Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Although all things work together

Still no trips to the dog pound, and Wilson is growing on us- like a rash- but growing nonetheless. Ginny has been enjoying her new ride, and has been employing the heater, even though the warm weather has rendered it completely unnecessary. I guess deprivation has had its effect. I have my first test tomorrow since re-joining the law school ranks. However, my current approach, as with everything else in my life, has been changed. I just can’t bring myself to pretend like a test is a big deal. However, just to allay the fears of my teacher-of-a-mother, I am prepared. Just aware of perspective.

I recently was reminded of a favorite piece of needless information. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, which reads, “Jesus wept.” Let me set the scene. Jesus has received word that his friend, Lazarus is sick. He assures everyone that death will not come of it and goes on about his business. By the time he arrives, Lazarus is dead. His sisters openly bemoan the fact that Jesus did not make it in time to help. However, Jesus steps in and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Through Eliot, I have increasingly become aware of a powerful temptation. It seems we Christian-types want to jump to the end. That is, when something is difficult, I often will throw around verses detailing how “all things work together for good” and how the Lord is sovereign- all of this in some attempt to make things, somehow better or at least bearable.

Now, this is often because I, like others, do not typically know what to say to people who are dealing with things that rip their heart out. Gut-wrenching things. Difficult situations that I cannot explain. Times that I know make them question why God, if He is all-powerful, is allowing these things to happen.

I feel somehow afraid to acknowledge that- well, for lack of better words- that it sucks. That what they’re going through is really hard and I cannot imagine their pain. For some reason, that acknowledgement seems almost like giving up on God. Kind of like I am letting down the entire faith if I don’t point out that through God it will all be fine.

Despite my own fears, I have found my favorite reactions to all that has gone on, from my best friends. Upon finding out that our firstborn son was sick with a disease, for which there was no cure- one by one, they came up to me or called me and basically said…I am so sorry. I do not know what to say. This is hard and I hate it.

To our friends who so reacted, I say thank you. I know many of them must have felt the same pressures I do when faced with a difficult situation in the life of another. But they saw the fallacy of that temptation; they journeyed to the depths with us instead of telling us that life would return to the high ground.

You see, Jesus wept. If anyone was in the position to know that everything was going to be all right, it was him. He was going to save the day. Resurrect the dead. It was all going to be better. But Jesus wept. I think He wept for his friends who had been through the death of their brother. He wept over death, over heartache.

Awareness that all will eventually be set right does not require acting that such is now.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

In the update department, Ginny & I celebrated Valentine’s Day this prior weekend by meeting up with some great friends. I surprised her with dinner in Branson, Missouri at a restaurant where the four of us had all shared a date early in both of our dating relationships, some 7.5 years ago. It was great fun.

I must admit that Valentine’s Day does not receive the attention that I give birthdays or anniversaries. However, I love giving Ginny surprises- maybe too much. If one were to catch my wife in an honest moment, she might say that I very well may get more enjoyment out of the surprise than she. But you would never catch her in such moment; she loves me too much, and allows me to enjoy my hobby of surprising her.

So, with the knowledge of my Valentine views coupled with her increasing keenness to sniff out my schemes, I decided this Valentine’s would be perfect. I plotted, conspired, and lied my way to surprise her. I got her a car.

***Now, before you nominate me for spouse-of-the-year or begin to compare my gift with the Walgreen’s teddy bear you got for your loved one- just know, that the car I let her drive up to this point did not have heat….so, please, put down the ballot for Husband-of-the-year***

It was beautiful. Totally unexpected. Overboard. All that I could have hoped for. A true surprise.

If the first step is admitting you have a problem- I have a problem. For Christmas, I surprised her with a puppy. His name is Wilson. He’s cute. The verdict is still out on this one. This week, Ginny decided maybe she did like him.

All this because I have realized a few things through my habit. One, I’ll try a million more times if just for one success to get the reaction I got Saturday. I love to take her breath away. I’m more addicted than ever.

There are those experiences in life where you just kind of know that something greater is going on. Everyday experiences that resonate of something beyond this world. I think a true, breathtaking surprise is just that.

My affection for surprise has only been ratcheted up through Eliot. My suspicions tell me that the Lord may be a fan of surprise Himself. In what every parent or potential parent envisions as their nightmare, we found joy- Breathtaking, surprising…joy.

When we found out about Eliot’s diagnosis, we knew the days ahead would be difficult. But we only dared to hope for what we got- a beautiful little boy whom we got to know, hold, and enjoy.

I await the Lord to surprise me again with Himself. Truly, He is always surprising me. Being found where least sought. The Word is full of God’s surprises.

John 1:46 records Nathaniel’s reaction upon learning that the long-awaited Messiah has come- “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

There He goes again. Refusing to follow expectation and surprising with his presence. May you be surprised this week.

Matt & Ginny Mooney

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Some friends have asked for pictures, we're happy to oblige.

The Truth Hurts (Part II)

Returning to the subject of honesty-

Honesty is liberating, isn’t it? Anyone who has labored to keep up a lie once it was rolling will agree. No pretending, no remembering to answer correctly- just honestly dealing with the world as it comes.

I find the converse true as well. Dishonesty is confining. Wearing a mask and pretending chokes out life. Waving the “I’m fine” flag at this point in my life, although, seemingly the path of least resistance, will serve to enslave me over time. I would fear being found out, would constantly work to keep the act going, and would long for someone to listen to the real cry of my heart- I hurt.

I have sought to discover why this is the case. Why does the very thing that puts me in bondage seem so alluring? Why is freedom so foreign? I do not pretend to have answers, but the following is all I’ve come to.

It is my belief that I was born into sin. A captured slave unable to find release. But not really seeking release since slavehood was all I had ever known. This life came naturally enough, and I became schooled in this lifestyle.

Then I met a man who freed me. I was now free to be, well, free. I still return to my old lifestyle now and again, but the choice is mine. A new way of life has been opened to me.

This, I think, is why we believers sometime set up ways of life under the guise of Christianity that are not Christianity at all. The prosperity gospel calls out to me from the TV or pulpit or bestseller- to do in order that God will do. This sounds so good to me. But it is a lie. It is dishonest. It is trading one set of handcuffs for another. The lie puts me in bondage. If I pray harder, fast longer, tithe bigger- then God will bless me. Bondage is natural. We are born into it. Freedom is counter everything I know. It doesn’t seem right.

But that is Christ’s offer- freedom. A life of freedom sounds good, but it is a foreign dance, not easily picked up.

Instead of freedom…I typically desire control. So, when questioned, I’ll answer that I am fine, believing I have tailored your opinion of me. I will read the Bible more and pray more hoping to tailor my blessing.

So, as of late, I have battled myself to be honest with others. Attempting to believe that this is precisely as Christ would have it. Refusing to trade one prison for another.

Galatians recognizes this freedom and the temptation to build myself another prison.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”