Thursday, September 11, 2014

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

I told Pop one time that my favorite sermon of his was, "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" and was a bit surprised by his response. "Thanks," he said, "but I can't take credit for that. If I remember right, I borrowed that from C.S. Lewis."

Not a bad guy to borrow a sermon topic from, if you ask me.

I was trying to decide what to write on here a while back and Nathan told me I should write about that sermon. He hadn't heard it and I can't remember anything more than the main points, so I put it off. For one thing, I haven't been real anxious to tackle a topic C.S. Lewis wrote about--or one Pop spoke about. Both sets of those shoes are pretty big to try to fill, to be honest.

The other day, though, I gave in. I decided I would look into it and make an attempt to write something. I looked up the sermon and found something interesting:
         It looks like C.S. Lewis borrowed the idea, too. From what I can tell, the "trilemma" can be traced back to the mid 1800s and a couple of men named Mark Hopkins and John Duncan.

Who knew--even C.S. Lewis borrowed ideas from time to time!

So, I guess I said all that to say this: I am absolutely scared to death to dive into this subject. I hope, though, that I can do so without muddying up the waters for you too much... and I guess I should stop procrastinating and get on with things :)

*****

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
It seems like an odd question, doesn't it? Those labels don't really go together, and you wouldn't think there would ever be a situation where you would be asked to make a choice between the three.

The thing is, I think that question is one everyone needs to ask themselves. To me, you can't truly be confident in your faith until you understand just what it is that you believe--and why you believe it. Contrary to what some people have been taught, that means asking the hard questions and working through the answers. Here's one of those hard questions: Who was Jesus?

The question of whether or not Jesus was a real person have finally started to quiet. There is too much historical evidence of the man named Jesus, born in Bethlehem to Mary and her husband Joseph, who then spent His childhood in Nazareth and went on to become a great teacher. The Jewish historian Josephus mentioned Jesus, and the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of His execution by Pilate. So if we don't need to question whether or not the man Jesus lived, the only question left is who is He?

Here you have a man who claims time and time again to be the Son of God. In Matthew 16 He asks Peter, "Who do you say I am?" Verses 16 and 17 go on,

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven."

When He was being questioned by the high priest Caiaphas, here was the exchange:
"The high priest said to Him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God:
Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'
'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."
Matthew 26: 63-64 (partial verses)

Jesus told the people to follow Him. He told His disciples that they would be persecuted for doing so. He talked about being raised from the dead and about feasting with His disciples in heaven. He said many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ.

Listening to everything He said, we have three options:
1. He was a Liar
-The first option is pretty simple: Jesus could have been a liar. He could have known full well that all He was saying was false, and He could have been saying all that crazy stuff solely to deceive people. If so, nothing He ever said should be taken as good. If He was a liar, He shouldn't be held up by other religions as being a prophet, a moral leader, or a great teacher. If He was simply lying, He was nothing more than evil.

If He was simply lying, though, He would have to be one of the most devious, conniving men to have ever lived. He would have had to work out elaborate plans to be able to fake healings like those experienced by the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8: 43-48), the blind man (Mark 10: 46-52), and the soldier whose ear was cut off (Luke 22: 49-51). He would have had to figure out a way to get a herd of pigs to drown themselves in the lake (Mark 5: 1-20). He would have had to convince multiple people that their kids had died and been restored to life (Matthew 9: 18-26 and Luke 7: 11-16).

Sounds like a lot of work to me, especially when the end reward was a Roman execution.

2. He was a Lunatic
-Here's the next option. Maybe Jesus really wasn't who He claimed to be, but maybe He fully believed it Himself. Perhaps He was simply crazy. That could explain a lot of the stuff He was saying, like talking about being the Son of God. We've seen people follow crazy people before, right? Hitler and Mussolini come to mind for starters, along with quite a few cult leaders who have convinced people to do crazy things. As was the case if He was a liar, though, if Jesus was a lunatic we shouldn't pay any attention to His teachings. He shouldn't be seen as a good man or a wonderful example of morality we should try to emulate. If He was crazy, we should steer clear of Him and His claims to be the Son of God, the Messiah Israel had been waiting for since the birth of the nation and the time of Abraham.

3. He was--and is--Lord
-So, if Jesus wasn't a liar and He wasn't a lunatic, we are only left with one option.
He was who He said He was, the Son of God sent to earth to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He was a moral leader, sure, but He was and is so much more than that.
He is the bridge that spans the chasm between imperfect man and a perfect God.
He is the sacrificial Lamb, His life laid down to justify us--people who could never justify ourselves.
He is the Rock upon which we can build the only foundation that will stand the test of time.
He is the Word used to speak all of creation into existence and then sent to us as a love letter from a merciful Father in heaven.


So, there are the options. Who do you say Jesus is?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

a letter from a preacher's kid

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the number of letters I've seen lately, letters full of pain and bitterness aimed at "preacher dads." They are letters from PKs who write about never seeing the love of Christ in their home while listening to their dad preach it from the pulpit. They are letters of legalism, punishment, and neglect. The words pour out of wounded hearts, and the damage done to such tender spirits is evident.

Yes, sometimes being a preacher's kid is hard. For all those who were wounded, though, there are others of us who were blessed. Our hearts haven't been hurt, though, so as is often the case you don't hear from us. I don't write to take away from one side, but to perhaps lend my voice to the other. So here's my letter, from one preacher's kid to her father...

***
Dear Pop,
I know it worried you at times, the question of how your job affected your kids. I'm sure that's common to a lot of dads, but it somehow seems different for a pastor. After all, most dads don't take their kids to work with them on a regular basis. Well, I can't speak for Michael or Sarah, but I can tell you how it's affected me.

It was a strange thing sometimes, being in the spotlight when I hadn't auditioned for a role. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed, when it seemed like expectations were being heaped up on shoulders too small to carry such a heavy burden. It seemed like I ws supposed to have it all together, to know how to dress, speak, and act the part of the "perfect Christian." The thing was, I was just a kid still trying to figure out all of that stuff myself.

But that pressure didn't come from you.

From you, I learned that it's not bad to fall under a heavy burden because when you fall the easiest place to get to is your knees. You taught me that what someone says on Sunday isn't nearly as important as how you live the rest of the week. You showed me the importance of looking at everything and everyone through eyes unclouded by judgement or preconceived notions. You also taught me to have the courage to ask the hard questions and the strength to accept the hard answers.

From you I learned that your witness isn't a bunch of words strung together. Instead, it's the way you live your life. I've learned the value of integrity, compassion, and humility.

Being a preacher's kid may have been an unusual childhood, but it was a good one. It was a childhood I wouldn't have traded. It was one in which I never doubted how much I was loved by both my earthly father and my heavenly Father.

So, from one preacher's kid, thank you for following God's call on your life. Thank you for showing me how to live the life of the called, even when it's hard. I love you.

Love,
Me

Thursday, August 28, 2014

a story of evil and protection

I don't post twice in one day. Pretty sure I've never done it before, and there's a pretty good chance I'll never do it again.

Today, though, I had to make an exception.

There is evil in this world. Most of the time here in the U.S. we see it from a distance, a faceless terror affecting the lives of other people. It seldom affects us, so though we know it is there we don't feel it's effects.

This morning, evil reached out and touched my family.

I sent Nathan off to school this morning, because he's going to be spending the next year dividing his weekdays between the college campus and a high school campus while he works towards a Master's in education. After fixing breakfast for the kids at around 7 a.m., I saw multiple missed calls from Nathan. When I got him on the phone, he told me that a wheel had come off of the Bronco as he drove into Toledo. A little while later, after being towed to a service station, he told me that the mechanics were emphatic: the Bronco had been sabotaged.

That's not a word I use lightly, but it is all that fits in this case. I have only spoken to him through text messages so far because his phone battery was too low to be able to call, but Nathan told me that apparently all the lug nuts had been loosened on all the tires. The tires had also been cut somehow, though I'm still not entirely clear on the details. They didn't appear flat when Nathan left, so I'm not sure how they were cut. Once the truck is drivable again, he's on his way to the police station to make a report and figure out where we go from here.

Honestly, I'm terrified. I have no idea what it takes for someone to want to do that, and I have no idea why anyone would want to do that to us. Our safety has been put in jeopardy, and I'm desperate to regain some sense of control over the situation.

At the same time, I am infuriated. Someone set out to hurt my family. MY family. That is not something I am able to just accept, and it will probably take me a little while to forgive--and then definitely not through my own strength.

I know, though, that the evil my husband and I were introduced to this morning does not even begin to compare to the evil attacking others on a daily basis, all around the world. For those people, my heart aches and my soul cries out in prayers of protection and strength.

Though this morning has given me a small taste of the evil in this world, it has also reminded me of something great:

~God is good.
~God takes care of His children.
~He and He alone protected my husband as he drove the 30 miles into the city this morning on four loosened, cut tires.
~God has a plan for us, and Evil is powerless before Him.

"But the LORD is faithful,
and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
~2 Thessalonians 3: 3

faith & trust

There's a story about a man who went in view of the call at a church. He gave a sermon that everyone thought was amazing, and they all voted to have him as their new pastor. Much to their surprise, he preached the same sermon his first Sunday there. When he stood up the next week and did the same thing again, the church leaders confronted him about it.

The new pastor listened calmly to their complaints then smiled. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll move on to the next sermon when you figure out how to start living out this one."

***

Have you ever been there?

I know I have. There are times when I feel like God is harping on one topic with me, grounding the same lesson into my head over and over again. It's as if He's preaching the same sermon
day after day,
week after week--
sometimes even year after year.

Most of the time, the words are the same. If you look back through the posts in this blog, you'll see a common theme in what I've been told: "You claim to have faith in Me, so trust Me."

faith: belief without proof; confidence; reliance; loyalty; fidelity

trust: reliance on the integrity, veracit, etc. of a person; confident expectation
 (definitions from The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

I claim faith, but I have a hard time relying on the One in whom I have placed my faith.

Trust is hard for me-- I would much rather rely on myself than trust other people. I don't know if it's because of my stubbornly independent streak or something else.

I do know, though, that if I claim to have faith in God I have to trust Him.

Maybe one of these days I'll be ready for Him to move on to the next sermon.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
~Hebrews 11:1 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

10 years of grief and life

10 years. Somehow it seems like it just happened yesterday, yet a lifetime ago at the same time. 10 years where life has gone on all around me while a part of me has been forever frozen in time. A decade in which I have slowly learned to grieve and live at the same time.

My hometown will be dedicating a street to Michael at 10 tomorrow morning on the 10th anniversary of his death. The rest of my family will be there, hearts heavy with the pain of both the day's memories and the death of my grandpa in the quiet hours between last night and this morning.

This will be one of many memorials I've missed. You see, for years I couldn't --and
wouldn't-- deal with my brother's death, so I didn't go to all the services to honor his sacrifice. My logic was simple: if I didn't have to face it, I didn't have to hurt.

The thing is, a heart doesn't work that way. Oh, it can for a while. But by avoiding the pain, never letting it show, all I managed to do was trap it inside. The pain simmered there, under the surface, and I lied to myself by saying I had things under control.

Control.

There's that word that pops up so often when I'm being honest with myself, the thing I'm so often reminded that I don't actually have. Oh, but I sure tried to control it.

Early on, I was given the impression that this wasn't really my loss. When people would talk to me, they would ask about my parents and Michael's widow. I heard over and over again how hard this must be on them and how strong I needed to be, so it was easy to use that as a cop-out. My loss must somehow be less important, easier to deal with. If I was struggling, that must mean I just wasn't being strong enough.

So I was strong, and I barely cried. When Michael would come to mind--in the early months it was because I would think of something I wanted to tell him before suddenly remembering that he wasn't there to tell--I would blink back the tears, swallow the lump in my throat, and shake the thoughts away.

I was strong.

It took a long time for me to finally realize what I probably should have known from the beginning. My pain wasn't the same as what my parents were dealing with or what his widow was going through. That didn't make it any less real, any less searing, any less world changing.

I lost my brother, and with him I lost a part of me that will never come back.

You see, siblings get under your skin. They are as much a part of you as your heart is, part of your body and your soul. They know your history, your jokes, your corny sense of humor. They hurt when you hurt and rejoice when you rejoice. They may laugh when you fall but are the first to pull you back up to your feet. You take it for granted that you will grow old together, watching each other's kids grow up and poking fun at the first sight of gray hairs. Siblings occupy a part of your soul that no one else can access, and when one of them is ripped away it changes you forever.

10 years ago, part of me was suddenly empty.
And no one understood...except my baby sister, but it was my responsibility to be strong for her the way I knew Michael would have been for me. I didn't want her to see me hurting because I wanted her to know I could be there to support her if she needed me.

That empty part of me still aches, and most of the time I still blink the tears away and swallow the lump in my throat. There are some days, though, when that doesn't work.

Those days are filled with a roller coaster of emotions and memories, with pictures flashing through my mind
~laughing as Michael tried to saddle Red Cloud
~driving him home after a basketball game because he was pretty sure he had a concussion but didn't want Mom to worry about him in front of all the guys
~putting on a Garth Brooks lip-syncing concert in his tiny bedroom
~breaking down next to his casket at the graveside
~wiping my fingerprints off of the chrome in his old truck when we pulled into the high school parking lot before school
~my babies who never got to be teased by their uncle
~sweaty hugs after football games
~watching him and John walk down the hall as people moved out of the way, only to have them stop to tell me hi--seniors talking to a lowly freshman
~a black bracelet with his name on it worn to Sarah's wedding

Tomorrow is bound to be one of those days, a day I sometimes wish I could simply sleep through and wake up on the 16th. For every stab of pain, though, there are 20 years of happy memories, and I wouldn't trade those for anything.

This year I won't be with the rest of my family at the street dedication because I'll be here in Ohio getting my kids ready to start school next week. I know, though, that the morning will be filled with people who loved Michael and people who love my family, and for that I am thankful. I'll be there in spirit, but I'm forever grateful to those of you who will be there in the flesh, strong arms there to hold up my family when I can't.

10 years. It's a milestone I never could have imagined reaching.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

too stubborn for something better

Cows are funny creatures. I was reminded of that this past weekend when I was home to visit and got to help Pop move his herd across the road. Summer in Arkansas means hot and dry most of the time (though the start of this summer hasn't been too bad), and that means the grass can't quite keep up with all the cows snacking on it all day long. Since I was home to help, Pop wanted to run all his cows in, put wormer on them, and move them across the road to where the grass was greener... on the other side of the fence... sorry, I couldn't resist.


It went relatively smoothly at first, and most of them came up when he hollered and started up the tractor. We even managed to get them worked relatively uneventfully--Pop only got kicked a couple of times, and the only one to kick at me graciously stopped her foot a good couple of inches in front of my face (yes, my face. Pop's comment was, "She's a bit of a high kicker, huh?").

But then, we had to try to get the rest of the herd.



A few of Pop's cows were a fairly new addition to his herd, and they weren't really used to coming when called and walking across the road to the other field. They were, however, together in one corner, so the plan was to easily push them along the fence line, around the chicken houses, and into the holding pen. Pop was in his truck and I was on foot since his four wheelers aren't working.

The plan...ha!
 
It wasn't long at all before a few of the calves were spooked, and then everybody took off running. Just in case you were wondering, I'm not very good at out running cows. When they're in a small space it's easy enough to step in front and get them to turn. When they're in the field, though, me stepping in front of them doesn't amount to much.

They were stubborn, and most of them are still right there--trying to graze on some extremely picked-over grass while the rest of the herd enjoys the good stuff.

I couldn't help but wonder how many times I've been like that herd that stayed behind when the Farmer tried to move me to something better. How many times has God tried to lead me, nice and easy, along the fence to get me right where He wants me, only to have me break away as soon as I get a chance, running for what I see as safety just because it's what I know?

Eventually, those cows will follow Pop's tractor and his voice, and they'll let him lead them across to where he wants them to be.

And hopefully, I'll follow suit. One day I'll learn to let God lead me without fighting to stay where I am, where I'm comfortable. Maybe I'll see that the pastures He leads me to really are greener.

One day, I'll listen to His voice instead of trying to do things my way first.

Monday, July 28, 2014

a legacy

"A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."
~Ecclesiastes 7: 1-4

I'm just a couple days away from making one of the hardest trips of my life, traveling back home to quite possibly say goodbye to both my grandfathers.

Papaw has had a hard fight for a long time now, battling COPD and emphysema for every breath. Grandpa's fight has been more recent and less obvious, but he now fights against the cancer in his esophagus just to be able to swallow his liquid diet. They have both always been amazing, strong men, and it makes my heart hurt to see their bodies turning on them.

I'm broken over the thought of losing them, but I'm also reminded of how incredibly blessed I have been to have these two men in my life for almost 30 years now.

They are both Army vets, men who gave of themselves for God and country. They are also both horsemen, though their approaches couldn't be much more different. For me, though, what I'm most thankful for is the commitment they both have always had to their families. They are both men with strong arms and rough hands, proof of the years they spent sacrificing their own comforts for their families.

I have learned so much from these two men, and some of my best and worst qualities can be traced back to them:
my love of horses
my stubbornness
my sense of honor
my dedication to my family
my enjoyment of a good story
my temper
my pride in my work
my appreciation for good workmanship
my love of travel
my love of home
my addiction to Dr. Pepper
my reliance on God

Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."

Neither of my grandfathers will leave this world with a lot of gold or silver in their pockets. They will, however, leave a legacy I am proud to be part of, names esteemed by those who know them-- and that is worth so much more.

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."
~Daniel 12:3