Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Happens Next?

    Greetings, Songbirds! I have missed you! Writing requires my full attention and I have not been able to provide that as of late. This post has been in progress for weeks, and I am hoping you will forgive my delay.
     I would like to start with a quote from a twelve year old boy named Justin Kievit:  "Sometimes winning isn't always the right thing & isn't the most important thing." Justin Kievit spoke these words in an   interview that aired on Good Morning America in December of 2012.
     Justin was referring to a wrestling match at his middle school in Tennessee in which he was asked to wrestle on the mat with Jared Stevens. Jared is also twelve years old, but Jared has severe cerebral palsy. Justin allowed Jared to pin him to the mat, allowing Jared to win the match.
     As one commentator reported, it was a story of courage and character on both of the boys' part. Jared wanted so badly to know what it felt like just to be able to be on the mat like the other boys. Justin was wise beyond his years and had such compassion for his opponent, that he chose to impart to Jared something even greater than Jared's expectations.
     Justin's response was not a surprise to those who know him. His coach specifically chose Justin because Jared's coach asked him to be placed with a boy with a big heart...Justin immediately came to his coach's mind. That decision set the wheels in motion for what took place between the boys.
     I share this story to illustrate the fact that our capacity to show compassion and dignity to others is a reflection of who we are as human beings.When I began writing this post, the events that took place in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary had not yet occurred. Afterward, there seemed such a contrast in behavior that I felt led to explore it.
     These two stories carry such stark contrasts in behavior that they elicit more questions than answers, or so it seems.  Such as, what state of mind would a person have to be in to commit such horrific acts that took place on December 14, 2012 inside Sandy Hook Elementary? How can a person be so detached from any feeling at all toward another human being, much less the most vulnerable and innocent of all? These are the questions that haunt me.
     Man's inhumanity toward man is nothing new. The danger is, and in my opinion, has always been, when society ceases to have empathy toward one another. Justin Kievit had compassion toward Jared Stevens because he was able to empathize with Jared's struggle of living with the disease of cerebral palsy. In the absence of empathy comes the absence of compassion.
     Justin and Jared's story highlights all that can be good in man. The assailant in the Sandy Hook massacre highlights the worst. The actions taken on December 14 were devoid of  humanity. Where does that leave us? What is the difference between these young men? I am not smart enough to have the answers to all of these questions. My goal in writing you today is not to give you answers. My goal is to lead you to the One who does.
     Only God knows how men can view other men as less than human. In my opinion, that is the only way these events could take place. I discussed in my post "Louder Than Words" the impact touring the Auschwitz concentration camps had on me. It became very clear during that experience that evil was allowed to take place because the absence of humanity had taken place. That absence of humanity was a result of the absence of empathy.
     The captors in the concentration camps viewed their captives as animals, as less than human. My question is; HOW? I do not have an answer for me or for you. I wish I did. I hesitate to show you these pictures. Yet I feel led to at the same time because they are a graphic example of the inhumanity I am grappling to understand. They were taken as a remembrance of those who suffered such evil:

Broken baby doll and baby clothing.
Children's shoes.
Brick and hay cubicle beds (?) meant for multiples of  8 to sleep in.


This display spoke volumes to me, as I have multiple health issues.
I would have not been allowed to survive for very long because
I would have been "defective" in the eyes of the Hitler regime.
Human hair.

Blankets woven from the human hair that was confiscated...void of humanity.

Gas canisters used in the gas chambers.
      Once again...void of humanity. Evil personified.

      These are but a few of the images we captured while touring Auschwitz. Such devastation. So many indignities to so many. All because of man's inhumanity to man. What more proof do we need of our desperate need for a Savior?  No more proof is needed.  All one has to do is observe man's behavior toward one another. I believe the only thing holding back complete evil in this world is God Himself and that day will end when no man knows Mark 13:32-37 NKJV
     In my post titled "Better than a Hallelujah" dated December 19, I said that our nation had just "had the wind knocked out of us" and we were all just trying to remember to breathe. This was in response to the events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary five days prior to that post. 
     Our nation is still grieving and will continue to do so, yet in the midst of our grief there comes a point that we must decide to move forward because in the meantime, we have work to do! We must not grow weary of doing good!  Galatians 6:6-10 NKJV
     We can move forward because we serve a High Priest who has great empathy and compassion for us   He set the example to show us the way to love others even in the midst of devastation and indignities. Hebrews 4:14-16 NKJV.    
     My song and my prayer for us today is in the form of a challenge for us all, in fact it's a dare. Like the song titled  Dare You to Move by the band Switchfoot. Please take a listen to it when you are able.   
   What happens next? What happens next?...I dare us to move, I dare us to move, I dare us to lift ourselves up off the floor!...maybe redemption has stories to tell, maybe forgiveness is right where we fell...we have work to do! Romans 12 NKJV "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good". (vs 21)



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Rest of the Story

     Happy New Year, Songbirds! I pray God's richest blessings for you and your families in the upcoming year ahead. With January comes New Years resolutions for many. My hubby (Captain Awesome) ; ) has the same one every year, which is "To be the man my dog thinks I am" end quote...gotta love a guy like that!
     I know it's a funny way to put it, but I know what he's saying. He wants to strive to be a better man. In essence that is my resolution too, although I would not have thought to put it so cleverly as he did.
     One of my biggest fears in life is that decisions I make today will result in regrets in the future that will impact those around me. I think that fear may stem from a lifelong realization that we are not promised tomorrow.
     Growing up I had a reoccurring dream of  sitting in a doctor's office and being told that I did not have long to live. It affected me in the sense that I have always been aware of  my mortality. Instead of thinking like a lot of us when we were younger, "that won't happen to me" my thinking was "I am the one that will happen to" and I believe those dreams played a part in shaping that thought process. 
     I can tell you this, I have done plenty of foolish, sinful, reckless things in my life, but not nearly as much as I might have had I not been keenly aware of the fact that I was not exempt from bad consequences that would not only affect me, but affect others in my life as well.
     I say all of that to say this...I want my life to have purpose and meaning, always keeping in mind my relationship with God and how that relationship is affected by my life choices. That did not even start taking place in my life until I accepted Christ when I was 21 years old. Until that point I was floundering. I was searching for I did not even know what and never finding it.
     I cannot speak for others, I can only testify of my own experience. Idols satisfy for a time, but they do not endure. They do not endure because they are not what we need. Which leads me to the rest of the story.
     There was a radio program named The Rest of the Story broadcast by Paul Harvey . It aired as a tag to the end of his programs starting during WWII and then in 1976 became a series he broadcast until 2009. It interested me because it was based on little known facts in regard to well known people.
     Jesus is rather well known, regardless if a person is a believer. Here is the rest of the story regarding Jesus...He was born into the world, lived a sinless life, He was crucified and paid the penalty for our sins and He rose again (which makes Him alive)!  Romans 1:1-7 NKJV. And as if all of this were not enough...He is coming back one day! Revelation 22:12-13 NKJV. These are "close fisted" facts (as my pastor would say) in regard to Jesus. In other words, not negotiable because they are doctrinal truths based on the Word of God.
      You may say that these are not little known facts about a well known person named Jesus Christ. That may be true FOR BELIEVERS. What about about everyone else? I was an adult before I became a Christian. I was not raised in the church. It was when I was made aware of these facts (for me it was through reading a book which laid out the gospel) that God was able to speak to my heart and at that point, I accepted Christ as my Savior.
     It seems hard to believe that a person can grow up and become an adult and not ever really hear the plan of salvation, yet it happens everyday. Which leads me to challenge not only myself, but all of us to remember that many, many people have not heard. And many, many people have not even had the chance to accept or reject the gospel because of this!
     How very sad. Yet, God draws us to Himself  John 6:44 NKJV. It is only sad if there is no one willing to share these truths with others. What if He is wanting to use us to accomplish that? He could use any means He wants to draw us to Himself, but what if He wants to use us and we are not listening and obeying His call?
     My prayer and my song is that we do not allow opportunities in our every day life slip by us to share the rest of the story of Jesus Christ to those around us. No regrets...just spreading the rest of the story about our Lord and Savior!
      Our youngest daughter and her husband served in Krakow, Poland for three years with the International Mission Board several years ago. As they were about to embark on reaching souls for Christ in Eastern Europe, our son-in-law put this video together. Yet the need is just as urgent in our own backyard, where ever that may be in this world. This song, titled Tears of the Saints by Leeland shares the urgency that exists for spreading the hope and good news of the gospel to all:

Father, we will lead them home...Amen.