A Fountain of Laughter and Baryshnikov

I am about to confess something not too many people know. When I was still pretty young, probably about ten, I earned a nickname that I really didn’t like. Baryshnikov.  I bet you are wanting to know why. Well, I will tell you.

If you recognize this fountain, this is where my story unfolds. If you have never been here before, you really should visit the place.

Lithia Park is in Ashland, Oregon and is the largest city park in the community, and is my personal favorite park. Click here for a sneak peak.

One of the last times I was at Lithia Park, we stopped by the Shakespeare Theater, where there was a performance going on. I think it was some sort of ballet. Anyway, we watched the performance for sometime and then moved on. We made our stop at the fountain and ate our lunch at a nearby picnic table.

After eating, my younger sister and I walked over to the fountain. I was walking around the rim, being careful not to lose my balance and fall in. Now as with most fountains, there was some deviant water puddles on the edge and some had splashed out onto the ground.

I didn’t even make it the entire way around the fountain. I had slipped in a puddle of water and into the water I went. I didn’t get in trouble or anything. Instead, we all broke out laughing and laughing. It was at that moment I was given the nickname Baryshnikov. Apparently, everyone said I was doing a ballet around the edge of the fountain.I argued that I was just skipping or hopping along, but they didn’t see it that way.

But who is Baryshnikov? According to this article, he was a Russian ballet dancer and coreographer. He is most famously known for his work in The Nutcracker, produced in 1977.

I have not told too many people this story of an embarrassing moment of history. Thankfully, I not longer identify with this name.

Do you have a story like this you would like to share? I would love to post it for you if you  would like to share it. You can share your story by leaving a note in the contact me section.

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Why Should I Be Thankful?

I am not going to give you the church monkey answer and quote verse after verse from the Bible because so many times we can read a verse that tells us to be thankful, but we fail to see the application for our lives. I am going to share some nuggets that I have learned over the years.

But before I go there, I will confess that while I have a lot to be thankful for, I, unfortunately, inherited an unwanted gift of not showing emotion and appearing ungrateful. As a result, you are probably going to ask why I am even talking about being thankful when I don’t even show gratitude. I am anticipating it, in fact. That being said, on to thankful attitudes.

1. When we don’t show gratitude for things, it sends off the message that we don’t appreciate gifts we have been given. 

2. Ungrateful attitudes lead to wrong outlooks on life.

3. Friends and family tend to stop gift giving to someone who isn’t grateful. 

I realize there are as many factors to ungrateful attitudes as there are reasons for not praying. Some have become ungrateful because their parents didn’t teach them to be grateful. Some are ungrateful because their parents gave them whatever they wanted while growing up. Some are ungrateful because they didn’t like what they got, or, never got what they asked for after years of asking for it. I could go on. 

As a parent, (both biological and not), I strive to teach my kids to be thankful for what they have. While they have gotten better the older they get, I still have to  remind them that the ocassion isn’t about the gifts they might get. 

New Year’s Resolutions 

I used to make resolutions every year. And every year I would fail to keep them. You know the kind. We have all made the ones where we resolve to be a better parent, a better student, to lose the weight we packed on over the last two years, to work out more, to get a better job, to get a job…. The list is endless. 

According to the following website, http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/ http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/, only 8% of the people who make resolutions are successful, and 24% never are successful. Here’s some more numbers. Thirty-nine percent of the people who make resolutions and are successful  are in their twenties. Fourteen percent are in the fifties. This data was collected December 11, 2016 and was based on the numbers for 2015. 

I don’t know about you,but anytime I did make a resolution and didn’t make it happen or wasn’t successful with it, I would feel like a failure, like I wasn’t strong enough to stick to my guns. 

Let me share with you my secret. I no longer make new year’s resolutions. They just don’t work for me. It’s not that they were bad goals, but they just weren’t realistic and I really didn’t know how to accomplish them.

You see, it’s all about making and/or breaking habits. It involves changing behaviors — and in order to change a behavior, you have to change the way you think. Guess what! There is a great Bible word that works here. It is the word repentance. Most people think that means to be sorry about doing something, or not doing something. On the contrary, it means more than that. It means to change the way we think about something. It’s almost like re-wiring our brains. 

I didn’t really mean to turn this into a Bible lesson, but I went there, anyway. I mean, what is it with us pastors, anyway? I guess we never give up an opportunity to preach. Haha! 

On the real, I do want to say that making a new year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be hard or too thoughtful. There are a few things to consider if you do want to make a resolution and be successful. And there’s a catch. You have to be consistent in changing the way you think about that goal.

Be realistic and practical. If you know you can’t achieve something by such a certain time, revise it or don’t make it. 

Don’t beat yourself up if you mess up and aren’t successful. It’ll only make you feel bad. It’s not important how long it takes you to reach your goal, but that you did reach it. 

Be specific about your resolutions. If your have one main goal, such as weight loss, set shorter targets along the way to get to the ultimate target. Don’t just say you want to lose weight, but set a goal about how much you want to lose. 

They say it takes about 21 days and up to 66 days to make or break habits. Once you set a goal and are consistent with it, it will become second nature, such ands reading your Bible everyday, praying and other things.

What Does a Church Look Like?

This may seem a little run of the mill, but I wanted to share something that has been on my heart since Sunday. I have a friend that has some pretty complicated medical and emotional conditions. She has had seizures for about the last three or four years, some of them very mild and some are grand mal seizures. Because of privacy concerns, I will not give specific names.

About a year or so ago, my wife and I began having this young lady come to our house initially on Wednesdays because the Bible study group she was attending was too overwhelming for her. There was too much going on and she would have several seizures during the study group. She seemed to calm down a bit when we began just staying home and bringing her to our house. Her mom was nervous about her coming over at first because she didn’t really know who we were, but she would bring her to us because she didn’t really like having to drive all the way to the other house to pick her up at the end of the meeting and then to have to walk down a long, dark driveway.

Soon, she started coming over on Sundays as well because we had a Bible study going on at our house. She wanted badly to go to church with us, but because our church was in transition between different sites before finally being able to move into our new, permanent location, we decided for her sake not to let her come to church with us just yet. We promised that once we were able to be in our own building, we would bring her to church.

It was around Mother’s Day 2016 when we finally got to move into our new church building. After 2 1/2 years, it was good to have a place to call home. And our friend was able to come to church with us. After her first week there and having a few seizures, we designated a place she was comfortable with in the back of the sanctuary, in a corner area, where she could still worship and not be a distraction when she would have a seizure.

Since she started coming to church with us, our friend has had many seizures at church and at home. Some pretty bad and others pretty mild. Well, this Sunday (two days ago) would be an eye opener for some and for others was the scariest moment we have had in a very long time.

After our worship service had ended, the worship team, including my wife and I began to take our seats. My wife and I sit in back with our friend relieving another couple ladies who sit with her during the worship service. Anyway, when my wife got there, she noticed our friend was in seizure stance, all stretched out on the floor and she went to touch her back to let her know she was there. But this time, she didn’t react like she usually would.

My wife removed our friend’s sunglasses and noticed her eyes rolled back and she wasn’t breathing. She wasn’t responding to our calls. I moved her onto her back and tried to get her attention. No success. The 911 call was made and a sense of panic quickly began filling our hearts. Was she dead? Was she going to be okay?

Thankfully, we had a new nurse, a volunteer fire-fighter and former lead paramedic in attendance. The first two quickly rushed over to our friend and began CPR to revive our friend and get her breathing again. She had to have been not breathing for at least two minutes by the time we got to the back of the sanctuary. Based on research and medical studies, the average person can not survive much longer than three minutes without air.

On with my story. Our pastor had his sermon all prepared and ready to preach to us. Due to the events of the morning, he felt that the message was not appropriate for that Sunday. It was a very somber feeling. The ambulance came and took our friend to the hospital along with my wife for support. Our pastor began to speak his heart to us.

Our church is called The Refuge. It is our heart to be a place of refuge for those who need a safe place to fellowship where they can connect, grow, and advance the kingdom of God. He spoke in such a way that no one who was there walked away without hearing his heart on the matter regarding what happened.

Before I tell you what he said, I want to preface by saying that the modern church looks nothing like what it should look like. We go to church and treat it as a social gathering, a time to catch up with friends we haven’t seen or talked to since last Sunday. We sing pretty songs and don’t take time to reflect on what the songs are saying. We hear the preacher preach, but we get offended when he tells us we need to stop sinning. We expect church to fit within the confines of a pretty little package wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with a pretty ribbon and bow.

The modern church has turned into a spectator sport for some. The better the message or worship service, the more generous the offerings. It’s as if there is no real life in the church.

Now, our pastor said something that I think took a lot of people by surprise. Some who heard it took it to heart and will do something about it. Others who heard the same thing will do absolutely nothing about it.

What he said was that he would much rather (my paraphrase) tend to someone having a medical emergency during the church service than have a pretty little church service and not see lives touched. He then asked us to help him make the church live up to its name, The Refuge. Below is the first statement of our vision statement.

We envision a fellowship that is truly a “Refuge.” A safe place where any individual, from any background, can connect with the Church, and seek to find a relationship with God.
That is the #1 thing we desire here at TRC (The Refuge Church). We are a Church that helps, loves, embraces, encourages and accepts anyone! No matter what!

How about your church? My prayer is that if you don’t already attend one, that you are able to find a church that teaches the Word of God for what it is and doesn’t try to make it say something that goes against it. That you are able to find a church that welcomes everyone that walks through the doors, regardless of appearance. That you are able to find a church where the pastor will take care of people when the need arrives. That you are able to find a church that is thriving and full of love.

 

 

Jesus is the Reason

Every year I see my local Walmart start bringing out Christmas decorations right before Halloween and go all out right after it. It’s as if it’s all about how much money one can spend on the latest and greatest decorations and gifts. I am watching a Christmas movie right now and not even ten minutes into the movie, I began to feel what I call the Christmas blues. It happens every year. I start looking at reality in my household. Oh, we don’t lack much, but when it comes to Christmas, I begin feeling like I can’t support my family and get the kids what they really want for Christmas. I begin feeling like a poor, low class citizen who can’t even afford to pay attention.

Maybe you can relate. I live in a three bedroom apartment with one bathroom, five kids, a dog, three cats and a fish tank. I look at reality and see how blessed I am as is evident by all the things I have in my house. But then, my heart looks and realizes that my heart is not happy with our current living situation. I would love to have a much bigger house with a bigger space to entertain friends and family for Christmas. Not that I’m not grateful what what I have, but I do know that as a child of God, I am not supposed to settle for less than what He wants for me.

I know it seems like I’m rambling, but I do have a point. Even though I have a lot, I look at what I don’t have when it comes to Christmas and start feeling like I’m not a good supporter of my family. It’s kind of like watching your friends get blessed in ways that you have been praying to be blessed. It sucks and you wonder what you’re doing wrong.

The reality is that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with money and the things it can or can’t buy. Yes, it has its roots in pagan tradition, but nearly all Christian holidays have pagan roots. Go figure. We observe Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which really didn’t happen in December. Any studious Bible scholar would discover that Jesus was born closer to March or April. I think we settled on December because the snow seems to have a way of making things peaceful and serene. But that’s for another post.

I have to remind myself up until Christmas that it’s not about the stuff. It’s a time to remember friends and family. It’s a time of giving, of love, of joy, and of peace on earth. It’s about giving to others, especially to those who don’t have the chance to enjoy Christmas. But I have a feeling that these are the people who really understand what Christmas is all about.

For the past few years, I have seen the reaction of my kids at Christmas and see their excitement as they open up their gifts. I have two older kids who have split lives. They enjoy Christmas with both my wife and I and their dad’s family. But they are so used to getting pretty much everything they ask for on Christmas and then they like to brag to us about what they got. Then when it comes to Christmas at our house, these two don’t really seem to be grateful for what they got because it’s not what they wanted. Oh, they might get what they want, but it might not be the color or particular brand or style they wanted.

I suggested once that as a possible way to teach the kids about what Christmas is really about and to be grateful for what they did get regardless of the specifics about the gift, that instead of purchasing the gifts for our own kids, we give them to families who go without because they don’t have the money to get gifts for their kids. They didn’t go for that idea.

My wife and I have a struggle each year with teaching our kids that Christmas would be Christmas even without gifts. That it’s really about Jesus and His birth. So, when it comes to the actual day(s) of Christmas celebration, I am very truly happy and blessed. I love to see all the family together. I don’t especially love all the loudness of 15 kids talking above each other, but I deal with it. Jesus really is what it is all about.