Life from the rear-view mirror

It’s not all about the “LOSS”… VOL. 118

LORIMy kids lost their mom to cancer just over 6 years ago. That was a defining moment. Their lives were forever altered. As much as I wanted the outcome of Lori’s illness to be different for their sake…it wasn’t.  And all the things I believed about God, his sovereignty, his mercy and his plan…were tested. Are still being tested…
“Why?” is a question that doesn’t necessarily apply just to big divides over theology and the mysteries of God. There are plenty of “why?” questions that pop up all on their own. (and it’s not like we don’t want to know those “why?” answers too.) And some of them are knowable…or at least guess-able…some not so much.
These days…and for the most part…I leave the big God whys? alone. My feeling is that once we’re in heaven we will just know the answers. I don’t think we’ll need to “take a number” to talk to Jesus about any burning question we had here on earth. I can’t prove that in scripture…but I think you’ll find I’m right. If I’m not…come find me in heaven and I’ll apologize 😉 I might give you my place in line!
Losing a parent creates a lot of conflict and questions in a child’s mind and heart. I don’t think there’s a lot of blame that they take on as sometimes happens in divorce…but when a parent dies, it’s a different dynamic.
I’m no doctor, and all I can do is observe my own kids. I’m not trying to draw any psychological conclusions or provide any answers ’cause I don’t have them. Our family is still a work in progress. I just want to point out a danger and a conflict I go through on a daily basis for those parents who may have a challenge with their kids after a huge loss like our family experienced.

Don’t try to tie every behavioral issue back to the loss…like I often do.

You will create a box for them, a box around them that you will try to keep them in…to protect them (you say to yourself.) In that box that you’ve created, no real-life rules apply. You can justify just about everything because of the loss of mom or dad…but you keep them from the growth that comes from consequences (their own consequences)…good and bad. That should be evident to us…but somebody needs to inform our hearts of that truth. Or maybe it’s just me.
I tend to live vicariously through my kids when it comes to the loss of Lori. How would I react to this? What would I be feeling? Am I mad at God? I wish mom were here now…and a thousand other things…none of which are helpful or encouraging by the way. In the end I can, and often do, end up making excuses for questionable behavior…bad decisions. For friend choices…for life choices.
Here’s a truth I’m having to learn…they are young adults and they WILL make mistakes, have bad days…choose friends I don’t like…have car accidents…have broken hearts and experience life as God gives them breath. They will all deal with Lori’s death differently and in their own time…but they are all alive and moving through adult life. They don’t need me to live vicariously through them…they need me to allow them to live their own lives. They will take each decision as it comes. I am there to help and gently guide and direct… but ultimately they will make the decision and (for the most part) live with the consequence…good or bad.
Part of the wisdom that we should have as moms and dads is knowing when the right time and age is to simply let them go. Step back. Watch them fly.
Listen…all wisdom comes from God. Some of the more practical wisdom comes from experience. I am thrilled when I’m smart enough to apply both correctly. That doesn’t happen as often as it should.

“Skin deep” success… VOL 117

A Shallow Success…

At 61, I still do my fair share of planning…looking ahead, setting goals…even a little (sometimes a lot) of dreaming.
But honestly, I spend more time these days reflecting. Thinking about things I wish I had done differently…dealing with the scars of regret. Trying to wring some sort of wisdom or perspective out of life for me, my kids and anyone else who might read these ramblings.
Most of my working life has been spent in sales. Many people would call that career path “lying for a living.” Sadly, I know too many people who lend credence to that thought.
If you are going to be successful at anything…it has to grow from integrity…a sense of self and what’s right that is shaped by family, friends…but mostly faith. If you aren’t careful, if you disregard these values, the periphery of life can get really screwed…er…skewed. It can get skewed so much that those core values are lost…or at least well hidden. I see these things magnified in a sales career. I struggle with this disease. This distasteful anomaly. And yes…sometimes I even resemble the remark.
How something or someone looks is not often a good measure of what is really there. I’m not going to explain that…you know what I mean. Looks are skin deep…if that. As the saying goes appearances can be deceiving.
As believers, we are sometimes tempted to think the only people who are truly loving, giving and full of integrity are other believers. That is far from the truth. The fact is that God made man/woman (ALL men and women) in his image. If we just look we can see glimmers of godliness in most people. Not all the time…but enough to notice. More than enough for God to work with. More than enough for God to use us to reach them.
There are games we play in sales. Looking the part is one of them. How that plays out kind of depends on what you are selling…but we are likely to drive a certain kind of car, wear a certain type of watch. Join a health club, a gym or become a member of a country club to communicate “success” at some level. That alone doesn’t have to be an “integrity killer”…but it can be. Some take such a big bite outta this “faux” success they begin to develop a self-worth based on what they are able to “project” to people as opposed to what they really produce or who they really are. They develop a life strategy that breeds a life-style that demands (and relies on) a “threshold of success.” What I mean by that is the stuff that was always optional now MUST be in their lives for them to feel good about themselves and to keep up the “appearance” of success, whether they really have achieved success or not. In the name of appearing successful they make misguided sacrifices and excuses. They exercise bad judgement in the name of this false success … and in the name of success (and image) they often create an unintended consequence of financial disaster or worse, a failed or failing life. And it might just have started just by wanting to “look the part” to gain some sort of advantage in sales or stature. That is the integrity killer.
After many years of playing, I understand the game…but it’s a dangerous one. Perhaps it can be played without selling your soul… but it has to be played with great discernment. I wish I could say I play it well all the time. I don’t. And the consequences of collateral damage to yourself and your family are very painful. Trust me.
For the believer, the danger is transferring your sufficiency from God to stuff or to pride. From what God thinks of you and requires of you to do and to be…to what people think of and require of you. One path finds its measure in personal character…the other in “things” that fall away or get burned up in the end.
It might take a lot of therapy to uncover all the “whys?” of this behavior. As someone once said while surveying the mess they were in “I didn’t start here..but “here” is where I am now.” We don’t get to “here” in one decision. And if “here” is a bad place for you…chances are good that it was never your original destination. We didn’t wake up one day and decide that our life sucked and we were going to create a “make-believe” one. It’s a multitude of small decisions that gradually move you in a particular direction. But once you are headed that way, it can be very hard to turn around. Very hard…but it can be done. You can change priorities. You can choose to be content, to be honest, to be successful on God’s terms (whether the money and success follow or not..) You can lift God up in your life and see how God lifts you up in return. Again…it may have nothing whatsoever to do with material things. Because the “show” of your life and mine, should be evident to people by seeing “Christ in us.”
I’m not there…not even close… but I’m on the path…still too close to the edge for my own good…but moving toward the safety of the center of God’s will. How about you?

Prayer matters… as a matter of fact! VOL 116

prayPrayer matters to God…Prayer matters to people…Prayer matters to me…

There are few things in life I take as seriously as prayer. I’m not talking about some “shout-out” to the universe. I’m talking about getting a-hold of the “God of the universe,” knowing that the same God who fashioned and created it, cares more deeply about us than we may ever fully understand.
I realize that this may sound foolish or naive to some. No matter. I have experienced the POWER of prayer as folks have prayed for me and I for them in desperate circumstance. I have experienced the COMFORT of prayer …crying out to God in tragedy and loss. I have experienced the PASSION of prayer…whole-heatedly seeking God in desperation for someone or something that has broken my heart. I have experienced the FELLOWSHIP of prayer…daily communicating with my creator who lets me know in his word that he is my Savior, my Lord and my friend.
Prayer is powerful and purposeful. I would say that our prayer-life is an incredible indicator of our relationship with God. If the word prayer sounds too religious…talking to God with purpose is sort of the same thing.
Today I asked for prayer from the guys in my community group. I just sent them a group txt message, and a few minutes later I see the texts start coming back. “…praying” “I’m praying for you” and others. This wasn’t a 911 “all hands” call to prayer. This was me struggling with something personal…and it was them, keeping an open heart and an open ear to a brother who needed them go to God on his behalf. Whether I’m anxious about something or have a real pressing need…sometimes all it takes to relax about it is to know that guys I trust, respect and love, have my back in prayer. Sometimes…they have been the answer to prayer themselves. God has often used them in some material way or with some wisdom or life experience they have passed along to meet my need. That’s important to understand. Prayer doesn’t always have to be (and shouldn’t always or only be) about huge things like “please heal my wife’s cancer” or stuff that miracles are made of. (An important note here…what we would consider a miracle of God is no big thing for God…only a big thing for us) and believe me I have prayed for some big things and looked for miracles in life.
God is just as interested in hearing about the small things in our lives, the thankful things…the praiseworthy things, the joyful things. He is interested in everything about us and can listen to all of us, all at once and respond to each of us in our individual need, all at the same time, without breaking a sweat…more accurately without expending any energy whatsoever. He is God after all.
“Answers to prayer are ALWAYS about his will for you…and NEVER about his ability to accomplish anything you ask.” Did you get that? I’m going to repeat it for effect…”Answers to prayer are ALWAYS about his will for you…and NEVER about his ability to accomplish anything you ask.”
That makes it both easier and harder when we hear a “no.” Easier in that God could have said yes and perhaps our will would have been accomplished…in which case we are most always happy with God. Or he could say “no” and leave us not understanding what his ultimate will is for us in a particular situation. Believe me…”no” was hard to hear when I asked for Lori’s life. But I believe that ultimately God accomplished, and is accomplishing his will in my life. I am the only barrier to him using me to the full extent of his purpose.
So I hope you never forget that God wants to hear from you often…all the time in fact. But please be mindful of your heart when you pray…don’t allow a threshold of sin in your life.
Last time I looked God was not speaking out loud to anyone these days, so look for his answers to come in many different ways. Even in the timing of things. And when you see God at work…(and you will) and you see answers coming…(and THEY will) be thankful…and continue to trust God in every area of your life.
I have just undertaken a very hard and long struggle. This is not the first time I have taken on this personal character issue. But with God’s help…I hope it’s the last. I’m so thankful his grace and mercy are unending.
Long obedience in the same direction. I don’t know if David Whiting coined this phrase or not…but I heard it again from him last Sunday. That is what it’s going to take for me and of me…and I know it’s impossible for me without prayer and making the next right decision.
You know…I bet someone is praying for you right now. To meet a need…to mend a broken heart…to turn a child’s heart to God…to meet financial needs…to heal a marriage…to calm anxiety…to help find a job…to repair a relationship…maybe that you yourself would believe the gospel message and become a true Christ follower.
Real life is only found in life with Christ. And that life begins and ends with prayer. Don’t miss it!

dugz4 July 9, 2016 1 Comment Permalink