Friday, August 30, 2013


I saw a man today who stopped me cold.  I witnessed him from a distance and only in partial profile as he walked.  From where I witnessed on the sidewalk, his familiar gait held my gaze as he turned into the building across the street.  I never saw his face but his mannerisms, his step, even the cut of his hair and its color made my heart leap painfully.  This man was the mirror image of a dear friend who had passed in recent years.  I watched him from across the street until he vanished into the interior of the building he had entered, abruptly realizing that I myself had stopped walking.

Continuing on my way, my tasks began to melt from my mind as memories flooded.  My friend was a mentor, often a counselor, full of anecdotal proverbs and humor.  My friend inspired others, was strong in his convictions, was private with his emotions but protective of his family.  My friend built up others and affected many.  He was a principled man of integrity and character and unyielding in the face of adversity.  I miss my friend.

I miss his unique laughter.  I miss the camaraderie I often felt in his presence.  I miss our friendship.  There it is.  I miss our communion, our regular interaction of person.  He is present with our Father, dancing before the Throne now and I would never rob any person of that privilege.  But a part of me is now absent in his absence.  But a friend's passing isn't the only absence in many hearts.

What of friendship severed through betrayal?  What of damage done?  What of family that abandons during trial?  What of those who claim the same Savior, fill the same sanctuary, but pay little heed to those across the aisle?  What of those who promise prayer during adversity and present only silence? 

Do we, any of us, walk these lines - ignoring the individual in our midst, letting cheerful words of "encouragement" empty of substantive action vomit forth upon those who are looking for that glimmer of Christ's compassion from others?  Compassion defined is to "endure with".  My friend was compassionate.  Our camaraderie was filled with compassion for there was much "enduring with" in our friendship. 

We are encouraged in the Word to be compassionate towards each other.  This is not a grand idea or noble characteristic to aspire to.  It does not require a short term missions trip to far off lands or even a large charity effort.  Compassion will certainly move you to engage in these, but it is something more.  Compassion should always be on you, ready to be shown to the person hurting in the office next to yours or the person in line behind you at the store.  We should be putting it on every day like a garment.

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."
Colossians 3:12

When others are experiencing the ghosts of remembrance of lost friendships, failed marriages and broken families it is compassion that is the healing balm to their wounded hearts.  When sickness and suffering assail, it is compassion, not a casserole that binds the wounds, knits hearts, and strengthens.  When death encroaches, whether it be physical or the death of dreams and aspirations, it is compassion, not a card that conveys the fullness of the love of Christ.  But we shy from offering it because compassion requires that we give something - our own heart.  We have to give a piece of our self to another to be truly compassionate and most are unwilling to take this step.  It is impossible to be fully compassionate from a distance.  One cannot be disengaged and be compassionate.

So in this, we have found it much easier to quiet the teachings on compassion, to gloss over the example our Lord set before us; to turn scriptures where Jesus was wrenched in his heart and being with compassion to heal and move into the masses into Sunday School stories of crowds happily gathered at his feet.  In doing so, we create a disjointed and schizophrenic caricature of our Savior as a sometimes moody teacher and sometimes happy child-loving shepherd rather than the constant passionate, humble, gentle, compassionate, loving Lord that He is.

Though I do not believe people's spirits roam the earth post mortem, I am thankful to have seen my friend's "ghost" today.  It reminded me of a great many things my Savior is calling me to walk out.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Diamonds in the Rough


Dinner.  A collection of small and larger faces gathered around our table, eagerly chatting away.  Food is an afterthought for some, and the only thought for others as reminders have to be given to use utensils - not hands, lean over plates - not over your neighbor, eat vegetables - not only bread, and to take a drink of water every so often.  Our family is large by many's standards, though smaller than several of our friends'.  None-the-less the myriad skin tones, personalities, capacities for volume and ages are the facets of this treasure. 

But like any diamond in the rough, there are flaws.  We are, everyone of us, imperfect people living in a shared space under the same roof.  More often than not, our home does not run like a finely tuned engine but more like a carriage drawn by several horses all wanting to go different directions.  My bride and I take turns with the reigns while the other sits shotgun and we continually wrestle to steer the herd, never ceasing to be amazed at the ingenuity and creativity of active minds, who very often find trouble on the roadside to exploration.  A five-year old discovering the primary color wheel is a good thing - unless it's in marker and on the wall.  Our speech-impaired son building confidence to speak loudly is desired - just not at 5:30 in the morning.  Our daughter mastering educational games on the iPad makes us proud - but not when she sneaks said iPad after having been put on electronic blackout for lying. 

There are times when I catch myself unconsciously locked in a stare with one of my children.  During those times, the only thought typically going through my mind is "What makes you tick?"  For this I am continually at a loss.  Certainly I can point to specific characteristics in some of my children that are directly from my bride and I but there are volumes of psychoanalytical data regarding my progeny that I simply am not privy to.  Characteristics in young personalities that I am trusting God to develop as we endeavor to raise them in His Word.

There are, however, many things I see in my children that I also see in myself and this causes me to marvel (and at times to be concerned). Where they seem to have certain characteristics inherently in their DNA, I find that I have grown into these over the course of decades.  Yet the similarities are startling.

I note a small boy who has difficulty speaking, and is uncomfortable doing so except to those closest to him.  When he missteps, often rather than seeking a father's forgiveness, he will try to hide his crime or seek solitude.  His continual battle is to overcome his challenges rather than giving up and settling for a life that is less than intended, despite the difficulties imposed upon him by his past.  How often has this described me?

I note a daughter who has the security of a father's love, but something within still pulls at her to push the boundaries of the permissible.  Vibrant and independent, she readily becomes fiercely temperamental and in those times her beauty as a child can become diminished for the ugliness of her actions.  But she always longs for her father's heart, always expects ready acceptance.  I readily recognize myself in her.

I note another small boy who has undeservedly suffered the consequences of the self centered-ness of others.  The love of a caring family, a circle of trusted brothers, sisters, and friends - these are his greatest desires in a world where he has known little but upheaval and wave after wave of uncertainty crashing upon him.  Though he now has a loving home, the slightest tremor or hint of insecurity sends him spiraling into the lashing out and choosing of actions known to be wrong in an attempt to secure known consequences to right his world.  What measures do we take to regain control?

I note another small girl, who like her brother, has suffered cruelties at the hands of others.  Her response?  To injure in return.  She yearns for a family's affection, craves the protectiveness of a father's embrace yet continually when fears arise or she senses a lack of control, she responds in open rebellion, choosing self-preservationist instinct over submission, rebellion over repentance.  In this state, rage drives actions, anger against her past and those who would seek to impose order and safety upon her for in this state she sees no one else, only herself and the world's transgressions against her.  In this state, she is truly alone.  How lonely have we become in the night?

I note an eldest son and older brother.  He has opened arms to siblings, continually being reminded that he is the example they look to.  He works hard to protect and help those closest to him.  A tender heart generates continual concern for others, but a simmering anger builds as friends and family abandon.  He fronts a jovial exterior but deep wounds cause him to question the faithfulness of others, to question what is professed versus what is actually lived.  He is increasingly becoming skeptical of the motivations of people, often choosing solitude over crowds.  Have you ever withdrawn from the masses?

In each of these reflective facets I can note tendencies I wrestle with, challenges to my own walk with the Lord.  I am thankful that in each of these, I have the privilege of daily encouraging, daily praying with, and when necessary, daily correcting my children.  Very often, watching my children sleeping late at night I thank God for the privilege of raising them, yet I am flesh, I fail often.  How much more perfect is the Father's love towards me?  How much more infinite His patience, His delight, His joy in my existence, my supplications, my joys.  How much more heartfelt His grief in my sorrows and wise His perspective in the eternal weight of glory they are working out in my life.

My children are not perfect either and they never will be.  Outlined are struggles each of them faces but these are far from the sum total of their person or of their potential.  Each of them is a glorious created being that has forever changed who I am for their simple presence in my life.  Each of them hold mine and my bride's hearts in their hands.  Each of them is an ever changing work in progress as they seek their parents' approval and blessing.  Like them, we all stumble as we grow in our day-to-day with our Father.  We will never know the fullness of our created perfection until we submit to the Master as He removes flaw after flaw to reveal more and more of our created beauty.  Until then, we are all simply diamonds in the rough.