Saturday, September 13, 2014

Unexpected



Iván Fernández Anaya, a Basque runner, was the champion of the 5,000 meter race for Spain in 2012.  On December 2, he competed in a cross-country race in Burlada, which is located in the Navarre province of Spain.  Towards the end of the race, he was in second place, but was still quite a distance behind the lead runner, Abel Mutai, who won the bronze medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics.  As Anaya approached the finish line, he saw that the Kenyan runner had pulled up about 10 meters short, assuming that he had already crossed the finish line.  Realizing Abel Mutai’s error, he could have raced past him, secured the win, and claimed the medal.  Instead, using gestures, he pointed out the finish line and allowed the Kenyan runner to cross the line first.
When interviewed, after the race, Anaya stated:
“But even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn’t have done it either. I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.” 

In my book, there were two winners of the race that day.

When encountering the unexpected, the results can be positive or negative.  I definitely enjoy the positive ones more.  In the past few weeks, I have been blessed with some unexpected happenings.  In our Bible Study class, we have a prayer list.  I had written a request for prayers for Chad on the Sunday that he was preaching at First Baptist Church of Gatesville and for the following week as Chad, his family, and the people of the church would be praying, seeking God’s will, and choosing the next pastor for their church.  That week, as one of the couples in our department was driving through Gatesville, they stopped in the church parking lot and prayed for God’s will for Chad and his family and the people of the church.  Then another man in our class was in the Gatesville area on Chad’s second Sunday as pastor and went to the worship service at church.  And to add to that, Tim brought me a worship guide from the church service.  This mother’s heart continues to overflow.

Jesus was constantly surprising people with unexpected responses – by forgiving rather than condemning the woman at the well, by giving Peter a mission and purpose after he had denied him, by associating with sinners and offering them new life…  As followers of Jesus, may those we encounter come to expect the unexpected from us as well.

To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:3

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 22:1

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shadows



Shadows can be fascinating, no matter one’s age.  It is entertaining to watch a child become aware of their shadow for the first time.  They are intrigued as the shadow mimics shapes and movements and usually try to touch it as if it is a new friend.  Depending on the angle and amount of light, shadows are elongated or shortened as they depict the original object.  Even though shadows occur every day, it is not something that we usually slow down to enjoy or take notice of.

By using a flashlight or some other artificial light source as a background, hand shadows can be made and projected on a wall.  It is amazing to see the shadow picture of different animals that people can make by using their hands, fingers, and arms.  When the moon, stars, or softer lights are present, shadows can also appear as different objects, especially when an active imagination is added to the mixture.

In Psalm 23, David writes about another type of shadow, the shadow of death.  These past few weeks and months, we have seen the shadow of death as it claimed the lives of some precious friends.  It seems that for the shadow to be there, a source of light must also be present.  Even when being pursued by his enemies, David took comfort in realizing that God was the Source of Light and Life that was with him.  Therefore, he need not be afraid. 

In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that He is the Light of the world.  Whatever shadows we face, when we intentionally recognize and acknowledge Jesus as our Source of Light, we too can have peace and be comforted because we know that He is with us. 

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4  

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12    
 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge



During college, Pete Frates was one of the team captains for the Boston College baseball team.  In March of 2012, at 27 years of age, he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that offers no cure or hope.  Not content with that outcome, Pete decided to do something to try to help.  He started a campaign that has seen remarkable results.  Supporters are challenged to take an ALS ice bucket challenge, where a bucket of ice water is poured over their head, and then encourage others to do the same.  If the person chooses not to accept the challenge then they are to make a donation to the ALSA.  When accepting the challenge, the participant first acknowledges the person who challenged him, then in turn nominates others to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Next he has someone record the ice water being poured over his head and then posts the video on social media.  At first, only the ones who did not choose to accept the challenge were to make a donation, but it did not take long before the participants sent in their donations as well.  The challenge has been a huge success in raising awareness and funds for the ALS Association.  Athletes all over Boston and the country have participated, along with former President Bush #43, celebrities, individuals, families, children, teachers, administrators, business people and even people with ALS.  A teenage daughter of a man with ALS accepted the challenge, even though she had not been nominated.  Her father then participated as a way of showing his gratitude.

The news reporters have interviewed people who have been diagnosed with ALS to record their reaction to the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Every one, that I have read about or seen questioned, has been most grateful that the disease is being highlighted.  They feel validated that so many are willing to accept the ice bucket challenge, learn about their disease, as well as make a contribution the ALSA.  So far $94 million has been given compared to $2.5 million a year ago at this time.  Although only 28% of the funds received go to research, that is still $26 million more, and adding to the amount daily, than they have previously raised to help find a cure for ALS.  May they now be wise stewards of the money that has been entrusted to them.  My prayer is that they find a cure for ALS and that it will also be helpful in aiding people with arthritis, Parkinson’s, Lupus, MS, and other diseases as well.

Things I’m thinking about:
* Sometimes it takes just one person not giving up on hope to share hope with others.
* One man’s dream can make a difference for others, too.
* Sometimes we need to be educated about a situation so we can find ways to be part of the solution to help.
*Several methods may be used to accomplish the same goal.  Water was either poured on by the person participating or he had someone else pour it on him.  It was poured quickly or slowly.  There were different sizes and number of buckets used, but all accomplished the intended outcome.
* Children, teenagers, and adults participated.
* People are willing to endure something uncomfortable for a greater cause.
* When reminded of or taught about the debilitating disease ALS, people wanted to give even though they completed the challenge. Children gave money from their banks.
* When your heart is involved, sacrifices are willingly made.

As believers, we need to constantly be sharing that no matter the circumstances Jesus is and always will be our hope.  That’s good news the whole world needs to hear and know.  Sometimes we may need to offer a cup of cold water to people to drink, for Jesus' sake, to remind them of that. 

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:5

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 62:5

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.
Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Little Out of My Comfort Zone



Last week Larry and I flew to Virginia for a conference with some of the staff and volunteers of Gracewood, a ministry that rescues single moms and their children across the Greater Houston area by providing home, hope and healing.   Larry has been on the board of Gracewood for several years now.  On the way to the airport, we decided to park at one of the lots by the airport and thus began our adventure.  The shuttle arrived to pick us up and I carefully and slowly climbed the steps to go to a seat.  I’m not sure graceful was ever a word to describe me in the past, but it’s definitely not one of the first to come to mind these days.  Climbing steps of different heights can be a challenge at times.

Even though we took my walker, I used the wheelchair once we were at the airport for speed and to save on energy.  The attendants that pushed the chair were so kind and helpful and knew exactly where we needed to go.  That was especially nice when going through security and when we arrived at the unfamiliar Dulles Airport.

Once we arrived at Dulles, my comfort zone diminished a little since we relied on the hotel shuttle service for transportation.  Now there were several opportunities to practice getting in and out of the different shuttle vans while people were waiting to go.  Larry was so patient and helpful, especially when he would have to help pick up a foot when it was such a high step to get into the bus.

The conference was held at the hotel where we were staying.  We had the evenings free and went into Reston each night with the group to eat and visit.  Knowing we would be walking quite a distance once the shuttle dropped us off and needing to walk at a fast pace, Larry recommended that I use the hotel’s wheelchair.  I knew it would be best, but I still took a big breath before I said that would be OK.  Pride could have said we would just stay at the hotel and eat, (Larry had already befriended the chef), but we would have missed out on great times of fellowship.  I was not fast, but by the third day I was getting on and off the shuttle bus a little easier.  Then one night our mode of transportation back to the hotel was a large, tall van.  That was one more challenge to conquer since there were no safety bars to help me pull myself in and the driver decided the front seat would be the best place for me to ride.  As my 3 year old great-nephew Eli would say, Larry and I needed to “Engineer a better solution” to help get me in.  And we did!

By Saturday, I was more comfortable getting up and down the steps.  And just at the right time!  When we arrived at our gate to fly home we found out that we had to walk out onto the tarmac and up the stairs to get into the plane.  Because of the practice all week, what could have been a difficult situation was accomplished with confidence and a smile that they didn’t have to lower a ramp for me to get on the plane.

Being willing to branch out of my comfort zone brought gifts of fellowship, strength in doing what was difficult, and a reminder that even more important than being graceful is to be grace filled.  Those gifts, and so much more, are also waiting for me when I am willing to branch out of my comfort zone for Jesus’ sake.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.   
Philippians 4:19