Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for the Struggle

A few days ago, I had the wonderful blessing of celebrating another year of life. As the years pass, I continue to be astounded at what I have yet to learn and how immature I continue to be in living in a way that truly blesses others and contributes to the work God has called me to do not only as a pastor in particular, but a Christian in general. I find that the more I inspect my soul and consider my thoughts and inclinations, I find a rather selfish person residing there. My true inner and unspoken goals tend to be seeking comfort and minimizing my own pain and suffering. I may not appear to be a hedonist, but I sure do like having a good time, or at least a comfortable one, and find myself secretly desiring to avoid difficulties if at all possible.
But then reality hits! If I don’t find myself in difficulty, there are friends, loved ones, acquaintances and strangers who stumble into one of life’s troubling circumstances. Before long, it becomes apparent that God has a plan for me to place myself in a particular situation in a way that makes a difference, which means, getting dirty, tired and sometimes beat up for the sake of another’s well-being. Somewhere in the midst of the battle for someone else, it seems the Lord brings to mind a time when I myself was hurt, betrayed, disabled, confused, angry, frustrated or totally vulnerable.

He reminds me of the feel of the moment; the challenge, the pain and the sometimes helplessness that caused me to cry out to Him for help in my own anguish. Then He reminds me of how He answered through those who responded to my need – the unexpected call to check up on me. The card with words of comfort. The out of nowhere visit that lasted for hours as I poured out my heart to a listening, understanding and non-judgmental ear. The laser-focused attention and effort from a stranger who had never seen me before my troubled predicament and who would never see me again after their offering of help was complete.

God reminds me that it is my painful and challenging moments of life that should season and mature me to realize that pain and struggle are realities, but realities meant to prepare my heart to reach out to others and offer them the comfort I myself have received. I must be thankful for the struggle for it is in the stuggle that I learn to become less focused on myself and more attentive to God’s purposes and the needs of others. It is in the struggle that I am meant to understand just how much pain hurts and just how important it is to pay attention to the pain of others and to walk with them when the climb is steep, rocky and precarious.

Therefore, on this particular Thanksgiving, I thank God for the struggles of my life: professional, personal, medical, familial, emotional, relational - All of them! I pray that as time continues to march, I may be found growing in maturity, living a life that is less about me and increasing in the focus and drive towards loving and serving God and others. I also pray that these thoughts will cement themselves in my brain and have a lasting impact that will endure beyond the turkey, football games and Black Friday sales! I give all who read this permission to hold me accountable. After all, that’s what friends are for! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to be thankful even for the struggles. Someone else will be thankful that you did! Until next time…


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Candle Lighting Platform

In the United States, the home stretch of an extremely acrimonious and contentious political racing season is upon us. A night’s sleep separates us from the most cherished of all of the rights of a free people: the right to choose their representative leaders. As levers are pulled, ovals are filled, buttons are pushed and in some locations ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, faxes and e-mails are submitted, we will all wait with at least a bit of anxiety as the votes are tallied and leaders for the next terms of service are selected for public office.

Once the numbers are counted, we will eventually know who our leaders are and we will prepare for the amazing process of peacefully honoring the will of the people as the elected ones prepare to take their places at the helms of service to the nation. It is my hope that once the results are known and this process begins, “We the People” will cease the hyperbolic and sometimes outrageous rhetoric characteristic of the past 11 months and begin to apply ourselves anew to the grassroots work of responsible citizenship.

What amazing results might be achieved if we don’t merely ask “what can be done for the country” but actually engaged ourselves in attempting to do something to directly address challenges we see around us? What transformations might be seen in the nation and the communities of which it is comprised if this government “…of the people, by the people, for the people…” was most clearly seen in citizens themselves engaging the problems they encounter everyday with direct, down home involvement that confronts problems that stubbornly escape the notice and reach of hugely burdened bureaucracies and agencies? What might happen if our fervor in reaching out to address the needs we see immediately around us, matched the volume with which we often complain about what’s not being done? Though it’s true that we wouldn’t see Utopia or heaven on earth, it’s equally true that we would certainly witness changed lives and differences made as darkness cursing was widely replaced by candle lighting.

With those thoughts in mind, my fellow US Citizens, go out and vote according to your convictions. Joyfully cast your ballot and exercise the precious right with which we are blessed – a right which has been defended at a cost that has caused no small number of people to sacrifice their own access to the blessings of liberty. Not only this, but once the ballots have been counted and winners begin to emerge, respect the stated will of the people, honoring those who are elected with the honor they are due as office holders. Also, honor your own responsibilities as the citizen of a free country by using your God-given gifts, talents and abilities for the good of the nation and the blessing of others. Use your working hands as much as your running mouths to bring about the change you long to see. We the People have these responsibilities. Let us take hold of them with enthusiasm, humility and persistence that our nation and this miracle that is known as the United States of America might long endure. God bless us all. Until next time…


Saturday, November 3, 2012

They Say It's My Birthday!

Each birthday is an opportunity to reflect and be thankful. As I thank the Lord for the 49 years I have thus far been blessed to experience, I cannot help but think of those who in selflessly serving the nation, their families and communities have not lived to see even half of the life span I have been blessed to enjoy. I cannot help but recall that I have been blessed with goodness beyond my deserving and privileges that have endowed me with opportunities that were unthinkable and unreachable for many of my ancestors. I cannot help but smile when I remember all of the friends who have encouraged and supported me in every circumstance of life and stood by me in times of joy, sorrow, trial and triumph. I cannot help but beam with satisfaction when I think about my Luz, Coco, Maris, Joana and Victoria; my Grandson Jack-Jack and my sons-in-law Mike and Steve who have given me the big and growing family for which I always longed as an only child. I cannot help but rejoice for the Amazing Grace God extended to me in my need and sealing me as His child. My life has certainly been charmed. I don’t know how many years lie ahead for me, but it is my aim to live them in all in service to the Lord and others, as long as He allows my body and mind to carry out the mission He has appointed for me. Thank you all for your love and friendship. May God bless each of us and empower us to live in ways that inspire, encourage and bless all with whom we come in contact! It’s great to be alive! Thank You, Lord, for another birthday! Until next time…