Losing to Win
In the schedule that we presently keep, traveling from event to event and visiting almost every corner of the US to see family and friends, much planning and forethought takes place to insure we are booked in various venues and have somewhere to stay. My husband relishes plans that are made months in advance; me, not so much. I prefer flexibility, and I like to think that if something comes up four months from now I will have the ability to choose to participate, or not. This is especially relevant when one is bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball between the west and the east. It makes a great argument for having a trailer and frequenting Wal-Mart parking lots with no reservation needed, thus keeping things adaptable.
One who is very comfortable living in the present and not predisposed to sticking a toe into the ocean of the future is also unlikely to dream about what that future could hold. There is always so much taking place and so much to think about just to get through today! God has addressed this topic in various ways in his Word. On the one hand, He encourages us to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11) and to not worry about tomorrow as, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” (Matthew 6:34c, ESV). But, he has also warned in Proverbs, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man,” (Proverbs 6:6-11, ESV). And He says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,” (Proverbs 29:18, ESV). Another Bible version states it like this: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” So, planning, and dreaming, and projecting vision are important parts of God’s desire for His people.
I had an opportunity to really consider the idea of dreams and vision when I attended church in Kernersville, NC about two months ago. Pastor Josh Stahl of Turning Point Church, Kernersville, shared five steps that are invaluable to those who desire to live a life of vision:
- Ask God for it: Spend time in prayer asking the Lord for guidance and direction in regard to your future and what plan and purpose He has for you.
- Write it down: The book of Habakkuk encourages, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it,” (Habakkuk 2:2). This step is an affirmation that you will aim toward your vision and that it is a reachable goal.
- Speak it out: Speaking out a vision is further confirmation of the possibility that you will realize your dream. It is placing trust in God and having faith that what He has spoken to you is reality. God had Ezekiel the prophet speak to dry old bones and prophesy life and breath into them, which led to an army of living beings standing before him.
- Embrace it: Eleanor Roosevelt is credited for this statement, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Accept what the Lord has spoken to you as an integral part of your tomorrows.
- Push toward it: After his conversion, the apostle Paul was constantly striving toward excellence and fulfillment of the goals that the Lord had laid out for His life. He never wavered in his belief and conviction that God would use him to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and our faith is borne out of the struggles and determination of Paul and the rest of the Lord’s first disciples.
I just saw a painted barn board sign that read:
“Good things are going to happen DREAM BIG LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN the best is yet to come”
Let your dreams take you into the future that God envisions for you. Be courageous, be confident, and dream away!
I have such fond memories of my high school career. I became very involved in the music department, particularly in choir. As a result, I also participated in high school musicals way back before it became a real pop culture phenomenon. This led to a bit of involvement in the school’s drama program as well.
When I was a junior, some of my friends directed a student-led production of Alice in Wonderland. Having had some significant parts in the musicals, my best friend and I were recruited to play the most critical parts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Ok, so there were several more important roles, but we were in, and we pledged to put our amazing theatrical talents into these two quarreling characters. If you are not familiar with the story, the writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll, included these subjects of a well-known nursery rhyme in the storyline of the second book. Both books were then transformed into the classic children’s stage play.
The battle that we had on stage must have affected my ability to remember most of the experience. But, two things about the play stand out in my mind. First, my best friend wound up being very sick (uh-huh) for the performances. As a result, our ridiculously talented pianist, a male, played Tweedledee to my Tweedledum. He did a fine job, and the only thing that stands out more in my mind than that switcheroo was what happened to our most integral prop.
If you recall the story or the nursery rhyme, these brothers have a scuffle over a rattle. Tweedledum accuses Tweedledee of spoiling his nice, new rattle, which in the twenty-first century means, “brother broke it.” In the manner of a western-themed duel, they agree to a battle over it. Well, before the curtain was opened, the rattle was strategically placed on the floor in front of us. Actors in their places, count down to curtain opening, anticipation, adrenalin rushing, and the curtain finally parted. Tweedledum’s famous line, “You spoiled my nice, new rattle,” is the impetus for the fight. But, when this Tweedledum looked down at the busted object, it wasn’t there. Surprise!!! In the excitement of the moment, neither my counterpart nor I noticed that the rattle had been whisked off the stage by the opening curtain. It was at this point that my theatrical prowess kicked in. In that split second, I acted shocked, because I was, but with great conviction I said, “You stole it; you stole my nice, new rattle!” Moment saved! The five seconds of ad lib screamed “Oscar!” Oh, what could have been?
Now, take a leap with me back even further to first century Jerusalem. Eleven very discouraged, extremely frightened men were hiding out after their leader was tried, convicted, and executed via crucifixion a day following the Passover celebration. His followers were in mourning, and a rich disciple with an unused tomb asked for His body. He and a leader in the Jewish ruling group prepared His body for burial. He was laid in the rich man’s grave.
Early on the first day of the week, some of His women followers came to the tomb to anoint His body with fragrant spices. There is mention of an earthquake in the Book of Matthew’s account. Three of the Gospels report the presence of angels. The Book of John focuses on Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb. One thing is common to all these historical documentations: “Surprise!!!” Jesus was not there – he was whisked up from the place where His body had been. The wrappings that had surrounded Him were left behind, but contrary to the story concocted by the cantankerous, confused and corrupt chief priests and Pharisees, no one stole the body. God the Father resurrected Jesus His Son! It happened just as Jesus had previously told His disciples that it would. And because of this, Peter says in his first letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice,”
(1 Peter 1:3-6a, ESV).
Mankind saved! This one unparalleled act screams, “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen!”
Oceans of Love
There is no debate that the Pacific Ocean is massive and impressive. It is the largest body of water on earth expanding more than sixty-two million square miles, and its deepest point is almost eleven thousand meters. It was named by Ferdinand Magellan, who in an attempt to circumnavigate the world, crossed through rough waters off of Cape Horn at the southern-most tip of South America, and then found the waters into which he next crossed to be peaceful, hence the name, “pacifico.”
I had the pleasure of visiting family in California during the holidays. I am by no means a scholar in geography, but it doesn’t call for genius to know that if one travels due west in the US that for travel to continue without interruption one must be in an amphibious vehicle or halt travel and switch to a plane or some type of water craft. Still, in the area where we were staying, I was amazed to see the body of blue on the left of the navigation screen, and because we don’t see the ocean from my bother’s home, it was an interesting discovery to realize just how close I was to the Pacific. Days later in San Diego, my son’s family and I took a walk along a cliff that hugged the ocean’s shore. It was overwhelming to look out over that great expanse of seemingly never-ending water with its mesmerizing, powerful waves crashing on the sand, and then to talk to its Creator to thank Him for such an amazing and awe-inspiring world He has given to us.
Something occurred to me in that moment: God’s love is even bigger, greater and more powerful than that ocean! And, just like my ignorance at the ocean’s close proximity, we can be unaware of the closeness of God and the genuine and generous love that He has for us. How much easier and better our lives would be if we were continually aware that our Father, Creator, Savior, and Friend was surrounding us with His unfathomable love. Paul says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family- in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV).
I don’t know about you, but I can be very prone to focusing on tangible circumstances and surroundings, forgetting in the midst of my struggles that the Father’s loving arms are there to embrace me. God’s desire is that we would be aware of His presence every moment and allow His love rather than problems to overwhelm us. Though life will often cause us to encounter rough waters, we can swiftly cross into God’s “Ocean of love,” a certain place of peace. Just like Magellan, we will be able to say, “Ah, pacifico!”
The Big Reveal
A few months ago we were delighted to hear from our youngest daughter and her husband that they are expecting their first child next March. As is the trend with today’s parents-to-be, they opted to find out their baby’s gender before birth. Katie had an ultrasound and a blood test done. Though the news was concealed inside an envelope, it was a little too simple to just open it up to know whom they will be welcoming into their family. So, the envelope with the precious information was passed off to a couple with remote acreage. They prepared an elaborate contraption that when hit would explode, shooting the appropriate colored chalk in the air (blue for boy, pink for girl) revealing the gender of the little one Katie is carrying. On the last Saturday of October, we had a celebration brunch with some family and friends and then headed out as a caravan to the said property for the Big Reveal.
Chase is licensed and experienced using a rifle, but it took him a couple times to correctly hit the target, which was about one hundred fifty feet away from him and all of us who were cheering him on. Waiting with great anticipation, many of us held cell phones to catch the “big reveal,” making it a bit hard to pay attention to all the details. When the rifle shot finally made contact with the disclosing mechanism, a small puff of grayish smoke appeared above the target site, leaving most of us a bit confused. Some noticed, however, that a pile of pink chalk had spilled out on the ground, causing them to shout, “It’s a girl!” Daddy-to-be wanted to get it right, however, so the property owner fixed the target, and a few minutes later we watched as a huge pink cloud appeared above the site, causing us all to clap and shout for the news that a baby girl would be born.
Of course, God needed no advanced procedures or technology to foretell the birth of His Son. The first pronouncement came hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, as Isaiah states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV). The surrounding passage speaks of a great light shining and exceeding joy for the nation of Israel. Closer to the event, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to Mary to reveal that she was carrying His Son. No ultrasound was needed; no blood test was taken; no shot was fired at a faulty device. The almighty God sent His reliable messenger to the chosen mother to let her know that she would have the promised One, and to inform her, “and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31b-33, ESV). Though their conversation was quiet and private, God’s news exploded into the world. There was excitement and celebration when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and the baby boy she was carrying “leaped for joy.” And Mary glorified the Lord in her celebration of the baby who would be born to her for all mankind.
Jesus’ birth happened just as Mary was told. God employed angels once again to make the grand announcement. It was to shepherds in the field that the angel of the Lord appeared. Though the sight caused the shepherds to be afraid, there was no error or doubt regarding the message. “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:10b-14, ESV). The shepherds responded by visiting Jesus and then proclaiming what they had been told by the angel. When they left, they too gave praise and glory to God for the baby boy who was born to be the Savior of the world.
I didn’t mention before that even with the most sophisticated testing to date, gender predictions can be wrong. But God’s accuracy rate is always 100%. Jesus was in fact born, lived a sinless life on earth for thirty-three years, and then died on a cruel tree to make atonement for the sin-stained world. We can rejoice continually because He was resurrected from the dead, and He lives forever to rule and reign. So let the angels sing and the blue chalk fly! ‘Tis the season to remember and celebrate the Big Reveal: “It’s a Boy!” And, He has been born for you.
The Pumpkin; A Sign of the Season
Among the many characteristics of the fall season is the appearance of the venerable pumpkin. Not only are they abundantly on display in grocery stores and roadside stands, products featuring this fruit are plentiful as well. The flavor of pumpkin is no longer savored in pies and cakes alone, but it can be found in coffees, teas, and creamers, pancakes, donuts, puddings, candies, cereals, and even tortilla chips!
On September first, wanting to make my favorite fall cookie, I checked in some local shops for canned pumpkin. Neither the cans nor any fresh-picked pumpkins were to be found. By October first they were everywhere! One could say that pumpkins are truly a sign of the season.
Over the last few years I have fallen in love with pumpkin English muffins. As soon as they appear on the market shelves I start buying them, sometimes two or three packages at a time. During the past month spent with my daughter and her family, I have easily purchased five to six dozen, pleasing the palette of my four-year-old granddaughter as well as my own. As usual, I will plan to buy several packs to freeze to insure we have them for the holidays, because these small baked wonders, along with the other pumpkin products presently occupying store shelves, will disappear just as suddenly as they appeared a few weeks ago. I have to take advantage of the opportunity to buy them while it exists.
Many believers perceive that in the world today, we are going through an unusual season. There are conflicts all around the globe, strange weather patterns and natural disasters, and political and personal unrest in various locales. As we look in God’s Word we may truly wonder if these are the signs and the “labor pains” that Jesus spoke of, indicative of the end times (see Matthew 24). There is certainly some merit to these thoughts, though the Bible is clear that only God the Father knows the day and hour that these events will occur. But, He also left us this word through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 (ESV): “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
The important point of the matter is this: whether the Lord’s return is tomorrow or a thousand years from now, these present-day struggles have opened up a wonderful opportunity to share the good news about Jesus with others. As people search for answers in the midst of these difficult times, we are compelled to share the love, compassion, peace, and saving grace that the Lord provides to each one who comes to Him. In 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (ESV), the apostle Paul writes these words: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His Kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
There are many around us who are longing for answers to address tough situations. Jesus bids us to share the good news with them. The season is now and it may soon be gone; take advantage of the opportunity while it exists!
Olympic fever has been running high at my daughter’s home in North Carolina. Though my granddaughters are only four, two and newborn, we have been sitting down together as a family to watch events in swimming, diving, archery, and gymnastics. (The video of the pool has been an amazing pacifier!) We have used live streaming as the means to catch the action, thus the commercials are often longer than the video coverage, but we have still enjoyed viewing the competition and cheering for the athletes.
As have many Olympic fans, I have taken to the Internet to garner facts about present competitors and prior champions. I happened on a site called How Stuff Works. They had an article highlighting the stories of “Five Amazing Olympic Athletes.” Though Michael Phelps did not make their list, four solo athletes and one two-man team did. The piece included participants from games that took place over a one hundred year plus span. I was already acquainted with Jesse Owens, a black athlete competing at the games in hostile 1936 Berlin. Hitler’s hatred and pride did not squelch Jesse’s athletic prowess and determination as he took four gold medals and set some amazing records in running and jumping events.
An athlete named George Eyser received six gold medals in one day as a gymnast, competing with a wooden leg! This was forty-four years before the Paralympics came into being in 1948. Two female athletes made the list: Larisa Latynina for her skill displayed as a gymnast in three Olympics. She collected eighteen medals, nine of them gold. Apparently she also won a slue of medals in World and European championships, some while she was pregnant! A female athlete named Babe Didrikson Zaharias was so talented she qualified in five sports, but due to the rules for women athletes in 1932, she was only allowed to compete in three. Consequently, she took home the gold in the javelin throw and the eighty-meter hurdles and a silver in the high jump. The list of sports in which she excelled covers a wide range of events including volleyball, tennis, swimming, diving, cycling and golf. Then there is the duo of Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis who competed in Athens, Greece on the Greek Diving Team. Though not expected to medal at all, when someone from the crowd crashed through to climb up to the diving board and splashed belly first into the pool, with other competitors flustered by the incident, this pair did not lose their cool, and they took the gold in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
One thing that may be said of all these athletes is that they exceeded expectations. For whatever reason, whether it was the era in which they performed, the odds they faced, or the circumstances surrounding their event, each competed far beyond what was anticipated. They have sealed their place in the records of Olympic history as the epitome of what it means to be a champion. They trained, they fought hard, they stayed focused, they gave their all. They stand as examples of the way to compete and win.
The Bible uses language that evokes images of competition regarding the faith walk of a believer in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said of himself, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV). He encourages us in 1 Corinthians 9:24 saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” He also said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own [attaining to the resurrection from the dead]. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV). We receive further encouragement from the writer of Hebrews who said in chapter twelve, verses one and two, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
Clearly, we are in a competition, not to win a place in heaven, but to be the best we can be for the glory of God and for the sake of His kingdom. We train, we fight hard, we stay focused, and we give our all. The Lord Himself is our example as 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He always exceeds our expectations, and for those who desire to be good and faithful servants, it is important that we strive for excellence to champion the cause of Christ. May we be counted as amazing in the race to which the Lord has called us!
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen,” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).
A ministry note: I am so happy to report that those who have been in the studio with us working on the recordings for CDs three and four, have far exceeded our expectations and have given their all to create an excellent product. We have been especially in awe of the children and young people that have joined us. We can’t wait for the day that we will be sharing the results of their efforts with all of you. Way to go Godstruck Team!
All Olympic facts were taken from the site How Stuff Works Entertainment
Olympic Rings picture courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Dress-up and pretend play are both part of a well-rounded child’s domain. Developing more sophisticated levels of creativity and make-believe as they grow, children build a stable foundation for many areas of their adulthood. According to Lauren Lowry’s article found on The Hanen Centre’s website, due to the development of the imagination in childhood, adults draw on their experience to “invent, visualize, solve problems, enjoy a book, understand others’ perspectives, and think creatively,” among other capabilities.1 Make-believe also stimulates language development. According to speech pathologists Elaine Weitzman and Janice Greenberg, “Pretend play and language both involve the same underlying ability to represent things symbolically.”2 With undeniable proof that encouraging imaginative play is critical for a healthy and productive mind, it is easy to see why Albert Einstein stated, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”1
My son, Kevin graduated from Kindergarten in June 1987. As with all commencement exercises, it was, of course, an important event. Because my husband was on an assignment that took him away from home that summer, our dear friend, Miss Vickie, stepped in and joined the rest of our family for this most momentous occasion. It included quite the pomp and circumstance, incorporating among other things the traditional march, mortarboards, and appropriate speeches.
The children remained on the stage for the entire program. At one point, each was granted a diploma, and then Mr. Hanks, their principal, gave his charge to the young graduates and a message to their parents. Whoever thought to hand out the scrolls to the children before they left the platform was not keeping Kevin in mind. Within minutes of the beginning of the principal’s speech, Kevin apparently needed an escape from the scholarly environment, and he began to demonstrate “a hundred ways one can use a diploma.” Rather than risk boredom, he adeptly turned that rolled up parchment into a baseball bat, a telescope, a golf club, a hearing device, a sword, and a rifle. I signaled a “timeout” as discreetly as possible, but I did refrain from disappearing under my chair because my child was entertaining the crowd while all the other cherubs were sitting with hands folded and ears intent on their Headmaster. I really don’t know what any of the other attendees thought of the whole thing, but Vickie and I still chuckle at Kevin’s ingenuity and imagination displayed that day.
Kevin was laying a foundation for a creative life, something we have already seen is extremely important in one’s development. Interestingly, we grown-ups often continue the game of make-believe in our adult lives. Though we may not take a material item and pretend it is something else, we do wear masks and cover up our inner selves because sometimes that’s easier than allowing others to know what’s really going on inside or who we really are. There are various reasons for this attempt: fear, pride, insecurity, and self-judgment come to mind. We don’t want others to discover our inadequacies by revealing who we really are, and so we go on acting for the crowd and masking our true identities to garner acceptance and approval. Oh, there are those with whom we can let down our guard, but we often turn ourselves into someone totally different for the majority of our acquaintances. Even if the change is subtle, it still exists.
It is so amazing and refreshing to realize that we can be exactly who we are before God. It is obvious in His Word that there is no hiding from Him anyway, so it makes no sense to try. Psalm 139 clearly reveals this truth: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways,” (Psalm 139:1-3, ESV*).3 Our accepted means of hiding is in Him, not from Him. “For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble,” (Psalm 27:5, ESV*). “In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men,” (Psalm 31:20, ESV*). “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:1-3, ESV*). The best thing we can do is to acknowledge everything we hold inside to our understanding and compassionate God Who loves us unconditionally. With acceptance and guidance He will help us to deal with the areas that may need improvement and encourage us in the ways that we are already sufficiently living our lives to honor and serve Him.
I hope you appreciate this timely message. If you should find yourself at a graduation and the speaker is tending to send your mind far off in thought, perhaps you can pick up your program and escape to the land of make-believe. Batter up!
- Lowry, Lauren, “The Land of Make-Believe: How and Why to Encourage Pretend Play,” The Hanen Centre (November 22, 2012)
- Weitzman, E Greenberg, J. 2002. Learning Language and Loving It: A guide to promoting children’s social, language, and literary development in early childhood settings. Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
- The ESV Student Study Bible, ESV Bible, Copyright © 2011 by Crossway. All rights reserved.
Broken for You