Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Does God use Pain?

Nothing happy, clappy, or funny to write today. Today's just too hard, too painful, and too alone.

In the ninth chapter of the gospel of John, there is a blind man described. This guy used to sit there and beg, because he had no way of doing anything to earn a living.

He'd been blind from birth. Imagine his torment throughout childhood. Being ostracized by classmates, or maybe even completely excluded from school. Even into adulthood, most believed he was cursed of God, either for his own sin or his parents'. And he probably had experienced his fair share of feeling abandoned by God.

I can relate. I've been feeling pretty alone since June, and for reasons none but one or two of you know, it's worse today than ever. Excluded and ostracized by all but a few. Even some who at first stuck by me and claimed they'd be my friends forever have bailed out.

But you know what? It's only been six months. Half a year. Just 1/78th of my life, really.

Sure, I can't imagine a lifetime of feeling this way, and can't imagine being able to. But the question is, "Am I willing to? Am I willing to endure anything that is in God's plan for my life?"

I think that's the key right there: remembering that God does in fact have a plan. There was a plan for the blind man, certainly. Jesus knew his torment, and said that his situation "was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (Jn. 9:3) Jesus knew that his torment was coming to an end, and sight would soon be given to him.

Do I believe that in my life a huge miracle is going to happen? That like Job, my latter days will be blessed more than my beginning? That God will make everything new and better than before? I don't know - that's up to God to decide. If it happens, it certainly won't be because I earned it. But the bigger picture is that it honestly doesn't matter, so long as I can still say, as David did, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me." (Ps. 23:4)

Chew on that for awhile, whydontcha?

Note: Several concerned emails within an hour of posting make me think that I didn't get my point across very well. This was supposed to sound encouraging, folks. My faith is strong, and not dependent upon my circumstances, no matter how long they last, no matter what God's plan for the future is. He is God, I am not, and I'm relying upon Him. That's GOOD, right???

Friday, November 24, 2006

You Can't Have Everything... Where Would You Put It?

In recent years, I really learned to enjoy buying, wrapping, and giving presents to loved ones. I grew to see the whole process as one way to communicate love and caring. I would try to think of who the person was, what they needed, and what they liked. It was my way of showing I was thinking of them.

Of course, if I was at a genuine loss (as I often was), I'd do the gift card thing. Some people say that gift cards are impersonal and unimaginitive. But I like 'em.

Unfortunately, placing such value on the process inevitably led to disappointment when the reverse wasn't true. I found that over the last decade most people who gave me gifts based their buying decisions on what I did for a living, rather than who I was. Translation: I got a lot of "Pastor Plaques."

I've been thinking that this Christmas is going to be pretty unique in that there's no quick-fix on the present front. If someone wants to buy me something, they're not going to be able to just walk into a Christian bookstore and grab the first thing that says "Pastor" on it.

Since my new job has taken me far from family and long-time friends, I assumed my absence would alleviate the issue entirely. But the Thanksgiving turkeys haven't even begun to cool in the fridge, and already several people have asked what they can get me for Christmas. Drat!

It's hard to know what to say. Frankly, I really don't need much, since I've already accumulated most of life's trinkets and beads. Plus, as a bachelor in a one-bedroom apartment, I don't have a lot of room for stuff.

But to make things a little easier on those who are dead-set on sending me something, I updated my wish list for Christmas. The link is over there on the right, or you can just click here.

My address is 4680 Craftsbury Circle, Apt B, Fort Wayne, IN 46818, in case you've misplaced it.

In closing, if this entry seems a little below-par in comparison to my usual writing, it's because I really need to get going to work and haven't had time for the usual number of rewrites. Being late is the biggest no-no at the company I work for. The employee manual says, "There is no such thing as on time. You are either early or you're late." I love this place!

As a funny happinstance, I just received a text from someone in Cheyenne saying they're going shopping! Unless I'm mistaken, it's 6:15 in the morning there! Craziness! Have fun with the Black Friday crowds. I'll be at the office.

Note: Today's title is taken from a Steven Wright joke. Credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comedy Of Errors

Okay, so this morning I couldn't for the life of me remember if my morning meeting was at 7:30 or 7:45. Just to play it safe, I got to work at 7:25. Then I waited 20 minutes for the 7:45 meeting to start. Sigh.

Two hours later, I clumsily knocked a bottle of water over onto a friend's laptop. (Fortunately, he had the lid securely screwed on. Whew.)

When I went to leave for lunch, it seemed that my keyless entry's battery had died, because my car door wouldn't open and I had to use the actual key. Interestingly, the interior lock switch didn't work either. Nor did the key when I turned it in the ignition. Turned out I'd left my lights on and my battery was dead.

After work, I went to buy groceries. As I braved the pre-Thanksgiving crowds in the frozen food aisle, I grabbed three Healthy Choice dinners out of the freezer. Unfortunately, the middle one slipped out from between the other two, resulting in all three of them clattering to the floor. I let out an embsrassed chuckle and picked them up, feeling terribly self-conscious.

Carrying the groceries in from my apartment's parking lot, one of my bags slipped of of the pinky I had it precariously looped around. Of course, the bag's contents happened to include a jar of spaghetti sauce, which - upon hitting the concrete of my front porch - exploded inside the bag, the broken glass slicing plenty of holes out from which the sauce could pour. The patio looked like a CSI murder scene.

Of course, the evening wouldn't have been complete without the rinsing of spaghetti sauce off soup cans resulting in shards of glass jamming up the garbage disposal.

Certainly, there have been times in my life where a series of events like this would have resulted in an outburst of anger or a sullen "my day is ruined" attitude. But like The Sphinx said in "Mystery Men," "Until you learn to master your rage, your rage will become your master."

Actually, he didn't say that, exactly. He'd been spouting predictable twists of phrase all day, so the conversation with Mr. Furious went more like this:

Mr. Furious: Okay, am I the onIy one who finds these sayings a littIe bit formulaic? "If you wanna push something down, you have to pull it up." "If you wanna go left, you have to go right..."

The Sphinx: Your temper is very quick, my friend. But untli you Iearn to master your rage...

Mr. Furious: "...Your rage will become your master?" That's what you were gonna say, right? Right?

The Sphinx: Not necessarliy.

What a great movie.

Anyway, the point is that while circumstances are often uncontrollable, your response to those things is always your choice. As Stephen R. Covey wrote, "Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values."

So, clumsy day. Ha ha, no big deal. It gave me something to write about.
And hey, if I don't write before Thanksgiving, have a great one. Enjoy your family and/or friends, and remember to thank God for them. Seriously.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Weekends End And Weeks Begin

Chelsea's plane was almost six hours late leaving Chicago, but she and Shiloh did finally make it to Fort Wayne at 12:30am Saturday.

It was wonderful to have such quality time, and I'm feeling a bit melancholy as I realize they'll be leaving tomorrow morning. How long until I see them again? Or any other loved friends and family?

At the same time, I'm rapidly getting sick for the first time in Indiana. My throat is on fire and getting worse by the hour. I can tell this isn't going to be pretty...

My third trimester of training starts tomorrow morning as well. Just three weeks left now.

This morning in church, Pastor Ken was talking about the nightmare of change, and reminded us of the future and hope that God has planned for us, even when we're frightened of change.

I've been dwelling for weeks on the fact that, for me, there are so many endings in the rear view mirror, and so many new beginnings on the horizon. It's painful and hopeful all at the same time. But as they say, "It's all good."

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28