Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where does our hope come from?

I took a couple of days off from the blog to let the last post permeate in like osmosis.  I have some more comments on greed I will share in the next day or so, but I felt necessary to change topics for a short time. I'd like to talk a little about hope, and how it can shape our lives. At the start of this blog I offered hope to those who need it.  There is hope to be had in this world.  Yet, so many people walk and live in a world of despair. 

I imagine they are living like it it stated in Job 17:15 "where then is my hope- who can see any hope for me?"  Job, you may or may not know, was the definition of suffering.  He lost everything, all his children, all his property, his very health.  Everything.  And he had every reason to despair, to be hopeless, to want to curse God and die. In fact, his friends and wife kept egging him on to do so.  I lost 1 child, and I still have days where I feel that way. But the funny thing about it, Job didn't.  He didn't curse God.  He didn't blame God at all.  And the funny thing about the verse I quoted above, I misquoted it on purpose. 

If you have time, read the book of Job.  It's an interesting take on how grief could destroy someone, and yet it doesn't.  The verse I quoted from Job 17 is from a dialogue from Job.  He is talking in Job 16 and 17, and is basically saying if I don't hope in the Lord, I don't have any hope.  Pretty much the opposite of what the single verse above insinuates.  That is where our hope comes from.  From God.  Something that was obvious to a grieving father is just as obvious now.  Life without your Creator is hopeless.  That's why there are so many people walking around in life in total despair.  There is no joy, no life, no love, no hope for them.  God is our source for all of these.  From 1 John 4:10, our hope comes not because we love God, but because He loves us.  Indescribable love.  His love was shown on a cross.  His very life abandonment for us.  That's where our hope comes from.

I misquoted the verse above to prove a point.  Our lives are very self-centered, self-focused, self-motivated.  In other words, greedy of self.  Yet in our own despair, their is more hope, more life than you can imagine, if we just open our eyes, and get rid of the tunnel vision we tend to look at things with.  Verse 17:15 seems to be pretty bleak.  The speaker is crying out for any hope anywhere.  Yet, if we look at the entire work, we see that is not the case at all.  Job's hope here is in God, and he is trying to make that point.  By removing our own tunnel vision on our problems, and steping back to take another look, we usually will see that our Creator is working to help us in ways we might not expect or imagine. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I hate "Christmas"

This blog post is probably not going to be about what you expect. I am sure in some way the loss of Abigail has jaded both Bran and I about holidays, especially this one.  It's hard enough to just keep going without her, but this holiday seems to just scream in neon lights "your daughter is gone".  However, that is not really what I am talking about here.

First of all, I would like to make it clear that I don't hate the birth of Christ.  But I do hate a holiday that requires people to buy stuff.  And Christmas is the king of this disease.  It's greed, pure and simple.  We are greedy, and we have turned this holy celebration into a mockery.  Let's be honest, when the start of a holiday season is called "Black Friday", where businesses try to sell as much stuff as possible, that's not a good sign. 

I have had a lot of soul searching going on in my life in the last 8 months.  I have concluded that I am absolutely worthless to Christ.  Looking at what he has given me vs. what I have given him, it doesn't compare.  It's not about earning my salvation.  That's not what I am talking about.  It's about living a life that is pleasing in God's sight, and showing the one who gave me so much the honor he deserves.  And I am not.

Our real problem, my own real problem here, is greed.   We look for excuses to get stuff.  Holidays have become a big excuse to us all.  It's not just the want anymore, it's our "need".  I put that in quotes, as if I really need this stuff.  Like I can take it with me if I die.  Yet it goes on every day.  It's funny, but there are people that really think we could not exist if certain things hadn't been invented-especially the latest technology.  As if all those people who existed before the 20th century were just lucky to not have gotten to extinction.  Do we really need laptops for example?  Or the latest phone?  Since Abigail died, Brandy and I have gotten new iPhones.  Did we really need them?  I would like to take mine and throw it away.  But I am a coward.  I won't do it.  There are millions of people starving all over the world, and I am a coward when it comes to my phone.  How can I help someone when I am a coward?  That is why I started this blog.  Jesus would have spent his entire life at the missions in towns, helping people in need, and I doubt I would stop if someone sitting on the side of the road looking for a dollar.  I mean I don't even have to get out of my car.  Thats pretty pathetic really.  I am glad you are reading this blog, but if you put your laptop down and never picked it up again, and used that time to help someone in need, that would be even greater. 

If we are really going to become vessels God can use, we are going to have to look hard at ourselves.  To become selfless, you really have to start by being self focused.  Not on who we are, but what we are.  What do we do?  How do we act?  Is it pleasing to God?  How does our version of Christmas please God?  Or does he cringe every time this day comes around?  Does our version of life, of who we are, make God cringe?

As I have gotten older, I have tended to feel a little dirty once this time of year comes and goes.  I mean, we are supposed to be different, if we are Christians.  Different.  Look different.  Act different.  Be different.  And I don't think we are.  I don't think I am.  It's like its a cash grab, and that's the real sad part.  Even on the local Christian station here where I live, it's "don't forget the reason for the season, and also don't forget to visit this business while your thinking about the reason for the season".  That, to me, is a mockery of Christ's birth.  And I hate it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why did I decide to write a blog?

I took a couple of days off over this holiday to basically get through.  And we kind of did.  However, in this time I had a thought, why am I doing this?  And here's my best guess...

In Exodus 4:10-12, it says "But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."

I asked myself this when I started.  Do you really want to do this?  Because I think I know where Moses is coming from in the above verse.  I am not the best writer, as you may have already noticed.  I tend to be very pessimistic, and it causes me to expect the worst. I am always expecting something bad to happen.  You can ask my wife.  And I am not an expert at this at all- I'm not completely sure what value my perspective has.  I have a bad temper, and can get mad easily.  I also tend to have a lazy streak. So really, why am I writing a blog?

Its funny, because considering what I said above, and that is just the tip of the iceburg, I feel compelled to write this blog.  I have watched my wife pour her heart out for the past couple of months in her blog, and I find myself agreeing with what she says.  Almost to the point usually.  Except I want to add my twist to it.  And that is big news for a man with seemingly little to say, like myself, to want to pour out myself for others, in the small chance it might help someone else.  So that is the starting point for the idea to try to motivate others to journey toward hope in that they might in turn see the value in people.  People are important.  God thought people were important enough that he came and died, because of the love he had for each one of us, and that he wanted us to know we are treasured beyond gold.  We are important.  You are important.

Yet, God is the real reason for this blog.  Because my answer came in the same manner that Moses's came.  It's as if the Lord says to me, did I not create your hands and mind?  Did I not make you just who you are, with the experiences you have for this time?  It is not the time for idleness, but action.  Now write, and let me be your voice. 

So I am left with no alternative but to write, and believe that God will take this small work and use it for his own glory.  I have found that I am incapable of great things on my own.  The harder I try to do something great, the less likely I succeed.  As irritating as that sounds, I have come to expect it and in a way imbrace it.  It's almost like the Lord is laughing at me and shaking his head.  It's his funny way to remind me that I am useless without him. 

To conclude this thought, there are a couple of things I want you to take from my thoughts.  First of all, in my own mind, I have a one person target audience-  me.  My goal in this blog is to look at myself hard enough and strong enough to truly see my own warts, and by doing so, give God a means to change me.  There are millions of people in the world that need us to show mercy, kindness, love, and hope;  yet we are blind to it.  I am blind to it.  My God wants me do great things for him that I might bring him glory.  I can't do that if I am useless in my own sin.  The other thing I think is important to take from this blog is that there is value in a person.  You don't have to know someone to know this.  It is easy to yell at people on the interstate because they didn't use a turn signal, or were going too slow.  It is easy to get mad at the DMV worker because they are doing their job.  Again, these are easy to do because you don't know the person, and it doesn't effect your life.  Doesn't really change anything, except you may feel better for a moment.  I used these examples because I have done both in the past 48 hours.  Yet, I wish now that I had considered my actions a bit better.  Because they have value in the eyes of God.  Just like you and I do.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Festivus

I won't normally do this in this blog, because it is not really the topic I want to stay on.  However, today is Festivus, the made up holiday from the show Seinfield.  And I think a holiday where we can air grievances and have feats of strength sounds pretty good this year...

So Happy Festivus.  It's Festivus for the rest of us...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A beginning from an ending

I think a necessary part to starting a blog is an introduction- a beginning if you will.  Since I have never really tried to do this before now, I believe this is necessary for us to build a relationship as blogger-reader.  Yet, there is a lot more to this story than you may want to read.  In my case, an ending is the start to my story.  Part of me died on April 11, 2010.  I still feel it today, that dead spot in my heart.  It is only the numbness that has developed around it that prevents me from constantly breaking down. 

It started out as a normal day.  We are always busy, and this was no different.  One child has softball practice, another has something else at the same time.  So like always, Bran and I were going in different directions.  I had the girls, Anna Faith and Abigail, and Bran had the boys, Nathan and Samuel.

I have to admit, looking back now, this was a blessing in disguise from God, because he allowed me to spend 1 on 1 time with Abigail while AF was practicing softball.  However, at the time, I didn't see it that way, because Abigail was being a pain like normal, and demanding that I follow her around and cater to her every need.  And yet I did, because that was how she lived.  Passionate-no time to wait.  That was Abigail.  It was as if she knew her time was short, and she needed to do it all.  Right then.  And she needed me to do it with her.

At some point, Brandy showed up with the boys, and she got to see Abigail for a few minutes before she was off with Nate to another function.  We debated whether or not to all go with them, and finally decided that Bran and Nate should go alone, and the other 3 and I could go to the library, and then get some work done at home.  I have to admit, this was the dumbest decision I have ever made.  But you don't make decisions with knowledge of what is to come.

So the 3 kids and I went to the library.  Except I forgot to get the library card from Brandy-or so I thought.  I found out later that it was on the kitchen table.  So we were in the parking lot of the library, trying to get in touch with Brandy.  However, her phone was not working well, the battery was bad, and the phone would die quickly after charging.  This is what happened on this day.  She did not know I was trying to call her.  This would ring ominous later on. 

I am going to be vague from this point, because I don't really want to belabor this, and there are still some issues we are dealing with that keep me from talking frankly.  To get to the point, we went home, and about 5 minutes after we got home, Abigail was hit by a neighbor's car in their driveway.  It was so quick and sudden, that I didn't really have time to process what had happened.  I was just trying to save my little girl.  I remember giving her CPR in my front yard, praying to God to help her, and trying to console my 2 others which were behind me scared to death.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  It was as if the entire world was crashing around me, and all I could do was watch the destruction. 

It's wierd, because my memories of the day were crystal clear until this point.  After Abigail was hit, everything is fuzzy.  I remember someone driving me to the hospital.  I remember standing in the emergency room.  I remember when Brandy got there.  I remember watching her little body with all those doctors and nurses working on her.  And I remember when the doctor called it, and stopped doing CPR.  But that is about it.  Everything else was fuzzy, like a dream almost.  Which is how I still look at it.  This is a dream, and I should wake up and find my little bit in her bed.  Not in a casket in the ground.  Part of me, part of what I helped to create, died on April 11, 2010.  And I thought at the time, that both Brandy and I would do the same- whither up and die.  But that is not what happened.

God has used this destruction to get my attention.  I titled this blog Life Abandonment.  I actually heard this phrase on a You Tube video with Eric Ludy.  It stuck with me because it reminded me of Abigail and how she lived, and also because it is how I want to live.  Abigail's middle name is Hope, and she has offered so much hope to people since she died.  Brandy and I decided to honor her life by doing all we can to help others and offer them hope, when there might not have been any.  God gave Abigail a short time here, but it's impact has been and will continue to be tremendous.  As we continue in this blog, you will see how someone so small can leave such a legacy.  I hope it impacts your own life, as it has others.

I want you today to know that you have hope.  That even in your own despair, there is hope.  This blog is about discovering this hope, and learning how to love others.  My own goal is to learn to love others to the point that I can abandon my own life, just as I think my daughter would have done.  I hope that through this blog, you may learn to do the same.