Even though the calendar still has a few more weeks of summer, for all practical purposes summer is officially over here in West Texas. All local schools and universities have begun their fall semesters, and football seasons start this weekend as well. Before long, if you desire, you can order or buy a lot of pumpkin spice items. Then before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, if you are reading this article, you have survived summer. Some of us are probably already looking forward to next summer. This summer was different for me; it was the first one without Mother. We have really missed the extra time we had to spend together. (Except for the annual trip to Kohl’s where she would buy Jayda way too many clothes for the summer.) It was really hard not having her around during sports camp. The other big difference is that Jayda and I took two trips this summer. On Memorial Day weekend, we went to Houston to enjoy the humidity, NASA, and attend the Cubs-Astros game. Then at the end of July my Dad went with us to New York City. What an experience! If you need to enhance your prayer life, go to Times Square and catch a taxi. It is an experience that will bring you to your knees.
The trips were great, but coming home was an adventure. For the Houston return portion, we were supposed to fly out around noon, and be back in Lubbock by late afternoon. We had a softball game that night, so we were anxious to get home. We get to the airport, and find out our flight from Dallas to Lubbock was cancelled. The ticket agent told us we should try to go get on the stand-by list for an earlier flight to Dallas. That flight was late coming in, so we decided to take our original flight. We board the plane and get ready to taxi, and the pilot announces there are severe storms in Dallas and we would have to wait for clearance to leave. We were able to get off the plane to eat and walk around. We all got back on the plane when they said we had permission to leave. We get ready to taxi again, and the pilot comes on the speaker and says, that Dallas is still not letting any planes come in. So now it is middle afternoon, and we are still in Houston. Obviously, no softball for us that night. We again are getting off the plane when we are instructed to return to our seats. Another period of waiting. Around 7 p.m., we get permission to depart for Dallas. The pilot comes on and announces it will be another 45 minutes before we are cleared for departure. After we are finally airborne, the pilot comes on and says they got permission to leave because he and the co-pilot were close to timing out, and we would have had to wait another hour to get new pilots. Well, at this point I am frustrated, hot, and tired. The weather kind of matched how I felt–there were still storms–so we had to fly over Junction, then north to Wichita Falls, then over to Dallas. When we finally arrive at Love Field, we make it to our departure gate, just as the last plane for Lubbock was departing.
Here is the really fun part–we had a decision to make: We could try to go get a hotel or we could stay in the airport. I thought our luggage was probably already in Lubbock, plus I didn’t want to have to pay for a room. So, we had a slumber party in Dallas Love Field. What an experience! I wrote puppet skits and Jayda played and visited with other passengers who were staying in the airport. Finally, we made it home to Lubbock about mid-morning the next day. We both fell asleep almost as soon as we sat down on the plane. I figured out that between the time of our arrival at the Houston airport until we landed in Lubbock, we spent over 24 straight hours either on a plane or in the airport. It was an experience that I hope I never have to repeat.
The flight home in New York wasn’t as bad. We flew out of LaGuardia, and our flight was in the middle of the afternoon. We get there mid-morning, and surprisingly was done with TSA check in in less than an hour. Our plane got delayed coming in, so we were late boarding the plane. We sit there and sit there some more. Finally, the pilot comes on and says we were like plane 400 and something in line to depart. So, what was supposed to be less than 4 hours on a plane becomes over 5 hours on a plane. For a guy with long legs and my size, it was not a fun five hours. Then when we get ready to fly to Lubbock, we had to wait for some passengers who were late coming in, but we finally made it home. Thank goodness we didn’t have to spend the night in the airport again!
My vacations over the past couple of years have inspired sermons. In July I preached a sermon titled: Upgrades, Delays, and Coming Home. Delays are not fun, sometimes we don’t understand them, and we can get frustrated with the delays. Joseph experienced a delay in his purpose. The people of Israel lived in Egypt for over 400 years, and part of that time they lived as slaves to Pharaoh. The Israelites were delayed for 40 years from entering the Promised Land, because they did not obey the Lord, and doubted Him. The people of God also had to wait many years for the promised Messiah to come. I wonder how many gave up hope while they waited.
Here are some additional thoughts on delays: First, how do you respond to a delay? Do we get frustrated or do we take it and learn from it? When God doesn’t answer, do we get frustrated, or even worse, doubt Him? Or do we try to see what He may revealing to us or how He is moving in our lives? Secondly, we have to remember a delay is not necessarily a “no”. We live in an instant gratification society. We want what we want when we want it, and that is NOW. Just because God doesn’t answer your prayers at the exact moment, does not mean He has answered with a “no”. We have to remember that He is preparing us to be ready for an answer and that His ways are not our ways. I am reminded of Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Thirdly, sometimes a delay happens to keep us out of danger. Where we are may be in great shape, and where we want to get to may look great, but what we can’t see is the danger that lies between where we are and where we want to end up. We can’t see that, but God does, and He may place someone in our lives who can help us see the potential danger, if we just listen to them. We have to trust those who can see what we can’t are doing the best for us. God is the ultimate expert. He can see the pitfalls and dangers in our lives. David understood that. He served under Saul and I think part of that is God allowed to see how Saul acted as a King, and also taught David that He had to do things differently than Saul did. Fourth, prepare yourself for when the delay is over, and you will be ready to receive what God wants to do in your life. This goes back to the passage in Isaiah 40, which speaks of how we wait with hope and expectancy of what God will do. And finally, a delay doesn’t always ensure a smooth adventure. Again, we have to trust the ones who are in control of our lives. We can’t always be in control, we have to let others have control, and ultimately, we have to let God have control of our lives.
It always amazes me how the trip home seems to take twice as long as the trip to reach your vacation destination. But when you finally return, it is such a great feeling. You are back in your house, in your bed, with your pillows, and even though a vacation may be fun, you get back to a regular pace of life and a regular schedule. Over the last 5 months I have given much more thought to what it will be like when we finally get to go home to Heaven.
The Bible tells us we are not home yet. Our life here on earth is but a journey. Hebrews 11:13-16 says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left; they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Revelation 21:2-4 describes our new home, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
God is calling us to realize that we are not home. Why would anyone substitute a hotel room for a nice apartment or house? Sounds weird, but some do that. Perhaps it is the enticement of a free breakfast and free maid service. In our lives, it is easy to grow content where we are and with what we have. We shouldn’t grow content with what we have. It has always been interesting to me that when Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery they would grumble and cry that they wanted to get back to Egypt and eat leeks and onions, when God was calling them to a land that was described as a land flowing with milk and honey. God calls us to keep pressing on. Yes, there are times when we get weary, and we want to stop and just settle. At those times we have to remember what Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Al-Star Sports Camp
Our 16th annual All-Star Sports Camp was held this past July. Planning for a location was not as smooth as in previous years. Last year the Lubbock ISD recommended moving camp to a different campus. They said having it at the same location each year becomes burdensome to that school. Last fall our leadership team decided to go to the middle school in North Lubbock. In early March, Tony and I went to Cavazos, met with the principal and toured the school to view potential rooms for our use. The following weekend, Tony saw in the newspaper that Cavazos was going to have some major repairs done in the summer. Sure enough, a few weeks later, we were notified that we would not be able to use the Cavazos campus. We had previously decided that Alderson Elementary in East Lubbock was a backup choice. Alderson was the home of the first All-Star Sports Camp in 2004, as well as for a few other years. The week before school was out in May, we were approved to be at the Alderson campus. We truly felt like we were coming home.
Overall, the camp was good. We had 175 children attend at least one day of camp, and our average daily attendance was around 130. Out of the 175 children, 110 were new to sports camp. We had at least 16 children respond to an altar call. Since 2004, God has allowed us to present just at 2,500 different children with the Gospel (counting children who came multiple years only once).
Our theme for this year was: I am a Child of God based on John 1:12. Our daily themes were: Monday, I am Chosen by God, Colossians 3:12; Tuesday, I am Special to God, Ephesians 2:10; Wednesday, I am Loved by God, John 3:16; Thursday, I am a Friend of God, John 15:15; and Friday, I have purpose in God, Jeremiah 29:11.
One struggle this year was that volunteer numbers were down. Last year, we had 80 volunteers, this year we were at 60. There were a few days where our football coach had no other coaches helping him. Some of the volunteers had a challenge following our rules and expectations, and some had attitude problems, but God still blessed us with a good camp.
As can be expected, we have already begun planning for All-Star Sports Camp 2020. (We typically begin the next year’s camp prior to the current year’s camp start date.) Our potential themes will either be PRESS, based on Philippians 3:14, or, FAITH, based on Hebrews 11:1. PRESS or FAITH will be used as an acronym for our daily themes. We are hoping to return to Alderson Elementary and we are looking at July 20-24 as camp week.
We again feel God is calling us to make some pretty big changes. The biggest change will be in our leadership structure. A few weeks ago, I began working on an organizational chart with job descriptions for each position. This will allow us to get some fresh ideas and personalities in our core group. I am also hoping this will give people a sense of being more invested in camp, so they will then go out and get volunteers and promote camp before camp begins. We also plan to begin investing with some of our younger youth volunteers on a monthly basis, to encourage them and teach them to be disciples and leaders at camp. Also, we are making a financial investment to enable us to host our volunteer orientations on our web page. Please be in prayer for all these changes.
This year has been interesting in our giving. We are no longer able to work as many events at Texas Tech. Youth cannot work registers due to beer sales, and we aren’t able to get enough adults to come help. So, to help us have a strong finish for 2019, we are hosting a Cornhole Tournament at 4ore Golf, on October 26th. The tournament will also include a longest drive contest at their driving range. We are still working out details on starting time and price. There will be sponsorship opportunities as well. For those who don’t know, Cornhole is a game where you toss beanbags through a hole on a board. Each team consists of 2 players. It will probably be a double elimination tournament. When we finalize more details I will let everyone know.
A New Look to our web page & Social Media Presence
As I mentioned in our last newsletter, our web page: www.livingabundnatlytx.com will be getting a “redesign” this year. I have been working on it off and on since January, but I am hoping to get all the revisions to our web hosting company soon, so keep your eyes open for the new page!
Ways to Support Living Abundantly Ministries Online
I wanted to remind everyone of the online ways you can support Living Abundantly Ministries:
Flipgive. Flipgive is an “online” shopping mall. There are many different stores and restaurants. These include Nike, JC Penney’s, Target, and Wal-Mart. Each business gives back a different percentage. Here is the link to our Flipgive fundraiser https://www.flipgive.com/teams/43796-living-abundantly-ministries
Amazon.com If you purchase anything from Amazon, you can support us as well. Go to the following webpage. smile.amazon.com/ch/75-3153403 This is an ongoing opportunity for the ministry.
Ways to Connect with Us
I wanted to make sure that everyone has ways to contact the ministry. Our office phone number is 806-368-8983. Our mailing address is: Living Abundantly Ministries * P.O. Box 16491* Lubbock, TX 79490. Our web page is www.livingabundantlytx.com. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Don’t forget you can also find us on: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you received this newsletter through the mail, and are capable or desire to receive it through email, you can subscribe to the newsletter at the following link: https://livingabundantlytx.com/connect-with-us/newsletter/.