Jun 26, 2014

Grasping for Gratefulness

My recovery from my accident has been a long haul, trek, process, experience, adventure; call it whatever you want. But when my injury took place, I had no clue that I would be sitting here six months later realizing that I still had a potential of two or three more months to go!
In the past, for most of my injuries, I was back up to at least the “entrance ramp on the freeway” in six weeks! I’ve played and worked in slings and casts and splints and most of the times held together with “butterflies” and duct tape!
Little did I know that my recovery time would include multiple trips to the doctor, surgery, braces, slings, four months of nights where I would get (on a good night) only three hours of sleep, medicine for pain, and medicine to counteract the side effects of the medicines I was taking!
For me the greatest challenge wasn’t just the process, it was remaining in a place of gratefulness. And, on a couple of ‘bad days’ (especially after I had a totally sleepless night) or when I couldn’t do something – anything – to relieve the stress in my life – I had to grasp for gratefulness in order to stay focused on what really mattered.
It was then that I meditated on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous and anything praiseworthy. And I made a good report and I thanked my Heavenly Father for what WAS working on my body, including my bladder and other parts that we take for granted until they don’t work. (Read Philippians 4:8)
Grateful that I had people who were willing to help me get dressed and drive me places and do things for me. Even grateful that I had, as I discovered, so many friends who love to hug me or pat me on the shoulder even though I asked them not to. Quite a problem I had; so many people who love to show affection for me!
It’s so easy(er) to be grateful when things are going right. I say easier because I think that some people never seem to be grateful!
But how do you be grateful when things are going wrong?
One of the people I like to look to is the Apostle Paul because he knew what trials looked like, and he knew how to be grateful in and through the trials- like in stripes above measure, being in prisons frequently, whippings, being beaten with rods; once he was stoned; three times he was shipwrecked; in perils of waters, robbers, his own countrymen and Gentiles and among false brethren. At times Paul was weary, toiled, had sleeplessness often, he dealt with hunger and thirst, being cold and naked. (See 2 Corinthians 11:20-30)
Paul knew that he needed to grasp for gratefulness beyond the trial and see the good in each situation as he was going through it.
Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 4:8-11) that he was:
  • hard-pressed on every side…but not crushed; 
  • perplexed…but not in despair; 
  • persecuted…but not forsaken;
  • struck down…but not destroyed 
As Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG)
King David said; “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Why? Because “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (See Psalm 34)
My friend, I don’t know what life is throwing at you today or what you have been through. I don’t know how much you have struggled or cried or even grasped to find some gratefulness for your current situation. You might even now be saying; “But you don’t know my situation…!”
To you I say, with all due respect and love that I can muster; “But you, my friend, don’t know my God!” He is the God who is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Stop what you are doing and cry out to Him and ask Him to not only change your situation, but also change what you are saying as you grasp for gratefulness.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Jun 19, 2014

Skinny Dipping with Sharks

One of the strange things that is on many people’s “bucket list” is ‘skinny dipping’. I say strange because if you practice good hygiene you probably already bathe daily and I can safely assume that you do it without clothing.
And yet, the act of swimming without any clothing in a much-larger bathtub (such as a lake) or a much larger shower (such as a waterfall) seems to be a goal for the masses.
I also find it strange, not because I am a prude (I’ve already accomplished this goal many times in the days of my youth), but because most humans find it very uncomfortable to be nude in public sat anytime.
Most humans are self-conscious when they are asked to partially undress at a doctor’s office or even in a department store’s dressing room. So the whole idea of being asked to take off something is only really risky because for a short time a person will be naked and vulnerable. We like the idea of new clothing, but we may feel vulnerable about taking off the old in order to put on the new.
Let’s face it; most humans still are self-conscious about nudity and probably rank it up there with swimming with sharks.  
So, when we read in the Bible that we are to put off and THEN put on, it makes sense why we would hesitate; even if what we are being asked to take off is bad and what we are being asked to put on is good.
The Apostle Paul wrote:

“…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV)

 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Colossians 3:8-10 NKJV)
I’m not sure where you are at today. Perhaps you are tired of living your old life and although you want something different, you are (seemingly) unable to be vulnerable to go for something different.
The very idea feels like you are being asked to skinny dip in shark infested waters…
My friend, I have good news for you today. Today, you can let it all go! Today you can have the new life you are looking for.
How can we “skinny dip with sharks”? I think we need to look to the One who did it best; Jesus Christ:
 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (Philippians 2:5-8 MSG)
Jesus was willing to be vulnerable by becoming human and literally naked at His birth and at His death (as He hung on a cross). He was willing to be misunderstood as the religious leaders (sharks) questioned everything thing He did; even though He only did what His Father told Him to do.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11 MSG)
He is simply asking you today to be vulnerable by asking Him to take control of your situation and be the Lord of your life.

Do you want true freedom? Call 1-888-NEED HIM. Someone is waiting to talk with you
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Jun 12, 2014

Paying the Price to Touch the Cup

I have NEVER touched the Stanley Cup; EVER! Although I have had multiple chances to do so, I have always respected the tradition that you don’t touch until you win it.

Many hockey players refuse to touch the Stanley cup during or after their careers. A lot of players believe touching the trophy before you win it is bad luck. I myself see it as just tradition, not “luck”.

However, history has already shown us that several people who held the Cup before winning it had no such issues and many went on to win the Cup MULTIPLE times!

Sufficient to say that at my age (I was born in 1958), I won’t win the Stanley Cup Finals and will never lift the Cup over my head at the end of a game as I skate around with the cup. So, there really isn’t any reason for me to not touch the Cup.

Although, now that I think about it...if I had the chance to “Spend a day with the Cup” I probably would. No, not to drink milk or eat Cheerios out of it…although placing my new grandchild in it might be kind of cool!

It’s only thirty five pounds, so weight wouldn’t be a factor to lifting it up; or touching it for that matter. It isn’t because I am concerned that my finders might leave prints on the shiny metal; the Cup has a fulltime staff whose job is to protect, keep polished, and transport the Cup all over the world.

Perhaps it has more to do with not only respecting the tradition but respecting those men who practiced, played, and fought hard over many months and then, after winning the final game of the playoffs, earned the right to hold up the Cup. 

Perhaps it has more to do with realizing it is not my Cup to lift. Too often people want to do something without paying the real price to get the prize; or at least touch it.

And that thought reminds me of two of Jesus’ disciples; James and John, who were always getting into ‘trouble’ when Jesus was teaching them.

In Mark 10:35-40 we read how James and John came to Jesus asking Him to “do for us whatever we ask.” And then they went on to ask for special places of honor next to Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?"

They said; “Sure, why not?”

To which Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

He was telling them that there was a process that they had to go through in order to get to the spot where they could drink the cup, let alone “lift the Cup up over their heads”. 

Too often people want to do something without paying the real price to get the prize; or at least touch it. They want to be a follower of Jesus without really being His disciple. No, you can’t earn your way to heaven; it’s a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) but there is a price to be paid.

As Jesus said:

“Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple”.” (Luke 14:27-38