Saturday, December 26, 2009

After 28 years, it was time for a new tradition to start.

In March 2009, my wife's Aunt Lee passed away. For the last 50+ years, she has had Christmas Eve at her house. It started many years ago when Grandma Hertel was bed ridden. To honor and celebrate with her, they moved the family gathering on Christmas Eve to her house on Baynton Street in Grand Rapids. (Imagine 30-40 adults with children in a 800 square foot home - yeah it was close and the windows were all steamy by the time we left, but it was a fun tradition It was only in the last two years that we could not have it at her house because of her age (she was 93 when she passed into glory).

This year we did not have a tradition, so I hope we started a new one - celebrating communion together, remembering why Jesus was born and watching home movies. This "tradition" probably won't last for 53 years, but it was sure nice spending time together as a family and I hope that we can do it next year too.

Things change....don't mean they have to change for the worse; sometimes they just change because they have to.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A year to remember...... It is hard to believe all that our family has been through this year. All the issues with my mom's health (near death experience, 6 months of hospitalization, paralysis, modifying the house, modifying life), my father-in-law having a low speed head on collision (because he blacked out, a concussion, physical therapy, modifying life) and now my grand mother dying.

True, she was 89 years old. She had lived a long and fruitful life - a hard life, but a fruitful one. She was ready to go; she had just moved in a nursing home because she could not take care of herself anymore (she was in the home 10 days before she passed away). She is home; home with her Savior. But come on - now?

For a couple of days I felt emotionally numb. I really did not know how to grieve; or maybe I just didn't have any more grief in me. I found myself just resting in the fact that she is with God, that she is at peace and not struggling with the junk of this life anymore. Maybe I am just emotionally wore out to the point that I have to trust in God to carry me.

It has been a hard year; a hard year in my family, a hard year in ministry, a hard year as a leader. A hard year all the way around.

Life is hard; God is good.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

There are a lot of people going through a lot of tough things right now: some are making good choices, some are making poor choices. The differing responses to the adversity started me thinking. I learned in my high school days that we have two responses to conflict: fight or flight. I see these responses in people who are facing adversity: some embrace it and work through it, some run away from it and hide.

Fighting or embracing adversity is what I believe God desires for us. Writers of the New Testament (James, Peter, Paul) teach us that trials work at strengthening our faith. When we embrace adversity and work through it, we are stronger. It is interesting to me that this is THE path that God has selected for making us stronger, more committed, more like Jesus.

What happens to someone who runs away instead of embracing adversity? My experience and observation is their heart hardens and bitterness, anger at God, frustration that is taken out others and/or abandonment of God (and a lot of other negative behaviors) ensue. They carry a deep pain in their soul that affects their attitudes, actions and words. They begin to be physically affected - either in their facial expressions or in their health. They begin to blame others for their adversity. They lash out at people around them. Everything centers around them and their pain. Frankly, they are not very nice people to be around.

The cool thing is that God never stops pursuing them.

My prayer for the folks that I work with who find themselves in the midst of adversity is that they embrace it now, because God will not stop pursuing them until they are completely broken and are willing to embrace it (they have reached the point where they have no other alternative). God patiently waits for them, patiently calls them, patiently continues to work with them. (Examples: Jonah and Moses.)

Embrace and be strengthened; flee and be hardened. Those are the only two alternatives to dealing with adversity.