Friday, August 19, 2011

Mission to Joplin 2011

The Joplin, Missouri post-tornado cleanup team has begun to arrive. I hope to send their updates as I get them. When I was in Tuscaloosa, internet service was sketchy and I only managed one update during the week. Keep checking back.

Day 1 - From Les and Mary Carroll

We were talking last night about how this will be life changing for us. We also talked about how much we take for granted and how very blessed we really are. You are someone in our lives who we dearly love. By sharing this experience, we feel in some way that you are here with us.

We arrived in Joplin Wednesday afternoon unsure of what we would encounter with no idea what to expect. Nothing in our experience prepared us for what was to come. As we came over the first hill and saw the devastation in front of us, we were speechless. See the slide show above, but know that these pictures do not capture even a hint of the horrific catastrophy before us.

The tornado of May 23rd at 5:42 pm on a Sunday evening cut a path 13 miles long and, in places, a half mile wide. The damage is extensive. A 12 story hospital was twisted four inches off of it's foundation. Window on almost every floor of that hospital imploded and much of the roof was lifted off. The building is now condemned. The high school was decimated, 18,000 cars were twisted beyond recognition, and the sparse landscape is punctuated by twisted bare trees and miles and miles of rubble. An iron cross of St. Mary's is all that remains of one particular church. Thirty churches were destroyed. Yesterday we stood in a cemetary where huge granite headstones were blown off the foundation.

It all leaves us asking just how fast can the wind really blow?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God Does Not Care About Your Happiness

There, I've said it.

So many people talk about not being happy, and here I am saying that God does not care about your happiness. Really. I look for places in Scripture that signal to me that God's driving interest in our life is to provide the things that fit our definition of what it means to be happy. It's not there. God's attention is on something else in our life.

Ask anyone what it means to be happy. Some describe happiness as the general feeling of euphoria. You are happy, some say, if you feel the rush of endorphins from any source - extreme sports, roller coasters, great parties, competitive card games, a great sale, etc. Others will say that drugs and alcohol will give them the feeling they describe as happy, even if only temporarily.

Psychologists describe happiness as a route of a person' s life. It begins with physiological needs for food water, sleep, and a general level of physical peace in life. Once those are met, more and more happiness is achieved by being safe, feeling loved, having a positive self image, and ultimately becoming all one is capable of becoming.

There is an attitude of entitlement when it comes to happiness as we define it. The message we give is that it is our God-given right to experience the endorphin rush, feel the euphoria frequently, and travel the route of happiness from physical needs to self-actualization.

The problem is, I don't see where God promises that our life focus is to be on that, nor that we are even guaranteed those things in life. Jesus made it clear that being his followers would be costly, not free and easy. He said he came to bring division, not peace, and that we must take up our cross daily and lose ourselves (Matthew 10:34-39). Suffering, not happiness as we define it, seems to be what is promised.

That is not something many, including many church leaders, want to hear. We want God to be a God who gives us what we want, how we want it, and when we want it. The problem is, of course, that when we get to demand what we want of God or when we get to tell God what God should do and how, the roles have been reversed. We then are the gods, and we are dictating to God. It doesn't work that way. God is sovereign and takes orders from no one.

We are not entitled to happiness on our own terms. God doesn't owe us that. In fact, I'll say it again, God does not care about your happiness. However, God does care about your holiness. Making God proud, bringing honor to God by striving to live a blameless life is what God cares about for you and me. The ironic twist is that when we strive to make God proud, when we pursue holiness, we find the very thing we say we're looking for in the first place. We find true and lasting joy. We will find happiness as we see how God favors us.

If you're not happy, my guess is you've tried everything else. Maybe you should try God's way to the best life possible. It comes from pursuing God's interests and ways, by seeking to live to a different standard, and seeking the sacred in daily life.

Pursue being a holy person. If you want real happiness, pursue holiness.