Well..at least for those of us in the USA, this is the day we celebrate the birth of our country. What a great reminder of the value we all place on freedom. So many of us in this global family can celebrate our freedom on many levels….financial, emotional, relational, spiritual, physical…and even political. It is important that we all keep our blessings in mind at all times as life is filled with the “good” and the “bad”. It isn’t always easy to stay focused on the things we celebrate when other things are attacking us from time to time.
As I write this I find myself with mixed emotions. I am obviously not short on things to celebrate. We just finished Eric’s National Power Soccer tournament a couple of weeks ago and his team finished second nationally again (first place was desired, but second is always great too). I am so proud of all of them as I see how very far this world of Power Soccer has come from their hard work. Many other teams
simply focus on getting better….our guys focus is also on expanding the sport to others, and positively touching lives as new teams are developed around the country and the world. Ten years
ago there were maybe 6 teams in N America and a total of 30 or 40 competitive games played in a year. Now there were 650 league games played this year by over 70 US teams! Over 400 players and growing daily. The second World Cup is in France in October 2011 and perhaps 15-20 countries will compete where previously nothing existed at all. Lots to celebrate. If some of you could only see how these athlete’s lives are completely changed and enlightened from this simple sport.
Also, I am writing this from our beautiful lake house with Nancy and the kids and enjoying a summer BBQ with fireworks. But, at the same time, I am also not in Hawaii with Dave and Jules and my friends on a long planned N21 trip (after missing Diamond Club in Hawaii two years in a row, once from Nancy’s mom’s passing and this year from my health issues)! For some 30 years now we have arranged a business/lifestyle event (about every 2 years) for those who wanted to be with us in amazing places, and this is the first one we have ever missed. Imagine the feeling when you arrange the trip, and visualize being with hundreds of great people and their families for a week of play and dreaming and celebration etc…and then the organizers themselves cannot go? Weird! Of course, with the amazing N21 events people and the great US leaders we have, it is a successful event regardless….but we really were “disappointed”. We have been to Hawaii more than 50 times, so it is not the trip itself…it is the reality of why we are not there, and the fact that we “assumed” we would go until the very last minute before leaving when the Houston tests said otherwise….. that lead to the emotions and “frustration”. A setback. A detour. But (we told ourselves)…not a defeat!!
Dave and Jules went because they have a large group of their folks going, and we are thrilled for all (Well, maybe I grumbled a little when I received the photos from so many people over there as they arrived). We had planned to go and use the time to celebrate my recovery from surgery, see the folks after so many months of my “hibernation”, and stay a couple of extra weeks with the family to rest up and prepare for my next steps of “re-entry”. God had other plans. As I learned of my unexpected need to re-enter treatment, I was immediately aware of the “domino effect” on so many other people (family and friends) who would be disappointed. And I am still sad for Nancy even though she would never say a word. (she is simply wearing a “grass skirt” to the dinner table this week….kidding)
I was also hit by the reality that I would need to return to Houston to begin my new radiation cycle exactly on my birthday (and a significant one at that!)…. which I had planned for years to celebrate in a big and unforgettable way. It certainly will qualify as “unforgettable”!!
So…..there I was…..so blessed on so many levels, and yet “disappointed” indeed. We never expected to have to go another round and deal with the “enemy” so much longer. I was just feeling enough better to enjoy Hawaii, and I had been swinging the golf club (with Nancy believe it or not!) to get ready to try the courses again. I went to the range with Heather and AK too. They are “naturals”. I am laughing too because I think I may have actually improved in my golf swing in spite of the bad knee and other sore places from the surgery.
So….to suddenly be back in the “crock pot”, and faced with more time in hospital rooms, sober doctor visits, and IV’s etc. …was a “disappointment” indeed. But….. there are great and valuable lessons in all these life experiences if we look for them. I realized, of course, pretty quickly that so often God uses such “disappointing” circumstances to better prepare us for His purposes, and perhaps test our faith (not for Him to know…but for us to discover). So many of God’s most beloved servants and heroes of the Bible had their own significant disappointments and delays and detours. God knows what He is doing.
I can assume that if you are still reading this…you too have had (or are now experiencing) some significant disappointments and setbacks in your life. We can empathize with each other on how we too often seem to be in need of perspective and faith and trust (and maybe re-read an “attitude” book, or hunt for our favorite inspirational CD) as we grapple with circumstances that are not what we expected or would have chosen. Am I right? This is a big part of life, but it still kicks us in the teeth when we first realize we are heading “sideways” (or backwards) for an unexpected period of time. Suddenly we are again faced with the need for faith and peace. “Counting it all joy” isn’t always easy….but is is clearly stated by James:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1: 1-8
God allows us to enter the “desert” occasionally (or remain there longer), and perhaps even requires it to accomplish His purposes. (?) I was reminded of this truth in a devotional I was reading (another blessing from so much “time off”). Let me share what I read:
The desert holds a special place in God’s Word. The Scriptures portray the desert as a place of inspiration and exaltation – a place where people met God in a powerful new way. King David wrote the 63rd Psalm while in exile in the Desert of Judah. He was hiding from his son Absalom, who wanted to replace him as king of Israel.
For Joseph, a deep pit in the desert was the first stop on a 13-year journey through desolation and despair. That 13-year desert experience served to break Joseph’s self-will and self-confidence. It taught him that he could not control anything and that he needed to rely on God to manage the events in his life. Joseph’s desert trial prepared him by scorching the youthful pride and arrogance out of his young life so that when he was 30 years old he could rule Egypt at Pharaoh’s side in a spirit of humility and servant-hood.
Before becoming king of Israel, David was a shepherd. Part of his training for leadership involved hand-to-claw combat with the beasts of the wilderness, including the lion and the bear. Elijah learned the principles of spiritual leadership while in the wilderness of Gilead. And Jesus was tempted and tested for 40 days in the desert before He began to preach.
Perhaps God has given you a dream, but now it seems that your dream has withered and died under the scorching desert sun. It seems that God has gone away and is not listening to your prayers. But I want you to know that that your dream still lives. God is with you, even if you can’t see Him, hear Him or sense His presence. He is preparing you in the desert.
Ok…so maybe I needed that reminder a few days ago! But, as always, I have been given(eventually) the gift of peace…. and even become thankful that in spite of not getting to the end of this current chapter as soon as I wanted…I can rest in the assurance that He has me and the family in His perfect will. I continue to claim and trust those promises that He has shown us in His Word. I continue to be grateful for such friends as I have around the world. You are amazing and I love reading your comments.
I sure know that we can all relate to these principles and emotions regardless of what dreams and circumstances
you may have that do not seem to be “on track” as you imagined. Most of God’s best work comes through people who are allowed to (or
made to) grow in the desert at times. Aren’t we often glad that He doesn’t give us exactly what we ask for when we ask for it? Haven’t we all seen His hand when we later discover how He has “used” our circumstances, and our detours, to give us an even more powerful story or lesson or blessing when we rest in Him? I am always surprised that I need to re-learn the same lesson each time I sense “disappointment”. I hope you can join me in trusting more!… and seeing
beyond the circumstances to what God might be doing in us, through them. Sometimes God does not deliver us immediately “from the fire”…but He will always deliver us “in the fire”.
So, as I endure the sweet and encouraging messages from my friends in Hawaii (Grrr), I will at the same time be aware of, and grateful for, the sweet family with me at home, and all of God’s promises and faithfulness. I will remind myself daily of your prayers and support, and I will trust in the One who made me to complete His work:
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
I have included some recent photos to keep you up to speed. I know it looks like I am in full leisure or vacation mode….but I assumed you do not want me sending photos of my endless battles with food, or sitting in waiting rooms at MD Anderson prior to a “scan” or doctor visit. I will spare you too many of those. I am entering my Houston “desert” as though it is a giant series of blessings awaiting discovery. I doubt it will be as fun as being with you in the great game of life as we know it….but it can and will be a place of discovery and joy….because that is promised when we decide to trust in all things. Maybe I am working on ” Jim 3.0″ already?
A closing comforting thought from Psalms to improve your day…and mine too.
1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.