It Makes Me Sick!

We are at that time of the year when the old debates concerning flu shots surface. One of the more contested topics is if getting a flu shot will immediately make you sick. I have heard the “facts” from both sides from highly educated and respected medical professionals. Well I sit here today, the day after getting a flu shot, and am not only sick but I cannot lift my right arm above my head—so from my personal experience I conclude “yes, getting the flu shot can make you sick”!

I have experienced this in the past and although I would much rather feel well today, I know that the preventative value of the flu shot will pay big dividends for the next year. By suffering for about 24-hours I have taken a step to stay healthier in the coming months—that is a good tradeoff!

Sometimes in life we must endure some loneliness, humiliation, sadness, and even pain that will lead to an abundance of joy and blessings. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Most of us would probably say that is one of those “easier said than done” statements. That is true when we look through our problems and trials through our human lens—what happens when we look at them through God’s lens:

  • Loneliness: When asked about how he survived the solitary confinement and brutal treatment as a POW, John McCain responded “Faith in God, faith in my fellow prisoners and faith in my country”.
  • Humiliation: Noah was most certainly humiliated by his neighbors while building a big boat in the middle of the desert for some 120 years—Noah and his family survived.
  • Sadness: Mother Teresa once said, “Our joy will be complete if we remain in His love, for His love is personal, intimate, real, living, delicate, faithful love.”
  • Pain: Jesus went through unimaginable pain at the cross—He did it to offer eternal life to all who believe.

God’s family not only rejoices in the future but in our current trials and sufferings knowing the promise of an abundance of joy and blessings. If we look at our situations in our premise, we will have a bad time, if we look at our situations through God’s premise we will rejoice in endurance, character, and hope!

Prepare for Rain

Earlier this week I was telling a friend (who is a gentleman farmer) that rain was forecasted throughout the week—a good, steady, soaking rain. This is important because here in the Midwest we are in drought status and the impact is certainly being felt. Well he was skeptical. There have been forecasts throughout the Summer for such rain and it did not happen.

My farmer friend is man of strong Christian faith; his faith is obviously his top priority, so I can understand how he was not about to put his trust in meteorologists and Doppler radar. I asked him if he had specifically prayed for rain? He confessed that while trying to figure out workarounds for the animals and crops that he might not have specifically asked God for such a rain. Then I asked him if his farm was prepared to receive such a rain—the animals, the crops, the equipment. He left work early that day to tend to the farm. I am happy to report his farm received nearly 4 inches of rain this week!

Perhaps you have heard of the parable about preparing for rain. “There were two farmers who desperately needed rain, and both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?”

In Philemon 22 Paul writes, “And one thing more: prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” Paul wrote this letter to Philemon while in prison in Rome. Paul was trusting God to provide. No one knew if Paul would ever be released. In faith and trust Paul was preparing for the day of his release–he prepared for rain.

Most of us are not farmers, so “preparing for rain” might be more of a metaphor for us. But we all have fields that need tended: our relationships, our occupations, our finances, our health, our faith I invite you to ask yourself today, as I am asking myself, are my fields prepared for rain?

New Beginnings

Like in many parts of the country this was a pretty exciting week around here—back to school time! I enjoyed the stories of the week from my family and friends who are teachers; both their excitement and their nervousness. The pictures of students going off to their first day are priceless! All of them from the first day of pre-school to the first day of the last year of high school. The stories I heard of and from these students are the same as their teachers—excitement and nervousness.

As I observed all this I got to thinking why we have both excitement and nervousness when facing a new beginning? I think the answer is the same for both emotions: the unknown. We are excited about a new beginning while at the same time nervous about what it holds. We wonder if we are prepared, will we adjust, will it impact my loved ones; we wonder what the result will be.

Teachers and students going back to school have some control over these questions. They are answered through attitude, aptitude, and effort. Victory in most everything we face in life follows suite to this formula of how do I approach this challenge, do I use my gifts and talents, and am I willing to work hard?

However, the biggest decision each of us must make only cares about our attitude—an attitude of faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” This attitude has eternal consequences for the final new beginning.

Revelation 21:5 reads, “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” For those in relationship with Jesus Christ at that moment there will be a final new beginning, but the beginning of that new beginning begins right now and it all depends on your attitude.

One last question, are you excited or nervous about that new beginning?

Kids Today!

I frequently hear and read comments about the youth of today—the teenagers and young 20’s crowd. They are depicted as rude, spoiled, uninterested, and looking for entitlement. While there are certainly some in that age group that would fall into those stereotypes, I have interacted with people of all ages that fall into those stereotypes. I have come to belief that it is not age that counts—but rather attitude!

My Saturday long training runs are done on a very popular course that runs adjacent to the Little Blue River. It is beautiful, pretty flat, and for the most part allows runners and cyclists to avoid traffic. The two local high school cross country teams do some of their training on this course.

Yes, as an older guy training to “finish” it could be demoralizing to have these teenagers flying by me, but it’s not. You see these young runners, at their peak, are an inspiration. Most of them will give me a “hi”, or “good morning”, and some of them will even speak words of encouragement like “good job”, “you got this”, and one even slowed down yesterday to tell me that I “inspire her to keep going”!

Then I go to church this morning and the youth were standing at the entrances with welcoming and encouraging signs. Now yes, they might have been asked to do this by the Youth Pastor, but when they noticed your car window down they interacted and not in a way that could be directed from any person. They showed genuine hospitality and joy that you were there!

This morning I was in a store where a manager (early-60’s) was reprimanding a worker (mid-20’s) because she had taken the customer’s (late-80’s) cart to her car. I didn’t hear the whole conversation but basically the manager was upset because the worker (who got someone to cover for her) did something that is not in her job description. The worker’s answer touched my heart when she said, “No it isn’t, but it’s what Jesus would do.”

So, within about 24 hours I saw the “kids of today”. I was impressed and moved! Those that I had the privilege of crossing paths with showed kindness, respect, and love. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:12 and I appreciate how the Message Bible puts it, “Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.”

The kids of today will make mistakes and have some poor judgement—exactly the same as my generation and yours. Demeaning and dismissing them is not the answer. God’s Word tells the youth to not let anyone put them down because they are young, what would give anyone older the idea that we have the right to put them down because they are young?

It’s okay not to see eye-to-eye on issues as long as the discussion is blanketed in kindness, respect, and love and we learn from each other and most importantly come together in unity of Jesus Christ.

The Wait is Over…the Waiting Begins!

Driving on an empty road to the sun

This week we had the blessing and joy of welcoming a new family member—our grandson Tristan! I am so proud of how my daughter and son-in-law composed themselves throughout this wonderful, yet often stressful, uncertain time. The emotions for all were truly on a rollercoaster, there were concerns, frustrations, annoyances, celebration, and a lot of love!

I had a moment that morning in the waiting area. As I was pacing (yes, literally) I looked up at the television and there was commercial (I think it might have been for some kind of insurance company but can’t be sure). Anyway, this commercial showed a baby girl being held by her dad, then it progressed through life events: taking off the training wheels, the first day of school, getting a drivers’ license, graduation, going to a job, going to college, getting married, having a baby, enjoying her life, beautifully singing at her dad’s funeral. Now in full disclosure, those might not be the exact events depicted in the commercial, but they were the ones in my head as I had a “high-light reel” going from the past nearly 30 years! My baby was just a couple hundred feet away getting ready to have her baby and there was nothing I could do for her! Except pray of course.

So yes, a healthy and precious baby was born this week—that wait is over! But for all who love him, the waiting begins. What will be his personality? What will be his talents? What will be his desires? How will those who love him help him achieve his dreams?

There is a certain Scripture that I often turn to when I am confused or impatient. It is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” This is something I would have liked to have gotten right earlier in life—I might have avoided some scars, but again that is my own understanding. It is something I desire to teach my grandchildren because I love them so much and want them to have straight paths.

However, we must remember that even straight paths have dips in them, they have potholes in them, we might have to share it with someone we do not particularly like, and it’s even been known for a storm to pop up over the straightest of paths!

We cannot predict the future so yes, the waiting begins. But the first part of this Proverb tells us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart” so that is where I stand firm in anticipating the future in all my ways and particularly in seeing the future of a baby boy who I got to meet this week.