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Once upon a time Otis Nixon was a terrible baseball player. How do I know? My K-Mart manager and I kept getting his 1988 Topps baseball card out of the vending machine that entertained us at break time. The number still astounds me: .059 was his 1987 batting average. We started following his Expos career. We were on Otis Nixon watch. Finally he was featured on Baseball Tonight. A pitch had bounced several feet in front of the plate. Otis had swung hard for strike three. It bounced so wildly he had a chance to advance to first on a dropped third strike. But then Otis fell flat on his face in the dirt. They kept showing it over and over: “first he can’t hit, then he can’t run.” It was bad. Oh how the Otis had fallen. Flat on his face.
Maybe that’s how Simon Peter felt after the resurrection. Not once but three times he was asked if he followed Jesus. Not once but three times he denied knowing him. It got, shall we say, complicated. It was a long cold night as Simon Peter tried in vain to warm himself around a charcoal fire. Finally the cock crowed as the sun rose and his humiliation was complete. In front of the world. In front of Jesus. He utterly failed. Maybe he was damaged goods. Jesus had risen. But Simon Peter’s life was still on hold. He told his friends: I’m going fishing! So they joined him in the water. All. Night. Long. Nothing. They caught zero fish. Nada. The sun was rising once again. Once again it was reminding Simon Peter what an utter failure he was. He can’t even fish anymore. A kind voice from the shore said “try the other side of the boat”. And then something happened…
The Atlanta Braves came calling for Otis Nixon. They saw something nobody else could see. They gave him a shot on a winning team. With a new purpose Otis gave his all. People still remember “the catch”. Andy Van Slyke had hit a monster shot a foot above the wall for a sure home run. But Otis was not having any of that. He jumped high. He planted his cleat on the wall. He jumped far above the wall and snagged that ball out of the night sky. ESPN played it over and over and over, erasing the bad memories. He went on to play in the World Series with the Braves as a career .270 hitter. Not bad.
The weight of Simon Peter’s net nearly pulled him out of the boat. They had snagged the mother lode. Someone said, “It’s the Lord!” Peter ran to shore and Jesus was cooking breakfast around a charcoal fire. (Yeah now that Jesus was a stickler for bringing things full circle.) The risen Jesus cooking you breakfast. Not bad. Has asked Simon to bring some of the fish he had caught. Then he asked something else of Simon. Three times. Do. You. Love. Me? Each time Simon said yes, Jesus gave him a mission: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. It hurt. But Jesus was helping Simon face the past and move forward. Fishing wasn’t the thing anymore. People were the thing. Other people. Simon Peter went on to the big leagues of apostleship. He healed some beggers. Preached some pretty awesome sermons. Got it wrong some days. But got it right, too. He laid down his life like his master did. John 18-21, the Book of Acts and 1-2 Peter tell the story in all its glory. John 21:1-19 are featured in the glorious art above. I found it here. Our lives can have a high purpose if we don’t get distracted by failure. Otis Nixon has been battling some demons in recent years. But I’m pulling for him. There is always one who believes in us. Jesus. With Jesus there is always hope and a future. Often there is no happily ever after, even with Jesus. Instead, each day we get the same opportunity. Jesus offers each one of us a simple two word mission: follow me. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s take care of people in Jesus’ name.
2 miles easy 24:17
Tonight was my final 2 mile training run for the Chicago Marathon. A final short lap around the neighborhood. It felt good and the first mile was my fastest since my injury. I’ve done all I can. Now the countdown to Sunday begins! I want to thank everyone who has prayed for me, encouraged me and/or donated to Team World Vision. As I run on Sunday you are the wind at my back! THANK YOU!!!
4 miles 49:55 Click to get me to the finish line!
I’m so close to my goal! I completed my final 4 mile training run in my fastest time by far at this distance. I didn’t set out to beat my time but it happened anyway. 20.2 miles of my marathon are now covered by $50 donations to Team World Vision! As I enter the home stretch, will you consider donating? I need 6 more $50 donations by Sunday. I know we can do it together. Thanks for your prayers and support.
Please support my run!Just finished my final easy 3mile Monday run! Monday runs have started awkwardly sometimes. My body feels out of rhythm for the first mile. But by the last mile I’m usually in a nice flow and relaxed with the easy pace. All the dogs stayed in their yards today, neighbors waved and the cloudy skies had a cozy feel. I felt blessed and more determined to finish this goal. Team World Vision is changing the world and I’m glad to partner with them to bless thirsty communities. I need 7 more $50 donors by Sunday to reach my goal. You can make a difference:
Please click here! to help me reach my goal of raising $50 for clean water for every mile of the Chicago Marathon! Yesterday I completed the prescribed 8 mile run in my fastest time yet! It felt great! It’s my last long run in the training. The marathon is 1 week from today! It hasn’t been easy and I so appreciate all the support from so many friends. I need a few more to donate to put me over the top. I’ve raised $975 out of a needed $1,310. It’s very important that I reach the goal. If you can donate it will literally change someone’s life. $50 provides clean water for one year for one person. It’s a sacrificial gift but one you can know is making a difference in the world. Special thanks to so many who have donated. I don’t want to fall short after coming so far! Thanks for your help!
If you own a Tesla, you plug it in, right? Thought this was ironic since I happened to see one in person for the first time this week.
Today was a very good day. It started with good feelings about last night’s Ash Wednesday service. Then I got an early-morning email from someone thanking me for my ministry of the Word and sharing how God was working in his life. It’s always great to see someone growing in grace. Nice. Then another man expressed a desire to join the church and be baptized. Good signs of growth in his life, too after a long trial. And the day was just getting started.
My daughter Sarah celebrated her 18th Birthday! We took her out to dinner and she shopped with some gift cards and birthday cash. Her boyfriend came along and we all had some fun. We dropped my younger daughter Rachel’s old Mac off for service at the Apple Store along the way. Meanwhile, I discovered a Tesla store at this mall! Tesla is the iconic maker of all-electric sports cars that broke the 4 second barrier for acceleration 0-60. I’d read about this car for years, but tonight I sat in one. I’ll never own one, but it’s amazingly light and simple. Cool to see this kind of technology that’s showing us a possible future for transportation. Speaking of tech, when we picked up Rachel’s Mac they’d fixed even more than we asked and decided not to charge us a penny! This is part of why I’m loyal to Apple even though no company is perfect.
Many inside jokes were shared we marveled at what God has done in the 18years of Sarah’s life! She’s just getting started and the college journey will begin soon. So proud of her growth and humbled by God’s goodness to us.
Ellen and I have been blessed and today we had much to give thanks for. A very good day. Thanks, Lord.
Today begins a 14 week journey of faith called Ashes to Fire. It begins in the ashes of repentance and reflection. Ashes are an ancient symbol of death. The ancients had a much closer relationship with death than we do today. Hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes keep us separated strangely from our mortality. One thing we can’t separate ourselves from is grief. As Coldplay reminds us: sometimes you “lose something you can’t replace.” It became a tradition to make a physical statement of loss and reflection by covering oneself with ashes and even tearing garments or putting on obviously uncomfortable ones. No need to pretend or save face. Something or someone important has been lost. It’ll be a while before we’re restored to normal. Sackcloth and Ashes.
Physical death and grief are devastating realities. But so is spiritual death caused by sin. When we realize we’ve been on a wrong path sometimes we need a powerful symbol to validate a definite u-turn. Sin is anything that gets in-between us and God.
It could be just about anything: Disobedience to known commands from Scripture. Disobedience to the guiding voice of the Spirit or our conscience. Preoccupation with things of the world (entertainments, material goods, career advancement, even family) which keeps us consistently from being close to God. Unforgiveness toward the sins and imperfections of others. Lustful thoughts, overly sensual attitudes or dress, allowing are eyes to wander are also examples of sins. Pride of life or dress. Spiritual pride toward the outward sins of others. Spiritual hypocrisy of hiding our true motives. Half-hearted devotion or service to God. Unbridled anger. The list could be endless. But the results are similar. Spiritual death. Scripture warns us as soon as we become aware of sin we should confess it and deal with it before God and others.
But there is value in regularly and intentionally bringing both of these realities together in a public way. All of us will die someday and therefore must live sober lives. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. None of us are so holy as to not have areas of life which need renewal. So Ash Wednesday is like a big family meeting where everybody checks in with their commitment to God above all. It’s a solemn assembly that reminds us all that repentance is the only path to forgiveness. God is our only hope for eternal life. We admit that we are prone to drift away from Him if we just leave it in default mode.
And so we come. Apart from work and family and chores and entertainments. We come to God. We acknowledge we were born in sin and will die forever unless we receive God’s grace. Sin is serious business and we are having a going-out-of-business sale. Ashes on the forehead symbolize that we know we are dust and desire to have spiritual life, given by God. We kneel, we are marked with a cross. We rise in repentance. We pray for newness of life. We rehearse the great forgiveness that is ours. And we wipe away the ashes, anticipating a renewed walk with God. Just a simple ceremony. We could totally phone it in or fake it. Absolutely. Nothing magical about it. But for a few moments each year there is a fresh reminder of how deadly sin is and how amazing grace is. Why not do it for real? And should we stumble again before next year, we’ll remember how big a deal it is and know exactly what to do: repent, take it seriously, and be assured of forgiveness before sin swallows us up. We lose things we can’t replace. We break things we can’t fix ourselves. But God can. Ash Wednesday.
We begin in the ashes of repentance. By the grace of God we rise to seek Him more and grow in grace between now and Pentecost at the end of May. So let’s begin the journey with Jesus together.