Bruce R. CrossBruce R. Cross http://brucercross.com Helping You Discover a Place Called HOPE! Fri, 12 May 2017 08:45:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Book Review: Play the Man http://brucercross.com/book-review-play-the-man/ http://brucercross.com/book-review-play-the-man/#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 08:45:52 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3258 this one is a winner”. In other words, the content has the potential to be life impacting, if applied. Such is the case for a book I recently read as part of Mark Batterson’s book launch team. Mark’s latest masterpiece, Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be, is more than a book.

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There have been many times I have listened to a song, watched a movie, or read a book where the instantaneous and overwhelming thought has been – “this one is a winner”.

In other words, the content has the potential to be life impacting, if applied.

Such is the case for a book I recently read as part of Mark Batterson’s book launch team.

Mark’s latest masterpiece, Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be, is more than a book.

It is a call to action!

Mark introduces the book with a history lesson which took place in AD 155.

He recounts the story of Polycarp who was a disciple of the John the apostle. Polycarp faithfully and selflessly led the church at Smyrna through a period of persecution.

John encouraged Polycarp to not be afraid of what he was about to suffer and admonished him to be faithful, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).

As Mark writes:

“John had died a half century before, but his voice still echoed in Polycarp’s ears as the Colosseum crowd chanted – “Let loose the lion!”

That’s when Polycarp heard a voice from heaven that was audible above the crowd “Be strong, Polycarp. Play the man.”

Roman bounty hunters had tracked Polycarp down. Instead of fleeing, he fed his captors a meal and they granted him a final request – an hour of prayer.

Afterwards, the Roman proconsul implored Polycarp to recant his belief in Christ – “Revile the Christ and I will release thee.”

Polycarp refused, “Eighty and six years I have served Him. He has done me no wrong! How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

Polycarp had confessed himself to be a Christian and was sentenced to be burned at the stake.

He prayed one last prayer, “I bless you because you have thought me worthy of this day and this hour to be numbered among your martyrs in the cup of your Christ.”

Although flames engulfed him they did not consume him. He was then pierced with a spear and bled out. He had lived out John’s exhortation to be faithful, even to the point of death”.

As Batterson summarizes, “Polycarp died fearlessly and faithfully…the way he died forever changed the way those eyewitnesses lived. Polycarp played the man.

I don’t mean to wig you out with blood and gore. This account makes our modern day trials and problems pale in comparison.

When was the last time your life was in danger because of your beliefs?

Mark then introduces the thought as a society we have forgotten how to make men and calls men to play the man.

He outlines seven virtues to help men play the man with chapter titles such as:

  • Tough as Nails
  • A Gentleman and a Scholar
  • Unbroken
  • The Three-Headed Dragon
  • Sockdolager
  • Born for the Storm
  • Call of Duty

Each chapter is introduced by a real life account of someone(s) who embodies the concept or character trait he wants to drive home.

The book concludes with his attempt to make men out of his sons by showing them a Rite of Passage which he conceived for them.

It is a refreshing look at what our society so desperately needs – men who will love others more than themselves, to honor their wives, to guide their children well and to be an example for them.

Time does not permit me to elaborate further.

This book is real. It is honest. It is funny. It is sincere. It is life changing.

More importantly, it is for you.

Looks do not make the man.

Money does not make the man.

Possessions do not make the man.

God makes the man and it is an inside job!

If you have longed to live a life you know can be “more” than what you may currently experience, do yourself a favor and buy the book.

Graduation season is right around the corner and I could think of no better gift to give to a young man than add to his “life account” and to bless him with this book.

We celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend and by no means do I want Mom’s to think they are second fiddle.

However, Father’s Day soon follows.

Why don’t you consider getting the man in your life – whether son, or husband, or father a gift in which both he and you will reap the benefits?

You will not regret doing so.

You can check out the Play the Man website to further explore this gem of a book for yourself. A sample chapter is available for you to check out.

I highly recommend it whether for yourself or another.

In closing, if you are a man reading this I urge you to Play the Man. Others are counting on you!

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The term “ground zero” as found in the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs.

In short, it speaks of something which causes a radical change to the landscape.

In our twenty-first century understanding, it is a term which we often use in reference to the horrific events of September 11, 2001, as in the location of the World Trade Center collapses being referred to as Ground Zero.

The definition to which I defer is used to describe the very beginning.

Today is Easter Sunday.

I prefer to call it Resurrection Day as it tells the story which actually occurred as Scripture describes, “early on a Sunday morning, while it was still dark”.

For Christians, it is the very beginning.

This day caused a radical change to the landscape of the human heart, assuming one yields to its invitation.

This Resurrection Day is inherently more meaningful to any other we have celebrated to this point in our lives as we now have a better frame of reference.

Jackie and I had the awesome privilege to be in Israel for ten days this February on a mission trip with Global Celebration Ministries.

Places read about in Scripture and once left to our imaginations to navigate are now very real and personal to us.

Time does not permit me to give you a blow-by-blow description of our itinerary and the many places we visited.  The outreaches we shared with the 2017 Holy Land Miracle Tour team, approximately ninety strong, were the focus of our time during our stay.

We ministered to both Israeli and Palestinian children, Palestinian widows and orphans, wounded and active Israeli military personnel, and to those we met who were out and about in the marketplaces.

The point of this post is to invite you to join us on our final day in the Land of Promise, with the words of Scripture and the power of images to guide the way.

After all, pictures are worth a thousand words.

We visited the spot traditionally believed to be Gethsemane, an olive grove where Jesus told His disciples, Sit here while I go and pray“.

The trees in this olive grove, we were told, were two thousand years old.

If I can draw your attention to the picture above I’d like to ask you a question – do you see anything or anyone in the tree?

On what we call Good Friday, we are told that Pilate turned Jesus over to the leading priests to be crucified.

As they took Jesus away, He was made to carry the cross by Himself, as He went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha).

We started our final day in Israel by taking a tour of the Garden Tomb.

We were surrounded by lush plants and a serene garden, a place to reflect.

My hunch told me what my eyes were seeing was not what they would have witnessed had I been alive 2,000 years ago in the very same spot.

Our tour guide supplied us with an array of historical facts with respect to the soil we were standing upon and what transpired at the time.

Quite honestly, it was a lot to take in.

To stand in this place at that moment overshadowed whatever factual information could be conveyed or absorbed.

It was emotional and personal.

Once the tour guide concluded his presentation, we made our way across the garden to an isolated spot to participate in a Scripture teaching and a communion service focused on the importance of where we were.

We had the awesome opportunity to connect with a group from South Africa and we joined them in worship outside the tomb.  Two groups of people, from many nations, joined together to focus our attention to the One we call Lord.

Prior to the communion service, we individually and collectively had the opportunity to witness first hand where Christ was laid to rest.

We are told in Scripture “the place of the crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before.”

The burial plot was offered for use by Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret follower of Jesus and was well off.

Many of us took the opportunity to stand outside the entrance to the tomb to reflect and to take pictures.

After doing so, we proceeded into the tomb itself to find it just as He indicated it would be – empty!

Personally, it will be a moment I treasure for the rest of my life.   In many ways, it was surreal.  Words cannot adequately describe the thoughts and emotions of the moment.

Although I realized it before as experienced in my life, being there lent itself to emphasize His promises are true and His word can be more than counted upon.

He declared Himself with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.

We saw a facsimile of the stone which was rolled away (reported to be much smaller in size and thickness than the actual stone) from the grave on the first Resurrection Day.

 

Our eyes bore witness to that which our hearts believed for many years without seeing.

We came to understand what the angel said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they visited the tomb.

As the angel spoke to the women he said, “Don’t be afraid…I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here.  He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.” (Matthew 28: 5-6 NLT)

On the surface, it appeared when Christ died all hope was lost.   In our human thinking, death equates to an end or finality.

Are there areas of your life where death has shown its ugly head and where hope seems to be lost? 

I can tell you in my own life I have experienced a death of the soul in several forms over a period of time.

What Jesus did on the first Resurrection Day has always given me hope to continue my journey, despite what my eyes may be seeing or what my ears may be hearing.

At times it has been hard.

Now that I have had the opportunity to be placed in the actual setting of His resurrection, my belief is cemented.

We attend Life Center of Harrisburg and are now part of this body of believers since our move to the area in 2015.

During the first part of this year, one particular song has been sung many times by our worship team and is called Resurrecting by Elevation Worship.

A music video of the song is provided below.  The words of the refrain have done a work on the inside for me. It has ignited a new found sense of purpose and passion in my life.

I invite you to allow the words and music to be a blessing to you this Resurrection Day.

Allow the message of Resurrection Day to take you back (or to invite you into) the place of the very beginning or your own personal, ultimate Ground Zero.

By Your spirit I will rise

From the ashes of defeat

The resurrected king Is resurrecting me

In Your name I come alive

To declare your victory

The resurrected king Is resurrecting me

 

Photos Courtesy of Creative Commons, myself, and my new friends on the 2017 Holy Land Miracle Tour Team

If this has been a blessing to you, I would invite you to share it via Facebook or Twitter

 

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Resting Toward the Finish Line http://brucercross.com/resting-toward-the-finish-line/ http://brucercross.com/resting-toward-the-finish-line/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:45:42 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3151 Outdoor cycling season is right around the corner.  In fact, I was able to log some outdoors miles this past weekend – in short, a much welcomed change of scenery!

It reminded me of a prior cycling experience.  I recall the moment as if it happened yesterday.  It was an overwhelmingly hot July day in the summer of 2013.

An impromptu invitation was extended to me as our group of cyclists neared the end of a four day, 340 mile bicycle trip which originated near Pittsburgh and culminated near Washington, DC.

After logging mileage totals of 103 miles on Thursday, 88 miles on Friday, and 89 miles on Saturday we anticipated a relatively easy 60 mile ride on Sunday to complete our four-day goal.

Up to this point of our adventure we endured many environmental, physical, and mental obstacles.

We spent long hours in the saddle each day, made our way around the aftermath of thunderstorms, incurred flat tires, and withstood less-than-desirable conditions throughout.  Each moment took its collective toll on our physical stamina as well as depleted our emotional tanks.

In our minds Sunday was to be a piece of cake, relatively smooth sailing. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

With temperatures soaring in the high 90’s and the humidity levels making it feel much hotter, we met our match on the final leg of our journey.

Water supplies were archaic and the ill-conceived “ambiance” of the C&O Towpath left very little in the way of modern day conveniences or places to rest and replenish.

As we neared Georgetown the end of the trail was finally within our reach with approximately three miles remaining to the finish line.

A luxury was afforded to us – we actually got to ride on a paved surface instead of the “path from the abyss” which we had endured for the prior 180 miles.

The invitation extended to me by my friend, Jim, caught me off-guard.  Jim deferred to me as the senior member of our group and invited me to lead our group of five, pedaling buddies to our final destination – the end of the trail.

Raw emotions overwhelmed me as tears erupted from an unknown, deep place within as small, watery tributaries descended my face.

I sincerely appreciated this unexpected honor.

For the next minute or two, it was actually hard to see where I was going as the tears stung my eyes and blurred my vision as we collectively pedaled toward our final destination.

There are times when we are asked to do things which are way out of our comfort zone.

Although we had planned for this trip for months and did our best to prepare for it, there were things which occurred for which we were not prepared.  The unexpected is bound to show its face sooner or later.

In retrospect, there was one thing which brought us to our desired conclusion.

We committed to the trip and had our eye on the prize of not only starting, but finishing something which all of us at one time or another over the four days perhaps did not think possible.

Life will throw us curves, it’s a given.

It’s how we respond to the off pace and unexpected pitches which will determine whether we press forward or shrink back.

The success of our trip hinged on knowing when to splice in a brief or extended rest, to refuel our physical and emotional tanks, and to keep going.

Life is a similar in so many ways.

There are times when one needs to rest or step back to then move forward.

Although this does not rank up there with a health setback or the loss of a loved one or any other of a myriad of life’s curve balls, I had one thrown to me since I last posted on this blog.

It’s been nearly six months since I last visited with you here.

I did not plan a hiatus, but a hiatus was essentially dropped on my doorstep unannounced.

No, I do not have terminal whooping cough nor am I checking out of the human race.

At first I felt guilty for suspending what I have come to love doing.   It was a nagging thought and feeling for the first few weeks.

It irked me!

I wanted to write, but lacked the time and energy to do so.

The latent effect of much transition in our lives over the past three years basically caught up with me. Although most of the transition is behind us, there still are lingering effects.

Without getting overly spiritual, God called a much needed time out on my behalf.  I simply needed a break and I felt the need to comply with the direction I was sensing.

There were times I wanted to throw in the towel as the desire to do anything came and went, often.

I am not a quitter, but there were times I felt like quitting – a lot.

I will be the first to tell you, I did not like it.

I doubted why I wanted to write in the first place.  My desire is to make a difference, no matter how small.

Is there something you are involved with or doing where getting to the proverbial finish line seems to elude your grasp?

Do you feel like giving up? 

Has Quitting been personified and seems like your new BFF?

Has the phrase, “What’s the use?” been deposited in your sub-conscious and is growing like an unwanted weed? 

Can I offer some encouragement to you? 

In the words of the familiar poem by Edgar A. Guest, rest if you must but don’t you quit!

It you need a break, by all means take one.

If the respite is longer than you planned, it’s OK – life will not cease to exist as you know it.

The secret sauce is this.

Understand what you have committed to and keep your eye on the prize of not only starting but finishing what you desire or are meant to do.

God has your best interest at heart.  Allow Him to direct the times and seasons of your existence, even if it means taking an intended or unannounced break.

Listen to what is posed below:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message Bible

Go fly a kite.

Sit by a stream and do nothing.

Take a nap.

Get caught up in a song.

Whatever it is which will top your tank off, do it!

Life will not change if you rest toward your finish line.

It will allow you to put things into perspective for the long haul.

I encourage you to do yourself a favor and rest, recuperate, stay focused, keep going, and above all do not quit.

In closing, check out this word of encouragement:

“Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet!  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.” Philippians 3:14-16 –  from The Message Bible

 

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  You are much appreciated than words can express.

If you found this post of value, I would ask you to consider sharing it with your followers on Twitter or Facebook.

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Book Review: She Believes http://brucercross.com/book-review-she-believes/ http://brucercross.com/book-review-she-believes/#respond Fri, 07 Oct 2016 08:45:15 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3124 Let’s get one thing straight from the outset, I am a ladies man.   I always have been and always will be. The female mystique has been woven into my fabric. ]]> Embracing the Life You Were Created to Live

she-believes

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset, I am a ladies man.

 

I always have been and always will be. The female mystique has been woven into my fabric.

Before you go off and get the wrong impression of me, I am NOT a ladies man in the sense of let’s say, James Bond. I don’t have a fast car nor do I have the ladies clamoring for my attention.

I am one lady’s man specifically; my heart has belonged to my bride, Jackie, for the past thirty-eight years (plus the courtship) and counting. Above all, she has been the greatest gift God has given to me.

To add to the aura of my ladies-man-mantra, I have three grown daughters who will always have a sweet spot in their Daddy’s heart. They still know how to get to Dear-Ole-Dad!

To put the icing on the cake, I also have three granddaughters (soon to be four!) who have no problem winning over their Papa’s affections in the midst of their giggles and winsome smiles.

I have a Mom (no kidding Sherlock!) and a couple of sisters.

Many moons ago, I coached a girls high school basketball team. Early on we may not have won many games, but we had the best smelling locker room with all kinds of lotions and potions.

Lastly, most of my co-workers through the years have been women who have in one way, shape, or form participated in the process of molding yours truly.

What the heck, we even had a couple of female cats (seriously!) join the party over the years!

What possessed me to accept the invitation to be on the book launch team for Debbie Lindell’s new book, She Believes: Embracing the Life You Were Created to Live?

shebelievesposter2

At first, I wondered about the answer to the question.

I do not know Debbie personally, but have come to enjoy serving in the capacity of lending my two cents for a book review.

It’s a seed sown for when it is my time to launch a book.

Truthfully, the sub-title, embracing the life you were created to live, drew me in.

Back in the old days, a certain TV show had a tag line indicating the names were changed to protect the innocent.

Although the target audience for Debbie’s book is primarily female, if one would subtract the “S” the identity could be changed to He Believes as I came to discover there are many truths in this book which apply to all.

While attending a conference, Debbie referenced a speaker whose message was entitled Your Life is a Gift. She states:

“…she spoke about how God designed each one of us exactly how he wants us to be; all we need to do is believe that, unwrap the package of our lives, and watch God use us in ways we’ve never dreamed or imagined.”

Personally, the message crossed the gender divide and made its way into my mind and heart as I ponder similar issues in my life.

More importantly, reading this book gave me a fresh glimpse into lives of the women in my life and has helped me gain a better understanding of the issues which women face.

As eluded to above – your life is a gift. Many of us claim to believe in God and we have no problem doing so.

However, let me ask you this question.

Do you believe what God believes about you?

  • He formed you in your mother’s womb.
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • You are the apple of his eye.
  • You are loved!

If you are a woman reading this, do yourself a favor and buy the book as it will fuel your soul.   In it you will find a friend in Debbie who shares the same concerns you do.  Grab a latte or hot chocolate, find your favorite reading spot, and dive in.  You will not regret it.

If you are a man reading this, buy a copy for the women in your life as it will be a blessing to them and will only add to your you-da-man allure!

Christmas is coming and the nominal price of the book would be a great investment into another’s life. If you care to check it out, you can do so here.

Let me ask it again – Do you believe what God believes about you?

She Believes will help you answer this question. It’s well worth the investment.

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What Should You Do When You Don’t Know What Else to Do? http://brucercross.com/what-should-you-do-when-you-dont-know-what-else-to-do/ http://brucercross.com/what-should-you-do-when-you-dont-know-what-else-to-do/#respond Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:45:12 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3105   As I get older, it seems there is less I understand. Uncertainty obscures the view of whatever I consider my current reality. ]]> Uncertainty

 

As I get older, it seems there is less I understand.

Uncertainty obscures the view of whatever I consider my current reality.

If I were keeping score, it might appear the tally in the “I Have Questions” column far outweighs the tally in the “I Got the Answers” column.

In many ways, the uncertainties are a ride which is akin to a theme park roller coaster – it transports me up then drops me down. In between the ascents and descents there are twists and turns as well as occasional turn-the-stomach-inside-out adventure hurtling me upside down.

Roller Coaster

Apparent question marks lurk behind every corner.

My questions frequently center on “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

They circle me like a never ending game of Ring-Around-the Rosie.  Work is a blessing in my life for which I am grateful, but I know there is a greater purpose to which I have been called.

If left unchecked, the uncertainties have a tendency to steal my joy. Instead of allowing my roots to go deep to find the water supply, I allow the surface rain to provide me some temporary relief.

Are you tracking with me?

You may be there too.

The thought, “What’s the use?” has parked itself in your mind. You try to ignore the truth of the words, “as I man thinks in his heart so is he.”

You may be at a loss for words and your emotions are raw.

The ache in your heart over a child gone astray leaves you with a constant flow of tears forming tributaries on your face. You have prayed and prayed and prayed some more – there is no trace of an answer to your oft repeated prayers.

The echoes of your past, whatever your story, bounce off the canyon walls of your mind and heart as a constant reminder of days you really want to forget.

Your wallet is empty and the prospects of meaningful employment evade you as the walls seem to press in on you from every side.

You may be looking to find the light in a very dark tunnel.

Questions appear to be the only staple left in your diet.

  • “When will I get the answer I have been seeking?”
  • “Is this ever going to be resolved?”
  • “Why do others seem to have it so easy when I have to struggle much of the time?”
  • Why am I going through this trial?

The questions remain and the answers linger.  You don’t know which way to turn.

Which Way

My intention is not to minimize you or your circumstances.

My intention is to encourage you in the trials you may be experiencing, knowing there is an Answer.

The trials you are facing are for your betterment. It may not seem like it, but in the long view trials are a gift.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 the Message Version

What should you do when you have come to the place you don’t know what else to do?

The answer can be summarized in one word – surrender!

Surrender

Surrender is waving the white flag, not in the sense of giving up, but in the sense of yielding control to God and allowing Him to work the processes inside of us to become spiritually mature.

It can be done by applying four simple words – Thy-Will-Be-Done.

Dictionary.com defines yielding this way – to surrender or submit, as to a superior power.

I am not talking about waving a magic wand.

However, I am talking about deferring to the answers He alone can provide.

To help you in your journey to get the point of surrender, check out Hillary Scott’s story (she is a seven-time, GRAMMY award-winning Lady Antebellum member) as well as the music video shown below of the new release, Thy Will, by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family.

I pray it is a blessing to you as you surrender your cares to Him. He alone is your Answer!

Photos Courtesy of Stock Snapio under Creative Commons License

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Falling Down and Getting Back Up http://brucercross.com/falling-down-and-getting-back-up/ http://brucercross.com/falling-down-and-getting-back-up/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:30:28 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3080 The games of XXXI Olympiad which started a couple of weeks ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will soon be drawing to a close. The thing I love most about watching the Olympics is learning about the back stories of the individual athletes which allow the viewer to get a glimpse of what it took to qualify for the Olympic games in the first place. These are stories which describe triumphing over obstacles which come in all forms. ]]> Olympic Rings

The games of XXXI Olympiad which started a couple of weeks ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will soon be drawing to a close.

The thing I love most about watching the Olympics is learning about the back stories of the individual athletes which allow the viewer to get a glimpse of what it took to qualify for the Olympic games in the first place.

These are stories which describe triumphing over obstacles which come in all forms.

They are stories which shed light on the hopes, aspirations, and the achievement of one’s dreams or moments of heartbreak which ruined those same dreams temporarily or permanently.

In these Olympics we have shed tears of joy with Kathleen Baker winning the Silver medal in the 100M backstroke swimming event while dealing with the effects of Chrohn’s Disease.

We have learned how Simone Biles, referred to as the best female gymnast ever, overcame a messed up family situation and the associated care in foster homes as part of her back story.  Simone and her sister were subsequently adopted by their grandparents (who they call Mom and Dad).  Her reliance on faith and family set the stage for her to win Olympic gold on the team and individual levels.

There is the story which is Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time, who has won 28 Olympic medals in his stellar swimming career.

A couple of years ago, despite his fame and celebrity status, he found himself in a dark place and pondered suicide.

It wasn’t until a friend, former NFL player Ray Lewis, gave him a copy of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life did life take a turn for the better.  The book offered him a renewed hope to live his life to the fullest and on purpose.  He learned God has a plan for his life.

As these games come to a close, Phelps is calling it a career after having earned five more gold medals and one more silver medal in these games.

His story could have ended much differently as he has gone from saying I thought the world would just be better off without me to saying Where I am now is exactly how I want to finish”.

Each of the stories I mention above contain some element of falling down and getting back up. 

Occasionally, there is a story of an athlete which transcends the moment and is the epitome of an athlete falling down and getting back up, serving as an inspiration for those who partake of the story.   

Derek Redmond’s story is the story of triumph while experiencing defeat. It occurred in 1992 at the Summer Olympics games held in Barcelona, Spain. 

To gain a better understanding of Derek’s story you can read about it here or you can choose to view a summary of it below (my vote!):

I can relate to Derek’s story. There have been moments in my life where I have fallen flat on my face and quite frankly didn’t feel like getting back up.

Somehow, during those times, I made a decision to keep moving forward while the arms of a loving Father comforted me.

Can I be honest? 

I am there right now – with my backside down on the track and facing yet another decision to either get back up or yield to the temptation of staying in the solitary place of asking, What’s the use?”

Without getting into the details, life has been stressful for Team Cross lately as we grapple with some ongoing transitions which have tested our mettle.

There have been tears, worries, and genuine concerns.  Now is our time of being tested in the fire.

Do we resign ourselves to remaining with our backside on the track or do we get back up and continue running? 

We will choose the latter – we will get back up and complete the race before us.

It is a time in which our faith in God will prove to be genuine.

Unlike Michael Phelps, we will come away something more precious than gold.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 NLT

As I have quoted before, “It’s not how many times you get hit.  It’s about how many times you get hit and get back up.  That’s how winning is done.”

You too may have your back end on the track as well.

You may have endured an unbearable loss and the nose of your plane is far from being in ascend mode.

Your life might appear to be upside-down at the moment given your new normal is not the old, familiar normal and with it comes more adjustments that you care to make.

You may not like change, but change is wrapping its arms around you and squeezing you a little harder than you care to be squeezed.

Health issues may have pushed you down and down and down.

Like Derek, Pain, Agony, Disappointment, and Loss want to be BFF’s with us.

You and I have a choice to make.  We can keep company with our BFF’s or we can make a decision to say no to the invitation and make the effort to get back up.

What’s it going to be?

You have a Father who is descending from the bleachers to seek you out, to pick you up, and who is willing to walk alongside of you and carry you if need be.

Like Derek’s father He is saying, Well then we’re going to finish this together!” as you approach the finish line to complete your race.

If you have to hobble, then hobble.

Let the tears stream down your face, it’s OK!

Runner

As the emotion of your testing moment attempts to overtake you, stay composed and by all means, get back up!

Fix your gaze on the goal and move forward.

Finish your race, whatever it may be for you, and don’t allow a temporary setback become a permanent disappointment.

You may have fallen down.  It is time to get back up!

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

 

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Father’s Day Revisited http://brucercross.com/fathers-day-revisited/ http://brucercross.com/fathers-day-revisited/#respond Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:45:14 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3065 Perhaps the title of this post should be “Hey Dad, Better Late than Never” or “Oops I Missed Father’s Day” or anything else catchy to get me off the hook, given I missed my blog post deadline by a long shot. There were reasons. Some were even compelling. ]]> Baseball

Perhaps the title of this post should be “Hey Dad, Better Late than Never” or “Oops I Missed Father’s Day” or anything else catchy to get me off the hook, given I missed my blog post deadline by a long shot.

There were reasons. Some were even compelling.

With writing time at a minimum I had to prioritize between public writing and personal writing.

Personal won out.

There were the four letters I wrote last week, one to each of my three adult daughters in addition to the one I wrote to my wife to express some reverse Father’s Day thoughts and tell them how important they are to me.

DSC_0338BW

I am indeed a blessed man to share in each of their lives and am grateful for my gals who call me “Daddy” as well as the one who has shared the role of parenting with me and who gave me the privilege of wearing the hat with the “Dad” label on the cap.

In addition, there was another special delivery letter I was led to write commemorating some warm thoughts between a father and his daughter.

My mind could not help but think of friends who unexpectedly lost their son last week. We traveled to pay our respects and to let them know we care about them. My heart ached to learn of their pain. I cannot imagine the spectrum of thoughts and feelings which abruptly burst onto the stage of their hearts as an uninvited intruder.

I prayed for them multiple times, most particularly on Father’s Day which had to be difficult.  They will continue to be in  my prayers.

A few days before Father’s Day, the night I usually work on my posts, I had an unusual desire to watch an old movie, The Field of Dreams.

Jackie had texted me earlier in the day and in her text wrote “if you build it they will come” citing the movie as a means of encouraging me in something personal connected to my own dreams.

I watched the movie in an entirely different light and wound up sobbing uncontrollably during the last scene.  When Ray asks John (his father), “Is there a heaven?” and John replies, “Oh ya, it’s the place dreams come true” I simply lost it.

It was as if God was saying to me, “I know the plans I have for you.  They are plans to prosper you…to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It made me think of my own Dad, who has been gone nearly fifteen years. He was a good man. I am especially grateful to be called his son and am thankful for the moments he took to catch ball with me when I was a boy. I would love to get out the gloves right now and invite him to toss a few with me as an excuse to share some private thoughts with him.

Dad

However, he will have to remain in my memories until the day when I see him again. Dad, you are missed!

I know Father’s Day has passed. The Hallmark sentiments and gift giving may be over. The day does not have to be “official” to celebrate our Dads (or Moms).

Dads (and Moms) each day is a day to treasure the precious gifts given to us in our children, both the young and the young at heart.

Take the time to invest in their lives.

Do something fun with them or dare I say, even wacky.

Above all, let them know you care by spending time with them and letting them know you love them. The little chap below is my grandson, Garrett, sharing a treat and a ball game with his Daddy.

Garrett and Jeff

I will even overlook the team colors not being my Pittsburgh “black and gold”.  The memories created between father and son are surely golden!

As you invest the time, energy, and love into your children, you will reap dividends for generations. It is worth the investment.

Happy belated Father’s Day to all who qualify!

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Yes, You Can Make It to the Next Milepost! http://brucercross.com/yes-you-can-make-it-to-the-next-milepost/ http://brucercross.com/yes-you-can-make-it-to-the-next-milepost/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 08:45:43 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3045 You may be tired or you may be weary. You may feel like you cannot continue to put one foot in front of another. The truth be told, this occurs more often than you would like to admit. You are running a proverbial marathon with no end in sight. ]]> DSC01997

You may be tired or you may be weary.

You may feel like you cannot continue to put one foot in front of another.

The truth be told, this occurs more often than you would like to admit.

You are running a proverbial marathon with no end in sight.

Much like the “song which never ends”, you drone on in a daily existence with its Groundhog Day perceptions and are grateful for the pillow which will cradle your head on any given night.

As you acknowledge another day being under your belt, tomorrow looms around the corner as you mentally go through the eventual paces it will bring long before the light of dawn sneaks over the horizon.

All of us have been there at one time or another, some longer than others.

I am there now.

I cannot seem to escape the cycle of “day in-day out” with my mental playlist set on “Repeat”.

It’s been over a month since I last wrote.

For the record I do not like being inconsistent and I most assuredly do not like the long intervals in between.

I am forcing myself to sit at my laptop now so as to allow whatever expression may surface come to the top.

It is therapeutic for me and I pray a benefit to you as connecting with you in this manner is something I “get” to do versus something I “have to do”.

A few weeks ago several of my cycling buddies reconnected as we pedaled the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

Pedaling Along

Some of us went the entire sixty-four mile distance and also completed the return trip the next day during our  mid-May ride in the cold rain, amidst snow flurries, and near freezing temperatures.

Some of us (yours truly) did large portions of the trail, but fell short of completing the entire ride.

Given this was the first extended ride I did in over two years, I was pleased with my thirty-six and thirty-four mile efforts.

The presence of mileposts became a welcome mental friend allowing me to measure my progress in short but predictable increments.

Dictionary.com defines a milepost in a couple of ways.

First, it is a series of posts set up to mark distance by miles”.  Deep and profound, isn’t it?

I like the second definition better – a notable point or significant event in the progress or development of something”.

As I pedaled my way up and down the scenic trail surrounded by the Pine Creek River gorge, I refused to think of the sixty-four mile potential journey.

DSC01988

I embraced the small-bite sized notion of making it to the next milepost, one at a time.

It allowed me to stay in the present instead of contemplating the future or rehashing the past.

I was able to ask myself the question, “What is my task right now?”

It helped me keep my focus on doing what I set out to do, which was to have some fun while keeping my feet moving in an up and down circular pedaling motion.

Getting back to your proverbial or literal marathon, I want to emphatically encourage you.

Yes, you can make it to the next milepost however it translates for you.

In her small but powerful little book, Postworthy – Words to Encourage & Inspire by Wendy K. Walters, she states:

“Progress is sometimes by great leaps and bounds and it feels good!  Sometimes it comes inch by steadfast inch.  Staying committed to the process, working hard, and keeping your eye on the prize is a sure recipe for a win.”

Running a marathon or finishing a long-distance bike ride are not done in an instant.  They are done one step or pedal revolution at a time – “inch by steadfast inch” putting one foot in front of the other and repeating the process.

If you tire on your journey it is OK to rest or take a break.

If you fall short of your original goal, don’t be so hard on yourself.  Look at what you did accomplish versus what you did not accomplish.

I do not know what you may be experiencing along the way on your journey.

Only you do.

That’s not entirely true as God also sees each step in the journey, especially the difficult and painful steps.

You know the steps, the ones where you want to cash it all in and give up.

His encouragement to you is this:

“…I focus on this one thing…forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3: 13-14 NLT

Enough said.

Yes, you can make it to the next milepost!

Don’t give up.

Keep moving forward on purpose and with intention and you will see the finish line.

 

Photos Courtesy of Bruce R. Cross and Jeff Schans

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Swing the Bat! http://brucercross.com/swing-the-bat/ http://brucercross.com/swing-the-bat/#respond Wed, 13 Apr 2016 08:45:37 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3033 boys of summer
are here to stay for the next six months. Baseball ]]> We’re a couple of weeks into the 2016 major league baseball season, a sure sign spring has arrived and the boys of summer are here to stay for the next six months.

Baseball

I do not follow baseball as closely as I once did as a kid, although I admit to a spike in the interest level as my hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, is doing well again.

dtown pittsburgh

Baseball elicits fond memories in my life.

From the time I was eight years old to the time I was sixteen, baseball occupied my thoughts as well as my spring and summer days.

When I was not playing organized baseball, I was playing pickup games with the guys in my neighborhood.

When the league games and pickup games were not on the schedule, I played imaginary games as I bounced a rubber ball off a wall for hours on a daily basis.

Not only did I play the imaginary games, I was also the color commentator and play-by-play announcer all rolled up into one.

It was as close to round-the-clock baseball one could get at the time.

In short, I loved it!

There were not-so-good memories, good memories, and GREAT memories!

In my first ever at bat” as an eight-year old and member of the Yankees, I regretfully threw my bat in anger nearly hitting the coach, as my first trip to the plate resulted in a strike out.

We won the game and I was happy.  Happy, that is, until I got home and had to face the music as my Mom read me the riot act for my embarrassing behavior.

Not-so-good memory!

There was the time I hit a grand slam in an all-star game – a good memory!

Lastly, 1974 was a very good year as the Colt League team (ages 15-16) on which I played won the regional championship – great memory!

During those years friendships were forged, memories were cemented, and the only cares in the world centered on baseball.

I was into all aspects of the game.

I loved playing first base in addition to defending several of the outfield positions.

I was Roberto Clemente making all kinds of circus catches and throwing runners out from anywhere on the field.

I ran the bases with a fair amount of speed and did so strategically, as only a baseball purist would have it.

My favorite part of a game was stepping into the on-deck circle, preparing myself to come to bat as the guy in front of me was at the plate.

I used the time to imagine how my turn at bat would play out.

Those close to me at the time can attest to the fact I was a very good hitter.

The greater the pressure the more I produced.

As with most ballplayers, a batting slump is part of the game.

Defined, a batting slump is a period of time (hopefully short lived!) when no matter what you do nor how hard you try, getting a hit seems to elude you as a batter.

As recounted in an ESPN article, a batting slump can be scary yet it happens to the best of them!

  • When you are in a slump, doubts creep in.
  • You begin to think you will never get another hit.
  • You second guess every pitch, swinging at pitches way outside the strike zone and to make matters worse, not swinging at pitches over the heart of the plate.
  • You break from your normal rhythm while overextending and underachieving.  

Every trip to the plate is an excruciating reminder of your failed attempts of the last zillion times at bat.

What is the solution and what does it have to do with you and me?

Every good baseball coach knows one thing – slumps will end.

It is a matter of overcoming and persistence.

It usually has much to do with how we think about our dry spells at the plate than it does with anything else.

As Proverbs tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.”

In retrospect, I can recall some batting slumps I endured.  Many times fear kicked in and I simply let the bat rest on my shoulder making no effort whatsoever to swing the darn thing.

I eventually emerged from my desert times at the plate by heeding my coach’s advice to swing the bat!”

  • Swinging the bat transitioned me from a passive participant to an active participant.
  • Swinging the bat turned the odds in my favor; each time I did so helped me get closer to a positive result and at the same time allowed me to move away from a negative outcome.
  • Swinging the bat allowed me to overcome the fear of failing and empowered me to bring my game back into equilibrium.

When I lost my employment in 2014, it was hard to swing the bat.”

Many emotions surfaced, fears kicked in, and I wanted to give up.

You too may be facing an uncertainty or a plethora of them where it is difficult to imagine swinging the bat, let alone doing so.

I can relate.

I do understand.

Most of my adult life I have been gainfully employed despite several seasons where I weathered the storm of quitting a job, having a position eliminated resulting in a job loss, being reorganized to a completely different department (with a minimal skill set), and then losing employment at my last employer.

I have been grateful for both the seasons of employment and the lessons learned during some difficult times.

I have been with my current employer for one year and the experience has been mostly positive and encouraging.  The role has been interesting and the people I work with very supportive.

Lately, I have been hearing the whispers of the Coach in my ear – “It’s time to swing the bat!”

However, I know there is a path I wish to pursue for the long haul.  Every time I sit down and write a post it is a step in the direction I want to travel.

It is my attempt at swinging the bat.

I recently came across a card my youngest daughter and her husband sent me a few days after I lost my job.

It brought me to tears – again.

IMG_0984

The message it conveyed echoed the same theme I have addressed in this post.

In effect it said to me, “Dad, swing the bat!”

My desire is to write professionally.

There, I said it.

At the end of this month I will be attending a writing conference using it as a springboard toward the greater goal.

It is a major step for me in getting the bat off my shoulder and swinging it.

Given the credentials of the person conducting the conference, I am simply ecstatic to get in this game and take my chances at the plate!

Your story most likely is different.  That’s OK.

You are you and I am me.

You might be facing some challenges.

Life may be throwing some curves at you while you stand at the plate with the bat on your shoulder.

My encouragement to you has already been voiced.

Swing the bat! 

It is the only way you will connect and have the opportunity to run the bases like the “boys of summer”. 

It is time for you to get in the game. 

Photos Courtesy of Creative Commons and Bruce R. Cross

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http://brucercross.com/swing-the-bat/feed/ 0 Be! http://brucercross.com/be/ http://brucercross.com/be/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2016 08:45:13 +0000 Bruce http://brucercross.com/?p=3009 When we are young, declarations flow from our lips without limitation or restraint, like a stream flowing toward greater waters. “I want to BE a doctor!” “I want to BE a teacher! ]]> Be1

When we are young, declarations flow from our lips without limitation or restraint, like a stream flowing toward greater waters.

“I want to BE a doctor!”

“I want to BE a teacher!

“I want to BE a daddy or a mommy!”

“I want to BE a baseball player!”

“I want to BE a nurse!”

“I want to BE a soldier!”

Soldier Boy

We become who we say we will BE, if only in our imaginations.

Time marches on and the I want to BE’s somehow get baked out of our lives with grown up cares and concerns.

It’s kind of a shame if you want my two cents!

It makes a lot of sense to me to regard the words of Jesus to become like a little child when we think of the ambitions we once had, even at an early age, to BE something!

There are times when I hear someone speak and their words seem to haunt me.

In other moments words heard and which land on my doorstep have the effect of gnawing at me, as in “get away from me you pesky fly!”

Then there are words spoken which are like a daffodil or tulip that gets planted in the soil of my heart allowing me to soak in the beauty it has to offer.

The latter is my point of focus for now and has been for a few weeks.

Recently singer and songwriter, Jason Upton, was in concert on a Saturday evening at Life Center, the church which we now attend.

He also played and then spoke briefly during our Sunday morning service.

As he spoke, Jason recounted a story from his teenage years where he entered into a mentoring relationship with an older gentleman he knew.

The mentor intentionally flipped the tables on Jason, many times asking him what he would do in a given situation. It had the effect of empowering Jason to arrive at a guided answer to the question(s) at hand.

When the time came for Jason to head off to college, they met one last time at their favorite restaurant.

With a pen and a napkin in hand, Jason asked his mentor what advice he could offer him as he prepared to leave home to pursue his educational endeavors.

The mentor ultimately listed four things, played out in an intentional and deliberate cadence as Jason took pen to napkin with deft attention.

Be still and know that I am God, referenced in Psalm 46:10.

The mentor took it a step further and went on to say, Be still and know” which he followed by stating, “Be still.”

Lastly, their time together was coming to an end. His final piece of advice was a solitary, “Be!”

The message was so simple, yet so profound.

Ten years after the fact, Jason had a dream in which God was speaking to him and the words of his mentor raced across the screen of his mind as his world began to get crowded.

He saw the following words:

  • BElonging
  • BElieve
  • BEcoming
  • BEloved
  • BEautiful
  • BEgin

They were all words which started with BE.

The aspirations we may have as young children have their place. We want to BE something.

As we get older we see ourselves with all sorts of labels attached to us, similar to the “I want to BE’s I listed earlier.

Have you ever given much thought that maybe we are wired to discover who we are meant to BE?

We are so pre-occupied with our human “doings” we lose sight of the fact and pay less attention to the reality we are human “BEings”.

Our lives are frantic and out of control most of the time.

Perhaps you and I can write our own prescription a little more often and allow ourselves to simply BE.

  • You could take a leisurely walk.
  • Read a good book.
  • Kick back and listen to a favorite musician.
  • Do nothing.
  • Draw or paint.
  • Fall into an unexpected nap.
  • Gaze at the stars.
  • Take a hike.
  • For me, it’s cycling.

Whatever it takes!

I am going to not only encourage you, but challenge you to take a moment (or two) to BE!

On a regular basis.

In doing so, it may draw you a little closer to the One who simply wants you to BE!

 

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons and Jessica Lamos

 

A final note, if you care to listen to the message given by Jason Upton, drop me a line via the contact form and I would be happy to point you in the direction of it – it is well worth the thirty minutes in which to invest.

 

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