Thursday, April 18, 2013

Calming the Storm of Life

In times of chaos, whether physical or emotional, our lives are like the wind. Things are blowing here and there, pushing us through life, perhaps towards places we neither desire nor understand.  An overloaded calendar may keep us so busy that we simply rush from one obligation to another, never really focusing on any one thing.

One may interact with those treasured the most, yet not take the time to get below the surface. Sure, we can say, "I took my daughter shopping for prom dresses." or "I rushed to my son's soccer game after work." and "On the way to the meet-and-greet with his co-workers, my husband and I discussed the menu for this weekend's cook-out with the neighbors." We think we've connected with loved ones, yet it is rushed, and almost has the air of a check-list of things to do.

While out on a boat with the Disciples, Jesus must have been really tired because He fell asleep. As Jesus slept, a sudden storm came up and the Disciples were terrified. "And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still." And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

No, you can't just easily make your life less busy, but perhaps little small steps can help it be less stressful. Perhaps you have little control over the schedule. After all, each responsibility, often added over time, is just that - a responsibility. When you think about it, each individual may only have a few things going on. Yet, in the overall picture, as a household, there is much going on.

How did this scripture speak to me, reminding me of life when I was a too-busy working mom? That's not the usual application, is it? I've heard discussions about it, always focusing on the lack of faith of the disciples and how they learned otherwise. Yet, tonight it spoke to me differently, reminding me of a lesson learned years ago, and I felt led to share it with others that may benefit.

While the scripture might seem to be about obtaining calm out of the storm, it's about more than that. It is about faith, or confidence, in the power of God. It is about both taking control and trusting. And yes, it is about the power of God to provide peace.

How does this apply to a busy modern life? What is the solution? Be purposeful. Pay attention to the individual tasks, appreciating them, or more importantly, the person involved. The last thing that makes sense would be to add more, right? But perhaps that is what is needed. 

Consider the second part of the scripture. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Yes, it's important to keep all of the plates in the air as you juggle life. Yes, it's important to set aside time to focus on the family. But there is more.  

Despite what may seem like a packed schedule, somehow, you must squeeze out just a little more time.  Don't "do" anything during this time, just be. Be calm, Be quiet. Breathe deeply and relax.  Obviously, this isn't TV time, or "help with homework time." No, it is "be at peace" time. 

If you are so used to noise that the quiet is a distraction, then perhaps you could put on some quiet music. I prefer quiet, preferably by nature, either out away from things, or just by an open window. The twittering of the birds at dawn or the drone of the dragonflies by the river are my perfect background. Some like meditation, yoga, tai chi, or prayer - they are all examples of how you could start, but the primary task is to just be. Later, this may become your time when you focus on spiritual things, but first, you must cease the wind and allow the calm to cradle you.

Your soul craves this time. Even if it requires getting up a little early or staying up a little later, carving this time out will go a long way towards your rejuvenation, connecting to the "you" deep within. God will provide the calm you require just as surely as Jesus calmed the stormy sea.

Peace be until you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeds Have Needs; Getting From Potential to Bearing Fruit

This was written by Don 'Buck P' Creacy, someone I don't even know in person, only through facebook. (And yes, his name is spelled cy, unlike my sy - quite a coincidence in names!) We're both members of Louisville Christian Writers and I enjoy his posts on the group's page. When I read this, I asked his permission to share it with you. I know you'll be as touched by it as I was.

"That old oak tree has presided over the funerals of my ancestors in that same hillside cemetery, as far back as when we settled in this country. And someday it will preside over my funeral too."

That's what he said and I believe it too. I can't help it, I admire both kinds of roots; family and arboreal. I worry that my own roots aren't quite that good.

Oak trees & fruit trees have something in common, they bear fruit. Not just acorns or peaches but shade, shelter and even sometimes furniture comes from their woody bodies and odd shaped limbs.

Thousands of acorns every year just litter the ground. Littering the ground, they aren't eaten and they don't grow. They just rot; eventually. Yet each tiny acorn has the "potential" to become a mighty oak tree. But there are not thousands of new oak saplings every year beneath these old limbs, I wonder why?

The tree these acorns came from has deep roots, but there's too much shade for acorns to grow. It's well watered, and healthy as every leaf testifies, season by season. Yet every year it is producing more acorns and I still beg the question. Why doesn't every acorn become a tree? Is there more to bearing fruit than just... what? Was there ever a time when every acorn lived up to its full potential? Where are all the oak trees?

Jesus had something to say about these questions. Matthew 13:3-9 (NKJV)
“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Seeds have needs...

Seeds have needs, just like me... just like you. We need a place for our roots to grow with good deep rich moist soil. We need water and sun and truthfully we need these storms to strengthen our branches and encourage deeper growth. And in these present storms; lose what should be cast off. Yes, we need these storms.

Did you know that trees grow until they die? But acorns only hold "potential" to grow. Potential is the "possible" as opposed to the "actual". This is the potential Paul was expressing when he said, "I can all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." The "all things" is our potential. Our actual strength comes from our roots being set deep in Jesus Christ, drawing everything from Him.

Yes every year there are SOME oak sprouts, some acorns DO make tiny trees, and some tiny saplings DO eventually make great big oak trees. All trees, oak, fruit or fir, face the elements, storms, cold, heat, drought and some pleasant good times. All the while they grow, as long as they live, and their roots keep digging deeper into the Source of Life. Actually, I know my little seed has sometimes laid on rocky soil, and except for the storms I would be there on that rocky ledge... with all my "potential".

Dear God, thank you for the storms that have washed me here to this place. This seems to be a good place to grow, I have so many needs; I do. A plot of soil for my roots and a place to bear fruit, please. I'd like to bear some fruit, that remains.

I want to grow till I die.

Please don't say to me... "Where are all the sapling trees?" Help me; help them.
Say instead; "Well done, good and faithful servant enter into the Joy of The Lord".

About the Author: 
Don ‘Buck P’ Creacy is the  Owner/Producer at A World of Storytelling Radio and Specialist at Toyota Motor Mfg. Kentucky  Studied Psychology and Education, Christian Ministry at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Originally from Borger, Texas, now lives in Stamping Ground, Kentucky.

You can hear his storytelling on the radio. He said, "Here's where you can find me."  On my radio station Broadcasting in 119 countries, We're #17 in Talk Radio and  or

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Has Sprung.. Finally

This morning I realized that for all the griping about the weather we (humans) do, it's really our own fault.  Of course, I can only speak for myself, but apparently, others are guilty as well.  According to the calendar, it turned spring over two weeks ago. Our cold, dreary weather continued - we even had snow. This would be bad enough for spring, but we're a bit spoiled and in past years, we had teaser days in late winter that were above 50 degrees as well.

What did we do about it? We complained. We shared facebook posters about groundogs and complained some more. Did that help? Obviously not. Did ANYONE bother to send a calendar to Mother Nature this year? What about a "Welcome Spring!" card? Nothing? She had no clue. It's our own fault for not sharing the date with her.

Last week, the schools dismissed for Spring Break. What did Mother Nature do? She said, "Oh! It's spring? Dearie me, must get busy."

Suddenly, she drug the sun out from behind the winter cloud-screen. She polished it up so it'd shine brightly. The extra heat brought the tiny bright green leaves out to the edge of the branches.

Over the weekend, flowering trees went from nothing to fully blooming works of art. The grass has turned green and spring flowers are bursting into color. Forsythia bushes exploded with bright yellow buds and the birds increased their songs. In the past week, they've been flitting around gathering twigs, preparing for new nests. The increased trills and birdsongs are the songs of spring. The roads are full of cyclists and more people are out walking. It's time to get out of hibernation.

Soon my favorite, the dogwoods, will be blooming, along with tulips and lilacs. I'm already looking forward to planting flowers in the window boxes and smelling the fresh cut grass in the next month.

Of course, there's a down-side to everything, and spring is no exception. Thunderstorms, occasionally armed with tornadoes and hail, make an appearance. If it snows, it tends to go away faster. The other bad side is that some people see spring flowers and glare at the "allergy monsters" as their sinuses clog up. But while the spring elements keep some people cooped up, even they are grateful for the bright sunshine, warmer air, and longer days.

It's time to be outside if you can.  Clear out the garden, prepare the grill, and go fly a kite! Before you know it, we'll be picking out a new Derby hat, planting summer gardens, and stocking up on sunscreen. Spring has sprung. Some of us say, "Ahhhh... spring!" while others say, "Ahhhhh-choo!" but we all say, "Welcome Spring. We missed you."

PS: I strongly suggest that since we neglected to send her a calendar, that we send Mother's Day cards to Mother Nature. We really need to keep her in a good mood!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Winners: Not Just the Ones with the Highest Score

In sports, as in life, there are winners. Sometimes, the winners are identified as "the one with the most points" but that's not all there is to winning.  Some winners are easily predicted, others are a surprise. But this post, while about some folks that happen to be athletes, is not about sports.

A prime example of a winner is the University of Louisville's Men's Basketball team - collectively, as in ONE team, not a dozen players - and I'm not talking about the number of games won, though I could be.

Last year's team was plagued with injuries most of the season. While they were hopeful, not everyone was even sure they'd be in the NCAA tournament until near the end of the season. But made it they did, and each game was a gift. No one, not even the team, thought they'd win more than a game or two. But win they did, one game at a time, until they found themselves in the Final Four!

Another state school, Kentucky, was also there. The difference is that Kentucky had the top players in the country and spent the entire year fully expecting to win the tournament. The Cardinals, thrilled to make the Final Four at all, felt every bit as much the winners since they over-came so many obstacles to achieve that point. It was impossible for both teams to go on because they played each other to get into the Final Game. If Louisville had won, it would have crushed the Wildcat fans and they'd feel cheated and bitter for decades, just as they are now towards Duke, because they lost to them in a close game 20 years ago. (I don't even think it was a final game!) Louisville fans and team would have enjoyed going on, but I didn't hear a single complaint when we lost that game. The Final Four was an amazing achievement for a team that had overcome so much.

How did this happen? There are some good players, the kind that arrive as freshmen and stay to improve each year. But it wasn't just that. The players have an internal drive to excel personally. But the thing that took all these individual drives to success is their TEAM mentality. Members of the team, as well as the coach, motivated each to do his part. Together, they won game by game in last year's tournament, all the way to their slot in the Final Four.

But that was last year - what next? One of the most dangerous risks of success is feeling you're the best around. Sometimes people don't develop the internal drive needed to excel, especially if each individual sees only his own place in the picture.  That hasn't been the case at Louisville at all this year.

All season long, the members of the UL team did a great job. But the most impressive thing to watch wasn't the win-loss record, but the attitude. The players seemed to enjoy playing the game. They took "sharing the ball" to new levels, as they passed it around over and over. Players set up plays for each other and blocked the way in order to allow the other one to perform. On and off the court, the players enjoyed each other. they laugh and smile as they play. It is heartening to watch.

The coach, Rick Pitino, says that every year they set a team goal and also create a theme, a mantra. The goal this year is to make it back to the Final Four, and each step was tackled one at a time. The word for this year's theme? Humility.  They reminded each other, "Don't think about last year's Final Four achievement. This is a whole new year." They used the goal and attitude as their mantra. That same humility was evident in the way they sacrificed when playing, knocking themselves out to get the ball and sharing it with teammates. As the year progressed, the attitude of the team was more and more apparent. My  facebook friends will recall that I've mentioned it many times - they play with heart and love the game.

In the last basketball game, the unthinkable happened. One of the players, Kevin Ware, was hurt - not just a twisted ankle, but a severe injury most often described as "gruesome." His leg, broken in two places, stuck out of the skin 6 inches. Other players were devastated seeing their fallen brother, many falling to their knees. Several started praying. Some broadcasters said they thought shots might have been fired when so many sank to the ground at once. It was the most emotional time I've ever witnessed during a game, with the coach and players all crying, many sobbing, and the gym silent.

Perhaps the award for the "Silliest Interview Questions" should go to the journalist that said,  “You just saw your beloved team mate snap his leg three feet away from you, and then you spent the following minutes sitting on the court sobbing and in tears. Tell us how seeing the injury affected you? What kind of emotional reaction did you have? Can you put into words how this made you feel?” Seriously???? What do YOU think the answer is?

The team captain, Luke Hancock, went and stayed by Kevin and said a prayer for him. Kevin reported that even though in horrible pain, he felt a moment of peace after the prayer. This gave him the strength to speak to his  team of brothers, encouraging them before he left on a stretcher.  This in turn helped the others pull themselves together and somehow manage to play and win the game they dedicated to him. Players held his jersey in the picture of the team with the winning trophy.

The picture shown is of Kevin Ware encouraging his teammates saying, "I'll be okay. You just win the game." He knew how they felt. He knew they were devastated for him and their hearts were not in the game. They are reaching out in support to him,  just as he is to them. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting. It's the picture of real winners, the kind that succeed in life, long after basketball careers end. This is the kind of winning that can only be shown by example, not easily taught.
This same injury could have happened to any team in any game. Yet, I don't think the reaction would've been the same with other teams. The humility encouraged, mixed with the unusual bonding of the players, created just the right combination for the reactions to that injury. It became a human interest story that stretched way beyond the sports arena.  Broadcasters reported a quiet locker room at the half, all thoughts on their friend. After the game, after celebrating making it to the Final Four, players were still emotional and crying, focused on their teammate.

Miraculously, the gym where he was injured is located close to a well known trauma center that specializes in severe cases. He had immediate surgery, and is even expected to recover. It will definitely impact the team as they continue because he is a valuable guard. But if the team doesn't win anymore games, it won't be due to lack of trying or making excuses.They made their original goal in style. Now, time for the next game! Go Cards!