Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Joy through perspective

I loudly say congrats to Japan's soccer team who defeated the USA women in the FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament in a shootout. What a tremendous finish to their season after going through so much as a country in recent months following the disaster.  Sure of course I rooted for the USA... but when I saw the these women celebrating, I didn't walk away disappointed with the final result either.  Joy after struggles.  A celebration the only comes after hardship.  A story of triumph for the human spirit.

Wall Street Journal: "Japan was playing with a very large 12th man—it's called Desire and Hope," says US striker Abby Wambach. "I feel devastated. Japan, give them all the credit. They never gave up."  Goalkeeper Hope Solo adds: "We lost to a great team. I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team."

This week we had a family funeral in Joplin Missouri, our car died, the refrigerator and washing machines have both said adieu, and we returned home to find our basement flooded, only to spend some quality time during the past 24 hours in the ER...and yet I smile with a humble gratefulness that we have also experienced tremendous provision and blessing that can't even begin to be counted.  As a special lesson, we started the week as witnesses to the possibilities and realities that come with a F5 tornado and what could have been wrought on my extended family in Joplin MO.  The "what could-have-beens" were striking as we visited the tornado alley of Joplin where buildings were licked up, foundations sucked into the sky in a moment, debris still strewn about miles away from its source, 126 lives lost in a moment.  My cousin's house was one that was completely destroyed and his neighbor was one of those who lost her life in the storm.

As someone who has been a first responder to  many disasters and returned for the one year anniversary commemorations, I pictured what it would feel like a year from now at the family reunion as we celebrate the changes and victories of this coming year and remember.  I think of how the celebrations and triumphs of a high school sport season would seem larger than life.  And it all comes with perspective after a loss or a near miss.

As the week progressed during our trip, our perspective continued to shift to one of gratefulness. My family had a wonderful time together even though death is what brought us together...  In a moment of provision for another family, a gentleman "happened" to crash and flip his car while experiencing a heart attack, just a dash away from where I was sitting.  I was first medical on the scene for what seemed to be caused by a heart attack.  Again...perspective.  Our health can go in a split second. What a blessing to be the first to assist and to pray with someone.  

So when the car check engine light went on as we drove through 106 degree Texas, we celebrated provision as we sat in a beautifully air conditioned waiting room during the diagnostic tests on the car and we enjoyed our family time together.  The Toyota dealership was less than a mile away when car started showing symptoms and we drove right in.  I know the staff in Denton were perplexed to see a stranded family acting so happy to have a dead car.  Again perspective. Sure the fridge and washing machines are unplanned expenses... but life happens to all of us.  Truly an inconvenience, not the end of the world.  Regarding the water in our house: the stuff in our basement will dry out and the rest... well I guess we didn't need it anyway or it wouldn't be stored in the basement... And we expect a full recovery after this trip to the ER.

Life surely isn't  filled with lollipops and ice cream sandwiches all the time.  We recognize that everything is relative.  You don't realize how rich you are in earthy possessions until you meet someone who's done more with less and with more joy.  We recognize the blessings  and we seem to smile more than others...that's the beauty and joy that comes from perspective.  This is not to say that our home is devoid of complaints and conflict.  But I DO recognize that an ounce of perspective can shift the conversation quickly.  Some of that comes from all the years in disaster relief.  Some of it comes from getting out of our suburban bubble and know people who aren't just like us and live places far away from our house.  And just as important: We recognize that we are truly blessed because 1) we don't always get what we deserve and 2) we often get blessed with things we simply could never earn or deserve. 

Joe McKeever says it well:
"In justice, I get my fair share. I get what's coming to me.  I don't know about you, my friend, but I do not want justice. Not in any shape or form. I want mercy. Mercy is when I do not get what's coming to me. And grace, to complete this dualism, is when we do get what we did not deserve. Mercy turns the guilty loose; grace finds him a job and a place to live. Mercy is the absence of punishment; grace is the presence of blessing.Mercy is what the psalmist was celebrating when he said, "He (God) has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10).

So as I write I am simply counting blessings...for grace, for mercy, for friends, for family, for today.
And I am fully aware that there is a God...and that I am not Him.