Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life is a Miracle! Be Thankful!

One of my jobs is to make hospital visits - these adventures in pastoral care are always different than I expect. While I am planning on being an encouragement to those who are ill I often find that it is the patient who lifts my spirits. I have become very familiar with hospital parking lots, back entrances, short cuts, and where all the Diet Coke machines are located.

By my count I made more than 165 hospital visits so far in 2010 - I have no idea how many hours that involved, how many miles I have driven, or how much I have spent on parking. What I do know is that going to people when they are facing the upheaval of health problems is a good thing to do. When I go I am reminded that life is a miracle!

With all the things that can go wrong, all the illnesses that can attack our bodies, all the accidents that can happen - the gift of life is an amazing miracle!

Every day, every breath, every moment - it is a miracle to be alive! I thought of this on a recent morning fitness walk with my sweet wife of nearly 37 years - I told her that I treasure that one hour together a few times each week - with each step and each conversation and each burst of laughter I am living in the midst of a miracle.

None of us know when the life we now enjoy will be over - that is out of our territory. So how should we respond to this gift?

Gratitude, of course. Thankfulness and joy should be ours. It is amazing to me to hear people complaining about their "miracle" - their life. Jesus said that he came to grant us "abundant life" - life that overflows! (John 10:10) Oh be thankful!

We should also respond with a sense of intention - now is the time to express your love, to act upon opportunities, to do what needs to be done - don't wait - act now!

We can also rejoice that when this miracle of daily living concludes because of God's grace we can expect life unending in the presence of our loving Creator. (I John 5:11-12) We live in the "already but not yet" place of life in the Son - praise God!

My life has been so full -so truly wonderful - to this very moment that blessing continues - this Thanksgiving I am celebrating the miracle of living!

Just thinking, Steve Yates

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Whole Lotta Shakin'

In January of 2010, a huge earthquake that measured 7.0 in magnitude hit the nation of Haiti and thousands were killed and the nation was left in shambles. A few weeks later, another earthquake hit the nation of Chile - it measured 8.8 in magnitude. In fact, the Chilean quake was so powerful that scientists estimate it the moved the earth's axis by as much as 8 centimeters and even shortened our day by 1.26 microseconds. No wonder it seems like the days are shorter - they are!

My wife grew up in Southern California where small earthquakes were a way of life - there seemed to always be some shakin' going on. According to a U.S. Geological research group there were thousands of earthquakes in this past year. Shake, shake, shake - there is a whole lotta shakin' goin on!

Despite all this geological shaking that is happening I think human beings have to deal with another kind of shaking that is even more unsettling. Every day I hear of someone who has experienced some kind of event in their life that has shaken their whole world.

The doctor says that word - "cancer". A teenage daughter says that word - "pregnant". A boss says that word - "fired." A spouse says that word - "divorce". These words and events have a seismic impact on peoples lives.

So how do we live in a world that is always shakin'?

Jesus never denied that our lives are shaken but offered something we all need:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Peace in the midst of all the unsettling troubles of life - can this be possible?

A dear friend confided in me that in the past his wife suffered terrible emotional problems. She was terribly afraid and unable to leave the house for sometime - she could not care for their three children. Along with his demanding job, he cared for the kids, cared for his wife, and did his best to not go under himself. He told me that something helped him make it through - once a week he met with his minister and they prayed together - sometimes he wept, sometimes he laughed - but always he felt hopeful and more at peace after those meetings. Now his wife is quite healthy, his kids are in college and he looks back as those days of terrible upheaval with perspective - he says take heart, the peace of Christ can sustain you when there is a whole lotta shakin' goin on.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts... Col. 3:15.

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

True Value

A friend confided in me that he has spent his life feeling very insecure about his worth as a person. If you were acquainted with him you would be shocked. He has all the trappings of success: a successful career, a beautiful family, good looks, and the admiration of those around him. How can he feel insecure? He told me that his Father never affirmed him for anything except when he was number one at something: number one in his class, number one in a race, number one in sales - if he ever was second or lower he was ridiculed as a slacker. He has begun to realize that the haunting criticism of his Father has controlled his life. He told me that he had built his life on two premises: First, I can control your opinion and approval of me by my performance. Second, that is all that matters in life.

My friend is working on being free by finding a new way of seeing his value as a person. So how do we assess value if it is not by perfect performance? Our current culture says this is the only method.

In traditional cultures of the past and even some that exist still today, people have personal worth because of "honor". That is they are valued and honored because they fill their role in society - father, mother, teacher, leader, citizen, etc. Honor is not about "winning" and "being on top" but being a genuine success by fulfilling their responsibilities where they are.

There was a time when good families were a "haven in a heartless world" - a place of safety, love, instruction and joy. In his book, On Paradise Drive, David Brooks describes a new kind of family where we have the "professionalization of childhood". From the moment a child is born, Parents and Grandparents begin a plan to produce children who excel in a "profession" not a vocation. The goal is status, power, money - Brooks calls the system many Parents use as the "great Acheivatron". The result is that from day one a child is taught that only as they perform perfectly do they have real value. Brooks suggests these children are headed for the Psychiatrist or for drug and alcohol addiction just to cope with these immense pressures.

To be sure, challenging ourselves to excel and do our best is a good thing. But that is very different than making performance our God.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 8: David speaks of our majestic God - creator of all things, who shaped human beings by his grace - "made a little lower than heavenly beings, crowned with glory and honor". (Psalm 8:4-5) Our worth is because of God's grace and love not something we have done or will do. God has crowned us with glory and honor - his action, his love, his view of us.

My dear Mom used to sing this little song to her children, including me...
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know dear how much I love you - please don't take my sunshine away."

She followed up that song by treating us with honor and admiration - I always believed her when she sang the song.

God is singing a love song to you - do you hear it? - do you believe it?

Just thinking, Steve