College GameDay and Life

I’m a huge college football fan!  Michigan Wolverine’s.  Go Blue!  So, ESPN is broadcasting their CollegeGame Day from Fargo tomorrow.  It is very cool.  I’m a big fan of the show.  So I had to go downtown tonight to see the set.  I’m not crazy enough to go down tomorrow morning.  Besides, I like to watch it on t.v.!  It’s a cool show for college football fans.  I’d show you pictures from tonight, but I still haven’t figured out how to get them here…so you’ll have imagine me standing in front of the set, with lot’s of other people.

It is awesome that there are such things as sports to entertain us and give us a diversion once in a while.  A lot of time, resources and money goes into these things.  We spend a lot of time, resources and money participating in these things.  I’ll admit it, I love it.

Yet, you must admit the amount of time, energy and resources we devote to games and entertainment is interesting.  I love that College GameDay is being broadcast from downtown Fargo.  I love downtown Fargo.  But there is another reason I think the choice of downtown is great.  It offers a contrast to the person “with eyes to see and ears to hear.”

Yes, even in Fargo you encounter the homeless hanging around a television set and equipment that is hard to even guess the value of.  It is amazing to think that the set is only a block away from the Salvation Army that served free meals this evening while the rest of us wandered Broadway to see  the spectacle.  While there tonight I saw a man apparently reacting to a substance of one kind or another going berserk.  He stopped when a police officer holding a weapon of some sort commanded him to get down on the ground.

Yes, it is a reason to party and have a great time.  This all is a reason to celebrate, College GameDay and a successful college football program. Celebrate safely, and then perhaps take a moment to reflect on the realities of life. For many it is not a game.  There is no diversion from the burden of mental illness or addiction.  There is little escape from the hunger in the belly and the cycle of despair that seems inescapable.  Even for many who celebrate by participating in GameDay, tailgating and the game, the brief escape from the emptiness of life,  lasts about as long as the first half of a football game, and then the reality of the hangover sets in.  We look in the mirror and looking back is the same person with a spiritual whole in his heart and a search for something that will actually make sense of this whole endeavor of the game of life.

The older I get the more my heart bleeds for our broken world, even as I struggle through my own issues and life.  Somehow these days I see differently.  I see God’s grace even in the most unusual places.  In the face of a homeless man.  A woman under the influence.  The eyes of the lonely and afraid.  The pain of the mentally ill.  The despair of the addict.  And I hear the ringing words of Jesus in my ears, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'”  Matthew 25:37-39 NIV.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.  I have a spot reserved on the couch.  Game day!  Bison game in the afternoon.  Michigan in the evening.  It will be awesome.  But I know it will not fill me.  Losing doesn’t bother me any more… it’s just a game.  It will quickly be gone and another one will start.  And life will go on, and meaning and purpose we will seek.  Don’t seek it in a football game, a nationally televised event, a bottle, a hit, a touch or in anything else but in a God who has created and redeemed life and who is the only one who can fill that hole.  Perhaps this weekend we should spend as much time serving the least of these as we do cheering on the big boys in pads.  Go Blue!

See you at the Lighthouse.

Dale

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Sometimes It Sucks Getting Old

Okay, yes I said it.  Don’t write me about using the word suck.  If you can’t handle it, don’t read this.  Sometimes you just have to be clear and since I don’t think there are many young children reading this, I’m going to say it again, sometimes it sucks getting old.

I have tried to make a renewed commitment to health over these last six plus months.  I go to the gym six times a week.  Usually I work out for 90 minutes to two hours.  Frankly, I am buff.  Well, at least in certain areas.  True confession, my love-handles are still in fine form.  What’s up with that?  Did I say 90 minutes to two hours a day?  My spare tire should have been run bald by now.  No tread left!

Okay, so I still eat pizza.  Yes, it is true.  I still love to eat.  But I don’t eat as much as I used to.  And I work out.  Did I say, 90 minutes to 2 hours a day?  I should have six-pack abs, not a large six-meat-pizza abs!

Here’s the other thing, I hurt all the time.  Sounds come from my mouth every time I get up from the couch or a comfy chair. Well, it’s more like something from inside of my gut.  It is a combination between a groan and a grunt.  I used to hear old people do it.  It even happens when I walk up stairs.  What has happened to me?

Then, get this, I don’t work out for two days and I hurt worse all over.  What’s up with that?  I hurt if I work out and I hurt if I don’t work out.  The only plus, I’m going to invest in Ibuprofen!

Then there is my hair.  I still have a full head of hair, but it is turning different colors.  Yes, shades of gray.  The roots are growing deeper too, they are coming out of my ears and nose.  What’s up with that?

I nap more frequently.  I sit on the couch in the evening and I wonder if it is time to go to bed yet?  No, Beth says (as she lays on the couch dozing off), it’s only 7:15.  The 10:00  o’clock news has become a reason for celebration!  Let’s make it up through First Weather!  That way I know what to talk about with the other old-geezers at the gym in the morning.  Weather and aches and pains, what else is there to discuss?

In Ecclesiastes 3, the author says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh.”  The first speaks of the reality of life.  The second, to what you do when you age.  Yes, perhaps we grieve it a bit, but you might as well laugh when you are standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open trying to remember what it is you were doing there.  You might as well laugh.  Even more, perhaps celebrate.  Someone once told me, “don’t complain about getting old, not everyone gets the chance you know.”  No, they don’t.

And so every day is a gift from God.  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.  Truth is, God is good!  Life is good!  Take a moment to rejoice in the number of your days and that God has given you one more.  If you are young, pray that God would give you enough days to grow gray hair and start to groan when you stand up.  Enjoy this day for tomorrow is not promised.

Alright, I’ve been sitting here quite long with this lap-top on my lap.  I can tell I’ve stiffened up.  I worked out this morning.  Did I mention, 90 minutes or so.  It’s going to hurt when I get up, but I have to go to the bathroom.  I seem to have to do that more these days too.  You know, sometimes it sucks getting old.

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I Think I’ve Been There

I was at a meeting the other day where someone was sharing a story about their present life and struggles.  I couldn’t help but think, I think I’ve been there myself.  It is so interesting how we all think our lives are so unique.  “If you had my problems, then you would understand!”  The reality is that our issues and struggles are not that different than other people’s issues and struggles.

When we are going through them we become self-centered.   We believe that we are the center of the universe.  That the world revolves around “me.”  We turn in on ourselves.  The result is that we become depressed.  We isolate ourselves and put our well-being at risk.  We practice self pity, we complain, we are negative and no one wants to be around us.  As I write today I’m concerned about a friend who is in this situation.  It can be very serious and scary.  It is a helpless feeling to go through it yourself.  It is a helpless feeling to see someone you care about go through it.

We are not meant to go through life or our struggles alone.  One of the hardest things to do is to admit that life is a bit out of control and you may need help.  There is always someone who has already walked the same path you have.  There are others who have experience and expertise to guide you, to counsel you.  The thing is, you have to take the first step.  You are responsible,  Often in our struggles we blame others.  We think others are responsible for helping us, for reaching out to us.  No!  You are responsible for your own decisions. You are responsible for your own well-being.  Others are always there to help, but you must take the first step.  Oh, by the way, then you need to keep walking!  Once you ask for help you are still responsible for your healing and recovery.  Others are just there to walk along-side you, to support, to guide and encourage you.

So, I don’t know if it brings you any comfort to know your issues are not unique?  It was for me.  When I realized others had walked the same path I realized I could learn from them, that I did not need to walk it alone.  Neither do you.

One more important, I mean a very important thing!  We have a God who also understands and knows what we are going through.  God created life, you know.  He probably knows a little about it 🙂  God has given His word, the Bible to us to “be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.”  God came to earth as His one and only Son, and He who created life on earth also walked it.  God doesn’t just talk the talk, He walked the walk!

“Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Hebrews 2:18 NIV

“For we do not have a High Priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV.

In other words, Jesus says, “I don’t think I’ve been there, I know I’ve been there.”  Look to the light of God’s grace and guidance.  Know and seek out his family, the church.  A Biblical church will “rejoice with those who rejoice; and mourn (or weep) with those who mourn (or weep).”  Romans 12:15.  That is what Lighthouse Church is all about…Shining the light and sharing the love of Jesus!

See you at the lighthouse.

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Feelin’ Groovy

I’m going to show my age!  Do you remember the line from the old Simon and Garfunkel song?  “Slow down, you move too fast…”  Many of you already have the tune in your head and it will now stay there for hours.  The implication of the song is that doing so makes you feel groovy!  Groovy!  You have to be old to even know what groovy means.  I’m not Webster (for those of you youngsters that is a slight attempt at humor as there used to be such a thing as a real book, with pages with words on it.  Following the words were pronunciations and definitions of the words.  This book was called a dictionary…Webster’s Dictionary was one such book….Oh, never mind). 

Feelin’ Groovy.  Let’s define it as a feeling that life is good.  All is right with the world.  I’m getting the most out of life…and it is alright!  Groovy is a natural high.  You are high on life.  Perhaps you would define it differently.  You can go ahead and add your thoughts and I will decide whether or not your definition is worth approving to put on my blog 🙂  Alright, I’ve truly digressed.

As Simon and Garfunkel taught us years ago, slowing down is the key.  I was reminded of that when I had coffee with a good friend today.  As she described her life it all sounded a bit too familiar.  Raising kids, husband and wife with careers, stressful job, personal things causing fluctuating emotions, dealing with it “all by myself.”  Up here in the upper-Midwest we call it life. 

We were not made to run full speed, 100 miles-per-hour all of the time.  We are not meant to run it alone.  It takes a toll.  It can affect us emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically.  It can lead to tiredness, exhaustion, burnout, depression, self-medication, a crash…and even worse.  Most of us just trudge our way through it and we rob ourselves of the life God intended for us.  All of us know the feeling.

“Slow down, you move too fast.”  I learned this.  To put it simply, for a period of time I wasn’t feelin’ so groovy.  I needed a break.  A real break.  I didn’t even recognize it, others did for me.  By that time I not only needed a break, I needed healing and recovery. 

Six months.  I’ve been off for that long.  I’ve done many things.  I’ve done the right things.  I’ve made sure I didn’t do the wrong things for my spirit and recovery.  It has been good.  I’ve slowed down.  Those closest to me see a difference.  I’m not the same person I was six months ago.  One year ago.  Maybe I’m a lot like the person I was some years ago…but even better.  I’ve learned a lot.  It is good.  God is good!  Life is good!  I’m feeling groovy!!!

Now, not everyone can take six months off.  Thank God and my friends who have allowed me to do so.  But I’ve learned there were many things I should have done in the past.  Things I did not do.  If I had done them, things may be different today.  Like what?  I’m glad you asked 🙂

Schedule time in each day for slowing down and clearing my mind.

Read more. 

Pray more.

Take a day once and awhile, or an afternoon, a morning for myself.

Exercise every day.

Rest.

Take time for people.  Recognize their goodness and uniqueness.

Smile and laugh more.

Worry less.

Enjoy my family more.

Learn to leave work behind each day.

Most importantly, spend more time with God.

You can’t do any of these in a hurry.  Slow down.  It is interesting how God created the sabbath to be the first day of the week, not the last.  You rest a day, worship God and spend time with Him, then you work.  Not the other way around.

So,,,I know what you are thinking.  Ya, but you don’t understand my life.  Listen to me!  Yes I do.  That is one thing I do understand.  Slow down.  You are responsible for your life and schedule and well-being.  Slow down!  No, not later, right now.  I want you to close your eyes and take three deep breaths…

 

 

No, I’m not kidding!  Do it!!!  I’m not going to finish until you stop and do it. Close your eyes…three deep breaths.

 

Pause 🙂  🙂  🙂

 

There, didn’t that feel great?  You may not be groovy, but you’re on the way.  Life would be so much better if we just followed God’s word.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Might I paraphrase?  “Slow down, you move to fast.  Take a deep breath and feel the Spirit of God in your breath.  Doesn’t it feel groovy?”

See you at the Lighthouse.

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Dry Ground…Really, Really Dry Ground

There are many reasons why living in Fargo, North Dakota is interesting.  for one, in a years time you can go from being near a heat stroke to nearly freezing to death.  The ethnic diversity of Scandinavian brogues is almost overwhelming.  We’re flat.  I mean really flat.  You set out for a 10 mile jog and you can see the finish line.  You spill a glass of water and it spreads forever.  Well, you get the picture.  Then there’s the NDSU Bison and the UND Sioux up north.  On a Sunday morning you can always tell if a person’s team won on Saturday because they will be proudly wearing their teams attire in church with a big smile on their face.  Vikings and Packers…don’t even go there.

The interesting thing on my mind lately is how we have gone from talking about a flood a few months ago to wondering if it is ever going to rain again.  Here in Fargo/Moorhead, we can’t buy a drop of rain.  It is dry.  Really, really dry.  So dry that conversations about the ground have turned to whether or not you have cracks and separation in your lawn.  We have dry ground.  Really, really dry ground.

I mowed my lawn this morning.  First time in three weeks.  Some of it needed it.  Most did not.  Only the parts that have some consistent shade seem to grow.  That grass grows well.  It was green and plush.  The rest…well let’s just say the weeds are outpacing the grass.  If you live here and aren’t watering regularly, you know what I mean.

This morning, while mowing, I was thinking about Jesus parable about the sower sowing seeds.  You know the parable.  Some fell on the road.  Some on rocky ground.  Others fell in not so good ground and it got choked out by the weeds.  Others fell in good soil.  It is interesting.  My soil is pretty much all the same.  Here it is pretty good soil.  What differs is where it is located and whether or not it has some shade.  The grass on the north side of the house and on the north side of a fence is awesome.  The grass in the front, facing west, gets no shade.  It hardly even looks like grass anymore. 

You know, it is true for us as well.  What is?  Your position in relation to the Son (no, it is not a misspelling).  The difference of course is in regards to Jesus we want to be in the Sonshine all of the time!  It is when we hide or conceal ourselves from Him that we don’t grow.  With Jesus, don’t be in the shade.

I went through a particularly difficult time in the last year or two.  As I look back now in the midst of healing and recovery, I realize that my position in relation to the Son was not where it should have been.  Many circumstances and struggles can lead you to such a place.  Sometimes intentional hiding from God can lead to circumstances that are not so good and struggles that you’d rather not go through. 

So, what position are you in today?  What are you going to do about it?  Might I suggest you think about your position in relation to the Son!  If you out of position, move!  If you need to drop some things, drop them.  If you need to add some things, add them.  If you are in the right position, keep doing what you are doing. 

You, of course, know the things that keep you in the light of Jesus.  Worship.  Bible reading.  Prayer.  Fellowship.  Being part of a group.  Service.  Giving.  Training yourself to be in God’s presence throughout the day.  What positioning discipline should you start focusing on?  Regardless, remember that God is good and that He always wants what is best for you. 

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.”  Isaiah 55:1

“He satisfies the thirsty…”  Psalm 107:9

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  John 7:37-38.  All from the NIV.

Don’t stand in the shade:)

See you at the Lighthouse!

 

 

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