Monday, March 16, 2009

Jake's Thought for the Week

Each Monday I will be posting Jake's Thought for the Week which he sends out to all the parents of the players in his All Iowa Attack program.

Excerpt from Good to Great in Gods Eyes by Chip Ingram:
In each of our lives, if we’re going to have any possibility of becoming truly great in God’s eyes, it means turning upside down the entrenched worldly ideas of our definition of greatness. The difference couldn’t be more stark, as sinfully and culturally defined greatness looks like this: individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency; they pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification….
On the contrary, serving others for the glory of God; this is the genuine expression of humility. This is true greatness as our Savior defines it.

It was late last Monday evening as I decided to sit down on my couch and finish up the book Good to Great in God’s Eyes by Chip Ingram when I came across the second to last chapter of the book entitled Empower Great People. About two pages into the chapter the author began talking about greatness and more importantly attempted to define TRUE GREATNESS. As you could probably have guessed this topic caught my attention and as I read I could not wait to share all that was in the chapter with each of you for the thought of the week. The only part of the chapter that I did not understand was how real God was going to make it for me this week.

I had thought last week was just going to be the greatest week of my life. All of the kids had off which basically meant I had off and I would be able to sit in section 106 of Wells Fargo Arena all week, eat as many nachos as my heart desired, and watch basketball.

And my week started off going exactly as planned. About mid-week I had probably put on 10lbs comprised of nachos and ice cream. I had watched 16 high school basketball games and even had made friends with the stat keeper who began providing us stats of every game at halftime, as well as at the conclusion of every game. I did have a little hiccup in my previously planned schedule as I had a meeting in Pella on Thursday morning, and then had to head directly to Marshalltown for a funeral as my wife’s Grandma on her Father’s side had passed away. I had only met this particular Grandma a handful of times since meeting my wife nine years ago, and to be honest, in my heart I did not really want to attend the funeral. I know feeling this way was extremely selfish of me, and I did attend because I knew it was important to my wife. Well, many times when we least expect it is when God does His best work.

As we sat through the funeral many thoughts ran through my head, most of which did not include anything of great importance. As the funeral concluded I was walking behind her Grandfather out of the church and he briefly turned around and tears were pouring down his face. Her Grandfather and Grandmother were married 60 years and it was clear what they meant to each other. As I held my wife’s hand walking out of the church, all I could think about was being in her Grandfather’s shoes and having those tears pouring down my face. Would I be thinking about all the great times, or all the times I was simply blind to the great things God had given me until they were gone, because I was out striving for all of my selfish ambitions?

I hope the image of her Grandfather never leaves me and I am pretty sure it won’t as it was one of those moments where God took the hammer and hit me over the head. That same morning I received a phone call that the landlord of our new gymnasium Bob Fligg had suffered a heart attack the previous night. On the way home from the funeral I had tracked down Mr. Fligg’s wife to see how he was doing. As she answered the phone she assured me that he was doing great and told me the story of what had happened that previous night. I could share all of the details but the most important thing I remember from our conversation was she said ‘we had thought we had lost him, but the doctors brought him back, rushed him into surgery, and saved his life’.

I am not sure why but when she said 'I thought we had lost him' it was like God was sending another hammer down to hit me on my head. My first thought was to thank God that he had kept Bob with us and then my next thought immediately ran to what I had been reading that Monday night. The concept of our lives just being a vapor was never so true to me. Who knows when God will call us home but I began to realize that the things I was taking for granted each day was never so apparent. I kept thinking about all of those times I have not answered my phone because I did not want to be inconvenienced while working, how many times I pretended I was too busy to have friends come over for the evening, or all of those times where God was calling me to do more with the time He gave me here on earth.

God did not stop there. On Saturday night following the state championship game I texted many of the boys saying great job and how proud I was of them for accomplishing one of the many goals they had set years ago as 7th and 8th graders. One of the individuals who we had coached for five years texted me back the following: “Great game? I barely even got to play. I have worked by butt off for 4 years and was barely on the floor with my team. They really hurt me.” My heart truly sunk for that individual as I know 10-20-30 years from now he will look back on that evening and it will crush him; he missed the enjoyment of winning the state championship and what that accomplishment means because he was overly concerned with all of the selfish desires our world defines as truly great. But, again it was God hitting me with a hammer to do a better job of teaching each player we have what it means to truly be great!

God certainly worked on me a lot this week, and capped off the eye opening week as we finished up the third place game with the 8th grade boys in the 9th grade state tournament yesterday (Sunday). Coach Seay and I were walking out of the gym with Mike Nixon who was talking on the phone and all we heard was, “So, one died.” That will cause most people to stop in their tracks as we did and as Mike got off the phone he told us that Brett Vanderpool’s (owner of Sports University in Ankeny) wife was killed in a tragic snow mobile accident in South Dakota this weekend. God had finally brought me to my knees as we have spent a lot of time with Brett lately discussing ways our facilities could work together. I did not know his wife personally but during my drive home it certainly felt like I did.

Each day we do not know what may happen or when God might say it is our time to go. But, I do believe that during certain moments in time God sends us messages that are designed to get our attention. Many times it is because our eyes are blind to ways we are falling short of God’s purpose and His design for true greatness. I know true greatness will not always be convenient, will not always be appealing, and will not always be easy, but this week God has worked to open my eyes to what may be inconvenient may actually be a blessing in our lives, what is not appealing may actually be life changing for someone else, and what may not be easy may be the last chance we have!

James 4: 13-14
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Go Attack,
Jake Sullivan


Lori said...

Thanks Jake, for sharing your heart. I'm wiping the tears here at my desk and am so thankful that God's plan for your life includes us. ~Lori

Michelle said...

Wow, what an intense week! What a gift that Jake is so transparent and willing to share, now what God has taught him is teaching us too!

Thanks so much for sharing. SO good.

Jody said...

Hi Jake,
This is Jody Gates, a good friend of your in-laws, Betty Nicholson's daughter. Anyway, I ready your blog quite often as Lori comments about it often. You and Janel have big hearts that God has given you and I'm sure He will continue to not only use you for His Glory, but will continue to get your attention. Keep on listening.