There is natural reason for Ukrainians to dread Russia taking over their country again—oppression under communism was intense and costly. Ukrainian Kostyantyn spent many years in a Soviet labor camp. The authorities disliked his actions as an elder in his church so they sent him to be re-educated. Over 200 pastors were also sent to the same camp.
He stood to my left with the most perplexed look on his face. No matter which sink the teenager chose to extend his hands, water would not come out of the metal pipes. They were invisible under the sensors which should have triggered action. I left that men’s room in Baltimore Washington International airport laughing, thinking of all the times the same thing happened to me.
Dmitri determined to educate his sons from the Bible at a time when Russia was dominated by communism. Soon neighbors began joining the family Bible study which grew to about 75 people crammed into his little house and standing outside in hearing range. Angry at his refusal to stop teaching the Bible, an officer and soldiers pushed inside during a time of fellowship and arrested him. As the authorities were leaving, a small grandmother waved a finger at the officer and declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive.” Two nights later that officer died of a heart attack. The fear of God so filled that community that 150 people joined the next time of teaching. Meanwhile Dmitri was sent to jail.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s youthful dictator pushes his nation towards the brink of war. Threatening a “‘preemptive nuclear attack’ on the United States, a ‘final destruction’ of South Korea, and a ‘nuclear attack’ on Tokyo” leaves much of the world holding its collective breath. While we should pray that war does not break out, we should also remember that even bullies and police states cannot keep God from revealing His love in amazing ways.
A runner sees endurance as vital to finishing a race; a parent sees endurance as the ability to shepherd a child to adulthood. Endurance originates from the compound Greek word: hupo (under) + meno (to remain) to give us the concept continuing under pressure. It is much more than a physical resolve, it is a mental resolve. Without sufficient why, the what loses meaning and we are more prone to quit.
1 Kings 2:2,3—“As for me, I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong and be courageous like a man, and keep your obligation to the LORD your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statues, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn, and so that the LORD will carry out His promise that He made to me: ‘If your sons are careful to walk faithfully before Me with their whole mind and heart, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’”
I turned on the television just in time to catch the pivotal game in the 2012 men’s Wimbledon Singles Championship. Andy Murray and Roger Federer were tied one set apiece and playing in the third set. Back and forth the game went for almost 20 minutes, neither player seemingly able to win. But after 26 dramatic points Roger took advantage and broke his opponent’s serve. You could see the life sucked out of Great Britain’s hope; disappointment marked his face and posture. Roger was too strong and too talented and despite Andy’s best tennis and the faithful cheers of his countrymen, he could not win. Federer would win his seventh singles title at Wimbledon, earn back the number one ranking in the world and deny England a champion for the 76thconsecutive year.
Brian dreamed for a long time of building a house for his family on a wooded, five-acre plot of land nestled within the city. Notice I used the word dreamed. Brian did not just want to put up a simple home for his family of five. He wanted to build a ten-thousand square foot ministry center. I remember many of us thought he was overreaching. Why not just build a modest home and then as God provided continue to expand?
Toxicity is an ongoing condition of antagonism which perpetuates open wounds. Toxic people are experts in creating hostile environments. For over a year now my son has put up with an older woman who badgers him and his fellow employees constantly. She whines, manipulates to get her way, criticizes, and uses sarcasm and mocking to tear down those around her. Why she is such an unhappy person, no one seems to know. But going to work is not fun for Bryan.
In his book Younger Next Year cowritten with Chris Crowley, Dr. Henry Lodge states that “Over 50% of all illness and injuries in the last third of your life can be eliminated by changing your lifestyle in the way we suggest.” The major way they suggest is to exercise forty-five minutes a day six days a week. Four of those workouts are aerobic and two involve weight training. The reason most people grow weak and more susceptible to disease is directly attributed to their failure to exercise!
Chip and Dan Heath wrote a terrific book called Switch, subtitled, How to Change Things When Change is Hard. If you are a leader or a worker in an organization undergoing change, this is necessary read. Chip and Dan make a point that self-control is an exhaustible resource. They share an experiment that proves the point. Researchers divided college students into two groups and placed them in a room with two bowls: one contained chocolate and chocolate-chip cookies while the other contained radishes. One group could only eat the cookies; the other group could only eat the radishes. The researchers then left the room to induce temptation. Fortunately, all the participants followed the rules. Next each group received a series of unsolvable puzzles. The group that ate the chocolate spent nineteen minutes on the task making 34 attempts to solve the challenge. The radish eaters gave up after only eight minutes and 19 solution attempts. Why did this latter group quit so quickly? They used up self-control by not eating the chocolate!
On the plane from Atlanta to Portland, I sat next to a salesman and a lawyer. We had a great time sharing stories, food and funny video clips during our five hour flight. Matt shared with us that he was headed to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho to compete in the Ironman competition. On Sunday, his goal is to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in 12 hours! We pumped him with questions and he shared his training regimen, thrills and spills in past competitions. And then he told us the secret to his perseverance.
Day one: Piles of dirt, stacks of tree limbs and lots of pickup trucks, cars and tractors. Men are standing around drinking coffee and talking. Day two: see day one. Day three: see day one. Day twelve? For the first time I see trenches dug and fresh gravel heaps. For all the men and equipment, it does not seem like much has happened on this city project.
I suppose if I were to go away on an extended trip and return, the differences on that lot I prayer walk past would be significant. I know (by faith) that by the end of summer a beautifully constructed park will occupy what now looks like mere mound shifting.
For generations the Pokot of Western Kenya crossed into the land of the Karamonjong in Uganda and vice versa. These were not social gatherings or athletic competitions but rather cattle raiding. But unlike the past when both tribes attacked with bows and spears now the Pokot come at night armed with AK47s and pistols. When they raid they slaughter whole villages and then take off with their cattle. Consequently, towns along the border live in fear of losing their lives or livelihood to these bands of ruthless fighters.
Across the world there is no shortage of carnage and fear. How many neighborhoods in our own nation rest uneasily at night? The prospect of warring gangs and drug violence is all too common in many big cities. The demons of lawlessness and murder feast on the shedding of blood and dance to the sounds of wailing sirens.
Recently, the Vietnam Traveling Wall (the 3/4ths replication of the amazing black wall in Washington D.C.), traveled to Portland, Oregon. Etched in somber stone is the name of every veteran killed in Indochina. During the opening ceremony I represented the 104th Division. Afterwards I was invited to a dinner with the special people from the cemetery that planned the event.
Lacrosse is a rapidly growing sport in our community. Last year was the first year of its inception in Tigard for 6ththrough 8thgraders. Stephen got involved and is playing again this year. I’m enjoying helping coach his team. I’m quite amazed at how quickly the boys have advanced in their skills. And I’ve made a not so surprising observation. Those players who carry their sticks around constantly and work on throwing the ball and catching it against any available wall or with other teammates, are far more proficient than those who only pick up their sticks when required.
Nicolo Paganini, (1782-1840), ranks as one of the greatest violinists of all time. One night while playing a difficult piece of music a string on his violin snapped and hung down from his violin. Surrounded by the orchestra he continued to play. Then a second string broke. Still, this clever musician improvised and continued playing. A third string snapped forever worthless. Undaunted, Paganini played magnificently on the one remaining string before a stunned crowd. When he finished they jumped to their feet screaming and cheering “Bravo! Bravo!” Paganini waited until the noise abated then as everyone sat back down he raised his violin high for everyone to see. The violinist nodded to the conductor to begin the encore. He placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played one final piece. Can you imagine the buzz of that crowd as they returned home from that concert?!
Our neighbors have a new puppy, Sadie. She is a lovable Pit Bull full of energy and eager for attention. To keep her from getting lost or running away, it was necessary to finish fencing in their yard. So, with help from family members, holes were dug, cement was poured, and metal posts for a chain-link fence were sealed into the ground. That fence is not going anywhere; Sadie is quite secure.
Bob Wieland lost his legs to a mortar round in the Vietnam War. But that didn't stop the 57-year-old veteran from finishing the Los Angeles Marathon. Using only his hands and on less than twelve hours of sleep, it took Bob a week to complete the 26.2-mile course. Surrounded at the finish by well-wishers and admirers, Wieland said, "This was not natural. This was supernatural. It was only done by the grace of God."
In an Indonesian restaurant in Sweden, Jonathan, a Swede who grew up in the Congo, shared with us Tulo’s* story. Tulo and 44 of his friends and relatives (to include a two-week old baby), fled Bukavu, Congo to escape an enemy intent on taking their lives. For one month they walked approximately 700 km (434 miles) and lived off monkey meat, fruit and anything else they could scrounge until they reached the city of Kisangani. It took a week in a hospital for Tulo to recover—others remained longer. Miraculously, none of these Jesus-followers died!