Friday, August 17, 2007

Hands Tied

Is there anything worse than being unable to help in a situation?

I hate the expression, "Well, all we can do now is pray" on a number of levels. First of all, it makes it sound like prayer is only a last resort answer. Second, it means that we've too much confidence in our own abilities up until that point. But third, it means that we have to sit there with that helpless feeling, wondering what God will do or what someone else will do.

When Paul wrote, "For when I am weak, then I am strong," he was making a point about relying on God. That's a hard lesson to learn. I never feel weaker than when I am weak. Maybe it's the control freak in me. Maybe it's the societal upbringing to "be a man" and "do something." I'm really not sure. But I do know that being in the midst of a situation where I have no real power is really a killer.

Over the last ten years, I've known plenty of people who have watched their spouses die. Cancer, diabetes, and other killers rendered both victim and caregiver as unwilling participants -- like being strapped into a roller coaster, not knowing if there is an end to the ride. I don't envy any of those people. That was a horrible experience for each of them.

It's more complicated when other people are involved. There are many parents who raise their kids properly, but during the teenage years those kids reject the values of their family -- even the God of their family. No matter how many times they talk, the words hit a brick wall. Then comes the feelings of guilt and anger, even when it's unwarranted. I have my own set of fears about the years ahead of me when my kids hit that 18th birthday.

I am in the midst of a situation where pretty much all I can do is pray. And I feel weak. Prayer does help. But like a dog returning to his vomit (one of the most disgusting biblical references around) I seem to find myself returning to weakness. Worry. Sadness. Helplessness. Like having my hands tied.

God has been very good to me, and I know that he will see me through. My faith in Him is unshaken. But there's this lingering doubt that He won't take care of the situation in the way I want. Control issues.

"Lord, give me your strength in the midst of my weakness. Help me to understand that my hands just might be tied so I don't do something stupid and will rely on You instead. Chip away at my pride and my desires to handle it all myself. Place my unsteady feet on the Rock."
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cutting Them Down to Size

I didn't really want to look at it, but it was there as I was loading the groceries on the conveyor belt. Sometimes I get a chuckle out of supermarket tabloids, but the stuff that focuses on the stars really kinda irritates me. And this one, with the headline, "Cellulite of the Stars," was way too over the top for me.

You see the cover at right. It featured multiple close-up shots of people (I'm assuming they were all women) wearing their bathing suits. But the pics weren't about the bathing suits. The pics were about the disfigured legs, etc. of the "pretty people."

The posterior parade listed some names I frankly didn't recognize. Others were familiar, probably because they were well past the normal age of perfect physical fitness. But either way, the celebrity cellulite carried an air of vengeance. You see, the article didn't seem to be presenting these pictures with an attitude of "Aw, poor Farrah (or whoever it was), isn't it a shame that she seems to have gained a little weight in her thighs?"

No. This was a full-blown "HA HA HA HA HA! Look at the fat on that former supermodel! What a pig! She's not fooling me!"

I realize that the paparazzi probably camped out under a sand dune at the beach, just waiting for celebrities to bend over and display their pockmarks and saddlebags. There is no sympathy for the high and mighty. We enjoy seeing the rich become poor. We crave the chance to watch the pretty people (or at least the ones prettier than us) become ugly. Skinny people turn fat? Fantastic! Young people become old? Perfect!

The old saying is that misery loves company. I think it's more like miserable people want others to be more miserable than them. I heard a poll once that found that most workers would agree to a paycut to only $100 a day if their co-workers would get only $80 a day. After all, we're more valuable than everybody else. Right?

I wonder if that doesn't play into some folks attitude toward witnessing. It's not so important to present Christ's love if it means that somebody less worthy than ourselves will go to heaven. Scholars think that was a bit of the problem in Corinth where the church would come together for the Lord's Supper, but the rich would have these huge meals and not share with the poorer folks in the congregation. Paul told them that their assemblies were doing more harm than good. The rich were so involved in themselves, they missed the entire point.

I've talked to "Christians" who typically look down on people who smoke, or drink, or are on welfare, or speak with an accent, or anything else that makes them different. I've known church members who have no problem sending money for missions overseas but wouldn't dream of helping the couple next door to the church pay the electric bill. My friends, that should not be.

The problem is that our natural state is like those who are pouring over the National Enquirer to see whose thighs have taken on excess baggage. We think way too much of ourselves and we love to think way too little of others -- especially those who intimidate us with their money or their power or their bikini-perfect bodies. We have to stop being so fixated on cutting others down to size and instead focus on bringing others to Christ. Poor and rich, fat and skinny, old and young are all just temporal issues. Saved or unsaved is eternal.

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