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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Importance of Real Gratitude

Several months ago, I saw a story about an 11-year-old boy who was caught in a crevasse in California. He had been playing on the beach with his friends, running and climbing on the coastal rocks, when he slipped and fell into a crack in one of the large rocks he was playing on. The harder he struggled, the deeper he slid down until he was wedged so tight that no one could pull him out. It had gotten so bad, that with every breath he took, he inched lower and tighter. He was literally dying from lack of oxygen when the rescuers got there. The rock was smothering him.

At first, his helpers did not seem to understand the situation, but soon realized that his breathing was so shallow, he was in and out of conciousness. Their efforts quickly became more animated when they realized the life and death struggle they were in. They worked for over an hour trying to pull him out, to no avail. Then, a firefighter had the idea to pour motor oil all over him, to try to lubricate the rock enough to allow them to pull him free. It worked.

What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life. When the men pulled him up to the top, he kept reaching out and saying "Thank You, Thank You" over and over again. I have never seen gratitude like that in a person's eyes before. I was looking into the eyes of a soul who was on the brink of death, who was dying right in front of us, when suddenly he was pulled free to live, to breathe freely.

And right there, it hit me. That boy is all of us. That is exactly where where we are as unbelievers. I remember that suffocating feeling of being trapped. My hatred of others, my desire to break all the rules led me to the edge, and I fell in. We are all trapped by what we think is on that rock of temptation - esteem, all that money can buy, the self-worth that the taboo promises- only to find out afterward that we are slowly dying, we have failed to stay away from the edge. We slide down into the crevasse. We become more and more uncomfortable until we are barely alive. Death is near . . .

No one truly knows what gratitude is like the person who has been snatched from the grip of Death. Those of us who have been saved from Hell should always have that sense gratitude. The deeper you are, the more thankful you become when you think about what you have been saved from. I want to say "Thank You, Thank You" to my Savior. I am saved! Those of us who believe: We are saved!! We can breathe again. Thank You Jesus!

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2008

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Importance of Proper Questioning

Asking God "Why?" may be one of the most pointless and asinine things we can do in this lifetime. If we cannot, with our own God-given logic and intelligence, find the answer in a proper amount of time, then the "Why" may not be at all what God wants us to obtain from the present circumstance. "Why?" focuses on what has already happened, not on what the next step should be.

And while He is perfectly able to answer us as to why something has happened, the chances of us understanding the answer are so incredibly small anyway that it is really just pointless to even start the whole exhausting process by asking the question in the first place. Asking God "Why?" is like a crowd of would-be art lovers who, in their enthusiastic love of the abstract, marvel and celebrate the latest masterpiece, only to find out later it was just the easel.

Our understanding is not His understanding. Our view of the picture is not at all His view of the picture. In fact, most of the time we are focusing on the Easel of Circumstance instead of looking for what it holds - The Masterpiece of Grace.

The most essential question we ask of God should be "What?". The Who, Where, and When come later. "What" grabs hold of the point. It defines for us the Message. It allows us to be part of God's work of art.

I also strongly believe that this question of "What?" should always be followed by an offer of personal involvement. "What do you want me to do?" "What can I learn from this opportunity?" "What can I do to react in a more Christ-like manner?" By asking this question we are showing God that we are following two of the most important principles of spiritual progress. When God answers (and believe me He will!) we must have the Ability to Listen and the Willingness to Lead.

Scripture is full of these types of interactions. A good example is found in the story of I Samuel 3:1-10. God called Samuel's name three times in the dusk of the afternoon, while he and his mentor priest Eli napped. Twice Samuel ran to Eli to see why he had called. The third time, Eli realized that God was speaking to Samuel and advised him to ask a "what" type of question of God. "Speak Lord, for thy servant listens". I am listening God. What do you want me to do? God wanted him to Lead, and the rest is history.

I believe that, by asking the proper questions, we obtain the best answers. Yes, in our deductive process we sometimes need to find out why something has happened. God gives us that intelligence and reasoning capability. However, "why" something has happened can only be profitable in guiding us to "what" our next steps should be, and is often not a necessary part of the process. In fact, "Why?" is more often than not a tool used by our Enemy to stall us, to humiliate us, to yank our focus from what God is trying to mold us into to a place where all we can see is the tragedy or uncomfortable circumstance that has just happened. Yes, I know that in our humanity asking "Why?" is sometimes inevitable, but when we cannot find an answer to "Why", we must move on to "What" God wants for us. "What?" is the question that allows us to Listen and Lead for the Kingdom.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2008