Remember What You Have

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November 10, 2016.

3:43 p.m.

My phone notifies me that my wife has texted me. I am finishing up an appointment with a client and think to myself, “Ok. I’ll call when we’re done.”

3:44 p.m.

My wife calls me on my phone. I decline the call. Whatever she needs is obviously urgent. I begin to hurry my session to a close.

3:45 p.m.

She calls back a second time. This is our signal for 911. I excuse myself from my meeting and answer the call.

“Hello.”

“Mark! You need to leave. Right.  Now. Luke and his friends were crossing the street near the bus stop and have been hit by a pickup. The police say they need a parent on the scene.”

Images of a lifeless, bloody body laying on the ground cloud my mind, making it hard to catch my breath.

“Mark?”

“I’m on it,” I exclaim, rushing out the door with only a brief explanation to my client and our receptionists.

Twenty minutes later I arrive at the scene. The police have gone. The paramedics have left, and a call to my son tells me that he is now at home.

When I walk into the house, I find him sitting at his computer, eating a Pop-Tart.

“Why are you home early,” he asks.

I raise my eyebrows. “Uhhh. Because you were hit by a truck?”

“I’m okay, Dad,” he says. “Really. It’s not that big a deal.” He points to a small abrasion on his wrist that is about an inch in length.

He tells me that he and two of his friends decided to go to the park near our house after getting off of the bus. As they were crossing the street, they noticed a pickup truck stopped at the stop sign facing them. Initially, they waited for him to go, but when he remained stopped, they decided it was safe to cross. However, once they were halfway into the street, the truck began to make his right-hand turn and hit all three of them. My son saw the truck coming and jumped back enough to only be clipped by the vehicle’s side mirror. One of his friends, though, suffered a bruised rib, and the other had two fractured wrists.

I hug my son and breathe a sigh of relief.

Later that night I tell my wife, “You never realize how quickly your life can take a left turn into hell.”

She nuzzles herself into me on the couch and begins a refrain that we will take turns repeating for the rest of the evening: “I’m just so thankful. It could have been much, much worse.”

A week and a half later I am still chilled at the idea of what could have happened, and I find myself randomly thanking God for His protection and grace.

It is a gift I do not deserve. No amount of good deeds could have been exchanged for the life of my son. He is of infinite value and I am a man of limited resources. If God were to weigh me on the scales of justice, I would always be found wanting. And I am acutely aware that there are others in the world who have not been as fortunate as I, so I cannot claim that some cosmic “fairness” is owed to me.  I can only express appreciation and gratitude for being allowed to have my boy, first as a life loaned to me from God and now as a life spared.

But that is the nature of thankfulness, I suppose. One cannot appreciate what he has unless he juxtaposes it against the tragedy of its potential loss. And it is this juxtaposition that lays the foundation for the joy in whatever we have. This is as true for children as it is for jobs, marriages, finances, health, or lessons learned through life.

Too often we forget to measure the breadth and depth of our blessings and falsely presume that they will endure continually. But everything we love, everyone we treasure, every possession we hold dear can vanish in an instant. Everything in life, even life itself, melts away like the morning dew, and if we do not acutely attune ourselves to the transient nature of all our blessings, we will fail to be thankful for what we have been given. Nor will we recognize how God abundantly displays His goodness in our lives.

This holiday season, before you carve the turkey and watch the football game, take time to walk around the house. Reflect on how far you have come over the years. Enjoy how the crisp autumn air has gradually wrapped each tree in thin brown paper. Have a conversation with each person who is at your home. Revisit your favorite memories. Tell a story or two. Laugh with each other.

What is here today can be gone tomorrow.

Remember what you have. And be thankful.

 

 

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Quick Thoughts: Delight Yourself in the Lord

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Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3-4)

 

If you have been in church or around the Bible for any season, this verse has probably popped out at you at some point. On the surface, it sounds like a man-centered verse. It almost has the nasal ring of a carnival ringmaster crying out to the crowd, “Step right up! Step right up! Get the desires of your heart today! Do you want money? A promotion? A better marriage? You can have anything your heart desires! Just delight yourself in the Lord and you can have it all!”

Of course, this interpretation of the verse is all poppycock. It is not about me getting a new car or having my team win the World Series or, on  a more serious note, having an addiction suddenly removed from me.

Rather, the focus of the verse is about getting the desires of your heart correct. To begin with, the Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) And it continually instructs us to cleanse our hearts, to lay aside selfishness, worry, and “the sin that so easily entangles.” Pursuing the desires of a sick heart is not the goal of a holy God. He wants to correct the desires first and then fulfill the desires of the new heart.

But how do we do that?

Well, think of yourself as an iPhone and God as your iTunes account. You have some of the songs on your iTunes already added to your phone, but not all of them. For what you have, it works…mostly. But it is not a good copy of the master version on your desktop. If you want your phone to have everything that resides on your master version, the only way to get them is to sync your phone up to the computer. So, you plug in your USB to your phone and to the computer, and voila! You now have your songs. This is similar to what God is telling us to do in verses 3 and 4 here. When the psalmist writes, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness,” he is telling us to “sync” our heart with God’s. That the way to get the Master’s version to overwrite our current heart is to:

  1. Trust in the Lord (not in yourself.) Remember, trusting in yourself got you into this mess. Trusting yourself won’t get you out of it.
  2. Do good. – This means to do the right and ethical thing according to God’s law/standards. We like to think that we are a law unto ourselves (“Well, that may be true for you, but not for me.”) But when we live according to God’s standards, a change begins to occur in us that transcends even the rule of self.
  3. Dwell in the land – Don’t just vacation in God’s land. Live there. He has reserved a specific place for our hearts to live and if we will make it our residence, we will find the fruit is sweeter and the victories are sure.
  4. Befriend faithfulness – Another way of translating this, is “feed on faithfulness.” Let faithfulness be your nourishment.  The safe pasture that strengthens your whole being.  Don’t be flaky or wishy-washy. Stand firm. Be strong and courageous. But be faithful to what/whom? Faithfulness to God and His ways. Do  not waver from His principles, but allow it to guide your decisions and the way you interact with others.

Thus, when he says, “Delight yourself in the Lord” in verse 4, he is merely summarizing the four points listed above. In this light, the words “And he will give you the desires of your heart” become not a prescriptive statement, such as “if you do A, you will get B.” Rather, it becomes a descriptive statement, such as “when you do A, you will have B.” The focus, then, is not on the getting but on the becoming. It is about God changing your desires to mirror His own, so that now, together, you and He can pursue the same desires.

Sync your heart up to God’s. Trust in Him. Do good. Dwell in the land. Feed on faithfulness. Then your desires will be like His. And you will have the desires of your heart.