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Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Walking The Straight And Narrow

Suddenly with the wind gusting to new heights he went down to one knee.  In that moment he seemed so helpless as something completely out of his control had threatened to destroy his dream.  It was a dream to walk across the Grand Canyon that Nik Wallenda first had as a teenager.  It was an attempted feat that he had dedicated to his great grandfather.

Carla Wallenda, Karl Wallenda, Raymond Chitty, and Richard Guzman (Carla’s husband). Ca. 1965
 
Great grandfather Karl Willenda was born in Germany in 1905 to an old circus family and began performing at the age of 6.   He answered an ad  in the newspaper while in his teens for a hand balancer with courage.  Through the years Karl would show the world just how courageous he was.  His employer taught him the trade so well that in1922, Karl put together his own act with the help of his brother Herman, Joseph Geiger, and Helen Kreis, a teenager who would eventually become his wife.  The act proved very successful as it toured Europe doing amazing stunts!  In 1928 John Ringling saw them perform in Cuba and was so impressed that he hired them to be part of his Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  The act had it’s start in Madison Square Garden.  The safety net that they used had been lost in transit, so they performed without one.  The crowd gave them a standing ovation for their death defying show.  In Akron Ohio the group all fell off of the wire, but nobody got hurt.  It seemed to the onlookers that the Willenda’s fell so gracefully that they were given a nickname that would stick “The Flying Willendas”. 
 
In the years to follow Karl developed some extraordinary acts such as the seven person chair pyramid in 1947.  Through the years they continued to entertain the world with their daring feats.  In 1962 tragedy struck.  While attempting the pyramid stunt at the Shrine Circus in Detroit, the front man on the wire lost his balance and the pyramid collapsed.  Three men fell to the ground.  Killed were Richard Faughnan, Wallenda’s son in law; and his nephew Dieter schepp.  Karl injured his pelvis, and his adopted son Mario was paralyzed from the waist down. 
 

Karl Wallenda

Karl Wallenda

In spite of these setbacks Karl went on.  He continued performing with a smaller group, and doing acts alone.  He repeated the pyramid act in 1963 and 1977.  In 1970 Wallenda crossed the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia on a high wire.   On March 22, 1978 Karl Wallenda fell to his death.  He was attempting to walk between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel, 10 stories up.  He was 73.  Karl has several branches of grandchildren still performing regularly today.  They have achieved recognition in the Guiness Book of Records.
 
Nik Wallenda completed the walk that Karl didn’t on June 4, 2011, with his mother, in honor of Karl.   Last year Nik was the first aerialist to walk directly over Niagara Falls, from the United States to Canada.  He crossed the river’s widest point wearing a safety harness as was required by ABC television.
 
Last Sunday Nik Wallenda attempted to become the first aerialist to walk directly over the Little Colarado River Gorge.  The event was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.  A 2 inch thick wire was suspended 1500 feet above the river.  Nik would be attempting the walk without a harness or safety net.  The distance was figured to be 1,400 feet between the cliffs.
Nik Wallenda walking over Niiagara Falls

Nik Wallenda walking over Niagara Falls

 
When I heard about the event that very day I had no intention of watching.  I thought if someone was going to be stupid why should I get involved?  My wife was watching as I went into the computer room to get away.  After a few minutes she called out “you really should come and see this.”  Reluctantly I came in and the sight and sounds were surprising. They had hooked up a microphone to Nik and as he was walking step by little step he was in a deep conversation with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Each step of the way he was offering praise and worship.  It was like listening in to someone’s deep personal communication with God and it was beautiful!  If you closed your eyes you would have never realized the danger he was in.  He was also in contact with his earthly father who was talking to him through an earpiece encouraging him with every step and warning him of dangers ahead.
 

Nik Wallenda looks over the 2 inch wire cable he would be risking his life on

Nik Wallenda looks over the 2 inch wire cable he would be risking his life on

Later I watched a replay of the show that led up to the event.  They were showing all of the preparation that went into the engineering that made the walk possible.  It involved drilling into rocks and running that cable through them.  It involved getting the right weight and thickness for the chord.  It involved stretching that chord over the 1,400 feet and making sure it was tight and secure.  The process was facinating because it set the stage for the main event.  Without everything perfectly set up there was no chance that Nik could get across.
 
So there Nik was on one knee asking God to calm the wind.  He stayed down for just a little while and suddenly he was back up.  He tried to be patient waiting for the tenseness in the line to return.  Carrying a balancing rod he kept putting one foot in front of the other in a perfectly straight line as he praised his God!  The camera sometimes shifted to his feet and I could see the precision of his steps.  Each step was a feel for the rope and then the foot securely finding it. 
 
Of course most of us watching ask ourselves why?  Why would someone risk everything in a stunt as millions watched.  It didn’t take long as I first saw and heard him up there to possibly understand.  What a testimony he portrayed to millions!  When does someone get a chance to witness to millions at a time?   Psalms 23 states that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”. There was no doubt that Wallenda felt comfort in God’s hands in the midst of the danger!
 
As I was thinking about Wallenda’s walk on the 2 inch wire I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7 verses 13 and 14.  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the road and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.  In the end aren’t we all in a spiritual sense walking Wallenda’s walk in life?  Aren’t we all on a spiritual tight rope with Jesus representing the bridge between us and the Father and all other ways ending in destruction? The good news is that the bridge is engineered perfectly sound for us to cross over without fear!
 
They showed a long range view and Wallenda was three quarters of the way across.  I could see his little figure with the background of rocks behind him, slowly advancing.  He had taken another knee a ways back and now he was steadily proceeding!  One step in front of the other he was almost home.  When he got within twenty feet of the end he took four fast hops.  The quick change of pace startled me but here he was safely on the other side greeted by his awaiting family!  Maybe that is how life ends for Christians.  Maybe after the toils of life’s burdens we suddenly run to our God and awaiting loved ones as the victorious journey ends!   The first thing that Nik did was walk over and kiss the solid ground he
was now standing on.  Spiritually he was on solid ground all of the time!
 
 
  
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Row The Boat

There is a new energy around the Western Michigan University campus and football program this year!  It started with the hiring of a new head coach P.J Fleck.  P.J is the youngest coach in the NCAA at only 32 years old.  A major reason that he was hired was because of his high energy and enthusiasm!  Another factor was his vision for the program in the years ahead!

Coach Fleck was an assistant on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team.  Before that he  assisted for 2 years at Rutgers and 3 years at Northern Illinois.  He started out as a receiver for Northern Illinois and played briefly in the NFL.  While assisting at Northern Illinois he was in charge of recruiting.  This last year with many of his recruits on the field Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl game!  This is a first for a mid major university!  In his short few months here at Western Coach Fleck is already making waves.  His 2014 recruiting commitment class is ranked number 28 in the nation at the present time!  So what is it about Fleck that is attracting talented kids to play on his team and away from more traditional football powers?  What is it that is making Flecks team an exciting alternative to bigger schools with great histories?  I believe that they are seeing a complete vision and a place for them to come in and help that vision come true!  I have only heard Coach Fleck talk in person one time, but in that talk I came away so impressed and fired up about our program!  He brings such an energy level and it is based on a determination that you can’t help to notice!  His philosophy starts with three simple words Row The Boat!

Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard introduce P.J. Fleck as the next coach! Rowing the boat begins!

Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard introduce P.J. Fleck as the next coach! Rowing the boat begins!

The row the boat concept had it’s beginnings in a personal tragedy in Fleck’s life.  He had a son named Colt that was born with a bad heart.  When he was born they knew that they would only have him for a short while.  His death was an enormous heartbreak to his family.  Through it all Fleck came up with his Row the Boat philosophy.  Rowing the boat meant to him that no matter what happens (good or bad), he was going to keep rowing the boat.  This concept kept him focused on the big picture of life.  I guess you can say it is a simple concept.  If you have everyone in the boat rowing at the same pace and the same direction, the boat will maximize it’s speed and stay straight.  Each person in the boat has to do their part.  It’s more than what they can do individually, it is about what they can do as a team.  If someone doesn’t row, the boat will zig zag but still get there.  If half the people are not rowing, the boat will end up going in circles.

Rowing the boat starts with getting a team in the boat.  When everyone is in they have to be really in.  These are shark infested waters and you can’t be hanging off of the side of the boat and stay intact.  Once everyone is in they are given two oars and the practice of working together begins!  It may take speeding the pace up to keep up or sacrificing a little of the pace for the good of the whole.  Everyone needs to be on the same page with a common goal!  Everyone must be consumed with doing their own job and doing it as part of the team!

This is Coach Fleck's business card, made out of wood!

This is Coach Fleck’s business card, made out of wood!

Rowing a boat is in fact an act of faith.  Each one rowing is facing the opposite direction to where the boat is going.  We don’t know what is ahead of us.  All we know is what we have already experienced.

Fleck talks about the makeup of the boat.  He is concentrating his efforts to build a solid dependable foundation.  Building fast may work in the short term but with no foundation it would be like building with paper mache.  Eventually as time passes the boat will not be able to hold up.  He talks about building an old ironsides type of boat that will last through the ups and downs.  The oars are tools to make the boat go.  The driving force is the people in the boat and how they use the tools they are given.

The “R” in the Row the Boat philosophy stand for Responsibility.  Fleck contends that responsibility is taking accountability and willingness to pay the price for our actions good or bad.  It’s a matter of choices that we make.  He maintains that we make a choice of brushing our teeth for instance.  If we do this consistantly we enjoy the benefits of nice sparkly teeth.  If we neglect this act we receive the opposite results.  If one of the players goes out drinking one night and gets pulled over for a DUI charge that is the consequence of the choice they made.  If they stay out of trouble off of the field and work hard on the field they will receive positive consequences.

The “T” in the Row the Boat philosophy stands for Trust.  Fleck contends that every relationship is built on trust. “If you break trust it is very hard to get it back and you will never get it back to 100 percent”, he states.  “Most of the world lies by either commission or ommission, either flat out lieing or leaving out bits and pieces.”  Within that trust is the belief that you will do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it.  Sometimes you may be asked to do a little extra always with the team as a whole in mind.

The “B” in the Row the Boat philosophy stands for Belief.  Fleck mentioned that you have to believe in yourself, believe in the vision, and be willing to die for the vision.  He states that you should love the vision and trust that it can happen!

Row The Boat!

Row The Boat!

According to Fleck belief can be broken down into two units.  The first is attitude.  He calls for direct energy much like a lazer beam.  Lazer beams are energy directed to one place at one specific time.  He urges his players to direct all of their energy to one three or four second play taking one play at a time.

The second part of belief is confidence.  Confidence in his mind comes from being prepared.  One of the knocks against Fleck was that he was so young and he didn’t have the experience that some of the older candidates had.  Fleck counters this notion with the fact that he has dreamed of this opportunity and he has prepared himself to be successful in  it!  He is confident that he can do the job because he has been successful in everything leading up to this point.  Although he hasn’t specifically coached a college football team, he has coached position players at college and the professional level.  Although he has not overseen all of the aspects of a program, he has overseen the recruiting aspect which is a big part of the coaches responsibility!  All of his little victories has given him confidence that he can win the big victories to come!

Coach Fleck has a vision and it is more than having a successful football team.  It is a vision of giving a vision to the community!  He would like to have an oar in every bank, bakery, restaurant, dorm room, and the list goes on.  It would be a rallying cry that we all can be successful and would help us to look at the football team’s success as an example!  It would be a symbol of support and it would get to the point where people wouldn’t have to ask what it meant, they would know!  They would be motivated to do everything they could as fans, sponsors, alumni, coaches, and everyone else that was involved some way with the team.  Here are your oars, start rowing.  Don’t worry about anything except doing what you are supposed to do at the time you are supposed to do it.

I’ve been thinking about the philosophy of rowing the boat in our christian walk!  Fleck mentions that the philosophy incompasses much more than football.  It could be about a young kid fighting a battle against cancer.  It could be any trouble or trial people are going through.  Have faith in what you are doing and the purpose of working together and keep rowing.

Coach Fleck describes the definition of insanity as “doing the same things and expecting different results.”  He vowed that he would not make that mistake with his program.  Too many times we Christians get into a similar pattern.  We wonder why our church isn’t growing and why we feel like we are seeing the same faces over and over.  We wonder why we are not seeing the power of God as we do our same rituals.  As Christians we have the boat in place.  Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation.  The old hymn states that “on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.”  The solid rock Jesus can be compared to the boat.  Our boat is made of the finest materials that will carry us through all of lifes troubled seas.  We won’t be able to see the future, just as when rowing we can’t see behind us.  Yet we know to  keep rowing through good times and bad.  When the sea is calm or when there is an uprising it should make no difference.  We are not controlled by the things going on around us.  We are controlled by the vision that God has for our lives.  We are controlled by him and the desire to do his will!  If we do not feel that passion we need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are truly in the boat all the way?  If God asks us to do something can he count on us to get it done?

The oar represents the tools that he gives each of us.  Whether it is a gift that we can share with others or a listening ear.  Whether it is a kind word we can give or an ability to teach someone something important.  There is something that each of us can do!  The oar is the tool, but it needs force to make it a useful tool.  That is where God’s power will help us if we truly believe!  In believing in him and his vision for us we open the connection to his power to help us row successfully!  He is our strength in good times and times of trouble!  In our christian walk the symbol of our faith is the cross.  Imagine those oars in the water as an extension of the bloodied cross that Jesus died on.  Seeing his blood stains as a rememberance of what and why we are doing what we are doing can keep us going in the right direction and pushing hard for all that he wants to do through us!!

It’s a wonderful scenerio of what can be! The first thing that we all need to do is get in the boat.  We can’t be halfway in the boat because then we can’t do what is needed.  We can’t row if we are not securely settled on the boats floor!  To not be totally in the boat is in fact to be out and is very dangerous as the devil’s waters are filled with hazards.  We are either all in or all out.  Now that we are in we need to focus everything that we have into the moment.  Living one oar stroke at a time by doing what is needed at the time it is needed!  The more we get in rhythm with what we are supposed to do the more faith we will receive as the boat goes forward!   When it’s all said and done and the boat crosses the finish line we’ll get a reward with the comment “well done my good and faithful servant.”  Don’t worry about the past because that is gone.  Have faith for the future that is ahead of you.  Deal in the present because that is the only thing we can deal with right now.  One day our life will end and our journey will be over.  Until then as Coach Fleck would say whether things are going good or bad  “Row The Boat!”

CLICK BELOW TO SEE AN INTERVIEW WITH COACH FLECK

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3W8QejlYrI&feature=player_embedded

Teammates For Life

“Maurice was all alone, something had to be done and someone had to do it, I was the only one around so I became that someone.”  Those are the simple words of Jack Twyman as he described what he did for Maurice Stokes for twelve years.  It wasn’t like they were best friends before the tragic day.   It wasn’t like they had alot in common.  Maurice was a 6’7  240 pound black man who was a power of muscle on the basketball court.  Nobody had ever seen his combination of quickness, bulk, and jumping ability! Jack was 6’6 but he was a skinny white guy and his skill was shooting the basketball.  They both came into the NBA in 1955.  For the first three years in the league everyone knew that Maurice was playing out a Hall of Fame career.  He was such a force that he was voted the rookie of the year and later he led the league in rebounding!  He was 24 years old and improving every year when the tragedy occurred.

It appeared that Maurice had many years of greatness ahead of him!

It appeared that Maurice had many years of greatness ahead of him!

It was the last game of the 1957-58 season and Maurice and Jack’s Cincinnati Royals were playing the Minneapolis Lakers.  Maurice was going up for a rebound when his feet got pulled from under him by a Lakers players shoulders.  Maurice came down head first on the court and was knocked out.  If this incident happened today Maurice would have been sent to the hospital and checked out.  Back then though they gave him smelling salts and called him good to go.  He actually came back into the game.  Two days later after the Royals played the Detroit Pistons in a first round playoff game the team boarded a plane to go back to Cincinnati.  Maurice, who was still groggy and sore,  had a very underwhelming game for him with 12 points and 15 rebounds.  On the plane Maurice became violently sick.  He began to perspire heavily and the pilot called ahead to have an ambulance ready when they arrived.  When the plane finally landed Maurice was unconcious with a 106 temperature.  Maurice was rushed to St. Elizabeth hospital where he slipped into a coma.  The next day the Royals were eliminated by the Pistons ending their season.  While the other players hurriedly scattered back to their hometowns Jack remained.  Cincinnati was his hometown.  For that Maurice would be forever thankful! 

Things were so different in the NBA back then.  The average player made ten thousand dollars if that.  Maurice being way better than average was making twenty thousand.  With Maurice unable to play anymore that salary would be lost.  Maurice’s parents Tero and Myrtle didn’t have the means to pay for their sons expensive hospital bills and the hospital was losing their patience.  Someone had to act right away to stem the tide.  In Jack’s own words, he became that someone.  “I became his Guardian”, Jack stated.  He had a bank account that nobody could touch.  He also had a brand new car that needed to be sold. 

The final diagnosis for Maurice was Post-Traumatic Encepholopathy.  He was paralyzed from the neck down, unable to speak, and stricken to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.  He was later transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital where his vigorous rehab therapy would take place.  He was able to re-gain use of his hands and was able to learn to speak again years later, though it was hard for people that were not constantly around him to understand.  The therapy at the hospital was very expensive.  Jack looked down every possible avenue to raise money.

Not only were salaries low in 1958 for NBA players but they didn’t have insurance.  There was no workmans compensation benefits.  Jack hired a lawyer who brought a lawsuit against the NBA and won.  In doing so Jack invariably had to risk his own status in the league.  Jack was still a player getting paid by the league to play basketball.  He didn’t think of himself and his status.  He had a single minded goal of raising needed money for Maurice. 

Maurice and Jack

Maurice and Jack

Still so much more was needed.  Jack worked with the NBA Public Relations man Haskell Cohen and Catskills Hotel owner Milton Kutsher to create a benefit game for Maurice.  Catskills was a Jewish resort that later became home to very competitive basketball games with stars from colleges competing.  Kutsher had the venue and when he heard about Maurice’s plight he wanted to help!  The league came together as one to help also.  Many of the leagues stars participated in the annual Maurice Stokes game and thousands of dollars were raised every year.  Maurice got to a point where he was able to attend some of the games.  Maurice took the time to make ash trays for all of the participants!  It was a big highlight of Maurice’s year to attend and share his infectious smile and gifts with his long past rivals.

The Maurice Stokes benefit game raised over $750,000 over the years but still it wasn’t enough.  Jack approached every media outlet in the towns the Royals played in to tell  Maurice’s story.  Through his efforts donations poured in.  Every Christmas he appeared on Howard Cosell’s radio show to share Maurice’s story again.  His story was featured in Sports Illustrated and another $200,000 was generated!  Through all of Jack’s efforts Maurice’s expenses were getting paid.  Maurice for his part continued the rigorous regiment of rehabilitation that was before him.  The results seemed small but Maurice was never discouraged.  The hospital actually brought victims of serious crashes and other traumatic experience to Maurice because he could cheer them up with his loving inspired attitude!  Sometimes when Jack was feeling down he visited Maurice because Maurice always had a way of putting a smile on Jack’s face!

Maurice suffered a massive heart attack in 1970 and died at the young age of 36.  Undoubtedly he was strained by his situation and his attempts to keep  upbeat in the midst of his troubles.  After twelve years the burden on Jack was now removed.  He had retired as a player and was working as a game commentator for ABC.  In 1983 Jack was inducted into the Naismith NBA Hall of Fame!  Later Jack would become a food company executive and made more than three million dollars when he sold the company in 1996!

In 1973 a movie was made about Maurice.  It didn’t receive great reviews as the critics labeled it as a tragedy displayed with “soap opera effects.”  A special viewing was reserved for Tero and Myrtle (Maurice’s parents).  After the viewing Tero broke the silence.  “It was sad but it was also beautiful”, he said.

The Bible speaks about the Good Samaritan.  In this case Jack went even beyond the Good Samaritan’s deed.  Jack was the Good Samaritan to Maurice for twelve years!  Although Jack was extremely successful financially after his NBA career and received the highest NBA honor in the Hall of Fame, his legacy with Maurice will always be his shining glory.  Jack was always humble about the experience saying “anybody would have done it.”  I’m sure it was Jack that was placed there because his other teammates wouldn’t have. 

There were a couple of other issues not mentioned.  Jack was white and Maurice was black.  Back in 1958 racial opinions were far different.  Jack never let the opinions of others get in his way of helping Maurice!  The other factor was Jack’s family.  He had a growing family at the time of the accident.  There was a time when Jack questioned whether he was neglecting his own family.  His family proved to be very understanding though and Maurice became a part of them too!

One of the happiest days for Jack was when Maurice got named to the Hall of Fame in 2004 and Jack accepted the award on his behalf!  After playing only three years in the league such an honor was unheard of.  Yet because of the very special circumstances Maurice will forever have a plaque in the Hall of Fame for all who visit to see!

Jack Twyman died last year at the age of 78.  In his and Maurice’s honor this year the NBA has named a new award.  It is called the Twyman-Stokes Teammate Of The Year Award.  The first winner of the award was Chauncey Billups.  The award has a sculpture of Twyman helping up Stokes his fallen teammate.  After finding out that he won the award Chauncey did some research of Twyman and Stokes.  Chauncey was amazed at the story and the dedication involved.  He considered himself a good teammate but he was very humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as what Jack Twyman contributed. 

Twyman-Stokes Teammate Of The Year Award

Twyman-Stokes Teammate Of The Year Award

When Maurice had undergone so many hours and years of rehabilitation he was finally able to use his hands.  It was decided that maybe a typewriter would be a good gift for him!  Studiously and slowly he typed out a message.  It was the first thing that he typed on that typewriter and it was the most memorable!  He typed out a letter to his friend Jack.  The text was this:  “Dear Jack, How can I ever thank you?” It reminds me of a question we should all ask Jesus for dying for our sins.  The answer of course is you can’t, but accept this gift because I love you!

Seasons In The Sun

It was the Summer of 1974 and we were driving back from camp.  The youth director of our church had recruited myself, my best friend Keith, and a classmate in high school Barbie to be camp counselors that summer at a place called Living Waters Camp.  We spent the whole week at the camp and he would take us home on Saturday morning and return us back Sunday night.  Each week we would meet a new set of young kids experiencing their first time away from home. While we were making one of those trips a song came on the radio.  It was sang by Terry Jacks and it was called “Seasons In The Sun.”   Greg (the youth director and a former disc jockey) made a statement about the song “that will be a number one hit mark my word.”  Greg was right, the song went straight up the charts to number one!  The song was about a man that was dying and he was saying goodbye to all of his loved friends and family.  It was a sad song that struck a chord with people because we all know that some day life will end and saying goodbye and recapping our lives together is something few of us get to do.

Seasons in the Sun

Seasons in the Sun

In Michigan around my birthday February 20, usually the snow is falling and it is cold.  A likely scenario is coming into the house after shoveling snow from the driveway and feeling stiff and cold.  At this point you are totally frustrated with winter, shoveling snow and feeling numb.  You turn on the TV and the announcer makes a statement “Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training today.”  Suddenly a new hope comes over your spirit!  If Pitchers and Catchers are reporting it can’t be too long until spring arrives!  Suddenly there is a revived feeling that we all call spring fever!  After a dormant time in winter, spring brings a newness and things start to grow again!  The birds come back from their winter migration and as the weather begins to warm we start hearing them chirping!

Pitcher and Catchers report!

Pitcher and Catchers report!

In the big picture our lives can be compared to the seasons.  Spring is the time that we were born and it goes maybe to our early 20’s.  Spring is a time to learn.  Much like the growth of the plants and trees around us, spring is a time for growth in our lives.  Spring is a time for learning and making lasting relationships.  It is a time for us to feel the sun hitting our face for the first time.  It is a time, like the birds, to chirp and sing and dream big dreams as we look at the big world around us!    Spring is the time for choosing our values and deciding what we want to do with the rest of our lives.  It very well could be the time that we decide who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with!  Spring is a little unpredictable.  Sometimes we get hot days, sometime cold, many times rain.  Unpredictable describes our time growing up.  We are caught in the emotions of adolescence, hurt feelings and extreme highs and lows.  Spring is normally a time for less responsibilities.  Normally we live with our parents and they provide for us.  We long to start a life of our own and leave the proverbial nest.  There comes a point when we start making a life of our own and the temperature in our lives begins to rise as spring turns into summer.

Just as in the summer when the temperatures get hot, our lives go the same way.  As we enter summer we are now more independant.  We are willing to take on more responsibility which can be compared to the temperature rising.  The summer years are maybe 23-40.  Those years are a time for possibly getting married, raising a family, finding a lasting career, and living the day to day struggles that all of these things entail.  Summer is a time that you balance the crazy dreams that you may have had in the spring with the reality that the world doesn’t revolve around you.  It is a time for giving as we pass along life lessons to our offspring.  It’s a time to realize that other people are depending on us and we are not an island.  It is a time for extreme love and extreme personal satisfaction.  It is also a time of extreme disappointments and extreme heartbreaks.  Like summer, the heat can be extreme and very uncomfortable.  There are times when you wonder if you can do all of the things that you want to get done!  Near the end of summer you start to notice the leaves changing.  Maybe it is your hair starting to grey, or you notice there isn’t nearly as much hair as there used to be.  You start noticing aging marks in your face.  These are the signs that you are entering into fall.

The seasons of life

The seasons of life

As fall approaches you notice that the temperature is starting to drop.  Fall is roughly the ages of 41-60 in my illustration.  Responsibilities generally start to decrease.  Generally your kids get old enough where they are starting to make a life of their own.  If you have taken care of your money, your financial responsibilities become less as maybe you get closer to paying off your home!  Maybe by this time you have established a career and now you have a lot of stability in the workplace!  Fall can be the best time in life as now you have a true perspective of where you came and where you are going!  It is a time to think about retirement and plan vacations you may not have had time for in the summer.  It’s a time to think about your children and maybe their families as many of us will become grandparents during these years.  Fall is a time to give as we realize how fortunate we have been.  It is probably the time in our lives that most of us think of others as the stress and heat of our own lives becomes less.  Fall is some of the happiest times and yet with fall our bodies start to show us the creaks of winter setting in.

Gradually the temperatures start to go down.  The leaves begin to fall off of the trees and you notice that things are not as pleasant.  By this time your body reminds you of seasons past.  You find that your loved ones are more concerned about you instead of the other way around.  You find that things you took for granted such as driving could come into question.  You have extreme knowledge from experiencing past seasons, but your body may not be able to move you around like before.  Like the birds leaving you realize that you may soon be leaving too.  Winter can be a very hard time as we may become dependant upon other people.  Our memory and hearing most likely will get worse and we may think of things of seasons gone by instead of the present.  Winter is a time for things like pensions, social security, and estate planning .

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Turn! Turn! Turn!

The group “The Byrds’ had a song years ago called “Turn! Turn! Turn!.”  The words were “To everything (turn turn turn), there is a season, (turn turn turn), and a time for every purpose under Heaven.  A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep.” You will find all of the words where the song writer found them, in the Bible, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1-9!

While there is a time for everything some have more time than others.  Many die in their spring, summer, or fall years before ever reaching winter.  Obviously there are no guarantees in life as to how many seasons we  see.  Terry Jacks “Seasons in the Sun” song had a good thought, tell the people you love how much they have meant to you!  Nobody wants to say goodbye, but when it comes down to it, goodbyes don’t have to be forever.  God made a plan for all of us to get to heaven after our seasons here on earth are over.  It starts by accepting Jesus Christ into your life as soon as possible.  If you haven’t done that consider accepting him now!  We all are concerned about our estate and things of that nature but what about us?  What about our fate after we leave here?  Since we have been talking about songs and lyrics I leave you with this songs lyrics by Paul McCartney and Wings.  It may not be what Paul had in mind but consider that Jesus  knocks on everyones heart door.  “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell, someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell, do me a favor, open the door and let him in!”  This one decision will lead you to eternal life and an everlasting season in the sun with the son!

Someone's Knocking At The Door

Someone’s Knocking At The Door

Getting Past The Cover

Years ago we had a big kid that we invited to play softball on our team.  He was a body builder and his muscles bulged from his arms and chest in a powerful appearance!  In fact he looked like a slightly smaller version of Arnold Schwartzennegger!  We figured that surely he would be hitting home runs at a rapid pace!  Our opponents saw the big guy coming up and positioned their outfield way back by the home run fence.  Unfortunately the correlation of his massive body muscles and his ability to hit the softball did not match.  The fact was he had a hard time getting the ball out of the infield.  His hits were bloopers just over the infield that dropped into the outfield as the fearful outfielders desperately ran in to no avail.  After awhile the big guy quit the team out of embarrassment and I believe a pulled muscle.

He was built like Arnold!

He was built like Arnold!

If you look at an early picture of the company listed below you probably wouldn’t be impressed.  The order of the day in the corporate world was more of a clean cut sharp suit image.  Yet here was this renegade company with a different look competing for our business.  Looking back we all wish we would have invested in their company back then.  We all have to admit though that it would have been hard to get past the cover of the book and into the real contents.

Would you have invested with this company?

Would you have invested with this company?

Today the Microsoft Corporation is worth over 230 billion dollars!  Yet if you went on the “book cover” for the young company in 1978 I doubt you would have trusted them with your money.  Needless to say things are not always as they appear.  Sometimes our sight can deceive us if we are looking at appearance without the willingness to dig into the book!  Sometimes we miss golden opportunities to read fascinating books because the cover is not fancy.  Other times we are very disappointed because the contents of the book do not match the wonderful promises that the cover provides.   Pictured on the bottom left is a young Bill Gates.  Who would have dreamed of the future fame he would obtain from this very humble picture?

Sitka Alaska is the hometown of Brent Cunningham.  Brent is a Young Life Director there.  To say that Sitka Alaska is a place that nothing much happens is probably an understatement.  It is a waterlocked fishing town with a couple of fisheries and a refueling port for cruise ships.  A standard reaction to Brent showing up at the Boston Marathon would be “What is a man from Sitka, Alaska doing at the Boston Marathon?”

The start of the Boston Marathon

The start of the Boston Marathon

Brent had tried to qualify twice for the Boston Marathon without success.  On his third try he barely got in under the qualifying time wire! There Brent was though in the midst of a gigantic crowd at the start of the Boston Marathon.  Sandwiched between tons of people from all over the world!  Little did Brent or anyone know the unexpected events that awaited them.  He did know that he was finally going to live his dream of competing in the Boston Marathon!  What a thrill it would be if he could finish after his disappointments of the past!  How great would it feel to show his friends back home the finishers award that comes to so few.  Brent ran his race that day and received his medal for finishing!  He was proudly wearing his medal around his neck and walking back to the hotel with his wife when the bombs went off.  Moments later they came across a young woman runner named Laura Wellington who was sitting by the curb crying maybe a half a mile from the finish line.  The race officials had stopped the race and Laura had just gotten word that her family was safe as they were up by the finish line.  Brent and his wife gave Laura comfort with kind words and placed a blanket on her shoulders to keep her warm.  As they got up to leave Brent asked Laura if she had finished the race?  “No” was her reply.  Feeling how disheartened she must have felt and knowing how much the medal meant to him for finishing, he slowly took it off of his neck and placed it on hers!  Names were never exchanged as Brent gave his gift without the thought of how much he would miss the precious reminder of his great accomplishment.   Quickly he and his wife walked away.  If it wasn’t for the vast social media networks we have today we never would have heard this story.  Laura was determined though to find this person who was so kind to her and she did!  Brent didn’t do his deed of kindness for recognition.  He did it for no other reason than to make Laura feel good!

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska

The odd conclusion to the story is that Laura ended up with a medal for finishing a race that she didn’t finish and Brent doesn’t have a medal for finishing even though he did.  Once again we can’t judge a book by it’s cover can we?  As the Bible states “man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”  It would also be true to say that man looks at possessions as things that you should store away but God looks at them as something to give to others.  When God looks at what we possess it has nothing to do with money or things, but attitude.  He cuts through what we look like or what other people see us as.  He reads the whole book that starts with what we do and why we do it.  He takes notes to reward people later who unselfishly give of their time and possessions to make someone elses life better.  You could say that man looks at the book cover but God looks at the contents!  Man looks at a persons social status, what their profession is, where they come from, and what their parents do.  God looks at all of us individually.  It is all the same to God whether we are from New York City or Sitka, Alaska, whether we are a doctor or a garbage man.  I’m pretty sure that when Laura looks at that medal she see’s Brents face and thinks about the love he shared that day.  I’m also pretty sure that Brent doesn’t miss the medal he had because God has replaced it with an inner peace that you can read in the contents of his book!

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