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Archive for the month “April, 2017”

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.

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