I’ve been getting a bit frustrated with some comments and judgement being thrown out in the wake of the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve seen a lot of posts from the Christian (and non-Christian) community about it not being right that we are celebrating the death of an individual. There are a ton of Bible verses both ways that people have thrown out. I won’t do that now. Let me be clear off the bat though: I don’t believe death should ever be celebrated. [Read more…]
[This was a sermon I did at church I think last spring sometime. It was while writing this that I actually came across the book called Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, but I just got around to reading it last month. It’s a really good book–definitely worth a read. At any rate, it was good to see I wasn’t totally off track with my thinking here either.]
When I was about 11 years old I decided to run away from home. See, I just had this terrible life. My parents had the nerve to make me do chores like wash the dishes. I had to share my video games with my little brother. But the worst offense, the one that pushed me over was that was I had to go on vacation every summer to Florida for one whole month! Can you imagine how terrible that would be? Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Key West, Everglades, Daytona Beach, Miami. It was terrible. The only people I had to talk to for an entire month was my family! I got pretty good at making new friends quickly, but it was just torture. And of course, as fair skinned as I am, I’d always burn the first day of vacation, peel and then look like a freak the remainder of the trip.
So that was it. I had enough and I set off on a hot July day to leave home. I packed up some clothes and money and headed down the road. I made it about as far as the others side of the gate from my house…after all, it was pretty hot out, and I’ve already told you–I burn easily. I decided I could probably tolerate life with my family a little longer. [Read more…]
I’ve been watching this video constantly over the past couple of weeks. It’s not been by choice as much as by chance. As I’ve been browsing my Facebook feed, I’ve noticed this video posted by several different teenagers that I know. The song, which is embedded below, is “Perfect” by Pink. This is the radio version. The explicit version is called “F@ckin’ Pefect” and uses that word in the song a few times. Whichever your poison, both versions have the same message: Don’t ever feel like you’re less than perfect. It’s a song about making bad decisions, screwing up, being mistreated, misunderstood and just not measuring up to other people’s or even your own expectations. The song is good, it’s catchy, and minus the language, and even despite it, it sends a good message to teenagers (or any of the rest of us) in a world that mostly tells us we’re not good enough.
I’ve personally been thinking about this issue a lot because I work with teenagers. Those teenagers, like most teenagers, are self-conscious and have different insecurities. Some have more than others, but they all have them. I have to constantly remind myself about that too. I’ve been fortunate to establish a close relationship with most of the teens over the past several years. My particular style of leading them is to treat them as adults and as much equal as appropriate. We make decision together. I don’t sugar coat things. I explain things to them as the rational beings that they are, or at least that they want to be. I have an amazing amount of respect for them. The thing is, I rarely tell them that. I sometimes forget that they are actually 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17.
Hearing this song, and seeing how much these teenagers relate to it, is a good reminder for me to continually focus on this. I think as adults, and particularly in ministry, we have to be careful about making others feel like they have more expectations to live up to. Yes, I want the teens to have spiritual and character growth, but my job is to encourage them and guide them down the right path when they stray, but not judge. I think we also do this as Christians a lot as well, we tell people what they “should” be doing (and it may well be things they should be doing) rather than helping them overcome the reasons they aren’t. We reinforce everything the world tells them, that they aren’t good enough. Yes, we may teach and throw out Jeremiah 1:5 that says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (NLT), or Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT). We tell people that they’re perfect because “God don’t make no junk.” But I wonder how much we actually show people this?
I’m guilty of it. I don’t consider myself overly critical, but I remind myself that teenagers are overly sensitive. We all probably are, so I’ve made it my goal to remind myself to not only tell people but actually show them how perfect they really are.
“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” -Susan Cheever
If I had read this quote a year ago, or even six months ago, it would not have made sense to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the thought of death has always been scary, but death itself had never been real. It was like the boogey-man. The thought of one is scary, but knowing that he’s not real makes it less scary. That’s what death was like for me–not real (mostly), and definitely not ordinary.
But I’ve learned that it is. I don’t know if I’ve just experienced it more in the past year, or if I’m just more aware and sensitive to it, but death is very real and very ordinary. I don’t like it. I suppose no one likes it.
I just feel like until this past year, I’ve been sheltered from it. Sure, I’ve lost a few people I knew and some great-grandparents that I was close with. Yes, those times sucked and made me sad. But those times, mostly, were expected. I was prepared mentally to deal with it.
I also never thought much about heaven until my mom died. That may sound weird for a Christian, but I just figured I’d get there when I get there and God would have it all worked out. I figured it would be this wonderful place, but for the most part, life on earth was pretty wonderful too. I didn’t care about the details and was in no hurry to get there. Then suddenly, after mom died, I felt this deep longing to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to die to be there, but all of a sudden the urgency of being there with her seemed much greater. Life on earth didn’t seem all that pressing or all that wonderful and I was ready for Jesus to pop back down and take us away.
I still haven’t figured out how someone is supposed to deal with death. I can’t imagine the pain ever going away. Part of me doesn’t want it to go away. But it does give you this unique experience, particularly with a parent, I’d imagine with a child also, that you don’t have with anyone except someone who has gone through it. A number of people I know have lost parents this year. My co-worker just lost both parents in a matter of weeks of each other. What I have now is this unique knowledge that I actually know kind of how they are feeling, in a general sense, not specifically. It’s a feeling I’ve never really been able to compare to anything else. It’s this missing piece inside and knowledge that there is absolutely nothing I can say that is going to help. You say it anyway, but you know it’s not comforting. And every single time it’s happened since my own mother passed (and it’s been frequent), I get that same punch in the stomach that I did when the doctors said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I imagine that person getting that same punch.
So, ordinary? Perhaps.
Terrifying? Yes–more than the boogey man.
I posted this along time ago here, but came across it again tonight. It kind of sums up how I’ve been feeling. In reality, it sums up how I almost always feel; how most of us probably feel a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cried. I’ve cried a lot. I think I’ve cried every day since my mom died. Sometimes it’s worse than others. But it is usually something that just comes. I rarely “let” myself cry. Is it just me, or are we just automatically trained to hold back our tears?
Is it because we’re afraid we won’t stop?