Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ronald Lee is 30!!

It must've been somewhere in the summer after my Senior year of High School when, just like a few years earlier when number six came along, Dad called us in for an announcement: “Your Mother and I are going to be adding another baby to the family. Sometime next Spring number seven will arrive!” And did he ever arrive! On this day those 30 years ago, Ronald Lee Huff joined our family and we've never been the same – a good thing!!

Unfortunately for me I was off to college when he was born but I still remember Mom flying to South Florida from Kansas with an 8-week old boy so she and he could be with me and my older sister for a week or so. It was some kinda hot and the little brother made some kinda noise, but it was all good!

A few years later I was home for a year and was around for Ronnie's birthday-suit trek through the neighborhood and his attempt to climb on the roof at age 3. I still remember how determined he was to get up there and help us on that hot, steep roof. One time he climbed a radio tower up to the eave of the roof. Mom was the only one home with him and had to climb up and retrieve him herself! Even though I was not home a lot during those years, I always remember how huggable and lovable he was as a boy, a lot of fun for the family and all who knew him.

As he grew into elementary school it slowly became just he and older brother Robb at home with Mom and Dad because the rest of us were gone with our own families or college or work. Robb and Ron were close buddies. Then when Ron was nine we all suffered the loss of Dad. After 20 years it still hits you in the gut, and perhaps Ronnie most of all. I still remember Ronnie – nine years old, trying to take it all in, resting in the strengthening presence of family. After the graveside gun salute he was gathering the spent brass cartridges out of the grass. He held out his hand to show me 9 cartridges: “I saved nine of these for the nine years I had with Dad.” This was Ron – thoughtful, tender, missing the biggest man in his life, and knowing enough to always remember.

In the years to come and up through High School we always loved it when he and Robb could visit our home with Mom. He always had a ready smile and laugh, and we loved him so much. Couldn't help ourselves. I remember once after our first son was born and Ronnie was visiting. He went out to ride around with me and he was old enough by then to help me some. He was only eleven so I should have known better, but I found myself pushing him, insisting that he 'get busy'. I didn't let up very well either, mean ol' big brother that I was! And then I noticed that he was just quiet and thoughtful – not doing much. “What are you thinking?” I asked. He took a moment before he replied.  “Life isn't just all work you know," he said. "Just 'cause I want to be out here with you doesn't mean I'm wanting to work all the time.” It was late, cold and he was right -- "wanting to be with me".  There's a life lesson in that.  Maybe a 30-year old guy could think of something more fun to do with his eleven-year old brother than work and more work. Ya think?

And so along the way we have had a great deal of fun. I wish I could remember some of the jokes. They were often nearly unspoken. One time in particular we were in Indiana for Thanksgiving, enjoying a domino game around the table. He would've been about fifteen I guess and we had discovered a very kindred spirit, meeting somewhere in the exquisite world of “Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes.” The worst of it was that we could seldom make our remarks without busting into uncontrollable laughter. Before one of us could finish some wise-crack, the other knew where it was going and we would lose it. The rest of the table had no idea how whatever-it-was could be so belly-laugh funny. Maybe we didn't either – it just was, and this is a special connection we have always enjoyed.

Another connection is this sort of crazy love of big-word-talk, for lack of a better description. It goes something like this: Instead of asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?”, Ron might proffer the following: 

     “Should inquisitions propose grammar leading to quest of determining poultry motive in situations  where horseless carriage ambulations must be transversed by said poultry, such determinations shall be disallowed from being sought via annoying query signs beside said routes of transversing.” 

Perfectly clear, right?

My favorite expression of his was when he referred to people as “sentient beings.” It was LOL funny -- after I looked it up to know what it meant.  Soon I shamelessly stole it for my own retorts. Of course mystified onlookers wonder what marbles we have left, but we don't mind. We might even describe said state for you if you like!

So there has been a lot of fun, and some hard times along the way as well. I remember when Ron decided to join the Army. I had the very poignant privilege of taking him to the airport for his departing flight to boot camp. The memory of that trip and his departure is surreal. I wish I could go there again, hug him again and shake his hand, feel the mix of pride and challenge and knowing life can never be the same again. We drove some 60 miles and made small talk. My kid brother had grown up and was going to do something none of us had done. And it was a life step I will never forget.

I am so proud of Ron for joining and serving in the Army. He has been less than enamored with his memories and experiences, not uncommon I am sure. But the love we all feel for him, and the pride and appreciation for his service and sacrifice will always be real in our hearts.

In the last ten years there were times when Ron lived within a few hours drive and 2 or 3 times I was able to meet him for his birthday. Once we met at this cool sub place in Cincinnati. Another time he took me to a new-to-me Mexican place that served huge portions. It was always so very good to get together with him, talk about old times, new times, good times, life. Like always he was funny, thoughtful, articulate. Good times.

Now he is 30 and I can't believe it, but I get to take a few minutes and say something real, something I mean, something like this straight to my much-loved kid brother: “Hey man, I miss you. Wish Kansas and Virginia were not far separated by, you know, roads and mountains and miles and stuff. You OK? Working hard I'm sure – that makes me happy and proud. I love the memories, Ron, and the blessing of a brother like you. I'm thankful for the now and all we can know and love. I believe in a better Tomorrow but am very thankful for all the todays. Let's stay in touch better – ok?  

"That's all for now except to say again, Happy Big 3-0.  I hope you have many, many more and that I get to celebrate some of them with you.  This thousand miles away stuff just doesn't cut it.  Oh and I almost forgot -- I love you, Bro.”


 


Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Big Hat...no cattle"

There comes a final day for all of us, an ultimate reckoning.  On that day we may rejoice or tremble in the hat we wear.  On that day I want cattle.

"Big Hat...no cattle."

I heard this expression on the radio the other day, apparently common in Texas. It speaks to the human condition.

I remembered a tragedy from Olathe, Kansas nearly 32 years ago today.  Mark Manglesdorf, student leader at nearby Mid-America Nazarene College, murdered his lover's husband.  The case went cold for 20 years and then in 2005 or so he was finally convicted and now sits in prison.  He had been the big man on campus.  After graduation he went on to Harvard and became a high level business executive, married with family, respected by those who knew him. He lived all those years with a damning secret in his heart, the guilt of murder.

Big Hat, no cattle. It speaks to the human condition. We know in our bones that we're made for something great, that we are stamped with the very image of God, that we were Created. This speaks to purpose, to meaning, to significance, and yes, to good, loving behavior. This is our Big Hat...and our cattle. We know we have substance, that we matter, that we are born for a reason. We know we have cattle. So we don the Big Hat. But, alas, the cattle die or run away. We find we cannot really own them. We find we are not what we are supposed to be.

This is sin, the tempter bruising the heal of the Deliverer, tricking Adam and Eve. This is Adam betraying his Maker, Cain killing his brother. This is 'no cattle'.

But we keep the Big Hat.

Yes, indeed, the Hat is fake if the cattle are not there. But we want the Hat more than the cattle. We want to look good even when we are not. We act in ways our heart betrays. Big Hat...no cattle.

This is the human condition and if Jesus does not have an answer for it, then He is a fake. I believe He is real, that He is who He claimed to be, and that He has an answer. So I'm going to leave off musing, read the Gospels, and find some answers.

Why does this matter?  There comes a final day for all of us, an ultimate reckoning. On that day we may rejoice or tremble in the hat we wear. 

On that day I want cattle.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Wisdom Speaks in Proverbs 1

                 

      Wisdom Speaks in Proverbs 1

“I want to be wise.”

The comment could be hubris, a self-serving, puffed-up attitude. It certainly is a high goal.  To want to be wise is a first step to being wise. And so it must be a constant prayer: asking, asking God for wisdom.

I considered this as I read Proverbs 1 this morning. Wisdom is personified here with various expressions:
  • Listen to your parents.
  • Do not follow sinners.
  • I, Wisdom, am calling aloud to you. How long will you ignore me?
  • You will suffer the consequences of ignoring me. I will laugh at you when that happens.
    I will ignore your calls for help when the wheels fall off.
  • Whoever listens will be secure.
Wow, this is strong, especially the 'laughing at your destruction' part. A personified wisdom will eventually mock those who ignore her. It is the way of life, it is the law of the harvest, it is the vengeance of truth when spurned. Wisdom says, “Because you disdained my counsel and would have none of my rebuke I will also laugh at your calamity.”  But it does not have to be so.

What is the thread here? It begins with that most basic of reminders, codified in that Law of laws, the first 'commandment with promise': “Honor your Father and Mother,” or as Wisdom puts it, “Hear the instruction of your father and do not forsake the law of your mother.” It is not hard to see that calamity comes if we ignore this command.

Consider the family strength that is engendered when this law is followed. Parents who follow this command will humbly seek to honor their own parents, and by extension, honor the elderly among them. This honor or respect is intrinsically wise and enables one to actually hear those older and wiser. And if we honor our parents and elders we will practice what we hear from them.

It follows that we will be better parents to our own children. We will strive to live in a way that deserves honor, that would give light and guidance to a child who honors us. And we will teach that child to honor her parents – us! That puts us on our knees, which, in the wise words of my own mother, “is the best place to raise children.”

And so we have Wisdom calling out in Proverbs 1 “Listen to you parents.” That is a foundation of wisdom.

How does this apply for those of us raising our own families? Perhaps our own parents have passed on. Furthermore, it is sadly common in life to have disconnect or resentments, waywardness, unresolved pain. Sometimes parents were abusive or absent. Honor your parents? Huh?

But the call rings out and it applies to all of us. I am blessed with wonderful parents. And while my Dad is gone now, I can still hear his advice. I was headstrong as a young man, thought I was listening, sometimes was, but eventually settled into a quiet, pained, sort of backward resistance. I loved my Dad but I wasn't listening very well – at all.

That changed as God worked on my heart and especially as I had children of my own! And although my Dad has been gone for over 20 years now I know there is wisdom in the frequent question, “How would Dad have handled this? How did he face this very obstacle I face today? What motivated him – what mattered most?” As I ask these questions I see with opening eyes the truth that Wisdom speaks. As I honor my Dad I am able to really hear what he had to say.  The lessons of his life and words are not lost. And as I honor my Dad and Mom, even now when I am 'older', I find I have insight for the task of parenting.  As a happy byproduct, our sons find it easier to honor us and hear what we have to say. That's a law of the harvest as well, and cause for a happier kind of laughing!

Lord, you are the Maker, the Father of us all. You are the Maker of families. We see all the pain and discord in our world – the troubles we have because we do not heed your call to listen to our parents. We've made an enormous mess that will bring calamity on a wide scale because we ignore the truth that parents are to be honored. And so today we pray with the prophet Malachi ringing in our ears, “Lord turn the hearts of children to their fathers, and the hearts of fathers to their children.”


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kpxIY1fSY-Q/UcAbd0Svk9I/AAAAAAAAEdU/IsUqM6FZ_DY/s1600/honor.jpg



Sunday, December 15, 2013

On Writing and Making a Difference


“I want to be a writer” – variations of such a thought spring from my heart from time to time. What does that mean? There are millions of people that aspire to that. Most of us are like the late Paul Rees who echoed the sentiment of millions when asked if he liked to write: “I like to have written,” he replied. And so it is. We 'want to be a writer' but the first obstacle is the matter of will and competing desires, the orders and rhythms of life precluding what we would like to do if the obstacles were not there.

And the obstacles are certainly real. Family and work commitments cannot be avoided, nor should they be.

But there are ways of life that work against steady output and here we easily fall short. I want to be all in or not at all. The steady plodding that deals with myriad interruptions across months and years – that approach is so hard. Perseverance is required and that commodity is not easily employed.

But other things are required of course. It helps to have something to say. And love matters so much. Not writing about love, but loving to write and loving what you write. This passion energizes the page.

Discipline, that ugly word of order and boundaries and rigor, is essential to a writer. It means schedule and research and just plain ol' sticking with it when inspiration has left the building, which is most days. As my beloved former pastor once reminded me: “Inspiration is 90% perspiration, you know!”

A writer needs time to work the craft, time for reflection and thoughtfulness, time to let ideas be born and start to grow within, time to sit down with pen or keyboard and conform the thoughts into words and sentences.

And then there is that one final requirement: readers.  Readers might pay the bills, of course, and the desire to be published is natural to any writer. And yet I am thinking that the joy of writing is almost its own reward, the most important reader being the author. Can any reader appreciate the finished work as well as the author?  It would seem true that many and varied readers may appreciate it even better and in different ways than the author.

Some of this came to mind as I watched portions of Lord of the Rings tonight. Tolkien labored enormously for years, finally publishing. And then it was several decades before his books became movies that captured hundreds of millions of viewers. He never saw the wild success of his work but he labored on anyway for the love of the endeavor and the amazing, deep-as-life story he was telling.

It occurred to me that he might turn out like a Homer or Augustine, Hobbits and halflings and Mordor part of collective understanding in the year A.D. 4,550. It's a lesson that goes forever far beyond 'wanting to be a writer'. We all yearn to be creative in the way intended by our Maker. It is one of the ways we live out His image in us. And we long for long-term influence.

Which reminds me – most of us will not have large long-term influence with our creative work, at least not in the fine arts. We lack the talent and other necessaries. But we can accomplish long-term influence in the way we do our work, whatever it is. As the amazing Michael Kelly Blanchard says in his song Daniel Downs, “It's not what, but how.” The song is about Danny, a downs-syndrome child from another song who has now grown up. He bags groceries part-time and knows in his bones that it matters most how he does his work.

Does he do it well – his best? And most importantly, how does he treat the people involved? Are they inconvenient, or do they really matter.  Daniel – and all of us – will make our mark most effectively by treating people with love and concern for their well-being. That makes the most long-term impact, impact that outlasts our lives.

So writing is well and good as we keep all of this in mind. It helps us explore life and work and meaning, and it helps us attempt to share such exploration with others in a way that will provoke them -- and us -- to thoughtfulness and meaningful action.  That's my two cents for today.  Modest as it is, I can toss it out and believe it makes an impact for someone somewhere, not just me!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

The good is God Himself and our only right response is to diligently seek Him and believe that He rewards.

I laughed as I sat down for a rare foray into writing and said to myself, "I don't have anything to say, but I'll say it anyway."  My lovely gift-from-the-Lord wife, Jane, has the true and husband-saving virtue of knowing that if she has nothing to say she leaves it that way.  Since she is not here to distract me at the moment, and since a holiday calls for a few moments of reflection, I will press on, praying that in 'having nothing to say' I will stumble into something helpful and inspiring, if only to me. :)

But all this does bring to mind the prophetic comment from Chesterton:  "We hear all about us that we do not need morals and religion, but education.  Which is to say, 'I do not know what the good is but let us give more of it to our children.'"  And it merges with some wonderful reading I enjoyed this morning from the late Dallas Willard in the early pages of his book The Divine Conspiracy.  Willard's book calls us to join knowledge with life, 'ought' with practice, an embracing of the idea that the life of God as expressed in Christ actually informs and implies response in every aspect of our life today.

At the same time I grapple with a difficult life issue and when I try to pray about it nothing 'comes' -- the 'heavens are brass', as they say.  What does this mean?  Does God Himself have nothing to say?  Do I just press on, going to lesser things than prayer -- like writing -- in an effort to distract, or perhaps discover?  It is indeed true that the original meaning of 'essay' has to do with discovering, meandering in thought with the goal of finding some clues for difficult problems.

So there is the problem of the good: what is it?  And the problem of knowledge:  I do not know what to do! Is prayer the correct response?  Surely it is for only in the life of God Himself are we able to know and do with wisdom, grace, truth, beauty and joy.  How to stay in that place, seeking, asking, hearing? Requires time, and confidence.  Requires action as well.  Requires rest.

What is rest?!  "I have nothing to say, but I'll say it anyway."  "We don't know the good but we'll give more of it to our children."  This is an amazing confluence of understanding for me.  Life is not absurd, devoid of meaning or order.  But neither is it easy, quickly understood -- that's a mouthful!  The good is God Himself and our only right response is to diligently seek Him and believe that He rewards.  In resting we find and, ironically, do.  And we show the way to those who rely on our example. 

But resting requires such rigorous discipline, such quiet, such healthy self-denial, such listening. 

Thanksgiving?  This is that great day and for anyone reading this far you know the title is not directly reflected in the words.  It is a musing -- no more -- of gratitude, desire for God, happy confidence in His goodness, yearning for effectiveness in mutually sharing His life with my loved ones and others on the path of life.  And while we all need and must have guidance for the various paths of life, our ultimate hope is in continuing to build our lives upon the rock of Jesus Himself, whose life and words are real and life-giving for wherever we find ourselves.

Nothing to say, but I said it anyway. :)  With love and immense gratitude for my wife and children, my extended family, and so very many who have loved me and blessed my life is countless ways.  If you're reading this, you know who you are!  If you're not reading this....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life According to Phillip

I was grateful and honored to speak for the PCA commencement, 2013.  I wound up speaking about what I have learned from the life and phone calls of my cousin Phillip.  It is written for the ear not the eye but if you have a few minutes skip over the commencement verbiage of the first paragraphs and learn 7 life lessons according to Phillip!

Life According to Phillip

Pastor Dave, Mrs. Dixon, Dr. Burton, honored guests, PCA board members, faculty and staff, parents, family, friends....graduates! What a great day this is – wow!! We are here, you are ready to graduate, and I'm supposed to say a few words and sit down so you can! I understand. I feel deeply honored to share this time with you in this way and have looked forward to it for months. May God be pleased to bless these few words.

This class and I go back two years to when I was blessed to serve as Dean of Students at PCA. This is payback time! They had the audacity to write a song about me – something about Mr. Huff – and there was this little green puff ball, and the song said I was buff (well, I didn't mind that of course – it rhymed with Huff, I know) and then they said something about falling asleep in chapel. Hard to not love you – each of you: Austin, Ben, Daniel, Lorelai, Lorin, Anna, Holly, Bridgit, Amber, Harmony, Sarah, Hailey, and Bailey. Maybe I should write a song about you – not sure how I'd get all those names to rhyme! Along with all those in this room today, I honor your achievement and pray God's richest blessing on your life.
 
I have been blessed in life with a large family – both of my folks had 7 siblings and there were 7 kids in our family and then I married Jane and she has 11 siblings – family was everywhere! And there were a lot of cousins. One of those cousins was Phillip. Phillip is a special man. He lives alone in Texas not far from his sister and parents. One of my earliest memories of Phillip is when we were about 6 years old and he had found this long pipe and he was chasing me around with it. I realize now that was his way of saying “I love you!” Go figure! Phillip is a large man as you can see in this picture. When we used to play football we would say, “OK Phillip, you be the line.” He is 5' 9” and about 180........plus a few!
 
Phillip calls me everyday. Sometimes several times. No I do not always pick up.  Phillip is a man of few words – usually – and many phone conversations only run 2 minutes, after which he often abruptly says “bye” and hangs up. But across these several years I have learned some things. If you have someone like Phillip in your life you know what I mean – he has some special insight into what matters and he is a real blessing. I want to share some of that with you today – I call this “Life according to Phillip.”

Lesson One: Limits (calling)

Phillip knows his limits, which enables him to know his calling. Phillip will not be an aerobics instructor or a zip-line demonstrator or a skydiver. Instead he finds his daily calling within the gifts and abilities he has.

I know, we usually don't say this – instead we say, “The sky is the limit, you can do anything you set your mind to do.” I get that, but really? Maybe. But it seems far wiser to know yourself and follow a path that is within the limits – and gifts – of who you are. The standard answer is to find the place where your gifts and passions meet. True enough but if you leave God and loved ones out of the equation you are doomed to fail. Each of you have gifts that will be a great blessing to the world. Know your limits – don't try to be someone you are not supposed to be. Discover your calling and live it with a passion!

Lesson #2: Phillip cares about people

Did I mention he calls often. I am putting this phone on the podium here just for fun to see if he calls during this address. When we talked earlier today, you know how he finished? Very simple – and wonderful: “I love you.” Phillip knows that people matter. The things that matter are not things – Phillip knows the truth of that saying in his bones. But this means suffering. Loving people has rewards built in but it also has pain and frustration. Phillip has time on his hands but he has to put up with me not answering. And he still calls and leaves messages. The greatest gift you have to give is yourself, made in the image of God. Give yourself away in love for people and your life will be a thing of beauty and blessing. It takes time and self-giving but as Jesus said, giving brings blessing.

And Phillip is tender in his spirit. Over twenty years ago he visited in our home and accidentally broke the glass cover on our stereo. Now and then he still mentions it: “Sorry about that glass I broke that one time.” And often he will say, “Sorry you don't have your Dad here to be with you [I lost my Dad 20 years ago] – I know it must be hard living without a Dad.”

Phillip knows what matters – he cares about knowing and loving people.

Lesson #3: Remember the forgotten ones

When Phillip calls he often prays. And one thing that he often includes is this: “And Lord be with Jane and the boys and all they are doing this Sunday...and the dog.” Yes we should love animals – it is part of honoring God and this amazing world He has made. But I draw from this a larger lesson as well. What Phillip doesn't know is that our dog, Oreo, is a gift from God to us, showing up abused and starving, afraid to come close to me for about 3 months. We nursed Oreo to health and love him like crazy. But we are busy and we too easily neglect him. Often Phillip asks, “Have you walked the dog today?”

The lesson is this: Take time for the neglected, for those starving for affection. Sometimes Oreo wants our attention so much I think his tail will fly off from wagging. You will encounter people every day in your life who are dying inside, hurting, begging for someone to care about them, to just “love me for me” as the song says. It's true. Pain is one of the universal human realities and you are called to give the salve of kindness and attention and a listening ear whenever you can. Know your calling, love people, and especially give attention to those who are starving for love.

Lesson #4: Enjoy and embrace the fun and goofiness in life

Twenty years ago this summer Phillip and I attended a Promise Keepers event in Boulder, CO with our Dad's and my younger brother. On the last day some 25,000 men were making their way across this enormous field to the sack lunch stations. Crazy! How do you manage that many people?! Somewhere in the middle of this huge, moving crowd a man was standing on a scaffold, yelling repeatedly: “Craig Hogie! Craig Hoagie!” For some reason that scene tripped the funny meter in our brain and all these years later, often times when Phillip calls I will answer like this: “Craig Hogie!” I know, I know, you are not blown over by the humor in that. But we are! 

You have your own craziness to laugh about and if you keep your eyes open and live out loud you will always have plenty to laugh about and enjoy. I know that is true because I heard Mr. Bryan's excellent roasting of each of you at the Junior/Senior banquet. You guys are a hoot. My favorite line was about Harmony – “she comes to class late and leaves early just to make it fair.” This is a key part of “living like there's no tomorrow, loving like you are on borrowed time, knowing it is good to be alive!” Learn to enjoy and embrace the fun and goofiness in life.

Lesson #5 Encourage always

Do you know what Phillip says most of the time? “I love you. You are a promise keeper. You are God's master piece. I'm praying for you.” He says it over and over and over – and I never get tired of it. He means it and he stands behind it with prayers and time and love and care. Life will press you down to be sure. This is a fallen world with struggles and challenges all around. Deeply held hopes and dreams will be cruelly crushed and there will be days when you do not want to go on. This is not doom and gloom – it is reality.

Can I tell you something? Other people are feeling the same.

So, look to Jesus, trust Him to pick you up, and encourage those around you. This is a life lesson that always pays and as soon as you step out of yourself and encourage others you will find yourself encouraged. And one more thing – this business about being God's masterpiece. Don't let me hear you saying you are an idiot or some such nonsense. God doesn't make junk – don't go disrespecting God like that. Yes we do dumb things and sin messes up our lives and we need forgiveness and redemption. But when Phillip says to me and I say to you, “You are God's masterpiece” it is the truth: As you surrender your life to Jesus, He is healing a life that was broken, turning night to day, making a great blessing of you. So look up and believe: know God is working and let that faith encourage those around you.

Lesson #6: Forgive always

This is a tough one but Phillip seems to have it down. Many times when I have hurt him in someway I have apologized and before I can finish he butts in by saying, “That's OK” and then changes the subject to remind me to walk the dog or something. Forgiveness or lack of it will be a touchstone of your life, a key arena that will determine much of your success or failure. It starts with knowing you yourself have sinned and desperately need forgiveness. Once you know the sweet honey of forgiveness you can begin to truly forgive others.

Can I speak plainly? You have been hurt, deeply, by various people in your life. This does not mean you are bad – it means you are human. But if you do not release it – that is what forgiveness means, to release – that hurt will own you. I have been bound by pain that I would not let go and it kept me imprisoned for years. Jesus set me free and I continue to learn to forgive because I myself have been so well forgiven.

Consider this:

The first to apologize is the bravest,
 
The first to forgive is the strongest,
 
The first to forget is the happiest.


Forgive always.

Lesson #7: Pray always

Phillip is always praying for me. Often his first words are, “Heavenly Father, bless Randy today and Jane and the boys....” Sometimes when he is done praying he says 'bye' and hangs up. Once as he was praying he got his words tangled and couldn't figure out what he was trying to say so he just said, “O well, Lord – you know what I mean” and went on.

Pray always. The world needs saints. Your neighborhood, your friends, your family need for you to be godly, holy and wholesome, honest and hard-working and reliable and kind and considerate and fun and serious, too. People want that from you – know how I know? Because that's what you want from other people!!

But it doesn't come easy – for this reason I remind you that looking to God, talking to Him and listening to Him is the highest goal of life, the greatest good. To know God is eternal life. Hear the words of Jesus: “The greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Solomon said it this way: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” This is not a slavish fear, a paralyzing dread; it is seeing God for who He is: It is remembering that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Pray always because in prayer you carry on the greatest adventure of life – knowing God! I urge you to live beyond petty ideas and careless thinking about God. I plead with you to read the Bible and good theology at least as much as you watch – what is on TV these days? :) The point is this: the world is dying for lack of people who think deeply and understand life and are walking with God so they can bring His life to their world. YOU do not have to be a great thinker or philosopher – God wants to help you whatever way of life you find your self called to. But you will never live the vibrant life of God in that world unless you diligently and fervently seek Him and leave off careless thinking.

You will not be like the person in Wilbur Rees' poem who said:

I would like to buy $3 worth of God please


Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep

but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk

or a snooze in the sunshine

I don't want enough of God to make me love another race

or pick beats with a migrant.

I want ecstacy, not transformation

I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth
 
I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack


I would like $3 worth of God please.


If you are going to have a life worth living look to God – always. Let Him search your heart and lead you in His good and everlasting way. He rewards those who diligently seek Him and I promise you, I promise you – you will never regret surrendering your life to Him.

Pray always because knowing God is the greatest possible treasure. That is
 
life according to Phillip.



Conclusion

How would you wrap this up? What is the lesson of Phillip? I didn't tell you that 12 years ago Phillip tried to take his life. He had a good job for many years, good basic work in a print shop. But due to some painful mistakes over time they had to let him go. Along with the mix of everything else in life this crushed Phillip and one day I got the call that he was recovering in ICU from an attempted drug overdose. What happened? The pain of sin weighed him down. No doubt he needed limits, encouragement, forgiveness, prayer, joy, and fun. For sure he felt forgotten even though his family loved him dearly. The wound of sin led him to a point where he decided life didn't matter.

Can I tell you – please listen – we are all born with the deep wound of sin – the estrangement from God our Father, made in his image but broken and lost, knowing deep in our soul that we are made for something great but sin has knocked us down. Eventually we act out that pain in sinful deeds that hurt others and we are hurt by others who are equally wounded. But Phillip found the cure – and now his life is one of blessing to me, and many. He is being redeemed in new and fresh ways within the calling he is able to fulfill.

You know this is what your church and family and PCA have been pressing into your life for all of these years, and it is the charge I leave you with today. Life is broken but Jesus came and was broken for you and for me. And because of Him – this is the Gospel! – we can live life according to Phillip. We can know and live our calling, we can love and feel deeply for others, we can have fun and love life, encourage others on the journey, forgive always and walk in communion with God! This is the good life, the right life, the only life – go live it and be a miracle of blessing wherever you go!




Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Missing my Dad...

Nineteen years ago I lost my Dad.  I have spent these years slowly knowing how much he means, how much he loved me, how much I loved him.  If you still have your Dad, appreciate him, love him, spend time with him, tell him how grateful you are.  If you know someone who doesn't have their Dad, see how you may be a blessing to them.

Today I listened to this song by the inimitable Michael Kelly Blanchard and the tears came.  As Michael has it, "I miss you, Pops."  I miss my Dad.  And things are never the same.  Others I can look up to, and do -- but none can take his place, or should.  Others give guidance and wisdom and example, but none like my Dad.  Others give inspiration, but his life and memory give insight and help when I am at a loss.

"Springtime flowers", as the song says, will indeed bloom and renew, but there are times the heart aches and Spring is too far away.  But as Dad would tell me and the song says so well, "You're gonna make it through."  Yes, I will, but I still miss you, Dad.  Thank you for all you gave to me, easily overlooked at the time, but deeply treasured today.  There are no words, except, "I love you."