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.

 

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.

Speak to my heart

Speak To My Heart
© Ashley Plaisted
Published on December 2010

So Silent… So still
Listening for God’s Will
Hoping I can hear Him
Speak to my heart.

Wishing I was flawless, perfect and pure
Wondering what life trials I’m destined to endure.
Eager to seek Him, eager to grow,
What’s really inside me only He and I know.

Constant Hunger and constant thirst,
Constantly striving to put the Lord first.
Feeling unsettled like something’s not right
It’s a spiritual war and I’m ready to fight.

Help me, Lord. Make my heart your reflection!
Calm my spirit Lord, point me in the right direction.

With everything I am I want to serve You,
Hold me in your hands Lord, so to you I stay true.

My life is yours God, this I reaffirm today,
In everything I do Lord, You have the final say.

My heart is heavy like I lost a loved one,
My soul is crying for comfort from His Son.
Lord Jesus, Come! Be everything that I am!
Help me to see and live Your master plan.

To you Lord God I give all the glory,
Be alive in me father while I tell the world my story.
I lost my life for you the night of December eighth,
I thank you every day Lord, for making my path straight.

I am always falling down Lord, remaining on my knees,
It’s a constant reminder only you can meet my every need.

So I look to you in prayer and I ask with a sincere heart,
Cleanse me, hold me, lead me, away from the death of dark.

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

It ain’t that bad

“When your heart is thus established in Christ, and you are an enemy of sin, out of love and not out of fear of punishment, Christ’s sufferings should also be an example for your whole life, and you should meditate on the same in a different way. . . . If a day of sorrow or sickness weighs you down, think, how trifling that is compared with the thorns and nails of Christ. If you must do or leave undone what is distasteful to you: think, how Christ was led hither and thither, bound and a captive. Does pride attack you: behold, how your Lord was mocked and disgraced with murderers. Do unchastity and lust thrust themselves against you: think, how bitter it was for Christ to have his tender flesh torn, pierced and beaten again and again. Do hatred and envy war against you, or do you seek vengeance: remember how Christ with many tears and cries prayed for you and all his enemies, who indeed had more reason to seek revenge . If trouble or whatever adversity of body or soul afflict you, strengthen your heart and say: Ah, why then should I not also suffer a little since my Lord sweat blood in the garden because of anxiety and grief?

“One can thus find in Christ strength and comfort against all vice and bad habits. . . . And they are called true Christians who incorporate the life and name of Christ into their own life….

Author
Martin Luthor

It ain’t over yet

Quiet time! Focus time!

There was a message on the radio today that spoke of dicipline. The man on the radio was speaking of instances when we don’t want to give God our attention or time. It’s not that we don’t think of that time as important, it’s more about our ability to rationalize our way out of it. Taking the time out of each day to give to God requires a commitment to dicipline. An unchanging mindset that puts these moments at the pinnacle of our priorities.

I have for many nights now, used this time to read about God’s will. The point of view and writing in this book has changed me and I am grateful for the author and the person who recommended him to me. However, tonight I left my book in the car and didn’t want to trudge outside in the cold to go and get it. So instead of continuing my reading I just layer down and prayed. I thought of recent days, the memories, the craziness, the driving but I eventually focused on the season. Is it over? I see porches and yards, that lit the night skies a week ago, now dark.  I couldn’t help but miss the beautiful scene that has once again disappeared from our windows. But as I lay here I still feel the Spirit of Christmas for it never goes away. There was an unfathomable joy the day Christ came into this world. It is a joy we have been commissioned to share, not just at Christmas and not just with friends.

When we accept Christ as our savior 2 promises are made. One by Christ. The other by the sinner who becomes an apostle. We promised through a confession of faith to be the messengers of what has happened in Bethlehem. It is our responsibility not only to keep the Joy of that wondrous night, but to pass it along. Whether in speech or action, we must testify to what we have experienced. What we know to be true. I sometimes wonder what a glorious sound the Heavenly Hosts made that evening. I believe they are still singing with the Joy of that blessed night and sometimes when it’s really quiet and I am in prayer, focused on all that God has done, is doing and will do, I get to feel just a little bit of that Joy he has promised to all who call him Master.

I hope those reading this will help keep me accountable to my own words.

Not Yet

If you haven’t read my previous post, “4th Sunday of Advent asked to teach”. The following may not make much sense.

I was given a simple assignment. To fill in for our leader while they are away on vacation. The study we are following is written by a very educated man who obviously spends much of his time conversing with others in collegiate academics. What made this assignment so frustrating is that the author of our study has complicated Christmas. In his text he asks the question, “As a Christian are you celebrating Christmas, because of Christ, or are you celebrating secular celebration”? Have you taken time to realize that God used a young poor woman from the tiniest of villages in a stable of all places, to deliver into the world, a Savior (Emmanuel). And that this occurrence is really a pattern that God prefers to use. How often does he use the least amount his people to do the greatest of works.

These are good questions, awesome observations. But, I still believe the best message of Christmas is the simplest message. Jesus was brought into this world, because God loves us so much! His arrival marked a new time, a new covenant. One so loving that even the heavenly hosts rejoiced singing praises to the one and only Creator. If Christmas goes by and we celebrate the day but don’t take the time to acknowledge the day’s true meaning, then all of our preparation, joy and fellowship is worthless.

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.