June 26, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings


Blessings.  We talk about them, pray about them, give thanks for them, and sometimes we even feel very guilty about getting them.  Although the Bible says God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” we worry and doubt about how serious He really was when He made that promise.


The cycle goes something like this.  We hit rock bottom and remember God might be able to help, so we start praying.  We ask, and as He promised, things start looking up.  We keep praying because by now it has become a habit. Slowly then more quickly more blessings show up—some that we prayed for, some we never saw coming.  Then the guilt slides through us. “Look at all He’s given me. How could I even think of asking for more?  I mean, isn’t that greedy?”  So we quit asking until we’re in trouble again.


In truth, the paradox is we can never ask God for too much.  Why?  Because God is limitless, boundless, infinite.  There is literally no limit to God’s love or to His desire to pour that love into and through our lives onto others.  Satan knows this, so he uses our best instincts against us. “Don’t be greedy. You have enough. Don’t ask for more.”  “Think about those who don’t have as much as you have. Take your fair share, and be satisfied with that.”  “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for even asking God about something like that? He doesn’t have time to listen to such petty concerns.” And on and on.


Unfortunately, he’s good at it.  He has us convinced that there are things too small for God to worry about in our lives.  He has us convinced that if things are good, asking for more is asking too much of God.  Worst of all, he has us convinced that God has set some sort of invisible limit on what He will give us, and if we cross that line, God will be so angry He will take all the blessings we now have away.


Lies.  It’s all lies, and yet we buy into it, and we live our lives afraid to ask for the blessings God wants to give us.


Take my friend for example.  She was recently lamenting because God in His goodness had provided the perfect apartment for her (after she specifically asked for it). Then He provided the perfect car for her (after she asked for it).  Then she stumbled into asking for the thing she most wants—a God-centered man who would come into her life and love her the way she is now loving everyone else.  That seemed just too much to ask for, especially after she’d already gotten the other blessings.


She said, “I just feel so greedy wanting it all.”  As if the Holy Spirit opened a lesson book, she went on, “It’s like the other day. I was at the store, and there was this little girl in front of me in line.  She walked up with two pieces of candy. The cashier rang it up and said, ‘That’ll be $1.93.’  Unfortunately all this little girl had was $1.


“The cashier said, ‘Look. You’ve got two pieces of candy, but you don’t have enough money to buy both, so you’re going to have to put one of them back. Which one do you want, and which one will you put back?’”


My friend said, “She was a little girl, and it was candy. Of course she wanted both of them!”  The situation became more tense as the cashier began demanding that the little girl make a choice.  Then my friend reached into her own purse, pulled out a dollar, slid it to the cashier, and said, “Let her have both of them.” She said, “I was just so grateful for all the blessings He’s given me, I wanted to share those blessings with someone else.”


At the end of her story, I said, “You know what He’s trying to tell you through that, right?”  She just looked at me as if she hadn’t realized there was a message. So, I continued.


Look at it this way:  You were the little girl. You wanted both things. Satan was the cashier, looking at you with a sneer saying, “No. You don’t have enough to pay for both. You can only have one, so which one will it be? Make a choice already. I’ve got other people waiting.”


And then God who was standing at your side the whole time, without being asked, slipped the full payment to Satan and said, “Let her have both of them. It’s on Me.”


The truth is, He wants to do that for you. The only stipulation is you must be open to receiving His blessings in your life. By now, He and I have a standing agreement. I’m open. Whatever He wants to send my way is fine by me. In fact, I often simply pray, “All Your best in my life today, God.”


Over and over, He has sent blessings I never even saw coming. Friends to support me in times of need, others who He could love through me, moments of such awe-inspiring closeness with Him I have either laughed out loud or cried. I call that exceedingly abundant beyond all that we could ask or think. Wouldn’t you?


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Something Different

June 25, 2008

By: Dennis Bates

We say we’ll pray,

But there’s no follow up.

We assume we’re done,

Before we’ve begun;

We fail

To see if those we prayed for

Still need us.

Were their needs met?

Or is God asking us

Why we’re looking at Him

When the reason we’re here

Is to meet their needs for Him?

We send money to mission fields,

The farther away, the better,

As if there’s some nobility

In helping them

Because they’re poor,

Speak different languages,

Wear different colored sins

Or strange clothes.

But the people

In our own neighborhoods

Shouldn’t take welfare,

Shouldn’t expect us to help

Need to get a job

And take care of themselves.

Empty stomachs still rumble

And little babies cry

Wherever there is hunger,

Even if it’s next door.

We are not righteous,

And can never be just,

When we have so much

While they have so little,

And we look the other way.

We must not say, but do,

Not be false, but true

To the others

We were sent to help.

It is not me, but he;

It isn’t we, but they,

When we do it for them,

We do it for Him.


Where Did They Go?

June 24, 2008

By: Dennis Bates

I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank page for more than an hour now and somehow I knew this would happen.  How can a mind that was so full of great ideas, keen insights and thoughts that were sure to make people go ooh and aah about three a.m., when the rest of me wanted to sleep be so empty right now? It is truly one of those mysteries of life for people who write, and I will never understand it.


At two o’clock this morning I couldn’t slow down the little creative gremlins running through my head. At three, I thought my head would explode. One idea after another paraded itself across my brain like a marching band playing 76 trombones. Now granted, the trip across my brain doesn’t take all that long, but the noise was still deafening. At four, I had almost convinced myself that I might as well get up and write down some of the things my mind kept conjuring up so I didn’t forget them. But I was so sure I would never forget all those nuggets of wisdom and duffle bags full of deep thoughts, that I convinced myself not to do that.


At about four thirty I finally fell asleep, and shortly after six I woke up again. It’s a bad habit I have. I got up early to go to work for so long that I still wake up early even though I’m sort of retired.  


“Great,” I thought, “I’ll have all that much longer to write and get things done today. I made breakfast, had my mug and a half of coffee and then turned on my computer. My fingers were twitching, poised for greatness, yearning to impart wisdom.


Nothing. Nada. Zilch. A big fat zero. My fingers just sat on the keys in front of me and gave me the raspberry. I don’t know how they do that exactly, but sometimes they do.


How can that be? Where are all those pesky little critters that tormented me when I wanted to sleep? They were so full of mischief just a few hours ago.  Did they sneak away to get some sleep themselves because they stayed up all night? All I know is if I find any of them, you ‘d better believe I’m going to wake them up and keep them that way.


Ideas are like new born babies. If you let them get away with staying up all night, they will sleep during the day and everybody will think they’re adorable, but mom and dad are the ones who have to stay up all night listening to them, not getting any sleep in the process. You just can’t let them get into that routine because you don’t have the luxury of sleeping anytime you want; only they do. You, on the other hand, have places to go and people to see and you can only see most of them during the day.


You have promises to keep…and miles to go before you sleep.


I had to bring that up, didn’t I? Yawn.




What is Success?

June 23, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings

Everyone wants success. People talk about setting goals and positive thinking and getting to the top. However, most of these same people never really define what success means to them. 

Instead they think only in terms of the next big promotion or the next raise or climbing the corporate ladder, but few ever stop to really look at where these goals are taking them.

World-renown motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says that to define success, you should stand on the goal line of life and look into the end zone. What you want to see there sets the parameters for your definition of success.

In other words, ask most people what they want from life, and they will say, “I want to be happy.” That’s great, except for two things: they seldom know with any certainty what happiness actually means to them, and secondly, they never actually plan to be—nor take the time to be—happy.

Instead of taking the time to be happy now, most people fall into the when-I-get-over-there-then-I’ll-be-happy syndrome. If you look, you see these kinds of people every day—maybe even when you look in the mirror. “When I get that promotion, then I’ll be happy.” “When the kids are back in school and I can do this, then I’ll be happy.” “When we get out of debt, then I’ll be happy.”

Problem is, it doesn’t work that way. If happiness is your goal; if having been happy is something you really want to see in the end zone of your life, then you have to start being happy today. Not tomorrow, not in a week, not when “X” happens—TODAY.

So, how do you do this?

First, you must seriously ask yourself, what makes you happy? What makes you feel alive and completely in touch with the essence of yourself?

Maybe it’s hiking or skateboarding or baseball or running. Maybe it’s painting or music or writing or dance. Maybe it’s something as simple as taking a cup of tea out to the porch to watch a sunset.

Immediately you say, “I don’t have time to do that stuff. I’m busy making a living. I don’t have enough time as it is.” And then you wonder why you aren’t happy.

If happiness is a goal you have, then you must schedule time every day to do something that makes you happy. As Annie Dillard, the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

The question to you then, is how are you spending your days? The reality is that what you have right now is exactly what will be in that end zone on your last day here. Is this what you want?

If so, congratulations! If not, you can start right here, right now to make a new ending. Decide today what will be in your end zone, and then make the changes to get that in your life today. You deserve it, but don’t put it off. You don’t have a second to waste.

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You Already Have

June 19, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings


About a year ago my goals changed radically. The first goal that changed was the one that said my ultimate goal was to get to Heaven and have God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” What I realized was, that goal was about me—what I would get, about what I thought I had earned, and about having Him be proud of me.  When the understanding that it wasn’t about me but about Him came through my life, I altered that goal to be this:  What I want when I get to Heaven is for God to put His arms around me and say, “I love you.” That’s it. That’s all I want. And you know what? He says that every day, so I know that goal is already met.


The second goal I had was about reaching people for God. I wanted to touch as many people as I could for Him. It sounded good, but again, that was about me—not about Him. It was about what I could do for Him. What a joke. The God who put the stars in the sky, formed everything from nothing, and designed it all to perfection, and I was going to do something for Him. Right. What I now understand is that He doesn’t need me to do anything for Him, what He wants most is to live through me—just as He lived through Jesus.


Based on that understanding, in the last month or so I have altered that goal as well. My “while I’m here” goal is now:  I want anyone who looks at me to see Him—in my writing, in person, on the phone, however we happen to meet.  The credit for everything that my life produces is His, not mine.  For if He is living through me, it is Him that is doing whatever efforts happen to come through me, so He deserves the credit.


The cool thing about this is that this morning I was listening to a song I’d heard many times and really liked.  The song is by Keith Urban. It is one he never released. It’s on his “Golden Road” album. It’s about his dad and how as he gets older, he sees more things in his life he realizes are things his dad did.  Then toward the end of the song, there was a part that just blew me away. It says:


“Everything he ever did, he did with love,

And I’m proud today to say I’m his son.

When somebody says, ‘I hope I get to meet your dad,’

I just smile and say, ‘You already have.’”


That’s my goal to be able to say that by meeting me they’ve already met my Father for He is living through me. That goal feels like a perfect fit in the way the others never did. The others put me in chains about what I had to do. These goals free me to simply live and watch what He does through me.  It’s an awesome way to live!



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Do Something!

June 18, 2008

By: Dennis Bates

I never realized until I retired more than two years ago that the book of Jonah is a metaphor about much more than running away from a job you didn’t want to do. It is not just a story about bad choices or denial. In fact, it is even more than a story about running away from God’s calling or God Himself.


To me, Jonah is a universal story that deals with a man who tries to run away from life itself. He really wants to avoid living altogether.


As a piece of literature, Jonah barely qualifies as a short story. It’s fairly involved plot and obvious moral lesson is told in a mere three pages, consisting of four short chapters. In those three pages, we learn that “The Word of the Lord” went to Jonah and told him that he needed to go Nineveh to preach because God had been confronted with the city’s wickedness and He was giving them one last chance to repent.


We don’t know if it was an angel that brought the word or someone else. We also don’t know whether it was something specific that Nineveh did to make God angry or if it was a general course of conduct. The specifics really don’t matter, so they were left out.


What we know is that Jonah wasted no time at all after he got the message. He immediately went the opposite direction and tried to run away from Nineveh, which had a reputation for being a nasty place. He took a ship, ran into a storm, was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a large fish. The fish held him in its belly for three days and three nights, coughing him up and Jonah was again told to go to Nineveh to preach.  All of that happens in a few hundred words.


The remaining two chapters tell us that this time Jonah listened and he went to Nineveh and preached. To his absolute amazement they listened to him and repented. Jonah was furious. After all he had been through, the people of Nineveh repented and God forgave them.


That wasn’t what Jonah had expected. He was certain that the wicked people would be destroyed and he would have a front row seat to watch it all, but instead, they survived because they repented.


Jonah pouted. With a loud cry of “It just isn’t fair,” he went to a hillside just east of the city and just sat there even though God tried to explain why he had forgiven the people. Jonah didn’t care, and the story ends strangely in a way with Jonah sitting on the hillside pouting and God walking away.


It is fairly easy to understand why Jonah ran the opposite direction when God told him to go to Nineveh the first time. Going there frightened him, but at least he did something. He ran, and even though that was the wrong thing to do, God could deal with that. He sent the fish to get Jonah’s attention and Jonah learned from that.


However, the second time Jonah ran away, he ran to a hillside and did nothing but mope and complain. He did nothing, not even something wrong.


God tried to talk to Jonah, but Jonah wasn’t interested. Finally, God had no choice; He left Jonah sitting idly on the hillside and walked away because Jonah refused to live anymore. To me that is one of the saddest moments in the Old Testament. Jonah quit living and God couldn’t do anything with that.


If Jonah would have done something good, God could have blessed him; if Jonah would have done something bad, God could have corrected him. But when Jonah chose to do nothing at all God couldn’t help. As the book of Revelation points out, the lukewarm church was sit out because it was neither hot nor cold.


Inaction is the only thing God won’t react to. Don’t sit on the hillside and pout. As a friend of mine used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”




God Bless Mississippi

June 17, 2008

By:Dennis Bates

The rain has finally stopped here in Iowa, and I would ask you all to remember to pray for those who have been forced to evacuate from their homes because of the flooding. I have never experienced or read about anything like this here before, It has affected many different areas never touched by flooding before.

Some 90 blocks of Cedar Rapids are underwater, and I don’t ever remember a flood there at all, let alone one of this magnitude. People are homeless with no place to go, and that has never happened there before. Many other communities have been forced to evacuate as well, and water systems have been shut down in several small towns because their treatment plants have been contaminated.

Interstate 80, the main east-west road across the state has been closed in several places because it is underwater. To my knowledge, that has never happened either, except briefly and usually because of a heavy snow. When it has been closed in the past it has been for hours, not days like it has been now.

People who go to our church spent ten hours over the weekend trying to get the 48 miles from here to Iowa City where the University of Iowa is partially flooded and at least one dorm has been evacuated. They gave up. No back road or secondary road was passable.

Iowans are a resilient lot, and we will survive with vigor and come back stronger, but right now homeless is still homeless, and attempts are being made to help everyone that needs it. That’s where one of the truly wonderful bright spots has surfaced in this mess.

Ironically, when Hurricane Katrina hit, Iowans were some of the first people to offer help, especially in Mississippi, where cameras and widely publicized telethons lost interest quickly choosing to focus on New Orleans instead. I won’t be cynical about that, but it happened and that’s all there is to it. People from Cedar Rapids were some of the first to send aid to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Bands of volunteers followed to help the homeless there anyway they could. Groups from my area slightly east of Cedar Rapids followed the example and quietly and with little fanfare, Iowans helped people rebuild in Mississippi.

Most of the media forgot to notice this and few stories resulted, but the people from Mississippi didn’t forget. They responded in kind, again with little fanfare and even less publicity although one or two national news stories have now surfaced. Mississippi is returning the kindness of the strangers from Iowa, and several towns that are still recovering and still rebuilding themselves have sent water and other supplies to the ravaged areas here. It is hard for me not to get teary eyed about that.

That, my friends, is true brotherly love, true sacrifice and beautiful to behold. I will never again think of the noble state of Mississippi the same way, and I will never forget what people have done to help. I’m fine where I am, and I’m just a little ashamed that I haven’t offered more help from 50 miles away, even though I have no idea how I would get it there. But people from Mississippi should hold heir heads proudly. They made a difference, even if it was only to cheer people up. They remembered and they acted.

So God bless you, Mississippi, and thank you. You are beautiful people! I love you all!

Be Not Afraid

June 16, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings


“Let your heart not be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” –John 14:27


Fear is one thing.  Helpless anxiety is another.  Fear brings up your defenses, makes you ready to fight—to take on the aggressor and win.  Helpless anxiety, on the other hand, saps every ounce of energy you have because you know that fighting will do no good and nothing you do will make any difference whatsoever anyway.  Helpless anxiety wraps around you like a wet blanket. It weighs on you, takes the breath right out of you.  It’s a horrible place to be in.


That’s where I was—wrapped in helpless anxiety—as I sat in the darkened church, feeling empty and alone.  My husband sat beside me, holding my hand, but that didn’t seem to help. Nor did it change the fact that our baby was six miles away lying in an incubator, fighting for her life. Born three months early, her tiny body was covered in a mass of tubes and wires.  Her legs were the size of my husband’s finger, and her tiny little hand couldn’t even get all the way around my finger.


And I was helpless to do anything to make her better.


Sure, the doctors told me I was lucky that I had taken such good care of myself, that because of my good health, she was developed even beyond the 25 weeks she should have been.  But I didn’t feel like much of a hero.  I felt like I had let down this little one who was counting on me.  The should-haves and could-haves ran around in my head constantly bumping into one another and tripping over themselves, fighting to remind me of my guilt.  That night, as I listened to what was supposed to be an up-lifting service, I didn’t feel very up-lifted.  In fact, I felt more depressed than I ever had in my life.


Then the soloist began a song from my past.  I knew the words by heart although I wonder now if I had ever really understood them.  I tried to sing, to get the words to come out of my mouth, but my heart just hurt too much.  So instead of words, tears came as God whispered to me through that song, “Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow Me, and I will give you rest.”


Be not afraid? How could I not be afraid? Afraid was the only thing I could feel. I wanted to DO something.  I wanted to make things better.  I wanted to go back and a do a hundred-million things differently so that we wouldn’t be standing there praying for my daughter’s survival.  And yet, here was God telling me not to be afraid. 


For the first time since the whole ordeal had started nearly a month before, I cried. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks.  As they sang about standing before the power of Hell and death being at your side, as they sang about knowing God is with you through it all, I really wished I could feel His presence.  I needed that.  I guess I did feel His presence through the words of that song.  A song that God spoke through another person to me, intended to give me comfort in my hour of greatest need.


In minutes the song was over, and the life went on.  I wiped my face, picked up my courage, and marched forward—sincerely hoping God did indeed have a plan in mind, hoping as well that He would be faithful to His promise that He has not given us “the spirit of fear; but of power and love.”


Over the course of the next month, slowly but surely my daughter gained weight—one agonizing gram at a time.  At one point we even threatened to stuff her diaper with quarters (each one gram) so that she could get to the magic number—1812 grams—4 pounds, so we could take her home.  Although at the time it seemed like an eternity, in retrospect it doesn’t seem like it took all that long.  Two months to be exact.  A full month less than the doctors had warned it would take.  Then one cloudy September day we got to take our perfectly healthy baby home for good.


Less than a year later, I stood with my baby girl in my arms in that same church, and suddenly that familiar music started once again.  “Be not afraid… I go before you always…”  I looked down at my beautiful girl, and the tears started rolling once more.  Hugging my baby to me, I could only sing with my heart because the tears choked out the words.


Even today seven years and a myriad of scraped knees later, when those notes play together, I am reminded to the depth of my soul that God is indeed here with me.  In my most terrifying moments, He is by my side. More than that, He can see the other side to where I can’t, and He knows that in that moment things will be all right.  And so, as a wise man once said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust Him for all I have not seen.”


Because God saw fit to show me, I now understand that we can all “Be not afraid…”


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VBS Day 452

June 12, 2008

Ha ha.  Just kidding.  It just feels like it’s been that long!

VBS week has a way of being like six months long.  It starts out that way on Monday with way too much to do and by Friday, you’re just surviving to get to the next minute, the next set issue, the next costume problem, the next performance…

And this year in many ways has been no different.  Then again, in some ways it’s been totally different.

You see, five of the kids on the skits are new, but many have been with us from the very start.  Two were mortal enemies from the very beginning (and that’s not exaggerating just too much). When I showed up on the scene six years ago, they were at each other’s throats, and not much has changed since them.  One of these was older and far more rule oriented.  The other was in sixth grade and just wanted to have some fun.  They were like oil and water laced with explosives.

Over the years, I’ve cajoled them, listened when they were openly critical of the other, mediated fights, even prayed all night one night that both would show up the next morning when each had vehemently threatened to quit because of the other mid-week.  That was last year in fact on the one day out of 30 performances that I had to miss due to a very sick child, and the day the wheels for all intents and purposes came completely OFF the bus.

Prompted the next day by the Holy Spirit, I had a sit down with the whole cast (everybody mad at everyone else and camps fenced off and verbally protected from “the others”).  I remember that morning so well.  After five years of putting everything I knew into the plays, we were on the brink of certain and total collapse with three plays left to somehow give and no one wanting to work with anyone else.  So I did the only thing I could.  I got really honest.

I sat there, and I told them all how much I valued each one of them, how proud I was to be on a team with them–not with one group or the other, but with ALL of them.  I told them how I admired every one of them for different reasons, and they didn’t have to all be the same or to ever compete because frankly, I like them all just the way they are.  One is not better than another because of their philosophy or style.  They each have something real and wonderful to share, and they work because of their differences not in spite of them.

We stood up from the floor that day, battered and bruised, but once again a team.

Then came this year.  One thing I have done from the second year of doing skits with these two who have been enemies was to script fights so they could use some of that animosity in a good, productive way.  It was not even a secret that I was doing that.  And remarkably it worked.  They liked fighting–especially with each other. 

On Tuesday of this week, the scripted fight turned into a scripted shoving match, and one of the kids told the girl she was mean for pushing the guy down (which actually was funny because he was a full 8 inches taller than her).

And then, something really bizarre happened, something that I really never envisioned, never even thought possible.  I walked out of where we do the plays, and there were the two of them–and only them–sitting on the sidewalk talking, not arguing, not fighting, not defending or calling me in to explain why the other was wrong–just talking as friends.

Each day this week, I have introduced and said a few words about each cast and crew member.  Today I got to the two of them, who I introduced last and not as one or the other, but as a team.  They’ve been with me six years.  To me, they are the core of the Skit Team.  For six years, they have fought and worked and been mad but still shown up, learned lines, created sets, fought some more….  Then this afternoon as we broke one set down to put up the next, from across the room, I saw them sitting there, working together…

You know, sometimes VBS is about teaching the stories of Jesus, and sometimes it’s about watching them in action.  And you never, ever know which one it’s going to be.


On a Personal Note:  To all my Skit Team Members who have work the VBS plays with me, all those who have in the past and all those who were here again or just joined up this year… I thank you, sincerely from the very bottom of my heart, for all your hard work, your passion, your persistence, your presence, your time, your love of fun and your mission to pass on the love of Jesus to others!  You continually inspire me to learn to live in the moment and to show that God’s love is FUN!  What better ambassadors could He ever have chosen?!  I feel blessed, honored, and very privileged to work with each of you.  Know that you are each a piece of my life that I will never forget!


You Have to Get Wet

June 11, 2008

By:Dennis Bates


A friend of mine said he was walking along a fairly secluded beach in Southern California when he was on vacation recently. The early morning air was cool, the waves broke just in front of him and splashed up on his legs from time to time and he just enjoyed the quiet of it all as he walked.


After walking a while he saw group of surfers up ahead, so he stopped to watch them. He had never surfed, but he found their athletic moves to be fascinating as they paddled out, waited for just the right swell and then turned their boards suddenly and tried to ride the wave back to shore. Before they got all the way in, they slid off and turned around to paddle out again and start all over.


As he stood there watching, someone startled him from behind by saying hello. He turned around to see a young man standing there in a fancy wet suit holding a beautiful, freshly waxed surf board, and he returned the hello.


“Those guys are pretty good out there,” my friend said, as he looked at the young man.


The young man smiled and nodded,” I guess so. Actually one of those guys is my girl friend; another one is my sister.”


“Sorry,” my friend said. “Are any of them guys?”


“Yeah, the rest are.” The young man looked out at the surfers and sighed. “I sort of hang out with most of them.”


When he just stood there watching the others, my friend pointed out to the waves. “Aren’t you going to join your friends? It really looks like they’re having fun.”


Shaking his head, the young man sighed and sat down on the sand cross legged, laying his board next to him. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t know how to swim, let alone surf.”


“You’re kidding me, aren’t you?” my friend asked. “You have all the gear, and that board must have been expensive. You even look like a surfer.”


The young man looked up at my friend. “Thanks. That’s what I wanted to hear,” the young man said. “See, I want to be a surfer; I just don’t want to surf.”


That story says a lot. How many of us want to be something, but we just don’t want to do it? I was like that for a long time about writing. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time on the  sidelines reading other people’s books, but I just didn’t sit down and write. I have another friend who says he’s always wanted to run a marathon, but the farthest he has ever run is three miles.


No matter what it is, it takes more than wanting to be something to achieve it; you have to do it. If you want to be a surfer, you have to take your board out to the waves. If you want to write a book, you have to sit down and write the first page. To run 26 miles, you have to start by running the first five.


In short, you have to do, not just wish.  Carrying a Bible around doesn’t make you a Christian any more than carrying a surf board makes you a surfer. You have to open it and get wet.



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