Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I Was Thinking As I Fell Out of the Shower


So yesterday I fell out of the shower ... literally fell out of the shower.  First time in 43 years. From shower to floor, the whole debacle probably took all but 2 seconds, but it's truly amazing the number of thoughts that can run through one's mind in two seconds.  Here is a brief glimpse of what I was thinking while falling out of the shower:

  • Whoa, that's slippery.
  • Oh, man. I think I'm falling out of the shower.
  • The toilet is right there.  What if I hit my head on it.
  • What if I literally fall in the toilet?
  • Did I flush?
  • If I didn't flush, I'm going to have to shower again.
  • I'm never going to live this down.
  • If I'm knocked out, please Carol, put clothes on me before the ambulance arrives.
  • I thought this only happened to elderly people.
  • So, this is how people break hips.
  • If I die, I was really hoping to go out another way.
  • I may just have to say to Carol, "I've fallen and I can't get up."
  • I don't think I hit my head on the toilet.
  • What if the shower rod falls on my face?
  • How will I explain any injuries?
  • I'm on the floor.
  • Ouch, that kind of hurt.
  • I think I'm OK.  
  • I can't believe I just fell out of the shower.
The processing speed of the brain truly is amazing and I'm curious as to where this processing ability was when I was taking math classes.  I certainly didn't seem to have it then. Maybe I should have fallen out of my seat more in class. 

Anyway, a large percentage of accidents occur while falling in the bathroom, so if you've ever fallen in the shower, don't feel bad.  You're not alone.  Clumsy people ... UNITE!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Social Media and Technology Can Keep Me From


I am certainly not anti-social media or anti-technology.  I really enjoy going to the Apple Store.  I "tweet."  I "like."  I text ... but not while driving.  I practice "safe text."  But, I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that, even though these things have brought about so much good in our lives, they can also keep us from so much in our lives.  

This past Sunday we were challenged in our services to simply recognize some of the things that media/technology can keep us from.  Here are some of my notes ... 

Media/Technology Can Keep Me From: 

... Recognizing My Limits.  Technology always beckons us, but there is only so much attention I am capable of giving.  Am I focusing the best of my attention on what matters most.  When I'm out with my wife, will she feel as if she has the best of my attention if I'm checking my phone.  When I'm sitting with my kids, will they feel as if they have the best of my attention if I'm texting or on Facebook.  When I'm driving, will the road have the best of my attention while I'm driving a 1000 pound vehicle if I respond to that text or feel the need to make that phone call.  I only have so much capacity for attention.  Use it on what matters most.

... Solitude.  Solitude and silence are foundational to our Christian faith.  We need time alone with God and yet we are often afraid to sit in silence. Maybe it's just the introvert in me, but I really feel that time alone in quietness is a key discipline to have in our lives.  It not only helps me connect with God, it really helps keep me sane.  Deciding to have times of solitude is one of the best decisions I have made.

... Thinking.  Sometimes I can be so quick to simply go see what someone else says about something online rather than actually spending time thinking through the matter on my own.  It's not that it's wrong to do online research or anything like that.  I love listening to podcasts and sermons by other pastors.  I read other blogs as well.  It's a great way to feed my soul.  But, it's more the idea that it's important for me to spend time thinking on my own.  It helps keep my brain fresh.  

... Reality.  I can create my own world online and look really good.  I can post the best pictures, update the best statuses, and even create a game character that can help me escape a reality that I'm not so happy with.  As a parent, it's real easy to post things from my best parenting days and make it appear as if I'm always a great parent.  If only that were the case.  I have more than my share of parenting fails ... like the one I just had earlier today.  Wait, make that two ... no ... three parenting fails today.  

... Being Face to Face.  As good as it social media and technology can be to help us stay in touch, I'm not sure we can truly be connected unless we're face to face ... voice to voice.  There is just something about sitting across from someone and talking directly to them.  It's certainly easier to just send a message or a text.  It's faster, more convenient.  But, I'm not sure I can have true intimacy with someone online.  It's certainly a tool that can aid a relationship by helping stay connected, but I just feel there is no replacement for sitting across from another person and having a great conversation with them.

My Big Take-a-Ways From the Weekend Were:

... Be present.  When I'm with my wife ... be all there.  When I'm with my kids ... be all there.  Don't detach from them mentally and emotionally by going to social media while with them.

... Guard the number of times I go to social media sites.  I can find myself going to them mindlessly if I'm not careful and that can cause me to miss so much that is going on around me.

... Be mindful of my motives.  Am I posting or tweeting to make myself look good?  Am I truly trying to be encouraging or am I simply creating a "world" in which I look a whole lot better than I truly am.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Hair Dryer, Jesus, and the Impact Goes On


So, I had a really interesting, but great experience this morning.  I was invited to be a part of a "Women's Huddle."  Now, at the risk of losing my "man card" I have to say that I enjoy going to Bath and Body Works.  My father-in-law once got me a gift card to Peer 1 Imports.  And, I get excited about tea.  But, in spite of all that, I typically don't get invited to Women's Huddles.  

This group is a group of some women's small group leaders at Grace Community who get together to talk about their groups, pray, and just enjoy being together.  Let me tell ya ... being in a house full of ladies brought out every middle school insecurity I've ever had!  But, it really was a great morning and the reason I, and another one of our pastors, was there was to help honor a lady who was "retiring" from being a small group coach.

Anyway, while we were all having breakfast, I was in a conversation with a lady who was talking about an opportunity she had to share Jesus with her hair stylist.  Two things went through my mind:  1)  I'll probably never have a conversation like this with a man.  2) This is such a cool story!  

She was talking about how she was in a conversation with the lady cutting her hair and how they were talking about faith and religion and the types of families they grew up in.  The conversation got so in depth and intense that the stylist actually cut about 2 extra inches off the ladies hair!  But, she didn't mind.  She was so thankful for the opportunity to share.

Now, my hair dryer is a towel, so I don't know exactly how this works, but I guess she was getting her hair dried under one of the salon dryers.  She was still talking with the stylist and just began sharing with her how to have a relationship with Jesus.  As she is doing this, she's realizing that she is yelling so loudly because of the dryer that EVERYONE in the salon is hearing her share the Gospel.  It was a conversation directed toward one person, but the message went out to so many more people because everyone in that salon heard about Jesus that morning.

Stay with me ...

We all then move in to a room to begin to honor Kathy (our small group coach who is "retiring") and to discuss the impact she has had on their life.  There were tears.  There was laughter.  Powerful things were shared.  There were some women in the room who were directly impacted by Kathy because of her direct involvement in their life.  But, there were just as many who were impacted INDIRECTLY by Kathy. They were coached by women Kathy coached.  Their small groups were led by women who were in small group with Kathy. There were some who became small group leaders because of a direct ask from Kathy and they shared stories of lives Jesus changed in their groups and people who were saved and baptized.  It was truly an amazing time. Kathy's focus was always one person at a time.  But, God took that focus and multiplied it more than any of us will truly ever know.  

I was reminded today that God takes what we offer and multiplies it in ways we may never fully know.  Just as the lady in the salon was having one conversation, but it was heard by many, the time and love and grace we pour in to one person at a time will be heard by many as well.  The time you invest in that "one person" will in some way be passed on to another.  The grace you show that "one person" will in some way be passed on to another. The date you have with your daughter ... the time in the woods with your son ... these types of things have a greater impact than we will ever know.

God is the great multiplier!  He takes our "little" and makes it much.  Sometimes we don't see it.  Sometimes we can become tired and worn out and wonder if anything we are doing is truly making a difference.  Let me encourage you today by saying it is.  It is making a difference.  Focus on the good you are to do and allow God to handle the results.  Paul, a man who invested his life in others, reminds us of this:  "Let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up."  (Galatians 6:9)  

So, don't give up.  Keep getting up on Sundays to serve.  Keep waking up every day to teach. Keep going to your job and being an encouragement to the guy on the line next to you. Keep planning a fun date with your son or daughter. I promise you that God takes what little you may feel you have to offer and He turns it in to much.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Every Strike Brings Me Closer to My Next Home Run


My wife and I recently had the opportunity to visit the Babe Ruth museum in Baltimore. I didn't realize Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore, so it was fun to learn something new.  We were able to visit the home where he was born (which has now been turned in to the museum).  It was really fascinating to get an in depth picture of his life from his childhood to his death and everything in between.  One of the most fascinating parts of the museum was a wall that listed when and where each one of his home runs were hit ... all 714 of them.

When asked how he was able to hit so many home runs, Babe Ruth once said, "Never let the fear of striking out hold you back ... I just go up there and I swing.  I just keep on swinging and I keep on swinging.  Every strike brings me closer to my next home run."

For the record, he had 1330 career strikeouts ... or 1330 steps toward his next home run. 

I'm reminded of a few things when I look at the picture above:

1. Defeat opens up doors to God that we’ll never know in success.  Winning and losing … it’s all a process that God uses in our lives and we have to trust the process.  We have to trust that God works in our lives when we win and that God works in our lives when we lose.  We have to trust the process … trust that sometimes we lose so we can talk with somebody else that’s lost and help them through it.  Sometimes we fail so we can talk with somebody else that’s failed and help them through it.  Sometimes we’re defeated so we can talk with somebody else that’s been defeated and help them through it.  God has a greater purpose and a greater plan behind every defeat … behind every failure … and if we get so wrapped up in the fact that we simply failed … we’ll never, ever find out what God really has in store for us because we’re so focused on ourselves instead of what God wants us to learn.  I wonder if the Babe learned more from his strike outs than he did his home runs.

2. Winning and losing are both temporary.  We get so wrapped up in winning and losing … victory or defeat ... strike outs or home runs.  We are such outcome based people.  We think we’re better people if we win.  We think less of ourselves when we lose and what we fail to realize is that the thing that winning and losing have in common is that they’re both temporary.  If you base your worth on if you win … you’re only good IF you win.  If you base your worth on if you lose … believe me, you’re going to feel awful about yourself because you ARE going to lose.  God is not waiting for us to fail or succeed before He decides how he feels about us.  How he feels about us has already been decided!  He is absolutely crazy about you.  As someone once said, "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it."

3. I think "trying" makes God smile.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  I believe the reverse of that is true also … with faith it’s impossible NOT to please God.  I don't believe God thinks more of you when you win.  And, I don't believe He thinks less of you when you lose.  I believe the bigger thing He's concerned with is did you try.  Because when we try we are showing faith … faith enough to give something a shot … faith enough to put yourself out there in a situation that you’re not sure about … faith enough to try something and you’re not sure what the outcome is going to be.  Faith makes God smile and it deepens our relationship with Him.


When my wife and I were dating, the very first birthday gift I got for her was, are you ready for this ... a blender.  A BLENDER!  Why, oh why, did someone not ask me what I was getting Carol for her birthday?!  And, the fact that Carol didn't dump me on the spot speaks to my movie star good looks and rock hard abs.  :)  It was an incredibly dumb gift to get, but the reason I got it for her was because just a week earlier she was saying how much she wanted a blender.  So, naturally, I'm thinking that I'm going to be a rock star if I get this for her.  Oh, young Rich, how little you actually knew.  But, even though a blender was NOT what she was expecting for her birthday, she knew the heart behind it.  She knew why I got it for her.  And, she actually thought it was sweet ... dumb, but sweet.  I was efforting and she appreciated the effort. 

So, as I reflect on the picture above and some of the history behind it, I want to encourage you to keep swinging.  When you do, chances are you may miss ... maybe even 1330 times.  But, at least you're on the field playing and not in the stands watching. You can hate failing, but you can’t fear it.  If you fear it, you’ll never show faith and without faith it is impossible to please God!  There will be times when you fail. Knowing that you are going to fail can free you up to do so because at least you tried and that’s what God is really concerned about.  Did you show faith?  Did you step up to the plate?  Did you put yourself out there?  Did you at least try?

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Would These Cabins Tell Us?


I recently officiated a wedding at a place called the Elkridge Furnace Inn in Howard County.  It's a beautifully restored home that has been turned in to a restaurant and a great spot for weddings.  The grounds are amazing.  The landscaping is beautiful.  The Patapsco River runs directly behind it creating some stunning scenery.  But then, in the middle of the lush grounds and restored home, there are these old, dilapidated cabins.  They seem to be so out of place.  It made me wonder why they were there.

After a little research (and hopefully I'm getting my history correct) during the Civil War, these cabins were used to house slaves who were a part of the Underground Railroad.  Now, the Underground Railroad was not really a railroad, but rather a secret route of safe houses used by Abolitionists to help slaves from southern states escape to free states. People risked their lives because of their desire to see people free.  And, so they opened up their homes or their barns or their fruit cellars or any place they had that could safely house a run-a-way slave and send him/her on to their freedom. 

I love history and I love looking at historical monuments, but the greater monument is the work that lives on.  The work and legacy of the Underground Railroad will far outlive any of the buildings that were used.  I doubt that many (if any) of the buildings are really being used today.  But, I'm sure that the legacy of the work lives on in the generations who watched their parents risk their lives for this cause and the lesson of standing up for the less fortunate has been passed on to future generations.  I'm sure the legacy of the work lives on in the generations who are now free and have opportunities they never would have had if someone wasn't willing to help them find their freedom.  

These things remind me, once again, to invest my best time and efforts in what will truly last.  How am I seeking to influence my family?  Am I living out Proverbs 20:7 which says, "The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them."  How am I trying to point others to Jesus?  How am I loving and honoring my wife? Am I setting a good example and trying to do more than is expected of me?  How am I seeking to invest in what matters most, not in what will fade with time?  These are questions I must answer honestly and evaluate regularly if I truly want to leave more behind than an insurance policy some old baseball cards and some items from my office.  No one ever gets to the end of their life and wishes they would have spent more time at work or made more money or built a bigger home.  You and I will not be the first.  Let's live for what will last.

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