Winning the Lottery

mega-millionsWinning the Lottery

“Anderson Cooper won’t get mom’s millions” the headline stated.  And he’s happy about that.  “I think it’s a curse.  Who has inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life?”  This was his response to the decision of his 90-year-old mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.  She told him there would be no trust fund for him.

Everyone has dreams of winning the lottery I suppose.  In the 1989 film, Back to the Future II, the antagonist makes billions of dollars by using a future copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac which detailed sporting events from 1950-2000.

Perhaps we all wish for a life easier than the one we have.  We wonder how life would be different if we won the lottery!  However history paints a picture a life of wealth different than what we imagine.  While money may promise a life of ease and unlimited opportunity it can‘t guarantee health, longevity or even sustained happiness.  The tabloids are filed with the sordid lives of the rich and famous.  But none of that has kept us from dreaming!

I wondered as I read Anderson Cooper’s story (Anderson Cooper is best known in his reporting for CNN) how my own life might be different if I had made different choices which might have secured a different financial future.  There have been many times when I have remained in a difficult situation or when I might have been able to buy my way to more prosperity if I had more money.   I have learned to be a plumber, electrician, carpenter, and mechanic because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do those things.  I have realized that much of who I am becoming is because of the difficulties in and out of the church I have had to face.  If I could have, I would have paid someone or bought my way into a different place. At times I would have done almost anything to run away from my problems.

 “By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff.” (Hebrews 11:24-26)  Almost all the greatest men and women in history attended the “school of hard knocks”.  The only one ever born who could have chosen a life of comfort, privilege and wealth, chose to be born among the working poor with little opportunity for advanced education or social standing (Jesus Christ!).  So while dreams may continue to abound of winning the lottery, just because “lady luck” doesn’t seem to smile on us it doesn’t mean we have a bad lot.  In fact, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

Forest Fire!

fire flower 3Forest Fire!

Every year raging forest fires ravage thousands of acres in our western states.  There are terrible accounts of harrowing rescues and devastating, widespread destruction.  Heart broken, residents and reporters stand where luscious woodlands, loving homes and busy lives flourished.  Now blackened wastelands, smoking debris, shattered lives and broken dreams seem all that remains.

A few days ago while speaking with one of our preschool teachers we talked about a period of time in her life when, during a time of great loss, she was deeply saddened by grief.  Surprisingly, she smiled as she spoke of how life was even better than before.  We agreed that in many ways her experience was like that of a forest fire.  At first her life was characterized by floods of tears and a broken heart.  During that time it seemed like her life was over and she would never find happiness again.

In a similar way after fire has brought destruction it seems life in the woods is over.  But we know this is not true.  After some time has passed, almost without notice, life begins to return to the forest.  First rains come and begin to wash the ash away.  Then comes the warming rays of the sun bursting through where once the old growth canopy blocked it.  Fed by the sun’s power, enriched by nutrients in those ashes, new life begins where before it had no chance.  Without the competition of weeds, towering trees and hardened paths new life thrives!  In fact biologists tell us these fires are essential to healthy forests.

When loss leaves in its wake empty days, broken hearts and rivers of tears it also leaves opportunity for something new to flourish where before it never had a chance.  Now, several years past the ‘fire’ that ravaged her life that teacher agreed that good things had come to her which, without her loss, would have never had a chance.

We have no choice but to grieve when we lose something or someone special to us.  We do however have a choice of whether we allow that grief to give way to new life and opportunities or whether we live the rest of our days mired in heartache and bitterness. “In His grace there is life; weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Git ‘er Done!

sum2007_hand_toolsGit ‘er Done!

Cleaning stalls, cutting the grass along fence lines, mowing grass, cutting down trees, putting up hay … Growing up working on the farm where my horse was kept to earn his keep was hard work! To this day it is the hardest physical work I have done. There was a lot that just had to be done. Horses were hungry. Hay could not be left out to mildew and become worthless so it had to be put up in the loft. Daily during cold winter days we had to break the ice in the water troughs so the horses could drink. It didn’t matter what the weather was or how you felt these animals looked to us for their needs, and no matter what we had to ‘git ‘er done’!

In doing my job there I had tools to get the job done: a hay hook, sickle, sling blade, bush ax, lawn mower, rake, pitch fork, gloves, sharpening file, etc. I needed to give priority to those tools because without them I could not ‘git ‘er done’.

Today in an age of unemployment, downsizing, and competition for job creation we see people as a means to an end. We use people to get things done.

God has a different way of looking at things. God uses things to get people done. From Abraham to Joseph. From Matthew and Peter to Paul the Apostle, God used family, circumstances, weather, foreign governments and even terrible injustices to shape these men and women into who they needed to be. God used things, all sorts of things, to ‘git’ THEM done.

When times are lean, or competition is great it is easy to equate human value in dollars and cents. It is easy to think of people in terms of productivity. But people are the most precious commodity in the universe. One human being was worth the price of God’s very own Child. May we be mindful of people in our lives and handle them with care and prayer.