Sunday, September 18, 2016

First Impressions

Have you ever met someone and in your mind they are a jerk, rude, male-chauvinist, lazy or any other negative image in your mind? You might have walked away thinking, "That person is so_______ that I hope I never have to talk to them again." Then some time in the future you happen to see that person talking to your friend and they seem to be getting along famously. 

You inquire of your friend, after the other person has left the building, about such and such person and "I am not sure how you two are friends because when I met them they seemed so _____". 

Your friend says, "Oh, you don't know that person at all. They are not like that in the slightest, in fact, they are more opposite than that then they are like that. If you get to know them you will love them, they are one of my best friends."  Head scratch ensues. 

How did we get this first impression so wrong? Is it possible to get the wrong impression so wrong, especially when we might say "I'm a pretty good judge of character" or "I follow my gut because it's almost never wrong." and we never would have given them a second chance if it weren't for our friend?

I was thinking that sometimes, actually often, we get the wrong first impression about God too. We meet Him somewhere in life and are introduced by someone who has their own impression of God without really knowing Him. We base our future relationship with Him on the first meeting and decide He's not a friend I want to have because He is too ____. End of that relationship.

What if your/my impression of God is totally wrong? What if what we think God wants from us is something completely different than He really does want? 

You might think that God is this grumpy/strict/demanding father figure who just wants to tell us what to do all the time and what not to do. We get that impression because there are people who taught us in Sunday school who never really said that but they acted like that and that's the story we remember about how/who God is.

God does have a lot of rules and "not to do's" in the same way I have rules and "not to do's" for my grand kids. The reason for the rules is not so they won't enjoy life, rather it is so they will enjoy it because I know more than they do at this moment. I know that if they eat healthy right now they will feel better later. I want them to love ice-cream like I love ice-cream but not for breakfast, at least not everyday. 

What if the God in your mind was actually way more for you than you ever imagined? What if His goal for your life was you loving all the things He created for you instead of them all being off limits? What if His desire for you was even higher than your's was for you. Would that change your mind about who He is?

If you think that God is some kind of "Cosmic kill-joy", mean and grumpy, authoritative-just- to-be-that-way kind of God, I'd suggest getting to know Him better before you make your final decision.

God gives when we are not thankful. Seeks relationships when we are unfaithful jerks in return. Loves His creation more and better than His creation does. Seeks our highest and best when we don't. Hears and answers- and His answers are always for our good even though in the moment they may seem wrong. God is the best Father you and I will ever have and in order for us to know what He is really like we have to get to know Him better. 

What's your impression? Has it changed as you have gotten to know Him more? Please share.   

Monday, February 29, 2016

Thoughts on Dad

I spent the weekend remembering a man who molded and shaped me into the man I am today.

This was not a perfect man, though much of my life I thought he was.
This was not a wealthy man, though we didn't really know he wasn't.
This was not an overly successful man, by the world's standards, but I always thought he could do anything.

When some think of their dad the thought conjures up bad memories of abuse, to them or of a substance. 
When some think of their dad they might think of discipline or harshness.
Some may think about a lazy man who never did anything for anyone but himself.
Others may think about someone who was stingy and grabby, never sharing with others. 
And there are others who may think about someone who was unfair and unkind.

None of those things come to my mind when I think about my dad though.

When I think of my dad I think about as close to opposite of these things listed above as could be possibly imagined. 

If there was ever abuse in our house it was us abusing him. I think we often took for granted the things he was doing for us rather than being thankful for them. Not always, but too much.

Dad was a man of discipline and I, like him, can give off the impression that I am disciplining someone without even saying anything. I never, ever, heard my dad raise his voice in anger and I, for one, gave him plenty of things to be angry about. His discipline of me was always deserved and often not fully what I deserved. 

I've seen some lazy men in my life. I've seen men who work only as much as is needed to get by and don't raise a finger at home to help their family. This was about as far from who dad was as a person as can be pictured. He was relentless at his "work", whether that was leading a school, teaching, coaching, studying, working in the yard or cooking, he was all in for the long haul. He was no slacker. "Don't rust out, wear out" was him.

As far as the stingy piece goes- he was one of the most generous people I have ever met. We didn't have much to share, by the world's standards, but he shared himself and everything he had with others. I remember him raising things from our garden just so he could take it to church to share with others there. It was his delight to share himself and all he had.

Lastly, with regard to the fairness and kindness. I often thought that dad should have been a judge. He had a way of looking at everything on the table and being able to make the right decision. If we could have had him as a Supreme Court Justice America would have been a better place. He just knew the right thing to do and it was not out of unkindness or spite that he made his decisions. 

He was a man who loved his people and loved His people as well. He loved making people laugh just as much as a deep theological discussion. He loved helping and watching people win at sports AND math. He loved his wife and kids and bragged about us all the time. Not necessarily in front of us but you always knew he loved you- there was never a question.

When people say, "Wow, you look just like your dad", I know that it's very true. I only hope that at the end of my race I will look as similar to my Savior as dad does. 

I'm gonna miss him and the ability to give him a call and ask "what do you think about this?" but I KNOW he is rejoicing with his Savior and that has been on his mind since a very early age. He's been anticipating singing these words-
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”
He's wrapped up in seeing what he could only dimly imagine for many years- 
                "And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,  the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,"
 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weapons Against Fear and Discouragement

Joshua 1:5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraiddo not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I first heard these verses when I was very young. The plot-line, riveting. The "actors", diverse. The outcome uncertain, from a human perspective. 

Coming off of the Red Sea escape and the subsequent time in the desert with all kinds of pitfalls as well as drama it's difficult to see how there would be a need for this type of "speech" on God's part to the men and women who had just endured all that they had over 40 years. 

I think it is also easy to think that God is talking to small and frail people when He is giving these words. Especially when you hear them as a child, one can quickly think He is talking directly to kids.

He is talking to kids and even women but NOT primarily. He is talking to the leader of Israel and giving him words that he should pass along to his leadership team of men.

Four times in 5 verses He commands him/them not to be afraid or discouraged but to be courageous. Why this need at this point?

Men, yes grown men, get discouraged, disheartened and afraid. We are not supposed to be so, but obviously God knew that this predisposition was "crouching at the door" and so He is reminding Joshua and his men that they were to trust Him.

I, for one, can relate. I have not learned yet, to not be discouraged and afraid when things are out of my control, when things look bleak and even insurmountable. 

This story goes on to tell of some people who thought along the same lines as I have been inclined to think as well as just a few who obeyed God's command to not be afraid or discouraged.

How does one come to that place, to not get discouraged? I believe the only way that can happen is to fully rely on Him and realize before we even go into the fray that it is ALL out of our control in the first place and God is going to do what He is going to do with and for His people.

There is a prerequisite to success and blessing listed by God in these verses as well and it's not to get better equipment or weapons but rather to think about what He has told them to do and then do it, not turning to the right or to the left. "Trust me and I will not leave you or forsake you as long as you do what I have told you to do."

Simple words, hard to remember in the midst of life's craziness. 

May we trust and obey what we know He has already commanded us to do.