Give Victory a Chance

An amazing thing happened this past weekend.  It helps if I set the stage a bit.

My family has never been accused of being particularly athletic.  The greatest accomplishment I ever experienced on the field of sport was with my high school marching band.

Now, people generally assume that a guy my size had to have played some kind of ball at some point in his life.  When asked what position I played in high school, the answer is always easy.  I played bass drum.

So, it was with a certain mix of trepidation, bemusement, and hope that I watched as my son began his first experience with organized football.  I am not one of those sport parents who imagines that their child is destined for a pro contract.  My interest is to present him with enough opportunities to discover what may or may not click with him.

All of that said, an amazing thing happened this past weekend.

His team won.  His team won and he played a big role in the success.  I saw the light in his head come on and saw him begin to understand the game and enjoy himself.

In watching him play, I was struck by a simple thought.

You can never know for sure that you don’t like something if you never experience a measure of success with it.  You owe it to yourself not to quit without first experiencing a taste of victory.

Sure, it’s easy enough to decide to stop when it’s hard and you don’t understand and it all seems pointless.  But only until you get to a place where you have pushed past the initial awkwardness and difficulty and experienced a little epiphany, you won’t be able to distinguish between your dissatisfaction with the activity/job/responsibility/role/etc and your apparent lack of success.

It may not be that you dislike what you are doing.  It may simply be that you have yet to see what it’s like when you are successful in it.

Give victory a chance.  Then decide if you want to quit or not.

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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.

Notes from the start of the journey

I’ve been feeling completely challenged.  So many things are happening and requiring focus and attention.  I have my neck outstretched in earnest anticipation expecting God to do some amazing things within and through me, my family, and with community of Vivid Church.

But I also feel sorta stuck.  Like somehow someone accidentally kicked the gear shift into park.  And I honestly don’t know exactly how it happened.  But I know that I refuse to continue in it.

And I’ve questioned myself as to the cause.  Did I do something that has moved me into a holding pattern and away from the flow of God?  Is there something attempting to hold me back?  Does moving forward simply require a higher level of consecration and dedication?

Regardless of the cause, there is a single answer.  Fast.  

If I’ve mistakenly moved, a time of fasting provides for honesty before God allowing humility and restoration.  If there is spiritual warfare, fasting works to break down strongholds.

So, why share this?  As I said, I’m expecting some major things from God.  And I thought it would be fun to let you in on the journey rather than having me come back in a few weeks and try to recapture everything.  

Also, I want to encourage you to join me if you are feeling stuck.  Let’s spend some time away from feeding our stomachs and getting before God.  

I want to know about your journey.  We can travel together.

Pulling Our Boats: When Culture and Technology Hinder

arctic-overview1I was watching PBS recently (as always) and saw a great episode of Nova titled “Arctic Passage“. It detailed the failed Franklin Polar Expedition from the 1850’s.

Outfitted with the best 19th century technology, Sir John Franklin set out on a journey to navigate a northwest passage through the Arctic waters north of Canada. It was a journey with a thousand horrible decisions and even worse outcome.

As the ships were crushed under the immense pressure of the surrounding ice, Franklin and his men decided to abandon them and set out on foot to safety. They were able to convert the dingys into sleds which they used to haul their gear and belongings. One of these sleds was actually recovered by archeologists.

What might you expect to find in a sled of polar explorers making their way overland to safety? How about brass buttons, button polisher, books, and silver plated silverware? Rather than focus on the things needed to survive in their new environment, they continued to hold on to the trappings of Victorian England. So much so, that archeologists estimate that each of the sleds weighed more than 1400 pounds.

But there fate was almost officially sealed before they even left port. Their choices of provisions reflect the popular tastes of the time, but were grossly unable to sustain the men in their time of need. Among the provisions were 9450 pounds of chocolate, 3684 gallons of concentrated spirits, 7088 pounds of tobacco. All things to be enjoyed and make life better, but not able to fuel a crew of men pulling 3/4 ton sleds across arctic wilderness.

If this was not bad enough, the literal killer was found in the technology that they thought would actually be their life saver. Included in the provisions were 33, 289 pounds of tinned meat. The revolutionary canning method would allow meats to be transported without spoiling and guarantee the men sustenance in the gravest of conditions. With one major drawback.

Forensic testing found that the men did not only die of exposure to the Arctic weather, but that most of the men were struck with severe lead poisoning. Studies proved that the food they had consumed had been tainted with lead. The lead came from the tinned meats.

The cans would be soldered closed and the soft metal used to seal the cans would taint the meat with lead. The men were already poisoned and sentenced to death before the ships were ever encased in ice.

I watched in amazement at the thought of trying to tackle foreign environments and situations from a traditional, cultural mindset. Sitting in London, the answers to their needs would be easy to solve. Faced with frostbite, scurvy, and lead poisoning, they quickly found that the culture of London did not translate to the Arctic.

It’s easy to scoff at the idea of dragging 1400 pound sleds full of novelties and trinkets across the frozen ground, but I wonder if we don’t often do the same thing? Why do we burden ourselves with so many needless weights when we are trying to survive in a new culture/environment?

How much of our own cultural irrelevance is found simply in the fact that we refuse to stop pulling our boats?

Christians and Politics

November cannot come soon enough.  The incessant commercials and talking heads are running continuously on TV.  Promises of change flood the airwaves on both sides.  But what has really pushed me over the edge? Christian folks.  

There are a lot of normally well adjusted, very gifted people who have a lot to offer others who seem to have been caught up in a vortex of political maneuverings and intrigue.  And they exist on both sides of the aisle. 

It is apparently en vogue for young evangelical believers to bemoan the current state of global affairs as the fruit of the current administration.  it seems an entire generation has discovered a new vocabulary with key words such as “social justice”, “change”, “environmentally aware”, etc.  

On the other side is the usual assortment of Christians who do not seem to understand that they are no longer king-makers.  Combine highly public moral failings and drastic missteps and misleadings from an administration that they were instrumental in putting into office and you get cultural irrelevance.  We need to understand that when our support of a candidate is used as ammunition against that candidate we risk alienating a large segment of the population in the hopes of gaining some political ground.  It’s just not worth it.

I am not saying believers should not be politically aware.  Research the candidates and make an informed decision.  

What does bother me is the tone that we have allowed to creep into our own dialogue.  It is contrary to the nature of love for believers to believe and hope for the worst in a person.  

Neither of these candidates, with their pluses and minuses, are going to redeem this nation.   

Let’s do our duty as citizens but not at the expense of character and compassion.

The Changing Face of Christian Ministry

I am sitting here this morning bouncing around online and something is abundantly clear.

WHAT A GREAT TIME TO BE A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST!

It is really amazing to see, hear, and read all that God is doing in all the various parts of His church. No one can deny that there has been a major shift away from “Lone Ranger” style of ministry to the local church. It is so encouraging to see all of the dynamic pastors that are committed to building local congregations and still addressing global issues.

And this emphasis on the local church is resulting in more and more people who are being mobilized to make a difference. It seems that the people who make up the church are taking the initiative more in ministry impacting their friends, family, and communities.

I will post again later on some of the churches, pastors, and planters that I have been following.

But I would love to hear from you on churches and ministries that are impacting their communities. Who are you following via blog, podcast, or twitter?