Monday, February 21, 2011

Tough Times - Tender Hearts

My life has been remarkably smooth. Sure there have been some rough spots - losses, mistakes, sins, heartaches - but compared to many others mine seem not so dramatic. I have no explanation for this. I am grateful for all the good days in my journey so far.

I talk with people regularly that are going through very tough times. I am thinking of just the past year - a woman who's husband died suddenly and she is alone now, a couple who lost a child, a man who saw his business crumble after 30 years, a teenager with a brain tumor - this is just a partial list. When we face these seemingly unfair events in our life it turns our world upside down.

I think of these folks when I read the story of Naomi in the little book of Ruth found in the Old Testament. Naomi loses her husband, then her two grown sons - she is a widow without her children in a foreign place - she says basically "I was full, but now God you made me empty."
She also says at a certain point in the story that she is bitter. She even tells people to stop calling her Naomi, which means "sweet one" and instead to call her Mara, which means "bitter."

When life comes crashing in on us it is hard to not become bitter. Phillip Yancey describes it this way: we ask God three questions - God, are you being unfair? God, are you silent? God, are you hidden? Yancey says these are the questions that Job asks of God - Naomi is a female Job. She is broken and bitter. It seems like life has crushed her.

I want to be very frank and honest. I am tired of seeing people suffer. It wears me out. Working with people in pain, is exhausting. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for them.

One thing I have noticed: people who somehow keep a heart and soul that is tender - not hardened - seem to recover from losses better. When we harden our heart we really stop living and just start existing.

In the case of Naomi, God sends a remarkable daughter-in-law named Ruth into her life, who blesses, loves and helps Naomi become "sweet one" again. The end of the story has a joyous ending - even with all the losses. Somehow Naomi did not allow her heart to become cold and calloused - God's grace came to the rescue!

The wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 makes the point:
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Just thinking, Steve

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Love Day

February 14th - the "love day" - Valentine's Day! I know it must be Valentine's Day because I have had way too much chocolate the last few days. Good stuff, but I have to stop this now!

How does a day become the "romantic love day" of the yearly calendar? The pressure to buy just the right gift, say the right words, buy the right card, and show the proper excitement about it all is pretty intense. I guess we can thank the "marketing gurus" of our time who have somehow convinced us that this is "the" day for saying I love you and saying it with something expensive.

Honesty, I like the romance stuff - sweet words, hugs, kisses and all that comes with it - how could I not be in favor of something so wonderful! My sweetheart of 37 years and I had a great evening on the town last night - dinner, music, sitting close in an embrace - all good! We bought small gifts and shared sweet cards. All so good.

But why do we have to make everything about huge sums of money - every holiday has to rescue the bad economy! It is just a little over the top - way over the top!

Surely love - real love - is more than just the amount of money that we spend on a gift - isn't real love about commitment, genuine kindness, daily attentiveness, respect, support, listening, loyalty, and more. I think that deep down that is the kind of love we are really seeking.

I hope your "love day" has been good - but even more I hope that real love will power your relationships day by day, week by week, and year by year. Invest in living a life of love - now that is a gift that is invaluable!

Just thinking, (overloaded with chocolate)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It Is So Cold...

The "It is so cold" jokes are numbering into the thousands now. It is cold - no joke. My Palm trees were frozen last year for the first time ever - this will make two years in a row. One fellow told me he had to dig up 15 Palm trees that he lost last year and then replaced them and guess what - they are gone again! Thankfully he had a one year guarantee so they will be replaced at no cost except for all the digging, dirt, and blisters to replace them.

One year when we were living in Tyler, Texas it snowed about 10 inches. I had never seen a snow like that in the south - it was wet, heavy snow that stay around for a couple of weeks. We built a Snowman that stood proudly in our front yard for 14 days - it was amazing!

When I watch the weather people, in their Gore-Tex garb, reporting in the middle of a Mid-Western blizzard, I have to laugh. What do you have to do to get a promotion on the Weather Channel? Your willingness to get frost bite or be hit by flying debris during a hurricane is basic.

Al Roker in 70 mile per hour frigid winds is a vivid picture of what the weather folks will do for higher ratings.

As my wife and I snuggle up by the fire tonight, we will thank our lucky stars that the low will only be in the low 20's - not 20 below!

Stay warm tonight!

Just thinking, Steve