Ahhh . . . Summer Vacation Stories – 2½ minute read

DSCN1426 (2)Drew and I headed out to a wedding and for a much-needed summer vacation at one a.m.. In a grassy area at the end of our gated driveway an older model SUV had been parked. The car seemed to have been abandoned but walking up to a vehicle in the middle of the night could be dangerous. No license plates on the SUV raised further concern.

Drew decided to go back to the house and call the police. The second time we came down the driveway we found two men and a truck by the SUV. One of them said he had broken down. The second man with his truck would try to jump the SUV. Drew explained that we had called the police to check the car and they were on the way. And then, rather than be late to our destination, we left. What?? Yes, we left. Not the best way to start our summer vacation.

Since childhood all of us have experienced summer vacations that are, well, not that fun when happening. Flat tires, hotel reservation mix-ups, sickness and the vocal refrain “Are we there yet?” challenge us in our summer travels. For us, the questions of, “Did the police come? What were those guys up to? Were they looking for houses to rob?” accompanied us on our vacation.

The surprising outcome of challenging summer vacations is we talk about them for years. “Remember the summer vacation when …” Each family has at least one and probably more. The stories are relived at every family gathering. The retelling of those stories includes a fondness that is hard to explain. Those shared memories bind us together, give us a common history and help us to realize we can overcome our obstacles.

Thinking about the unanswered questions we left at home recalled more difficult times in my life. I wondered if one day the Lord and I would sit down and talk over my life stories like family members do their summer vacation stories. “Do you remember Kit when you thought you couldn’t go forward, but you did? Do you remember when all seemed lost, but it wasn’t? Do you remember when together we overcame obstacles you couldn’t have on your own?”

“Yes, Lord I remember.” And remembering those stories helps me to realize when difficult times come, like summer vacations that are less than the best, I am not alone. I am a part of a much larger family. One day my life stories, as well as yours, will be retold with even greater fondness.

So, what about the men at the end of our driveway? They were gone when we returned, and our home was untouched. This year’s summer vacation will be one we will retell for years to come.

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People are Interested in God – ½ minute read

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Falling church attendance and the growing skepticism about religion among younger people would led one to believe that people have lost interest in God.

I’ve read several best selling novels lately that would indicate otherwise. Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger are both secular stories that treat God as very real and good. My own novel The Ambassadors attempts to do the same, but falls far short of “best selling.”

Then why is Christianity out of favor with so many? Many conflicting viewpoints would offer ideas. I believe that unfounded dogmatism among some religious leaders is a major factor. The Lookout Magazine featured my article, The Power of Church and Science Together, which could apply to the tragic situation. The links are active, if you are interested.

Note to followers: I’ve not posted many blogs in recent months. Kit and I have been busy doing some very good things. We hope to now resume providing meaningful and thought provoking ideas. Thank you for your interest.

In Our Lord,

Drew

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Space Shuttle Explosion – 1½ minute read

CaptureAs a young engineer, I had the privilege to work on the design of the American Space Shuttle. Among other systems, I designed what became the urine dump system.

Years later the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle brought great sorrow to me. Perhaps you too remember that dreadful day.  If not, you’ve probably see the photos of the great Y in the sky as the pieces separated. But I found out that the morning of the Challenger launch, the engineers who had designed the solid propellant boosters phoned NASA, trying to cancel the launch.

“The seals are not designed for the temperatures on the launch pad this morning. The rocket could explode,” the engineers insisted. “You must postpone the launch.” But the managers at NASA didn’t listen to the engineers; they punched the button anyway. Five, four, three, two, one . . . BOOM!! Exactly what the engineers who designed the rocket said could happen, did happen.

You may think, How could anybody be so foolish as to not listen to the designers? But the NASA managers felt that they knew better, and we all remember the result.

Sometimes people’s lives seem to explode: relationships, finances, health. Trying to make sense of it, they may wonder, Why did this happen? Where did I go wrong? Unfortunately, many times they thought they knew better than God, the designer of life. He knows how to make life worthwhile, meaningful, and purposeful. Failure to listen to God’s warnings is frequently a cause of hardship. The Bible has given us some instructions that can prevent many explosions in life. However, for the Bible to protect us, it must be correctly interpreted. Please checkout our life skills book,  MTO Choices – Making Good Decisions

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Communicating with stories – 1½ minute read

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Kit telling a story

Effective stories like Jesus’ Good Samaritan or Paul’s testimony in Acts 26 have an introduction, crisis, and resolution making a point. The crisis creates suspense and may evoke emotions. A resolution should bring closure to recipients.

We observed one couple tell about a horrific traffic accident and then continue their presentation. But the group mentally stayed right there at the accident scene wondering, “What happened next?” Frequently we hear stories meaningful to the teller or one they enjoy repeating, but without a point. Only stories illustrating spiritual principles communicate to change lives.

Everybody has suffered through long and boring stories. Rarely should a spoken story be longer than 500 words—about three minutes—or you risk losing the listeners’ attention. Jesus’ “Good Samaritan” story is only 179 words. His longest parable, “The Prodigal Son,” contains two stories totaling 487 words. Paul used just 460 words speaking to King Agrippa.

The most effective verbal stories are prepared in advance. To communicate concisely and clearly, eliminate details not needed or relevant to the point. President Woodrow Wilson, known for succinct and effective communication, was asked how long he spent preparing to speak. “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

Listeners, especially young adults, respond best to verbal stories if you act out the story with exaggerated voices, expressions, and gestures. You may feel foolish. But our purpose is communicating, not feeling good about ourselves.

But the most important audience for our stories is ourselves. God is continually seeking to teach us through our experiences, just as He did to hundreds of men and women documented in the Scriptures. What can we learn by reviewing our own lives? What can our personal stories of faith and folly communicate about God to others?

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Prayer Triggers – 1 minute read

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Drew at about the time he started using prayer triggers.

At Georgia Tech, Christian activities took a lot of my time. One activity I didn’t relish was 5:00 a.m. prayer with other male students on Wednesday mornings. I’ve always been a night person. But lest I appear unspiritual, I showed up every week.

A local church let us pray in their library. Most of the guys sat on chairs or couches. But a few of us stretched out face-down on the plush carpeting. Prostrate before God, we imagined. One morning I woke up from a sound sleep after all the others had gone on to class.

Those prayer times made me aware of different styles of prayer. Some of the guys gave long spiritual sounding prayers using a lot of King James English. At the time, I thought they were posturing. (I’ve already admitted that I attended for appearance sake myself.) I then adopted a simple language and halting style for public prayer that I continue to use.

About that time I also started to use what I call prayer triggers–an occurrence that brings a person or a need to mind. For example, loading paper into a printer reminds me of a friend who first showed me how. I frequently pray for him at that time. Whenever national weather forecasts predict severe weather in a certain area, I usually remember and pray for those I know living there. I know some young Air Force officers, deployed to bases in conflict areas. Jets passing over our house remind me to pray for them.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I fall short in that admonition. Prayer triggers help.

Drew Coons

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Fishing Invitation – 1 minute read

Teenaged Drew lived for catching fish. Who caught the fish mattered little. Seeing someone else catch a fish almost equaled catching one myself. Bored from a Boy Scout exhibition downtown, I wandered down to the Tennessee River. There I found a man watching his eightCapture (2) year old daughter who hopefully held a rod with a line into the water.

By their appearance, that family had experienced some hard times. “I’d give anything I got to see her tie into a big one,” the man confided.

Fat chance; in this spot, under a hot sun, with the wrong bait, I thought. But the man’s love for his daughter was evident. I too fervently hoped the little girl would catch a fish. That miracle didn’t happen. But God planted in me a dream. Someday I’ll have a place where kids can catch a fish–a big fish.

Seventeen years ago, I achieved that dream. Kit and I nuture a fishing lake where we allow children and international guests to catch a fish–a big fish. Many who read this probably don’t know we offer fishing experiences. If you have school-age children, grandchildren, or mentor a child–perhaps from the city–you can contact us. We supply all the tackle and bait. All you need is a kid and a little hope.

Drew

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Communicating Effectively – 1 minute read

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Two prominent Christian leaders at a missionary conference gave diametrically opposed interpretations of scripture. I expected the conference would be abuzz with controversy. But it wasn’t. To my astonishment, nobody I spoke to had noticed. Many extolled both speakers for their powerful presentations.

Two years later I served in a planning group with one of those speakers. Thinking that I could have been mistaken, I reminded him of the conference and asked, “Did the other man contradict you?”

He sighed. “Yes, he did.” And he sincerely thanked me for noticing.

I’ve since discovered that many people confuse the tone and delivery of a message with the content. Frequently they enjoy the presentation without being able to explain what it was about. But the fault is not all on the hearers. Speakers with willing listeners have a responsibility to communicate however necessary to be understood.

For the last ten years Kit and I have been teaching leaders all over the world how to effectively communicate God’s truth. In May, we’ll lead a similar training at FamilyLife for the third time.

Everybody knows that communicating effectively is also a requirement for a good marriage. We’ve been privileged to share biblical principles for marriage all over America. We would love to serve you by leading a seminar or retreat.

Manual Imp Comm

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Mining Joy – 2 minute read

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I’ve been thinking about my alma mater lately. Fifty years ago I studied engineering at Auburn University. Auburn’s basketball team recently advanced in the NCAA tournament to the final four for the first time in school history. That gave me profound delight. I’ve since wondered, Why did the success of some athletes you’ll never meet make you so happy?

You see, I’m not really an avid sports fan. Oh, I like sports on TV–mostly to help me sleep. And a younger me loved playing sports. Yet my head does understand the attraction of fandom. Being a fan of a team can give a person an identity and hundreds of thousands of fellow-fans to affirm their choice of identity. Sports can also give those socially conditioned to hide emotions a chance to display feelings publically. Neither attraction fits my temperament. So I care little who wins or loses, except for Auburn.

After four years of hard work, I graduated with high honor. I thought the world revolved around Auburn. Indeed my world had for four years. After graduation, I learned that nearly everyone feels exactly the same about their school. Neither do various rating services comparing colleges and universities reveal Auburn as being exceptional. The logical and honest side of me has pondered, Why do you have such lifetime loyalty for a place that knew you only as student 7075210 and not at all after graduating?

Auburn did give me an education that led to a wonderful career. That’s not enough to explain my loyalty. Rather I’ve come to realize that my feelings are based not on the school itself, but on my experiences there. Many never before–always after experiences were compressed into four adventurous years. I started Auburn at seventeen and immature even for that age–a person like an outline in a coloring book. I left Auburn colored in. At Auburn, I made decisions about who I would be for a lifetime. Auburn provided the nest in which adult Drew hatched.

One other factor explains my feelings of joy associated with Auburn. I’ve not remained in-touch with many of my Auburn friends. But I pray for them sometimes, wherever they might be. Whenever Auburn manages a major sports victory, I’m happy for those friends and share a dis-connected moment of joy with them. Memories can be like mining joy from your life. My prayer for you is to embrace eras of your life that give you joy to recall.

Love ya always, Auburn.

Drew Coons – Class of 1972

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Frogs on the Floor – 1 minute read

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Kit in Beautiful Fiji

Kit and I waited at a rural church in Fiji for a group of students to gather. We had been asked to talk candidly about sex and relationships. A big frog came hopping down the main aisle. I thought, This is different. When a second frog joined the first, snapping up bugs between the pews, I decided that we needed to run them out. The village children shrieked with laughter at my efforts to chase the frogs between the pews. Finally, with the frogs flushed out, we started the meeting.

The meeting started with some melodic Fijian songs. Enchanting moments like that are a  delightful benefit of serving overseas. But during the singing, more huge frogs joined us through the open door. By the time we stood to speak, tongue-snapping frogs hopped all around our feet. The frogs became a constant distraction to us.

Afterwards I fumed, “Lord, it’s hard enough trying to speak in another country, to a different culture and age group, without having to worry about stepping on frogs!” God immediately revealed to me my wrong attitude. I had been more concerned about showing how well I could speak than I was about the message the Fijians received. They didn’t care about the frogs.  

Thinking less about looking good and genuinely serving others despite distractions can provide us with a world of opportunities. Kit and I have spoken in thirty-nine countries outside the US, in some of the countries many times. Almost always, circumstances made the task difficult. “Frog on the floor,” we whisper to each other. We have learned to love them.

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Why us? – 1 minute read

Unbelievers sometimes ask, “How could anyone trust in a God who allows so much suffering?” If you choose not to trust in God, that’s a convenient, noble-sounding reason. But “so much suffering” is relative. Living in Africa, we saw many suffering the effects of polio, blindness due to measles, AIDS, and leprosy. To them, the suffering most people experience in America might seem less traumatic.

A more valid question is when Christians ask, as Gideon did in Judges 6:13, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” They reason, “As a parent, I would never willingly allow my children such heartache. Why does our heavenly Father?” These often-unspoken questions can undermine our faith and render us ineffective for our Lord. God didn’t rebuke Gideon for asking, but God had to build Gideon’s faith through some remarkable signs. For us, God has given the Scriptures to build our faith.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

9Cpg5VRA         The key to dealing with suffering is to focus on God in faith, maintaining confidence in His ultimate purposes. Indeed, faith of this nature is the key to a victorious Christian life. Our Bible-based life-skills book and discussion guide, More Than Ordinary Faith, explores God’s purposes for suffering.

However, our faith must be in God and not the purpose itself. For Scripture nowhere promises to reveal God’s exact purpose of suffering in a given situation. One reason God may not reveal His specific purpose is that to a person experiencing suffering, no reason would seem good enough. An honest Christian mother who had lost a child told us, “If God said to me that because of my son’s death, all of Africa would come to Christ, that would not have been a good enough reason.” Although God may not reveal His specific purpose in our suffering, He does give us plenty of precedents in Scripture to give us comfort and confidence that He does have an eternal purpose.

Drew Coons

 

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