Sat, 23 April 2011
The sun came up like every other Saturday. The roosters crowed. The blue sky blanketed the heavens as if the very foundations of the world hadn’t been shaken to their core just a day before. Yet wasn’t it mere hours ago that the earth trembled and rocks split apart, that the sky turned black and sun went dark?
It was a horrible sight. The graceful teacher whose gentle hands had reached out to lepers, blind men and children were gnarled around a ghastly iron rod. The touch that brought comfort and hope was now mangled and repulsive, the perfect companions to gouged feet that were no longer free to fulfill the promise to “follow me.”
He had promised that he would carry unbearable burdens. He said his own yoke was easy; his burden was light. But who could bear the burden he carried now? With a back mutilated by scourging, his own weight had become a burden too heavy to lift for even a breath. His once strong arms raised high to calm a raging sea were unable to reach down to calm his own mother weeping before him. Nothing about him was recognizable. How could this be the man who amazed even his enemies with his wisdom and power? A helpless broken bloodied bruised convicted man hung yielding to an unspeakable penalty before a throng of mockers. It was an unimaginable end to the journey. They screamed, “You saved others, why don’t you save yourself?”
It was what his own friends wanted to cry out. “Save yourself. Save your reputation. Save all the work we did together these last three years. Save the plan. Save your people. Save yourself! Show them it isn’t all a lie. Show them who you are. Show them we did not waste our time following you. Show them!”
Nothing about the man on the cross was familiar. This could not be the man who captivated them all. Had it even been real? Had he really been sent from God? Could it all have been a delusion? Had sane men forsaken everything to follow a fraud?
He was speaking. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Forgive them? Mockers. Murderers. Certainly they knew what they were doing. They were torturing and killing an innocent man. The guilty rejecting the innocent. How could that be forgiven? How could he desire that they walk away absolved?
The agony of it was almost beyond comprehension. If he was helpless, those who watched were even more powerless. The ache of despair grew with each passing moment. Those who put their trust in him now had to question: How could this happen? It has all gone out of control? God where are you now?
All hope was gone. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”
His final words echoed to the depths of the earth as death swallowed him.
“It is finished.” The ground shook. The sky grew black. The sun was extinguished. With his last shuddering breath, the world shuddered with him, unable to keep its composure. It was finished indeed.
Saturday the sun rose as if it had all been just a nightmare chased away by the dawn of a new day. Had it been real? Was he really the Son of God he claimed to be? It’s inexplicable that God would allow his own son to suffer such torture. How could the Son of God be restrained by mere nails and wood? Why? Why?
The sun rose Saturday but there was no light. There was only death, regret, chaos, abandonment, and humiliation. There was no hope and no anticipation. All had failed him and He, it seemed, had failed. The kingdom of God had not come after all.
Sunday dawned. Once again the earth shook, but this time it was death that was swallowed up; death that was gasping it’s last; death that was crucified once and for all. Shaking off the defeat and decay of mortality, humiliation was consumed by splendor. Hurled from the darkest despair to a new world too inconceivable to begin to reason, those who abandoned him basked once again in the gaze of unimaginable love.
The reality of the Risen Christ collided with the expectations of mortal man. What should a Savior be? How will the world be set right? Suffering servant. The innocent for the guilty. Death as the path to Life.
Tomorrow the sun will rise. A rooster will crow somewhere. Blue skies will blanket the heavens. And the reality of Easter’s revelations will continue to shake the world to its very foundations.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Kim Wier
Category:general -- posted at: 9:35pm EDT
Fri, 25 March 2011
BY Kim Wier, Copyright 2011
Some people call it “venting.” Others “share” how they feel. Those with no self-control “complain.” I like to just call such grumbling what it is - a pity party looking for guests.
It is so lonely feeling sorry for one’s self. There is no one to tell you how misunderstood you are, how mistreated, how maligned. A party of one provides no opportunity for the grudge to grow, no sympathy, condolence or commiseration. Such luxuries require recruiting others to share your pain and validate your suffering. Let’s face it, it’s much more satisfying to have other feel sorry for you.
If you really want empathy, break out the party hats and invite your friends to join you. That is what I’m doing – I’m hosting my first every Potluck Pity Party, complete with balloons and streamers. I’ve invited a close circle of friends who are all facing difficulties in their lives, from broken relationships to health concerns. The only prerequisite for those receiving an invitation is that they, too, are pathetic and worthy of pity – and they have to bring food.
I’m still in the planning phase regarding the agenda. The menu will of course include the classic comfort foods – chocolate, chocolate and chocolate. Under consideration for activities are the following party games: the blame game designed to pin the tail on someone else for our problems; a problem piñata we can all take turns pulverizing with a baseball bat to relieve stress; mood swing madness where we see who can go from crying to hysterical laughter the fastest; loser limbo where we all see how low we can go into the pit of depression; and finally perhaps we will have a self-doubt sing along featuring the classic, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To.”
I feel sure that we will wrap up our evening of wretched revelry with the timeless crowd pleaser, the treasure hunt. Guests will be allowed to take away all the jewels they find – but only if they are willing to exchange them for worthless things with which they arrived. Our treasure hunt will take us into the very throne room of a King where we will find far more than pity – we will find mercy.
“You know how we call those blessed (happy) who were steadfast [who endured]. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the Lord's [purpose and how He richly blessed him in the] end, inasmuch as the Lord is full of pity and compassion and tenderness and mercy.” James 5:11
If you are considering your own pity party, perhaps you too would prefer these treasures instead:
The real pity in life is not that we suffer. The pity is that we suffer alone when God himself is our ever-present friend, comforter and counselor how offers joy for sorrow.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:54pm EDT
Fri, 25 March 2011
BY Kim Wier, Copyright 2011
I thought it was so cute when my kids were little and they wanted my approval about every little thing. “Look at me mommy. Look what I did mommy. Mommy, do you like my picture? “
With eager eyes and hopeful hearts each one of our children started out in life hard-wired to want parental praise. Little did we know encouraging them would reinforce that innate tendency to look for their value in the eyes of others. Soon enough, like all generations before them, they moved from “look at me mommy” to “I wonder what my friends think about me.” Is it any wonder that as adults, most of us struggle with the need to earn approval from those around us?
As a brand new mom, I wondered what people thought of me when I went back to work and took my child to daycare. When I became a stay at home mom, I wondered what all those working moms thought of me squandering my life on play dates. As the mother of young adults, I’m actually thinking of changing my name. This game of hide and seek (hiding what you don’t want people to know and seeking approval for all your accomplishments) is exhausting. It takes effort not to slip into the trap no matter how worthy you know your efforts really are.
I know a man who spent 40 years serving his local church. Week in and week out this unassuming man volunteered his time as the church’s financial shepherd. In the busy years of his life while earning a living, raising a family and keeping his wife happy and content, he carved out time to make this service a top priority. He balanced the books, wrote the checks, advised the elders and prayed fervently to serve in his role with wisdom and excellence. Though he outlasted the tenure of several pastors, elders, deacons and church members, you rarely saw his name in print or heard mention of his work behind the scenes. Quietly and with no fanfare he simply did a job entrusted to his care. Before he knew it, 40 years of bookkeeping and number crunching accumulated, and it was finally time to pass the baton to someone new.
As he wrapped up his final tasks, there was no party to celebrate his enormous contribution. There was no publication extoling his faithfulness. No one enumerated the benefits gleaned from his 40 years of commitment. Instead, eventually, a modest plaque was engraved and given to him as a memento. It read: “In appreciation for your 40 years of faithful service to our Lord and this church.” The scripture passage included was exactly as follows: “Fight the food fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” That’s right – the “food” fight. This dignified, humble servant of God was rewarded for 40 years of constant unimpeachable reliable service with a plaque that told him to “fight the food fight.”
I can imagine his annoyance! First, 40 years got him a mere plaque, and second, no one even noticed the error in the inscription. Food fight, indeed! Except, he was not the least bit indignant. He wasn’t even offended. In truth, he didn’t even expect a plaque because this man did not give any service to the church at all. He rendered his faithful service to a more faithful Master. The plaque was an amusing and futile attempt of man to show gratitude that was not man’s to give.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
"Not to be seen, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Ephesians 6:6
Our reward for service to God will come from God. Praise from men and women is fleeting and inconsequential; but be warned, when we seek it more than we seek the approval of God, we settle for less than what God had reserved for us. You could say that when we esteem the flattery, vanity, adulation, and gratitude from the mouths of men we settle for the “food fight” when we could be feasting on the pleasure of God.
And what of that humble man who kept the account here for God? He has discovered first hand that God kept accounts for him, and he is now receiving his true rewards as a guest at God’s own table.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:38pm EDT
Fri, 25 March 2011
BY Kim Wier, Copyright 2011
Following the same ritual we have for the past 16 years, spring brings our weekly sojourns to the baseball field to watch our oldest son.
His “career” as a player has been an evolution of sorts. Like all five-years-old t-ballers, he was a utility player, meaning he played any position another little boy abandoned for a potty break. If you could stand in one place long enough and hit a stationary ball off a rubber tube you could be a star.
The next league up was more challenging because the balls actually moved. A pitching machine replaced the T and the kids had to learn to hit a moving object. This is where we began to see the direction Chase might take with a strong swing for a seven-year-old. That would be a blessing because the boy was as slow as a turtle. Unless he hit the ball a long way, he would never reach first base.
The most challenging time in his years of youth ball was when he moved into the pitching league. Not only did he have to hit a moving ball, he had to avoid being hit by novice nine-year-old pitchers. Every at-bat was risky. Would he hit the ball or hit the deck? He used to complain that it wasn’t fair that pitchers were allowed to keep pitching after they hit someone. He wanted them out of the game. Then he got his turn on the mound.
I had never seen my son so filled with anxiety and fear, and I have never seen it since. As he stood on the mound, I could almost hear the inner angst. His body was stiff. His face was red. He was full of nervous energy. Then the batter was in the box, the wind up, the pitch and a near miss at the batter’s head. Another whizzed by too close. When the fourth ball failed to find the zone, the batter walked almost mockingly to first base. How would he ever get three outs? A handful of balls made it to the general vicinity of the strike zone, the majority, however, went astray right at the batters. It was the longest inning of his life. Stoically, but with tears wetting his eyes, my son threw pitch after pitch until finally, at long last, with the help of some inexperienced batters who swung at his wayward balls, the inning was over. His pitching debut was an utter failure.
Looking back, I’m convinced that he excelled at hitting in the years that followed for the sole purpose of never having to pitch again. The rest of his middle school and high school tenure was spent finding his niche as a hitter and outfielder. As dutiful parents, we sat in the stands at the city fields for ten years and then another four in the high school stadium.
Now things have come full circle. Having chosen to play college ball in our own hometown, his college field is at the same city park where he started t-ball. From my seat in the college bleachers, I can see his t-ball field to the left, and the field where he sweated out his first time on the mound to the right. And in an unexpected twist, he is back on the mound as a college pitcher.
In the shadow of the field where he struggled so mightily and failed so publicly battling through a single inning, he now stands over six feet tall, confident and capable. With a decade of experience and knowledge between those two fields, Chase has overcome his place of failure and made it a place of success.
Our son learned what God intends for all of us to learn: failure does not mean defeat. The very place where we have struggled and failed can become the foundation we will stand on in the future to lift us to success- but only if we have the faith to persevere, believing God can redeem our places of ruin. God did it for Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul. In fact, there is no follower of Christ who has succeeded without traveling first a path of failure. But God…
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me . . .To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn. . . to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." Isaiah 61:1-3
Those who put their faith in God should never assume failure is final.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:31pm EDT
Fri, 25 March 2011
BY Kim Wier, Copyright 2011
There are wonderful moments every parent relishes for a child. First steps. A hard-earned A. Winning a game. Graduations, weddings, and the day your child has a child. High on that list of watershed moments is when your child finally utters those coveted words, “I got a job.”
There is nothing more emotional for a parent than the prospect of a kid earning his own money and asking for less of yours. For us, that day has come! Our middle son, a freshman in college, is at long last employed. After a full-time fall semester, crammed with classes and nighttime theater rehearsals, the spring semester has brought about a change.
Now a part-time student preparing to transfer schools, Bailey spends only 6 hours a week in class. With the new light schedule, he should not have been surprised when his dad announced it was time for Bailey to get a job.
Oddly, he was surprised. He didn’t see it coming at all, but assured us he would start searching. Week after week we inquired about the job hunt. Week after week he shared with us his exhaustive efforts. Then, one day, it happened. He announced, “Family, I got a job.”
We were thrilled, but Bailey seemed hesitant.
“Mom,” he began is his mature voice, “do you really think a job is the best idea? I know I’m only taking two classes, but I’m still involved in the student film projects and they do a lot of the production work at night and on weekends. Do you really think this is the best time for me to be tied down with a job?”
“Right, I see your point,” I conceded. “And if you didn’t spend money like you were printing it in your apartment we might agree. But, with no further consideration needed, we are absolutely certain this is the right time. Take the job!”
How happy we were that employment was imminent. The boy can spend money; it’s time he started spending his own. On the flip side, my elation was tempered by the specific job he secured – a waiter at a local eatery. This is not just any restaurant; it’s my Achilles heel, Mexican food.
When our oldest son worked as a waiter, I gained five pounds frequenting that diner weekly on his shift. On the up side, it was priceless to my firstborn wait on me. He took MY order. He brought MY plate. He refilled MY glass. It was awesome! And well worth the generous tips and hips it cost.
Now I will face the temptation of unlimited chips and salsa, cheese, sour cream, and complimentary ice cream cones. Is it too much to ask that one of them work at a health food store? Yet, the love of a mother knows no bounds. The first day we visited him on the job, I knew it would be worth it. There he stood, gainfully employed, in his crisp white shirt and clean black apron – asking me what I wanted to drink. My heart skipped a beat. It was an emotional and delicious experience.
As thrilled as I was, it did not compare to his sister’s joy at sending her big brother back to the kitchen for more sour cream, extra chips, a drink refill, and more napkins. She would ensure that he fully earned the tip that Bailey was confident would be excessively generous.
While he was working hard to earn that tip, the truth is that we would give it not because of his work, but as his family, because of our love for him. He is our child. We value his work. We expect his work. But we give because of who he is to us, not for what he has done. Sound familiar?
God has called his children to participate in His work on earth. He fully expects obedience, commitment, effort, sacrifice and diligence. For His part, He promises rewards to those He loves, not because they earn it, but because His own great love motivates Him. Indeed He calls us to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Unlike the call of the world, however, the rewards God promises do not depend on our faithful work, but His faithful love. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
How can we not find joy in wholeheartedly serving One so great?
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11pm EDT