Category Archives: Living through faith

Life is not to be endured, but to be truly lived and enjoyed. With all the scary things going on, that can seem next to impossible. But it’s not. There is a pretty amazing life out there. We just have to be able to see it through the eyes of faith.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Anyone who knows me can state that I am a bit naïve, my wife being number one on the list. I didn’t even know we were dating for months. You can imagine the dumbfounded look on her face when someone commented and I turned to her and asked “Oh, are we dating?”

It’s kind of amazing that we are now such a happy family.

Over the years, I still have my moments where it is obvious that I have been flying under the radar and not clearly grasping reality around me. It’s part of the magic of being me.

At least, that is what I tell Ann.

But I feel like I am going through a bit of a learning curve lately.

I watched a presentation by a man with a PhD on “what Mormons believe.” I listened carefully and, even though it was pretty obvious he thought the beliefs were outrageous, he had probably more than 90% of it right.

In my naiveté I found myself asking the screen, “Why doesn’t that make sense to you? It makes perfect sense to me.”

Then I did some reading on what others feel that it means to worship the Savior Jesus Christ, to take His name upon us, and to be a Christian.

I will admit my jaw kept hitting the desktop.

Really?

Really??

I guess the situation had now completely reversed and I was like the man with the PhD. Even with an understanding of the technical aspects of his beliefs, it felt so foreign to me.

We should have been the same; yet we really couldn’t have been more different.

Here’s another thought.

While talking about this same thing Sunday morning, our daughter made an incredibly insightful comment. She said that there are many people of the Muslim faith who are good, kind people who are simply trying to help their fellow neighbor. There are people of the Jewish faith who are filled with love and make the world a better place each day. We can go around the world and find people everywhere who live lives worthy of emulation.

They exhibit behavior that is very, well, Christ-like. Very Christian.

Kind of a topsy-turvy world.

Christians telling other Christians that they aren’t in fact Christian. Non-Christians behaving Christian.

My little naïve mind could probably burst at the confusion of it all.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Obviously there is not just one perception out there; there are many.

It made me wonder, what is my perception? What is my understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

Am I offended or angry when someone who doesn’t know me, has never met me, tells me that I am not a Christian?

I took the time to let this go through my head and bounce around a while.

All I could come up with is, no, I’m really not offended at all.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

But maybe I’m not asking the right question.

Am I offended or angry when someone who knows me, has worked with me, has watched me through the years, tells me that I am not a Christian?

This is a harder question.

No. I am not offended or angry.

I am ashamed.

And I think I have a little better understanding of what it may actually mean to be a Christian.

The Savior Jesus Christ is real. He lived. He lives.

To behave, as closely as we can, as he behaved, as he behaves, takes a lifetime.

There will be days that you watch me and witness things that I am not very proud of. On those days, I wouldn’t deserve to be counted among those who profess to follow His example.

We all have those days.

Perhaps part of being a Christian is not focusing on each other when we stumble, but rather holding out a hand and helping each other to stand back up.

 

To all the Christian-behaving Muslims, and Christian-behaving Jews, and Christian-behaving Buddhists, thank you for the example you show in helping us to be better Christian-behaving Christians.

There is a lot of good out there. Maybe through looking at each other with compassion and gratitude, it will help us to see ourselves as we hope to be.

And people won’t be so worried about what each other is or isn’t, but will just want to be more like Him.

That’s a win for everyone.

Pray. Listen. Act.

  

War in the Ukraine.Wild fires throughout the United States.School girls taken from their dormitories in Nigeria and sold.What can I do?I think there is frustration when we hear of horrible things happening around the world but we are in effect helpless to make a difference.

Or are we?

When I was in college I was given a poem based on the text from Matthew 25:35-36 which had a deep impact on me. It went through each of the admonishments in the verses where the sufferer was still suffering because we weren’t acting. At the end, the message came through that we may seem holy because we pray, but we haven’t in fact helped anyone out of the hole they are in.

I have agreed with the premise of the poem and shared it with many people over the years. Its message is powerful.

Now I wonder if we have gone too far, and only think our actions will do any good.

What really is prayer?

I’m sure that across the globe there are many different interpretations of the correct process. Some prayers may be more heartfelt than others, some more full of desperation than hope, some full of bitterness and anger rather than humility.

I would think the efficacy of prayer has more to do with the person offering the prayer than the One we know is at the other end, listening.

Why?

I certainly would never infer that God only listens to some while ignoring others. I understand far too much of life to ever allow that thought to be bandied about. He hears every prayer.

But prayer is communication, not recitation. Communication demands two participating parties. When one speaks, the other must listen.

I know when we speak, He listens.

When He speaks, do we listen?

Do we really believe that He will speak?

Really?

What happens when I pray?

I acknowledge that Someone knows more and has more control over things than I do. I humble myself to ask for help. My mind is focused on the problem at hand, and I am more likely to have ideas come to me that may provide solutions. With my mind focused, I am ready to get up and do something about it.

Pray. Listen. Act.

Kind of a simple mantra, but a pretty effective one, nonetheless.

So, let’s go back to the horrific things happening across the globe currently. What possible good could come from me praying about the situation in the Ukraine? Will my prayers put out the fires? Can praying return the stolen girls to their families?

My singular prayers may not have a huge effect on these happenings.

But I am still a member of the human race and while that brings many rights and privileges, it brings with it responsibility. The responsibility to not just stand by. The responsibility to not push it off as “not my problem.”

We’ve heard the story of the little boy on the beach who is standing amidst thousands and thousands of starfish that have washed up with the tide and are left on the dry sand. He bends down and picks one up and throws it back into the sea.

When asked what he is doing, he replies that he is saving the starfish.

“But you can’t possibly expect to throw enough back to make a difference, you can never get to them all.”

He bends over and picks one up. “Yeah, but it will make a difference to this one.” He reaches back and throws as hard as he can.

My prayer, combined with your prayer, and our friend’s prayers help us to get our minds focused that there is indeed Someone who knows more, who has a solution to the problem at hand. Rather than demanding the problem be solved, we ask for the best way and the guidance for each of us to do our part.

And we pray for each other. We pray for those in a position to help in the Ukraine. We pray for those fighting the forest fires. We pray for those searching for the stolen girls.

Because we know Someone does know more and has a solution for the problem at hand.

In the process, we find ourselves blessed with thoughts and ideas, things that just may help make a difference.

And we get up off our knees and get to work.

We may not be able to bring peace to the Ukraine on our own, but we can help build bridges between opposite sides of a position in our community.

We may not be able to hold the hose on the flames, but we can help conserve the water we have to make sure there is enough to go around.

We may not directly be able to bring home the kidnapped girls, but we can help a struggling neighbor child with her homework.

Kind of like throwing back a starfish.

Who knows if working for the resolution between opposing sides here locally will help lead to peace on a global scale?

But who knows that it won’t?

Pray. Listen. Act.

Each step is pretty important and is only a force for good when combined with the others.

Aren’t we all insecure? Can we be securely insecure?

In-se-cure
1. Not confident: anxious and lacking self-confidence
2. Not safe: unsafe and unprotected
3. Unstable: not firm or steady

Have you ever had the experience where you were sitting in a meeting or presentation and all of a sudden you realized that you knew as much about the subject as the people who were talking?

For some, this may happen quite frequently; for others, it can be a pretty rare occurrence. But everyone deserves to have it happen at least once.

At any rate, it usually will bring a subtle smile to our face while our body relaxes almost imperceptibly. Our mind becomes free to focus on the solution and pretty soon we find ourselves part of the discussion.

Those are good days.

But we’ve all had the bad ones, haven’t we?

We are sitting at the same conference room table and we feel like everyone is just a step ahead and we aren’t quite sure what is going on. Time to duck and cover. Hope no one notices us. Time stands still as we wait for the end to come and we can escape.

Ah yes, we can all probably share an experience or two like that.

The thing is, over the years I have learned that most of the people in the room are in the same boat, and just doing the best they can with what they know. Often times we are prepared just as well as they are, and we have just as much experience in the matter as they do.

So, why are we so sure that they know more than we do?

I think it is pretty normal, and to a certain degree, pretty healthy. Can you imagine someone who walks into the room and is ALWAYS certain that they know more than everyone else? All right, we don’t have to imagine, we’ve all met one.

So, a little humility is a good thing.

Are humility and insecurity the same thing?

No.

Let’s go back to the definition up at the top: anxious and lacking self-confidence; unsafe and unprotected; unstable: not firm or steady.

As I read through these words, the same concept keeps filling my mind: alone.

When we feel insecure, we feel alone.

In the middle of a crowded meeting around the conference table we are miles away, on a deserted island, all by ourselves.

No boat.

No solution in sight.

It seems more often than not, our most basic instincts kick in and we cry out, if even only inside our minds.

Help me. Please.

Because the truth is that we are never left completely alone. There is always safety and protection for us, even if not in the exact manner we would like it to come.

How do we open our eyes to be able to see it?

We close our eyes and trust.

Very, very rarely is the whole escape route from our current problems outlined in detail so that we know the beginning to the end.

Usually, it is just the first step that is made known.

And usually, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

To us.

Will we do it anyway?

This is where we have a choice to make, a choice that will affect many choices to come. We can stand alone and do what we think makes the most sense, seems the smartest thing to do.

Or we can stand up and follow the first step, listening closely for the next, moving forward slowly, but forward nonetheless.

Glancing back we can see more than just our footprints in our path.

We don’t know what the outcome will be, or what the entire plan is. But we do know that it will work out great.

And we know we are not alone.

Suddenly in our insecurity we have become secure. Safe. Protected. Stable.

We walk on firm ground, our foundation solid enough to hold us up even on the days that we feel two steps behind everyone else in the meeting.

Because we will close our eyes, call out with our spirit, and trust.

And when we open our eyes, we will usually see a way forward, even if it is only the first step.

Lots of scary things going on: What should we really be afraid of?

The alarm went off the other day and I waited a few minutes for the news at the top of the hour. I was struggling with that great period between being asleep and awake (and definitely leaning toward being asleep) when they reported an 8.2 earthquake in Chile with tsunamis resulting.

Now I was awake.

Our son Nick is in Peru and I was worried about how close he might be. Would there be aftershocks? How far up the coast would the trouble go?

I felt concern as I got out of bed and went to the TV for more comprehensive coverage.

These things are happening more and more: Earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, droughts, floods, tornados, fires, famine and starvation, planes disappearing, one country invading another, talks of war.

I would think that those in Chile during the quake were afraid. Very afraid. I think that anyone in that situation would be. You’d have to be kind of a robot not to feel something pretty terrifying.

Life can be pretty scary. We never really have an assurance that we will make it to the end of the day all in one piece, or even at all. We can’t guarantee the safety of those we love or keep them right at our feet all day to make sure they are okay.

So, how can we deal with all of these scary possibilities that could realistically happen to us at any moment?

Should we be afraid?

Going back to the earthquake in Chile, Ann and I listened carefully to the news to know what step to take next. We have phone numbers and contact information for Nick. Our passports are ready and the money for plane tickets is sitting in an account just in case. We didn’t have to waste time wondering how to do what needed to be done. We could focus instead just on what needed to be done.

As we listened and looked at maps, we knew that, for now, things are okay and the appropriate course of action was to do nothing but wait.

Because of that, our level of fear was ratcheted down to concern.

After that we read our scriptures together and had family prayer.

And we went on with our day.

I think there are scary things that are going on, and I think there are things that we should be appropriately afraid of.

I’m just not sure they are the same things.

We can make reasonable assessments of our surroundings and potential problems that may arise. For example, Ann and I have earthquake insurance on our home. It seems that there is a likely probability that we could experience that specific type of natural disaster, so it only makes sense to be prepared. We have 72 hour kits and a pretty healthy food storage. Our community practices natural disaster drills and we know exactly who to contact in case something happens so that we are accounted for and can offer our help.

More than that, I’m not sure what else we can do.

But you know, I don’t spend any time being afraid of an earthquake. We’ve done what we can. It will be a power far beyond any I can imagine and I can’t stop it. But I do know that Ann and I will pick up and move on, together.

But there is something that I would be afraid of: Not picking up and moving on with Ann.

Am I as prepared about that as I am for an earthquake?

These things are also happening more and more: Adultery, divorce, addictions that destroy relationships, rebellion, anger, apathy.

Given the choice, I’m more afraid of these than I am the natural things going on around me.

So what kind of insurance am I taking out to help me be ready for these potential disasters?

Would I make a reasonable assessment of our family and potential problems and come to the conclusion that it would not be very likely that we would experience any of the above?

That may be tempting seeing as how we are so darn happy.

But it would be foolish.

Just like our experience with the earthquake in Chile, Ann and I must be cautious to listen carefully each day to the words that are said and not said, the actions that happen and don’t happen. This helps us to know what step to take next.

We have put in the time and care to have open lines of communication, to watch and talk about concerns that come up before they become fears. It’s kind of like having our passports ready and money for plane tickets in an account. We don’t waste time trying to figure out how to do what we need to do, we can just focus on doing what we need to do.

And as we listen to each other and look into each other’s eyes, we know that, for now, things are okay.

Because of that, our level of fear is ratcheted down to watchful concern.

After that we read our scriptures together and have family prayer.

And we go on with our day.