I have been Blogging at this site for almost four years now and I am so thankful for all of you who read what I have to say. I really appreciate each of you very much.
I have recently gone through an overhaul of my website...actually it is a brand new website which is still a bit in process. As a result, I will no longer be blogging here, but at my new site. So...I am inviting you to visit me at www.5feet20.com - where I have my latest new post. If you would like to receive my posts in your email, you can sign up here. It takes about 11 seconds.
Thanks everyone--I look forward to seeing you at www.5feet20.com! Again, if you'd like to receive my posts via email, you can do so here.
Saturday morning, we woke very early and made the trek to Columbus for the annual clash between Ohio State and Michigan (won by the Buckeyes 37-7). All week I had been reading comments from some of Ohio State's senior football players talking about the game and how they could not believe that their careers as a Buckeye were coming to an end.
Dane Sazenbacher (pictured above in Saturday's game) was quoted often in our local paper because he is a Toledoan. He shared about how emotional the week would be for him and that his career just seemed to fly by.
On football Saturday mornings in Columbus, the band and thousands of fans gather at St. John Arena (OSU's old basketball arena) for the "skull session." The band runs through their pre-game and halftime shows in preparation for the afternoon's game which helps to get the fans fired up. Immediately before this (2 hours before kickoff), the team stops in on their way to the stadium to get prepared for the game. One of the senior players says a few short words and then Coach Jim Tressel addresses the crowd. The players then leave to the band playing "Fight the Team." It is a very cool thing!
This past Saturday at skull session, I kept watching Sanzenbacher as he walked in, something he had done close to 30 times now in his career. This time was different though. He could not stop looking around. It was obvious he was taking it all in, knowing this would be the last time he experienced this as a player. This emotional moment even got to me. I tried to explain what was happening to my family but I found it very difficult to speak as I was so choked up. The thought occurred to me that Sanzenbacher might like to go back to relive some of these moments in his past four years, knowing now that he will not have another one. It's possible that he took these moments for granted and just now, as he approached the end, realized how special these moments were and are.
The same is true for me. I know that I take many moments for granted. I take my breathing for granted. I take my family for granted. I take the sun for granted. The list goes on and on.
The fact is, the breath I just took could be my last. It is possible that the next time I see each of my family members could be my last. I am not saying this to be morbid, but rather so we might realize that every moment is a gift to be cherished. I hope to be looking around in awe at my everyday moments the way Dane Sanzenbacher was on Saturday. I hope to not take anything for granted! I hope that I realize how much of a gift this present moment is. How about you?
Why, you don not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:15-21, emphasis added)
You may have heard this story many times. The miraculous multiplication of food. Incredible. Yet, the part that strikes me in this story is what Jesus does immediately before He performs this miracle. He gives thanks for what He had.
When I try to picture myself in that story to see how I might have reacted, I think I would have panicked. When I knew that thousands needed to be fed and all I had were five loaves of bread and two fish, I probably would be saying something like, So what are we supposed to do with that?!
I certainly don’t think I would be thankful in the moment, precisely because I would only be in the moment. If I had a larger lens, if I saw the bigger picture, then I would be in better position to be thankful. Jesus saw the big picture and thus was thankful for the little things. Had He not given thanks, perhaps this miracle may not have happened.
The fact is that each of us has much to be thankful for. Yes, things might be tough. It may seem like we may only have five loaves and two fish, but as Jesus showed us, when we look at the bigger picture we can see how blessed we truly are!
As we approach Thanksgiving, the thought of giving thanks might be difficult for many due to tough circumstances in their lives. With that in mind, I hope that this story is a blessing:
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss.
Troubles had multiplied.
Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"
"Good afternoon, can I help you?"
Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk. "I . . I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra. "For Thanksgiving? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued.
"Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?"
"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong."
Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you." Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, "Hi, Barbara, let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed thorny roses. Except, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.
"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched - was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.
"Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said, as she gently tapped her chest.
Sandra stammered, "Ah, that lady just left with . . . Uh . . . She left with no flowers!"
"That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special.’ I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet. Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery. That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."
"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.
"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I never questioned Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, ‘Why? Why me?!' It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."
Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about what her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God ." Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man. "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement . . . twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.
"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?" "Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced," Phil replied. "After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem, the Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us." As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"
"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life" Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too . . . fresh."
"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."
Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.
"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."
"Thank you. What do I owe you?" "Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."
It read: "My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant." Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns. God Bless all of you. Be thankful for all that the Lord does for you."Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to God."
We often try to fix problems with WD-40 and Duct tape. God did it with nails.
The journey into a profound spirituality for Geri Scazzero began when she said, “I quit.”
Refusing to continue pretending everything was “fine,” she told her husband she was quitting their church – and he was the pastor!
The powerful journey they took together – to “quit” the things that really don’t belong to God’s kingdom and embrace the things that do – changed their personal lives, their marriage and their church. Take the following assessment below and see if you need to quit:
1. You need the approval of others to feel good about yourself.
2. You are angry, sad, or disappointed and feel guilty about it.
3. You believe you don't have choices.
4. You do for others what they can and should do for themselves.
5. Your rarely consider your own hopes and dreams because of your focus on others.
6. You say “yes’ when you would rather say “no”.
7. You have difficulty speaking up when you disagree or prefer something different.
8. You’re becoming a less instead of a more loving person.
9. You are resentful and tired because you regularly “try to do it all.”
10. You are afraid to admit your weaknesses and flaws.
If two or three apply to you, you may need to start quitting. If four to six apply, you have a lot to quit; if you scored seven or above, your true self may be “buried alive.”
When we quit those things that are damaging to our souls, we are freed up to choose ways of being that are rooted in love and lead to life – both for us and others. Quitting goes hand in hand with choosing. Something breaks inside of us when we finally say, “No more!” The following are 8 "Quits" essential to all genuine spirituality.
Quit Being Afraid of What Others Think. (Choose Freedom) I am willing to cut through the disapproval of others and do what is good, true and loving. I no longer ignore the values I hold dearly. Who I am “on stage” before others is the same person I am “off stage” when I am by myself.
Quit Lying. (Choose Truth) The degree to which I live in the truth –with myself, God and others- is the degree to which I am free. Learning how to speak the truth respectfully, honestly and clearly is one of the most significant ways I can respect the image of God in myself and others.
Quit Dying to the Wrong Things. (Choose Delighting in God’s Gifts) I will no longer set aside or devalue activities or relationships that cause my soul to feel fully alive (e.g. music, dance, art, the outdoors, travel). I will take the time to explore my internal world of thoughts, feelings, values, loves, beliefs and motivations.
Quit Denying Anger, Sadness, and Fear. (Choose Embracing Your Humanity) When it comes to feeling, I will avoid extremes –neither neglecting my emotions nor allowing them to run my life. I will allow myself to experience them in the presence of God, calmly think them through, and then take appropriate action.
Quit Blaming. (Choose to Take Responsibility) As a human being made in God’s image, I recognize that no one is responsible for my life but me. I reclaim my freedom to choose my own life and help others do the same. I can’t change others, but I can change myself – with God’s grace.
Quit Overfunctioning. (Choose Letting Go) I will no longer do for others what they can and should do for themselves. I will push through my fears in the face of resistance, asking God for courage and wisdom.
Quit Faulty Thinking. (Choose to Live in Reality) I will refuse to make things bigger than they are. I will not take offense or blame for something before having all the data. And I will not believe the falsehood that things will never change. I will position myself so that the Spirit can correct my wrong assumptions and align me with the truth.
Quit Living Someone Else’s Life. (Choose to be Yourself) By God’s grace I will embrace the unique life He has given me. I will listen to my God-given rhythms, set appropriate boundaries with others, and let go of other people’s agenda for me. In this way I will enter into the joy of my own beautifully, God-given life and carry out His unique purposes for me.
Jim Lange is a graduate of The University of Toledo where he graduated with a BBA in computer systems. While at UT, he was a 4 year member of the varsity basketball team.
Jim has been in business for the past 20 years, first as a computer programmer, then as a sales representative and currently as a leadership and sales consultant in Toledo, OH which allows him time for speaking about his passion, Biblical-based leadership.
Jim is a member of Crossroads Community Church in Ottawa Lake, Michigan and is active in several ministries there.
He has been married to Connie since 1985 and they have three children: Kristin, Molly and Robbie. He resides in Lambertville, Michigan, just outside Toledo.