Sunday Post 165: A Second Chance to Live

I was at a conference last week in San Antonio. It was for YMCA staff and volunteers who raise money as part of their job. We do a lot of that – most Y’s use the support to help kids in need attend Y camp and tutor programs.

This year, we had a keynote speaker who really made me do some thinking. Her name is Amanda Lindhout, and she if the Founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation. Unfortunately, she landed in a position of remarkable philanthropy not because of something good. No, she was actually kidnapped when in Somalia to photograph a refugee camp. She was held by teenage terrorists for over 400 days in horrible conditions while enduring significant torture.

Her Canadian parents worked for a year to raise the $1.5 M ransom to free their daughter. She finally returned home – but not as the person who had left 14 months prior.

I suppose in this situation, most people would have holed up, filled with anger and fear. Amanda didn’t do that. Instead, she realized she could be bitter and resentful or, she could look at life another way. She spent countless hours thinking about her captors. She came to the conclusion that their actions were driven out of desperation – out of a lack of hope and opportunity in a country that is bombarded with war.

Her response was to start anew. So, she started a foundation that would support the people of Somalia, bringing them food, education, and hope. Instead of hatred, she found hope and love.

On my trip I also heard of another woman who had lost her husband many years ago. Her children are grown. She has nothing left. She is alone.  She is still struggling with sadness and questions.

What gives some the strength to move forward while others are unable to put their life back together after trauma?

It’s Easter. Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins or whether you don’t, there has to be a lesson in the story shared throughout the New Testament. Jesus was hung on a cross and killed, and his sacrifice, his horrific death, brought about peace and hope for people for centuries.

Whether the Son of God or the victim of violence – whether suffering extreme personal loss or the fear of death, we ultimately all have two ways to respond. We can crawl under a rock and quit. Or, we can get help and work toward a new beginning – one that perhaps does more good than our first one.

Sunday Post 113: Time for Renewal

Maybe Easter is less about the ham and eggs and more about renewing or thinking about your spirituality.

I work for an organization with a mission that compels us to help people grow in spirit, mind and body.  Because I’m not that smart, challenging my mind comes easily.  Happens every day.  And yea, much to my eldest daughter’s chagrin, I’m still doing curls with large cans of baked beans.  It’s the spirit part that takes a bit more work for me.

Before 2009, my spiritual life was fairly rote.  Someone invited me to a prayer breakfast one time and the speaker suggested that we use P. R. A. Y, as a way to cover all of our bases in talking with God.  P – praise, R – repent, A – anyone or anything and Y – yourself.

I imagine God was as bored with our conversations as I was.

When Lisa got sick, my relationship with God moved from stale to passionate.  I talked with Him constantly.  I prayed from deep down in my soul for His assistance.  I begged him, with every fiber of my being, to save my wife.

I made promises to God – thought I could maybe cut a deal.  I didn’t keep them, but I guess I could argue that He didn’t do what I asked either.

At times over the past three years, I’ve been so mad at God that I questioned His very existence.  I cussed him out on several occasions, words I wouldn’t dare say in front of my mother.  And at the time, it made me feel a bit better.  Maybe I could inflict an inkling of the pain He had inflicted on me.

What I found in this newly forming relationship was a God with broad shoulders, one who could take my rantings.

You see, I don’t believe that spirituality is predicated on bobbing your head up and down in agreement as you enter the doors of the church.  I no longer believe it is about saying your nightly PRAYer.  It’s much more than that.

It’s passionate.  It’s real.  It’s like a relationship with your spouse or your parent.  There are questions, disappointments and incredible joys.

Who says we have to just accept what we’re told?  Who says we can’t question?

In fact, the more I questioned, the more I learned.  The more I expressed my anger, the greater forgiveness I felt.

God didn’t turn his back on me.  Nah – He allowed my tirades, and He moved a couple of steps closer.

Use this Easter to break your spiritual habits.  Renew yourself in body, mind and spirit.

Sunday Post 66: Sacrifice

Posted by Danny

I really think that if given the opportunity, I would have traded places with Lisa. Maybe that sounds valiant or maybe ridiculous. Perhaps if it came down to it, I wouldn’t have had the courage.

I think though, that I loved her enough to have tried to battle the cancer myself. And although I think I’ve done well with the girls, I’m not so sure that in the long run they wouldn’t have been better off with their mom. She just knew so much more about females than I.

If only I had been given that chance.

There is also no doubt in my mind that if given the option of dying or losing one of my kids, I would choose death – in…a…minute. That is not a selfless choice. I could not live through another loss of someone I care so deeply for. Selfishly, I’d rather die than to feel that level of pain again.

For those of us who are Christians, today is a special day. We believe that God cared so much for us that he allowed His son to die a cruel and painful death as the punishment for our sins.

It sounds ridiculous. He is God. Why couldn’t He have come up with another way, a less painful way, to pay for our mistakes? He could have sent a yearly plague, a good dose of locust for atonement. That would have hurt Him a whole lot less. He could have sacrificed one of us each year (yea – I saw The Hunger Games last week). No. Instead, he made the ultimate sacrifice – his child.

Imagine – just imagine allowing your kid to be hung on a cross with nails, a crown of thorns shoved down on his head. Picture that.

And what if you had the power to keep that from happening? Even if that sacrifice could save the world, I would not allow it. No way.
At times I really struggle with that concept. It’s more than I can fathom.

Regardless of your specific religious beliefs, the idea of a loving, graceful God has to be comforting. With my sinful self, it gives me the hope I need to keep trudging through this sometimes difficult life.

Sunday Post 15: The Hawaii Theory

In January 2010, a month or so before Lisa died, I was trying to figure out how God would allow this to happen.  I firmly believed that He had the power to step in and save her.  As I tried hard to wrap some logic around the fact that my wife would likely die prematurely  from this horrible disease, several senarios came to mind.  One I called the Hawaii Theory.

I imagined that I walked into our house and announced to the family that I had booked a surprise trip to Hawaii.  We’d be heading out the following week and were going to spend 10 days in paradise.  Everyone was excited at first and then DJ said, “Dad, does that mean I’m going to miss the school dance next Friday?”

“Oh, yeah – you probably will,” I replied.

“Then I’m not going to Hawaii!  I want to stay here.”

“Honey, I’ve paid for this trip!  It’s Hawaii!!!  We’re going to have a great time.”

“You are so mean dad!  You can’t make me go.  I really want to go to the dance.  All of my friends will be there.  Hawaii is stupid.  I DON’T want to go!”

“I’m taking your butt to Hawaii and you’re calling me mean? This is crazy!.”

DJ calls her friends,  “My dad is making me go to Hawaii – he calls it paradise, with the family and now I’m going to miss the dance.”  They all concur that I’m an unreasonable jerk.

But – I make her go.  And, she has a GREAT time.  She meets new friends and she even admits it is the most beautiful place she’s ever been.  

Her friends all go to the dance, and although they miss DJ, they end up having a pretty good time without her.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is what happened with Lisa.  God, the dad, taking her to a place so much better than she, or we, could ever imagine.  Us, the friends, so ticked at Him for not allowing her to go to the dance with us.  But, in the end, she gets to be somewhere that is so much better than where we are.  And the neat thing is that one day we get to join her.

As I think of the incredible sacrifice God made at Easter, as difficult as it was to see His son suffer, perhaps He knew that they would end up together – in the most beautiful place ever.  A place that we can’t comprehend –

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