Four years ago, our family faced a significant health crisis which resulted in my wife’s hospitalization. This was a time which rocked our family’s world.
I remember going through all kinds of thoughts and feelings during this time. I wondered how this crisis would impact our family and our marriage. I questioned God – why would he let this happen. I felt loneliness even as family members and friends wrapped their arms around our family. There were times of hopelessness, but there were also moments and days of hope.
I recall praying that Leanne would know my love and commitment for her as she struggled to find wellness, and I prayed that she would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort when everything around her didn’t seem to make sense. (In a way, this was a prayer I needed as well through this time, and I’m thankful for many who were lifting me up during this crazy time.) I had a strong feeling God would work the rest of the healing process out.
There are times in our lives when we will face times of crisis. There will be many times when life doesn’t make sense.
It’s times like this when we need to remember God is simply calling us to find a way to His heart. He is there for us during the peaks and valleys of life. He’s with us in the mundane middle. He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Refuge, and our Redeemer.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
I have no idea what you may be going through. You may be riding high on the good waves of life, or you may be trudging through the muddy trenches. I pray you would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
This song by Phil Collins spoke to me as I contemplated this post. It’s not a “Christian” song in itself, and the theology may not line up exactly, but it reminded me how God wants us to be connected to Him through the ups and downs of life.
I don’t want to be a Pharisee!
In Matthew, Jesus speaks out warning against the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. He calls them hypocrites and snakes. He calls them out for saying one thing but doing another thing. He scolds them for falsely teaching others – for taking the law out of context and missing the point of the law.
We don’t have Pharisees today, but we do have preachers, teachers, and lay people who do the very things for which Jesus accused the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. I don’t want to be like that.
As a father, I find that this is the biggest area where I struggle with this. I want to be the best example for my kids. I want to teach them in words, and I want to lead by my actions. Unfortunately, I don’t always get this right. I fail. I don’t follow through. I lack consistency at times. I tell them to watch what they eat while I grab a bowl of ice cream for myself. I tell them to get a good nights sleep while I burn the candle at both ends.
God, may the thoughts in my heart and mind, the words of my mouth, and my actions please and honor you!
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Are you a hypocrite? Come clean. What action can you take today to end your hypocrisy?
Last week, I was in the Chicago area for implementation training and brainstorming for a new company initiative. I haven’t been out to our home office for a few years and to be honest I wasn’t crazy about leaving my wife and kids for the better part of a week.
The time at the Chicago area office went very well, but the highlight of the trip was my visit with my Grandma Stolpe. Grandma will turn 92 in early April. Recently, her health hasn’t been great. Many in my family wondered if she would make it past the Christmas holidays.
It had been a few years since we last visited in person, so it was real special when I walked through the doors of the nursing home where she lives and I saw her waiting for me to arrive. We ate dinner together in their cafeteria, and we visited for a while back in her room. Though it had been three and a half years since or last face-to-face visit, it seemed like we just saw each other last week.
My Aunt Elaine and Uncle Max stopped by for the last hour of our visit. We talked more and shared details about our families. We also talked about memories and family traditions.
A few times, Grandma mentioned that she was ready for heaven whenever God decided it was time. She expressed hope that it wouldn’t be much longer. It was clear that she was content with the life she had lived and hopeful for the future in heaven.
I will remember a few details about this visit: Grandma’s Bible on her nightstand, her family tree of pictures on the wall above her bed, her thoughts on the economy and politics, and her joy in spending time with me (her oldest grandson).
I don’t know when or if I will see Grandma again on this side of eternity. As we said our goodbyes (which took a while), I hugged Grandma, and I told her I loved her. She reciprocated as only a small 91-year-old women could with a broken arm. She said, “I love you too, Jon. Thank you so much for the visit.”
As I walked to my car, I sniffled a bit. I’m not sure I’ll have that chance again. The visit was great – and the goodbye was perfect whether it was the last or not.
Driving back to my hotel that night, I heard the song “Say What You Need to Say” by John Mayer. The song talks about saying what needs to be said – not regretting holding back – making sure things are right with our loved ones and that we express our love, appreciation, and respect for each other.
I said what I needed to say.
Is everything good between you and your family and friends or is there something you need to say?
We all like to be noticed. We all like to be recognized for doing something good. We like to hear people say, “Good job.” We want the praise of man. I think this is a normal human desire.
The other day, I was reading in Matthew 6 which is part of the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus. In part of this sermon, Jesus talks about how we should give to the needy, how we should pray, and how we should go about fasting. Three times in this passage Christ says, “Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” When we give to the needy, when we pray, and when we fast, we should do these acts so no one knows but God. We want the recognition. We want to hold a press conference when we do these things. But Christ tells us to keep it between God and us. Surely, God’s reward is far greater than any recognition we get from man.
As a blogger this is a huge topic to ponder. I often blog about the activities of my family including the activities related to serving others. I hope that my main motivation in sharing these things is to encourage others to find ways to serve with their families, but I confess that there may be a part of my motivation that wants to hear others say, “Your family is so good. You are a great parent. You and Leanne do such a great job.” These compliments do mean a lot, but my suspicion is that these praises of people pale in comparison to the reward that God promises.
Ultimately, I want to glorify God. Whether it’s giving to the needy, praying, fasting, working, running, blogging, or whatever, I want my thoughts and actions to bring glory to God.
And so I stretch! (In a year of being transformed, transformation of my motives is a great place to start.)
What do you think? Do you struggle with seeking the praise of people? How do you fight this?
As I shared yesterday, my plan is to provide links to the top Stretched posts from 2011 over the next couple of weeks. This provides an excellent opportunity for me to take a small break during the holidays, and it also provides an incredible opportunity for you to catch up on things you may have missed over the past year. I hope you’ll hop on over to the original post, so you can read the entire post and add your comments to the existing comments string.
The 4th most popular Stretched post from 2011 was a post about my daughter and her sacrificial gift. The post is titled Locks of Love. Here’s an excerpt to get you going:
The generous heart of my daughter never ceases to amaze me. As you can see by the pictures, Hannah decided several months ago to grow her hair out, so she could donate to Locks of Love. Locks of Love provides wigs for children who are facing hair loss for various reasons. Hair is a big deal for girls, women, and kids. So when Hannah decided to have her hair cut so someone else could enjoy a head of hair, it was quite a sacrifice – at least in my mind.
To read the rest of this post and to see more pictures of Hannah’s transformation, head on over to the original Locks of Love post.
When and where was the last time you got your haircut?
What was one of your favorite posts this year?
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Where is my treasure?
Where is my heart?
I have lots of interests. I spend my time on lots of things. I work. I read. I blog. I run. I watch television. I eat. I sleep – some.
Do I devote the same amount of time, energy, and attention to the people and the things that mean the most to me? This is the question that stretches me. My God, my wife, and my kids deserve my focus.
This doesn’t mean that I can’t have interests and hobbies. But I must always keep these things in check.
How about you? Do you know where your priorities should be? How do they match up with reality?
(Please add your comment, and remember to come back tomorrow for a great guest post by Jonathan Pearson!)