Wednesday, March 5, 2003


by Blake Cromwell

As Israel left Egypt and headed towards the Promised Land, God led them through the wilderness to teach them to trust Him. He used the wilderness as a training ground to improve the character of His people. In the wilderness, Israel lacked sufficient water, they missed the Egyptians cuisine and they resented their leader. Israel was constantly disappointed and they allowed their disappointments to control their destiny. We can learn a better way.

In life there are three common disappointments. If we can identify these areas early, then perhaps we won’t fall into the trap Israel did. First is disappointment with things. The toys our kids just had to have last Christmas are now stacked in the closet and the kids are on a quest for bigger and better stuff. Things are great, but they break and rust, and if we aren’t careful we will begin to be controlled emotionally by them. Things can enhance our lives but they can never totally satisfy.

Second is disappointment with events. Reservations are lost, jets delayed, hotel rooms are smaller than we expected and the kids are bored with the selection of TV stations. Most of us need a vacation after the vacation. We plan a date with the wife and the babysitter cancels at the last minute and leaves us at home disappointed. Events have a way of falling apart, and if we aren’t careful we become frustrated and bitter because “it just never works out.”

Third is disappointment with people. People let us down, they cop out, they don’t follow through and then they criticize us for not being more understanding. You loan out money or a lawn mower and never see it or the person again. People just have a way of falling short of our expectations. The trick is not to let our disappointment make us cynical, for then we will forever be caught in a vicious cycle.

These common disappointments test our reactions, our attitudes, our faith and our character. Like Israel whom God lead into the wilderness where they faced disappointments, we too face daily disappointment that test our character. The question is do we see God in the common disappointments of life or do we just become frustrated and anxious?

Israel’s response to a lack of water or a delay in the journey was to gripe, grumble and criticize. That kind of response is called immaturity. One minute Moses is their hero, the next minute he is a zero. Israel reminds me of children who quickly forget the labor and love of a parent. Did you know the average homemaker prepares 30,000 meals and makes 40,000 beds in a lifetime? Have you ever taken this for granted? I know I have.

Our life is not meant to be controlled by “things, events and people.” Life is a gift we have from God. In life, we make the choice to be happy or miserable. God gives us a free will to embrace what we will face today with either excitement or dread. What we do with things, events, and people is up to us. If we choose to make the best of them, we will begin to develop the character that God is looking for in each of us.

Today don’t be fooled by disappointments, rather look at them as opportunities to develop good character. All of life is a decision. What choice will you make today?

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Touch of Heaven

by Blake Cromwell

The Elephant Man is a film based on the true story of John Merrick. If you have seen the movie you know why John Hurt was nominated for an Academy Award for his part in playing the disfigured on the outside but beautiful on the inside, Merrick. You see, John was afflicted by a rare disease that caused tumors to grow all over his body.

Throughout the movie Merrick is tormented by his fellow human beings. We watch as he travels as the main attraction in a circus freak show. The film’s director shows us life through the eyes of Merrick. Women and children scream in horror at his grossly deformed body. Others laugh and mock him as if he is beyond feeling.

Doctor Frederick Treves is introduced to John Merrick and begins to uncover the hurting man trapped in this terrible cycle of abuse. The intervention of the doctor is a touch of heaven in a man’s personal hell. A permanent home in a London Hospital is provided for John. The Doctor and his friends begin to pour into Merrick the gift of unconditional love and a transformation begins before their very eyes.

The Elephant Man is a tremendous film, yet it is difficult to watch. Each time I watch it I am moved emotionally and I cannot help but reflect at this modern day parable. It is a parable about how we should reach out to the scores of John Merricks that are all around us who are scarred emotionally and relationally. My passion as a Christian is that we all would help others discover that everyone has personal dignity and purpose in the person of Christ.

I want to commend those churches in the Kings County that are opening their doors to meet the practical needs of people in our community. These churches view their services as places that people can find shelter from the rejection and disdain of others. Churches that are bonded together not by common race or wealth or social status, but bonded together by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the common goal to help others know Christ.

Thank God for Beans and Rice in the Park that New Beginnings Church provides every week. Thanks for the Soup Kitchen that is there every day and is provided by the Episcopal Church. Thanks for the tutoring program for students struggling with literacy provided by our friends at the First Presbyterian Church. For the Champions Recovery Program provided by Sue Braz for those overcoming alcohol and drug addiction, and for the numerous programs provided for the needy by Jerry Bloom at the Salvation Army.

Many of these churches and others offer life skill programs: classes for parents, for those in grief, for those struggling with emotional problems, for managing finances, for those going through divorce, for overcoming sexual abuse, and just about any other problem present in our community.

Thank you to the churches in the Kings County who are rising to the challenge to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our hurting world. All of these (and there are many I am not aware of) are expressions of a touch of heaven to the personal hell many are experiencing today.

If you would like to help provide that touch of heaven in someone’s life, why don’t you volunteer at one of the many programs available in our community.