Monday, October 28, 2013


Later this week, my oldest son and I will be traveling to North Carolina.  On the agenda for the trip is to see my nephew (who is a senior in high school) play football, watch him play in the state soccer play-offs, go to my 30th college reunion, catch up with some high school friends and spend time with my family.  Now that I look at this agenda, it looks busier than I like to be on vacation.  But I'm sure there will be relaxing time during the trip.

I have spent time reflecting on this trip and the opportunities awaiting and wanted to let that guide the focus of this post.  I thought about how exciting it will be to finally see my nephew play football.  I have seen pictures and watched video, but am looking forward to watching him play in person.  I thought about how fast he has grown up and is in his final year of high school.  It seems like just yesterday, we were strapping him into his car seat to go somewhere or watching him try to dribble a basketball which would bounce too high for him or going to Celebration Station to play arcade games or playing video games on the original Play Station.  Now, he has become a man and is going to be making life changing decisions.  Proverbs 22:6 reminds us to "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  As parents of young children, we can't wait until our kids are in high school to invest in their lives.  We only get one shot at raising our kids when they are young, so make the most of that opportunity.  Don't get sidetracked by hanging out with the boys or extra overtime at work or playing with your own toys.  The greatest opportunity we have to teach our children is when they are young.  We teach by example, by our words and by the time we spend with them.  One of the most difficult aspects of being in the ministry is that I have spent my adult years on the other side of the continent from my family.  so I have made a concerted effort to come back to spend time with my family.  Though I have missed a lot of moments in Allen's life, I pray that he will always know he is loved and cared for by his Uncle Ted.  I also am reminded to make sure I am making memories with my own sons because it won't be long before they are seniors in high school and heading off into the real world.

Going back to homecoming at Wingate is something I have looked forward to for a while.  The last time I was at homecoming was ten years ago for our 20th reunion of the class of 1983.  It was wonderful to see some faces I hadn't seen in a while and was  increased by the fact that Leah was pregnant with Thaddeus.  Now, Thaddeus will be making this trip with me.  I look back on the formative years I spent in college and thank God that He drew me to Wingate College (Now Wingate University).  I look back on the friends I made during that time and see how each one had an impact on my life.  Some were always there to encourage.  Others would often kid with me and make me feel welcomed.  There were late night runs to the Flame (The truck stop eatery which was the only place open that late).  There were soccer matches and practices with teammates who shared a common bond of trying to get the first victory in school history.  There were late time talks with friends about things that were going on in our lives.  There were trips to the Sonic riding in the back of my roommate brown truck.  There were classes, tests, and struggles.  There were trips with the debate team to various parts of the country.  There were memories which were made that have come flooding back in the past few weeks as I have thought about those days long ago.

I think back to how young I was in college and how the world lay before me.  The day of graduation, I hung out with my suite-mates and talked about where we were headed.  We have gone to Florida, North Carolina, Hawaii and one has even passed away.  I didn't know what God had in store for me after graduation and never thought He would lead me to Hawaii and California.  I look back and think I should have embraced those moments with friends a little bit more than I did.  Maybe I took for granted that we would often see each other.  Several of those Wingate friends are walking with the Lord, which thrills my heart.  I see their posts of Facebook and get e-mails from them.  I praise God for the way He has chosen to work in each one of our lives.  None of us would have expected the course we have taken.

And so, on Saturday, I will sit back and enjoy hearing the stories of these long-seen friends.  I will be amazed at how young they look and what god has done in their lives.  I'm sure they will give me a hard time and I will do the same to them.  We will embrace and who knows, maybe even shed a tear when we go our separate ways.  God is utilizing this week to teach me how to grasp the moment and hold onto it, trying to make it count.  I am not really a person who lives in the moment because my mind often focuses on what is happening next.  So maybe, just maybe, God can teach me to live a little better in the moment.

I look back over this Sip and realize I haven't actually said anything that would point you to Christ, but have rambled like an old guy looking back on his life.  So be it.  May you take some time today to look back on your life, see how God's hand has moved (Often in unseen ways) and allow you to appreciate the wonderful people He has put in your path.  Jesus tells us we have two path choices:  One is broad and everyone is on it.  The other is narrow and only a few find it.  May you be on the path which leads to salvation and purpose in life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just by Inches

This past weekend, the participants for this year's World Series were determined.  My interest isn't as strong this year since neither the Baltimore Orioles or the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series.  The good news is that neither the New York Yankees or the LA Dodgers made it to the World Series either.  However, it is a little sad for an Orioles fan to see the Red Sox back in the fall classic.  Of course, I used to be able to count on the Curse of the Bambino with the Red Sox but they finally won a World Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

Seeing the Red Sox brings to mind one pivotal picture.  It is from thirty eight years ago when the Red Sox  were playing the Cincinnati Reds for the World Series championship.  In the sixth game of the series, the score had been tied and the game went to extra innings.  Then, at 12:34 in the morning, Carlton Fisk came to bat at the bottom of the 12th. He cracked Pat Darcy’s pitch hard to the left. He stood at the plate, bouncing up and down and flailing at the ball as though he was helping an airplane land on a dark runway. "I was just wishing and hoping.   I like to think that if I didn’t wave, it would have gone foul." Whether or not the waving was responsible, the ball bounced off of the bright-yellow foul pole above the Green Monster for a home run. Fenway’s organist played the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah while Fisk rounded the bases.  A few inches farther and the ball would have been foul and the game would have continued.

Isn't it amazing how such a small number can make a big difference.  It's like when you are working on a project and someone shows up unexpectedly to give you a hand.  All of a sudden, a little help can make all the difference.  Yesterday, during church, we had problem with the plumbing at church.  Most everyone in the sanctuary were oblivious to what was going on, including the pastor.  But a few servants noticed the flooding and with a little help were able to get it under control and fix the problem.  These folks not only solved the problem, but cleaned the entire nursery (Several times) where the flooding had taken place.  just a few people made a huge difference that the rest of us never even noticed.  All we knew was we were not allowed to use the bathrooms at church.  As I sit at the church computer this morning, the entire nursery is clean and put back in order to minister again this coming Sunday morning.  Just a few people have made a huge difference.

You can make that kind of a difference today.  Think about someone you haven't seen at church in a while.  How about giving them a call or stopping by to visit them?  You never know what a huge impact your smiling face may have on someone.  It's just a matter of inches!  We get too busy with our own lives and miss out on these opportunities, so let this Sip remind you to touch a life today.  How many of us have been encouraged by someone who took the time to notice us or ask how we were doing?  Like our missionaries reminded us last week, be a four question person.  Take the time to ask four questions of someone and just listen.  You can change the world for one person.  Oh, you won't make the cover of Sports Illustrated, but you will cause the angels to celebrate.  Not a bad way to spend a day.  So go ahead and make that call, send that card or visit that person.  You'll be glad you did.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Meet the Grinder

"Maybe sometimes I'm such a thinker, I reevaluate too much. Sometimes when it comes down to it, I really don't need to do anything, I don't really need to change anything. I need to just keep plugging away, working at it." Michael Chang 


I ran across this quote last Friday and it really fits Michael Chang.  He was a professional tennis player, but he wasn't tall, wasn't strong and didn't have a booming serve.  He won points by having solid ground strokes and running down every ball that came across the net.  He is also a dedicated follower of Christ, which is even more reason to like him.

But I needed to hear that quote on Friday because my day was a grind.  There was very little joy to it and every thing seemed to go wrong or slow.  The day started by taking my truck to the shop only to find out it had blown a head gasket.  They would have to keep it in the shop and it would cost around $1,000, which I don't have lying around.  I thought they were just going to have to change the water pump, but that hope died when I saw the mix of oil and water.  I had put my bike in the back of the truck, so I peddled to back to work.  At work, instead of being able to focus on what I needed, I had to divert energy for another project.  I will put this as nicely as possible:  This project was a project I was asked to do and involved other churches.  Several of those churches had not done what they were supposed to do and others were changing at the last minute.  So most of my work day was spent on this project which should have taken only thirty minutes had churches done what they said they would do.  Finally, I was ready to go home, which meant another bike ride.  The peddle home is usually much more enjoyable because there are more hills to go down than up and the uphills are very slow grades.  I notice that the air in my tires are low, which will slow me down.  Then as I get on the bike, I begin to ride into a stiff head wind, which was in my face the entire trip back.  It was just a grind.  There was no fun to it.  Just grinding away to get it done.  There were other things that happened during that Friday which added to the grind, but you get my drift.

Have you ever had days that were just a grind.  You kept going because you needed to keep going, not because you were having fun?  Had all things been equal, you would have quit.  But you kept going for whatever reason.  When the day finally ended, you were exhausted and ready to go to bed know that whatever happened tomorrow would not compare to what happened to today.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but often our walk with Christ is a grind.  Following Jesus seems to add to our responsibility or the demand for excellence.  We bought into the notion that if we gave our lives to Jesus, everything would be much better and easier.  We didn't know that He would bring difficulties into our lives or convict us of sin so we could be more like Jesus.  These troubles usually come in sets and appear to be waiting for just the right moment to pounce on us.  All of a sudden, everything seems to be hindering our faith or pulling us away from Jesus.  Life becomes a grind.  Making the time in the morning to be alone with God...a grind.  Keeping focused on prayer throughout the day...a grind.  Living a life of integrity...a grind.  Giving to others who only want to take...a grind.  Even spending time with our family...a grind.


Don't feel bad if you are in the grind, because that appears to be the model for our faith.  Think about Abraham, leaving his family and going on a journey so a land that God had not pinpointed for him...a grind.  Dealing with his wayward nephew, Lot...a grind.  Receiving a promise from God but not having a child to inherit the promise...a grind.  How about Moses?  Forty years on the back side of the desert tending sheep..a grind.  Facing Pharaoh ten times in a row...a grind.  Leading the Hebrews in the wilderness for forty years...a grind.  Then he didn't even get to enter the Promised Land.  The prophets sharing God's message with God's people who didn't want to hear it...a grind.  Jesus spending three years training twelve guys who just didn't get it...a grind.  Jesus going to the cross even though He had done nothing wrong..a grind.  The Apostles trying to teach the church while having to go to prison...a grind.  Paul going all over the world telling others about Jesus and being beaten, stoned, hated and rejected...a grind.


I have come to the conclusion that God loves grinders.  He rarely calls the incredibly talented and gifted because it is too easy to them to rely on themselves.  He calls those who are grinders.  The ones who will keep going even when there is difficulty and opposition.  He wants men and women who are in it for the long haul.  He wants those who are going to keep plugging along, even though they are discouraged or frustrated or confused by what is happening.  He wants grinders.  Read the Bible through the lens of a grinder and you will see how God always calls the grinders, rarely the flash in the pan kind of guys.  Folks with all the skill and talent often end up like Samson or King Saul.  Folks who have little talent but a heart for the Lord end up impacting eternity like King David or Zaccheus.  Think about the men Jesus called as His first disciples.  The only one with any natural talent was Judas and look what happened to him.  His first four Apostles were fishermen - Men who knew what it was like to fish all day, catch nothing and then get up the next morning to do it again.  Grinders.  The greatest complement paid to the Apostles is in Acts 4:13,' When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."  The people were amazed by these grinders and the only common thread was that they had been with Jesus.


Please understand, our culture favors the sprinters rather than the grinders.  We worship celebrities who have done little more than sing, dance, act, hit or throw a ball.  If I were to ask you who is the best quarterback in the NFL today, most people in American would mention Peyton Manning, Drew Bress or Tom Brady.  It would be easy to have that conversation.  BUT if I were to ask, who is the best offensive lineman in the NFL, only the dedicated fans would be able to have a conversation and knowledge of that position.  But without good offensive linemen, the greatest quarterback is only a tackling dummy for the defense.  How about this:  Who won the 100 meters dash in the last Olympics?  Most people would know it was Usain Bolt.  But if I asked who won the marathon, very few people would be able to name Stephen Kiprotic.  I had to look up the winner because I had no idea.  We value the sprinters, not the marathoners.  We value the flash and dash, not the diligent and hard worker.  One of the reasons America is in such difficult financial straits is because Congress authorized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make loans to people who would never be able to pay those loans back.  Many people bought homes they could not afford.  Rather than buying a small home, gaining equity then buying a larger home, young couples decided to buy the home they would like twenty years down the line.  Our country has a $17 trillion deficit because people want the government to take care of their needs and willingly take the "freebies" being offered.  So don't follow the leading of culture.  If you do, your marriage will end in divorce, your kids will be estranged from you and you will float from job to job.

Being a grinder doesn't always insure a "happy" ending.  My truck is still in the shop and will still take $1,000 to be repaired.  That's going to set up back financially a little bit.  I still had to ride my bike to work today, going up two major hills.  I am still trying to get those churches to step up and do what they said they would do.  I'm having to bum rides off people because we only have one vehicle.  I have other work that needs to get done and need to have a 20 hour work day to get it all done.  So I'm still grinding.  Don't buy into the lie that if you grind for a little while, everything will work out perfectly.  You may be grinding for a looooong time!

God is looking for grinders because, in the end, the grinders impact eternity.  The sprinters come and go, but the grinders can be counted on to stand firm when others fall.  So if you are grinding today, let me encourage you to keep grinding.  In the end, it will always be worth it.