A Pastor’s Question

“Are you willing to trust God in anything He sends into your life whether you understandannunciation it or not?” That was the question posed by our Pastor this morning. It was posed in the context of what’s known as the Annunciation; where the arch angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and says:

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

—Luke 1:28

Mary is “very perplexed” (NASB v.29) or even “troubled” (NKJV) by this sudden visitation from the arch angel. Gabriel goes on to encourage her to “not be afraid” then drops the bombshell statement on her:

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest.”

—Luke 1:31-32

Though you likely know the account of this record, May was currently a virgin. It was impossible for her to conceive except then Gabriel states that God the Holy Spirit, will cover her and she will conceive and bring forth what Matthew refers to as Emmanuel (God with us, Matthew 1:23) and what John the Baptist declared as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, see last week’s post for more on the Lamb of God). In other words, May is going to bring forth God incarnate.

Astoundingly, Mary’s response is:

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

—Luke 1:38

mary_josephShe was young; most theologians and biblical historians place her from 14 to 16 years old. And she may have lived a simple life, but she was not ignorant of her culture or ignorant of what she was saying “yes” to. She knew that saying “yes” in her culture would mean significant ridicule up to and including community banishment. Here she was, an unmarried teenage girl and pregnant. Yes, she was betrothed to be married, but she was not married yet, so her fiancée could easily tell her to take a hike; in fact, it is likely that that is what was expected of him—to send her away in shame. And on top of it all she was proclaiming she was still a virgin and carrying the Son of God.

Simply stated, she demonstrated great courage. But not only that; she also demonstrated equally great humility and trust. She trusted God even if she didn’t fully understand His logic or His approach.

This brings us back to the Pastor’s question. Do I have the same trust? Or courage? Or humility?

This question really hit me upside the head today for this reason: pain. I was not intending to blog about this, but I got to thinking about another blogger’s question from earlier in the week. It’s from A Fractured Faith Blog and the post was Why Do You Blog? I blog because I desire to be an encouragement to others and to help make Jesus real for people. So now back to pain.

I evidently haven’t properly healed from this summer’s hernia surgery. My left side has significant muscle and nerve pain. I am now also experiencing pretty serious lower back pain as well. The back pain can at times be so intense that I lose my balance and well up in tears. Just rolling over in bed at night causes intense pain shooting through my back like a thousand hot needles burrowing into me. I pray for healing, but the pain remains relentless. I’ve tried alternative methods of treatments only to have increasing pain by the day. I will go and see my medical doctor later this week. I fear seeing her because I fear what she may find. Actually, she probably won’t find anything but will instead recommend yet another MRI (if so, it’ll be my ninth). I like to fancy myself in robust and indestructible health. I’d like to be able to workout as insanely as I used to. Maybe someday I will; or maybe the insane workouts of my past have contributed to my painful present.

But the question from my Pastor, inspired by a 14-year-old girl from over 2,000 years ago, rings loudly in my brain. Do I still trust God even though I desperately want the pain to go away? And even though I really don’t understand why I must endure this will I still pursue after the Lord?

Honestly, the overall answer is yes, I will still trust God and pursue after Him. But I admit it’s a lot harder to when my eyesight is blurred by pain and I have to be careful with every single move I make, whether making dinner or simply sitting down.

But I also know that, unlike Mary, I’m not alone because many others around me suffer from chronic pain as well. No one has gone through, or will ever go through, what Mary bravely and humbly went through. Perhaps, then, this is where my humility gets a little bit of a test in that I am challenged and humbled by a 14-year-old girl. And, frankly, I’ve never really found inspiration in Mary—that is, until today. Oh sure, like so many I admire her and am definitely grateful for her decision; but this is the first time I’ve found her to be an inspiration to keep-on keepin’ on. Who, except God, knew that it would take me over 50 years to be inspired by one of the greatest persons that ever walked the earth. Yes, we still call Mary blessed (see Luke 1:28, 42 & 45)!

Advertisements

A Bit Somber, but Blessed

It’s been a tough week. Work stuff has some mounting pressures, I need to make a big decision in the very near future and I’m preparing to officiate my first wedding and launch a new small group on the west side of town. Then Janey and I went to a memorial service yesterday. Yes, it was a celebration of a vibrant and godly man that is now with the Lord, but it still has sadness. As one of the speakers said, no matter how hard my week was; which, frankly, it wasn’t that big of a deal—I still come home to my bride and I’m not fighting a life-draining illness. Chronic pain takes a toll, but I’m not fighting for my life.

 

So…

…I don’t have much to say today without getting choked up. I don’t have permission to share names, but the brief time I knew this man I felt such positive electricity, like the Holy Spirit vibrating through every fiber of his being. I don’t care who you are, that moves a person’s soul.

So I don’t have much to say. Still, I am continually amazed, and a bit disappointed, how quickly I move through my days with check lists, task boxes, to-dos, and stuff to accomplish. But how much does all of this really matter? Sure, these things have importance to a degree, but they don’t breathe life into me. And I don’t breathe life into them; they’re inanimate expressions of someone else’s urgency. But what was urgent to Jesus? People.

Relationships were, and still are, what Jesus cares about. And the way Jesus shows His care cross_sunsetin another person’s life is through us (John 13:31-35). No, I don’t plan to abandon my responsibilities, I don’t want to lose the job God’s blessing me with; but perhaps I can approach each check box, task and to-do item with a view of the other lives around me. Maybe I can strive to love and serve my bride, my boys, my church, my employer with just a little more effort to intentionally exude light and life rather than check marks and packed calendars.

 

Like I said…

…I don’t have much to say. My soul is stirred.

The Gift of Marcus

The news came pouring through the phone early that Christmas Eve morning. In sobbing bursts Diana cried the news to Janey, “Marcus was killed last night in a car wreck!”

“What!?” said Janey incredulously. “How could this be?”

But it was true. Our dear friends in Omaha lost their 20-year-old son in a one car accident. Authorities said he died at impact so there was no pain; he was here then he was gone. Gone! As a father it’s mind-numbing news. Thankfully, Marcus was a young man solid in his Christian faith; and while we know that Marcus is experiencing inexpressible joy, we still sorrow—and we remember.

I have great memories of them as our neighbors. How the boys, Marcus, their oldest son, and Ben, my oldest son, would play baseball in the cul-de-sac. They’d see who could hit the ball all the way to the main street or make the coolest sliding-from-the-knees-catches in our front yards. I remember all those Little League games—the winning, the losing—and the fun! I remember those darkening spring evenings cheering the boys on. I remember the sleep-overs, the bickering, and the laughing. Oh those were good times!

The last time I saw Marcus was when he came from Omaha to visit us in Keizer. Marcus, Ben and I drove up to Seattle to see a couple of Mariners games. Chris, Marcus’ dad, scored great tickets right behind the Oakland A’s dugout. It was so cool, we could hear some of the players’ conversations and I got to sit and listen to Ben and Marcus debate various strategies. We even saw one of those rare triple-plays!

Now Marcus is gone and I cry out to God, “now what?” Well, here’s my sense of God’s answer to my cry. Marcus was a life lived well. He left with no emotional wreckage in his wake. He left with family and friends knowing he loved them. He left with a good plan for his future. He left already having led several young people to life in Christ. And he’s left us with a great legacy because of a life lived well.

Legacy Left

Yes, his life was brief. And even as our souls are saturated in sorrow now, our tears will dry and we will carry on with our lives. Even so, we can still rejoice in the fact that he is with Jesus forevermore! We can celebrate the life he lived among us. We can cherish the memories he leaves. And we can be inspired by his legacy, may our lives become lives lived as well as his.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Marcus; yes, we sorrow now, but in time his memory will live on via a living legacy of a life lived well, of a life lived for Jesus Christ; and we know that one day, we will see Marcus again!