Sunday, August 29, 2010

Memories of Dropped Passes Fade Slowly

Max Lucado writes in his book, "Fearless", about Noble Doss, a football player for Texas from 1939 to 1941. He is best known for the "Impossible Catch" that upset undefeated Texas A&M in 1940. He also set a Texas career interception record with 17. But what he remembers the most about his football was a ball he dropped against Baylor in 1941 that possibly cost Texas a trip to the Rose Bowl. In an ABC interview, you can still see his pain as he remembers how he let his team down. You can see that interview at Tribute to Noble Doss. Lucado concludes with, "Memories of dropped passes fade slowly."

The story of Fred Snodgrass is a similar one. Snodgrass hit a career high .321 in 1910, his first full season with the Giants. In 1911-1913, he played in three consecutive World Series, but the Giants lost all three. In the second, the 1912 Series, Snodgrass committed one of the most famous errors in baseball history. In the 10th inning of the deciding game, Snodgrass, who was among the National League's best outfielders, dropped a routine fly ball that put the tying run on second base. He proceeded to make a spectacular game-saving catch on the next play, but the Sox went on to score two runs in the inning to win the series. The error became known as "Snodgrass's Muff" and also the "$30,000 Muff." His error remained with him to the end. When he died on April 5, 1974, his obituary in the New York Times was headlined "Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly" (source Wikipedia).

In sports, there are so many stories that could be told about dropped passes and muffs, and who doesn't enjoy watching sports bloopers or American's Funniest Videos?


People fall down and we laugh.


But dropped passes go beyond funny bloopers and falling down. We drop them personally, professionally, relationally, and spiritually. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t lived. Success involves risk and with risk comes moments of failure. If not dealt with, we will live our lives in regret. If we are going to live in success, we must learn to deal with our failings, which can haunt us for our entire lives.


I am amazed at how many people mess up every new day with the regrets of yesterday. This is one of the best weapons Satan uses to keeping us from our future potential. For most of us, he doesn't even need to work very hard.

Along with the thoughts from a previous blog, "The Unforgiving Minute," let me offer a two more suggestions for overcoming failure. The first one is the best - No matter what we do, Jesus is still our friend. Just like Jesus reinstating Peter along the sea after Peter denied knowing him, Jesus reaches out to us and restores us with mercy and grace.


If you haven't seen the movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," I highly recommend it. It is the story of an eight year old, Bruno, who is the son of an SS Commanding officer in charge of a prison camp. Bruno befriends another youth, strangely dressed in striped pajamas, named Shmuel who lives behind an electrified fence. One day Shmuel is brought to the house to clean the glasses of the officer's household. Bruno offers Shmuel some tasty treats. As Shmuel is devouring this gift, a soldier comes in and accuses him of stealing. When Shmuel says that he received the food from Bruno, his new friend, Bruno is afraid and denies ever seeing Shmuel before. It is a scene of fear and rejection.


For days, Bruno comes back to the prison fence to look for Shmuel, and one day he sees him again. This time Shmuel looks different. His face is swollen and his eye is back and blue from being beaten. Bruno repents and seeks friendship again. Slowly, Shmuel looks up and extends his hand through the fence and Bruno is forgiven.


It’s a picture of Jesus and us. Although we let him down and turn our backs to him through times of failure, he still extends his hand to us in order to restore the relationship.


Secondly, don’t let your failure determine your destiny. You have to keep the big picture in mind. Abraham Lincoln, Lucille Ball, and Michael Jordan are all success stories that first began with failure. For a great video on this, go to http://www.bluefishtv.com and search for “Famous Failures.” Or better yet, read the Bible, which is full of great leaders who failed and were used mightily by God.


In a recent fortune cookie I read, "He who never makes a mistake never did anything that's worthy." In that case, I have done many worthy things.


Other quotes on failure:


There are two kinds of failures: those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought. - Laurence J. Peter


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill


I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. - Thomas Alva Edison


So... Failing is inevitable in life. It’s what you do afterward that counts.


Enjoy the Journey,

Keith


_______

For other thoughts on failure, go to The Unforgiving Minute

For more quotes on failure, well, just use Google search :)


Monday, August 23, 2010

All Things Considered

Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (NLT).
This is one of the most favored passages in Christendom. It’s one of those verses that people can throw out the reference and we can quote it without effort; kind of like John 3:16, or Psalms 23, or Jeremiah 29:11. You need no compassion to use it – just reference it and you have done your Christian comforting for the day. We have used it so much that we have inoculated people against its deep meaning and purpose. It has become like so many other Christian clich├ęs, thrown in the face of those suffering. Misquoted, misused and misunderstood, this verse can bring more pain and confusion to the hurting and suffering rather than relief and solace. 
My first confrontation with this kind of cruelty inflicted on the hurting came from my own lips. It came as I was saying goodbye to the president of my Bible College after he was asked to step down. I had just completed my first year and I was now well equipped to minister to anyone at any time. When you are in Bible College, you know everything, or at least you think you do. As I walked up to the president, I offered my hand and quoted this powerful verse. He looked at me, shook my hand, completed the verse for me, smiled and offered his hand to the next person. It baffled me that he did not put his arms around me and say, “Wow, I never thought of that! This has changed my life. Thank you for that reminder! I’ll run right home and tell my wife and kids.” 
It’s easy to quote Romans 8:28 when you are the one offering it. But it is another when the bottom falls out and the trials of life seem to be swallowing us up so that we seem to lose control. Yes, we still believe in God, but we may begin to question whether He is really in control. We know he is in control over creation, but in suffering, we begin to think He might be limited and fallible.
Despite the misuse, overuse or abuse, this verse offers does offer us a new perspective on pain. Paul was not, and neither can we, use this verse to dismiss suffering, pain, or tragedy. In fact, the verse is placed in the context of suffering. The scriptures assure us that Jesus Himself was touched with the feelings of our infirmities. We may want to only talk about joy and happiness and wealth, but if we don’t deal with suffering, we will never be equipped to talk about peace. 
We may not be able to understand it all, but followers of Christ see things with different understanding than those without Christ. Followers of Christ, during difficult seasons, do not let it go by without turning to scripture. It becomes a lifeline for hope and peace. When life’s trials cause some to wonder if God even exists, and others to wonder whether He is in control, the Christian may be assured that God is there, and He is in charge of bringing about His purpose for His glory and our good. 
Our misunderstanding comes when we isolate each incident and judge it as being “good” or “bad”. 
When this happens, it creates a careless and cruel God, randomly doling out curses or blessings. God does not bring about all things, but he is working in all things. 
“All things” include the bitter and sweet.
“All things” includes those things that are painfully unpleasant. We may even think they are unbearable. 
“All things” includes even our past hurts, failures and mistakes. 
“All things” means there is nothing which falls outside of God’s control and which works contrary to our good. Not one thing falls outside of God’s control. 
It is a comfort for me to know that nothing is ever wasted in my life. God is working – right now. 
Putting all the pieces together. 
When you look back on your past, or even your present situation, rest assured that God did not bring those things on you, but can use those things to paint a beautiful masterpiece that tells his story in your life. You do not have to look upon past tragedies as crippling. You may not know every thing happened the way it did, but you can trust an all powerful and loving God to use for the benefit of His glory and purpose.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hallowed Ground

I spent some time on hallowed ground this past weekend at a men's retreat I was speaking at. It’s a place where God has and still is speaking to people. Sitting not a quarter of a mile from the Potomac River is this place called the Potomac District Camp and Retreat Center. It is one of the campgrounds owned by Assemblies of God churches.

Established seventy-five years ago, this campground was a place for churches to come together for “revival” services, youth, kids and family camps. As a young boy, my family and I traveled to this camp every summer. It was usually extremely hot in the summer and eastern humidity did not give you a break, unless you call violent thunderstorms a break. The air conditioning consisted of metal walls around the tabernacle, which were lifted up during services and closed when it rained. Small cabins with no bathrooms were the hotels for guests. The doors creaked loudly when you opened them and slammed behind you as they shut. You always knew when someone entered or exited their summer residence.

There was no pool at the time, no gym to work out in, no video game room - just one building with a ping-pong table for entertainment. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

It may not have been a premiere vacation spot, but there is one thing that drew hundreds of people there every year to this place: it was a place where people met with God.

People who did not have a relationship with God met Jesus there. Children, youth, and adults were filled with the Spirit of God and many were called to be in occupational ministry. Missionaries were called to other countries on that property as they spent time at an old wooden altar behind the tabernacle. If you needed prayer, encouragement, or a conversation about life, there were retired pastors and missionaries living there who would take you in their home, give you a glass of tea or lemonade, and make you feel like you were the most important part of their day (in many ways, you were).

As an adult, I became a pastor in West Virginia, which was only fifteen minutes from these hallowed grounds. Every year I would reserve one of the hotel rooms for a couple of days just to get away, pray and listen to God’s voice. I would walk the well-worn paths and ask God questions: “What are you doing in my life?” “What is your dream for your church?” “What areas of my life are you wanting to change?” It was during these occasions where God brought clarity and direction. On other occasions I would stop by and walk the grounds. Trust me, there was not much to look at, but there was a lot to listen to.

My daughter was healed on those grounds. It’s a long story, but she, like many others discovered that God hears and answers prayer.

Yes, those grounds hold a special place in my life. It’s a place of remembrance, a cornerstone of faith for me.

We should all have places where we look back and say, “God met me.”