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Archive for September, 2014

The Day Flew By

The day flew by. Literally. Three remarkable things converged on my house and all were in the air.

First, a movie shot at my house used a drone to come up with both aerial and establishing shots. A few hours later, a helicopter kept circling over my property and practically took off the tops of my trees. Within another hour, I looked up and saw a bald eagle showing off not fifty feet overhead.

I’m not into signs, but what was all this about?

Well, let’s review. The drone looked to be a combination of Legos and a Go camera. But there we were, four grown men, being taken in by this miniature flying machine. How cool was that?

Next was the helicopter. I almost called the State Police. I couldn’t make out the lettering on the bottom. Maybe it was the Chief of the State Police of The Governor since we are near the Capitol. The pilot seemed to be trying to give the trees a haircut. Yet, I was fascinated and ran for my camera instead of running for cover.

Then came the Bald Eagle. He was as cool as a cucumber. He decided to put on a show with his circling looking as perfect smoke rings from a pipe. I tread over many of the same tracks from my helicopter-hunt just a couple of hours earlier trying to get just the right photo.

The sky was that “911 blue.” Yeah, the ET-call-home drone, the whirlybird and the big bird all had one thing in common. They had a bird’s eye view of my home and me. Like I said, I’m not into signs, per se. But wondering of late whether I was truly on the right path in life, I thought on this beautiful eye-opening scriptures:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

“…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…” Isaiah 40:31a

Sign-ed,

God

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One Marriage For A Lifetime. Family. Descendents. Career. Reputation. Clean Past. Bank Account. Peace. Health. Physical attributes. Brain power…

What don’t you have and never will?

King Solomon said that everyone is motivated by the same thing: envy of his neighbor.

“Then I saw that all painful effort in labor and all skill in work comes from man’s rivalry with his neighbor.” Ecclesiastes 4:4a

So many would deny this tidbit, claiming that they are perfectly pure in their motivations to succeed and are only honing their skills on behalf of God and humanity. But eventually, pride seeps up. In fact, accounts like these come up at the most inappropriate times…in The Bible!

How about Jesus’ most critical night when He was betrayed? “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” Luke 22:24 After three intense years with Jesus…now, really.

No, I doubt there is an innocent one among us when it comes to petty jealousies. It’s the ancient distraction by Satan himself: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts,[it] is…demonic…You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it.” James 3:14,15, James 4:2

Kill to get it? Sound extreme? Remember that one of the greatest heroes of The Bible murdered a man to get a literal “bathing beauty.” [See one of the saddest stories in scripture at 2 Samuel 11]

I truly believe that some of us struggle more with this than others. Some are driven by envy while others seem to take no notice of others. In fact, some are so egotistical that they actually believe they have nothing to envy about others. All kidding aside, look at children. What’s the one thing they want? Whatever the kid next to them has.

I bring this up for the sake of honesty. Let us face this monster. Let’s stare him down. We’re eyeball to eyeball with him because he’s in the mirror. I’ve concluded that being happy for someone else is a learned art. Perhaps the best way to think about it is through the eyes of a parent. Moms and dads love it when children share and their kids are happy for one another. That’s the way God views it. It’s particularly insulting to God when we silently or verbally accuse Him of favoritism because it appears there are more gifts under the Christmas tree for so-and-so or so-and-so than for us. That’s quite an indictment on The Fair One.

Humility doesn’t come overnight. As slow as it seems to sink in, it is interesting that there is a pleasure in growing in this area. It’s freeing. It increases our perspective. We actually get better at it and that’s as fun as developing any good skill that gives us a lift as we master it. It also gives us a mindset that allows us to be joyful about our own gifts which are many. By the way, there are always gifts that WE have that someone else will never have.

So, let’s all work on this and prove King Solomon wrong!

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Buoyed by a last-minute entry of reinforcements, the troops rallied to…

Encouraged by the words of his mother, the disheartened writer went on to publish…

Bolstered by the heartfelt story of one man’s endless search for a job, the leader went on to win the …

Fill in the blanks.

Discouragement will visit anyone. It’s even been whimsically revealed in scenes from heaven in the classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

CLARENCE'S VOICE
                         You sent for me, sir?

                                     FRANKLIN'S VOICE
                         Yes, Clarence. A man down on earth 
                         needs our help.

                                     CLARENCE'S VOICE
                         Splendid! Is he sick?

                                     FRANKLIN'S VOICE
                         No, worse. He's discouraged. At 
                         exactly ten-forty-five PM tonight, 
                         Earth time, that man will be thinking 
                         seriously of throwing away God's 
                         greatest gift.

                                     CLARENCE'S VOICE
                         Oh, dear, dear! His life! Then I've 
                         only got an hour to dress. What are 
                         they wearing now?*

Something worse than being sick? Yes, discouragement has taken lives through either people dying slowly by giving up or killing themselves through suicide.

Most of us need encouragement at some given points. It will hopefully come through sources close to us as it did for me recently. Some friends bathed me with it and some how the Epson Salts of their remarks made their way into my aching soul.

I’ve been reading through Job again. It’s the book I can’t stand to read, but go through every year nonetheless. Why torture myself? Because it’s a mystery novel of the first sort. It seems like so many questions are left unanswered. In the entire book, only a couple of clear theological themes ever emerge: God is good and big and friends can be small and dumb.

If we were to read Job over and over so as to only learn how NOT to be a friend, it would be worth all of the pain we feel as we go through one of the most valuable books of The Bible.

It’s getting more obvious to me that the only way to truly blurt, “I know how you feel,” is to have experienced pain at some level that allows those words to spill out without a shred of glib.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from the eager-beaver, Clarence? So anxious to help the deflated George Bailey, he cried, “Then I’ve only got an hour to dress.”

How fast can you get changed into the clothes of compassion and empathy?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

WHICH WILL YOU BE…

HE WORE OUTDATED THREADS BUT HE WAS CLOTHED WITH COMPASSION:

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CONTRAST WITH JOB’S FRIENDS WHO WERE PARTICULARLY SKILLED AT RUBBING EPSON SALT INTO HIS WOUNDS:

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* Screenplay written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra & Jo Swerling

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photo copy 13In case you can’t read this profound sign from heaven, it reads, “Donuts Cure End-of-Summer Blues.” I didn’t know where to go for this solution, so I kept riding my bike. He kept flying his airplane. But Labor Day comes and goes and ushers in the Fall whether on the ground or in the air.

Saying “Goodbye Summer” is hard on a lot of us. It typifies saying “Adios” to anything. Something that we really love goes away. Summers return. Yet, sometimes it seems to take forever. Other people, things, times and places never come back. Funerals. Divorces. College days. Youth. Raising little ones. Careers. They are indeed fleeting.

For years, I worked with the elderly and witnessed them saying goodbye to all sorts of levels of independence. Sometimes it was sudden and other times it evaporated very slowly. Nursing homes generally do not serve donuts.

But even middle-agers who can’t return to their glory days no less return a serve have to deal with the multitude of hints that their bodies provide. There may be a lot of good life left, but one must be intentional about appreciating the future. And that goes for younger people passing through their various stages.

I have discovered that some of us have a much easier time with the get-over-it-and-move-on philosophy. Some have the gift of not looking back. By my creaked neck, you can tell I am not one of the fortunate ones.

I love warm weather. I’m in a four-season climate and sometimes Mother Nature decides that Winter’s “last call” is later than what she allows for Summer. The obvious solution for many of us is to become “snowbirds” and head south for the cold months.

But there will come a time when you have to say goodbye to something or someone and you’ll even lose your taste for donuts. For me, I’m going to look beyond the clouds. It won’t be pie (I mean donuts) in the sky.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

 

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Blowing Big Leads

Most fortunate coaches have war stories about blowing a big lead. Everything is going well. You build up a commanding lead over your opponent. And all of a sudden, passes are being dropped, plays mishandled, easy opportunities thrown away and you think you’re team is back in grade school.

Sometimes, a television camera will show an uptight coach with a huge lead. The immediate inclination is to judge the man: “Why can’t this guy relax? Why is he running up the score?” It’s because he has let some games slip through his hands and those are lessons that are hard to forget. There will be time to celebrate when the clock shows “00.00.”

Recently, I was forced to think about a big lead I had thrown away. Things went well. And then they went to hell.

Was I sloppy with my time and money? Did I not have a sustainable game plan? Did an undisciplined lifestyle kick in? Do I work better under deadline?

My guess is that you probably have found yourself in a position that you would never have dreamed that you’d be in. But you’re here just the same. And “This too will pass” just doesn’t seem to cut it right about now.

The antithesis of a big lead is being way behind, being in debt, chugging up the hill relationally and so forth and so on.

Whether you’re holding on to a big lead right now or clawing your way back from an insurmountable deficit, I want to encourage you to hold on to the same God who understands your situation.

Don’t forget, He had a huge lead going into the Garden of Eden and his new recruits started dribbling from their mouths instead of on the court.

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