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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

The Bridge

They were the most beautiful lyrics from a secular song I have heard!

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

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It’s the beautiful lyrics from the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel.  I think what makes the words so rich is the fact that we can all picture bridges.  We can picture the troubled water they sometimes hover over.  If we close our eyes we can even hear the sounds of the turbulent water and see the view looking down from the bridge.  Though the water is raging the bridge puts us over it and out of danger.  The parallel described in the song is harder to see but the correlation is there.  The person is willing to lay their self down like that bridge to literally put the other person over harms way.

Recently I wondered where these beautiful lyrics came from?  We know that Paul Simon wrote them but what gave him the idea?  Was it an event in his life or did someone say something that triggered such a beautiful picture?  I found that it was the latter.  Many years ago before the civil war in fact a Negro spiritual was sang called “Mary Don’t You Weep” or “O Mary Don’t You Weep”.  It is now termed a “slave song” and gave hope and inspiration for a better future.  The lyrics went like this:

If I could I surely would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood
Pharoah’s army got drownded
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep

(Chorus:)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you mourn
Pharoah’s army got drownded
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep

Moses stood on the Red Sea shore
Smotin’ the water with a two by four
Pharoah’s army…

The Lord told Moses what to do
To lead those Hebrew children through…

The bridge over troubled water part was inspired by Claude Jeter the lead singer of The Swan Silvertones interpolation when they recorded the same song (Mary Don’t You Weep) which became their greatest hit.  He added the line “I’ll be a bridge over deep water if you trust in my name”.  According to Anthony Heilbut, a gospel producer and historian,  Simon acknowledged Jeter’s contribution in person and also handed him a check as compensation.

It’s strange that from one line of the lyrics Simon picked out such a vivid description.  The song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” became the #1 song of the year in 1970!  It was a feel good song as people identified the deep sacrifice the song implies.  Helping someone in such a way as to be willing to do whatever it took to bring them out of a depressed state and into sunshine.  It is a selfless song and made people feel good because being selfless does that.  It is like giving to someone something that is truly needed.  It makes the giver happy and gives them joy.  Although the receiver of the gift gets the material reward it is the giver that gets the peaceful feeling that they did the right thing.

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One of the wonders of the world is the Golden Gate Bridge.  Construction started in 1933 and the project was completed in 1937.  In the old days the only way to get across water was to have a boat.  I’m reminded of the Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn stories along the Mississippi River.  With the advent of the automobile there was a desire to make bridges that would allow us to drive over the water.  Depending on the layout different bridges were built to accomplish the feat.  Where possible a cement bridge might be built if the distance wasn’t far.  However for greater distances such as the Golden Gate Bridge special engineering designs had to be used.  They called bridges such as the Golden Gate Bride suspension bridges.  The key to building a bridge like that is the strength of the solid bases that hold the suspended cables which in turn supports the weight of the suspended bridge from one base to the other!  It took 70,000 tons of steel to accomplish such a mission.  In the end the bridge had these amazing statistics!

Total length of Bridge including approaches from abutment to abutment is 1.7 miles (8,981 ft or 2,737 m).

Total length of Bridge including approaches from abutment to abutment, plus the distance to the Toll Plaza, is 9,150 ft (2,788 m).

Length of suspension span including main span and side spans is 1.2 miles (6,450 ft or 1,966 m).

Length of main span portion of suspended structure (distance between towers) is 4,200 ft (1,280 m).

Length of one side span is 1,125 ft (343 m).

Width of Bridge is 90 ft (27 m).

Width of roadway between curbs is 62 ft (19 m).

Width of sidewalk is 10 ft (3 m).

Clearance above mean higher high water is 220 ft (67 m).

Total weight of each anchorage is 60,000 tons (54,400,000 kg).

Original combined weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches is 894,500 tons (811,500,000 kg).

Total weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches (1937) is 894,500 tons (811,500,000 kg).

Total weight of Bridge, anchorages, and approaches (1986)* is 887,000 tons (804,700,00 kg*).

Weight of Bridge, excluding anchorages and approaches, and including the suspended structure, main towers, piers and fenders, bottom lateral system and orthotropic redecking (1986) is 419,800 tons (380,800,000 kg*).

In 1989 a massive earthquake hit the San Francisco area.  Although several buildings and roadways were damaged including severe damages to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge was not fractured.  When events like that happen however it is a reminder of how fragile we are and our man made projects are.  Man has accomplished much but only God can build the ultimate bridge.  That is the bridge that leads from death to life.

When man first sinned there was a wide canyon that separated man from God.  God decided to build a bridge so that man could cross over it to where God was.  Unlike any bridge that man could make God’s bridge will never break down.  You see God sent his only son in the form of a man to live and to die for the sins of all men.  With that supreme sacrifice the bridge was formed.  Like the Bridge Over Troubled Water song we take that bridge over the troubled water.  That is not to say that there will not be storms.  We may be knocked down on our journey, yet we know that the destination the bridge takes us leads to our victory.  You see the song by Simon & Garfunkel describes someone laying down like a bridge for the other person to cross over their troubled time.  In reality it is impossible for humans to accomplish such a mission.  Yet that is the actual mission that Christ took when he died for our sins.  He became the bridge not built with human hands but with God’s own hands.  Let the bridges that we see in our daily lives remind us of the ultimate bridge that God created for everyone.  May we always walk on the safety bridge and the destination it takes!

 

The Lost And Found

Nikki was a tall skinny old dog on that fateful day.  He was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who had a pretty easy life.  It consisted of going from his pen to the house, sleeping a lot, eating, catching his ring or ball, and like most dogs begging for food. He would sit there if I was eating something he wanted, (which was everything) and attempt to do his favorite trick.  That trick was shaking hands.  So Nikki would attempt the paw shake even if it wasn’t asked for to try to please and get the treat. Once in awhile we would take Nikki for a walk.  He got all excited and started barking and whining uncontrollably at the very sight of his leash in our hands.  It could not be argued what a good life he had through the years, but one day Nikki wandered away.

At first we didn’t realize that Nikki was gone.  He spent a lot of time in his pen outside.  If he wanted to come in he would whine at the door after walking through the garage that the pen was connected to.  I don’t remember how he got out.  Perhaps the garage door was accidentally left open.  Perhaps his gate door was ajar.  However it happened Nikki was gone.  It was a Sunday in the middle of the summer that we discovered him missing.  I’m sure he enjoyed his freedom.  Even on the walks we took him on he was confined by that leash.  Now he could wander wherever he wanted with nobody pulling on his neck to come back.  I’m sure it was fun for awhile.  Going to places he only dreamed about and all of the scents that dogs invariably smell.  Perhaps other dogs barked as they realized that this big dog was free and they were trapped in their house or yard.  That’s the envy of the other dogs looking out I’m sure.  Barking to threaten the straying dog to get out of their territory, yet realizing that there is nothing they can do about it.

The hours passed and still no Nikki.  This had never happened before and we didn’t know what to do.  We drove around and looked.  With the window down we called out his name “Nikki, Nikki’, but there was no response.  It was getting dark and we were worried.  Our street is not a busy one but the road connected to it is.  If he had wandered into that busy road he could have been hit.  There were many directions he could have gone.  He could have headed west which would have him walking along the busy street.  He could have crossed the busy street and found his way to Parkview Hills which is a Condominium Community.  He could have wandered east and either kept going on the busy road or cut off north into the Winchell neighborhood.  Not knowing where to look we drove all over and kept an eye on the side of the road in case the ultimate tragedy had occurred.

Reluctantly we gave up the search for the night.  It was dark and we had traveled down all of the paths we could think of.  Once again we were devastated when he wasn’t home to greet us when we got back.  We couldn’t think of anything else to do but wait.  Maybe he would show up during the night.  The fear thoughts kept entering our minds.  Maybe he was lying by the side of the road hurt and couldn’t make it home.  Maybe Nikki would never come home again.  Sadly we were trying to prepare for the worst.

I remember back in elementary school.  When something got lost they had a lost and found in the principal’s office.  There were times I came home without a glove or something.  My mom would encourage me to go to the lost and found.  In the office was a big box.  It seemed like hundreds of gloves, hats, and scarves were there.  Also in the mix was my lost glove.  It would have been nice if it were that easy to get Nikki back.  I do remember as a kid we had a dog named Happy.  Happy found himself in the dog pound many times after getting caught wandering away from our house by the dog catcher.  My sister would be crying and dad reluctantly would go and pay the fine to get him back.  Dad always said “I should have just left him in there”, but deep down I know he wanted him back too.

There is a story in the Bible that resembles Nikki’s situation.  It is the story of the prodigal son.  One day the younger son decided that he wanted to see what life was like without being under his father’s rule.  He would taste the fun stuff that he wasn’t allowed to experience.  He asked and was granted his inheritance which allowed him to go out on his own and eat, drink, and be merry.  All went well for the prodigal son until his money ran out. Suddenly he found that when the money was gone so were his so called friends.  He was left to make his own way working in a field with someone’s pigs.  At that point he came to his senses and made his way home.  He would tell his father he was not worthy to be his son anymore and ask for a job in his field.  His father had other ideas when he saw him coming.  He was restored as his son and his father held a big party for him!  Unfortunately Nikki didn’t wander home that night.  If he did like the prodigal son we would have celebrated.  Perhaps we would have bought him a special treat!  Those thoughts seemed like only dreams as the hours passed.

The next morning I didn’t go to work.  I called and told them that I was going to be late.  I mentioned that our dog was missing and I would be in if and when I found him.  Driving around in my Camaro with the window down I kept yelling for Nikki.  Once again there was no response.  I did happen to pass people on the way who were out walking.  With everyone I passed I described our missing dog and left our phone number.  That morning I drove all over leaving our number to anyone that I saw.  It was extremely hot as the temperatures that day hovered between 90 and 100 degrees.  If Nikki were alive the heat alone might be enough to be his end.  Totally dejected and very hot myself I went back home to rest and consider my next move.

Perhaps you are in a place right now like Nikki and the prodigal son were.  Perhaps the grass looked greener on the other side and you left God to find those greener pastures.  Maybe you found out like they did that the world is a harsh place.  Maybe the curiosity has gotten old and you have discovered like they did that what you ran away from was love.  Sometimes when we reach our lowest point we discover things about who we are and what we need to do.  Know that God loves you and is calling you to come home much like we were calling for Nikki.

As I was resting at home from the torturous heat the phone rang.  The lady on the other end told me that she thought she found my dog.  She gave me directions in the Winchell Neighborhood where she had seen a dog that matched my description.  Hurriedly I jumped in the car and took off to the destination about a mile away.  From a distance I saw him in the front yard of a house.  A lady was out there with him and she had provided him with a big bowl of water.  As I think about her  kind deed  it was like the Bible verses in Matthew Chapter 25 within the verses of 35-40. “When I was hungry you fed me and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink.  Later the righteous ones asked when they did those things and he answered “when you did it to the least of these you did it onto me.”

Nikki didn’t see me at first.  He had his head in that bowl and he was drinking like there was no tomorrow.  I pulled up, jumped out of my car and called his name.  He took his head out of the water dish long enough to look at me.  He looked ragged and confused.  I could tell from his look that he hardly recognized me.  The lady wondered if this was my dog and I told her yes and briefly explained what happened.  Nikki still seemed in a daze but I coaxed him into the back of my car.
It took a few days to recover but Nikki slowly came back to himself.  There was a day a short time later that we  accidentally left the garage door opened.  Fearfully we looked in his pen only to find Nikki laying on the cold cement content with life and with no desire to wander away.  Nikki lived for three more years and never ran away again.

A Tool For The Job

My dad told me a long time ago that the people that fix things are the ones with the right tools.  We admire the people that we call “mechanically inclined”, but don’t recognize the importance of the proper tools they use.  It is false to think that just because you put the proper tool in someone’s hand the job will get done.  However,  without the proper tool it is hard for even the most mechanically inclined people to complete their mission.  What we find is that the people who fix things also take pride in the tools that they have for each problem they may face.

I was in a quandary.  The distance of the golf hole was 180 yards.  It was an in between distance I thought from the clubs I normally used.  In the bag however was a 4 wood that I rarely swung.  “Why not try that club?”, I thought.  Amazingly the ball went beautifully toward the green landing a few feet short and rolling right up on the green!

As I put the club back in the bag I said out loud “that was just the right tool for the job!”  My retired friend who was playing with me that day agreed.  I don’t play golf very much but I have to admit that I have too many clubs in the bag.  Some of these are specialty clubs that you may need in a particular situation.  The problem is that I don’t practice with these clubs enough and when that situation comes up I’m liable to miss-hit the ball with it.  The other problem is digging the right club out of the bag at just the right time.  The third problem is that carrying all of the situational clubs can make for one heavy bag.  After hearing how heavy my bag was a former neighbor told me that I should pick out only the clubs I use the best and take the other ones out of the bag.  Years ago I played golf with another guy whose idea struck me as very funny.  Instead of using all of his clubs in his bag he was hitting every shot with his 3-wood.  It seems that he liked that particular club and used it to excess.  Somewhere there has to be a middle ground to these two approaches.

My dad had a tool box and tried to keep his tools organized.  He had his wrenches all tied together so he could find the right one in a moments notice.  I too have a tool box but I hate to admit the number of times a particular job comes up and I can’t find the right tool.  It isn’t because I don’t have the tool.  It is more a case of not needing it and when I do having a hard time finding it.  This comes about when the tool is used and it doesn’t get back in it’s proper place.  It’s a simple exercise that often gets missed.  Having your tools ready for the next use is as important as using the tool you need in the present.  It reminds me of how some companies treat their customers.  Instead of a long term relationship they are only concerned with what they can sell them right now.  To relieve this problem companies now put their customers in their data base so that they have a history of their visits on their books.   Having a long term approach always keeps customers in the pipeline.  Treating customers the right way brings them back.  Putting your tools in the proper place insures they are there when you need them the next time.

I was searching for essential tools for the toolbox.  One website gave me twelve.  In no particular order here they are:

A Claw Hammer-Can be used for demolition jobs and pounding in nails.  The claw can pull misguided nails out and also straighten it’s path.

Flathead Screwdriver-Enough Flathead screws still exist to need one and it can also be improvised for other jobs such as prying or scraping

Phillips Screwdriver-Invented in 1936 by Henry F. Phillips, the Phillips Head Screw has basically replaced Flat Head Screws

A Tape Measure-Remember the old saying “measure twice and cut once.”  A tape measure is an essential tool.

A Crescent Wrench– The beauty of this wrench is that it is adjustable to handle many different jobs

A Socket Wrench– Using the ratcheting technique without having to re-grip is great when working on big projects

Vice Grip Locking Pliers -When you need an extra hand these can lock something into place.  They are a very versatile tool that can be used as a pipe wrench, pliers, wire cutters, a ratchet, or a clamp

Needle Nose Pliers-An essential electrician tool it allows you to hold small items in place

Cordless Drill and Bits-How nice it is to drill holes without cords or the old fashioned non-electric drill.  Reversing the direction makes taking screws out so easy.

Crosscut Saw-For all of your tree trimming needs

Level-Essential to most projects to make sure the finished work is in a straight line

Utility Knife-Every project seems to provide things to cut and scrape

Isn’t it ironic that these twelve basic tools was also the same number that Jesus chose to be his Disciples?  He chose the original twelve to spread the Gospel throughout the earth.  In the same way he wants to use us for his purposes in our day.  There are never too many clubs in God’s bag.  He is able to take whoever is willing and use that person in a special way to reach others!  Sometimes we wrongly feel that our gift is not special.  God looks at the gifts he has bestowed on us as very special!  He specifically made us all for his special purposes.  When he needs that special gift does he find us where we should be?  Sadly too many are not ready when the master calls.  We find ourselves out of the box, lost, or feeling unneeded.  His or her tools provide comfort for the carpenter.  Like going to the toolbox to find the perfect tool for the job, God looks for us to  meet his purpose too!  Preparing for a job to get done he is confident that we can be successful through him.   When he reaches for an extension of his hand he wants to be able to count on us.  Will he find a willing heart when the master craftsman needs to use us in showing his glory to a dying world?

Victory Beyond The Old One Two

He was an angry man.  Had he won that fight he would have forced Mohammad Ali to fight him again and he could get his title back.  George Foreman didn’t call it the Heavyweight Title, he called it his title.  The year was 1977 and George Foreman had been on the comeback trail.  He had won five consecutive fights and that night he fought a man named Jimmy Young.  George had a devastating punch.  Usually his fights would end with his opponent on the canvas.  This fight would be different.  Jimmy Young lasted the whole fight.  When the decision was read it was Young who had his glove raised.  George was crushed as he walked around in the steamy hot dressing room.  He had heard that after a match you should never sit down.  He paced back and forth and felt weakness in his legs.  “I feel like I’m going to”, and before he could say die he passed out.

George Foreman at a joyless time in his life.

George Foreman was born in Marshall Texas in 1949 and grew up in Houston’s rough Fifth Ward District.  Looking back he called himself a thug as he dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and ran the streets.  In 1965 he joined the Jobs Corps and that decision changed the direction of his life.  At the age of 16 the Jobs Corps provided him with a connection to the boxing world.  It was in a trainer named Doc Broaddus.  Doc encouraged George to apply his fighting skills to the ring instead of the streets.

George developed quickly as a boxer.  He had a mean streak that seemed to help him when he got his opponent in trouble.  He was always able to summon the old one two at just the right time.  He made the 1968 Olympic team and after winning the gold medal he made headlines waiving a little American flag.  This was the Olympic games where two African American runners raised clinched fists wearing black gloves in tribute to black power.  In contrast George’s waiving of the American flag made the statement that he was proud of the country he represented.
After the Olympics George turned pro.  There was much learning to do but he rose in the ranks with each success.  George was 6 feet 3 1/2 inches and 218 pounds of raw muscle.  He was feared by everyone he fought because of his ability to pound his opponents unmercifully to the canvas. He won his first 37 professional fights which earned him a shot at the heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier.  It was 1973 and George was a heavy underdog.   The fight was held January 22, 1973, in Kingston Jamaica.  Shockingly George knocked  Joe Frazier down six times in the two round fight.  Finally the referee stopped the bout and George’s glove was raised in victory.
The next two fights were more of the same for George.  He knocked out Jose (King) Roman in one round and Kenny Norton in two rounds.  He was on top of the boxing world and didn’t think he could be beaten.  Gladly he accepted the challenge of Mohammad Ali.  Ali had been the heavyweight champion before being stripped of his title for refusing to go into the army.  He was finally reinstated to boxing after 3 and a half years and lost his attempt to regain the title from Joe Frazier in 1971.  Now it was 1974 and George didn’t think he could possibly lose.  After all he was destroying everyone in his path in one or two rounds.The bout was held in Zaire South Africa and was billed “The Rumble In The Jungle”.  George came out strong like he always did.  Charging and bulling his way in he continuously got Ali on the ropes.  Ali was different than any opponent he had ever faced however.  When George hit Ali with his best shots Ali would talk to George.  “Is that all you got George?”, he repeated over and over.  George continued to be the aggressor but Ali kept George off balance with his speedy jabs later in the rounds.  Ali started laying on the ropes and inviting George to come and take his best shots.  George did not hesitate and once again he kept hearing Ali talking.  “Is that all you got George?”  In his head George had the thought that wouldn’t go away.  “Yep that’s about it.”  It was a close fight but by the 8th round George was spent.  He wasn’t used to going more than two rounds in his bouts and here Ali was still strong as the 8th round was coming to a close.  Suddenly Ali hit George with a punch to the back of the head and with lightning speed he hit him two more times.  George felt himself dropping to the mat and realized the referee was counting him out.  At the count of 9 George was on his feet but the referee stopped the fight and declared Ali the winner by knockout.It was an embarrassing loss to George and it took him awhile before he laced the gloves up again.  He was bitter at Ali and bitter at a lot of people that he felt did him wrong.  His anger was so deep that he couldn’t figure out a way to hurt all of the people that were burning in his heart.  He took his anger out on his opponents and after not fighting at all in 1975 he had four bouts in 1976 winning all of them in short order.  By 1977 George was being talked about again for another title shot.  Ali had been able to keep the title that he won from George.  George was matched against Pedro Agosto in January of 1977 and won by a first round knockout.  The fight with Jimmy Young was made and George felt that it would be the warmup he needed
before facing Ali again.Jimmy Young was a fighter much like Ali.  He was a very good defensive fighter who had quick hands.  George plowed in determined to hit Jimmy Young with the hay maker that would stop the fight.  Jimmy was able to block George’s attempts again and again and jab his head with a pestering left.  Round after round the same thing happened.  George charging in only to get sent away by Jimmy’s quick hands.  In the 7th round something different happened.  George plowed in as usual but this time he connected.  Jimmy was hurt and staggered to the other side of the ring.  George was right after him determined to put Jimmy on the canvas for good.  Somehow in his hurt condition Jimmy was able to block and duck most of George’s attempts.  George was always able to finish off an opponent when he had them hurt.  He could always count on the old one two, but this time victory would not come.  Adding to his frustration the fans started chanting loudly “Jimmy Young, Jimmy Young.”  George wondered why the fans wouldn’t chant for him?  Jimmy recovered and for the rest of the fight was able to pile up points as George punched a lot of air.
When George was on that dressing room floor he had an encounter like never before.  He felt like he was in this empty place and that the Lord spoke to him.  The Lord said, “I don’t want your money, I want you.”  When he came to he was shouting “Jesus Christ is alive in me”.  George retired at the age of 27 and went into ministry full time.  He formed an independent church and lived each day for the Lord.  All of the bitterness that he had kept inside started to go away.  His heart was full of love as he forgave Ali and everyone else that had been on his hate list.

In 1987 George had a desire in his heart.  He had ballooned up to 315 pounds but the unmistakable desire was there.  He decided to get back into boxing.  He was old now in boxing terms at 38.  Yet it was almost like God had given him the desire to complete the work he had started.  George started winning boxing matches again.  He was big and slow but he still packed a wallop.  George trained hard and got his weight down to 250.  Although he wasn’t the fighter he was he became very popular wherever he fought.  In a drastic switch George was the fan favorite.  Because of his popularity fans wanted to see George fight for the heavyweight title.  Evander Holyfield had the title and gave George a fight.  George fought gallantly but it wasn’t to be.  Evander kept his title that night. 
George persevered however and kept fighting.  At the age of 45 he was given another chance.  The boxing world scoffed at George.  He doesn’t deserve a chance they thought.  Michael Moorer was the Heavyweight champion.  He was a week short of his 27th birthday while George was 45.  It looked like an easy payday for Moorer as he was much quicker than the slow moving Foreman.  The bout played out that way too.  Through the first nine rounds Moore was able to use his speed to beat George consistently to the punch.  He was winning handily on all cards as the 10th round started.  Then out of the blue George connected and connected again.  Michael Moorer went down and was counted out.  George walked slowly back to his corner and landed on his knees.  In front of the whole boxing world he was giving thanks to his God for completing a chapter in his destiny!When you see George Foreman today there is always a smile on his face.  There is joy in his heart where there used to be hate.  It is hard to believe he is the same person.  He has been very successful in business after leaving the ring.  He has been a spokesman for the George Foreman grill for years.  You have seen him no doubt on commercials and his joy is contagious.  He made 200 million dollars from Salton Inc. to use his name to promote the grill.  That was substantially more than he ever made in boxing.  In looking back George is quick to acknowledge that his defeats were the best things to ever happen to him.  “I needed to suffer those defeats so I could hit  bottom and look up”, George stated.    He also adds some advice that we all can use.  “Just take one step at a time, trusting that God still has a plan for you, and he will make the best of your situation.”

Focusing On Our Future

I’m sure that this is dating me but I can tell you that we used to use cameras to take pictures.  I’m not talking about the camera that is part of your I-Phone.  I’m talking about an actual camera.  When we used up all of the pictures on a roll we would take it in to a place to have the pictures developed.  Normally it took a few days before we got to see our pictures.  In the time delay we might have forgotten the pictures that we took.  Sometimes the picture’s we got back were way out of focus or someone’s head accidentally got chopped off.  In the old days that was just too bad but later it was something that we didn’t have to pay for.  The film company would forgive us for our flawed pictures that didn’t come out the way we wanted and didn’t charge us for the bad ones.

"antique & vintage cameras make great decor accessories especially for that well traveled collected look - great way to repurpose old cameras especially paired with old maps & old books (maybe 2 mismatched as a "pair" of bookends)" Carolyn Williams, Antiques Dealer, Atlanta

The problem that we have today is that multiple things are coming at us all of the time.  With social media running rampant and 24 hour news always in our face it is harder for people to stay focused than ever before.  We may not have trouble focusing short term on an upcoming test or plans for dinner but we have a terrible time with long term focusing.  Of course that is where service industries have grown in recent years.  Services like retirement planning, wills, and supplemental insurance try to make us focus on things that may affect us or our families in the future.

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We have lived in our house a long time.  The other day we had a roofing salesperson  come to our door.  It seems that a house across the street had been re-roofed by this company.  They mentioned that new shingles should be put on a house every 20 or 25 years.  Ours were last done 23 years ago.  Yes it is probably time for us to make the plunge and have the work done.  However it is hard to focus on the future. The roof is not leaking and it looks fine.  Re-roofing a house is very expensive.  There used to be a car repair commercial that I have always remembered their little slogan.  Unfortunately for them I have long since forgot the name of the company.  The slogan went like this “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”  It is talking about dealing with a little problem before it turns into a bigger one.  Long ago Benjamin Franklin had a quote that dealt with the same issue.  His quote was “A stitch in time saves nine.”

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We are told to plan for the long term and are encouraged to have a plan for when we are not around anymore.  It is basically a plan for who gets which part of our assets.  It is important to think about these long term situations because life is not guaranteed for any of us.  Yet many people neglect the more important question.  That question is “What happens to us after we die?”  It’s a basic question that has been asked as long as humans have lived on the earth.  With Jesus in our heart’s we don’t have to worry about our long term future.  In fact we can look forward to a time when we are re-united with our loved ones that have went on before.  We can look forward to eternal life and joy unspeakable.  You see Jesus came to earth to take the unknown and make it known.  When we are sorrowful for our sins he throws them out and doesn’t hold us accountable much like the company did for the old photo’s that didn’t turn out!  He tells us to fear not because he is with us!  He gives us the Holy Spirit while we are here to guide and teach us!

Just like we should plan for the future do not neglect the Jesus plan for our eternal future.  With Jesus the plan becomes crystal clear.  The picture is always focused because Jesus has made it that way!  “In my fathers house there are many mansions”, he states in John 14:2.  “If it were not so I wouldn’t have told you”, he continues.  “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.”  Jesus has made securing our reservation for eternal life simple.  He has already paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross.  He wants to bring our eternal future into focus.  If you would like to secure your future repeat this simple prayer, believe it in your heart, and receive him in a child like way.

Lord Jesus,

Forgive me of my sins, come into my heart and save me.

I want to live forever with you in heaven.

Thank you for saving me

I give you my life while on this earth.

In your precious and holy name

Amen

 

 

Bare Spots In The Grass

They called him “Killer” and he killed the hopes of many teams with his long high home runs.  The thought of facing Harmon Killebrew in a clutch situation made pitchers squirm.   He developed the strength he needed to hit his massive home runs by lifting 10 gallon milk cans as a Idaho farmhand.  While still in high schools Herman Welker a U.S. Senator from Idaho and a baseball fan recommended him to the Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith.  Griffith sent a scout named Ossie Bluege to scout him.  Watching Harmon hit a ball over a fence 435 feet away (a feat never accomplished before on that field) made Ossie’s decision easy and he signed Killebrew to a contract for the Senators.  Killebrew had also excelled in football as a Quarterback and had aspirations of playing college football.  All of that changed that day as Bluege saw the unmistakable potential in young Killebrew.  His decision was one of the best ever in baseball.  Killebrew went on to play 22 years in the big leagues.  His list of accomplishments are many.  He hit over 40 home runs in a season eight times.  He led the league in home runs six times and in Runs Batted In three times.  He won the most valuable player award in 1969 when he hit 49 home runs and drove in 140.  He blasted 573 home runs in his career which at the time of his retirement was 4th all time.  His home runs were majestic and he created fear for the opposition when he firmly took his stance like a giant rock at the plate.  He was the first player to ever hit a ball completely out of Tiger Stadium to left field (only 3 have done it since).  They painted a seat at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota that one of Killebrew’s blasts had rocketed into some 530 feet from home plate!  His home run records were even more amazing considering that his home fields were among the biggest in all of baseball.

In 1984 Killebrew was elected to baseball’ hall of fame.  As a kid I remember Killebrew batting and his raw power at the plate.  I remember teams fearing his thunder and walking him whenever it was convenient.  However, the story that he told that day put a whole different light to what I think about when his name comes up.  At these events someone comes up and introduces the recipient with a nice speech.  Then it is time for the recipient to give his.  Harmon humbly told a tale about his parents and what he said still brings tears to my eyes.  You see his brothers and him regularly played ball in the yard.  After awhile his mother noticed that they were making bare spots all over the well kept green grass.  With her eyes on the unpleasant sight that these spots had caused she complained to her husband one day.  His statement back to her put everything in perspective.  “We are not trying to grow grass”, he said, “we are trying to raise boys!”

The Bible has a lot of examples where people put the wrong thing first and weren’t focused on the ultimate goal.  In Luke 11:37-41 it reads that Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house to eat.  The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not wash before eating as was the Jewish tradition.  Jesus took this opportunity to condemn the Pharisees  for wrong thinking.  39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.  He was telling them that the important thing was not following rules but having a clean heart.  Another example of focusing on the wrong thing can be found in Luke 10:38-42.  Jesus and his disciples were coming into a village and Martha opened up her house to them.  Martha and Mary were sisters and were preparing the meal but when Jesus came Mary sat at his feet and listened intently to his message.  Martha got upset and this is what happened.  She came to him and asked, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  Once again we see that Martha was concerned more about the worldly things while Mary did right in her hunger for the spiritual.

Sadly in our Christian walk the same types of things happen today.  There are people who feel that it is important to build a bigger church or make sure that the young people have something to entertain them.  They may be consumed by the amount of money the church receives or the types of people that attend their church.  We have to ask ourselves, What is our true purpose?  The right way of thinking should  always be the spiritual one.  We live in an age where people want to go to beautiful big churches.  On the other end of the scale Christians want to build the fanciest churches.  Is this the right way of thinking?  Isn’t this the same thing that Jesus talked about when the Pharisee was putting an emphasis on what the cup looked like on the outside without regards to the inside?  The important thing is not if the church is big or small or in between, it is it’s spiritual heart.  Is it clean and doing things for the right reasons?  Are we making decisions after getting direction from God and attempting to do what he wants instead of our own will?

Harmon Killebrew was not an extra large man.  He was only 5’10 and weighed around 215 pounds.  Yet when he came to bat he made a big difference in the game not only by his enormous home runs but also by the fear he put into the other teams head.  Yet without the forethought of his loving father all of that might not have happened.  I still shake my head in amazement over the wisdom of that statement.  “We’re not trying to grow grass, we are trying to raise boys!”  I pray that  as Christians we will stop trying to grow grass and start focusing on what God can do through us!

Restoration

I was sitting in my car at a stop light.  Pulling up to the light in heavy traffic I saw out of the corner of my eye an SUV pulling into a driveway on the other side of the street.  Frantically it was going back and forth trying to get traction without success.  With the conditions as they were I could tell that the SUV was accelerating much too fast for the conditions.  It was an awful day out.  All of the other schools were closed that day but our University remained open.  Although it took me twice as long to get to work I had made it.  Now I was on my way home and the conditions were icy and treacherous.  Because the conditions were so bad everyone was driving extremely slow.  This caused the traffic to crawl and jam as I slowly pulled up to the light.  The SUV on my side was still trying to turn itself around and the driver was getting frustrated.  It was then that I saw the SUV backing up directly at me.  Suddenly I realized  it was dangerously close and I pressed on my horn but it didn’t do any good.  There was a crashing sound and I knew I had been hit.  I struggled out of the car against the elements.  The lady got out of her SUV and met me where the damage was.  Strangely though when I tried to locate the damage that she had caused I couldn’t find it.  The traffic was bumper to bumper and the light had turned and people were ready to go.  The lady was anxious for me to let the incident go since no damage apparently was caused.  Instead of exchanging insurance policies and calling the police I decided that miraculously my car had not been damaged and called off the search.  When I got home a few minutes later I inspected the side of my car once again and discovered a huge dent by the fuel tank.  Apparently since she was driving an SUV her bumper hit me much higher than where I was looking.  I became upset with her for driving so recklessly in awful conditions.  I was also upset with myself for not discovering the damages and letting her go without consequences.  Most of all I was upset that my car was damaged.

That incident happened a couple of winters ago and the car has been very driveable.  However every time that I filled up the gas tank I would see that dent and became upset with that lady.  It was because of her that the dent was there and seeing it constantly reminded me of that day and her hurry for me to set her free.  Although I wanted to get the car fixed I couldn’t justify spending hundreds to restore an old car.  One day a few months ago my son came over for lunch.  He was parked properly on the other side at the foot of our driveway.  As I was leaving to come back to work I was in a hurry and forgot he was back there.  When I turned my wheel to enter our street I heard a clunk.  My front side had bashed into his car.  Feeling sick to my stomach I got out to assess the damages.  Fortunately there were no damages to his car but mine had a big dent in the front.  It was then I decided that I was going to have the car restored.

It was like that old joke about the guy who dropped fifty cents in the toilet.  His friend noticed that he was purposely dropping quarters into the same toilet.  “What are you doing?” the friend questioned.  It seems the man had debated if it was worth it putting his hand in there for fifty cents.  He explained to his friend “for fifty cents no, but for two dollars yes!”  Now that I had two unsightly dents in the car I was ready to invest.  However, I wanted someone to work with me.  I called several body shops and explained my situation on their answering machines.  Finally I got someone on the line with my last call.  “I have an older car”, I explained “and I need someone to work with me.”  “Instead of all new replacement parts I was hoping you could pull the dents out.”  “I’m not carrying collision insurance on the car and it is all out of pocket.”  Surprisingly he was very cooperative and had me bring the car right over.  His workload wasn’t very heavy and for that I was extremely grateful!

In the Bible there are stories about restoration.  These are not car restorations however.  They are restorations of relationships.  A couple come to mind.  One which we all have heard is about the prodigal son who took all of his inheritance and blew it on wild living.  His father was quick to forgive and forget when the son humbly made his trip back home.  Another one was the relationship that Jesus had with Peter his disciple.  Peter was admonished by Jesus because he was always saying things that came to his mind without thought.  When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the cross Peter took him aside.  “Never Lord, This will never happen to you.”  In Matthew 16:23 it states that Jesus turned to Peter and said “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  As Jesus was going to the cross Peter was questioned three times about their relationship.  Each time he denied knowing him.  The third time he reacted violently swearing loudly and claiming “I do not even know the man.”  In Matthew 26:33 Peter said “though all men will be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”  In verse 34 Jesus answers him saying “that this night before the cock crows you will deny me thrice.”  After Peter’s third denial the rooster crowed fulfilling the prophesy.

After Jesus was crucified Peter had given up the cause.  Jesus has died and it is all over for us was his thinking.  He encouraged the other disciples to go back to where it began and what they made a living doing.  They went back to being fishermen and were on a boat with their nets in the water.  Through the whole night they caught nothing and were very discouraged.  Suddenly they saw a man on the shore and he called out “cast your nets on the other side.”  Reluctantly they did and the net gathered so many fish that it broke.  Realizing the miracle they also realized that the man was Jesus and they were ecstatic.  Jesus didn’t lecture them about what they were doing out there or why they had given up.  He was willing to restore the relationship despite their lack of faith.  Peter especially was grateful because much like how the disciples mended their fishing  net Jesus had mended his relationship with him!

Slowly the figures were added.  As I sat in the office the calculator was working away.  I’m sure that with each cost the owner was remembering my words and discounting each item.  At the end I was amazed at how little the cost was.  Having received estimates for the original dent I knew what the ball park figure was.  Yet he was offering to do the job for two dents at less than the others did for one!  He had mercy on my situation much like how God has mercy on our lives.

Perhaps you have an old friend that you don’t talk to anymore.  Maybe something happened that broke your trust.  Maybe there is hurt whenever you see them or think about what they did.  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants to restore our friendships.  In order to do this be the one who makes the first move.  Be the one who asks for forgiveness.  You will be surprised how the ice will melt and how you will begin to feel happy again.  Happy that there are no grudges only love.  Happy that you have put hate behind you and grateful that God has restored your joy!

When I’m fueling up my car now I don’t see the dent anymore.  I don’t even think about that lady or feel the anger that I felt.  I only see the car all repaired and looking great.  Usually I forget that it was ever damaged.  That is how God see’s us when we ask for forgiveness.  He forgets all of our past sins.  He restores our relationship with him much like my car was restored.

 

Filling Our Tree With Love

The old oak tree looked fine.  It was over 100 years old and stood tall and seemingly sturdy.  People marveled at it’s beauty and yet one stormy night it came crashing down.  A friend and his wife heard it at around 4 in the morning.  They thought it was an earthquake the noise was so loud.  Fifteen feet from the ground the tree shattered.  Fortunately nobody was hurt as the once beautiful 70 foot tree became a 15 foot stump in the ground.  The rest was lying there for all to see.  The next morning it was alarming what was discovered.  The insides of the tree that came down had been eaten away by a disease.  It was hollow and could not stand the rigors of the wind that night. 
My dad in addition to working a full time factory job and many hours of overtime found the time to build three houses.  The only houses we lived in were ones that he built.  Since he had never built a house before he took advice from an acquaintance who had built many of the houses in the neighborhood.  The first and most important thing he learned was to build a deep foundation.  It started with digging a basement that was deep and then using cement blocks to make the foundation strong.  In all of his houses dad followed the same recipe.  Above anything else that foundation was the thing that made the house sturdy and strong.  With help from my mom they worked tireless with much faith in the process.  After the strong foundation was set they went to the next process.  He shared with me that it was one step at a time, one project at a time.  They needed to be jacks of all trades in the process.  What they didn’t know they got advice and learned what to do.  It was a work in faith but it began with building that strong foundation.  Although that first little house was not a sight of beauty to most it was strong and sturdy.  That first house was the foundation of their faith to build another.  This time the house would be bigger and better.  Yet the other two houses were built on the faith they had acquired building the first one.  Faith that told them that if they worked hard and believed it could be achieved.
 
At one time that oak tree had a good foundation.  It was solid and healthy and looked like it would live forever.  Then over time a tiny bit here and there things began to change.  A disease got into that tree.  Slowly it started chipping away.  Even though the tree looked strong and healthy it was neither.  Though it looked strong and sturdy it was really weak and brittle.
In our Christian walk we need to ask ourselves “How deep is our faith?”  Is our foundation solid and strong?  Like the oak tree many times our foundation is strong.  The problem is we let little things chip away much like the disease in the tree.  Instead of forgiving others of their trespasses like Jesus told us to do we try to hold them accountable.  We  become bitter when things are going right for them in spite of the wrong they caused us.  Because we haven’t forgiven them of whatever they did our foundation slowly starts to rot.  The good material that we started with gets poisoned in the mix.  Instead of trusting God to take care of situations and leaving all of our burdens with him we become the sin police.  We become revengeful and hateful.  Before long we find that our faith in God and people are suddenly in doubt.
Is there someone who has hurt you?  Is there someone that seems to glorify in the wrong they did to you?  We all have people in our lives that are like that.  However Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  When we follow that commandment there is peace in our hearts and not bitterness.  The disease is cured and we are able to move on in love and peace.  The tree lives on and doesn’t die inside.  In fact it grows stronger in time.  Something like this is not easy.  It is not natural to love our enemies.  It is not natural to wish them well.  However, it is not natural to die inside either.  The quickest way to lose our life spiritually is to harbor hurt and bitterness.  Send them on their way in the name of Jesus!  Give God all of your burdens and forget about them.  Love your neighbor even if your neighbor has done you wrong.  In that way you are being like Christ because he died for us even though we didn’t deserve it.
Sometimes I drive through the old neighborhood.  Since the three houses are on the same block I pass them all and marvel.  Many memories come back of the things that we did and the fun we had.  None of that would have been possible except for the sound houses we lived in.  Most of all I marvel at the old houses still standing tall after all of these years.  On the other side of the coin is the old oak tree that is no more.

God’s Party

What would you do if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me ?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

The original song was written by the Beatles but the version I remember was sang by Joe Cocker.  It was the theme song for The Wonder years which is one of my all time favorite shows!  The story is about Kevin Arnold who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  The fact that he was one year older than me in the story helped me to relate to many of the episodes and similar things I went through.  All of the episodes were about Kevin and how he remembered the times of his life and his memories of his mom, dad, and his brother Wayne who was two years older.  Kevin also had a sister who went off to college and was written off the show.

One of my favorite episodes was called “The Lost Weekend.”  It was in the fifth season and Kevin was a sophomore in high school.  Wayne at that time was a senior.  Their parents were going to go away for the weekend to an out of town wedding.  They left the boys to watch the house and to do the chores their father assigned.  No sooner had they pulled out of the driveway Wayne informed Kevin that he had other plans.  He was going to a Beer Keg party that night and his Saturday was also booked too.  On one hand Kevin was upset with Wayne that he was ditching him.  On the other hand Kevin thought of the possibilities of having the whole house to himself.  At school that day he mentioned to his four main friends during lunch that he had the house to himself.  Right away a couple of his adventurous friends suggested that they should do something.  After all how often would this opportunity come up?  Kevin was doubtful until his best friend Paul mentioned that if Kevin didn’t want to do anything that was fine.  Kevin had a responsibility to his parents.  In typical Kevin style that statement was what tipped him over the edge.  When Paul made a goody two shoes statement Kevin usually went in the other direction.  “We could do something”, he stated and suggested a poker game.

That night after about an hour of dull poker playing everyone was getting bored.  Someone suggested that they should invite some girls over.  Kevin agreed to the plan as long as everyone just invited one girl.  When the girls arrived they were not alone.  They had invited friends to come with them. Apparently they also spread the news that there was a party at Kevin’s house!  It didn’t take long before people were at Kevin’s door that he didn’t even know.  They made their way in and in no time Kevin was throwing the biggest party he had ever seen.  Kevin’s friend Chuck called Kevin from a local store where he had apparently forgot his I.D.  He was attempting to buy beer and Kevin brought his I.D. to him.  It turned out that the I.D. was a fake and Chuck wasn’t allowed to buy the beer.  As Kevin was yelling at Chuck for this whole mess they overheard a hippy group in the parking lot talking about a big party they were going to.  Some kid named Arnold they said which was Kevin’s last name.  The last person left the party at 4 in the morning and the house was totally a mess.  Empty beer cans, spilled drinks, pictures askew, messy food items everywhere, cigarette butts, and whatever else you can think filled the house when the party was over.  When Wayne came home later that day he laughed at his brothers mess.  “Boy are you in big trouble”, he chuckled.  “Wayne, you have to help me clean up this mess,” Kevin pleaded.

As Wayne was laughing about Kevin’s statement their parents pulled into the driveway.  Apparently they decided to come home a few hours early.  As his parents were discovering the destruction of their beloved home Kevin was contemplating what punishment they would find worthy of his deed.  His father surprisingly turned to Wayne.  “Wayne how could you?”  When Kevin tried to speak up his father was quick to reprimand him.  “Kevin, you stay out of this!”  To his credit Wayne took the fall.  He didn’t blame Kevin, he just told his parents that he was sorry and it would never happen again.

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In Luke chapter 15 the younger of two sons requested his inheritance.  He was going to find out what he was missing, live it up at the world’s party and have fun!  Unlike Kevin, he was inviting the party and the more the merrier.  After a while all of his high living had caught up with him.  He was out of money and the party was over.  As long as he was the life of the party and financed it he was one popular guy.  After the money was gone everyone left in search of the next fool to come their way.  Kevin also felt the same way after his party.  All that was left after everyone departed was a mess.  Nobody cared whose party it was, only that there was a party and they were happy to go.  When the night was done everyone was happy except Kevin and eventually his parents.  The prodigal as he is referred to in the Bible found himself making a living feeding pigs.  At that point he came to his senses.  Even the workers for my father live much better than I am.  I will go home to my father and tell him I am not worthy to be his son.  I will ask for a job working the fields with the other workers.  When he was still far away his father saw him and came running to meet him.  The prodigal son tried to explain that he was unworthy but his father heard none of it!  Get the fattest calf and kill it.  We are going to celebrate.  My son was dead but now he is alive!  He was going to have a party in his sons honor!  This is like how our Father in Heaven feels about us!  He wants to have a party for us once we come to our senses and come back home!

The son’s brother was not happy about the situation.  He found out from one of his fathers servants that his brother was getting a party.  The brother was bitter and jealous and hateful.  He decided that he would not honor his brother with his presence.  Instead he stayed away and when his father noticed he was not there he came looking for him.  The brother was bitter and his father told him how it was.  “My son was dead but now is alive”, he said.  We are never told whether the brother took his fathers words to heart and attended his brothers party.  If he did he would have had to have a change of attitude and his hatred turned to love.  Everyone at that party wanted to be there because they loved the father and were celebrating his sons return with him!

So the question I ask you today is which party are you going to?  Are you going to the world’s party where you are the life of the party until it destroys your house? In that party nobody cares and everyone will quickly leave when your resources diminish.  On the other hand you could be going to God’s party.  That is a party where you are celebrated not by what resources you have but because you have made your way back home!  God’s party is a party of love.  God has already paid for your party and everyone there loves you!  In that party you are the guest of honor!  In answer to the songs lyrics God will never stand up and walk out on us because we have sang out of tune.  He loves us and welcomes us home no matter what we do.  It is true that sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends.  God puts good friends in our lives to help us see his light in troubling situations.  However we find out from these stories that sometimes the people that we think are our friends are only our fair weather friends.  Sometimes it is our own brothers or sisters that let us down.  When the chips are down they may scatter far away.  Whatever the weather is like in our lives God is waiting to have a party for us!  It is a party of love in our honor and he is delighted to throw it because we were once dead but now we are alive!

Heavenly Banquet Table

Lifeboat Skills, Salvation Thrills!

It was the biggest disaster of it’s time.  The Titanic crash of 1912 into an iceberg resulted in 1503 people dying including passengers and crew.  Many of those lives could have been saved but weren’t.  You see some of the life boats were only half full.  Maybe it was the idea that loading them to full capacity as they were lowered into the water would be too much stress for the boats.  Later the boats were filled to full capacity and the boats held firm.  Since many of the boats were under filled there was opportunities to rescue a lot more people who were floundering in the ice cold waters.  Instead of making the attempts it was decided that rescuing others would endanger the ones in the boat and might result in the boats tipping over.  Among the cries of help from hundreds of people the lifeboats paddled away.  Within a half an hour the desperate cries ceased.

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It was a fall night at the ball field.  My softball team had won the game but I couldn’t help noticing the shortstop from the other team.  He had an incredible arm and realizing that our shortstop play was a weak part of our team I engaged him in conversation.  I found out his name was Steve and he would be more than happy to play ball with us the next year.  I took his phone number and gave him a call the following spring.  In getting to know Steve as we played ball together I noticed that a lot of things were going astray in his life.  He was a heavy drinker who drank to the point of passing out on occasion.  He was a single guy who wouldn’t settle down as he was involved in many relationships.  From my view Steve’s life was going nowhere and I thought that maybe I could help him.

After the games I would discuss life with Steve.  I was a person that he trusted and liked.  He was more than happy to share his bat with me.  It was a bat that felt perfect in my hands.  Still Steve continued down his wayward road.  A few of my teammates discussed how they went golfing with Steve and afterwards he passed out from too much alcohol.  As the summer season closed our team qualified for the state tournament.  Unfortunately Steve couldn’t work his schedule out to go.  I made arrangements with Steve to meet him at his work and borrow his bat.  Steve worked as a salesman for modular homes and he was very good at it.  He was the top salesman in the company.  I met him and he gave me a tour of the place.  Finally we sat down in his office.  I meant well and I felt I knew that Jesus could save Steve, but I went about the conversation in a round about way.  I talked to him about my daughter I had lost and told him that I had hope of seeing her again.  He assured me that I would.  I didn’t go any further with Steve and to this day I regret it.  I’m sure I thought I was easing myself in and leading by example.  I left with Steve’s bat but Steve remained in the water.

It was a Saturday in February the following year.  I was away that day and a message was left on my answering machine.  It was a good friend of Steve’s that we had brought to the ball team with him.  The message was stunning…Steve was dead.  Apparently he was on his way to one of his girlfriends in the morning.  He was driving rather fast down the road when something happened.  Nobody knew if he passed out or had some kind of heart problem but Steve plowed his truck into the rear of another car at a pretty high speed.  Steve was dead at the scene.  To this day I have regrets of the lost opportunity I had with Steve.

I have read that over 90% of Christians have never led someone to the Lord.  Most Christians don’t even think about it.  Jesus told us in Mark 16:15 to “Go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  With the fact over 90% of Christians don’t I have to wonder why not?  One reason might be that we don’t have a plan.  The old saying comes to mind..”If we fail to plan we plan to fail.”  Another reason might be that we are comfortable where we are in the boat and don’t want to get out of our comfort zone.  We need to realize that our boats are not full.  There are many who are searching and you or I might be the ones called to reach them.

We’ve been taking this Soul Winners class on Tuesday nights the last few weeks.  Jeremy who is my pastor is teaching the class.  Jeremy has perfected a plan that he uses that has won many souls for the Lord.  It is a simple plan that is designed to get the person to a place where they need to make a decision.  If you think about it that place was where you and I were before we became Christians.  I literally felt like that if I didn’t accept the Lord when I did there would be no more opportunities.  I don’t know what would have happened but that was the message the Holy Spirit had put in my heart.

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The conversation works with both people we know and people we don’t know.  After an exchange of pleasantries the first question to ask is “Do you like to talk about spiritual things?”  Normally people don’t mind or are even interested in such conversation.  Our society leads us into a direction of being inclusive and listening to everyone’s point of view.  Normally the answer is yes.  Jeremy states that if the answer is “no” it is time to back track and back off.  However, if the answer is yes the next question is…”Have you ever considered becoming a Christian?”  This question is answered in a variety of ways, from Yes to I already am, to NO.  The next question is “If I asked you what a Christian was what would you say?”    Jeremy calls this the litmus test.  It shines a light on where they are and what they believe.  Listen to their answer and then ask them if they would mind if you shared with them 4 scriptures of what a Christian is.

Here are the 4 scriptures.

ROMANS 3:23….FOR ALL HAVE SINNED, AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD

ROMANS 6:23..FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE IN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD

JOHN 1:12     YET TO ALL WHO RECEIVE HIM, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, HE GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD

REVELATION 3:20  BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK.  IF ANYONE HEARS MY VOICE, AND OPENS THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN AND EAT WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME.

At this point say their first name…as an example   “John, Jesus is knocking at your hearts door right now!  Will you let him in?

If they say yes ask them to repeat after you…

Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins and make me your child.

I am sorry for my sins and want to live forever in heaven with you.

Thank you for saving me.

Amen

Ask them if they were serious when they prayed.  If so reassure them that they are born again and that Jesus is now dwelling in their heart.

Jeremy has assured us that this is not a gift it is a skill.  Some people praise Jeremy saying he is so gifted in soul winning.  Jeremy has practiced and made himself better much like when we practice a skill for improvement.  It isn’t a matter of a gift it is a matter of willingness.  Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and rescue the lost and dying?  Many people cross our paths every day.  As Christian’s how willing are we to reach out in faith and pull them into the boat?  I don’t know if Steve would have accepted the Lord that day those many years ago, but the pain that I have of  not putting him in a decision making position is still with me. How about you?  Would you be willing to put somebody like Steve in a position to get saved?  As the light of the world we are called  to hear and respond to the cries of the dying before their voices fade away.

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