Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eleven is the magic number

I received wonderful news this past week from my good friend Ovidiu. After 10 failed attempts to secure a visa he finally received a travel visa that will allow him to visit the United States. Now I want you to take a few minutes to think about that. Ovidiu has been trying for 10 years to receive a visa.

Kacee and I just returned from a short family vacation. Over the past 10 years of marriage we’ve seen the world. We’ve been to Kenya, Guatemala, Romania, Italy, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Austria and many other countries. Not once did I even consider the value of my passport. Why should I? It only takes about 10 minutes to get one. I stop by Walgreen’s for a quick picture, fill out the application, and drop it in the mail. Within a month or so I’ve got my 10 year passport (even faster if I’m willing to pay the fee). How blessed we are to have an open invitation to see the world. How even more blessed we’ve been to have the resources to do so.

I’m thrilled beyond measure that Ovidiu and Adina will be visiting the US in December. I know they will be pulled a million different directions by those that have waited patiently for 10 years to have them visit. However, I know they will find some time while they are here to talk about the wonderful things they are doing in Romania. I’m honored to be working with them and I would love the opportunity to have them personally share with you their vision and passion for rural Romania. If you have any interest in visiting with them let me know.

The next time you jump in your car or board a plane to travel the country think about how fortunate we are to see the world. Then think about this world we have at our finger tips and how much they need us. You know with freedom comes responsibility. I hope you will join me in making the best of this opportunity. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A pat on the back

Today begins premier week for all our favorite shows! I’m embarrassed to say it has been a long summer without all my favorite shows to watch. Hey, we live 20 miles from town in the middle of west Texas with two children under the age of five. What are we supposed to do with all our time? Don’t answer that! Of course the summer has not been a complete waste. Most nights Kacee and I would watch an episode or two of MASH. What a wonderful show. I have so many wonderful memories of MASH. When I was young I still remember the intro music being my cue to head to bed! Then when I was in college, 10:30 p.m. was when Glen Allen and I took our study break each night. Like a contestant on Survivor I took all 10 seasons with me when we moved to Romania. You laugh, but Hawkeye got me through many long days and nights!

Last night we threw in one more episode to mark the end of summer. As fate would have it, this was one of my favorites. During this episode entitled “Blood Brothers” Father Mulcahy gives the following sermon:

“I want to tell you about two men. Each facing his own crisis. The first man you know rather well. The second is a patient here. Well, the first man thought he was facing a crisis. But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone. He was looking for recognition, encouragement, a pat on the back. And whenever that recognition seemed threatened he reacted rather childishly. Blamed everyone for his problems but himself because he was thinking only of himself. But the second man was confronted with the greatest crisis mortal man can face, the loss of his life. I think you will agree that the second man had every right to be selfish. But instead he chose to think not of himself, but of a brother. A brother! When the first man saw the dignity and the selflessness of the second man, he realized how petty and selfish he had...I....I...I had been. It made me see something more clearly than I've ever seen it before. God didn't put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so he could be here himself. So he could exist in the lives of those he created, in his image."

Oh how often we (I) get caught up in the complexity of life and how it effects us (me). I’m ashamed to say that more times than not I live my life for myself rather than for God. Even when I’m serving God I often find myself doing it for selfish reasons. I’m reminded of two verses in the first book of Peter.

“…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5: 5-6.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4: 10.

I hope you will join me today in making a better effort to use His gifts for His glory rather than the pursuit of a pat on the back. After all, He did “create us so he could be here himself.” Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What do you do?

As our weekend came to a close I took a moment to reflect upon our daily rituals. Our family seems to follow pretty much the same schedule over the weekend. We get up on Saturday morning and then me and the kids cook pancakes, waffles, or muffins. Kacee and I then sort receipts and balance the check book. We then usually load up and run to the grocery store before grabbing a bite to eat. There is usually some outside time in the afternoon either at our house or the park. The evening typically drags on before we call it a night. On Sunday we go to church, eat as soon as we get home and I park it on the couch for NASCAR, football, or baseball. Every once in a while things get a bit out of routine like they did this weekend when Kacee and Becton were sick. Occasionally I have to throw some work into the mix as well.

Our schedule is really not the point, nor is my Type-A personality that causes me to live by this schedule! What really grabbed my attention this weekend was how we respond to things around us. Take for example:
  • If someone is sick, we go to the doctor.
  • If we need groceries, we go to the store.
  • If we are hungry while away from home, we go to a restaurant.
  • If we are thirsty, we get water from the faucet.
  • If we have to “go,” we “go” in the bathroom.
  • If we need gasoline, we go to the gas station.
  • If the kids need clothes or shoes, we go to GAP.
  • If our clothes are dirty, we wash them.
  • If we need to be fed spiritually (and we do), we go to church.
  • If the kids want to play, we go to the park.
  • If we need to learn, we go to school.

    What if, however:
  • There is no doctor?
  • There is no grocery store?
  • There is nowhere to eat?
  • There is no running water?
  • There is no sanitary restroom?
  • There is no gas station or even better, there is no car?
  • There is no clothing store or even better, there is no money to buy clothes?
  • There is no clean water to wash clothes?
  • There is no church?
  • There is no park?
  • There is no school.

We (I) loose sight daily of the many, many, many blessings I have. Oh how often we take for granted the simple things in life. I could ask you “what would you do if you did not have these simple things?” However, we are so far from this even being a remote possibility that we truly can’t even imagine what we would do. Instead, I would like to ask you “what would you do if you had the chance to make a difference in the life of someone that didn’t have these ‘simple things.’”
Well? What are you going to do? What are we going to do? Hope this gives you something to think about. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

“Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”
Albert Einstein

I ran into an old friend the other day at a football game. We were reminiscing about the first time we went to Romania 10 years ago. Neither of us could believe how much had changed in our lives over the past 10 years. As I reflect back over the past 10 years I think about these many changes. I have lived in a foreign country. I’ve received a doctorate. I’ve married the love of my life. I have two of the best kids in the world. That’s a pretty good start to my bucket list!

One cannot reflect upon the past without realizing real quick how much our life is “built upon the labors of our fellow men.” On this Labor Day of 2010 I want to take a second to pause and appreciate the sacrifices of so many that have impacted my life. The list of those that have built upon my life is way too long to list, but what I would rather do is honor them by attempting to give even half of what I have received from them.

This desire to “exert myself” as much as possible is what fuels me daily to see Red Page Ministries succeed. But just what exactly would I consider success? Success, from the world’s perspective, is the sum of who we are and what we achieve. Whether we will admit it or not, we have all dreamed of being successful! There is nothing ungodly about striving to be successful; however, it appears that we have skewed the idea of success to give it a worldly definition. We measure success by the size of our house, the zeros in our paycheck, or the title on our business card.

Success, from God’s perspective, is measured by our continued desire to become all He has planned for us. John C. Maxwell defines success as “knowing your purpose in life, sowing seeds that benefit others, and growing to your maximum potential.” As a fellow servant of Christ, our definition of success should be to accomplish what God has called us to do. Charles Stanley tells us that success will come to us when: the goals we set are God’s goals, we rely on God to give us the resources to achieve His goals, and our deepest motivation is to glorify God and know Him better. This is exactly what the Red Page Ministries team has set out to accomplish in the coming months: 1) Create Christ centered goals, 2) Rely on God to open doors for financial support to accomplish these goals, and 3) Glorify God in all that we do.

I guess you could say Ralph Waldo Emerson summed up success for us much better than I can.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

To all my fellow men and women out there laboring to make this world a better place I say Thank You. Aspire to new heights.