Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

A few years ago, for our first anniversary, Nicole bought me a new Bible, and she was nice enough to let me go pick it out. I browsed through the Bible section and finally decided on a New Living Translation. I still like to read and study some of my other versions, but I have really come to enjoy the NLT. I was reading recently in Philippians and saw something that I had never before seen.

The apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians from prison near the end of his life. The first chapter gives us an intimate glimpse into an inner struggle he was having at the time. He seemed to know that his earthly life was nearing its end, and he was weighing the pros and cons of staying on this earth for a while longer versus leaving and going to be with the Lord. He was obviously torn because his heart longed for heaven, but he also understood the benefit he could have in the lives of his fellow Christians if he stuck around a little longer.

After sharing these candid thoughts, he came to the conclusion that it would be best for those around him if he stayed alive longer. In Philippians 1:25 he said:

"... I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith" (NLT).

I have read that passage numerous times over the years, but recently, the second part of that verse really captured my attention: the joy of your faith. That is a good reminder that we are supposed to be having fun. How often do we hear that from the pulpit on Sunday mornings? I have heard it taught some, and I'm sure you have, too, but I don't think this subject gets covered nearly enough! We hear about how wonderful heaven will be, but we should be having the time of our lives now!

I think it's important that Paul described this joy as being the joy our faith. He wasn't talking about the kind of temporary happiness this life offers - he was talking about joy that exists in the eternal realm that our walk with the Lord allows us to access and enjoy now! How many times have we considered our walk with the Lord and pictured a big, black, hard to understand Bible or a solemn old preacher in a three piece suit and an overly starched shirt? Unfortunately, images like those have become far too common.

I believe we should think about our walk with the Lord and images of laughter and dancing should spring into our heads. I really believe that. In too many cases we base our walk with the Lord on what we do, which leads to pressure. In reality, this is all about what He does and what He has done, and understanding that leads to freedom and joy. If this is not what we are experiencing, something is wrong somewhere. So, maybe we should stop and ask ourselves: "Are we having fun yet?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A New Perspective

I can remember a time a few years ago when I was having a bad day . . . actually, I was having a bad season of life. I was very unhappy with some of my circumstances and I had allowed myself to become dissatisfied and ungrateful in my heart. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back I can see that things were not nearly as bad as they seemed to me then, and my attitude was actually making everything worse.

On this one particular day, I was especially frustrated and I had a worse attitude than normal :) Nothing seemed to be going my way, and I was aggravated and pouting about it. There didn't seem to be an end in sight, but little did I know that my perspective was really about to change. I was doing some research for a project I was working on at the time, and I inadvertently came across the picture at the top of this post. As soon as I saw it I broke and tears began to roll down my face. This picture spoke so much to me. Obviously we are all familiar with Mother Teresa and her life of selfless love and service to others, so we can fill in the blanks in this picture.

This baby was probably an orphan whose name we'll never know, but the compassion beaming from Mother Teresa's face seemed to tell this little person that he or she was the only person in the world. At this point in her life, Mother Teresa had probably personally cared for hundreds of thousands of hurting and sick people, but still her heart bubbled over with love for this one little baby. Wow! Just seeing this helped me understand how selfish I can be sometimes!

I was reminded of this the other day. Nicole and I had to take Ally to the doctor, and my heart was touched by a little girl who was also there to see the doctor that day. She was probably about 6 years old, and she had somehow broken her leg. As we were sitting in the waiting room, I was looking out the window and I saw this little girl coming in with her mom. She had a pink cast on her leg and was walking with crutches. I know it's not that rare for kids to break an arm or leg, and I have seen kids even younger wearing casts. However, there was something about this little girl and her attitude that really impressed me.

I didn't talk to her, so I never learned her name, and I have no idea how she broke her leg. What really stood out to me, though, was the look of determination on her face as she walked with those crutches. Even though that look is something I won't soon forget, I still wish I could have captured it so I could have bottled it and sold it! In spite of the fact that she was being slowed down physically by this injury, it was clear that she hadn't been slowed down at all mentally or emotionally. Her attitude had not been at all negatively affected, and if anything, she had an increased resolve because of her potential setback. She seemed to understand that the pain and hardship from her broken leg were just temporary and really only as bad as she allowed them to be. How often have I lost sight of that principle? How often have I allowed things, which in reality were very insignificant, to cause me to lose ground and start going in circles emotionally?

I have lived long enough to understand that life can be hard, and we should expect difficult seasons to arise at times. They may arise because of our mistakes, or they may come along because of someone else's actions. They may even happen for no apparent reason! Regardless of why, every time we find ourselves in one of these tough times, we have a choice to make. We can allow these seasons to set us back and cause us to focus on ourselves, or we can choose to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead and persevere until we have emerged from them victorious. It really is up to us. Which will it be? What are we going to choose?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Lessons Continue

Well, as many of you know, Nicole and I just had our second baby. Our older daughter, Ava, now has a baby sister named Allyson Grace Roberts. Everything went well with her delivery and we are happy to have her home. We are just anxiously awaiting the day when we will be able to sleep again! If you have read any of my previous posts, you know that the Lord has taught me so much through Ava, and now His lessons continue through Ally. The more I get to know these little people, the better I get to know myself. To be honest, as I am getting to know me, I do not always like what I find. Let me explain:

Ally is a beautiful and strong little girl. Right now she is perfectly content to have the world revolve around her. And, apart from the night shifts, we are all happy to give her all the attention in the world. Family and friends are excited to see her, her mommy now has two little girls to photograph and I have a second sweet little face to kiss. Everybody is elated that we have this new addition . . . everybody but her big sister.

I don't want to paint the wrong picture: Ava is happy that we have a new baby, but it took her a few days to start really accepting that somebody will now be staying full-time in the room next to hers. She woke up one day and mommy and daddy weren't there. Two more days passed before they came home, and when they finally made it back, they brought someone with them! It has been an adjustment for her, but she loves her sister and walks around the house saying "baby" and "Ally," and she really seems to be adjusting great. She has started pushing Ally in her swing and wiggle her pacifier when she cries. Seeing these little acts of love and acceptance of her sister does something for me that I have never before known.

For the first time in my life as a parent, I have gotten to see what it is like for my daughter to have a sibling. Up until now, it has just been her and us. Now it is her, a sister and us. Seeing this has helped me understand a little better the perspective the Lord has as he observes my relationships with those around me. Ava is learning that our love for her hasn't changed or decreased, even though there is another little person in the picture. Our desires for her and all the things we plan to do for her are still the same. She is doing great as she comes to understand this, but I am beginning to realize how I haven't always responded correctly to the fact that my Father has other children. When Ava first saw us holding Ally, it bothered her a little bit - probably not unlike the feeling I get when I see someone else being blessed when I don't seem to be.

Thinking back over the past several years of my life, I remember times when I was resentful or jealous when someone else received a promotion or recognition that I felt should have been mine. I have inwardly criticized others when they were able to purchase a new car and mine had dents in the doors and holes in the seats. Peers of mine have bought investment properties when I was just trying to buy my first home. I could list many more examples, but I think you get the picture (besides, there's no need to air out all my dirty laundry :) ).

Our love for Ava hasn't changed because Ally has arrived on the scene, just like our love for Ally will not change if ever a third young one joins our family. It is the same for all of us as the Lord's children. Having seen some of the tendencies I have had has encouraged me to pursue love and genuinely be happy for my brothers and sisters when they are blessed. I am learning to see that the Lord isn't overlooking me during these times - these are just times when my Daddy has a special gift for my brothers and sisters, just like the times He has a special surprise for me. The example that Jesus set was to pursue our happiness and well-being even over His own. I want to do the same. I can already imagine the great joy I am going to experience when I see my children playing together and genuinely loving each other. I want to bring the Lord the same joy by genuinely loving and preferring those around me.