Thankful For My Life – 12/26/02

Fourteen years ago next month, Interstate 10 tried to kill me.

It had an accomplice: my own stupidity.

Fortunately, God is greater than even that. He decided he wasn’t finished with my earthly sojourn, and this week, I stand in gratitude of what he did that day. For it could only have been him.

Many of us speak of our first car with fondness. I am foremost among them. It was the day after Christmas, 2002. I was driving south in my Dodge Intrepid from Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, where I was stationed, to visit my grandfather in Tucson. A nap attack arrived – I swear it’s always around 1:35pm – and being an inexperienced driver, I figured I could fight through the fatigue and keep driving. Older and wiser now, I give you this advice for such a situation: for Pete’s sake, pull over and nap. It only takes twenty minutes to reset your body.

That day, somewhere north of Casa Grande, I nodded off. The freeway curved to the right; I did not. The rumble strips on the road’s left side woke me up and I swerved hard right to correct – too hard. The back end of my Intrepid swung out left and took the rest with it. I remember only skidding into the median thinking “This is like a really loud, really fast, really big bike accident multiplied by ten.” It remains the most terrifying 1.5 seconds of my life’s memory.

I don’t remember hitting the median. The next thing I remember was lying face up on the ground, outside my car, blood streaming down my face as I stared up at the sky, scared, wondering what had happened.

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3 Reasons You Must Pray For Your Heart’s Desire

This isn’t going where you think.

prayerYou probably had one of two reactions upon reading the title of this post.

The first was a groan. I don’t want to, Brandon. Not again. I’m tired of bringing these things before God and being met with silence and inaction week after week, month after month. I can’t keep doing that.

The other was a sharp intake of breath. That’s dangerous, Brandon. Don’t write that. We’ve got too much bad theology out there to risk this sort of thing. Talk about holiness and surrender instead.

Actually, you probably had a bit of both reactions.

Indeed, I cannot guarantee that praying for your heart’s desire will get you what you want. I know Psalm 37:4 seems to say it will. But we must guard our hearts. One look around the world should reveal that God isn’t exactly handing out heart’s desires like candy; there must be something more to that verse.

But…

What if that’s not why we pray for our heart’s desire? What if there are other reasons?

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Struggling to Be Thankful? Just Get Older

When I was younger (not that I’m old now, thank you), I had an issue with being ungrateful.

Every parent out there probably just said “amen”.

When you’re young, you don’t know how much you don’t know. All you can see is your present problems. It rarely occurs to us that others have it worse; we just don’t see it. I often struggle with the section of my heart that just plaintively shouts “NO! I’m tired of pat, cliched solutions. Just fix this, God!” whenever hardship shows up. May God have mercy on that foolish section.

But reaching the age of 33 has shrunk that voice. Time has given me the chance to see more suffering. It’s devious, unfair, and creative, just how badly the world can go wrong for people. And it makes me thankful.

I’m seeing our clients’ bodies break down from mesothelioma, paralysis, mood disorders – even diabetes induced from head injuries in war (I didn’t even know that could happen!). Not to mention the six-figure medical bills they rack up, ensuring debt for their children no matter how well they settle with the insurance company. It leaves me grateful that I can breathe, run, even walk, or pay for something – and noticing each time I do. Noticing. I thought being grateful for my sight and my hearing was for grandparents, older folks who had ascended to some higher plane of earthly existence that I couldn’t possibly understand. Nope – it’s for me, too.

Which is good, because I am starting, almost imperceptibly, to lose my hearing.

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Forgive Some Liberals Today

forgiveForgive some liberals today.

It might seem a little facetious to treat holding different political opinions as something that needs forgiving. But we can be bitter even towards someone who has done us no objective wrong, like a manager who turned you down for a much-needed job.

So I will say…forgive some liberals today.

Is that hard to hear?

It’s probably safe to say that liberals – the media, whiny celebrities, Portland protestors, entitled college students and their PC safe-space police, and the outgoing president you never really prayed for – are amongst the closest thing to real enemies we have in this country. At least, that is how they exist in our minds. Isn’t it? Forgiving them feels like sponsoring their mindset, yielding ground, or “letting them get away with something”. It feels, for lack of a better word, a little dangerous.

It isn’t.

And it’s a good thing, because Jesus doesn’t give us any exception clauses to the command to forgive. For he forgave us. There are a lot of decent people like you on the other side of the aisle who are disappointed this week. We’re supposed to be salt, not salt in the wound. Who’s “right” doesn’t matter. Godliness matters. (And it might even have power to win them over to our cause.)

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If God Could Change Saul, He Can Change Donald Trump

lightCongratulations, Mr. President-Elect. The odds have proven to be in your favor after all.

You all know that a few weeks ago I posted about my personal reluctance to vote for Donald Trump. I laid out my convictions as best I could; I made clear that we each had to do what we each thought was right. Well, we did, and here we are. (How I voted will remain private to me.) Yet I think I am still safe in saying that some of us retain concerns over Trump’s character. There remain unanswered questions.

So now our question is how a Christian responds to his election in the midst of this fog.

Well, we show respect befitting the office. Hence the formality to open my post. God told us to honor governments and officials, and if I’m going to talk of character, I have to follow God’s commandments about mine. We also remember that God is the only one who really knows where all this is going; he’s the one holding each man’s destiny. It was that thought that led me to think of the Apostle Paul. It was a reminder of HIS life that broke open my fog and revealed a staggering vista of the ocean of God’s grace, compelling me to break an earlier no-more-Trump-on-this-blog promise and write this post.

If God can change Saul, he can change Donald Trump.

This is serious business, folks.

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The Ache of a Cubs Championship

celebrateHere’s the 0-1…this is gonna be a tough play…Bryant!…the Cubs!!!..WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!! Bryant makes the play!! It’s over!! And the Cubs have finally won it all, 8-7 in ten!!”

Joe Buck’s words reverberated across the nation, Chicago erupting into bewildered revelry, a 108-year-old curse shattering into pieces. The Chicago Cubs, known for generations as the “lovable losers” who could find a way to choke in any circumstance, were now the undisputed top dogs – winner of the 2016 World Series.

“No more waiting until next year,” as Buck so eloquently put it – no more next game, no more tough practice session tomorrow, no more drowning in negative headlines. The players could finally let it all go. You could see the worries drop from their shoulders, the internal pressures released. Kris Bryant, having nailed the final toss, leaping across the field like Neil Armstrong on the moon; Anthony Rizzo pocketing that winning ball and flinging his glove aside to leap into a bouncing throng of teammates; fans nationwide collapsing in relief as they watched, their blood pressure dropping just as quickly. Their team…not a newly adopted playoff favorite, but their long-cherished team…had finally won it all.

For me, the most heartwarming moment of the night was watching YouTube videos of elderly folks reveling in their homes. There was none of that when my Seahawks won the Super Bowl; they’re a younger team in a younger sport, no fans in their nineties to watch a lifelong dream come true. That night, ninety-year-olds Cubs fans clapped gleefully like kids from their rocking chairs, their bodies even remembering how to dance for a few moments. They had hung on, disappointment after disappointment, for almost a century. At long last, they had been rewarded.

And thinking of that, I felt…an ache.

It was not the ache of worrying about next season. (By the way, while I have you here – don’t do that. Don’t let your thoughts start turning to whether they’ll repeat next year, to worrying about the draft and free agency, to wondering whether this was all a fluke. Not so soon. They just won the World Series. For goodness’ sake, rest and enjoy it. That’s my advice, from someone whose football team won it all three years ago. Some fans will never know this joy.)

No, this ache was something else.

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How to Let Go of Our Christian Heroes

walkingThis week, Jen Hatmaker stepped in it.

The popular progressive Christian author and speaker, in an interview with the Religion News Service, stated she believed that “gay relationships are holy”.

Before I offer my stance on this*, I want to talk about something else: our reaction.

For as soon as I read Jen’s words, a swell of something hit my chest, and I wasn’t sure whether it was a response to Jen’s doctrine, or pity for her.

The moment Jen made her claim, you knew what was coming. She’s been hit with a tsunami of harsh rebuke from every corner of the earthly church. Smug responses, in some cases, like this from the Christian satire site Babylon Bee. Piling on. Without the nuance of face and voice, I can tell you that this wave of response has already struck some people as self-satisfied, angry, and alarmist – everything Christian millennials (like Hatmakers’ fans) already dislike about the evangelical church. It’s a downside to the internet. It’s also one reason my generation struggles so much to respect doctrine.

If you’re ice-cold objective about all this, you probably acknowledge that the harshness of the church has no bearing on whether a piece of doctrine is actually true.

But something is revealed here, I think, by fans of both Hatmaker and of those criticizing her: a hesitation to let go of our earthly heroes.

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