Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Archive for the category “Love”

Presence Over Presents

Well it is Christmas time again and a similar question is heard in almost every family.  “What do they need?”  We may be talking about mom or dad, sister or brother but the question remains the same.  We all want to get our loved ones things that they can use rather than a gift that ends up in a garage sale.  The hardest ones to buy for are naturally the ones that buy what they need before you get the chance to get it for them for Christmas.  Now that we are coming down to the last three weeks the calls will come more frequently.  What are you getting so and so?  Do you think they will like this?  What size does so and so wear?  Multiply this by the number of people most have to buy for and you get a yearly dilemma.  Just as sure as Christmas day is coming it is also sure that you and I will be in on that conversation.  It’s true that we want to buy that perfect present that will make our loved one happy and that they will use throughout the year.

Airflowz 8 ft. Inflatable Row of Presents Non Metallic

We have to be careful at this time of the year that the present doesn’t get too big.  I’m not referring to the physical present but to the mental present.  We tend to emphasize the physical present and ignore the gift of our presence.  We can be so spread out on Christmas day with different households to visit that our presence is lacking.  Recently I heard a story of a member of a family mentioning that their dad should just have an open house where everyone could drop by when they wanted.  Forget the timing when everyone gets together like the old days.  We have other obligations and we can’t give you a time that we will be there.  Unfortunately this attitude is not isolated.  Many families struggle with the balance of Christmas with their own families and Christmas with their parents on both sides.  The time constraints can become an obligation rather than a joy on Christmas day.

I remember so well as I’m sure you do too the joy of Christmas when we were young.  The night before when we were so excited that we couldn’t get to sleep.  Waking up early in the morning and waking your sibling up or vice versa.  Walking into the living room while it was still dark and noticing that Santa Claus had been there.  Waking up mom and dad even though I’m sure that they would really rather sleep.  Then the thrill of opening presents and getting things you never dreamed you would get!  Along with that was the thrill that mom and dad would have when they saw how the present made you happy.  It was all there but the real thing that was there was love.  It was there in the presents but it shined in their presence.  I remember so many times dad would have to spend half of his Christmas assembling a gift that I received to make it usable.  He delighted in doing it so that I could enjoy it.

Christmas it is said is for the young.  While it is true that children get much more excited about presents than adults Christmas is for all of us but in different ways.  I’m reminded of a kids TV show called Rugrats.  Yes, when watching a show with your kids you can pick up valuable lessons.  In this case Angelica who was an only child gets the news that her mommy is going to have another baby.  Suddenly all of the talk is about the new baby and Angelica feels left out.  She calls a therapist on the phone who got her attention from a call in show she had tuned in on TV.  She tells him about the situation and without hesitation the therapist tells her she is being selfish.  He let’s her know that she has to realize that the world does not revolve around her and she needs to think of others.  Not hearing what she wants to hear Angelica quickly hangs up the phone.

Image result for rugrats angelica complaining about having a little brother

Unfortunately in our own lives we may have the Angelica Syndrome.  Is it really about mom or dad getting the perfect present or is it about the perfect son or daughter getting it for them.  Is it about them or is it about us?  If it is about them why do we so often have a timeline where we do the Christmas drop off and move on?  Don’t we realize that the true thing that makes people happy is not what they get but what is given?  The best thing that we can give every day and especially at Christmas is ourselves.  This Christmas I urge you to take the stress off of yourself.  Give the gift that you think they will like but most of all be involved in the whole process.  Be caring and loving and understanding this Christmas.  Give without any consideration of what you will get back.  Give out of love and show your love by giving yourself.  Remember what the Bible says.  “The greatest gift is love.” Show your love this Christmas not with your presents but with your presence!

Image result for love at christmas




My Love Is Endless

I had a very short dream last night.  I was sitting in this glass building and people on the outside were going to work.  It reminded me of some of those TV sets that you can see the people on the outside trying to get the attention of the camera.  This was just the opposite though.  From my seat on the inside I was paying attention to the people on the outside.  I saw several people and they were getting attention like famous people do.  Each one seemed delighted and happy that they were known and were greeted in such a loving way.  Several people passed and I was watching every one.  Suddenly a familiar face walked by.  It was the bearded face of Leo Buscaglia who was affectionately known as the love doctor because he had the ability to verbalize love as he saw it.  “Hey Buscaglia”, I shouted.  He had a smile on his face and he kind of looked around.  He heard me but didn’t see me.  I could tell though that he was pleased to be recognized and it made him happy.  Suddenly I woke up and I felt the spirit of God so powerfully in my spirit.

Normally in my stories I might give the background of Buscaglia.  I might tell his story and how he became “the love doctor.”  The message that I got though wasn’t really about Buscaglia.  Buscaglia had ideas about love but they were always self driven.  His message was about making the effort to love and everything we needed to do to embrace love.  My dream with him in it was simply a way that God used to get me on the subject of love.  “Lord, what was that all about?”, I wondered.  Without hesitation the Holy Spirit within me gave the answer.  “I want you to know how how much I love you.”

Usually the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is applied to how we should love. I was told that the description of how we should love comes from how he loves us.  Starting with verse 4 we read “love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude , it is not self seeking.  It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.

God gave me a revelation of the peaceful feeling we get when we give our lives to him.  Jesus told his disciples that it is necessary for him to go.  He promised that he would send the comforter to them.  This comforter is of course the Holy Spirit.  That comfort and peace that he gives us is him showing his love in us.  When we embrace it and open ourselves up to following his spirit it becomes something we want to share!  It is not us generating the love like Buscaglia taught, but it is just accepting God’s love within us and letting that spirit of love he gives spread to those we come in contact with.

Something else was revealed to me this morning.  That peaceful loving feeling that the Holy Spirit gives us as he enters our lives will be with us throughout eternity.  That spirit will be only of love.  We will be surrounded by loved ones in a lovely place beyond description with a love in our hearts that will never die!  I Corinthians 2:9 states that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

Buscaglia taught us to embrace love, but God is letting us know that he wants us to embrace him.  Since God is love it is like directly plugging into the power source!  His message this morning is that we cannot comprehend how much he loves us!  It is a love so deep, so strong, and so heart felt that he was willing to sacrifice his only son for us. Emerge yourself in his endless love!  John 15:13 states that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

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

That rock song speaks of love
playing on the radio
Words are ringing from their lips
but the meaning they don’t know

We know the meaning of the word
if we’ve been truly saved
No greater love was ever shown
when Jesus’ life he gave

To rescue us from all hell’s flames
he brought us back to God again
With a loving heart from heaven above
God sent his son to show us love

This love so great can’t be explained
by earthly men with earthly brains
It goes beyond our normal mind,
a love so real, a love so kind

To sacrifice his only son
for our salvation to be won
The blood he spilled upon the tree,
he died for you, he died for me

The song plays on, the words are sung
The truth is never heard
The greatest love song there ever was
is written in God’s word.

This is how God showed his
love among us. He sent his one
and only Son into the world that
we might live through him.

I John 4:9

Really Caring

To me it seems that the trouble with salespeople is that they are never around or they are always around.  If you have shopped for things at all you know exactly what I mean.  Either you are searching the whole store for someone who you can ask a question or you are attacked the moment you walk in the door.  The results to us the customers are two words that start alike, either frustrating or frightening.

Seller demonstrating paint roller to buyer Stock Photo - 17889948

When I attended high school I had a job in the local Sears store selling men’s clothing.  It was through a co-op program where I went to school in the mornings and worked in the afternoons or evenings.  My class teacher and my supervisor at work both trained us not to approach the customer the same way almost every salesperson we knew approached.  The standard line “Can I help you?” was not the line we were to use.  If someone for instance was looking at some shirts or one in particular we were to say something like “that’s a nice looking shirt!.”  A statement like that let’s the customer know that you are there and available to help them without the threat that you have to show them something they don’t want to see.  Approaching with a friendly statement usually doesn’t solicit a “no I’m just looking” response.  You see the problem with the “no I’m just looking response” is that it cuts off the conversation.  On the other hand this approach encourages conversation in a non threatening way.  The customer might say “yes it is a nice looking shirt but I was looking for blue.”  Or “Yes, I like this shirt…I wish it were my size!”  Usually in the standard approach the salesperson after asking if they can help them and getting the no answer will say “Well let me know if you see something.”  In other words if you find it on your own I’ll ring it up.  Is that really the job of the salesperson? If so why do we need them?  We can walk into a place, look around, pick something out, and scan it through the self scanning line.

The salesperson should be friendly and helpful, available, yet not pushy.  They should be able to relate to the customer as they are a customer too.  Relating experiences of their purchase of the same product is likely very helpful.  Trying to match the product to the customers needs without feeling like it is pushy or self motivated keeps the customer relaxed.  The salesperson should always keep the customers needs in mind.

Mark has a business in our town repairing cars.  Mark runs his business with fairness and integrity always putting the customer first.  I have gained trust in Mark over the years because he has given me advice that did not make his business a dime but was right for me.  I had an old car and Mark would tell me to keep an eye on some part that could cause problems later.  Instead of having me repair perfectly serviceable parts because they might be wearing a little his advice made sense.  I have heard Mark give advice on the phone that far exceeded his business interests.  Mark works a lot with college students and he frequently directs them where to go in the stores and what to look for.

Mark cares for his customers

Mark cares for his customers

We had an experience with my sons car where we took it for an oil change.  We had a coupon for another place which also included a complete inspection.  To be honest we were just interested in the oil change.  We realized that the car being old had minor problems.  The inspection was done before the oil change and 45 minutes later the verdict was in.  The list was long as there were seven or eight things wrong with the car and the cost was over $1,700.00.  I again repeated that we were only interested in the oil change.  The counter person was not happy with me and had me sign a waiver paper on the car denying repair which I did.  I can report that the car is still running strong two years later.  If it were Mark he would have possibly said “keep an eye on this or that and if it starts making a noise or any other symptoms bring it in immediately.”  The difference is that Mark really cares about us and does the best thing for us, not necessarily his business in the short haul.  The other business was out to make the quick buck in a non caring impersonal way.

The Dream Vacation lure

The Dream Vacation lure

I have been to a few sales presentations in the past.  They usually are ran about the same.  The one in particular that I remember was a time sharing presentation. A representative was assigned to us and this representative tried to find out everything he could about our situation.  The information he gathered was used to try uniting our needs to the service he was selling.  The representative was friendly and seemed to care about us as people.  After a little while there was a formal presentation showing the benefits of their program.  They didn’t get around to the price until much later.  Only after they had enticed us with all of the benefits did they let the price enter the picture.  It was the question on every ones mind as the presenter kept sweetening the benefits. All of the time he was building up our desire for their services as he led us through their wonderful presentation.  This involved being asked for our dream vacation spot and telling  how their plan could get us there economically!  At that point they specifically mentioned the price, but it was only the price of our dream trip, not the price to get into the program.  After the presentation the representative started asking questions about what we thought.  He reminded us that this was a one day offer.  If we rejected this offer it was done and over for us.  He then walked us through their basic rates which included a large lump sum payment that could be financed along with a yearly maintenance fee.  It is confusing to me how I would have to pay close to $300 a year for a maintenance fee along with say a $15,000 payment to join the organization.  Sure they could save me money on things, but it would take years of savings just to get back my original investment.  I still can’t figure out how my one week stay should involve paying the large maintenance fee to keep the place in order.  When you consider that they can sell that same room 52 times and collect close to $300 in maintenance fees each time you can see that a ton of money is going into their hands!

What happens in these situations is if the original representative cannot sell the program they call in their manager.  We found out that the manager has power to change prices around to close the sale.  For instance he or she might drop the original price from $15,000 down to $10,000.  That kind of thing is troublesome.  It reminds me of a local garbage service that raised their rates.  When a friend of mine complained saying they wanted to switch services because their price was higher than the others,  this company matched the lower offer.  They figured the ones that didn’t complain could just pay the higher rate.  When the closer couldn’t pressure us into buying the program (and believe me he tried extensively) by lowering the price three times, his attitude changed.  Now he wanted us to feel bad and stupid that we didn’t buy as he hurriedly filled out the rejection paperwork in a quick and abrasive way.  No longer were we the nice people that he cared so much about.  It became clear that he never really cared about us at all.  He faked it all until things didn’t go his way.  Then he turned on us like a poisonous snake as his true feelings were revealed.

When we are representing God it is an awesome responsibility.  I’ve heard that everyone is a salesperson in some way whether they want to be or not.  In Christianity it is the same way.  We are supposed to be demonstrating love, compassion, and caring. Sometimes people believe that is what we are all about until they discover that they were sadly mistaken. The damage that this causes is worse than if we never engaged them in the first place because their trust gets broken.  Once trust is broken it is very difficult to repair.  So the question I challenge you with today is “What kind of representative of the Gospel are you?”  Are you the one that can’t be found?  Do you pounce on people at the door?  Are you selfless in your mission or do you have a hidden agenda?  I’ve heard that people don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care.  Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Now that is the ultimate attitude necessary to really care about people!

Fallen Man Saved Again!

Fallen Man Saved!
December 25, 2012

Good Samaritan

It is officially Christmas day 2014! I’d like to take a break from the countdown today and re-visit the 2012 and 2013 Christmas day story! Unlike the stories I have been mentioning for 2014 in the countdown this story was one of the least read stories of 2012. However, it’s message is just as powerful if not more so than any of my stories! On this Christmas day we will be exchanging gifts with our loved ones! It is a time for showing love, much like God did with his “Greatest Gift of All!” In this story I tried to answer the question of…Why? Why would God give us a gift so great?

Unbroken Yet Broken

The year was 1949 and Louis Zamperini was in a broken marriage that was apparently about to crash into a thousand pieces.  His wife, who he had married shortly after he returned from the war had recently become a Christian.  In an effort to save his marriage he agreed to attend a Billy Graham service that night.  Billy Graham preached about how we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Graham talked about being forgiven and Louis thought about the dark dreams of being tortured that he was having.  Louis knew that forgiveness wouldn’t be easy but it needed to come from his heart too.  Then Louis remembered his many vows to God that he had made while clinging to life on a life raft in the ocean for 47 days.

Obstacles came early to Louis Zamperini and his family.  When they first moved to Torrence, California none of them spoke English.  Louis was the victim of bully attacks at every turn.  Often Louis came home beaten and because of this his father taught him the art of self defense  to defend himself.  As Louis learned how to fight he looked for revenge against kids that bullied him in the past. He became a bully as he viciously got even with his one time tormenters.  His brother, who was a star runner, decided to take Louis with him.  He thought that Louis could channel that bully energy into something good.  Louis ran with his brother and when he wasn’t keeping up his brother used a whip on his legs to push him much like a jockey whips a horse.  As Louis started placing in races he discovered that he was gaining more attention with his classmates.  Before he felt ignored or almost like he wasn’t there, but now he was feeling like he belonged.  This feeling of importance pushed him in his running.  He dedicated his life totally to running and he improved in leaps and bounds.  Years later he would admit that he was all in and that he wouldn’t even touch a milkshake for fear of it’s harmful effects to his running.

Starting with his first cross country race and continuing his final three years in high school Louis went undefeated!  In 1934 he set a high school record for the mile with a time of 4:21.2!  A week later he won the CIF California State Meet Championship with a time of 4:27.8!  That accomplishment helped him win a scholarship at the University of Southern California!  In 1936 Louis decided that he wanted to run in the Olympics.  That year the qualifying took place in Randalls Island, New York.  In those days runners had to pay their own transportation fees to get to the event.  Luckily for Louis his father worked for the railroad and was able to get him free transportation.  A bigger problem was expense money once he got there.  That problem was solved by the generosity of local Torrence merchants who raised expense money for their local hero!

Louis decided to enter the 5000 meter race when he arrived.  The 1500 meter had a strong field and Louis felt his chances were better to qualify in the longer race.  His chief competition would be the American record holder in the event Don Lash.  The event would test Zamperini’s ability to survive as it was ran on one of the hottest days of the year.  The race saw co-favorite Norm Bright and many others collapse during the race.  Determined with everything he had within him despite the obstacles Zamperini finished in a dead heat with Lash!  They would both represent the United States in the Berlin, Germany Olympics as Louis became the youngest American qualifier ever in the 5000 meter at only 19 years old!

Zamperini qualified for the finals in one of the three preliminary runs where only the top five advanced.  In the final he finished eighth in the world ahead of his fellow American teammate Don Lash!  He had a finishing lap of 56 seconds which was so fast that it got Adolph Hitler’s attention.  Hitler made a request to meet Zamperini and Zamperini remembered his words of “Ah, your the boy with the fast finish!”  After the Olympics Zamperini went on with his running.  In 1938 he set a national collegiate mile record of 4:08 that stood for fifteen years!

Zamperini enlisted in the Air Force in September of 1941 and earned a commission as a second lieutenant.  He was deployed to the Pacific island of Funafuti as a bombardier on the B-24 Liberator bomber Super Man. In April, 1943, during a bombing mission against the Japanese held island of Nauru, the plane was badly damaged in combat. With Super Man no longer flight-worthy, and a number of the crew injured, the healthy crew-members were transferred to Hawaii to await reassignment. Zamperini, along with some other former Super Man crew were assigned to conduct a search for a lost aircraft and crew. They were given another B-24, The Green Hornet, notorious among the pilots as a defective “lemon plane”. While on the search, mechanical difficulties caused the plane to crash into the ocean 850 miles west of Oahu, killing eight of the eleven men aboard.

The three survivors (Zamperini and his crewmates, pilot Russel Allen “Phil” Phillips and Francis “Mac” McNamara), with little food and no water, subsisted on captured rainwater and small fish eaten raw. They caught two albatrosses, which they ate and used to catch fish, all while fending off constant shark attacks and nearly being capsized by a storm. They were strafed multiple times by a Japanese bomber, which punctured their life raft, but no one was hit. McNamara died after 33 days at sea.[]

How could anyone keep going in such circumstances?  Day after day wondering if it would be your last.  Riding up and down pushed by the ocean waves on a little raft.  Having to bury their fellow initial survivor after he couldn’t make it on the 33rd day.  Yet Zamperini and Phillips kept hope alive.  They kept thinking that by some miracle they would survive even when the odds seemed so small.  That was when Zamperini first got serious with God.  It had to be like one of those promises that we all might say during stressful times.  “God, if you get me out of this I will do whatever you want me to do!”

On their 47th day adrift, Zamperini and Phillips reached land in the Marshall Islands and were immediately captured by the Japanese Navy.[21] They were held in captivity, severely beaten, and mistreated until the end of the war in August 1945. Initially held at Kwajalein Atoll, after 42 days they were transferred to the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Ōfuna, for captives who were not registered as prisoners of war (POW). Zamperini was later transferred to Tokyo’s Ōmori POW camp, and was eventually transferred to the Naoetsu POW camp in northern Japan, where he stayed until the war ended. He was tormented by prison guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), who was later included in General Douglas MacArthur‘s list of the 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan. Held at the same camp was then-Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington, and in his book, Baa Baa Black Sheep, he discusses Zamperini and the Italian recipes Zamperini would write to keep the prisoners’ minds off the food and conditions.[18] Zamperini had at first been declared missing at sea, and then, a year and a day after his disappearance, KIA. When he eventually returned home he received a hero’s welcome.

Can you imagine after surviving on a raft for 47 days and finally seeing land how excited Zamperini and Phillips must have been.  Normally it would have been a thrilling time for them along with their rescuers.  They would have been taken to a hospital and nourished back to full strength.  Can you imagine being so weak after such an experience only to face the reality of being captured by the enemy?  Day after day for the next two years Zamperini was mistreated and beaten but never broken.

As Zamperini was sitting in the Billy Graham meeting he thought about all of the people that had wronged him.  He thought about the beatings he had taken and all of the reasons he should never forgive any of them.  Then he thought about the commitment he was about to make.  It couldn’t have been easy but he decided to forgive his enemies much like Jesus did when he died upon the cross.  After that night Zamperini was a changed man.  No longer did he have the dark dreams that were torturing him as much as his prisoner experiences had.  Now he had a peace about him and a love that he couldn’t understand.

Billy Graham helped Zamperini in his next mission of becoming an inspirational speaker.  Through the years when people heard his story they listened.  It was such an amazing story that people were drawn to God by it!  How could a man who suffered so much and was treated so badly be willing to forgive and forget?  It could only be through God that it was possible.

Through the years Zamperini visited many of the guards who mistreated him in prison.  He always let them know that he had forgiven them.  The ones who experienced his forgiveness were shocked that he would feel that way.  As hard as most of their hearts were they had to be softened by this man who only had love in his heart.  They had to feel enormous guilt for what they had done to him.  They had to see a man who in spite of everything that happened was living such a victorious live!

Until the day he died Zamperini went around the world preaching forgiveness.  He was on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno telling his life story only a couple of years ago.  He talked about his Olympic days which people in our sports crazy society wanted to hear.  He talked about the torture that he lived through while in the P.O.W. camp.  He was an old man now at 95.  His loving wife was with him for 55 years until she passed away in 2001.  Yes God put that broken relationship together in a beautiful way! Long ago Zamperini was pronounced dead as the American Government notified his parents that he was lost at sea.  Later he was returned home to a heroes welcome!  It was like he came back to life again!  Four years later he died again.  This death was a death to his old life.  After that time he started living a new life in Christ!  Earlier this year Zamperini left us at 97.  Most of us will never see that age but God must have given him extra years as his reward.  The title of his movie coming out in December is called “Unbroken”.  It is a story of inspiration and hope no matter what you are going through.  On one night however Zamberini became a broken man.  That was when he stopped living and let God take over.  After that God rewarded him with many peaceful years of sharing his story of love, hope, and forgiveness!

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
II Timothy 4:7


Don’t Block My Blessing!

Dikembe Motumbo was a 7 foot 2 basketball center whose specialty was blocking shots.  Often his opponents would have a perfectly clear shot until out of the blue Motumbo’s long arm would come into the picture and change everything.   Motumbo had a ritual he did after he blocked a shot.  It was almost as if it disturbed and annoyed him as he wagged his long finger at the would be scorer.  “Please no,” he would say as his face changed to a troubled look.  It was like he hated to block their shot but it was in his job description, much like things we don’t like to do on our jobs but have to do them anyway.  What we never saw was the face of the would be scorer.  If we did it would surely be a hurt face as his shot that he may have  already counted for the score book was being bounced harmlessly to the floor.  I never saw Motumbo block a shot of a player from his own team.  The hurt and disbelief on his teammates face would be there for all to see if that strange and confusing event ever happened.  That same look that I imagine it would be like,  was the same stunned and hurt look on my grandpa’s face years ago.

"Please no"

Please no”

My grandpa was born in 1895 so by the time I got to know him he seemed very old to me.  Of course my parents seemed very old at the time and anyone over twenty seemed very old.  We would go down to Alabama every year.  My grandpa and grandma spent their whole life in Alabama and my dad loved to take us there.  We were sure to gain a pound or two as grandma was an excellent cook.  She had meals on the table precisely on time and we had our fill of all kinds of food!  Grandma would have been hurt if we didn’t eat.  Of course we never tested that outcome.  We always brought our appetites when we entered Alabama and didn’t stop eating until we left!  At the end of the day everyone was happy!  Grandma was happy that we enjoyed her wonderful meals and we were happy that she blessed us with them!

Grandpa was a quiet man but we loved him just the same.  We realized that he loved us very much too.  One rare time they came up to Michigan.  It was the only time that I remember that they came our way.  Dad had been playing catch with me quite often with the baseball.  Grandpa took his turn and we played catch together.  I had a bunk bed at the time.  Very rarely did the two beds get used at the same time.  I had wanted a bunk bed because my friends down the road had them.  Of course they had three boys sharing the same room, but I didn’t think about that.  I thought they were cool and different.  When grandpa stayed at our house he slept on the top bunk.  What a scary adventure he talked about over and over the next day at breakfast.  He was making it sound so exciting and breath taking all for my benefit.   The way he described it you would have thought that he had walked on a high wire over a lake or something!  He was giving me a memory that I would cherish forever!

Each year at the end of our stay in Alabama we would hug grandma and grandpa goodbye.  Invariably grandpa would reach for his pocket and pull a dollar out for both of us.  A couple of times we took his money with excitement!  One time on the way home mom and dad wondered if he gave us something.  When we said that he gave us both a dollar they both didn’t think we should have taken it.  You see grandpa was a poor man.  He was living on his social security and he didn’t have a lot of money to throw around.  The thinking was that he could use the money himself.  In the years that followed I remember numerous times grandpa trying to give us each a dollar and we didn’t accept it.  It was like a sad game as he would try to stuff the money in our pockets only to have us put it right back in his.  I could see that same hurt look in his eyes that came from rejection.

I was talking to a friend the other day and the same type of thing happened in her family.  A close relative took care of a friends cat.  This close relative was a giver to the nth degree.  She loved to give what she could and loved how people loved her gifts. This time the shoe was on the other foot.  This friend of hers was giving her a gift for the care that she provided to her precious cat.  It was a card and inside was a gift certificate for a restaurant nearby. It’s not remembered if she finally accepted it and complained later of if she didn’t accept it at all.  The words lingering in my friends memory were “I don’t need this”.

Sometimes we take something out of the Bible and stand it alone completely out of context.  For example it states that it is better to give than to receive.  You can make the argument that if someone is always receiving and doesn’t give that it is wrong.  I would have to agree with you.  However, does this mean that it is a sin to receive something?  Does it mean that we should avoid receiving and only concentrate on giving?  How about the passage “Do to others as you would have them do to you?”  If you made the special effort to give someone that you loved very much a gift wouldn’t it be hurtful if they didn’t accept it?  How can hurting someone be a good thing?

Just as if we give in love we can receive in love too!  When we do things for some other reason the connection cannot be completed.  For example there is something called the prosperity gospel.  It states that if we give such and such something good will come back to us.  This can only be true if we are doing things for the right reasons.  If we are giving to get concerned with “what’s in it for us?” that attitude will never be blessed by God.  However if we give something from our heart then it’s all good.    If we do something from our heart  the other person should accept it from their heart.  Likewise if someone  does something for us from their heart, we should accept their gift graciously and lovingly.  There is no need for the “you shouldn’t have” phrase we hear so much because maybe they should have.   Maybe they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.  Since everything is being done out of love and God is the source for love, we have a love connection and blessings will follow!

Tom Brady is unanimously one of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL.  As good as Brady is and as well as he can throw, the results of the play are not positively fulfilled unless someone is there to receive his passes.  He can throw the best most accurate passes ever and if his receiver doesn’t catch them it all goes for nothing.  However, when both are in unison doing what they are supposed to do they both are glorified.  It is very important in our Christian walk to not only be good givers but  good receivers too!

Brady looking for a receiver

Brady looking for a receiver

Sometimes we might have the attitude that I will accept a gift from God, but not from this person.  Does it ever occur to us that maybe it is one in the same. God is love and he is continuously trying to bless his people.  Since we are his hands and feet on this earth, he often uses people to bless other people.  If someone out of their heart feels the desire to give us a nice gift that process can only come from love.  That person loves us and wants us to have something they can give  to show their love!  Rejecting their gift is in fact rejecting their love. Rejecting their love may be rejecting God’s gift and blessing.

My question to you today is “Are you a selfish giver?  In the words of Olivia Newton John, “Have you ever let someone else be strong?”  Have you ever considered the fact that receiving can also be giving?  I know that you are thinking that I just jumped off of the deep end but let me explain.  Suppose someone gives me a gift and I give them back love.  I accept their gift thankfully and tell them how much their gift means to me.  I make them feel good that they thought of me and in turn it makes them happy!  I am blessed by the material gift they gave me and I have given them a blessing too!  It is the blessing of love that is from God and makes us all feel good inside!

It is remindful that God gave us the greatest gift of all in his son Jesus.  By receiving him into our lives as a free gift we can all get to Heaven.  Once again we have a giver and a receiver.  I know that it hurts God when people reject the gift that he has given freely.  His desire is for all to receive his gift and live for eternity with him.  Just as we accept God’s gift as a blessing we also need to accept each others show of Godliness that he has instilled in us causing us to lovingly give. 

I can still see grandpa’s sad eyes as his gift was rejected .  If I could change one thing in my childhood this would be it.  I would accept his loving gift which would have put a smile on his face.  “I’d say “thank you grandpa, I love you!” I may not go as far as making it seem like I was as thankful as I would have been had I survived walking a high wire over a lake, but it would have been real!  He would have felt good and blessed and I would have felt the same!  

A dollar would buy a lot more back then than it does today.  With that dollar I may have bought a nice baseball.  If a friend asked where I got it I could have told him that it was a gift from my grandpa!  They would probably think, and rightly so, that I had a great grandpa who loved me very much!  With this scenerio the blessings would have flowed without being blocked and everyone would have been happy including God!

The Power Of Love

1983 was a big year in my life!  It was the year I got married!  Literally days before that happend though we bought a house.  As a term of the sale the owner wanted to stay in the house a couple of weeks after we legally obtained ownership.  That agreement we made with him literally put us in a time bind.  When we found houses that we liked we would have my dad check them out.  My dad built three houses so he looked at things that we didn’t.  He wasn’t concerned with the color of carpet or the paint on the walls like we were.  He looked at the structure and other items we probably would have missed.  We found a house that we liked and had dad look it over.  Dad gave the house a passing grade as the things he looked for were in order! Though we liked the neighborhood and the outside, the things that caught our eye inside were completely out of order.   The walls were a very filthy yellowy color, not the nice white color they should have been.  There were dirty fingerprints all over the place.  It was an interior designers nightmare as the carpet was an ugly pukey green color and the kitchen walls were the ugliest pea green I had ever seen.  The countertops were also a very distasteful green and the stove was such a greasy mess it needed a major cleaning to make it close to usable.   The kitchen floor had a green unattractive pattern and color to it.  What was this obsession to green this person had?  Not only green but such an ugly pea green.  Along with it’s putrid color the carpet was also damaged.  The carpet in the bedroom was torn up near the door as a big dog was shut in and tried to tunnel his way out.  There was hair everywhere as the drains were filled beyond belief. We heard from the neighbors later that the house was treated like a frat house.  The owner and many of his friends made it their home.  The house was a host for many parties and the occupants were not concerned with how the place looked.

The foundation was solid but inside it was a mess!

The foundation was solid but inside it was a mess!

The owner was a chain smoker and if a smoker could smoke more than a chain smoker that would describe him.  He literally always had a cigarette in his mouth and the place reeked with smoke smell.  Not only him but the evidence suggests that everyone living there were heavy chain smokers.  Apparently the owner and friends smoked so much it got to be a pain to get rid of their cigarette butts.  They literally dropped them on the floor and kicked them under the stove, refrigerator or anywhere out of sight.  When the stove drawer was opened exposing the floor beneath hundreds of cigarette butts were found.

By the time the previous owner had moved out I had very little time to make a livable home out of the mess we bought.  I called my dear friend Gary and he was so willing to put things on hold in his own life and help!  My dillemma was that I was getting married on Saturday and we would be leaving on our honeymoon.  Beginning that Monday Gary and I decided that we would paint.  Painting three bedrooms and a living room was our mission and we only had four nights since the Friday night was the wedding dinner.  We both worked so it was around six pm before we could get started.  We worked long into the night each night.  Gary and I both loved sports and the fact that the National Championship of the NCAA basketball tournament was played on Monday night added to his sacrifice.  I happened to have a TV in the house already.  It was a second hand color TV that had the rabbit ears for it’s antenna.  CBS and NBC were the only channels it received and luckily the game was on CBS.  Houston was playing North Carolina State that year in the finals.  Houston was the overwhelming favorite to win and neither of us thought it would be much of a game.  Houston had two players that would eventually be NBA Hall of Famers and they were given the nickname Psi Slamma Jamma for their many dunks they had every game.  We took a quick break from our painting wondering how the game was going.  It was a couple of hours after tip off and we figured it was either close to over or over.  We stood there as the set warmed up and eventually we saw a picture.  Totally expecting a blowout in Houstons favor we were shocked to see the score was tied.  North Carolina State had the ball with forty seven seconds left and they started throwing it all over the court and almost had it stolen a couple of times.

Valvano & the net

Jim Valvano was the coach at North Carolina State.  At the beginning of the season he had a dream.  It was the dream of winning the National Championship.  Every year the National Champion cuts down the net as a celebration of their victory.  After one of his first practices that season Jim figured his team needed to live the dream he was living.  They needed to see and feel his vision.  He brought a pair of scissors and each player was hoisted up and cut down a strand of the net.  The last strand was cut down by Jim himself on the back of one of his taller players.  They hooted and hollered just like it had actually happened and ran off to the locker room in a jubilent triumphant celebration!

The road to the championship game was filled with pot holes for that 1983 North Carolina State team.  Dereck Whittenburg their star player who they relied on for his scoring ability and leadership got hurt.  It happened in January when Dereck went up for a shot and landed on the foot of an opposing player.  The results of this unfortunate event was a broken bone in his foot.   At the time of his injury North Carolina State had a record of twelve wins and only one defeat.  They were ranked in the top twenty five teams in the nation.  After his injury the team struggled and they ended up in fourth place in their conference.  It was thought that they would need a tournament win in the upcoming conference tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.  Miracuously that is exactly what they did.  With Whittenburg coming back sooner than expected, State pulled off a couple of stunning upsets including Virginia (led by 7 ft 4 Ralph Sampson) in the title game.  It was their first win against Virginia after suffering two losses to them in the regular season.

If anyone doubted that they were a team of destiny, faith was renewed in their first round game of the NCAA Tournament against Pepperdine.  Trailing by six with twenty four seconds left in overtime NC State put on a miraculous rally and won the game 69-67.  A tactic that Coach Valvano liked to use was fouling at the end of games.  Luckily the other teams cooperated by missing free throws giving North Carolina State a chance.  With the added chances State became known as the cardiac kids for their thrilling wins.  Another thrilling win occurred in the next game as Thurl Bailey, their 6’11 skinny center tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer to lift State to a 71-70 win and a trip to the sweet sixteen.  “We had one of the greatest coaches and motivators who ever lived”, Bailey said, “and we had prepared for what ended up happening.”  “Destiny means a lot of things have to line up for you”, he continued, “and then you have to do your part too.”

Surprisingly “The Cardiac Kids” had a non cardiac game against Utah to reach the “elite eight”.  They won by 19 points in one of their best performances of the season!  Standing in their way for a trip to the final four was their nemisis Virginia.  When Othel Wilson of Virginia missed a last second shot at the buzzer”an airball”, State won another thriller 63-62 and were headed to the Final Four!  They won by seven points over Georgia and watched on the hotel TV as Houston dismantled Louisville in a game in which they lived up to their dunking name with 14 dunks!  The kids from North Carolina State looked at each other wondering how they could compete with this dunking machine of a team.  In the press conference before the big matchup Coach Valvano jokingly said that they would just hold the ball the whole game for the last shot.  Before the game Valvano told his team that there is no way we are going to hold the ball with millions of people watching. 

It was 1993 and a ten year reunion was held for the 1983 team.  All of the former players were there.  It was not known if coach Jim Valvano could come.  The reason for doubt was that the great coach was dying.  He had incurable bone cancer and he had trouble walking or mustering up much energy.  Suddenly there was a commotion in the crowd and through the crowd escorted on each side Valvano appeared.  He looked very frail as the bone cancer had taken it’s toll on his body, but he was there!  The players wondered if this might be the last time they would ever see him.  They were lined up and each one spent a minute with him as he gave them a big hug.  That was Valvano’s way.  He was all about giving hugs to people that he loved and this team was one he loved dearly.  As he met each one including Whittenburg with each dynamic hug he whispered something in their ear.  Last in the line was Thurl Bailey the 6 foot 11 inch center on the team. Thurl pulled out a chair and Valvano climbed wearily up on it.  As their heads were now around the same height coach Valvano was able to whisper in his ear the words that he had for all of the others “I love you.”  Remembering the moment twenty years later as if it were yesterday Thurl Bailey through tearful eyes said “he told me that he loved me!”

The Houston press was non stop.  North Carolina State was moving the ball and seemingly throwing it to all of the wrong places.  Two or three times it was almost stolen as their passes were hurried as it seemed Houston players were everywhere. The ball ended up in the hands of Thurl Bailey in the left corner.  Thurl had an open look but he hadn’t made a shot since the first half.  He looked for Whittenburg because Whittenburg was hot.  He found him near the half court line.  With Houstons athletic defense in persuit he threw a very dangerous across court pass in the direction of Whittenburg.  A defender from Houston tried in vain to reach it and actually deflected the ball after it had reached the jumping Whittenburg’s hands knocking it to the floor.  Whittenburg grabbed the ball and took a driible and  with only a few seconds left he launched the shot.  He was thirty five feet from the basket and everyone including Gary and I were holding our breath as it made it’s way for the basket.  Just as it appeared the ball was going to fall short of the mark a player in red Lorenzo Charles jumped up, caught the ball, and in one motion dunked it in the basket!

Lorenzo Charles completed the dream!

Lorenzo Charles completed the dream!

Volvano living the dream!

Volvano living the dream!

The impossible dream was now complete! It came so quickly that Gary and I couldn’t believe our eyes!   How ironic that the great dunking machine team was did in by a dose of their own medicine!  Volvano ran onto the court looking for someone to hug.  Amazingly he couldn’t seem to find anyone.  When he finally found Whittenburg he happened to be hugging someone else.  Volvano laughed at the unusual situation in a speech years later.  Whittenburg completed the unfinished story in an interview in 2013.  “Where were you?’ the coach asked Whittenburg.  “I have been looking all over for you to give you a hug.”  “I’m going to give you a big hug right now”, Whittenburg stated to his coach as the two came together in a triumphant embrace.

Ironically both Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles are gone now.  Valvano lost his battle with bone cancer at the age of 47.  Before he left  he started “The V Foundation” to raise money for the fight against cancer.  The V Foundation has raised over 100 million dollars for research to find a cure!  Lorenzo Charles was also 47 when a bus he was driving crashed and overturned on a busy highway.  How short their lives were, but oh the memories they left us with.  Volvano having the dream and Charles completing it!

Gary and I had a dream too! Gary didn’t have to tell me he loved me because I knew by his actions those four nights that he did!  We were  fighting the clock like North Carolina State did, so we had to turn the TV off and start back on our own miracle.  1983 taught me a powerful lesson about miracles.  Miracles can happen if there is plenty of love in the mix.  Just as Whittenburg needed assistance from Charles for his shot, Gary and my family gave us assistance for our miracle also.  Though our miracle wasn’t publicized as North Carolina State’s was, through the loving help of Gary the inside of the house began to match the outside in appearance.  Miraculously as Thursday nights work ended so ended the need to paint.  The place had such a different amazing bright look to it!  I couldn’t take my eyes off of how clean and beautiful it looked!  Adding to Gary’s help was my mom and sister who came in and cleaned and my mother in law who hung curtains and helped us hang wall paper.  My friend Keith came over and repaired the damaged carpet and at last our little home miracle was complete!

It has been thirty years since that North Carolina State miracle.  Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday when we remember the greatest miracle of all.  Just as the miracle of thirty years ago with North Carolina State is remembered like it was yesterday for the players involved, the legacy of the resurrection lives on now for over two thousand years!  Our lives are like my house, nice looking on the outside but a mess inside.  Our house didn’t stay that way and it doesn’t have to stay that way in our lives either!  Miracles happen every day even though we don’t always hear about them.  They start because Jesus died and was resurrected. When we repent of our sins and accept him as our Savior our sins are forgiven and we join God’s team.  There are no guarantees as to how hard our road to victory will be.  Like the North Carolina State team our path is sure to have many pot holes. The beautiful part of the story is that we now have a loving coach who will be with us and lead us to the ultimate triumph!

It's the power of love

Whittenburg and his coach embracing after the miracle occured!

Because he lives my house can be in order!

Because he lives and loves us the inside of our house can be in order too! 

Post Navigation