In college some of us used to joke about the "beautiful people." These were the people who were called up when it was time for the college to shoot some pictures for the new catalogue and other promotional material. The college obviously wanted to put an attractive face on the college, so the attractive faces got called up. I never got called up. Worked too, the college is still open. :D I'm not impugning the character of the so called beautiful people. Most were and are good friends of mine who also happened to be more attractive than me. I wouldn't have put me on the brochure either! :)
I am not a pretty person, and I don't have a "pretty" life. I'm not expressing disatisfaction, just the facts. I have been deeply blessed and I am very thankful for my life and my family. Its just not all pretty and perfect. I have four children. We are working on teaching them to obey, to love God, to contribute and serve. Some days it works better than others. Some days I teach it better than others. Some days I do a poor job. Some days I can be grumpy, or impatient, or lazy. We struggle with clutter. Some people's houses look like museums, ours like the storage room.
You know what else, everyone I know has some issues with not being pretty too. Oh, I have many Christian brothers and sisters who do not share my flaws. They are more consistent in the areas I struggle with. They don't even know what clutter really is. BUT, they have different spots that aren't pretty. Getting to truly know the bunch of Christians who I have grown close to at Bean's Corner, I can say there isn't a real pretty one in the bunch. Everywhere I look there are blemishes, scars, unkempt spots.
That's because we're not there yet. And I celebrate a church that doesn't require people to be pretty. There are some churches where everyone is supposed to look pretty. Since no one can really do it, its all about make up and plastic surgery, to hide the personal flaws and failings that we all have. I've known churches where the big sin is not to have sin, but to let it show.
The problem with this is that you don't deal with sin, or weakness, or simple flaws, you just hide them. I'm glad that I don't have to be pretty. I am honestly working on cleaning and growing and maturing in the areas that need work, but they are there to see. I am who I am. I am not a pretty person with a pretty life. I am a real person with a real life. The only beauty in my life comes from the amazing blessings that Christ, in His mercy, showers on me and my family. The only things worth admiring in my life and my family are the things that God has built as we have learned to follow Him.
Look at Jesus on the cross. It's not pretty. But it is glory!
So, another storm coming, hitting us here in the western foothills later this afternoon. I'm not quite ready. You see, it snowed until late Sunday night, so I didn't go out and clear it yet. Monday morning I woke up still feeling awful, but we had Homeschool Co-op, so I got up and went out and cleared half the driveway so I could get the van out to take the kids and I to Co-op. By the time I got home, I was still feeling miserable and tired so I didn't go out and do the other half. "I'll take care of that later." Between busy, still sick, and just plain old procrastination ("It's too warm/wet to blow right now", "It will be easier later", "Maybe it will just melt"), I still haven't gotten to it, and yes, it's still there! By now it is half melted and icy/crusty and if I don't get rid of it before this afternoon, it's not going to be good.
So, after a marathon meeting from 8-12 today I'm going to be out there with my shovel getting ready for snow.
Metaphor Alert! This is how we often deal with sin in our lives. We take care of it when we feel we have to or when we feel it is getting in our way. But some sin isn't bothering us right now. We know that it needs to be dealt with but it seems like it would be easier to wait and deal with it at a later time. Maybe we're already feeling spiritually weak or tired. There's that nagging thought that if we just leave it there, maybe it will go away on its own. Except it doesn't. As with my hardened flakes out front, it sits there and then when a new storm of life comes along, we are unprepared to deal with it because we haven't dealt with sin. It will actually be harder now. If only we'd dealt with it right away. Waiting now, though, will only make it even harder later.
The beauty of dealing with sin is that Christ forgives. The forgiveness is easy and free. Confession and repentance is often very hard. We need to do the work, though. What sin have you left in the corner of your life's "driveway?" What have you been putting off dealing with that you should allow Christ to clear out today before an unexpected storm of life hits?
Just my thoughts as I watch the weather this morning.
Addiction is pretty normal. I don't mean that it is good, but normal. Most of us are addicted to something. I know I have addictions past and present that have gripped my life. I have especially fought food addictions. We often try to think of addiction only in terms of final-stage addictions that have managed to pretty much destroy someone, but that missed the point that addiction can live in our lives for years without destroying us (completely) [Former mayor gambles $1 billion] and without being obvious, even to us. Everyone knows I like chicken wings, but back 10 years ago or so I was having them for lunch every day and sometimes twice a day. I didn't fall apart if I didn't get them and I didn't go rob stores to support my wing habit, but every chance I got I would eat them and I would allow the chance to have them dictate some decisions. Did it kill me? Well it hasn't yet, but it didn't do my cholesterol any favors.
One aspect of addiction is denial. Again, we think in terms of the strung-out junkie or drunk who slurs, "I can quit anytime I want." but in reality we are often quietly in denial that what we are doing is really a big deal. I just like chicken, I need my coffee, I enjoy playing Angry Birds, its no big deal. The truth contained in these statements make them easy to use to deflect the fact that this things are controlling parts of our lives and shaping our decisions, not always for good. Since the consequences are minor and in small doses, we deny them. I've been really busy this week so I didn't get everything done. I totally ignore/forget the fact that I spent an hour surfing news sites or watching YouTube. I didn't have time to read my Bible today but I did finish 3 rounds of Angry Birds. I'm an addict in denial. Don't worry, everybody's doing it.
That's the next thing we do. Another part of addiction is blame shifting. It isn't our fault, it is the product. They should have warned me. Here's an article about a woman who died after she drank an average of 2.6 gallons of Coke a day (in addition to smoking and skipping meals). The saddest part of that story is that the coroner concluded that she and her family thought it was ok because there was no warning label on the soda. Really!? That rock should have come with a warning label that it was heavy so I would know not to drop it on my toe or throw it at you. I couldn't put the book down, the story should have come with a warning label. At least my jar of peanut butter came with a label warning me that there was peanuts in it! That was a close call!!
There are of course warning labels that make sense. The problem is that in our addiction, we try to shift the blame away from our choices and poor decisions. We allow these things to take a measure of control over our lives because it is easy, because we like it, and because to fight it doesn't seem worth the effort. If the consequences are small or too far away, we can deny them and allow these things to control our lives. Its easier to be dependent on coffee than to get enough sleep, it is easier to rest my brain on the internet or android phone app than to pick up the Word of God.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
The Biblical idea of fasting was to put aside the demands that our flesh makes to focus on God and clear away the "earthly" demands of our bodies. Fasting does not make the statement that food is evil, but it is an effort of putting even this basic drive aside in favor of God. What should you be fasting from? What small, innocuous things have a measure of control over your life, your decisions, your time, your mood, your health? What thing is mastering part of you, probably with your willing cooperation? Maybe you should try a fast. Take a period of time and break the mastery of some things. Take a week and cut out Facebook, or internet videos, or the non-essential apps on your smart phone, or coffee, or chips, or swearing, or...whatever. Examine what denial has crept into your life to help you excuse something that, while not evil, does have at least some small degree of mastery in your life.
I still eat chicken wings and I still have coca-cola. I no longer keep either on hand in this house and I sometimes go weeks between times I have them. While I must be forever vigilant, they no longer are dictating my meals, or my sugar/cholesterol levels. There are days I still reach for the caffeine to get me through and that's one I need to work on.
This is a battle I will forever fight while on earth, but my flesh requires constant supervision because my flesh is an addict!
Dominican Republic Post #3
The picture today is of Debbie from Bean's Corner giving out pictures. Inspired by what she saw someone else doing, she took pictures last year when we visited this batey, not knowing for sure she would be back. Before returning to the DR this year she printed out the pictures just in case. Sure enough, we returned to the same batey for church and were again surrounded by kids, many of the same ones from one year ago. Debbie brought out her pictures and began to give them out to the kids who were in them. This caused great excitement. Many of these kids had not ever had a picture of themselves before.
That is probably a pretty foreign idea to most of us here in America. We are photographed from the moment of birth. Our lives are documented and recorded. Our parents probably have baby books and framed school pictures on the wall. These days we have facebook profiles full of pictures of us and our kids. It is not that this doesn't happen in the DR. Many of my friends who work with us at the hospital have FB profiles and pictures. Out in the batey is a different story. Electricity is not a given. Technology is not the norm. Many of the people, adults and kids, have very little documentation that they even exist. Through the Good Samaritan Hospitals efforts to provide health care, many of these people are for the first time receiving documentation that they live. For these kids, those pictures mean so much! It is something for us to think about in this era of cheap digital photographs and easy pictures. The joy of actually seeing yourself in a picture.
During my trip this time, I was able to sit and talk for quite sometime with my friend Emilio. Emilio is a wonderful Christian brother who is in charge of the arrangments of the teams
that come to work. He lines up translators, transportation, and whatever else we need to be able to do our jobs.He is a father with young adult children, some of whom are now translators for us. He has a strong heart for Christ and for his fellow countrymen. He grew up in a batey himself and that gives him a wonderful perspective on what our ministry means. He told me that while we might not think much of giving a sticker or a pencil to a kid in the batey, that in that kids life it is a big deal that will be remembered. He told me that they will remember that a person from America cared enough to come and to show them love. He recounted how much it means to him to see us come and try to show even a little love to these kids to whom such small expressions mean so much. This deeply humbled me. When he told me this I had just been to a batey that day. I had given out frisbees and animal stickers. They were inexpensive gifts that I myself had not purchased. The stickers were small. It had seemed like a nice thing to do, but no big deal. Here is this man telling me how much that means to them.
King David, when he went to sacrifice to God on land that would eventually house the temple, was offered the land and sacrificial items for free. He refused.
Araunah looked down and saw the king and his officials coming up to him. He threw himself on the ground in front of David and asked, "Your Majesty, why are you here?" David answered, "To buy your threshing place and build an altar for the LORD, in order to stop the epidemic." "Take it, Your Majesty," Araunah said, "and offer to the LORD whatever you wish. Here are these oxen to burn as an offering on the altar; here are their yokes and the threshing boards to use as fuel." Araunah gave it all to the king and said to him, "May the LORD your God accept your offering." But the king answered, "No, I will pay you for it. I will not offer to the LORD my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing." And he bought the threshing place and the oxen for fifty pieces of silver. (2 Samuel 24:20-24)
My trip did not cost nothing, in fact, it was pretty expensive between the trip fee and the medicines I purchased to take. What I gave the kids at the batey cost me nothing and cost someone else little. Yet it had such great value to them. It showed a love. How often do we miss this? How often do we either offer up that which is really no sacrifice or even inconvience to us and then miss how much we can love someone else even with the smallest thing. I pray that God will continue to keep my heart sensitive to value of His sacrifice to me and the heart with which I offer sacrifice to Him. I am so thankful for the chance to experience the real life opportunity to live this.
I will continue with my Dominican Republic series today, but first I need to recognize a milestone. Yesterday Pastor's Window celebrated its 5th birthday. Hard to believe I've been blogging for five years. That first day in 2008 I wasn't sure what this would look like and I hoped that I would keep at it. These days I feel the blog has grown with me and become a good place for me to share about my life and discuss Biblical issues as they relate to our lives today. In these 5 years there was only one month (July 2012) that I didn't get at least one entry in the blog.
When I started the blog I had been senior pastor for just over a year, my youngest child (#3) was 8 months old, we were a six months away from hiring Nate as Associate Pastor, I had never traveled to the Dominican Republic and our average attendance at church was between 100-125. Now my youngest child is almost 8 months, we have two Associate pastors along with Cliff and I, I have been to the DR 5 times and our average attendance at church is between 200-240. What a five years it has been on the blog. Here's looking forward to more posts this year and beyond as long as the Lord allows.