Big Brother’s Birthday

40. What an old bat you are? But only I am allowed to say that. I guess if our dad surveyed back when Moby Dick was a guppie, then where would that leave you and I? Old together, yet apart. Together, through God’s unfailing love. Apart because you live in a world immeasurably greater than mine. When you left this one, I grasped for answers as to why. I’ve never gotten that answer but I’ve gotten something of far greater significance. A new life.

Had you not left here, I doubt my path would look the same as it does now. Before I cared only of money and material things. The indescribable pain I felt later altered my course. I wondered before if I was a Christian just because I didn’t want to go to hell. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to following Jesus in a whole new way. Might I add, not just when everything is going well but even when life feels like a tortuous, inescapable, living hell.

Before, when things didn’t go my way, I resented God. I would question everything with my own superior intellect. But as time passed, I’ve realized that all I’ve come to know or could ever know in this lifetime would make for a silly comparison with that of our Almighty Creator. His ways are higher than my ways. I do not always comprehend what happens, or why. While I am a firm believer in expressing gratitude for everything, I’ve found new meaning in giving thanks. My heart now melts when I express my gratitude for what God has given me beyond material things. Things come and they especially go. I remember the emptiness, the vast seas of anger that clouded my thoughts, and the intense pain of loss that caused me to become a different person. I was convinced that I would remain in that state of mind for the rest of my life. No one could convince me that I would ever be released from that prison, and no longer held captive by terrible imaginations.

I believe the human heart longs, whether knowingly or not, to be satisfied. The societal bar seems to get lower and lower with each passing year. In the pursuit of pleasing ourselves, I fear we have lost ourselves. What is now considered immoral is muddier than ever before. As a society, we slip further and further. Things that were once an outrage, are now commonplace. I used to think deprivation was a most terrible thing. I’m starting to wonder about the opposite now as well. In seeking to pleasure ourselves, especially in American culture, we’ve lost sight of significance.

Stress seems to be a normal part of everyone’s day, an excuse to further separate ourselves from others. If the television is turned on, it will be only a matter of seconds before finding a program in which people are killing each other, lying, cheating, needlessly swearing, or any number of unspeakable acts against fellow human beings. It has become so commonplace that when we see it happen in the news, we continue eating our dinner and briefly shutter at the thought of it. We raise the question, what is this world coming to, and then dismiss it and move about our busy lives.

We become outraged at the mistreatment of animal life, which is rightfully so. But when we see a fellow human being suffering, we turn our cheek, sure not to make eye contact. We pity them less and less because we have lost our sense of compassion for each other. If anything, I feel as though we have torn down the walls of compassion in order to build monuments to ourselves. Front and center of our lives is a statue of me, my life, the way I want it. Don’t get in my way. On one side of the coin we endeavor to make our lives easier. On the flip side of that same coin is a most damnable pursuit of pleasure without regard for the cost to ourselves or humanity.

With every inch that we give, another is demanded. I shutter at the unspeakable acts committed by people who desparetly need help. They seek it from anywhere and everywhere, by any means. Their hearts cry out for love and acceptance, but the world gives back a false sense of hope, despicably packaged with a fancy label and an empty promise. All claim to bring satisfaction to our longing hearts, yet fail miserably, leaving us broke and destitute. Tossed aside are those who lay in ruins. Hopeless, they dare not lift their eyes. Devalued by others, they do not see their own worth.

Our society has mastered the art of selling lies. In the advancement of this new age, we have done away with spiritual matters. Many claim to be Christian, yet do little to show it. We have taken the throne of God and put ourselves on it. Piece by piece we lose a part of what is sacred, I ask, when will the whole be gone? Is nothing sacred any more?

The news has always informed us of the terrible acts committed. Kidnap. Rape. Murder. When I read that children, even babies, are being sexually abused, it makes me want to scream. I ponder the question of why. Why is this allowed to happen? In our disgust, we turn to God, looking for answers. Or at times, rather, we turn to Him to place the blame. With fierce judgment we condemn Him for not doing anything to stop such atrocities.

Nevermind the fact that we sit in our air conditioned homes in our comfortable furniture, living a life many in the world would consider one of ease. We have so many things going for us in America it is almost repulsive. Yet most of us do little to prevent such acts. Sure, there are a handful of people working tirelessly to stop it. But ought we all be outraged? Ought we all get behind one another and put an end to such heinous crimes? Ought every door hiding such atrocities be kicked down and the accused brought to justice?

But our self-indulgent, lackadaisical selves refuse to take ownership under the assumption that someone else will take responsibility over these problems because we have our own to deal with. May God forgive us for not seeing the wickedness in our own hearts, and refusal to turn from our ways. Our own sense of self has hindered our view of God and that of each other, putting the needs of ourselves above, ultimately violating the two great commandments Jesus gave.

It does not take one of us, it takes all of us. Each person has a responsibility to take ownership of. Each gift we are given has a purpose. Yet when we do not use our individual gifts, humanity as a whole suffers. Every single day that passes, tears fall and hearts mourn. The grave swallows up the potential that lies within so many who never tapped into it. People are killing themselves because they see no way out. They are poisoning their bodies with all manners of substance for even a few short moments of relief. Our world is full of hurting people who need help, who need hope. I see that now.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I can boldly speak for one, whose life will never be the same. In your short 27 years here, your life mattered. Even after your passing, your life still matters because it matters to me and to our family. I’ve come to appreciate life as never before, acknowledging that all life matters from the moment God breathed life into it, even in its tiniest forms.

In my search for truth since your passing, I am coming to know the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. Never before have I felt this much alive, this much hope, this much peace, this much joy, this much compassion. On and on the list goes of the goodness God has shown in my life. I know this much, I do not deserve it.

But as 1 Peter 3:15 reminds me, I must be ready to give an answer to the hope that lies within me. That hope is my life, my light in this world’s dark places, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for helping me find my way.

Happy 40th Big Brother! I love you very much and will see you again one day!

Doubt in the Midst of Pain

Uncertainty has a way of creeping into our minds. During the dificult periods of our lives, we are found questioning. What is going to happen? When? What is next for me? How will…?

On and on are minds are barraged with thoughts. Some are good, yes, but many are not and must be swiftly dealt with before they take root in our hearts. Any thought we allow ourselves to dwell on will grow into fruition, for our minds care not whether they are good or bad.

Our minds take in so much information, they are truly magnificent. But they quickly dismiss thoughts that are not pertinent. They only care for the ones shown in the spotlight. All around the spotlight, people and things are moving, but the mind focuses all its attention on whatever is centered in front of that beaming light. We have the power to shine the spotlight on whatever is on that stage. The question to us, is, what are we shining the spotlight on?

That stage is made up of our lives. Characters come and go all the time. A tremendous number of events occur, moving the story along from one scene to the next. If we were watching a play and the person behind the spotlight refused to move it, as a participant in the audience we would grow weary. At first the scene may have gripped our hearts but eventually we recognize it is time for a change.

But how can we shift the spotlight on to something else? The truth is, we can’t shift it on to another thing until we first decide to take the spotlight off the thing it is currently on. Simply said, we cannot shine the spotlight on two separate things. We must choose the better of the two and change our focus.

If the spotlight is the storm that surrounds us – the ripping of the waves, the roar of thunder, the coldness of the night, then our hearts will be arrested. Paralyzed with fear and seized by doubt, our tiny ships will be tossed about in the raging sea. It is easy to see the evidence that fills our hearts with fear and doubt, for it surrounds us.

But there is a different area we can choose to shine our spotlight on. By faith, we can choose to shine our spotlight elsewhere. Right in the midst of our storm is Jesus, who calmed the winds and the waves in Mark 4:39. Even in the most turbulent sea God offered us hope in Jesus. This hope is an anchor for our soul, Hebrews 6:16-19. It keeps us from drifting off into a sea of despair and utter hopelessness.

When life is good, doubts seem scarce. But when we are hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally, doubts will flood our minds. In these moments we must change the focus of our spotlights from what troubles us to the One who knows the solution to our troubles. But it’s not just that He knows the solution but that He is the solution. Jesus is the way!

Why Risk It?

Why build anything meaningful if there is a chance it will be lost? If you have lived long at all, you have asked why countless times. Life hurts so much when something is taken away from us. It can be a toy, a pet, family member, friend, or any number of things.

It gets to the point where we are afraid to want again. Our fear overpowers our desire to have. When this happens, all hope seems gone. When our hopes and dreams get dashed on life’s rocky areas, it leaves us in dangerously low periods. Thoughts warn at the slightest hint of hope. “Don’t get your hopes up. Remember what happened last time.”

If we remain stuck on these thoughts, life will live out as a tragedy. Living with no expectations seems like the easy way out. Less pain, less sorrow; it really sounds like a great deal. But it is a fool’s hand to play. Life has a way of swinging like a pendulum. If you do nothing, you will feel nothing and experience nothing.

However, when you decide to take a risk and hope, the pendulum starts swinging again. You will feel happiness and sadness. Understand that the more you swing in one direction, you open yourself up to swinging in the opposite direction when the pendulum returns. Basically, the greater the happiness you experience, the greater the pain you may feel if you lose it.

Again, why risk it? The shortest answer is because it is worth it. When you open yourself to experience all life has to offer, you will gain precious memories that will remain long after what created the memories is gone. As hard as memories are to look back on, they help us remember the love that we shared, a priceless gift to cherish for a lifetime. After tragedies occur in your life, take some time to heal. God can give you the strength, comfort, and healing you need in these times. Then embrace hope once more and live a full life!