Not Perfect, But Plodding

Yeah, I’m sure you might look at me and say that I have a long way to go to reach my ideals.  I may not always match up to everyone else’s standards of what they wish I was.  And I know for a fact that my everyday life has not quite attained the perfect status which God has already attributed to me through Jesus Christ.

But you can count on this… I’m still working at getting better.  I’ve got room to grow in every area of my life, and sometimes I may only be taking baby steps.  But they’re baby steps in the right direction.

So what if you’re not perfect yet either?  Are you headed in the right direction?  I’d rather see you do like Apple when they come out with a product that is headed in the right direction but still has some tweaking to be done on it. Keep upgrading your life.  Keep loving people… and working hard… and making the most of times with friends and family.

If every day we will make a little improvement, at the end of our lives we will be able to look back and see how far we’ve really come.

Have a great weekend!

Hope

Over the past couple of mornings, the temperature has been about ten degrees cooler than the dog days of summer have been recently.   

And while we were outside this morning with the boys, we saw two or three leaves fall from trees to the ground.

Then… and this has me as excited or more than PR31 gets about Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel… the first pre-season game of the 2017 NFL season kicked off tonight with the Hall of Fame game.

These are the initial signs that Fall is coming.  For those of us who live in the Deep South, it’s been hot for at least four months, and it still has at least three months to go before we experience truly cooler temperatures.  But now we have hope.

Hope is what helps us believe.  Hope is what helps us hang on.  Hope is what keeps us from giving up when we feel overwhelmed or weary.

When you’re drowning in life, even the smallest life preserver gives you hope.  So look for hope tonight.  Look for anything that will help you hang on a little longer.

If you’re weary, know this… you’re gonna make it!  Don’t give up.

Necessary

It was taco night at the Chapin house.  I was about five years old, and looking forward to a yummy supper.  Apparently, I was a little too eager for the meal because part way through my taco, I swallowed a bite that I had not chewed well enough.

Suddenly, the air which normally flowed into and out of my lungs abruptly stopped. A piece of taco shell had lodged in my throat, and I couldn’t breathe.  I must have looked panicked because Mom and Dad both noticed.

Mom tried to stick her finger in my mouth far enough to reach and dislodge the stuck piece of taco shell, but to no success.  They raised my arms.  They beat on my back.  But nothing was working, and my face was beginning to turn blue.  I think all of us were probably crying and fearful by this point.

My Dad turned to my oldest sister Cathy and asked her if she had been taking a first aid/CPR classes in high school.  She had been.  He asked if she had learned that maneuver where you squeeze someone and help free them from choking.  Cathy acknowledged that she had learned it, but wasn’t sure she knew well enough how to do it without hurting me.  Dad told her that she had to try because it might be my only hope.

My face was more like purple by the time Cathy stood behind me, wrapped her arms around my torso, clasped one hand around the other and suddenly thrust that fist into my diaphragm.  I grunted, but nothing came out.  She tried again.  Nothing. Mom was crying.  Dad was yelling to try again.  Cathy was scared, but she gave one more big thrust.

With that thrust, the air inside me blasted the triangle-shaped piece of taco shell up out of my throat, through my mouth, past my lips and hurled it across the room several feet.  I sucked in precious, life-giving air, and the the rest of the family drank in sweet relief.

There were lots of hugs that night.  And Mom and Dad were so proud of Cathy… so happy that she had been taking that class at that very moment in our family’s history.

I don’t know if Cathy enjoyed that class or not, but none of us cared that night because it paid off.  Her willingness to take on the challenge of that class ended up providing her with the very knowledge and skill I needed her to have in order to save my life.

In much the same way, God will often allow us each to go through some challenging situations in life in order to give us the ability we need to help someone else.  Our difficulty can be necessary for a moment down the road when we will be needed.

Your serious health issue may give you the ability to show someone else how to appreciate the life and health they have.  Your financial challenges may help you show someone else how to live on a budget.  Your broken relationship may help you show someone else how to love more.

So if you’re going through a challenging or difficult situation right now in life, respect it… don’t reject it.  It may prove to give you exactly what you need to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Try Again

I was about five years old, and it was summer in Minnesota.  Brother Hahn was a loving, retired minister who attended the church my parents pastored at the time. And that summer he invited us to go fishing with him at the lake where they had a lake house.  Dad agreed, and we went fishing.

Brother Hahn had grandkids.  So that meant he also had gear for kids to go fishing.  He had one of those orange, U-shaped life vests.  And he had one of those short, two-foot kids’ fishing rod and reel combos.  I was in hog heaven sitting in the middle of that boat between my Dad and Brother Hahn.  We were catching bluegills, having ourselves the time we had dreamed of when the invitation was extended to us.

That is, till it happened.  I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I just remember that it did.  With my hands, and therefore most of the rod and reel over the edge of the boat, I lost my grip on Brother Hahn’s rod and reel which he had for his grandkids to use.

I experienced something of which it might be my first memory… forgiveness.  Bro. Hahn was probably disappointed, maybe even frustrated, but he never showed it.  He told me everything would be alright, and that I shouldn’t worry about it.  We enjoyed the rest of the trip, but it seemed slightly tainted with my mistake… at least in my mind.

A number of months later, Brother Hahn came up to us at church and invited us to go fishing with him again.  I was surprised that he would want the kid who lost his grandkids’ fishing rod to go fishing with him again.  But Dad agreed, and we went to the lake again.

And then I experienced something else, possibly for the first time… grace.  When we arrived at the boat, Brother Hahn said something along the lines of, “Here, Allen, you use this one.”  To my amazement, he held in his extended hand the very rod and reel I had lost while fishing on the previous trip.  He had fished in that spot long after our first trip… hooked something… reeled it in… only to discover he had caught the rod and reel I accidentally dropped overboard.  It was dirty, and so he had meticulously cleaned it up, oiled it, put new line on it… and purposely invited me to fish with it again.  Grace.

I was scared to use that rod and reel.  I was also extra careful to hold tightly to it.  When extended that rod… and thereby grace… to me, I was determined not to make the same mistake.

What shocked me, though, was that he was willing to let me try again.  I was just a little kid.  I could have dropped it overboard again.  But he didn’t seemed to be phased by that at all.  He believed in me.  And he believed in second chances.

Let me just say… Brother Hahn was so much like God.  God is not afraid to give us second chances.  We make mistakes.  We goof up.  We even sometimes just flat out choose to do wrong.  But in His love and grace, He simply catches what we dropped overboard, cleans it up, hands it back to us, and says, “Here, try again.”

So no matter what you’ve done… no matter how bad you think it is… no matter how little right you have to be invited again, accept the invitation. Try again.  And this time hold it a little more carefully.  This time, honor the extended grace by using what has been lent to you to bring great joy to the One who gives it to you.  Try again!

A Line In The Sand

I may have been born in Florida and spent some years in Minnesota, but a good portion of my childhood, all my teens, and half my twenties were spent in Texas.  The old bumper sticker reads, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got there as quickly as I could.”

Texans are a proud bunch, and rightly so. The Republic of Texas has a captivating history. Every student in every school across the state has Texas’ history drilled into them till it almost becomes part of who they are.  Truth be told, there are some powerful lessons to be learned from its rich history.

For example, the rag-tag Texas army was holed-up in the Spanish mission in San Antonio commonly referred to now as “The Alamo.”  Mexican general Santa Anna and approximately 5,000 troops surrounded them. The Texan leadership had sent a request to General Sam Houston for reinforcements, but none were able to come.

When Colonel William Barrett Travis realized this, he made a decision in his own mind that this is where he would make his final stand.  Travis did not feel right about making the others stay and fight to the death, so he made it optional.  He gathered the entire group, gave a speech about their impending peril and the role they could play in giving time for the rest of the Texan army to prepare to win, then drew his sword, laid its tip on the sandy ground and dragged it several feet, leaving a line in its wake. He told the soldiers that they could leave now and no one would think any less of them, but if they chose to stay, there would be no looking back. Only one man and some of the women and children left that night.  The rest stepped across the line and so sealed their fate… and their place in history.

The miniature Texan force was ultimately overwhelmed 13 days later by General Santa Anna’s juggernaut.  But they delayed his progress long enough to make victory for the rest of the Texans possible shortly thereafter… in the town where I grew up.  Their battle, though it appeared to be a loss, set up a victory.

I believe that any person who is going to do something significant in life faces “line in the sand” moments… those moments when they make a choice to go forward and not look back.  They choose to get married… till death do us part.  They choose to be parents… for the rest of their lives.  They choose one major in college or one job instead of others… and lock themselves into a career path over the next forty to fifty years.  They choose to follow Jesus… and eternity redirects their journey from that day forward.

The Apostle Paul had such an experience with Jesus.  The road just outside Damascus was his line in the sand.  Later, in his letter to his friends in the church at Philippi, Paul says that he doesn’t have everything figured out but he has done one thing… focused on forgetting the past and looking forward to the future.  In other words, he has stepped across the line in the sand. He has defined what it means to follow Jesus, and he is inviting others to join him.

If you and I are going to do something of significance in this life, we will face these “line in the sand” moments.  Let’s choose to step across those lines into greatness!  Let’s not look back!  Like Colonel William Barrett Travis and the Apostle Paul… let’s forge into the unknown with only a knowing that what may come may be challenging, but it will also be worthwhile… and we will never be forgotten for our commitment!

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