Sunday, June 24, 2012

Peace

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

I have that scripture tattooed on my inner forearm. Growing up, it seemed I was surrounded by drama, at school and at home. So, I often sought peace. I found peace closed in my bedroom with a book or spending time just out riding my bicycle. As I got older, I found peace fishing on the river, camping in the woods, sitting looking out over the mountains or the ocean. I have long been on a self-induced stress reduction diet. If a particular situation or relationship does not have value that exceeds the level of stress related to it, I simply cut it out of my life.

As a father, I have strongly desired peace for my daughter’s life and have done whatever I could to be a peace bringer. As a husband, I have listened to my wife’s struggles and sought to be a peace bringer. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn was to avoid trying to provide fixes to situations and instead listen and help provide an environment of peace.

While I have failed at times to be a source of peace and some might say that I have stirred the pot, I have always strongly wanted peace. Many times I find myself struggling when faced with the decision of engaging a problem and confronting a situation or not saying anything just to maintain the peace. I have felt convicted when my desire for peace seemed to outweigh my desire to right a situation by having the difficult discussion. At times, it seems, we have to step into the conflict and face matters head-on. But even during difficult conversations requiring confrontations, we can still seek to obtain peace without having to avoid the situation.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

The good news is God desires peace in our lives as much as I desire peace in the lives of my loved ones. In fact, Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. So our desire for peace is a quality instilled in us by our creator. When we promote peace in our relationships, we are being Christ-like which is pretty awesome.

The tattoo on my forearm is a constant reminder for me in the hustle and bustle of life to find those moments of peace in my own life and to be an instrument of peace in others lives. It is also a reminder of who the source of peace is.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Best Father's Day



For Father's Day, my daughter, who lives with her mother about an hour and a half away from me, wanted to meet me for lunch. We had picked a restaurant half-way between us, so she could get to her evening job without much problem. I knew it was going to be an interesting day when I arrived to find the restaurant closed, all of the signage removed, and the parking lot filled with tumbleweeds. I tried to call her cellphone, but she did not answer (all that talk about not taking cellphone calls while driving was paying off). So, I parked and waited. She called, and I proposed a different restaurant. A few minutes later, I pulled up but no daughter. A few minutes passed, and I began to worry. Finally, she called and was frustrated, because she was lost. I tried to give her some landmarks and directions. A few minutes later, she called crying, upset that she was going to "jack up father's day", because she was driving circles. I gave her some more directions, and in a few more minutes she drove up. Despite her frustration with getting lost and driving circles for an hour, it all worked out well as there had been a waiting list. When she drove up, my wife had just gotten us a table 5 minutes prior. No harm, no foul.

I was just thrilled that an 18 year old girl cared enough to take time out of her weekend and drive 30 miles to spend Father's Day with her Dad. As always, I had enjoyed spending time with her, laughing, and sharing a meal. When I walked her out to her car, a look of frustration suddenly came over her. "I drove off and left your Father's Day gift at home!", she exclaimed. I told her not to worry about it that I had enjoyed just getting to spend time with her. As she pulled out of the parking lot, I thought "What the heck", so I followed her to her Mom's and picked up my gift. She completely surprised me with a book I had wanted and a touching card. Not only had she set aside time for me, she had went out and located a book I wanted - the last copy the bookstore had I later learned.

While the day had a lot of twists, turns, frustrations, and things did not go off without a hitch, I beg anyone to try and convince me it was not the most perfect Father's Day I have ever had. I would not trade it for anything. As much as I have cherished the hand written, crayon drawn Father's Day cards when she was little, and the rock that has scripture written on one side and Happy Father's Day on the other that I have kept for years, I think this was one of the best Father's Days I have had in 18 years. It is definitely one I will cherish for a long time.

Despite how hard you try to be a good Dad and support your child as they are growing up, you always have some regrets - times when work prevented you from being at a school event, a play, a musical performance or times when your patience were thin and you spoke harshly. So when your 18 year old daughter works so hard to make a day special for you, it makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Hamster Wheel


Over the last several years, I have been on the hamster wheel – climbing the career ladder pursuing the better salary, the nicer car, the bigger house, and everything society has continued to convince us is necessary to be happy. We have been brain washed by society that everyone around us is living a better life driving a more expensive car and having a home with a theater room in the basement. Even taking a reprieve from it all to vacation in the mountains or at the ocean, we get more of the bait of materialism – “You need a house at the beach and a cabin in the mountains.”

The truth of it all is that we are living in one of the richest countries in the world, and if we earn $30,000 a year, we are rich compared to most of the rest of the world. So why is it we can walk silently by homeless people and ignore their situation as if they are invisible? Why can we tell ourselves that we cannot afford to help? It is pretty simple. We have quietly been seduced into this consumerism that all of the marketing firms have hyped. We have slowly been drawn into spending 110 percent of our income by leveraging credit cards, home equity loans, and car loans.

Last summer I went to Venezuela on a mission trip to work in a boy’s home for a week. One week in Venezuela gave me a good taste of what the rest of the world looks like. Older cars and smaller homes dominated the landscape, but the people I met were no less happy than anyone living in the U.S. What got my attention was their generosity. People living on a tenth of what general laborers in the U.S. earned were concerned with the welfare of those around them. They donated money, food, and clothing to those around them that they saw struggling. It was a punch in the gut to see this knowing how much better we live and feeling like we could not afford to help others.

How much do we have to have? How much do we really need? Is it possible to scale back our standard of living and still be comfortable and have margin to be able to make a difference in the world around us? Would we be happier knowing that we are making a difference in our own backyard? Would we feel more fulfilled helping out the people we encounter that are struggling?

We are actually commanded to help what Jesus called, “The least of these”.  In Matthew 25:31-36 Jesus says that when he returns, all the nations will be gathered and the sheep will be separated from the goats, and the King will say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”


It is time for us to step off the hamster wheel and say enough. It is time for us to find contentment with what we have and be grateful. It is time for us to create margin in our lives both financially and in our schedules so we can open our hands and bless those around us.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker

Book Review: Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker


What happens when someone earnestly prays, "God, raise up in me a holy passion"? What happens when God interrupts our idea of the American Dream of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"? Can we be happy without chasing after the corner office, the German made sedan, and the 4,000 sq ft suburban house? What happens if all of those pursuits are abandoned, and we begin a life of service where we value the least of these - the forgotten? The call to service in the New Testament is not to serve the comfortable and the blessed, it clearly says, "the least of these".

Interrupted is the story of Jen and Brandon Hatmaker's life as they abandon the comfortable and began a journey of obedience and service - from safe to dangerous. They quickly decide it's time to practice what the church has been preaching for years.

Their story will give you a check in your spirit regarding your current priorities.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Another Trip to Washington

"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you." - Proverbs 25:21-22

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." - Matthew 25:35-36

My work sends me to Washington, DC once a year. While I find the city interesting and there are a great many sites to experience, I always find the trip depressing. Why depressing? Because every trip to our nation's capital is a harsh reminder for me of just how bad things are in this country.

Photo Courtesy Marcus Gurley - Washington, DC May 2012

Small parks that might be 20ft by 20ft are occupied by people trying to find a spot to sleep. National monuments have people sleeping in them. Every block on every street I walked was an encounter with another homeless person and all of their earthly belongings in black garbage bags.

Photo Courtesy Marcus Gurley - Washington, DC May 2012

Homeless are sleeping on the steps outside Starbucks and a DC cop is standing four feet away without any concern. Everywhere you turn, someone is asking for $6 to get into the local homeless shelter. It becomes overwhelming. One night walking back to the hotel from dinner, I encountered two people talking on the sidewalk. As I passed the guy, obviously drunk, began to holler at me. First with threatening remarks, then claiming I had dropped my wallet ( I had not). I ignored him and walked away.

All of this weighed heavy on my mind. I had to battle to not become depressed from it all. On one hand you want to do something to help them all. At the same time you question personal safety. Above all you feel helpless knowing whatever you do is just a drop in the ocean compared to the problem. It is our nation's capital. Our President and Congress have to see this everyday. Do they just turn their eyes another direction and hope it goes away?

I returned home at the end of the week tired and weary. These images continue to roll through my mind. I know I cannot change the world. I doubt I can change this nation or even the state where I live. But I believe I can make a difference in my backyard. Homelessness and hunger exist in every community in our nation. Some hide it better than others, but rest assured as you go to bed tonight someone in your community does not have enough to eat.

I came home motivated to continue to work diligently with the nonprofit we have started to eliminate hunger here in our county. It has to start somewhere. I have to do something.