Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life Turns and Sprints Away

I run across a number of quotes that I think are worth remembering, not so much, because they are motivational, but because they are true. They remind me of basic truths that I must learn to live by.

I think of motivation as the match used to start a campfire. Once the match is applied, it takes effort and fuel to keep the fire going. The match is destroyed and no longer serves a purpose. Of course, you can start a fire without a match it’s more difficult and typically takes much longer. Motivational speakers don’t motivate they provide the match. Each of us must provide the effort and fuel for motivation to take place. The quote may serve as a catalyst for action, but it’s just a catalyst. It’s not a substitute for sustained effort.  

The quote I have been thinking about lately is "Life turns and sprints away, and what could you do but follow? “. It is from Dante "Gluefingers" Lavelli. Lavelli lived between 1923 and 2009. He originally played football for Ohio State but had to leave early to join the Army during WWII. We went ashore in France just after D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. On Christmas day of 1946 he caught the winning pass for the AAFC championship in New York City. He is now in the NFL Football Hall of Fame. He spent his years after football as the owner of a small furniture store in Rocky River Ohio.

Lavelli got an opportunity to play football at Ohio State, he followed. WWII started and life changed. Lavelli was drafted into the Army and left football behind. The war ended and life changed. Lavelli was back playing football but not as a college graduate. Lavellie went back to Ohio State between football seasons to earn his degree. Football ended for Lavelli and life changed again. Now he was a small business entrepreneur. Each time “life turns and sprints away” Lavelli followed. He didn’t hang on to the past hoping to prolong it’s existence. Good, bad or indifferent he embraced the future. Given a choice I’m sure he prefered Ohio States campus to the the French battlefield Ardennes. 19,000 soldiers died in less then 45 days. He didn’t live in the horror of those 45 days. He found a way to move on.

Just as I am sure he preferred the hurrah's of winning NFL Championships to the daily grind of keeping a small business running in Rocky River. He won seven championships as a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. But it was the furniture store that fed and housed his wife and three children.

The great truth in this quote is not it’s ability to light a match under my performance, but to clarify a simple truth. “Life turns and sprints away”, what else can I do but follow. When I chose to not follow it simply leaves me behind.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881

It is interesting how things strike me. I read something, or hear something and it tugs at me. It causes me to look deeper. 

My new great quote came from a documentary on the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881. Adolphus Greely wrote in his diary on March 13, 1884 as the expedition members had been without supplies for three years: ”It is not the end that affrights anyone, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal, To die is easy; very easy; it is hard to strive, to endure, to live”

The first part “It is not the end that affrights anyone, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal” I’ve felt was true for the most case. The specter of death is finality. As a believer, we see the prospects of heaven and the release from all earthly troubles. As a non-believer most only see an end. Most non-believers don’t believe in hell or they would soon become believers.  So it’s not the end that frightens us. What gives us the most anxiety and trepidation is what we might have to go through during the process of dying. We want to die quick, suddenly, painlessly. If the road to be traveled is one of pain, physical or emotional, we want to be spared. We may look for a quick solution to shorten the road.

The second part of his quote is what really has my attention; “To die is easy; very easy; it is hard to strive, to endure, to live”. As I see in my mind’s eye the barren and frozen environment of Lady Franklin Bay, I can feel the desperation of men who have seen two summers pass without supply ships. The close quarters, the months of darkness and months of daylight. The boredom created by lack of purpose and hopelessness. “It is hard to strive, to endure, to live”. Yet these men strived to live. 

Let’s not get high jacked into a discussion about proposed cannibalism. It’s not my point. I’m not thinking of what man will do to survive, I’m only thinking of man’s desire to survive, more importantly all of those who give up. All of us go through times of quiet desperation. These are times when “the road to be traveled” is difficult and uncertain. Sometimes the emotional pain is beyond comprehension. Maybe an illness has devastating results. The path forward is uncertain and sometimes seems impossible. To be sure there are impossible situations. 

As people we need to care about those in desperate need. At one point the members of the expedition left 160 pounds of food because they had a choice of saving one of their own or saving the food. In another case a member of the expedition went 30 miles out of his way in sub zero temperatures to bury a comrade who has fallen prey to starvation.  Striving to live is extremely difficult when one has to go it alone. It can be impossible. We need community and we need support to make it through these times. Each of us can be part of the community for another. It’s messy and it isn’t fun, but it can be the difference in someone’s life. It is a difference we may someday wish we had in our lives.

“There but for the grace of God go I,” John  Bradford when he saw a group of criminals being led to their executions, 1550’s.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Everyone needs a miracle from time to time.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We all face times of desperate need. All of us at one time or another in our lives “need” a miracle. It might be saving our job/business depends on closing a business deal. It might be that we have a loved one with a medical emergency. But at some point we recognize that we can’t do it alone and “need” intervention. Most of us look for a “parting-the-Red Sea” type of miracle. We’re looking for that big, immediate, in-your-face solution to our problem. I know some of us can point to big “parting-the-Red Sea” miracles and I believe they exist, but for the most part I think if we critically looked at even those they would follow this process. It is just that we obeyed so naturally that we don’t see our involvement. What is the real pragmatic expectation to answered prayer? There are six points I’d like to make:
  1. God knew the need before we asked for help 
  2. God could have solved the problem immediately without the help of other
  3. God expects us to do what we can, he expects obedience 
  4. God uses resource that we have 
  5.  God does what we can’t
  6.  Here is the hard part, the final solution always takes longer then we want, requires obedience even when we don’t understand the required task and is more painful than we would like.

I have listed five Biblical miracles at the end to use as examples. They are just five of many, but they demonstrate the principles well. They all share the six points above. 

God knew the need before we asked for help
We are not going to surprise God with our need. Psalms 139:4 “Even before the words are on my tongue, you know it all together.” We are not bringing Him a perplexing problem that He needs to contemplate. Our problems are unique and immediate to us. Because we do not see the future, our need is for a quick solution. When we don’t get it we believe either God doesn’t know, doesn’t care or can’t help. The timing is a well thought out decision by God based on his plans for us.

God could have solved the problem immediately without the help of others
In Genesis 1 we learned that God created the heavens and the earth. There is nothing He cannot do without our intervention. Genesis 22:18 says "And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me." He wants to bless us by getting us involved. The first part of the blessing is that He wants us to work together. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to trust and obey. He could have simply made the five thousand full. Or made the bridal party happy with what they had, or wiped out the debt of the widow. He wants us to experience the joy of working with him.

God expects us to do what we can, he expects obedience
You can’t steer a stationary ship, it requires movement. Obedience is movement. Many times we pray for a solution and wait for the answer. God will send us “nudges” as a call to action. He will not always show us an immediate result when we obey. The size of the blessing can be determined by our actions. In both the Water to Wine miracle and the Widow’s Olive Jar miracle, the size of the blessing was determined by the number of vessels the people gathered. Peter could have never walked on water if he hadn’t first gotten out of the boat. The cripple went to great effort to have his friends carry him to Jesus, lift him to the roof and dig a hole into which they could lower him. The first step is obedience. Obedience requires movement.

God uses resource that we have
This is the first miracle, we have everything we need. Generally we expect that the solution of the problem centers on the fact that we can’t get what we need, which presupposes that we don’t already have it. The cripple had friends that were willing to help. The widow had olive oil, the wedding guests had water jugs, and the 5,000 had five fish. It seldom seems like we have enough, so we overlook what we have. Whether it is money, friends, intelligence, energy, or experience, we have resources that God will use. We need to take the time to understand the resources available to us and we need to be willing to apply them even when they seem lacking.

God does what we can’t
He is where the magic happens. As the servants ladled out the water it turned to wine. As the widow poured out olive oil from her jar it kept filling jars until she was out of jars. As the five thousand took pieces of fish and bread, there kept being more fish and bread. The cripple picked up his mat and walked. You don’t really think Peter could walk on water without God’s help. This is the part of the miracle we see and expect. The blessing is a result of our obedience; we kind of forget that part. 

The Hard Part
The final solution always takes longer then we want, requires obedience even when we don’t understand the required task and is more painful than we would like. Sorry I wish I could say more, but this is it. We have expectations that if we do what God wants, he will do what we want. Sorry, it’s not a trade. He knows so much more than we do. He knows what we want and need. He can see the future implications to all actions. We have a vision of our future based on limited knowledge. He has perfect knowledge. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Test this theory by reading about these five miracles in the bible:
  1. Walking on Water (Mathew 14: 22 – 33)
  2. Water to Wine (John 2: 1 – 11)
  3. Widow trying to save her children from indenture (2 Kings 4:1 – 7) 
  4.   Feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14: 13 – 21)
  5. Cripple who is passed through the roof (Luke 5: 17 – 21) “get your hands dirty digging through the roof kind of faith”