Monday, February 17, 2014

Salt and Light

Watching and Wondering

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

The recent snow caused notable disruption to school and work schedules, but I deemed our part of the weird weather a minor event. The newspaper came every morning. Mail delivery was uninterrupted. The power never failed. We didn’t miss a meal. So many in other areas did not fare so well. We were notably spared.

I’ll admit being perplexed by some of what I heard and saw. Why would anyone think that traffic lights no longer apply because there’s snow on the street? Why would anyone think it makes sense to drive at normal speeds on icy roads? What do people do with all that bread and milk they buy? Do they really think we’re going to be homebound for weeks?

There are things I loved to see under our recent weather conditions. I loved to see people checking on their neighbors. I loved to see families playing together and taking pictures so they can enjoy the memories all the more. I loved people who choose virtually any topic of conversation other than the weather. I loved how the beautiful white snow totally transforms the formerly drab landscape.

The snow worked out pretty well for me. I never missed a day of work and was blessed with major blocks of uninterrupted time. I was reminded again of the limits of technology and human knowledge. There was too little snow to feel compelled to build a snowman. Though I broke my 99 cent ice scraper on the window of the truck, Laura quickly found another one. Neither of us slipped or fell even once.

As surely as I watch and wonder during stressful events, others must do that as well. What do they see in us? Resilience? Flexibility? Patience? Wisdom? General good cheer and good will? Gratitude that things are as well as they are? Respect for God and His creation? Willingness to help others, even (especially) strangers?

As surely as we watch, God also watches. He doesn’t have to wonder because He knows our thoughts, fears, motives, desires, reasons, and opportunities. Psalm 139 documents that so well. What does He see when He watches us? I hope He sees growth, progress, improvement, and maturity. I hope He sees the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). I hope He sees Christ being formed in us (Ephesians 4:11-16, Philippians 2:5-11).

Some say that crises and other unusual events reveal our character. Such things may cause us to lower our guard, forget our filters, and remove our masks. But we all know that life reveals our character. In so many small moments when we don’t realize that people are watching, they really are. Moment by moment we have opportunity to be salt and light to the glory of God (Matthew 5:13-16). What a blessing to use those moments well.

We don’t want to send mixed messages. We don’t want to make others wonder, “Am I seeing a real believer, or is this person just another fake?” This world needs more real-to-the-core, 24/7/365 Christians.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Dud

Great Expectations

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

After two weeks of extreme hype, the 2014 Super Bowl stood little chance of living up to its billing. Still, I didn’t anticipate a super dud of a game. My team lost, but it’s worse than that. They were non-competitive and stunningly disappointing.

In this sin-damaged world, life has a way of failing to live up to the hype. The wedding ceremony will be magical with our groom a gallant knight and the bride a princess. But the armor seems to rust and the glass slipper doesn’t fit. Baby comes, the most beautiful baby in the world. But baby is expensive, exhausting, and high maintenance. Our work isn’t always appreciated at the level that rewards us. We take a vacation, the flight is delayed, and the whole cruise ship gets sick. We go to a movie, it’s not nearly as good as the trailer, and cell phones keep ringing.

How do we cope with the stress and strain of such realities? The following suggestions could help:

• Concentrate less on what we hope to feel. Concentrate more on the ways we can bring joy to those around us, especially those we love (Philippians 2:3-4).

• Learn to laugh at the absurd. Sometimes God changes our plans, and it works to great blessing (Acts 16:6-10). Sometimes, we don’t have a clue who changed our plans, but we’re still wise to wait for God’s blessing.

• Choose to find more joy in God’s day-to-day surprises (Psalm 19:1). A multi-colored sunset, heavy on the red. A bluebird on an extra-cold day. Banana pudding at potluck.

• Remember that it’s not about me. There’s peace and safety in not always being the center of attention.

• Find someone who is having fun. Sometimes their attitude is infectious. Some people have a knack for getting life right. God can use them to help the rest of us.

• Choose to lower your expectations. Only God is always right. Humans often fall short even when we try really hard. And we don’t always try really hard.