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Archive for July, 2012

The Lord is my shepherd;  I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;  he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name (Psalm 23:1-3).

These days of summer I am wont to taking a walk into my Virginia town of about 75 minutes. This journey takes me through the agricultural section of the local university, a large concern.

Every time I make this trek I see something different. For example, last week there were four young bulls playfully fighting, their heads focused inward toward each other. Their bodies jutted out from their heads, making the latter the center of a black kaleidoscope.

Yesterday I passed two flocks of sheep which I had not previously seen. I supposed that not having seen them before  was due to my having gotten out earlier this particular morning.

The sheep in the first flock ignored me, diligently munching on the green grass in their pasture. All except one that is.

This black-faced rogue stared through the fence at me, almost angrily. It was as if it was telling me to get them out of there, or to give them something more than the grass all around.

I thought,”Even for a sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side.” This sheep didn’t know what was good for them.

Here God had provided for their need that which was particularly suited for their position in life. Yet, this particular animal appeared to want something different, perhaps even wishing they were walking outside the fence with me on the way to the coffee shop instead of chewing on a blade of grass!

This sheep reminded me of Harvey Cheyne, a character from a Kipling novel. I learned of him from a  1996 movie called Captains Courageous, which adapted the story for television.

In this story Harvey is an extremely rich 16-year old who is also a self centered brat. On an ocean cruise he falls overboard and is seemingly lost.  However, he is picked up by a small fishing vessel captained by the demanding Captain Troop.

Harvey remains in character after his rescue, insisting on special treatment. He tries to bribe Captain Troop to take him back to shore. Troop tells him ‘no’, noting that they would be out to see for several months to fish, which was the crew’s livelihood.

Troop makes the boy work, something he is not accustomed to. Harvey refuses and hears from the captain,”You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

After a period of resistance, Harvey slowly comes around. He learns the fishing trade with the help of Dan, Captain Troop’s son. He also learns some life lessons and matures into a fine young man.

David Jeremiah tells a similar story of a man who is out to sea on a small raft when a storm hits. As much as he tries, the man cannot prevent the craft from sinking.

Like Harvey, he is picked up by another vessel, this time a large ship. The captain of this boat tells the man,”I’m sure you don’t mind helping out in the galley. We are short handed.”  Unlike Harvey, the man is so happy and grateful over being saved that he is willing to do anything.

David Jeremiah likens this to our salvation through Jesus Christ. We are in the place of rescue from our dire straits at the point of salvation, but we are not saved to inactivity. Jeremiah points out that we are saved by grace, but also for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I see a lot of application to the stories of Harvey and the man on the raft. I too have been rescued.

During the previous year I was alone in a foreign country, with no family or Christian fellowship. I cried out for rescue from these lonely circumstances.

During this time I was tossed about as if I was on the ocean. I felt adrift and pleaded with the Lord.

Finally, this summer God heard my cry led me back home.  I am finally with my wife and children and ecstatic to be home and connected to my friends and church.

However, I am also currently unemployed. I can see from the episodes o f Harvey and the raft man that I have a choice to make in terms of how I view my new condition.

I have determined that I should not expect to sit around my house and do nothing as Harvey did.  The crew (my family) needs my help, not a freeloader.

Part of me does feels like Harvey did when he was first rescued. I have these thoughts of being too important or too “good” for certain tasks.

However, another part of me knows that I may have to take what seems to be an unpleasant job in order for me and my family to continue to survive. I am so grateful to be away from my own personal “ocean” that I am willing to do anything to avoid being tossed overboard again.

I have a suspicion that even work with menial tasks can teach me something new and lead to a broader ministry. In Captains Courageous, Harvey plans to build a hospital in Captain Troop’s hometown out of thanks and gratitude once he is back on shore.  He can do this because through his perseverance in his messy fishing job his life is restored.

I believe God can lead me in the same way, taking what appears to be a dead end job and make it into something special. Looking at others and thinking that they have it better than me, or that my little “pasture” is too beneath me misses the point of who I am and what God has created me to be for His glory.

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“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (I Corinthians 13:11-12).”

Conor Sullivan is a high school lacrosse player with an attitude. When his life begins to fall apart, his attitude doesn’t get any better. In fact, it falls apart with his life.

As portrayed in the movie “A Warrior’s Heart” Conor is a star attack man for a west coast team when his military officer father, just back from Irag, gets transferred to the east coast.  Conor, his mother and his brother go with him.

Conor’s Dad enrolls him in a posh private school, the one he attended and where he himself played lacrosse. Although the coach and Conor’s Dad don’t get along  (the latter stole the former’s girlfriend, now Conor’s mother), the coach agrees to at least give the boy a look. No promises, though.

Even though Conor’s Dad tells him to go into the situation with humility, Conor enters the locker room as if he were God’s gift to lacrosse. Conor less than politely tells the boy holding the position he plays that he will be losing it to him.

Conor already has a temper, and when his father is sent back to Iraq and killed in combat, it explodes. When given a hard check on the f ield, he doesn’t respond in kind. Conor seeks to hurt.

Conor eventually gets tossed from the team due to his unsportsmanlike ways. On his way out, he destroys the school’s trophy case, including the awards given to his Dad’s team.

This last act lands Conor in jail. However, he is retrieved from his cell by a soldier who served with his father, Sgt. Major Duke Wayne.

Sgt. Wayne doesn’t get Conor out of the hoosegow to coddle him, though.  American Indian Duke takes him out to a lacrosse camp run by his tribe.

However, Conor doesn’t see lacrosse for a while. Sgt. Wayne has him tear down an old shack with a sledge hammer for an entire week.

At one point Conor complains he is getting blisters. Duke just laughs at him. He also stays on the boy to get the job done.

Conor assumes that this whole job is just some metaphor meant to show him the error of his ways.  Duke doesn’t own up to any of Conor’s thinking.

In fact, he communicates very little. He just tells Conor,”Don’t speak unless spoken to.”

After his week of shed ripping, Conor plays in a game with counselors and others at the camp. The rough stuff in this game is nothing like he has encountered before, and at one point Duke puts a hold on him that causes him to lose consciousness. Conor wakes up alone on the field.

Eventually, Sgt. Major Wayne drives Conor home.  He is warmly greeted by his family, but no so much by the players on his prep school team.

However, when the school makes it to the national title game against Conor’s former west coast team, the players insist that to the coach that he be allowed to participate. He is talented after all, and also has won them over somehow.

Of course, we all know how this ends. Conor is the hero of the game, and indeed has seemingly learned his lesson. Even though he is roughed up during the context, he doesn’t respond in kind.

As the movie closes, he is still checking in with Sgt. Major Wayne about the purpose of the rough treatment at camp. “Was it a metaphor?”, Conor asks. Wayne refuses to respond, leaving Conor clueless.

Speaking of metaphor’s, I believe Conor’s experience is very much like ours in the Christian life. God gives us a hard situation and we assume we know exactly what He has in mind. We always seem to think we have to learn something from our trials, especially if we think our suffering is self inflicted.

This thinking is really just our attempt to make sense of what has happened to us. We are trying to put the God if the universe into our mental box.

What is scary is that this effort is not just a waste of time. It actually leads us further away from the truth.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22,23)

The truth is that in this life we don’t see so well.  We think we know, but our view of reality is skewered by our upbringing, experiences, sinful natures and just place mental denseness.

Our attitude is the ultimate in hubris. Ultimately, if what we are going through is to teach us anything, it is to depend completely on the wisdom of our Coach, Jesus Christ. Our task is to just get the job done, which is done by just doing what He tells us to do.

We need to leave the “whys and wherefores” to Him.

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