For the past ten years I have been hindered. First the doctors told me I had weak ankles, then gout, then arthritis, then rheumatoid arthritis, then gout, then something else, and so on. For the better part of the last decade I have been hindered by this. My children find it amusing that I use to be athletic and involved in a number of sports. They cannot remember a time where my physical health was not an issue. I remember wondering how I was going to keep up with my kids. Who is going to teach them to ride a bike or throw a baseball? While I was not debilitated it was issues in the back of my head. When older members (by 30-40 years) of the congregation were moving faster than I was, then you have a problem.
Since making the move to the East Coast several years back I have been determined not to let it limit me. I have moved away from foods that caused me flares and stopped taking the steroids that I was dependent on to make it through the day. Simply stopping the steroids I lost 30 pounds in a matter of months. Whoa. Food choices such as no turkey gravy and staying away from seafood helped a bit. While that increased my quality of life, it did not drastically. There were still many activities that I could not take part in simply because I was afraid that it may cause a flare. Too often simply doing something has caused a week of incredible pain, that only steroids could take care of.
This year I have made a concerted effort to not be limited by my physical conditions. I have started going to the gym and so forth. It was when I went to the doctor a couple months ago that something changed. He told me everything that my previous doctors had diagnosed me with was wrong. What?? He did not know exactly what I had and was going to pursue it, but he put me on a regiment to improve my quality of life without restrictions. In the past couple of months I have began to try running, played paintball, bowled, and been more active.
A long story to a point. I look back and wonder what could have been in those years that I lost. It took me a bit to get over the fact that if I been advised to manage my symptoms better these last few years could have been so much more. After wallowing for a bit, I have come to the place where I need to make up for lost time. Though I have reached or about to reach a new age milestone I look forward to how active I can be. Should be interesting in what trouble I can get myself into.
It seems everywhere we look there is conflict. This past week I saw a number of my friends change their Facebook profile in support of marriage equality. As many supported it, there were others that did not. As I scanned through my newsfeed at times each others “passions” turned very personal. An “us vs. them” mentality emerged on both sides.
While the marriage equality issue was raised this week, it was not the only issue that raised an “us vs. them” mentality. Some of the issues might have been over people’s right, a decision, or a change in course in business. Which makes this conflict more than a simple issue, as it can enter into our relationships in a local or national. Recently our Session spent some time discussing the issue of conflict or rather what to do when conflict arises. I remember many in the room discussing that we would not have conflict, but as we work to transform and engage in outreach opportunities… it will arise.
As our staff and Session work on transformation, the key word is “change”. No one really likes change and inevitably it causes conflict. Too easy situations can turn into a “us vs. them”. While our church has often talked about the need to be unified through this process, it does not necessarily happen all the time. When an issue is not addressed or defused it can easily jump in the stages of conflict. Truly I do not believe that our church is to sit idly by, rather we are to be innovative and creative in what our church is to be a part of. On the other hand, are we willing to engage in conflict? It is a hard decision for any Pastoral leadership team or Session to want to make.
The above arrow shows the stages of conflict if unresolved. It is easy to move from a lower stage to a high one without much effort. We discussed that in order to avoid the “trigger” events that cause an escalation there must be constant dialogue and a diffusing of the “us vs them” mentality. This mentality does no church any good as it simply makes everyone angry.
Life is not pretty, there will be conflict. Conflict in the church, conflict in our work, conflict in our relationships, conflict over our ideals, conflict in our families, conflict over national issues, conflict within city government… you get the picture? There is nowhere we can escape conflict, but we can help diffuse the situation or ignite it further. Which are you?
Each spring break from 1988 through the early 2000’s, I joined a couple thousand students and staff with Azusa Pacific University‘s Mexicali Mission Trip. Whether I was a youth, college student, APU volunteer, or Youth Director in some form I was there. And I loved it. Spending Holy Week in sleeping in tents and working in the local villages did something remarkable within me. Each year I came back transformed. It was in 1988 that I encountered and realized a loving God cared for me. A different year, in the middle of a worship service I committed myself to vocational ministry in some shape or form. As I later led groups, friendships deepened to incredible depths that years later they still run strong no matter the distance. Stories of adventures still are highlights of get togethers with students or leaders even though some of them have turn into myths that we are not sure actually happened.
As each Holy Week comes and goes, I long for those times as a student and a leader in Mexicali. Each Holy Week held something special. For some incredible reason as we were on these mission trips and Holy Week was laid before us, I was taken back and challenged. Sharing Communion with a couple thousand people who have experienced the highs and lows of ministry on Maundy Thursday has incredible meaning. Riding high from the whole mission experience as we often walked sleep deprived and still dusty after driving home through the night… but still making it to Good Friday Services. Or telling the stories of how God worked in us and through us on Easter Sunday. How Great was our Risen Lord and Savior in the middle of all that happened to us! These Holy Weeks were not your average Holy Weeks but ones of deep spiritual meaning.
It is those same experiences that I took the many students years ago is the same experience that I long for my children and our church’s youth to have. I pray that my own children have the opportunity to grow and be molded spiritually in the same way that I was. This afternoon I spent a bit of time trying to convince my youth leader that we need to fly our group cross country next year to participate. Then I realized how much it would cost to do this and how untenable it was. The destination is not important but rather the experience and what results is what I long for our students to have. To have the opportunity to push everything aside and be completely open to what God has to say to them.
To be completely open and honest before a God that cares and loves them.
P.S. One of the very few pictures of Mexicali that I still have. Here is to many great friendships that result.
You know those moments. Standing at the foot of the mountain looking up. The journey looks ominous, too ominous. You begin to hesitate and think that you are not the one to undertake this. That you would surely fail. Fear begins to creep into your mind that moments before were brimming with confidence. The wonder why do we get charged with his monumental task instead of someone else. Don’t you know who I am? With all my failures, past improprieties, and lack of overwhelming self confidence, I have still been tapped to be a part of conquering this mountain.
I stand at one of those moments. It is something that I have wanted to do for years, be a part of something that is new and will make a difference. People have told me that I can do it, that I have the right thought process to do this. I even have some past experience in it. Then why do these doubts still rise?
Too often we encounter these thoughts at the base of the mountain. Those thoughts can easily paralyze us from moving forward. In “Christian-ese” we use the word called/ calling, in common everyday meaning it is fulfilling our God given task. Everyone is given a calling. It can be recognized by our reaction to a God given burden upon us.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one bodyand one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.- Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)
How we react to those callings? You and I can either run or head up the mountain. I choose the mountain. That does not mean that I don’t have self doubts with myself, no wonder I surround myself with a great team. We are not sent on “lone ranger” tasks by ourselves, but are supported/ encouraged along the way. Each time moments of self doubt creeps into my thoughts I remember my purpose: to live a life worthy of my calling. It does not mean I cut and run at the first sign of trouble, but dig in with the strength that only God can bring and the team that I have been blessed with.
It’s time to dig in and take on this mountain. Should be fun, there is nothing else I would rather want to do.
For the past couple years I have been under the care of a doctor whose core belief was to drug you and answer questions later. When I would go visit him, he would start writing prescriptions even before I got examined. Even when I got the drugs, he would add a bit extra in. For example I had a gout attack last year and he gave me some Vicodin for the pain for a couple of days as needed for pain. He gave me 50 with a refill. Really?
Anyways, I went to a new doctor today. Like many new doctors there is a huge introductory time with forms and many questions. Good thing I brought my wife since she was able to put my medical history together. There would be some huge gaps in my story. This new doctor had some concerns with some of the medications I have been on and the follow up exams. After more than a few vials of blood were given up, an EKG, a lecture on my exercise habits, and a tetanus shot I headed home.
Then the hypochondriac in me came out. Wait a second… did he find something? Did he need to take all that blood? Why did an EKG need to be taken? Why do I have a ultrasound of my heart scheduled? It all ended with the thought that maybe he found something. Maybe he wants to confirm it before he breaks it to me. Am I on the downhill slide?
SLAP! That was the figurative head slap that my wife gave me to get me out of my funk. She had to explain to me that I was approaching the give Four- oh. That meant that my health care was hitting a different level. There were more that had to be done by marking the next decade in my life. Even those words stung. I was getting older and now I was being watched more closely by my doctor. I am guessing getting older is a part of life. In many ways it scary with the possibility of a major medical condition looming on my horizon. The thoughts of a life altering condition approaching…
While I don’t particularly like the extra probing, the end result is important. That preventive care is important. I know too many people that simply avoid seeing the doctor due to its inconvenience or lack of health care. I am thankful to live in a situation that it is provided for and praying for those that lack this right.
All in all to say… if even I can wade through all this, you can too.
I just read an ABC News article on how a Porn Star is becoming a role model to underage kids. Really? Or the admission by one interviewed that she first started looking at pornography at the age of 10. As I had been and continue to dip into Youth Ministry, I am constantly shocked by claims of underage drinking, sex, drugs, and so forth by JUNIOR HIGH STUDENTS. Sure I am concerned but not shocked by High School students, I understand the culture. That is to understand the culture that is prevalent, but not condone it.
Throughout Lent I have been leading discussion groups on The Power of A Whisper by Bill Hybels. The purpose of the whole study brings you to a point that you look within yourself and ask the question what breaks your heart in the world. Is it human trafficking, is it latch key kids, or simply the issue(s) that cause you to weep. In understanding that it is God what whispers those places of discomfort to us. While there are many types or styles of whispers given to each of us, there is one that leads us to react. That whisper is the whisper of discomfort. Perhaps we cannot get a news piece out of our mind, watched a documentary which was moving, or lived a life that caused discomfort.
Our reaction may be small to start. A desire to want to respond. Perhaps we will give up some measure of personal comfort to start to engage in the issue. Then the time will come when we are asked to respond and our choices simply are yes or I am comfortable where I am. Which choice will you make?
I realize as I watch the news or read articles the world is a huge, ugly, and scary place. The issues that are in the forefront is not the issue for me. I could not be part of the solution for multiple issues. While I agree wholeheartedly that human trafficking is immoral and wrong, it is not where God is leading me. My issue is not your issue. But hear this… you have a God given issue. Find it… and engage it.
This whole skype thing is ingenious! Through it we can keep in good touch with all our families. As my niece and nephew grow I can still be an intimate part of their lives. After all they call from Northern California a couple times a week to say goodnight to us east coasters. What would we do without technology to bring our families together as God calls us elsewhere.