Observed: Good, Bad, Ugly

Yesterday my wife and I spent an enjoyable day at the Kansas City Zoo. A rather unique event was happening while we were there. A group of high school students were on assignment to observe different animals, take notes, and do research to try to understand what their animal’s behaviors indicated. It was interesting and fun observing the students observe the animals. Of course, some of the animals appeared to be observing the strange humans observing them!

“People watching” is by no means anything new; some people have it as a hobby in shopping malls, parks, and other public venues. One consistent is if we observe people long enough we will certainly see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There have been many songs sung and sermons preached on the idea that “God is watching over me.” I believe that concept to be true since throughout the Bible we find evidence of God having a personal relationship with people and He does oversee lives as any loving Father would. I hope you find comfort in the fact that the Creator of the Universe personally cares about you—I do!

However, God’s unending and loving watchfulness is not limited to when we are doing something we want Him to see. Proverbs 5:21 tells us, “For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all your paths.”

Oh no, “all my ways and paths” are observed by the Lord!

Let’s break this down a bit.

  • When I am good: I am happy God is observing because it pleases Him and He blesses me. I am following the ways of Jesus Christ; serving not only Him but also those around me.
  • When I am bad: I do not like that God is observing. Yet, my bad behavior or thought is usually the result of a situation I am in and am not dealing with very well. Through humble confession and prayer God gives deliverance, protection, and blessings.
  • When I am ugly: I hope God is not observing! “Ugly” is not a physical description—God does not create anything “ugly”. “Ugly” is synonymous with “repugnant”, “repulsive”, “violent”, “cruel”.

Keeping these ideas in mind, I contend that “ugly” is our choice to act or think in a certain way; it is a conscious decision contrary to God’s desire, plan, and example.

What happens when we are “ugly”? Are we forgotten? Are we unforgivable? Fortunately, the answer is “no”. God is a forgiving God who does not neglect His children. After going through the ugliest event ever, Jesus looked up and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Don’t get me wrong, sin is sin and Heaven will not allow the presence of sin. But there is a difference in being “bad”– making a mistake-sinning-yet seeking forgiveness and turning our self toward God then there is in being “ugly”–defiant and rebellious and turning our self toward ourselves.

I prayerfully strive to be “good”, minimize the “bad”, and eliminate the “ugly”.

How about you?

Observations: Good, Bad, Ugly

Yesterday my wife and I spent an enjoyable day at the Kansas City Zoo. A rather unique event was happening while we were there. A group of high school students had the assignment of observing different animals, taking notes, and then doing research to try to understand what their animal’s behaviors indicated. It was interesting and fun observing the students observe the animals. Of course, some of the animals appeared to be observing the strange humans observing them!

“People watching” is by no means anything new; some people have it as a hobby in shopping malls, parks, and other public venues. One consistent is if we observe people long enough we will certainly see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There have been many songs sung and sermons preached on the idea that “God is watching over me.” I believe that concept to be true since throughout the Bible we find evidence of God having a personal relationship with people and He does oversee lives as any loving Father would. I hope you find comfort in the fact that the Creator of the Universe personally cares about you—I do!

However, God’s unending and loving watchfulness is not limited to when we are doing something we want Him to see. Proverbs 5:21 tells us, “For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all your paths.”

Oh no, “all my ways and paths” are observed by the Lord!

Let’s break this down a bit.

  • When I am good: I am happy God is observing because it pleases Him and He blesses me. I am following the ways of Jesus Christ; serving not only Him but also those around me.
  • When I’m bad: I do not like that God is observing. Yet, my bad behavior or thought is usually the result of a situation I am in and am not dealing with very well. Through humble confession and prayer God gives deliverance, protection, and blessings.
  • When I’m ugly: I hope God is not observing! “Ugly” is not a physical description—God does not create anything “ugly”. “Ugly” is synonymous with “repugnant”, “repulsive”, “violent”, “cruel”. Keeping these ideas in mind, I contend that “ugly” is our choice to act or think in a certain way; it is a conscious decision contrary to God’s desire, plan, and example.

What happens when we are “ugly”? Are we forgotten? Are we unforgivable? Fortunately, the answer is “no”. God is a forgiving God who does not neglect His children. After going through the ugliest event ever, Jesus looked up and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Don’t get me wrong, sin is sin and Heaven will not allow the presence of sin.  But there is a difference in being “bad”– making a mistake-sinning-yet seeking forgiveness and turning our self toward God then there is in being “ugly”–defiant and rebellious and turning our self toward ourselves.

I prayerfully strive to be “good”, minimize the “bad”, and eliminate the “ugly”. How about you?

 

Send Me

The greatest honor I had during my military career was being in the presence of those I served with side-by-side. A commonality with these men and women was their humility—don’t get me wrong, they were not complacent, they certainly were not weak…they were willing. When the time came for someone to stand up and say “Send me” they did not hesitate.

This Memorial Day I am running a “Beer Mile” with some friends who I have much respect for and who humbly serve in their own right through the YMCA. A “Beer Mile” is a fun event when you run a ¼ mile, stop to drink a beer, and repeat 3 more times (I do not recommend this as a regular fitness regime). We are doing this to celebrate the promotion of a friend who is moving on to bigger challenges where I know he will do great things. Others are at the lake, the park, and the wherever and are having a wonderful long weekend and that is fantastic!

But among this fun and celebration; it is Memorial Day. It is a day we need to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms—yes, even the freedom to disagree! Please take some time from your weekend to think about them and thank those who when the call came out, said “Send me.”

In remembrance, and I know all four would approve, I am dedicating each leg of the “Beer Mile” and will stop to toast four brothers who when the order came out to go said, “Send me”.

So, cheers and heartfelt gratitude to you and your families:

  • Lap 1: To Pat—who gave his life during a military training exercise sharpening his skills to help others
  • Lap 2: To Doc —who lost his life to a lingering disease from the Vietnam War
  • Lap 3: To Garfield—a Bronze Star recipient who ran into the danger zone
  • Lap 4: To “Oak” a.k.a. Major Okenkowski—an A-10 Warthog pilot shot down because he stayed to protect

Isaiah 6:8 says “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” If you read the previous parts of Isaiah you find a man whose self-worth was pretty bad. Because of who he was and what he had done he never felt like he could do any good. Once he humbly gave his life to God, he realized his weaknesses, his fears, his doubts, but he trusted in something bigger than himself. He trusted in God and the call to serve others and then he did amazing things!

When God calls us, do we say “Here I am, send me”?

Saying Goodbye

I cannot stop reflecting how wonderful last weekend was having our family together. The celebrations and outings were many and being able to reconnect with those I love, face-to-face, was a true blessing. It is amazing to me how quickly the joyful times went and how long the times of concern (mostly travels) lasted. I adored the moments I got to spend with these people so precious to me and waited with anxiety until I knew they had returned safely to their homes. They all did—albeit a long delay for some due to airline issues. But all were safe!

 

The toughest part for me was saying “goodbye”.

What are our last words and actions when we depart from a loved one? Is it the ones we want to remember, or perhaps more importantly, the last we want them to remember? Typically, it is a hug and a “I love you”; then there is the obligatory “have a safe trip”, “let me know when you get home”, and “can’t wait to see you again”. As long as these are sincere actions and words this is a good thing!

In churches and synagogues across the world one of the most recognizable Scriptures is Numbers 6:24-26, also known as the Aaronic Blessing, which reads, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Many have this in some sort of graphic where the people depart as a “goodbye”. Others use it as a benediction at the end of the worship service again as a way of sending the people out into the world.

If we break down this prayer, it models our goodbyes to our loved ones:

  • The Lord bless you and keep you: We want them to be safe, content, happy.
  • The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: We smile on our loved ones, even when we have tears of missing them and hurting when they hurt.
  • The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace: We look forward to the next great chapters in their lives and the next time we can be with them to share in the joy.

We end our prayers to the Heavenly Father with “Amen”. We say it thinking that it is our “goodbye” to God. But, God is not finished with us—because the ancient words that we have translated to “Amen” really are a declaration of affirmation! “Amen” and “Goodbye” are pronouncements of our love and faith in others.

So the next time you say goodbye to a loved one, instead of the impending sadness of missing them, we can take joy in the fact that it is not over yet—there are greater days to come!

Let’s Celebrate!

This past weekend was Mother’s Day; there were weddings; it was people’s birthdays; students graduated; there were a multitude of celebrations in families and that is always great!

Our household was particularly blessed to have all three of our children, daughter- and sons-in-law, and grandson in the same place, at the same time. It’s a rarity because their success and service to others geographically dictates separation and we do not get to reunion often—while that is difficult, it is a blessing and as the dad and grandpa I am very proud of all of them!

We gathered and other family and friends joined us at numerous celebrations—it was indeed a wonderful weekend! We gathered to celebrate being together but also specifically to celebrate someone we haven’t met yet—oh, we know him— we have seen pictures of him—some have felt him do a high-kick or a low-punch. The one commonality is all who gathered to celebrate, loves him. We gathered to celebrate my grandson, Tristan, who is due in late July and will get a whole lot more love and attention! We also gathered to celebrate his mother and father for being willing to bring a new, precious life into our lives.

As I reflect on that time of celebrating I turned to the book of Romans. In Romans 12:9-21 Paul writes about what love in action looks like (I encourage you to get your Bible and read the entire passage). But a short verse jumped out at me and summarized the celebration we experienced. Verse 15 starts out, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” The Greek word for “rejoice” is found 647 times in the New Testament, which tells me it is very important to God—therefore it should be important to us!

But I am reminded that the rejoicing God cares about does not end after the party. He wants us to rejoice in and with others all the time…He wants us to rejoice in Him continually! How nice that the Creator of the Universe invites us to be in celebration every second on our lives. The question to us is…are we?

Take Shelter!

Yes, Spring is indeed here. I know this to be true because Spring cleaning is done, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, I saw my first hummingbird of the year, and oh, the tornado sirens went off and it was not a test! The other night our entire county was under a tornado warning for about an hour. So yes, I can say beyond a reasonable doubt Spring is here in Missouri!

During this ordeal I happened to be at work. And where I work happens to be a school that has a FEMA certified shelter. As I stood in there feeling very safe—I also felt very guilty. I thought about my wife and dog sheltering in our bathroom; I thought about my mom and her cat hiding in a closet; I thought about my daughter and son-in-law and my yet to be born grandson taking refuge in a basement; I thought about my niece and her husband just up the road (were they going to get hit two years in a row?); I thought of other family and friends in the area and was concerned about how they were doing.

I was in a cocoon and many who I love were potentially vulnerable. After doing my job responsibilities, I did the only thing I could do—I prayed. I prayed that the storm would pass by without destruction, but if there was to be a tornado I prayed that for it to pass over those who were vulnerable and come to where I and the others were protected. I don’t know if the National Weather Service ever confirmed that a tornado visited our school, but I have been through numerous such storms and the sounds are unmistakable. Fortunately, there was no loss of life or serious injury or even extensive damage in the area from this storm—just a lot of noise and panic.

Reflecting on that evening I was led to Psalm 91:1-2 which reads, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.””

The most destructive storms in our lives are usually not the kind we see on Doppler radar. They are strained relationships, they are financial issues, they are health problems, they are challenges at work, they are______________ ,you fill in the blank. God promises throughout the Bible that He will be a shelter for all who come to Him, in all our situations. I don’t know about you, but I find myself sometimes only going to that promise when I am in a time of turmoil.

How different would our lives be if we trust every second of our lives as the psalmist said, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Maybe the valleys of life wouldn’t be so deep and maybe the peaks of life would be higher.