Category: Encouragement

Who through Faith…

Why do we think of faith as an abstract? And why do we doubt the power of faith?

It makes no sense to downplay the importance of faith, nor does it make sense to doubt its power, not with so many tangible examples of how faith has changed our nation.

Today, our nation honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who through his faith forever transformed our nation from a society of systemic racism and segregation to a nation that aspires to live up to its founding principles.

It would be naive to say that we live in a post-racial America, and I believe that there is still much to be done to achieve the racial healing and reconciliation of which Dr. King dreamed.

However, it would be self-defeating to fail to recognize the progress that has been made, and the cause of that progress.

Dr. King was motivated by a dream, a dream built on the foundations of his core convictions, which were born of his faith.

That faith was in the God almighty, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To deny this is to deny the sermons Dr. King preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, or his belief in the power of Agape love to not only bring about racial equality, but reconciliation as well.

To deny Dr. King’s faith as his motivation is to deny an entire paragraph of his “I Have A Dream” speech, which states, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

“With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

To deny the faith of Dr. King and to deny the scriptures as the source of that faith is to deny the Biblical imagery that defined his speeches, whether the carving of the stone of hope from the mountain of despair, to the mountaintop Dr. King said the Lord took him to, allowing him to see the promised land.

To deny the faith of Dr. King is to deny his optimism, fully communicated in his speeches, which came from his belief that God would bring his dream to fruition, even if not fully realized until the coming of the Lord.

Dr. King’s legacy of racial equality, national repentance, and racial reconciliation cannot be denied. Neither can the faith be denied which moved him to lead this national transformation. Faith in the Lord brings amazingly great things.

Hebrews 11:33 says, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions.” Hebrews 2:20 says that faith without works is dead. In other words, faith motivates action, and when faith motivates action, great changes happen.

As we remember and celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. King, and the transformation he led America through, let us not forget the faith that birthed it all.

Furthermore, let’s remember that the next great advancement in our society, whatever it may be, will not be born from a desire for significance, a desire for change, or a change at the ballot box. The next great advancement will come when the people of God act on their faith and carry God’s amazing message to the people.

With this faith… we advance.

Stay or Hit, The Risk Remains

Few people realize that the success of the Houston Astros was birthed at the Blackjack tables of a Lake Tahoe casino before Billy Beane employed Moneyball to save the Oakland As.

Working as a dealer at the table, an engineering student majoring in statistical analytics noticed a pattern. Whenever blackjack players “hit” when they already had a score of 17 or more, they almost always busted (exceeded 21, thus losing). However, if they hit on 16 or less, they often got close to 21, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

This student watched as players lost hundreds, if not thousands, by making emotional decisions, hitting on 18, or staying at 16. To consistently perform well, this student concluded that 17 was the magic number. Stay if more than 17, hit if 16 or less.

From this experience, the student learned the value of rational decisions that are data driven. That same student went on to develop the analytics program of the Houston Astros, which was instrumental in the development of the roster that won the 2017 World Series.

That program analyzed prospective players not only by their stats, but also by their experiences and physical characteristics, using patterns identified by analyzing the prior 30 years of MLB draft picks.

The book, Astroball, by Ben Reiter, outlines how the Astros built a perennial winner out of a team that was built and developed, not bought.

Despite the success of the Astros, their trek was not without failures. The Stros often released players who went on to brilliant careers, and retained players who flamed out.

Despite all the data and direction offered by a sound analytics program, the Astros were unable to eliminate risk from the equation when it came to analyzing prospective players.

Which takes us back to the blackjack table. Even if you religiously follow the data-driven wisdom of when to hit, and when to stay, sometimes you bust, sometimes you win, and sometimes the House wins.

Obviously, as The Chaplain’s Corner, this blog is not about how to win at the card table, and I’ve never been successful as a sports writer. Seeing the intersection of cards and baseball, however, I do see some life lessons.

In either of those situations, there is risk. There’s risk in action, and there’s risk in inaction. There are consequences for taking the leap, and there are consequences for staying put.

The Astros took a risk in spending millions to pioneer a new form of analytics for player evaluation. Had it not worked, the team would have wasted a fortune to stay in last place. But it worked, and the evidence is right there on the field.

Had they stayed put, they may have still built a winning team, but they’d likely have overpaid, the way they did in 2005.

In blackjack, taking the hit can win the hand, or it can bust you. Staying will keep you from busting, but it may or may not win the hand.

And in life, you have choices. To change careers. To relocate to accept a promotion. To start a business, invest in the stock market, or to buy bonds.

Maybe the business succeeds, maybe it fails, or if you don’t start the business, maybe you miss an opportunity. The stocks rise, the stocks fall, or maybe you don’t buy and you miss an opportunity. You buy the bonds with a guaranteed yield, but inflation negates your gain.

Risk is inherent in every decision, every opportunity, and every moment in life. Stay or hit, the risk remains.

Fear and avoidance of risk is futile. The reasonable thing to do is to evaluate risk, choose the risk with the maximum upside and minimum downside, and hedge against losses.

But losses will happen. So will successes. The key is to live life, to move forward (even if that means staying) and to glorify God in the process.

So the choice is yours. Stay, or hit?

I’ll Buy Gas Tomorrow, and other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Finish my coffee, grab my bag, climb in the Tahoe with just enough time to make my 30-minute commute, turn the key, before checking my dash to see that, while I have enough time to get to work, I don’t have the gas.

Foiled again!

Foiled again by my fine art of procrastination. Foiled again by my fatigue, pulling into the driveway after a long day to see that I’ve only a quarter of a tank of gas left. Foiled again by my self-delusions of waking up early in order to refuel on my way to work.

Foiled again by my snooze button, by checking my Facebook account before getting ready for work, foiled again by the extra few minutes under the hot water of the shower.

Foiled again!

It’s almost as bad as running into the mall at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 to complete my shopping list. Foiled by the lie I told myself repeatedly about doing my Christmas shopping after work, or tomorrow afternoon. The store is out of what I need.

Foiled again.

I was going to start the diet and fitness program after the holidays, next Monday, or tomorrow. Yet, there I sat in the doctor’s office with a new diagnosis.

Foiled again.

My former employer Matthew Williams used to say, “The bill always comes due.”

Procrastination doesn’t kick the can down the road, it makes it bigger. And the more you kick the can, the more it compounds with interest.

So if there’s a change you need to make, don’t lie to yourself. You won’t change tomorrow. Change today!

I’m living! Here’s how…

Yesterday, I shared with you how I was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and the lessons I learned from the diagnosis. Today, I want to share hope, because the changes I made following the diagnosis are already working.

My diagnosis is nearly a month old. I may throw a little birthday party for it. LOL.

The day I received the diagnosis, I made changes. I consented to every medication the doctor wanted to prescribe, and I changed my diet. The McDonald’s drive-thru is dead to me, unfortunately, and I will no longer consume McNuggets. I had quit full-sugar sodas, but now I’ve almost completely eliminated diet sodas.

What do I drink? Lipton Diet Green Tea Citrus flavor… it’s good and doesn’t leave me feeling bloated.

My diet consists of Cobb Salads (when I’m in a rush, I can get one from Chick-Fil-A), Subway sandwiches, McAlister’s club sandwiches, grilled and sauteed meats, sauteed veggies, and dark rye bread. I have also been able to keep peanut butter in my diet, as well as salsa, and eggs. I often mix the salsa and eggs for my own form of huevos rancheros, which is good.

There’s an old joke where a doctor tells a diabetic to purchase a box of diabetic snacks, throw away the snacks, and eat the box. The idea is that healthy eating is bland and gritty. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

I’ve had to get creative, and I’ve had to rediscover my love for the kitchen and the grill, but utilizing fresh vegetables, fresh meats, low carb seasonings, almonds and cashews, I’ve been able to put together some recipes that I find delicious that I actually enjoy eating.

The second step is exercise. I am currently putting in at least 20 minutes on an elliptical each evening with the resistance level set to 4. My goal is to get to 30 minutes. Once I get to that, I will begin running.

How is all this working?

I haven’t tested my blood sugar. I need to purchase a device. However, my weight is down to 257, which means I’ve lost 20 pounds since the day of my diagnosis. And I feel great. My goal is to get down to 177 by the end of the year, and if I can keep my program going, I know I can make it.

The key is a change in my mentality. I am having to intentionally change the way I see food, the reasons I want food, and the way I evaluate a food’s quality. I have to see exercise as a pathway to life, and a fuller life. And, I have to be willing to trust my doctor, which I do.

There is also a spiritual component to this as well. What drove my bad eating and health habits up until now has been a spirit of depression and angst. I’m having to repent of that, and learn to deepen my relationship with the Lord. As my doctor said, “If you get your relationship right with God, all else falls into place.”

Angst, anxiety and depression are often (but not always) symptoms of a spiritual issue, where the individual’s relationship with God is strained by a lapse in faith. This is common and completely understandable. It’s understandable, as we can all understand why Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the waves when he tried to walk on water, or why the disciples panicked when they were in a ship in the storm.

This is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something to turn away from. God is in control of all things, and He intends good toward you. Trust that. As you trust Him, your relationship with Him will blossom, the negative feelings that drive our bad habits will subside, and we’ll find physical healing to match our spiritual healing.

May God bless you today.