Homeless to Famous: Thoughts on the greatest week of Ted William’s life, Part 2

Now, this isn’t a Jesus juke, but it seems to me the subtle, unspoken message from this whole event is “How did a guy with such talent end up on the streets?”.

My son, when he was just a toddler, used to love to push the recycling bin around the house.  And every so often, as I was taking the garbage to the curb, I’d look in the bin and notice my cell phone or some other random non-trash item.  It used to perplex me.

How did THIS end up in the garbage?  This has value.  This is useful.  It shouldn’t be tossed out like that.

And when you listen to Ted Williams speak, you can almost ask the same question.

How did HE end up in the garbage?  He has value.  He is useful.  He shouldn’t have been forgotten like that.

But that reveals a deep internal thought that we don’t really want to admit to.

We think everyone else deserves to be on the curb.

If Ted is the exception, than all of the other people with no home and nowhere to go simply become the rule.

I wonder how many other treasures we’d discover if we simply took to the time to not assume they belonged there.

 

 

Homeless to Famous: Thoughts on the greatest week of Ted William’s life, Part 1

My life has never been anywhere near as high or as low as Ted Williams.  I’ve had some pretty bad days, but never found myself in his shoes.  And, needless to say, I’ve never been the object of national attention.   But I had some thoughts about what is one of the more amazing turnarounds in a long time.

I think it is too easy to misplace the reason or cause for his sudden turnaround.  Some say that this is what makes America great.  A guy down on his luck can make it if he perseveres and doesn’t give up.  Or some say that it’s a testament to the power of the social web because without the viral nature of his story he wouldn’t have been afforded these opportunities.  Others have pointed to the videographer from the Columbus Dispatch or the paper itself for sharing the story.  All of those things are true.  But they are not the single cause for Williams’ turnaround.

Williams has continually given credit to God as the difference in his life.  The reason Ted Williams was able to have a week like this is because God loves the second chance… and the third chance… and the 839th chance.

Ted Williams didn’t get a lucky break.  He is the result of what God can do in a person’s life.  Doesn’t mean Ted will never do anything wrong.  Doesn’t mean Ted will always make great decisions.  It simply means that GRACE is greater than anything this world has to throw at a person.

“He’d be such a GREAT Christian”

I’ve heard it over and over as long as I’ve been in the church. 

“Man, could you imagine what would happen if <> became a Christian.  They have so much influence and don’t you know that the youths really listen to them.”

I’ve always hated that line of thinking.

One, because it’s an absolute lie.  We make the failed assumption that their influence is inherent within them.  But we know that’s not true.  Influence remains only as long as contemporary culture says they are relevant. And relevance is measured by the ability to cater to particular appetites.  Those are surrendered rather quickly once someone identifies publicly with Jesus.

It seems we’ve convinced ourselves that the reason that the world doesn’t love our videos, and movies, and music, and books is because of our production values.  If we could only be slicker, sharper, edgier, whatever they would give us their undivided attention. 

The truth is our culture only celebrates and gives attention to those things that feed their desires.  In a world carnally driven, the Spirit is not a hot commodity.

The other reason is because it’s a cop out.  The subtle undertone to this train of thought is that we are waiting for someone to show up and make a difference.  We need someone to take the reins and reach the world. 

We all to ready to wait for a white knight to ride to the rescue than we are to be the white knight ourselves. 

We’ve resigned ourselves to the thinking that programs, events, special services and meetings will make the difference in the world of those around us.

Imagine what could happen if we became great Christians…

Living with the Asterisk

The asterisk is the little guy in the corner who gives you your first warning that the statement you’ve just read may not be as simple as the statement you’ve just read. He is your gateway, your Looking Glass, into an entire world of fine print and legal jargon. All for the purpose of allowing two competing mindsets (marketing vs. legal) to occupy the same space.

Marketing wants to tell you all of the AMAZING things that will happen once you buy-consume-read-attend-clickon-watch-etcetera their item. Legal wants to tell you that it’s not their fault if it doesn’t really happen.

And, the reality is, whether we see it or not, we’ve all become accustomed to adding asterisks to what we see in our lives. We’ve been trained as consumers since we were small children to see between the lines of marketing and legal.

Remember, opening a Cracker Jacks box for the first time? There was a PRIZE inside!! OMG! Never once did I stop to think about what kind of prize could actually fit inside a Cracker Jacks box. All I knew was there was a PRIZE inside!! A prize that you couldn’t just go buy at the store. No, my friends, this was a prize that you could only find if you were fortunate enough to have the very same box of Cracker Jacks that I had. But you weren’t.

And opening it to discover the teeny baseball card, or tattoo, or whatever prize from the Island of Misfit Toys had found it’s way into my box left me a little deflated. But I knew from then on, I knew that Mr. Cracker Jack’s definition of prize and mine were not the same.

It becomes so easy to apply the same asterisk thinking to faith. Sure, we know that Jesus said to love your neighbor, to turn the other cheek. We know He said to take up crosses and follow Him. But, I mean, that’s not really what He meant, right? Where’s the legal fine print to tell us exactly what the terms and conditions of our love, sacrifice, and discipleship are?

We’ve read John 10:10 about Jesus offering us life and life more abundantly. To the full until it overflows. Or that God promises to heal, to save, and to redeem. But, surely, that’s just marketing talk to get me to become one more church consumer, right?

Maybe they didn’t have the asterisk in 6 AD.

Savoring Lost or Learning to Enjoy the Simple Things in Life

Of all the things that are taking place in the world at large, the end of a television show probably doesn’t rank that high. I can admit that. I have a completely obsessive relationship with LOST, but I am sober enough to acknowledge that in the light of the global, local, and personal issues we all navigate through on a daily basis.

However, as we near the end, I, like most fans of LOST, are expecting answers. After six seasons of polar bears and DHARMA hatches and Hurley birds and smoke monsters and weird, wet backwards talking Walt apparitions, we kinda feel entitled.

But it is that desire (NEED…?) for answers that may just make what should be the culmination of a long, strange journey anti-climactic and disappointing. Not because that the show is no longer entertaining. It is now competing with my own unrealistic and increasingly high expectations of what it SHOULD be.

How sad that I could miss out on something amazing simply because I could not set aside my own thoughts and expectations enough to receive it.

Yes, I know it’s only a television show. But what about other things?

What else do we miss enjoying simply because we haven’t learned to make the mental adjustment to make the most of them?

Buying a Man’s Munchkins and the Intentional Love of God

Had an interesting encounter the other day that I have not been able to shake.

I was enjoying an evening with my bride and we popped into Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee and a donut.  (Yes, I am a cheap date.)

As we were placing our order, a man came in with his young daughter.  And I didn’t give it a second thought.

Until I was suddenly seized with a sense that I should pay for his order.  This is not something that happens very often to me.  In fact, almost never.  It seemed that God was really impressing on me to make this small gesture.

As they were standing next to us in the other line and were finishing their transaction, I asked him if I might be able to pay for his order.

Now, I’m not really sure what sort of reaction I was expecting.  Surprise?  Shock? Gratitude? All I know is that when someone offers to buy me donuts, my answer is an immediate “Yes!”.

So, here I am, anticipating this dynamic exchange, and he simply looks me in the eye and says “No.”

???

I pressed again, saying that I would REALLY like to buy this man’s munchkins for him and his daughter.

“No.”

“Really?  It’s not trouble. I’d be happy to.”

“No.”

Eventually, I took the hint and let it go.  He paid and went his way.

But the whole scenario continued to bother me.

Thinking about it later, I realized that I had an incomplete expectation of how to engage people with the Love of God.  I’ve heard most of my Christian life that we need to share the Love of God with the world.

They are empty and lacking and needing love.  Truthfully, it seems it would be relatively easy to seal the deal.

But, that’s not how it is.  For most people, they are so unused to receiving love, experiencing it unconditionally, and are so calloused by a lack of love, they simply will not respond to it.  Only a specific and intentional application of love will be able to crack through the barrier.

The world is not clamoring for us to show up with love.  They are not anxiously anticipating us to lead them to God.  Our expression of love must be more forceful and committed than their hearts have been made hard.

I hate the “Facebook Maybe”…

Chances are you’ve probably received one. More than likely you’ve given one. I’m talking about the “Facebook Maybe”.

It all starts out so simply. You receive an event request. You look at it and realize that you would like to support the person or cause hosting the event. But you also know that you are not going to attend.

You have 3 choices. Select “Yes” and not show and hope they never bring it up. Select “No” and hope they don’t take it personally. Or a third option. The ultimate choice for commitment-phobes – “Maybe”.

I only realized how much I’ve relied on the “Maybe” when responding. “Maybe” I’ll be at your midweek Bible Study in Pennsylvania. Maybe. Except for the fact that I live in Jacksonville, FL and will not be purposefully planning on attending. BUT if I were to find myself suddenly transported there, I might choose to attend your gathering.

“Maybe” I’ll show up for the event for the group that I’m not even really a part of. Maybe. But I don’t really expect to suddenly change my plans at the last minute to intentionally surround myself with a bunch of people that I don’t really know. But I might.

Starting to see the value of my “yes” being a “yes” and my “no” being a “no”.

Don’t fall into the easy trap of answering “Maybe”. If you are truly unsure, wait until you have an answer then respond. If you must decline, then acknowledge it, but also leave an encouraging note to indicate your support.

P.S. This is directed at no one in particular other than myself. Trying to improve on some bad social networking habits…