Monday, November 30, 2009

Whom do our monuments honor?

And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him...Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King's Valley. For he said, "I have no son to keep my name in remembrance." He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom's Monument.
II Samuel 18: 17a-18 (emphasis mine)

Having just celebrated the one special day of the year that we set aside to express our gratitude for our blessings to God, I do realize that there are many who desire to make every day a day of thankfulness. Yet, I was struck this year by the irony of the contrast between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. The one day that is isolated specifically to show appreciation is immediately followed by what is arguably the one day each year that brings out the height of our greediness. It is as though we say to God, "Thank you for all you've given to us and done for us, and now we want more!"

In my devotional time last week I read of the death of King David's son, Absalom. He was killed by those who fought in his father's army, thrown into a pit, and a large pile of stones, a monument if you will, was placed on his "grave." The very next verse in II Samuel 18 tells of the monument that Absalom erected to himself. I believe it is no accident the these two verses live side-by-side in God's word.

I also realize that there are many who have suffered loss this year, whether it be that of a dear loved one or employment and finances. I too, have felt the sting of loss in some areas of life this year. These challenges can often obscure the blessings in our lives and cause us to throw our hands up in resignation saying, "I'm going to take care of me because no one else will!" Isn't that what Absalom did when he erected his monument?

However, the stark reality is that, even with the losses and hardships we've endured this year, Americans and those in the western world are indeed blessed beyond measure. Anyone reading this has access to a computer and the internet. Add to that food, a place to live, freedom...I could go on and on. The bottom line is that life is all about where we chose to put our focus.

Ironically, everything that was purchased just three days ago, in time, will deteriorate and be discarded. But a life lived as a daily expression of gratitude will be a "monument" that will echo throughout eternity. The question we all should ask ourselves is, "Whom do I want to honor?"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Isn't it Funny?

I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat
and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't
my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?
Yogi Berra

In light of the recent final game of the World Series, finding the above quote this morning proved to be both interesting (in the timing) and quite disturbing to me. Isn't it funny that those of us who would take on the name of Christ, those of us who would call ourselves "followers of Jesus," often will go to great lengths to avoid introspection?

Our flesh, the fallen state into which we are born is all about protecting - me. Of course, in some areas this is good. God "programmed" self preservation into us. But He never desired that we would protect ourselves at the expense of others. We, myself first of all, are much too quick to "change bats," as Yogi Berra put it. We cling to family, friends, jobs, Church as long as it feels good to - me. After all it is all about me, or is it?

When problems arise with family, friends, jobs, and Church and it's time to examine the cause of those problems, isn't it funny that it stops being all about me? "I certainly am not the cause of this problem or that problem. Don't they see what they have done wrong? Where is their integrity? I think they need to take a long, hard look at themselves!" Some how it is no longer about me.

Be careful Christians, be careful Church, be careful Kathi. We have told ourselves, those around us, and God that we long to be like Jesus. We stick our chests out and say that we imitate Christ. But Christ was mocked and rejected by the spiritual leaders of His day. He was physically beaten. He was labeled a madman. Do we really want to imitate Christ? Jesus said, "Father, forgive them."

Now, you might say that I'm "preaching to the choir." And my response would be that you are exactly right! And I am in the choir! You see, the only Jesus many will know is the Jesus they see in me. The choir sings God's praises with the most clarity when we're not on stage!

Isn't it funny that sometimes when life gets hard we take our eyes off Jesus? Isn't it funny that when trials, dilemmas, and hardships come we tend to blame "the bat?" Let's remember God's promise to forgive our sins if we confess them to Him (I John 1:9). Not only is it safe to look at ourselves and how we have contributed to a problem, it is one of the ways that we grow. Thankfully in God's economy there is no such thing as a useless, broken bat. And keeping that in mind, may each one of us take a good, hard look at ourselves because, in the end, it's not funny at all.