Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reaction to the News

"Death of a Dictator" "Hussein Hanged" "Death at Dawn for Saddam Hussein"

These are the headlines now flooding websites, television and tomorrow's newspapers. It is a day that has been long waited for by millions with many wondering if it would ever happen.

I am conflicted. I have been hearing about the impending execution for the last few days and then began hearing that the execution would occur within days or even hours. I told God I did not know how to pray for this. Now that the execution is completed, my one prayer is for safety and prevention of the possible backlash.

Here is my conflict. On one hand, I still remember the Sunday morning that I was getting ready for church and seeing on the news that they had caught him. After his disturbing trial, I was thrilled when Hussein was declared guilty and his death and end of his ugly reign would be soon. What he did or allowed to be done was nothing less than evil and sickening. He deserved nothing less than execution and honestly deserved a lot more.

But then there is the other hand. As much as I agree with his execution, I am trying to figure out my response as a Christian. Should I, and other believers, respond with happiness that a man went to his death without knowing the true God? Should I be happy that he is gone, knowing that he will spend an eternity in hell? Some would say yes because he tortured so many people and thus should be tortured in hell. I don't think that is right though, because the agony of hell and an eternal separation from God is beyond our understanding and I do not believe that should be wished on someone regardless of who they are. So, would I be content with the execution had Saddam become a Christian in his last days? I don't know. I do know though that I do not deserve eternity with God any more than he does. Our difference is that my sins have been forgiven because I have chosen to believe in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. My life as a Christian is to be about making God known and I should not be content with anyone not knowing Him because God is not.

But, then again God allowed others to die so that more may live and the Bible is clear about the correctness of punishment, including death sentences,. This is what leads me to be satisfied with the execution of a dictator who caused terror and distruction for decades. I'm still not content with the death of a person who never chose to have a relationship with God though and I think that is okay, regardless of who the person is.

My husband says one of his favorite things about me is my compassion. It is what he (an I) believes makes me a good counselor. Maybe that is why I have a sadness for Saddam Hussein. Do not misunderstand me. He made his own horrible choices and I do not "feel sorry" for him or think that he was given a bad deal. I guess I wonder about what could have been and if he had to end up this way.

He was raised in poverty by a suicidal, widowed mother and an abusive stepfather who started him on a life of crime at an early age. His first real acceptance as a young man unfortunately came by a violent group who drew him into a further evil life. As I heard about his history the first thought that came in my mind was "he could be one of my clients". What if his stepfather had been a loving man who instead of ordering him to steal, taught him what it was to be a man of character. Or instead of meeting up with a violent and evil group, he had met up with a group of missionaries. Again, I am not justifying his actions...just wondering if it could have been different.

So there is the conflict. I remember struggling with this and praying through it when Timothy McVeigh was executed. The Oklahoma City bombing is one of the first life changing news events that happened in my life and I remember that pain as a young person dealing with that evil. I still don't have a good answer for that time and I don't for this one. After writing it out, I think I might be even further from a good answer.

But, I am beginning to figure out what my external reaction should be. I need to do what I can to be that person who makes a difference. Timothy McVeigh and Saddam Hussein did not respond to positive people in their life and the results of their choices are obvious. But, every person I encounter may be that person who is at a crossroad in their life. What will I do to determine which path they take?

Maybe that is what mental conflicts are about. There are some answers that may not be clear but the conflicts cause thoughts to follow about my actions and my part in this world.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thoughts on the New Year

I will not be around a computer on New Year's Eve or Day so I'll do a New Year's post early.

I was thinking earlier about my reaction to the new year this year as opposed to last year. At the end of last year, I was just emotionally tired to sum it up. I was looking forward to the new year with anticipation for an emotional break after a trying semester. I was finally able to leave a job that had worn on me for 6 months, there were some scary health problems with family, school had been rough, I had a packed schedule and little time with my husband and I had just become a counselor for the first time and realized how terrible this world can be.

This year is different. I am looking forward to the year to come instead of being grateful that the year is over. I wondered why it is so different though. This year has been emotionally trying too, or at least had the potential to be. So why have I been different in 2006 from 2005?

I think it is because of what God has shown me in the last year. I am not sure how He taught me but I know it is not things I could have come up on my own.

Jordan's Lessons from 2006
  1. God is faithful and His faithfulness does not need to be according to my time table to work. There have been plenty of examples that, now looking back, make me smile. My job, my internship and hour requirement, my husband's job(s) now and future...all were things I had to (or have to) wait on but God was faithful in all. I still don't sit by easily but at least now I know that I should.
  2. Joy is different than happiness- Happiness is circumstantial whereas joy is in all times and circumstances and is of God. See the post from Dec. 28 and that explains it a little more.
  3. Acting positive can eventually lead into actually being positive. In the spring I heard a speaker talking to youth workers in the church. He reminded us that our attitudes teach the youth more than our lessons do. So, on Sunday mornings I began making an effort to respond to "how are you doing?" with "great, (reason inserted)" rather than "tired" or "hard week." Additionally, I found myself being around a few people who had pretty negative dispositions and complained a lot. Around some of them, I tried to be positive just to spite them and others I wanted to be an example of not complaining. It also made me aware of how much I did complain. Through consciously making these changes, I realized that my attitude was changing when I was not trying. I now try and look toward the brighter side first, which is a good change. I think Christians of all people should represent the joy of the Lord. If not, what makes us different than anyone else in appearance.
  4. God cares for His children and I think likes to bless us as a parent does His child. There were a lot of times this year where "out of the blue" a surprise happened and the only response could be to thank God. Extra scholarships, special friends, schedule and responsibility changes, husband's promotion, randomly paid for dinner...they were all things we needed but didn't know it and they just made me smile. I think God likes to make us smile. I wonder if He waits excitedly for us to "open the box" and see the surprise. That is the epitome of a relational God.

I have 2007 to look towards with excitement. No clue what it will bring but I can reread lesson #1 and know that God will take care of us, look at #2 and know that no matter what the year brings that I can still be full of joy, see #3 and know my attitude should reflect that joy and remember #4 and look forward to the smiles shared between God and me.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Getting "Rest"

I am amazed at the change that can be made to my attitude in a very short amount of time. Granted, significant life changes happened in that short time but still...

It was two weeks ago that I was finishing my most time consuming and brain aching semester. Then came the busy preparation for Christmas, dinner guests, work, completing an internship and then traveling for Christmas. I never really felt as though I slowed (or could slow) down since last June. But, here it is December 28 and I feel that I do not have a care in the world and life is going at a leisurely pace. How quickly things change! I am amazed at how I can so quickly from being in what I call "go mode" to well, not. We had a wonderful and (once we stayed in one town for 24 hours) relaxing Christmas with good time with family. And now back home we have nothing to do in the evenings, which is a strange phenomenon. This is not normal life but I am thoroughly enjoying it! I am viewing it as a rest after a long semester and rejuvenation in preparation for my hardest semester to come. I have a sense of peace and joy that is reflected in my attitude, outlook and how I spend my time. I am probably a much nicer person right now and am enjoying getting things done rather than feeling burdened.

Yes my circumstances are different right now but should my circumstances determine my attitude? One of my favorite verses is Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." According to the verse, it is not the circumstances that should bring me rest, rather it is the Lord. This means that I should have the same sense of peace now, as I have time to do what needs to be done and relax, as I will next semester when I am taking 15 hours and trying to graduate. That is not how it normally is for me! But, that is the promise of God who is faithful in all things. Regardless what may come into life, from something as simple as a hard class to something catastrophic, He promises in His Word a rest in Him. Circumstances will change but the Lord is faithful and though life may not be easy from the world's perspective, He can allow for a peace that is unexplainable.

So next semester when you talk to me and I am complaining about the busyness of life...ask me why I am not rested.

Jumping on the BlogWagon

I enjoy reading the blogs of others so I thought I would start one of my own. As if I don't share my thoughts I have a place to post them!