Not the subject or title you necessarily want to see or write about, but I was struck with it recently through several conversations and the events of recent weeks. I spent five days at the Northwest Sportsman's show in Portland, Wednesday through Sunday, talking to several new and old friends...and of all the things I could blog about this week, Christ is stirring this in me.
A few hours into the first day of the show, I began talking with a friend two booths down, a fishing guide out of Tillamook. In fact, the day before, he was supposed to be on the river with my dad and brother, after winter steelhead, but the fishing was poor and they opted to wait for another day. As he and I were talking, I learned of a fatal car accident Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours earlier, that took the life of a mother and daughter, close friends of his family...leaving a husband and son behind. Just two weeks prior their families were together, celebrating a birthday for one of their children, a celebration that will never be the same again. None of us can fathom the devastation of such an event, outside of experiencing it ourselves. Just writing this chokes me...tears fill my eyes and it hurts. I don't know the family, never met the father, son, mother or daughter, but as I imagine even a fraction of what might be felt by those closest to them, it's numbing...the pain of being a close friend to them...or being that father or son who no longer have a wife or mommy. Physical and literal heart-ache. Please pray for the family, friends, and the entire community of Tillamook...it's still so fresh, and tragic.
The very next day of the show a lady approached our booth, seeing that the archery shop (who's booth I was in) was in Rainier, OR, where the police chief was shot and killed just weeks ago...a small town hero, known by all. The shooting took place next door to the archery shop...bullet holes scarred surrounding buildings and windows were shattered in every business around them. The shop was closed that midday hour during the week, for the first time since they can remember, because of an appointment conflict and no one was available to cover the shift. A messed up, likely drugged up, young man took the life a very influential man, who's left family and friends behind. Pray for this community as well, as they try to fill a void that may be impossible to fill.
A day or two later, a man wearing a Dallas Dragons wrestling hat walked through the show. Being born and raised in Dallas, OR, and being a former Dragon myself, I flagged him down to say hello, and also offer condolences for the recent event that has shaken the small town, as well as every athlete in Oregon and beyond. Only two weeks ago, my sister-in-law was picking up my niece from basketball practice at Silverton High School, while a wrestling match between Silverton and Dallas was underway. As she entered the school, the usual volume level of a high school wrestling match was reduced to complete silence. Then she noticed people quietly filing out of the main gym...crying...hugging...praying...in shock...tears...something was horribly wrong. As many of you know, a young wrestler from Dallas lost his life after winning his match that night. After shaking hands with the opposing wrestler and coaches, he collapsed to the mat. Paramedics rushed in and began CPR on his lifeless body in front of a frantic crowd of family and friends, young and old, athletes and students...something no one shoud have to witness. He died from an uncommon and unknown heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rhythmic disturbance that results in the thickening of the heart muscle. The man walking the show with his Dallas Wrestling hat on that day had a son who was a friend and teammate of the wrestler who had collapsed. There are undoubtedly many questions and much confusion from everyone who knew this young man, especially impressionable High School students, friends and teammates...keep them in your prayers as well.
Granted, these stories have all touched me from somewhat of a distance, but are close enough to be more real than the typical everyday news. There are no words to ease the pain, nothing to rewind time, no answers that bring full clarity this side of heaven, and the emotions are indescribable. Blame, pain, tears and fears are natural...and many times neccesary. People turn to God...others blame God...often a roller coaster of both. And while nothing will ever replace what we've lost this side of heaven, there is hope in the midst of chaos.
Death is not part of God's plan...we are eternal beings, who were created in and for the perfect world of Eden, from the beginning. Death does not end our life, it ends our time in this finite world. And when we compare 1 or 100 years on this earth to eternity, our time here is but the BLINK OF AN EYE in comparison!!! We can't fathom this thought right now, but through faith in Christ and God's Word, we know it to be true.
The reality of scripture is that we will all live forever. The Bible speaks of a very real and eternal Heaven, but also a very real and eternal Hell. Heaven being eternal life with God, with all that is righteous and good...Hell being eternal seperation from God, full of darkness, guilt, shame and regret.
God is good, God is just, He knows our hearts, and He knows we cannot live a righteous life on our own...which is why he sent Christ to die in our place. Being a Christian isn't about being perfect, but about realizing we're imperfect, and in need of Christ's death on that cross to inherit eternal life in Heaven, with God. That's it! Believe in Christ and what he's done for each of us and you will live in Heaven forever, with all who've gone before you.
"God so loved the world, he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). If we believe in those words, there will come a day when we will thank God for delivering us from this life...when we will recognize the worthlessness of all we hold on to. When we will realize that Heaven is better by far! We will understand the ways Satan had blinded and binded us, that it was his deceit that brought disease, deformity, destruction and death to our earthly lives. We will appreciate that, out of LOVE, God did not allow those who love Him to live in turmoil any longer. We'll learn why he's designed everything JUST the way it is. I trust, through faith, that God IS IN CONTROL, and that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him!
Revelation 21:4 says, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."
Find hope in these two songs and videos, "There will be a day", and the symphony version of "I can only imagine"
I was at the sportsman show last night and I was reminded of just how big of a business hunting and fishing have become. I looked around at the advertising and the pricing and began wondering about our pursuits. Outdoorsman are passionate in their pursuit of fish and game. Some guys will lay everything on the line in order to bag that trophy. The amount of time it takes, the high cost involved....it has become an obsession for so many.
I understand that to a degree. Fishing for salmon and steelhead used to be my first love. Honestly there was a time when I was so enamored with the thrill of catching fish and helping others catch fish that I literally pursued that more than I pursued any other thing in my life. My relationship with Christ, my relationship with my wife and my two young kids at the time. If I wasn't fishing I was planning my next trip. Reading magazines, books, fishing websites, tying up gear, watching fishing shows on TV. It was rather pathetic looking back.
We really need to keep our outdoor pursuits in check. When do they cross the line and become addictions, or fuel that feeds the ego rather than solice in the wild and time to reflect and catch up on time with God? It can be a two edged sword because it is so easy to get drawn into the things we love....good wholsome things even....that can end up wreaking havoc in our lives.
How about pursuing our relationships with the same passion that we pursue hunting and fishing? Or maybe with even more gusto.
You know what I have discovered since breaking free of my addiction to fishing? I really love spending time with God out there and enjoying my time whether I'm catching fish or not. I've discovered that spending time with my wife and pursuing her heart is fun. I actually am finding joy in just sitting and talking with her about the day, about the kids, whatever. I've fallen in love with her in a way I never even thought possible when I was in 'fish mode.' In fact fishing used to be a way for me to get away from her because of all the conflict. Actually, the truth is that fishing made me feel like a man and I felt way less than that around her because of my lack of pursuit. I know....sad. She is an amazing women and I'm glad I finally got around to discovering that on a deeper level.
Spending time with my kids is priceless and helping them to pursue their dreams and the adventures that God has for them is really rewarding. To think what I could be missing with them if I hadn't changed almost breaks my heart.
As Valentines Day nears (It is Monday if you forgot. Thank me later) I think it would be good for all of us to reflect what we are spending our time and energy and money pursuing. Because what we pursue says a lot about our heart. Our wives, our children and our Savior must come first.
It's not necessarily the quantity of time that produces success in the ways of fishing and hunting. It's the well-planned, skillfully prepared, and carefully executed quality of time that counts... By means of mass-media advertising, we're told what to wear, what to eat, what to drive, where to live, how to be "politically correct," what moral beliefs to adhere to, and what new gadgets we must have to make our busy lives more manageable. Our possessions come to possess us. Our culture thinks for us, and manipulates us in ways we hardly give much thought... Thus, the vital importance of constructive activities emerges. We have to give ourselves a chance to think. When we engage in activities that gently occupy the body and the senses, the soul is free to be refreshed and nourished. Our intellect is free to think on its own. And what better place to do that than the great outdoors!? Having a fishing rod, a walking stick, or a gun/bow in hand is simply a doorway to the true refreshment that comes from being immersed in the beauty of God's creation.