Tag Archives: overcoming

Overcoming downers: the first American Bolshoi ballerina

pic from Joy's Facebook

pic from Joy’s Facebook

Joy Womack could have resigned herself to failure when she was kicked out of the renowned Kirov Academy at age 13. They cited her inflexibility and predicted failure for her.

Joy's hand is raised

Joy’s hand is raised

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But Joy didn’t give up. Today the 19-year-old is the first American ever to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy — and the first American to be contracted by the Bolshoi professionally. (Ok, so she wasn’t good enough for Kirov? Now, she’s winning roles traditionally reserved for Russians at the world’s preeminent ballet company, a reign of unquestioned dominance that has lasted for 200 years.)

Joy, a vibrant, Spirit-filled Christian, embodies her name. She got saved as a child and attended our church before her family moved to Texas. Her Twitter account says “I dance for Jesus.” She evangelizes everyone she meets.

with her dad, Clay Womack

with her dad, Clay Womack

I had scant conversation with her when she was a kid because I was a missionary in Guatemala when she was growing up in the church. But as I think about her overcoming failure, of her rejecting rejection, I’m inspired myself.

“She worked really, really hard,” her mom, Dr. Eleanor Womack, said. “She sought coaches and other techniques to improve her flexibility.” From the looks of the photo above, she’s not lacking flexibility anymore.

The video below was produced by the New York Times when they broke the story of Joy.

Thank you, Joy! (All photos are from Joy’s Facebook page)

Complainers are louder than complimenters

Complainers

Ignore the barking dogs.

I had a funeral — without dying. It was a good experience.

When I had to leave Guatemala, all the church members gushed about my good qualities. My defects, which previously had dominated evaluations, got forgotten. Now I know what it’s like to die.

Critics in the church

Where flowers grow, weeds want to go.

This is the Yelp predicament. A disgruntled customer is highly motivated to post a comment. A satisfied one, not at all. Businesses have been sunk by this psychological phenomenon.

If you are given to criticizing others in the church, realize that:

  • criticism is not a calling, not a charge, not a gifting from God. It lines up more with what the accuser of the brethren (Satan) does.
  • you excuse and justify your own faults.
  • you blow out of proportion your own merits.
  • you probably are unaware of all kinds of services and sacrifices made by the very person you’re criticizing.
  • the effects of your criticism will not advance the kingdom of God.
  • an ounce of compliment would do more good than a ton of criticism.
  • your criticism is probably motivated by envy and jealousy.
outreach San Diego

On outreach in San Diego, at one house they gave me bread. It was a nice little way for God to say, “Well done.”

If you take a lot of criticism, realize that:

  • Satan’s strategy is get you to stop your labors.
  • people throw stones at a tree with fruit (Spanish expression — to knock down fruit to eat, they throw stones. If the fruit tree is barren, no one throws stones at it.)
  • compliments mostly go unvoiced.
  • your life and ministry is in the hands of God, not of your critics.

When you overcome fear, you become dangerous

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Rob Scribner then

Rob Scribner then

My pastor, Rob Scribner, tried out for professional football to prove he couldn’t do it.

He just liked it. But he thought he wasn’t good enough. Because of hard work, he wound up on the team, playing for the then-LA Rams from 1973 to 1976. A lot of other guys didn’t even try out because they thought they wouldn’t make it.

Fear of failure is a major problem. Whatever you long to do but are afraid of doing, that is what you should do.

Pastor Rob Scribner now

Pastor Rob Scribner now

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. – Thomas Edison

The explosion of “fantasy” — sports, Second Life, etc. — is illustrative. People want more but are afraid to live it.

Christian, when you overcome fear, you become dangerous to the devil.

Hometown criminal now preaches Jesus

Edgar, second from left, lunching between outreaches.

Edgar, second from left, lunching between outreaches.

Bro. Glen prays with a needy soul.

Bro. Glen prays with a needy soul.

Pacoima was the city of Edgar’s downward spiral. It was there at age 13 he was arrested, high on PCP, trying to steal a car. It was there he was in-and-out-of jail until age 26. He got “two strikes” and under California law teetered on brink of life imprisonment. When he got out of jail, the specter of succumbing to his old life in this deathtrap of a city made Edgar shudder.

On Saturday, Edgar Cervantes went back to Pacoima. He went to tell others about the wonders of Jesus. For seven years, he’s been off drugs, away from alcohol, out of crime. He has outreached for Jesus in many

Edgar's nephews were in the audience.

Edgar’s nephews were in the audience.

places, but this was different. This is where the devil had waylaid him. This time Edgar went home get revenge on the devil.

There’s a pioneer church here so small they use a park childcare center for services. (Ah the beauty of pioneering! Where just one soul turning to Christ from sin thrills the soul!)

Junior, Edgar's nephew, saved out of tagging, now raps to listeners about what God has done.

Junior, Edgar’s nephew, saved out of tagging, now raps to listeners about what God has done.

After hours of passing out flyers and knocking on doors, only two souls came. One was Edgar’s brother. Another was a lady’s cousin. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. – Luke 15:7 NIV.

The place he feared became the place where the devil fears him. A place of defeat becomes a place of triumph. Only God can do this.

We pray, then play

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Before the game, prayer in the circle

Before the game, prayer in the circle

MAR VISTA PARK – The origin of Lighthouse Christian Academy’s hard-fought soccer victory Friday was in the small Central American nation of Guatemala.

Sophomore Luis Secaira opened scoring in the 43rd minute, and Freshman Robert DSC_0793Ashcraft finished off the game in the 76th minute. Both were born in Guatemala.

At game three in the 2012-13 season, the varsity Saints are 2-0-1.

DSC_0684After both teams stale-mated in the first half, fleet-footed Secaira put Lighthouse ahead early in the second half. Chasing an audacious through-ball from Stopper Tori Scribner, he bolted past Wildwood defense, rounded the goalie, slotted gently into the net — and fell down, the wind knocked out of him by an opponent’s elbow at the start of the 40-yard dash.

Lighthouse fans — out in force for the proximity of the playing field — erupted in cheers. They were already savoring a second DSC_0717victory, after a dismal season with no wins last year.

But the elation turned to anxiety 13 minutes later as Wildwood struck on a free kick just outside of the area, and the ball was headed into the Saints’ net.

DSC_0770Tied at 1-1, both teams fought an exhausting battle to move forward into striking range. Wildwood was unlucky to see hard-won penetration frustrated as a low shot on the far post bounced out and was cleared.

DSC_0742Meanwhile, the Saints relied mostly on counter-attack with the mind-boggling speed of forward Wyatt Hodgson, a tenacious competitor and natural athlete.

With four minutes to the final whistle, midfield magician Elijah Symonds – a.k.a. the human catapult – hurled a throw-in into the area. Surrounded by three defenders, Rob headed the ball backwards and into the net.

Wildwood players scrambled frantically for DSC_0737the equalizer. When the ref called the game, the Saints broke out in celebration. “We’re undefeated,” chimed Tori, who played nearly faultlessly.

While the Guatemalans scored the goals, at the DSC_0720other end of the field a Mexican American was ensuring the victory. Ace Goal-Keeper Adrian Brizuela blunted Wildwood attacking weapons with intelligent, hair-raising saves.

DSC_0655The freshman threw himself time after time with nervy kamikaze dives that only the most fearless goalies pull off.  While saves at both ends of the field were almost equal (Saints 7, Wildwood 6), the types executed by Adrian were technically more difficult — and gutsy.

Playing co-ed against all boys, the Saints gave a lesson in mental fortitude and doggedness. Refusing to tire, they dug deep to find the inner resources to grab the victory in what was their sternest test to DSC_0757date. With every match, improvement can be seen.

Looming ahead on Tuesday is the biggest challenge yet: the speed demons and master-class passers of Vista Mar. Can Lighthouse with half a team of beginners muster enough grit, concentration and determination to wrangle out a satisfying result?

**** Pictures thanks to Susie and Jennifer Scribner!

Scheduled victory

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Enjoying In-N-Out afterwards is a Lighthouse sports tradition. Nate (rt) proved his Fall injury has not hampered his bursts of speed on defense.

Rob and Adrian were decisive

Adrian and Rob were decisive

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

Tex cut surgically through their defense.

People are congratulating “my” 9-2 win last night. I just shrug. The truth is that “I” didn’t win with Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer.

The AD did.

The AD — Athletics Director, for those who don’t know the lingo — won the game. She scheduled it.

Pretty much all I did was shuffle our lineup so as to NOT score any more goals. In the first 20 minutes — one-fourth of the game — we had made 7 goals. So to lessen the humiliation for the other team, I pulled off good players and threw on beginners. I pulled attackers back into defense.

The lopsided victory was no coaching genius. It was guaranteed even before we started simply because we had superior players.

It felt like the gospel. God as AD schedules us trials that we are destined to win. We may celebrate on the field, but it was God who ordained everything to begin with.

To be sure, God schedules defeats for us too. To teach us humility, patience, effort, dependence on Him, etc.

You can have your cosmovision of universal randomness. I like being a Christian.

Richard Wurmbrand tells of being tortured for Christ

imagesOut of 14 years in jail under the Communists in Romania, I spent three years alone in a cell 30 feet below ground, never seeing sun, moon or stars, flowers or snow, never seeing another man except for the guards and interrogators who beat and tortured me.

I seldom heard a noise in that prison. The guards had felt-soled shoes, and I did not hear their approach.

images-1I had no Bible, or any other books. I had no paper on which to write my thoughts. The only things we were expected to write were statements accusing ourselves and others.

During that time I rarely slept at night. I slept in the daytime. Every night I passed the hours in spiritual exercises and prayer. Every night I composed a sermon and delivered it (to myself).

I had a faint hope that one day I might be released…

images-2To be in a solitary cell under the Communists or the Nazis is to reach the peak of suffering. The reactions of Christians who pas through such trials are something apart from everything else.

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Blogger’s Note: I stumbled across this book With God in Solitary Confinement, with the most unattractive cover, and discovered a gem we need to remember. God’s servants are suffering greatly around the world. They are an inspiration for us to live more whole-heartedly for the Lord. He died in 2001.

Get into the habit of faith

To form a new habit, willpower is more important than self-esteem. In his book Willpower, Roy Baumeister demonstrates that willpower is key to success in college, success in life, longevity and health. The possessor adheres to an unshakeable determination to achieve his goals.

If you’re accustomed to a dreary day of negativity, make some practical changes: Introduce or lengthen prayer time. Sprinkle your day with the Word of God. Arrest negative thoughts and force yourself to assume the best. Audibly confess the opposite of what gets you down. Continually go up to sit on God’s lap and tell your loving Father your struggles.

It’s amazing that willpower is akin to faith. They’re overlapping circle graphs with a significant shared region. This is the overcoming spirit of which the Bible speaks.

Is it possible to go from pessimism to belief? I am one who emigrated from the country of unbelief and unhealthy depression. I journeyed to the land of faith. Transforming my outlook has transformed my life. So I encourage you to get off your “but” and become a person of faith.

Life without struggle

 

Without struggle, there is no life.

Get used to struggle. Feel comfortable with it. Don’t run away, whine or complain because struggle is bound to be part of your life. We live in a fallen world. Life without struggle? No such.

Prayer is a key to triumph, not avoidance. David had his struggles. So did Noah. Daniel didn’t slip past it. Elijah went to the cave because of it. Jesus had the mightiest of all struggles. Paul was stoned and left for dead. John was exiled to Patmos.

Nelly and Pastor Ludving

My greatest, latest struggle has been for Nelly, the wife of the pastor who took over my Guatemalan church. She has off-the-charts arthritis and a recurring hernia. I grew anguished as I heard about her difficulties. But I was just in Guatemala and saw her laugh. She delighted in cooking food for me. We shared wonderful fellowship with her husband. I realized everything is going to be all right. My faith had been slipping. The struggle is great. I should keep my faith level high and not grow discouraged.

If we realize we can’t avoid struggle, we can embrace it. It is like the gym. Lifting weights makes muscles grow. Struggle makes faith grow.

 

Powerlessness

I used to dismiss the notion of powerlessness. I had heard it in terms of sociologists who described people trapped by poverty. They’re just making excuses, I snorted.

Then, I grappled with powerlessness myself. When I was a missionary, an extortionist falsely accused me of a crime. I was the victim, but I feared the corrupt justice system coupled with anti-gringo sentiment would conspire to send me to the hellhole of jail in Guatemala. I fasted five days a week. I went to bed thinking about jail and woke up thinking about jail. I was gripped by the claws of  powerlessness.

At the end, God vindicated the innocent. I learned to trust Him even in the ugliest of scenarios. And I no longer scoffed at powerlessness. It is a huge and terrifying force.

When you’re facing cancer, you can feel powerless. When the recession closes all doors to you. With your prodigal child. With your unfaithful spouse. Addiction can render you powerless to stop abusing drugs. A hurricane is coming, and you can’t stop it or escape. You cannot take control of your future. There is nothing you can do. It is out of your hands. Anyone can belittle your struggle, but only you face these demons alone.

Being powerless is good. It throws you on God entirely. It arouses faith like nothing else. Your moment of powerlessness will be hellish anguish. But it will also be sweetest fellowship with the Lord. (Praise and worship was my only relief from my living nightmare!)

When you are powerless, He remains powerful.

He was whipped

 

His dad beat him severely to force him into a banking career and a sure income instead of music. But Johann Strauss II would not quit his passion, continued studying violin in secret and went on to become the king of waltz in the later 1800s to even surpass his father’s fame in Vienna, Austria.

When you decide to serve God, it doesn’t come with a promising retirement plan. The perks are few and not

His statute in Vienna

usually monetary. No doubt family and friends shark-attack you and rail against the “unwise financial career path.” But if you pursue your calling, God will eventually take you unawares with blessings.

Despite his dad’s

Even this tulip variety is named for him!

whipping, Strauss continued to believe in himself and pursue his love. Eventually he did quite well economically, composing over 500 waltzes and other pieces, including the famous Blue Danube. Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CTYymbbEL4.

He inspired Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner.

Go for the legacy, not the loot.

 

Hope Solo’s overcoming spirit

 

Goalkeeper Hope Solo knows how to rise above adversity. Her father abandoned the family, went to jail multiple times, lost touch with her for 10 years, and then died before he had a chance to watch her star on the U.S. national team. Never the victim, she’s the most feared goal-stealer inside the box.

In her autobiography, she states: “It’s a complicated thing, knowing how much pain my father caused in my life and the lives of others whom I love, yet still holding love for him in my heart. No matter what he did, he was my father. He helped create the person I am. He just didn’t know how to be a husband or a father or a responsible member of society.”

Focus on the good, let the bad fall by the wayside, and shut out your opponent. Hope is by no means a Christian, but she’s learned some very Christian lessons. Overcoming is the essence of Christianity.

 

The battering ram

Prayer feels like  a battering ram. Continually pound the resistance of the devil. Vigorous and repeated beatings of prayer shatter opposition, but usually not at the first smash.

Battering rams were effective siege weapons, used on gates or walls. Comprising a massive tree trunk — often mounted on a cart or suspended from a swinging structure, it repeatedly struck against fortresses with such force to crumble and splinter. Once a gape opened, attackers penetrated the city and engaged hand-to-hand combat.

How long it took to break open the walls or gates, depended on 1) the thickness and strength of the wall or doors, 2) the size of the battering ram, 3) the speed of the blows. The bigger the ram, the faster the blow, the more energy released. It was simply a matter of physics.

There must be a spiritual application of this. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. — 2 Cor. 10:4 NIV. Be patient in prayer; continue to strike against the devil, not with “vain repetitions” but with blow after blow of the battering ram. Hit hard. Don´t pray feebly. Pray forcefully, with faith and emotion. This moves God.

A goal sought after is like the siege of a city. It probably won´t be realized with just one quick-and-easy prayer. Stick to it. Realize that we are involved in warfare and the devil doesn´t cede easily.