attempts help anyone in the long run?  If the words of Christ and His promises are false, all Christians have done is validate that all religions are essentially the same, and that He was truly a mere human.  Christianity then becomes just more religious stuff to do as humans, then we die.  But is that the case?

Non-Exclusivity?  If all religions get us to the same place, then all the “unfair things of life” in the name of religion are honored by some brutally sadistic universal power . . . That doesn’t work.  If it does, then I am heading off to the most selfish of religions and living for myself right now–ATHEISM!

All roads cannot lead to a place that is exclusive.  If they do, there is no exclusivity.  That would be like saying all political beliefs lead to the same political party, or the same political candidate.  Simply makes no logical sense, let along practical sense. 

If practicing a religion is the key, we are all in–assuming a few thing are in line.  

  • How much does one have to practice? 
  • Are we trusting another mere human to keep the tally and tell us? 
  • How much good one must do? 
  • Who or what defines good? 
  • If good is enough, they why would anyone do better? 
  • And what about doing our best? 
  • Is it just pass-fail? 
  • Who defines “bad,” and is there a subtraction factor from the good?

Here is where the ludicrous enters the universalist salvation philosophy.  

  • What if a person does good for a nation, and not the world, does he or she get in? 
  • Who is keeping the tally? 
  • And if a person does one good deed in life, or gives the most money to a cause, is that good enough? 

Universalism does not work, because people were good Nazis for their nation, good terrorists in the name of Allah during Jihad, and good murderers in the name of God throughout history.  Would you like to share an eternal life with these people?  If there is no eternal life, or punishment for anything, what is keeping all of us from destroying each other?  Would others like to share an eternal life with ex-spouses, or abusers?  Based on things done, universalism has no answers. 

Religious practice simply doesn’t cut it.  Religion may be universal in belief, but relationship is not.  If all roads led to the same place, then Christians practicing Buddhism, along with adhering to Jihadist ideology, and Roman Catholicism, etc., etc., along with polygamy are just fine and dandy. 

“Relationship with Whom,” you ask?  With God Himself–not religion.  I did not make this up.  Again, I trust the words of Jesus:  “I came to the world that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  In the final analysis, I am placing my trust in the next world, right here and now in.  But I place it in Someone Who has been there, conquered the very thing we all cannot escape, and Who accepts me as I am. 

Religion enables my conscience to have a one-way relationship with a continuous grasping upwardly set of beliefs and practices.  Jesus Christ secures a relationship downward and validates it by His death and resurrection.  You know, come back from the dead on your own and  You, sir, at least have my attention–if not my soul. 

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

“Eat, drink, and be merry.  For me to live for myself is the ultimate.  There is nothing after this life.  For tomorrow we may die.”

Which one of these gives hope both now and later?  And do you even care?  The choice is yours.  It always is.

Peek-A-Boo

2 Sep

The human soul has been likened to many things and analogized quite beyond reason.  Likewise, its existence has been questioned and its essence explored by means of countless conclusions, notions, beliefs, and behaviors.  Conclusions have been drawn as to whether humans are eternal, spiritual creatures, or not.   Theologians and philosophers the world over have speculated what comprises this “essence” of humans, whether man is bipartite (body and spirit/soul), or tripartite (body, soul, and spirit).  Many still question whether there is one essence in the universe, or separate, unique ones–or whether trees and other parts of creation all join in a cosmic dance.  To this end, there are advocates that maintain animals have souls, adding even further to the conversation. 

Lest the reader think this blog will be an in-depth treatise on the dialectical denominational differences of the soul, or that Calvin, Luther, and various other Reformers are going to weigh-in, you may relax.  That is not the purpose.  Too bad though.  Calvin’s Institutes are resting on the shelf near my desk–so is Luther’s Catechism.  All that aside, to offer a triple alliteration and not follow-up is sermonic teasing at best.  You may smile. 

Regardless your personal view of the soul/spirit, I think we can all agree of a few things.  Let’s see if this is the case.  First, humans are animated creatures and possess emotions, feelings, intuitions, and even humor.  Second, we reason and think (I hope you don’t mind that I placed myself in the category of being human).  Third, we love on levels not even we can put into words.  Fourth, we are good at expressing and we are good at covering up.  The point of this blog is to ask the question “To what extent have we actually taken a look deep inside ourselves? 

Allow me to challenge the reader, as I also challenge myself.  When was the last time we peered deep into who we are as humans?  When did we last dive straight into the painful parts of our past to confront them as adults?  Too painful you say?  Well, we tuck those areas away when we are younger and then bring them out to “feel” them as we did when we were much younger.  The only problem is we are no longer that age.  So, what is it that causes us to keep those areas of our lives hidden–yet filled?  I already stated it might be pain–but a pain unwarranted for the present.  May I suggest another reason?

I think we humans have “holes in our souls.”  I truly believe that rather than confront what has fallen into the vortex of the unknown, we simply place an emotional lid on that area of our souls and rationalize it away and move forward.  Pain does that to us.  So too does emptiness. 

I also believe that in dealing with that “holey-souly” stuff the depths spring to the surface and can then be dealt with.  Would you agree we’ve become accustomed to holding that “soul-plug” firmly in place, avoiding the issues that rise to the surface and be dealt with?  But that is the emotional part of the soul to which I refer.  Counselors deal with folks every day in these areas.  But how about the “spiritual side?” 

I have lived long enough to know myself well enough to understand that I had a “hole in my soul” that only God Himself could fill.  Solomon was right, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Activities, knowledge, work, people, and even ministry could not fill what was needed.  There is no high, no stupor, no pleasure, and no self-motivational pep-talk that would ever last long enough to fill the hole within us.  I truly believe this.  We love to be loved and accepted.  We long to have the “God-sized” hole in our souls filled.  At least, this is my view and my experience.  However, it is either a universal reality, or it is not.  Either there is a hole there or there is not.

I would like to hear what has filled your soul to provide you with the realization of the “way” of life both here and after, the “truth” of life now and later, and what completes your “life” once-and-for-all.  What has been sitting in that “soul-hole” just wanting to see the “Light of the World”?

In closing, I’d like to believe that my soul has been plugged, my spirit exchanged for a new one, and that I am evidencing this just a bit more each day.  Only time will tell whether people judge me as being what I claim, or not.  Suffice to say, it is true that when climbing mountains, it is not how many good steps you take to ascend.  It is the one misstep that causes the fall.  Judge me if you must.  But judge me not by my falls.  Look at the entire “trip”!

Now, where are you in all of this?  I would love to know.  Thanks for the personal mails and comments off-blog.  I enjoy knowing there are people being challenged by my thoughts.  Now, plugging the soul is one thing to consider (even though such language is more intentionally colloquial than biblical), I sure wish I could plug these holes in my head.  The draftiness is annoying.  Duct-tape anyone?

“Whooooshing you all a good evening.”

The Death of Me

2 Sep

Today a little piece of me died.  Please don’t panic.  Like so many of you, and like those of greater repute than I could ever hope to attain, something cool occurred.  Part of me died–a bad part!

Dying is a part of life.  Death, however, is NOT part of life.  It is the grandest of life’s interruptions.  Cessation is not a part.  It is the end.  Buy dying to get to the end is a process.

The process of dying to the things of this world is a good thing, in my opinion.  The person who dies with the most toys does not win–HE IS STILL DEAD! 

The tempations that so easily beset us in our youth, are still there.  But have you noticed, the vigor of their pursuits doesn’t seem to carry the same youthful exuberance, now that we are older (at least for most of us)?  What I find interesting–as well as humorous–are those times when we come across the occasional older adult who has not changed much from his or her youth.  You know what I mean.  Let me explain briefly to recap what the old gray matter might have overwritten.  Remember these?

  1. The temper tantrums of adults who do no get their way.
  2. The profanity-laced tirades over the simplest things.
  3. The bouncing from relationship to relationship.
  4. Abuse of substances.
  5. Making of daily resolutions to change, only to slip back time-and-time again.

I could go on.  But the point is made, I think.  We should be about dying to our old selves–especially those of us who claim to be Christians.  Some of our old nature and detrimental behaviors should be slipped into into irrelevance and placed into long-term, distant memories.  Yet, I am afraid, (like a lot of us) that I entertain those things of my past as if they have present relevance.  But I am happy to report that something died and has been buried into the past, forgiven, and placed where the past belongs!

The “death of me” is truly the death of “self,” a little at a time.  Becoming more like Christ requires, as the Apostle Paul stated, “dying daily to self.”  Hopefully I won’t have too many outbursts today, as I drive in my convertible, shirt open to my navel, gray chest hairs flopping in the breezes . . . I also hope I don’t strangle myself on the gold necklaces around my neck.  But you know what?  Those are not going to sit well with my huge black radar-like sunglasses.  Oh well . . .  White shoes, plaid shirts, and striped pants are in style somewhere (just not together).  LOL

Time to grow up . . . Will there ever be a store called “Toys-Were-Us”?  Oh yeah!  It’s called the car dealership.  🙂

Ciao!

Admirable Qualities

1 Sep

Have you considered just what qualities you possess that are admired by others?  You have them, you do realize.  Make no mistake about it. 

There are times when we all allow life to step in the way of the wonders with which we have been blessed.  Now, by the word “allow,” I mean we choose to allow many of life’s circumstances to crowd out and cloud our strength of character in the eyes of others.  I do understand that there are times when we have absolutely no control over WHAT happens to us.  But we always have tthe choice, even then, with the HOW TO RESPOND to those circumstances.  The latter aside, let’s get to the meat of this brief blog.

The Old Testament Book of Job records that Satan was prowling around and discovered the faithful servant Job.  As the story goes, God directly asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job”?  You bet he did.  I think you might know the rest of the story.  Yet, there might be one thing we could miss in all of this.  The friends Job thought that his best interests at heart, somehow missed the very strengths and admirable qualities that God saw in Job.  They were caught up in circumstantial blame and went negative.  Job’s wife even suggested that he “curse God and die.”  Is this typical of we humans, or what?

Friends and family sometimes miss the depths in us that God sees.  After all, He placed them there in our spirits.  Sometimes, persistence and dedication are qualities that set us apart for that moment, day, or week in life.  We might very well be dedicated to a higher purpose beyond what is visable at the moment.  These very real qualities are those who others might very well admire in us, or not.  Regardless, they are God-given and purposeful for the believer, even if most everyone else misses them along the way.

Honestly, life is funny sometimes.  I can say there are times when I thought I truly knew someone.  Then, it turns out that I am surprised by a deeper quality of character, keen intellectual insight, and broader depth of wisdom than I had ever seen before.  I don’t like it when the realization is the opposite of goodness.  Having said that, the truth is that it is not that others somehow just arrived at these qualities.  The truth is that I had arrived at a place in my life where I could see them.  I might have been like one of Job’s buddies.  Have you ever been in that position?

I admire so many things about my family and friends.  This past year has been a year of wondrous growth, caused by circumstances beyond my control, certainly.  But choosing to grow with the help of others has been such a blessing.  I have also learned that there are truly people who talk a good game, but when it comes time to apply what they talk about, there is little behind the words.  This is one of the problems with online relationships, isn’t it? 

Friends like Job had . . . see ya later!  Been there.  Got the shirt.  Worn it once and now it is used to wipe up oil from the garage floor. 

Here are a few  traits I admire in others. 

  1. Honesty
  2. Unconditional Love
  3. Confident
  4. Persistent
  5. Kind-hearted
  6. Spiritual Insight
  7. Forgiving

These are just a few qualities that touch me deeply.  My friends possess all or some of these–as well as others.  That is why I am humbled to call you “friend.”  I admire you deeply and I learn from you every day. 

May God continue to use you in the lives of others, as He has used you in mine.  May we all be strong enough to tell those who just don’t get it to step aside for a time.  Sooner or later they might even come back around and say, “I ADMIRE YOU.”  But don’t hold your breath.  Purple is not a color that looks good at this time of the year.  🙂

Have a great day!

From Fizzle To Sizzle

30 Aug

Just wanted to give a head’s up to everyone about a brand new class I am teaching at church.  The class is based on a new book I am researching and writing of the same title.  It is called, “From Fizzle To Sizzle:  Recapturing Spiritual Passion in an Age of Apathy.” 

Five Focal Points of the Class Will Include:

  1. Examination of 21st century Christian Character
  2. Relationships in an Age of Permissiveness
  3. Social Networking: Blessings and Pitfalls of Online Friendships
  4. Regaining Spiritual Vibrancy in Our Personal Lives
  5. Practical Ways to Reach Others Who are also Seeking Relevance Today

The main goal of the class is to refocus and rediscover the sizzle that once defined our faith and walk.  

This class is open to adults of any age and will run for 10 weeks, beginning September 12, 2010, at the 9:00 am time slot only.  Hope to see you there.  If not, there is a chance we could upload portions to video streams, just to tease you.  🙂   

http://www.riverlakeschurch.org/

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