Observing a Life

genieWe’ve been hit with some pretty big celebrity deaths during the past five years, and they seem to hit closer and closer to home.

We still download Michael Jackson’s music while we watch Heath Ledger’s memorable portrayal of the Joker on our Macs and iPads that were of Steve Jobs’ genius design.

dead poetsBut most of us found ourselves rummaging through our old DVDs and VHS tapes yesterday, still trying to get over the shock of Robin Williams’ sudden passing.

No one would have guessed he’d be next.

I was at a restaurant when I saw the breaking news pop up on the TV monitor. There was no shortage of gasps. Throughout the rest of the evening I talked with friends and coworkers about his death, and what shocked me was the wide variety of responses I heard.

One guy said, “Just think of the movie marathons that’ll happen this week.”

When CNN erroneously reported that Mr. Williams had died of a heart attack, another guy said, “I’m more than half that age. That could be me soon.”

My best friend texted me an adage from one of our favorites, Hook: “To die will be an hook_robin-williams_spielbergawfully big adventure.”

Shockingly, someone said, “Good riddance.” When I asked for clarity, he said he never thought Robin Williams was funny. That was a first.

One girl started crying.

Another guy said, “I always thought he’d out himself; he just seemed too happy on the outside.”

And someone else, out of anger and hurt, said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?”

jackNo matter what your thoughts are, there is likely not a person in America who hasn’t seen a movie with him in it, or voiced by him. I mean, who hasn’t already thought of Genie’s “Never Had a Friend Like Me” since the news hit?

But his death, in particular his suicide, kind of jolts me. The guy who said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?” got me thinking, as each celebrity suicide does. You remember Tony Scott, the Top Gun director who jumped off a bridge a few years back? People asked the same thing of him.

I don’t know these people, but I know that they had a whole lot of the one thing we’re all Mrs-Doubtfire-robin-williams-33200263-1024-768after. We’re all after that one thing that we think will obliterate all of our problems. I find myself thinking, quite often, how I would love to be rich. Filthy, stinking, rich. Not to buy things, really, but to set it aside in savings.

Go out to eat wherever I want. Take my wife to Hawaii and Tahiti, just for the fun of it, as often as we’d like. Not have to work. Not sweat when I write the check for the mortgage. Get whatever we want at the grocery store each week. Open up an orphanage.

You know, little things like that.

We think money will afford us all these things (no pun intended). But clearly there was something else Robin Williams was after. And I’m not saying suicide is reserved for the rich and famous. Poor people are prone to it, good people, bad people, lonely people, popular people. But we have this idea that if we just have enough money, we’d be exempt from depression and sadness and bad hair days and week-long laundry piles.

patchadams-1024x576But depression can sneak in and grab anyone. Even Christians.

I am reminded today that we ought not to struggle and fight and work for the things of this world, for it is all temporary and fleeting. But to struggle for what comes after this world, the promise that there is a Kingdom for those who believe in Jesus Christ where all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more dying or sadness or struggle ever again.

I am grateful for the life of Robin Williams, the inspiration behind so many iconic movie characters, the source of so many jokes, and the heart behind countless movie scenes that have touched us deeply. And though I’m deeply upset by his death, I’m glad that it causes us all to stop and think about what we’re clawing after, what we’re striving for, and remind us to do a maintenance check on our hearts and motives to see that we’re heading in a direction that is healthy and life-giving.

I’ll leave you with a statement from President Barack Obama that I found quite touching.

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

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Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

Television’s Rape Epidemic – Post by Tim Challies

challies-thumb-800x533-335I found this to be a very interesting read concerning today’s mainstream media. Downton Abbey is a show listed in Tim Challies’s article that I have invested in, but I know many people invest their time in other shows he points out. Give it a read and share your thoughts. What do you think is the next frontier for explicit television viewing?

I don’t watch a lot of movies these days, largely because it’s rare that I can find something that promises to reward me more richly than spending the same amount of time in a good book. That said, I do enjoy the occasional miniseries when I can catch it on Netflix or iTunes; I guess I find it easier to part with forty minutes than two hours. Even with that limited exposure there’s something I have observed and something that has spelled the end of my interest in more than a few shows: Rape is in.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

You might also want to give one of my older posts a read and share your thoughts: Why Christians “Prefer” Violence to Sex. 

Big Week For Baby A

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So last week our foster daughter and Sarabeth went to Florida to visit her family. According to Sarabeth, our little girl did wonderful on the airplane, so if you’re stuck on a plane with a crying baby and an overwhelmed mother, you can bet it’s not my wife or daughter.

Well, Baby A did two things this week which I’m thankful she didn’t do in Florida while I was at home here in Kentucky.

Two days ago, Sarabeth was holding Baby A and the dachshunds began licking her feet and Baby A just laughed, and laughed. Part of me thinks she began laughing so hard because she figured out that she could laugh! Probably one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.

And this morning, just moments ago, Baby A rolled over. First onto her belly then onto her back.

Needless to say, Sarabeth and I are very proud. In fact, after I write this post, I’m going to probably start drafting up her college resume.

Baby A, proficient at giggling and rolling over. My aspirations include being an attentive audience member at local comedy clubs and teaching fire drills (“stop, drop, and rooollllll”).

On the grand scheme of things, I’m sure these aren’t really big happenings. I’m sure back in colonial times it was like, “Look Pa, Junior just took his first step.”

“‘Bout dog-gone time. Hand him that there pile of wood and he can take it out back and chop it for the fire.”

But then, is it such a big deal when we do the things we do? Like, get a job, or pass an important exam, or earn one of those Fortune 500 Company jackets? To us, those are pretty significant deals.

But I wonder what God thinks. After all, have you ever created an entire cosmos? Have you ever begotten a living creature (or made one out of the dust)? Have you ever walked on water unassisted, or calmed a storm, or healed a blind man with mud?

Yet, God is pleased with us. Just like Sarabeth and I are pleased with our daughter for the littlest of things (but mostly for going to sleep!) – things that we’ve been doing ourselves for 30-plus years. Things that human beings all over the globe, all across the span of time have been mastering since the Garden.

All of Heaven rejoices when we enter into adoption by God as His child. A great cloud of witnesses hangs over the mist to marvel at our spiritual accomplishments and cheer us on to further endeavors, challenges those ghosts have likely bested while they were like us.

So, yeah. I’m pretty proud of my little girl. But then again, I’d be just as proud if she never rolled over.

Three Things Everyone Needs Every Day

treasure-mapWhat is it everyone is in search of?tumblr_m7ovkbFKQD1ro8ysbo1_500

Wealth?

Chocolate?

Justice?

Bobby Fischer?

Maybe. But there are thee essential things that every single person on the planet, from their first breath to their last, is in constant search of whether they know it or not.

The mind is searching for something. The heart is searching for something. And the soul is searching for something. The way a stomach craves food, or a tank requires fuel.

Boy, girl and dog sleeping covered with a blanket.The mind is in constant search for comfort. This could be loosely translated into money since money buys comfort. After all, we work harder so we can be comfier. From birth you want soft blankets, warm arms, comfy clothes. As we grow older we want the comfort of an unbreakable parental unit, a stable home, an alarm system for our house, safe schools, etc. We also are in search of the comfort of leisure once those basic things are procured. For instance, I love the comfort of my books, others want to know they’re coming home to their DVD collections or their trendy clothes to put on for their weekend outing. Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes, and no matter who we are, we can’t rest until we have it.

The heart is in constant search for love, or acceptance. (Do I hear a “Duhhh”?) But from birth Love2we need love, eye contact, physical touch, smiles, and laughs. You can rent the first romantic comedy that comes to mind and it’s instantly clear that everyone is in search of love. Even the cold business tycoons need some form of love, even though many may not admit it or know it.

And lastly, the soul is in search of probably the most important and lasting element of all. Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a second, or third, or fourth chance. Forgiveness is life. Forgiveness is vital.

Forgiveness is cradled between the desire of the heart and the desire of the mind. Forgiveness is spawned by love and gives birth to a specific, lasting comfort.

When my baby cries at night, my wife and I get out of bed for her because of love, we provide comfort for her because we know she needs it, and it’s an unspoken forgiveness of her disrupting our sleep that allows us to continue to love and comfort.

We all have done things we wish we could forget. Every single one of us would gladly pay big money to hop in a time machine and erase certain events in our lives. We all have a cluttered closet that we keep padlocked and dead-bolted, lest anyone breaks in.

But the thing is, you don’t need a time machine or a padlock to hide the past. We need what the souls desires: Forgiveness. And while our friends and family may offer it to us, and they can forget our transgressions to a degree, true and binding forgiveness can come from one person alone.

And He can also forget our past sins from one end of the infinite universe to the other. If we are confident in our place as God’s adopted child, and we’ve asked forgiveness for our sins, and we gave him the key to our locked storerooms of mistakes and bad choices, He would look in and not find bones or files with red marks.

He wouldn’t find empty alcohol bottles or dirty bed sheets or empty bank accounts.

No. He would find an empty closet. An empty closet that is filled with second chances, a fresh start, a new beginning.

“Go and sin no more.” – Jesus Christ, John 8:11

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3 Words, 7 Letters, One Cosmic Offense

vomitingBeing a father has caused me to be extra careful with the words that I use in the house. There’s no need for my foster daughter to hear certain words, and there’s certainly less need for me to use them.

There is a phrase that you might use today that is the most deplorable phrase to God’s ears – worse than all the obscenities that might raise the MPAA rating for a movie.

A phrase that is frequently used on television that is acceptable viewing for children.

Your friends might go along with it, your family members might not notice it, and your pastors might not call you out on it, yet it’s the most vile exclamation that can come out of your mouth.

It might as well be vomit.

We are so used to the stench of this phrase we go about our lives hardly noticing it.

Using this phrase is the same as urinating on the cross of Jesus, and spitting on the face of God.

While the children of God are going to church, tithing, and praying for the lost, they are defecating in God’s holy temple by saying these three disgusting words.

You don’t have to read very far in the Bible before getting to it. It’s found on page 62 in my Bible.

James, towards the end of the Bible, implores us to watch our tongues, but this one phrase is forbidden in the ten commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Brothers and sisters, we are to be set apart from the world, even if it means refraining from “cute” little phrases we acronymically type into our phones and ipads as friendly texts.

When I hear someone confess to be a Christian and then defile the Lord’s name, I automatically can’t help but question their salvation. After all, if they can’t refrain from using such a simple seven-letter term in their best moments, then what other sins are they giving into in their worst moments?

(On the flip side, when I hear someone say, “Oh my gosh” – a very deliberate and countercultural phrase, it gives me pause to look for further fruit in their lives.)

We must treat the name of God as reverent and holy. The very thought of Him ought to bring us to our knees in awe, not curse in jest.

If God means so little to you that you’re willing to just throw His name around like a deflated beach ball – which lacks value of any kind – ask the Lord to change your heart toward something you have viewed as being so trivial and inconsequential.

Ask Him to help you realize that the world has influenced you for the worse, and that using His name in vain is offensive to Him.

He will forgive you, if you are His child and you ask Him to, and He will never remember it if you repent of it, as He does with all sins. That is an absolute promise.

But if you want to go around continuing to use the Lord’s name as a curse word, just remember the next time you yell, “Jesus Christ,” out of pain or anger, you will someday finish that sentence with “…is Lord,” and He will reconcile His namesake.

That is another promise.

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