Crazy Curveballs

baseball

I grew up playing baseball with my buddies on a makeshift field about a stone’s throw away from my house. We also played Little League together—but it wasn’t long before our friend Glenn left all of us in the dust.

In high school, Glenn excelled big-time. He could hit, run, steal, pitch and field better than anyone on our team. He was our ace pitcher—and played shortstop with a golden glove whenever he wasn’t pitching.

As freshmen—we got used to being watched by professional baseball scouts during our practices and games. Actually, they were there to watch Glenn—not us. Half-way through that season, Glenn moved up to play varsity.

Glenn could really hurl a baseball. He threw it hard, right over the plate. Coach Waibel and the scouts clocked Glenn’s fastball at 90+ miles per hour!

Coach said Glenn was going to be the next Nolan Ryan. He threw so hard that our catchers wore triple padding inside their gloves—and it still stung like crazy. I know— because I caught Glenn a time or two.

But Glenn never went pro. He got beaned by a curveball.

One January afternoon, he was paralyzed in a snow accident during our senior year. Amazingly, Glenn recovered from his temporary paralysis—but he never walked or talked the same again.

When life throws curveballs and fastballs at you, how do you react? Maybe you yell and argue with the umpire. Step out of the box. Close your eyes. Dodge the pitch.

Sometimes life hurts. Trials hit hard. We think it’s unfair. We feel picked on. We want to toss in the towel and head for the locker room. We feel like giving up and walking away.

Never forget—God umpires your life, watching the pitches and calling the strikes and balls. He coaches and cheers for you. He improves your game. God helps you to see and shake off those crazy zingers. He shouts, “Stay in the game and keep swinging!”

Colossians 3:15-16 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule [umpire] in your hearts … and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

That’s great encouragement for tough days—but sometimes not so easy to do.

So, when life tosses a crazy curveball at you—keep your eye on the ball, stay in the box, lean into the pitch and experience God’s peace.

Will you hang tough in the game of life and do what Coach says?

 

Limitless Love

Love Couple 3

I love my wife and daughters.

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. There’s no mountain I wouldn’t climb. No ocean I wouldn’t swim. No road I wouldn’t take.

I’m all-out committed to loving my family—and I try to love them like God loves us.

Unconditionally. No strings attached. Wholeheartedly. No holding back. Sacrificially. No cost is too great. Unselfishly. No self-centered thoughts. Humbly. No me-first moves.

I want to love my wife and daughters that way because that’s how God loves me. All day long. Mile after mile.

The Bible spotlights God as the non-stop source and supplier of love—and describes why we can love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

That’s also why the apostle John challenges us to love others: “Let us love one another, for love comes from God … and God is love” (1 John 4:7-6).

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not brag, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

That’s agape love. God’s brand of love. That’s boundless love. God’s pattern for love. That’s ultimate love. God’s way of love.

But can we actually love people that way?

Not in a trillion years—if we try to do it in our strength. Not in an eternity—if we try to do it with our energy. Not ever—if we try and do it without the Holy Spirit.

To love God’s way, we must understand and embrace God’s unconditional love. It has no boundaries. No exceptions. No favorites.

God’s love is non-negotiable. He never waffles on his commitment. It’s unstoppable. He never turns off the floodgate. It’s unflappable. He never gets flustered by what we say and do.

That’s how God always loves us—even when we’re unlovely.

Will you ask God to help you love people that way?

 

Gigantic Grace

peanut butter skippy

I like peanut butter—and lots of it—on just about anything. Sourdough toast. Flour tortillas. Crisp celery. Ritz crackers. Oatmeal cookies.

Sometimes, I’ll spread a ridiculously thick layer of peanut butter and jelly on bread—and slap together a mouth-watering PBJ sandwich.

God loves to lavish his grace on us. He likes to spread it on thick.

Unlike my small jar of peanut butter—God’s gigantic jar of grace has no limits. It never runs out or gets used up. It never gets stale or old. That’s a good thing for you and me because we desperately need God’s amazing grace—and lots of it!

The Bible says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us …” (Ephesians1:7-8).

God has an inexhaustible supply of grace.

We have an incredible need for it. God has the largest jar of grace in the universe. We have the biggest need for it. God always has it—and we really need it.

After years of stealing and selling innocent people from Africa as slaves, John Newton came face to face with his need for God’s grace.

Recognizing his hard heart and dark depravity, the crusty slave trader and cursing sailor trusted Christ as his Savior, stopped slave-trading and started sharing the good news of grace. Radically transformed by God, he became a gentle yet bold song-writing preacher.

Years later, Newton was arrested and imprisoned as an old man for preaching and proclaiming the gospel. In his final years, Newton suffered from dementia and lamented the loss of his memory.

But one day, he declared, “I remember two things clearly: I’m a great sinner—and Jesus Christ is a great Savior!”

That’s why Newton penned the heart-moving words to that famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” He never forgot his past life of sin—and never flinched at his need for God’s grace and forgiveness.

The same is true for me. Once I was lost—but now I’m found. Once I was enslaved to sin—but now I’m set free.

That’s the only reason I can confidently sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

Friend, can you sing that song with me?

 

 

Need a Do-over?

Marbles

Like most grade-school boys, I played marbles with my buddies at recess and after lunch almost every day.

With marble bags in hand, we’d run for the playground, drop to our knees and draw a big circle in the dirt. Then—opening our bags, we’d look for just the right marble to start our shooting match.

I had a home-made red cloth bag with a drawstring that my mother stitched for me. Inside it, I kept my treasured marbles. I still have that worn-out bag—but somewhere along the way, I lost my marbles!

Like savvy marble shooters, we played for keeps when we felt gutsy and confident—but we played just for fun when we felt like hanging onto all our marbles. That’s how we scored big, came up short or kept our bags full to shoot another day.

When my daughters Aly and Kylie were little, I taught them how to shoot marbles—and they taught me how to throw jacks. Knowing we’d make a lot of mistakes and misses, I taught my girls how to yell, “Do-overs!”

Today—I like being able to call for “do-overs” in life because I often blow it. I make mistakes and need second chances. That’s why I require and rely on God’s grace and forgiveness. Every day.

I don’t like how prone I am to wander and rebel against God.

But as I’ve walked the road of brokenness and repentance—and admitted my need for forgiveness—I’ve celebrated and enjoyed God’s grace. Here’s why: God gives fresh starts and do-overs to brokenhearted people like you and me.

God’s grace. We don’t deserve it and can’t earn it—but God won’t stop giving it. That’s a good thing for us because we need lots of it.

The Bible says God’s grace is a free gift (Eph. 2:8-9). It’s something we should receive gratefully and humbly because God “gives us more grace … and opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

That should fill our hearts with gratitude and joy and spur us to worship and praise God, for he is the ultimate Gift and Giver of amazing grace.

God gives fresh starts and second chances to humble, broken-hearted people—like you and me.

Friend, will you receive and thank God for his amazing grace?

 

Second Chances

Etch A Sketch

Have you played with an Etch-a-Sketch?

It’s a plastic drawing board with knobs that allow you to draw lines and design shapes on a special surface. You can turn either knob to the left or the right. One knob lets you go up or down—and the other lets you go from side to side.

When I was a boy, I liked to draw on my “sketch pad”. But sooner or later—I’d turn it over, shake it and erase everything. In a magic-like moment, my drawing was wiped out completely. My sketch pad was clear—and I was ready to go again.

Maybe you need a clean slate. Perhaps you want a second chance. Maybe you’d like to take another run at life.

The Bible tells the stories of ordinary people who blew it—and knew it. They needed grace and mercy. Hoped for a second chance. Wanted a fresh start.

Adam disobeyed and hid in a garden. Abraham lied about his wife to a king. David slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband. Peter wept after insisting he didn’t know his friend Jesus.

They stumbled when they could’ve stood tall. They fumbled when they could’ve finished strong. They punted when they could’ve stayed on course.

Could’ve—should’ve—would’ve, but didn’t. Oh well, let’s not be too hard on them. We’re no different. We go our own way—and do our own thing, too.

Nobody’s perfect. All of us mess up. We crash and burn. We rebel and run. That’s why we desperately need God’s eternal Etch-A-Sketch.

When we confess our sins to God, he forgives us. David prayed, “Cleanse me from my sin … create in me a pure heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:2, 10).

That’s how God clears our slates and cancels our failures. He gives grace and mercy—gifts we can’t earn and don’t deserve.

Everyone sins. That’s why we need clean slates and second chances. We miss the mark and require God’s grace and forgiveness (Romans 3:23; 5:20-21).

That’s what we desperately need—and what God eagerly gives.

Do you need to ask God to cleanse and change you? It’s not too late. No matter what you’ve done—and no matter where you’ve gone—God will graciously forgive, cleanse and restore you.

Friend, you must call out to God. Do it now. He’s waiting to forgive—and give you a fresh start!