Saturday, May 21, 2016

100 Years and Still Making it Count

Ella Mae Colbert is a retired teacher from Spartanburg County, District 2.  Desiring more than to be pictured on the Smucker’s label on her 100th birthday, Ms. Colbert wanted to be a record breaker for the 100-meter dash for people her age.  Plans were set in action and Ella Mae was to run the 100-meter dash at Chesnee Middle School in Chesnee, South Carolina, a few days after celebrating her 100th birthday.

Colbert’s family had contacted an official timing company, so they could send the results to Guinness World Records, if she did indeed break the world record for people 100 years of age.  On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the time had come for the run to take place.  Ella Mae’s family, people from the community, teachers, administrators, students, a camera crew, and the official timers lined the track to cheer her on to victory.

Ella Mae went to the starting line, waited for the gun to signal the start of the race, and started the race.  After running a few feet, Colbert tripped and busted her chin.  She had to have the chin bandaged up.  Then she went back to the starting line to try again.  This time, Ella Mae Colson finished the 100-meter dash and crossed the finish line in 46.79 seconds, breaking the world record of the previous 100 year old which was 77 seconds. 

After the race, Ms. Colbert thanked the people for their support and encouragement.  She reminded them that even though she may have broken the record that didn’t mean she was done.  Ever the teacher, she also told the crowd, “You do not stop.  Go ahead.  You’ll have some trials and you’ll have something that gets in your way, but you don’t let it get you down.  You get up; you go again.  Do your best at anything you do.”  Sounds like a great lesson for all of us to take to heart.  No excuses.  On your mark.  Get set.  Go!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
Philippians 3:13-15

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
I Corinthians 9:24

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:3

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Testing, Testing

Whether it’s a microphone check, exams, end of year tests, for medical purposes, or daily occurrences, testing is part of our everyday lives.  For students, this time of year seems to be consumed with tests as they recall and demonstrate how to apply what they have learned.  Some tests cover a lesser amount of material while other exams cover content for the semester.  Whereas most tests are announced, there can be surprise pop quizzes along the way.

When Larry was in seminary, one of his professors had a student pray at the beginning of each class session.  But on test day, the professor chose to be the one to pray.  He would always include, “Help them do as well as they prepared.”  The students would have much rather he asked for grace rather than holding them accountable for their study and preparation.

God’s Word reminds us that God examines and tests our heart, motives, and actions.  He desires that we do the same.  We are to also test and approve God’s Will for our lives and the gift of His abundant, overflowing blessings.  Paul instructs us to test all prophesies and spirits to make sure they are from God.  We are to hold on to the good and reject the evil.  When our faith is tested, it will produce perseverance.  And when perseverance finishes its work we will be mature and complete. 

Now it’s time to pray, study, and prepare so we are ready to take action when the tests in life come our way.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
Proverbs 17:3

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Malachi 3:10

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
Galatians 6:4-5

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
I Thessalonians 5:20-22

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Covering all the Bases

Our grandson, David, is playing t-ball for the first time.  The game is more than just looking cute and handsome in the uniform.  There is a lot to remember and learn during these days of practices and games.  The ball players need to know where to stand, how to hit, what to do when contact with the ball occurs, and how and when to advance bases.  To advance, the runners must touch every base, in the proper order, to score.  Amidst all the other noises, they are learning the importance of knowing and listening for their coach’s voice to hear instruction.  Then there is another level of learning when their team takes the field.  They need to catch or chase the ball, know where to throw it, and be aware of where the runners are at all times.  

Mastering t-ball will not happen overnight or with just a lesson or two.  It is important to have a teachable and willing spirit.  The more the boys practice the techniques correctly and become more aware of where to throw the ball, the better chances they have to improve their abilities to play.  It also helps for the kids to have a coach, who is patient, can teach, and is knowledgeable about the game.  These days are also ones of learning from defeat and winning graciously.

God knew that we would continually need to learn and be instructed on how to live in the game of life.   We have the Bible as our instruction book and His Holy Spirit to teach and guide us along the way.  With all the busyness and noise around us, it is vital that we learn to identify and listen to His voice and respond in obedience.  Just like athletes need to wear protective equipment, we, too, need to make sure we dress in God's protective armor every day.  Some days God calls us to be the coaches who encourage, inspire, and teach.  Other times we need to be the players who soak up the instruction and information and then put it into practice.  God has given all believers the responsibility and opportunity to share what we’ve experienced and learned from and about Him with others and to encourage them on their journey.    

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Colossians 3:16

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Perseverance, Patience, and Help

We recently attended the birthday party for our great nephew, Josiah.  The younger of two boys, at three years of age, he is independent and willing to do and try things by himself.  After opening gifts, Josiah wanted to begin playing with some of his new toys.  The largest toy, which seemed to be in a childproof and adultproof box, was what he chose to open first.  Try as he might, he was not having success in releasing the toy.  His dad and others offered to help, but Josiah wanted to do it himself.  When he couldn’t get the toy out of the box, he moved on to another toy.  Then with great patience, he would return to the larger toy and try again.  He was again offered help, but declined and went for another toy.  Time and again, he would patiently and persistently return to the big gift.  Josiah’s determination and willingness to not give up were admirable.  After a length of time, he finally accepted help to remove the toy from the box and was able to play with it.

What a vivid picture of the importance of patience and perseverance.  I, too, need to be willing to patiently persevere with the task at hand.  When it’s difficult, I may need to take a break and come back to it later, even if it takes several tries.  This situation also caused me to pause and ponder how many times I delay my Heavenly Father’s help and blessings because I try to do things on my own instead of asking for and accepting His help. 

The lessons have been taught, modeled, and seen.  Now it’s time to take them to heart and put them into action.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:9-12

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Luke 11:28

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
John 14:23 

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 
I John 2:5

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Focused Attention

A few days after our granddaughter Ryen’s 2nd birthday she announced that her next birthday party was going to be Minnie Mouse.  Throughout the year, when she would see clothing, stickers, books, or pictures of Minnie, Ryen was quick to remember and talk about the theme of her party.  Cupcakes and balloons were to be the treats and d├ęcor.  Throughout the year, she never wavered about her desire for a Minnie Mouse celebration for her birthday.  Even when making and decorating cookies in their play kitchen, Minnie Mouse was the decoration on the cookies.

When Cousin Sarah went to Disney World for her birthday, she sent Ryen a picture of the “Real Minnie Mouse.”   As she looked at the picture on her daddy’s phone, Ryen was speechless.  But the silence soon turned to squeals of glee and jumping around in excitement.

As the preparation for the party continued, Minnie Mouse was the choice for the plates, napkins, balloons, and cupcakes.  Chad cut out Minnie Mouse ears out of wood, painted them along with a bow, and attached the ears to the fort for the Minnie Mouse Boutique.  (Older brother David was assured that the ears and Minnie Mouse banner that was sewn would not be permanent fixtures for the fort.)

The night before her party, Ryen wore her Minnie Mouse pajamas.  As she was getting ready for bed, we talked about her birthday party the next day.  Ryen shook with delight that the party was finally here.  The next morning, the Minnie Mouse tutu and bow were Ryen’s choice of dress for the long awaited celebration.  The party did not disappoint.

 These past weeks, I’ve wondered what my life would look like if my focused attention was consistently on Jesus like Ryen’s has been on Minnie Mouse.  I know He would be pleased that…

…I looked for ways He was at work at home, school, in the neighborhood, at church, and in our community
…my desire was to excitedly talk about Him when the opportunity arose
…sometimes I stood in awe of feeling His presence and seeing Him work
…I “dressed” the part of a Christ follower in my thoughts, actions, reactions, words, and deeds so that people saw a lover of Jesus when they looked at me
…when I saw Him at work, I joined in the “party”
…my mind’s attention and heart’s affections were always on Him 

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Hebrews 12:1-2 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 
Psalm 34:8