“Holy–And Happy”

Years ago, while in seminary, we visited what was then called a psychiatric institution. I had the opportunity to sit in on several group therapy sessions, and the one that impressed me the most was the group with the older teens and young adults who came from different race, social, and religions backgrounds.

At the start of every session the group leader would go around the circle and ask the same two questions to each one capable of participating. The questions were: Where are you on a scale from 1 to 10 today, and what are your goals for today?

Not surprisingly, the answers were the same almost every day. They all answered, “I am a 10,” (then usually repeated it), “I am a 10 today.” Their goal for the day was always the same, as well. “My goal is to take my meds and to go home.”

I knew they weren’t a 10, and I knew they weren’t going home, but some of them were so medicated they couldn’t possibly know who they were, or even where they were. They just sat there like zombies.

However, the one exception was a young man of about 17. His answers were different. He would say, “I’m about a 6 or 7 today, and my goal for today is to have fun.” The instructor would always if he had any other goals, but he would reply, “No, just to have fun.”

After each session, we had the chance to pair off with one of the patients and spend a little time with them, so I choose him. He didn’t have much to say until I pushed his magic button—sports! He loved sports and had probably forgotten more than I will ever know about it. When I asked him what sport he played, his eyes began to water as he told me he used to play football.

“What happened,” I asked. “Did you get hurt?”

“No” he said, “I made a B.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked, “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

He told me he’d always wanted to play sports, but his parents wouldn’t allow him to do so because they said it would interfere with his academics. All he ever did was study and go to school—but no outside activities other than church. Then, during the past football season, he went out for the team and made it with outstanding results.

His parents were furious and told him that if his grades dropped, he would be off the team. He had made As all his life, but, for the first time, he made a B—in trigonometry. They demanded he quit the football team, but he refused and left home. When they found him, his parents had him committed. He had made a B.

Then he told me something very profound, but very sad. “Living in the institution is easier than living at home with my parents trying to live their lives through me,” he said.

He knew I was a Seminary student, so I wasn’t surprised when he asked me a question about God. However, the question did surprise me.

“I know God wants us to be holy, but don’t you think He also wants us to be happy?”

Personally, I believe He does. So now, my goal for most days is to have fun.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

 Pastor Hal Steenson

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“Come Before Winter”

As I drove up that gusty August afternoon, Hal had just finished hanging the squirrel feeder in the backyard and restoring the dilapidated bird feeder.  I asked what he was doing and he said, “Getting ready for winter.”  Honey, it’s a long way from winter.  “Tell that to the squirrels and birds when the snow starts to fly” was his reply.  The squirrels must store up for winter and the birds need a reliable source of food when snow and ice are covering the ground.

This response reminded me of the words written by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:21 “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”  Paul was in a jail cell in Rome ministering to the saints in Caesars’ household when he ask a young disciple named Timothy to bring him three things.  He asked for his cloke, and he asked for his books and his parchments.  Undoubtedly, these things were of great importance to Paul for several reasons.  First, he asked for his cloke, which is preparation for his health as winter approached.  Next, he asked for his books.  Most likely, they were books of scripture, such as the commandments of God, which would help prepare him for holiness.  Last, Paul asked for the parchments.  These may have been words that the Apostle had personally penned about his Lord and Savior.  Could these parchments have been Paul’s way of preparing for his happiness in spite of being in the winter of his life?

I can’t help but wonder what may have happened if Timothy had been too busy to hang a spiritual bird feeder for Paul, even though winter was approaching.  The Bible is silent on the details concerning the outcome in this matter.  But what if Timothy had arrived in Rome one day too late?  What if he had been attending a leadership conference or working on a special program at church?  What if he didn’t go because he just thought it wasn’t that important and Rome was a long way off?  I would like to believe that Timothy dropped everything he was doing and took these items to his Mentor. Our Lord has many children who are going through cold seasons of their lives such as sickness, depression, divorce or maybe the loss of a dear loved one.  They may need someone willing to come before winter and provide feeders of health, holiness, and happiness. The snow is going to fly, and winter will come, the question is, are you making preparations for yourself and others also?

  Mollie Steenson 3ABN Vice President