How to Change the World

Ark

If you have been reading my blog over the last year you know that I am not one to use this blog to promote movies, music, or other forms of entertainment. The last month my family and I have been going through a study on kindness. And my children brought up a great example of how important kindness is, based upon a movie that they had watched. The movie was Evan Almighty.

Now, I know that not everyone likes the “Almighty” films. But, what is often missed are the lessons that are taught within the story. In Evan Almighty we often got lost in watching someone being forced into building an Ark and the misadventures he gets into along the way. However, the underlying theme of the movie was missed until you get to the end of the movie. Evan was a man elected to serve our country in the House of Representatives. He had hoped that he could make the world a better place (something that many running for office proclaim to want to do). Evan, certainly had big dreams for what he could do. He was not only going to change Washington, but the US, and his family. His intention was to leave the world a better place. However, it wasn’t long before he got caught up in the Washington machine and none of that stuff was happening. He then was called by God to build an ark because the flood was coming. We were treated to a lot of laughs as well as a few hints concerning what this movie was really all about. At the end of the film we learn why God called for Evan to build an ark. To change the world required an Act of Random Kindness. As Evan repeated those words to God, God drew in the dirt the acronym. ARK – Act of Random Kindness.

Our Savior was a great example of showing kindness to others. Perhaps my favorite story of Jesus was the occasion in which he touched the leprous man to heal him of his awful disease (Matt. 8:3). If you don’t know anything about leprosy, you don’t really understand how truly amazing this story really is. There is no known cure for leprosy. Once you contract it, you would live with it for the rest of your life. It was also highly contagious. So much so that it could not only pass from person to person, but it was also capable of passing into clothing as well as a person’s home. When a person did get leprosy, he was removed from town, and required to cover his lip and shout unclean anytime he saw a person coming near (Lev. 13-14). While we cannot know how long that man had leprosy in Matt. 8 we can know the reality he faced. He was not going to get better. He was not going to feel the embrace of his family again. He was not going to live a normal life. And one day, this dreadful disease would take his life. Jesus not only was willing to heal this man of his disease, Matthew tells us that Jesus reached out and touched him. Let that sink in for just a moment. Jesus did more than heal that man’s disease. He gave him something he thought he would never have again, the touch of another human being. In order to do this, Jesus had to put himself in harm’s way; remember leprosy has highly contagious. But, Jesus’ compassion, his kindness moved him to help this man.

When is the last time you witnessed an act of random kindness? When is the last time you saw someone build an “ark.” It seems to me that things like Ferguson happen because kindness is something that is missing from our actions. We sure want people to be kind to us, but when is the last time we were actually kind to someone else? When is the last time you helped someone cross the street? When is the last time you shoveled snow for your neighbor just because? When is the last time you took a meal to someone who was sick? When is the last time you made yourself vulnerable to help someone? I am afraid for many of us, it simply has been too long. I you want to change the world, if you are tired of the suffering, if you are tired of the oppression rather than throwing a rock at a cop, or screaming at someone because they don’t think like you, show a little kindness.

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It is Not a Fetus

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August 20th has always been a special day in my life. It is the day my Father was born. However, in December it became an even more special day for me. It was the day my 5th child was supposed to be born. I have written about my little tie breaker before. I still do not entirely know why it was the case, but I was more excited about the birth of this little bundle of joy than I was with any of my other children. I think for the 1st time in my life, my wife was pregnant at a time when I felt perfectly happy, content and equipped to bring another baby into this world.

I was super stoked to tell my children. Dawn and I thought of a special way to announce to them that they would have a little sibling in the home. We bought a bassinet (and I kept it hidden all the month of December, not an easy task I assure you). When all the presents were opened we told them that they had one more to open and that they had to go downstairs to open it. We took them downstairs, and permitted them to unwrap the bassinet. I was so happy and thrilled to announce the pregnancy this way.

The happiness was short lived.   The day after Christmas something went wrong. By the end of the weekend my wife has a miscarriage. I was devastated. Correction. I am devastated. It broke me. In some ways I have yet to recover. Sure, I write my lesson. I play with my kids. I go running. I do other things. I haven’t given up on life. But, when “tiebreaker” died a part of me died with him/her. It is a part of me I will never get back. On Thursday, August 20th, I will call my father and wish him a happy birthday. And I will call upon my Heavenly Father asking him to give me strength to get them the day.

As this day has drawn closer, my ears have paid particularly close attention to the Planned Parenthood situation. In case you live under a rock, Planned Parenthood has been accused of selling the body parts of aborted babies. They have been careful not to destroy the “tissue” when performing the abortion because the “tissue” has resale value. It bothers me on some many levels to read of these horror stories. I cringe every time I hear the word tissue or fetus as they describe these procedures.   As a father who has lost two children to a miscarriage I have never thought of my unborn child as a fetus. I have never thought of my unborn child as a tissue. They were my children. They were two persons I loved. They were two persons I have lost.

I know that our world believes in woman’s rights. I do too. I believe that all woman and all men are created equally.   I believe that just because one person is older than another it doesn’t mean that person’s life is more valuable. I believe that every woman (including those that are part of the mass genocide called abortion) have the right to have their precious voices heard. I believe that every woman, including the unborn, have the right to life. I believe that every woman, including those in the wombs of those that don’t want to have a baby right now, has the right to by happy. And I don’t believe that anyone, no matter how “not ready” they are has the right to deprive a human being the right to live. It is not about telling a woman what she has to do with her reproductive organs. It is about telling a woman what she cannot do to another living human being… boy or girl. You can call it a fetus, you can call it abortion, but it doesn’t change what it is. Just because you call the tail a leg, it doesn’t make it a leg. Just because you don’t call it murder, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t killing one of God’s precious children.

It’s a Small World

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            I had a wonderful weekend. I had the opportunity to have some good friends in my home over the weekend. I first met them in 2001, although I had known of their son for a few years prior to meeting them. Back then, they had taken a special interest in my wife (we weren’t married at the time). When she needed a place to stay, they opened their home to her. When she needed a job, they helped her to find one. When she was sick, they took care of her as if she were their own. It was amazing to me to see the compassion and love that they had for her when there was no reason on this earth to have such compassion and love. In that 1st year that I knew them, they welcomed even me into their home. I worked third shift at the time and that meant a lot of long Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. I would get off work around 8:00 in the morning. I walked a couple of miles home (I didn’t have a car at the time). I got a shower, breakfast, and dressed for Sunday morning worship. After services we would drive over to their home and spend the afternoon with them and worship with them that night before headed back to Tampa. I usually slept while there. They had no issues offering me a bed to sleep on, even though they had just met me. It meant a lot to me then, it means a lot to me now. It was so wonderful watching them warm up to my children as if they had known them their whole lives. My eldest met them once when she was not yet two (something that they had even forgotten about). My eldest son met them a couple of years ago, although he too had no recollection of that brief encounter. And yet, there my children were laughing with them, playing with them, and hugging on them as if they were their grandparents. Even as they departed they offered me another bed to sleep upon the next time I was in Florida. Their hospitality never ceases to amaze me.

The only thing we really have in common is a common faith. Their love for God moved them to love a young woman who really needed a loving home while she was in college. It is what moved them to extend that love to a perfect stranger nearly 15 years ago. And it is what moved them to extend that love to our children. The title of this article is “It’s a Small World.” It is a phrase that was popularized by the song written by Robert and Richard Sherman. With the ever growing use of social media the world does seem to be shrinking at a faster and faster rate each year, however, this for Christians, it has already shrunk. We see fellow Christians as family. We call them brothers and sisters. We are there for each other to celebrate the good times. We are there for each other to encourage each other during the bad times. We don’t see perfect strangers when we walk into a building to worship God. We see family. It may be family we haven’t met, but it is family nonetheless.

I know that many are hurting today because family is something that is lacking in their lives. Dad was never around. Mom is gone. Children have moved far away and the grandchildren don’t come to visit. In God’s household there is no shortage of family. While my mom and dad live several hours away, I have those here in Grinnell that encourage me as well as my own parents. I never had an older brother, but I have a older brother in Christ that I can look up to and that is willing to come to my help when I feel lost, confused and uncertain what to do. My kids rarely get to see their grandparents. But there are plenty of Christians here who have been happy to fill the role. And even more wonderful than that is that if I lived somewhere else that wouldn’t change. It held true in every state my wife and I have lived (Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and Iowa). And I trust that wherever my future may take me, I will not find myself a perfect stranger in a strange land. I will find myself a brother who has finally come home.

Off to College

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Over the past several years I have had the pleasure of working with a young man as he developed as a Christian and as a man. He was one of the first persons I baptized here in Iowa. Since then, he and I have been studying together on a mostly weekly basis (there have been occasions where both of our schedules got rather hectic). In this time I have seen him grow in so many ways. He has become one of our song leaders, since the beginning of this year he started giving a short talk on our mid-week bible studies and in two weeks he will be preaching his first sermon. Most of this summer I have been helping him write this sermon. To be honest, I am rather jealous. It is a great lesson. I can tell he has put thought into what he has written. While I have read over it and discussed it with him, I am still excited about the opportunity to sit and let him teach me for a change. I think I am beginning to understand Paul’s love for Timothy. Paul had a major role in Timothy’s development, not just as a person, or as a Christian, but as a servant of the Lord. Well I have no idea how many sermons this young man will ultimately preach in his life, I am immensely proud of him. I am proud to call him my friend. I am proud to call him my son in the faith. But, alas this must came to an end. He, along with our other college age student, leaves for college at the end of the month. During this young man’s senior year worked with him on lessons he needed to know before heading off to college. Permit me to share with you some of these valuable lessons.

Remember your creator in the days of your youth (Ecc. 12:1). I cannot say this enough. College is rough. You no longer have your mom and dad watching over your shoulder. You likely no longer will have the same Christians who have known you your whole life helping to keep an eye on you. You are going to experience a freedom that you never have had before. You are going to truly experience what it is like to be free to make your own choice. So I say unto you, be mindful that while your preacher may not be around, while your parents won’t be waiting up for you to come home, God certainly is watching. He knows what you are doing. He knows if you are living a holy life or a sinful one. I guess my point here is that you shouldn’t use your time in college to “sow your wild oats.” Use your time in college to make yourself a better person. Have fun, but have fun in the context of God’s word.

Tim Tebow is not a square. Okay, I will admit, I probably showed my age with that statement. Tim Tebow has been raked over the coals because he was willing to boldly state he was waiting until he got married before engaging in sexual activity. This does not make him old fashioned. This does not make him stupid, arrogant, or any of those things. What it does is make him a person that honors the woman he loves. He values her enough to not treat her as a sexual object. Your boyfriend’s body, your girlfriend’s body is not a sexual object that is given for your pleasure. For that matter, your body is not your significant other’s sexual object either. When you abstain, you are also valuing the one you love by keeping that person pure and holy so that one the day you get married, the white dress you (she) wears is truly symbolic of your (her) purity.

You don’t need to drink to have fun. Budweiser doesn’t want you to know this. They want you to believe that the only way to have a good time is with a beer in your hand. This simply is not true. A person can have all kinds of fun without being drunk. I know this to be true because I enjoy my life. I run, hit the gym, play sports, etc all without consuming alcohol and I have a blast doing it. I play with my kids while sober, and I have been happily married for 13+ years enjoying hikes, movies, dinners, etc without alcohol. I have attended fight nights and superbowl parties and had a blast enjoying the game or the fight while completely sober. I am not missing a thing. In fact, I know I am not missing anything, because I wake up every morning remembering what I did the night before. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Stay sober.