Choices.  We all get to make choices.  What will you eat today?  Wear?  Where will you go?  What kind of a life will you have?  Who will you date?  Will you hold to your values?  Our lives are filled to the brim with choices and some days it’s all you can do to try and keep your head about you as you go about this choosing thing.

We recently had the privilege and blessing to go to Orlando with our son, his wife, and three grandchildren.  We were able to go to the Atlantic coast at Titusville, Florida to watch the last launch of the the Space Shuttle Discovery.  We left early, knowing there would be others who had the same thought.  Uh-oh, we’re going to be in traffic all day.  What’s our choice?  Should we go with this or turn around and play in the pool today?  We chose to go for it and the normally one hour drive to the coast from Orlando took us three hours.  OK, we can deal with this.  We watched the Shuttle launch, a pretty awesome sight for us west-coasters.  As soon as it was over, we headed for the van to try and beat the traffic out of there.  Well, we just hadn’t thought this out very well; we didn’t know ahead of time that there are only three roads out of town.  All roads out turned into parking lots!!

Here we are, four adults and three children in a van, trying to get out of town with the other trillion people with the same idea.  As you can well imagine, this could have turned into a disaster…three young children strapped in the backseat together can be a formidable thing!  Instead, my daughter-in-law, Autumn, and I kind of took it upon ourselves to entertain the troops as we waited.  Somehow, God allowed us to transform into Abbott & Costello for the afternoon and evening.  We laughed until our sides and cheeks hurt.  The children howled at our jokes and antics.  My husband and son never complained (we wondered what they were thinking as we spewed out one liners one after another).  We had a delightful day in the car…for the twelve hours it took us from start to finish even though we were only one hour away from our condo!

We get to choose so many things in our lives.  This was a day that we chose not to allow the circumstances get us down.  We made the most of it…and we had a most delightful day.

What are you up against today?  Is there a way you can turn this day/issue/trauma into something delightful?  Maybe that’s stretching things just a bit too far.  Maybe there’s no way that your circumstance can be turned into “delightful”.  OK, then, if not delightful, how about different?  God hasn’t left you alone in this , there’s always a choice in the matter.

We might as well get used to this choice thing.  It’s going to be with us as long as we’re on this earth.  I think God sits in heaven, looking down on us, and loves it when we choose to go beyond or above or around our circumstances.  I don’t know what you’re facing today, but if you can just get in the habit of looking for the way through in the opposite way of how you normally look at things, you’ll do just fine.  If nothing else, ask Him to help you choose and then go for it with gusto.  Who knows, maybe God will help you find the Abbott & Costello hiding in you too!

A Pastor with the Heart of Jesus

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,  because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”   Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:5-11 (NIV)

We were visiting an out-of-town church recently and the pastor shared a very interesting thing.  The church had a guest speaker the Sunday before we were there and evidently, or at least this was my take on it, the speaker said or did something that was out of order.  I don’t know if it was his message or his method, but I took it that something wasn’t quite right.  This pastor shared a very healthy and mature message:

He told the congregation that he was proud of them.  He told them he’s aware that some speakers he invites because the speaker has a need to hear his own message (in other words, needs a “learning” opportunity) and others he invites because they have a message for the church to hear.  Sometimes, the speaker has a message both for himself and for the church to hear.  But, the important part was that none of us is perfect  We all live in imperfect vessels.  To believe that we cannot do the work of the Lord because we are aren’t perfect is ludicrous.  If that were the case, none of us would do anything for the Lord…ever!

Perhaps you are in the middle of a divorce or ending an affair.  Maybe your boss just reprimanded you and your response was anything but Christ-like.  Or, you slipped up and used the drug again after swearing it off for the umpteenth time.  It could even be that you disrespected someone, gossiped, coveted, etc.  Whatever the sin is, whatever your temptations look like, God can and will use you.

I liked this message very much.  In this context, the speaker must have done something wrong.  But I loved what the pastor had to say about the wrong.  He didn’t judge nor condemn.  His comment was full of grace and love.  He gave the speaker an opportunity and I would guess that this pastor might have done a bit of loving correction and/or instruction when it was over.

Here’s what I love the most.  If the speaker did something in error, then this was a great learning opportunity.  He may have ended up embarrassed or humiliated a bit, but no one ever died of such things.  The pastor may have used the opportunity to teach and correct.  I have this picture in my head of a child learning to ride a bike but in the insanity of the moment, he wobbles, swerves, and suddenly the front end of the bike is jerked and the child panics and falls.  The parent doesn’t scold the child for falling but instead helps him up, dusts him off, and encourages him to get on and try again.  Sometimes, there is need of a band-aid because the fall ended in a bit of a disaster (there’s the humiliation part).  But the loving parent knows the child must get up and try again or they will never learn how to do this task.

Same thing goes for our progress as Christians.  This pastor lovingly took care of business the Sunday before with a speaker who got off track a bit.  The tricky part was that a congregation heard the faux pas.  So on this Sunday, the pastor next helped the congregation understand about learning opportunities.  In essence, he told them, “we won’t judge, we won’t make fun of, we won’t take anything away from this speaker because the important part is that he tried.  I’ve helped the speaker through this and now I want you to make sure your heart is sitting correctly over this.”  What a lovely testament to this shepherd and his flock!

The next time you find yourself involved in either hearing an error of judgment by another Christian or you are the errant offender, remember that failure is not the end unless you allow it to conquer you.  The failure is only a learning point, an opportunity to fine tune and grow, a potential turning point in your growth with Jesus.  We all fail.  We are all cracked pots.  We all biff it.  But, the Lord will use us in it all.  He will use you through the great days when all goes well, and He will use you in the bad days, when you take a dive.  The point to dwell on is this:  Jesus loves you, stands by you, and sent you the Holy Spirit to help you.  Period.

How wonderful it is to know there are such gracious and loving pastors to help us along the way!