This morning, I was reading Psalm 40, and I was reminded of this song from U2 – one of my all time favorite bands. The song and Psalm seem to fit in so well with my own life, but also with what is going on as I type this post. 8 of 33 Chilean miners have been rescued so far after being locked in a mine a half mile below the earth’s surface for over two months. As I watch the CNN report, I cannot help but be inspired by the faces of the miners as they emerge from the depths of the earth. I also am inspired by the efforts of the rescue team to stay at it for so long to save these miners.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.
14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
“The LORD be exalted!”
17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.
Last night, Leanne and I watched Extraordinary Measures. The movie is about a dad who goes to every thinkable extreme to help his kids in their fight to live with Pompe disease. The movie was very moving and inspiring. I posted on facebook last night that I was so thankful for the scientists, investors, and clinical trial people who make medicines possible. I standby that comment; however, this morning my thoughts on the movie took me a whole different direction.
As a dad and a husband, I kind of get the idea of the movie. I would do anything for my wife and kids. “I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more….” When I thought about this more though (even on the heals of my Helping Hands post), there is a limit to what extreme a human being could go for me. There is still an answer. There is still someone who would go to any (and I mean any) extreme for me and for you. John 3:16 says, “God so loved this world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.” You see, God took extraordinary measures by sending His Son to live his life, die on a cross, and rise again, so that you and I could one day share eternity with Him. Talk about extraordinary.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZV_bMgB-zA]
Over the past several weeks, I have come to realize how important it is to have helping hands in our lives – friends and families who have our backs. When life gets stormy, we need people in our lives who will go to extremes to keep our heads above water. These weeks have reminded me how blessed I am to have these types of people in my life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had friends pray with me. I’ve had friends and family call me to check in. I’ve had friends bring meals over. I’ve had friends and family take care of the kids. I’ve had family and friends pick up a few things at the grocery store at just the right time. I’ve had friends come over to clean up my flooded basement. And these are just a few of the ways that I’ve been supported over the past few weeks. There is no doubt that I am blessed with an amazing support structure.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few weeks. The sad thing is that there are many people out there who do not have any kind of support structure to help them weather the storms of life. They must feel like someone lost at sea without hope or help.
– How and why do people become so isolated?
– How can I help people who don’t have support in the storms of life?
– How can I inspire people to reach out to their neighbors who might need a meal, a blanket, or even just a hug?
These are just a few of my questions. I realize that it’s important at this time to make sure our family gets our feet back on the ground. But I’m still looking ahead to the future – in hope, that I can lend a helping hand to those in need.
I’ve been following the happenings of a college friend’s family over the past couple of years as they have been weathering the storm brought on by the discovery of cancer in their young daughter a couple of summer’s ago. As Nalene, the mom, has made their story public, I have been consistently amazed by their faith as they’ve shared this journey. This morning, I just had to share an excerpt from Nalene’s most recent post. I resonate with what she shares as we’ve recently faced our own challenges. I too am more grateful every day for our Strength, Sustainer, Redeemer, and King. Thanks for sharing!
Two nights ago we finished pre-marital counseling with a couple whose vows are “just around the corner,” and tonight we hosted another young couple for dinner, who are beginning their engagement journey. It caused me to reflect (as my Sweetie helped me clean up the kitchen disaster afterward) just how little we understand those covenantal promises we make on that ONE day that changes our lives forever — when we truly become ONE flesh!
We know with our heads that hard times may come, but we’re full of hopes and dreams, plans for the future. Then, in God’s good providence, He chooses sometimes to send “in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part” moments — sometimes piled upon one another many times over! The knowledge moves from the head to the heart, and we learn in a new and poignant way that our Covenant Lord is the One who truly fulfills those marriage vows for and through us! After the past three years, I am more grateful every day that HE is our Strength, Sustenance, Redeemer, and King.
Life is interesting and crazy and all other kinds of adjectives. I’m thankful for it, despite the roller coaster ride that I’ve been on as of late. If things could get a little crazier yesterday, they did. I was on my way to the doctor’s office yesterday morning for a follow-up checkup for my blood pressure (great timing), when my daughter calls me from her cell phone…”Dad, the basement’s flooded.” I told her, “OK, well I’ll check it when I get home. There’s nothing I can do about it now.” When I hung up the phone, I asked aloud, “God, I don’t think I can take too much more right now.” Needless to say, my blood pressure reading was a little high when I got to the doctor’s office. It’s nothing to get overly concerned about, but I have to go back again in three months for another follow-up.
At any rate, so far today has been fine. I’m relearning to take each day one at a time. This morning, I was reading in Psalms 30, and I was reminded of the joy that comes in the morning.
1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
The words to this Steven Curtis Chapman song speak pretty strongly to me right now.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKQBLAUW_k8]
I just had to share the thoughts from Isaac’s devotion for yesterday:
Have you ever heard someone say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?”
As goofy as it sounds, this saying holds a lot of truth. First, it says that life will hand you lemons. It doesn’t say if, and it doesn’t say life might hand you lemons. It says when.
Lemons are the bad things that happen in life. Maybe a pet dies. Maybe your best friend decides not to be your friend anymore. Perhaps you’re not treated fairly by a teacher. Whatever it is, you’ll have to face your share of lemons in life.
The second part of that saying is the hardest to follow – “make lemonade.” In other words, take the bad things that happen and make the best of them. Look for the positives. Find the good part.
Sometimes finding the good part is really difficult. When a friend turns her back on you, it hurts. Sure, you can make other friends. But it hurts right now. Making lemonade is probably the last thing you want to do. That’s why it may be a good idea to add another sentence to that saying: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. And God is the ultimate lemonade maker.”
God can take the worst situations in your life and make something good from them. At first, you may find it hard to see the good, but over time you’ll look back and see how God turned bad things to positive experiences in your life. And here’s the best part: while you’re waiting for God to make things better, you can hide in him. Use that time to get to know him better. Take comfort that God love you, cares for you, and can use bad things to make you stronger and more like him. When things get tough, look to God and take comfort in his strength.
Psalm 141:8 But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge….
Last night, I took advantage of a great opportunity to have a date with my wife, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law. Thanks to a broken heating system at the movie theater earlier in the day (when the girls went out to see The Princess and The Frog), we had free movie passes. Of all the movies we could have seen, we chose Up In The Air starring George Clooney. The movie had received four stars compared to two and a half stars for Did You Hear About The Morgans? which probably would have been my first choice – until I heard the “star ratings” for each movie.
In Up In The Air, George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a traveling businessman, who has the responsibility of laying off or firing employees at companies around the country. He lives out of a carry-on suitcase, and he rarely makes it home to his undecorated one bedroom studio apartment in Omaha, Nebraska. During his travels for work, he also speaks publicly about reducing everything in your life to what can be carried in a single backpack. While at first this simplification sounds quite tempting, the reality is that Clooney’s character throws away not only every worldly possession but also most every relationship in order to live out his philosophy on life. In fact is one goal in life is to earn Ten Million Frequent Flyer Miles with American Airlines. Sad!
The movie is especially sad, because I’m guessing it actually hits closer to home for many Americans than we’d like to admit. We live in closed communities where we hardly every see our neighbors. Our business relationships are mostly impersonal. And even our relationships at church and in our own families are artificial and superficial as we run from one activity to another – all so that we can say “we did it!” Where is the intimacy? Where is the transparency? Where is the depth in our interactions and in our relationships?
So many of us seem to run away from deep relationships. Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of being exposed. Maybe we don’t want people to know the real me. I for one, do not want to live an unfulfilled, unresolved, depressing, “up in the air” life. I want to go deeper. I want to be fulfilled. I want to be uplifted and encouraged. I want resolution.
So where do we find it? How do we go after this? I think it takes initiative. I think it takes faith. I think it takes trust. I think it takes getting out of your/my comfort zone. One way that I have found this over and over again is by seeking out relationships through small groups of people. This winter I’ll be starting up two new groups. The first with my wife is a parenting group based on a curriculum by Kevin Leman. The second group is an experimental on-line group that will center discussion around Mark Batterson’s new book, Primal: A Quest For The Lost Soul of Christianity. If you are interested in one (or both) of these two groups let me know?
If you have an idea or a comment about how you find depth and fulfillment in your life and in your relationships, I’d love to hear them.
Until then, I’ll be working on living a “down to earth” life.
I’m am saddened today. A co-worker of mine passed away after a short three month bout with pancreatic cancer. Dan was in his early 50s from my estimation, and he was in pretty decent health. I’m not sure when it will sink in. Dan left our office a couple of years ago to take a higher management role up in our North Jersey fire alarm headquarters. When I last saw Dan, he was in great health, and he was confident about the future.
One of the things that impressed me about him is that he was fairly open with his faith. I’m quite confident that Dan is getting used to his new digs in heaven right now, but it does leave us all a bit sad knowing that he’s not here to watch his kids continue into adulthood, to see his future grandchildren, and to enjoy retirement in the future.
When things like this happen, it brings a reality check into our own lives. You never know what tomorrow will bring. What would you do differently if you knew you only had three months to live?
Last week, another man passed away from pancreatic cancer. Here’s what he had to say when he found out about his earthly fate:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo&hl=en&fs=1]Until the next post…