Monday, February 25, 2013

My Birthday Boy

One never forgets the first moment of parenthood, staring into that tiny pink face squinting against the light, nestled in a hospital blanket. Eight pounds or so feels like no weight at all, but instinctively we know that a much heavier weight has just settled on to our shoulders, a joyous burden of new found responsibility and purpose. And, big and strong though we may be, from that moment we are captured, smitten, and subject to this little one we have created. Those tiny fingers take hold of our hearts and we are suddenly willing to do anything, whatever it takes, to love, to provide, to protect, to save and to sacrifice, even to lay down our lives for this infant, our child, our glorious contribution to God's creative purposes. Life is never the same.

Having another bouncing baby boy and a beautiful little princess has only reinforced those feelings in me. As a father my heart has not been subdivided by my three children. Each one has staked their claim on my whole heart.  

Twenty-four years ago today I become a dad, when Samuel David Hill made his noisy entrance into my life. Happy Birthday, son. Wish I could spend today with you and let you beat me in chess.

“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father's dreams aren't big enough, and sometimes his mother's vision isn't long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.” - Ben Behunin

God bless my boy, our son, on his birthday and everyday of his life. Let him dream your dreams, Lord, nothing less, nothing else. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The State of the Union

Through the generosity of a friend who is a member of Congress, I was able to attend last night's State of the Union address. What an awesome and unique experience. Here are a few of my thoughts and impressions.

First, I was overwhelmed with a sense of history. This very same House Chamber has been in use since 1857, so I started thinking about all those who have served and spoken in this place, from the days of Lincoln until this evening. In this room Woodrow Wilson described his fourteen point plan for peace. Here, FDR marked a date that will live in infamy and asked for a declaration of war.

And each year the State of the Union has been reported to a packed house, nearly the entire United States government in one room. In times of war and peace, depression and prosperity, triumph and tragedy, year after year, in this same room. Amazing. History upon history upon history. If only these walls could talk - not just the official speeches made and recorded, but imagine all of the debates and deliberations, the casual conversations and tense confrontations.Some of it would make us proud. Some would likely make us blush with shame. Even our most cherished institutions have our dirty fingerprints all over them.

A second thought came to me. How does this government ever get anything done? Whatever your party or platform may be, can we all agree that partisan party politics is our biggest obstacle to making real progress in our day. When gaining power and keeping power matters more than solving problems, when half of our government is committed to the defeat of the other half, when we refuse any compromise for fear that the opposition will share the credit and gain political capital, what real progress can we make?

No wonder our wise first president took care to warn us: "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state . . . The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. . . the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it." - George Washington, Farewell Address 

As I reflect on this remarkable evening, I think Winston Churchill was right. "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." God bless our mean and messy government, still Liberty's best hope.

Monday, February 11, 2013

God Bless Benedict

I heard the news this morning, news that hasn't been heard for the last 600 years - the Pope has resigned. That's right, resigned. In the statement released by the Vatican this morning, Benedict said that he examined his own conscience before God and came to the decision that he was no longer physically able to meet the demands of his ministry and should step down allowing the church to select new, more physically able leadership.

Of course, the pundits will have their own ideas and theories as to why the Pope is stepping down. Certainly the Roman Catholic Church has been taking its hits lately, and no doubt the stress of such serious problems must weigh heavily upon the man at the top. But I choose to accept Benedict's decision at face value and I respect him for doing what no Pope has done in the past six centuries.

It is no small thing to step down, to step aside, to give up power and position in order to promote the greater good. Too many priests/pastors/preachers these days seem to lose sight of a basic and vital truth. The work of God is much bigger and more important that those who work for God. Or, to put it in the words of my father spoken to me on my ordination, "Drew, never forget that you are not nearly as important as the One who sent you."

What matters above all is God's Kingdom work, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, and being His Church, the Body of Christ in this world. No person or position in any church matters more than the church's mission. Beware of those larger than life religious personalities who may be tempted to build their own kingdom instead of God's.

I admire Pope Benedict more this morning than I did yesterday. I admire this humble act of stepping down having finished his own work, and his desire to see the work go forward beyond himself. It reminds me of the words of another remarkable minister of many years ago, John Wesley: "God buries His workmen and carries on His work." Not a bad epitaph for all of us minister types.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fraidy Cats

What are you afraid of? What really scares you? When I was in college my roommate, Curt, had an ape suit. Boy, we had some fun with that. Curt would suit up and hide in closets, under beds, in bathroom stalls, any place unexpected. You might be surprised how many big, tough college guys will scream like a girl when suddenly confronted by a menacing gorilla. Having a big ape around made life in Eaton Hall much more fun for all of us.

Fear is a strange thing, isn't it? It can startle and amuse. It can surprise and thrill. It can even inspire and motivate. Fear has value for us, we know. There's a good reason why we are wired to react and respond to any perceived threat. Fear moves us to fight or flight, to put up our dukes or skedaddle. No wonder fear is part of our emotional standard equipment. Where would we be without it?

Yet, we all know that fear has a dark side. Rather than protect it may poison our lives. Rather than motivate and move us in a positive direction, fear can disorient and immobilize. Fear twists our logic and distorts our reasoning. Fear shackles and enslaves. Fear blinds us to everything good and true in our lives. Fear can drive the sun from the skies, leaving us wringing our hands in the darkness.

If there is one emotion that permeates our culture these days, it is fear. Unbridled fear has become the driving force of our age. Our cultural mindset seems fixated on the worst case scenario in every context. In a world running desperately short of peace and security, some kind of doomsday seems inevitable. Faith and hope are for the naive, those who refuse to face the grim realities.

So, let me ask again. What are you afraid of? Here's a little checklist.
  • being embarrassed or humiliated
  • being weak, helpless, defenseless
  • being a victim
  • being forgotten
  • being a failure
  • being rejected
  • being alone
  • illness or disease
  • pain, suffering
  • losing a loved one
  • unemployment
  • poverty 
  • people of other races
  • homosexuals
  • the government
  • economic collapse
  • total anarchy
  • war
  • zombies
  • dying
  • eternity
Why is it so difficult for us to be honest about our fears? We are all just a bunch of fraidy cats, trying our best to muzzle and manage our fears, but still shaking in our boots, still wondering where that big gorilla is lurking, ready to pounce.

We might do well to stop and ask ourselves how many of our choices and decisions are motivated by our fear rather than our faith. And speaking of faith, just what kind of God are you counting on? You big chicken. God is not just some rabbit's foot in your pocket. He's the One, the Big Guy. Let me remind you that God is not sitting on His throne wringing His hands, wondering how everything is going to turn out. Ultimately, no matter how determined we are to make a mess of things, God is still calling the shots. And, believe it not, despite all evidence to the contrary, the end of the story will be a happy ending. No more tears. Joy unspeakable.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10 NIV

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV