Sunday morning someone said to me, “Go back on vacation!”  He then went on to explain, “The Tigers’ bats came alive while you were gone, then on the first day you are back they get beat 10-0.”  The sad reality is that they just are not very good this year.  I don’t care if you blame it on injuries, Avila, the hitting coach, or whatever, anyone who still expects them to make the playoffs this year needs a reality check.
It is great to be gone on vacation, but re-entry can be a brutal reality check.  My “to-do” list for this week currently looks insurmountable – important things that are not also urgent are being pushed back.  Down the road I can see STL will be having six memorial services (five individuals have already been called home and one is in hospice).  And our vacation did not have as much down time as usual (I had a wedding one week and preached at the church where Monica and I grew up the following week), so I am behind on my summer projects as well.
And then there is the feeling that, since we have passed the mid-point of July, summer is virtually over.  We need a reality check here, also.  The fact is Memorial Day was just 7 weeks prior to this past Monday, and Labor Day is 7 weeks after the same date!  We have nearly 2 more months of enjoying these “lazy, hazy, crazy” days.
Yesterday morning at FHL small group I experienced another reality check.  This one hit me so hard that I will be talking more about it in Sunday’s sermon (one of the items still on my “urgent and important” list).  I am still reeling from two Bible passages.  “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6.5) Even though these words were spoken preflood, they still describe how we are, by nature.  The second one, (The Lord says,) “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 9.33), reminds me of the reality that the bottom line is the simple question, “Do I trust Jesus or not?”  Every time I don’t, he is a stumbling block to me (and we all fall down).  As I am “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2.7), I am able to walk strong and secure.  So simple, yet sooooo challenging.
When I was growing up, I had an imaginary friend named Denny.  He and I could play together for hours on any given day.  Sometimes my mother would actually set an additional place setting for him at the supper table … along with a few other imaginary guests I would invite.  Denny is now long gone, but he has been replaced by a variety of other imaginary stories I tell myself (generally at night to help me fall asleep).  Of course, in all these newer stories I am the hero who is doing things in areas/fields that you would never find me.  And I continue to believe that a vivid imagination is healthy.
It only gets in the way when I refuse or ignore the reality checks that come my way.  This is one reason why I try to start each day with meditation and prayer.  I am not the superhero I imagine myself to be.  But the one true superhero has crated me (vivid imagination and all) in his image, adopted me as his own precious child, and promised that as I live in faith in him I “will not be put to shame.”  Moving into my day with this reality, I do my best to a) do what I can, b) acknowledge all my stumbles and offenses, and c) trust Jesus to guide my ways and bless my efforts.  The bottom line is that, as long as Jesus is with me, I come out the winner.
A few weeks ago a couple presented to me a decision they were struggling with.  The positives and the negatives on each side of the leger were equal, and they were at a loss as to which way would be the Godly way to go.  I suggested to them that, without a clear and dynamic “word from the Lord”, they could not go wrong.  Either way he would be with them with his guidance and blessing.  It reminded me of the time I had a call to a church in Dallas.  The plusses and minuses between serving there or staying a STL were equally balanced.  Finally, when someone from Dallas asked me what it would take for me to accept their call, I replied, “It would probably take the Holy Spirit slugging me in the side of the head with a 2X4.”  Though that person commented that he did have one in the back of his pickup, the “whack” never came.
There are times when I need extra reminders on the side of my inadequacies.  Other times my need is more to be reminded of his grace and provision.  Each are given to us by our gracious God to keep us balanced in the “sinner-saint” paradox of life on this earth as one redeemed by Christ.
As pleasing as the drafts this past year have been for our four major sports teams, the reality is that we do not know what kind of season each one will have next year … could be four teams in the playoffs, or none.  Another reality is that I am likely to feel behind in my work at least until February … as I have for most of my days in ministry.  We also know that warm weather will continue to come and go even after school resumes.  But the ultimate reality is this: “In Christ Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” (Ephesians 1.7-8) This reality has been checked, and double checked, by that one superhero …
The only question that remains is how will this reality check affect your (and my) day today?

Reality Check