Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Sometimes the best way forward is by taking a step back.

I have been greatly influenced by the legacy of John Wesley. His understanding of God as a Father, his deep insights into God’s immeasurable grace, his gift of creating structures that facilitate spiritual growth and his love of questions that go right to the heart of the matter are all great gifts to the modern church and to me personally.

Among the powerful gifts that Wesley left us was the Covenant Renewal Service. (You can check it out here)

As we face a New Year, it is common to focus on our own resolve…or if we are more hip, our lack of it. But Wesley reminds me that my best is inadequate. And it is. Absolutely inadequate. But the Good News is that my Lord is enough.

That understanding doesn’t call me (or any of us) to some esoteric, abstract state, but a real earthy grappling of the great opportunities that lie ahead of us this year. “…Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both… Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.

I will fail this year. Probably before the day is out. As I failed yesterday…and the day before…and all of last year! If I am dependent on my own strength, I (and those around me) are to be pitied. But I am not my own person!! As we say in our affirmation of discipleship in our church, I “have been bought with a price.” And His purposes for me…and for you…are true.

Will you join me this year, by the grace of God, in praying the prayer that ends the Wesley Covenant Service?

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.*

Happy New Year!

* The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 607.

What was the most incredible gift you have ever received? Was it for Christmas or a birthday? Or maybe no reason at all. Does it still bring back memories and feelings today?

On the other hand, have you ever received a gift that you didn’t fully appreciate until later…maybe much later? Now, I’m not talking about the hand-crocheted doll-size winter cap from Grandma or the decades old cassette tape from Uncle Tim. No, what about one you didn’t recognize its value….or took for granted…or even wanted to return?

Probably all of us who are parents remember the incredible joy of becoming a parent. What an amazing gift of God an infant is! But in his book, Like Dew Your Youth, Eugene Peterson describes adolescence as a “gift” to parents….a gift that Christian parents are “most advantageously placed to recognize, appreciate and receive.” When I first read those words, my reaction was a mixture of being startled, having questions, and at the same time sensing something stirring deep inside me that felt like relief.

How do his words strike you? Have you encountered “the gift” of adolescence? What has that gift looked like in your world?

This short chapter is a rich one! What impacted you the most as you read?

Peterson talks about grace, about developing new skills, about blind spots, about the danger of detachment. I especially had to chew on that last one for awhile. In any given area, what is the difference between being detached and having faith?

I just visited with two different people…one who eagerly was hoping to “get it right” parenting their budding adolescent, another who was mourning the pain and the sense of inadequacy that had come with their child’s teenage years. I identified easily with both. I have five children between the ages of 13 and 21. I have lived at times enmeshed in both those worlds….at the same time!

As I prayed over those conversations, I was encouraged by Peterson’s reminder that by God’s grace, parenting does not define who we are. “A parent’s main job is not to be a parent, but to be a person.” So the job I do as a parent does not define me, but it can shape me. Wow.

I know this: If adolescence is not a problem to be solved, but a gift, a sort of “living labratory” in which I have the “opportunity to take the data of growing up, work experiments with it in personal ways, and then reexperience it as an act of faith to the glory of God,” then by the grace of God I want to open the gift….and go into the lab…every single day!

(This post is inspired by chapter 1 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 11 weeks to become part of the discussion.)

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?