Seize the Day

Every once in a while, I would tell myself, “I’m going to call my Uncle Tim next week.”  But the weeks turned into months, and it didn’t happen nearly often enough.  Then he passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I missed my opportunity.

When I was in high school, the band Alabama hit the country music scene nationally and quickly became my favorite band.  I loved that they were way more southern rock in concert than they could be on the radio.  In 2003, they retired; then a few years ago, got back together and began touring again.  I kept telling myself “I want to see them in concert again.  Maybe they’ll come to Pittsburgh…”  I passed on Lancaster and Buffalo and Cleveland because it wasn’t convenient, or too expensive.  This week, I found out that their lead guitarist has Parkinson’s and won’t be touring with them anymore.  It won’t be same.  I missed my opportunity.

In 2013, the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.  I thought about going down for a playoff game, but decided it was too expensive and I didn’t have time.  Same thing the next two years.  Then in 2016, they didn’t make the playoffs.  I missed my opportunity.

I could go on and list a hundred other things.  Some important, some not so important.  Some involving people, some involving places, some involving events.  Missed opportunities.

dairy-queen-restaurants-blizzard-deal-for-september-jpg

To be fair, life happens.  We all have to make choices.  Money spent on concert tickets or sports events is money that could be spent on Oreo Blizzards or debt retirement.  Time spent with one person means time you cannot spend with another person.  Traveling to one place means you don’t have time to spend going to another place.

But here’s the thing – every day, we are presented with opportunities.  Every day, we have choices to make.  And every day, some opportunities pass us by.

We cannot take advantage of every opportunity.  So we have to make intentional choices about what we will do and what we will not do, who we will spend time with and who we will not spend time with, what we will spend money on and what we will not spend money on.

If we don’t make intentional choices, life will pass us by.  Opportunities will be missed without us realizing it at the time.

So seize the day.  Make your choices.  Don’t let inconvenience or busyness keep you from calling that person, making that memory, chasing that dream.

Seize the day.  Because one day, our opportunities will be lost.

For the Love of the Game

I love baseball.

Not like I love Jesus, love my Jewel and my Bethany, love my family or my church family or my friends.

But I love baseball.

And Monday is Opening Day!

roberto-clemente

The Great One

Baseball holds so many good memories for me.  Games I attended with family and friends; moments that were memorable; clutch performances; players that were full of grace and class.  As I sit here writing this, a flood of memories come back, including:

  • My first Major League game at Three Rivers Stadium with my Uncle Bob, Grandma Hunter, Dad & Mom, and my brother Dave.  Pirates against the Braves in 1975.  Got to see Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen, two of my favorites.
  • Meeting Hall-of-Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and getting his autograph after seeing him at the post office in his hometown of Chatham, Ontario.  My Dad followed him all the way to his farm from town just so I could meet him and get his autograph.
  • My first American League game in Toronto at old Exhibition Stadium against the Oakland A’s in 1981.  Rickey Henderson was in the outfield for the A’s that day.
  • Getting permission from my parents to skip school and go to the Blue Jays’ home opener against the hated New York Yankees on April 9, 1983.  It started snowing in the fifth inning and never stopped.  The Jays came back to win on a homer by Jesse Barfield.
  • Going to a double-header at Three Rivers stadium in July 1979 and seeing Willie Stargell hit a double and home-run, again with my Uncle Bob and other family members.
  • Meeting Willie Stargell in 1983 in the broadcast booth at Three Rivers Stadium after a Pirates-Expos game.
  • Taking Jewel to Three Rivers Stadium to see the Pirates in the spring of 1988 – the night Bob Prince came back to announce for the Pirates.
  • Taking Bethany to her first Major League game in Atlanta in 1998.  We saw Mark McGwire hit one of his 70 home runs for the Cardinals that year – a grand slam – saw the (hated) Cards score 13 runs in that inning; saw them knock Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux out of the game; and saw a bench-clearing brawl.
  • Attending my first Pirates game at PNC Park – a home opener.  Benito Santiago was the Pirates’ catcher.  NOT a memorable game!
  • Seeing Andrew McCutchen perform magic in center field, A.J. Burnett throw smoke from the mound, Clint Hurdle get tossed from a game, Joe Beimel pitch in relief, Starling Marte unleash a throw like a cannon shot from left field, Pedro Alvarez hit a one-bouncer into the river, and getting to see Ken Griffey, Jr. take the field – all at PNC Park.

There are so many more memories.  Games at old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, spring training games in Bradenton, watching the Pirates win the 1979 World Series after being down 3 games to 1.  Seeing players who are now legends – Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente (on TV), Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Ozzie Smith, and so many others.

As I think back over the memories of baseball, I can match them to seasons in my life – good and bad, ups and downs – baseball was always there.  (Except for those strike years!)

And what does any of this have to do with following Jesus?

A lot, actually. 

Because just as I can trace back to key moments in my life through baseball, just as baseball holds so many special moments with family and friends, the same is true of my walk with Jesus.

He’s always been with me.  And I can think of a ton of moments in my life when I walked with Him in the presence of family and friends.  Good moments, hard moments, stretching moments – they’re all there.  When you walk with Jesus for a while, just as when you follow a sport for a while, you build a history.  You build memories.

For 20 years – 1993 through 2012, as every true Pirates’ fan knows – the Pirates and we fans suffered through hopeless, losing seasons.  But we clung to our history – the Pirates, after all, were the team of Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Paul Waner, Honus Wagner, and Pie Traynor.  Surely, one day, they would be a powerhouse again.

And when, as a follower of Jesus, you suffer through dark times, you cling to the memories of the good times, the gratitude for all the blessings He has shared.  You know that ultimately, He will deliver you.  He already did the work at the cross.

It may not make sense to you, but to me, it makes perfect sense.

Besides, it’s Opening Day, and I wasn’t going to miss a chance to write about baseball!  🙂

The Truth About Time

Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at some simple and practical ways to hear from God.  The fact that we CAN hear from God, and that there are ways to learn and grow in hearing from God, leads us to the next issue – like any other relationship, improving our hearing skills means investing time in listening.  Some of you expressed your frustration with this in questions like this:

  • How do I engage and take time to include Jesus in my day?
  • God says to ask big, to dream big, to hope big – but is it too much to hope to achieve a continual walk in His presence this side of heaven?
  • How do we handle making time to spend with the Lord when there are so many other things and people looking for attention?  I try to put Him first, but it is so difficult when people want your attention “right now.”
  • Is there really any way to hope for having constant communion with God in this world without retreating completely and living in a monastery?

These are all great questions!  They demonstrate pretty clearly that many of us struggle with this issue of time with God. 

Infinity time spiral 15267876

Infinity time. Digital generated

The problem is that we’re all just so busy.  We have so many demands on our time.  And not only that, but we live in such a complex society today.  We are faced with options that previous generations never dreamed of.  For instance, we don’t just have 3 channels of TV from which to choose; we now have hundreds.  We don’t just have whatever books we can find in the library or we can purchase whenever we get to a bookstore; now, we can instantly download any of thousands of books on virtually any subject.  We don’t just have a few records/tapes/CD’s to listen to; we can stream virtually anything on Spotify or through iTunes or even on YouTube.  We live in a time of countless options, instant gratification, microwave dinners and fast food, Netflix – and also, a time when in the workplace, efficiency and high achievement are valued.  The job market is highly competitive, and if you can’t keep up, too bad.  So sad.

And when you do decide to spend time with God – why, which Bible will you use?  NIV?  The Message?  NLT?  ESV?  One of the older standards like the NASB or NKJV? 

So many choices!

Yet one thing has not changed in all of this.

Every single one of us – no matter how young or old we are, no matter how many jobs we are holding down or how many recreational activities we enjoy, no matter how simple or complex our jobs are, no matter what season of life we are, no matter how healthy or unhealthy we may be, no matter how much influence we may have, no matter what the balance in our checkbook or on our credit card statement is, no matter how large or small our family may be, or the ages of our children, or how long we’ve walked with Jesus, no matter where we live – every single one of us has only 24 hours in each day.  There is absolutely nothing that any one of us can do to change that.

So it all comes down to making choices about the time we have, or, in some cases, letting others make choices for us.

Almost every day, I hear from someone who apologizes that they don’t have time to be in church because they’re just too busy right now.  I often get in conversations with people who tell me that they want to spend time with God, or with their family, or getting to know a neighbor, or whatever – but they just don’t have time.  I know, I know – I make the same excuses.

But we all have the same amount of time every day.

We just don’t all make the same choices.

I know this – we make time for what’s most important.

I know businessmen and entrepreneurs and CEO’s who run multi-million dollar businesses who still make time to spend an hour with God every day; who are so committed to investing spiritually in others that they are in church every Sunday teaching Sunday School; and who don’t sacrifice their families on the altar of their careers.

Why?  How can they do that, and yet succeed? 

They choose very carefully how they spend their time.

You and I spend our time every moment, investing in something or someone.

We’ll delve into this more deeply – there’s a lot here – but for today, I’ll leave you with a few questions to ponder:

Today, like everyone else, and like every other day, you have twenty-four hours.  How much of it will you give to God?  What will keep you from spending time with God?  And what could you either give up or spend a little less time on in order to spend some time with God?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.

Life Happens

Last week, I knew that I was going to be out of town overnight on Thursday, and I wasn’t sure what time I would be home (and have wifi) on Friday.  So I sent out an email to my distribution list to let everyone know that my blog would be late on Friday.

And Friday came and went, and I didn’t get my blog written.  I thought late that afternoon, “no problem.  I’ll just do it tomorrow morning.”

And Saturday came and went, and I didn’t get my blog written.

Life happened.

Life-is-What-happens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, I’ve got some pretty good excuses – reasons – whatever you want to call them.  But the bottom line is that what I wanted to have happen and what I planned to have happen didn’t happen.

Life happens to all of us.  It frequently interrupts our plans for life.

It happens when it comes to healing, too.

All the theology is there:

  • God identifies Himself as “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26) – it’s part of His character.
  • Jesus paid the price for our healing at the cross – at the same time that He paid the price for our sins.  The issue of whether or not it is God’s will to heal was settled once and for all at the cross (Isaiah 53:1-10; Matthew 8:16-17; and 1 Peter 2:24).
  • Jesus Himself testified, when asked if He was willing to heal, said “I am willing” – (Matthew 8:3, and repeated in Mark and Luke as well).
  • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • Jesus never turned away a single person who came to Him for healing.  He did not heal every sick person in Israel, but He never said “no” to a single person who asked.

But the problem is, that even though the theology is there, not everyone we pray for gets healed.

There’s the tension – it is absolutely God’s will to heal; God is absolutely able to heal; but not everyone is healed.

And I don’t know why.

Neither do you.

Oh, we can come up with lots of reasons – the Kingdom is now and not yet, and has not fully come yet; the world still lies under the sway of the wicked one, and so God’s will isn’t always done (that’s why Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done); it wasn’t the right time; etc., etc., etc.

The truth is that we don’t know all the answers or all the reasons.  And we won’t until we get to heaven.

Life happens.  And we don’t always understand why.

This week, we’re going to walk through that tension.  We’re going to look at the truths that:

  • God is good;
  • God loves each one of us;
  • But there is suffering in this world; and
  • God can redeem our suffering.

So if you’re up for it, we’re going to dive into it.

Let’s begin with a prayer:

Lord, reveal Your goodness to me; and reveal Your truth to me.  Help me to trust Your heart for what I am unable to understand.  May Your kingdom come; and may Your will be done.  Amen.

Here is our reading list for this week:

  • Monday – Isaiah 53:1-10 (a repeat from last week; a reminder of the price Jesus paid for our healing.)
  • Tuesday – Philippians 2:25-30
  • Wednesday – 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
  • Thursday – 2 Corinthians 12:6-10
  • Friday – Revelation 21:1-5, Revelation 22:1-5