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Juan and Gabby

Juan Marichal

 

He was called the Dominican Dandy.  Juan Marichal came to San Francisco Giants  with a blazing fast ball an array of off speed pitches that would fill up a restaurant menu.  The beautiful part of his pitching however was his leg kick.  I can still see it in my mind as he lifted his leg over his head before delivering his pitches.  Behind that leg came the ball which made his arsenal almost impossible for the hitter to read.  The impossible became even more difficult because of his pin point control on all of his pitches.  During the 1960’s he began his winning ways.  During the 1960’s he won more games than any other pitcher in the major leagues.  He also struck out more batters than anyone else.  Yet for two years after his retirement Juan was not voted into baseballs hall of fame.  That omission no doubt was because of an incident that happened way back in 1965.

John Roseboro was the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher during the 1960’s.  He was a man of few words and for that reason his teammates called him Gabby.  He was a tough team oriented player who his teammates loved.  He let his actions speak louder than his words.  Sandy Koufax, the great hall of fame pitcher noted that Roseboro was one of the greatest Dodgers catcher in history.  Koufax in fact credits Roseboro with much of his success.  “I never felt alone with him back there”, Koufax stated.  Roseboro was only 5 foot 11 and weighed less than 200 pounds but he was the leader of those Dodger teams.  He wasn’t the greatest hitter but made up for it with his all out hustle and handling of the Dodgers pitching staff.  Nobody messed around with John. Roseboro’s competitive edge and all out effort to stand up for his team was in full display on that day in 1965. Roseboro was part of the Juan Marichal incident too.  He was the one the fans felt was the victim.

The Giants and the Dodgers brought their bitter rivalry from the east coast where they were the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  In 1958 the franchises moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles.  They might have moved across the country but their intense rivalry never changed.  In 1965 there wasn’t a playoff system or even divisions.  Each league was represented by the team that won the most games in their league and the rest of the teams were left to wait until next year.  The date was August 22, 1965 and both the Giants and Dodgers were competing for the pennant.  They were literally within a couple of games of each other.  To say that both teams wanted to win badly would be an understatement.

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It was the last game of a four game series at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  Both teams were pitching their aces Marichal for the Giants and Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers.  In those days brush back pitches were used.  A brush back pitch was a pitch inside on the batter that if they didn’t move out of the way quickly would hit them.  The purpose of brush back pitches was to not let the hitter get too comfortable at the plate.  The first batter for the Dodgers was Maury Wills who was a skinny speedy shortstop.  Maury dragged a bunt for a base hit.  When Wills came back up in the third inning Marichal threw a high brush back pitch.  Wills flung himself out of the way by violently falling backwards to the ground.  The next batter was Ron Fairley and Marichal again threw a brush back pitch.  Down went Fairley barely getting out of the way.  When the Giants came to bat their best hitter Willie Mays was on the ground as Koufax zinged a pitch that almost hit Mays in the head and ended up hitting the wall behind the plate.  At that point with both teams on edge the umpire warned both managers that the next time a batter got knocked down would be a cause for ejection.

On the bench while his team was batting Roseboro formulated a plan.  He didn’t want Koufax thrown out of the game but he did want to give Marichal a violent scare.  The next time Marichal came to bat (the pitchers batted) he would not have Koufax throw at him.  His plan was to throw the ball back to Koufax so close to Marichal’s head that if it hit him it would look like an accident.  When Marichal came to bat Roseboro delinerately blocked the ball behind where Marichal was batting.  When he threw the ball back to Koufax Marichal claimed that it clipped his ear.  Marichal turned to Roseboro and wanted an explanation.  Hateful words ensued and Marichal completely lost his composure.  He took his bat and raised it and brought it down on Roseboro’s head.  Both benches emptied and both sides pushed each other around for the next 14 minutes.

 

https://tht.fangraphs.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2014/05/John-Rosengren-Cover-Crop.jpg Roseboro’s head was bleeding and it looked worse as the blood was running down his face.  Willie Mays who was a friend of Roseboro’s reasoned with him to get some medical attention.  In the wild atmosphere he was the one with a voice of reason.  After Roseboro was off getting his wound treated the madness slowly calmed down.  Sports Illustrated had the violent scene in it’s next issue of Marichal with his bat overhead.  The press made it seem like Marichal was the meanest man in the world.  Roseboro took the next couple of games to recover and then he was back in the lineup.  Marichal was fined $17,500 which was a lot back then and suspended for 10 games.

Since a pitcher only pitches every three or four days Marichal missed 3 starts.  The way Marichal was pitching that could easily have been three wins.  For whatever reason when he came back from his suspension he was not the same pitcher.  He won three games and lost four the rest of the season and the Dodgers won the pennant by 2 games over the Giants.

Roseboro was furious about Marichal’s allegations that  he instigated the brawl by clipping Marichal’s ear.  After thinking it over Roseboro sued Marichal for $110,000 which was an enormous amount back then.  He ended up winning the suit but for a lot less namely $7,500. An immediate public apology did not soothe Roseboro’s attitude.  He stated that Marichal did it through the press and not to him personally.  Then he stated that even if Marichal did come to him personally he would feel the same way.  “I wouldn’t have been impressed, because apologies, in my book, don’t make up for the original deed. There are too many people in this world who do terrible things intentionally and feel they can ease out of trouble with an apology.”

In 1975 Marichal signed with the Dodgers.  Many of the Dodgers fans were outraged that the Dodgers would sign their worst enemy.  Roseboro who was in retirement asked the fans to give him a chance.  Marichal made an agreement with the club.  If he was healthy he felt he could help the team.  But if he wasn’t he would retire.  Although his arm was feeling fine it was his back that betrayed him.  With his back hurting the way it did he could not help the Dodgers and true to his word after two starts he retired.

The years past like they always do   Marichal was up for the Hall of fame after 5 years out of baseball but he was denied.  Roseboro was outraged that a pitcher who was clearly one of the very best was ruled out because of one incident.  It was clearly a change of heart that apparently had been going on for some time within Roseboro.  In 1983 Marichal finally got enough votes to enter the Hall.  No doubt Roseboro’s opinion did not hurt the vote!

There was an Old Timers Game between the Giants and the Dodgers and both Marichal and Roseboro were invited to go.  For years they had went their separate ways but that day they talked.  As they talked they realized that deep down they truly liked each other.  The hatred had long passed from Roseboro and for the rest of his life Juan was someone he called a true friend.  Juan invited Roseboro to go to the Dominican Republic with him and Roseboro quickly accepted.  They had a wonderful time there and it only cemented their friendship further.

When John Roseboro passed away in 2002 it was very clear who his family wanted to give a eulogy, none other than Juan Marichal.  He stated words that were very powerful.  “Johnny’s forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life,” “I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher.”  He didn’t but he did receive something much more valued, his friendship.

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I Believe In You

One of the best things as a parent that you can tell your children is how much you believe in them.  We see it beautifully stated in the graduation programs at our University.  Proud parents leave tributes for their graduating seniors and it is wonderful.  Many times the tributes mention how much they believe in them and how proud they are of them.  This belief they speak of goes to the heart of the word.  I believe that you will be a great success they might say.  I believe that you can accomplish everything that you want.  In other words the belief is that they are sold that their son or daughter is great already and they will succeed in whatever they do!

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Years ago we traveled through Kentucky and Tennessee.  It was just a week or two after a major tornado had hit down on the area.  We happened to stop at a store and were talking to the cashier about the incident.  We were told that most of the people there did not bother to heed  the warnings.  “We get warnings all of the time here”, they mentioned to us.  I’m sure that their belief was shaken and although they believed a tornado was sighted they didn’t believe it would affect them.  Sadly there were injuries and fatalities because the trust factor wasn’t there. Photos: Storms Cause Death, Damage In Kentucky, Tennessee

In Acts chapter 16 verse 31 Paul and Silas were asked what they must do to be saved.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved and your entire household”.  Many times when people are asked if they are a christian or they think they are going to heaven they reply “yes I believe in God”.  However the Bible meaning for believe is far more extensive than just the belief that there is a God.  When Jesus said believe in me he was talking about believing in what he said.

Can you imagine a husband saying that he believes that he has a wife?  Wouldn’t you think that if he is married that would be a crazy statement?  In the same way just believing that there is a God in itself does not mean we have a relationship with him.  That would be the same as the parents in those tributes saying that they believed that they had a son or daughter.  If you think that just believing that there is a God will get you to heaven consider this fact: Even the Devil believes that there is a God and we know where he will end up.

'Okee-dokey... Let's just see how your diagnosis and treatment plan compare to what webMD.com has to say...'

In James Chapter 2 starting with verse 14 we are told that faith without works is dead.  It is like those tornado victims that might have believed that there was a tornado but took no action.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

It is useful in reading the Bible to substitute the word trust when you see the word believe.  Sometimes in the translation from the original Greek the words get watered down and they lose their meaning.  It doesn’t make sense that if we merely believe that there is a God that we are saved.  It is as obvious as that husband that states “I believe that you are my wife.”  The determining factor in that marriage and in our relationship to God is not the fact that they exist but learning to trust them and truly believe in everything they are about.  That belief on our part will lead us to follow the path given to us trusting that our Lord and Savior has a plan and purpose for our lives!

The Cain Way

Usually by reading the Bible we can get a pretty direct interpretation.  However there are times that we need to dig a little deeper into the passage.  I’m thinking about the story of Cain and Abel.  They were brothers parented by Adam and Eve.  Cain was a worker of the soil while Abel was a keeper of the flocks.  Both were much needed and necessary.  When they both made an offering to the Lord Cain brought his vegetables he had grown while Abel brought his firstlings of his flock and of the fat therof.  And Jehovah had respect onto Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering he had not respect.  And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell.  Genesis 4 verses 3-5.  To help me understand what that last sentence meant I looked up the words wroth and countenance.  Wroth means intensely angry, highly incensed, Wrathful.  Other synonyms of wroth include fuming, hot, furious, and outraged.  Countenance has to do with a persons face or facial expression.  So Cain’s facial expression changed as he became angry.  Now I can see the picture of someone who is upset, mad , and furious and his face telling the same story even without words.

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I used to think that Cain’s offering wasn’t respected because it was not a blood offering.  We know in the old testament the sacrifice of blood covered people’s sins.  However nowhere in the passage is this offering described as a sacrifice.  This was an offering unto God.  Logically God wouldn’t have expected Cain or Abel to offer something they didn’t have.   Cain was a worker of the soil so what he had to offer was the vegetables he grew.  The other misconception I had after my blood sacrifice theory that went up in smoke was the thought that Cain didn’t give his best vegetables.  We know that Abel gave his best because the passage suggests it.  But it doesn’t say anywhere that God was not happy with Cain because his offering was rotten or worm infested or he gave the smallest worst ones.  On the contrary I believe that Cain gave his best too.

We are not told why Cain’s offering was not respected.  However the passage doesn’t just mention his offering.  It states that Cain and his offering were not respected.  It also states that Abel and his offering were.  Now maybe we can find some clarity there.  Could it be that both offerings could have been respected and the real answer lies within the brothers?  Could it be that because Cain’s heart was not in the right place his offering was viewed as bad too?   Cain’s offering was something that Cain had to work for.  He had to til the soil and do all of the hard labor that it takes to grow things.  Abel’s offering had nothing to do with Abel.  He just offered something that God had given to him.  In reality Cain’s offering was given to him too but could it be that Cain was proud of what he did?   We know that God looks at the heart in anything we do.  That is why the poor widow who only gave one small coin in the new testament was commended by Jesus of giving more than all of the other people who were giving.  While the others it was explained were giving just a portion of what they had the poor widow gave all that she had.  It was a heart gift that went way beyond it’s man made monetary value.

To further the argument that Cain’s problem was a heart thing instead of the actual offering that he gave I offer this.  Cain was truly disappointed that his offering was not accepted.  It states that his head which was probably raised in pride for the things he had grown was now dropped in sorrow.  In life we are going to have disappointments and it is OK to feel that way.  However it is never OK to be bitter and worse to stay that way.  It doesn’t state anywhere that Cain asked God why his offering wasn’t accepted.  Wouldn’t you think that it would be the logical question to ask especially if you were trying to please God?  Cain did not ask the question because it was obvious to him what the answer was.

God knew Cain’s heart so it was no surprise to him how Cain reacted.  Cain reacted in anger and hate.  Have you ever heard it said that it doesn’t matter what happens it is how we react to it that counts?  In this example we can almost see through Cain by how he reacted.  He was furious and it mirrored what was on the inside. It wasn’t enough for him to be upset though.  He could have asked God how he could make it right but he wasn’t interested in that.  He was upset because God knew the condition of his heart which went far beyond the offering that he gave.

I’m going to draw a few conclusions from the passage based on human nature and the evidence of the story.  Cain did not love his brother Abel.  To him it was a competition of who did the most important thing.  Cain thought for sure that God would be more pleased with the offering he worked so hard to get. In his mind Abel job was just leading animals around.  Cain felt like his offering was special and he was proud of the results that he was able to produce.

Isn’t that the way of the world today?  In our world a persons worth is associated with what he or she accomplishes.  This is the Cain way of thinking and is totally against God’s way.  In God’s way it is a matter of the heart.  Why do we do the things we do?  Do we do things to get praise from the world?  If Cain had seen the error of his ways and had been sorrowful and had repented I am sure that God would have been pleased.  However that was not Cain’s attitude.

So what does Cain do?  He is so bitter and angry that he calls his brother to come into the field with him.  I contend that this was not the beginning of this hatred.  I don’t think that Cain loved his brother from the start.  In fact I think he hated his brother from the beginning.  If he loved Abel he would have been happy for him that God accepted his offering.  On the contrary his anger showed how selfish he was.  In his mind it was Abel’s fault that God did not accept his offering.  This hate had probably built up over a long period of time and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.   Abel probably thought that his brother wanted to discuss something.  Never in his heart did he think his brother meant harm.  I believe that Abel loved his brother and had a loving heart.  Cain murdered his brother and buried him.  Later God asked Cain where his brother was?  Cain answered that he didn’t know…”am I my brothers keeper?”, he stated.

A man with his hands covered with mud

The fact is we are our brothers keeper.  We should be concerned about others because we love them.  God is the only one who can put that love into our hearts.  He looks into our hearts for our true motives.  Our accomplishments in this life mean nothing without God.  Cain didn’t come to the conclusion that everything that he grew was a gift from God.  He was in the human mindset that if he worked hard he would produce results.  God was not in his equation.  Cain’s heart was filled with hate and felt he was the one who determined his own success.   That is called the Cain way and is totally against the word of God.  When we accept Jesus into our lives he puts a loving spirit inside.  Now we start doing things in love not because we have to but because of the desire to do so.  Now there is a new purpose in our lives when we realize that everything that we have or ever will be is a gift from God!  Everywhere we look we see the Cain way in action.  It is the attitude that we are our own God and we control our success.  If you feel that way come to God and he will get down to the heart of the matter!

A Fly In The Eye From The Rooftop

The title of the sermon was called “God Already Knows.”  Of course we all think well of course he does because he is God.  Yet we sometimes pray like God doesn’t know anything and we have to explain everything to him.  There was a story that happened to him that week that he was almost hesitant to tell us.  He was thinking that it was kind of gross and he let us know that he may or may not include it.  The sermon went on and the point kept coming back to however big or small our problems God already knows.  To add to that it was stated that not only does he know the problem he already has the solution.  Jesus instructed in the book of Matthew to not say vain Religious prayers repeating the same things over and over.  In Matthew 6:8 he states that “Our Father knows what we have need of before we ask him.

The sermon was concluding and my pastor had been waiting for the spirit to tell him whether to include the story.  The answer that he got was yes so he proceeded.  This past week he was riding his bike with his son.  He often rides his bike as a way of exercise and the fact that he just enjoys the process.  Suddenly without warning  he felt a sharp pain in his right eye.  Right away he knew what happened.  A fly had literally flew into his right eye.  Not only was there the initial pain but the fly was trying to get out but was trapped behind his eye.  They were not far from the church so they stopped there and he flooded his eye with water from the sink sprayer.  He tried repeatedly to wash the fly out but to no avail.  He was tempted to go to the emergency room but he felt that God had the answer.  He prayed “Lord, I don’t know why this has happened but I believe that it will work out for my good.”  He quoted Romans 8:28 which states that all things work for our good if we love him.  It took a couple of hours of waiting but suddenly little pieces of the dead fly began to come out of his eye. 

Finally all of the fly was gone but there was another problem and potential fear.  First of all his eye was swelled up like someone had punched him.  Secondly there was a thought that some damage to his eye had been caused.  Again he went into prayer.  “Lord”, he said “I ask you to take this swelling down and make this eye just like it was.”  A couple of days later all of the swelling was gone and his eye was perfectly normal.  I was glad that he told us this story.  It illustrated the point that God knows and he already has the solution to our problems.  Most of us would probably had gone to the Emergency Room and tried to solve our problem that way.  We might not even think about praying and trusting God.  I don’t know what the purpose of this happening to him was.  However I can tell you that it made a big impact on the congregation when he was able to give God the glory over his recent trial.  God looks down almost as if he were on a rooftop and see’s our needs!

This eye thing was kind of a big problem.  God is interested in our big problems and our smaller ones too.  Sometimes we might think that God is too busy to care about the smaller things and that we should only pray for bigger problems.  The fact is that God is interested in our whole lives, the little as well as the big.  The roof on our house was 25 years old.  It had not given us significant trouble but it was time for a new roof.  This spring I started exploring what the price of a roof would cost.  Naturally this was not a job that would be cheap.  Besides that we needed someone who would do a good job.  I made some phone calls and mostly got answering machines.  After leaving a few messages that morning I took my son out for lunch.  We stopped at a place called Taco Bob’s and as we were done ordering and had sat down Adam from our church walked in.  We were surprised to see him and quickly let him know that we were there.  He happened to be doing work in that area that day and was glad to sit down and eat lunch with us.  I asked him if he knew anyone that he would recommend doing my roof?  I told him I had been calling around this morning.  He said he had the perfect guy for us that did great work!Image result for rooftop worker picture

I ended up hiring this guy after I had gotten another quote from a bigger company that was far more expensive.  The guy did a fine job and even replaced face boards on our house that were rotting.   I was so happy with his work that I have been telling others  I took a picture of my new roof and let people see the before and the after.  It is truly an amazing difference!  Now I know that my situation wasn’t of the fly in the eye variety but it was important to me.  God truly wants to be a part of our lives whether it is a little thing or a big thing or nothing at all.

I was talking to Adam at church the other day.  I showed him the picture and told him how great of a job his friend did!  “You know”, Adam said “I never go there.  I just happened to be working in that area on that day.”  Could it be that he was placed there for my benefit without even knowing it?  Could it be that God had the answer to my problem before I asked?  When God blesses us we are to shout it from the rooftops.  In my case I haven’t been literally climbing up on the roof to do so but seeing the new roof every day reminds me of how much he loves us!

Matthew 10:27 (NAS) “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.

Exit Stage Right

I guess the hardest thing for a famous actor, actress or celebrities to do is get off of the stage.  This is especially true when they know it is their last appearance. I remember seeing Johnny Carson’s final show.  He had the forethought to give his audience notice in advance that this would be his last show.  It was expertly planned with a combination of the here and now and highlights from shows past. Watching the show brought laughter and tears to his audience as they enjoyed the memories of the past while also realizing that there would be no new memories.  It was a time of reflection and Johnny was at his best.  He was candid, funny, and very reflective of the 30 plus years that he was the host and star of the Tonight Show.

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Muhammad Ali was a Heavyweight Boxer the likes that nobody had seen before.  He had speed like a lightweight and he developed a style of hitting without getting hit.  It was his quick reflexes as he could pull his head back just as his opponents were trying to throw their knockout blows.  Almost all of the time they ended up only hitting air.  In 1967 Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the army.  His Heavyweight Title was stripped and for 3 and a half years he was not allowed to fight.  Then in 1970 he was given a license to fight in Georgia.  Ali was still good when he returned but he wasn’t the fighter he used to be.  Subsequent matches he started to get hit.  When he fought Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight crown in 1971 he was hit like never before.  No longer was he able to get out of the way every time.  Joe knocked him down in the 15th round and kept his Heavyweight championship.

Ali persevered after that fight and for 3 years he chased another chance to claim the Heavyweight Title.  Finally in 1974 he got his chance.  George Foreman was now the Heavyweight champion after defeating Frazier the year before.  Ali was a big underdog but he used his ring savvy to tire Foreman out and get his title back.  Ali had hinted before the fight that this would be the perfect way for him to leave the stage.  Ten years after winning the title to regain it against such a powerful foe.  However after he won he wouldn’t quit.

Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time in 1975 and although he won the fight it took it’s toll on both him and Frazier. It was finally time to get out with his health in tact but Ali kept fighting even though his best days were long passed.  He was getting hit and was lucky enough to barely keep his title in some controversial decisions.  In 1978 he fought a rookie boxer named Leon Spinks who had 8 professional fights at the time.  Ali had not trained properly for the fight and Spinks won the decision and the title.  Later that year in a rematch Ali won his title back from Spinks.  Finally Ali retired and left the stage.  Ali loved the limelight and surely he missed being the center of attention.  The next year he announced that he was coming back to get his title.  The fight with Larry Holmes didn’t go well.  Ali was hit like a punching bag showing none of his old talents.  He fought one more time and lost again before he finally admitted that he was through.  It was sad watching him fight at the end when there was nothing left but the memories of what used to be.

Like Ali we are given a time in the spotlight in life. Ecclesiates chapter 3 mentions that there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

One of the hardest to deal with is the time to die.  When Carson walked off of the stage for the last time he knew that his time in the limelight was up.  He dealt with it by planning his show and making a great memory at the end.  Unlike Ali at the end we only remember the extraordinary talent that he had without a slippage in later shows.  The same lesson can be learned from the end of life.  Although we will be missed we have the power to make it more of a joyous occasion instead of a sad episode with no hope.  As Christians we need to remember that this is not our home.  When our time is up there is no need to keep fighting.  That is why so many people die very peacefully.  They know that they are going to a place far better!

I have a friend whose mother was dying.  At Christmas time all of the family decided they would write her a letter telling her how much she meant to them.  Later my friend mentioned that the thinking was all backwards.  They should have had her write a letter to each of them.  It would be a letter like the letters somebody used for the meaning of the Bible which was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

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Planted By The River

There are many mysteries in the Bible and one that comes to mind is found in Mark 8:21-26.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into[a] the village.”

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The question is Why didn’t Jesus heal the man right away or did he?  One of the answers that is interpreted is that he was healed gradually basically for his own good.  It was like going from total darkness to the bright sunlight.  Many times it is compared to salvation and how God let’s a little light in to draw sinners to the righteous path.  When they see some light he reveals more light as they seek him.

The other interpretation that I heard recently was that perhaps the man was given a vision in the spiritual realm.  We see things in the natural with our natural eyes but behind the scenes there is a spiritual world.  It’s like our computer system at work.  We are operating on what we see on our monitor.  Behind the scenes things are happening inside that computer that we don’t see.  Sometimes we concentrate so much on what we are seeing that we forget that there is the unseen world.  It’s only when things go awry with our computer that an expert has to manipulate things behind the scenes to make what we see go back to normal.

It is interesting that the man saw figures like trees but they were walking around.  We aren’t told how he lost his sight but he obviously could see at some earlier part of his life because he knew what trees looked like.  The Bible talks about trees many times and how we are like trees.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

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We all know that to live trees need water and sunlight.  The sunlight part is usually the easy one.  Very rarely will a tree die from lack of the sun.  What could kill a tree is if it isn’t planted in the right place and is unable to be deep rooted/  Deep rooted trees can extracts water from the ground that it needs to live.  Ideally  a tree with deep roots that is planted by the water has everything it needs.  The verse mentions that these trees never fear the heat.  It’s leaves are always green.  Why?  Because it is drawing water from the water of life.  It also mentions that it has no worries in a year of drought.  Why?  Because the weather may be dry on the outside, but there is living water that it draws from!  It never fails to bear fruit.  Why?  Because the tree is lacking nothing.  It is operating as normal in good times and in bad because it is connected to that living water.  Like the computer example it is operating well behind the scenes.

Growing up we had a big tree in our front yard.  To this day that tree is there living a healthy life.  It is much bigger than it was back then and it was big then.  The reason I know it is even bigger is because we used to climb it as kids.  There was one branch maybe 5 or 6 feet off of the ground that we would jump up and grab and start our climb.  I know the tree is bigger because that branch is now about 12 feet off of the ground.  There is no way even now that I could i get started climbing that tree.  My sister and I would climb that tree all of the time.  Now kids are probably discouraged from climbing trees. This was before the video game rage.  Back then kid had to entertain themselves.  It never entered our minds the danger that was there.  That tree provided enormous pleasure and a lasting good memory of growing up.  One famous picture that we looked at for years was taken by my mom of the tree with both of us in it.  We were way up in the tree and that picture became a find the kids in the tree game.

That tree was definitely in the right place for us.  It was far enough away from the house where it could grow long roots to extract water deep in the ground.  Unlike our tree there are some trees that grow wild.  We have had many experiences around our house of trees that just start sprouting up.  It is important to keep these wild growing trees under control or they could cause damage to the house.  Trees can be a great benefit if they are planted in the right places for the health of the trees and the enjoyment they can provide.

I was reading about the benefit of trees.  Here are eight reasons we need well planted trees.

!.  Trees cool down neighborhoods

2. Trees fight air pollution

3. Trees and greenery may boost lifespan

4. Trees ease depression and stress

5. Tree loss hurts health

6. Trees reduce Asthma’s toll

7. Trees support better sleep

8. Trees offer heat stroke protection

When the blind man first got his sight could it be that he saw people the way God does in the spiritual realm?  Like a tree we need water to survive.  In the spiritual world that water is the Holy Spirit.  By being deeply rooted and well planted in him we get all of the nourishment we need.  Just like the trees when we are deeply rooted in the Holy Spirit there are benefits for our neighbors and people we come in contact with.  Our presence can cool down situations, fight evil ways of thinking,  help to give depression and stress relief,  give our neighbors peace of mind and help them see things in a different light.  The most important thing we can do is show them the reason for our health and hope.  We can show them how they too can be like trees planted by the water of love, strength, health, and happiness!

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Can You Top This?

Many years ago I bought the Guinness Book of World Records.   As you probably know it is a book that lists many different categories and the records in each one and the person who made them.  I remember talking to a friend as we thumbed through the book trying to figure out a record we could top and have our names in there.  The most amazing thing about the books contents were the extremes that people would attempt just to get into it.  The records were so out there that they were not worth our time and effort.  How could having my name in that book change my life in a positive way?  The commitment, time, and ability to set one of those records would almost assuredly wreck someone’s life.  Yet there is that desire we have to beat someone’s record.

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We start at a young age with the sports we play.  Until kind of recently the games were always scored and of course winning felt a lot better than losing.  I remember my first year in little league we were losing the game and in the last inning one of the kids on my team struck out.  He started crying and the coach was left to console him and tell him it was alright.  It was one of those moments when the coach was also a counselor, a friend, and a brother all rolled into one.

We learn in life that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we must keep trying.  We also learn to compete.  Competition is a good thing because it brings out the best in us.  As long as we are willing to take our wins modestly and our losses with respect for the person or team that beats us we have no problem.  Sometimes though the competition and desire to win takes too big of a part in our lives.  That competition can occur even over things that don’t matter.batter swinging

There used to be a show that came on when I was a kid.  It was on channel 50 out of Detroit.  In those days cable TV was just 5 or 6 extra channels, not the variety we get today.  Getting Detroit from my home in Portage was a special thing.  Anyway the show was called “Can You Top This?”  It had comedians come on and tell a joke to a live audience.  They would compete with each other with the gauge being what they called a laugh meter.  The highest score they could get was 100 and after the joke was over the meter was shown on our TV as an arrow and digital numbers going to it’s highest point according to the sound of the audience.  To show you how ridiculous the show was I remember one of the jokes that got 100 points.  It was a joke about a kid that was crying and his father was with him.  “What’s the matter”, his father asked.  The kid blurted between tears that all of the other kids called him fat.  The father comforted the kid telling him he wasn’t fat, he was pleasantly plump.  Now put on your hat and I’ll roll you home.

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Amazingly that joke took the high score for the night.  More amazing is that of all of the jokes they told on that show it was the only one I remember.  As silly as that is there are many people that are playing the can you top this game today.  We used to see it in the old neighborhood saying “Keeping up with the Jones’s.  If Jones got a new mower maybe we would get a better one.  If Jones got a new car maybe we got a newer one.  These kind of competitions were silly and many times had nothing to do with needs.

There is another type of competition that many of us get involved with.  It is the competition to always have the best story or the most exciting experience.  If you tell someone a story they instantly come up with something that tops yours.  It is like they are hardly listening to you as they are thinking about their experience that was truly a bigger thrill or a scarier tale, or a funnier experience.  We should stop that because it makes the other persons experience feel not very important and they may not tell us but it makes them angry.  Everybody wants to feel important and it is important as Christians to make others feel important.  We should listen to their story and laugh, be amazed, or whatever the story calls for.  In other words we don’t always have to win.  Let them win the story game and let them feel  important.  By desiring to listen without competing we silently say that we care and value their experiences!

 

A Helping Hand

His comedy club opened in 1969.  Rodney and a friend opened it in New York City.  It was a club where Rodney could do his act without having to travel all over.  Travel had been his life but it can be a lonely existence.  He was born Jacob Rodney Cohen and kept that name until he was 19.  His father had abandoned the family and Rodney only saw him a couple of times a year.  At the age of 19 Rodney changed his name to Jack Roy.  He had been writing jokes for stand up comedians since the age of 15 and longed to be on stage himself.  He did get jobs in the field but only at local clubs.  He never caught a break and his income as a local comedian was not paying the bills.  In fact he was deeply in debt.  With a growing family (a wife and two kids) Rodney quit the business and became a aluminium siding salesman in the 1950’s.  Later he would make the joke that when he quit show business he was the only one who knew he quit.  He was not happy even though he made enough to support his family.   He never let his dream die.  Rodney decided to give stand up comedy another try.  Now it was the early 1960’s and even though he had quit the business years ago he had not quit writing jokes.  He decided that he needed a character, an image, something people would remember.

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A name change was in order but what?  A night club owner suggested the name “Rodney Dangerfield.”  It was a name used by Jack Benny on his radio show in talking about an old cowboy.  The name would surely get attention and it was adopted.  With a new name he began working on his image.  What could people relate to?  He came up with “nothing ever goes right for me.”  With a subject to work with Rodney developed his routine in a new way.  He also had the mannerisms he used that were as funny as his jokes.  He actually had a funny look.  He made his eyes look even bigger than they were and he had the ability to fire one joke after another.  His memory was sharp and he always remembered where he was going.  All he needed was a big break and he got it in an unexpected way.

Ed Sullivan had a weekly TV show that had all kinds of acts.  As a last minute replacement Ed chose Rodney to do his act.  Rodney was the surprise hit of the show and that opened up doors Rodney never entered before.  There was demand for his act and he came up with his new line.  Instead of “Nothing ever goes right for me” he replaced it with “I get no respect.”  As his popularity increased so did his travel.  Doors opened but they were doors away from home.  Rodney enjoyed his popularity and his comedy club enjoyed great success through the years.  He realized that if Sullivan had not given him a helping hand all of his success may not have happened.

Many have been very talented and have taken their talents to Hollywood only to never get discovered.  We’ve heard stories of unlikely beginnings when the person who would later become a star was in the right place at the right time.  Mel Gibson tells the story of how he got started.  He had been in a fight the night before and had bruises and cuts on his face.  His friend needed a ride to an audition and being the good friend that he was Mel gave him a ride.  Gibson caught the eye of the director and he thought that he would be a good fit for a villainous character in his movie Mad Max.  Weeks later when Gibson reported bruise and cut free the director saw the young handsome Aussie and decided to give him the lead role.  Image result for mel gibson young

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Chris Pratt had an unusual journey to fame.  When he was 19 years old he lived  out of a van in Maui, Hawaii, and waited tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  Actress Rae Dawn Chong happened to come to the restaurant to eat. She cast Pratt in a horror comedy she was directing.  That movie was never released but it opened the door for Pratt to land a role in the drama “Everwood.” In the future Chris would reach leading man status.  What a fortunate turn his life took that day at the restaurant because of a chance meeting!

Carol Burnett received $50 from an anonymous donor in an envelope.  It was for the first year of tuition at UCLA.  Carol was poor and lived with her grandmother.  Going to UCLA was out of the question until that helping hand.  Then in her second year a professor invited students to his house to perform as part of his class.  After her performance while she was stuffing cookies to take to her grandmother a couple came up to her.  Instead of reprimanding her for what she was doing they asked her what her plans were.  She wanted t go to New York and try her hand at a musical comedy but didn’t have the money.  Right on the spot he offered her a loan of $1,000.00 interest free.  He mentioned that he wanted her to pay it back within 5 years so that she would have the responsibility and that if she made good that she had to help someone else achieve their dreams.  Carol did make good as we all know and she has a scholarship at UCLA for actresses in Theater.  She also saw the couple many times through the years and was forever thankful for giving her the means to support her dream. A dream that may not have come true without their help.

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Originally Rodney founded his comedy club for his own reasons.  He wanted a place to do his act.  Through the years and as Rodney became an icon it expanded.  HBO did specials from Rodney’s club that helped young comics get exposure.  Rodney was right in the middle of it giving his help wherever he could.  The best help he could give was to give people the chance that he so desperately longed for years ago.  He gave them a platform to exhibit their talents and make people laugh.  Through his efforts many comedians became famous.  Comedians Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Saget, Jerry Stiller, Kevin Kline and Jeff Foxworthy were featured at his club.  He gave them a chance and they were forever thankful!

Photo of Dangerfield's - New York, NY, United States. Front

Rodney joked when he went to the hospital for the last time.  He was going to have an operation involving his brain. If successful it would increase blood flow in preparation for a heart valve replacement he would need at a later date.  He was asked how long he would be there and his answer was typical Rodney. “If all goes well about a week, if not about an hour and a half.”  The next month it was revealed that Rodney had been in a coma.  His wife was told that it might be helpful to pull him out of it by having people come and tell their jokes.  Every day they had comedians that Rodney had given their start coming to that hospital room.  His wife mentioned that those sessions should have been taped because they were some of the best ever.  All of those comedians cared deeply for Rodney.  The guy who always said he got no respect was getting the respect that kings don’t get.  Unfortunately  all of their efforts weren’t enough.  Rodney never came out of the coma.

Rodney Dangerfield was a self admitted atheist.  Yet he gave opportunities to a lot of people and God’s laws apply to the just and unjust. “Give and it shall be given unto you” Luke 6:38.  As a result of the good that he did he was blessed with true friends.  The people that helped Carol Burnett and others knowingly or not were obeying these commandments:  27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27..and “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:4.  

As Christians it’s God’s will that we do onto others as we would have them do onto us. That is the golden rule.  Sometimes God puts people in the right place at the right time and they get blessed, but more often than not it’s the opportunity people have to lend a helping hand that makes the difference one way or the other.  Would we be willing to make a difference in someone else’s life?  If so that positive decision to lead someone up the ladder to new heights not only would bless the receiver but us too!

Houston, We Have A Problem

“Houston, We have a problem” was originally uttered by Jack Swigert, an American astronaut, after he turned a switch on a routine procedure only to hear an explosion throughout the module.  On April 11, 1970 Apollo 13 launched.  It’s mission was to be the third time that men would land on the moon.  Interest in this particular mission waned as most thought it would be boring.  After all we’ve done this before and it was getting to be a routine after 2 successful trips.  All of that changed with one flick of a switch.

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Originally Swigert wasn’t supposed to be on the mission at all.  He was a back up until Ken Mattingly was hurriedly replaced after he was unwittingly exposed to the German Measles.  Now seemingly something awful had gone wrong and Swigert was blaming himself that somehow he didn’t do the procedure right.  Mission Control was in a scramble as their controls were showing that the command modular was losing power.  They would have to act fast as not only the original mission was in danger but the lives of the three astronauts were suddenly at risk.  After putting their heads together Miission Control was guided by one of their top officers.  He persuaded the commander that instead of trying to land on the moon they needed to bring the astronauts home safely. The decision was based on the fact that they were losing oxygen and they had a limited amount of time before it would run out.

Everything was up in the air as they were making their decision of what to do next.  Meanwhile the interest on the ground was at a high level.  What had been originally thought of as a boring mission was now on the front pages.  It was decided that the original module would be discarded and the backup ship the undamaged Aquarius would be used even though it was only supposed to navigate the moon.  They would power it up as a lifeboat to get them home. Through the whole movie problems came up.  They had to power down all unnecessary conveniences so that they could have some power left.  That included the heating and they ended up in a very very cold place.  Through it all they solved problems.  One time the original ship was losing all kinds of oxygen.  Mission control had to simulate their situation.  Ken Mattingly who did not end up with the measles was called in.  He got in the simulator ship which was an exact model of what the astronauts were in.  The mission was to make something out of their supplies that they had to plug up the hole where oxygen was escaping.  Brilliantly they were able to do it on the ground and translate the information to the astronauts so they could make a similar piece.

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All of the problems faced created an interesting and thrilling story.  When I watched the movie for the first time I tried to remember if things worked out.  Because it was based on the true story I knew they couldn’t wander too far from the truth.  I remembered one mission where they got killed at takeoff but obviously this wasn’t it. This particular mission did not stand out in my brain.  However I had a feeling that everything might turn out alright..  Of course I found myself cheering inside as problems that could have killed them all were conquered.  It was a story of guidance, love, and the spirit to survive.

Isn’t that the same spirit that we have as we live our lives on this earth?  There are going to be problems and we have to get through them.  The good news is that we can have communications with the Master of the Universe!  He knows how to get us through our problems and bring us home in victory!

At the end there was one final test.  Would the ship survive re-entry into earths atmosphere?  They always talked about the angle that the ship had to come in. The angle was a little off and it was feared that it could burn up.  That fear was kept from the astronauts because there was nothing they could do about it anyway.  They had it timed that once they lost communications they should gain it back in like 2 minutes.  If they didn’t hear from them by then the chances they wouldn’t increased.  Two minutes came and went and Mission Control was a somber place. They kept trying to communicate but no words were coming back.  There was fear all around as the time went over 3 minutes and ticking.  When everything seemed lost the static in the radio started to clear. “Houston, This is Aquarius”, Tom Hanks the actor said as he brilliantly portrayed Jim Lovell the astronaut.  Cheers rang up in Mission Control and all over the country!

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I have watched this movie many times.  It is one that when I see it is on I get involved with again.  Each time it brings tears to my eyes as I see their struggles and ultimate victory!  I don’t think I would be so apt to watch it if it ended in disaster.  Since it is such a good ending I am always rapped up in seeing it again.  That is how it is with your life and mine.  We are going to have problems while we are here but rest assured God is bigger than our problems.  We can be comforted to know that our story will have a happy ending.  We can go through our problems knowing that they will come to pass and that we will make it through our fiery tests.  Are you going through trials and tribulations right now?  Remember that this is what is making your story interesting.  The saying goes “Without a test there is no testimony!”  Be joyous in your tests knowing that everything turns out all right.  How do we know?   We know because we have been told the glorious ending of our movie!

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Thinking With Your Heart

When I was in Elementary School we had a gym teacher named Mrs. Remynse.  Each year one of the things that we needed for school was a pair of tennis shoes.  We would hang our tennis shoes on the bar that supported our seat on our desk.  It was with great pleasure that we put those  shoes on when we were told to do so before going to Mrs Remynse’s class.  I don’t remember anyone not liking gym class.  It was a time to get out of our seats and move around.  Mrs. Remynse was a short Indian lady with a strong accent.  She had many fun games for us to participate in but first we had to do our exercises.  Most of the time she had this record that she played and we did our exercises by what the record said.  I remember the record had a catchy tune with lyrics for pushups, sit ups, and other things.  This is a small part of the old lyrics.  If you are my age you might remember the song.  It is part of President Kennedy’s physical education program that he felt was so important for our youth.

“School Version”

Touch down
Every morning
Ten times!
Not just
Now and then.
Give that chicken fat
Back to the chicken,
And don’t be chicken again.
No, don’t be chicken again.

Push up
Every morning
Ten times.
Push up
Starting low.
Once more on the rise.
Nuts to the flabby guys!
Go, you chicken fat, go away!
Go, you chicken fat, go!

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Sometimes Mrs. Remynse wouldn’t play the record.  Instead she would line us up in a circle and do a game called “Do as I do.”  This game had us all take turns going into the middle of the circle.  There we were supposed to do an exercise and everyone making up the circle was supposed to do the same thing.  One kid might jump on one foot, another might do pushups, another might swing their legs awkwardly.  Whatever the middle person did we all had to do the same.  Being kids 7 or 8 years old there was always someone who hadn’t made up their mind what to do.  When entering the circle they might put their finger on their tooth as they contemplated what exercise to perform.  The kids making up the circle would invariably put their fingers on their tooth to  jokingly do exactly what the leader was doing.

From an early age we learn how to do things by copying other people.  Skills in the physical world are passed down from generation to generation.  Think about all of the things you can do now and things you don’t even think about the beginnings of.  Do you remember first learning how to tie your shoes?  Think about learning to walk or ride a bike.  Every day in life we are repeating things that we were showed how to do.  We learned that by doing exactly what someone else was doing we could acquire the exact skill that they have.  All of these new skills are brain things.  We finally succeed in doing them and we remember what we did.  We remember what our instructors (usually our parents or teacher) did as they were teaching us and try to copy them.  From our earliest memories we have continuously learned skills through demonstration. Think about learning to talk.  There is a continuous growth from words that we hear and  remember.  Then we learn what the words mean.  Finally we remember the words, their meaning, and how to form the words with our mouth.

Years ago a new bracelet came out.  A youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church came up with the WWJD bracelet to help her group remember the phrase.  The movement spread and the bracelets became popular to wear.  With that bracelet on people might watch their actions.  Instead of just doing something because they wanted to it was now put to the question “What would Jesus do?”  It is an interesting question but it is the wrong question and here is why.  The disciples who lived with Jesus every day and observed everything that he did were told a truth by him one day.  In John 16:7 he said..Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  You see while Jesus was on this earth in human body form he could only be in one place at a  time.  With the Holy Spirit we can all have him in our hearts. 

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The What Would Jesus Do bracelet sends the message that we are to think about what Jesus would do in a situation and make our decision accordingly.  The truth is we don’t have to think of what Jesus would do.  It is already in our hearts if we have been born again.  As a result of us accepting him as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes in and lives in our being.  He discerns what is right or wrong in our heart.  If we listen to his small voice he will lead us through the spirit.  It is no longer a brain thing.  Many times we do not go down the road that gets us into trouble.  We do not have to think about what Jesus would do in given situations.  One thing that Jesus always did however was to never do anything without an agreement in his spirit.  He was always led by the spirit in everything he did.  Like us he was in a human body.  That body had hurts and temptations just like ours does.  For instance Jesus had a struggle with going to the cross.  He knew that was the reason he was here but when it came time he struggled with completing the mission.  He overcame by relying on the spirit that was within him.  That is what we must do as Christians.  We need to get out of that thinking with our brain in spiritual things.  God may call you to do something that makes no sense in our traditional way of thinking.  The Bible asks us Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? I Corinthians 1:20.

At an early age we learned to do as I do.   Unlike the exercises we used to do as kids we are all not supposed to do the same thing.  The spirit might be telling you to do something completely different than me.  God uses what we have to offer for his glory.  When we are led by the spirit we take our hands off the the wheel and let him drive.  We do that by not thinking with our brain but thinking with our heart.  Thinking with our heart works because we are led by the spirit in all things.  It is time everywhere for Christians to walk in the spirit and obey his voice in all things.  If you want to know what Jesus would do that is it!

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