Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

Thank God potty training is done in my house.  There is something about discovering wet puddles on the kitchen floor with sock feet that is quite unsettling.  In fact, it is down right gross.  Soggy underpants…puddles…running to the bathroom… extra laundry…

It has probably been a good 8 months since we have moved past this training period in my house with my youngest and I am ok with that.  I was thinking that my wife and I never gave up on our son when he wet his pants.  We cleaned him up, carried him to the bathroom, did lots of laundry and sometimes picked him up and ran for the bathroom.  We knew that sooner or later he could and would get it.

I know it is an odd analogy but aren’t you glad God doesn’t give up on you when you make a mess.  In fact He continues to give you chances even though you get a little messy.  He still loves you even though cleanup is required.  When you get a little stinky it doesn’t matter because you are still His child.  He still wants you to experience the best.  He does not want you to give up and settle for a stinky, messy life.  Rather He wants you to conquer and live a victorious life.

Thank God, He doesn’t give up on us as fast as we give up on others!

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I saw something today that reminded me that there are times in life that I give up to quickly.  You see, I saw life where I thought it no longer existed.

Several weeks ago my in-laws traveled to our house and brought with them several plants for transplanting.  One of these plants was a three foot tall black walnut tree.  I was pretty excited about the tree and knew exactly where I wanted to plant it.  So I dug my hole and planted my tree.  In an effort to further baby my tree along I even put mulch around its base.  My family and I dutifully watered our yards new addition.

Yet all the watering and babying of our new friend seemed to prove hopeless.  The leaves all fell off within a week.  After the leaves fell off, the branches started to curl up at the ends.  To look at it, you would have sworn it was dead.  Yet all the while, my family and I faithfully watered the tree.  Then last week my said to me, “I don’t think it made it.”  She had grabbed on the branches on the tree and it simply snapped off in her hand.  Together we reached the same conclusion: it was dead. 

I made plans to remove the tree.  After all, why mow around something that is dead.  I never did remove it.  In fact my wife and I went away for two nights for our anniversary and today I mowed around it again.  This time I noticed something that had not been on the tree when I had looked at it last.  About four inches off the ground several small leaves were shooting off the side of the tree.  I could not believe my eyes.  I excitedly announced my findings to the whole family and we joyfully inspected the tree together.  After our inspection I filled a watering can and gave my little “dead” tree a nice watering.

I was thinking as I was watering the tree: I sure am glad I did not dig this up last week.  It reminded that sometimes we give up to easily in life.  We just aren’t quite patient enough.  The real reason my tree survived is not because I am patient.  Rather it is because I procrastinated.

In life there are many things that take a long time to take root and produce fruit and I am not just referring to trees and other plants.  Spiritual growth, friendships, love and a host of other things are often given up on to quickly.  Yet instead of giving up and throwing these things away (like I was going to do to my tree) we need to continue to faithfully water and baby these things along.  You never know, you might just be suprised what can happen if you don’t give up so quickly.  I know I was!

A couple weeks ago my kids and I were engaged in a heated battle on the living room floor. Bodies were flying all over the place and elbows were being dropped. Wrestlemania had broken out at the Goodwin house. This was not tag team match but it was three on one. I had a two, four, and six year old jumping all over me and loving every minute of it.
Then it happened. My four year old, Matthew, decided it was time to take our contest to a whole new level. He climbed up on the couch and stood up while boldly announcing that he was going to jump off. My wife overheard our little daredevils announcement and told him not to do it. He responded by arguing his case and she responded that if he jumped off the couch he could hurt somebody or hurt himself. He argued again and then he did it. He jumped…

While I would have given Matthew’s flying leap a ten if he had been at the Olympics, his landing was far less graceful. He landed rather awkwardly and managed to hurt himself. He started to cry and grabbed his injured leg. This action of disobedience and pain brought Wrestlemania to a screeching halt. Our match was done and I am still unsure who was the victor.

A short time later I was holding my four year old, who was still in pain, while my wife was starting the process of getting our six year old and two year old ready for bed. While holding Matthew, he made a statement that all parents long to hear from their children. He simply said, “Daddy, I really should have listened to Mommy.”

I then explained that mommy wanted him to be able to have fun but just did not want him to get hurt. It was one of those ah ha moments as a parent when you realize your child actually gets it. Having this conversation with a four year old was quite rewarding for me as a dad.
After contemplating this teaching moment with my child, I immediately thought of how this same truth is so very real in regards to Christians and their relationships with their heavenly Father. So often we fight an order given by God just the same way my son argued with my wife. We seem to adopt the attitude that God is the divine spoil sport in the sky. He does not want us to have fun. Doesn’t he have other things to worry about?

Well, when it comes down to it, my wife wanted my son to have fun. What she did not want was for him to experience unnecessary pain. She saw what was coming even when he could not.

So why does God not want us to lie, steal, sleep around and break the law (to name a few)? Because he knows that while there will be temporary pleasure, the pain that will come will not be worth the pleasure.

Just this morning I heard on the radio that 12% of the couples in our country are cohabitating outside of the confines of marriage. Clearly this is not in alignment with Scripture. In fact while we know God does not approve there are also truths that aren’t found in Scripture that further back God’s desire. Take for example the couple who lives together before marriage. Eventually they get married but their lack of commitment they demonstrated before marriage plays a serious role in their marriage. Studies have shown that their marriages are 50% more likely to end in divorce. Could it be that God knew this?

Perhaps He is not a spoil sport. Perhaps He just does not want us to experience unnecessary pain. I could go on and on with examples but reality is most of us a have severe trust issue. While we say that we are totally dependant upon God our choices scream otherwise. I have lost count of the people who have made stupid choices only to become angry with God for not blessing their lives. Could it be God lets us make dumb choices but also lets us suffer the consequences? I know it is a novel idea.

It is almost as if we live a welfare state of spirituality. So many times we have sense of entitlement in regards to God. We expect blessing and fail to realize many of His promised blessings in Scripture are dependent upon faithfulness and obedience.

Before I end this little rant, I would like to say that I realize that it is impossible to live a pain free life. However, I believe if we follow God’s principles, we can live life with less pain. So I would challenge you to pursue obedience. Don’t be forced to learn the lesson like my son. Don’t just say you trust God, live like you do. Sooner or later, you’ll be glad you did.

I recently read a short narrative about a pick and a chicken who were walking by a church where a gala charity event was taking place. Getting caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Good idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”
“Not so fast said the pig. “For you, that’s a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.”

While this story is meant to be humorous I believe the two characters often represent us. Some days I am a chicken while other days I’m the pig.

I for one am glad that my Savior chose total commitment. He did not have to die on the cross. After all, Jesus had already made a contribution to mankind. He served the world better than anyone before Him. He was recognized by many as a great teacher who helped better their lives. Yet that was not enough.

Anyone can make a little contribution. Yet it takes a person of true character to make a commitment. When I got married to my wife I made a commitment. I did not want to make a five year contribution to her. I committed to her for life; for better or for worse. We have experienced both but our commitment has grown stronger as a result.

So let me ask you, when it comes to your relationship to Christ are you a chicken or a pig?

I for one find it humorous that the story implies those who fail to commit are chickens!

“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve AND GO ALL OUT!” Joshua 24.25a (Capitalized words were added by me)

Douglas MacArthur once said, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”   

I was struck after reading this quote with the thought that I wonder what would happen if Christians had a fuller understanding of spiritual warfare.  Being in a war but not knowing there is a war can be a very dangerous thing.  How many Christians are part of a battle yet don’t know it because they have never been taught? 

We must battle everyday…For everyday is a battle…

Ephesians 6

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found twas blind but now I see. 

As some of you read the first line of the hymn “Amazing Grace” you started singing the hymn or quietly humming it in your head.  Maybe you recalled the other lines of this song that were penned so long ago by the great hymn writer, John Newton

Yet for some of you the grace is not so amazing anymore.  In fact maybe it has become run of the mill and bit boring.  Sure you acknowledge its existence but fail to recognize it with any enthusiasm much less amazement.  Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself a bit.  I should probably start by sharing a simple definition of grace.  Grace is easily defined as unmerited favor.  In the context of Christianity we often refer to God’s grace.  Meaning God’s unmerited favor that is directed towards humanity by sending His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins which results in salvation.  The day I got this concept I was amazed.  I was overcome and overwhelmed by God’s goodness and that He would sacrifice His son for a person like me. 

Like many of you reading this today, I have lived close to Niagara Falls for most of my life.  I have been the falls dozens of times in my life and many times I have gone to the city and not bothered to even go and look at the falls.  I suppose my attitude has gone to the been there done that routine. 

This summer has changed my perspective somewhat on the falls.  I have made two trips to the falls.  The first trip was for a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist with my wife.  I promised her when we still dating that I would take her to the falls and that we would go on the Maid of the Mist.  She didn’t realize then that my promise would take eleven years to happen but I am a man of my word and I never did attach a timeline to my promise. 

The second trip I took was for my daughter’s birthday.  Each year we ask our children if there is anything special that they would like to do for their birthdays.   This year for my daughters sixth birthday she requested a trip to Niagara Falls. 

The sense of wonder and awe that I saw in the faces of my three little children was a reminder to me of the awe I once felt when I first visited the falls many years ago.  I was further reminded of this when I saw the many people who had traveled all the way from different parts of Asia and Europe to view something that was only 30 miles down the road from my home.  These people traveled from the other side of the globe to see something that I had become indifferent about. 

Reality set in.  The falls had not changed, but my perspective had.  The same is true of our God and us.  Perhaps you no longer see Him as you once did.  He has not changed rather, it is your perspective. 

The power of Niagara Falls can be almost overwhelming when you stand on boat located just below the falls in the Niagara River.  The beauty of the falls can be seen when you look into the face of a child or tourist who is viewing the falls for the very first time.  Your perspective on something can change everything.

I needed a new perspective of Niagara Falls to once again appreciate its beauty and its power.  Yet some of you need a new perspective on God and His grace to once again appreciate His beauty and His power.  You may feel alone in this endeavor.  Rest assured you are not alone.  It has happened too many before you  and will happen to many in the future.  The key is that you recognize that you need a new perspective.

Some of the things I do on a regular basis to have a perspective shift on my God include three things: reading, listening, and asking. 

Reading:  I read many Christian authors.  They give me new ideas and insights from their point of view.  It helps me see what others think and how they apply God’s Word.  It keeps me fresh when I might by myself get stale.

Listening: I regularly listen to my pastor on Sunday morning and listen to other preachers or teachers while I am driving in my car.  Currently I have a series of CD’s in my car that is an expository set of messages that were preached by James McDonald on the book of Philippians.  Again, like reading, my listening to others widens my perspective.

Asking:  I purposefully maintain contact with many men in my life that I view as Godly.  I ask them questions about life and pursue their counsel on a regular basis.  I want to know what they think about not just my trials but also about my victories.  This allows me to once again widen my perspective and open me up to new thoughts and ideas rather than stayed focused on my own limited perspective.  

(I recongnize that Scripture reading, prayer, and fellowship with believers was omitted.  I have made the grand assumption, that they were already being done so don’t get mad at me:)

Here are some random thoughts I jotted down today after reading the sports section of the Buffalo Newspaper.

Brett Favre are you are you not committed to football?  Perhaps the reason you are so noncommittal is because in your old age (for a football player) you just do not want to go to training camp.  I know you have had injuries and surgeries but come on!  Please quick pretending you are never going to play again.  You love the attention and you love the drama.  I for one do not.  I am tired of the headlines and tired of hearing about you and your indecision every time I turn on ESPN.  It was old three years ago.

In my mind, you were a great player before you became a media circus.  Now you are just annoying.  I know that sounds harsh and maybe I should not have said that but leave the game playing on the football field.  I suppose what grates at me the most is the fact that there are several other quarterbacks that are wholeheartedly committed.  They work out year round.  They spent hours upon on the field training before you ever showed up or even acknowledged the fact that you once again would play.  They have studied tape, lifted weights, been screamed at by coaches, and are fighting for their jobs. 

Consistency is something that becomes the evidence of commitment.  Yet I see no consistency which is why football legend Brett Favre ticks me off.  People who are not committed to a cause 100% will make it known at some point.  It might not be purposeful but at some their consistency will waver. 

Consider the apostle Paul.  At one point an angry mob all picked up rocks and started throwing them at him.  They stopped once they thought he was dead and left his body outside the city for the birds of prey and other wild animals.  Shortly after these people left, Paul got to feet and again started preaching the gospel.  Why?  He was committed and as a result he was consistent.  He preached the message of the Cross at all cost.  Just because some people wanted him dead, did not mean they did not need Jesus. 

So let me ask you this, how consistent are you?  Does your consistency waiver when life gets tough?  If it does, you might want to carefully consider how committed you truly are because the consistency of how you live is typically a mirror image of your commitment.

I will never forget the day that my cap gun broke.  I loved that cap gun.  Why did it have to happen? 

About 6:30 in the morning on a road that runs parallel to the train tracks in my hometown, Medina, NY.  I was armed with bag full of newspapers, a cap gun and an endless supply of paper caps.  As I was delivering papers I was shooting nearly every house, cat, dog, squirrel, and tree I could find.  I was having a grand old time. 

Let me tell you, this gun was sweet.  You could shoot caps as fast as you pulled the trigger.  It would make a noise and the sparks would fly.  In my mind, I was a cowboy in the Wild West or a gangster like Al Capone.  I was unstoppable and then it happened.

It broke! My gun broke and it was irreparable.  Reality was it wasn’t as cool as I thought it was.  In fact it was quite cheap.  Pieces required to operate actually broke into multiple chunks of useless plastic.  I was pretty upset.  Sadness, anger, and disappointment all were experienced the day my cap gun died.

Somewhere in China my gun had been made for a purpose.  That purpose:  to bring hours of enjoyment to a young boy.  It was meant to snap paper caps.  Now it did neither of these things.

I am sure you can relate with me.  Surely you at some point had something that you loved fail to do what it was created to do.  Maybe it was car that you could not afford fix.  Perhaps a kickball that developed a hole that just could not be plugged.  Whatever the case was, you probably got a bit upset.  After all you paid for that item.  It was yours and now it was useless.

With that in mind, I wonder how it makes God feel when His creatures (you and me) that He bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6.20) fail to operate as He intended.  He saved us and when He did He had a particular task in mind that only we could fulfill (Ephesians 2.10).  Christians believe and preach this truth yet we continually fail to fulfill our calling.  It makes it seem fairly ironic that while we fail to fulfill the purpose God has place on our lives, we have the nerve to get angry when life does not go our way.  We slip into Jonah chapter three mode where our comfort becomes more important than the salvation of the world.

God is asking us to make an eternal mark on this world and in the lives of those around us.  Yet we get so caught up in the temporal stuff that we seem to forget.  Again I say, I wonder how that makes God feel.

Do you remember the pull-ups commercial from TV? The catch phrase was “mommy wow, I’m a big kid now!” Well, pull ups are training diapers. They are pulled on like underwear for children who are being potty trained and unlike normal diapers they allow the child to “feel” wet when they wet their pants.

Yesterday evening, I took a wet pull-up off of my son Matthew and asked him to use the potty. After he finished his expedition to the potty chair he came back into the living room where I had gotten out a new pull-up and pajama pants. I asked him nicely to please put them on and then walked into my room. Not thirty seconds later my bedroom door opened and my wife asked, “Why is Matthew naked?” As you can imagine I was wondering the same thing. After all I had specifically asked my son to get dressed. I went out into the living room and spoke to my son and offered to help him get dressed. He then started to yell “I want to be naked” over and over again and proceeded to run out of the room.

Once I had finished laughing at this statement and had relayed my boy’s message to my wife I gathered up his pajamas, socks, and pull-up and started to dress him despite his very vocal protests regarding his need for nudity. Somehow this sly little guy did an evasive maneuver and escaped wearing nothing but a pull-up and pajama pants. Once again he started running around and yelling about the benefits of being a nudist.

This time my wife had the idea of let him run. After all, we both knew that it would be a matter of time before our little guy learned his lesson. And guess what happened; not two minutes later my son was holding his shirt because he was chilly and was requesting my help.

You see my son is two and a half years old and as I sit to write this and it is January. Not exactly the best nudist or topless weather (not that nudism or toplessness is ever good). Also he is a little young to be deciding what is best for himself in regards to clothing choice. This funny little parenting episode led me to thank my God that He does not let me always get my own way. God has said no to many of my requests and I have to wonder if He hasn’t chuckled a little bit, shook His head, and said, “kids!” “If you only knew what you were asking for you wouldn’t ask.”

I mean think about it. Matthew was just looking at the now. This will be fun, now. I can experience freedom, now. Being naked is a good time, now. But then something happened. He got cold and realized Daddy wasn’t just a big meany. Daddy knew he would be cold and was looking out for his son’s best interest.

So here is the challenge, next time God says, “NO”, realize that your Daddy is looking out for your best interest. Just because we desire something that is good does not mean that we desire something that is good for us. Just as I knew the outcome of my son’s nudist running: he would get cold. So does our God know the outcome of our desires and if that outcome can harm us or harm our relationship with God, then there is a good chance God will say no.

Originally Written January of 2008