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Archive for the ‘suffering’ Category

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“My old self has been crucified with Christ.It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Recently I have thought of the above photo as a metaphor for my Christian life. I think of myself as someone who,  after getting pummeled by trials originating from the Lord, is waving the white flag of surrender.

This metaphor unfortunately has been short lived for me. For one, I keep withdrawing the white flag and go back to fighting the Lord. Then I get beat up some more. It’s an endless cycle.

Thankfully, I think  I have struck on a new metaphor. It comes from the hit television drama NCIS.

In one episode, NCIS Director Leon Vance is the target of Riley McAllister, a former NCIS agent in charge turned arms dealer. Through a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that McAllister has been gunning for Vance for a long time. McAllister has been after anyone he has seen as a threat to advancement, and that includes Leon, even at a young age.

MacAllister has failed to get Vance, but at the end of a two-part episode called “Enemies Domestic”, it appears he has finally succeeded. As Vance is recovering from an assassination attempt in a hospital bed, McAllister comes into the room and reveals his true self to the director.

The turncoat reaches over and fiddles with Vance’s morphine drip, increasing the dosage to fatal levels. After doing this, McAllister leans over Vance’s face and says,”For once, can’t you just die right?”.

Unbeknownst to the assassin, Vance has a knife which was snuck into  his room by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the NCIS supervisor who is the star problem solver of the agency. With his last strength, Vance pushes the hidden knife into McAllister’s chest, killing him within a short time.

Vance is able to push his “call” button, and as medical staff rush to McAllister, Gibbs walks in and unplugs the morphine drip, saving Vance’s life. Gibbs lays his hand on his director’s shoulder to comfort him.

I realized after hearing McAllister’s sinister words to Vance after flooding the director’s veins with morphine that in some sense they could be a metaphor for God’s message to me.

“Can’t you just die right?” He says to me. It came to me then that the Lord does not  want me to surrender;  He wants me to die.

The difference between God and McAllister is that the latter’s intentions toward Vance were malevolent while our Lord’s motivation is to save me from sin and keep me alive  for eternity.  He is in some fashion both a good McAllister and a saving Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

If I am a believer in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, I have already “died right”. When Jesus died, I died with him. This death, according to the God-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, was so that we could live a new life free from sin (Romans 6:4).

Paul writes, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7).

This is why my surrender metaphor doesn’t go far enough. I am waving the white flag with a hand attached to a body which still has sin as its master. My sinful “self” controlling this body  may have surrendered, but the Lord in His wisdom knows that turning my sinful self  and body over to Him is not going to free me. What will free me is the death of that sinful self.

Continuing, Paul notes that we are to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (v. 11). The King James Version of the Bible prefers the term “reckon” to “count’. “Reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ,” it says.

A synonym for “reckon” is “suppose”. I find the word “suppose” interesting in this context because one meaning of it can be, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “to think of something as happening or being true in order to imagine what might happen.”

M-W notes examples of this meaning in use: “Suppose a fire broke out. How would we escape?” or “Suppose you agreed with me.”

I now think,”Suppose  that I agree that it is true that my old self is dead. What does this mean for my everyday life?”

It means, ladies and gentlemen, as I see it, that I do not have to sin and that I can stop sinning. Paul explains the application of this supposition that my old sinful self has died.

” Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (v. 12-14)

My entire life God has been after me. Occasionally I will surrender, but that has never been His purpose.  God wants me to accept my death.

However, I haven’t trusted Him enough to do that. As a result, He and I have been at war for decades in an endless fight in the trenches that happens again and again and again. He comes after me, saying, “Can’t you just die?” and I say,”I surrender”.

God and I are talking apples and oranges. It is no wonder that I see myself in similar fashion to the beat up guy at the top of this post.

But suppose I trusted God enough to finally accept my death, to “die right this time”? What then? I am supposing the answer to that is ,”Freedom–finally.”

 

 

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Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (II Timothy 2:3).”

Many think that the idea of embedding reporters with military combat units is a new development.  This method of news gathering was publicized heavily during the recent war in Iraq.

However, it’s  not a new thing.  Ernie Pyle was an embedded reporter in World War  II.  His experiences were documented in the 1945 film The Story of G.I. Joe, which received four Academy Award nominations.

In the movie, mostly based on Pyle’s true life, Ernie is shown volunteering to go to the front lines in North Africa. Later Pyle reported the grunt’s struggles in Italy.

Ernie became famous in America and among the troops for his folksy style and true-to-life journalism. The soldiers saw him as “one of the boys”.

Where the Story of G.I. Joe really catches your eye is in the depiction of Pyle’s life among the Army in Italy. His unit is pinned down in front of a religious landmark, an ancient  monastery on a hill called Monte Cassino.

Because of the historical and religious significance of the site, the American military leadership refuse to bomb the monastery in order to dislodge the Germans there.  As a result, the American soldiers have it tough.

The Story of G.I. Joe shows them in all their agony. They live in caves and mud.    Many of them, including green replacement soldiers are killed. One of the more experienced sergeants goes mad.

Sharing their suffering is Ernie Pyle. He could have been home in the comfortable States at Christmas, eating turkey with all the trimmings. Instead he is stuck in downpours and slime in Italy during a horrible war with smelly, unshaven men.

The toughest thing was watching men with whom you had developed friendships and respect die in front of you. The movie script combined a couple of quotes from Ernie’s reports about the plight of the lowly infantryman.

Pyle wrote that the common solider “live and die so miserably and they do it with such determined acceptance that your admiration for them blinds you to the rest of the war.” In comparison, Pyle said that airmen “died well-fed and clean-shaven, if that was any comfort.”

In the Christian life it seems their is the same dichotomy at work. Some Christians appear to have lives of wealth, comfort and ease. On the other hand, other believers suffer in poverty, disease and live in day-to-day hell.

I suppose you could say that we all are fighting in the same war against the devil. However, I think that is probably little comfort to the Christian who has the life of a foxhole private.

What is comforting is what the Scriptures say about this contradictory grouping of Christians into the well-to-do and the suffering. James writes this:

“Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.  And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.” (James 1:9-11).

Indeed, James tells suffering believers in the same passage:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Yes, in the Christian life, the reality is not as it seems circumstantially.  We not only can rejoice when we suffer because we know that God can clean up our messes. We can also be joyful because in some measure we are sharing in the same trials that Jesus endured in his time on Earth.

In sharing his suffering, we get to know Him better and become intimate with Him.  He not only knows what we are going through, but we can also grasp in our tough times what he experienced as well (Hebrews 4:15).

It almost makes all the suffering worth it, doesn’t it.  However, it doesn’t mean we have to like the pain.

Ernie Pyle went home from Europe exhausted.  He said,”I am leaving for just one reason . . . because I have just got to stop. I have had all I can take for a while.”

Yet, he went back to war, this time in the Pacific at Okinawa.”I’m going simply because there’s a war on and I’m part of it”, he wrote,”and I’ve known all the time I was going back. I’m going simply because I’ve got to–and I hate it.”

We’re not called to be masochists. Jesus didn’t have that attitude. In fact, He went to the cross “despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

We can do our duty though by focusing our sights on Jesus, letting Him lead us in the battle, and keeping in mind the eternal joy that is coming when the final victory is won.

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“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous (Psalm 124:4).”

Today is an absolutely gorgeous late autumn here in Virginia where I live. My schedule this morning allowed me to take my walk through the pastures of the local university–a walk I treasure.

It occurred to me as I closed in on the well-known pond on campus,”What a difference a year makes.” Last year at this time I was living in a Nordic country where the daylight comes late and goes away early

As I walked I recalled the emotions of that late November. I was definitely depressed. I was apart from my family (I hadn’t seen them in almost three months), and the sun was a thing of the past.  Not only did its light only appear a few hour a day, but there was some much overcast that I rarely saw the object itself.

Yet, today there was a bright sun ball in the blue sky. I was surrounded by greenery and water. It was like I had gone from hell to heaven in the space of 12 months.

A passage from the devotional Streams in the Desert describes well my emotional state one year ago:

“All-loving Father, sometimes we have walked under starless skies that dripped darkness like drenching rain. We despaired of starshine or moonlight or sunrise. The sullen blackness gloomed above us as if it would last forever. And out of the dark there spoke no soothing voice to mend our broken hearts. We would gladly have welcomed some wild thunder peal to break the torturing stillness of that overbrooding night.

Yet, something came out of that period. It drove me to my knees.

When I wasn’t working, I had time to spend with the Lord. And I did a lot of that, especially on Sundays.

Streams in the Desert, in the same passage, goes on to portray  what happened to me as well as this author:

“But Thy winsome whisper of eternal love spoke more sweetly to our bruised and bleeding souls than any winds that breathe across Aeolian harps. It was Thy ‘still small voice’ that spoke to us. We were listening and we heard. We looked and saw Thy face radiant with the light of love. And when we heard Thy voice and saw Thy face, new life came back to us as life comes back to withered blooms that drink the summer rain.”

Somehow in my loneliness and darkness my relationship with God grew to be the best it had ever been. It was just me, the Lord and the black.

One of my friends recently told me that he thought of me as Job’s second cousin. I have been thinking of that comment ever since.

In one way I think of it as an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as a man like Job. On the other hand, I have thought that my life and that of Job differ in one respect.

His plight eventually came to an end.  God restored his  fortunes. My difficulties go on and on, with no end in sight.

My pastor told me a couple of months ago,”You’re just in a season of life right now.” The inference was that “this too shall pass”. I looked at him with an expression of,”I don’t know about that.”

Sometimes I see light at the end of the tunnel. For example, I am so boxed in that I pretty much have to use my one talent to get by.

As a result, I think that perhaps God has enclosed me so as to force me into using my gifts. Otherwise, my attitude would be,”I can’t do that. I must do this.”

Now, it appears He has placed me in such a condition that He is telling me,”No. You must do this. You must listen to me (finally!) and do what I called you to do  a long time ago. You just need to trust Me and the promises I have given you.”

That is astounding to me, that God would think that much of me to actually set me on a path to my dreams being fulfilled, especially this late in the game. The jury is still out on whether or not that is what is happening, but I’m listening–and watching for the light to reappear!

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Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).”

“Big Jim” Cole is not off to a great start.  He has inherited several hundred acres of prime land in Wyoming, but keeping it is another story.

First, there is the matter of the neighbor who is determined to take it away from him. Jed Curry lost the land to Big Jim’s grandpa in a poker game fair and square.

But Jed persistently angles to get it back for his sons. They are young men, but they are only adult in terms of their physiques.  They regularly harass Big Jim and his family.

Then, there is the old enemy who shows up in town.  Former lawman Big Jim sent Cass Dowdy (once a friend and on the right side of the law)  to jail and the latter aims to settle the score.

Finally, Big Jim has a wild beast to deal with. This animal  is destroying his new ranch piece by piece.

The human foes pale in comparison to this monster, Big Jim’s worst nightmare. His biggest problem is a grizzly bear appropriately named Satan.  The bear is the main focus of the story told in the movie “Night of the Grizzly”.

Satan is not just any grizzly. He is plum crazy. The bear  kills and destroys just because he can.

Satan wrecks Big Jim’s fences, kills the beautiful bull he had intended to use to populate his herd, and decimates his flock of sheep. While not pleased, Big Jim doesn’t plan to let the bear stand in his way. He goes after Satan, but fails, at least in the beginning.

Satan keeps on pillaging. He kills two men, including Big Jim’s longtime friend and employee  Sam Potts. The grizzly takes off the arm of another man.

The night before Big Jim’s decides to hunt and kill Satan once and for all, his wife Angela threatens to leave if he carries out his plan. She has had enough. She can’t really be blamed inasmuch as she has had plenty of sleepless nights in the past wondering if Big Jim would come home alive when he was chasing desperadoes.

Big Jim gives her the “a man’s gotta do what he has to do” speech. Not only will killing the grizzly rid them of their own personal problems, but the reward money will get them out of the debt they have incurred because of Satan’s evil activities.  However, Angela is not convinced and tells Big Jim that when he comes back, the rest of the family will be gone.

Unbeknownst to Big Jim and his wife, their son Charlie has overheard the whole spat. The boy is troubled by the conflict between his normally loving parents and decides to take matters into his own hands.

He sets out after Satan himself, with his gun and pint-sized dog in tow. Learning of this the next morning, Big Jim follows Charlie, intending to rescue him and knock off  Satan, too.

Before he can even get to the boy and the bear Big Jim has to engage in a gunfight with Cass, who is also after the reward. The latter is temporarily blinded during the shootout by a gunpowder flash and Big Jim continues on to the final battle with Satan.

In the final crisis, Satan comes close to winning. He  corners  Charlie in a tree and Big Jim in a hole.

However, Cass (who has recovered his vision) comes along and goes after the bear. He wants the money, but he also cares for Charlie and obviously doesn’t want harm to come to the boy.

In the chaos, Cass is killed by Satan. This, however, gives Big Jim the time and opportunity to finally gun the bear down

Big Jim’s battle with the appropriately named Satan is one of courage. His story reveals the nature of courage, which is that it  is a paradox. One aspect of a paradox, as defined by  Wikiquotes,  is that it is a “situation which defies logic or or intuition.”

The logical thing for Big Jim to do would have been to know when he had been licked and leave town. His wife’s intuition told her that “getting out of Dodge” was the sane and safe course of action. Right thinking would have meant that he would have listened to his wife.

However, Big Jim wanted a new life, one that had promise for him and his family.  Thus he made up his mind to fight for what he wanted despite the odds.

G.K.. Chesterton, “The Prince of Paradox”, wrote these words:

The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.  

Chesterton further analyzed the nature of courage this way:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers.

Jesus calls us at times to do the unreasonable or illogical thing.  Take for example His teaching in Matthew 6 in which he tells His followers to not worry about provision.

Jesus explains that worrying about things like food and clothing is the mark of a “pagan”, not of a believer.  He tells his disciples that if they live for Him and make His kingdom their primary concern that God will give them what they need from day to day. (See Matthew 6:31-33, Life Recovery Bible.)

This command goes against the grain of someone like me who has been raised in the materialistic American culture. “Why”, I tell myself. “I can’t (fill in the blank with a seemingly impossible task which involves putting Him first over my finances). We’ll go off the abyss.”

Yet, this is what Jesus tells me to do. I have to decide if I am going to overcome my fear and do it.

I am motivated by the idea that if I do what He commands, I will be rewarded. God  will open the floodgates of heaven for me (Malachi 3:10). He even wants me to put Him to the test, and counter the prevailing logic.

I am aware that standing next to those floodgates is my own personal grizzly who is also named Satan. He is far worse than anything Hollywood can create, AND he is real (I Peter 5:8).

My mind tells me to give up and go another direction. After all, when I encounter overwhelming opposition, isn’t this the wise course?

Not so. Like Big Jim, if I want to gain my inheritance and see the promises of God fulfilled in my life, then the only strategy is to go on the offensive and beat back old Satan. It’s paradoxical and even my body cries out in pain as I go about something that my intellect tells me is totally absurd.

I am encouraged in my fight  by what the apostle Paul wrote in relation to obstacles. He noted that we are like sheep being slaughtered, every single day. But Paul said that I  overwhelming victory will be  mine through Jesus Christ who loves me despite the dangers (Romans 8:37-39).

Time to lock and load.  Gotta go and get my 10-guage.

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“So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”

My oldest son and I have both gotten into a reality show called “Stars Earn Stripes”. The premise of the show is that male and female celebrities, through feats of dare and do, make money for charities  which benefit those who serve or have served in the military.

Each star is paired with a real soldier who mentors them. These men are the real deal. They are decorated snipers and members of special forces.

As part of the show, the authentic servicemen put their celebs through tough training. They teach them how to fire a weapon, stay afloat with a huge amount of gear on, and safely perform acrobatic-type deeds.

After this period of training, the teachers and their celeb students go off on a difficult mission. The whole scenario is definitely meant for the testosterone set, as there is plenty of shooting and a lot of explosions.

When the stars achieve a favorable outcome, they are awarded “stripes”. This earns them money for their designated charity.

Failure in the main mission means relegation to a “shootoff” between another competitor.  If the star loses, he is eliminated from the show.

In one episode, a male star is troubled by the prospect of having to jump out of a helicopter high in the air. He is to only be secured by a tether. His destination is a rooftop, where he is to land.  After touching down, he is to rappel down a sheer wall.

This man is not the macho type, and in fact it is not clear why he is even a celebrity. He is one of those people who is “famous for being famous”.  When he is shown, the subtitle on the TV screen notes that he is an “entertainer.”

However, he has proved his mettle to date. In a previous show  his female celeb partner, a wrestling diva, tells an interviewer that this man is a weak link. Yet, he comes through with flying colors.

Now, as he looks at this week’s task, he is scared to death. He walks with his trainer, telling him his doubts. He is torn because not only is what he is being asked to do is unsafe, but because he does not want to let down his comrades and the charity he is seeking to benefit.

Finally, his team jumps on the helicopter. At the moment of truth, this star jumps into the air, lands on the building, and rappels down it. He successfully completes the entire treacherous mission and stays in the competition.

Afterwards, his mentor and the Army general in charge of the show commend him. In their lauds,  they tell the star that his ability to face down his fears and still accomplish the task he was given is the definition of true courage.

I could relate well to this celebrity’s predicament.   These days I too am facing the prospect of taking on a job I am not temperamentally suited for.

Furthermore, I know it will be a test every single day.  One of my close friends, when I told him of this job, said to me,”If you take it, bring a gun.”

When I think of myself in the day-to-day situations involved in carrying it out,  I think of all the things that could go wrong. I become fearful.

Yet, I don’t have much choice at the moment. Like this star, I have people depending on me to overcome my fears and move on to success.

The longer I live the Christian life, the more I understand that it is made up of one trial after another similar to those portrayed on “Stars Earn Stripes”.  However, I am learning that as  I encounter these difficulties, I gain insight into the thoughts of the Scriptures, which tell us to rejoice in our trials.

The Bible tells us that to successfully negotiate our tests, we need to exercise single-minded trust in God. As the celebrities put their safety into the hands of their expert soldier mentors on “Stars Earn Stripes”, we are to put our faith in the God of all wisdom who is capable of bringing us through (James 1:2-6).

In the past I have seen trials as something just to endure so I can move on to greener pastures. My mental image of them is like that conjured up by William Shakespeare in “MacBeth”.

“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”

However, I no longer view them as annoyances (or worse) which get in the way of what I want in life. I now see them as the essence of life itself.  I have learned that life in God is indeed to be a daily trial of  faith.

The reason I can hold this perspective now is not because I am deluded or insane. Nor is my view due to some special talents in my possession.

My slant on trials is based on my growth in comprehending the nature of the God I serve.  I believe now that He puts these potentially vexing circumstances in my path so He can show Himself faithful in delivering me through them.

God has a plan for my life that concerns me doing good and glorifying Him. This course doesn’t involve me sitting on my  duff and sipping Dr. Peppers as I watch others participate in combat. The path God has set for me includes  meaningful tasks that accomplish His purposes and give light to others as to who He really is.

Unfortunately, somebody else has a plan for me, too.  This person is known as Satan.

AKA the devil, he intends to have me wallow in my fears to the point where I choose not to participate in God’s purposes for me. Minimally, Satan works so that I  procrastinate in carrying out God’s plan and hide in my foxhole.

L.B. Cowman’s  devotional “Streams in the Desert” notes how God used Paul’s life as an example of a person who endured great suffering, but who refused to be defeated.  In fact,  Cowman reveals that such incidents as the apostle’s  shipwreck were used by God to glorify Himself and shed light on His nature.

Cowman writes of God’s process in trials:

It is a common misconception that the Christian’s walk of faith is strewn with flowers and when God intervenes in lives of His people He does so in such a wonderful way as to always lift us out of our difficult surroundings. In actual fact, however, the real experience is quite the opposite.  And the message of the Bible is one of alternating trials and triumphs in the lives of a “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), everyone from Abel to the last martyr.

Indeed, in God’s scheme of things He uses trials to give us the big time rush of exulting in victory with Him.  He involves us in these difficulties out of his love for us! Amazing.

Having this knowledge in my service manual I know will help me to overcome my fears as I move into my daily missions (i.e., trials).

 

When I am fearful, I must remember the words of the greatest English bard, Mr. Shakespeare:

“Our doubts are traitors, 
and make us lose the good we oft might win, 
by fearing to attempt.”  

Further, I must definitely keep in mind his words as he attests to God’s heart in giving me my trials:

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.” 
― William ShakespeareHamlet

 

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).”

As they lay in the bed in their hotel room, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami can’t sleep. They are under a lot of pressure.

In an episode of the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor will be coaching his Dillon High Panthers in the Texas state championship game the next day. A pressure-cooker situation under any circumstances, the heat is increased by the instability of his 15 year-old freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy.

J.D. is probably the best quarterback in the state, but he himself is under a lot of pressure to perform from his tightly wound father. In fact, after the game which got the Panthers into the final, J.D.’s Dad hit him in the face repeatedly in front of  the Taylors and other witnesses because the boy didn’t follow his instructions about how to play.

By law, both Eric and Tami (who is the Dillon principal)  have to report the incident to Child Protective Services, and do so. This causes the breakup of Tami’s relationship with J.D.’s mother, a close friend, and an even more adversarial relationship between Eric and the quarterback’s intrusive father.

At first, J.D. is angry at his father’s beating. However, he eventually sides with his father and becomes upset with Coach Taylor for reporting his Dad’s indiscretion.

As Eric and Tami stand on the balcony in the middle of the night, looking over the city of Austin and in sight of the stadium where the state championship is to be played, the coach says,”I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.” Tami replies,”Well, you’re going to win. Or, you’re going to lose. Either way, the sun will come up the next day.”

Tami Taylor exhorts her husband with some wise words that help him to see the big picture and what is important. In essence, Tami is saying that life is unpredictable, but whatever happens life goes on regardless.

Tami’s statement echoes one Jesus made in the Bible. In the context of this statement, Jesus had just told his disciples to seek the higher values, i.e. God’s kingdom and his righteousness, over temporal concerns and added that they would have everything they needed as a result.

Maintaining such a character in a world that has no interest in pursuing godly qualities, and in fact goes after the opposite, is not easy. Thus, Jesus gave His followers some practical advice to handle the pressure:  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Both Eric and Tami Taylor continue to keep this perspective in the days ahead. Things don’t work out as they hoped, but they still keep their character.

First, the Dillon Panthers encounter a huge deficit in the state championship game.  Coach Taylor courageously benches J.D. in the second half. He has played terribly and acted disrespectfully toward both Coach Taylor and his teammates.

Even though Coach Taylor’s move almost pays off, Dillon loses the championship by a whisker. Even so,  the coach encourages his team and compliments his players in the locker room in front of their parents afterward for playing like champions.

You would think that having almost won the state title and having taught values to his players would make Eric’s job secure. However, in the world of Texas high school football, this kind of behavior is not necessarily prized.

Indeed, J.D.’s wealthy and influential father works behind the scenes to pull off a coup to replace Coach Taylor with J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. The school board is faced with the choice of potentially losing their star quarterback or saying goodbye to their highly successful coach.

At first, Eric refuses to defend himself. He tells Tami that he has some pride, and that the board knows his record.

Tami wisely advises Eric that he needs to come to the board meeting and speak. She knows he has no chance of warding off the attack of J.D.’s father otherwise, and it is clear that his livelihood is at stake.

Although Eric bravely fights for his job in front of the school board, they opt to keep J.D.’s father happy. Eric is basically demoted. He is offered the position of head coach at a previously defunct  high school the board intends to resurrect across town in a lesser district as a consolation. 

At a wedding where Tami informs Eric of  the decision, she continues to display grace, telling Eric,”No matter what happens, wherever you go, or whatever you do, I will be behind you.”  Eric takes Tami away from the wedding  and drive  across town to view the ramshackle East Dillon High facilities.  He obviously plans to make the best of the new situation and coach next season at the reopened school.

The show ends with Eric and Tami standing on the abandoned school’s tiny football field with their arms around each other. Eric is a man with plenty of godly traits, and fortunately for him, he has a wife who is even godlier and helps him to make right choices despite the pressures of life.

Knowing what he has in Tami influences Eric’s decisionmaking.  During the wedding, as various couples, including Eric and Tami, dance a band sings the following lyrics, which help to explain the coach’s choice:

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found

Eric Taylor has won a state championship previously and  just took his team to another final. He is a highly respected coach and would have no trouble landing a job coaching elsewhere.

In fact, this is not the first time Eric has put  his career behind his wife and family. Once he was offered and took a coaching position at a major university in Texas even though Tami had just had a baby and elected to stay in Dillon. When he saw his family suffering from his absences, he leaves his new job, a dream come true, and returns to coach the Panthers.

Yes, Eric knows what he has in Tami.

 When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be ( When a Man Loves a Woman, Jody Watley, made famous by Percy Sledge)

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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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