Get free email updates as I write new articles:

Life… Just Beyond the Tipping Point

I love old Looney Toons cartoons. Kids these days don’t know what they are missing. My favorite moments were when Wyle E. Coyote would have a big flat rock ready to tip off the cliff when Road Runner tripped the trap. Inevitably, the rock would not tip, Wyle E. would go down to check, and Road Runner would step out on the rock, tipping it on over on the poor Coyote, who was really the victim in every episode, you know!

Sometimes life is like that boulder. It’s at the tipping point and taking on one more thing will throw us off balance and wreck everything. We think the problem is that “one more thing,” but that’s a fallacy. The problem is that we’re at the tipping point already. If one more thing pushes us over the edge, we were really too close to the edge.

So how do you keep your balance in life, when life gets absolutely crazy? Here are a few thoughts…

  1. Get your eternal bearings straight. Remember that what matters beyond the grave ought to matter the most in this life.
  2. Minister to your spirit. Feed your soul. Read your Bible daily, pray, walk, talk with Jesus.
  3. Divert daily. My Doctor told me to curb high blood pressure by taking 30 minutes to do nothing – not even for Bible study – just relaxation. Do I follow her advice? Well…
  4. Withdraw weekly. Take a day. Go somewhere, but not to work. Stay home, but try not to clean it.
  5. Get away annually for a vacation or a retreat, but seminars don’t count.
  6. Say no. Another tough one for me, but sometimes even good causes are better served by people with better balance than you – find the few things God has equipped you for and do them well.
  7. Listen to your wife (or husband, parent, best friend, or even your dog). Others see our imbalance before we do almost every time.
  8. Ask this crucial question, “If I don’t get this done, what will happen?” If you’re compulsory, this question sets your mind in better order.
  9. Do NOT live for the expectations or approval of others – you only have to please God. Love your neighbor, just don’t let him run your life.
  10. Don’t be mean. I had to throw that one in because the Road Runner was always so mean-spirited every time he pushed the rock on top of Wyle E… poor coyote!

By the way, here’s a great resource for “getting things done.”

The Rush of Summer

Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.

In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!

I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!

Going Back to (Vacation Bible) School

I love VBS week! I love to watch kids having fun. I love to see the people of God in action, doing their thing to accomplish ministry to families. More than anything, I love seeing little ones embrace the story of Jesus as their own. It’s awesome! This year’s VBS has been a blessing to my heart for quite a few reasons.

One is that we’ve started out with about twenty more kids involved than last year. Two is our Associate Pastor, Cory McCaig has done an absolutely awesome job of leading it and teaching the kids. Three, our Associate Pastor has led, not me! Angie and I, for a decade, have always spent our wedding anniversaries at Vacation Bible School, but this year, we get to run away for a night and celebrate our tenth (more on this in the next post).

I’ll have to report later on the results, but through two nights, I’m fired up about attending Avalanche Ranch!

Remembering the Fallen

Yesterday was a very special day at Bethel. Though we had a lot of folks out on vacation for the holiday weekend, we who remained celebrated God’s greatness in raising up heroes throughout the centuries. From Hebrews 11, we recounted the lives and deaths of some of God’s greatest servants. Many in the chapter remain unnamed, but their works and martyrdom are mentioned. My favorite line in the passage says, “Of whom the world was not worthy!” Those words reflect my feelings about every man and woman who has served in the face of such great risk in every war America has ever fought.

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my haircut down at the Corner Barber shop. In came a man who must have been in his late 70’s. He sat down and I noticed his cap. He was a World War II veteran and the cap named his fleet from the South Pacific and told the number of survivors from his unit. I sat there, imagining what this man must have seen in his time in combat. What we see dramatized on the big screen and embellished for effect, this man had witnessed with his very eyes. His mind had recorded thoughts I could never imagine. Yet here I was, serving as Pastor of a church where I have the privilege every week of carrying a Bible to the pulpit and freely preaching the gospel without fear of arrest or penalty – because of men like this.

When I rose to leave, I paid for my haircut, and his too. He chuckled and commented about how that wasn’t necessary, so I said, “Well I saw your cap and wanted you to know that I appreciate what you went through for me.” His face changed, he shook my hand firmly, and his emotions suddenly impacted me deeply. I still don’t know the man and may never see him again, but his life has influenced mine. I feel that same sense of gratitude toward every soldier that has ever fought.

Today, on Memorial Day 2007, we’re making barbeque, playing some games, and enjoying the company of friends. But we also ought to pause to thank God for those whom He has raised up to stand for our freedom and our faith. Let this be a memorial day, not only to those who have died in battle, but to those who have died as martyrs for the Christian faith, and to all those who have been living sacrifices for His dear cause!

Life… In All Its Complexity

The blog has been put on hold for a couple of weeks now, primarily because of all that my wife and I have been experiencing in our personal lives. Here’s a recounting of it…

On Monday evening, October 30, Angie left her ladies’ Connection Cafe meeting feeling well, but by the time we drove from the church to our house (just a couple of minutes) she was in terrible pain. We decided to go to the emergency room. Our beloved friends, Cory and Lachelle McCaig, came to sit from about 10:00 pm until 4:30 Tuesday morning while Angie was subjected to numerous tests, which found essentially nothing wrong.

On Tuesday morning, October 31, we went for a follow-up visit at her physician’s office and he became concerned about some possible internal bleeding. He decided to admit her to St. Mary’s hospital where he would perform a laproscopic procedure simply to explore any potential problems. He, like the emergency room physician, sought to rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. One he began the procedure, he discovered the worst scenario, an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which can be deadly.

The short, one-hour procedure turned into a two and one half hour operation with a large incision. I was so moved as I waited in the surgery waiting room as about two dozen members of our church surrounded me, waiting to hear that Angie had come through the surgery okay. We were delighted to hear that she would be just fine. The physician explained that she had sustained heavy internal bleeding and that her risk of possible death had been higher than he had anticipated.

Angie’s Dad brought her Mom down from St. Louis to help take care of her for a few days but her stay was interrupted by yet another family emergency. On Thursday, Angie’s grandmother suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care in Washington, Missouri. The family had hoped that she was improving, but in the middle of Thursday night, a call came alerting us that she had taken a turn for the worse. Angie’s Mom borrowed my car and drove through the night to be at her mother’s side. Ella Briggs (our daughter’s namesake) went home to heaven on Friday, November 3.

Later that afternoon, Angie and I loaded up our van and began the trip to St. Clair to attend the funeral, but wisdom along with some forceful but loving input from our family, prompted us to turn back and stay at home. Angie was recovering a little each day, but it may be a total of six weeks recovery time before she is completely healthy again. We’ve taken a much needed one night sabbatical to a nearby vacation spot and have attempted to settle back into a routine, with Angie returning to work on this past Monday, November 13.

The Sunday before all of this began, my text included Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” That Monday night, Angie testified at Connection Cafe that she had (at least we thought at the time) a miscarriage, but that God was faithfully teaching us to trust Him. It isn’t merely a cliche that “everything happens for a reason.” When you’re a believer, nothing is left to chance anymore. You realize that God has a sovereign plan that allows His children to endure some very difficult crises in life in order that we might enjoy “the fellowship of (Christ’s) sufferings.”

Since we learn how to be disciples through the tough stuff, what have I learned from all of this?

First, I’ve learned the importance of God’s timing. Had Angie not been persisent with her physician in his office, he would have sent her home where she may have bled to death. We’ve heard numerous testimonies from others who experienced the same trauma and were in grave danger. God rescued Angie just in time. On a similar note, I’ve learned the mysterious nature of God’s timing. Why would Angie’s grandmother pass away just after Angie’s surgery when her mother would have to make a midnight dash for Missouri and when Angie could not attend the funeral? All I can conlcude us that God is ultimately wise.

Second, I’ve learned the value of a loving church family, a fellowship of believers. I was surrounded in a waiting room by numerous friends and members of our spiritual family. Once home, people provided meals as well as company with their visits. We’ve experienced an outpouring of love and compassion for which we will be forever grateful. I’ve often heard others say, “I don’t see how people make it through things without a church family.” That statement was exemplified in our tragedy.

Third, I’ve learned what a beautiful and courageous woman I married! I sat in the surgery waiting room virtually helpless. I could do nothing to ensure her safety except to pray. I could do nothing to help her recover except play nurse and fetch water. Yet I watched as Angie handled the situation like a champ. Note that champions have weak moments, moments of curiosity about the activity of God and moments of emotional break-down. Tears rarely come from cowards. I’ve learned a new respect for her. While it was our baby that died so prematurely in a pregancy complication, it was her body that experienced such drastic trauma. I wish I could be half as strong as her!

More than anything, we’ve learned “in all things (to) give thanks unto God, for this is the will of God for (us) in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) At our former church, we used to have a responsive chant: “God is good… all the time… and all the time… God is good.” God really is good. We don’t always get what we expect or want, but God never ceases to be holy or loving. God has been glorified in our lives in so many ways in the last few weeks, all we can do is humbly give Him praise, cry our tears, and go on in faith that God will always be good!