Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Voice Do You Listen To?

I had the opportunity to take in an Astros game with my family last night. After our 3 mile hike, we finally made it to our seats in the nose bleed section. If you have never been to Minute Maid Park, they have a train that sets high above everything out in left field. In order for the train to get cranked up and move along its short little track, the Astros have to either hit a home run or win the game. Now, for us adults although its a neat attraction, its not really a big deal. But for my two boys, seeing the train move was pretty much the only thing that they cared about. Anyway, since it would take us about an inning and a half to get down from the nose bleeds, staying in our seats till the end of the game was pretty much out of the question. So, in order for them to see the train move, the Astros were going to have to hit one out of the park.

Not sure what inning it was, but at one point the Astros had loaded the bases and Hunter Pence steps up to the plate. My wife commented to the boys that we may get to see the train move. I turned to her and said it's not likely with Hunter Pence at the plate. Now, I like Hunter Pence and think he's a great ball player and know he can hit home runs from time to time. I was just making the point that he doesn't have the power Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee have. And although he is likely to drive in a couple of runs during this at bat, clearing the bases with a grand slam was a bit of a stretch.

Fortunately, for the Astros and all their fans, he didn't bother listening to me. He drives it to deep right and everyone knew when he hit it, it was gone. There I stood, in disbelief. Again, I didn't think it was an impossibility, just not likely. Of course, what I thought, didn't change anything. I'm not an expert, but then again even if I was, my opinion still wouldn't do much in effecting the outcome. The only time, our opinion makes a difference is when someone listens to it and allows it to effect them.

In our lives there are millions of voices out there screaming a million different things. If we stop to listen to them, most of them will be shouting out that we are incapable, inadequate, and unable. They'll tell us we aren't strong enough, smart enough, or talented enough. They'll scream that we never will, never could, and never should. Some of those voices are from those close to us, while others come from those who don't even know us. There are those voices that come from the "experts," the media, and Hollywood. Then there are those voices that seem to come from deep inside of us when we take a hard look at ourselves. Regardless of where they come from, they can do nothing in shaping us unless we choose to let them. It is when we begin agreeing with them that we give them power.

There's only one voice that matters in the grand scheme of things. And it is with this voice we need to learn to agree. That is the voice of our heavenly Father. If you'll listen close his message is quite different. It'll whisper, "You have what it takes!" "You can do this!" "Go for it!" "You can, you will, and you should!" His voice can be heard in those around you encouraging you and exhorting you. It can also be heard coming from deep inside you if you'll listen for it. It is when we come into agreement with this voice, that we find the kind of life God has designed for us to live.

Hunter Pence hit a grand slam last night, because he stepped up to the plate and swung the bat. I don't know what he was thinking when he stepped up there, but if he's like most men, I got to be thinking in the back of his mind he had to believe that a grand slam was possible. Every kid growing up playing baseball envisions a moment like that. And in that dream every kid envisions himself knocking the cover off the ball. It's not until those kids grow up and have spent years listening to those negative voices, that they no longer believe they can do it. I have to think that at the moment he saw the pitch, Hunter heard a voice that said, "you can do this." A split second later the bat hit the ball and the rest is history.

You can spend your life believing all those voices that tell you no, not, never, ever. Or, you can choose to listen to the one that says, "You have what it takes. Swing the bat!!!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It Makes Me Appreciate And Value Life

Over the last couple of weeks, as I've watched the news, I've been taken back by what all has happened. Thousands of lives have been lost through tornadoes, cyclones, and earthquakes. Just think about it, people were going about their everyday lives when all of a sudden it was all over. It's pretty sobering to me. It makes me appreciate and value the life that I have. Let's face it, none of us have been promised tomorrow. I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom here, its just reality. Actually, death for a believer is hardly doom and gloom anyway. The point I'm trying to make is that this life we live is so temporal and in the grand scheme of things, even 70, 80, or 100 years is still quite short. Scripture says our life is but a vapor, here one day and gone the next.

Death for us is certain, unless we are of the generation here when Jesus takes us out of here. The truth is death could visit us today, tomorrow, next year, or it could be 10, 20, 50, or 70 years from now. But rest assured, it'll visit us. Ok, I know this is not my usual encouraging, inspiring BLOG, but stay with me.

Life on this earth is precious, but in comparison to eternity it is extremely short. What we do in that short amount of time is extremely important though. When I hear news like I've heard the last couple of weeks, it makes me think about what I'm doing with my life. It's not a condemning thing, just a gut check. It makes me ask the question, "how engaged am I with my family?" It makes me want to spend quality time with those I love most. It makes me want to put the things that need to be on the back burner on the back burner and put the things that need to be in the forefront in the forefront. It makes me want to play air guitar with my kids even when I've got a list a mile long of the things I need to do. It makes me want to spend time with my wife, and cherish each moment we have together. It causes me to evaluate the things I value and why I value them.

Years ago, my grandmother who was well advanced in years knew that death was getting closer with every passing day. She was a feisty lady and was never shy when it came to speaking her mind. Of course, that often led to her not having the greatest relationships with others, including some of her kids. From time to time she would get to thinking that she would hate to die and not have a clear conscience so she would get on the phone and start calling people. She would call one person after another asking them to forgive her if she in anyway had offended them. I just wonder how our lives would be different if we would not wait until we are in our 80s or 90s before we did something like that.

The truth is that a moment wasted can never be recaptured. We need to make it a point to say the things we so often wait too long to say. We need to forgive those who we often wait too long to forgive. We need to spend more time with those most important to us, and we need to love as if there's no tomorrow.

Of course, the most important thing is not to fall too much in love with this world here. When all is said and done, the stuff here will be gone and the only thing we take out of here is our relationship with our Creator and our relationship with one another. That's it. Nothing more , nothing less. If we travel through this life trying to capture as much stuff as we possibly can, in the end we will be grossly disappointed. I'm not saying that having stuff is bad, just that if it becomes our main pursuit in life, we will realize in the end how worthless that pursuit truly was.

I am convinced that loving God and loving others is the only pursuits in life that are the only things that are truly rewarding. Perhaps its just me, but I just believe that if I'll focus on that, when death comes knocking, I'll have no regrets and can welcome it with open arms. Of course, I'm talking in about 60 years or so.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Of Squirrels And Men

I'm not sure why, but last night while I was laying in bed, I was recalling an event that happened a few years ago. So, I figure I'll just run with that today. I don't remember exactly how long ago, but I know it was several years back, while I was playing golf one day. I would love to say that I am great at golf, but that would be more than an exaggeration. It would actually be a complete lie. Anyways, I was playing alone this particular day and actually managed to hit the green on a par 3 and was thrilled with the idea that I was walking up to the green carrying only my putter. You every-once-in-a-while golfers no exactly what I mean. As I'm approaching the green, on the other side of the green I see a squirrel, which of course is not out of the ordinary, but this one was a bit different.

Generally, squirrels run away from you, right? Not this one. This one actually starts running toward me. Naturally, I thought that was a bit odd, but as he continued to approach me I began to think perhaps he's more than just a bit odd. Perhaps, he was a card carrying member of squirrels with rabies or something. Needless to say I was getting a bit nervous. I stepped a little to the right and cocked my putter and took up a posture that said, "come, near me and I'll kill you!" The squirrel never deviated from his course and never broke stride. He ran directly over the ground that I had just vacated and continued running in a straight line until he got to a tree and simply scaled the tree as only a squirrel can do.

After my heart slowed down a bit and the adrenaline rush was over, I continued with my round of golf, no doubt missing my birdie putt. I don't really remember the putt, but I had to have missed it, because as poor as I am at golf, trust me if it was a birdie, I would remember it.

Back to last night. As I lay there recalling this event in my mind, I started thinking about how focused that squirrel was on where he was headed. I'm not sure what was in that tree, perhaps its nest, or little baby squirrels, or a hidden stash of acorns. The fact is there were trees all around, but for some reason, this was the only tree this squirrel was interested in. And even though this 5' 11" 200 and none-of-your-business pounds guy stood directly between him and the tree, this squirrel was determined to get there. He wasn't rabid, he was just focused and determined.

We've all been in situations like that. We have something we've set our eyes on. Something we long for. Perhaps it's a dream that God has birthed in us. A creative, inspired dream that God planted deep inside of us and we see it clearly up ahead. Maybe its a miracle of healing you've had your faith set on or a loved one you've been praying for God to reach. It could be any number of things we've set our heart on but, in between us and it, is some kind of major hurdle. Something that takes our eyes off of the goal, and therefore causes us to lose focus and get off track. If we are not careful, it can cause the dream to die.

But, if its a God dream, we need to be willing to face the hurdle head on. Keeping our eyes on where we are headed and the One who's called us to get there. Like the squirrel on that golf course that day, we need to stop at nothing to reach the place that we long for. We need to determine that whatever stands in the way is going to either move or we'll climb it, hurdle it, overcome it, go over it, go under it, or go around it. Scripture tells us that for the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross. The cross represented a hurdle for Him in the process of purchasing our salvation. The joy that he kept his eyes on was you and I living the kind of life he created us to live. The cross stood between him and that goal, but thank God he refused to back down. Thank God, he rolled up and sleeves and took that cross head-on, keeping his eyes on you and I.

What is it in your life that you set out to do, but somewhere along the way the enemy got you sidetracked? What dreams have you backed down from because the enemy placed something in the way that intimidated you? God has a word for you today. "Dream again." "Hope again." "Go for it, and let nothing stop you."

I'm not sure what would have happened that day had I not moved aside. Perhaps, the squirrel would have deviated his course or backed down altogether. But then again, I may have come home with evidence that I had been in a fight with a determined squirrel. I don't know about you, but I think, we need to learn how to send the enemy home looking like he's tangled with a believer who is resolute, determined, and full of fight.