Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Youth Worker’s Lament

You were once a student in our youth ministry. Every week you came to youth group, both Sundays and midweek. You never missed a camp and hardly ever missed an outing. You even brought your friends who didn’t know Jesus to come along and you prayed regularly for their salvation. You read your Bible and prayed often; you were frequently the first to share the answer to a question asked in Sunday School. As you grew in your Christian walk, you branched out in ministry –working with younger kids in the children’s program, helping to lead worship or working behind the scenes in a support role. Eventually, you went on a mission trip and you were so inspired by it all that you believed it was possible that God was calling you to full-time ministry.

But then it happened . . . you graduated high school. It was time to move on to college. We warned you that you needed to stay connected to a good church if you moved away from ours or if you remained in town to get plugged into our college group. However, college groups aren’t nearly as exciting or adventurous as our youth group. Emotionally, you just wanted to remain a high school senior for while longer –with no pressure or expectation to be anything more than a youth in a youth group. It became easier and easier to sleep in on Sunday mornings, especially when you stayed out late Saturday night. It was too difficult to go out to Bible Study during the week because you needed to study or maybe because you now have a new group of cool friends who just aren’t into church.

Then you met that one person who showed a special interest in you; they thought you were smart, cute and funny. You felt the same way about them. It sort of bothered you at first that they weren’t a Christian; you had been warned that Christians shouldn’t date non-Christians but surely the youth leaders didn’t have this one in mind when they gave that warning. After all, your beloved is the one of the nicest, most moral persons you ever met, better even than most Christians you knew. Anyway, you thought to yourself, “How could a loving God judge my friend so negatively, condemning them to hell for not believing in Jesus?”

Not long after, you began to question some other things you had been taught in youth group: whether Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the Bible is God’s Word and is reliable, it’s important to be in fellowship with God and with other believers, and the idea that Christ followers should live righteously, avoiding sexual immorality. The last idea really got in the way of things with your beloved who wasn’t taught the principle that sexual activity was reserved for husbands and wives inside marriage. They grew up in a culture that allowed everyone to do anything with anyone as long as no one got hurt. Pre-marital sex was about determining “compatibility” with your partner and having fun. Co-habitation is just a form of trial marriage, taking the car for a test drive before locking the buyer into a contract. And so, day by day, bit by bit, you surrendered your Christian values to your lover, adopting their world view as your own. You have a whole new notion of what “fun” is now – parties, drinking and hooking up with the one you’re with. The fun you experienced in youth group was nothing like this.

 It’s been a few years since you were my student, but I have watched you from afar, observing how you keep moving further and further away from Christ and the things I taught you. I still remember the faithful student who, like the Apostle Peter, promised never to deny Christ nor fall away from Him. I also remember telling you about seeing ones just like you make the same promise and show a similar commitment in our youth group but who later went astray from their faith. You laughed and thought I was just being cynical and pessimistic, but here you are. I know that deep down, if you truly were a child of God, you know the desperate state of your soul today. You know you are not right with God and there is a misery caused by the Holy Spirit’s conviction of your sin that no amount of alcohol, drugs or sex can really wipe away. I know you long for the joy of your salvation you once knew. I plead with you to come back now. The longer you remain away from God, the more your conscience is seared. When God can no longer get the attention of His children through kindness, He often uses more drastic means, i.e. as the Bible teaches, the Lord disciplines those He loves. I know this from personal, difficult experience. Please come back to the Father who waits for you with open arms.

If on the other hand, you were never really born again into God’s family and your “Christian faith” you demonstrated in high school was just a ruse to impress people, you are among the most to be pitied. How sad that you were that close to the saving power of the Gospel but did not grab hold of the eternal life freely offered to you. I’m afraid that my words here will have no affect on your soul since you were able to resist successfully the pleadings of God’s Spirit in times past. However, if you can hear what I am saying, now is the time to be reconciled to God. You have no guarantee of tomorrow, no one is. In either case, I’m here to point the way to Jesus.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell to 2011

It's hard to believe that the year is down to its last few hours. So much has happened in the past twelve months -some good, some bad. We've said goodbye to some friends who are now in the presence of Jesus while we welcomed the new life of little babies into the world. I saw High School students grow in their relationship with Christ and in turn help lead others to faith as well. The world remains a fearful and unsettling place to many, some put their trust in Mayan visions of the Apocalypse instead of putting their confidence in the Lord of All. Others look for the government to solve their problems, but political solutions seem inadequate. Strong dictators come and go while people "occupy" and protest that democracy is failing them.
In the midst of all this chaos, God remains in control; nothing happens outside His notice. If 2012 truly turns out to be the end, it is good to know that He is "with us always, even to the end of the world."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to Blogging

Man, it's been so long since I last posted here. It's funny how I can blog twice a day during Lightseekers Camp, but can't find the desire or time to put into my own blog. Someone recently asked if I blogged and was surprised to hear that I actually had one. What can I say? Getting my MBA sort of pushed me out of the habit and then mindless pursuits have kept me away. Perhaps I shall try the shorter, more pithy sort of blogging that Laura uses, however I'm not nearly as prosaic as she is. Maybe I should just comment on how the world is behaving these days (not very nicely, I'm afraid) or even relate about my current reading assignments. I need to ponder this, but hopefully, I'll be back again soon.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Closing Out 2010

As I sit here in the mountains, watching an old movie, I pause to reflect on this past year. Yes, this will be my one and only post for 2010, but I promise to begin blogging on this site again. For one thing, I am now done with school, finishing my MBA in late October. It had been the sinkhole for nearly all my creative writing; in all my years of primary, secondary and undergraduate education, I hadn't written as many papers as I did these past two years. Even though my last assignment was done over two months ago, it's taken me a while to shake the feeling that some assignment is due in the coming week. Perhaps once I finally see my diploma, it will truly seem real.

School was not the only great thing on my mind; work has had its moments of joy, but there have been far more moments of frustration and anxiety. The remaining 57 months before I reach retirement age cannot come too soon, I fear. The state of the economy does not help, but adds to the pressure.

The good news is that I celebrated my 50th birthday this year, bringing me that much closer to the day I can retire. It was a wonderful party, attended by nearly forty of my friends and family. My family too is growing - my brother got married and now he and his wife are expecting a son.

There have been many births this past year in the lives of my friends as well as those friends who are no longer with us. The world changes, yet the one constant remains is the Lord who created it all. He is our peace, our hope and our life. When things seem to crumble, He is there; when we experience joy beyond reason, He is there too. As we move into a new year, may we know the comfort of His presence and the strength of His righteous right hand.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mountain Quiet

I'm sitting here at Lake Arrowhead on the sofa in front of a crackling fire (I wouldn't say roaring - I've been struggling all evening to keep it aflame because the wood is wet from today's light rain.) Except for the sound of the fire and the motor of the refrigerator in the kitchen, it is completely silent. Laura is already asleep outside (she likes to sleep in the cold weather) and the neighbors who were bustling about earlier have all settled in. I've always liked the winters here because it is so tranquil and I have tried to spend my yearly break between Christmas and New Year's in the mountains. Most often I've been successful in getting away to this place and frequently I've had the pleasure of having friends join me. Yet this year, Laura and I are the only ones at the cabin; plus, there have been no phone calls, no emails, no text messages or pages. My cell phone died and I didn't even notice. I AM GLAD! After the stressful last few months of work, school, even ministry, I am delighted to just be by myself and rest. I have slept like I haven't been able to in months. Oh, I have the internet to keep informed of the outside world, but there's no live TV with the talking heads telling me what they think I need to hear.
I know that soon enough the quiet will be broken and that I will return to the everyday routine that is my life for the other 50 weeks of the year. For now, I will enjoy the time the Lord gives to restore my soul, body and mind. See you soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Frog and the Scorpion

It's been a while since I've blogged here - I've been relying more on the short blast messages of Facebook and Twitter, plus I've been focused more on school. However, with all the interesting things happening in the political world, I thought I would make some comments.

I've noticed that a lot of people who were previously uninvolved with politics have become quite active due to what they see as a government growing at an alarming rate coupled with elected officials who seem to ignore or belittle their constituents' protestations. I myself am somewhat of a political junkie in that I love to read various websites on a daily basis and political best-sellers but, I don't write letters, attend rallies or protests, nor do I involve myself in campaigning for issues or candidates. I also have a fairly consistent political philosophy - one of limited government,low taxes, strong military/national defense, free-market economics and conservative social values. Consequently, I tend to judge and vote for political candidates on their conformity (or lack thereof) to my own philosophy and while I obviously don't agree with the folks across the aisle from me, I would expect them to vote according to their core beliefs. I respect them at least for their loyalty to principles, if not for the beliefs themselves.

This brings me to the subject of this blog post - people, who for whatever reason, voted against their own philosophy or political bent in the last election and are now complaining that things didn't turn out the way they wanted or expected. This is very unrealistic - in what universe do human beings, particularly elected officials, consistent act contrary to their stated platform or core values? I am particularly amused at "so-called conservatives" who voted for Obama because they believed that he was "post-partisan" or that he really couldn't be as liberal as his legislative voting record indicated he was. Some conservatives and independents voted for Democrats because they wanted to teach Republicans "a lesson", naively assuming that a left of center Congress couldn't do much worse or muck things up too badly. Boy, were they wrong!It's interesting to read their comments on the websites lamenting their 2008 vote, praying that Obama, Pelosi and Reid don't inflict too much damage on our Republic before the citizenry gets a chance at a do-over in 2010 and 2012.

I guess these folks have never heard of the parable of the Frog and the Scorpion. The scorpion tries to convince the frog to ferry him across the river on his back. The frog initially rejects the scorpion's plea. "You are a scorpion and might sting me, killing me if I let you get too close." "No, Mr. Frog," said the scorpion, "I will be grateful for your kindness in granting me safe passage across the water and would never sting you. Besides, to sting you while crossing would mean the death of us both." This promise seemed reasonable to the frog and so the two commenced out across the wide river. Halfway through their journey, frog felt the sting of the scorpion's tail. "What have you done?" asked the frog as they started to sink as the poison began its deadly work, "now we will both perish. How could you break your promise not to sting me?" To which the scorpion replied, "You know what I was before I ever got on your back; I cannot deny my nature."

When those on the right side of the political spectrum decide to either vote for their foes or sit home on election day to spite members of their own party for their lack of ideological purity, they are extremely foolish, like the frog was. The two, four or six years plus that the leftists possess the reigns of power will not be pleasant, laws and policies will be passed that will fundamentally change this country forever ala FDR and the New Deal - not in a way true conservatives would find acceptable. My suggestion is that they not vote while holding a misguided "hope" that these politicians would somehow "change" into something they are not. We may not have liked the Republican alternative, but at least he was reliably pro-life and definitely not influenced by radical or Marxist heroes (Ayers, Alinsky, Wright, et al). Even if some conservatives believed that the damage caused by a leftist President's policies was minimal or recoverable, having the opposing side control all three branches of government along with the mainstream media would not be an environment in which government would get smaller, taxes would be reduced or strict constitutionalist judges would be appointed. How are these voters surprised now that they are being stung?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stuck on Stupid

A few years back, during Hurricane Rita, there was a military commander (LTG Honore) who coined this phrase when answering reporters' inane questions about the relief effort -the reporters kept asking why such and such was done in the past while the general was trying to give out information that would be helpful to the survivors. He chided them for being "stuck on stupid" for focusing on irrelevant details that could not be changed while ignoring potentially lifesaving info that needed to be broadcast.
I commented on a similiar phenomenon in post (Not All Gloom and Doom) three years ago in which I talked about people who were "stuck" in some trauma that had happened years ago. I know a couple of people who are frozen emotionally at the point of their marriage break-ups over forty years ago. They are almost like the character of Miss Haversham in Dicken's Great Expectations. Miss Haversham had been jilted on the day of her wedding many decades before, but had shut herself up in her house wearing her dress with the cake and flowers still laid out as though expecting her tardy groom to show. Her disappointment had turned to bitterness and bitterness into hatred for all men as she trained her young ward, Stella to exact revenge on males by breaking their hearts once they had fallen in love with her.
These real Miss Havershams continue to relive their moment of pain, sometimes crying their hearts out as if the trauma occurred yesterday. Like Miss Haversham though, their hurt has turned into bitterness and over time they have become quite unpleasant to be around, save for a select few that they allow in. The ones who are even worse are the ones who seek to settle the score -not with the actual object of their victimization (the villians themselves might be dead or out of the picture), but others that these Havershams view as apt surrogates. On more than one occaision, I have been unwillingly selected as their foil. I really want to say to them,"I am not X, get over it."
I've had a Miss Haversham in my life; I wish I knew what her problem was -she definitely seems stuck in what may have been a happier time for her when she was a teenager, but that was a very long time ago. She also doesn't seem to want to have "grown-ups" around who might frown on her childish ways. In her mind, I am the evil one -the one that ruined her blissful return to her youth (or perhaps I just remind her of the one) and so she attempts to "get even with me". How silly and pathetic! Her lack of forgiveness and lack of desire for healing only hurt her, not me. Her heart, like Miss Haversham's wedding cake, becomes dark and moldy, full of the sin of bitterness.
You might say, "Aha! I know exactly of whom you speak." No, unfortunately, you may guess wrong because there are more than one Miss Haversham-types around these days. However, if you see yourself as one who is stuck on stupid and is bitterly reliving the past in order to try to feel right about yourself, get some help. We all can get in a rut every once in a while -the Miss Havershams though, end up living there.