Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Love This Picture

Julia laughing with Daniel, January 2008 as they packed to move to Africa. Just ten more weeks till we are scheduled to fly to Tanzania!

The Perils of Comparing

We compare many things. Is this apple better than that apple? Should I buy this car or that car? How well is this team playing compared to that team?

We compare so many things, so often, that I believe we step into a trap: comparing ourselves to others. Bigger/smaller, shorter/taller, smarter/dumber. That's just the start. I am appalled when I think of how often I compare myself to others. Often what I'm doing is trying to assure myself that I am "OK" I see a very accomplished bodybuilder (one of ten thousand people I have seen that month) and I think: Well, his muscles are huge but my muscles are OK. I may try to think of many guys with smaller muscles. I often wind up thinking: I had better do something or my muscles won't be OK anymore. Sure, muscles are superficial, so are physical beauty, wealth, clothes, houses, cars and a plethora of other things.

Sadly, the comparing doesn't stop with superficial things. Am I more devout than him? Is my suffering greater than hers? Have I served others as well as he did?

One night I trudged across the corporate parking lot feeling a bit sorry for myself. Then I saw I tiny, crippled man come out of a nearby building. He was a visiting technician for some machinery we owned. He less than four feet tall and very handicapped by his disproportionate physique. He painfully made his way across the parking lot. Even stepping over a curbstone was difficult for him. My first selfish thought was simply this: I am glad I don't have those problems. And of course, I am glad that my growth was not stunted and that my limbs have generally worked quite well. But why did I need to compare? Can't I be glad for what I have without seeing what others lack. Conversely, can't I be content with what I have when I see that others may have more?

As each year passes, I realize more fully how short our lives are on this earth. Even if we live a hundred years, every moment is precious. It is a chance to do good, not evil. We can use the time or waste it. Every decision, every action, every thought can make this a better world or a worse one. It can make us a better person or a worse one. And although our lives are short, there is eternal significance to each and every thing we do. I pray that God will deliver me from comparisons that serve no purpose other than to puff up my pride or to lead me to covet.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Fame (as defined by the Merriam Webster On-Line Dictionary)
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin fama report, fame; akin to Latin fari to speak
Date: 13th century
1 a: public estimation : reputation b: popular acclaim : renown

I once thought that fame resulted from some heroic or notable deed or quality. Daniel Boone. George Washington. Davey Crockett. Mark Twain. That sort of thing. I was very young. I soon discovered that fame can come about in all sorts of ways. Certainly particularly attractive, intelligent, or strong people often become famous. Marilyn Monroe. Antonio Banderas (that one is for you Barbara). Albert Einstein. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lately, I have noticed that people often become famous for far less appealing reasons: obnoxious behavior, pushing the limits on current social norms, and for all sorts of weakness or failure.

I now know that there was a Governor of New York named Eliot Spitzer. I only vaguely knew his name before he was exposed as a rather spectacular hypocrite. Hypocrisy, moral failure, or even a rather sad death can get a lot of press.

There is a part of me that has always wanted to be a bit famous. That was perhaps truer when I was younger, but I think the desire is still present. Of course, I prefer to think that I would become famous for some very noble reason. I confess that I have the habit of looking at the tracking data for my blog. I wrote about it in this post . For some time I had been a bit intrigued by the fact that my post Make One Good Choice Repeat as Necessary had been getting hits from around the globe. I began to foster a tiny hope that I would be famous as the guy who wrote that article on "How to Make a Good Choice" because that particular search term in Google often leads people to my blog post. Lately, however, I have had a good laugh at my own expense.
This is one of those times when I strongly believe that God has a sense of humor. I say that because there is now a new clear winner among my posts: Ouch. It is simply a picture of my knee after arthroscopic surgery that caused it to be badly bruised. There is a bit of text to that effect with the photo. Apparently, many people would like to see what a knee looks like a few days after surgery. A Google image search with the term "knee days after arthroscopic surgery" pops my post up as number one. It has steadily become more well known. I get at least one hit every single day from someone looking for pictures of knees after surgery. It would appear that my best shot at fame may be the notoriety of my ugly knee photo. If the hits continue and sort of "snowball" over time, I may be on a talk show as a result of getting badly bruised. Probably won't happen. But it has reminded me of how foolish it is to seek fame in this world. When I see truly, I know that what I must seek is to be spoken of by God: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21) . It is the only sort of fame that matters.

Monday, July 07, 2008


"In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time, after a while I have had to look away. And in imagination I have turned instead to the lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering." —John R.W. Stott in "The Cross of Christ"

Periodically I am having intense recurrences of depression. I worked with my doctor in April and added Wellbutrin to the Prozac I have been taking for years. For a while I was much better.
Now in July I am hitting days long periods of sadness, emptiness, fatigue, vague aches and pains, and a desire to be released from this life. Most aspects of my life are quite wonderful. Here is a partial list: relationship with God, loving wife, healthy successful children, a beautiful grandchild, and many many dear friends, enough money to retire from work for pay, and interesting volunteer work where my contributions are appreciated. I am well recovered from my knee replacement surgery that took place a year ago. I have been free of pain medication dependence for more than six months. I exercise, eat reasonably well. I push myself to keep moving and to be social even when I don't feel like it. Nonetheless, I have very severe bouts of feeling down. In a way it is embarrassing, because I know that I am blessed in so many ways. Oddly enough, I take some comfort in the quotes like the one above. God himself suffered as a man. Many prophets, teachers, evangelists, and simply devout Christians have suffered terribly. God knows what is going on with me. It is not a fluke or an accident. He has it figured into his plan for my life. Meanwhile, it still hurts. But I can honestly say that I feel the depression lifting some as I confess that I am struggling and as I dwell on the fact that Jesus was a man of sorrows and suffering.

If it happens that anyone reads this, rejoice if you sufferings are few. Take heart, be encouraged if your sufferings are many. God has not forgotten us. This will all work out somehow.