Revising History With Grace

University of Kentucky vs Duke 1992.
Considered by many to be the greatest basketball game ever played.
I can’t watch it.  Too painful.  Bad ending.
I will never ever watch it.
Those final seconds, the replay of the shot made by “he who must not be named”
will make any UK fan scramble to find a remote any time it pops up during a college basketball broadcast.
i-still-hate-laettner_design
As a high school senior in 1986, my high school team made our school’s first ever appearnce
in the state basketball tournament in Rupp Arena.  Thrill of a lifetime for a kid in a basketball
crazy state.  I’ve always had a copy of our first round (and only) game on VHS and recently had
it copied to DVD.  But I never watched it.  Too painful, worst game ever, no desire to watch a game
that left me with years of memories of letting down my school and teammates.
27 years later, I finally sat down and watched the game in it’s entirety. Conclusion:  I didn’t stink as bad in that particular game or as a player as it has lived on for all these
years as a faulty memory.  Was I scarred for life by a faulty perception of the past?
Of course not.
But it reminds me that when we look back at our worst moments, others don’t remember them quite as well
or as critically as we do.
Christians still fail too often to fully accept God’s grace; to live boldly for Him moving forward
…..because we are hindered by shame, inability to let go of the past, and an inability (or unwillingness)
to forgive ourselves and others.  We must accept God’s grace.
 But also we need to remember that just because God forgives us doesn’t mean that the times we have wronged others are forgiven and forgotten.  This is one case where we may need to take steps backward before we can move forward.
Our misdeeds may become insignificant over time compared to the fact that we have failed to apologize,
admit fault, or show any signs of remorse or peacemaking.
Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgive yourself, forgive others.  I can’t waste time waiting for an apology from others but I should
always consider if someone is due one from me.
We can’t change the past but we can deal with past
mistakes in a way that improves relationships moving forward.  
We can’t live in the past but we can surely clean it up.
Mend fences today,
from mistakes of the past
for better relationships tomorrow.
Stop littering the landscape of your past with “Laettners” (things that are so horrible, you want to push them from your mind).
Start make better endings today,
Forgive and be forgiven.
The next time one of the kids that I coach asks me if I was a good basketball player,
my answer will change from “nah, I sucked” to “I was decent.”
And I will NEVER watch the 92 Duke game!
That is a part of my past that I still struggle to make peace with.

Do Look Back

In a family of six, there are so many days when the kitchen sink is stacked with dirty dishes, just waiting for their turn in the dishwasher as it completes its cycle.  In the name of speed and efficiency, cabinets are arranged over time to allow for quicker unloading operations.

Most important part of this particular system is storing all drinking glasses in the cabinet just above the dishwasher.  This works pretty well as long as the unloader is wise enough to swing the cabinet door into its fully opened position.  But it’s easy to forget when your mind is jumping ahead to the next five things that need to happen as soon as you tame the dirty dishes.  When inattentive dad (me) raises up at full speed with glass in hand from the bottom rack and finds the partially opened cabinet at full-speed, the impact of a bald head on the corner of the cabinet door is a painful experience.  Not sure what Yosemite Sam words came out of my mouth, but I did momentarily fear losing consciousness.

Remain standing, no blood, only a small bump.

As I regained my wits, I began to wonder how each of my  four kids would react if they walked into the kitchen to find me crumpled in the kitchen floor beside my best friend, the dishwasher.

My oldest daughter, 17, would certainly kneel down beside me and put her hand on my shoulder, “Daddy, are you ok?”  (COMPASSIONATE)

My youngest daughter, 15, would quickly assess the situation, “Hit your head on the cabinet, didn’t you dad?  You ok?”  (ANALYTICAL)

My youngest son, 7, would just start searching around on the floor for the wasp that his dad surely leaped up and swatted off the ceiling.  (ADVENTUROUS)

My oldest son, 13, would straddle my lifeless body to put a dirty bowl in the sink instead of the now empty dishwasher and say, “Hey dad, I think I wanna pre-order the new Black Ops.”  (OBLIVIOUS)

Four children, raised in the same home by the same parents, with such drastically different personalities.  How could this be?

Obviously, parents love and cherish the uniqueness of their children.

I feel fortunate to have had an understanding in the early stages of parenting to avoid at all costs the disastrous approach of the “why can’t you be more like your sister!” mentality.  I’m blessed on the flip side of this with the “error in someone else’s ways” approach where you can remind a child who witnesses a sibling’s misdeeds.  “Don’t ever repeat the words that you just heard your brother use!”

Confession:  I have trouble loving the uniqueness of God’s other children. 

I set others up to fail by setting unattainable and unfair expectations.

I expect others to behave in certain ways or perform certain tasks that I perhaps think they should have the awareness to do without being asked.

Maybe most of us share in this dark secret:

We allow our opinions of others to be based on “who they are not” or on actions that they fail to take. 

We expect every co-worker to be as hard-working and dependable as that lone overachiever……but we fail to do anything to encourage them toward better performance or help them find success.

We expect our spouse to notice the exact same unfinished tasks, messes, behavior problems, and hurt feelings, and to place the same value on them as we do .  We expect them to share in the same level of patience, problem solving efforts, and discipline.  But we fail to share with them our views or feelings.  Fail to plan together……….and we silently stew when they don’t choose the paths that we think they should have.

“Were you just waiting for me to unload the dishwasher……AGAIN?” (because you knew I might kill myself in the process?)

At our churches?  Maybe we fail to praise and encourage those who selflessly serve, while we’re too busy noticing or commenting about someone else failing to do something that we silently expect them to do (nobody ever told them or asked them…….they should just know, right?).  Maybe we unfairly compare someone in a particular role to the person who held that role previously.  They should “just know” all that is expected of them, right?

Forming opinions. Setting up people for failure in our own minds.   Judging people for who they are not, for what they are NOT doing.

I can tell you what I’m not……..enough like Jesus.

God loves me anyway.

God’s hope really is that all his children would be like His greatest , the Son of Man.

To be more like Jesus with each passing minute, this is our Heavenly Father’s desire for us.

To be transformed into the chracter of Jesus Christ our Saviour?

A tall order, I know.

A journey with no destination on this earth.

A path.

At what point others have reached on this path, we do not know.  Nor do we know the speed with which they travel.

But we do know that we make a choice to help them or hinder them on that path.

Our words, our actions, and our love can make their next step clearer and lighter.

God empowers us!

If someone is apparently sitting still, maybe we are the answered prayer to help get them moving again in the right direction.

We don’t want to miss that wonderful opportunity because we are busying our minds with thoughts of what they “should” be doing.

I can’t make Him love me less.

But I can please Him more.

God does not want us to fail.  He sets us up for success in every way.  And sometimes success God’s way requires us to enter the uncomfortable world of surrender.

I can talk behind your back about what you’re doing wrong or failing to do at all.

Or I can approach you and trust God to help us find a better way together.

On that same path, moving at different speeds………..I’m thankful for my brothers and sisters who were willing to wait for me, to patiently help me find the next step.

Glad that others didn’t give up on me and leave me behind.

This is one instance where it’s ok to look back.  Might be leaving somebody behind.  Do not give up.

                MATTHEW  19: 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

                                           26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Might want to look up also.  Might be a sharp object waiting for you.

Or you might find a patient, loving God…..waiting for you to trust Him enough to take the next step that He has prepared for you.

Please Pile One More Thing On My Back

work overload

I took a personal oath to not use these phrases:
 I’m tired (I’m tarred or plum wore out….are acceptable in extreme cases)
I’m stressed
I’m overwhelmed
I’m so busy
But today, in a moment of weakness, I let my guard down.  My wife called me at work and could tell I was struggling, asked how I was doing.  Without thinking, I responded with the queen mother of all dirty words……
“I feel defeated“.
I knew better.  But… it was out of my mouth and I couldn’t take it back.  Fudge!
The spirit of the rule is to stay in motion to conquer those days (pretty much every day) where life pulls you in too many directions.  Work, parenting, crazy schedules, difficult people, sickness and physical pain, family and relationship problems, taking care of a home.  That last nerve often dangles on a thin thread.  It leaves little margin for error and things can run downhill in a hurry when things don’t turn out as planned (or especially when we simply fail to plan).  Maybe there is an unspoken fear or just the voice of experience that tells us the walls might cave in if we stop moving and stop getting things done. That familiar feeling of having too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get them done.  It’s a hard feeling to shake off day after day.  We get fooled into thinking that our peace and our happiness depends on accomplishing everything that we fool ourselves into thinking we have to accomplish.  We become prisoners of our circumstances and our tasks. and maybe even tell ourselves that we will serve and trust God a little more as soon as we get our head back above water.
Fear and stress can bring you to an abrupt halt and your state of mind only worsens.  Paralized with fear or defeat.
“I can’t do this.”
You pray.
For what?  For God to do your work for you or to fix the mess you made by not planning well or working hard.  Pray and wait?  No…maybe….sort of.   Pray for peace, guidance, and strength.  Pray for the wisdom of growing in the understanding of God’s ways each day.  And get your butt moving.  Day after day, time after time, the to-do list is done, the work is done, and God lends peace from a better perspective of seeing more clearly the worthlessness of worry.
Matthew 6:27 ” Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
When we pray, we don’t know God’s timing, and we do have to wait.  But I don’t think we really need to sit still while we wait.  We’re not doing it ourselves because we don’t trust Him.  We’re simply making a choice to not ask Him to carry us out of a rut that he has given us the ability to walk out of.
It’s usually not until the end of the day that realize that I have “won” yet again.  I always do because my hope is in Jesus.  Why couldn’t I see it that way when that feeling of defeat hit me?  Perhaps because I failed to pray previously for His strength and guidance?  Or maybe I did pray and I just failed to listen for an answer; an answer that could have been something as simple a reminder of where my hope lies.  Sometimes it’s a reminder from an event or a person that lets me know I need to serve and glorify him through life’s storms, large and small……not just before or after the storms.   But on those crazy days where I charge BLINDLY ahead
“I GOT THIS”
like I can conquer this day on my own, it doesn’t seem right to ask Him to carry my burden once I have dug in so deeply in the wrong direction.  Finally realizing my own weakness and stubbornness, turning to God in prayer, my load sure got lighter when I asked him to walk with me………..once I stopped griping and started moving again with HIM.
Of course He was there the whole time, I just turned my eyes and thoughts in the wrong direction.
So go ahead.  Pile it on.
“WE GOT THIS!”

Philippians 4:13  (NCV)

13 I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.

What the Flock Did You Say?

A “potty mouth” doesn’t necessarily reflect the condition of one’s heart.  But a sharp, critical tongue that pours negativity and gossip usually does.
Dirty words.
Maybe I have cleaned up a really colorful vocabulary over the years?  Does this make my choice of words any more pleasing to God?  No, not unless I clean up the way I talk to and about His other children.
I’m not suggesting that we all start unleashing a slew of “bowling words”.  But I am suggesting that Christians should ease up on their judgement of those who use them.  Sure, I’m going to speak up when certain language is used around my kids.  But nothing says “holier than thou hypocrite” than a Christian who speaks harshly or down to others while sticking their nose up at the guy who “lets one slip” occasionally.
I assume I am, by nature, a lot like everybody else; if I really wanted to break down all my sins, it would be hard to find many that didn’t involve something that came out of my mouth that shouldn’t have.  For those of us who tend to have to do a lot of apologizing, many times it boils down to reacting to something, toward someone, in a way that is both hurtful to another person and disobedient to God.  Our reactions are gaged largely by our words and our tone of voice.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted that way.  I shouldn’t have SAID THAT.”
JAMES 3: 7-10 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
It’s pretty convenient to convince ourselves that we have tamed our tongue simply because we may not use 4-letter words.  I bet satan loves this false sense of achievement and security that we cling to, while we shred people with our tongues without even giving consideration to the error of our ways.  Consider the person who would never ever drop an f bomb but they devote a good portion of their conversations each day with words that have only the purpose of making others look bad…….to make one person lower their opinion or level of respect for another person.  Ouch.  Doesn’t make it ok just because we finish blasting someone with a cute phrase like, “it is what it is”, “bless her heart”, “I’m not gossiping, I”m just telling you what happened…(or even worse) what I heard happened. To build up or to tear down?  Choose words carefully.
James 1:19  “…Everyone should be quick to listen, SLOW TO SPEAK, and slow to become angry”