Archive for February, 2012

When my oldest daughter was two years old, I watched The Father of the Bride. (The 1991 remake with Steve Martin, not the Spencer Tracy classic from 1950) Someone had told me it was a great comedy. I was totally ambushed by the flood of feelings that came at the thought of letting my little girl go. I suddenly realized with more than a little panic, “From here on out, my fathering is a gradual letting go! I thought it would be different. I don’t know if I can do this!”

That was then, this is now. Earlier this week, an outstanding young man called me to ask for my blessing and counsel as he and my oldest daughter planned a wedding and a life together. Again, I was a little unprepared for my emotions. Years ago I expected to laugh. This time around I expected to grieve. In both cases, I was wrong.

I’m excited for Rebekah and Philippe. They love the Lord. They are facing life with courage, creativity, and compassion. They laugh easily and include others well. They bring out the best in each other and don’t shy away from the rest. They are not conformers, but transformers with the favor of God clearly on their lives. Those that know Philippe talk about what an incredible guy Rebekah is getting. Those that know Rebekah talk about the treasure that Philippe has found. I’m as proud as can be to be Rebekah’s dad. And I’m as pleased as possible to welcome Philippe to the family.

God gave us an incredible gift with Rebekah’s life….a gift that keeps on giving. I probably will cry at the wedding. But it will be tears of joy and thanksgiving!

Revisiting Ritual

Posted: February 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yesterday, I received a thrilling text from a college student.  “What is that creed?  It popped into my head this morning for some reason, but I can’t remember it all and it’s bothering me.  Mainly the part about choosing joy over cynicism.”

Let me give the backstory.  During a discussion about discipleship in our strategic planning committee a couple of years ago, we talked about the value of ritually affirming as a community what we believe.  I was given the joyful task of formalizing our conversation and commitments into a ritual that has become a frequent part of our worship at my church.  We call it our Affirmation of Discipleship.  It goes like this:

“As fully committed followers of Christ, we receive the love and mercy of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit and we respond with grateful hearts.

By God’s grace, this week we choose again joy over cynicism, faith over unbelief, obedience over pride, and trust over fear.

As fully committed followers of Christ, we surrender to life transformation as we give ourselves to relationships, worship and mission.

We commit our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness to Him – not out of obligation, but out of a heart of loving obedience.

As fully committed followers of Christ, we are ambassadors of His love and grace. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a price. To God be the glory!”

If you want to dive in a little deeper, here are some theological concepts I tried to represent:

The internal movements: receive, respond, choose, surrender, give, commit, and be.

The beginning: God initiates.
The end: We give Him glory.

The choices: Fundamental issues of discipleship from Scripture as measured in the heart.
The surrender: Believing that our core programs create space for life transformation
The commitment: Our membership vows….as a heart response
Our identity: Shaped by Him and meaningless without Him.

I quickly emailed the entire creed to that college student, rejoicing in the embedded language that the Holy Spirit was using to inform the student’s heart and mind.  And then I sat down to read through it again for myself asking the Lord to make it true in my own life.

There will always be a disconnect between players and coaches….and referees.”

One more sports related post (at least for now!)  I spend a lot of time in a gym this time of year.  This past Saturday, having coached two games already, I was attempting to watch one of our high school teams and one of our junior high teams tackle undefeated teams at the same time on parallel courts.   Watching with me was a former standout college athlete with sons on each court.  And all around us was the buzz of complaining about a ref in the previous game.  The parents had plenty of evidence.  But it was his tempered wisdom in the quote above that stood out among the others.

I wrestle with how to think and feel about referees every season.  I appreciate the good ones.  A lot.  And pray for grace for the others.  Grace for them and grace for me.  I really do. I think they have a really important job in our culture as they choose how to model ultimate authority in a given situation.  Power trip or velvet brick….gracious teacher or earning a check?  Whether they serve…and how they play their role has a lot to do with how many young people learn about how to handle authority.

My younger brother was the head ref in a soccer league in high school, so I got to hear the yelling and the complaining that came in over the phone every Saturday.  The buck stops at the top.  Some people called every week.  Somehow, their child was always the one with the raw deal!

I refereed for my brother, so I knew first hand of the abuse that comes on the field as well. But I have also been on the other side (I won’t tell you how recently :-)), coaching in games where the official was lazy and rarely got into position, where I had to call a timeout to get my bleeding player out of the game, and where officials took retribution on fans who were rude by calling imaginary calls on their players.  I have been the ref who groaned inside when I saw particular parents arrive….and I have been the coach who realized that the game would be an uphill struggle well before the tip-off.  And I have been the coach who was chewed out by parents for not defending their sons and daughters against unfair calls.

My friend had a lot of pragmatic wisdom.  And the big picture is that a blown call mostly doesn’t matter…even in the pros…even when the ref decides the outcome of the game instead of the players.  But I still find myself wondering questions  like:

  • Where is it appropriate in life to fight for justice?
  • When should you offer grace to an authority that is obviously in over his/her head?
  • When should you turn the other cheek?
  • As a role model, am I teaching strength under control or a form of tolerance…..justice or self-righteousness?
  • What happens when I model allowing an injustice to stand?  What about when I offer grace in the midst of failure?
  • When does the game become bigger than the players?
  • Can I really compartmentalize my players from the game?

My questions go on and on….every season, every year for more than a quarter century.   My mom and dad had the courage to pull me out of sports completely for a year in middle school to help me gain some perspective on this issue.  I grew a ton that year.  But I still have questions.  The lessons of sport transcend the game.  And we never stop teaching theology.

I wish that I had internalized much younger that life is not fair….but God is good.  That is my default and yet, I struggle with passivity that seems to me no virtue, but compromise.  As you can see…there are few issues that matter much to me about which I feel more conflicted.

Does anybody feel my pain?  And how do you work through the issues of sport….and coaching….and refereeing?  Of justice and mercy?  Of being right and doing right?

I wasn’t really thinking about the Super Bowl today. I planned to watch it.  I love competition.  I like football.  It’s right up there with futbol and basketball.  🙂  And the Super Bowl is a cultural event for North America.  But I admit I wasn’t following the stories very closely this year.  The truth is that I like the Rams and the Packers….as well as some individual players and coaches – almost none of whom are on the Giants or Patriots team.  Once they were out, I focused on other things.

Oddly enough, out of nowhere, during communion this morning I started thinking about the Super Bowl.   I dearly love taking communion.  But believe me, distractions come….and it’s been worse than football sometimes!  🙂  Anyway, these thoughts came to me:

  • We love the Super Bowl because it seems bigger than life. And we want to be part of something that transcends the everyday.
  • We want the players to be bigger than life so that we can “encounter” (safe) adversity and “overcome” through them vicariously.
  • We love the storylines.  They help us believe that we too can be  a champion.
  • We love the commercials.  More than the game even, they call out to a place inside of us.  A place that loves beauty and excellence and creativity.  A place that is fearful at times.  A place that longs to be well thought of…and well taken care of…and if we are honest, in control.

Now I’m not hating.  In fact, in a few moments I will be heading to a Super Bowl party….and not as a wet blanket!  But during my communion rabbit trail this morning, I was struck by the contrast between the the annual “story” of the Super Bowl and the timeless story told in the ancient Christ hymn in Phillipians 2:3-11.

The Super Bowl narrative would tell us that we must consume to be happy, to be powerful, to be loved.  The Christ hymn gives us the model of One who emptied himself and became a servant.   The Super Bowl narrative tells of seeking to be #1.  The Christ hymn tells of One who was “in very nature God” but did not grasp at His position.  The Super Bowl narrative tells of happiness that lasts for a day (I think of John Elway staying in the stadium, not wanting to go home, knowing the feeling would never be the same again).  The Christ hymn tells of lasting honor coming through obedience and laying down our lives.

Dr. Autry was preaching this morning.  He said this: “It is almost unAmerican to speak against consumption.  After all, our economy is built on spending.  But….(God) didn’t call us to be consumers, spending our money and our lives pursuing more and more stuff.  He called us to be holy, sanctified by our worship of him, and devoted to his purposes in the world.  His purpose is to bless and heal the world through right relationships with God and one another.  We’re called to be part of that healing.”  Good word, Arden.  Thank you.

How do you do it?  How do you navigate the fun and celebration of the Super Bowl while choosing the narrative of the Christ hymn?   I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Last night our 7th grade guys played a quicker, stronger, taller team with a good half-court press in a tiny crackerbox gym.   A couple of timeouts were not enough to help us adjust and we went into half-time down 25 to 8.  During halftime, we were able to catch our breath, clear our heads, and go into the second half with a new focus.  As a result we were able to adjust on both ends of the court, outscoring our opponents 19 – 12 in the second half.  No happy ending….the bad guys still won 🙂 …but it became a different ball game!  What a difference some time to breath and think and receive instruction meant for our guys.

This week, an old friend has been inviting me to connect in some thoughtful and potentially deep interactions on social media.  My responses have been thoughtful…sort of.  Or at least as much as I can be while on the run.  I would enjoy engaging at a deeper level.  I need a timeout in order to breath, to think, and to respond well.

About ten days ago, I went about an hour away to a lake house for some extended prayer time.  I spent the morning pacing about on the deck overlooking the water and talking/listening to God.  It was wonderful.  It has made a real difference in my week.  Time to breath, to think, to receive and to respond.

Recently, a numberNobel Prize winners were asked to give their advice for the future.  Kara Powell from Fuller Youth Institute references this story from Tony Schwartz’s Harvard Business Reveiw blog here:  Tony quotes one economist:  “Leaders don’t have time for the future because they’re too busy with the present.”  I’ll let you read the blog for yourself.

Time to breathe, time to think, time to receive, time to respond…..who needs a timeout!  Can you…do you…take timouts?  When working with youth…..or with your own children… you teach them to hold the accelerator to the floor or to use the brake and put it in park for awhile?

What are some of your favorite methods of taking a time-out?  How do you model it well for others?