Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Stand (or "sit") Corrected!

Well, this is only my fourth blog entry, and I already stand corrected (or, since I'm at my computer, I "sit" corrected). Not a good track record, to be sure. But, hopefully the reason is due to my continued growth and maturation (is that a word?)

In my Julie & Julia & Matt post I indicated my conviction to never promote myself or my efforts. This was a conviction based upon my observations of what happens to people elevated to platforms they are not mature enough to handle. (Britney Spears, Kate Gosselin, Miley Cyrus, for example). I have always valued my faith, my family, and my loved ones more important than any desire to be in any type of limelight position. I have been afraid of what a ton of public attention would do to my ego, and the affect it would have on those around me. Thus, I have worked hard not to "brag on myself" to others for several years now.

This wasn't true around 6 years ago or so, when major insecurities ruled my life. At that time, the only way I would feel good about myself is if others, especially people of influence, would give me attention.

For example, I would crave being mentioned by name in church by a "platform person". Oh, the pastor is talking about people who have active prayer lives. I have an active prayer life. I hope he mentions my name as an example to everyone.

Ok, this is embarrassing. But, I'll continue.

To make a long story short, a number of years ago I developed an unhealthy emotional attachment that caused a lot of pain to myself, and to those closest to me. This attachment fed my insecurities. I did a lot of soul searching and realized the only One who can make me feel good about myself without any guilt is God, the Creator. Knowing His good, loving, approving thoughts towards me has kept me from being controlled by insecurities.

But, I don't want to go back to that place that caused so much pain to the ones I love the most. So, with few exceptions, I have only ascended platforms after receiving unsolicited invitations.

This morning, I was reading a letter by Martin Luther (not to be confused with MLK JR) to Pope Leo. If you'll recall, Martin Luther was the founder and CEO of the Protestant Church. The year was 1520 A.D. Martin Luther was openly confronting the Church of Rome regarding how far their teachings strayed from salvation "by grace, through faith" alone. Yet, Martin Luther was very humble, and respectful of the Pope, making sure the Pope knew his battle was against the Church's teachings, and not with the Pope himself. Martin Luther knew he was addressing the most influential Christian leader of his time period. Pretty lofty stuff, which Luther probably felt he was not qualified to do.

Yet, Luther wrote, "I do this, not from any desire to teach (or to correct), but as a duty, from that simple and faithful solicitude which teaches us to be anxious for all that is safe for our neighbours, and does not allow considerations of worthiness or unworthiness to be entertained, being intent only on the dangers or advantage of others".

In other words, Luther felt a conviction of the Lord to address the Catholic Church's abuses of Scripture, and left the results up to the Lord. Luther had to follow his convictions, and trust the Lord would not let him get in over his head. He felt his desires were pure, and so he had to follow his convictions.

So, I stand corrected.

Whew! Now I can tell people about my blog.

Can anyone tell me what the phone number is to take out an ad in the USA Today?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pain is a four letter word!

Ok, everyone who loves pain raise your hand!

What? No hands! I can't believe it. I mean, everyone should have their hands up...right?

Well, I guess I've forgotten that "pain" is a four letter word. In fact, it's bleeped out of many individuals' vocabulary because of it's offensive nature. But, should this be the case?

A loose definition of "pain" is a sense of emotional or physical discomfort that involves a level of suffering. (Now, I understand why you didn't raise your hand at the beginning.)

I think we would all agree that experiencing pain (on many different levels) is a natural part of life. Most over the age of 20 have experienced the pain of losing a loved one, whether a family member or a beloved pet. (My wife, Brenda and I cried much harder when our 16 year old Shih-Tzu passed on compared to the passing of Brenda's grandmother. Hey, 16 years of tail wagging can't be beat.) Who hasn't experienced the breakup of a romantic relationship, or getting fired, or a traffic ticket, or an injury or sickness? All experiences involved levels of emotional or physical pain.

The question is how do we respond to pain?

Good question. The answer probably depends upon whether you or I are actually in pain at the moment. If we are experiencing pain, then our feelings and emotions are screaming pain stinks!!!

However, during rational moments, we would agree that pain can be an effective teacher.

Dad: Son, if you don't clean your room I'm gonna spank your butt!
Son: Go ahead and make my day!
Dad: Ok, you asked for it! Bam!!!
Son: Dad, can I help clean your room after I'm finished with my room?

Everyone experiences pain, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. In either case, pain can teach us lessons about ourselves and life.

Why didn't I want to clean my room? Because I don't want to be told what to do. I want to do what I want to do, and I don't want to do what I don't want to do. I guess I'm a little rebellious. Or, rather maybe I'm a lot rebellious, and rebellion usually leads to pain. So, I'll quit being rebellious.

Pain is not always correlated to personal weakness, and this is where we get hung up sometimes. Someone is unjustly fired from their job. Or, a mate betrays his or her spouse without rationale explanation. This type of unearned pain can still teach us about life, or even about our ability to endure hardship while maintaining integrity and character.

My dad just passed away after fighting cancer for two years. He smoked off and on for the majority of his adult life, but had not smoked for nearly 30 years. I'm sure he thought he had quit in time to avoid lung cancer. Nevertheless, he faced cancer with great integrity and character. I never heard him complain once about his condition. His attitude was "I'm gonna do everything to fight cancer, but if God doesn't heal me, I'm gonna go out with grace and poise". The way he conducted himself the last two years made more of an influence on my life than the previous 40+ years. I know I can face anything without becoming angry, bitter, or resentful because of what my dad's pain taught me.

I believe every life situation falls into one of two categories; 1. God caused it to happen, or 2. God allowed it to happen. However, in either situation, all things are working together for my good.

So, I will not run from pain, or curse it, or deny it. I will accept it, learn from it, and hopefully God will deliver me from it at the right time. Hopefully, my life, and the life of those I love will be better off for it.

That means I can use this four-letter word all I want without risk of getting bleeped!

Pain! Pain! Pain! Pain!

No pain! No gain!

(Ok, sorry to end with a cliche, but I couldn't resist. That will have to be your cross to bear!)