Honoring Mom

renita link 1

Renita Kay Hyde-Garcia

Stubborn and sweet. Giving, yet guarded. Tough, but as fragile as ceramic. She was a fighter. She fought for life. She fought to silence the voice in her head that told her she was insignificant. She fought for her children, always made sure we were taken care of. We never wore a store-bought costume, never turned in a generic school project, never missed a meal—Check my childhood photos for proof. We always had more than enough and then some. She cared about every detail of our lives. Every detail. Every single detail. We called it smothering; she called it love. I’ll miss that.

Her life is a case study in miracles, one after the other. She never should have made it, but ever present was the hand of God. He saved her life on multiple occasions, all the while pursuing her with the tireless love that ultimately saved her soul. She was a praying mother, an example in worship. Far from perfect, but never the same.

She understood what Paul meant when he said we were bought with a price, that we should glorify God with our bodies. How else do you explain how a woman could push songs of praise through cancer-stained lungs, or turn a cancer ward into a mission field? There are so many stories of her using her wig, her scars, or her time in the hospital, not as a crutch to draw pity, but as an opportunity to share a testimony of God’s healing power and his grace to endure. God’s gift of faith in her life gave her the strength to boldly say, “No matter what happens, I win.” She knew that to live this life is Christ, and to die is only gain.

In her later years, my mom started guarding her pennies. Not because she became more budget conscious, but because they served as reminders. What others let fall to the ground without a second thought, she would pick up and hold close as a sign from God.

Matthew 10:29-31 says,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Every copper piece reminded her of her value to God. Every time she climbed into the car and found one on her seat, or walked in a room and met one on her path she thought, “I know, God. You do love me.” Such insignificant currency. Such an important message.

Mom, like a sparrow taken from flight, you fell from this life, but not outside your Father’s care. When you fell you landed in His hand, and He is lifting you up even now, high above pain and confusion, out of cancer’s reach, into His glorious rest. No longer will you have to rely on coins to communicate God’s love. You will feel its warmth firsthand.

As for me, I will take up your hobby, and when I see a penny I will think of God’s great love, but I will also think of you. I will think of your faith, your prayers for me and for Justin, your sacrificial love, and the evidence of grace all throughout your story.

I love you, Mom. You are worth more than many sparrows. You are priceless.

Outgrowing God

let go (Andrew Mitchell)

Presenting God as father creates a few problems in modern conversation. What seems like a blanket of comfort to some, feels more like a wet blanket to others.

Bad Dads

The most obvious issue with the idea of God as father is the negative connotation that the title “father” often carries. For many, father is the sperm donor who disappeared when the pregnancy test results came in. He is the man who was always on his way but never showed up—plenty of promises, no delivery. Perhaps he is the tough guy who likes to talk with his fists. The workaholic who put food on the table but never spent much time there. The sloppy drunk. The disgusting pervert.

With so many broken homes and horrible fathers, presenting God as Dad doesn’t always warm people’s hearts.

King of Never Neverland

More complex, and harder to wade through, is the Overbearing Dad narrative made famous by the late Christopher Hitchens, well-known writer and proponent of atheism.

Nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father that never goes away. – Hitchens

God, then, is like an immortal leach sucking every drop of independence out of humanity, an insecure father who refuses to let his children move out, the eternal king of Never Neverland.

Admittedly, this sounds awful. As a new father, I understand my infant son’s need for his parents; he is hopeless without us. But I also understand that as he grows he will gain independence and no longer rely on his parents for anything. In fact—fingers crossed—one day he may be the one feeding us and changing our diapers as we fade into our twilight years. Complete role reversal.

It’s pathetic, and frankly awkward, when a parent perpetuates adolescence and childish dependence in a teen or adult.

For this reason, Hitchens’ analogy deserves consideration. If God is just an overbearing deity who derives worth from stunting the growth of humans, then yes, let’s move out of his basement immediately.

But the God Hitchens aimed to dismantle is described in the scriptures as the omnipotent Creator of all things, the first and the last, the author of life. The Apostle Paul writes of Jesus, “…he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” In other words, without Jesus everything falls apart.

If this God exists, how does one outgrow a need for Him? The very concept is foolish, like a starving baby refusing a bottle, or a terminal patient declaring independence from life support.

If the eternal God of the Bible truly upholds the cosmos and is the ultimate source of human sustenance, of course he “never goes away.” And of course we remain dependent on Him. There is no other response.

So, have we outgrown God?

Have our enlightened scientific minds finally freed us from the oppressive chains of pesky religion, thereby allowing us to become better people?

I don’t know. Have we sorted out racism in the 21st Century? What about the whole murdering each other thing? Is that still wrong, or is it simply the process of thinning out the herd, a little survival of the fittest to move us along the evolutionary food chain?
We are further from a “God-fearing” society than ever in history. Are we better for it?
Of course, none of this proves the existence of God, but neither does miscalculating the cosmic difference between an earthly and a heavenly father disprove his existence.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Mitchell Photography

Life and Root Canals

Dentist

I had a root canal the other day.

*hangs head in shame*

I’m not proud of it. Honestly, I hesitated to write this post.

Root canals should be kept secret, like an addiction to coffee enemas or collecting belly button lint.

People look at you differently when they find out. One minute you’re a lovely human being, and the next you’re the guy who doesn’t brush his teeth. People assume that you gargle with Mountain Dew and eat candy for every meal, that you seldom brush. I understand.

But that’s not me. I hate Mountain Dew, and while I enjoy candy as much as the next person, I brush and floss daily. I never go to bed with food in my teeth. I like to think I have good oral hygiene. In fact, at my last appointment—the one where they made this orally damning discovery—the dental assistant commented on how well I brush.

Yes I do, thank you very much.

So why the bad tooth? Perhaps because it has been a while since my last professional cleaning. Or perhaps I’m a sleep eater; maybe I wander into the kitchen in the middle of the night and snack out on peanut butter Oreo’s and grape soda.

Who knows? Does it matter? You are still probably judging me right now. So, why am I telling you this? Read More…

Turns out money actually can buy happiness.

hundy

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness wasn’t there the day I opened my Macbook Pro for the first time. They could not have been on my flight to Maui a few years back, and they have most certainly never watched the scene in Jerry Maguire where shirtless Cuba Gooding Jr. emphatically screams “Show me the money!” while dancing around his kitchen like a lunatic.

From what I can tell, cash is accepted wherever happiness is sold. Unfortunately, happiness, like money, is a limited resource. It’s circumstantial.

On any given day, an individual can start out in the best of moods and end in the worst, laughing one minute and crying the next.

Life doesn’t review your checking account balance before deciding to fall apart. It doesn’t consult your accountant or read through your five-year-plan. Trouble drives through the ghetto and the gated community, and when it shows up it doesn’t ask for your checkbook.

Sadly, you can’t buy your way out of a heartbreaking phone call at 2 a.m. You can’t pay for mental health or stability, and while money can definitely start a relationship, it can never sustain one. Just ask a Hollywood divorce lawyer.

Happiness, like the thin sheets of paper we exchange for goods and services, is fragile. And like money, it can disappear without warning. Read More…

How do we change the world?

bandaid

For much of my life, I held the opinion that Christians were wise to keep their noses out of matters of state and culture. After all, Planet Earth, along with its unsavory inhabitants, is headed to hell in a handbag. A literal hell, with flames and tears and gnashing teeth.

Therefore, we should spend our limited time wisely, plucking souls from the gas-soaked Louis Vuitton before the match is lit, moving as many people as possible from lost to found.

What is the point of pushing social and political change in light of the reality of hell, to make the ride a little more comfortable?

How valuable is a vote or a tiny carbon footprint when eternity is crouching around the corner? Christians should be planting churches, not running for office or helping Al Gore combat Global Warming. Right?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating from an Either/Or worldview, either focus on the culture or focus on God’s kingdom. But much of the faith experience—much of life in general—is actually Both/And.

Grace and Truth.

Justice and Mercy.

The Here-And-Now and The Hereafter. 

John Piper says that “Christians tend to be in two camps: Caring only about suffering now or caring only about suffering in eternity.”

Sadly, for years I proudly pitched my tent at Camp Eternity—not that Camp Now is a better alternative.

Ignoring eternity to clean up the present is like dressing someone up for a car wreck.

So, what is the proper approach? Read More…

Good News for the Bad News

bad news

Do you watch the news? If so, question: How do you usually feel afterwards?

Exhilarated? Peaceful? Chock-full of unbridled hope and restored faith in humanity?

Probably not, right?

If you’re like me, you probably just turn off your TV, lock the doors, google “cancer-preventing foods”, and vow to never watch the news again.

If you don’t watch the news, why is that? Probably because, like my wife, you “hate the news. It’s so depressing.” And it is. Sure, there are bright spots, but they are quickly eclipsed by one crisis or another.

Last night, in our student service, Transit, we did a mock newscast before the message, complete with sad stories and sensationalized journalism.

Tommy Tommerson (Tommy Pride) presented the following news:

Three young men were gunned down on the city’s east side. The killer is still at large. Hide your kids.

This season, Michigan is on the list of states with the highest influenza outbreaks. Avoid human beings.

The forecast shows at least two feet of snow over the next 48 hours. Power outages expected.

I then handed out tissues and told the students how hard it was going to be for them to ever find a job in our economy. Not really. I used the stories to contrast the bad news we are so accustomed to with the hope presented in The Gospel. Read More…

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