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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Steve Jobs – 2003 commencement speech

Don’t live through your children, spouse, or anyone else. Find out who you are and be that.

Our fourth child loves travel but chooses to stay close to her birthplace for school and work. She has already been to Arizona and Florida, plus a few other states on the way. Her next destination is London.

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Turn Around

Turn around. What happens when you do that? Try it now. No, not just look over your shoulder, but stand up and physically turn around. If you did what I asked, what changed? I am willing to bet you noticed something; an item you would like different, a person you might want to speak to, or something that made you smile.

First, the act of standing up brought fresh oxygen into your system. Maybe you noticed muscles that were tight and you flexed them. Second, the act of turning around brought fresh perspective into that moment. This illustrates the beginning of repentance.

When I turned around, in the same way I instructed you, I noticed a poster on my office wall – Rembrandt’s painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son. The focus of the painting is on the richly dressed Father embracing his bedraggled son whose feet reveal worn-out shoes. Three observers of this touching scene are portrayed clearly, but above and behind the father is another figure, deep in shadow. Is this a servant who will soon fetch the fine clothes or kill the fatted calf for this returning son?

The story Jesus told, as recorded in Luke 15, starts with a son eager to leave home, who requests his inheritance in advance. There was no more money coming to him after he blew it all. It took courage for the son to return to his father, and admit his folly. Fear of starvation made him stop and think. Fear of his father made him ask to be a servant. But Love rejoiced at his return. Love restored his place and position. Love welcomed him home.

Before Easter arrives, may you turn around and examine your own life. Are there resources God has given you that you are wasting? Are there things in your life that you wish were different? Turn around and come home to Jesus. Be welcomed by a loving Father, and I bet that servant in the background, the Holy Spirit, will rush to clothe and feed you in ways beyond my capability to list.

Wixon: Grapevine Faith’s good will vs. Gainesville State School almost too good to be true.

A second take on Cheering the Other Team

People forward emails with inspirational stories to me all the time. Their heart was touched and they want to share. However, forwarded emails can easily be changed over time even if the original story was true. I make it a practice to verify as much as possible before I share with anyone.

The story of Faith Academy in Grapevine, Texas cheering on their opponents in a November 2008 football game against Gainesville State, a juvenile correction facility was easy to verify. The email that passes the story on is a bit melodramatic, but the real story is indeed inspiring.

Whenever one person tries to imagine what things must be like for someone else and acts on that image, the world changes for the better. What the coach imagined could not have happened if that image did not translate into the minds and hearts of the parents and students at Faith Academy.

This story is an example of what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Faith Academy Cheers Opponents Nov.2008

I am glad I could verify this story that I received in an email forward. I was disappointed that one of the links I tried in my search simply repeated the email with no outside verification. That is how lies get passed on as the truth. This story, I am glad to say could be verified by at least two reputable sources.

Cheering the other team doesn’t have to be left on the football field. We can pray for our opponent in a law suit so that if greed motivates them (or us) that God will work to reveal that. We can pray for the person who cuts in front of us on the highway, so that God can calm their hearts and slow down the frantic pace of their lives. Maybe we should add a prayer of hope that the method God uses to slow them down doesn’t involve an accident with innocent victims.

Cheering for the mother with two crying infants at the grocery store may involve a sympathetic smile or something as generous as leaving $20 with the clerk to help pay for her food. Cheering for the son-in-law who calls to complain about his wife could mean really listening, instead of immediately arguing that the precious daughter is prefect.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves is not an easy command to follow, but whenever Jesus instructs us to do something, I have found that God gives us the strength, resources, and wisdom to do it. The beginning is the decision to try. Then, comes the first step.

Press Pause

I am pressing pause in several areas of my life during the season of preparation before Easter. This period of 40 days plus 6 Sundays (little Easters) is called Lent for those in liturgical churches. Traditions of giving up something for Lent abounded in the past but came to be seen as too legalistic or too Roman Catholic by many Protestant groups. It is like we threw out the roast with the grease. Because of misuse, we abandoned a rich tradition of great benefit to our modern lives.

My mother, a life-long Lutheran, is now 88 years old and she never remembers giving up something for Lent. I am grateful that the animosity between Lutherans and Catholics eased considerably during my lifetime. My own life has been enriched by conversations with and observations of deeply faithful believers in other denominations than my own.

John and Charles Wesley, founders of the denomination in which I now claim membership, spoke of means of grace. Their list would include practices of fasting from something for a period of time. Charles wrote great hymns about grace (Love Divine, All Loves Excelling & Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown -2 of many) and John wrote prayers and sermons about it.

John Wesley thought that means of grace are those things that help us encounter God’s grace, helping us see God’s work in out lives. When our lives are so busy with things to do, we can miss the finer workings of God within daily life. Pressing pause occasionally can hold rich treasures.

I intend to fast in 2 areas this Lent. In both areas, I will add something as well. I am fasting or giving up some foods and one social media feature.

Fasting is often linked with the withdrawal of food or water as in highly publicized hunger strikes by political prisoners. A food fast in Lent is not supposed to draw attention to one’s self. It is best designed as a way to draw our attention to our relationship with food and instead give that attention to God. I intend to remove all sugar and flour from my diet, so that I can learn from God, instead of satisfying my cravings for sweetness.

The social media fast I am taking is the withdrawal of all the games that I have been playing on FaceBook. The games are relaxing. I like to add notes to the other friends who are my neighbors and my presence helps them accomplish their game goals.

However, the games are also a distraction from life. When life is moving too fast to control anything, a game world is a safe place where all the pieces abide by set rules. I want to intentionally enter into the messiness of life by taking my game time and transforming it into increase prayer time.

I am doing it now. As I write this piece, I am praying for whoever may read it. May your life be enriched as you consider ways to encounter God’s grace in these 46 days before Easter.

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Useful to my Cat

In a disturbing way, my cat finds me useful. She ignores me most of the time, but will extend her paw up towards me if rubbing against inanimate objects has not satisfied her. I enjoy the attention when not preoccupied with work related tasks, but sometimes her claw will nick my skin and she fully has my attention.

At those times, I move her aside to continue my work, but when she interrupts a FaceBook game or mindless TV watching, I feel cherished.

I know this is delusional, for my cat merely finds me useful and would easily substitute another human who scratches the right spot. She is quite capable of training in a new one.