Flashback to April 27th, 2011. What do you personally remember from that day? Unless you were in Alabama or a neighboring southern state, probably not much. However, for those of us around that day, each of us has a story to tell.
That morning, I remember being awakened by the strong sound of wind outside. I got up with a tense sense of unease, walked to the window, and could see the trees in my back yard leaning hard over and steadily to one side as the sound of the wind whistled through their branches. Even the house seemed to be making low, groaning noises I'd never heard before. This wasn't a tornado. It was straight-line winds that I later would learn had knocked down dozens of large trees all over the area, blown some structures apart, severed power lines, and ominously enough, was only a precursor of what was still to come.
Later that same day, twisters would cross the state of Alabama with one in particular driving a line of destruction right across the map. My family had left our home earlier that day to go be with family who had a more secure location. As the tornado approached, I remember standing just outside the shelter. The hard rain had stopped, but I've never seen anything like the lightning that flashed across the sky that night. It was eerie. It was not a brief flash here and there, but rather the entire sky seemed to stay lit with continuous overlapping flashes of lightening. What was even more strange than this was the fact that it seemed as though someone had hit the mute button on the thunder. Normally, a bright flash of lightning is followed by the boom of thunder, but this was different. Sometimes far off in the distance we could hear thunder, but for all the lightning in the sky directly above us, it was abnormally quiet.
Turns out, one of the major tornadoes that crossed Alabama passed by my house northward by about 8 to 10 miles, and northward of the shelter location by about 10 - 15 miles. We all knew someone who had been touched by the devastation that day. I personally helped a friend salvage what little could be saved from his home that had been torn down, and scattered across a street and several acres of land.
While it is true that not all storms are this bad, you do learn that storms happen. They are unavoidable. I tend to think the damage from the straight-line winds that had caused so much damage earlier that morning had everyone taking the tornado warnings for that evening a lot more seriously than they normally would have, and the experience from that morning followed by the warnings that worse was still to come probably saved a lot of lives.
Sometimes in life you get warnings of things to come; precursors that indicate trouble is coming and you had better prepare yourself. Too often though, the storms of life seem to come out of nowhere and hit us without warning. What I have also found to be true is that people can have completely different reactions to the same storms.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine who battled cancer and is now doing quite well. He still has to go for checkups, but has been cancer-free for quite some time. I remember asking him about how he felt the day he found out about it, and his answer caught me off-guard. He said he just knew everything was going to be OK, and that he never really believed he wasn't going to make it. He went on to say through the whole ordeal he had peace about it, and when asked if he ever thought he actually might die, he said no.
Looking back, seeing him now as someone who battled cancer and is who has been cancer-free for some time, it might be easy to take such statements for granted, but you have to remember that he had lived in the storm of that moment. He was talking about a perspective he had when most people I know would have been devastated. What I also believe to be true, is that his peace passed my own understanding, and I also believe that it had to be from God.
The takeaway for me is that while we all will face storms in life, we have a choice in how we respond to them. Peace can be had just as my friend had peace knowing he would win out over the battle against cancer, but in the same instance I have heard other stories of people having peace with the fact that they knew they would not survive. While this article has focused on cancer as a storm of life, I hope the broader application is absorbed.
You may never specifically face cancer in your life, but there is a storm coming. Maybe you will have some warning, but for most us, there will be no warning at all. When your storm comes, I hope you will recall two things from this article: first, storms are temporary things, and second, that as Christians we have an Anchor on which to hold that will never fail. He will see us through every storm.
With Valentine's Day approaching this week, much will be spent on flowers, chocolate, and small baubles as men of all ages seek to communicate in just the right way the simple words: "I love you". February 14th is a day when some will even seek out the bonds of marriage, while some others may have chosen this day specifically to tie the proverbial knot. As I watch this yearly phenomena, I wonder how much of it is sincere, how much of it is advertising coercion (buy this for her and she'll love you, or don't and you're a dead man!), and last of all, how long it will last.
That last question really bothers me. I hope it bothers you, too.
How long does "I love you" last?
It reminds me of the joke where some married couple is arguing and the wife accuses her husband of never telling her "I love you" often enough. At the end of the joke he finally ends the argument by saying, "I told you I love you the day we were married. If anything changes, I'll let you know!"
The problem with a love that does not last is that it is a love based upon conditions.
Face it, we are taught to live a conditional life in a "do this for me and I'll do this for you" sort of way. Most people I know wouldn't work at their jobs very long without a paycheck. Even if they love what they are doing for a living, there has to be the condition of payment or else they could not continue to do that job indefinitely. We walk out of stores with certain needs and wants in exchange for money. We tend to treat others with varying degrees of trust that are earned. Respect is also a two way street where our ability to respect someone can decrease rapidly with how well (or not) we feel respected or disrespected. The list of conditions in all of our various interactions and relationships with others is quite long!
It seems life is full of conditional arrangements. So then, it is quite a natural idea that how we love each other, even in marriage, would be conditional. The act of divorce itself is proof enough of that. If someone can answer the question "What would make you want a divorce?" then they have answered the condition(s) upon which their marriage would rest. However, God wants Christians in marriage to love unconditionally. Even though infidelity in marriage is listed as a possible reason for divorce, the act of divorce is still discouraged.
Because a Christian marriage is supposed to be a picture of God's love for us.
Does God love you conditionally or unconditionally?
For those of you reading this who have been through divorce yourself or know someone who has been through divorce and thinking of all the reasons why a divorce is justified, stop for a moment and think about the unconditional love of God for you.I realized one day that . . . . . (for the rest of this article, please click on the link: MenRising)
Walk up to the average person and ask them what they want. With reasonable certainty, I could guess that they would say they would want money, a new home (or current mortgage paid off), a new car, or to be debt free. There are a few others out there I know who might say something like World Peace, or to rid the world of hunger, disease, or some other worldwide problem. However, that is not where I want to go with this question.
What I want you to think about is your inner personal life. When thinking about you, your life, personally speaking, answer the question: What do I want? Set aside externals, think internally. What do you want on the inside?
Whether you have something in mind or not, keep reading.
You see, many people are pursuing things they think they need, and their pursuit has nothing to do with getting their physical needs met. They are in pursuit of something missing. They are seeking to fulfill physically a need that has not been met on the inside, spiritually.
Christians like to say "Jesus is the answer" to these needs, and I would agree; however, in my estimation, the very people who say that do not understand the meaning of those words. Strange, no? Christians, who are saved and have Jesus Christ in their hearts, will say "Jesus is the answer" and still fall into the trap of pursuing physically something they need to fill a void they feel on the inside.
Sometimes these pursuits lead people (Christians included) to drink alcohol, have extra-marital affairs, fall into drug abuse, gambling, or some other form of addiction. People who did these things before they were saved still have the capability to fall into these snares again, but with a difference. Those who are saved have the answer they are seeking, but are not applying the answer. The answer is "I AM" but they do not really understand that as an answer no more than I did as a 7 or 8 year old little boy.
When I first heard "Jesus is the answer" I was about 7 or 8 years old. In my mind all I could think of is the grade I would have had if I had tried to write "Jesus" on all the answer blanks on a particularly hard test I'd had the week before.
What does that mean, really? Jesus is the answer?For the rest of this article, please click the link to MenRising.com
I'm taking off work this Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013. You see, my youngest daughter was born on January 22nd, and each year, with each of my daughters, I take them on a day-long father-daughter date. Together we choose where to go, what to do, and I take them shopping for a new dress, a new book, and generally find different places to go and be so we can spend time together.
Watching her grow up, and learning about her as her personality develops is amazing. With all her little quirks and playfulness, she captivates my heart every time I see her. I love it when she comes into my office, crawls up into my lap, gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, "Papa, I love you." I don't have any boys, though after watching some boys from other households and then looking at my experiences with my own two daughters, I believe I am much happier.
In the end though, I know I have the children God gave me. In His infinite wisdom, God knew that these two little girls would bring perspectives and experiences into my life that I needed, and that they would change me into someone that they would need. However, things did not have to be this way.
What I realized today, is that this Tuesday with my daughter quite possibly may never have even been a possibility.
You see, 40 years ago, on the same day my daughter would be born 40 years later, our country made the decision to make it legal for women to kill their unborn children. According to nature and the way things work, the very next month after the Roe vs. Wade decision was handed down, my mother became pregnant with me. She had a legal choice to make. My life was in her hands. Nine months later, on a cold November day, I was born into this world, and things were set in motion that would lead to my father-daughter date this coming Tuesday with one of the most beautiful of all of God's creations. (Though I admit I am quite biased.)
It reminds me of a saying I heard somewhere that goes, "Just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should do a thing." There is a lot of wisdom in those words. Every choice you make has implications, and there are both the foreseen intended consequences, and the far reaching and mostly unseen and unintended consequences.
I suddenly realize, looking at my family and my two daughters, that had my mother made the legal choice to abort me, then the two wonderful little girls who are my children would not exist today.
Too often people are too quick and too eager to speak up for their rights, for their choices, and for their freedoms without understanding that with those rights, and choices, and freedoms comes responsibility for the outcomes, and consequences both intentional and the unintended. As it turns out, Norma McCorvey, the woman whose personal life was used to argue the case of Roe vs. Wade, never had an abortion. Her baby was born and adopted by another family. Just two days ago, I saw a TV commercial where she openly acknowledges regret.
I believe if we were to all be open and honest, the conclusion could be made that the main reason abortions take place today are due to the personal inconvenience of life an "unwanted/unintended pregnancy" would represent. Despite the myriad of social, medical, and economic factors, the truth is simply that the pregnancy is compartmentalized as "a problem" and abortion has been offered as an expedient and legal "solution" to that perceived problem.
I cannot say I do not understand that line of thinking. My life was not easy growing up. My family had it very hard economically. I understand what it means to grow up poor. My father left our family when I was 14 years old. By all indications, the legal murder of my life would have been justified looking back on how hard and how tough life was not only for my mom and myself, but the other children in our family. If my mom could look back on her life and see with 20/20 vision how much easier her life could have been without me being born, maybe she would have decided to end my life. Furthermore, she may have chosen to end the lives of my two brothers that followed.
Yet, if my mother had only looked at her own personal circumstances and made a decision that was convenient for her, the unintended consequences of ending my life would be that my two daughters would not exist.
Abortion, as of this date, is legal; however, it is the legal killing of unborn children.
Just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should do a thing.
This Tuesday I get to go out on a date with my daughter. Exactly 40 years after the killing of unborn children was made legal, I will celebrate another year of life with my own child. As I look into my daughters eyes, I am very glad that just because my mom could do a thing, she didn't do a thing.
I begin this article with some measure of trepidation. You see, I'm not sure how you, the reader, will perceive it. I know what I am about to try to communicate, but in all things written, you the reader will read into this article from your own personal perceptions, experiences, and backgrounds. So, let me state from the beginning that it is not my desire to offend, but to inform. It is my hope that some will recognize the truth in this article and enjoy the benefits, while for others more inclined to be offended, I merely hope that you will consider with a thoughtful heart what is written, and to try to understand.
I remember a time, back in my college years, when I thought I would never get married. I was a very outgoing person, but when it came to talking with girls, I seemed to go mute. To put it bluntly, I was socially clumsy when it came to talking with girls. I had little success with dating, and in anguish I prayed for God to give me a wife while secretly thinking there is no way it would ever happen. I opened up my feelings on the matter to a close mentor who simply told me, "When the right girl comes along, you'll know it."
My question was: "But how?!?!?!
Answer: "You just will."
He smiled, gave a few more words of encouragement that I don't remember, and I walked off feeling no more comforted or assured of getting married one day than I did before the conversation.
A few years later, God put me in some very special circumstances. It is a story in itself in which I will not go into here, but suffice it to say my path crossed with a young lady who seemed to light up my world when I first laid eyes on her. Suddenly, I just knew. That very night I walked into my dorm room, and I knew I would marry this girl I had met just this very day. A year later exactly to the day, on August 22nd, she became my wife.
Now, my question to you is this: How does God speak to you?
(For the rest of this article please visit MenRising)