Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poems, Priorities, and Platforms

In the past few days, I have exchanged a series of e-mails with my fourth-grade teacher, who now lives with her family on the San Juan Islands near Seattle, Washington. She just happens to be the sister of a high-school friend that I have also recently become fast friends with through the technology of e-mail.

God uses all kinds of means to connect people!I could never have imagined that God would orchestrate such “reunions” at this point in my life – but for His own reasons, He has. And it has turned out to be a tremendous blessing for me.

I have enjoyed catching up with someone that I thought was a long-lost friend never to be seen again.

Each day, I think about the people from my past that I will never see again. Instead of regretting the numbers I will not see, I try to focus on thanking God for allowing me to see the ones I am seeing and will see. I trust that He will continue to place before me the people and circumstances with whom and with which He wants me to engage.

In all of this, there is the priority of my immediate family.

My wife and I have discussed the importance of making sure that she and my children are not set aside at any time. They are of primary importance. They are my primary responsibility. In all of the excitement of seeing and interacting with “old friends” I must ferociously guard our time as a family. I must learn to say no to some opportunities when I desperately want to say yes.

The fact is -bottom line – my time is limited – and I am still learning to accept that - and I must choose what is most important in any given instant. I am learning to put down my laptop when family members are in the room. They need me more. The e-mails and blog entries can wait until everyone else is off doing their own thing and I am alone in the living room in my recliner. Which is frequent enough.

Nonetheless, I have enjoyed catching up with a teacher that had an impact on me in my early adolescence, simply by taking some time to read to her class each day after lunch.

It reminds me of other teachers who, through their example, influenced me to be the teacher I came to be. In my teachers, I observed a love for learning, but also a love for the students themselves. I observed hard work, enthusiasm, a good sense of humor, a keen interest in the whole student, a genuine desire to see students learn and grow, etc. These are qualities that I like to think that I carried over into my own teaching.

She has shared with me photographs that depict the beauty of life in the San Juan Islands. It is still true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

She has graciously shared with me what her family is like and how she spends her time these days.

I find it fascinating that one would be so willing to take time to correspond with a student from the distant pass. Then I realize, in a moment, that I would take the same opportunity. The heart of a teacher is always looking to make a connection with a student. Always looking for an opportunity to share, to advise, to instruct.

One of the greatest blessings she has sent my way is a quotation she heard in church. As many know, I love and am a collector of great quotations. The best thing to do with quotes, though, is to share them immediately, not tuck them away so they are lost to others.

This quotation, is apparently a portion of All Glory to God, which is in Norman Habel's Interrobang. [Incidentally, an interrobang is a relatively new form of punctuation which is actually a combination of an interrogative mark and an exclamation point, ?!)

...I want you to listen when I yell at the sky,
pound my pillow, kick the ground,
throw stones at the stars, slam doors, or swear at the world.
Perhaps that's not giving all glory to God,
as others do with folded hands and frozen face,
but for me it means I am paying you the highest respect there is.
It means I trust you with the truth - all the truth.

In some ways, these words make me uncomfortable. I find it difficult to get angry with God. When I weigh my own complaints against the grace He has shown me in Jesus Christ, I have no reason to be angry. I could choose to focus on all the things that I never got to do in this life, but I choose to focus on everything that God has allowed me to do.

What I appreciate about these words is the honesty they express before God – the same honesty that I see David express in his psalms.

In Psalm 13, for example, David expresses his doubts and fears. While I may find this uncomfortable at times, I know that it is OK and that it is healthy – as long as we get around, like David, to re-focusing our trust in God. What David is expressing here in Psalm 13 is not really anger, but doubt. And his doubts turn to trust.

In other psalms, I see more emotion, including anger, being expressed by David toward God. Is it ever right to be angry with God? In a word, I think that it is OK to express such anger with God, but we have no right to stay that way. Our hearts and minds must be re-focused. As David's always was in the psalms.

I can be real with God. He is my Heavenly Father. I have a personal relationship with Him. I can go to Him with all my thoughts and feelings. But, in the end, I must recognize that He is my Heavenly Father, He is the One who is in control. He is the One who is above all.

Holding on to anger with God demonstrates a poor understanding of His character – particularly His love and grace.

So, bottom line, while I am uncomfortable with the thought of being angry with God, I think that it is normal and even acceptable, as long as our anger gives way to a deeper understanding of who God is, a deeper trust in His goodness and faithfulness. We need to be honest with God, and, at the same time, be willing to see Him honestly for who He is. We should never let our own emotions cloud our understanding of our Great God and Savior.

My challenge for today it to make God's priorities for this day my priorities. It is obvious today that me wife needs to be comforted and re-assured by me. Our children, especially our daughter, need some extra TLC as they deal with a dad whose days are filled with uncertainty.

I need to help them understand that while things are changing rapidly in their lives – new teachers, new patterns of living, etc., God does not change. He is always here. He will not let them/us down.

I need to help them find stability in God alone. It is nowhere else to be found. He alone is the Rock that we can cling to right now. Jesus Christ is our only hope. For in Him, life -here on earth and for an eternity in heaven – is certain.


Susie said...

I collect quotes too. Still praying in Louisville, KY.

Pat said...

Your blog today reminds me of a song by Randy Travis, "Three Wooden Crosses". Part of the lyrics are "It's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind you when you go". You are doing a wonderful job of preparing your family for what is to come. Although I am sure you will be greatly missed by your family, and many others as well, who have come to know you better through your blogs, including myself, I believe you have been and will continue to provide them with the faith and courage they need now and will need in the future. You are creating some beautiful memories for them. These memories will play a huge part in "holding them over" until you all meet again in heaven. Oh what a day that will be! I continue to pray for you and your family every day.

CHARLAX said...
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Alex Parker Covenant Marriage Seminars said...

Nice blog! I remember a blog about Covenant Marriage Seminars with a similar discussion. What a coincidence.

elena gilberts said...

I don't collect but I really love reading quotes specially when it's about Family Blessings.