Thursday, December 18, 2014

Swallowed Up in Victory

I attended a funeral this week and it got me thinking about my grandfather on my mom's side. We spent so many weeks with him and my grandmother every year, but it was only after his death that I heard many of the stories about him and his life. How he was tireless and restless, how he ran several companies at once, and how involved he actually was in his faith.

That last part is what I remember most, however, because it was the first of the stories about his life that were really told to me in detail.

Funny how to get to the beginning we have to start at the end sometimes.

It was many years ago that my grandfather had a heart attack. He did not die immediately, but was in the hospital several days before the plug was finally pulled. He was awake and aware of what was going on around him, but couldn't speak very well. He knew his time had come, however, and the doctors remarked at how strange it was that he was completely (and I mean completely) ready to go.

So the time came, he said goodbye, and they turned off the machines keeping him alive. The doctors had told him he would fall asleep, and that would be the end. He had accepted this, and closed his eyes...

...only to wake up a couple minutes later. He looked around and, realizing he had not passed yet got an irritated look and shut his eyes again, tight, trying to will himself to the other side.

You see, my grandfather realized something that many Christians have a hard time understanding and accepting.

He realized that, for the Christian, death means that we are swallowed up in victory, and not defeat. He was ready to go. He wanted to meet the Savior.

He wasn't headed towards death.

He was headed towards life.

And life, true life, is what he received.

That is something we so often seem to forget. We forget that where we are, the world we live in, isn't real life. All we see, all we have here, everything good and wonderful and filling, is just a shadow of the real that we in Christ are headed towards. We cling to life and all things in it: our love, our things, our entertainment, our money, even our family, as though they were the reality of life. They are not.

My grandfather realized this and made it a part of who he was.

Seriously, who wakes up from slipping into death, gets angry about it, and forces themselves back to sleep?!

In 1 Cor. 15:54-55 Paul writes, "Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?"

Our mortal bodies will put on immortality. We will be changed. Maybe we should remind ourselves of that more often. Then, when the end comes, we too can be so ready to go that we cannot wait any more to be with the Father.

Because after all, we are headed towards life. Towards reality. Towards being swallowed up in victory.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Growing Up

It was a cold, snowy day (the first in 3 years!) in Austin, TX when our first son was born. He was small and frail-looking (but not actually frail), and we were terrified at what we had gotten ourselves into. Every little thing was a mountain to overcome. From changing his clothes, to changing his diaper, to feeding, to trying to get him dressed without him spitting up like the Exorcist everywhere, to getting him back to sleep at 2AM while playing video games (because hey, I might as well be doing something). Even with all the crazy and fear and frustration, we knew we were blessed, because God had seen fit to give us a beautiful child who was healthy and loved and loving.

When he was new he couldn't do anything for himself. Like I said he was cute, but that's about it. He couldn't even get himself to sleep. There was no cognition to say anything beyond "need food," "need changing," "need sleep," and all had the same sound: crying.

But he got bigger, and relationships started forming. He learned to eat, drink, and play. He learned who his mother and father were, and built love and trust with it. With that came a conscious desire to be with us and know us better. So that's what we did. 

As he grew even bigger, new desires took place. The desire to learn and do new things. Books and blocks, floors and furniture, all was his classroom, and he made use of it. He trusted and believed that what we his parents told him was true. 

After all these things he began to strike out more and more on his own. He still desired closeness with us, but we also knew he needed time to learn how to be without us. Not for long, but just bits at a time. In order to for him to grow we had to let go just a little. It was a lesson that can only be taught by letting go: that he could survive when we were not there.

Little boys grow into big boys, and big boys grow into men. What he has now become is a big boy. There is still much to teach him, but at the rate he learns there will come a day when he begins teaching us. That is still a long ways off though. For now the days are still filled with learning and struggle and figuring out, and that is a good thing. Someone told me last week "the days are long and the years are short." Looking back I can see just how true that statement really is. Some days feel like an eternity, but at the same time it is frightening to realize just how fast he is growing up.

There is one thing, however, that he (or me, or you), can never grow out of, and that is the need and love for Jesus Christ our Lord. If there is nothing else he ever learns, I desire that he learns the One Great Truth that is Christ on the Cross and Raised Again. Nothing else we can teach him matters without that Truth. More than all the toys, more than all the fun, even more than all the love and relationship between this child and his parents, we desire that he knows and follows Christ with all he has, knowing the unassailable Truth that salvation is through the Blood of the Lamb. None of what has been written or shown so far matters more than this. All the sweetness and love and light pales in comparison to the Love of the Father for us His children. Whatever emotions may have gone through you reading any of the above is nothing compared to the extraordinary love and joy that our Heavenly Father has for us, those created in His image. That is the depth and width of God's love for us.

May blessing follow in his steps wherever he goes. May God provide all his needs for as long as he follows. May he be blessed with more faith that I, my parents, or my grandparents have. May the Lord do all things, difficult or easy, to ensure that our children follow Him all the days of their lives, and may they walk with Him here on earth so that they may walk with Him in Heaven forevermore.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Writing In the Dark

There are times in life where things don't seem to go quite the way we expect. Life gets harder, we don't move forward as we expected, and things just generally blow up occasionally. It can, and does, happen to everyone. And chances are it will happen again.

It has been a bit of a weird week for me. I realize that is a somewhat strange statement since it is only Monday, but it is the truth. Almost nothing has gone as I planned.

And I think I am OK with that.

There are points in our lives where we get to make a choice about how we will serve God. These are decision points that help set our trajectory for different segments of life. These trajectories can certainly be changed, but it is much harder to change them than follow the path they lead to.

Last night was one of those decision points for me. I had to choose whether to continue down the same path I was on or change to something better. I believe I chose something better.

I chose to follow and trust with action instead of mere thought and word.

Here is the thing. We can claim all day that we are Christians who trust and follow God, but do our lives and attitudes truly _show_ that, or are they just words on display? I am speaking generally here. I recognize that we are human and as such are prone to failure, but as a general rule in your life, does that hold true?

This is something you will only probably discover when you take the time to get away from the constant distractions of life and ask yourself what you truly live for. What excites you the most? What drives you? What do you like and want to spend money on? These questions and others like them will tell you the truth.

I write this sitting on my couch, in the dark, on my phone (yes, we have re-entered the world of smartphones), while Haden sleeps on the other couch with a tummy ache and had to have me in the room. It has been a long, off kind of day.

But for Haden, this day has ended well, even with the tummy ache. He trusts that I will take care of him and watch over him as he lays down to rest. He knows, no...he has faith, that as his daddy I will see to it that he is taken care of.

If only we could trust our heavenly Father the the same way. Even when we have a tummy ache, even when it seems impossible. We trust our earthly parents this way, or at least see our children trust us, so what keeps us from trusting the Father of lights and Creator of the universe the same way?

I know dark days are scary, but sometimes we need them. Just as parents must sometimes allow their children to struggle in order for them to grow, so must God do with us. But He does not truly leave us on our own. He watches over us, writing His story while we sleep unawares next to Him.

Dark days sometimes help us to see the light when we would or are otherwise blinded by our own selves. They can call us back to where we belong, but only if we heed the call. Open your heart to where God is calling you. Trust that He can and will take you where you need to be. Even if it costs you dearly, even if it scares you to death.

Because it is worth it.

Because He is watching over you even now.