Tag Archives: humility

The Gift of a Legacy

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Today, I am thankful for legacies.  I am thankful for the gift of an extraordinary, quiet man of God whom I was able to call Pap.  A man, who has left a legacy of what it truly means to be the hands and feet of Jesus…

These hands, once strong and able, with age became weak and unsteady but never less powerful. These feet that once ran in youthful excitement over time became homebound, but never lost their impact.

pappic2We are called to be like Jesus and in reading this last week I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather, Pap who died 5 years ago today…

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.” (Isaiah 42:1-2; Matthew 12:17-19)

Jesus wasn’t like some of these people we see today, going all-out, being loud and obnoxious, in the name of the Lord. He really didn’t draw attention to Himself. In fact, He blended into His world so well that in the Garden of Gethsemane, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Him with a kiss, His enemies would never have recognized Him. Here was a Man who had healed, and fed, and taught thousands, yet He remained unidentifiable because He moved in such humility and grace.

To move in humility and grace, Jesus legacy to us, Pap’s way of life…quietly, unassumingly, being the hands and feet…feeding, clothing, teaching, loving, giving, caring for others.

Edwin Eugene Charles, known to all as Pap.  As many times as he has stood on death’s doorstep and came back to us gives testament to his fighting spirit and determination as well as God’s plan to show His Glory and Greatness through miracle after miracle.  Today marks 5 years since this man, who lived his last days in such pain, was freed from that bondage and now celebrates in Heaven.

Born in the early 30s into a coal-mining family in a small town in Pa., he grew up with very little but in doing so came to understand early the important things in life.  Faith, family, and laughter.  These are the pillars upon which his life was built.

My challenge today is how do you, in the shortness of a few paragraphs, even begin to capture the entirety of who Pap was to so many different people.  The difference he made in living the way he did.  Our memories of him are an integral part of who we are and there is no way to properly pay honor to such a great man.

Pap was the Go-To-Guy.  Not just ours but everyone’s.  Did you need someone to listen and give advice?  He was there, a great listener and his advice wasn’t off the cuff.  It was thoughtful and contemplative and filled with love and your best interests in mind.

Did you need a little money to get you through til pay day? Or maybe you needed a lot.  Pap gave it graciously without any strings attached.  It wasn’t just money though.  If he had it and you needed it it was yours. It didn’t matter what it was, the shirt off of his back if that would have helped.  He was the hardest worker that I have ever encountered, sometimes working three jobs in order to provide the things for his family that he never had.

He loved his garden and his tomatoes especially. He babied his plants and watched them vigilantly waiting and watching for the first one to ripen.  Nothing tasted as good to him as the first homegrown tomato of summer, salted and savored.  He shared his garden’s bounty with anyone who would take it.  He even boxed it and shipped it across the country to family.

pappic4He attended every sporting event, recital, program there was from his children to his grandchildren, taking pride in the accomplishments of each and every one of us.  Sports were one of his great passions, baseball, football, wrestling.  He was a student of the game.  He studied plays and players, from the peewee level through the pros and took great pride when any Pennsylvania team beat any Ohio team.  He was sure to remind you of the victory if you weren’t together at game time.  The phone would ring after a game and you knew who was on the other end.  Pap, just wondering if you had watched the game, innocently asking if you knew the end score.

Pap was often the first call when you had good news to share.  He enjoyed a good story, but, even more so, a good laugh.  He loved to joke and to tease.  His laughter was infectious and it came from deep within him.  It was a large part of who he was.

pappic5Pap’s giving and generous spirit were evident year round but during the holiday season he would shine the brightest.  He provided magical Christmases for many, many people.  The memories that we carry in our hearts of Christmas Eve’s spent with him over the years are our most cherished.  He embodied what the season is supposed to be about.  Not Santa, not presents, not stuff, but remembering God’s gift of Christ to us and glorifying Him for all that that gift meant.
pappic6In his last days we had to bring the outside world into him.  He lived through the stories that we brought him.  Stories of the great hunt, or a great game.  The visitors were a constant stream in and out, a testament to the lives that he touched. Thank you to all who stopped in to share a story or just say hello.  You helped him continue to be connected and pass the days of being homebound.

Someone once said that he was an uncommon example of kindness and generosity.  What made him uncommon?  It was his faith.  The Lord was his guidepost, his rock. His faith quiet, understated, but evident in every day that he lived.  And today he suffers no more.  He doesn’t cease to be but lives on in heaven.  Because of his faith he has gone home to be with his Lord and Savior.

The legacy that Pap was in life, and now leaves us with in death, will be a summons to all to live in a way in which God’s love through us can touch the people whose paths we cross for the rest of our lives.  That we may be one fraction of the man that he was.  To live in kindness, humbleness, and generosity.  Always putting others before ourselves and living our lives in faith, surrounded by family, and with a good dose of laughter.

pappic3This…this is what it’s all about.  This is what it looks like to be the hands and feet and tonight I am so thankful for this man, for my memories, and for his legacy that I hope to pass on to another generation.

No Cuts!

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No cuts! In other words, get to the back of the line. Take a quick trip back to your elementary school days with me. Remember the very coveted job of being line leader? Your spot at the front of the line was guaranteed. If you weren’t line leader you scrambled and jostled with all of the other kids to get as close to the front of the line as you could. If you didn’t get there in time and found yourself at the end of the line you could always hope that one of your friends would let you “cut” in line to which would usually bring a chorus of “hey, no cuts,” from the back of the line. Why? No one likes to be last. This is something that has been engrained in us from the time we were young.

In competition there are winners and losers, no one like to fall into the second category. Last summer I ran a 10k that nearly undid me. It wasn’t the first 10k that I ever ran so I knew what to expect. As the race started I paced myself, knowing what I wanted my finish time to be. I can’t tell you what my actual finish time was but what I can tell you is I finished dead last. Not like I came in with a group of stragglers but more like, hey I cleared the course for you. I started last, finished last, might as well have been running the race by myself. And so I was able to let the officials know that they didn’t need to check the course after I crossed the line, I hadn’t left anyone in my hobbling wake. Let me also say that admitting this, here publicly, still stings because this wasn’t a “respectable” loss in my estimation, this was dead last. I have a fierce competitive streak and I don’t generally play if I can’t win, or at least finish respectably. I contemplated hanging up the racing shoes after I finished this race. Why? It’s not hard to figure out, taken down to the most simplistic level, pride. And mine was hurt I was ashamed and my ego was bruised. But in this loss I have begun to learn a deeper lesson. One that has come back to the forefront of my mind during my journey to the cross this season.

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. ” (Mark 10:26-31 NLT)

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NLT)

Almighty God, who knows all and sees all: We confess our constant striving for righteousness, acceptance, and approval from sources that leave us empty. We ask your forgiveness, and we renew our hope in Christ alone, who offered Himself to appease your wrath and forgive our sins. We find all comfort in His wounds, and we have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God, than this one and only sacrifice which renders believers perfect forever.
[ADAPTED FROM THE BELGIC CONFESSION, ART. 21]

The last will be first…the call to humility. Easy in theory, harder in reality. No one likes to lose, our human-side strives for acceptance, for recognition, to be placed “at the front of the line.” Maybe this is just me…

Roy Hession offers these penetrating words: “First of all, our proud self must be broken. Our own self must give up its rights. Our self is hard. It does not want to obey God. It likes to show that it is right. It wants to go its own way. It wants to claim all its rights. It always seeks glory for itself. The self must bow to God’s will. It must confess that it is wrong. It must give up its own way. It must obey the Lord Jesus. It must give up all its glory. Only in this way can the Lord Jesus have all and be all in our lives. We must die to self.”

That nailed me to my own cross. I can’t offer any wise words of my own so I will again refer to the writings of Kendal Haug and Will Walker as they have encouraged me in this struggle against pride and self.

Pride is the great enemy of humility. Bob Thune observes: “The brashest expressions of pride are easy to spot: the athlete who boasts about her talent, the arrogant entrepreneur who flaunts his achievements, or the well-connected neighbor who name-drops in every conversation. Most of us are smart enough to avoid appearing prideful in these obvious ways. But that’s just the problem. We can avoid looking prideful without actually killing our pride.”

To put pride to death, we must “trace this serpent in all its turnings and windings,” as the great Puritan John Owen wrote. We must get a fuller picture of what pride is and how it looks, and the Bible helps us with this.

On the one hand, the Bible tells us that pride often manifests itself as arrogance: the Apostle John refers to this as “the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). But on the other hand, the Bible affirms that pride can manifest itself as subtle self-centeredness, looking out for your own personal interests (Philippians 2:4).

In other words: the essence of pride is self-concern. Preoccupation with self. It may manifest itself as arrogance and boasting or as self-protection and fear of people—but it’s pride either way. If we want to cultivate humility, we must put pride to death. How? By looking to Jesus as both our model and our mediator.

One cannot be like Jesus without humility, but if we merely try harder to be like him, we will miss the gospel. The heart of the good news is that we can be more like Jesus only if, and because, we are united with him.

We are united with Christ by grace through faith in his life, death, and resurrection. Because we have rebelled against God, we deserve to be crushed by his divine wrath. Even in our willful rebellion, we ourselves cannot bear the full wrath of God, hence our need for a mediator, someone to stand in our place and plead our case before God. Jesus “humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)—taking our shame and guilt upon himself, and enduring the wrath of God against sin, so that those who humbly come to him can be forgiven and reconciled to God. This is the Good News of Easter!

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remains

More and more I need you now
I owe you more each passing hour
The battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago

So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide

Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin-soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
(Worlds Apart, Jars of Clay)

More than a cliche (Troubled Waters, Part C)

20130805-093401.jpgWhen I started on the first Troubled Waters post on Saturday I had no idea it was going to lead to two additional posts. It wasn’t until the first one was finished and I re-read it that I thought, yes, God comes to us in our troubled times, all we have to do is cry out to him but that isn’t quite the whole story. Peter’s prayer, “Lord, save me!” was prayed as Peter was seeking Jesus in the midst of the storm. Peter took the first step, Peter was following Jesus’ command, Peter got out of the boat! Which led to Part B yesterday. I woke up this morning and was going to just post a “Still Moment” but found my spirit troubled by some of the lofty words of yesterday’s post. We have all heard the saying “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.” Oh, ok thanks. That clears it all up. What does that even mean? Christians can be great at going around and spouting off clichés. Be anxious for nothing, pray for everything. (Biblical yes, but is it backed up by any “meat” in their own life or is it just off the cuff advice to combat your deep-seeded anxiety? Take two of these and call me in the morning type advice. And oh, by the way did they offer to come alongside and pray with you over it?) So as I re-ready yesterday’s post, I felt it a little cliché to say, “So I will go, out into the crashing waves, out into the deep to meet Jesus. If that means trying and failing, at least I have failed while trying.” Very well put but what the heck does it even mean? I am calling myself on this one because I hunger for more, for the nuts and bolts of faith.

I don’t have this all figured out and I will never claim to. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We try to understand Him in the only capacity we know how, which in turn puts Him into a human-size box and He is so much more. Infinitely more.

Here is what I should have said…

Father, I love you. I want to seek you and I want to obey your commands. I know that I don’t always do a good job. Sometimes I see something shiny and I get distracted for awhile, but You, in your mercy and grace, always bring me back around to what You have planned for me. You bring me back into your will. Please forgive me for the times when I have failed, when I have been distracted, when I have chosen my own path. Lord, you see my heart and my secret thoughts, and you know that sometimes the things that you ask of me are daunting. They are big, and they are primed for failure and disappointment and I am driven out of my comfort zone. Please remind me on those days that was what you were trying to teach Peter. That is what walking on water really is. It is conquering whatever is impossible, whatever is terrifying, through You. It is where you are waiting to display your power through me, and where you are waiting to show your love to me. Please help me to become more like you. I want so much more than to live in clichés. Lord, save me!

Today, I challenge you to do the same. Get back to the nuts and bolts. Strip your faith back down to the basics where it is just you and Jesus, alone on the water. What would you say to Him? And more importantly, listen for what He is saying to you. Where is He leading you? What “water” is He asking you to brave? I know sometimes its hard to hear Him through everything else clamoring around you. It’s why I started running. It’s why I started writing. Please, just be still…