Enjoy a Peaceful Smoky Mountain Retreat

If you are contemplating a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, please consider visiting our lovely three-bedroom rental cottage, Rocky Top, located in the Hidden Mountain Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee.

March Madness: Part Two

This time of year sports news is satiated with basketball. March Madness is a type of disorder including violent mood swings. Like millions my spirit soars when my favorite team scores a three pointer and my heart sinks when they miss the front end of a one-and-one. Emotions erupt when the Dark Vader of basketball, Duke (one of my personal favorites) gets eliminated.

The humble background of basketball makes it special. James Naismith, a Canadian-American, an inventor, educator, physician, and chaplain invented the game in 1830. Naismith was an ordained Presbyterian minister whose job was to help young men to become professional leaders in the rapidly growing Sunday School movement and simultaneously establish YMCAs. His objective was to build character and inculcate Christian character in the young men. Playing basketball was to be a pathway to solid character formation. It soon expanded beyond the school, giving young men an alternative to hanging out at saloons. 

The symbol of the “Y” was a red triangle symbolizing the holistic combination of the three sides of human nature: physical, mental, and spiritual. 

A photo from the era in which the game emerged shows the building in which basketball was begun and the sign over the entrance, “School for Christian Workers.” Officially it was the “International YMCA Training School.” It was birthed of necessity. The young men who had participated in football needed some means of venting their energy during the winter months.

Naismith’s idea of a game with a goal prompted him to ask a janitor for two 18-inch square boxes. None being available he settled for two half-bushel peach baskets. He nailed one on each end of the gym balcony which happened to be ten feet high. Initially people stood in the balcony and recovered the ball for play. Soon the bottom was cut from the baskets.

The game adopted ideas from several games of its time, including American rugby (passing), English rugby (the jump ball), lacrosse (use of a goal), soccer (the shape and size of the ball), and duck on a rock, which Naismith played with his childhood friends in Bennie’s Corners, Ontario. Initially there were three centers, three forwards, and three guards. Two opposing centers faced off at mid-court, Naismith tossed the ball, and the game of basketball was born, relieving the young men of Springfield of their boredom. 

One of my all time favorite players and dear friend, Pete Marivich, put it in perspective. The evening I baptized him we sat in my study with him asking one spiritually related question after the other. Suddenly he stood up and slapped my desk saying, “Man, was I good…” He having averaged 44 points a game in college before the three point play, I could not argue the point. Then he continued, “Just think what I could have been if I had Jesus in my heart then.”

Our nation would be better if the game still had those three virtues inculcated in the game and all of life today.

March Madness: Part One

March Madness has provided a parade of great basketball coaches, some highly successful. Of all who have coached the game few compare with Coach John Wooden, who coached UCLA to ten national championships in twelve years. He was admired for his character as much as for his coaching. Growing up in the 1920s in an agrarian society his father, Joshua, lost the family farm as a result of a series of misfortunes. Drought stunted the crops, a faulty vaccine killed his hogs, and the bank took back the farm. John learned some vital lessons from how his dad uncomplainingly and without blaming anyone responded to adversity.

It resulted in him defining success as the peace of mind “that comes from knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

When John finished elementary school his dad, Joshua, gave him a two dollar bill and a list of rules to live by. He kept that list in his wallet all of his life. There was another object he kept with him that helped him maintain his composure for which he was known. It is said that by watching him on the sideline you could not tell if his team was winning or losing. He said if he wanted his team to be composed he needed to be. As a self-aid he kept a small cross in his left hand during every game. 

Gentleness was another of his admirable attributes. Coach learned from his father that one should never mistake gentleness for weakness; in fact, quite the opposite is true. He proved the famous words of Han Suyin: “There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.”

His speech was always clean and composed. It was influenced by hearing his dad say, “Blaming, cursing, hating doesn’t help you,” he’d say. “It hurts you.”

Consider this one of the lists for which he was known. He and his brother grew up hearing his dad refer to what he called “Two sets of threes.”

“Never lie. Never cheat. Never steal,” was his first set. “Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses,” was his second set.

This more complete list is found in one of his books.
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day. 

Regarding number one he observed “the two great days in a person’s life, the day when we are born, and the day you discovered why.” That gave life purpose.

He complied with number four by reading the Bible daily. Number seven was also a consistent qualitative part of life.

A summary of his lifestyle is summed up in his oft quoted statement, “Trust in the Lord for He is good.”

Ten national championships in twelve years means he was quite a good coach also. 

Are You Reliable?

Blessed is “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change…” Psalm 15:4 NKJV

A different translation expresses the same message in different words: “… who keeps his word whatever the cost….” Psalm 15: 4 HCSB

Are you known for keeping your word, are you known for being punctual, do you have the reputation for being reliable, always doing what you say you will do, and performing on time?

You are personally responsible for your reputation. Your lifestyle is a living performance dramatizing your reputation. You are responsible for what people think of you.

Check yourself out on these character traits. Don’t be reluctant to blame yourself when appropriate.

My wife and I were shopping on Canal Street in New Orleans. We had different needs and agreed to go our special ways and later meet. I was there a bit ahead of time. I checked my watch and thought negatively about her not being there. I reflected on the fact we were to rendezvous under the big clock at ***. Finally it dawned on me that I was on the wrong street corner. I then went to meet her under the clock where she was thinking critically of my lack of punctuality. My lack of timelessness was based on a mistake and didn’t become a lifestyle.

What do you do when you fail to perform punctually? You apologize and are determined to not let it become a lifestyle.

Sometimes we fail to perform as promised because changing circumstances make it impossible. Always consider all possible variables before promising.

A misunderstanding often keeps us from performing on time. Be clear before promising.

We have a plumber friend who promised several times he would fix a leaky faucet. Every time I called him about it he never apologized, he just made another promise, but didn’t perform. I checked with others about it and found he had done that to so many others he was known as “Later, lying, lazy Larry.” How did he get that reputation? He earned it.

I have a friend who as a D1 football coach won two national championships in a row. We were walking and taking on the grounds of a retreat center when he opened up. He had promised an assistant coach that if he would stay with him the next five years he would retire and encourage the school to hire him. He then said, “I had just won two National Championships in a row, had my best recruited class coming, and didn’t want to retire.” Then he quoted the above verse regarding “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change…” He did keep his word and retired. He had a very good reputation. How did he get it? He earned it.

What reputation have you earned?

Get Along

A high school cheerleader was chosen to be her team’s chaplain. When asked what she was going to tell them at their first meeting she said, “I’m going to tell them to get along.” The Lord has been telling all of that from the dawn of time.

It is difficult for a group or even a couple to get along without conflicts at some points. The crux of the matter is found in a quote attributed to the Apostle John. In his latter days word got around that he was coming back to Ephesus and would address the church. Expectantly a large crowd gathered to hear the spiritual giant. He stood and said, “Little children love one another,” and sat down. His brief timely message reverberates with truth applicable today.

For God to achieve anything worthwhile through a group of people, they must love Him and one another.

Philip Melanghthon, considered by many to be the brains of the Great Awakening in the 16th Century, defined admirable attributes for group harmony:

“In essentials unity,
In nonessentials diversity,
In all things charity (love).”

Resolve to maintain each of these attributes in your personal life. Much confusion as well as conflicts can be avoided by doing so.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4: 11

John Wesley, an Armenian, and John Whitfield, a Calvinist, had strong disagreements regarding many issues. Wesley was asked, “Do you expect to see Mr. Whitfield in Heaven?”  Immediately he answered, “No, he will be so near the throne of God that men like me will never even get a glimpse of him.” That kind of regard for our spiritually kin can enable us to be agreeable, that is not hostile, even when disagreeing.

There is a story of two Jews, two Catholics, and two Baptists being stranded on a remote island. The two Jews immediately started building a synagogue. The two Catholics started organizing a Catholic church. The two Baptists started at once to organize the First and Second Baptist Churches.

We are by nature egoists. “For all seek their own” (Philippians 2:21). The soul of God’s whole activity, from the creation to the new creation, is love. Proper love for self yes, but love for others guided by love for Him. God did not put you on Earth just to live for yourself. He wants you to make the world a better place! It is done by being your best self and helping others do the same.

Remember the message, “Get along.”

To Overcome Go All Out – Part Two

God has never been late yet – but clearly from the world’s point of view, and even logical point of view it looks that way many times, but in the end God comes through! Often not in the way or time of our expectation, but He is always on time.

Was He late when Jonah was thrown over the side of the boat to die!? Those who threw him over believed God was too late to rescue him.

Was He late when Lazarus was sick… Jesus deliberately stayed away until Lazarus had died… then only did he go, even days after he was dead and buried!  But He wasn’t late by His timing, just by Martha’s schedule! (John 11)

Those following Moses thought He was late when Pharaoh’s army had them cornered between the Red Sea and the soldiers… but He wasn’t late at all!

Abraham and Sarah thought God was late in giving them a natural born son… but when she was almost 90 and he was almost 100 it happened!

What do you think God has been late in doing for you recently?  Do the examples just given give you any hope now?

If you have committed your way to the Lord and are trusting in Him… He won’t be late! His sense of timing is better than yours!

Those having all of their lives for the coming of the Messiah likely thought He was late in coming, but “In the fullness of time God sent His son…” (Galatians 4: 4). Though thousands of years of Old Testament history went by, God had a right time for the Messiah to come and He wasn’t a moment too late!

His clock and ours are often out of sync.

John Chrysostom, the ancient Church Father, was a beautiful example of true Christian courage. When he stood before the Roman Emperor, he was threatened with banishment if he still remained a Christian. Chrysostom replied, “You cannot, for the world is my Father’s house; you cannot banish me.”

“But I will slay you,” said the Emperor.

“No, but you cannot,” said the noble champion of the faith again, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”

“I will take away thy treasures.” “No, but you cannot,” was the retort; “in the first place, I have nothing you know anything about. My treasure is in heaven, and my heart is there.”

“But I will drive you away from man, and you shall have no friend left.” “No, and that you cannot,” once more said the faithful witness, “for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you shall not separate me. I defy you; there is nothing you can do to hurt me.”

God has never been late yet – but clearly from the world’s point of view, and even logical point of view it looks that way many times, but in the end God comes through! He always has and always will.

Often we need to rest our clock and in doing so synchronize ours with His.