Why Did This Happen to Me?

When the injury is acute, there is no mistaking what happened. To the athlete it sounds like a gun shot. The pain can be 10 on the scale. Four years ago today I underwent my third reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I tore my right ACL doing something I love, playing basketball.

Early one morning the previous November I was playing with some friends in a pickup game. Transitioning from offense to defense, my friend on the other team threw a bounce pass. I instinctively pivoted to deflect the pass when I heard the frightening sound and memorable pain. Immediately I fell to the court, knowing in that moment that for the third time I had suffered this injury and for the second time to my right knee.

It wasn’t too long ago that ACL injuries ended the careers of pro athletes. Even today with amazing advances in technology, ACL injuries cut short careers. “Only 63 percent of National Football League athletes who had an ACL reconstruction returned to play another game. Roughly two out of three. And two years after ACL surgery…about 55 percent of NFL players are no longer playing in the league. For the majority, an ACL still is pretty synonymous with the end of a career.”

ACL reconstruction is a young man’s surgery, and as some like to note, I am no longer a young man. The problem is not the surgery, however (the procedure to reconstruct an ACL is routine), the issue is the recovery time. Normally, a patient can expect about one year from surgery to a doctor’s clearance to return to pre-injury activities. High school athletes with fast healing bodies may return to play in as little as six months. I wrestled for weeks about what choice to make. I talked with my wife and our children. I asked those who knew me well their opinions and advice. On a given day, you could have talked me out of the surgery. On a different day, I was determined to go ahead and get it done.

The days following the injury were incredibly emotional for me. I cried…a lot. This injury should not have happened, not anatomically and not from an activity point of view. Anatomically, I was in the best shape of my life in at least 25 years. I knew what muscles protect the ACL from injury and worked hard to make them strong. And as for the activity I was doing, I was playing old-man basketball, hardly moving fast at all. There was no contact with another player. I just went down. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing including wearing a bulky brace I no longer needed to wear when doing athletic things. I was doing everything right, and it still happened. What more could I do? What more could I have done? So, out of deep frustration, I cried…a lot.

Two ACL surgeries is two too many. A third was on the horizon. I didn’t want a third surgery. I didn’t want a year of rehabilitation. I didn’t want a year of limited activity.

I played the “What If” game followed closely by the “If Only” game. “What if I would have been on the other team that morning, this would not have happened.” “If only I’d stayed in bed when the alarm went off at 5:15am, this would not have happened.” “What if my friend had thrown a different kind of pass?” “If only I had let the pass go instead of trying to deflect it.” Those are dumb games to play, and they never provide any answers, comfort, or relief. I was left with my question, “How did this happen when I’d done everything to prevent it?”

Have you ever asked the question I asked, “How could this happen? I was doing everything right.” To be sure we may give ourselves more credit than we deserve for doing everything right, but the question still lingers. Something bad happens. We can’t figure out the cause. We don’t look back and find an action that produced a negative outcome. Still, here we are - broken, emotional, hurting, and maybe questioning God’s goodness or his faithfulness in our time of trouble.

Where were you, God, when I got hurt? I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I was doing all the right things and still this happened.

I am a Christian man who believes in and loves the God of the Bible. About Himself, the God of the Bible tells me of His unending love for me, of His intimate knowledge of me, and of the execution of His purposes for me. With this knowledge I can answer my question, “How did this happen?” This injury happened under the watchful eye of my loving God.

I have no answer for God’s divine purpose four years ago. Simply, I know the injury happened with God’s full knowledge and his full consent. I’m good with that. When you experience life’s pains, I hope you are content with God’s full knowledge, full consent, and full sufficiency.

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At 6:00 this morning I walked on to the same court where I suffered the injury more than four years ago. I played the same old-man basketball, which isn’t very good, but allows me to do something I continue to enjoy. At 5:50 this morning, I prayed, “Lord, keep me safe on the court today.” At 7:00 this morning, I prayed again, “Lord, thank you for your safety while I played this morning.”

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Safe, Legal, and Rare — Answering Abortion Arguments

I’m a man so my comments may already be invalid, but I’m also the son of an 18-year-old young woman, conceived out of wedlock by a Vietnam War veteran who took advantage of her naïveté. My birth father would later take his life in a likely drunken state leaving my 20-year-old mother impoverished and alone. I’m alive because my mom gave me life despite the realities of the circumstances.

18 states mandate that women be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (13 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the woman (8 states) (source: Guttmacher Institute).

I’m old enough to remember when the science was less than clear about what actually was inside a woman’s womb. Back then the leading arguments contained statements questioning the substance, “What is it that’s in there?” or “A fetus is a blob of tissue” or “An embryo is just a bunch of cells not a baby.”

Modern science has clearly revealed the answer we already knew — what is in there is a little human not yet born. As a result, abortion proponents needed to find new arguments.

The pro-abortion arguments dismiss the truth of humanity and focus on the perceived or real status of the mother. While admitting the fetus or embryo is something, proponents argue the greater worth is with the living over the unborn. The argument is not science, philosophy, or even religion. The argument is value.

Bogus math determines if life should continue in the womb and outside the womb.

37 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. 26 states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 11 require that one or both parents be notified (Source: Guttmacher Institute).

The Guttmacher Institute exists to promote abortion rights worldwide. Among the thousands of data points available in their research, they report abortions performed due to rape or incest amount to fourteen thousand abortions per year or just over 1 percent of all abortions.

Many pro-life proponents argue for adoption in cases of rape or incest if the mother thinks raising the child is not possible. Pro-abortion advocates counter that a woman who has been attacked sexually should not have to endure “nine months of hell” to give another human 80 years of life.

Reacting to unplanned pregnancies, some pro-abortion activists declare there are already too many humans on this planet, so abortion serves the greater good of the existing population.

To the abortion backer the life after birth matters except when the life after birth makes life for the rest of us something we neither wanted nor planned. Then the life after birth does not matter, and we must insure those with the power to terminate the little human maintain the power because life after birth doesn’t really matter for the unborn.

They argue hypotheticals when they offer “we can’t predict the future of that little human. The little human might end up in foster care, and we cannot allow that to happen. The cost in dollars to society to house, feed, and educate a child in foster care can be exorbitant.” Again with the math.

Better to kill what we know than to allow life for what we don’t know.

These are many of the current arguments of those demanding abortion. There are no science arguments remaining.

You’ve heard the catch phrase abortion proponents chant. They say abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” This appealing phrase is a ruse.

No abortion is safe. A human being dies in every abortion. This is no longer debatable.

Suggesting legality is a subtle way to sidestep morality. Legal does not equal moral, but legal removes what is moral from the discussion. The only way an abortion proponent can morally justify the killing of an unborn human is to claim legality or a “you do you” and “let others do them” mentality.

Who gets to define rare? The last report from the CDC (2015) confirms 638,169 abortions in the US. Who here thinks 638,169 sounds like a “rare” number?

Finally, all data confirms the rape, incest, life of the mother argument amounts to low, single percentage points of abortions. Yet, abortion proponents will not move one inch on the remaining greater than 90% of abortions. In fact, they cheer or defend actions like the one taken by the politicians in the state of New York that bolster the right to kill an unborn human at any point determined by mother.

They demand the right to kill little humans because they make value judgements that conclude life is better for the already born when we kill the yet to be born.

If the history of abolition is a teacher, the battle for the human rights of the unborn must continue until abortion is abhorred by the masses. History shows the steady movement away from human slave trade from the mid-14th century to the mid-1800s. It took time for the world to see the horror of its ways in the enslavement of other human beings. It may take the world a long time to see the horrors of infanticide, but for those of us who see every child as a gift from God, we must continue to defend and protect the yet to be born little humans.

I suspect my children and yet to be born grandchildren will live in a country where this killing of unborn humans is no longer acceptable. They will be the #prolifegeneration

For further reading from a Christian worldview on pregnancies due to rape or incest click here.

Hot Takes Leave Bad Burns

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand or been on your honeymoon, you’ve likely heard about the boys from Covington Catholic School who visited Washington, D.C. last week where they became the stars of the latest viral video.

Initial videos seemed to portray a young white teen boy wearing a red MAGA hat defying and possibly mocking an older Native American man rhythmically beating a tribal drum. Surrounding the man and the boy were dozens of other boys from the school. Some chanting, others laughing, a few more taking videos and selfies, and the rest otherwise doing what high school boys usually do – mostly immature stuff.

The first video of the scene was about one minute long, give or take a few seconds and drew nearly universal condemnation from anyone with a keyboard or microphone. Hot takes from journalists, politicians, celebrities, bloggers, and activists flooded the Internet. The Catholic Conference of Kentucky fell head long into the quagmire.

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.

But then, as so often happens, light revealed what was in the darkness as more videos of greater length and wider shots showed the boys were not the instigators but were, in fact, approached by the drum-beating protestor for reasons still undetermined.

The hot takes from journalists, politicians, celebrities, bloggers and activists were wrong, dead wrong. Many of them have walked back their original attacks on the boy, his classmates, their parents, Covington Catholic School, the Catholic Church, Donald Trump (well, not really, they aren’t that sorry), and American culture. But the mea culpas are too late. The damage has already been done.

This morning’s edition of USA Today reports Covington Catholic School is closed today. In an official statement from the school principal he directs, “To insure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff…all activities on campus will be cancelled for the entire day and evening. Students, parents, faculty, and staff are not to be on campus for any reason.”

Since the hot takes of the weekend, individual students and the school have been targets of vicious threats including hopes for a mass shooting at the school.

I am still not sure we know the whole story of what happened at the Lincoln Memorial last Friday afternoon. I am sure of this:

Hot takes leave bad burns.

Proverbs told us this long before social media became a thing and long before every person with a smartphone became a network videographer.

Proverbs 18:13 The one who gives an answer before he listens this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

Proverbs 18:17 The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.

Hot takes are not the exclusive domain of journalists, politicians, celebrities, bloggers and activists. Every human being can hot take another person or situation.

  • A team member can hot take his supervisor, and a supervisor can hot take a team member.

  • A parent can hot take a child, and a child can hot take a parent.

  • A wife can hot take her husband and a husband his wife.

  • A pastor can hot take a church member, and a church member can hot take his pastor.

Learn the lesson James articulated, be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” If you don’t, you will leave burn marks.

Sure, you can go back and seek forgiveness, but why act in such a way that repentance and forgiveness are necessary? Why not take the Bible’s wisdom and make it your practice – no hot takes about anything toward anyone.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

A Suggested Plan for Weekly Prayer in 2019

Over the last few weeks, many churches (including ours), distributed plans for yearly Bible reading and encouraged the church to embrace the discipline of reading God’s Word with purpose and regularity.

But the capability for an individual to read God’s Word is a fairly recent modern reality. Literacy of the average person and available copiesof the Bible to the average person is less than 200 years of modern history.

Have you ever considered there are far more biblical directives for God’s people to pray to God than to read our Bibles (for example, see Luke 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 1:5)?

It is not my intent to pit Bible reading against prayer. To do so would be reason to remove me from my pastoral position. We are blessed beyond capacity to express the privilege that is ours to be Bible readers. The Bible we read tells us to pray without ceasing and to pray about everything so that we are anxious about nothing.

While we have 2019 Bible reading plans, do we have a 2019 prayer plan? Here is a suggestion for a prayer plan for your week. I hope you find it helpful as you follow Jesus’s example and instruction to always pray.

Monday – Pray back over the Lord’s Day events. Read the text from the call to worship or the text from the sermon and pray back over it for yourself, your family, and for the church. Pray for the church’s response to the gathering of God’s people. Who was hurting that you talked to? Who was troubled? Who was lonely? Who ministered to you, to your family? What did you observe that brought you great joy? What did you observe that needs God’s intervention? Who was missing? Pray for any and all of these.

Tuesday – From the time you get out of bed until you head to bed later today, pray for two minutes at the top of the hour or the bottom of the hour. What is coming in the next hour for you, your family, or those near you? What has happened in the last half hour to you, to your family, or to those near you? What did you hear on the news? What have you observed in creation? Do what the Bible says, “present your requests to God.”

Wednesday – Hump Day! Pray for the faithfulness of God’s people in the midst of life. The gathering of God’s people is days away, but the lives of people continue. The strength of our community is being challenged by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).” Pray for the church, your church. Like Jesus prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31-40), pray that those in your church would not fall into temptation. Like Paul prayed for the church in Rome (Romans 15:13), pray that God, “the source of hope, will fill (them) completely with joy and peace because (they) trust in him.”

Thursday – You’ve prayed for three days straight, so take today off. You need the break from talking to God, and frankly, he needs the break from you. Wrong! Today’s prayer is about Thankful Thursday. Paul writes, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).” Count your blessings before God. Name them one by one. Fill your mind and God’s ears with your expressions of gratitude for his amazing grace to you.

Friday – For most people the work grind is coming to an end and the school week is winding down. Your family will be together more than at other times. Today, lift your family before the Lord in each area of need and in each reason for thanksgiving.

Saturday – Praying through a psalm on Saturday can be a wonderful time spent with the Lord. If you have never prayed through a psalm, simply turn to the text and personalize it. Here are a few suggestions for getting started: Psalm 5, 23, 32, and 40. And since the Lord’s Day is the next day, remember to pray for the gathering of your church tomorrow and the ministry of the Word of God to all the people.

Sunday – If you arrive at the church building with family members, pray before you leave the vehicle. If you come alone, pray with another single person you meet upon arrival. During worship, join in the corporate prayers that occur throughout the service. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t sit mindlessly. Don’t open your phone. Don’t read the bulletin. Don’t write a check for the offering. Don’t count the light fixtures in the ceiling. Do pray! Of course, that means you are actually in the worship service, but I digress. Someone is leading corporate prayer at various points in your worship. This is not a time to listen to someone else talk to God; this is the occasion for the whole church to talk to God together as someone leads up before him.

I pray you find the suggestion helpful.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Yes, I Cried When I Gave My Daughter Away in Marriage.

"Her mother and I," with those words lives changed until death do we part.

I have presided over dozens of marriage ceremonies and have given a gracious smile to the father answering back those words to me. I now understand what it feels like to say those words and walk away from my daughter.

When our older son, Michael, married three years ago, I preached the marriage sermon in a similar way as I did last Saturday at Jennifer's wedding. Now married, Michael and I still enjoy the same relationship that we did before he made his vows. When I gave Jennifer away to James, our relationship changed, as it should. She now belongs to James and not to me. I gave her away.

James didn't have it easy with me when he first showed interest in Jennifer. I didn't meet him at the door with a shotgun, but I did make him pass some tests. If he was going to take my daughter away from me, he was going to do it with my blessing. My blessing would come to him after vetting him.

There is no man alive good enough for either of my daughters, but I also don't want them living at home forever either. And there's the person in my house who is interested in the title, "Grandma." So, I needed to get on board with the idea of my daughter marrying a man.

A few years ago, I contacted a number of older men I respect and asked them how they vetted the man each of their daughters married. I was stunned how little involvement the dads had before the wedding day. I wasn't willing to take that risk. I had a good idea of the kind of man Jennifer needed, and I wasn't willing to leave that to some guy's testosterone.

I needed answers to two primary questions.

  1. Was this the kind of man Jennifer could follow? People can have much in common but still not be compatible over the long haul of marriage. Brenda and I know Jennifer, her strengths and areas of need. Her strength of character would carry her in most relationships, but for their relationship to blossom, she would need a certain kind of man.

  2. Does he lead himself? A man will never lead other people if he isn't disciplined in leading himself. Young men should show growth in leadership as they mature, but even young men should demonstrate enough leadership of self to give confidence to a dad that he can take the responsibility to lead that man's daughter.

Last Saturday afternoon two Christian families intertwined, not at the arrangement of the fathers, but at the good pleasure of our Heavenly Father, who in His wisdom and kindness joined together two of His children as husband and wife until death parts them. Their mutual purity and innocent love drew us all into their joyful wedding. Over the next many hours, we laughed and cried, hugged and kissed, praised and petitioned. Then we sent them off to honeymoon in the way the God of heaven intended.

As both her dad and her pastor, I had two roles in the wedding. I also officiated the ceremony. I won't ask you to read the whole of my sermon to them and to all who gathered with us last Saturday, but here are my closing comments to James and Jennifer. It is as close as I can come to extending a blessing on them. They are built on Ephesians 5:22–32, the New Testament's most significant instruction on marriage - one woman and one man for a lifetime.

James, my son, go be Jennifer's husband. For the last 24 years, God gave me the privilege to lead her, but my time is done. I have led her as far as I can. Now the privilege to lead her is yours. In God's grace and with God's blessing, lead God's daughter and my daughter to places she could never go without you, a place where God is glorified and where happiness is both yours and all who interact with your blessed union.

Jennifer, my daughter, go be James's wife. By God's grace your mom and I have tried to build a godly home where you could flourish. Our time is done. Now, in God's grace and with God's blessing, go, my sweetest of children, and build a godly Christian home with this man, a home that brings glory to the name of Jesus and is good for you and to all of us who interact with you.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.