Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary, Martha, Baseball, and Me

I haven't written a blog post in several days for a few different reasons. Namely, that I've been gone to another camp (my third camp of the summer), and am currently involved with our church's Vacation Bible School. Next week, I will be heading off to my last camp of the summer. Being called into youth ministry, busy summers seem to be just part of the deal that "comes with the territory". I mean for 91/2 months of the year we "compete" with school, band, sports, scouts, one act play, UIL academics, and all other things that are connected to a life in public education. So summer is a time when kids theoretically have more time to devote to other things--such as church and spiritual development.

I've been doing some reading, though, and have realized that summer, although free of school, is still summer and is a time to be relaxed, laid back, and should be a time to refresh? So why do I feel like a Martha running around like a headless chicken trying to teach kids how to be like Mary? In our youth group, we have scaled down our Bible study times on the week's we've met and haven't met at all when we were gone to church camp or one of our missions camps. So how can I stay refreshed in the midst of being gone so much and being so busy week after week? Well, here's what I've found that seems to work.

My wife and I love Texas Rangers baseball. This has been a really good season for the team that has never made it past the first round of the playoffs. At one point they were in first place in their division, and 5 games ahead of the LA Angels. June wasn't a good month, though, and it's taking them a while to hit their stride again. The biggest issue for the Rangers seems to be getting hits with runners in scoring position. At one time this season they hit 14 solo home runs in a row. In order to win games, they have to get their hits with runners on bases. After all, the game is won on runs, not hits. This means that baseball is a game of timing.

For me, this summer, I've tried really hard to embrace the time I have at home with family. I also have tried to spend less time at the office when I'm not away at camp. We took a great vacation this summer and it has helped me stay connected to my family and to God. Capitalizing on opportunities is what has kept me going. If we are in the service of the King, I think there are times where we will inevitably be like Martha and that's not necessarily bad. What we have to do, though, is make sure we have time to spend on the things that matter most and that we make the most of those opportunities.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Smile of God

I've always been hesitant to quote cliches...especially those that aren't found in Scripture. One of these catch phrases is "The Lord works in mysterious ways." I guess this kind of coincides with the opening passage in the book of James, "2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." What? Consider it joy when we face trials? Are you sadistic or something? How in the world are we supposed to be happy about trials?
Last week we had one such "trial". At a regularly-scheduled doctor's appointment, Cindy and I found out that we had lost our baby some time during the last few weeks since our previous visit to the doctor. After having heard the heartbeat and seeing the ultra-sound and putting the ultra-sound picture up on the refrigerator, now all our hopes and dreams just came crashing down. This was our second miscarriage in the last 18 months, so we just had a lot of questions.
Well, the Lord is all about timing. You see, we had been planning to take a vacation on Friday, but found out on Tuesday that we had lost the baby and that Cindy would have to have a procedure on Wednesday to extract the baby and the tissue. "What in the world was God doing?", I thought. So we weren't even sure at this point if we'd get to go on our much-needed vacation. Well, long story short, we did get to go and had a wonderful time. It was as if God had his hand on us the whole time we were gone. Let me show you what I mean.
Because of our changing plans, we did not book a hotel room until the day we left. The picture above is our room in the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas. Friday morning, we booked the Adolphus (a historic hotel where each of the last 15 presidents has stayed and goes for $350-$500 a night) for three nights at $65 a night. Using some vouchers I had gotten for taking our youth group to a Ranger game, we paid $6 for a child's ticket and parked for $5 because it was a Friday game. That's an $11 Ranger game not counting food. We also took in a day at the Dallas World Aquarium, Ft. Worth Zoo, Ice Age 3 at the historic Inwood Theater and a day at Splash Kingdom water park in Canton, TX. Thanks to some gift cards we had, we also ate at Texas Roadhouse for $13.
Our much-needed vacation was like a big hug from God saying to us, "It's going to be all right." It takes faith to see that God is doing things. I didn't realize what was going on until we pulled up to the hotel and realized what a swanky joint it was. But God is good and he gave us a precious gift by allowing us to enjoy the blessings we DO have. So, yes, the Lord does work in mysterious ways!