Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Florida Weather and Your Spiritual Life

I can’t speak for most Floridians, but as a long time transplant from Alabama let me state for the record that I love living in Florida. We think it is freezing when the temperature hits 50 degrees. We don’t like it when the sun doesn’t shine every day. We hate the gray sky. And this thing that most of you call Winter, lasts for less than a week total in the months of January and February. We post it all over the internet and social media just to make all of our friends who had to move away from here just a little jealous. We love the fact that it might rain for an hour but then the sun comes out, the birds start singing, and animated cartoon animals start playing out in the meadow. Ok so the last part doesn’t happen unless you are at Disney World. Which is another reason to love being a Floridian!

We don’t do well with extended periods of cold weather, rain, or gloomy skies. I know some of my northern friends and Canadians brethren are already rolling their eyes in disgust. Many of them have great reasons for living in other areas of the country and I get them sometimes. But if you can live in paradise which is what my phone calls our area on the weather app, (it might do that for everyone in every location too!) then why wouldn’t you. But there is a time when we need a few rain storms to come through even in paradise. If we didn’t get those rain showers in the summer and days like today when it is a slow soaking rain, we couldn’t live here. We are parallel to some of the great deserts in the world. The difference is those pesky summer showers and the fronts than bring us rain from time to time. If we didn’t have the rain, then we couldn’t have the perpetual state of green around us. But the truth is most of us don’t like those rainy days.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We prefer all of our days to be filled with the Lord’s sunshine. We want to spend each day basking in the glory of His love and being warmed by the experience of His presence in tangible ways. We love the fact that His love keeps the cold of doubt at bay. We even sing hymns to that affect like Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee. We wake up every morning and pray that today will be a great day that will bring us peace, love and happiness. And there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting that for us, our family, and our friends.

However, have you ever stopped to consider that those storms that come our way bring growth to our faith the same way the rain brings necessary water to the plants in our yards and the grass that makes other states envious? Maybe the Lord is trying to get a message to us that can’t be delivered in the warm sunny meadows of our lives. Many great men and women of faith have written about the “Dark Night of the Soul” that they went through and how the Lord used those dark and dreary days to teach them to depend more fully on the character and certainty of God’s promises. So maybe a little rain cloud in our spiritual journey grows to become a full blown hurricane not to destroy us but to make us stronger and replenish our dry soul. I have been there too. I am not there now by the way.

But the Lord laid this on my heart this morning during my drive into the office and during my devotional time. So maybe this is for just one of you who will read this or maybe you know someone who is in the middle of a storm and you need to pass it on to them. Or maybe there is a storm coming in my life and the Lord just wanted to remind me of the truth of His grace. Spend some time reading and meditating on Psalm 107 if you find yourself in that position. Here’s just a little of it to get you started.
28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
29He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.
31Let them give thanks to the Lord

for His faithful love

Monday, January 27, 2014

A great tour with a borrowed bike

Last Saturday my friends at Chain Reaction let me test ride the Jamis Coda Sport bike. I was involved with several others doing a bike tour from downtown to the west side of Gainesville. The ride was to remember the 50 year history of Westside Baptist Church here in Gainesville. The ride started downtown at the old site of First Baptist Church the mother church for Westside. We made our way through campus to the old location at 4039 Newberry Road. After a time of reflection and prayer we traveled north and then west to the new location of the church facilities.  It was a great day even if it was one of the coldest bike rides of my life.

The Coda Sport was a great bike for the tour. It was strong and steady on the sidewalks downtown and as we made our way along SW 2nd avenue and Newberry Road. It was a comfortable ride over various surfaces including bike paths and bike lanes. It was nimble with great brakes for close riding and would be awesome on campus for a student commuter. On the way back, I was able to ride at my own pace and it was quick enough with the gears on board for a long ride on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This bike can do it all and the price can’t be beat. If you need a comfortable bike that can be used from commuting to some serious touring, then this would be a great bike to buy. It has definitely made its way onto my wish list for my next bike purchase.

It was great to travel back down the road with several friends and even better to have friend who allow you to borrow a bike because your road bike would have made the trip much harder. Thanks Chain Reaction for the loaner and thanks Life South for letting us tour our old church facilities that are now a part of saving lives in a very different sort of way!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Glavine and Maddux go into the Hall of Fame Together!

              Congratulations to Former Braves Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux for being selected to the HOF. Growing up as a Braves fan, I really enjoyed watching them pitch for “my” team. I remember watching Maddux pitch for the Cubs when I was in graduate school in Kentucky and was in awe of his great control of the ball and the game as a whole. I was ecstatic when the Braves picked him up for the ’93 season. There are many who have written about his career and that’s not my style anyway so I will get to the relatively untold story in a few lines.
               Tom Glavine to me was always the epitome of the smooth, crafty left-handed pitchers. Why is it that the ball seems to move more when it comes from the left side? I don’t know it is true, but it sure seems like they can make it move more than the right handed guys can. He never seemed to be un-nerved or rattled. He just dominated the other team’s lineup without breaking a sweat or so it seemed.
               When the two of them were in the starting rotation for the Braves, I felt like Atlanta would never have a three or four game losing streak because I was confident neither of them would lose two starts in a row. The great run of the Braves was in large measure a result of a tremendous pitching staff anchored by both of these now Hall of Fame Players.
               In December I was in Atlanta for a conference and the organizers arranged for the group to tour Turner Field and have dinner in the 755 club. We were given a tour of the stadium including the dugout and clubhouse as well as the press box. In addition we were able to use the throwing and hitting games located on the concourse of the stadium. But the real treat was after dinner, Javier Lopez and Brian Jordan, spent some time with the group relating their stories of how they were discovered and developed within the Braves organization and baseball in general.
               Among the many stories they shared was one related by Jordan in response to the question, “Who was the best player you ever played with or against?” I wish I had recorded it so I could quote it verbatim but I will recount it to you as close as I can. I offer my apologies to Brian in advance if I get any of the details wrong in this article.
               He said that prior to a game when they were going over the scouting report of the opposing team, Maddux told him he was going to help him do something that Jordan had never done before. He said when this certain guy comes up, I am going to get him to hit you a line drive one hopper between the first and second baseman. You play the guy shallow and charge hard and throw him out at first. Jordan said he was a bit skeptical that anybody could have that much control of a batter. So when the guy came up to the plate, Jordan moved in closer than normal. He said all I could think about was what if this guy hits one over my head, but that is what Maddux wants so I am going to do it. Sure enough, Maddux throws a pitch and the guy hits a screamer between first and second. It bounced once in the outfield and Jordan charged the ball and threw the guy out at first base. He said after that he believed Maddux could do anything to any batter he wanted to with a baseball in his hand.
               Lopez added that it was great to be able to catch both of them because he knew that it would be a quick game with either of them on the mound. They were there during the transition to the “Power Arms” era that baseball is now in where the emphasis is on how hard can you thrown. And they were definitely not in that category. They relied on the ability to change speeds and move the ball around in and out of the zone to be effective.

               It is fitting that they enter the HOF in the same class. As a Braves fan it is hard to think of one without the other. They will now forever be linked together in the HOF as well. Now the question becomes will Smoltz join them in that rotation as well?