Well, it’s that time of the year again… the end. 2018 has come and gone and 2019 is just a few hours away, and let me just say, it’s been a banner year (insert adequate amount of sarcasm). Justin Timberlake released an album that no one listened to, a British prince married the girl from “Suits”, and Saudi Arabia gave women the right to drive, which they continue to refer to as “progress”. However, even after all of that, some people had a pretty rough year.
It's kind of become common place on social media to declare that the coming year will be better than the previous. I first remember seeing this trend as we approached the end of 2015. But when the much anticipated “Batman vs. Superman” film was less than stellar, topped with the deaths of David Bowie, Carrie Fischer and a number of other beloved celebrities, people looked to 2017. Then when 2017 didn’t fare much better, it was all about 2018, and now, not so surprisingly, people are all too ready to welcome 2019.
Maybe you’re one of the people who are looking to rip off your 2018 rearview mirror and drive on into 2019 with some hope of self-improvement. If that’s you, then keep reading, and if that’s not you, then keep reading.
History is full of great quotes, with even greater stories to go along with them. One such quote I ran across this week was the story of Union General John Sedgwick. During the Battle of Spotsylvania (I know, that sounds made up, but it is a very real place). General Sedgwick was quoted as saying, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance” in reference to confederate soldiers that were roughly 800 yards away.
This quote by itself is fairly lackluster, I understand that. However, what makes this noteworthy is the fact that it was almost immediately followed by General Sedgwick getting shot in the face by the aforementioned confederate soldiers.
In January of 1997 a fire broke out in our home. Burned it to the ground. We lost everything, save the night-clothes we were wearing.
We moved out to a farmhouse some church members provided. It came completely equipped with everything we needed for that temporary time.
Since the house that burned was the parsonage, our church, very generously, reworked my salary package, enabling us to buy or build a home. Pam worked hard with some builders in our church to create the home she wanted.
We lived in the farmhouse for most of 1997, moving into our new home in early to mid-December. Though excited, we were exhausted. Then, . . came Christmas. Seriously, we thought, now?
Remember last month when everybody was all obsessed with the Mega Millions lottery because it was up to an insanely high amount? And then, someone else won and they each got millions and millions of dollars?
I don’t play the lottery. But when the buzz hits like it did last month, with the jackpot ridiculously high, it’s hard not to be caught up in all the excitement, because, “hey, SOMEbody’s gotta win, right?”
(Don’t tell Dave Ramsey I said that.)
And of course, when you think about the lottery, you inevitably drift away into the imaginary “what-if-I-actually-won” world and start spending those millions in your mind.
The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright used to tell a story about a time when he was 9, where he and his very reserved, no-nonsense uncle were walking across a snow-covered field. When they had both reach the far end of the field, his uncle turned him around and told him to look back at their tracks. His uncle’s tracks were a straight, perfect line directly from their starting point to where they stood. Young Frank’s tracks were wild, meandering all over the field.
"Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that."
Frank would go on to say that he indeed did learn a lesson that day that would stick with him the rest of his life.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit a church while I was on vacation. The service was different, but not unusual except for one thing. About halfway through the pastor’s sermon, an amber alert started being sent out to everyone’s cell phone. Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure of receiving an amber alert, let me fill you in: You receive a message, that usually appears much like a text, giving information such as the name of the missing child, where they we last seen, and a description of the vehicle they might be in. However, instead of using your text ringtone, you are startled with a frightening noise I can only describe as being similar to the “most annoying sound in the world” Lloyd makes in “Dumb and Dumber” (look it up, it’s a great scene). It’s the most startling, unnerving, and haunting sound you’ve ever heard, and EVERYONE got the alert, all at different times, ALL at full volume. No joke, this went on for about thirty minutes.
Over this past year, one of my favorite digital Christian periodicals is, “The Christian Post.” Full of up-to-date news articles that affect Christianity and the Church, I have found the articles to be informative and solidly written. I, however, almost wish I had not read the post written on Tuesday, October 16 of this year. For in it, capturing the lead story was this headline:
Thanksgiving Morning of 2016 I almost died…
Okay, so I didn’t almost die. I didn’t even get hurt. But I was a few seconds shy of being in a car wreck that could have cost me my life.
That morning, I had to run up to the restaurant, at which I was a manager, to give out the last catering dinner for a family who had ordered it but could not pick it up until that morning. Driving home, I was listening to music, just cruising and thinking about the day that was ahead of me. Breakfast was cooking at the house, lunch and dinner were planned at my family’s house and it was going to be a good day. As I got close to the house, I approached a green light. I was about to pass through the intersection when a car came speeding through his red light, bounced past the intersection, lost control and ended up flipping several times before coming to a stop in a drainage ditch, turned over on its side. As I slammed on my breaks and whipped into the nearest parking lot, my heart was pounding. Was this guy okay? Was there anyone else in the car? What was going on that caused him to speed, run a red light, and end up flipped on his side in a ditch?
“I remain in the faith because I have tried all else and know without doubt it is real. I remain sick because I believe in a God that can, but will not. I remain tired because I believe in a God that can speak, but will not.”
This was a quote from message sent to me a few years ago from a man desiring to vent and coveting my prayers.
This is an issue much more common than you may realize. To have unwavering belief in God, but to feel completely removed from His presence. No answers to prayer, no guidance, no open doors, no healing, no happiness.
And yes, it can be frustrating. No, beyond that, it can be torturous. On the one hand, we KNOW God is capable of all things. How easy it should be for him to speak and change our lives for the better! But on the other hand, we know SO LITTLE about God, about His plans for our lives, about what He will do in the future with our present and past.
And so, a season arrives when we feel like God has abandoned us.
What are we to do when we feel this way? What are we to say to others who feel this way?
If you are a Cleveland Indians fan, your fondest memory is probably watching Jake Taylor bunt, allowing Willie Mays Hayes to score the winning run of the World Series. An event only overshadowed by the fact that that was the ending to the 1989 blockbuster “Major League.”
The other, and more real, major event, being the time that a player crawled through a ceiling to retrieve a bat.
The story goes that during the second game of a four game series against the Chicago White Sox, White Sox manager Gene Lamont was tipped off that Indians’ batter Albert Belle was using a corked baseball bat. Under the rules of Major League Baseball, a manager may challenge one opponent's bat per game. Lamont challenged Belle's bat with umpire Dave Phillips, who confiscated the bat and locked it in the umpires' dressing room to be analyzed after the game.
Indians’ manager Mike Hargrove, knowing that the bat was most likely corked, was quite worried. But relief pitcher Jason Grimsley knew exactly what to do, and it wasn’t to sit tight and let things play out.