The Rainbow

For anyone that has followed my writing very long, you will know that I don’t post things maybe as often as I should. This whole process started as an exercise to express emotions, opinions and personal concerns that I need to let out. Sometimes thoughts that scour my brain are negative, feelings of rejections, discouragement and a cry for help written on paper only, while I go about business putting on one of my many facades.

But today, today is different. I received a colored pictured by a 4 yr. old little girl who shall remain nameless, but is Loved so much. There is nothing particularly special about this colored picture, except that she created it.  I think only a parent can truly appreciate its beauty. The picture in case you are wondering is of a rainbow. A simple rainbow and nothing else. I don’t know why this struck me so powerfully this morning, but for a moment I looked at it and started to appreciate what she had done. Each ring has the colors listed in their respective order, “Red, Orange,Yellow, Green,Blue,Purple.”. She had followed the directions correctly and colored each space with the correct colors. But staying in the lines, well she hasn’t grasped that concept. Although the colors are in the correct sequence they are all over the page creating almost a tie die affect. Even through the chaos of colors, I can see the rainbow, the intent, but I also can appreciate the wild and free spirit of a child that refused to keep her colors within the lines.

As I looked at this picture and thought of its simplicity, my mind started to drift away to a conversation I had while she was creating this masterpiece in another room. In the adult realm, while she was in her roome,  a small group had gathered at the same time to do a Bible study and encourage one another. It didn’t take us very long to realize how frustrating our lives had become. Several people in this group work very long and thankless hours helping people, but they are short staffed. The problems, the pressure, the deadlines, the schedules are so heavy. The burden of carrying so much forces their attention away from friends, family, even finding the time to sleep and eat have bccome problematic often having to skip one, or even both. As I listened to my friends and shared their burdens, a small voice seemed to say, “the world is not an ugly place”. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I found myself thinking about that statement. (To my friends to whom I owe you my attention, I do apologize for the blank stare.)  I started to think about the last time I heard someone say something positive about their environment. Anything positive about a job, their home, their spouse, their children, the trees, the weather…ANYTHING! I couldn’t remember a single instance where someone came into a room with a smile and said something positive.

I am not exactly sure when, or how, it not only became acceptable to view the world as ugly, but lately it seems as though it’s the one thing where people can agree. And so I stared at this picture I was given and started to think about how beautiful a rainbow is, how exciting it is to see one. I started to think about the day in general and how recently, where I live, we have had a small relief from what normally would be another hot day. Instead there is a breeze in the air, recent rains have cooled things off and the air is full of that, after the rain smell. The seasons are starting to transition around me and only in that moment did I realize the things I had seen recently and how little attention I paid to the beauty that was all around me. I realized then how much my ears had affected my vision. The constant negativity being sensationlized around me. A constant barrage of hate, disrepect, anger, frustration. All that mess had seeped into my subconscientiousness and convinced me that this existence, this world, is an ugly place. But then I was given a piece of paper. A beautful picture filled with bright colors, given by someone who see’s everything as new, fresh, and beautiful. Not worried about things to come, but excited about them. Today will be filled with multiple opportunities to color, to pick flowers, run through the grass, to be tickled, to laugh, to spend time with friends, to eat, to play, a chance to appreciate this beautiful world. I am so grateful for the imagination of this little girl, her ability to color outside of the lines and bring color and clarity into this beautiful world.

 

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A LETTER TO MYSELF

Although I am tempted to believe that I am anything but significant. I know better. For the Lord my God is with me wherever I am at all times and through every adversity. Temptation is life, feeling hopeless or lost is not God’s way, it is opposite of his Plan’s for me. I am tempted to flee back into the world where I was once immersed, drowning in doubt and hopelessness, yet given enough time that world seems normal. REMEMBER THAT WORLD IN WHICH YOU ONCE EXISTED IS A LIE. You are better, stronger, smarter, and have all that you need to do what God has planned for you. Persistence, Perseverance and Faith. Fight for the truth that God has promised to you. It is OK to be yourself, you were created to serve a purpose, so fulfill God’s wishes and do what your heart commands.

KEEP YOURSELF AT 17 INCHES

“Keep Yourself at 17 Inches”

Nations_Park_Home_plate

I recently came across a fantastic story written by Coach Sperry, that a couple of friends of mine sent to me via Face Book. I thought that it was something that should certainly be shared with everyone and worth the read…especially parents and coaches.

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. Well, in 1996 Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Pointed side down.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.

“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Bobby. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.

Then he turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful….to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

How do you describe light to someone that knows only darknes. In any language, words fail. There is no way to use vocabulary to describe the lights power. Even a little has a profound affect. In order to truly understand it, to recognize and appreciate it, someone has to encounter it. They must see it.
In the same way as we go about our lives. Can anyone describe Jesus Christ? For those of us fortunate to have weathered  life’s storms, describing God’s strength during those moments is as hard to explain as the light in the previous example. It exists whether you see it or not. It’s power never changes only moving from a stagnate view can someone appreciate its magnificence. So how does one change their view. They have to be shown the way. They have to see something unique in a “Christian”, something special they don’t understand. If you say I believe in Christ, yet live as a stranger to him, how are you defining Christianity to those whose view is distorted. Are you showing them the way or are you an obstruction? I hope as culture continues to define the status quo that we don’t loose our focus and we are leading people out of darkness into an illuminated understanding of Jesus Christ and the desire he has to help us.

EJG

The Bird Cage

THE BIRD CAGE

February 3, 2003

There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.”

I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there, son?”

“Just some old birds,” came the reply.

“What are you gonna do with them?” I asked.

“Take ’em home and have fun with ’em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ’em and pull out their feathers to make ’em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”

“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”

“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take ’em to them.”

The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”

“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing- they ain’t even pretty!”

“How much?” the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor, as if he were crazy, and said, “$10?”

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.

“Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait, I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ’em all!”

“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.

Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”

“And what will you do when you get done with them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, I’ll kill ’em,” Satan glared proudly.

“How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don’t want those people!!”

“How much?” He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your tears, and all your blood.”

Jesus said, “DONE!”

Then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage, he opened the door and he walked from the pulpit.
— Author Unknown — Sent in by Ruth Mack — South Dakota

4th Sunday of advent asked to teach

I have been asked to lead a discussion on the 4th Sunday in advent. Which in reality should be an easy assignment. After all, almost everyone I will be speaking to will be familiar with the advent wreath and candles and the significance of the evergreen and candles.

Yet as I was given the materials I would need to conduct my class, I was taken back by the complexities people have assigned to advent.

For example, when I was a boy, the candles represented hope, peace, joy and love. The attributes Christ displayed during his life and ministry. But now, I have seen these symbols distorted. Yes, I believe we should remember the prophesies, a promise made to God’s people. Yes, I believe we should consider the long wait as the world anticipated the Messiah ‘ s arrival, the joy that night expressed in Heaven and on Earth as Jesus entered this world. But as I continue to prepare my for Sunday. I am noticing more and more focus being put on Elizabeth, Mary, the town Bethlehem, wise men, angels, shepherds. Entire lessons and focus being given to what amounts to minor players. I have great admiration for Mary and a ton of respect for Joseph. I love account of Angels proclaiming the good news to the lowliest of people. That picture, in my mind gives me chills. Still the focus of advent is and should always be on God and his love for us and what we learned about God through the life of Christ. I think it is critical to remember and reflect on the attributes of the Father demonstrated by the Son. Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Focus on the other things during epiphany, right now is a time to focus all attention on the Father and his only begotten Son.

The Way It Was…The Way It Should Be

The Epistle to Diognetus is a text written recounting the lives of the Christians as they are beheld by others in the early communities. Parts of this are written from a first-hand perspective and accounting of the new Christian religion, parts of it are written as the perceptions of the outsider. And there is a remarkable passage that occurs in this anonymous epistle, describing the Christians as if from the outside. Those who have the text available—and it is certainly easy to find in printed volumes or on the Internet—will find this as Chapter Five of The Epistle to Diognetus:
The Christians are distinguished from other men, neither by country nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor do they employ a particular form of speech, nor yet lead a way of life marked out by any singular worldly attribute. But inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the local customs with the respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking manner of life. They dwell in their own countries but simply as sojourners. As citizens they share in all things with others yet they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country and every land of their birth a land of strangers. They are in the flesh but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men though they are persecuted by all. They are unknown yet condemned. They are put to death yet they are restored to life. They are poor yet they make many rich. They lack and are in want of all things yet they abound in all. They are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor they are glorified.

Father Direct Me

Father, creator of all things good.
Why is it so hard for me to do the things I should.

I know in every instance, I have been saved from all my sin
Yet it still it bothers me I can’t defeat the temptations from within.

I admit sometimes Father, I am disappointed in myself.
That’s why I have to pray so much for your direction and your help.

How grateful I am the God I serve, has saved a wretch like me.
Who will judge me on my faith instead of on deeds.

Father I am thankful for all the gifts bestowed on me.
It is amazing to witness such a loving God and his generosity.

Father the  time has come when I must speak with you again.
I’ve closed my eyes, closed the door, so we may converse as loving friends.

Father this is quiet time set aside just for you.
Can you please open my heart and tell me what to do.

I am a pitiful sinner, I don’t want to be this way.
I pray for your forgiveness if I am given another day.

You have already given me so much, I  hate to ask a thing.
But maybe you can let me know, how to serve my Lord and King.

Father please direct me towards the plans you have for me.
Please provide the trust I’ll need to wait here patiently.

For all things happen, according to your plan.
Remind me Father, that you are God and I am just a man.

You have given me life and a purpose to do
I must confess though, I haven’t a clue.

You are God! I want the world to know…
How great you are and how you love us so…

If there is something I’m missing a feeling or sign
Please help your child who is deaf,dumb and blind.

Yours truly
EJ Graham

An Attitude of Gratitude

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

Written
by Robert Moment

As you read this article, take a moment to answer the following question, “Is there a reason for me to be thankful today?”  If you are alive to read the question, then you have a reason for rejoicing!  It may not always seem that way when troubles press in on you, but as long as you are alive, you have the opportunity to change your life and move forward.

One of the most important gifts of all is life, and it was given to you by the Lord.  Sometimes we forget the generosity of a loving God.  After all, He doesn’t need us and did not have to create us in the first place.  Yet he wished to share His blessings and so created man in His own image so that He could shower man with love.  And even when man first betrayed God in the Garden of Eden, God continued to love and protect mankind.  He forgave us our faults and sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to give us guidance and grant us forgiveness!  And God continues to do this, even though we often forget to be grateful for His kindness.

Now think back over the previous month.  Have you lived in Gratitude?  Have you remembered and acknowledged God’s grace and goodwill in your life?  It’s easy to forget our many blessings when we are stressed, but we need to re-evaluate our lives during these moments.  When your job stresses you, thank God that you are employed.  When your children talk back, praise God for giving you healthy children.  Even when you are going through a painful separation or quarrel, remember that God is there for you, and be thankful that He is there to pull you through.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.”
– Colossians 3:15

When we have an attitude of gratitude, we soon discover that we attract greater good in our lives.  Be grateful for all of the good that the Lord has granted you, and you will soon reap even greater blessings.  As you read this article, be grateful for the gift of sight and the opportunity you had to learn to read and learn.  Giving thanks to God for all of the many daily blessings in your life – shelter, food, your senses, friends and family – opens your heart to all the good you have and enables you to appreciate and share your blessings.  Sharing those blessings and being grateful for them brings you closer to God.

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and power
and the glory and majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours…
In your hands are strength and power
To exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
And praise your glorious name.”
– 1 Chronicles 29:11

So as you move through your days and weeks, keep your eyes on the goodness of God and recognize that He has, in His generosity and love, given you far more than anyone else can ever give you.  Find the blessings in every situation and you will develop an attitude of gratitude for the many physical, material, emotional and spiritual blessings that have been given by God, the source of all good in our lives.  Each day, show your gratitude to God and thank Him with all your heart.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
– Colossians 3:17

Robert Moment is a Christian business coach , speaker, and author of newly published book ,
God Will Always Be There For You.

Teachers Duty

Lately I have been inspired by a teacher. It got me thinking, what attributes in him did I find most appealing.

His delivery is solid. After 35 years teaching, he us comfortable speaking in front of others without the fear of judgements.

When he teaches he allows his students to view topics through the lenses of some of the world’s greatest philisophers, both past and present.

What makes  him a great teacher is that he gives to his students indisputable facts, a variety of perspectives and demands each student form their own belief. But be wary, once you have picked a stance you must be prepared to defend it.

I get so frustrated with people regurgitating the words of someone else. We were all gifted with a mind, uniquely affected by our experiences. Be original, share your thoughts, share your perspective. Just remember to listen to another side before judging others. You might just see things differently and o what difference that can make.