Posted tagged ‘perfection’

The Pressure To Be Perfect

March 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        March 3, 2016

                                

A recent study out of England has concluded that parental pressure in many cases causes young athletes to resort to doping to enhance their performance level. Daniel Madigan, a PhD student at the University of Kent, writes that these “tiger parents” push their teenaged children to high levels of achievement. The athletes choose to turn to doping in order to meet their parents’ expectations and dreams.

The pressure to perform has been raised to now be a pressure to be perfect. I see it quite often in athletes who are more afraid of not meeting their parent’s expectations than letting their teammates down.

What now seems intolerable is failure! The reality, however, is that every game between two teams has a winner and a loser. The middle school boy’s team I’m currently coaching has won most of it’s games, but the other side of that is there are other teams who lose most of their games. Is that a bad thing? No, losing a game is just as much, and maybe even more so, a teachable moment as winning a game.

How often, though, do we look at falling short as total failure? “Falling short” is the reality of each of our lives. For some of us it surfaces in our athleticism, for others it appears in our school report card, and for others it becomes evident in the falling apart of our marriages or separation between ourselves and those who used to be close to us.

“Falling short” is part of our DNA.

Enter into that a reluctance to failing. Not a “Rocky” kind of perseverance, however, but a pressure to win that causes us to cheat, and fabricate, inject and falsify. Having perfect kids  becomes what parents press for, no matter the costs.

Little Johnny gets his own personal trainer who makes a living off “tiger parents.” The parents, however, expect Johnny to make them proud. They will not accept the fact that their son can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Johnny feels the pressure to perform and perfect and looks for that substance that will give him the advantage.

The pressure to be perfect is casting an ugly shadow over our schools and communities. Here’s the thing! Wherever there is some kind of unnatural or “unholy” pressure there will be an unhealthy reaction.

A high school junior gives up the sport he’s been playing since he was four because the pressure to be perfect has made the whole endeavor detestable to him.

A volleyball player suffers a major shoulder injury because she has overused the parts of her body that she spikes the ball with.

A student gets rushed to the ER because he has consumed too many high-caffeine energy drinks in his attempt to study for endless hours and hours in order to receive a 4.0 GPA.

A college student drops out of church, because his parents made him feel guilty all through high school if he missed any kind of church function. He began to think that God loved him only if he had perfect church attendance. Now he rarely goes, as he wrestles with this new thought of a God who is gracious.

The pressure to be perfect happens in just about any area of our culture, and it is often a very unhealthy experience.

The Worship of Excellence

May 18, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              May 18, 2015

                                  

Our church strives to do things the best we can in worship of our Lord, but I could write a book on the number of times when we have fallen short of excellence. Here’s a few examples:

-We are a Baptist church that has had a baptistry that kept leaking…bad! One baptism Sunday there was hardly enough water in it to qualify the person to be a Methodist, let alone a Baptist. One memorable Christmas Eve we baptized people in the inflatable pool of my grandkids that was shaped to look like a whale…including the tail! Joe, one of the people being baptized, and I still joke about him getting baptized in the belly of a whale.

-One Easter Sunday we had the wrong video shown. Instead of a nice beautiful melody that made the resurrection sound celebrate (which it is!) we had a video of heavy metal music that I’m pretty sure mentioned Satan and demon worship a few times. Awkward!

-A couple of people have done special music who missed more notes than hit them.

-People still remember my “oops” slip in a sermon when I referenced giving out “Lady Godiva” chocolates. Red face!

-I’ve led the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer a couple of times and I gone blank on the words. When the pastor stops midway through the prayer the silence becomes like a wave moving though the congregation.

In many ways we are a Lake Wobegon congregation!

We strive for our best, but often miss excellence.

And yet, I’m okay with that. People put their hearts and souls into using the gifts God has given them, and if that falls short of a concert hall experience…that’s okay.

Our culture…and especially church culture…worships excellence. It worships the seamless flow of worship where “dead time” is almost non-existent, and people can marvel at the precision, the timing, the carefully manuscripted event.

There is a difference between a worship experience and the worship of excellence. The first is about an encounter with God that stirs the soul. The second is a production that is a delight to the senses. One is spirit-moving and the other is foot-stomping. One gives us the feeling that God is seeing the condition of our heart and the other is a taste treat for our eyes.

The worship of excellence is like a glass of evening wine that is satisfying for a few moments with our feet propped up as we sit in the recliner. A worship experience is “new wine” that quenches the thirst of my soul.

We worship excellence. The difficulty is that the worship of excellence is prone to have grace evicted. Sometimes church culture is a mirror image of a professional football stadium crowd who break out into the booing of their team that is falling short of excellence in a contest. Very rarely is anyone on the field giving less than their best effort, but pro football fans have a tendency to check their forgiveness at the door…or after the third beer!

Worshiping excellence leads us to critical spirits where less than perfection is not tolerated. The worship of excellence does not allow students and interns who are still trying to figure out and be perfect. Worshipping excellence is about keeping score like Olympic gymnastics judges.

Worshipping excellence becomes deaf to prophetic voices. The words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel would not gain a hearing in a gathering of excellence worshippers.

There are those who have been gifted by God in the leading of people into a worship experience that will be remembered as being excellent…and we thank God for those he has so incredibly gifted. A gifted worship leader will always lead people to God, not to an experience.

In my office are several “drawings” from my grandkids. They will never be in an art studio, pinned to a wall with quality lighting on them to bring out the vibrancy of the colors, but they are works of art that bring delight to a grandfather’s heart…more meaning to me than a Rembrandt, and even more understandable than a Picasso.

Sometimes we encounter a display of love, such as that, and we respond “Excellent!”

The Perfect Bracket

March 14, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              March 14, 2014

March Madness is almost to the halfway point. State high school finals in many states are this weekend. College conference tournaments get finalized on Sunday.

And then the fun begins! Brackets for the NCAA tournament get announced late Sunday afternoon…and people will begin to fill in their bracket predictions.

Tough choices have to be made. Do you go with Gonzaga to reach the Sweet Sixteen? Will Mercer have a storybook ending to it’s banner season? Is Wichita State legit?

People have been just as successful in predicting winners in the NCAA by the cuteness of their school mascot as by the team’s RPI rating.

The ESPN Bracket Challenge has not had a single perfect bracket submitted in sixteen years. Thirty million brackets have been submitted in that time.

Perfect = Zero!

This year Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans have teamed up to offer $1,000,000,000 to anyone who submits a perfect bracket. That’s one billion in case I didn’t put enough zeroes in there.

The generous benefactors are pretty confident. The odds of someone turning in a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

The odds are you don’t even know what to call that number. I didn’t. But, in case you need to know, it’s “quintillion.”

So confident that no one can be perfect that Quicken will not be rushed in moving money to a special account.

It ain’t happening!

Such a situation gives me a new appreciation for “perfection.” Perfection is a dream…a Disney movie outcome! It is so easy to pronounce, yet impossible to achieve.

This may be the first time that Jesus gets connected to Bracketology. The impossibility of perfection was trumped by Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus not only did the impossible, he was the impossible. He had no sin…he was perfect!

Caution point! This does not mean that if you seek Jesus guidance in predicting the winner of Coastal Carolina-Creighton game that he is going to impart a fresh revelation to you.

What the perfection of Jesus does mean is that he took your imperfections upon himself…he atoned for your errors…and made you perfect in God’s sight.

Spiritually you have beat the nine plus quintillion odds.

Buffett won’t be sending you a check with a one and nine zeroes, but…after all, you can’t take it with you!

P.S. #1 Sign that God isn’t that interested in the NCAA tournament outcome: Louisville won it last year!

#2 Sign: Michigan was the other team in the championship game. I think God was interested as long as Wichita State was still playing. Thus, the interest of God might have returned. WSU is 34-0!