When Trees Clap Their Hands

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You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

The scorching Georgia heat radiated off the black tar of the parking lot where I stood waiting to meet my son. He was running late, and I was quickly running out of patience. To make the most of the delay, I pulled out my cell phone to check emails. But as soon as I read the first sentence, the sickening sight of a blank screen and dying battery appeared, and my frustration level escalated.

I felt a slight, welcomed breeze blow through my hair as I looked for a shady place to sit, and I glanced toward the sky to see if a summer storm might be brewing. That’s when I noticed the lone tree topped with limbs forming a perfectly shaped cross. The beautiful scene stopped me in my tracks as I felt God nudging me with a reminder that my day had been so jammed with appointments and to-do lists, I had not taken time out for HIM.  He too had been waiting for His child to meet Him…and she was too busy.

“Holy goosebumps” tingled from head to toe as I felt God bending down reminding me to align my priorities appropriately. He paused my schedule right there in the blazing hot parking lot to send me a sign of His love. The tree He destined as my messenger also served as my shade from the scorching sun. I remembered the verse from Isaiah,

“You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Joy and peace were blatantly absent from the hours leading up tho this moment, but my frustration melted into joy while I treasured this heaven-sent gift. I did not schedule this divine appointment, but I am so thankful that He interrupted my chaotic life with a holy meeting.

I pray that God will open your eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of mountains singing and trees clapping their praise to Him…or growing their limbs in the shape of a cross! Make your time with Him a priority, and He will fill you with joy and guide you peacefully through your day.

Don’t Widen Home Plate

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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

I just read the verse above about the “narrow gate” when my dad forwarded the following article to me. It shares a valuable lesson not only about coaching, but also about parenting…and, most importantly, the narrow road that leads to life:

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. Well, in 1996 Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Pointed side down.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.

“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Bobby. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.

Then he turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful….to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

(copied post – author unknown)

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Keep Your Eyes on God ~ not your difficulties

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Eyes on God

“Then Peter called to him: ‘Sir, if it is really you, tell me to come over to you, walking on the water.’ ‘All right,’ the Lord said, ‘come along!’ So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.”

Matthew 14:28 – 30 TLB

We may not walk on water, but we do walk through periods of tumultuous circumstances in life. If we focus on the swirling waves of difficulties surrounding us, we can easily feel like we are being swallowed up by the surge of life’s problems.

Peter experienced a rather unusual example of God’s power when he went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. His faith in Jesus gave him the courage to throw his leg over the side of the boat and step out into the stormy sea.  However, his faith wavered when he realized what he was doing. Once he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the crushing waves around him, he began to sink.

Like Peter, we often start out with great intentions. We may be “prayed up” and filled with holy confidence before we begin to face the day. But once we wade into the undulating sea of life, our faith begins to falter, and we sink in despair. We feel ill-equipped to navigate the storms that batter us. Yet this doesn’t mean that we have failed. When Peter’s faith faltered, he immediately reached out to Jesus. In his time of greatest fear, he called on his Savior to rescue him.

When you are afraid of the troubles that swirl around you, keep your eyes on Jesus’ power rather than your own inadequacies. Call out to Him for help, and He will rescue you from the stormy seas.

“We have to pray with our eyes on God ~ not on the difficulties.” ~ Oswald Chambers

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:31-33

Just Be Held

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“The Eternal God is your shelter; He holds you up in His everlasting arms.”

Deuteronomy 33:27a (VOICE)


Just Be Held ~ A beautiful message to remind us that God will never let go, no matter what.

“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. Not a tear is wasted, in time you’ll understand. He’s painting beauty from the ashes; Your life is in HIS hands.” ~ Just be held. (Casting Crowns)

Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom

“He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and the clay.

With a gentle hand, He pulled me out to set me down safely on a warm rock;

He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.”

Psalm 40:2 (VOICE)

Have you ever been so low that “up” is the only way out? If you find yourself in a situation like that today, remember that God is the ROCK in your bedrock. No matter how deeply mired you are in life’s muck and the clay, He is right there beside you ~ ready to take your hand in His and lift you to higher ground. He sees each teardrop that streams down your cheeks and hears your cries for help. His love is greater than anything you are going through.

So go ahead and reach out to God’s gentle grasp. He will pull you out of that dark hole where you find yourself stranded, and set you down safely on a firm foundation. He will hold you there, wrapped in His divine embrace, until you are steady enough to continue on your journey again. In your weakness, He will be your strength.

Take comfort in knowing that He is the Rock at the bottom of your pit!

“The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Savior; my God is my Rock in whom I find protection. He is my Shield, the Power that saves me, and my Place of Safety.” Psalm 18:2 (NLT)

Your Lines of Purpose

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“The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack,

tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven,

kept taut by Hope.”

Colossians 1:4 MSG

Purpose: the object toward which you strive or the reason for which you exist; it is your aim or your goal.

Where are your “lines of purpose” tied?

Are they tied tightly to your future in heaven? Or are they tied to your bank account balance or to a-certainsomeone? Or your ideal image or weight?

If I were climbing a mountain using ropes, I would want to be sure that my ropes were tightly anchored to something secure. I want the same to be true of my purpose in life. How tragic it would be to realize that my reason for existing was anchored to something temporal and fading rather than something eternal! Colossians 1:4 reminds us that our lines of purpose should be tightly tied to our future in heaven ~ never growing slack ~ kept taut by Hope.

What are you striving for today? What is your main goal in life? God created you with a grand purpose, and you are uniquely qualified to fulfill a certain mission in His divine plan. Have you asked the Creator to reveal that purpose to you? You’re never too old or too young to secure your lines of purpose in His kingdom. May yours be tightly tied to your future in heaven.

I Am…and so are YOU

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“But by the Grace of God, 

I am what I am…”

1 Corinthians 15:10

I am…

I keep a list in my journal which I have entitled “I am…” I add to the list as I read God’s word and come across verses that remind me of who “I am” as a child of God. Sometimes during my quiet time, especially when I am feeling less than significant, I turn to the list and read aloud, taking time to grasp the meaning of each phrase as it pertains to my relationship with my Heavenly Father. No circumstance will ever change the way He feels about me. By reminding myself of who I am in Christ, I am encouraged, inspired and energized to begin my day living out the divine purpose for which I was created.

…and so are YOU!

The beauty of the list is that it is not unique to me. Anyone who is a child of God is included in these promises. He cares about EACH of His children the same way. Below are a few items on the list. Read them out loud to yourself as His child, taking time to absorb the significance of each phrase. Before you read each phrase, repeat the words, “I am…” to personalize them to your relationship with your Heavenly Father. These promises capture a glimpse of the essence of how God feels about you, and they are all found in His word.

                        “I am…”

  • Created for a unique and special purpose
  • Fearfully and Wonderfully made
  • A unique workmanship hand crafted by God
  • A precious and treasured possession of my Heavenly Father
  • Valuable
  • Forgiven
  • Secure in Him
  • A Child of the King of Kings
  • Ransomed, Redeemed and Saved by Grace
  • Shielded and Protected by God and His Angels
  • Bought with a price
  • Accepted in His Son
  • Surrounded by God
  • Engraved upon His hand
  • The apple of His eye
  • Quieted and Comforted With His Love
  • Rejoiced over with joyful singing
  • The one in whom God takes Great Delight
  • Chosen by the God of the Universe
  • Gently Led by God
  • Loved Eternally by my Heavenly Father

“See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” Isaiah 49:16