Tag Archives: gratitude

Choose Great Suffering Part IV: An Outstanding Response

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A few weeks back, as I was wrestling with how best to parent my son, I sent out an email seeking counsel from the most brilliant Christians I know.

The request was phrased as a challenge from the perspective of a fictional young man:

“Christianity is boring. You know what’s not boring? Getting stoned and having sex with a new partner.

You know what’s exciting? Getting drunk while racing to the beach and listening to loud music that glorifies drugs, money, sex, and violence.

Working hard, getting the advantage, beating out the other guy, making lots of money, and spending it. Work hard. Play hard. That’s exciting.

You know what’s fun? Kicking back with the boys, drinking beer, eating pizza, watching football, and making fun of everything you disagree with and people who aren’t like you.

I’ve experienced those things. I know what fun and excitement are really like. I can’t stand reading so I have very little larger perspective on life, I’ve failed at everything I’ve tried to do within the conventional system. Two weeks is an incredibly long time, and the concept of positive authority has been ruined for me by too many people constantly telling me what to do (I have ADD). What does Christianity have to offer me?”

In short I was asking, what does Jesus have to say to our young adults lost in the lies of this world?

Here is one of the more powerful and insightful responses I received:

“In many ways I agree. Christianity is boring. Especially the way we’ve institutionalized it into a club where you either fit the mold or are “backsliding” at best. Our education system is similar. Reading is the most important skill for our little ones to learn. So what happens when ADD and dyslexia interfere? From an early age we set our children up for failure. The same is true with the model of Christianity we’ve set up that requires penance or right behavior. Heck, even reading the Bible is a requirement and so the kids that struggle in school will most likely struggle in Christianity.

This type of Christianity is boring. The world is fun. I don’t regret my party days but rather I often think of them with fondness (I doubt I’d admit it in church though). I think Christianity needs to stop competing. It can’t win.

So what if we offered something completely different? Something not based on fulfilling human expectations but something so deep that it actually changed the way we want to live? AND that by living that way we could make a difference in the world? I think that’s where social justice efforts come into play. When we see the brokenness in the world and that we can be a part of the healing we are compelled to act. Just like Jesus.

Christianity was created and used for control. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Our systems are man made (yup, just masculine at this point) and therefore dramatically flawed. So what do we have to offer?

A safe place to land when he falls is THE most important thing I believe parents can offer their teens but it is often the hardest on parents because it means letting their kid fall and watching them get hurt, when you may have had the power or knowledge to stop it from happening – If they’d just listen right?

Your example (unconditional love, respect, boundaries, a soft place to land), though it doesn’t line up with what your son wants, is still the best thing you can offer. We often return to our family values later in life. At what point in your life did you realize you were beginning to act like your parents? Or better yet, when did you become okay with acting like them?

My grandpa who recently passed away once said “it’s every parents goal that their kids turn out better than they did”. He was an ass and so there wasn’t much of a challenge :). Still, eventually we learn both how we want to be like our parents and how we don’t.

I think the pain of watching your children fail is why Jesus often wept for Jerusalem. And this guy I know posted on his Facebook the other day that he wasn’t convinced suffering was such a bad thing :). So how’s does the suffering of watching your child fail, or be told they are a failure, or even think themselves a failure remind you of your walk with God?

We often react most strongly to the things in our lives we haven’t dealt with in ourselves. That’s something to think about for both you an your son.

This was supposed to be a more concise and pithy email. Instead you got me going. I feel your pain. I’ve seen it in many parents and students over the last 10 years. It gets better. Will you remind me of that in 20 years when I have kids?”

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Prayer and Trust Are Not Sufficient

m9h359b maple blue

When I was growing up in Moscow, Idaho in the early seventies I wanted to play Little League baseball. So, my dad took me to the hardware store and let me pick out a bat from their small circular display. I choose a huge, blue, wooden beauty of a bat. It was way too big for me. I could barely lift it let alone swing it effectively. I have no idea why my normally wonderful and responsible father let me pick that one.

We played in our blue jeans and t-shirts.

I don’t remember a single thing my coach ever said to me.

I never got a hit.

But, I played baseball, and it was incredibly important to me.

This was back when I believed in God the first time. I had learned again and again that if I prayed and believed hard enough God would give me what I asked for. “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:13, 14). Challenge accepted!

I prayed hard for us to beat the best team in our Little League, the widely hated Yankees. I prayed powerfully like only a foolish little kid who believes in a very literal translation of the bible can pray. I prayed and believed and prayed and told my friends that we we’re going to beat the Yankees.

After I recovered my faith a couple of months later, I prayed for something much simpler. I prayed that God would help me catch bugs and put them in the tent I had erected in our big front yard. I prayed and believed. Hard. Again, this was very important to me. Although, I must admit there was a bit of an edge to my faith, kind of a one eye slightly open, heart not wanting to get hurt again, believing but maybe not really able to believe all the way anymore kind of edge.

I didn’t catch any bugs, at least not any decent bugs. I was crushed.

I did what any rational person would do. I walked away and pouted…for about thirty years.

God let me pout. God let me do a lot of really ridiculous things, but eventually one of us decided I’d had enough. I started learning about praying and trusting all over again, but I never forgot about baseball and bugs.

I spent four years begging God to let me go to seminary (or God spent that time convincing me I could.). Two years later, after I had prayed, believed, and trusted my family, finances, and fitness to God I had ballooned up to 290 pounds (see “Should I be Mad at God for Letting Me Get Fat?). It was baseball and bugs all over again.

Me and God, we had it out, several times. I cussed, yelled, doubted, threatened, and pouted, the whole nine yards. God just chuckled patiently and invited me to a deeper faith that involved my active participation in his providence and my sanctification. Despite the fact that I had absolutely no time available after addressing family, full-time work, ministry, and full-time grad school I had to menu plan, shop, cook, and work out.

So, I choose a goal (this was about four months ago). I wanted to be able to jump up and casually run over to wherever I wanted to go. No big deal. I don’t need to look like Vin Diesel or play running back for the Ducks. I just want to be able to hustle. I want free and easy mobility.

Now that God and I are working together, things are going pretty well. I’ve dropped a ton of weight. But, you know what? My goal has been ripped away from me. My right knee is killing me. It used to come and go, but now it just hurts all the time. I can still walk, ride my bike, work out, and do all the things I need to do to get in shape. But, I can’t run or jump. Getting up is a chore. It takes time and it hurts.

What is going on with our wacky, all powerful, purely loving God? First, I thought it was pick a goal, pray, trust, and get blessed…Nope! Then I thought it was pick a goal, pray, trust, work with God, and get blessed…Yes, I’m far thinner, and that is wonderful, but no. Moving hurts and I’m less able to hustle then I was at 290.

So…finally…here is my point. Gratitude is hard. It requires flexibility.

This is not one of those weepy blog posts about how wonderful God and Christianity are if you’ll just “let go and let God.” It’s a heads up. Following Christ isn’t easy. Prayer and trust are not sufficient. You need to get in the game, and when you do you may not get to pick your own goals. You have to work consistently and despite pain to choose gratitude over bitterness.

Consider praying for awareness of the blessings God has already given you. Embrace the mercy we all float in rather than demanding justice. Accept God’s invitation to develop an understanding of faith as belief in the unseen, as hope and love without proof, and find astounding peace and joy exactly where you are right now.

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My Favorite, Favorite Part of My Birthday

Every birthday morning my mom calls to tell me about the day I was born. “I have nothing but beautiful memories,” she tells me. “I remember lying in my hospital bed with you in my arms. And later they came in and told me that your father was down in the city square reading the Christmas story to everyone. He choked up when he got to the part where it says ‘and she brought forth her first born son.’”

You see, I’m the youngest of three. Thirteen years after they starting making children, my father finally had a son. I’m told that I’m the only one they planned…

My mother also recalls the perfect whiteness of the day. Northern Idaho provided a brilliant snow storm for her to hold in her heart along with my birth.

She doesn’t talk about the physical pain of giving me life, or the anxiety, or her great fear that I might be born after the New Year costing her a significant tax savings. Time washed all that away leaving her with only the snow, my father, and my sweet baby self. What a blessing!

To her great joy and my utter amazement she remembers my growing up the same way…

I remember the fights she used have with dad over just what the hell to do with me. I was an ass in general. Seriously a major ass. Take my own stress inducing son and multiply by at least ten. In addition to that I never loved, liked, respected, or listened to my mom – ever, for decades.

Mom remembers me making a few mistakes but thinks of me as a good boy all in all…

I love and respect her now. I do everything I can to make up for the mind blowing selfishness of my past. Mom just wishes we had more time together because I make her so happy when I’m around.

I pray, please Jesus! that my favorite part of my birthday doesn’t change for years, and years, and years.

Peace and joy to you.

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Giving Thanks

John Piper describes the great joy in fulfilling our obligation to worship wonderfully in his book “Desiring God”… 

Screeeeeech!  “Wait, obligation to worship?  What’s that all about?  Do we serve some sort of profoundly egotistical God who wants and needs praise from His puny human creations?”  You might ask.

Ha, great question, and of course the answer is “not hardly.”  God stands unchanging and utterly self-sufficient always.  However, two fantastic things happen when we worship.  First, we experience the complete fulfillment of the joy available when encountering and contemplating God’s infinite awesomeness and perfection.  If you’re a sports fan and your team makes a huge score in a pressure packed situation against your most hated rival, the passion and excitement you’re feeling finds its peak in its physical and verbal expression: “YESSSSSSSSSS!” <arms raised in the universal recognized sign of victory>.  Now imagine witnessing the same thing responding by sitting quietly with your arms folded in your lap.  It’s just not the same.

Second, others witness your worship as an invitation to join the dance.  When you see a fantastic movie or discover an unbelievable new restaurant, what do you do?  Well, if it’s me in the restaurant scenario I throw my hands in the air and shout as described above, but most people tell their friends.  When we experience joy we want the people we care about most to share that wonderful feeling.

I guess that leaves one final question: Is He worthy of our worship?  Do we have reason to feel thankful, express our joy, and invite others to join the eternal dance of life? 

You tell me.  What’s your favorite verse or life experience that inspires joy?  Email me back (wardd11@georgefox.edu).  I want to know!  Here’s one of mine: 

Thankful that God show me love through my wife.

Thankful that God shows me love through my wife.

 Nehemiah 8:10

Peace and joy! –DW (Oh, and if you’d like to dig a little deeper, check out “Desiring God.”  It’s a great book – a real game changer.)

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