Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Remembering is Important on Memorial Day

My grandfather’s name was Jack. I didn’t call him grandpa, I called him Jack. Even his own children (he had 6) weren’t allowed to call him “dad” until they were grown and out of the house. And so when they were at the beach or at the store or in the neighborhood and they wanted to get his attention, they didn’t yell for dad, they yelled “Jack,” so that he looked like one of the brothers and not the father.

Jack was a man of few words, and most of those words would not be appropriate for me write here! I didn’t know Jack deeply. What I knew of him was that he was hardened and somewhat distant. He was stubborn and opinionated. He didn’t like to be around people much and he certainly didn’t trust them, he kept his distance. He kept the thermostat in his home set at 60 degrees in the winter and he hated dogs and sauerkraut.

I found out as I got older that there were some events in Jack’s life that factored in to these personal traits. In 1945, Jack was flying a bombing mission over Germany, when his plane was shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by enemy soldiers and taken to a small cell where he was kept as a P.O.W. He fought and survived. And fortunately the war ended while he was in prison and he was released to come home.

Our country was built on courage and strength of men and women like my grandfather. If Jack hadn’t been so courageous and strong, I literally wouldn’t be here because he wouldn’t have come home and wouldn’t have conceived my father and on and on. I can make that connection directly, but the connection is there indirectly for all of us. What if at some key moment in our history as a country, our troops had failed? What would it be like in America? Would you and I even be sitting here?

I'm disappointed in myself because I rarely think about what Jack did. I’m forgetful. My very existence was threatened by one key point in his history and because of his survival, I’m here. And I hardly ever think about that. We are a forgetful people. That’s why it is important for us to designate days and holidays to help us remember. Today is one of those days.

There are many examples in scripture of God using days, and markers, and holidays and festivals to help people remember important parts of their heritage. Like a string on a finger, God reminds us to remember. God created our brains so that we can tuck away memories. And then in an evocative way, in an instant as we remember, we are able to bring the past into the present and to live deeply in it. Remembering the past should do three things for us:
  1. It should force us to live in reality. We have a tendency to sugar coat the past or forget it all together. But truly remembering will ground us and center us and remind us of what is really going on.
  2. It should lead us to gratitude. My blessings as a Christian and as an American are so deep and so rich that my heart should be filled with gratefulness. Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night to behold them. But we have seen stars so often that we don't bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
  3. It should move us toward faith. God has allowed us to move through difficulties as a nation much like he has to many of us as individuals. Just as He has been faithful in the past - He will continue to be faithful. That should inspire faith in us.
Why do you think remembering the past is important?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three Things I Love About My Mom (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

2. She taught me to pursue a "because God said so" kind of faith.

One of the most oft-repeated phrases of most moms is "because I said so." My mom said those words her share of times for sure! But mom often took it one step further and instilled in me a "because God said so," faith. The leading question, spoken or unspoken, when making a decision was, "what would God want us to do?"

I had the distinct advantage of growing up in a home where faith was a very active influence. My parents truly decided to follow Christ wholeheartedly when I was 5 or so, so my formative years were filled with an energized faith component.

Dad was discovering the adventure of life-altering changes from a hot-tempered, foul-mouthed football coach to a radical follower of Jesus. And mom was discovering the joys of following Christ day by day and involving herself in the ministry of a local church and life-giving Christian relationships.

I love the passage in Luke 5 when Jesus approaches the disciples, expert fisherman, and gives them some fishing advice. You can imagine how this encounter could go south. A carpenter telling fishermen how to fish! But I think Luke 5:5 contains 5 words that can transform a person's life forever. It comes in Peter's response to Jesus giving him this advice, he says, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

But because you say so...

What a great lesson in obedience. Everything inside me is saying, "I don't think this is right, I'm sure you're wrong Lord, this is my area God - this is my job, this is my family, this is my purchase, this is my decision ... but because you say so.

Mom taught me this same lesson - that success or failure as a Christ follower is contained in my ability to get my head around those 5 words.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Three Things I Love About My Mom (Part 1)

There are two things that every one of us has in common no matter where in the world you're from. One is that we’re all going to die. The other (which is slightly more encouraging for most) is that we all have a mom. My mom is amazing. I just want to remember some of the things that I’ve learned from mom that have served me well over the years, and I hope that reading my ramblings will encourage you to do the same.

1. She taught me about her middle name.
My mom's middle name is Joy. Cynthia Joy Sanford. I am in a long line of generations who make their eyes disappear when they smile. I inherited this trait from my mom. Whenever we smile - our eyes go away. And I'm proud to say that it happens a lot. My mom taught me joy.

She taught me to have a sense of humor, that laughter is an ally. She taught me to not take myself too seriously. If you know me at all - you know that I love to laugh. I got this from my mom. Moms, one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is a demonstration of what joy looks like. Bring joy to your homes.

We named our little girl Ayden Joy Sanford. There are already signs as she gets older (she's 4), that her eyes will be disappearing too.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

3 Questions to Ask Before You Judge Someone's Behavior

I deal with sinners up close and personal every day - so I've got some experience. OK, OK - my main experience with this issue comes from being a sinner myself. But this week I dealt with a situation in which one person was judging another person's behavior, pretty harshly, from a distance.

It made me think of a few questions to ask before we jump in the arena and start judging other people's behavior:

  1. Do I know their story? There is always a back story to someone's behavior. Usually the more we know about a person's story, the more compassion overtakes judgment.
  2. What would my reaction be if I liked them? Usually we judge people from a distance that we don't really care for. Replace the person you are judging with your best friend and see if your attitude doesn't change.
  3. What if the sin they were struggling with was the same one I struggle with? Most of us tend to be fiercely forgiving of our own shortcomings. It's easy to judge someone who is a drug addict when you don't deal with drug addiction yourself. Imagine that their sin was your sin of choice and hopefully a little more patience will develop in you.