Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why is there pain and suffering?

I would guess that the biggest reason people don’t believe in God is that they can’t accept that a loving God would allow so much suffering in the world. I feel like I am going to wrestle with the Holocaust my whole life. It is difficult to see why God allowed such slaughter. Sometimes pain allows us to grow, but sometimes horrible things happen: children are killed, and we don’t get to see the redemption this side of heaven. We don’t get to see the children killed in the Newton tragedy enjoying heaven with Jesus. But that is where they are, and my prayers for the parents are that God would give them a vision of their children happy and whole.
We may not have sufficient answers to why God allows pain and suffering. I was struck the first time I heard the question “Why do WE allow pain and suffering?” I don’t know who said it, and I think there is certainly a limit to what we are responsible for, but it is worth considering. Are Christians known overall for making every effort to alleviate the pain and suffering in the world? Are we as individuals known for that?
There are matters outside of our control, but let us be diligent in responding to the pain of those around us. Let us be part of the healing.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Is there a God?

This may not feel like a static question. When tragedy hits, we may all question our beliefs. However, there are moments that can be only explained by God. There was my dad, whose mother became gravely ill when he was two.  This became a great blessing, as he was sent to live with his aunt, who is one of the kindest people in the world (my daughter is named after her). There were the prayers of my grandmother, his mother, who asked only to live long enough to raise her children. She lived to be a great grandmother.
These moments are part of my history, part of why God is real to me. Any shred of doubt vanished after the birth of my perfect little girl.  We all have moments that point to God: the hurricanes that missed us, the frightening fevers that subsided. Trace these moments, ponder them. They are part of the armor of truth to protect you when doubt sets in. If you can’t see undeniable moments of God in your life, ask why.  God can handle your doubt, your anger, your questions.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:19-21
Many of us are familiar with this verse. However you may not be aware that it is not written to unbelievers, but believers. Even after we accept God, He waits for us to open the door and invite Him in. Let’s open the door.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

May we listen

The "Explore God" videos have two of my favorite Christian authors, Lysa Turkhurst and Jennie Allen. Jennie talked about how our life experiences and gifts make us each unique.  The purpose of our lives may not be glaringly obvious each day. I think of our lives as a series of decisions that align us where we need to be. 
It may not be until long after the fact that we realize the significance of certain events and decisions. Moments that were not remarkable to me have been much more remarkable to another person. One of my best friends will remember certain things I said years ago that were just what she needed to hear. I don’t remember all of the conversations, but I know it happened because I was being myself, and had made the decision to go to a certain college where I would meet her. Another day I might tell the story of the dream that called us to Texas from California, and what we have discovered about our purpose here.
 Maybe God is nudging us towards a change great or small. Maybe we feel stuck in a mundane everyday life, but God is preparing us for an intersection that will change our life drastically. May we listen for His guidance, and be brave enough to follow. The world needs us.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Hippocratic Oath

One of my favorite sermons of Caz's was when he talked about evangelism. He said that walking up to strangers and asking them about God is answering a question that isn't being asked. Instead, we need to answer the questions that are being asked.
It is wonderful to be around those who are exploring and seeking God. But often, we are around those who are not. As a poet, I am around people with a range of religious beliefs and lifestyles. They know me better than Christians I have known for years, and they are some of my favorite people in the world.
I don't talk about God with many of my poet friends. But I hope they would describe me as someone kind and nonjudgmental, and someone who treasures the power of words.
Let's take the Hippocratic Oath as believers. First, do no harm. Instead of judging the lives of others and preaching to those not asking for preaching, let's live lives of kindness and wait for others to ask why.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Introducing myself

For the two or three people reading this who have not met me, I can think of no better way to introduce myself than to wish my parents a happy 41st wedding anniversary. My parents met at 19 and 20 and, as they describe, hardly knew anything but to hang on to each other. So they married less than a year after meeting.  (I followed a similar pattern and just celebrated my 13th wedding anniversary.) Seeing their relationship over the years has been a blessing, and the older I get the more I appreciate the fierce love they have for each other.
            Our marriages are a model to our children of how to relate to others, and our interactions with them teach them how we think they deserve to be treated.  So, the way a father treats his daughter teaches her how she is supposed to be treated by boys and men. A parent in a parenting class we are taking said, “each interaction with someone instructs them on how we are to be treated.” Married or otherwise, let us take seriously the necessity of being kind above all else.  We are role models, for better or for worse. Let’s raise a generation of children eager to find a spouse who treats them the way their parents did.   

*Postscript: I promise I will not post poems often but that is how I can best describe my parents. Enjoy!

Revisiting U.T. after Forty Years

He says that everyone’s clothing is so
ordinary. No funky clothes, long hair
no flared pants: polyester apropos
of so much uncertainty. The bright glare

of change. And here is where he marched and here
is where a sniper shot. The tower’s closed.
See, even then he didn’t fit this sphere-
a Christian hippy. Female friends supposed

his wedding ring didn’t matter. See,
he had a prof, so kind and smart and yet
an atheist.  And so he tried to be
like him but couldn’t dismiss how he met

his wife and how God said that she’s the one
and forty years after her love still stuns

© 2012, Best Austin Poetry. Reprinted with permission