Heart attacks, gold, and Lent…

I once had a supervisor in the Army who had an interesting thing happen to him. When he found out that I worked in the operating rooms, he told me about the fact that he recently had a three-vessel bypass surgery, more commonly called a ‘triple bypass’. He said had the surgery done because his cardiologist noticed, during his annual check up, that his heart’s rhythm was off. In fact, his EKG revealed that he had actually had a heart attack, which he had been largely unaware of.

It turns out, that a few months prior to the surgery, my supervisor thought he had a bout with the flu that laid him up for a while. While the symptoms are gone away, he never really felt like he recovered 100%, because in fact he hadn’t. He had thought that what he was going through was a run of the mill flu, when it turns out his body was recovering from a minor heart attack.

Lent is beginning tomorrow night (I suppose that depends on when you actually read this though). It is a period of time largely associated with giving up chocolate, Netflix, or Facebook (or whatever you’re giving up). My time as a pastor has shown me that Lent has become season where most of us (myself including) have just a vague notion of what we’re really doing. I mean, we know what we’re doing (giving something up) but we can struggle to remember or stay focused on what we’re actually doing (attempting to draw nearer to Christ through self denial and reflection).

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Trust Fall…

Small confession: I have trust issues. I know I’m not the only one, and I’m not really sure why I do, but I know that they’re there. That’s why one of the things I appreciate most from the story about Jesus’ birth is the role of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. He’s put in a really tricky situation where he needs to trust both his fiancee and God in some big ways.

Here’s a quick recap of the story: Continue reading

Turning God, and our Spouse, into the Six-Fingered man…

Inigo_Montoya

“The Princess Bride” is, unquestionably, one of the most memorable movies out there. Almost everyone who sees it enjoys it, and it’s easy to see why. It’s hilarious, charming, and touching. Part of what makes it so memorable is it’s quote-ability. We shout ‘inconceivable’, or chide someone for saying it because “You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

After learning a little backstory, one line in particular got my attention.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

A little before the movie was filmed, Mandy Patinkin, the actor who plays Inigo Montoya, lost his father to cancer. Patinkin was a young man, in his early twenties, struggling to grieve his loss. So when the opportunity came along to portray this character, he jumped at it.

You see, for him, the ‘six-fingered man’ represented cancer. And so, Montoya’s quest to vanquish the six fingered man was really Patinkin’s quest to kill cancer (in reality, his grief). Montoya’s story is much more powerful when you hear some of his lines knowing that. (I’ve posted the two lines that stood out to me the most down below.

Patinkin’s journey reminds me of a valuable principle within marriage and our relationship with God: We often confuse our spouse or God for our enemy.  Continue reading

Growing by giving…

find-a-business-mentor

During my first year in seminary, I had a friend who I would regularly meet with for coffee. They were just beginning college, and needed a proxy big brother. So almost every Wednesday, we would meet and share about each other’s weeks. I would hear about drama from parents or friends and offer some insight. The tables would even turn from time to time, and I would be given some good advice along the way.

Turns out mentoring, even informally, is a really good thing.

Elijah was battling depression, and in the midst of his time in the cave, he was given a solution. Elijah was called to go and find a guy named Elisha (the names sound almost identical), and take him as a protegé. Elijah is going to shape and mold Elisha into the next prominent prophet in Israel.

I’ll be honest; this seems like a bad idea to me. You’re taking a guy who is just coming off of the lowest possible emotional point, and giving him the responsibility of molding Israel’s next great prophet (as a side note, that sounds like an spin off of the talent based shows liked ‘America’s Next Top Model’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’). I would be questioning whether or not Elijah was emotionally stable to handle this kind of responsibility.

It turns out that it was exactly what Elijah needed.  Continue reading

Shouting a whisper…

A few years ago, I went out for a run one evening that, ironically, stopped me dead in my tracks. I was about a mile into the route, rounding a hill, when I began to tear up. My breathing got heavier, and I had to physically stop running before the tears ran down my face. There was no injury. I didn’t sprain my ankle, twist my knee, or anything else. The issue wasn’t physical. It was emotional.

A few months prior to that run, I had one of the roughest months of my life. I had to provide counseling and grief support to around 80 soldiers and cadets, for issues ranging from cutting to sexual assault. All of that happened in the span of 3 weeks. And it was all brought on a one cadet committing suicide.

I ran myself ragged for those three weeks, doing everything I could to help people process their grief, guilt, and issues. And in that time, I never really gave myself the space I needed to process my own feelings of guilt, shame, and grief.

Until they stopped me dead in my tracks one night months later when I was running.

There’s a story in 1 Kings, where Elijah, this incredible man of God, stops dead in his tracks.  Continue reading