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Folds of Honor

Who knew that attending a Memorial Day golf tournament would be so memorable….

The Folds of Honor Foundations sponsors a fund-raising Pro-Am that raises money and awareness for children of military heroes.  Folds of Honor gives scholarships to children of veterans, many of whom have been wounded and can no longer provide for their families.

One poignant scene is burned in my mind…. As the first group rounded the 9th green, headed to the 10th tee, a bugler sounded Taps, the tune known worldwide as the tune recognizing the end of the day.  For military heroes,Taps is reserved for funerals of heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms of the United States.

Almost immediately, the sound of thousands of fans was replaced by a nervous hush.  Old and young stood wherever they were, found one of the dozens of flags along the course property, and with hands and hats over their hearts, allowed the haunting tune to take their minds to those loved ones who serve, and who have served.

As the last notes of Taps rolled around the gentle hills of Northeast Oklahoma, a chime sounded.  One….Two… Three… In the distance, a rumble could be heard.  Faint at first, we could determine neither direction nor destination.  Four…. Five….Six…. the rumble was now echoing across the course.  Seven…. Eight… We were all facing the same direction now, waiting for the rumble to reveal its purpose.  Suddenly, over the trees, we saw them…

 

WW2 era fighter planes, similar to those in the photo, flying the famed “missing wingman” formation.  Even though the engine sounds were extreme, I could almost hear the gasp from the crowd as people suddenly recognized and identified with the drama unfolding above us.  They flew directly overhead, and they were flying low.  Unexpectedly, as they passed the Clubhouse, one of the planes peeled off to the north, representing yet another loss of a military hero.  Through tears, I followed that plane until it disappeared across the horizon.  I had lost count of the tolling of the chime, but I think the chimes numbered 12.

Finally, someone let out a cheer and the entire crowd let loose with applause and appreciation for the men and women who serve our country, risking limb and life for our freedom.  Men like my dad and father-in-law; their brothers and fathers. Men and women today who serve, placing my freedom above their lives.

I hope you’ll consider supporting our military and their families by supporting the Folds of Honor Foundation.  More information about this fine organization can be found here.

I have been reminded of the brevity of life, and of the teetering frailty of what our society calls freedom.  Join me in praying for freedom, bound in peace and secured by the iron will of the men and women of the United States Military.

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Take the Five-Minute Challenge

The Five-Minute Challenge

I discovered this video and the challenge just a few minutes ago.  I dare you to click the link above to watch the video, and I double-dog dare you to take the challenge…. join me and a world of others who dare to make a difference through prayer!

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First Things First

When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher gave us a special test.  The entire class was excited because this test would have no affect on our grades, and would only take a few minutes.  Mrs. Sara promoted this test as one that will tell who the smart kids are.  She pressed us to take the questions one at a time; we were encouraged to answer every question in order, and to do exactly what every question said to do.  Man, I was excited!  I wanted to be known as one of the smart ones, so I determined to glance through the questions, answer the easy ones first, and then double-check my answers before I turned the test in to Mrs. Sara.

“Do not pick up your pencil or turn your paper over until I tell you…”.

Ready?”

“Answer every question in order and do everything it says…”

Set…”

“Don’t skip any questions…”.

“GO!”

Committed to my game plan, I skimmed through the questions.  I read the words, but the directions of the very first question never penetrated the adrenaline coursing through my brain.  I remember writing some things.  “Easy“, I thought to myself.  In my peripheral vision, I could see other kids working furiously.  I was determined I was going to win this one!  So I pressed even harder…

Hmm…”  One of the questions required me to stand up and say the alphabet aloud.  So, I did.  Snickers drifted through the room, but soon, another kid was reciting, then another.  Another question had us say aloud the color of our socks (I think).  “White…”

Soon enough, all the questions were answered, and I victoriously laid down my pencil, turned my test over, and raised my hand.  With a wide grin, I looked toward my teacher, Mrs. Sara.  Mrs. Sara didn’t look too happy.

Shortly, all the pencils were down, and the testing was complete.  Because I finished first, I would now have my moment in the spotlight!

Mrs. Sara asked me to repeat the directions to the test.  I answered,  “Um, read every question, work as fast as you can, um, do everything each question said, um, don’t skip any…”

“Eric, turn your paper over, and read to the class the first question.”

Uh, oh….

My stomach sank when I read question one; “1. Do not go any farther on this test.  Please put your pencil down.  The test is over.”  (or something similar- it has been 37 years…).

I missed the first, and most important question of the entire test.  I was the first loser, the first to fail because I didn’t take the time to read and understand the first question.

No glory, no praises.  Only emptiness and failure.

In Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 6, verse 33, Jesus is teaching about worry, and the fact that there is no value in worrying.  The answer we often overlook in the frenzy of life?  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

No hype, no glory.  Don’t miss the answer to the first question in life.  Seeking first the kingdom of God will take care of all the other questions.  Eternity, hope, salvation, freedom, anything.  It all starts here.

What areas of your life need to be filtered through Matthew 6:33?

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Grind It Out

Pro golfer Tiger Woods often uses a phrase to describe his play when his play is not his best.  When he struggles through a round, splaying drives in all directions, losing all sense of distance in his puts, chipping from one end of the green to another, Tiger will say that he is “grinding it out”.  Grinding is the effort to get through a challenge, to conquer a task, while struggling with the task or challenge:

“You’ve got to stay patient, stay in the moment, keep grinding, … You never know what can happen. And it turned out well.”    Tiger Woods

In all our jobs and ministries, we have pieces of work that, in all honesty, we just have to grind out.  For example, I am editing another week of TV spots for our church.  While satisfying once complete, the actual work of editing video, audio, syncing the two, encoding, titling, rendering, and assigning leaves me grinding to complete the task.  There is not a lot of joy in the work, but there is a lot of satisfaction in doing the work well, with excellence, and a great deal of hope that my work helps someone who needs to hear / see what I have edited and presented.

Don’t be discouraged by tasks that leave you dry and gasping for life.  Grind it out.  You never know what can happen- and often, the results can change a life.

What tasks are you required to perform that often leave you dry and gasping for life?

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No Achievement Without the Effort

Few things in life come easily.

Granted, there are exceptional people who have skill or talent in one area or another that seems to lead to easy and instant success, but most important things in life simply require a certain amount of work.  I have seen many people in my years in ministry try to skirt the work by taking shortcuts, hoping that their situation, project, relationship, whatever, will change for the better without having the hard work associated with it.  I have learned, in my own life and by watching others, that shortcuts rarely, if ever, succeed in achievement without the effort.

I encourage you today to stop thinking of ways to cheat the system by taking shortcuts.  Instead, see the project (situation, relationship, etc), envision the desired win-win conclusion, and calculate the work it takes to get there….

And do the work.  Pay attention to details.  Follow through.  Now, don’t misunderstand me to say that you should work harder, not smarter; on the contrary, you should work smarter.  Work.  Smarter.

What are some areas where you can achieve better results by doing the work without taking shortcuts?

 

 

Image by Doug Savage

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God’s Clock

I have learned an important lesson in almost 30 years of ministry.  Actually, I have just now realized the truth of what I’m about to tell you.  I am slow to this conclusion in part because I am an optimist, and optimists generally have no concern with how long an event will require to reach its conclusion.  For example, an optimist might say, “The wait for a table at Cracker Barrel is 45 – 60 minutes?  No problem.  I’ll enjoy the food and the atmosphere.”  A pessimist, on the other hand, might say, “The wait for a table at Cracker Barrel is 45 – 60 minutes?  No way- nobody’s food is that good!”

So, it really does depend on your outlook on life in general as to how long it might take to reach the conclusion that…. we are not in control of how long it takes to  love someone to Jesus.

I have friends in the ministry who talk about evangelism and discipleship as if complete life-change can happen in a few hours, or at the most, a week or so.  Some churches market their super ministries as if everyone they encounter will find Christ and will immediately repent and become fully devoted followers before the next business meeting.

Often, we play out scenarios in our heads that look really good- while they are in our heads- but in real-time, can seemingly take forever to unfold.  Maybe this speaks more about me than about them, but I find that, sometimes, watching life-change up close can take lots longer than we think it should.

Don’t give up because you think you are getting nowhere, or because you think it is taking too long, and you interpret that to mean that they are not interested in what you are offering, or that you are not properly equipped to reach people.  Let me encourage you to remember that we work on God’s clock, and however long it takes to love someone to Jesus is just how long it takes.  And whether it takes days, weeks, or years, it is still worth the work.  Both you and they will enjoy the atmosphere in heaven.

How long has it been since you have encouraged someone to give their heart and life to Christ?  Have they?  How long did it take?

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The Beauty of Family

It was my privilege this week to stand with a family while a beloved mother and grandmother struggled in her final hours of life.  Sweet tears flowed, and quiet prayers brought to mind the goodness of God.  It was so obvious that this family was connected, strong, and beautiful.

Later, at the funeral home, I heard stories of times long ago; memories that anchored that family to who they were, who they are.  And a new baby will soon be born and that sweet girl will learn of the history of that family, and will- I’m sure- help shape and mold another generation.

I was reminded that the strength of family is a beautiful thing.

For those whose family relationship isn’t something to be cherished and handed down from generation to generation, please know: there is hope.  While you may not be able to change your history, you can change your future.

A strong family is a beautiful thing.

I know.

What are your favorite things about your family?  What would you change if you could?

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