Month: March 2010

John Piper’s Upcoming Leave

EDITORS NOTE:  I re-post this as a tribute to the wisdom and discernment of a man of God.   Coming from a background of being in the ministry, a different level of course (I was not called to be a pastor), I can appreciate the compassion and concern for fixing things in his personal life before they manifest into something that could destroy his ministry.  It is an opportunity that  I did not have.   Many pastors and full-time servants do not have this  kind of opportunity to take the time to fix and re-new the relationships in  their lives.  I am thankful that Dr. Piper has his opportunity and I will pray for him and his family daily.  Please join me and commit ourselves to holding up a true man of God in prayer as he travels this road ahead.  I look forward to his return to a public life so I can learn more from his wisdom and ministry.

John Piper’s Upcoming Leave

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By John Piper March 28, 2010


As you may have already heard in the sermon from March 27-28, the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010. We thought it might be helpful to put an explanation in a letter to go along with the sermon.

I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.

But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.

Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.

No marriage is an island. For us this is true in two senses. One is that Noël and I are known inside-out by a few friends at Bethlehem—most closely by our long-time colleagues and friends David and Karin Livingston, and then by a cluster of trusted women with Noël and men with me. We are accountable, known, counseled, and prayed for. I am deeply thankful for a gracious culture of transparency and trust among the leadership at Bethlehem.

The other way that our marriage is not an island is that its strengths and defects have consequences for others. No one in the orbit of our family and friends remains unaffected by our flaws. My prayer is that this leave will prove to be healing from the inside of my soul, through Noël’s heart, and out to our children and their families, and beyond to anyone who may have been hurt by my failures.

The difference between this leave and the sabbatical I took four years ago is that I wrote a book on that sabbatical (What Jesus Demands from the World). In 30 years, I have never let go of the passion for public productivity. In this leave, I intend to let go of all of it. No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements. There is one stateside exception—the weekend devoted to the Desiring God National Conference combined with the inaugural convocation of Bethlehem College and Seminary in October. Noël thought I should keep three international commitments. Our reasoning is that if she could go along, and if we plan it right, these could be very special times of refreshment together.

The elders have appointed a group to stay in touch and keep me accountable for this leave. They are David Mathis, Jon Bloom, Tom Steller, Sam Crabtree, Jon Grano, Tim Held, Tony Campagna, and Kurt Elting-Ballard. Five of these have walked with Noël and me over the last two months, helping us discern the wisdom, scope, and nature of this leave. They brought the final recommendation to the elders on March 22.

I asked the elders not to pay me for this leave. I don’t feel it is owed to me. I know I am causing more work for others, and I apologize to the staff for that. Not only that, others could use similar time away. Most working men and women do not have the freedom to step back like this. The elders did not agree with my request. Noël and I are profoundly grateful for this kind of affection. We will seek the Lord for how much of your financial support to give back to the church, to perhaps bear some of the load.

Personally, I view these months as a kind of relaunch of what I hope will be the most humble, happy, fruitful five years of our 35 years at Bethlehem and 46 years of marriage. Would you pray with me to that end? And would you stand by your church with all your might? May God make these eight months the best Bethlehem has ever known. It would be just like God to do the greatest things when I am not there. “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

I love you and promise to pray for you every day.

Pastor John

//


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Questioning God and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I just don’t get it.  Sometimes it is just too difficult to try to figure out.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Over the course of this past month, I have personally witnessed families devastated by the loss of a loved one.  I have seen people lose their jobs, get bad news from their doctor and I even have a friend that was robbed at gunpoint and even kidnapped for a few days.  All good people…all people who did not deserve what they received.

So this week, as I was trying to filter through all of the things that were happening to the people around me, I really started to question God.  Why would such bad things happen to good people?  I mean, I completely understand why bad things happen in my life.  There are some things that have happened to me that I absolutely deserved.  I can rationalize these events and say that that may have happened because of something that I did or did not do.   But when I look at some of the events that  have happen to good people, I wonder what is it that God is trying to tell us?

How  can a loving God allow bad things to happen?  I have thought long and hard about this and I am not sure if I ever will totally understand the “whys”  but I am coming to a better understanding the end results of such bad things.  I have come to the conclusion that can be summed up in two thoughts…

My first thought is to try to put the “bad things” in perspective.   I’m reminded of  Romans 8:28  where it says,

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…,”

When God says “all things” that means that there are good things and there are bad things that will happen in our life.  No where does God promise us that our life will be worry free and wonderful.   I don’t understand it all, but I do know that for whatever the reason, God does have a plan and it is my job to remain faithful no matter what is placed in my path.  Good or bad.

My second thought is chocolate chip cookies.

I compare life to chocolate chip cookies. Why? What’s in chocolate chip cookies?  There are some really good things like chocolate chips and sugar, and then there are some things that taste nasty if left by themselves, like flour, baking soda, raw eggs, and vanilla extract.   Have you ever tasted vanilla extract?   If you haven’t, just put a drop on your finger and lick it.   It’s one of the most bitter things around.  BUT when you mix all the ingredients together (the “good” and the “bad”) and put them under heat (the pressures of life), what comes out is delicious chocolate chip cookies.

So, though some experiences may look bad in and of themselves, when mixed with the good, and baked in the heat of life, the ultimate end is good.

One condition does remain: “to those who love God.”   Without the reference point of God, the bad things won’t make sense. We must believe that He is Good AND Sovereign (in control).   If He were good but not sovereign, then He would be a powerless philanthropist.   If He were sovereign but not good, then He would be an inconsiderate dictator.   But He is both good AND in control, so we must learn to trust Him.

We were all born as sinners and must accept the grace of Jesus Christ in order to be freed from that sin. His substitutionary atonement on the cross put my sin (and yours) on His shoulders and His righteousness on mine, if I accept it.   The result of faith in Christ: receive eternal life in heaven with Him, instead of eternal life in Hell apart from Him.   So, when “bad things” happen, I think of them as God drawing us closer to Himself.   Everything that happens is part of His grace.   And in the end, we’ll sit down to a heavenly feast with Jesus.

Who knows?

Maybe there will even be chocolate chip cookies served.

Sometimes the Truth is Not What You Want It to Be

Have you ever had a situation that didn’t make any sense to you?   You know the situation I am talking about – you hear one thing – even have written evidence to prove it – and yet – it still doesn’t make sense to you?

Things don’t feel right – things don’t add up?

Yeah – this just happened to me.   I thought I was losing my mind – and over a long period of time – more than a year, I had facts, circumstances and written word – only to confuse what I knew – things that only I knew to be the truth.

Truth is…sometimes the truth disappoints.  Sometimes the truth really hurts.  There are times I really do not want to hear it.  Sometimes I just want to deny the it and live in my own little world where I do not have to face the truth.   The reality is, is that truth is a funny thing.   As bad as it can be sometimes, we all need it.  We need the truth.  When we have it operating in our lives – the inconsistencies will no longer be there.   The nagging questions and things that don’t make sense – suddenly will be clear.   The fog lifts and we are free.

Yes – I have had a “revelation” of sorts.   Things I had wondered about – prayed about – struggled with and questioned – and had given up trying to figure out – those things are now clear to me.  In my heart of hearts – I knew it was always this way.   I knew it all along – and still I allowed myself to doubt.   Why did I fight so hard NOT to believe it?   Because I try to see the best in people and in circumstances.   Sometimes I have had to learn things the hard way.   The very worst way possible – where people get hurt and things are misunderstood and things don’t make sense.   There are lives and friendships in the balance – and we live with guilt, remorse and pain.

Yesterday my eyes were opened to the truth.   I now can see it clearly.   You can have words from someone but if they are not followed up by consistent actions then it is not the truth.   I take no pride from the fact that I knew I was right all along.  I should have trusted my first instincts – even when everything else pointed to the contrary.   Actions must follow.   Things must add up – even when we are told they shouldn’t or can’t.

It is easy for truth to get in the way and allow us to be blinded  by our own issues and fears – we sometimes fail to see what is right there in front of us.   We can learn from these mistakes – if we STOP trying to “help God” make sense of it.    We cannot control how others act towards us – we can only control our own thoughts and motives – and our own actions.   I believe if we can clearly get our emotions out of the way – we can begin to see what was there all the time.

The truth.

But be prepared…sometimes the truth is not always what we wanted it to be.  For good or for bad it is what it is.

Simply put…it’s just“Truth”.

I pray that today – you will seek truth – even amidst contrary circumstances – even if it goes against everything you have been lead to believe – even if it rocks your whole world.   Even if you dare not believe it – because it will change everything.

Truth has a funny way of doing just that…it changes everything.

Letters From The Heart

One of my prize possessions is a letter dated January 13, 1972.   Just a short two page letter that was handwritten by my grandfather.   He sent it addressed to “Master David Lee”.  (In today’s society, the use of “Master” as a form of address is extremely rare.  In my grandfather’s time, it was more commonly used  for addressing  young boys in formal situations )   It was the first real letter I had ever received.  There would be more over the years that he would write but none as special as this first one.

Now nearly 40 years later, my hands still tremble with excitement when I open that envelope.  I am amazed that he took time to hand write a letter to his grandson. The letter is just a two page note he had written from his winter home in Florida.    Nothing of any great importance in the subject matter of the letter, unless you consider how he expressed how much he missed me and how much he looked forward to the time we would be spending together during the summer months.    But most of all, he expressed how much he loved me.

My grandfather was a writer.  Not by profession, but by practice.  He wrote letters.  He had very nice cursive writing style and his writings were easy to read and easy to follow.   My writings pale in comparison.  I only wish to be as good as he was.

I often wonder if he knew what he was doing when he wrote this letter? Did he know he was leaving a piece of himself with me? I like to think that he knew that he would be making his grandson feel real special for a few days because he received a real letter from his grandfather.  It worked, it made me feel very special. Maybe he knew something that I am just learning.  Maybe he knew that he was leaving a part of his legacy.

In this day and age of technology and e-mail, very few people hand write anything anymore.  Most people do not hand write anything more than their signature on their credit card charge receipt.  I would like to change that.

This past year, I’ve written several letters to friends.  Many of them are living in my same hometown.  Typically, many people think of letter writing as something done with people living far away.   I don’t, however, it does  seem a little strange or even odd to write a friend I just had coffee with yesterday.    But I find many opportunities to write friends, who I see “face-to-face” in my daily life.   Why?  Because writing a letter gives me the opportunity to say thank you or give words of encouragement – not that I’m unable to do those things in person.  For I have a great desire to converse openly both in letter and in person – especially words of love, respect and gratitude.  With a letter, one doesn’t have to find the right moment, or set aside time to say what one wishes to say.  Letters provide a very intentional opportunity to communicate precisely.

One also feels pretty certain they have a captive audience from the reader – that is if they choose to read the letter.  So I’m curious, do you write letters to friends you see regularly or just those far away friends?  Do you even write at all?

My challenge is writing letters to the members of my family.  I have a web site specifically designed for them to read long after I am gone from this world.  But that is not the same as receiving a handwritten  letter from me.   I want to spend the rest of my life being a writer…much like my grandfather, not by profession, but by practice.

If I can, I want to write a handwritten letter to each of my friends that stood by me during my most difficult times in life.  I want to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the support and friendship over the years.   One thing my grandfather always taught me was the importance of saying “thank you” properly to those in your life that deserve the recognition.  I want to write letters of thankfulness from my heart.

I want to encourage all of you reading this post to take this challenge today.  I am asking that everyone take a pen or pencil out and write your loved one a letter.  Challenge yourself, to answer the following questions:  When was the last time (if ever) you wrote a letter to you spouse?  Men when was the last time you wrote a letter to your wife?  To your children?  To your mom or dad?  To a special person in your life, maybe a teacher or friend?

The window of opportunity is growing smaller everyday.  Do it today…before you regret not doing it after they are gone.

Spend some time today, enjoying spring and writing some words of sentiment to a loved one – in a letter of course!  I know I am.

The next letter you receive may just be from me…

Putting pen to paper,

DleeSignature

 

Words Make A Difference

He was one of  “those kids”.   From junior high school through most of college,  no one could really tell him anything.  He relied on his instincts to get him through most  tough spots.   When his instincts weren’t enough, he would go on the attack, figuring that the best defense was a good offense.  Sure he was a Christian, he had accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of nine.  He was very active in the church, but he struggled making application of the things he needed to do in his life.   Very few people got through to him during those years.  It did not get better with age.  He carried that chip on his shoulder until he was 45 years old.

There were destructive things going on in his life, mostly behind the scenes where most people couldn’t see.  Things only a handful of folks really knew about.   The outward appearance was many times a mask that covered what was going on in the inside.  There were times that he was able to “do good” and really walk the path that he was intended to walk.  But it was hard for him to stay on the right path for long.  It was a constant struggle, trying to balance his temper with the frustrations and anger that he had built up in his life.  He was hurting and hurting bad.   He had learned from past experiences that when you show weakness, you open yourself to attack.   So he didn’t open up.   He didn’t care to share what was tearing him apart inside.   He wasn’t going to expose himself and get ripped apart by someone else he should have been able to trust.   That had already happened way too often.   Therefore, if someone did come with good advice, he wasn’t going to show that he accepted it,  even if he had.  That, in and of itself, would be showing weakness and leaving him open to attack.   Needless to say, he wasn’t a very nice person to be around and he was nearly impossible to be a friend to.   But he was always listening.   Other people just couldn’t tell.

We cannot control whether or not a person will listen to what we have to say.  We can only control whether or not we deliver the message.  What is the message?  How about a message of forgiveness? A message of love, encouragement and hope?  A message of the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ?

If we don’t deliver the message, there is no chance for the words to do any good.  The person will not hear them and can’t respond to them.  We must reach out.  We must seek to counsel, to advise, to encourage, to support.  Sometimes it means we get through to folks, sometimes it means we don’t.  Many times it means they will ignore us.   Sometimes it means they respond back with a response that isn’t always positive, especially if we are trying to gently confront them on an issue in their lives.    But still, we must try.

After all, Paul wrote a little something about love that went like this:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Sometimes love means sticking by someone who seems impossible to love.  Why do I say this?  Because the person that carried that chip on his shoulder until he was 45 was me.  I was one of “those kids”.  And speaking from experience,  I was indeed listening.  I heard the words that were spoken to me in love…I  just did not act like I did.   It took a long time to have those words melt my heart, but make no mistake, those words impacted my life.

I have a handful of friends who stuck by me during that very dark period of my life.   I am thankful for them, because I did listen to them.  And eventually, as God shone His light upon me, I began to climb out of the darkness that was my life.   These friends were examples of patience and they endured me and they bore some of my burdens upon their shoulders through prayer and attempts to reach out to me.   Some even tried to intervene in the situations in my life which were so destructive.   I am here today because of a God who loves me and rescued me and because of the friends He sent my way to keep me alive during those tough times.

And that’s why we can’t give up.

When our message seems to fall on deaf ears, we must persevere.  We may be the lifeline God has sent to someone who desperately needs our love.  Don’t give up.  Rather, keep loving, keep praying, keep reaching out.

It may make an eternal difference in someone’s life.

It did for mine.

She’d Like Mornings Better if They Started Later

I am a morning person.

My wife isn’t.

The only way she would like mornings is if they started later.

But for me, I love the morning.  The world is so peaceful and it’s great to have that time to get ready for the day. I always get out the right side of bed.  I’m always cheerful and bubbly first thing. Most days I am up after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

I just like the feeling of being awake while everyone else is asleep. There’s a calming kind of privacy to it. I have plenty of time to mosey around.  I hate feeling rushed.  Why does the world have to move so fast?   When I have all that time in the morning I find myself doing the tasks that I generally procrastinate doing.

Even now, as I sit here in the dark, with no light but that from my computer screen, it’s so serene.

Sitting here, it feels like this is how it’s supposed to be.  It’s just right.

It’s also when I get my best work done.  It’s when I’m most focused.   My brain just kind of shuts down after dinner.  I’d much rather write in a morning setting, than late at night.

But recently I have run into some problems in the morning.  Over the past few months,  God has been opening my eyes to some areas of my life that are in need of some attention.  In particular, is the time that I spend in prayer and Bible study.   This has meant reestablishing a priority of glorifying God and reinstating the principle of rising early to spend time with Him.    Rather than watching the news or reading the paper in the morning, I have been challenged to use that time more wisely for a quiet time with God.  I figured that since I am a morning person this should not be a problem.

WOW…  was I wrong.  Ever since I made the commitment to have my devotions in the morning it seems like I am soooo tired and can’t get out of bed.  I, now,  have a million and one excuses to keep me in bed in the morning.  “My schedule keeps me up late.”, “I need my energy to accomplish all I need to do.”, “I’ll be too tired to get anything out of my quiet time.” I’ve been using these excuses (and more) off and on over the past few weeks.  The snooze button on the alarm gets more use than ever before.  The bottom line is that it has been a struggle, but I know it is just a distraction to try to keep me from growing in the Lord.

It has not been easy, but I haven’t regretted the truly quiet time I’ve spent with God in these early mornings.   I may not always be wide awake.    I may need to continually ask the Lord to make me alert.   I might even have to turn on more lights and drink some coffee.   But, in spite of my sleepy eyes, this discipline is bearing fruit.   God is showing His hand in answered prayer, and is growing my heart through His Word.

Now, let me be clear about one thing.   Getting up early is not magical. There’s no godly pixie dust that’s sprinkled on me for reading the Bible.   Having my morning quiet time will not make God like me more.   God doesn’t give brownie points for it.

  • NOTHING I do (or don’t do) will make God love me more than He already does.
  • NOTHING I do (or don’t do) will make God love me less.
  • Jesus already did all of the work required for my salvation.
  • My “sin” debt is paid.   My punishment is forgiven.   Period.

But, rising early to spend time with my savior will bring many blessings.    Not because of what I do, but because of what Christ already did for me.   Being reminded of this changes my outlook for the entire day.   I’m much more likely to react appropriately at work when problems arise during the day, if I’ve already been in prayer that morning.   And I’m much more aware of God’s work in my life and in the lives of those around me.   I notice when He answers my prayers.   More importantly, I am more humbly conscious of His grace.

So regardless of how “tired” I will feel in the morning….I’ll set the alarm.

Everything else will fall into place.

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

A Story to Tell

At Birchard Public Library in Fremont, Ohio the books are spread across carts and tables.  This is the annual book sale, and a few people mill about perusing the titles.  I am not sure what draws me to this sale every year except for the chance of finding a book to rescue.  I eagerly walk up and down each aisle, hoping to find a diamond in the rough.  Maybe I could find a book that I have always wanted to read or a book that I have read and wanted for my book shelf in my office.  Either way, this is so much fun for me.

I favor the old hardbacks, with their worn corners and soft pages.  I usually lift one gently, open and inhale.  The smell is a scent I can’t quite classify—something at once comforting and yet wistful, like the flowers of late summer fading by the porch steps.   Most times, I have never heard of the book, and strangely enough, that makes me all the more tender toward it.  Books are in and out of print so quickly, and then stray copies wander from place to place like traveling preachers in search of an audience.  They say, Take us in for a time and listen; we’ve stories to tell.”

I am always drawn to the vast array of different authors.  I look and it is just a constant stream of names written on the binding of each book, each of them with a story to tell and each one of them hoping that their story gets read.  I can only imagine the frustration of some of these authors.  The time and effort put in to tell a story and now it is on the discount and bargain table with a price tag of a dime or maybe a quarter.  It truly is not fair for the time, effort and pain it took to pen the words of their life and work.

Christmas Gift Tag I Found in My Book

On this day, I scan the tables looking for that special book that will be coming home with me today.  I find a one that looks interesting, but sadly, the condition of the book shows that it has not been read in quite sometime.  The book was just another casualty of time.  It was discarded just like the hundreds of others strewn about the tables of that room. As I fanned through the pages, I wondered,  “Did it live up to its purpose?  Did someone cherish this story?” I was just about to put it back on the table when a small piece of paper fell to the floor.  It came from the book and I bent down and picked it up. It was an old faded gift tag for Christmas.  It said, “To Dad.  From: Kathy, Tim, Jason, Justin, Timmy.”

There was no way I could put the book back down on the table now.  This book was a gift to someone’s father.   I wondered about what kind of journey this book may have taken.  How many times had it been read?  No, I wasn’t going to let this book fall into just anyone’s hand.  I was going to give it a new home.   This book was going to be put on my shelf in my office.

Little did I know that it would become one of my most favorite in my collection,  “Give Us This Day” by Sidney Stewart is a book written by an American soldier who survived the Bataan Death March.    The story is told by Stewart,  who was held captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.  He became a captive because the US military pulled out of the Philippines and abandoned him and about 11,000 other American soldiers.  He endured the horror and atrocities of the Death March itself where he was forced to walk over 90 miles.  The total death toll is not known, however, it is estimated that over 20,000 soldiers and civilians died during the march.  He then was held captive for over 4 years as a prisoner of war (POW).  The story of his experience, compassion, friendship and faith moved me to tears. The quarter I paid for his book is not justice.  The impact that it has had on my life and on my faith in man has been invaluable.

So now I wonder how an old tattered book ended up on a discount table in Fremont, Ohio?  I am sure that when Mr. Stewart wrote the book he did not envision that a copy of his book would fare such a fateful journey.   I would have loved to have met him but he passed away in 1998.  I plan on passing his book down to my children in the future, just so that I know that his story will live on.

I think we all want to be remembered and I think all of us have a story to tell. As the evidence of this post will convey, I do not have the talent to write a book, especially not one that could impact the world like Sidney Stewart’s book.  However, I think that most people are eager to leave something behind bearing their name; many of us can’t bear the thought of passing through the world without smudging it up a little with our fingerprints.  We seek creation, and the logical conclusion is a story to tell. Now, I know I don’t have a story like  Sidney Stewart’s, but that is not to say that I would not like to try to put something down on paper for my kids and grandchildren to read.

However, the thought and utter narcissism of me writing and reproducing a story is foolishness to me.  Does planet earth really need my remnants?  Do I owe this to humanity?  The obvious answer is a resounding NO!!! So, do not look for my book on the discount table at the library.  It will remain in the confines of my computer, maybe one day it will be extracted by my children.  Maybe they will have a good laugh and a good time remembering the memories of a life that was once part of theirs.

Maybe…just maybe, they may even print it off and place it on the same shelf as Sidney’s.

Wasted Words?

The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.

~Jean Paul Richter

Wasted Words?

There are very few days that go by that I don’t wonder if my children heard anything that I have ever said.   Sure, at times, there was a lot of head nodding and seemingly acknowledged understanding.  Yet, responses by action didn’t always jibe with those words of “sage” advice I had offered.

Then, one day I overheard my son talking to a friend of his.  I don’t recall the detail but he repeated something that I had spoken to him earlier as if he was now the authority. I initially smiled to myself and accepted that they listened even when it appeared not to be so.

However, now when I think of this event, brief moments of anxiety fall over me.   I just cannot stop thinking about the many times I said something that was less than “sage”, maybe even damaging.  Words of anger and words of hurt.  It makes me want to go back and change somethings I have done in the past.

What would I do if I could go back and do it all over again?

I would hold my kids more and maybe a little longer when they were babies.

I would turn off the T.V. and play more games with them.

I would laugh with my children more…at our mistakes and our joys.

I would listen to them more and talk less.

I would be more encouraging and bestow more praise on them.

I would be more honest with them about my weaknesses and stop pretending perfection.

I would pay more attention to the little things they did.

I would cherish more the words of love and kindness they gave me.

I would be a better example of a man who loves them more than life itself.

I wish I could go back and change a few things.  But I know all too well…I cannot change the past.   I have learned that understanding the mistakes I have done,  gives me an opportunity to change moving forward.

At the end of the day, the experience of listening to my son repeat my exact words, make me now weigh my words more carefully.

I want to make sure that I don’t waste any of them.

Because, they are listening.


Forgiveness Can’t Be Found Through An Internet Search

Forgiveness can’t be found though an internet search.

Trust me…I’ve tried.

The internet can help many people with many things….but finding forgiveness is not one of them.

Over the years, I have spent countless hours just surfing the net trying to find a post or a note that would ease the pain of my in-ability to forgive others or myself for the troubles in my life.  As if the words I would read could somehow bring me some comfort.  It always ended in frustration.

What I’ve discovered is that I am not alone… for I have found thousands of posts and notes from people just like me.  People from all walks of life…just looking for comfort to ease the pain in their life.  Wanting to be forgiven for a past mistake or offense that they did years ago.   Or maybe just wanting to figure out how to forgive someone who has hurt them.  Like me, they struggle with trying to go back and find a way to make it right.

I think I found a way that may help…

This past week as the Winter Olympics came to a close,  I was watching the women’s free skate program and the lower ranked skaters were performing.  I sat there watching with little interest,  when something happened that helped me with my understanding of what forgiveness is really about.

I don’t remember the woman’s name or the country, but when she skated she fell, as sometimes happens in this sport. The crowd watching her took a collective gasp.   She got up and began to skate again, only to fall again in her next jump.  She got up again and continued on with her program.  The poor women was rattled.   She was skating towards the ending of her routine and her hardest jump was only mere seconds away.  She would only have one more chance to land the difficult jump.   She moved fast and attempted to hit the mark that would allow her to make the jump.   She jumped…and landed it perfectly.   The crowd went nuts… cheered loudly and voicing their approval of the final jump.

We all know what happens next, the evaluation from the judges.   Sure a price would be paid for the fall, lower rankings and the skater would not “win the gold” for her country that night.     Judgment given…judgment over.   The falls that this woman experienced on this night would not follow her to the next competition.  The evaluation she will receive will be based upon what she does on that night.  Not her fall in the Olympic games.

Unfortunately, many times that is not how it is with people in the church.  All too often a person is forever judged by a mistake that was done years ago.  There is nothing that that person could do that would reverse the effects and the results of that mistake (fall) .  Why is that?  Every skater in that Olympic building had fallen one time or another.  The potential is there for each and every skater to fall.  Not one skater was exempt from that possibility.  It is no different in the Church.  Everyone has the potential to fall.   There are people struggling and “falling” everyday and where is the church in helping them back to their feet?

I think we need to apply the same rules to the church as  the principles that apply to figure skating.  The crowd does not judge.  They encourage those that have fallen and praise those that did not.  The fall of the skaters are quickly forgotten and they move on to the next competition.  How I wish this were true in the church.

Figure skating may be the only sport where the crowd, no matter which country they support:

  1. Did not want to see anyone make a mistake.
  2. Cheers when the athlete gets the next one right.
  3. Cheers at the end of all performances.

 

I wish the church be more like this:

  1. Not wanting anyone to make a mistake.
  2. Giving sympathy when mistakes are made.
  3. Cheering on when someone gets it right the next time.

I would hope that it could help those of us who are our own worst critics when we do make a mistake. Of course, this may be a naive way of viewing it.   Yet, I think we would all be helped with a crowd of other people who also make mistakes that cheered (encouraged) others that made similar mistakes and finally got it right.

”The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves.”

I am amazed at the number of blogs and posts that are out on the internet that are looking for forgiveness.   Pastors, missionaries, teachers, office workers, managers, supervisors…just about everyone from all walks of life are just looking for a little forgiveness.

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”

No…. forgiveness can’t be found in an internet search.

But it can start with you and I.

We can offer a hand to help them to get back on their feet.

Let’s encourage those who have failed and offer our forgiveness.  Let’s  cheer them on to do right and give them another chance.

Maybe the next time they jump, they will not fall.