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.
They played the oddest game in high school football history in the 2008-2009 season down in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on-by name.
"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville 's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"
I find myself having the same conversation with people almost every day. And I know I am not the only one. It’s the one that goes like this:
“Hey Tyler, how are you today?”
Without even skipping a beat, let alone stopping to think about how I am feeling in that very moment, I reply, “I am good. How are you?”
Now in this moment, am I truly concerned with how this person is doing? The answer is maybe or maybe not, usually depending on how I myself am actually feeling or how busy I am at the time. Sometimes, it comes down to how much I am truly invested in that person’s life. The same typically goes for the person on the other end as well.
The truth is this is something we feel we must do to be polite. We have to ask the other person how they are feeling, how are their families, how is their job, etc. The real question is… have we prepared ourselves for a bad answer?