Archive for August 2010

Advancing Back To The Basics

August 31, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. August 30, 2010
In different venues and in different ways God has been hammering me- okay, how about “vividly teaching me”- about the ongoing need to return to the basics. I teach my basketball players that principle all the time. No matter what level of basketball you are playing at- junior high, high school, college, professional- there is always a need to work on the basics.”
When God reminds me of that in my personal life, my devotional life, my prayer life, and my life as a pastor it is a mixture of “stinging news” and “A…ha” moments. We tend to think we can say farewell to the basics, because we’ve matured and grown.
It seems that the bible is filled with examples of people who had to advance back to the basics. The Israelites had to learn some basic lessons over and over and over again. They seemed to be habitual forgetters about the basic truth that God is the Provider. When they whined about not having meat in their 40 year journey, God radared a flock of quail upon them. God reminded them so much of the fact that he provides that he told them that the quail would start coming out of their nostrils and thay they would loathe it (Numbers 12:20). The journey to the Promised Land was filled with getting back to the basics.
And Jesus’ disciples often had those “children’s story” moments as well. I love the story of the disciple’s discussion about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus takes them back to “Dick, Jane, and Sally’s primer lesson” on “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first…” (Mark 9:35)
Yesterday I was invited to attend an assembly at the middle school I’ve coached at for the past 8 years. The assembly was a presentation of “Rachel’s Challenge”, originating out of the shooting death of Rachel Scott at Columbine High 11 years ago. The students were attentive and engaged in the presentation, and I walked away realizing that “Rachel’s Challenge” is built upon five very basic principles that everyone knows, but forget to follow. Here they are:
• Look for the best in others- Eliminate prejudice.
• Dare to dream- Set goals
• Choose positive influences- Input determines output.
• Kind words and actions= huge results
• Start a chain reaction with family and friends.
Basic principles. They were presented with video and in a variety of ways, but they still came back to basic foundational truths. Not one of us would look at any one of those principles and disagree with any of them, but we are negligent quite often in living by them…even though we know how they important they are.
The people of God have a way of getting so ahead of themselves that we resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa- always in danger of tipping over.
Moving forward always requires that there is firm footing on the foundation. We never grow past that, and, in fact, growth and health is intimately connected to it.

Gray Days

August 23, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. August 22, 2010
Back in June I issued a challenge to the children at our summer day camp to collect a certain amount of money for mission concerns around the world. If they achieved the goal I would get a Mohawk haircut. They did and I “was done!” About five days later Phil, my barber, took the rest of the Mohawk off. Having just “stubble” on top of my head wasn’t a bad thing for the summer months. I didn’t have to worry about my hair being messed up in the morning- it wasn’t there!
Now…two months later I’m looking like a Chia Pet with my hair sticking out and up. It’s still not long enough to use a comb on (I can’t even remember where my comb is!). Half the time I think I look like Dr. Emmett J. Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back To The Future. The other half of the time I think I’m sporting a hairstyle that is cool! I can’t think of another word to describe “happening!”
As it is growing back out, however, I’ve noticed something. There’s more gray! I was hoping it was the lighting, but it’s not. It’s gray, as gray as a Fall day in Michigan!
There are two ways of looking at it. The first is the realization that gray is not a phase that comes and goes. My hair isn’t going to turn back to brown…unless I help it.
It’s gray to stay!
The second way of looking at it is that scripture says some good things about “grayness.” I like this one. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31)
“Righteous, brother!” I feel really hip in using that word.
I never really thought about gray hair being a crown. I’m not sure what that says about bald-headed guys.
Then there’s Proverbs 20:29. “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I’m going to use that verse the next time someone asks me to help them move. “See the hair. Ask someone who still has strength.”
I should feel flattered by my increasing grayness, but gray is used to describe so many unimpressive things. Like a lot of unclear decisions, it’s a gray area. A day that few people care about is one with gray skies. Being color-blind, gray is very confusing and frustrating to me, because I can’t tell if it’s green, off-white, or even pink. Gray is non-committal. It gives me no authentic sense of what it really is.
And yet when it comes to hair, the Bible makes it sound desired and honored. It makes the gray-haired person feel appreciated. It’s funny how we try to hide our gray when it starts appearing, like it’s a bad case of teenage acne. Companies makes millions of dollars helping people hide their gray. I wonder what would happen is all the “gray-away” products were suddenly recalled for a few months. Would we be shocked at how we really look?
I’m going to go with the flow on this one. Carol says I look distinguished. If I could just grow some stubble on my face Brett Favre and I could almost be mistaken for twins.

Just Above The “E!”

August 17, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. August 12, 2010
“Just Above The ‘E’!”
I remember traveling in my Civic up to Casper, Wyoming, about a year ago. My little car gets pretty good gas mileage, but it was getting dangerously close to touching the top of the “E” on the gas gauge. The caution light that is shaped like a gas pump was intensifying. Casper was still about 15 miles away. I prayed that car into a Diamond Shamrock station at the first Casper exit. The fuel tank coughed at me when I opened the fuel cap.
There are many days in our life that are lived just above the “E”. We’re pretty sure how much has gone out of our tank, but we’re uncertain as to how much is left in the tank. We’re just trying to get to the next point, the next moment, the next day. We can super-spiritualize it with how through Christ all things are possible, and how God is the Lord of the impossible, but we often try to tippy-toe around the scriptures that talk about Sabbath rest, and even Jesus getting off by himself for some quiet time.
And I’m guilty as charged! My 22 year old baby said to me last week, “Dad, you work too much!” And I’m trying to do better. I could give all kinds of excuses, but the bottom line is she’s right. I live a lot of my life just above the “E”.
The other factor is that each one of us is different. When we were driving up to British Columbia on our mission trip, the Odyssey van that was pulling a trailer had to be refueled a lot more often than the other vehicle. It was pulling a lot heavier load. The descent to the “E” didn’t take very long.
Each one of us is different as well. When we’re pulling a heavy load in our life it’s a time period when we get to the drained point more quickly. Those “loads” could be family stresses, job difficulties, school deadlines, sicknesses of people close to us, people placing more and more demands and/or expectation on us. The “E” arrives “early.”
Other people have an “E” that could more easily stand for “endurance”. They go like a compact car for longer distances, longer periods of time. Long after others have had to pull to the side, they are like the “Eveready Bunny”- still going. They may not be able to carry heavy loads, but they can steadily proceed with a lighter load. At some time, however, they too come to the point where they are just above the “E”.
Each of us need people in our lives who “encourage” us when we’re reaching the out-of-gas point. Encouragement can sometimes mean “exit here” before it’s too late; and encouragement can sometimes mean “excellence” is taking place.
Just above the “E” is a danger zone where unwise decisions can be made. I was talking to someone recently who was experiencing another “E”- exhausted. I used another “E”- encouraged- to advise him not to make any major decisions for a certain length of time. In other words, pull to the side and pray before going on your way. Although, as my daughter has painfully pointed out, I work too much I’ve learned to recognize when I’m just above the “E”, and hold off on proceeding carelessly.
The same could be said about congregations and ministry teams. Do we recognize our most vulnerable, and often irrational, times, and pull to the side for a while? Do we allow our churches to have periods of rest when moving forward at that moment could bring us to the brink of destructive behavior? Do we recognize that God doesn’t always give us a green light?
Just above the E.”

The Pluses of Three In A Van

August 9, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. August 8, 2010

I’m still recovering, but it’s good.
Just a few days ago a team of five adults and five students returned from a mission trip to Rock Nest Ranch in northern British Columbia.
Two thousand miles up and two thousand miles back. The time at the camp was incredible, but the three days on the trip home were rewarding as well. I love conversing with students, especially after we get to that “comfortable” stage with one another. You know that you’ve reached that point when they start mimicking you in your presence, or razz you about your propensity to walk towards any Starbucks you encounter…even when it means running across six lanes of traffic and jumping a fence.
Young people are mostly misunderstood by adults. Part of that is how networked they are to text messaging, Facebook, cell phones, and iPods. It is not unusual to see two students sitting together sharing a set of ear buds with one another (each person having one ear plugged in) listening to a song of an iPod. But part of their being misunderstood is our tendency as adults to not be with them long enough to hear them.
Three days in a van will give you that opportunity…several times!
I find that with a lot of young people, to use a Young Life phrase, you have to earn the right to be heard. That takes time and risk. Even after risking investment in a listening relationship with them there will be setbacks and stepping back.
It seems to me that young people need to know that you’re willing to laugh with them, to authentically enjoy them, and to allow them into your world. Most of us find it hard to carve out the time to allow that to happen.
It was not an accident that Jesus spent three years with his disciples, investing in them, laughing with the, exhorting them, and even shaking his head in disbelief of them. Read the gospels again. The disciples said some off-the-wall things.
Send some time with a group of students in a van for three days and you will hear some off-the-wall things said. It’s part of the spiritual growth experience.
The best youth leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who look like them, but rather the ones who will ride the storms with them, as well as the roller coasters; the ones who will sit down with them with a cone of ice cream and lick away for a while, but also cry with them when they share about the tragedy in a friend’s life.
Kyle, Asher, Erin, Umar, and Ayah allowed me to be share a few days with them. It was awesome…even through Montana and Wyoming, even when I made noises in the middle of the night (Well, maybe just awesome for me on that one!), even when we were all tired, even when I gingerly tip-toed into the lake and they called me a wimp.
Thanks for touching my heart.
Starbucks, anyone?