Monday, June 18, 2007

Setting the World Right

Lately I have been surrounded by tragedy. It seems that each time I pick up the phone, I learn that a friend’s health is failing, that a child has died, or that someone is enduring terrible emotional pain. At times, I feel like my heart will be crushed by the sadness and the burdens that these dear friends are facing. The most difficult part is feeling powerless to “fix” things for them. More importantly, I hate the feeling that the world has gone crazy and I cannot set the world right.

I think that many Christians can empathize with the burden that I feel. There is something within me that desperately wants to set the world right and rid the world of the terrible sadness and pain that fills it. While I know that I cannot solve the world’s problems, I do believe that there are some steps that we can take to ease the suffering of those around us:

1. We must realize that we will never fully comprehend why we suffer. 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 says: “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

2. We are to reach out and serve others. (James 1:27 – visit and take care of orphans and widows; 1 Tim. 5:23 – be generous and ready to share; Isa 40:1 – comfort God’s people). The Bible is filled with verses instructing us to love others, serve others, and comfort others. We can all find ways to serve. Many of us will try to serve and comfort others by going on mission trips this summer. Some people will do things that enable others to serve on a mission trip (giving financial support, praying for those on mission trips, or by keeping kids, like my in-laws, so that we can attend a mission trip). Others will comfort and love others by serving at the homeless shelter, by sending a card or flowers to a friend, or by visiting someone that is sick and/or shut in.

3. We cannot lose hope. Rom 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

4. We can strive to live our lives with enthusiasm and passion. Yesterday, I decided to play on the new slip and slide with Jacob & Maria. When I went down the slip and slide the first time, I was cautious and slow. Jacob wanted to race, and Mike told me that I needed to get a running start because my sliding was “pitiful.” The next time, I took off running and lunged onto the slide on my stomach. I was so enthusiastic that I could not stop, slid off of the slide and across the grass, and stopped when I plowed into Maria and knocked her down. Although this scared Maria, it was clear that Jacob & Maria were thrilled that I was playing with them with passion! They loved receiving my undivided attention and witnessing my enthusiasm. Even though I was surrounded by sadness, I decided to take the time to play yesterday. Yesterday’s time playing in the back yard showed me that I am blessed with life, and I need to live each moment with enthusiasm. As John Piper writes, "God's commitment to be glorified and my deepest longing to be satisfied are not in conflict, but in fact find simultaneous consummation in his display of and my delight in the glory of God."

I hope that each of you will find a way to comfort someone this week, and that you will make an effort to live each moment of this week to the fullest, delighting in the glory of God.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Book Club List 2007

Our next book club meeting will be at 7 pm, July 10 at Panera in Kville. We will discuss 1984 by George Orwell.

The August - December book club meetings will continue to be at 7 pm on the second Tuesday of the month. However, we will be meeting at The Loop in Kernersville. The Loop is in the shopping center with Target. The website is:
The Loop1030 S. Main StreetKernersville, NC 27284Phone: (336) 992-4400

We will discuss the following books:

1. August: Tales from the Bed: A Memoir (Paperback) by Jenifer Estess (Author), Valerie Estess (Author)

2. September: Water for Elephants: A Novel (Paperback) by Sara Gruen (Author)

3. October: Shadow Divers (Paperback) by Robert Kurson (Author)

4. November: The Catcher in the Rye (Paperback) by J.D. Salinger

5. December: The Stolen Child (Paperback) by Keith Donohue

Monday, June 11, 2007

My will

I have been struggling a lot with prayer lately. I know this is unusual for the leader of a prayer ministry, but I have struggled with what I feel is the nature and outcome of prayer. For example, if I pray for someone who is sick to recover, my view of prayer changes dependent on the outcome of the prayer. If the person recovers, I say that this is an “answer to prayer.” If they do not recover, I often tell myself that “it was not God’s will” or “it was not God’s timing” or something of that nature. I am struggling even more with this issue now because I have so many friends and family members that are dealing with incredibly difficult situations (the death of a child, serious health problems, life threatening illness, the sickness of a young child or children, constant pain, etc.) I tell these people that I will pray for them, but when I pray, I do not know what to pray for. I often spend my prayer time making a desperate plea to God to “help them.”

Upon much reflection, I have realized that I do not know how to pray because I do not trust God and the nature of God. When I pray, I often pray for justice and fairness. I pray that children will not go hungry because I think that is unfair. I pray that a loved one will not suffer or be sick because I think it would be best if they were healed. I pray for certain situations because I want to “fix” the problem. I believe in my heart that if God would only do what I ask, there would be some justice and peace. I do not want to pray that God’s will be done because I really want my will to be done. When I pray, I am so focused on the outcome that I believe would be best because I believe that if I were God, I would not let children suffer. If I were God, I would not let parents lose a child. If I were God, I would do things differently.

I am appalled by my pride and arrogance. God has really dealt with me over the past few months, and I am coming to understand that I am not uncomfortable with the nature of prayer, but I am instead uncomfortable with the outcome that I see. In my prayer life, I have failed to realize that I am not God. I am not all knowing. I am not loving, just, kind, and good. I do not know what is best for my own life and my own family, much less what is best for humankind.

If I truly want to know about the nature of prayer and how to pray, Jesus gave the best example before his crucifixion:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)

In this prayer, Jesus asks for what he wants – “take this cup from me”. Yet Jesus has the strength to submit his will to God the Father and states, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”

This model of prayer is simple – ask for what I want, and then ask that God’s will be done. However, living this prayer in my daily prayer life may be the most difficult task I will ever face. God is showing me that I have to learn to give up my desire to control and “fix” things. In doing so, I have to trust God and trust his will.

As I continue on my journey, I will try to live the words – “not my will, but yours be done.”

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Ocean

I love the ocean. I love the immense, unending water. I also love the fact that the ocean is constant and unchanging – the sound of the waves and the smells of the ocean never seem to change. I think that the deep, mysterious dangers of the ocean also add to the allure of the ocean.

Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to observe a tidal pool. I was absolutely fascinated by the tidal pool because I felt that I was able to glimpse the underwater mysteries of the ocean. As I stared into the tidal pool, I was fascinated to see that the tidal pool exactly mirrored what I might see on the ocean floor or in an aquarium. Plants grew in the pool and numerous fish were swimming around. I especially enjoyed watching the crabs. I was amazed that this small microcosm existed just a few feet from the ocean which had formed it.

I like to imagine what might happen when the tide rolls in. I imagine that when the ocean waters wash over the tidal pool, the crabs have a choice. The crabs can cling to the rock that forms the tidal pool that they call home. This is probably appealing to the crab because the small tidal pool is all that the crab knows – the tidal pool is comfortable. However, if the crab decides to let go of the rock, the crab will be swept away by the currents of the ocean. This is a dangerous proposition. On one hand, the crab will be swept out into the vast unknown of the ocean. On the other hand, if the crab is swept into the ocean, he will be shocked to see that the ocean is filled with an undiscovered world that he could never imagine.

This is the way that I view God. God is like a vast ocean – beautiful, dangerous, immense, and filled with mysteries to be discovered. We are like the crab. We live our lives in our tidal pools, which give us a glimpse of what the ocean may be like. In our lives, we are faced with a choice. When the tide rolls in, we can cling to the rock, safe and secure in our world as we know it. Or we can choose to be swept away by the currents – we can choose to explore the mysteries of God. There are many ways to be swept up in the current – we can choose to ponder the difficult questions, we can step out of our comfort zone and serve someone that we would normally never interact with, we can turn our world upside down and decide to change jobs or move to a new location to better know and serve God. While all of these opportunities are terrifying, they are ultimately more rewarding than we can imagine – because it is through these experiences that we can begin to understand the nature and mysteries of God.

Will you remain in your tidal pool or be swept away with the current?