“The Hat” – Remember the Sweat

Many athletes have crazy superstitions. Routines, clothing, food … ridiculous as it seems, these routines bring some sort of confidence to otherwise sane people.  Let’s not limit it to athletes; artists, performers, business professionals, fans, and even preachers often have routines to help get them into their “groove”.  Whatever it takes to make a person comfortable can actually help their performance.  Call it superstition or call it routine, if it helps do it.  OK, a fan’s routines really have no bearing on the outcome of a game or the performance of the athletes (except for during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when it is imperative that we never change our routine as long as UK is winning!)

marathon picThis actually has nothing to do with my subject in this post although it may at first glance seem that way.  I want to tell you about my hat. It is a simple Kentucky blue cotton ball cap with a white ‘UK’ embroidered on the front. Christmas of 2007, I received this ball cap.  If you have not been able to tell from any of my other post, we are a little bit fanatical about our C-A-T-S … CATS! CATS! CATS! so obviously this ball cap became a prized possession. In January of 2008, I began my training for the 2008 Derby Festival Marathon.  The hat became a mainstay in my running apparel.  Actually, I did not wear it for every run since I trained in some sub-freezing weather (UK Blue stocking cap), but any time I could, this hat was a part of the apparel.

This does not seem all that crazy does it?  Well how about the fact that I did not wash that hat … at all.  The closest it came to being cleaned was when I ran in the rain.  By the end of my training the hat was covered in salt. Starting to sound a bit crazy now?  As a matter of fact, I did not wash this hat until I started this new adventure!  Superstition you say?  Not exactly.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

One of the things that I discussed in my training journals was how much I hate to run. (Is This Fun?) It was hard, I was out of shape, and if not for the accountability of my teammates and some God given determination I would never have made it through the training.  The 26.2 miles that I ran in April was just the culmination of over 200 miles of training.  It was important when I started that race to remember all of those miles … the pain, freezing cold, the rain & snow, and all of the sweat that it was involved.  That training was my Jordan River that I crossed to escape some really tough years. “The Hat” was my memorial to the process that process that God brought me through.

A few year later, I pulled out “The Hat” for another purpose.  In the Fall of 2011 I began coaching  “The United”.  We had started together as a new team and it was my first experience coaching 11 v 11 soccer.  Few of my players had been coached in the fundamentals of soccer and were in pretty poor physical condition. We were starting from scratch.  We worked hard that Fall and made great strides, but fell short in the tournament loosing to the eventual champions.  In the Spring, we were determined to continue our progress.  We had a good season, but still had a few teams that we just could not handle.  At tournament time, I pulled out “The Hat” and explained the significance of the sweat stains and all that it represented to me.  The United took up the mantra “Remember the Sweat”.   Those guys fought hard and beat teams with superior talent to win the championship.  Not only that season, but the following Spring as well

2011 United

It is not superstition, karma, or Rafiki’s magic that brings about success.  It is the processes that we endure and the resulting character that develops us into the people we were created to be.  Unfortunately, even as we grow, it is easy to forget how far we have come and the storms we have weathered during the journey.  Forgetting often brings discouragement.  Remembering on the other hand brings hope!  What have you done to “Remember the Sweat?”

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25)

Strapping on the Feedbag

Yesterday I had a scheduled 7 mile run.  7 miles should not be too difficult at this point in my training although any day brings new aches, pains and stiffness.  In order to save time, I have taken to plotting a course home from work when time allows, so that was my plan on Wednesday.  So I changed and headed down to the street to begin the trek.  The music was rocking  and  my Nike App counted down the start and off I went.

don't walkI started out a little fast even though I was a bit stiff.  I was not feeling it!  I was having a hard time dropping into a steady pace and having a little trouble with my breath control. Running home from downtown during rush hour sometimes offers a challenge to which I am not accustomed … stopping at every corner. I hate stopping, but on this particular day I was welcoming the frequent respites.

As usual, around three miles, I finally loosened up and found a good pace … for a bout a mile.  I made wrong turn and had to improvise my route bit, but that is not that unusual when I run in an unfamiliar neighborhood. at about 5 miles the hammer fell.  Legs became lead, breathing a bit difficult, stomach queasy and every step was labored.  I pushed myself through the last couple of miles and finished completely spent.

What in the world!  A 7 mile run should not take that much out of me.  It was a little warm and I was well hydrated so why did I have so much trouble?  I just ran out of gas … bingo! I was out of fuel! I had skipped breakfast and lunch and really had nothing to burn!  I needed to strap on that feed bag.

empty

This is not the first time that I have been dragged down by my lack nutrition.  Many times in my athletic endeavors I have stumbled due to a lack of attention to my body’s needs.  I have discussed the importance of water before. (We are not Camels – Don’t skip the Watering Hole) Lack of food will not take me down quite as quickly, but it really important.  In this case, I was not prepared for the run and started out on empty. In other cases, I was prepared, but due to the length of the run, I depleted everything tank.  On long runs, I have noticed that if I don’t refuel every 5 miles or so, I will begin to feel it at around 7 miles.

In my life, I have not always been all that disciplined about strapping on the spiritual feed bag.  Even at times when I was reading and praying consistently, I still suffered from malnutrition, especially when facing grueling life battles.  I would love to have a dollar for every sermon I have heard that spoke to spiritual disciplines.  Read! Pray! Read! Pray! Read! Pray!  OK I get it!  Question … Does your mind wander when you pray?  Does you read whole chapters and not remember anything you read?   Maybe it is just me, but that is often the result of my planned out “discipline”.  for that matter, I have heard the same basic concept from secular motivational speakers and leadership gurus.  “Read to succeed”  “A Reader is a Leader” blah, blah, blah.

Before you get offended and start a rant, let me say I think study and prayer are important:  But reading for the sake of reading and praying for the sake of praying is just an exercise in futility if the we do not absorb the awesome nutrients that are contained in there.  And what about when you are out on the road?  How are you going to refuel when you are the race course?  (Yeah I know all about praying unceasingly and all that stuff)  Here is my point.  There is no nutritional value in prayer or reading the bible.  No more then there is nutritional value in a plate, a fork, or a feedbag.  The nutrition is in the food!

” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35) 
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58) 
I need to read with the intention of filling my feed bag with the Bread of Life.  I need to pray so that I can be filled with the Living Water who continually quenches my thirst.

Haystack Life – Live Undaunted

Warning: if you don’t like rock music … turn down your volume, but note the lyrics.  Then rock out in your own way! 

A few weeks back, I knocking out 9 miles late at night,  I was rocking to some Switchfoot and feeling pretty good about my progress.  As I jogged along, I reflected on some of the blogs I had read and people who have influenced my mini life-renaissance that is currently pushing me forward.  I have told you about a couple of these folks (Annie B and Bill).  I find myself in awe of their ability to utilize the gifts that God has placed within them to overcome adversity and still reach out to touch others. There are many others that I have watched impact lives on a consistent basis. I may not know their stories, but I think that it is safe to assume that they have had their share of adversity.  After all, bible even warns us that we will run into some bumps in the road.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation… ” (John 16:33a ESV)

FB whiningSo what sets these people apart from the rest of us, who are often just paralyzed by the storms of life? (or who bemoan our “tribulations” on Facebook) How is it that some people just seem to dwell on the positive, press on, and become a light instead of disappearing into the black hole of despair?  Admittedly, some people are not as susceptible to clouds of depression and a negative outlook.  Maybe it is genetic or possibly experiences in our past, or a result of negative upbringing.  Whatever it is, maybe we should just keep reading and see what the bible says about this dilemma.

“…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b ESV)

Oh … take heart .. and you have overcome.  Nice …  What?  I don’t use words like “take heart”. My dark cloud of despair often throws a shadow over my faith so that I can’t see His overcoming power. I am just not getting this!

I am not usually a fan of using the Amplified Bible. (The same reason I don’t read much Charles Dickens … to many words for my tiny brain)  In this case, I like it. (I check it out whenever I run across phrases I don’t normally use)

“In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Undaunted! I love that!  It is better than courageous; better than confident; and more than certain.  It speaks to moving forward despite the challenge. What about that challenge?  It has been deprived of power!  The only power it has over the purpose that God created me for is the power that I give it.  He created me to accomplish some things in this life and He has deprived the storms of life (pain, physical abilities, sadness, loneliness …) of the power to stop me from accomplishing all that He has for me.  I am the only one that can do that.

What am I doing with this abundant life of mine? Sure, I know I have raised 7 awesome children that are making a their own mark on the world.  Admittedly, I have a touched a life or two with my coaching and mentoring., but out of the 52 years of life that I have lived, how much of that time has progressed toward a goal that is worthy of Him whom I purportedly serve?

Have I been moving forward undaunted by adversity?  No, I have lived a “daunted” life.  I allow myself to become easily discouraged and stagnated by circumstances that do not go as planned.  Well … at least as I planned.  Are God’s plans daunted by troubles?  Of course not!  I think it is about time I realized that every moment of every day of this gift of life that He has given me is part of His plan if I choose to be a part of it.  It is about time that I start seizing every opportunity to be a part of that plan.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  (James 4;13-17)

Haystack

Here am I … Sam I am

Sam & Sarah KissLynn and I stood on across town on Hampton Blvd in Norfolk after another post-due-date prenatal visit.  Since this was our fifth overdue pregnancy, we were not really surprised.  It was a nice day and we could not get hold of our ride, but we new her route so we decided to start walk toward the house.  5 miles later, we finally got that expected ride.  The following day, with Lynn exhausted and in pain from our little stroll, Sam decided to grace us with his presence.

9 days later we were back in the hospital.  Spinal taps, little baby IVs and sleepless nights, oxygen tents and quarantine.  (Maybe this is where he got his love for camping)  Sarah had had some health issues, but Sam was trying to catch up quick.  Turned out to be RSV (A relatively new diagnosis back in that day).  This began two years of non-stop ear infections, respiratory issues and camping at the clinic.  Good thing he was the only sick child … oh wait … there were four others, including the also plague ridden May baby Sarah.

Sick child equates to miserable pitiful bed ridden child …NOT!  Sam was everywhere and into everything. He was Ninja (mysteriously appeared on top of the refrigerator) and a miniature mechanic (Removed every nut and bolt from my wheel barrow without it falling apart … until I went to use it). He was a good natured little boy, but pretty non-verbal and hard headed.  He seemed to not listen to a word you said … unless he was looking at you. Wait could that be a symptom of something?

Sam i amSam – I – Am.  At two years old, it was finally decided that antibiotics were not the answer to these constant ear infections.  Let’s try tubes.  Did I say non-verbal. Overnight he went from non-verbal to very verbal.  Enter Green, Eggs & Ham.  If you would like … I can quote the whole book to you right now.  If you asked Sam his name, was Sam-I-Am.   Am would talk non-stop for hours.  He did not really care if you listened or not.  I am not sure if liked to talk or just liked to here himself since for so long he could not.

Silence of the Sam: As much as one might think that the constant noise would be a problem, it probably saved his life on occasion, because when the noise stopped, we knew that there was a problem… the silent alarm.  Silence in the back yard – the shed is on fire.  Silence in the living room – crayons in the VCR.  Silence on the stairs – beautiful pictures on the wall.  You get the picture.  We loved Sam’s voice.

The ears were better, but the lungs were not quite right.  After another hospital stay, the doctors finally concluded at age 4 that Sam was asthmatic.  So this non-stop little boy was forced to succumb to the nebulizer several times a day. Five or ten minutes might seem like a short period of time, but to Sam it was an eternity.  He had had about enough.

Faith of a child: In 1994, shortly after moving to Georgia, we were attending a Sunday evening service at church.  Pastor Jim asked if anyone wanted to be prayed to be healed.  Before we knew it, Sam had jumped out of his seat and run up to the alter.  He told Pastor Jim that he was tired of having asthma and wanted it gone.  Prayer was given, prayer was received, asthma … gone.  Coincidence … change of climate … or the faith of a small boy believing in a big God.  All I can say is that we have a nebulizer in the attic that has not been used since that day.

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt 23:11,12)

Sam & MalakaiServant: Born with a servants heart, same has always wanted to be a helper.  From the nursery (when he was in it), to JBQ, to youth group and missions trips to Nicaragua and Mexico, and now to the friends, Sam will often work for others and neglect even his own needs at times.  I have often been angered by those that have taken advantage of him and hurt him at times.  People have stretched him beyond his ability to give at times.  Obviously, saying ‘no’ is an option, but it is really not in his nature.  He is happiest when he is helping and feels a part of success.

If struggle makes us stronger, than my boy is strong beyond measure.  He has been fighting and overcoming from the day he was born.   I often envy his determination and drive to learn despite the many difficulties he has had to overcome.  His optimism, although often dampened by circumstances always shines through.  I look forward with great excitement to great things that are in store for this young man of God.

Sam & DadSam, you have been an encouragement to me for years.  God has used you to change me.  Your faith and enthusiasm have bolstered my own faith on many occasions.

I love you Bud and look forward to pressing on with you.

“Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge,and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken,but the feeble bind on strength.” (1 Sam 2:3,4)

“And the Lordcame and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”( 1 Sam 3:10)

“God has made laughter for me” – Sarah

Sarah Funny FaceAnd Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” (Gen 21:6)

When Sarah was about eleven years old, I was walking through our kitchen in Georgia when suddenly, I was soaking wet.  An evil little young lady had drenched me with the hand sprayer from the kitchen sink … I was so proud!  Knowing full well that she would pay, she counted the cost and determined that it was worth the risk.  Finally, I had not only children to terrorize, but I had a nemesis and ally in one.  One without fear.

“Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:6)

Sarah Renee’ has been “different” from the start. A month late, and after a difficult labor, the doctor scared us when he checked Lynn and got a concerned look on his face and stated there are two … (pause) … cheeks. (everybody is a comedian).  Yes, , she backed into the world just like her father … butt first.  A head full of black hair that stood straight out and a peculiar, frog-like sleeping position, we knew that she was going to be different. After being nearly drowned in her crib by an overflowing sink in the apartment up stairs we decided that she was destined for an amphibious life so I enlisted in the Navy.

From the beginning, she has loved people. Everywhere we went she made friends easily, but always found that one intimate relationship.

  • Norfolk,VA – Savannah: Savannah was very important in fostering some of her more critical virtues … a love of football and more importantly a love for the Redskins.
  • Sarah & SarahSt Marys GA – SarahTucker (Yes … one word in our house. Sarah Lutz is not one word, but is more complete):  Sarah Elizabeth was more than a friend … she was a sister and a cohort.  There were very few days while we lived in St. Marys that the “Sarahs” were separated. Out of this relationship, God began to develop a love of worship. Through dance and music, these two began to feel God’s pleasure moving through them.
  • Sarah LynsayLexington, KY – Lynsay: On my desk in front of me sits a picture of my children from Sarah’s early adult years and it is appropriate that Lynsay is included.  Sarah and Lynsay became women together (Sorry Lynz, but it is true).  High school, missions trips, work, boys … they shared all of the joys and pains associated with making this huge jump.

(This week the wedding dress is on the other sister … exciting)

As a baby, Sarah had a special affection towards men.  She really did not want to be held by women (except mommy).  Although she always had some close friends that were guys, (Gus, Ben, Eric..), her real friendships were always her girls … until Michael.  I have spent enough time writing on that subject previously and let’s just leave it at “he was the one and only” (and he was in that same family photo)

One would think that from my description of Sarah that life has been a piece of cake.  Both of our May babies (Sarah and Sam) were afflicted with less than normal long function when little.  (It took some time for Sarah’s amphibious gills to develop into fully functioning lungs).  Sarah had a volume I and volume II of her dependent medical record. For years we cycled been in and out of the pediatric clinic, but on Christmas morning of 1996, I carried Sarah into the ER for what would turn out to be a two week hospital stay.  God showed grace to us and allowed us to bring her home and decided that we it was time to replace that gill with a lung and her days of inferior lung function were over.

The teen years brought the beginnings of a more mature and independent young lady.  At 15 she started working, learned to drive (including a stick shift), got her own cell phone, and started dating (much to my displeasure). 16 brought a license and more independence. Although I knew that this was the natural way of things and that this what Lynn and I had raised our children to do, it was hard to become less a part of that life.  We watched as she bought her first car (and then her first bee-induced wreck).

Sarah  LauraWe watched stress begin to take hold as she struggled on balancing relationships, college and a full time job.  We ached as we saw her wearing out.  When our little girl who had always been defined by joy was losing her identity, we knew that a Sabbath was in order.   So it was agreed that she would head to the place of her birth and some quality time with my baby sister.  God was faithful and in time was able to bring restoration and joy.

Cain FamilyAt Sarah’s wedding, I spoke of Sarah’s heritage and that she comes from a line of women with hearts that champion broken people.  My baby girl has taken the baton from these ladies and is running the race with joy.   A father may think that he wants his children to be successful, but success without joy is not success.  Glance through Sarah’s photos and blog and you will see a woman who cherishes joy and desires above all else to share that joy with you.  http://littlecains.blogspot.com/

_M & SNow … she is no longer a “young adult” … but full fledged 30 year old adult.  Year 29 has brought a year of struggle and change.  She moved back to KY to be near family while trying her hand a single parenting of three very active preschoolers as Michael took a long “vacation” to the mountain regions of Afghanistan.  Anyone who thinks that the military wife is any less heroic than the one that is deployed is gravely mistaken.  Sarah … following in the footsteps of her awesome Mom, not only taking over the Dad duties, but doing it while missing the one who God provided to complete her, support her. and love her.  Add to that the stress involved with having her lover in harms way and you have a lady that defines heroism.  I am proud beyond measure of this woman of God.

Happy Birthday Sweetie.

 

When the Mountains Come to You

 Mark 4:35-41:  Jesus Calms the Storm

Sea story … December 1992 on the USS LY Spear, crossing the Atlantic on our way home from the Persian Gulf. We were experiencing heavy seas for 5 days straight.  The Spear was a flat bottomed, 645 ft monster of a ship.  Being a flat bottomed vessel allowed her to give us an exciting ride with 6 to 10 ft swells.  Standing on the covered quarter deck beneath the helicopter pad made for an interesting ride.  While riding the mountains of ocean, one moment as we rolled to starboard looking down over the side, I could not see the ocean and then as the she rolled back to port I could no longer see the sky.  At first it was a bit novel for most of us who were submarine sailors.  Some of us who had stronger stomachs made fun of those who were sick, after a couple of days, the ship reeked of vomit and all of us where vying for a piece of floor near the waterline where the effects of the waves was the least.

rough-seas1

On day 5 our chaplain, a medal of honor recipient from Vietnam had had about enough.  During his 1700 (5pm for you civilian types) prayer he cried out to God on behalf of the crew. He quoted Mark 4:35-41 and then prayed, “Father, we have had about enough of these crazy seas and we would real appreciate it if you could give us some relief.”  Within the hour, the seas calmed down.  He was an even more beloved chaplain after that.

For 4 chapters, Jesus has been doing amazing miracles and telling stories about the power of this new kingdom.  He tried to explain how little is actually expect of us and that all we need to do is place our faith and confidence Him.  He’s got our back.  He is a little disappointed in their ability to get it.

I am looking forward to getting it.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains,  being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8)”

The Unseen Farmer and an Unexpected Harvest

 Mark 4:26-34:  More Seed Parables

Again I find myself reflecting on thoughts that I here expressed over and over again.  Thoughts that have flooded my mind at times. Thoughts something like this. “Is this all that there is?  I get up, do the daily routine, go to sleep and then start all over again.  I barely see myself moving much less a move of God!”  I remember thinking this when I had a young family and, although I do not really see the growth in my own life, from that “daily grind” God has produced seven young adults that love God and are beginning to make an impact on the world around them.  They have started their own invisible farming process.

So in goes the sickle and because the harvest is come!  I often do not recognize the harvest that God has already brought.  If I did, I might be more excited for the harvest yet to come.

“Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.

Go in, tread, for the winepress is full.

The vats overflow, for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!

For the day of the Lord is nearing the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:13-14)

 

If in the years that I barely knew whether I was coming or going, God brought about such a great work from the unseen seeds in my own family.  What great things are on the horizon with the seeds that are being planted today.  I am actually getting excited about the harvest that He is preparing today.  Even the smallest word or deed sown today, God can use to bring about new and abundant life beyond anything I can imagine.

Every day seed is planted, everyday seed is growing and every day His Kingdom is spreading it’s branches to make a home for a world that needs Him so desperately.

So I every night I will go to bed with excitement and every day I will get up expecting the wondrous work of those unseen hands and the harvest that is sure to come.

Hand & Seedling

Get out of the Mud / Regaining a Grip

Yes, I have slipped on my commitment to sharing my journeys with Mark.  I will pick it up again tomorrow.

I loved mud.  Walking in it, playing in it, slinging it … the boy in me has always considered  mud to be an oozing, gushy, slimy delight.  Mud between the toes is an experience to be relished.  One of my greatest childhood memories is of the days John Coyner and I spent days jumping into a huge mud pit. the mud was so deep that it we sunk almost our arm pits.  It was an awesome bluish/black slimy that had been dredged from the bottom of the Tred Avon River and deposited within a berm just for our recreation. We would jump in, claw our way out and then go lay on the beach until it dried and our skin looked like it was cracking.  Then we would jump in the river to clean off and then go right back to the mud. In those carefree days of childhood when I was free of responsibilities mud like such an appealing distraction.

Pig in the mudOne of the things I think I love about mud is that it is so slippery and hard to handle.  It makes every action unpredictable.  I makes walking difficult, climbing nearly treacherous, and grasping objects nearly impossible.  In sports like football and horse racing, odds makers often have to change the odds completely when the event is held in the mud.  It often a great equalizer.

I have been reminded over the past couple of weeks that when I allow my priorities to be “muddied up”, my walk becomes more difficult, climbing up from a stumble becomes treacherous, and maintaining a grasp of situations become nearly impossible.  The harder I seem to try and get a good hold on my life, the more it tends to slip away.

A couple of weeks ago, I made some life changes.  Just some dietary changes and a re-commitment to improving my physical health.  As is often my habit, I did not really do this prayerfully and as a result, my priorities became quite muddy.  I tried hard to better “manage” my time to clarify things, but I kept falling farther behind.  The main thing I stopped doing was writing.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people.  It is not like a make a living writing or that people rely on my daily blog posts. Writing is my accountability.  It is a check point that is crucial to the race course that God has set before me.

So the question has been for me, “how do I get back on track?”

GRACE!

Until I realized that I was too slimy to get out of my predicament and that I would need to rely on Him to clean me up and pull me up, I was going to continue to slip back into the mud.  Grace says you don’t have to worry about catching up and making up for past failures.  I don’t have to do two weeks of blogs over the weekend to get back on track (which was my plan).  I just need to seek His face and His will for me today.  Yesterday is gone. (Also see Taking Advantage of a Mulligan)

I understand that in some cases, restitution for our sin is required, but God makes a way for us in those cases.  He does not leave us to deal with those on our own.  If we try to make everything right in our own power, timing, and ability, we may very well end up in a worse condition.  I have many examples of messing this up as well.  His grace is sufficient in every situation.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Jesus and His Rocky Family – Life Making Good Soil

If you are following along in Mark I am a bit behind on my posts, I have not talked about Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 4:1-20. So here is a couple of quick thoughts.

Mark 3:31-35: The Family

I What in the world? Jesus seems to blow off His family.  Actually, if you look back at verse 21, His family had actually tried to restrain Him thinking He was crazy, so obviously, they were missing something. In light of this Jesus’ inference that “Here is my mother, and “Here are my brothers” makes perfect sense. These were the ones who were beginning to receive the gospel and were getting the idea that He might be “The One”. His family just thought He was “special“.

As a dad, I know that at times, I have neglected to recognize the full potential of my children. My own prejudice based on past experience has blinded me to the purposes and plans that God has prepared for them. I may say the right words of encouragement, but they see right through that. Imagine if God’s plan for a family member was to be the Messiah … How do you encourage a purpose and a plan that is higher than anything you can fathom.

I pray that I will not only get out of the way, but will learn to encourage my family, friends and others to strive for all that God has for them and not limit my vision to my own sight.

Mark 4:1-20 The Parable of the Sower

This sort of carries on from this previous thought. Jesus’ family thought the problem might be Jesus, His actions and His words (The Seed), so they tried to restrain Him. The challenge actually rested on the receivers/hearers (The Soil). The Seed is perfect and will grow and bear fruit according to the medium that it is sown. Knowing the rest of the story, it is encouraging that His family, who rejected Him in the beginning (rocky soil), in the end fully excepted the Good News and bore much fruit.

Have you ever been discouraged about the prospects of someone receiving the Gospel? I am even discouraged by my own ability to receive all that God offers me, so of course I have difficulty seeing how God is going to get a seed into some of the rocks I have been praying for. I think we can say with assurance that the Holy Spirit can break up even the hardest ground and turn it into good soil

(He can even take our own waste and turn it into fantastic compost!)

compost-toilet-life-cycle

Sticks, Stones, & Stealing Satan’s Stuff

Mark 3:20-30:  Jesus & Beelzebub

I am not sure if this the origin of the term “demonizing”, but it would make a whole lot of sense if it came from this story.   Jesus, instead of returning venom with venom, kind of teases them with His response, but adds a stiff warning at the end.

bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com
bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com

Now it is not surprising I guess for the family to call Him crazy, I mean, He is the step-child. On the other hand, these other dudes from out of town coming in accusing Him of being a demon or the prince of demons even is quite uncalled for.  First, He breaks down their argument, but with very pointed change of words. He uses the Hebrew word, Satan (accuser) instead of the pagan demon Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies).  This is interesting since they came to him as accusers (and actually were pretty annoying like flies). His argument actually left them with a win-win situation either Satan was in a civil war which would weaken his kingdom or a stronger Man had come along that was going to bring down that kingdom anyway.  WINNING!  Jesus was sort of declaring Himself a thief in Satan’s house.  (A much better thief than Bilbo I think)  If you cannot tell, I find this whole interchange quite amusing.

Then, the hammer falls. Jesus gives a pretty harsh warning about calling God’s work demonic.  Generally, when we hear about the whole blaspheming the Holy Spirit, we isolate as the unforgivable sin and leave it out of the context of the story.  The ‘accusers’ have mocked the works of God and credited His work and His healing power to Beelzebub.  Most of us do not like someone taking credit for our work,but when the one taking the credit stands for the exact opposite of your whole being this is more than enough to send us over the edge.  Pretty serious stuff these experts of the law are doling out.

As the seriousness of the situation begins to sink in, I wonder how many times I attribute the greatness of God to other powers.  Maybe I don’t attribute His awesome works to Satan, I do think at times I may take credit myself for things that I had a hand in and withhold glory due to Him.  On the other hand, do I accuse God of being the bringer of evil or difficulty, hanging my head in self pity or shaking my first at Him.  I know that in some degree, I often lose sight of the giver all good gifts and confuse Him with that old liar.  I do not want to make a political statement, but I will tell you that I have to repent of some of the things I have said about people with different view points.  I do not believe that is no place demonizing or disparaging any person or group.  Jesus took the high (obviously) and set an example for us.  The Good News is that He left the door open for every one of us to recognize the great gift of life that He is offering us.  It is our job to keep that door open for those that have not seen it yet and avoid giving them reason to attribute our mean or hateful behavior to a God who knows none of that.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20,21)