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“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1a-3).

“We’re moving on to another candidate.” Thus, a week after my whirlwind tour of a northeastern university in pursuit of a job as a departmental head, I am left feeling low.

In fact, although this is not the first rejection I have received in my six months of unemployment,  it is for some reason the worst. After I hung up the phone last night, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I retreated to my bed to sulk.

Rejection is a bummer. How are we supposed to handle it when we get rebuffed?

In my case, I immediately engaged in some serious navel gazing. “What a loser”, I thought.

Of course, at the end of a year in which I have come up empty after  persistent job hunting, numerous phone interviews,  and some long flights to unusual places, I suppose being depressed is normal. Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better.

One of my friends tried to console me last night. “Perhaps you ought to analyze what you are doing during your interviews,” he said.

Good advice I guess. “I TEACH people how to interview”, I told him.

What worries me the most is that there is some inherent characteristic in me that is sabotaging my efforts.  I told my pastor as much over lunch yesterday, prior to getting the heave ho last night.

When I told another person that I was a loser, they said,”Well, Jesus isn’t a loser.” While that did direct my thoughts to the proper place (as I will note later), the comment didn’t do anything to boost my own individual self esteem at the time.

As it is Christmas time I have been locating old holiday fare on the tube that might interest me. The other night I watched “Charlie Brown Christmas” for the umpteenth time.

Then I noticed that “White Christmas” was on.  I realized that even though I knew the song and was quite aware of the singer Bing Crosby, I had never sat down and watched the thing.

So I did. The film is close to three hours long, but I decided to view it anyway.

I read the synopsis about how two entertainers (Crosby and Danny Kaye) move their show to Vermont to save the hotel of their former World War II general.  The state was getting no snow at Christmas and this predicament was killing business. This much of the plot I think I knew already.

To me, however, the real focus of “White Christmas” is not this attempt at helping out a revered old friend. What drew me as I watched was the dynamics of the romance between character Bob Wallace (Crosby) and  female singer Betty Haynes , who performs with her sister Judy.

When they first meet, the sincere Betty sees Bob as a cynic. He tells her that everyone in show business has an “angle”. These comments turn her off and they don’t expect to ever see each other again.

However, due to a series of circumstances all four entertainers (Bob and fellow entertainer Phil Davis and the Haynes Sisters) end up at the general’s hotel in Vermont. The girls become part of the show that Wallace and Davis have in mind.

In this setting, Betty comes to admire Bob. She thinks he is a quite self sacrificing man in moving his entire show to Vermont for the sake of his old war friend.

One day the hotel’s nosy housekeeper overhears a conversation between Bob and the well-known TV host Ed Harrison (based on the real Ed Sullivan).  During her eavesdropping she hears Ed tell Bob that he will put the whole show on national TV.

The premise behind Ed’s idea is to gain a ton of publicity for Wallace and Davis. Bob turns this offer down, not wanting to dishonor  his old general in front  of the entire country.

Unfortunately for him, Bob gets shamed instead. The housekeeper hung up before hearing Bob’s refusal to engage in the national TV production. She tells Betty about the plan.

As a result, Betty begins to reject Bob. She is haughty, cold and angry.

Bob can’t figure out what he did wrong. But he still pursues Betty, even when she leaves Vermont for a show in New York.

Bob goes after her and visits the club to try and iron things out. He tells Betty that he knows her “knight in shining armor” has been knocked off his horse, but that he would like him to be back up there. About that time Ed Harrison shows up and the conversation is interrupted.

Eventually the misunderstanding is cleared up. But in the interim Bob has to go through a period of undeserved chastening.

I think the theme of shame is quite appropriate at Christmas. While I know this sounds rather droll amid all the holiday glitter, hear me out.

Think about it.  Jesus Christ is living in heaven with His Heavenly Father.  Yet, the Scriptures say that He, although being in His very nature God, came to live among us a man.

The apostle Paul tells us to have the same mindset as Jesus.  The apostle writes that in  becoming a man, Jesus “made Himself nothing”.  (Philippians 2: 6:,7)

But He didn’t stop there. Jesus was fully obedient to His Father, keeping His humility and even going to the Cross in the will of God. The result of  Jesus’s humiliation was His eventual exaltation as Lord of heaven and earth (v. 8,9).

So when I think of my abasement during my unemployment, what I believe I need to do is look at the big picture. God has a plan in my current low estate.

It has occurred to me this morning that a lot of great people have had to fail before they succeeded:

* Thomas Edison made 10,000 attempts at the light bulb before he invented it.

* Michael Jordan was given the ball 26 times to make the game winning shot and missed.

* Jack Canfield’s hit book Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected by publishers over  a hundred times.

* Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was turned down for employment 14 times by law firms.

So I am not the first person to have had a gut check in life.  And a lot of the shame and contempt I endure is deserved.

Jesus became a man and died for my sins, yet He did nothing to receive this kind of treatment.   In fact, He had behaved just the opposite.

Of course, Jesus  didn’t have to like His abasement. But He  endured it out of love for His own. With His help, so can I.

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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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“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).”

I was visiting a friend recently whom I had not seen in about 15 years. I was in his town for a business meeting.

As I enjoyed the hospitality he and his wife offered me the evening after the meeting, I related to him my experience. I told him about the condescending treatment I had received from other people attending that meeting.

My friend, who had heard other similar stories from me as we caught up, replied,”And it could only happen to you.” My buddy’s remark was mainly meant to be a humorous statement about how it seems I am a target for such maltreatment.

However, the next morning, as I was having my quiet time, I reflected on his comment. Even at the time he made it, and even more so on this morning, I received a bit of an ephiphany.

The “it could only happen to you” remark could have been a sarcastic utterance which was meant to relay to me that I was being overly sensitive to people’s slights.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this was indeed the case.

As I sat in the comfort of the bedroom provided by my hosts, I began to review a list of all the people who had “done me dirt” and their offenses. It was a pretty long list.

I determined that I was indeed a walking grievance. This was confirmed even more when I read that morning’s devotional from “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman. The section of the piece applicable to my dilemma reads:

 How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse; . . . it may be . . . that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.” Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare.

As I felt that God was convicting me of a sinful attitude, I said to Him,”Ok. What do I do about it?”

The answer was a still small voice (not audible) of a kind Elijah experienced in his interactions with the Lord (I Kings 19:11-13. The prompting, which I deemed to be from the Holy Spirit. said, “Forgive.”

At breakfast I told my friend about how his comment had helped discern that I was a “walking grievance.”  I had not told him about God’s response to this insight, but my pal unwittingly confirmed it when he said,”You have a lot of people to forgive.”

Jesus told his disciples,”My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12).” I have been thinking of this verse for a long time because in context Jesus says that if we obey Him, He will confide in us and be our friends.

As I really want to be Jesus’s friend, I have determined that if I was to be really intimate with Him I needed to love others as He has loved me. I have known for a long time that this is a tall order.

If anyone has a reason to be a walking grievance, it is Jesus. Over my life I have snubbed Him, disobeyed Him, yelled at Him, been angry with Him and totally misunderstood Him. I have been a rotten friend.

Yet, Jesus has kept on loving me. He has not given up on me or abandoned me.

Thus, as a result of my illumination at my friend’s house, I have concluded that I need to set aside all the hurts and pain caused by others in my life. To do this, I need to forgive.

I have to rid myself of  my resentments against others in this way. I have to tell my walking grievances to take a hike!

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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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“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,  and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:10-12).”

There is a trail that runs between  my town and the other major city in my area that I have been wanting to hike. As the weather this week is unseasonably cool and overcast, I thought that today would be as good a time as any.

I was even more convinced I needed to go on this walk last night. I read of a man who felt very cold in his spirit and walked back and forth for three hours dealing with it.

I did not have a very good day yesterday. It didn’t get any better  this morning.

I had not been out of bed long when our power went out. I was cranky and irritable, and it spilled out in how I treated my family. Come hell or high water, I knew I needed to get out on that trail and look under the hood.

The Hucklberry Trail  begins at a shopping mall and ends six miles later at the public library in my town.  It meanders along railroad tracks, rural roads and streams.

The trail runs through a forest. As the hiker gets closer to my  town, it runs by cornfields and pasture land. The vista becomes quite wide and the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view.

Eventually, the trail curves and goes under the bypass and onto the campus of the local university. It continues by the football stadium, which houses the local idol worshipped here on Saturday afternoons. I am only half joking : ).

As I began my walk, I begin to search my spirit for muck. I asked God to reveal it.

I have been particularly frustrated by my current unemployment. I can’t seem to find a job good enough to fit my skill set and support my family.

I recently turned down a job offer in Asia and other opportunities elsewere in the States because I felt like God had led me to return from my overseas post and stay put where my family lives.

I determined before I left this overseas assignment that I am needed at home, and my own walk with Him would benefit from the fellowship at my church. The Lord seemed to back this up in speaking to me from the Scriptures.

In returning home, I believed I would best be “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)”. The “bargain” with God (if you will) is that  He would meet our financial needs. Yesterday I was wondering down deep in my heart where God’s end of  this deal was.

I told my wife this morning that I felt like the Lord was sqaushing me. Indeed, I had read a verse earlier in the week which pretty much told me that. He is mashing me like a piece of clay these days (Isaiah 45:9).

I am hopeful that God is actually answering my prayers in this process. While my situation is not easy, I am trusting that perhaps He is remaking me for new purposes that will glorify Him.

There is Scriptural precedent for God doing this. He once  remade the whole nation of Israel. He led Jeremiah down to a potter’s house to give him the object lesson:

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,“Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.”  So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.  But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.  Then the Lord gave me this message:  “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

Hiking down the Huckleberry Trail, I was taken by scenery that reminded me of the legacy from which I came. The railroad track reminded me that my father once earned his living working on trains.

The small park which memorializes the coal mine that used to be there also made me look at my bloodlines. My grandfather was a coal miner a a  good part of his life.

Thus, God affirmed the goodness of work to me by noting how my grandfather and father worked to provide for their loved ones. A good man leaves behind a legacy to his kids of industrious labor. My patriarchs surely did that for me.

The Scriputes  also illustrate through  Jesus’s Jewish ancestors what it means to give our children a legacy.  Abraham and Rahab left behind a godly heritage for the Son of Man. They were models of faith combined with action (James 2:21-25). 

The trail not only gave me teaching from my heritage. It also put into my mind that there are dangers out  there which can destroy me.

A man walked by with a dog. From afar, it seemed to be loose and perhaps menacing. Then, as man and pet came closer, I noticed the leash.

God brought to mind that Satan is out there ready to devour me. However, God will rein him in if I do what He tells me to do, which is to resist that beast (James 4:7).

However, the Lord had more than the externala for me out there this morning. He got down to business by having me look at my own heart. One mess in  there is my battle to be bold in sharing the gospel.

I saw a man about a hundred yardd ahead of me. I thought I should try to catch up to him and share about Jesus, but it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to be bothered.

In addition, I wondered why I was motivated to share with this man out of guilt. Where was the joy of knowing Christ that made me overflow with excitement at the prospect of telling this man about Him. “Oh, wretched man that I am”, was the message in my soul at that point. 

The trail was also prone to temptations. A scantily clad woman jogged by. I thankfully only glanced her way, but I was reminded of  a dependency that I know I have which can wreck my soul if I let it: lust.

I was aggravated at that woman. “Why, doesn’t that woman know that she tempts me and subjects herself to predators on lonely stretches like  this!”

I also was teed off by the bikers who kept coming by from behind and warning me of their presence. (“On your left!).

I jump out of my skin when that happens and have had a pet peeve toward bikers all summer. I was humbled when I saw that along the way a billboard revealing the park rules which REQUIRE bikers to warn pedestrians as they come upon them.

Thus, the Lord  gave me a new item in my messy heart to deal with out on the path: a critical spirit. As with my other known sins, I confessed them and obtained God’s forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).

Yes, the walk today was a “flush and fill” operation. I am hoping that a lot of the trash heap in my life was swept away by bringing it before God to clean up.

I’m also desirous that the garbage in my heart was replaced with the blessed Holy Spirit. I surely need His presence and leading in the days ahead.

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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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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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