Saturday, January 19, 2008

Has Anyone Seen God Lately?

Sometimes a cloud all but dispels,

my sight of God to see

Tis not a natural kind of cloud,

but busyness wrought by me

For schedules and meetings,

for friends and new company

Days are rather hectic

and the nights so fleeting be

God’s not moved or left me,

His promise always true

He is ever waiting,

my way not His I do

Times I’ve not acknowledged,

of His light my path to guide

Yet still He waits and I wonder

why still He stands my pride

Has anyone seen God lately,

visibly is what I mean?

Has He shown Himself, have you glimpsed Him,

maybe silent, maybe serene?

“Yes I have,” a voice within me,

shouts out loud as to be heard

“I saw Him just this morning

as I read inside his Word.”

Then the truth came flashing,

bold and loud and clear

I saw God this morning,

His handiwork there in the mirror

I saw Him again in my family

as we all swiftly our own ways did depart

Each one a special blessing from Him,

each one expressive of His heart

Wait, there He is again,

found masterful in shrubs and trees,

His artist touch has written,

and each leaf proclaims, decrees

That He is the God of all creation,

of all the things that be

Both now and forever,

right on through eternity.

Next time I struggle and strain,

His face and hand to see

I’ll rest and find great comfort,

knowing I have seen God lately!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chance to Change

Somewhere within the life of every individual lives the possibility of a chance relationship with addiction. Though every life is different and the circumstances of our upbringing are as varied as the fingerprints of our hands, each of us carries the potential for being controlled by something or someone that will destroy us given the chance.

Consider one such individual and the circumstances that surround his life…his name is Chance. He was not raised in a religious home, consequently defining boundaries between right and wrong, healthy and detrimental, pleasurable and addictive, were nearly non-existent. Growing up in this environment left him near destitute of boundaries. Of course there were the obvious and commonly accepted boundaries found in all “good” people such as: no criminal behavior, a proper respect for your parents, and so on. But when there is no standard by which one can measure behavior that may be immoral but not illegal, addictive and yet pleasurable; how could Chance navigate his way through a lifetime of activities calling for his attention and participation without a compass of some kind to guide him? How could he know which activities would ultimately bring a lifetime of joy and happiness and which ones would bring countless days of pain and sorrow?

There are those activities, common to the human condition, that when toyed with become all consuming. It is possible to dabble in activities and pursuits that actually end up pursuing us. So much so that they give us little rest to consider or pursue anything else. They command our attention. They demand our time. They color our perspective. They adversely affect our relationships. They can even sicken our bodies and may eventually contribute to taking our lives.

Welcome to Chance’s world. A world filled with promise and potential. And yet a world filled with false starts and blurred dreams. You see, it’s hard to pursue new life courses when your attention to the pursuit of dreams is so radically hampered by a secret part of your life. That secret part that owns you and consumes your thinking. Chance’s early childhood exposures to this behavior, this habit, this addiction, quickly drown out every other voice that tried to speak into his life.

There were moments of lucidity, times that progress had been made in dream pursuits, but not without the company of a guest named Addiction. Though Chance would argue that Addiction was no guest only an acquaintance, most of us would counter by stating that a guest is “asked in.” And the truth is, it’s rare that Addiction is forced into our lives. Most often it’s the result of moments when: we were influenced by another; drawn by our curiosity; stumbled over in our life pursuits; or observed as normal behavior in the lives of those we know and trust. In any of these scenarios, there was always ample opportunity for us, and for Chance, to make the decision early on to walk away from Addiction before he got his hooks in us.

To say that Addiction “owns” those he befriends is no mere accusation. The very nature of addiction is to control, and whoever owns you controls you. Addiction is not satisfied with merely owning the time you spend held in his arms, he also desires to control the hours you are a part. He is always there in the back of your mind, pressing you to consider the day and time of your next rendezvous. Assisting you to manipulate your schedule to accommodate your tryst with him. Polluting you with schemes to cover up your relationship with him, so that even those closest to you are unaware of your illicit affair with him

Addiction has no natural enemies because of where he resides. No one can touch this friendship we have with him unless we allow them access to where we keep him hidden. After all, a friend like Addiction is not the kind of individual that you are proud to hang out with or boast about to your friends. They just wouldn’t understand anyway. They can’t see the relief he can bring to a life filled with stresses and responsibilities.

Chance always enjoyed the time he spent with Addiction, but somewhere in the back of his mind he would wonder at the waste of it all. In the moment, the time seemed well spent. But once there came the temporary parting of ways with Addiction, Chance was always left with emptiness inside, maybe even bordering on an unhealthy dose of self-loathing. He often wondered at the stupidity and irresponsibility of continuing this relationship with Addiction. Actually, there where many times that Chance had done his dead level best to break off what he had come to recognize as a destructive relationship. Sometimes this met with brief periods of separation. But they never seemed to last long. More sooner than later, Chance would once again find himself hopelessly lost in Addictions embrace.

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks years, Chance began to wonder if he would ever be free from this out-of-control relationship. Would he ever be able to live a life without secrets, without hiding, without scheming, and without remorse? At times this remorse would adversely affect his relationships with those closest to him…but he could never tell them the true reason for his discontentment. In the mean time, they would all just be left to their confusion as to why he had become so moody and so evasive.

Then it happened, almost like a fairy tale or a romance novel, someone entered Chance’s life and brought the potential for his extrication from this relationship that had tormented him for so long. It had to be at this particular moment in time. All the pieces were in place. Chance had finally come to realize that he had no natural power of his own to break off this relationship with Addiction.

Chance didn’t could he? How could he have known that there was someone who could free him from this treacherous relationship with Addiction? All those who have ever battled Addiction and were eventually made free could tell you the name of their conquering hero. You see, Addiction does have a supernatural enemy, and his name is Authority…and against Authority, Addiction cannot prevail!

This new individual, Authority, had qualities that Chance had never seen in any other. The eyes of Authority could all at once be reassuring and in the same moment, pierce right through you with a power and strength that commanded immediate respect. When Authority spoke to Chance, there was an overwhelming sense that his words were trustworthy.

Authority was well aware of Addictions influence on Chance’s life. Addiction had tried in times past to push his wares on Authority, but to no avail. As a matter of fact, Authority was the only one to ever fully withstand the influence of Addiction. As Authority shared these facts with Chance, a new sense of hope began to grow in the mind of Chance. Who was this person? Why has he come into my life now? Is there something he could offer me that no one else can?

Then Chance began to question his own thoughts and emotions as Authority stood there before him. Who was he kidding…he’d been down this road before. Others had tried to help in their own way. The others had given him good counsel too. Then, right there in the middle of Chance’s doubts and fears, Authority stretched out his hand and touched Chance’s shoulder.

This was no ordinary touch. This touch pierced the skin and engaged the heart. This touch said more than any words could possibly express. This touch was more meaningful, more enjoyable, more fulfilling than anything that Chance had ever encountered.

Authority spoke and for those moments, the earth stood still for Chance. “I can free you completely from this destructive relationship with Addiction,” Authority said in a confident, and yet compassionate tone. “Do you want to be free?” he asked. The words came immediately flowing from Chance’s lips, “Yes, yes I do!”

No sooner than Chance spoke the words that could lead to a release from years of torment and regret, he sensed that Addiction was there behind him. It was as though he could hear him laughing at him, mocking him by telling him that he would never be free because Chance enjoyed their relationship too much to ever completely walk away.

Immediately Authority caught Chance’s attention again and said that he could provide the freedom, but that Chance must choose to walk in that freedom every day. Momentarily bewildered, Chance realized that it was as though Authority knew his deepest thoughts. While it amazed him, it also calmed him and brought a wave of trust and faith in Authority that Chance had not felt up to this point.

“If I believe you, what then?” Chance asked. Authority explained that then he would be free from the grasp of this destructive relationship with Addiction. The memories would remain and the draw toward Addiction would always be close at hand, but that whenever he struggled, he could call on Authority, who was greater than himself, to fight this battle for him with Addiction.

Chance then accepted the gracious offer of Authority and the moment that he did, it was as if a floodgate of love and hope washed over him. He was stunned…he actually felt different. There was a strange sensation that seemed to permeate his body. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. This new relationship that Chance had made with Authority brought him more than he had ever imagined. He knew he was a different person. It was as though Chance had now become Change, and his life now reflected his new name.

Authority once again reminded Change that though he was at this very moment free of his entanglement with Addiction, that in order to stay free from this former friend he would need to maintain his freedom one day at a time. He then introduced Change to Friend, this was someone who had known Authority for many years and had tested all that Authority had promised and found him to be true to his word.

Authority told Change that he needed to develop a close relationship with Friend so that together they could withstand anything that Addiction might try to use to entrap them again. “Will you be transparent in this new relationship with Friend, as well as be available for someone else, that they may be transparent with you?” Authority asked pointedly. He went on to say, “For with the freedom that I have provided for you and the strength that you can draw from Friend, there is no reason for you to ever renew your relationship with Addiction. I have made you free, and free you shall remain!”

Monday, November 19, 2007

To Vow or Not To Vow?

Should we still call them wedding vows?

Maybe we should just call them "temporary agreements until something better comes along." OK, you're right, that doesn't flow off the lips as easy as "vows." How can we make this more succinct and still remain true to the state of the modern American marriage? I know, how about "marriage thoughts"? Or maybe "marriage maybes"? Yea, that's it..."marriage maybes" leaves plenty of wiggle room for later.

After all, today I feel like I'm in love with this wonderful person, but tomorrow those feelings may-be gone. And God knows that if those feelings are gone, I should have the right to find someone else who provides for me those great feelings!

Sometimes it's just too difficult to maintain those feelings in a relationship when it becomes obvious that the two of you are growing in different directions. Or worse yet, what about those changes that age brings: less active, more overweight, less attractive, more fearful, and on and on the list goes. All arguably wonderful reasons to adopt the marriage maybes over the marriage vows.

Let's not forget the top three marriage destroyers: communication, money and sex. Any one of these is enough to validate the dissolution of a marriage, right? How much more when there is a combination of two, or even all three of these running rampant between a married couple.

Who could argue with the facts when they are all laid on the table as clearly as this:
"We just don't talk anymore...we've got nothing in common."
"She just does not listen to me!"
"He spends every penny he makes on himself."
"If I had a nickel for every pair of shoes she owns we could pay of the mortgage on this new house."
"Make love? He repulses me...he's changed and I don't like what he has become."
"She never has time for me...she says she just doesn't enjoy sex anymore."

It all kind of makes sense to me, especially when I consider that we live in a very disposable society. When something becomes broken, don't fix it, just throw it away and find a new one.

For those of you considering the renewing of your vows, I urge you to thoughtfully reconsider that silly idea. Just because you have weathered the storms and quakes of married life for 40 or 50 years, there's no guarantee that your next decades together will be so fortunate.

And those of you who have been married a somewhat more abbreviated number of years, I encourage you to just look at those vows as maybes. Everyone else is. It's in vogue. The stigma of divorce is gone. We now live in the day when personal fulfillment trumps commitment and promise.

So go ahead, get out there and fulfill Your desires, Your dreams, Your plans, and blow off any thoughts of being bound to one spouse. May-be there's someone else out there who will make you least for a little while...and then you can divorce them too. And then move on to the next one because, well you know, they're not marriage vows, they're just marriage maybes.

Mr. Articulate