Keep Pressing Heavenward to Win the Prize

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”—Philippians 3:14(NIV).

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Today, I’m pressing on. It’s Friday morning. I’m in my usual spot facing my computer screen. I’ve prayed, “God, please give me the words to reach the people You want me to reach.”

When I began this journey, I had no idea I’d still be writing a weekly column almost 12 years later. I don’t share this out of pride but out of humility. While I’ve always loved writing and reading, my post-retirement plans from a 30-year teaching career didn’t include a weekly Christian column. But God had a better plan.

Recently, I was visiting with a fellow classmate. We both graduated from a rural Oklahoma high school in 1971. Like me, Duane doesn’t see retirement as a time to sit and rust.

When I speak to groups, I always share with them something I learned from a man who is still going strong in his 90s. When I first met Jack, he was in his late 70s. Because of my relocation to a new community, I was attending a different church and was changing my membership.

What Can Unity Accomplish?

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”—Psalm 133:1(NIV).

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These people are not drowning today!” This thought entered Jessica Simmons’ mind when she watched as six members of a single family struggled after a powerful riptide had swept them away at a Panama City Beach.

Others had tried to reach the family in trouble, but each previous rescue attempt left more people stranded. A lifeguard was not on duty. A rescue boat had not yet arrived. People began to use boogie boards, surf boards and their arms and legs to attempt a rescue.

When someone shouted, “Form a human chain,” five people volunteered, followed by 10 more. Then dozens more joined as the rescue mission grew increasingly desperate. Simmons and her husband, Derek, swam past the 80 or so human link and headed for the stranded swimmers. The couple managed to reach the children first, passing them via the human chain toward the beach.

Nearly an hour later, through the efforts of the growing human chain, linked together with wrists, legs and arms, the last of the 10 stranded swimmers were rescued. One of the adults rescued said, “It actually showed me there are good people in this world.”

Whether all of the rescuers that day were believers or not, their selfless act should be an example to everyone. Through their unified actions, 10 people are still alive.

Making Each Season Count

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens...Ecclesiastes 3:3 (NIV).

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 My two oldest grandchildren, now 12 and 13, spent several days with me recently. Cheyenne is now taller than I am by almost two inches. Her brother, Brennan, is also catching up with my five foot plus three inches. I’m not getting any taller, but they are.

It’s sometimes difficult to fathom how fast the years have gone. It seems just like yesterday that I was changing their diapers. While I miss those years, I’m enjoying this new season in life. Watching God at work in them and through them is a delight to this praying “Nana.”

A friend’s essay in a Christian writer’s newsletter made me think about our time here on earth. Martha, who turned 60 recently, wrote, “Am I really that old?”

Then, she questioned herself. “What do I have to show for sixty years of living? What impact have I made on my world? Do I even have a legacy to leave? If I die tomorrow, what would be put on my gravestone?”

Like me, Martha may have another 30 years to live or we may die tomorrow. Neither of us cares about making a name for ourselves, but we want our children and grandchildren to know what it means to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the peace only God can give.

As Christian writers, we know the best way to leave a legacy is through our writing. Encouraging other writers in our group, she wrote, “I believe my heart, and yours too, is in the right place. But if we never get what’s in our heart on paper or on the computer screen for our loved ones and the rest of the world to read, our gift will never see fruition.

Baseball, Blackberries and Bless to Me Moments

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be in my mouth”—Psalm 34:1 (CEB).

Carol Round

It was a game “where the real action took place off the field.”

This subtitle appeared above an article titled “Take Me Out to The Blackberry Patch” in a recent edition of Reader’s Digest. The article was written by Ernie Johnson, Jr., sportscaster and host of NBC’s “Inside the NBA.”

In the article, Johnson recalls a little league game of eight-year-olds when the baseball score was tied. During a time-out, so the coach of Johnson’s team could discuss strategy, they noticed two of their outfielders had disappeared into the brush to retrieve a fastball.

During the search, the two missing players discovered a blackberry patch, delaying the game as they feasted on the “mother lode of ripe and apparently delicious blackberries,” he says.

Johnson doesn’t recall the outcome of the game, but the incident struck a chord for his father, a major league pitcher in the 1950s. From then on, says Johnson, “it simply became ‘the blackberry moment.’”

When his father transitioned from the playing field to a sports broadcaster, he became a popular speaker at events.  While his dad shared stories about the notable stars he had played beside during his career, he always ended his speech with “the blackberry moment.”

The story, writes Johnson, “has become, in many ways, central to my perspective on work, relaxation—shoot life. It’s a kind a parable about not being afraid to step away from the game (translated: the job, the meeting, the list of e-mails, the seemingly pressing matter at hand) to appreciate the unexpected, unscripted moments.”

Are You Controlling Your Attitude?

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”—Psalm 118:24 (ESV).

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When I saw the following post on a friend’s Facebook page, I had to share it with my readers:

A famous writer was in his study and compiled the following list:

  1. Last year, my gallbladder was removed. I was in bed for a long time.
  2. The same year I reached the age of 60 and had to leave my favorite job. I spent 30 years with this publishing company.
  3. The same year my father died.
  4. The same year my son failed his medical exam because he had a car accident. He was hospitalized with a cast on his leg for several days. The destruction of the car was a second loss.

His concluding statement: “Alas! It was a bad year!”

When the writer’s wife entered the room, she found her husband looking dejected and sad. She read what he had written, left the room, and came back with another piece of paper. The husband read her version of his account of the year’s events:

  1. Last year I finally got rid of my gallbladder which had given me many years of pain.
  2. I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write with more focus and peace.
  3. The same year my father died at the age of 95 without depending on anyone, without any critical conditions, and met his Creator.
  4. The same year, God blessed my son with life. My car was destroyed, but my son was alive and without permanent disability.

She concluded: This year was an immense blessing.

Do You Know What Tomorrow Will Bring?

“How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone”— James 4:14 (TLB).

I have all the time in the world.” After reading this quote from a 25-year-old, who had just won a six-figure payout in a tournament competition, I wanted to tell him, “No, you don’t.”

His comment was in response to a reporter’s question about the young man’s plans for the prize money he had won. He planned to save it, for now, according to the newspaper article, but was considering a vacation with a college friend.

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While some of us may live 100-plus years, others are taken away much too soon. As I write this, my heart is sick for the loss of an elderly neighbor and friend. In his late 80s, Dave was killed in a car accident on May 30. His wife, Josie, had to undergo surgery for a broken leg and is still in critical condition.

My last glimpse of them had been that morning when they drove by my house. They waved and Dave honked as I was standing in my front yard visiting with other neighbors. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would ever see him—at least on earth.

This couple has experienced their own share of loss. Before they met and married, each had lost spouses at an early age. Dave had also lost a daughter to cancer. He once said to me, “You’re not supposed to outlive your children.”

Are You Doing Life God’s Way?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”— Hebrews 11:1 (CEB).

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The lyrics to an old Frank Sinatra tune come back to haunt me sometimes. Part of the song goes, “I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway and more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Why do these words resonate with me? Before Jesus got ahold of me, I tried to chart my own course. I tried to do things my way. Looking back, I can see my way wasn’t always the best. I didn’t consult the Maker of the Universe before making a decision, especially those affecting not only me, but others as well.

 

Even though God gives us free will, I want to do life His way.

 

My confidence was in my own ability to get things done. My faith and hope and assurance rested solely on what I could perceive with my own eyes. I resisted change unless I was in control.

In 2001, a life-changing experience opened my eyes.  I began seeking God. As I have grown to trust Him more, my confidence now lies solely in Him. Do I still I have doubts sometimes? Yes. Do I still question God? Yes.