Don’t forget to look up

Do you forget to look up?

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

Revelation 4:11

I’m an early riser, most of the time around 5:00 AM. I work out, have my devotion time, and get ready for my day, which starts around 8:00 AM.

My job takes me everywhere throughout the town and the surrounding counties. Recently, I was driving out through the countryside on my way to my first patient’s house and the sun was just coming up over the horizon, casting a beautiful glow of orange, pink, and red across the sky. The light continued to slowly increase and produce a contrast of color in the sky against the trees, fences, and an occasional farm house. Cows moved slowly along the fields, munching on grass, staring at me with their large brown eyes as I rolled past. Songs played softly in the background in my car, and I was mesmerized by the scenes around me as I thanked God for this beautiful day that He had made. I was so glad that I had been able to enjoy this moment as I basked in the beauty of His creation. So many days I just roll through a day and forget to just take a moment and look up or look around me.

In the business of life, I find myself all to often looking down. Down as I walk, down at my phone, down at my computer. Looking up has to be intentional and I don’t put enough emphasis on this on a daily basis. Not only do I miss the beauty that God created for me (and for us all), but I am missing that connection with Him. There is a great old song that addresses this very subject. Click HERE if you want to take a moment to listen.

I hope you will take five seconds today and just look at the sky. Is is dark and foreboding or clear and blue? Are there white fluffy clouds floating by? Whatever you see, don’t forget who created it all. He longs for you to enjoy his creation. Enjoy how incredible the simple things in life can be and don’t forget to look up!

Blessings!

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Building a Championship Culture

Defying all odds, they put together a program and became perfect by building a championship culture.

Three years before, they lost every single game. They were small and unnoticed and not one player seemed to garner any attention in the preseason rumblings. The predictions about this season were grim at best, and most believed that this would be a “rebuilding year,” but there was something unusual brewing in the hearts of these young men as they stepped onto the field for the 1998 season for the Darlington Tigers. No one gave them a chance to do much of anything, and so other teams and players in the area were highlighted and heralded. The Tigers began their first game largely ignored and forgotten, having “no respect,” as one of their coaches repeatedly told them.  Even as the wins began to stack up, these young men were often called “lucky,” and still few people saw what was growing inside them all.

It would be a year of surprises with explosions of speed and an uncompromised will that would produce a new definition for the word “TEAM,” creating a powerful “beast mode” that would not yield to anyone or any circumstance. The 1998 season would end after the 15th game in a town several hours away in front of a crowd of over 6,000 people. When it was over, not one of their opponents would be able to understand how they had been defeated, but they would always remember the night that they faced the young men from the 1998 Darlington Tiger football team. Imprinted in everyone’s minds would be the effect of their overwhelming desire to win at all costs with a dedication to each other and their purpose.  Amazingly, not one single senior would be a Division I prospect and the success on the gridiron was due to an uncrushable spirit more than talent alone.

Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture

The story of winning.

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Finding direction during the storms of life

What storm are you facing? The storms of life are unpredictable and difficult. Finding your direction during the storms of life requires faith.

“But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ and Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and began to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

Mathew 14:24-31

Our family loves to boat on a local lake. We have had several boats through the years, including different styles according to our family needs at the time. As we have aged, our boat speeds have dropped and we are now in the habit of enjoying more time floating and watching others tube and play on the water. Even in the more narrow lakes in Kentucky (all are dammed up rivers and thus not very wide) we are careful with storms and obey the forecast as well as the look of a pop-up thunderstorm, taking our boat to the dock for safety. 

Being on the lake on a busy day with choppy water is not fun, but when there is a storm, it is frightening. I cannot imagine how terrifying a boat would be in dangerous seas. As I read this story in Mathew, I can only imagine what an amazing event that was to witness. The sea was not calm. I’m not sure what “contrary” is, but I don’t ever want to be in the water when it’s like that. The disciples saw Jesus walking across the waves and then heard Him tell them to be calm. Even in the safety of the boat, they were afraid—not just of the water but of Jesus, not understanding who He was. At this point in the story, seeing Jesus walking across those waves must have been more than enough to write about later. 

But it didn’t end there. 

As Jesus drew near, Peter called out to Him and Jesus commanded Peter to come out onto the water. Now, I like to think that I have faith, but I’m not sure that I would have had enough to step out of the boat and believe that I would be not only safe but also able to walk on top. Peter did, though, even for just a moment. For those few moments that he stepped across the water, he did something that only Jesus could do through him. 

I wonder how many times God calls on us to leave the safety of our boat to step out on the water? If Peter had kept his belief, I wonder how the story would have changed? One thing I love is that even in his doubt, Jesus was still there, rescuing him and helping him back to safety. I think that is one of God’s best qualities—He is ALWAYS there. During the storm, during our triumphs, and even in our doubts. 

He loves us, protects us, saves us—unconditionally and without hesitation. All we have to do is call to Him. Maybe it’s time to get out of your boat.

Peter did. Will you?

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When God Closes a Door

Recently, I listened to a short sermon about the importance of allowing God to close a door in your life so that He can lead you somewhere else. I’ve heard this preached my whole life, but on this particular day, it spoke to me in a new way. I knew the premise of the message was to let God have control, but my mind immediately recalled a problem that we had faced on a daily basis for several years and how frustrating doors can be.

We recently sold our home and downsized. In our former house, there was a bathroom closet door that was behind the entry door to the room. To get anything out of that closet, we had to close the entry door slightly to make enough room open the closet door. It was frustrating at times, and sometimes the two door handles would become entwined creating a 10-minute ordeal to fix them both. At times, I would be in a hurry and need something out of that closet while my husband might need to pass through the door. We learned how to coordinate this process, but it was somewhat aggravating at times. 

As I listened to the message about God’s hand on our lives and how He wants to guide us if we let Him, I began to think about those doors. If one was open, the other had to be closed. There was just no other way. Is that how it is some of the time when we are trying to go through a “door” in our lives? I wonder how many times we are stubbornly trying to open a door while God is trying to close it, never knowing the reason. There have been times in my past that I have held on to that door handle with everything that I had trying to make it work while God is gently blocking the door from opening any further. While I fought to keep the one door open, I never realized that it was blocking a new door that God wanted to open for me. Later, when fatigue and despair would overcome my strength, my fingers would slip a little, and I would lose my grip, allowing the door to close. Feelings of disappointed would overwhelm me and my anger would sometimes swell. Thoughts would race through my mind:

Why didn’t God let that happen? It was perfect for me!

Not getting what I wanted was bad enough but sometimes the sense of despair over not knowing where to go next would also creep into my thoughts. Soon, though, God would open a new door and show me blessings that I never imagined possible—many times giving me substantially more than I even knew to ask for in the first place. I’ve seen Him open doors that were “blocked” by the one I had clung to in the past. 

During my dating years, I had a few heartbreaks like most people. I remember thinking that I might not be able to endure it ever again and maybe I would never marry. The young men that I dated never seemed to work well with me, and no matter how hard I tried, each relationship would crumble and end in pain. When God brought my husband into my life, it was so evident that I had been wrong to ever worry about any of this part of my life. Tim was and still is so much more than I ever expected in a husband, and I was almost mad at myself for not trusting that God would lead me to such a perfect man for me. If I had only known what He had waiting for me, I might never have dated another boy.

Are you holding on to the handle of a door? Are you pulling against a force that is trying to close a door for you? Are you tired, frustrated, exhausted from the struggle? Trust in Him. Let go of that doorknob and relax. He is closing that passage to keep you safe and He has great plans for you. He cannot wait to lead you on a better course. Trust the One who has your best interest at heart. There’s a new door somewhere close. It may be hidden behind the one you are fighting to keep open. Maybe it’s time to surrender to the One who has never left you or forsaken you. He loves you and wants the best for you. Relax, release, and rely on Him. 

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Christmas Night

     She waited patiently while her husband walked to the next door and knocked. She watched the man who answered shake his head and then saw her husband walk back to her with his face, a mixture of concern and fear. He gently tugged on the reins to pull the donkey forward, and they moved slowly toward the final home in the area. Mary’s body began to ache, and the pain washed over her with a greater intensity this time, and she breathed slowly and prayed. Joseph held her hand and gently lowered her to the ground to give her a moment to recover. The contractions were getting closer together, and time was not on their side. When Mary had gathered herself, Joseph stood and told her to wait while he checked with the last innkeeper about a room. This time, she insisted that she go too, and he didn’t argue. Mary hobbled beside her husband and tried to ignore the pain that was beginning to rise again. 

     Seconds seemed like minutes as the pain racked her body. Mary could not make it any further, so Joseph lowered her to sit again as he approached the house, where he was rejected once more. Every room in town was taken. The innkeeper was about to close the door when he saw Mary. He called Joseph back and motioned toward the only solution he could provide: a stable. Inside was warm and dry, but the smell was overwhelming. Manure, animals, and hay all mixed together in an air that was swirling with fur and bits of dust. Mary was too tired and in too much pain to argue. Even a small corner of this filthy building was better than being out in the open. 

     Joseph lit a small lantern and then moved some fresh hay into one corner and laid a blanket down for Mary. Within a short time, Jesus was born. Joseph helped Mary swaddle the new child and looked around desperately for somewhere to let him sleep. His wife needed rest too. The only suitable place for a child was a roughly hewn piece of wood where the animals were fed, so he pulled it over and wiped it clean, then placed some fresh hay inside to make a soft bed. He gently lifted the small baby and laid him in this manger and then sat beside his exhausted wife and prayed a prayer of thanks.

     Today, we put out a manger scene and admire the beauty of Mary and Joseph as well as angels and wise men looking down at Jesus. Our nativity sets are polished and pretty, but the reality was much more crude, dark, and dirty. The One who would save us all entered this world in poverty, lived a life with few possessions, and then died in humility and shame. His first experience was to be laid on a rough piece of wood, which would be repeated on the cross over thirty years later. He was never concerned about what He had but what He wanted to give. In the spirit of our Savior, I hope that you give freely and seek nothing in return. He came to set us free, and He did. 

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Memorial Day

I don’t how many of you have known a fallen soldier personally. I distinctly recall one who was our neighbor years ago when we lived on a military base in North Carolina.

I was around ten years old when we lived on Pope Air Force Base among people who would stay close to my family for many years. There is a bond like no other among the military families as they work and live alongside one another. The base was a wonderful place to live as a child. There were so many places within walking distance: a movie theater, a bowling alley, our school, and several parks. All the kids roamed the area safely and we were all close friends. During our stay here, our neighbors two houses down was a young family with a sweet young child and a beautiful Irish Setter. I remember having cookouts and interactions with this family many times. 

As a child who had grown up in the military life, I knew certain things. For instance, I knew what the general’s cars looked like. I knew that if a general came down your street with a chaplain behind him, something terrible had happened. 

One day, several of my friends were with me playing out in my front yard when we saw one of the general’s cars turn down my road. We all noticed and stopped still when we saw the second car with the flags indicating it was the chaplain. Someone had died. We all knew what it meant and several women who were outside all stopped and stared as well. The cars moved slowly down the street and there was a palpable relief that swept each front yard as they drove past. Even though their family was safe from the horrible news, though, no one took their eyes off the cars. 

As they approached my house, they began to slow down and I remember almost holding my breath and praying it wasn’t my dad that was now gone. The first car moved past me and the second crept behind it and I saw them both pull up to the curb two houses away. In the front yard was the wife, clipping some bushes. I will never forget her wailing as she dropped to her knees, knowing that the news she was about to hear would forever change her life. 

My mom came bolting out the door and she and another lady rushed down to the side of their friend and scooped up her child. Our job was to take care of the little boy for the next several hours and into the next day as the family of our fallen friend began to arrive to help his wife. 

It was a terrible day for us all and one that I will never forget. I knew I would never see that man again and the realization that he had died serving our country was embedded into my heart forever. And I was relieved my father had been spared.

Memorial Day is not just for a good cookout and a few flags placed in our yard. It’s for remembering those who gave it all to keep us safe and protect our freedom. My father just passed away. He was given a full military funeral and the coordinated movements of the soldiers as they unfolded and folded the flag was beautiful. As they handed the flag to my stepmother, the soldier said something like, “Ma’am, the President and our country thank you for his service to our country.” As they handed the flag to her, Taps was played in the background. It was incredibly moving and I couldn’t help but feel proud and happy that my father had been a part of the protection of our country. But he lived to come home when so many didn’t. If he were here today, he would say that the real heroes fell on the battlefield.

All gave some, but some gave all.

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One Deep Secret of Life

Today has already begun. 

I hope you are finding some ways to enjoy it already. Over this long weekend, I hope you will embrace the moments that you have and leave your worries behind—if only for a short time.

In the words of John Lennon:

“Life is what happens while you’re making plans.”

Below is a story written by Robert Hastings years ago. My mom had it read at her funeral almost 29 years ago. It resonates with me to this day.

The Station

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“When we reach the station, that will be it !” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

All Rights Reserved

Robert J. Hastings Estate

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Creating Greatness

 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

—1 Corinthians 2:9

When was the last time you paused to look at creation? I have to remind myself to look up at the sky sometimes. As an avid hiker, I find myself on top of a ridge quite often. My husband and I love to hike most anywhere. We have seen some fantastic things along the way and always leave refreshed and revived. I hope you will take a moment today and find something to enjoy around you. Maybe it’s a flowering tree nearby or the sky as the sun sets with a mixture of colors. Take a moment and thank Him for the beauty that He provides just for us to enjoy!

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Mother’s Day Mess

Several years ago I woke to four smiling faces and a tray with several globs of food on a plate and a large glass of orange juice, which I don’t drink very often. The “food” was some combination of pancakes and eggs whipped up by my four girls who wanted to make me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day.

I remember having to choke down a few bites to pretend it was wonderful. I’m not sure what I ate that day, but it didn’t taste too bad after I doused it with a little syrup. The look on my girls’ faces as they watched me eat was priceless, and I still treasure it in my heart to this day. 

Later that morning, no one had thought to check the kitchen, and I walked into a huge mess of pans and dishes. My daughters had worked so hard at making the perfect breakfast that it seemed they used everything in the room. I sighed and pushed up my sleeves to begin cleaning up the mess. 

Even though I had a dishwasher, I chose to do them all by hand that morning. Something about picking up each dish and pan made me smile as I imagined their small hands working so hard to prepare something special for me. The mess was not something I wanted to encounter, but there was no ill intent. They were so proud of what they had done and so was I.

I was about half-way through when I realized that this is precisely where I would want to be on this day. My family means everything to me, but it was more than that. I stood over my sink, and I realized that this must be how God feels when I try so hard and still make a mess. He’s always there to clean it up. So much of what I do as a mom is a mess, even though my intentions are so good. Whether I fail or succeed, though, I have a Heavenly Father who is proud of me and loves me no matter what the same way that I’m proud of my kids and love them always and forever.

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Columbine is not Perfect

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Today is the 20th anniversary of a horrible event in our country: the Columbine school shooting. Although school shootings date back as far as the 1700s, the worst school massacre was actually the Bath School Massacre in 1927 where 44 people died–38 of which were elementary school children. Columbine brought the media frenzy that became almost expected in our generation in the wake of a disaster. The desire for constant input led to story after story analyzing every component of it all.

When researching Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture, I realized that the young men in that book were from the same time period and had vastly different outcomes to their lives. Below is a small excerpt from the book discussing this very thing.

“Hundreds of miles away in Colorado during the fall of 1998, two other young men began their senior year in high school with quite a different perspective. Both had older brothers much like the players on the 1998 Darlington team; but both of these boys would site numerous bullying incidents, some real and some imagined, as a catalyst for their problems, turning their thoughts inward to a darker place instead of becoming inspired to be better. Instead of a culture of pride and tradition that bred devotion to both a sport and each other, theirs was a world of psychotic fantasy that produced scheming and obsession for destruction and hate. Their background has been analyzed through the years and experts now agree that these were not good kids damaged by excessive bullying, but they were two young boys with severe psychological problems that formed the root of their pain. As their friendship blossomed, so did their diabolical plan. Earlier in 1998, “REB” and “VoDKa” had experimented with pipe bombs and posted their videos on the internet and were also charged with burglary and theft, among other things as well, drawing the attention of the authorities and some concern over those close to them. By the end of summer, though, they began their full downward spiral into complete delirium. 

     So, while those two young men across the country internalized their pain and schemed and smoldered, the young men of the 1998 Tigers set in motion the events that would forever define their destiny as champions.”

I wish that those two young men from Colorado could have found the help that they needed. Today, my prayers are for the families of every tragic event.


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