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Archive for January, 2010

I just received this email from Jerry A. Weant and thought that this was powerful and moving enough to share on my blog – As you read it, think about your own prayers. What do you pray for? Really? As Brad McCoy states, he thought he was praying for one thing. Turns out he was praying for something entirely different, and God knew what that was…

I have to share with you all our experience last night and bear with me, this email could get pretty long. Tom and I had the amazing privilege of hearing Coach Brad McCoy (Colt’s dad) speak at the Regents’ fall sports banquet. He had been the scheduled speaker for months – who knew that he would come to us after the three hardest weeks of his life.

He has coached for 26 years, won 4 state championships and has or is raising his three sons to be Godly leaders, with humble servant hearts. He confessed to us that he speaks all the time on growing leaders and on the importance of sports, football in particular, to learning life’s lessons. He also said that he had to change his talk for the night in light of what happened to Colt Thursday night. He apologized for what could sound like rambling and for having to talk about his son more than he might, usually, but he said he had to share with us how he saw God in all of this.

Coach McCoy began his talk telling us of God’s hand in the story of how Colt and Jordan Shipley came to live in the back house of one of our Regents’ families and that was very funny and entertaining. He wanted to thank the Andersons, who were there, for providing his son with a safe home and he wanted to honor for them for who they have been in Colt’s life (they hate to be publicly thanked like this but he thought it appropriate since they were part of the Regents’ family). I’ll share this story with you later because it’s what else he talked about that was so amazing.

He told us that three weeks ago his highschool football team, his youngest son is a senior on it, lost the state championship by 1 point because their kicker flaked out, they had to go for two with no time left on the clock and lost 13-12. Then he and his wife join Colt in New York for the Heisman ceremony which did not go as well as they could have hoped. Then they get to Pasadena for the biggest game in Colt’s life, one he has been preparing for all of his life – and he plays for three plays. He told us that as soon as Colt went down he began to pray that God would enable him to continue playing, he prayed for healing and for Colt’s heart and attitude.

He finally made his way down under the stadium, praying the whole way, hoping to see Colt sitting up and putting his pads back on and heading back out the tunnel. Instead, he saw him laying prone on a trainer’s table, no pads, and a tear on his face. Colt looked up at him and said “Dad, I had them – I knew everything they were going to do before they did it – I could have completed every pass I threw – I could see everything and I know we could have won this game.” Brad told God that Colt could have his arm!

Later, Colt got up and wanted to try and throw a little, just in case he had been miraculously healed and Coach McCoy said all he could think of was when Colt was 3 or 4 and they would throw in the front yard – he could see that little boy in this big ol’ quarterback and it broke his heart to watch him throw as if he was using the wrong hand, like he had to think of every step and where should his hand even be. When everyone finally decided he was not playing, Colt refused to let them put his arm in a sling, he put his pads back on and asked for a headset so he could help with the plays and help the new quarterback.

All through this, Coach McCoy was dealing with lots of emotions and he told us he was pretty angry with God and God finally told him “Colt is fine, it is you that need some help.” He said that God shared that with him over and over all through the night – like when the game finally turned around and the crowd was chanting “Gilbert…Gilbert” and he was so struck by the fact that this should have been Colt’s stage. He just shared with us the hurts of a father who could do absolutely nothing to help his son and how God helped him to realize that Colt would make it, that it was Coach McCoy who needed God’s strength at the moment. He told us his phone blew up from all the texts and messages after Colt spoke at the end of the game and that he didn’t hear what Colt said until Saturday morning. He did ask Colt later that night, around 3:00 am, what he said because he was getting all these calls about it and Colt said, “Dad, I don’t remember, I have no idea.”

Coach McCoy believes God spoke through Colt Thursday night. He also told us that Colt set out to impact the world through football at UT and he firmly believes he did that by what he said after the game in a way that Colt could never have done, even by winning the championship. He asked us to pray for Colt, not for his shoulder, because that is already getting better, but for his broken heart. He also shared with us that a non-believer who had heard Colt speak after the game recognized Coach McCoy and asked him about what he said. Coach said he had an amazing opportunity to explain “the Rock” to this person and to witness to him.

Then – he said he likes to sing some and apoligized because he might not make it through the song, but he sang for us the song about “…on solid rock, I stand – all other ground is sinking sand…” Anyway, it was an amazing night and I have to think we are probably the only community Coach McCoy has shared any of this with – what a story and what a privilege. He also shared with us his and his wife’s philosophy on raising kids and it’s that you prepare the child for the path, not try to prepare the path for the child – and this was something in Colt’s path and his faith would see him through.

I have never been to a sports banquet where I cried and laughed so much – he is a great speaker and was so honest and transparent – his hurt for his son and his joy and pride in his son were so evident. He also told us that he got a call from a NFL general manager yesterday who told him that what Colt said after the game just raised his stock with the NFL immensely, because if you want someone to be the face of your franchise, that is what you want their face to look like. Anyway, sounds like Colt is the real deal, which is what I have thought all along. I still can’t claim to be a UT fan, but I will always be a Colt McCoy fan!! Sorry this was so long and I’m sure I didn’t give his talk justice – it was just an amazing evening. Love you guys

“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

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One of the great surprises of the Broadway theater is the musical, “Rent.”  The play started on a dirty side street in New York City.  They call it Off-Off Broadway, which means the musical had little chance of making it to the big time.  But then something happened that nobody predicted.  The musical just exploded.  People started packing the house every night.  When the awards were given, “Rent” came away a winner.  Even after thirteen years it is still hard to get a ticket to this play.

Something about “Rent” touched a nerve and spoke to the heart.  It could be that the intensity of the young author spilled over into his work.  He was very sick as he wrote the play and died just before opening night.  The centerpiece of the musical is a song that comes in the second act called “Season of Love.”  Critics say this song may be one of the reasons that “Rent” continues to fill the theater night after night.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
How do we measure a year?

In daylights—in sunsets,
In midnights—in cups of coffee,
In inches—in miles,
In laughter—in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure
A year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure the life
Of a Woman or a Man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now—to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends.

Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Measure the love.

Measure, measure your life in love.
Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

Paul understood these feelings when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  From a jail cell, anticipating his own death, he too wrote with a great intensity.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father ~Ephesians 5:15-20

His audience met in a little house church surrounded by a pagan culture.  And Paul’s impassioned yearning for his friends speaks to a universal question.  Is it possible to live a meaningful life in a world like this?  He knew that many things chipped away at their souls and assaulted their values day after day.  His response was to say that they could take the minutes of their lives and make them count.

If we turn from the Bible to today’s newspaper it is amazing how current Paul’s concerns still are.  Like Ephesus long ago we are part of a culture that incessantly assaults our values.  The old seven deadly sins of the Middle Ages still rear their ugly heads.  After all these years we still do battle with pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth.  Stephen Carter, Professor of Law at Yale University, calls one of our basic problems a lack of integrity.  He says we live in an age where winning is more important than playing by the rules of the game.  He footnotes his case with a multitude of stories.  A beauty queen is stripped of her title when it is learned that the educational credentials on her resume were fabricated.  A respected national TV network is forced to apologize for doctoring a TV clip to make a truck seem less safe than it is.  Respectable authors of a book on management are accused of bulk purchases at key bookstores to get their book on the Best Seller list.  He talks about Republican and Democrat politicians who are guilty of taking under-the-table money for elections.  Mr. Carter wonders what has happened to integrity in our time. (Stephen L. Carter, Integrity [New York:  Basic Books, 1996] p. 4.)

Paul also struggled with the integrity issue.  His advice on how to live honestly in a difficult time is found at the end of his letter to the Ephesians.  How can we use the minutes and hours that stretch out before us?  How can we walk without stumbling?  The Apostle gives his friends, and us, five solid words of advice.

Paul begins with wisdom.  He reached back into his Jewish heritage and reclaimed an old word.  He told his friends to live not as unwise persons but as wise.  The Ephesians knew a lot about wisdom.  Athens and Alexandria were the centers of wisdom in their time.  They knew that wisdom meant knowledge and facts and intelligence.  But not all the things that march under the banner of wisdom deserve to be there.

If he were writing to us I think he would say that wisdom is not scanning the Internet.  He could not have had in mind the multitude of how-to books that we keep buying.  He certainly did not mean that wisdom is synonymous with yet another diploma or degree.

Paul’s understanding of wisdom was not intellectual achievement.  He was talking about one’s attitude toward life.  How one looked at the world.  Real wisdom is looking through the lenses as a child of God and seeing our brothers and sisters everywhere and knowing that we are here to make a contribution and give something back.  Real wisdom is standing firm and not letting the world shape our values.  Maybe this is one of the reasons that the play, “Rent,” touched a nerve in our time.  Maybe the dying young author had come to understand the meaning of real wisdom.  It is making sense of our lives and the times in which we live.

Paul follows his words about wisdom with a second world about time.  He talks about using well whatever minutes we have.  The King James Version cautions us to redeem the time, which means to use carefully the time we have been given.  Our lives are everlastingly besieged by a vast array of choices.  The great test for all of us is that we pick and choose among all the options, taking take with us things that matter and not things shabby and inconsequential.

Frederick Beuchner has said that every day we live is like a birthday present waiting to be opened.  We are to use wisely what we have been given.  Open the package ever so slowly.  Take from the box each brand new day with its challenges and opportunities.  This present of a day will never come again.  No wonder the Apostle writes to his friends, be careful how you use your time.

Paul then uses the word understanding. He encourages us to understand the will of God.  He pleads for discernment.  This age of ours knows little of discernment.  We are much like the window-shopper who stares incredulously into the shop window where, on the other side of the glass, someone has mislabeled all the valuable items in the window cheaply and placed ridiculously high price tags on cheap baubles.  It is not always easy to distinguish between what matters and what is inconsequential.  Yet Paul says we can go beyond the confusion of our time.  We can know the will of God.

Patrick Overton speaks to this in his poem from The Learning Tree:

When we walk to the edge of all
the light we have
And take that step into the darkness
Of the unknown,
We believe that one of two things will happen—
There will be something solid for us
To stand on
Or, we will be taught how to fly.

This is discernment.  We all stand on the edge of a precipice from time to time.  There is great confusion about what we are to do next.  But, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, if we keep our eyes on the light that shines in the distance and follow it all the way, we shall find the path.  We call this discovery the Will of God.

Paul’s next word is a verb, fill. He warns his friends not to be drunk with wine but rather to be filled with the Spirit.  The cult of Dionysius held that wine-induced frenzies led to religious insight.  Remnants of that cult are still with us.  Many still believe that whatever gets us through the hard times is all right.  But Paul reminds us that there are no substitutes for the Spirit of God who fills and enlightens believers.

Our age knows all too well that addiction goes far beyond drugs and alcohol.  We can be hooked on material goods, on money, on status, on success and work and sex and exercise and just about everything.  Paul says we are to be filled with the Spirit of God.  In that Spirit we find energy, breath, and life itself.  We are to accept no substitute for this filling, which God brings.

Has Paul saved the best word for last?  He gives us the word thanks. One man found this to be a saving word during a sudden, scary stay in the hospital.  Lying there, waiting for the test results he was afraid might reveal a malignancy, he began to sort out the things that mattered.  His hospital room was flooded by the memories of a lifetime.  He remembered the pleasure of listening to the Saint Louis Cardinals on the radio when he was a boy.  He recalled watching a son grow from boy to man.  He thought of the sheer delight on his daughter’s face as she watered skied for the first time.  The wonder of his minutes and hours and days just poured in upon him.  He remembered pumpkins…a 1969 Chevy…bicycle rides…holding hands with his beloved…early morning fog…blue jays, and raisin-bread Dalmatians.  Once he began thinking, he couldn’t stop.  He thought of old folk songs and hot dogs and tomatoes from his garden and stained glass windows and News from Lake Woebegon.  He remembered dahlias and daisies and dandelions and Doonesbury and Snoopy and Oscar Peterson at the keyboard and somebody singing “Porgy and Bess.”  But he said the best remembering was when the doctor came into his hospital room and used the marvelous word:  “Benign.”  In that remembering his life was changed forever. (Gordon Greer, “Editor at Large,” Better Homes and Gardens, November 1982, p. 4.)

How do we use our 525,600 minutes?  Living a meaningful life has never been simple.  But even though our roads are plagued with potholes and barricades, with barriers and detours, we can discover some wisdom along the way.  We do not have to fritter away our time.  We can make the most of what we have been given.  We can come to some understanding of this wonderful will of God.  We can find our help in spiritual realities and not in the addictions of our time.  Most of all we can learn to say thanks not only for the ups but also for the downs of our lives.  525,600 minutes.  We can learn to treasure the things we have been given.  And when our time comes, as it did to the old preacher who penned the letter and to the young man that wrote the play, we too can say:  We remember the love.  We really do remember the love.

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Children, it is the final hour (1 John 2:18)

How topical these words are! How they fit in well with what we are all living today, December 31!

The last day of the year… let us live it so as to participate in the Church’s litergical year! We should do this to express God in the fullest way that our hearts and our consciences feel and to make manifest our thanksgiving and request for forgiveness.

“It is truly right and just, and dutiful to give thanks to You!” To You. Exactly to You. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To thank You for all the abundance of the mystery of the Birth of Christ, in whose light the old year is passing and the new one is coming into birth. How eloquent it is, that the day which humanly tells us above all of “passing,” with the precise content of the litergy, should also testify to birth: God’s birth in a human body. And, at the same time, of man’s birth from God.

Any who did accept Him, He empowered to become the children of God. (John 1:12).

Together with this thanksgiving, let all the words of propitiation become the content of our participation in our worship today. Let us put everything which or consciences live into the words we speak, the acts we do, the thoughts we think, what weighs on them, what God alone knows how to judge and remit. And let us not avoid standing here before God, with knowledge and consciousness of guilt, the attitude of the publican in the Gospel of John. Let us take up his attitude. It corresponds to man’s inner truth. It brings liberation. It, exactly it, links up with hope.  Hope for a new world, a new beginning, and a renewal of the soul.

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