I was part of a dozen or so gathered in the second floor TV room of the men’s dormitory at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, that summer of 1969. We watched the slightly fuzzy images of the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander Module in total silence. This was not just an historic occasion in the making; it was also filled with intense danger. Would they crash-land? Would they sink into a heavy moon dust? Could a man really walk around on the moon in a space suit? Would they be able to lift back off the moon, dock with the capsule and return to Earth safely? Would President Kennedy’s dream for the decade be fulfilled? Then we heard the words, “The Eagle has landed.”
With Neil Armstrong’s death this past week our world lost a true hero. In a world of self-promotion and the monetization of fame, Neil Armstrong ignored the temptations and lived true to himself. Interviews and public appearances were rare. He lived humbly and well, embracing his love of physics and teaching. There is a debate about what Neil Armstrong said. He claims he said, “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” We all heard it differently. I bet Armstrong’s version is true.
The dream of going into outer space and the endless possibilities for people to achieve impossible dreams have been with me since the days of Buck Rogers, Captain Midnight and all things Star Trek. The Bible is filled with the glory of the heavens above, starting on the first page. Apparently since the beginning, people have been enthralled with the night sky and dreaming about what it would be like on the moon or to see a star close up. I am probably not going for a walk on the moon like Neil Armstrong. But that does not prevent me from celebrating the Creator of the universe, imagining a better future, and reaching for impossible goals and dreams. I believe we are created to explore and discover. Today a vehicle named “Curiosity” is exploring the Red Planet. I wonder who will be first to step on Mars.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep looking up. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I have come across a number of articles lately under the general theme of “How to be Happy.” One was in the negative talking about guaranteed ways that will make you unhappy. Another writer’s suggestions for a happy day included getting up really early, eating healthy and vigorous exercise. While they may be helpful to some, none of those three make my list. I’ve decided to call my list “How to Lighten Up.”
Decide to have a happy day. While not all days will be happy, choosing to be happy will make that day go better. Nothing can make you happy, unless to decide to be. People, possessions and even power will not make you happy. It is your decision how you will relate to others. “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Experience today more fully. Take a fifteen minute news break. Name five blessings that make you smile and quit complaining for a while. Turn down the volume in your head and open your eyes to the world around. Pray without asking. Give thanks with a grateful heart. Hide God’s Word in your heart.
Forgive and let it go. Grinding grudges wear us down. Endlessly replaying our hurts and betrayals chain us to the past where there are no do-overs. New beginnings only start in the present. Forgive as Christ forgives you. But if you are still worried about an injustice, leave it to God to make it right. Trust the Lord.
Share burdens with others. Hug someone. Listen to someone else’s story. Be courteous and helpful. It is not always about you. Help someone carry their burdens and you will discover how yours lighten.
Experience daily Divine encounters. Be observant. Watch for places where God is at work in the ordinary. Notice the people who cross your path. Talk with them of the Good News of Christ’s love and grace. Draw closer to God
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be happy. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I had a bicycle stolen when I was in junior high school, but it was found a few days later. Last month someone slipped into the church unobserved and stole my briefcase along with a case containing my prescription sunglasses. They probably thought they were getting a laptop computer, and it was bright outside. I had just entered the building, trying to go in opposite directions, so I set the briefcase down at the back of the sanctuary. When I came back about 5-10 minutes later it was gone. I’ve used that bag for many years. It serves as my carry-on bag at the airport so it contained all the little things a person needs, just in case. Everything from pens, highlighters and toiletries to sewing and glasses repair kits. It also contained my Kindle e-book reader and my brand new, just out of the box not 24 hours, iPad 3. I won the iPad in a drawing from Associated Baptist Press. The police said there was little hope in finding it. Technology has a way of tracking these kinds of electronic devices, but my iPad has never phoned home.
The verse from Job soon came to mind: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. . .” (Job 1:21) I had bonded with my Kindle, but I had not had the iPad long enough to hardly figure it out. What I found I missed most of all was my journal. I found myself grieving over the loss of my book of lists, ideas, sermon seeds, outlines, projects and notes about some of my imaginary friends from Tepid Springs Baptist Church. (That is my fictional community of life and loss.) So, my special order notebook with six and a half months of scribbling had been taken from me. Then the shooting in Aurora, Colorado took place. Then great fires swept through Oklahoma burning thousands of acres and hundreds of homes and businesses. Perspective matters. In this world I am learning to say “. . . blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Hold things loosely. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Never underestimate the power of a childhood vow. I am thinking about this as I reflect on stories so many have told me in the midst of their own journeys, as I watch personal stories of many of the Olympic athletes, and as I listen to our children at Vacation Bible School. A vow is a solemn oath. It has the power to become a prayer, a resolve or a determined dream. It can become a spiritual commitment to the future.
Children are more aware than many people think. Attitudes like, “They’re too young,” “They’re just going through a phase,” or “They really don’t understand what they are doing,” keep us from hearing the seriousness of the childhood vow. The faith of a child changes their future forever. But not all childhood vows are for the good. Some vows, like vows of anger and revenge, can misshape a life, or twist it into knots.
I have listened as people shared with me their childhood vows: “I will never drink/do drugs because Daddy/Mommy is such a mean alcoholic/drug addict.” “I was beaten so badly as a child I vowed never to even spank my kids.” “I saw the Olympics on television when I was five and said, ‘I want to do that.’ Now I have a gold medal.” “When I was nine I prayed to Jesus. I said I would always do what the Bible says.” These are the treasures of life. Not every child keeps their vows, but do not underestimate a child “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” What vows have you made in your life? Do they shape you, or misshape you?
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Honor your vows to God. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
For Olympian Michael Phelps the difference between a gold or a silver medal was five-hundredths of one second. He coasted to the finish instead of giving it one more kick. He said it was a habit he had picked up during training. He practiced thousands of laps across the swimming pool, perfecting all of the different strokes, and then he started gliding in at the finish. Practice makes perfect, unless you do not practice perfectly.
Three things are required of Olympic athletes: a strong body, a passionate heart and a focused mind. Every athlete at London 2012 is the best in their field and the best in their country. How many years of body and muscle training does it take for an athlete to make the team? How much passion, patience and determination does it take to overcome the obstacles? How much focus, faith and shear joy is needed to win the gold? We spectators watch for those moments when it all comes together—the muscle memory, the love of the sport, and the focus on faces of the very best doing their very best. I suspect, though, that the hardest part of being an Olympian is overcoming the Olympics.
When you have been to the Olympics and fallen short of the prize, the desire must be very strong to try again, or, spend the rest of your life reliving the mistakes. When you have been to the Olympics and won the prize, the desire must be very strong to do it one more time, or, spend the rest of your life reliving the glory days. What inspire us most are the stories of those who overcome the hardest challenges of body, heart and mind to reach for the prize. Three things are asked of all believers: count the cost, run the race and overcome the world.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be an overcomer. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.