Posts Tagged With: love

How can you rejoice at a time like this?

One minute I’m celebrating the joy of my mum’s 70th birthday the next minute I’m overwhelmed by all the tragedy in the world. Plane crash in Egypt; concert fire in Romania; war torn Iraq, Syria, and Libya; drunk drivers crashing into trick-a-treaters; refugees fleeing war-ravaged cities and arriving in Europe in the thousands, many drowning enroute from Northern Africa; disease-plagued countries; poverty, malnutrition; violent extremists; and a general lack of tolerance for humanity. It’s all overwhelmingly depressing. With all this going on around us, what is there to rejoice about?

Usually we respond with gratitude for being spared from these atrocities. I don’t want to believe that a loving God would spare some and just say “screw-it” to others.
Some Christians will even say things like “God must be punishing them for their sins.” I can’t even fathom the logic and the venomous judgement in this statement. It paints God as an egotistical maniac who goes around ignoring His own promises simply to place “some” sinners in His crosshairs and to then “take them out” with a tornado or earthquake.

Some direct their anger towards God, blaming Him for the state of the world and at the same time denying He even exists because a loving God wouldn’t let any of this happen. These same people will also find someone to blame. It must be the U.S. President’s fault because leadership (the one you don’t like or support) is always responsible.

Honestly, if you have a heartbeat, you can’t help but be moved to some sort of reaction and then…?

Exactly. What happens next? 

I have noticed an acute focus on God’s priorities following disaster or tragedy. We may not be outright accepting of a specific dogma, but we tend to value love over hate, tolerance over intolerance, service over self, giving over taking, fraternity over factions, solutions over blame, forgiveness over resentment, and of course, grace and mercy. 

We live in a very imperfect world filled with imperfect people. With this inherent imperfection, we simply lack the capability to create perfection. We easily try to talk in terms of goodness but goodness wasn’t the plan to begin with. “Good” people have bombed abortion clinics. “Good” people traded slaves and hung them on trees. “Good” people have stood by and watched others prey upon the weakened (notice I didn’t say weak). “Good” people troll the Internet daily and “kill” people with their vilifying comments and then blame them for “putting themselves out there” as to say, “well they deserve it”.

I wish there was a utopia where we could all just rejoice 24/7. A place without pain or sorrow. A place with clean air, green grass, blue waters, no famine or disease, no family drama. A place where birds chirped, lions roared, and people sang all in one rhythmic chorus. 

Wait! Such a place has already been described…by the One who envisioned it to begin with. He also promised that in this world, we would have trouble but in Him, there’d be peace. He didn’t just leave an image for us to be transfixed while staring longingly into space for that utopia. He offered and indeed freed us from mental and spiritual slavery while here. He left instructions on how to treat others in the midst of the storm. He acknowledged that our attempts at goodness would never hit the mark but then offered to bridge the gap between our fallen nature and perfection.

How can you rejoice at a time like this? You don’t rejoice in what is…you rejoice in the hopefulness of what is to come. That hope leads to a peace that passes all understanding. That peace is hard to contain and drives us to serve others with our time, talent, and treasures.  That service, is how humanity bounces back from tragedy. All this is done, not for praise or recognition, but with a deep sense that “we are all beggars, telling other beggars where to find bread.”

What if you don’t believe any of this? Then the obvious question is, what do you believe and how does what you believe inform your reaction to the world around you. I remember a conversation I had with my son a few years ago. It was about value. What we do either adds value to people’s lives or doesn’t. Thus, the purpose of this post isn’t to advocate a certain dogma, but to encourage a perspective that results in added-value in spite of crises or calamity.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

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Three Score & 10

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For months many have been preparing earnestly for this day. They’ve kept up with current trends, searched online and in neighborhood stores for that perfect costume. The one that cries individuality but conveys that huge “Wow!’ factor when unveiled. Yes, for many Westerners tonight is Halloween. Interestingly, I’ve never celebrated the event. I’ve never donned a costume or gone to a costume party. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the tradition per se, it’s just, the day holds a much bigger significance in my life. Today is my mum’s birthday and she turns 70! So, I’ve always spent the day reflecting on who she is and what she means to me.

I am who I am because God chose her. I’ve been told I’m a carbon copy of her. I don’t see it, but I do see her beauty (both inner and outer). My dad would have been crazy to have missed her during their college days at the University of Nebraska.  That smile accentuated by radiant cheek bones. That resilience. That work ethic. Her realistic idealism. Her philanthropy. Her care for those society has written off.  Her support for dad through some difficult times. Her support for her family…ALL OF THEM.  The things she’s endured herself.

You see, mum was born into a large family. Six sisters and one brother. She was dependable as a young girl. Her parents could always count on her. She did well in secondary school and it wasn’t a surprise that she earned a USAID scholarship to Nebraska and then onto Purdue for her graduate studies. Someone that focused would have to attract a like-mind. Falling for that equally handsome doctoral student was only natural. They married in Lincoln over 45 years ago and still look great together.  I love the pictures mum sends me of her and dad dressed up for Church every Sunday. She’s still radiant!  The picture I just received of her sitting in a brand new car dad bought her today underscores her excitement but more importantly, her gratitude to God!

As the first in her immediate family to go overseas for an education back in the 60s, she knew her siblings would need her. Her community back home would need her. Her homeland would need her new found expertise. She and dad returned home with me to do their part in helping a country 13 years removed from independence.  Today, mum is a retired civil servant and philanthropist. In her time, she’s helped advance the cause of science and technology; supported her siblings, nephews, and nieces in getting their education; and has done the same for so many more. Every New Year’s day, hundreds return to express their gratitude for my parent’s support. I can’t return every year, but I thank God daily for the gift of my mother.

She’s still the best driver I know…even at 70! She’s the best price negotiator I’ve ever observed. If you’ve ever shopped in an open market in Africa, the Caribbean, or any developing country, you know how important negotiating is to the final outcome. Mum is a certified pro.  I could write a book about this woman but knowing her, she’d prefer the blessing of simply fulfilling God’s call on her life as a servant, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sibling, and friend.

I love you mum…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

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Condemn Not

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Pieter Bruegel, Oil on panel, 24cm x 34cm. Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

John 8:4-11

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

To professing Christians: Are you known more for what you stand against, or for what you stand for?

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For Mum…Our Song

Sweet Mother
by Prince Nico Mbarga
[click link to hear the song]

Sweet mother I no go forget you
For de suffer wey you suffer for me yeah [2x]

When i dey cry my mother go carry me
She go say my pikin wetin you dey cry yeah yeah
Stop stop! stop stop!! stop stop!!!
Make you no cry again oo

When i wan sleep my mother go pet me
She go lie me well-well for bed
She go cover me cloth say make you sleep
Sleep sleep my pikin oooo

When i dey hungry my mother go run up and down
She dey find me somthing wey i go chop
Sweet mother eeeeee..sweet mother oooo..eee

When i dey sick my mother go cry cry cry
She go say instead wey i go die make she die
She go beg God, God help me, God help me, my pikin oo

If i no sleep, my mother no go sleep
If i no chop, my mother no go chop
She no dey tire ooo
Sweet mother i no go forget dey suffer wey you suffer for me yeah yeah
Sweet mother eeeeeeeeeeee
Sweet mother oooo….eeeee

interlude…instrumental…

You fit get another wife
you fit get another husband
but you fit get another mother? No!

interlude…instrumental…

Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo
Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo

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You Better Work!

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Relationships are hard work. You literally have to wake up each morning and punch a time card to work on relationships you value. Where do you go to learn all this? There are millions of books on relationships…mainly written by those who’ve experienced successes and failures in relationships.
 
Sometimes we get stuck in the infatuation stage of a relationship that we forget there’s a point where that stage takes a back seat to reality: two individuals with quirks getting together, dealing with conflict, dealing with culture, upbringing, baggage, beliefs, etc. 
 
Recently I laughed hard after seeing a YouTube video were individuals were made to watch their significant others doing the #2 for the first time. Okay, if you don’t know what a #2 is, stop reading and phone a friend. If you do know what it is, you’re probably saying “eeew” why would I want to watch that? Well, if you’re in a relationship with someone and he or she can no longer go for themselves, guess who gets to help? If this is unfathomable, then what are you doing in a relationship? 
 
Again, relationships challenge us to our core. If you’re in love, you have to ask yourself what it’s based on. And if part of your response includes the word happiness (or some body part) then I’ll challenge you to reconsider. Happiness is a feeling and feelings change. What happens when you’re not happy? Let me guess, you quit. How about using joy instead? How about basing a relationship on this kind of love? 
  1. One that never gives up.
  2. One that cares more for others than for self.
  3. One that doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
  4. One that isn’t always “me first.”
  5. One that doesn’t fly off the handle.
  6. One that doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. 
  7. One that doesn’t rub it in.
  8. One that takes pleasure in truth.
  9. One that puts up with anything. 
  10. One that always looks for the best.
  11. One that never looks back.
  12. One that keeps going to the end.
  13. One that never dies.
Now you see why I say it’s hard work? Many would prefer the warm and fuzzy love that by-passes all of the above. In our natural state, we can’t do any of this. It is easier to give up than it is to put in the work. By the way, I’m no expert…I have a lot to work on and have failed in many of the above-mentioned areas. This is why self-assessments are so important. Take the time to look inward and see where you’re messing up. If your partner truly loves, then they’re probably great at #6 & #9 (see post on Hurting People & Forgiveness). Again I’ll be the first to tell you it’s hard. How many times have you said (or pondered), “I’ve had it up to here with…”.
 
This is what relationships are about. It is loving someone else “in spite of…”. People will screw up…always. Then what? If you quit, you’ll move on to someone else who will eventually screw up too. Eventually you’ll realize after so many repeats, there’s only one constant: YOU! 
 
So, join me and let’s get our acts together and put in the work it takes to keep our relationships going…one day at a time.
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