I’ve always thought that who a person really is, is who they are in their home. This is because a home is people living under the same roof who are not normal like you. The people in your home, whether old or young, are different. Differences attract – that’s good. That’s why you married the person you did. Differences also collide. Differences repel, like positive and negative magnetic poles. Differences conflict. A husband and wife are polar opposites. That’s good, too, but few people seem to acknowledge this.

Worship at Redeemer

From God’s perspective all of this is very good. In Genesis we read: “And God created polar opposites, and saw that it was good.” And, BTW, God is different from you. God’s ways arenot your ways. That fact is a transcendent good which we minimally grasp.

Conflict, therefore, is inevitable. Conflict is normal. If there’s no conflict in your home you have a problem. Probably, that problem is you. Or, at least, you are part of the problem. Always consider this possibility, for it situates you on the road to being a peacemaker.

James van Yperen, in Making Peace, writes:

“Conflict reveals the true character of a leader. Jesus told His disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46). Who we are is revealed by how we react to persecution.” (p. 26)

If differences irritate you, that is your problem. If different approaches and styles “push your buttons,” those buttons are your’s. Own up to this and you are on your way to character formation.

Needed: Civil Discourse (not Rhetoric) on the Meaning of “Marriage”

Monroe County

“In his inauguration speech today President Obama said: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

The President, with these words, presents an argument. The word “for” is an indicator word, indicating a premise. The argument is this:

1) If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
2) We are created equal. (Implicit premise.)
3) Therefore our gay brothers and and sisters must be treated like anyone else under the law.

The conclusion can be rewritten: Therefore gays should be allowed to legally marry.

While 3 follows logically from 1 and 2, premise 1 is false. With this rhetorical sleight of hand President Obama wishes to redefine “marriage.” “Marriage” is available to any two persons who lovingly commit to one another. The phrase “the love we commit to one another” is vague. Does this include the 60-year-old grandfather who lovingly commits to his 5-year-old granddaughter? Surely they should not be allowed to marry?

Historically, “marriage” has been more precisely defined than this, out of a social reality. The book to read against legalizing gay marriage is Princeton University law professor Robert George’s recent What is Marriage? George writes: “Most agree that there is a certain kind of relationship that is inherently sexual, and uniquely enriched by family life; and that it uniquely requires permanent and exclusive commitment to begin at all. Our thesis is that the basic human good that answers to these descriptions is one that only a man and a woman can form together.” (Girgis, Sherif; Anderson, Ryan T; George, Robert P, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, Kindle Locations 1588-1590)

George et. al. offer legal reasoning against the direction President Obama is taking us. Needed: civil discourse, instead of rhetoric, on the meaning of “marriage.”

Del Lawson (1922-2012)

Linda and Del watching NIU beat Kent State at Ford Field in Detroit
Linda’s father Del Lawson went to be with the Lord early Sunday morning. He died in the ER unit of Mercy Hospital in Monroe.
Del lived with us for 6 1/2 years. A few minutes ago I told Linda, “It feels alone in our house.”
Del was 90.
I have a million memories of life with Linda’s father. Here’s a recent one.
On Friday, Nov. 30, Northern Illinois University was playing Kent State in football for the MAC championship at Ford Field in Detroit. Del played a year of football for NIU, and lived most of his life in DeKalb, Illinois, where NIU is located. Linda and I got our Bachelor’s degrees there.
On the day of the game there was much anticipation in our home, especially in Del. He was going to watch it on TV. I got the idea – why not take Del to see the game, live, at Ford Field? I shared this with Linda, who agreed we should. Then I asked Del, “Would you like to go see the game in person tonight?” Del answered, “Why yes, I would. But I must insist on one thing. I AM GOING TO PAY FOR THE TICKETS!” I had learned many years ago that one should not debate Del about things like this.
Immediately Del began calling family and friends, saying, “I’m going to the game tonight!” I went online and got the tickets. We drove to the stadium, packing Del’s wheelchair. When we got to Ford Field we were given a handicapped place on the 50-yard line. We had a beautiful view of the game!
Del was like a kid in a candy store. He shouted, he cheered, he laughed, and his eyes were wide open as he beheld, before him, his beloved Huskies. The game was one of the most exciting I had ever seen. NIU won in 2 overtimes, 44-37. Del told Linda, many times in the days that followed, “That was the most fun I’ve had in years!”
Until now…, because of that event Linda and I believe so firmly in: Christ has been raised from the dead, and we who are in Him shall also live forever with our God.

2013 – A Year of Living Differently

“I gave her a million dollars in the divorce settlement,” the CEO with the incision in his chest told me. He added, “I miss my children.”
Linda and I were at a hotel with our boys. I was sitting in the sauna when this man began sharing with me.
“I had hoped that, when I finally retired, she and I would do it together.”
I just listened. I was thinking that before me sat a man who was very rich and very poor. He had everything money could buy. But money cannot purchase relationship. He sacrificed his wife and daughter on the altar of his corporation. When he had finished talking to me he left, and as he walked away the man with no wisdom counseled me with these words: “Enjoy your family.” Which is exactly what I was doing.
Ten years ago Rick Warren wrote The Purpose-Driven Life (remember the first sentence?). Warren says that everyone lives at three levels of life. Level 1 is the survival level. On this level we have people who are barely getting by. People burning out. What these people need is not just a vacation. They need purpose. Without purpose, life becomes trivial, and pointless.
Level 2 is – the success level. People on this level are doing better than survival. In America millions of people have arrived at this level. They are able to pay their bills, have a little bit of money, have a little bit of time, enjoy activities they like to do, and buy the things they want. But you know what? There’s still this secret sense, even among successful people, that asks: “Oh really? Is this all there is to life?” It’s not really life’s failures that ultimately disappoint us. Rather, it’s life’s successes that let us down, because we expected too much from them. This so-called “good life” that everyone wants to go to –  it’s not good enough. There’s always this “hunger for more.” The reason you have this hunger,  the reason you feel this way, is because you were made for far more than looking good, feeling good, and having the goods.
This brings us to level 3 – the significance level. This is the level you were designed for. At this level you experience meaning and fulfillment at the deepest level of your soul.
So… what were you designed for? What is your purpose in life? We read it in a text like Ephesians 1:11-14, which says (in The Message): It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
Here’s the good news. No matter what you have gone through in life or what you are facing right now, the purpose of your life is greater than those problems. If you are a J-follower you are now in Him. God’s plans and purposes are that you might live for the praise of His glory. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes: “This is the ultimate aim of humanity – to live for the praise of God, to let all we are and all we do be doxology, a giving of glory to God.” (Ben Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. 237)
If life has no purpose then life is, ultimately, meaningless. Consider my snowblower, whose name is S.B.
My snowblower was made for snow, and snow was made for her. The winter of 2011-2012 was snowless in Southeast Michigan. While many rejoiced, S.B. went into a funk of hopeless despair. One day I looked outside, saw her sitting on our sidewalk looking to the skies, and praying for snow. This letter was attached to her.
Dear John:
Remember me? I am your snowblower. I haven’t seen you since last March.
I miss you.
We used to spend so much time together. What’s happened, John? Have I angered you? Have you found someone else?
I am lonely.
What’s going on? I thought this was Michigan! So where’s all the snow? What’s the deal with all this sun? And “rain,” which is simply unfulfilled snow?
I feel angry.
Without snow I am nothing. Without snow my existence has no purpose.
I’ve started to read Richard Dawkins.
John, I’ve become the laughing stock of the garage. Yesterday the lawn mowers were mocking me. I have become Job, and acquired his “comforters.”
I am a character in Beckett’s “Waiting For a Snow.”
I’m losing my faith. I question whether “snow” even exists.
I would end it all, if not for these comforting words of Sartre: “The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusions … and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him.”
Substitute ‘snowblower’ for ‘man’ and I think you’ll get the point.
I’ve left the garage with its many nihilistic voices and am sitting on the very sidewalk that I’ve cleaned so many times before.
If you get this note come and start me. We can pretend as if these were the good old days.
Please don’t put me back in the garage, or worse yet, in the summer shed.
Your servant,
Now purposeless, S.B lost hope. Finding purpose is the solution to anomie. I began to meet with S.B. and counsel her.
I used all my counseling skills with her, but she wasn’t helped. I found a support group for her, but that failed, too.
The only solution, obviously, was… snow. After the snowless winter I placed S.B. in the shed for the summer. In October I pulled her out. She was not optimistic. And then it came. Last week. THE RETURN OF PURPOSE. Raison d-etre. Meaning. The look on her face says it all.
You have a purpose. It’s not about you. It’s not about “personal happiness” or stuff or accomplishments. It’s all about God and His glorification.
I’m so thankful that I realized this 42 years ago, that life finds its meaning and value in giving oneself away, to the glory and praise of God. Things became so different for me as I discovered the reality of God in its depth and beauty and majesty.
2013 can be another year, if God so wills, of living differently