Hope you're having an awesome day! And it is gonna be a beauty! 76…79…82…Hike! (I'm not talking' football! Those are the expected temps for today, tomorrow and Sunday! Great day for a…hike! Or whatever you want to do! Speaking of sports…
Lee, Pottsie and I went on a short-term mission trip this week to visit one of our missionaries, Bill Reazer in St. Louis. Our mission? Hang out, catch up, have fun, laugh our heads off, and watch two St Louis Cardinals games, and do it all in two days, door to door!
Did you know the word "fan" comes from "fanatic"? And did you know they first started using this term for followers of Cardinals baseball? Actually, I don't know if that second thing is true, but I wouldn't be surprised! EVERYBODY was wearing official Cardinal red jackets, hats, and sweatshirts (except for Braves fans, far from home) and sitting up there in Busch Stadium on Tuesday night with the deepening blue starry twilight sky above and the Cards and Cincinnati Reds players and fans doing the wave below, all of whom dressed in red and white, when it was time to stand for the National Anthem, I didn't have to look for Ol' Glory 'cause we were IN it!
What a blast! Mission accomplished!
As the season of Lent and a season of self-denial approaches its end, there may be loads of folks who feel that song rise within their hearts…
"Take me out to the ball game! Take me out with the crowd! Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks! I don't care if I ever get back"
Sometimes during this time of year, lots of people begin to think that if they want to really be serious about their walk with Jesus, the path is one of not enjoying this, denying yourself that, and enduring weeks of depriving yourself of things you love so that you can feel greater love for Him. I really do think that it is a wonderful thing to say "No!" to stuff that is stealing your heart and all your attention. But if it's doing that, say "good-bye" to it, not just for Lent but forever!
But just to make yourself suffer for the sake of suffering…Well, many have tried this and found that it may not be doing for hearts what people think.
In the earliest centuries of our faith, as Christianity spread around the world, many tried to live the hardest, toughest regime possible to see where it would take the heart. Some lived dressed in robes made of thorns (ouch!)…Some ate only dry bread and water (yuck!)…Some lived all alone purposefully walled up in tiny cells they couldn't get out of ("Hello? Anyone there?") One guy in the fourth century decided that to escape from the world, he wouldn't wash, change his clothes and he would live on a little platform on a pole and have goat cheese and goat milk sent up a rope. He did this for 37 years. In the end, the jury is still out on how holy he was. He did smell like a goat, however.
I'm more and more convinced that the way you know you're "getting it"…that you and I are really beginning to understand that how much we are loved, and safe and His…or as Paul put it "chosen, holy, and beloved" (Col 3)…isn't self-inflicted pain and misery but, surprising…JOY!
It was joy that made a guy sell all he had for the treasure he wanted! (Matt 13.44)
It was joy that filled the hearts of those who visited the empty tomb! (Matt 28.8)
It was "great joy" that followed angel's glad tidings! (Luke 2.10)
It was "over-flowing joy" that pushed the Macedonians to give their stuff away! (2 Cor 8.2)
It is joy that grows where the Spirt flows! (Gal 5.22)
Joy is how you know you're "getting it"!
Did you know that "Lent" is an Old English word that means "Springtime"?
I know so many of you have a child that you support thru Compassion International. For a few dollars a month, God uses you to provide clean water, good food, health care, the love of Jesus and hope to a boy or girl in a place of the world where these are so scarce. One person wrote that their eleven year old Ugandan girl lived in a one-room hut with several siblings and her mother. Her dad had died.
"Amongin is among the poorest of the poor of this world. When we ‘met’ her she was weak mentally, weak spiritually, and she had almost NO confidence. The harshness of poverty and the strain to survive had obviously taken it’s toll on her…When we first began supporting Amongin she had been struggling with school; exams and tests are scary for her. It’s not hard to understand why! With life literally hanging in the balance for her and her family on a daily basis, school tests and exams were a daunting pressure that could easily tip that sweet 10 year old over the edge! Amongin’s frame of mind didn’t reach further than how to survive that day; she didn’t have hopes or dreams…"
The first year, they were able to send her an extra gift for Christmas to add some cheer in difficult days. Amongin wrote to them that she had used the money to buy chickens and meat for her family. But as her heart began to awaken to love and the love of Jesus and that special folks cared for her because Jesus cares for us all, her letters began to brighten! She began to do well in school and write of dreams of becoming a nurse and of wonderful fun she was having at her school and of her favorite worship songs. And for the next Christmas, with the money they sent, she bought some staples for home…and candy for her friends! And she bought her first Coke! And she took it home. And they popped the lid! " It made our Christmas so special, because we shared a soda together as a family!"
So…we went on a baseball holiday during Lent.
Actually, we went FOR Lent.
And as we pulled into my driveway at 12:45 am, there was a cheer in my heart. And it was this…
"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
That's it for sports!