Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can I borrow some Pink?

Finally, the long awaited day arrived. It was last Wednesday, exactly a week ago today (as I write this). Ever since we’d discovered we were expecting our third, and final child back in March, nearly everyone we’ve shared the news with has asked us, “So, do you know what you’re having?” The answer, until Wednesday, was always – “not yet.” We had to await the results of that 20 week ultrasound. The ultrasound that would determine, as I kept saying, whether we’d simply toss another boy down the chute, or would have our world blown up by a baby girl. A healthy baby is always the goal. And with each healthy birth I’ve witnessed, and every tragic story I’ve observed, I’m reminded of how miraculous a healthy baby truly is. So, above all, as we awaited that 20 week ultrasound, we hoped and prayed for a healthy baby. And yet, secretly (for Bridgette) and not-so-secretly (for me), we hoped that we could add a baby girl to round out our family. Well, on Wednesday, both our prayers for a healthy baby, and our hopes for a girl were answered. Little “baby Bria” as her big brothers are learning to call her, looks healthy and whole, and plans to crash our world in the Fall.

As I share this exciting news, I also feel a pang of guilt. Some people try for years for that “elusive” child of the opposite gender (whether boy or girl) and their hopes are never fulfilled. (I have a good friend with 4 girls, who desperately wanted a little boy to play catch with, but 4 girls is what he got). Others try for years just to conceive a child of any gender, but for one reason or another, it never happens. And yet others conceive, yet before or after their child is born, tragedy strikes, and their hearts are broken. Our joy and blessings in the face of real disappointments and tragedies for others cause me to wonder “Why me?”

To that question, I have no answer. I know it is not by anything that I have done. I know, I’m no more pious or righteous or faithful than many others, following Christ in this world. If anything, I’m sure there are many more qualified for God’s blessings than me. Yet, that’s not how God works. God’s economy is built, not on good deeds, but on God’s gracious gift of mercy. How that is dispensed, on whom, and at what time, is not possible for us to understand, on this side of eternity. And so, my response to God’s gracious blessings, particularly the news of a healthy baby girl, due this November, can be nothing more than thankfulness. Just as, my response to any tragedy in my life, in addition to feeling sorrow and grief, can ultimately be nothing more than thankfulness – not for the tragedy itself, but for the fact that in everything, whether blessings or tragedies, God is present. And if I trust God, I can discover in every event, the gracious gift of God’s mercy.

I pray that you too, wherever you may be during this very hot Summer season, can experience God’s mercy and grace in your life – as we are in ours!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lamenting Love Lost

Two days ago, I preached a sermon at Liberty from Song of Songs, part of a four part series on the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. Two things kept going through my mind as I prepared the sermon: 1) I need to be careful not to open too many cans in this that I'll have to go back and deal with later. With kids in the congregation, older adults who might feel uncomfortable, and visitors, I need to be careful. 2) There are many couples going through marital struggles, divorcing, thinking of divorce - how can I share a word of hope to them in the midst of that?

Interestingly, as I came to the end of the sermon, recent events make a perfect "case-in-point" - LeBron James. Here's what I said toward the end of my sermon:

"On Thursday night, Lebron James just broke up with his basketball bride of 7 years. He announced on national television, that he’s found a new love. He’s going to play for the Miami Heat, alongside two of his friends. Whatever you think of James, or the spectacle that has been his free agency experience, you can see the negative affects of love in the fan and ownership reaction to Lebron’s move. Fans loved him, but now they hate him. Their love was spurned, they got burned, and now they’re angry. If they didn’t love him, they wouldn’t have cared when he left. So, be careful when you love, be careful what, and who you love.

We could appropriate that final admonition in 2:7, like this:
“I charge you, by everything good and holy – be careful in love! Don’t seek it where it doesn’t belong. Don’t force it on another. Don’t use it out of context. It’s like fire, you will get burned, and you will burn others.”

In the end, when it comes to beauty, physical intimacy, eros love, we tend to either be Puritans, ignoring it entirely, or Hedonists, selfishly seeking it out of context. But we see in this Song that neither way is God’s wisdom. The Song of Songs, reminds us that passion and physical intimacy DOES have its place in our human experience and in the Christian life. It belongs in relationship – the covenant of marriage, and requires us to be extremely careful HOW we experience it. If we follow God’s wisdom, instead of being burned in love, our hearts might actually be strangely warmed and properly fulfilled."

I think it was a good sermon, but lives aren't changed by good sermons. Lives are changed by the power of God in the Holy Spirit. Here's hoping some lives are being changed right now, as people are dealing with the pain of "losing" love...