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Archive for August, 2008

The Cost of Living

 

The cost of living is high.  Today, in Atlanta GA, the lowest grade of unleaded gas was $3.59 a gallon at a local gas station.  A bag of four blend Mexican Cheese is nearing the $4.00 mark.  The one bedroom condo my wife and I bought this year cost more than my parents 4 bedroom 2.5 bath home they purchased back in the mid nineties.  The cost of living the Christian life is high too.  Only that cost has not risen, it’ has been the same for the past two thousand years.  Listen to what Jesus had to say about the cost one would have to pay if they wanted to follow him.    34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35).  So, in Jesus’ humble opinion, the only way to truly live is to die; death to self and sin.  What is the cost of the Christian life?  I will refer to John Piper on this one.  Pastor John was once asked, “What does Jesus want from me?”  He replied by saying, “All of you all of the time.”  Salvation for us cost Jesus his very life.  How much is He worth to you?

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On Sunday August 24th, in Beijing China at around eight in the morning the greatest sporting event in all the world took place, the men’s marathon.  What makes this the greatest sporting event in the world?  No other sport can boast an event that rivals the challenge of the marathon.  Almost all other sports take breaks, timeouts, or substitutions.  Not so in the marathon.  You don’t take a break. You can’t ask for a sub. If you want some water, you drink while you run (Trust me it is very hard. I almost drowned the first time I tried).  For two plus hours (for elites, much more for us mortals) you go all out.  Your goal as an elite runner is to punish and break the will of your competitors with a blistering pace while holding on to thin hope that you yourself won’t break either.  It’s willing your body in constant motion against its wishes to the breaking point and then asking it to go further, harder, and faster.  It’s asking your mind to stop reporting all the pain, aches, and discomfort your body is signaling.  You have to be a little bit crazy to run a marathon.  You have to be beyond that to race one as these elites did yesterday on a hot summer’s day in Beijing.  For those of you that know me well you know I have a brother from another mother.  Since the Summer of 2006, the Stewart family has been blessed to call one of Kenya’s finest their own, Mr. Francis Muthruiri (pronounced macharia).  He is formerly a runner at Auburn Univerity where my maternal brother Trey and myself met him.  He now spends most holidays and many weekends with our family.  So on Saturday evening around 7:00pm EST, the phone rang.  I immediately recognized the number. It was Francis.  Before I could even say hello, I heard a high-pitch Kenyan voice saying, “Taylor, Taylor turn on your TV.”  I asked why?  “You will see,” he responded.  What channel I asked?  “NBC!”  Then my eyes saw the event I hold in such high esteem, the marathon.  They were in the first mile, and Francis was exclaiming, “There is my cousin Samuel Wanjiru, the little guy in the front.”  The race was especially big between Francis and myself.  He had bet me that the Kenyans would finish 1-2-3.  Never mind that in their great history as the world’s greatest nation of distance runners, they had never had an Olympic gold medalist.  Francis was confident, or at least hopeful.  The bet was for my best t-shirt against his best t-shirt.  The other part of the wager involved my hope that Ryan Hall would finish top three.  Francis liked the odds for us both.  He commented that the bet would be fair, and we would both likely be acquiring a new t-shirt. I agreed.  As the race progressed two things became apparent, both of us would lose/gain a t-shirt.  Ryan Hall never seemed to find his rthym, and he ran a conservative race finishing a respectable 10th.  All the Kenyans faded down the stretch; that is except for cousin Sammy.  I asked Francis during the course of the race that since he and I were brothers, and he and Sammy were cousins, if Sammy and me could be cousins?  Francis was more than delighted to name Sammy and me cousins.  And so then cousin Sammy won the Olympic marathon in a record time of 2:06:32.  That was the day I lost a t-shirt, but gained a cousin.  Sammy, you’ve made the family proud.

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Former NFL head coach and cordinator and current FCA president, Les Steckel, was in Atlanta this week for a lunch meeting with several FCA staff and supporters.  I was not in attendance, but my boss, Derrick Moore, attended, and he shared a story from the luncheon with me.  Derrick told me that Coach Steckel was speaking and shared that someone had approached him with the notion that he could make a return to football and coaching.  This individual told Coach that he could make millions, retire, and ride off into the sunset. To which Steckel replied, “Coaches are in the wins and losses business.  I am in the life and death business.”  What an amazing statement about his commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.  This is especially relevant to many of us here in the South and throughout the country as we begin college football season next week.  I once heard a pastor call this time “the most worshipful time of the year.”  He also described the stadiums fans gather in and teams play in as “worship centers.”  Football is not life and death; it is a game, always has been and always should be.  His statement also begs the question, what business are you in?  Are you using your job, your relationships, your hobbies, your family, and your life as opportunities to advance the Kingdom of Christ; or, are you just collecting a pay check, meeting a quota, passing the time, or just in it to meet your own temporal personal pleasures?  Jesus was in the life and death business.  If we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, should we not be in that business as well?

Philippians 3:7-8

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

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Below is a list of things you should Never Do.  Some I know from experience, and others I know because…. i know.  Drum roll please…………………………………………

-Bring up your marathon time in casual converstaion with a Kenyan.  He will laugh at you.

-Knock over a lamp at your neighbor’s house and blame it on their blind wiener dog.

-Tell me you think Robert Earl Keen sounds like Pat Green.  I already know you think that.

-Hit a ball to my brother’s backhand in tennis.

-Start a land war with China. (My friend Jack used to always say that).

-Talk football with an Alabama fan.  Most only know three words; Bear, Saban, and Twelve.

-Talk politics with my uncle Dani.

-Eat chain BBQ.  There are far too many good local places. 

-Ask Allen Iverson why he is not hustling at practice.  “We talking bout practice!  Not a game, not a game, practice!” 

-Bet a fellow 7th grader on a certain NCAA championship basketball game.  He will never pay you the $3 he still owes you.

-Tell your wife you are thinking about buying an XBOX.  Save yourself the trouble.  Buy the thing and then tell her.  You will have the same conversation either way.

-Compare Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

-Try and convince me you’ve seen a better movie than Shawshank Redemption.

-Try to put a Rascal Flats cd in my car.  You will be asked to immediately get out.

-Say you don’t like The Dave Matthews Band without ever seeing them live.

-Celebrate after scoring a touchdown.  My dad says, “Act like you’ve been to the end zone before son.”

-Say you don’t like The Lord of the Rings.   You just don’t understand it.

-Ask me to take your Spanish exam for you.  No Hablo Espanol!

-Make a treaty with infadels (so says my seminary church history prof. Dr. Greg Wells).

-Ask Willie Nelson to pay his taxes.   How dare you!

-Give your mother a dirty look.  She may very well maul you.

-Refer to a Georgia Tech student as “Nerd.”  One day you will call him/her boss.

-Watch a movie in which Brendan Fraser stars (except for School Ties).

-Use the word “random.”  Seeing your friends out at the Mexican restaurant last night was not random.  

-Eat a Sloppy Joe!

-Tell a story to a competitive listener.  He or she will always have one better.

-Start a sentence with, “I know this guy.”  No you don’t.

-Buy any type of electronic equipment at a flea market.

-Say you don’t believe in Bigfoot.

-Tell me you once hung out with someone “famous.”  I’m sorry, what did you say?

-Try and pet my grandmother’s cat.  Thank goodness its dead.  That thing was so mean, it didn’t even have a name.

-Claim to have invented the El Camino.  Great idea, car+truck bed=disaster!

-Live one more day without Christ.  He is too wonderful not to know (Philippians 3:8).

If you know Christ, don’t miss an opportunity to share his love with those you love ( Matthew 28:18-20).       

 

   

  

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One Good Mother

Tenly Stewart is one amazing mother.  I shared this with a couple of friends this week who asked me how it was being a father.  Firstly, I have never been so overcome with joy, and I’ve never seen anyone take as much pleasure in being a mother as my wife.  Now, admittedly I’ve not been around that many mothers while they care for their newborns, so this is in no way a comparison to anyone else.  I just simply cannot imagine anyone who loves being a mother as much as Tenly.  I have observed her changing diapers, getting up at 3:00 or 4:30am to feed Perry, and soothe a seemingly inconsolable baby.  I have seen her in action and here is what I know; Tenly Stewart was born to do this.  She never seems frustrated, upset, or even tired.  Based on all I have seen, I actually believe she enjoys changing dirty diapers and getting up in the early morning hours to feed a hungry mouth.  Several times while I have been holding tiny Perry and she screams from the top of her lungs and all of my attempts to console her have failed, I look for Tenly, my miracle worker, my super-mom.   She always comes to mine and Perry’s rescue.  She can calm Perry when no one else can.  She has the touch, the words, and the wisdom to make things right in her daughter’s world.  I realize that all good mothers do the things Tenly does, and she is not alone in her works of wonder.  I can only pray that other husbands and children have a wife and a mother who embrace their calling as Tenly does.  She is a true reflection of God’s love for us.  Before little Perry will ever know God, she will know her mother and father.  Thanks to her mother she will see a picture of God’s delight and pleasure in all He does, and ultimately we pray she will look beyond us to the savior.  Perry is already off to good start, because she has one good mother.

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Oh Baby!

 James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

On Tuesday at 6:12 pm Perry Rose Stewart took her first breath outside of the womb.  She was literally pulled from Tenly by way of c-section.  The doctors had attempted to induce her all day into labor, but it was not to be.  At the precise moment God had intended for her to be born (10 days late) she was.  As the doctor pulled her head first from Tenly’s stomach the doctor said, “Whoa, baby’s got a big head! Do you wanna see dad?”  I was seated right beside Tenly positioned at her head with a big surgical sheet blocking both our views.  I responded, “no, then yes.” And at that moment I saw the baby (remember we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl) from the top for the first time.  Then, just as fast as that big head was exposed, the rest of the baby was freed and hoisted in the air.  The first thing I looked for was the sex.  It was a girl!  Tenly still could not see the baby, so I sat down beside her and said, “Sweetie, you’ve got a Perry Rose and she’s perfect.”  She was more beautiful to my eyes and heart than I could have ever dreamed.  She was exactly what I wanted, a Perry Rose.  After a quick examination and procedure to remove fluid from her tiny body, it was my turn to make the big announcement.  All of our immediate family was assembled just down the hall in the delivery waiting room.  As I approached them, at first they didn’t notice me, because I was making like a doctor in my attire of scrubs.  Then, Tenly’s mother, Rosie, spotted me and exclaimed, “It’s Taylor!”  Everyone quickly assembled to hear the much anticipated announcement.  I paused for a moment gathered myself and then said, “Rest easy, the galaxy is safe, because Perry Rose has brought balance back to the force.”  For those of you that don’t know that is a play on the movie star wars and a prophecy that was made concerning a young Anikan Skywalker.  It was also what my British friend, Andy, (a fellow Star Wars Enthusiast) proclaimed about the birth of my first child.  My dad, brother, and myself are big Star Wars fans (bet you didn’t know I had that nerd quality to me), so we all appreciated the movie references.  I believe everyone else was just listening for the name and probably heard nothing else.  After everyone left, Tenly got settled into her room, I headed out to grab a late dinner.  It was after 10:00 pm and as I walked down Peachtree to the Mellow Mushroom for some Pizza, I walked with my chest poked out, my feet felt light, and my joy was indescribable.  I pondered the greatness of God and the beauty of my first born daughter.  I prayed for her and I prayed for Tenly and me. Most of all I treasured her in my heart, all she is, all she will become, and how I will be her dad her whole life through.  On Tuesday July 29th 2008, at 6:12 pm Perry Rose Stewart was born.  As was a love in me for a little 8lb 7ounce, 21 inch long girl, who has owned her daddy’s heart from the moment he laid eyes on her.

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