Monday, April 20, 2015

Memorial Signs

On a recent road trip, Derek and I passed through the junction of state highways 46 and 41, which is east of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.  This particular junction is just like so many others in the state except for one thing: a sign marking the spot as the “James Dean Memorial Junction.”  It turns out to be the very spot where the 24 year old actor lost his life in a car accident on September 30, 1955.  A memorial is something designed to honor the memory of a person or event.  It could be a statue, a monument, or a special day.  They can bring memories of happy or sad events.  In this case, it is a solitary road sign on desolate stretch of highway, commemorating the tragic death of a young man.
Speaking of memorials brings to mind another one in another place and another time. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for what would be the final time in his earthly ministry.  While he was visiting in the home of Simon the leper, an unnamed woman enters and anoints his head with some very expensive perfume.  The disciples of Jesus react indignantly, accusing the woman of being wasteful.  But Jesus, who was always quick to defend those that others abused, praised her for her extravagant gift.  “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have me.  For when she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:10-13).
As our lives intersect with the world around us, how will you and I be remembered?  What will be spoken of in memory of us as people reflect on our words and actions?  We have an opportunity to write our “memorial sign.”  What will it say?

God loves you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boasting In Weakness

“If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Paul’s statement to the believers in Corinth sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  I don’t recall ever hearing of a bragging match over weaknesses.  On the other hand, I’ve heard of (or participated in) far too many of the other type. “I’m smarter, stronger, richer, faster, better looking, taller, thinner, holier, or ________ than you!”  That’s the kind of boasting to which we are accustomed.  It starts on the playground in elementary school and continues on through adulthood.  We come to enjoy the one-upmanship; we enjoy feeling superior to others even if we probably wouldn’t admit it.  Advertisers feed on the discontent that bragging matches cultivate.  “I need those shoes to make me run faster.”  “I need that makeup to make me better looking.”  “I need that house or car to help me keep up with the neighbors.” Boasting matches over our strengths tend to feed our sense of inadequacy and fuel the fires of unholy competition.
How can we learn to boast in our weaknesses? Perhaps it happens best when we, like Paul, have all of our perceived areas of strength stripped away from us.  Saul of Tarsus was proud of his heritage, his learning, and his position in Judaism.  But after encountering the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, the trajectory of Paul the apostle’s life drastically changed.  What he once perceived as strengths had now become liabilities in many ways (Philippians 3:3-11).  Paul learned that his weaknesses allowed the power of God to shine more brightly in his life and that helped him to find contentment with his inadequacies (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So the next time someone points out one of my weaknesses, rather than arguing about it or belittling my critic, I hope that God gives me the grace to agree with him or her.  If it helps to highlight the Lord’s strengths, then I pray that, like Paul, I can be content with my weaknesses rather than boasting of my strengths.

God loves you!