Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hannah is a teenager

Our daughter, Hannah, turned 13 this week. A lot of parents dread the teenage years, but for us, the last few days have been just as fabulous as the 4383 that preceded them. Hannah is beautiful, funny and very charismatic. I'm so glad that I get to be her dad. Here are a few shots of her through the years.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chess & Purpose

Colton and I play a lot of chess. At only ten years old, he frequently beats me. That makes me mighty proud!

In chess, the object is to capture your opponent's King. It's easy to forget this and think that the object is to take out your opponent's players. Capturing your opponents players feels like progress. Whenever someone asks, "Who's winning?" It's easy to point to the pile of captured players and say, "Well Bob has captured more men." It sounds great, but it could be meaningless. Often, taking out your opponent's players can actually hurt you. It may be better to have the King blocked in by his own army. The worst scenario is when you could "checkmate" your opponent's King, but you miss the opportunity because you're so focused on capturing his/her Queen. Capturing your opponent's players feels great and looks like success, but it's not the purpose of the game.

One of the great challenges in life is keeping your purpose, priorities and/or focus on your strategic target and not on the periphery--no matter how much the latter looks like success.

“Therefore … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,…” Heb 12:1-2

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Family Vacation

My sister and brother-in-law (Leisa & Tim Johnson) joined us for a week of vacation. We visited the Poas Volcano (with the 2nd largest crater in the world), the La Paz waterfalls and the Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw monkeys, sloths and Lizards. The sights were wonderful, but nothing compares to having those you love near enough to hug!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

“Knowledge tells us that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom prevents us from putting it into a fruit salad.”

Miles Kington, British humorist

Saturday, September 08, 2007

You know you're a missionary kid when...

Yesterday, I was playing an educational computer game with Willy (age 4). The game showed three drawings: a triangle, a square and a circle. The game required that Willy identify the circle without using the word "circle." So I said, "it's kind of like the shape of an apple." Willy wasn't sure what an apple was (even though he eats them, cut up, every day). So I said, "Well, then, kind of like the shape of an orange." Willy had no idea. Finally, I said, "It's like a mango." Willy said, "Oh!" and immediately chose the circle.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mother Teresa - Doubt, Devout & Depressed

Mother Teresa is in the news again. This time, it's her doubt. Mother Teresa's journey to fame and depression started with a prophetic call from Jesus. Shortly after following God's calling to serve the poor of Calcutta, she entered into depression and ceased to hear God's voice for nearly 50 years. She wrote letters to friends about her pain and her difficulty hearing God's voice. She wrote to her friend Michael Van Der Peet, "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

I want to share 3 thoughts:

1) People who hear God's voice often go through periods of difficulty where they can't hear. This is normal and should be expected. People in the world act like Christians shouldn't struggle. The truth is that everyone struggles. In fact, the more powerful your vision, the more significant your challenge, the more you will struggle.

2) Don't judge a Christian by the things they confess to their closest friends. We all need a friend to whom we can confess our feelings and perceptions--especially those that are ugly, difficult or seemingly contradictory. That's a part of who we are, but it's not the whole story. I once read a blog article about a guy who visited a German spa where everyone was naked. His assessment was that most people look better with their clothes on. Reading someone's journal entries, or their letters to a prayer partner, is like looking at a person who is naked. It may be true, but it isn't a complete picture of a person's life. The clothes a person wears tells you more about their personality, thoughts and values. Jesus said that you can tell a tree by it's fruit. Mother Teresa was mighty fruitful! To discredit her fruit because she had times of difficult honesty is unrealistically immature. Her struggles, though true, are merely one tree in the vast landscape of her life.

3) God speaks, but he doesn't always speak when or how we want him to. For our part, we often create obstacles to our own ability to hear. There have been times when I was overworked and horribly depressed. I've found in those times that it is very hard (nearly impossible) to hear God's voice. There is an irony to those times. The truth is that God speaks during those times--but not necessarily on the topics that I'm most interested in. Sometimes it's because God has already spoken on the topics and I just didn't hear what I wanted. Other times it was because I was too exhausted. Mother Teresa was an exhausted person. She didn't leave a lot of time to relax. In fact, in spite of the grace she showed the poor of Calcutta, she didn't have very much grace for herself or for her co-laborers. She was so purpose driven to serve God selflessly that she missed a big part of the Gospel--Grace! Mother Teresa needed a long vacation and, probably, an antidepressant. But, she couldn't allow these liberties in her life. I saw a documentary on her life, where her charity was given a building in New York City. The building had new industrial carpet in it (which works well in chilly New York), but Mother Teresa tore it out and declared it to be an unnecessary luxury. She also ran into trouble with New York state officials because the law required an elevator in the building. Mother Teresa wouldn't have the building, if it contained an elevator. To Mother Teresa an unnecessary luxury was viewed as an EVIL luxury. She valued simplicity so highly that normal comforts were viewed as sinful. For that reason, she wore sandals in the snow. Like many devout Catholics throughout history, the concept of personally inflicting suffering on oneself was seen as being spiritual. Unfortunately, it also gets in the way of us receiving God's affection--which includes hearing his voice in prayer. There is an irony in the fact that when Mother Teresa heard God's call to the poor of Calcutta, she was on a vacation that had been forced on her by her superiors. The vacation (a Sabbath) provided the space she needed to hear the voice of God. But when Mother Teresa was in charge of her own order, she wouldn't force herself to take a vacation. Sabbath is an act of faith that God values highly. Mother Teresa became a victim of her "purpose driven" life.

I'd like sum all of this up by saying that I think Mother Teresa is one of the greatest examples of leadership from the 20th century. She knew where she wanted to go, she went there with painful dedication, and her vision and purpose inspired others to follow her. I also do not think that her struggles with depression mean anything with regard to her faith. Her fruit speaks far more. Nonetheless, she failed her followers and disobeyed the Lord by not allowing more sabbath rest in her life. We get saved by grace, we have to live by grace and without grace, it's impossible to hear the voice of God.