Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Wow.  What a difference a day makes, huh?  April 15th…..Our annual, dreaded tax day.  Most of us were probably either stewing over it or sarcastically joking about it.  Well, the first part of the day anyway. Plus, it was Monday.  Mondays are crazy around here, as they probably are for many of you.  For me, it’s often a frazzling day of in and out, running around, and picking up the house after the weekend.  I got in from one round of errands around 12:30 and took a breather to eat some lunch and, of course, catch up on Facebook, before I had to go pick up the boys at 1:30, take them to batting practice, fix supper, and you know…..the rest of the list that ensues on a typical school night with 3 children.   I ended up not even eating lunch, though.  As I pulled up my Facebook page, I saw K-Love, the Christian music station, had posted this:

                “Breaking News:  Two explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon.  Some injuries. Details are sketchy for the moment.  Please pray.”

My heart sank and I suddenly lost my appetite.  I put my phone down, pulled out the laptop and sat glued to the news until time to go get the boys.  I’m sure I was one of millions who sat in disbelief at the horror unfolding.  It looked like a war zone but, this time… was on an American street.  I guess that was the “disbelief” part of it.  Not that we have never been under attack.  How could we ever forget the crumpling of the twin towers on 9/11 and the faces in the pictures of all the missing people feared to be inside, or the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City where among the casualties were 19 toddlers and preschoolers  attending daycare inside the building?   As horrendous and unforgettable as those were, nothing really prepares us for seeing our own citizens in the streets, bleeding and maimed.  With all of the smart phones and people ready to snap shots of loved ones crossing the finish line Monday, the reality of the depravity that exists in our world was suddenly inescapable. 

When people are suddenly aware of this depravity, we begin to hear words rarely spoken by the media and government officials anymore: words like evil, prayer and blessings.  We may see trends in the news in the wake of tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing of people sometimes questioning God, but most often, we see people begin to offer prayers for others or count their own blessings.  I ran across a quote from C.S. Lewis Sunday night before the marathon bombing and had actually shared it on my Facebook page.  It explains this phenomenon better than I could:

“If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer. He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had.” 

I think we'd all admit we have a country full of much pride and focus on self-achievement.  More than that, we have steered away from labeling truths about right and wrong and instead, placed emphasis on tolerance of everyone’s beliefs.  Therefore, increasingly few will publicly invoke the name of God for fear they’d seem “intolerant”.  It’s no wonder, really, that it often takes dramatic events like these for people to see their true need.   As C.S. Lewis said, we prefer everything else to Him, until there is nothing better to be had.  I think it’s safe to say that those of us watching the aftermath on Monday felt helpless.  Prayers were all we could offer.  But, the thing is, nothing more was probably  desired more than comfort, calm, and peace by those affected…..the kind that is needed so down deep in our souls that nothing and no one else could provide other than our Creator.    People who aren’t even believers have something deep within them (called a soul) that, in these times, recognizes a reality they’ve spent much of their lives trying to deny…..and they call on Him.   Even for believers…..We’ve all been there ourselves if we have any age on us at all.  You may have called your incident a reality check or just a fresh dose of perspective.  Sometimes, they come on much broader scales, though, and can give a whole nation some perspective and a dose of reality.  I doubt any of the runners who sacrificed so much and trained so hard to run the 26.2 miles were thinking of their great personal achievement (and it was great) when they saw what happened or heard the news of it.  A whole other realm of reality set in.  The spiritual realm. 

The Good

Now, I do have to address the opposite trend that we often see in such cases.  We will understandably often hear and even ask the question ourselves, “Why?”.  However, some will go a step further and rather than seek God, they will blame Him or use senseless tragedies as evidence to deny Him.  You know what I'm talking about.  There will always be those who will hold on to their pride even in the face of such reality and ask the age old question, “IF there was a God and He was so good……how could he allow this??”   That always reminds me of the Pharisees when Jesus was on the cross….”IF you are the Son of God….prove it….save yourself…come down off the cross and then, we’ll believe you.” If He revealed every mystery (as though we could understand)…..then we’d believe Him.  Maybe.  I mean, the Pharisees were staring at prophecy fulfilled and witnessed the power of God in many miracles and they still refused.   So, let me be clear to any who may take issue with God on this: We have freedom of choice in this country.  That’s not a novel idea that originated with our founding fathers.  They simply understood that it was a right we were born with…..correction…..created with.  That’s why they wisely chose the famous words “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; Among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Though I think the pursuit of happiness could’ve been left out or more wisely worded….but, that’s another blog in itself). We were most definitely created to be free thinkers…..much like our Creator.   The only flipside to God creating us with free will was that some would not choose Him and His ways.  They would choose the way of the world, the way of self, and ultimately….the way of evil.   God, however, is good.  All good things come from Him.
James 5:13-17:
 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

 Just consider what we really enjoy.  Yes, there are plenty of people who enjoy evil things or try to pervert things that were meant for good into something bad (sex is a prime example.)  But, let’s just think about what we typically truly enjoy and deem as “good”…… beautiful sunsets that have a different array of colors each time; the quiet beauty of a giant oak; the smell of babies after they’ve had a bath and are wrapped back up in your arms;  the way your skin feels soaking up the sun on a warm day after a long bout of cold;  laughing until your sides hurt or being so happy you cry;  the ability to hit a baseball and watch it soar out of the park, to invent a revolutionary new gadget, to create a masterpiece of music….or the ability to run the 26.2 miles of a marathon in under 4 hours.  They are ALL gifts from a good and loving God, meant for our pleasure..…and He is pleased to bless us. 

See, God takes no pleasure in destruction….not even the destruction of the wicked.  I understand.  Don’t you?  How many of us wish any harm on our children, even when they’ve tested us every way possible?

The Bad

Ezekiel 18:23-29:
“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.”
 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just. ’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just. ’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
(He goes on to plead with them in Ezekial 33:11): “Say to them, ‘As I live, declare the LORD GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die O house of Israel?”

You can read through the Old Testament and find that the only destruction God ever delivered was directed at pure ugliness.  As a matter of fact, as a whole, we would do well to revisit some of those accounts and see if we look like any of those people.  I think many would be startled at the resemblance.  This could be a blog all on its own.  So, let me just offer a practical suggestion for times when you ask or are asked questions about God’s justice or goodness like I’ve often heard, “Why would a good God allow so many people to be born into poverty, starvation, and desperation around the world? How is that good?”:   kindly reply, “He could ask us, particularly in our country of excess,  the same thing.”  Why do so many of us drive $50,000+ vehicles, take vacations worth thousands, and pay obscene amounts of money for our clothes and other “stuff” when it only costs $4,000 to place a well for clean drinking water in disease ridden communities of 3rd world countries and even less to feed a family for a year?  Evil doesn’t begin with a fanatic with a bomb.  Pride in our hearts and love of self gives birth to all manner of evil and injustice or allows us to simply overlook it and blot it out of our minds.  The result is that we eventually become so disconnected from our source of good that we forget what the “good stuff” really is and where it comes from.  Not from within ourselves.  That’s for sure.  Is it any wonder why God hates pride so much and opposes the proud?

I hope this doesn’t sound cliché, but, the “good stuff” can’t be bought.   Things like love, joy, and peace….those are the things that are real and are what we crave when everything else has failed us.  Those things come from God (whether we acknowledge Him or not).  I think that’s why we hear those words so much after tragedies like we had on Monday.  If anything good could come from something like these bombings, it would be that people would remember where their true comfort and security lies and ultimately…what’s real.  

The Ugly

I truly believe that is the root of our problem: Somehow, we’re no longer able to see what’s real in this country.  We are so easily and completely deceived.  I have to say that I’m more than a little concerned for our once great nation.  I pray often but need to pray persistently for wisdom for our leaders.  And not the wisdom of the world…..that’s just foolishness.  We have plenty of foolishness in our country already, don’t you think?  The ugliness that results is an epidemic really.  Let’s take the gruesome story of Kermit Gosnell’s clinical practices that have spotlighted late term abortions in the news recently.  It’s horrifying to everyone but, for varying reasons.  Some are as outraged as I am at how negligently the women were treated, how these late term babies were killed…..after birth, that so many people would seek such services and especially so late in pregnancy and that so many others knew about it, were ok with it or even helped. But, sadly and disturbingly, many are not outraged for these reasons.   Instead, I read articles about outrage at the difficulty of obtaining abortions and the burden on women.  As if society and government has pressured these women to have unprotected sex and to wait until they are 5-6 months pregnant before deciding if they want the baby or….. it’s the big bad government or insurance company’s fault for not paying for their bad choices and murderous acts that requires these women to resort to the likes of Kermit Gosnell.  Is this not absolute foolishness??   I’m not unsympathetic to their difficult and often dire circumstances.  We ALL make bad choices and not everyone has a family or support system of any kind.  However, anyone who has been pregnant, felt the life inside them move as you usually can LONG before 24 weeks (the legal time limit for abortion), and still decides to end that life……well, my understanding comes up short.  I don’t see how it could be seen as anything other than taking a human life….AKA….murder.  Ugly.  Furthermore, I’ve heard all the arguments but, still….how our government could say it’s a crime at 25 weeks and not 24 weeks is lost on me.  Maybe that’s the simpleton, Ellie Mae in me.  I may be simple, but, I do know what’s real.    

So, I’m hopeful for our people and our country when I hear words like prayer, blessings, and even evil in the media again.  Because, people sound like they may be coming to their senses… maybe the veil of the world is being pulled back from their eyes and they are beginning to see a glimpse of the reality they’ve been busy denying.  Maybe if we could once again distinguish between the good and the bad, our daily news wouldn’t be so ugly.  I have to tell you, though, when I read the news today and hear how widely unpopular we are with countries such as North Korea, Iran, Russia, etc. and barely tolerated by so many others, I seriously have to stop and pray that God will not be so disgusted with us that He removes His hand from us.  If He did, what happened in Boston Monday or in the offices of one Kermit Gosnell would be the tip of an iceberg named ugliness.  Ugliness, as we said, is simply a byproduct of rejecting His ways and following our own.   I think that’s the ultimate judgment, whether for an individual or for a nation…… the removal of His goodness.  So, I would plead with everyone with a voice, from President Obama, Matt Lauer, or Clint Eastwood to teachers, nurses, or moms at the ballpark… please not disappear again behind the veil of political correctness and re-create that false reality after the shock wears off from this tragedy.    As the kids say (though I could never pull it off), please…do us all a favor and…. “keep it real.”

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