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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spaces

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several weeks, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

They say that when there is danger a mother hen will work feverishly to gather her chicks close, to protect and care for them until the danger subsides. I think that's the way I felt that Friday evening as they loaded me into the back of the ambulance. I was frustrated because my children were not near me. I couldn't get complete answers to how they were doing. Every question I asked was met by four of their own about how I was doing and what I needed.

As the siren began it's mournful sounds and began to race toward the hospital, I couldn't help but wonder where Abby and Harrison were and who was with them (Josh had been placed in the ambulance with me). I had this horribly unsettled feeling that my kids were sitting on the side of the road amidst strangers. They needed me. I needed to be with them. I honestly got angry.

After we arrived at the ER, my pediatrician and our friend filled me in on some of what was going on. But there were spaces--long chunks of time where I would neither know where they were or what was going on with them. Those spaces were uncomfortable. I was told later that I was very agitated acting that night as they began to work with my family. They believed it to be the medicine. I think it was something far different. It was those spaces. That mothering nature--the one that had served Sarah so well as she parented our kids--was already kicking in with me.

As I lay on that board, neck brace attached and arms and legs strapped to the bed, I was furious that my kids needed me and I couldn't move. There were too many spaces where information was missing, my kids weren't near me and my thinking was fuzzy. All of that was too unsettling.

The greatest space of all came on Saturday morning when I awoke. They had medicated me to help me sleep through the night. I awoke to find most of my family (sister, mom and two brothers-in-law) at the foot of my bed. But I awoke with this horrible feeling that I had endured the worst nightmare ever. Only, it wasn't a nightmare. It was real. And there hung over me the shadow of yet more spaces. Was Sarah really dead? Where were my kids? Who was taking care of them? I needed something, someone to fill in all these spaces.

When I share our story at conferences and events, I am asked, "How are you and your kids doing?" I can honestly say we are doing well...for the most part. But when I search deeper, thinking back on those first hours, I have to admit that I am still haunted by spaces. Things I want to know. Answers that may never come. Questions of what could have been done differently or handled better. Those are moments where I have to lean heavily on a God who fills these spaces. I am reminded that He was there through it all and that even when I couldn't be, He was there looking out for my kids.

I am also reminded that, as they get older, there will be even more spaces. Growing up and independence require it. Even then, I have to lean heavily on God. He knows the answers. He cared for them then; He cares for them now. It reminds me that every day they live, I'm better off entrusting them to Him to watch over them and love them through the spaces.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Revival on the Caney Fork

Lisa and I were blessed with a few days to get away at the end of last week with the kids. Actually, it was the only time this summer that all six of us had our calendars clear--even if it was only for two days. We took advantage of a friend's offer to use their house over on the Caney Fork River. It was a wonderful time with the kids. No TV, poor cell phone reception, some old movies and some even older board games made for some great family time and "swirling," as we like to call it.

Even a comical run in with some of the local creatures gave us some great memories. (WARNING: the following story has no deeper meaning so don't be disappointed. Just laugh and enjoy it).

Morgan and Landon were hanging out close to the bank on a water trampoline while Lisa, Abby and I were floating in the middle of the river. Harrison was up on the dock and had been fishing for about 30 minutes or so when he howled, "Oh, crap!"

We quickly determined that Harrison had seen a snake floating under the dock towards the steps that came up out of the water. Instantly the squeals of my three girls pierced the quiet. So, as much as I hate snakes, I knew I had to figure out some way to get all five of us past that snake and out of the water. I began to float toward the dock, watching for the head of our new visitor to pop up. He was toying with me. Every so often, his head would appear and then he would descend again. I had images of him dropping below the water and making a beeline toward me.

I'm not afraid to admit that I was just a little nervous. As I got closer, two things filled my mind: number one, I hate snakes! (The only good one is a dead one in my mind.) Number two, I was on his turf and had absolutely nothing in my hands to fight him with should he decide to come closer.

I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. Out loud. "Dear God! I know you are maker of heaven and earth and you control all of creation. I know you created this snake and I know you can keep him right there on that rock where I can see him until I get my family out of this water." I'm serious. I prayed it hard....

...and in the background, just after I said "Amen," I could hear my sweet wife screaming, "That's it, baby. Claim it in Jesus name. Just claim it."

I can't help but laugh now. It seems so funny. The end result was that the snake stayed put, my family got out safely and dozens on the banks of the Caney Fork River in Tennessee came to know God this weekend. Okay, the last part may be a stretch. But thanks to our four-foot friend, the Barrons created one more memory that we will share as a family. And I got to see, once again, the power of a prayer prayed in faith. I'm a true believer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Our two "forgotten" kids

Lisa and I recently discovered that we have two kids that neither of us knew much about. Of course, when we got married she had her two daughters and I had my son and daughter. But lately, there has been an increasing visit from the "other two." There names are "Nobody" and "I Don't Know."

Every time a question is asked, it seems that the answer points back to these two children.

"Who spilled water on the floor?"
"Nobody"

"Who forgot to empty the dishwasher?"
"I don't know"

"Who took out the trash and when?"
"Nobody and I Don't Know."

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little but it sure seems like these two have moved in to stay. They are responsible for everything that goes on in our house--everything negative that is. It seems neither ever get credit for making the bed, turning off the lights or cleaning the dinner table.

Is it wrong to offer them up for adoption? The other four I'm completely in love with, but those other two are kind of jumping up and down on my last nerve. Frankly, I'm tired of paying for their room and board.

Please be in prayer for the Barrons the next three days. We found a few days where all 6 of us are free and there are no interruptions so we're getting away for a little while as a family before Morgan heads off to school. I'd appreciate your prayers for safety, a little down time and a lot of relaxation. We'll see you Sunday morning at Ridgeview.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Presence

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several weeks, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

I don't know how long I was "out" but it was the voice of Harrison, my oldest son, who brought me back to consciousness. He was in the middle seat of the mini-van with his brother and sister when the wreck occurred. Doctors believe that all of us were knocked unconscious, even if for only a few seconds. Harrison's cries that day still ring in my ears when I think back to that day.

"Daddy, what's going on? Daddy, is this a dream? What's wrong with mommy? Is she okay?" Over and over Harrison repeated his words until, finally, my head cleared enough to realize we had been in an accident.

I looked down at my legs which were covered with scratches and a little blood. They were pinned just enough under the crushed dashboard that I couldn't really move them. When I tried to face my children, I realized that my left shoulder was broken and I couldn't turn. All I could think was "What in the heck happened?" and all I could say to Harrison was, "It's okay, buddy. You're alright. Mommy's going to be okay."

At that point, I still hadn't really looked at her. When I did, I watched as my best friend and wife of 12 years took her last breath. She rolled her head against the seat, exhaled and was at peace. It was then that I noticed the face of the unfamiliar man in her broken out window. He would become an instant hero in the minutes that would follow. But for now, he was a distraction.

Not realizing that Sarah was dead, I began to plead with her not to quit, to hang on. The voice that screamed out inside that car seemed to come from some place far away. It was filled with fear and with panic. Something told me right away that I couldn't lose control because there were three kids watching me.

I dropped my head against my seat and began to plead again...this time with God. "God, don't let her die. I can't do this without her. I need her...the kids need her. Let me die instead. I won't be able to do this."

I've felt God nudge me many times in my life. He's given me direction, helped me to make some tough decisions. I've been in great worships and wonderful prayer times with friends. But I've never felt God like I felt His presence in that van in those next few minutes. I felt Him calm my heart, literally surround that van. And I heard Him say, "You will make it, Ridley. I'll be here to walk this journey with you. Do not be afraid."

At that point, I knew we were going to make it. And whatever happened, we would not be alone. I still had life to live and kids to raise. His presence that afternoon reminded me that He would be the only reason we'd need to keep on going.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baseball cards

I remember the first time I came across a baseball trading card. Actually, it was a football card. I got a stack of them as part of a game I received around the age of 10. I didn't know then that people actually collected the cards and traded them but I tucked them away in a drawer along with a few "old" baseball cards my brother-in-law shared with me.

As the years passed, I would collect one or two here and there for different reasons. I even began to hear stories about how people would pay big money for certain cards. I paid no attention. I believed my cards to be of little value--just pieces of cardboard with pictures.

Then, in my early 20s, a friend of mine at school enlightened me a little bit more. He was an avid collector and allowed me into his private stock--a closet filled with thousands of football, baseball and basketball cards. He began to tell me about how he had gathered his collection. I was floored, especially when he pulled out a box with a lock that was full of "special" cards. One by one he would pull a card and say, "This one is worth $125. This one just sold recently at auction for about $890. This one is only about $75." I could not believe my ears. You can imagine my surprise when he pulled out a particular card that I recognized from my personal collection. "I have a friend who just sold this card for a little over $1200...but his was in really mint condition."

My dad used to say, "If you want to know if something is valuable, just ask someone how much they'll pay you for it. If they won't pay, it isn't worth much."

That card sold because someone was willing to pay the price. Although it was in mint condition, it was still just a piece of cardboard with a picture on it.

You won't to know how much you're worth? Look how much God was willing to pay for you. When it came time, He didn't offer a paltry sum or even a mildly extravagant fee...He gave the ultimate price, His son.

Here's the really good news. You don't have to be in mint condition. Truthfully, none of us are...nor can we ever be without Him. Here's what's really important. Neither you nor I have the grounds to question how much we mean to God. We are neither insignificant nor worthless. We are His most prized position, worth whatever it cost Him to secure our salvation. And the best part of it all...once bought we can never be traded.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gifts

I was thinking back over the last 43 years of birthdays and gifts. There was the yellow dump truck at age 5. I loved that thing so much I dropped every other toy to sit on the grass and play with it. To all my friends who attended that day and felt replaced by the Tonka truck, I'm sorry.

There was the Atari game system that came a few years later. My life became more complete that day...or so I thought. At night, I still have nightmares about "pong" and "brick-breaker."

In high school, I got my Wilson A-2000. I had been praying really hard for that thing and didn't really think I'd get it. (that's a baseball glove for those who don't know). The older I got, the more grown up my gifts got. Music and movies, sunglasses and clothes. I was too "old" for plastic soldiers and toy guns. I was a "man."

But today, I'm a little wiser as I reflect on the best birthday gifts I've ever received. No, this isn't about Lisa again today--technically, she arrived before my birthday.

It's actually about you. That's right you...all of you. You see, with the passing of the years, I have come to understand the value of friends. As a person, I've been blessed with far more than I probably deserve. I awoke this morning to over 90 birthday messages already posted on my Facebook. In between, I've gotten little else done besides reading the reminders of what an incredibly blessed man I am. There have been songs (some not so good, but appreciated just the same). There have been emails and cards and a lunch. All the way through this day, God has given me reminders of all the amazing reasons I have to be thankful. Believe me, I am. I am thankful for each and every friend...the young and the not-so-young, the new and old, those who live far away and those who are close by. Some of you call yourself family. Some of you are. But regardless of where you are and how long its been since I actually saw you face-to-face, I love you. I appreciate you. I pray for you. And I want to thank you for being the best gift that I've ever received. I thank God that you can never outgrow your friends.

Thanks for all the birthday and anniversary wishes. They are precious to Lisa and me!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lisa

You know that feeling you get when you've got something really cool you want to share with others? Whether it's new clothes or a game or some new tech device, you can't wait to put on display the really cool thing that you have been given.

I think that's the way I feel about Lisa--the way I have felt since we "survived" our first date together. You see, Lisa and I were paired up on a blind date by some friends of hers and my sister and brother-in-law. The only time I had ever seen Lisa before dinner that night was on a real estate ad in a grocery cart at Kroger. (She still says it's the best advertising dollars she ever spent).

The three couples met at a restaurant and we shared dinner together. That's about all we shared. The other two couples, along with Lisa, were connected to real estate in some regard. So, much of the evening was spent talking about home sales and real estate stuff. Things I had no desire to talk about. I spent most of the evening watching an NBA game on the TV behind Lisa's head and checking my watch. After completing dinner, we made our way out to the parking lot. I had already committed to join them at my sister's house for dessert or I would have made a clean get-away. Instead, I begrudgingly invited Lisa to make the short drive to my sister's with me.

She climbed into the truck in silence. I couldn't tell if she was having a good time or not. I knew I wasn't. After a few minutes of silence, I laid it all on the line for her. "Lisa, I hate dating. I always have. I didn't even like it college or high school. But I really think that God wants me to get married again. So, if it were up to me, God would place a light bulb over the head of the woman I'll someday marry and we'd skip the dating and get on to the fun of doing life together." She laughed and nodded. The tone of the evening began to change.

After dessert, I took her home and walked her to her door. She wouldn't have let me in except for the fact that it was about 15 degrees outside. She wasn't going to let a man in her door until God was ready for it. I walked in, told her I had a nice time (which was a half truth) and asked if I could call her again. She wrote down her number, handed me the card and opened the front door to let me out. This girl wasn't playing. She was not going to open her heart until she had met God's man for her.

Before I stepped towards the door, I made a request. "Before I go, do you mind if I pray with you?" Lisa closed the door, walked across the entry way and stood beside me. She laid her head on my shoulder and began to sob.

I was afraid. I thought to myself, "What in the heck have you done?" But I prayed anyway and thanked God for our evening and for this exceptional young lady that he had allowed me to meet.

She's been mine ever since...or maybe I should say that I have been hers. And it's been one amazing journey. Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading) we celebrate three years together. We have packed so much into those three years that I can hardly believe it.

And today, three years later, I still have that same feeling that says I can't wait to show her off, to let the whole world see what an amazing gift God gave me on that cold February night. I hope that it never goes away. I hope that every day, every turn in our journey is lived to the fullest potential we can. Through it all, I pray that our life together will be lived for Him and His glory.

I love you, Lisa. Thanks for letting me in the door that night. I hope you don't ever regret it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What now

I don't know what made me turn the steering wheel over to Sarah that April afternoon in 2004. If you know me, you know I like to drive. Whether we were running across town or across the state, when you met our family, you would typically find me behind the wheel. It's still pretty much the case today with Lisa.

I guess maybe it was the reality that Easter Sunday was just two days away. There was still much to be done to ready myself for what is one of the biggest days in the Christian community. So, I took advantage of Sarah's offer to drive the balance of the trip so I could focus on my message for Easter.

One of the worst realities to deal with in the days that followed the wreck was this one...I should have been behind the wheel. On any other day--in any other situation--it would have been me who was driving our van. And maybe, just maybe, I could have survived the impact of that vehicle.

There are a lot of "what ifs" about that day. What if we had gone home our usual route? What if we hadn't stayed so long at the bookstore in Savannah? What if the kids had not needed to stop for a break or what if we had never gone in the first place? Would Sarah and Josh still be here? Or was this something that was meant to happen regardless of where we were and despite all the "what ifs" we could consider?

I can't honestly tell you the answer to those questions. I can tell you this, though. All the "what ifs" in the world will leave you paralyzed. It is the "what now" that got my life back on track and forced me to breathe again after the accident. In asking God "what now" I was able to see a greater purpose for my life, to hear His voice again and to embrace whatever it was that God was going to do through Harrison, Abby and me.

The lesson we all have to learn in our lives is that failure is never final as long as there is God. I failed to protect my wife and son that day, despite my best efforts to do so. Despite a great car seat for Josh or a safe van for our family, I failed to protect them as I had promised to do. But God challenges all of us in the midst of failures and setbacks to ask Him the life-changing, life-bringing question..."God, what now?" But we must be ready to hear...and to move.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Joy

It's not easy but you can choose joy. For those of you who were at Ridgeview yesterday, this is a repeat from yesterday's message. But it's worth repeating because 1) it's that important and 2) not everybody got to worship with us yesterday.

Joy--the kind that Paul wrote about in Philippians and that God desires for our lives--is not based on our circumstances. It's based on our willingness to embrace fully the person of God. It begins with our attitude.

Now...this isn't easy. I know. I've lived it as recently as the last few weeks. But it's an essential lesson we have to keep working on.

Everything not going according to plan? Joy killer.
Kids not listening to your wisdom? Joy killer.
Work becoming too hard or asking too much? Joy killer.
Relationship gone bad? Joy killer.

But the truth is that joy can't really be squashed, it only gets replaced by another attitude that we choose to put in it's place. Rather than joy, we choose pity. Rather than joy, we choose sorrow. Rather than joy...you fill in the blank. And when we choose to follow some other path, we can blame the world, we can blame the day, we can blame others...the true responsibility comes back to what my attitude is. As I told my "Ridgies" yesterday, when you put on sack cloth and ashes, at the end of the day all you are left with is...sack cloth and ashes. Your choice. But what does the Bible say the remedy is?

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care--then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever....Philippians 2:1-9 Msg

Joy begins--and ends--with your attitude. When you get the focus off of yourself and on to others around you, you become more like Christ and begin to embrace the "peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) Check your attitude and decide to choose joy this week!!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Transparent

I got a phone call last night from a friend while I was watching the Braves game. He was encouraging me to check out a conversation on Facebook. The conversation centered around whether or not Christians, particularly well known Christians, should offer their public support of political candidates. Basically, the argument from the person who began the conversation was this: that any attempt to use your status as a public figure to influence anyone in any direction was a "prostitution of the church." (their words) I joined in the dialogue and watched for a little while before giving in and going to bed.

This morning, I was reading an interview with Mark Richt, head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Mark is outspoken about his faith and, obviously, a very public figure. Here is the quote that got my attention. When asked about his concern about possibly losing his job some day, Mark replied, "I don't worry about those things. I really don't. My focus is to do my job and my focus is to be obedient to my Lord and Savior. That's kind of what I do. If that's good enough, great."

There were mixed comments that followed the article. Most were completely in support of Mark as a coach and as a person. However, there were many who said he should leave his faith out of it and just be a football coach (a summary of their thoughts).

Can I tell you that I feel like that's a faulty way of thinking? Is it right--even expected--that any of us should try to leave our faith out of our politics or our careers? Why is it that a believer (the person on Facebook last night) would insist we leave faith out of our politics but those who have faith in something besides God are loud and proud of their way of life? Why would anyone expect that a man like Coach Richt would desire, much less be able, to keep his faith out of his career?

Two thoughts I'll give you. I think it's absolutely against Biblical principle to think that we can segment our lives into faith, career, hobbies, family, friends, etc without intermingling and one area affecting all the others.

Second, and probably more important, I dare say any person who can keep their faith separate from everything else probably doesn't have real faith to begin with...or at least faith that's worth emulating by others. I believe our churches and, by extension, our country suffers because too many people are living segmented lives. Until my church members learn that faith is to be lived Monday through Saturday, we haven't learned what really giving our life to Christ is all about. True surrender means every area of who I am including who I vote for and why I choose to live the way I do in my career...along with every other part of who I am. Only when we understand that can we truly be called "disciples" of Christ.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Changes

In a few short days, Lisa and I will be celebrating our anniversary. So I guess it is kind of fitting at this point in our marriage that we are at a new season of understanding. You see, while Lisa is a wonderful woman and has a lot of wonderful qualities, she and I have both begun to see that she can't meet all of my needs. Neither is she perfect. So...I'm leaving her.

I know this is probably shocking and you're kind of floored that I am announcing this on a blog but don't worry. I'll probably come and see her and the kids in a couple of weeks--or at least within the month. I have just learned from my past dating experience there are lots of women out there--nice, Godly, single women--who can help meet some of my needs as well. I probably have something to offer them too. So, I'll hang out with them for a few weeks, get certain emotional and spiritual needs met and then come back to check on Lisa. This is the new commitment I'm making to her...that I'll be there and see what she can do for me on a regular basis. However, if she makes a mistake or reminds me too often that she's not perfect, I can always visit one of the other women who are out there. Remember, they have needs as well. I think it's a perfectly wonderful arrangement and the kids will adjust to my being there on a less frequent basis.

Now, before you start the e-mails or comments (the accountability that should be coming from my true friends) let me make a little application for you AND assure you that none of the above is true.

It's just an example of how we treat our churches--the bride of Christ. Our mindset is that our church is all about what she gives to me. Never mind that this was never the reason that God gave us the church. Our commitment to our churches goes as deep as "what has she done for me lately?" Don't let her dare remind you that, because she is made up of humans, she is imperfect.

Shouldn't our relationship to our churches approach that of a good marriage? It's not about compromise or about getting your needs met. It's about investing all you have--mind, body and soul--in making your partner better. It's in understanding that the better the relationship is, the greater the blessing you receive. It's about a whole-hearted commitment with no escape clause. Rather, it is "for better or worse." It is saying I'm here to invest in you, to love you and help you grow.

If we approached our relationship to our churches with that kind of serious understanding (keep in mind, this is a problem with every pastor friend I know) , maybe we'd think twice before choosing our church, we'd pray really hard before making a decision to leave and our churches would be far stronger because of the investments we make. I've heard far too many followers of Christ blame God for their leaving their church--"we just feel like it's His will"--when I see no indication of this in Scripture. In fact, the only people to ever leave their church in Scripture were the ones who were removed because of church discipline. (Maybe that's what you are really trying to say to your pastor, "God is removing us from this fellowship because we aren't living by His moral guidelines for our life"...but I don't think so).

You get my point. A commitment to the bride of Christ is just that...a commitment. The Bible is very clear about how seriously God takes our commitments. Jesus demanded that our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no."

I hope you are really hearing my heart on this and understanding where I come from. As a shepherd with responsibility over one part of Christ's church (notice who it belongs to please) I'm less concerned about your comfort, your feelings or your freedom to walk away. I am, however, very concerned about the condition of the Christian church, particularly here in our consumer-driven western culture. This is the bride of Christ we are talking about people. Let's treat her with the respect she deserves...and that God demands.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Going home

The morning began like most at the beach. There was beautiful sunshine on the ocean front and the humidity was already climbing. The date was April 8th and it was our last full day at Hilton Head. Because of the forecast--increasing showers through the day--we had done an artful job of negotiating with our kids. We would take them to one of the local amusement places in exchange for some time at the outlet mall shopping for summer clothes.

We had finished up the kids' end of the bargain when my cell phone rang. I recognized the number as one of my friends and mentors in the ministry, Jerry Winfield. Dr. Winfield was the pastor at our former church in Nashville. We had been talking for some time about a move back to Franklin, a place we loved dearly. We had spent six years there in our student ministry days and our two oldest children had been born there. Jerry and I had been talking about the possibility of a church plant.

Although the conversations had been going on for almost a year at this point, Sarah had held her excitement. She had been around churches for a long time. She knew that their time frame for doing things was not always the fastest. Even with her controlled response to the possibility of moving back to Franklin, I could see the excitement in her eyes as I answered my phone.

Jerry let me know that meetings and conversations had progressed very well. We were being invited to move back to Franklin to begin the work of planting a new church. I hung up the phone and confirmed what Sarah had heard from my end of the conversation. We were sitting at a red light, preparing to turn into the Chic-fil-a. She reached out, grabbed my hand from the passenger's seat and said, "I can't help but feel like I'm getting to go home. Isn't that wonderful?"

More than she could ever know. More "home" than she could ever realize. In 24 hours, Sarah would be gone, the victim of a tragic accident. It wasn't till a couple of days later that I recalled her statement and thought how accurate it had been. I believe with all my heart that Sarah is, indeed, home. She arrived that next day at the one place she really longed to be.

I have often shared this story at the hospitals and conferences I speak at...the most amazing thing about where Sarah and Josh are is that, even if given the opportunity to come back here, they would choose to stay. I believe that with all my heart. I believe that is true for every Christ follower. Going home never felt so good. And that's why so many of us suffer "homesick" feelings for a place we have never been. It's where we truly want to be. Home.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hyphenated lives

I read an interesting article recently regarding the immigration situation in our country. The author noted that for the first 100 plus years in our country, immigrants came by the millions to our shores. They gave up everything from their old life. They came believing that the America would offer them something better. They took jobs, started businesses, learned the language and truly bought into the American "way" of life. For the last 70 years, things have been different. What we have seen is large numbers of immigrants flooding our shores. More often than not, they came with the attitude that they were bringing their way of life to establish it in America. They weren't going to adopt an American way of life; they were going to change it to meet their needs. What we have ended up with are Spanish-Americans, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans--you get the idea. Very few people are just plain, old Americans any more. They don't want to assimilate into being American. They want to change America to be more like them.

Regardless of where you stand on the immigration controversy, I think you will see that this carries with it some interesting parallels to the church today. In the past, when you chose to follow Christ, you changed to be more like Him--you were truly modeling the life of Christ in your behavior. You gave up everything, rearranged your lifestyle and bought into the "Christ way" of doing life.

Not any more. Today, it's more en vogue for us to say we follow Christ when, in reality, what we mean is we are working hard to re-write Him into our way of life. I'm not just talking about fringe churches or nominal church attenders. I'm talking about people who would tell you that they love Jesus but are more content with Him staying in one little compartment of their life.

It is more than a little frustrating (maybe you're starting to sense that from me the more you read) to hear someone say that the holiness of Jesus is their model while they fully embrace a lifestyle that looks very much like the world. Jesus was pure and lived unapologetically for His Father's glory. Us...not so much. Purity is nice but it's just no realistic in our minds. We'll take our kids to church on Sunday to learn about Jesus and make sure they are first in line for the latest sensual, seductive, teen flick (with vampires...there, I said it). We'll talk to them about holiness and excuse away their exposure to poor role models all in the name of being relevant (can anyone say Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan?). We'll proclaim our submission to Christ but refuse to tithe, refuse to serve and dare our churches to ask anything more of us than nominal participation.

We have become like the hyphenated citizens that come to our shores. We are Hollywood-Christians, Madison Avenue--Christians, Wall Street--Christians and Williamson County--Christians. Each, in its own way, reveals an unwillingness to surrender our will completely to God's desires for us.

My fear is that many of us who go by the name Christian may come to the end of this life and find out that, when it comes to eternity in Heaven, we have arrived as illegal aliens.