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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Dropping The Weight of Unforgiveness-The Jim Ryun Story

I’ve heard the saying throughout the years.  It is something that people say when you have the right to be really angry at someone for something that they did.  It goes like this, “forgive and forget.”  If there was a saying that is harder to do than that one I don’t know what it is.  Yet Jesus made it clear that this is truly something we need to do.  He said in the apostles prayer “forgive us of our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

I can tell you truthfully that there were a couple of incidences in my own life where it was very hard for me to forgive.  There may be people in your life that you find hard to forgive also.  I’ve always heard that we can do something that God cannot.  That is remember the sins of our past after he has forgiven us.  He can truly forgive and forget.  As for us, we will always have the memories.  Yet God can help us forgive but it has to come from him.  On our own it is impossible for us to forgive someone.  Forgiveness can only come about when  God supplies the love for that person in our heart.

When we find ourselves holding onto bitter thoughts about someone it’s like trying to run carrying a fifty pound weight.  That weight is going to be a burden that will slow us down!  I have found when I was slow to forgive it didn’t effect the other person at all.  That person went on with their life and here I was carrying the burden.  Only when I gave the burden to God and forgave them in my heart was I able to get over and through my bitterness.  There is a saying that goes “Don’t get bitter, get better.”  God knows that we are going to be wronged while we are on this earth.  Things are going to happen that will make us mad at others or mad at God himself.  If there is someone you haven’t forgiven remember this, it probably isn’t effecting them.  The only person it is effecting is you.  You can choose like I did to let that weight go and lighten your load in the race.  You will be surprised how good it feels after you give it to God and through him forgive that person!  The burden you are carrying will be lifted and you will be able to move on!

If there was anyone who you might feel is justified to hold a grudge it would be Jim Ryun.  Jim was a world class runner in the mile and 1500 meters.  He was the first high school runner to better 4 minutes in the mile.  He competed in the Tokyo Olympics at the age of 17 in 1964.  He was the silver medalist in the 1500 meters in the next Olympics in Mexico City in 1968.  1972 was to be his big moment.  He had trained very hard and just knew that the Gold medal was in his future.  I have included a video of Jim’s story!  This video is over 10 minutes but it is 10 minutes worth watching!  It takes you from his early running days through the 1972 Olympics.  Amazing footage through his triumphs and pains and how he chose to forgive.  When he brought that unforgiving burden to God it was lifted from him!  As you will see he is now running through life free and easy without the cumbersome weight!

“God allowed me to be disqualified from the world’s most prestigious  athletic competition to show me how to be a real winner.”  Jim Ryun

Peace Through All The Pain

One of the subjects in the last article Derek Redmond has a website  He is now a very in demand motivational speaker and has a motivational newsletter.  He turned his Olympic tragedy into a success!  Many times in life you and I find ourselves in similar circumstances.  Just as Derek leaned on his father for support when he was down we can lean on our heavenly father!  Though we are hurting he gives a peace beyond understanding.

Peace Through All The Pain

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Sometimes on life’s road my Lord
the sun is shining bright
The road is smooth and all downhill
without a bump in sight

Then there are times the road’s torn up
and the sky is pouring rain
It’s then I cry out Lord to you
Give me peace through all the pain

There’s no one else I can see
who will give me peace of mind
No other place that gives to me
the comfort I do find

For on that bumpy, torn up road
there’s someone who will care
You pick me up when I fall down
and all my burdens bear

So now my road is bumpy
and my sky is pouring rain
but I have found the secret
of peace through all the pain.

Peace I leave with you, my
peace I give you. I do not give
to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

A Fathers Love

Jim Redmond was more than a father to Derek Redmond.  He was his best friend and the two of them were inseparable.  Derek was one of the best 400 meter runners in the world!  At the age of 19 he had shattered the British record. Jim knew what Derek was feeling as the 1992 Olympics were about to start in Barcelona.  In the 1988 games Derek had to withdraw from the 400-meter race just 10 minutes before it started because of an Achilles tendon injury.  Over the next year he went through 5 surgeries.   To say that he was determined to make good in the 1992 Olympics would be an understatement.  To win a medal after all of the pain he went through and all of the hard work was the only thing he was thinking of.

Jim had been there for all of the world competitions leading up to the Olympics that Derek competed in!  He was his best friend, counselor, motivator, and loving father.  The stadium was packed with 65,000 fans and Jim had a seat at the top of Olympic Stadium.  This would be the race that would put Derek into the Olympic final heat and Jim was determined to run the race with Derek from his seat.  You see when Derek ran the two of them were so close that it seemed his father was running right next to him!

Earlier that day Jim and Derek had talked.  They talked about ignoring the past failures and heartbreaks and concentrating on the task before them.  They talked about all of the hard work that Derek had put in to prepare for the event.  They talked about everything even the unthinkable.  If anything bad happens, Derek would finish the race no matter what.  Now Jim is sitting in his place high up in the stadium waiting, watching, and anticipating the start of the race.  He is as nervous as if he himself were running and in his mind he is going to be with his son every step of the way!

The top four finishers in each of the semifinal heats qualify for the Olympic final.  The race begins and Derek quickly takes the lead.  Jim is in a zone as if running every step of the way with his son!  Keep it up he urges as Derek reaches the halfway point.  Then without warning the unthinkable happens.  Derek hears a pop in his right hamstring.  He hops on his good leg before falling on the track.  The other runners finish their race and leave Derek laying on the track in pain.  When Jim see’s his son in trouble he races as fast as he can down the bleachers.  He is dodging people and bumping into people along the way.  He keeps moving forward.  Without any credentials to be on the track Jim finally gets to the bottom row of the bleachers and races onto the track.  Security people start chasing him but he won’t be stopped.

The medical crew arrives with a stretcher but Derek tells them that he will not use it.  “I’m going to finish the race”, he said.  Derek pushes himself to his feet and begins the long journey of hobbling to the finish line.  With about 120 meters to go Jim finally reaches him.  “I’m here son and we will finish together”, he tells his son.  Derek uses his fathers shoulder to cry on and to lean on.  As the two of them struggle toward the finish line the 65,000 fans are going crazy!  Just before they reach the finish line Jim lightens his grip and Derek goes through the finish line alone.  Once he crosses the line Jim and Derek embrace again as their tears are felt by thousands at the event and millions watching on TV.

Lean on your Heavenly Father

Someone to lean on

If you look in the  medal winners for the 400 meter run in the 1992 Olympics you won’t find the name of Derek Redmond.  Yet because of his determination and courage and the love of his father, his name will always be associated with what the Olympics are about! Pierre De Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, believed that ‘The important thing in life is not to triumph, but to compete,’ and encouraged everyone to compete against themselves. His sentiment was institutionalised in the Olympic motto which challenges each individual to become the best they can: ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

The Olympic games in London will be here soon.  Athletes from all over the world will be vying for medals.  Some of their names will be on every tongue for a little while.  Whatever the results and the fame that these athletes will attain for the moment their moment will pass.  It has been twenty years since Derek Redmond fell on the track.  Derek Redmond did not win a medal in that Olympics.  Yet, of all of the people that competed, his name is still remembered.  His father Jim responded as our heavenly father does with us.  He was someone with compassion that was there to be leaned on.  He was there to help Derek finish the race.

When we feel the most discouraged, if we look beside us we will see him.  It is our heavenly father wiping away our tears.  He is always there for us to lean on as we finish our race.  Every step of the way he’ll be our strength.  When we feel we can’t go on he will lift us to new heights.  He is there in good times and bad and his love never wavers.  When our race is done he will say to us “Well done good and faithful servant.”

The Gardener And My Garden III

This is the third poem of the Gardener and My Garden series.
Click the Gardener and My Garden category listed on the right hand
side to read the first two Gardener and My Gardener poems.

The Gardener and My Garden III

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The Gardener stopped by
the other day
to tend my new garden
in his usual way

But I still didn’t see
the results of his wear
so I asked him,
why aren’t there flowers out there?

The gardener was patient
He smiled at me,
Your flowers are growing
even though you don’t see

There are rules we must follow
so your flowers will grow tall
and the first one we know
they must start very small

The seed must be planted
deep rooted and sound
It must grow strong and healthy
before coming out of the ground

The seeds have been planted,
the weeds are all gone
keep checking your garden,
you’ll have flowers before long!

So I checked my new garden
and one day I found
tiny little plant life
had come out of the ground

The plants looked so helpless
so I made the call,
Mr. Gardener, you’re mistaken,
these aren’t flowers at all

The gardener came by quickly,
he seemed, oh so pleased
He cared for those little plants
that to me looked like weeds

They don’t look like much
but I know what they’ll be
Just watch as they grow
then you will see

The most beautiful flowers
that you ever saw
Cause we did things with patience
and followed the law

Have faith in your gardener,
please listen to me,
What makes beautiful flowers
are things you can’t see

One day I looked out
and I saw something new,
these little plants had grown
one foot, maybe two!

The colors were beautiful
in those flowers so tall
But there was a new beauty
I’d never thought of at all

The most beautiful part
of these flowers, I mean
was not their fine colors
but what couldn’t be seen.

Beauty beneath the colors
Beauty beneath the colors

So we fix our eyes not on what
is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18

We’re Talking About Practice

We have seen a video on ESPN over and over through the years. It is an interview with Allen Iverson. Over and over he says “it’s not the game, it’s practice.” Making the point that in his eyes practice isn’t as important as the game. His response was to a question about him missing practice. By downplaying the importance of practice he also downplayed the role of the coach to the team.

In my experience of coaching I found that practices were much more important than the games. You might think that what I just said makes no sense. Obviously the results of the games are what people look at. With that being said, unless your team is far more talented than the opposition, it is the practices that bring continuity and sharpen up team play! Practices paved the way to how my team performed in the games. I found that during games I sometimes didn’t have much control over what happened. But if I had my team properly prepared they could overcome whatever the other team threw at them.

The movies that we see are finished products. We don’t see behind the scenes of how many times the actors blew their lines in practice. We don’t see how many hours they had to rehearse their lines to make it just right. We don’t see how many times the writers changed the script to make it more audience friendly. We take all of that stuff for granted yet without the rehearsals we wouldn’t be seeing the quality finished product that makes us laugh, cry, or just feel good!

They say that practice makes perfect. That is a saying that just isn’t true. As long as we are talking about humans we will not have perfection. Along with that I’ve heard the saying “perfect practice makes perfect.” While “perfect practice” will not give perfection we could say “perfect practice makes improvement.” What does perfect practice mean? If we were talking about sports it would mean having the right technique. For example if I wanted to improve my bowling score I could practice more. However, if I were using a wrong technique all of the practice in the world may not improve my score. On the other hand if I were shown the right technique and practiced always using this technique I would get better. Why? Because perfect practice makes improvement!

When my son was 9 or 10 years we signed him up to go to a one day basketball shooting camp. The instructor at this camp was a well known instructor who had worked with Dennis Rodman and had him making a respectable percentage of his free throws. He told a story that remains with me to this day.

There were two high school teammates who had distinctly different work ethics. The first guy was always trying to get by on less. If the coach wanted him to shoot 25 free throws he would do as little of the 25 as possible. He might start shooting and get up to eight and when the coach turned his head that number might shoot up to 18. He ended up usually shooting half the number the coach wanted. On the other hand the other teammate was always wanting to do more. When he was done with his 25 free throws he would often be seen after practice getting another 25 in. He was the type of person that whether anyone was watching or not he knew the score. He knew he was putting the work in. He was at peace with himself knowing he was doing everything he could to be the best that he could be!

As it turned out at the end of a big game teammate #1 got fouled. His Team was down by one point. You guessed it, he missed both free throws and his team lost. Of course as a dad sitting there I thought to myself, what a great lesson. That kid deserved what he got. He didn’t practice and put out so he wasn’t prepared. A couple of games later teammate #2 got fouled in the same circumstance. His team trailed by one. Of course I was expecting to be told that he made both of his free throws and his team won. Wouldn’t that be the storybook ending for the lesson that hard work pays off? Doesn’t the guy who practiced his heart out deserve to be rewarded for his efforts? I was stunned when the instructor told us that teammate #2 missed too. He didn’t come through and his missed free throws were cited just like teammate #1. There was a vast difference though as the instructor pointed out. Player #2 did everything he possible could do to prepare for that situation. He didn’t cut corners and he didn’t look for the easy way out. He did even more than the coach required. This illustrates the point that nobody is perfect and you never know how things will turn out. Even though the same results occurred in both cases, there was one clear winner and one clear loser comparing these two teammates in the instructors eyes. It was a matter of being prepared. Player #2 was and player #1 was not.

Jack Van Impe is called “The Walking Bible.” That’s because he has memorized so many Bible verses. One of his favorite verses is 2nd Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Jack is so prepared that when his wife asks him a question on his TV show he quotes 3 or 4 Bible verses that back up what he is saying. It is so impressive that he does this off of the top of his head that you may not realize that it took hours to prepare behind the scenes!

Jack Van Impe “The Walking Bible”

Why has he worked so hard in his efforts to know Gods word? It is because he knows that by being prepared he might lead souls to the Lord. He does everything in his power to make sure that he has the answers that the Bible gives.

How many of us Christians wonder if something is in the Bible? How many of us think something is in there but don’t have any idea where it is? How many of us wish we knew the scriptures better but don’t take the time to make it happen? How many of us fail to come through in the clutch in our Christian walk and witnessing because we have cut corners? There’s a saying “Do your best and let God do the rest.” My question to you is are you doing your best?

Yes Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice. We’re talking about being prepared. There is a saying that goes “How you practice is how you will play.” It’s the behind the scenes stuff that determines if we are a success or a failure. Our legacy will not be made with one games success or failure. Our legacy will be determined by our character, extra effort, and determination. We were not told any other information about teammates 1 and 2. For those of you who remember Paul Harvey, he used to have commentaries called “The Rest of The Story.” He would tell us a vague story and then surprise us with the famous person the story described. If this were one of his stories I would bet my last dollar that teammate #2 would be the surprise famous person. He demonstrated the qualities that would lead him to success. Success doesn’t mean we never fail. But failure is not final for God. Failure may be a bump in the road for great things to come. Great things that the discipline of hard work and practice makes possible!

I’m Scared

Never been much on religion but...

Never been much on religion but…

In 1977 a friend and I would hang out and do different things together.  He had a car with an 8-track and we listened to a variety of his albums.  Probably our all time favorite was by the Guess Who and it was called Power in the Music.  We listened to that 8 track so much it was ridiculous.  Burton Cummings was the lead singer of the group and at that time he had gone solo.  The Power in the Music album had come out in 1975 when Burton was still with the Guess Who.  In the time that followed I have most if not all of the Guess Who albums when he was in the band.  I also have all of his solo albums.  As you can probably tell I liked his songs and the way he could express his words.  I also loved the way he could play the piano and how he could make that piano rock and my foot tap!  Burton was not a Christian singer, far from it.  He played rock and roll with a beat that we just liked!

A song that hits me as one of the most spiritual, truthful, and humbling songs that I have ever heard came from a surprising source.  It was a song that Burton put on his first album in 1977 called “I’m Scared.”  You might wonder why I would choose this song as one of the most spiritual and moving songs I have ever heard?  I think part of the answer comes from the source.  It was a Christian song from unusual circumstances.  You see Burton Cummings was not a Christian. He was in the searching phase trying to find his way. He didn’t really even realize he was missing anything being that he was highly successful. The story goes that Burton was in New York City one day and it was cold.  He found warmth in a church and the choir was singing.  Somehow in this unusual setting something stirred in his heart.  The words are real as he examines his own emptiness and his own confusion.  The songs that touch my heart are not necessarily a popular spiritual leader singing a song they sing hundreds of times.  In this case it was an experience of someone who was not thinking about God at all until he entered that church.  The song shows that God can meet us where we are and accepts us as we are.  Some of the lyrics follow:

Living in confusion
Searching for truth that I never found
I needed something to really believe

Looked toward the heavens
on a dark and stormy winter afternoon
something in the air was oh so rare
I’m not really sure what it was
but I know for sure that it’s still right there

Lord I’m scared I’m shaking, I’m terrified
Never been much on religion
But I sure enough just fell down on my knees

Lord I’m scared, I’m laying awake thinking about it now
I’m terrified, Never been much on religion but I
sure enough would like to hear the call.
Come on now give me a sign your listening to me
You hear me talking, You see me crying
it’s confusing to me Lord I’m terrified
Never been much on religion
but I sure enough fell down on my knees.

Just writing the words still brings tears to my eyes! This song exemplifies to
me where we all are or were. At some point we look around us. We realize that
whatever we considered important isn’t that important. We come to the realization
that there is something much bigger than our little world we live in. The amazing
thing about this song is the person who God used to share it with us! Maybe the words he used “never been much on religion” is the key to how he expresses it! Sometimes it is the person who has lived the high life and who knows they have came across something different that we need to hear. It is fresh like bread straight out of the oven! It speaks to us not from a spiritual saint, but from an ordinary person who is seeking answers. Spoken with true feeling of a person who discovers that he is scared. Jesus knows that there are times we are afraid. He told us to fear not, for I am with you always even unto the end of the world. Yet when we comprehend the awesomeness of God and the humbleness of the lyrics it is really moving. Never been much on religion but I sure enough just fell down on my knees!

Elvis Eats Here

Naturally our eyes are attracted to the colored picture and the headlines!  What headlines they are too bordering on the bizarre to the unexpected!  It’s the grocery checkout line and while we are waiting as someone in front of us has 100 items to run past the cashier there they are.  It may be the National Enquirer, Star Magazine, The Sun, Globe, or The Weekly World News.  The store knows we may be waiting for awhile.  The magazines and mini newspapers are placed right there at the checkout lane.  They make them so tempting to pick up.  The main story is on the front but usually we have to dig through the paper to find it.  Within that digging there is a lot of other stories that catch our eye.

I remember years ago one of the tabloid papers ran a story that John F. Kennedy was alive for quite some time after November 22, 1963.  The story even had a fuzzy picture of a person with a bandaged up head in a wheelchair.  Supposedly it was from some far away island .  I’m sure that there are some who believed the story.   It’s a story that is so bizarre that you want to read it even though you know it isn’t true.  Deep down you hope that some miracle happened and it is.  Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes and we root for the stories we would like to be true.

I remember watching a concert highlight of what it was like to be at an Elvis Presley Concert.  Elvis put on a fantastic show singing all of his hits and performing like the icon that he was.  When he sang his last tune he left the stage.  The audience was in an uproar.  “We want Elvis, We want Elvis” the cries went up.  After several minutes of this the announcer came on the P.A. system.  “ladies and gentlemen” he said over the crowd noise, “Elvis has left the building.”

When Elvis Presley died in 1977 the world was in shock.  Elvis was an icon as he was  the king of rock and roll.  Nobody wanted to believe that the unthinkable had happened to him.  Somehow they had to accept that their idol and someone who they almost considered family had been taken away.

I think it was during the 1980’s that a story came out in one of the tabloids.  The story stated that Elvis was alive.  He was seen in Kalamazoo Michigan at a Burger King.  He was reported to be seen at other places too, but Burger King seemed to fit.  Living in Kalamazoo I was seeing businesses running with the idea.  One of the local Burger Kings had on their sign “Elvis eats here”.  I think a local spa had a sign that read “Elvis works out here”.  Nobody mentioned that a couple of whoppers at Burger King probably wasn’t the recommended food for spa members.  There must have been an Elvis impersonator going around in our town as many people claimed they saw him at businesses throughout the city.  The publicity was great for Kalamazoo and seeing those signs brought smiles to our faces!

Elvis was such an icon that it didn’t seem fair that he was struck down at only 42.  A book came out about Elvis being alive that listed reasons why we should believe.  The story was that he faked his own death.  One of the supposed clues to this story was that his middle name was misspelled on his tombstone.  It doesn’t take much to give people hope.  There were millions of people who held out hope that these stories were true.  Years later a story came out that Elvis was dead at 58.  It seems like he lived his life from 42-58 quietly and gave people the impression that he did it to get out of the spotlight.  So for the Elvis fans (and there were million’s) there was hope that Elvis was happy in his years after fame.  That he lived a quiet life and enjoyed himself.  Isn’t it strange how we can be willing to believe a lie if we want it to be true?

Through the years I have seen hundreds of headlines in these tabloids at the checkout lines.  I’m sure that many border on telling the truth though a few untruths have to be mixed in to make it interesting.  Stories especially about movie stars or famous people are sure to get attention.  Stories about bizarre happenings turn heads too.  Anything concerning aliens, UFO’s, a person weighing 1,000 pounds or  one nine feet tall will be read because of curiosity.  I guess they create excitement and information that we need to explore.

Seeing how easy it can be to be deceived in the grocery line with only tabloid papers at work, how much easier will it be to be deceived when we hear things on the radio and TV?  How much more convincing will these stories be when all of the media have the same facts and figures?  How much truer will everything appear when a trip to the internet will give us all of the details?

One day the disciples asked him privately, “What will be the signs of your coming and the end of the age?”  Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:3-5.  In verses 23 and 24 of the same chapter Jesus said “At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ! or, There he is! do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible.”

It’s easy to want to believe something especially if it seems good.  God gave all of us a free will.  We can choose what we believe.  Remember the game show “Let’s Make A Deal?”  I would try to play along and pick the curtain over the box.  Sometimes it worked out and there was a good prize there.  Other times even though the curtain had a lot of space for a fantastic prize it was a zonk.  That was a prize nobody wanted like 3 pigs.  On the other hand the box which was very small might have a sign that said $5,000.  I’d shake my head wondering how I could so easily have been deceived? It was like the deception in the grocery line.  Getting involved in a story and wishing it were true.  It was like reading a tabloid that Elvis was still here and not facing the reality that he has already left the building.

The Devil Is A Liar

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Who’s to blame for all of this?
Why must we all now die?
We listened when he tempted us
and the devil told a lie

It started in the Garden
but it still goes on today
He’ll lie to those who’ll listen
and lead them all astray

He has no truth within him,
he’ll tell you all is well
He baits us with temptation
just to reel us into Hell

The devil says convincingly
There’s no heaven or hell fire
But why should I believe his words
cause the devil is a liar.

When he lies, he speaks his native
language, for he is a liar and the
father of lies.

John 8:44

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