Sunday, June 24, 2007

Things That Are Truly Important

The Lord knows me. He knows my name. He knows my strengths and my weaknesses. He knows what I go through on a daily basis. He stands ready to support me and help me in all I do – in my trials and in my labors. He loves me as His child with perfect love, for God is love and the Lord is God. His capacity for love is such that He loves me more than I can love myself.

Therefore, I know I can trust Him and rely on Him with assurance. As I turn to Him, the power of His Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, will permeate my being, bringing light and truth. As I accept Him in my life, He will heal my wounds. As I forsake my sins, He will lift the stains of my soul. As I give myself to Him, He will take me into His kingdom to dwell amid His love and glory, in great and eternal joy, forever more.

Any desire I have that is counter to my Lord’s will presents a danger to my well-being. Any action I take not in congruence with my Lord’s will jeopardizes my long-term happiness. Only when my actions fully harmonize with the will of God can I attain true and lasting – indeed, eternal – joy.

In His perfection and wisdom, God remains aware of long-term effects. In our imperfection and mortality our view is greatly limited. This can lead to grave mistakes. Failure comes when we give up what we want most of all just so we can get something we want right now. A two-year-old child, when offered a choice between a piece of candy or a hundred dollar bill will always take the candy, despite the fact that the money could keep it in candy for years. Likewise, it displays a childish lack of wisdom and a great deal of ignorance when we grasp at worldly pleasures and reject what our Father has ready to give us, which is all He has – the entire universe, which is all things.

It takes faith to continue to care for the goose that lays golden eggs, rather than succumb to the enticements of the world and kill the goose in a vain attempt to get all the eggs now. It takes faith to trust in an all-powerful and all-loving Father to give us fulfillment of our righteous desires. It takes faith to resist grabbing what we want right now, although we intellectually recognize that it might not be what God would give us.

Whenever we take from the world rather than from God, we accept a counterfeit. A counterfeit brings some immediate pleasure, but no lasting joy.

In the Pulitzer Price winning play (later an Academy Award winning motion picture), “A Man For All Seasons,” the protagonist, Sir Thomas More, his fate now sealed due to false witness given by one Richard Rich with the purpose of political gain, tells young Rich, “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?” Richard Rich had lied in court so that the political powers could justify More’s head on the chopping block, but Sir Thomas went in full confidence that he had maintained his integrity and had thereby procured a lasting and eternal reward, whereas all Rich received was a governorship of Wales.

On a more immediate level, whenever we act counter to the will of God, go against what our Father would have us do, we are accepting something less than the whole world – something much less valuable, something that will not last. To an Englishman in the 16th Century, Wales was a backwater, a place of no great consequence. To Richard Rich, the ambitious young power seeker, it meant prestige and advancement. As Sir Thomas pointed out, the price of this political power, gained through deceit, was his soul.

May we always be cognoscent of the value of our soul.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nourishment in Focus


I got the following news item from a Web site that reports bizarre news stories. Obviously, the circumstances are bizarre: how often does a man spend 19 years in a coma and then come back to take his normal place in the world? But it emphasizes another point that fits in nicely with this forum – that most people would rather complain about circumstances than take steps to improve them.

This is not an observation that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I am certain that if we could travel to any era of human history, it was the same. The people that Noah was preaching to in warning probably complained about society, the price of gopher wood, or the noisy neighbors among themselves, to say nothing of this strange man who was calling them to repentance.

Here is the item as I received it:

WARSAW, Poland - A Polish man who spent 19 years in a coma awoke to a whole new world, but he said people still find things to complain about. "When I went into a coma, there was only tea and vinegar in the shops," Jan Grzebski, 65, told a Polish news channel. "Meat was rationed and there were huge petrol queues everywhere." "Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin," he Grzebski said.

"What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning."

Grzebski, a railway worker, went into a coma after he was hit by a train in 1988. Doctors predicted he would live for two or three years. His wife moved him every hour for 19 years so he wouldn't get bedsores, The Independent reported.

This man’s observation underscores a more serious issue – a phenomenon that would explain a great deal of the turmoil and pain found in this or any society’s human condition. The deeper matter here centers on a lack of gratitude.

The thing that bothered our railway worker friend was not the surprise upgrade in societal prosperity, but the fact that despite how much better things were in their lives 19 years later, people still continued to complain about conditions. They no longer had to endure meat rationing and waiting in line to buy gasoline, but they still felt the need to complain.

We have to assume that people would generally find it difficult to be grateful while in the midst of a rant or a lamentation. Somehow our focus on the negative diverts our attention away from the uplifting and edifying.

And there is a powerful endorsement of gratitude. Gratitude, of course, does much more than accentuate the upbeat and pleasant. It is much more than just a feel-good method of maintaining a positive mental attitude. We will address this in greater depth in a future article. For now, however, let’s focus on this: there is much more to be grateful for than to complain about, if that is the direction our attentions take us. If we focus on the good, we have a hard time focusing on the bad.

Our focus is like powerful nourishment to the object of our focus. What we focus on grows and thrives. Isn’t that the nature of focus? – we see the object of our focus more closely and with greater clarity than other objects.

Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things we see when we take our eyes off our goal.” If the focus of our thoughts and actions is the ennobling and joyful things that God has provided for us, the obstacles to our happiness gets pushed off to the side and remains in our peripheral vision: if we hardly notice the obstacles, they just don’t get in our way.

This is not an invitation to be Pollyanna. Life does require some pain and suffering. They don’t call it the veil of tears for nothing. On the other hand, why let the challenges, trials and pains of life control us or dictate to us how we should feel? Indeed, they will not if we always remember to be grateful for the good that is there for us.