There is an art in the ordinary in life.
I was reflecting on Oswald Chamber’s ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ this morning and remembered something important.
Our actions and attitudes during the quiet moments of the ordinary tell quite a bit about our character and spiritual life.
We live in a culture and time when ‘you only live once’ has become the motto of daily living. As a culture, we have chosen to define quality of life on the basis of ‘epic moments’.
We’ve decided that a row of exclamation points (!!!) is more important than the preceding sentence. It is evident, some have gone so far as to stop writing sentences and strive to create meaning with only “!!!” (exclamation points).
A microwave cannot create great art. An ‘epic moment’ cannot create a beautiful life.
A beautiful life is created and sustained by learning to live in the ordinary. Learning the art of walking in the ordinary leads to a beautiful life well lived. Small brushstrokes on the canvas of our lives express depth, balance and richness. The broad strokes of flashing color from epic moments have no meaning without the lines, shadows and delicate detail of the ordinary backdrop.
An approaching thunderstorm’s beauty is found in the deep blues and grays of the sky. Lightening is simply an explanation point at the end of the sentence.
Read “Getting into God’s Stride” – by Oswald Chambers
Read previous post: Can you look into the world and feel it’s pain? If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
Look into the world around you. Can you feel it’s pain?
A “Harvey Hangover” is the best way to describe my experience since late August. I’ve been back to the coast 3 times. In my hometown of Fort Worth, everything looks normal. Big trees, houses and children playing in the neighborhood are daily realities. As the 24 hour news cycle pushes the conversation on, its ‘normal’ to forget a tragedy.
‘Normal’ on the Texas Coast is much different. Mighty oaks are snapped in two and uprooted, houses are torn apart, not a child is to be found playing. The image is stark and lifeless.
Last Saturday, we were preparing to feast on a fine breakfast with a group of men at a small church in Aransas Pass to fuel ourselves for the day. Our team leader saw a lone man rummaging through a forgotten pile of cloths outside the church. He called out to the stranger to join us for breakfast.
The man came into the building, shaken, weary and with tears in his eyes.
His name is David. My friend Shawn asked him what he was looking for in the clothing piles, he said, “I needed socks.” Behind the tough, worn exterior of tattoos and scars was a broken man. You could see it in his eyes. He was coming down from being high – as he was fidgety, sighing and his eyes were never fixed on one place. I could sense his anxiety, having been there myself, under the bondage of drugs, suppressing my pain. That place ain’t pretty. It is dark, hopeless and controlling.
We prayed for the food and began to eat with David. He was thankful to be here. As he relaxed, he shared his story. His wife was a heroin addict and would leave him and their children for days. She would return and the cycle would begin again with an argument. After the hurricane, he sent the children to live with grand-parents out of town. He was hopeless, hurting and the tears poured. It was apparent this man lived a hard life. At one point he had been in nursing school and working. Somewhere hope had turned to heartache.
I admit, part of my heart began to become callous toward what I saw in the disaster zone.
The ‘normal’ is destruction and need. It’s ‘normal’ to see people wondering the streets with a blank robotic stare on their faces. It is ’normal’ to see people camped outside their homes under make-shift tents. It’s ‘normal’ to see destruction everywhere you look. It’s not like a tornado disaster where you can drive a few blocks and everything is in tact. In contrast, Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction is so extensive that you can drive 30 miles in any direction and all you can see is devastation. It can cause a heart to become callous.
A couple days ago, I was safely at home preparing to go to work and I began to weep for a few moments. I had to let it all out. Certainly God was softening my heart against the callouses that had formed on the coast. All around is so much pain, brokenness and loss. God touched me and healed a part of my heart that had been dying in indifference. My only response was thankfulness.
It’s right to bend under the burden of the pain of others. I admit to trying to fix before feeling, I understand this is the wrong response.
In God’s amazing grace, He reminds us to look into the world and feel it’s pain.
“And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion towards them…” Matthew 14:14
Read previous post: Hurricane Harvey: The challenge for every Texan. If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
In last week’s post about fatherhood, I described a father’s gain – the treasure formed and refined in the fires of pain and loss. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so before reading this post. Click here to read it.
This week, the story continues.
Jamon Horne, Jacob Steele and me circa 2000 in Austin, Texas.
In the months leading up to my friend Jamon’s passing, Pastor Horne and his son had grown closer than ever before. Jamon’s mother will tell you that his dad never left his side. He was with Jamon day and night – loving, serving and shepherding his boy. He was walking with him, leading him in faith knowing full well the final destination. Jamon’s mother knew why her husband was not asleep in the bed with her at night. There was a burning fire of refinement bonding a father and his sick boy. The heat of this trial was forming and fashioning a priceless treasure of fatherhood.
Pastor Horne asked me to speak at Jamon’s funeral. I felt inadequate for the role. However, I realized it was a privilege to speak about my friend, encourage others and share my faith. Furthermore, I believed Jamon wouldn’t have had it any other way.
How does a man stand before his dead friend’s family and say anything worthwhile or meaningful?
How does a man stand before the teenage son of a friend and comfort him? I could barely look at him in the eye without crying.
At the funeral service, I was seated on a stage among a group of fine seasoned pastors. While their words were comforting and powerful, I found strength and encouragement in the silent and solemn acts of my friend’s father. I witnessed one of the most heroic, humbling and powerful scenes of my life.
Finally, the moment arrived when Jamon’s casket had to be closed forever. His parents arose to their feet. Pastor Horne left the side of his wife, accompanied by a friend, and slowly approached his son’s casket with streams of tears running down his face. Trembling but not shaken, the good pastor stood above his son. His face was set like flint. Pastor Horne had made up his mind to remain firm and resolute in what he was about.
A father’s final act of heroic love for his son.
The sanctuary of the church of a couple hundred family and friends fell silent. It was a holy moment. Pastor Horne reached Jamon’s casket and his friend patted him on the shoulder and walked away leaving Pastor John Horne alone with his son. He gently placed his hand upon Jamon’s lifeless chest and folded the casket dressings inside. Then, he raised his trembling arm to close the cover. This was the same arm that had held Jamon as a baby. The same arm that helped him up when he fell as a child. The arm of discipline and love. The same arm that hugged Jamon on Thanksgiving. Pastor Horne wept and trembled but, he wasn’t crushed by the tremendous weight of grief. His faith held him there.
God was right there and everyone could feel His presence.
I don’t know how long Pastor Horne stood over his son. But, he finally closed his eyes as he slowly closed the cover of the casket. And watching him walk away seemed like turning the final page of a great novel or hearing the fading notes of a sweet song. He returned to his wife’s side and held her head to his heart and sang a beautiful hymn. A man humbled yet full of pain, courage and faith beheld his Heavenly Father’s gain.
A father’s gain
I recognized this gain. I knew this treasure as streams of my memories flowed back to when I was with my dying father. He lay at home in the hospital bed provided by hospice – breathing slowly with eyes half open. My father’s mischievous blue-green eyes gazed at me as if he wanted to say something but he was unable to speak or move. We had progressed beyond words and the light was fading.
As I remember back, I couldn’t recall the last time I ate or slept. It seemed that being there was enough for me. God was there sustaining me. With a trembling hand, I would moisten a cotton swab and wet dad’s lips. In the fading embers of my father’s eyes, I saw my father’s gain – a priceless treasure. Deep in those eyes, I caught a glimmer of joy.
Our story continues in the fires of this life.
Fatherhood ain’t easy. Being a son ain’t so easy either.
Sons will become fathers someday. As we experience fatherhood, we must understand there will be pain, distance and fire. However, treasure will be found if we can look beyond the blinding smoke and heat of trials. Something beautiful is being formed. It is our duty to search for this majestic treasure and find a father’s gain.
“When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.“
Read previous posts: Fatherhood: A Father’s Gain – Part 1
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Not quite a year had passed since my dad died when I received a call from a close friend in tears. He was on his way to see our friend Jamon. Jamon was in the final moments of his battle with cancer.
Fatherhood ain’t easy
As with many father-son relationships, there can be seasons of distance and contention. I experienced it in my relationship with my father. But, what is so interesting about terminal illness and dying is that the pain and suffering clear away the trivialities of life. The fire of trial and pain strip away the coldness of wills and egos.
When you are in the crucible, there is no way of understanding gain as there is no way of experiencing rising when falling. The goldsmith dare not attempt to snatch up the gold while it’s in its liquid form. He must wait. In the fire of trials, we must wait.
Priceless treasure can be found when the fire dies down and the fog of grief dissipates. I think it is our duty to discover the gain. Where is it? What does it look like? What does it mean?
Later that night as I was working in my home office, I received a call that Jamon was gone. Jamon died on March 6th, 2017 at the age of 44. Although time and distance separated us, he was my friend. I began to weep. All I could do was weep – weep for the loss, weep for Jamon’s teenage son who was going to be graduating from high school soon, weeping for his parents, weeping over the memories… weeping over the laughter and good times we shared.
That is when I discovered a priceless treasure formed when my father passed away. My son, Nelson (7yrs old) quietly entered my office. He gently placed his little hand on my shoulder. Nelson recognized the tears of his father. He had seen the tears before and he was ready and willing to step into my pain.
Nelson looked me strait in the eye and said, “I am sorry about your friend Jamon dying.” He put his arms around me and held me like I hold him when he’s fallen and hurting. I hope that I hold him like he was holding me and would do well to aspire to his example.
I cried on my 7 year old son’s shoulder for a few moments. Then, Nelson backed away to look at me again and put his hand on my arm. He said, “In times like this we should pray.” So, we prayed. Then Nelson said the most profound statement any human being could make. Remember, he is 7 years old. He said, “Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”
“Dad, when someone dies, instead of being sad, we can remember them and rejoice.”
I was presented with a priceless treasure in fatherhood that had been refined and purified for more than a year in the fire of my dad’s death. I had received a father’s gain.
This is not the end of the story. Here is a link to Part Two…
Read previous posts: Are you a person of peace?
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There is a lot of name-calling going on. People are sick of it.
The best way to get people tune you out is to start name-calling. Name-calling is neither helpful nor constructive. In fact, it’s destructive. There has never been an instance when calling someone a name has actually caused a positive outcome.
Seth Godin states, “The best reason to brand someone with a pejorative label is to push them away, to forestall useful conversation, to turn them into the other…. When we call someone misogynist or racist or sexist or a capitalist, a socialist or an abstract expressionist, what are we hoping for? Every one of us is on the ‘ist’ spectrum, so the label becomes meaningless. Meaningless labels are noise, noise that lasts.”
In addition to Seth Godin’s list, consider the names people hurl at each other: Libtard, racist, bigot, redneck, homophobe, etc…
By calling someone who disagrees with you a name, what are you trying to accomplish?
Try to think of any instance when employing the name-calling tactic has elevated or furthered a conversation or brought value or peace?
You cannot. Why is that?
The answer is… Because name-calling is a logical fallacy (Ad Hominem).
Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it. (yourlogicalfallacyic.com)
Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. (Wikipedia)
Facebook and Twitter have provided platforms for people to throw nasty verbal jabs safely from behind a computer keyboard without having to engage directly with someone they disagree. It’s easier (safer) to type something than to actually say it in a face-to-face interaction.
We have established that Name-calling has accomplished zero and is counter-productive. It is a logical fallacy. It is a bunch of noise. There have been no great accomplishments by name-calling in history. The title of this post is just as ludicrous as name-calling itself.
One step solution?
There are two kinds of people in this world.
People of Peace and People of Strife.
The question we must ask ourselves is: ‘which one am I?’
Everyday, you have a choice as to which you will be.
Gut check questions:
- Are you fascinated by strife and discord?
- Do you become consumed and inflamed by conflict and violence?
- Do the pattern of your thoughts reflect a thirst for forms of entertainment that portray strife, distrust, envy, violence and conflict?
- Or, do strive and violence make you sick and sad to your core?
FW Boreham says “strife has entered into and permeated every department of life. It affects society in general. On every hand, in a million different forms- we meet rivalry, suspicion and distrust. We see class contending with class: the rich oppressing the poor; the poor breathing maledictions on the rich. Petty jealousy mars the sweetness of every friendship; it stultifies the efficiency of every organization; and, entering our very churches, it disturbs and destroys that abiding unity that should be their most conspicuous charm.” The seventh Beatitude extends an olive branch…. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God” One does not need to be a ‘Christian’ to understand Jesus’s teaching here. The peacemaker is a lover of peace and works to preserve peace. “The sounds of strife and discord are an agony to his spirit.” says Boreham. Like a rose exhaling it’s fragrance is an involuntary expression of its nature, the peacemaker exudes a spirit of peace without even realizing.
I challenge you to work to become a peacemaker.
- Work not to offend others.
- Work on not taking offense.
- Work to extend an olive branch of peace to another (this is risky).
In order to change the climate of discourse, we must become people of peace (even when discord is the predominate noise).