I’m Not Gonna Do It, So Don’t Ask

I swear, if one more person asks me to do
something, it’s gonna get ugly!
“I’m not really looking for anything else to do right now.”
“I’ve got about all I can handle.”  or even,
“I could probably do more,
but I’m just not going to right now.”
I can promise you that I have said these things out loud
or thought them thousands of times.
It’s easy to drift into that
“if I can just get through this day” mentality.  Survival.
The craziness of a full-time job and raising kids.
Plus, there are people at church that ask me to do things
all the time……surely they don’t understand how BUSY I am.
Nobody else could possibly be as busy as me, right?
Get somebody else to do it.
I AM FULL
But……I can also promise you the biggest
failings that I’ve had as a Christian
(and father, husband, business person, etc)
have not been due to sin, but instead due to apathy and
laziness.  Overestimating how busy or tired I am,
not caring enough about others to get off my butt and
get moving.  And most importantly, failing to take into
account the love, strength, and guidance of my
Heavenly Father when making plans or figuring
out how much “I” am capable of taking on.
I sit still.
I fail to serve, grow, love, or live life to the full
because I simply fail to trust God.
1 Peter 4:11 tells us, “If anyone serves, they should do so
with the strength God provides, so that in all things God
may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
I don’t know of any organization that is made up of
individuals who view themselves as slackers, lazy,
underachieving, or doing just enough to get by.
But every family, church, business, and sports team is
filled with people who think they are giving their best
and doing all they can do, when they’re really not.
We’ve all seen that person and been that person.
Doesn’t do any good to have others tell us we can do
more and be more until we decide to change,
to trust God more and rely on His strength and not our
own to get us moving in the right direction.
Whether you need God to push you or pull you,
you have to trust Him enough to take the first step in the
right direction.  Stop living uphill, fighting a losing battle
on your own.  Find positive momentum.
Start moving and let Him keep you moving.
You might surprise yourself.
You might even (gasp!) start looking for something more to do.

Choosing Joy

teddy

http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=26392353

When you have the right allies,
there is no need to worry about the
strength of your enemies.
Teddy, a 30 year old man with Downs Syndrome
displays joy in the purest form in this video from
an April 18th Cincinnati Reds game.
Serving in the role of bat boy in this particular game,
Teddy seems to have a special
bond with Reds 3rd baseman Todd Frazier.
Following a Frazier home run, Teddy rushed from the
dugout to greet Frazier with uncontrollable excitement
and enthusiasm after he crossed home plate
(with a meaningless run to make the score 11-1).
But the camera kept going back to the bat boy,
and every camera shot showed him smiling at the
top of the dugout steps, pumping his fists and
looking toward theskies as if to say,
“Thank you God! This is the greatest moment ever.”
As the game progressed, additional camera shots of
this wonderful young man showed that, to him,
pretty much everything is “the greatest ever”.
Retrieving a bat from the field, running onto the field to
give the home plate umpire a fresh supply of balls…….
same enthusiasm, fists pumping, looking toward the skies…..greatest moment ever.
Watching this young man with tears pouring down my
face, I knew there were lessons to be learned just from
watching him.  On the surface, it was easy to see that
this young man’s joy was so contagious, putting smiles
on the faces of the players  and obviously capturing the
hearts of the commentators and anyone watching on tv.
I’d also venture to guess that Teddy
has the ability to bring out a caring side in people with a
special talent that few others possess.
In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 
It occurred to me that Satan is the one who robs us of our joy.  And it would appear that God gives children and special individuals like Teddy a special protection that does not allow Satan to steal their joy (there was such a pure innocence in his joy).  Satan cannot take away ours either unless we allow him to.  When our faith increases, we draw closer to God.  As He becomes greater, we become less, and we grow in peace and JOY.  We can trust Him more, much in the same way a child trusts parents without question and fully realizes their dependence on them.  We  DO have the right ally and
we must lean on Him daily to defeat our enemy and
claim what is rightfully ours as his children…..
A full life of peace and joy!

Blindsided From the Front

distraction sign
I should have seen that coming.
But I didn’t, even though I’d been there before.
Maybe more than once.
Falling victim to the same temptation.
The same bad reaction in a familiar situation.
Feelings hurt and relationships damaged.
I could have changed direction, changed my course,
“if I’d only seen it coming.”
Uh…..so why didn’t I see it coming?
I coach middle school basketball and sometimes it’s difficult to
hold back my sarcastic nature.  The thought in my brain that rarely
escapes my lips is this,
How many times are you going to do it in a way completely opposite of the way
you have been instructed, and keep getting unfavorable results…….
before you commit to doing it the right way and getting positive results?
Gee, you think God has a sarcastic side?  I guess not.
But I’m sure I could stir it up pretty regularly by ignoring His commands from His word.
Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
danger sign  
On the simplest level, it reminds us that we have to recognize danger ahead and steer away from it.
The next level of this is to commit to not repeating the same mistakes over and over.
On a deeper level, we have to learn to recognize our own patterns of vulnerability.
Identify situations when we are most likely to be at our worst, our weakest.
Don’t let your guard down.  Do not be distracted.
Exercise caution in times of physical pain or fatigue and emotional pain or stress.
Living your life at a high rate of speed, relying only on your own strength and limited wisdom?
All these things open the doors of temptation.
And so we find ourselves, time after time, in situations where we do things that we know we shouldn’t do
or don’t like ourselves for doing, failing to even recognize temptation until it’s too late.
But our blind spots shouldn’t be blind spots when we’ve been through them time and again.
Blind spot for me?
Being short, grouchy, or simply inattentive to loved ones who desire and deserve more from me. 
We cannot ignore the situations that we know we are sure to face and fail to have the vision
required to face them the way God desires.
Invite God into situations early and often.  Study His word with an open heart and mind
with an eager desire to transfrom your way of thinking into His way.
My defenses are low, I feel like terrible physically, I am short on patience, I feel overwhelmed with life
……..these things may happen, I won’t be surprised!
Look ahead, plan ahead…..look up.  Pray!  Seek strength and direction from God.
Reflect on past mistakes and failures for the purpose of changing your course moving forward.
Know exactly “how you will not react” and “how you will react”
in moments of weakness.  See danger, steer away from it.
Sometimes it’s as simple as making plans to keep your mouth closed.
Know where those weak spots are and don’t walk into them with your eyes closed.
God will be there waiting when you come to those moments.
Awareness of His presence, love, and strength must come BOTH before and during crisis situations.
Failure comes when we continue to invite Him in only after we screw up.

I’m Not Really Gay, Am I Back On the Team?

jason collins

As the NBA season tipped off, I was curious to know if JasonCollins had found his way onto an NBA roster this season after publicly announcing, at the end of  last season that he is gay.  The answer is NO.  But in my search, I came across an article that provides a good example of the double standard that exists in our“Just Be Yourself” nation.  Written by Jeff Pearlman on cnn.com, he acknowledges that fact that Collins averaged just 1.1 points per game last season, but decries the fact that no NBA team has made him an offer.  Here is part of the article:

“Jason Collins, however, ceased being ordinary the moment he announced he was gay.  To thousands upon thousands of Americans, he became a beacon of hope and a sign that maybe sexuality would matter not the in machismo-stuffed world of professional sports.  If LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul could embrace a gay man as a teammate,  what excuse would the loudmouth, homophobic blockhead at the construction site or law firm have for his close-mindedness?  Finally, things were about to change.  Only they weren’t because, well, nobody called.  The NBA has been repeatedly defended in its inaction with predictable attacks on Collins’ game– too slow, too marginal, too worthless. Yet could somebody (anybody?) have at least invited him totraining camp  — land of myriad oafs and fringe players itching to land a job?”

He then goes on with his ridiculous attempt at a Jackie Robinson comparison.  One problem here is that Jackie Robinson didn’t have to announce to the world that he was black.  Jason Collins chose a lifestyle.  Many celebrated his courage for coming out.  By coming out in such a public way, he forced the NBA and the country to react.  And it seems that the same segment that lashes out at those who have the nerve to call homosexuality a sin (because moral views are being “forced” onto others?) are indeed doing their best to force people into reacting in a certain way.  I don’t have a problem with accepting and loving people for who they are.

I don’t have a great desire to judge or change people  (for Christians, if we live as Christ then we are given opportunities to influence others,but that’s another discussion).  I do have a problem with the growing national movement of being told how I’m supposed to react to certain things.  The Bible is my guide for how I view the world around me. 

If I am presented with something that goes against this, I refuse to agree.  In my disagreement, I may choose to simply walk away.

Stop attacking my right to walk away.   Stop forcing a response simply so you can attack my response.  I love you.  I accept you.  I’m not forcing my views on you, so please don’t try to re-define mine.

Pearlman goes on:  “Adding Collins to a roster — even a preseason roster — would likely have meant awkwardness, confusion and weirdness.  There almost inevitably would have been conservative Christian teammates asking to change in a designated private space.  Special press conferences would need to be arranged.”

Ok, there’s the universally accepted shot at Christians.  I guess I should have seen that one coming.  That’s acceptable for all, right?

Shots taken at Tim Tebow on national TV and national media= too many to count  Shots taken at Jason Collins on national TV and national media=Zero…….it’s not allowed.  Neither one is playing the game they love.  Do we have to take shots at either one of them?  Bottom line- Collins created the “awkwardness”.  He forced a reaction.  And here is Pearlman in classic fashion, trying to define for the rest of us what our reaction should be.  Some hail Collins as a hero.  NBA teams try to silently walk away.  I’m sure players and fans alike would accept him as they would any other player.  But his skills and age dictate that he is not “any other player”.   If his ability to play adds nothing to a team, it’s insane to suggest that any team is obligated to give him a chance simply because he is gay. 

Maybe one general manager could take this approach,  “I know all the other teams are trying to win a title.  But let’s try to boost our image as a progressive thinking organization.    Our other players will enjoy a media circus revolving around a guy that can’t play anymore.”  They’d be better off as a team to fill their last roster spot with Bill Russell as a publicity stunt.

And maybe CNN would be better off to replace Pearlman with another guy that can’t write (just because he’s gay?)

Is Your Story Worth Telling?

I’ve heard many times of the importance of Christians being able to tell their “story”
How they came to accept Christ as their savior.
Circumstances and people that led them to this point, and the changes in their life after being born again in Christ.
new life old life
Of course I’d never done this because
1) I just didn’t find my own story to be of any interest to other people and
2) Men only take action out of necessity and I’d never actually had to do it.
But I had the opportunity to do something for my church where being able to tell my story seemed to be a necessary preparation.
Also felt the need to be able to explain why I choose to attend my church.
Result?
 I still don’t find my story very intersting and I don’t have any interest in telling it to stadium sized crowds.
metallica_concert1
But…..this reflection of my life, where I was and where I’ve been compared to where I am now,
and the prize that I work toward and try to influence others toward……
overwhelmed me with a greater understanding, appreciation, and love for the people that God has placed in my life along the way.
So what IS my story?
That salvation can come in that moment,
but true change (consistently growing in faith, love, and understanding God’s word) is a lifelong effort.
It is slowed down terribly by guys who employ an “I got this” attitude and fail to embrace the concept of surrendering to God.
Surrender-Control
Our growth is crippled by using our own strength and vision instead of our almighty Father’s.
So why do I go to FCC Grayson?
Because that is where God has placed all the people who He has apparently placed in charge of destroying the old me.
They probably don’t even know what their job description is or has been,
but they have been willing to allow God to use them to do all those little things along the way that show no immediate results.
I am definitely left with a deeper appreciation for my church family.
God uses ordinary people to do amazing things.
So even if you don’t want to tell your story , we should all make it a point to at least know our story.
Get a clearer picture of how God has used others to work by faith in your life.
Only then can we see more clearly just how He can use us to make an impact in the lives of others.
My life each day is my story.  If I do it in a way that honors God, one person and one relationship and one encounter at a time…….
Only then do I become a credible messenger of His story.

Through the Eyes of A Child

 kal cincy
A different perspective.
It’s good sometimes to see things through the innocent eyes of a child.
I took my 7 year-old son Kal to his first Reds game today.
The Clark Griswold came out in me (“getting there is half the fun”),
so we took the scenic route through the roughest parts of Newport, KY (vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon & Weideman signs on every corner bar,
wiedemann
steel bars over store windows, dirty streets, houses in disrepair…..”roll em up”).
I saw a crumbling 150 year-old brick house painted with a horrid color of blue, separated from the dirty street only by 3 feet of broken sidewalk.
But Kal saw it differently, “Dad, look at that pretty blue house.  That’s my favorite color.”
I saw a 77 Buick with a cracked & shredding vinyl top, unmatched paint and tires, and a spare tire sitting in the middle of the road for some unknown reason.
But Kal’s perspective was different once again, “Dad, look at all these old cars…..how cool they are.”
I saw block after block of hopelessness; homes, cars, and streets showing no sign of pride or upkeep, wouldn’t want to drive through it at night or walk through it in the day.
But Kal didn’t see it this way,
“Dad, what’s the name of this town?
These houses look like they might be haunted, and they’re pretty ratchet, but this place is awesome!”
I saw only signs of people struggling through a sad existence.
Kal saw things as being unique, special!
God has placed beauty…..good…..all around us. 
When we fail to see it or find it, it may be time to find a different perspective.
He also fills this world with beautiful people; God does not make mistakes.
We can’t simply love the obviously nice, pretty, and desirable people.
Refuse to judge by appearance.
Matthew 5:47  (New Century Version)  “And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends.”
See things, see people…..through the innocent eyes of a child.
Search for a perspective that matches our Heavenly Father’s.
Hope for the lost depends on this.
Absence of hope only happens when we collectively judge “what someone deserves.”…..when we turn away……fail to love.
hilton head 2013 etc 116Seeing things for the first time, through the eyes of a child.

Control Freak 101

Man, life is tough being married to a control freak!
Just kidding.  Some of you kept reading, waiting for the boom.
“Man, is he really gonna blast his wife like that?  She’ll kill him!”
Riding down the highway one day with a friend who shall remain nameless,
he sensed that his driving made a little antsy.
When he asked if his driving made me uncomfortable, my response was,
“I’m not as comfortable as I’d be if I was driving”. 
 control freak
I guess I am more guilty of being a control freak than I realize or want to admit.
Always wanting to control, not only where I’m going, but how fast (or slow in my case) I get there,
and every turn along the way.
Not really a good trait when combined with a perceived possession of a crystal ball and an appetite for instant gratification.  Translation=
I look at situations and think I know exactly what result my involvement will bring,
and I choose to do nothing if that result is not an immediate positive one. 
People who find themselves in a bad place over and over due to bad decisions……..I’m not gonna do anything to help,
they’ll just screw up again.
Or that person who has no interest in church or a relationship with Jesus……
their family has done everything they can and prayed relentlessly for them over the years.
My actions surely won’t make a difference.
But it’s a terrible mistake to act only when we can safely predict an immediate favorable result.
God’s timing is not our timing.
The action that I take or fail to take today may be only the first step or the last in a long process.
My actions could be the beginning of an answered prayer on someone else’s part.
I don’t have to be able to see the end!  I just have to know Who will be there for every step.
God’s intervention can happen whenever His people act in faith and trust Him with the results and the timing of those results
……..instead of playing control freak and fortune teller.
Keep praying, don’t give up, and be ready to move even when it doesn’t make sense.
And stop stomping your foot in search of that passenger side brake…..it’s not there.
Trust.

Proverbs 3:5

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;