Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beauty for Ashes

My family and I always enjoy interactive museum exhibits. We love hands on activities involving building things, playing with magnets, and even touching animals of all kinds. Such displays make for great opportunities for learning. Once, while exploring a museum in Washington DC, we came across just such a display for hands on learning. The display highlighted American inventions, and one of the things highlighted was synthetic rope verses it's predecessor steal cable. The interactive learning experience showed how the lightweight rope was not only lighter and more pliable than steal, but it was also safer, stronger, and more durable. Steal cable is strong, no doubt, but it is susceptible to developing rust and kinks that weaken the structure, and when it snaps, it is quite dangerous and potentially destructive to anyone or anything that might be nearby.

Have you ever met anyone whose faith is like that steal cable? Their faith appears strong, rigid, and unshakable. They never bend or waiver in what they believe. There is a problem with faith like that. It doesn't stand up to the wear and tear it comes against. Often this type of faith is the kind that has to have an answer for everything. if something bad happens, there must be a reason for it, someone's sin must be to blame. This is the kind of faith the Pharisees had in Jesus' day. There was no room in their faith for someone to say, "You have heard it said...but I say to you..." When they brought a man born blind before Jesus, they asked, "Whose sin is to blame for this?" They had no room in their system of belief for suffering without sin. Faith that appears rigid and unshakable is sometimes so weakened by the kinks and rust that all it takes is one good wind for it to snap, and when it does, it is not easily repaired.

The stronger faith is the one that is more flexible. Like the newer skyscrapers that are built in areas of the world where earthquakes are common, it will sway, but not collapse easily. It is a faith that can allow for difficult things to happen, even when there is no good explanation of why. It is a faith that is okay with the answer, "I don't know, but I still trust in God." Casting Crowns is one of my favorite groups, and they have a song entitled, "Love Them Like Jesus." The song tells the stories of people who find themselves in situations that could be devastating to a person's faith. One of my favorite lines in the song says this, "You don't need the answers to all of life's questions, just show that you love them and stand by their side. Love them like Jesus."

How strong is your faith? Is it strong enough to endure the loss of a loved one? Is it strong enough to not be broken even when your prayers aren't answered the way you want? Is it strong enough to obey God, even when your friends and family question your decisions? Can it absorb the impact of a life-changing 7.0 earthquake, or would it crumble into rubble with a quake half as strong? Do you always have to have an answer? I encourage you during this season of Lent to reflect on the things that could shake our faith. Reflect on the things for which we may not have an answer, and remember that we do not have to explain why the ashes were created. Sometimes we just need to go to the tomb to weep, like Mary and the other women, without hope, without understanding why, only to get there and discover that God has turned the ashes into something beautiful.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Human Connection

My family and I went to dinner a few nights ago and we were disturbed by something that seems to be becoming a trend in American families. It was like a scene from a bad science fiction movie. You know those movies where the aliens plant some device into the culture that gradually eats away at the higher reasoning of the people, in an effort to take over the world and enslave all humanity...Well, maybe it isn't quite that bad, but sometimes is feels that way.

The restaurant was crowded, being the weekend before Valentine's Day, and like many other parties, we had to wait for a table. As we were waiting, we began to notice others around us. One family in particular caught our attention. It was a family of three, a mom, dad, and son, who were seated on the bench near the door of the restaurant. The reason this family caught our attention was because, unlike the other parties waiting who were noisily chatting away, this family was quiet. They were not talking to each other or to anyone else. The son was on his personal tablet, playing video games, lost In his own world. Mom and dad were no better, lost in their own smart phone worlds, paying no attention to one another.

This prompted me to look around some more. The party sitting on the other side of me were talking together, while at the same time having their eyes glued to the screen of their own mobile devices. I even noticed a couple, clearly on a date sitting alone at a nearby booth, who appeared to be texting rather than talking to the person across the table.

Now I will grant you, I am guilty as well. I occasionally find myself more focused on a screen than another person. In many ways these mobile devices are meant to connect us. They allow us to stay in contact 24 hours a day. Facebook and Twitter even allow us to find and reconnect with old friends who we had long ago lost touch with. However, I am finding myself more and more wondering if the value of such things outweighs the cost.

If the price we are paying is face to face conversation, the smiles and giggles of our children, and the joy, peace, and comfort that can come from actually looking into the eyes of the one we love, is it worth it? I am not saying, or evening implying that we should give up technology all together, but maybe we should think before we mindlessly answer a text or check our Facebook page during dinner. Maybe we need to start being intentional about operating, or even turning off our mobile devices instead of letting them run our lives every minute of every day.