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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gift of Grace

Last week I pulled over into a parking lot for just a moment to return a phone call. As I dialed the number an angry young man leaned out of his car window and yelled some not so nice four-letter words at me for blocking his way. Instead of getting angry back I smiled to myself because one of the things I have been working on over the past few years is to have more patience and learn to control my temper better. They say that money is the root of all evil, but I know for a fact that anger is one of the worst emotions and that when it leads to hate, it can become absolutely evil.
Obviously the world we live in can be harsh at times and the people around us can make it even harsher. But that’s because were human beings, all of us faulty and flawed. So maybe that’s what we need to remember, none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, so we all need to be patient with each other. I know what you’re thinking…that’s easier said than done, but consider the alternative. When has anger or hatred ever helped to improve your life? That reminds me of a story I read….
During World War I a German soldier, with bullets raging all around him, plunged into a foxhole. There he found a wounded American soldier soaked with blood and obviously only minutes from death. Touched by the plight of the man, the German soldier offered him water and through this small kindness a bond developed. The dying man pointed to his shirt pocket and the German soldier pulled out a photograph of a woman and two small children. He held the photo out so that the wounded man could gaze at his loved ones one last time. With bullets flying over their heads and war raging all around them, these two enemies were, but for a few moments, no longer enemies.
What happened in that foxhole? Did all anger and hatred cease? No. What happened was simply this. Two enemies saw each other as human beings in need of help. This is the start of forgiveness, which begins by rising above the anger and the hatred, and choosing to see each other not as a foe, and not even necessarily as a friend, but simply as fellow soldiers longing to make it home safely.

I haven’t yet discovered the secret to fully controlling one’s temper at all times. But I have figured out one thing that is really helping…I can’t ever give more grace to someone else than God has already given me!
If a small thing has the power to make you angry,
does that not indicate something about your size?
~Sydney J. Harris

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Inside Out

I went to Saddleback Church on Sunday and then played in Tim Salmon's Charity Golf Tournament on Monday. In between those two events I realized how much my life has changed...and yet how much I still want and need to "change" about myself. But how do I change something about myself?

The sermon given by Rick Warren was pretty simple, "Our sins are not as important as our intentions". In other words if our intentions are good but we make a mistake, it's okay because the important thing is whether or not our heart is in the right place. That sure sounded good to me because I admit it; I still struggle with stupid mistakes, putting my foot in my mouth and/or making selfish decisions at times. And then I think to myself, "I wish I could change...but change is one of the hardest things human beings struggle with.

Speaking of change, I would really like to change my golf swing as well. I have always had a rather poor "inside out" swing, which causes me to slice the ball to the right. So I signed up for a series of golf lessons and one of the first things the instructor said was, "Change is going to take time". In fact he said that since I had been using the same swing for many years, it would be hard to change and any success would require a sincere commitment on my part. In fact, he warned me that I would probably play a lot worse before I played better and guess what, he was right! My last few rounds of golf have been my worst in years. The problem is that when I play...I try my new swing some of the time and I try my old swing some of the time...but most of the time I'm simply caught somewhere in between, which isn't good at all.

After church on Sunday I decided that both the Pastor and the golf coach were right. If we have the right intentions and are hearts are committed, then even if we make a few mistakes along the way, we will still succeed in the end. Since that message applies to both our personal lives and our sports lives, I went straight out to the golf range to work on my swing (I know, there are more important things I should be working on) but I worked for hours on my new golf swing, over and over again, committing myself to sticking with it. At the Charity Golf Tournament it paid off. Surprising even myself, I played some of the best golf of my life and our team finished with a 12 under par round of 60.

I think I learned something very valuable. If we want to change something about ourselves, we have to fully commit to it. So with that in mind...I am going to pick one of my faults (I have a lot to choose from) and begin working on it right away. I will make the commitment to it...stick with it...and eventually I will change because the change is coming from the inside out!

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me.
~ Anonymous

Monday, July 7, 2014

God is Love - Part Two

There are two parts to this story. Part one was about a very fast 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner with an inspiring sticker on the rear window. Part two is about how easily children believe in fairy tales and God and love. Although they seem like they are unrelated…. these two stories do intertwine.

My wife and I are blessed with six wonderful grandchildren who often say and do crazy things. They are all great kids, each with their own unique personality, but every one of them is also similar in one way….they provide us with non-stop smiles and fully fill our lives with love and laughter.

Yesterday, as they often do, two of our grandchildren stayed at our house overnight. Andie Rose and Jack are only 6 and 7, so one of our regular night-time rituals is to tell them a bedtime story. My wife and I take turns because it isn’t easy to come up with an exciting fairy tale or Disney type story off the cuff, but we try our best and the grandkids seem to really like it. They also seem to believe them!

Isn’t it funny how when we are young our minds are open so much more to believing in things we cannot see, taste or touch? When children are young they learn about God and they believe in Him without hesitation. Children also learn about love from the moment of birth and know what it is long before they can even speak. Children know if they are loved or not and when they are young they will love their parents, even if they are not loved back. Love is truly a driving force in our lives from the moment of conception. As children our minds and hearts are open and the world is a magical place where anything and everything is possible. As adults though, it seems like the magic in life is all smoke and mirrors, so we put our belief in material things like money and make up and homes we cannot afford....and slowly forget how magical and miraculous life and love really are. 

After reciting a made up fairy tale about a special band of goofy frogs that live in a cave on Tom Sawyer’s Island, both our grandchildren went right to sleep. As I stood in the doorway of their room, peering in at their precious little faces, a question came to mind. Most of us, children and adults alike, know what love is. We know it exists; we live for it, seek it, and strive to give it to others totally believing in it even though we cannot see it, taste it or touch it. Why then is it so hard to believe in a Creator who formed us out of love and filled us with the capacity to love? It shouldn’t be so hard to believe in God, when God is love!

I believe in the sun even if it isn't shining.
I believe in love even when I am alone.
I believe in God even in dark times
because darkness cannot put out the Light.
It can only make God brighter.
~ Anonymous