Monday, September 15, 2014

He Died Too Young

The recent death of a Little Miami High School student has the community emotionally fragile, most especially Brayden's fellow students along with their parents who wonder what to say. A tragic death usually brings out both the best and the worst in us as human beings. It brings out the best because we tend to care, hug and talk a little more than normal. When faced with our own mortality, especially as a teenager, causes questions and confusion.

Often the worst things we can do is actually say something. When we don't know what to say it's best to not say anything. More often than not the best thing to say is to ask a question, if you must say something. "How can I help?" or make this offer: "I'm here any time you want to talk."

There's something disturbing to us humans when we don't have answers to questions. We like to know. We like to be in control. But when a tragedy like this breaks open our neat little world, we're reminded of how fragile and unpredictable life can be.

For people of faith we like to remember the promise of Romans 8:28 "God works in all things for the good of those who love Him…" We quote it, and sometimes misquote it (it doesn't say "all things work together for good" - it does say that "God works in all things") and then tragedy strikes and we can easily forget it.

The blame most often goes to God. "Why didn't God save or heal the person?" It's not a terrible question. I've asked it many times before. The more dastardly statement often heard is: "It was all part of God's plan." I usually duck for cover from the potential fallout! That's not the God I know. God doesn't cause wrecks, murders, rapes, bombings or abuse. He is good and can't be evil.

"Why did God take him so young?" When we don't know the answers our human tendency is to blame God. Eventually some people will land on: "I wonder how God is going to use this for good?" That's Romans 8:28.

There are a lot of things I don't know about in this world of ours. There are a lot of things I don't understand about the way God works or at times seems to not be at work. Two things I know about God that help me when life doesn't make sense:

1 - God is good
2 - God is for me

My confusion comes from forgetting that God has a goal for my life, for our lives, that goes far beyond the temporary things upon which I tend to focus. I forget the bigger picture, that I am not the center of the universe or of God's plan.

Why did Brayden die too young? I don't know. It is a horrible tragedy. I do look forward to the good things God will bring out of it, though. In the meantime I pray for his family and friends who must figure out what tomorrow looks like without him.

Monday, September 1, 2014

17 Weeks to Christmas - A 1st World Problem

I've seen some recent posts about so many Fridays until Christmas. Some big box stores have a few Christmas things peering out of the shadows. I heard a business news report last week that people are using layaway more frequently than in recent years, preparing for Christmas.

Now is the time to decide what Christmas will be for you this year. For the past 12 years, Christmas has taken on a new focus for me. Live more simply so that others might simply live. Christmas consumerism is a 1st world problem. Christmas Day for most, while perhaps a day of celebration and some special times, is another day to live even while celebrating God's gift of life. It's not full of presents. It's not an overabundance of food.

House renovations versus living in a house

Car repairs versus owning a car

Having "nothing to wear" versus having 2 sets of clothes - 
one for church & one for the other days

Honestly, most of what we plan for, what we fret over, what we rejoice in are 1st world problems. We overindulge in an overabundance of things we don't need. It becomes clear when we move - and purge - and find things we no longer use, had forgotten about and didn't need in the first place. Our overindulgence leads to debt, obesity, lethargy and loneliness. What we hoped would fill our lives ends up taking life from us.

How will Christmas be different for you this year? With 17 weeks to go, here are some thoughts:

1 Decide to stay out of debt. Giving gifts you can't afford, and some of those to people you don't even like, isn't what makes Christmas. If your love language is receiving gifts, this could be difficult for you. Decide how you'll give gifts while avoiding debt. Start by decreasing the number of gifts.

2 Plan family time. The focus on presents and the spending of dollars to get them has the tendency to push family aside instead of bring them together. Instead of a wrapped present, do something together: go to an IMAX movie; see a Christmas season play like A Christmas Carol. Spend your dollars on something that creates a memory rather than ripped wrapping paper and trash.

3 Sponsor a needy child or family. We started this tradition over a decade ago, where some of our Christmas savings goes to support a child in Haiti through Starfish Kids. It doesn't matter which Operation Christmas Child (better hurry on this one for this year). Find a local family to sponsor with a meal and some gifts. You might plan on serving a Christmas Day meal at a homeless shelter instead of overindulging at home.
organization you choose, just choose one. Fill some shoe boxes for

4 Give away 1/2 of your normal spending. This is the method I've used in The Live Simply Project over the past decade. We have the privilege and responsibility to use our overabundance of resources to serve those around us, and across the world. Here are some ways to do that: sponsor a child, simply give the dollars to a worthy organization, save the dollars for a mission trip next summer. 

Some people need to simply cut back on what they spend. Some would benefit more from re-purposing their normal spending to focus on family and others. Do something different this year. Make a difference. If filling our lives up with stuff - through gifts - made us happy and filled our lives, we'd be the happiest and most fulfilled people ever. A fulfilled life doesn't come from what we get or possess but from what we give and the people with whom we do life.

Christmas in the U.S. is a 1st world problem. How will you solve it this year?