Jeep Wrangler - The presence of God

In the Center

Teaching a child how to drive is one of the most challenging parenting experiences I’ve ever faced.

It’s also one of the most fun too…

Jami and I have been teaching Carter how to drive for the last year and a half. And as I began to ride shotgun while Carter got behind the wheel to drive, it became very clear to me that I make what seems like hundreds of little decisions almost simultaneously as I drive.

For instance, when you change lanes you aren’t simply getting over to the right or the left. No. You are quite literally…

Initiating the thought about changing lanes, deciding on when/where to change lanes, checking the rearview mirror, checking the side mirror, checking rear view mirror, looking over your shoulder, putting on turn signal, beginning to turn the steering wheel, watching the traffic in front of you and end the change of lane in the lane that you needed to be in.

All of these things are happening simultaneously… all at once. Like any kid, learning how to drive doesn’t happen overnight. There’s so many things going on around them, and that can be overwhelming. It’s at the very least distracting.

There was one time when I was learning how to drive when I was a kid. (I’ve never told this to anyone.) Mom was in the passenger seat. I was driving on the south side of South Bend and pulled up to a four-way stop. As I pulled up, I was sure that it was my turn to go. So as I started to pull away from the stop sign, the car to my left started to pull away as well. I didn’t see the lady until she blew her horn at me. As I was in mid-turn to my left, I looked at the lady as we passed by and…

Flipped. Her. Off. With. My. Mom. Sitting. Right. Beside. Me.

To make matters worse, instead of keeping my focus on the road, my focus had switched completely to this lady and the bird to which I was flipping as I continued the left turn just past the lady’s rear bumper nearly missing the curb as my mom screamed, “Todd” which snapped me back to where my focus needed to be... on the road.

There are so many distractions while driving. I guess I completely forgot about them until I started teaching Carter how to drive. It’s really a great analogy to life too. And God knew this as well… check this out:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family.” Numbers 2:1-2

Israel had been on this Exodus journey for more than a year and had assembled just about any way they had pleased. But now, ready to enter into the Promised Land, they had to take the next step in organization: Ordering themselves. At the center of this order was the tabernacle itself. The tribes would arrange themselves to the east, south, west, and north in relation to the tabernacle. Since the tabernacle was symbolically the presence of God with them, this meant all order in Israel began being centered around God Himself.

The way they were instructed to camp became a visual reminder, each time they put up their tents, of what should be at the center of their lives... the very presence of God.

And as we read God’s Word, and see His Truths, we can get a glimpse at what should be at the center of our lives. You see, when we place our camp around Jesus… around God’s Truths, the camp of our friendships, the camp of our work, the camp of our family and home… our focus can remain on what is right and good. When we camp our lives around God and keep our focus on Jesus, it makes it less likely that we’ll veer off to the side of the road nearly crashing into a curb and oncoming traffic, and possibly destroying our lives and the lives of those closest to us.

The other interesting thing about this passage is this… it isn’t only talking about individual people… it says,

“…each man under his standard with the… Banners. Of. His. Family.”

Guys. Where you camp your life… what and who you camp your life around, you will take your family with you. Ladies… you’re not off the hook. Where you camp your life… what and who you camp your life around, there will be your family.

There’s a lot of things that we can center our lives around… but there’s only one person who provides hope and love and grace if we camp our lives around Him.

I pray that we all camp around the presence of the Almighty God… Yaweh.


baseball player sliding into base

Stealing Second

Baseball

It’s the sport I grew up playing. I mean, with the last name of Ruth, you’d expect a kid in the 80’s to play no other sport than what the Great Bambino played. Some of my earliest memories are of me and my dad throwing a ball back and forth.

Now, as a ball player, it didn’t matter if it was little league or high school, my job was to get on base and get into scoring position as fast as I could. I wasn’t exactly a big kid. So I was never going to hit home runs or a ton of triples. But I was fast. So, as a lead-off hitter and there after during the game, I simply tried to get on base anyway I could, then steal second base, most of the time within four pitches.

I’ll never forget a game we played against Culver Military Academy. I went three for three that game. I’m not sure how I got on base… base hits, walks… I’m not sure. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is this… that’s the game I stole six bases. I’d get on base. And within four pitches I’d steal second. Then within another three pitches, I’d steal third. By the fourth stolen base, it had become comical. They couldn’t throw me out… not even on a pitch-out. It’s one of the games I’ll never forget. And it's been something I've been thinking about towards the end of last year.

As 2020 was closing down, I began thinking a lot about 2021. Praying and asking God to speak to me and give me goals and steps for my life and my family’s life for the next year. And there were two phrases that kept coming back to me over and over again. One that has to do with my family which I’ll share at a later date, and one for my life. It’s actually a phrase that’s on a paperweight that was given to me when I was younger and it says this…

“You can’t steal second base, and keep your foot on first.”

I don’t know where you’re at right now. I don’t know what’s going on in your life. I don’t know what you’re thinking about. What you’re struggling with. What relationships are strained. I might not know anything about you… but I know this… God is telling you right now that you can’t steal second base, and keep your foot on first. God is telling you that you can’t keep one foot in that relationship… you can’t keep one foot in hate and anger… you can’t keep one foot in one life and expect to get to the next.

You see, when I looked out as I was standing on first, I could see second. I knew that’s where I needed to get to. I knew I needed to be standing there. If I could get to second, I knew I was probably a hit away from scoring. But it took a decision to leave first. I knew that if I wanted to stand on second base, I needed to decide to leave the safety of first base.

God is calling each of us to leave first base. He’s calling each one of us to our next step. That looks different for each of us. He’s calling each of us closer to Him. He’s calling each of us to step out in faith. For those looking at our lives from the outside, it might look crazy. It might feel like a giant step. But I want you to know two things. First, you aren’t alone.

There are those who have gone before us. Check this out:

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” - Genesis 6:22

If you read just that, you might think cool. Noah did what God asked him to do. But what did Noah do? He built a boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high… on dry land with no rain in sight. I wonder what people thought as they walked by. I wonder if they asked Noah questions. I wonder if they talked behind his back or even made fun of him. To the outside world, what God asked Noah to do might have seemed crazy. But Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). When you walk with someone long enough, you get to talk and listen to each other. And Noah listened to God.

What God is asking you to do might seem crazy for those looking from the outside in. But know that there are those who have gone before you and have listened to and obeyed God. You are in good company. And secondly, you should know this…

There are those who will walk with you.

Noah had other people in his life… his wife, sons and his sons’ wives. We don’t know much about them at the time of the building of the ark, but we know that they were with him. I wonder what the conversations were around the dinner table. I wonder what they prayed. We don’t know any of that. But we do know that they were with Noah.

And like Noah, there will be people who will walk with you. Who will pray with you. There will be people who will push you towards Jesus. And if you don’t have anyone like that, I’m raising my hand now to be that person for you.

2021

God is calling each one of us to leave the safety of first base. He’s calling each of us to take our next step and to go after great things for Him. That looks different for each of us. And it might look a little scary or even crazy. But know this, there are those who have gone before us. And there are those who will go with us. The question is…

Will you go after God and what He has for you?


Lola the Lab

Hair In My Coffee

I love coffee.

I’m not a coffee snob. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Starbucks, Dunkin, or some really fancy coffee. But I really love coffee. I’m pretty sure I started drinking coffee when I was 12 years old. I’m 44 now. But I have to have it every morning and look forward to that first cup.

But every so often, I’ll take a drink of that first cup and it hits me… in that first sip of coffee was a Lola hair. One of our lab’s hair had gotten in my cup of coffee and I hadn’t even noticed it until it was in my mouth. And it’s all I can do to try and get it out.

Of course, then I need to look deep into my cup of coffee to check to see if there’s another one. Sometimes there is, and if I can get it out then great. But there are times when I try to remove it and I make it go deeper into the coffee. At that point, the entire cup of coffee goes right down the drain.

It’s crazy how the smallest of things can affect me. Lola’s hair is super small. But once it gets into my coffee or my mouth, that’s all I can focus on and it ruins the experience and joy of drinking that first cup.

Life can be like that too. At least for me at times. I’m walking through my day, happy as can be then boom, something usually small comes along and it becomes all I can focus on and I let that one little thing ruin the experience and joy of living.

And then after thinking about this off and on it hit me…

My focus is on the wrong thing.

I’m losing focus because I’m focusing on the little things when my focus should be on something so much larger. Check this out…

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” - Luke 2:8-12

Jesus came. He was born in the countryside in an unknown manger. Jesus came so that we might have, not just life, but a rich and full life. (John 10:10) When my focus is off of Jesus and on the small things of life, it’s easy to lose joy. But Jesus came so that we could put the concern of those small things out of our life and live a life of purpose filled with true joy.

It’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to let the small things ruin the outlook we have. Disappointment is a real thing. It’s a real emotion. But this Christmas, let Jesus take that disappointment on His shoulders. Give over the small things to Him and have joy that the Savior of the world has been born to you and me.

This Christmas, give your life to Jesus who came to this earth to bring joy and true life to you and me.

Merry Christmas