October 29, 2009

Waking the Giants

In the last few weeks or so I have been chewing on the idea of potential. It all started with a blog post from a seminary friend about some teaching he has been doing about money. The idea that struck me most in his thoughts was,
In week two of our series, I shared some stats. Discovery receives, on average, about $6450 per week. If each household earned $60,000 (which is much lower than our city's average household income) and each household tithed, which the New Testament would consider to be the very beginning point of generosity, Discovery would receive over $13,800 per week. More than double. Imagine what God could do with that? I asked our church to ask God that very question. "God, what could you do with an extra $7350?" I'd love to find out.
Those thoughts really dug into my mind. What potential is there really for any church if its people (me included) would do what we are capable of doing, rather than doing what we choose to do.

I shared the ideas with our staff here at South. We spent some time talking about it, drawing in some other quotes from some other reading. Our conversation spawned a sermon series idea called Waking The Giants that we decided to work on at a latter date.
On the heals of that I spent time in South Bend with some students that I got to know at Michiana Camp. It was good to reconnect with them and to see what God is doing in their lives. As I sat and talked with them, it was evident that they were doing everything they could to achieve their potential and putting their whole selves into the reign of God.

At that point in my mental pondering, I was really self reflective. Am I achieving my potential? Am I moving forward with my life in a way that really puts my whole self in the reign of God? Is where I am in my life where I should be? Could I have covered more ground and done more? Unfortunately, I think I felt more regret than I did accomplishment. And, being the good human I am, I began thinking about who has held me back from achieving what it is I could have/should have achieved, rather than looking on the inside. And, for that moment, there was some slight change out of all of the thinking (see here), not that it lasted long.

Alongside all of these thoughts is a study that I am doing with some adults from South on the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus, there is a definitive focus on making sure the community stays pure and right with God, so that their sin doesn't contaminate God's space and remove him from their presence. There is an expectation that they are going to live to their potential, and when they don't they immediately make it right. The two ideas married themselves together in my mind and continued to haunt my thoughts. (Well, maybe haunt is too strong of a word, but it is very Octoberish!)

Over the last few days, there have been more conversations about this potential thing. Many of those conversations happened during a planning meeting for camp next year. I pitched the idea of actualizing potential that I have been pondering. We discussed, chewed, argued and came out with a week long theme for camp about it called What if? We'll be looking at ideas like:

What if the church worshipped with their whole life?
What if the church was a place of healing for sin, rather than a place of judgement?
What if we lived out our lives under the reign of God rather than just dabbling in it?
What if we learn to share God's love outwardly, rather than just reveling in it ourselves?

Finally, in my reading this morning (and the whole catalyst for this post) in Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle, I came across this quote, which is yet another wrinkle/layer to this whole concept of potential. She writes in the First Dwelling,
Not long ago a very wise man told me that souls who do not practice prayer are like people whose limbs are paralyzed. Even though they have hands and feet, they cannot command them. And so there are souls so caught up in worldly matters that there is no hope for their recovery; they seem to be incapable of entering within themselves.
The entering here is to enter into the Castle of the Soul, where relationship with God happens - where the soul communes with the Father. She goes on to say,
These souls are so used to dealing with the nasty creatures that inhabit the outer walls of the castle that they have become almost like them. Even though they are naturally endowed with the power to commune with the Beloved himself, there is no remedy for them. Unless these souls strive to heal their profound misery, they will be turned into pillars of salt, just like Lot's wife was changed when she looked back.
Have I paralyzed myself by focusing too much on the world and not enough on God and his reign? Have I allowed sin too much of a foothold in my life so that it chokes away the potential that I have been endowed with? Even greater, how do I change to actualize this potential that I have? How do I grow some discipline so that my life isn't about brief moments trodding on a treadmill only to give up the next day? More stones to overturn in my chewing. . .

The staff here at South is going to hammer out the specific details on the Waking the Giants series that we will roll out in January. I'm beginning to think that its kind of a big deal since God hasn't let me move on from these thoughts . . . a big deal for me and a big deal for us here at South. Maybe it is be a big deal for you too. Are you actualizing your potential?

October 15, 2009

Soccer vs. Hockey

I've always been a fan of soccer ever since my school days at Great Lakes Christian College. It was always fun to watch and yell for our team. While at GLCC, I also began to watch hockey. I don't think there is anyway you can live in MI and not become a Detroit Red Wings fan. I like it for the pace and speed of the game--and for the intensity and quick shifts/swings in momentum. It causes much anxiety for me during the playoffs--because every moment of every game really means something. There isn't down time where batter stand, adjust, spit, read signs, adjust some more and so on.

Tonight I found a little soccer on the TV. Normally, the only time I find soccer on is on Sundays on Univision. I can't understand what the announcer is saying other than, "GOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLL". And, even then, it normally only takes me a few minutes of watching before I'm headlong into my Sunday afternoon nap. So, my interaction with soccer is not as extensive as hockey. Now, that's not to say I don't know what the positions are, what is good form, bad form and so on. But, I'm really not writing to talk about my knowledge or lack there of of hockey.

What I am writing about is embellishment. Tonight when I was taking in some of the Costa Rica vs. USA World Cup Qualifier, I was appalled by the continual diving that the soccer players were doing. At one point, three people went up for the ball by the goal. The goalie went for the ball too. There was a bit of a collision, but nothing magnanimous by any means. Yet, the goalie fell to the ground thrashing in pain holding his unmentionables and his head. He laid there for at least 3 or 4 minutes while the trainers attended to him, all the while, the announcers continually commenting on the replay they were showing over and over (because of the lack of good action on the pitch) saying, "there's not anything there. Its time for him to get up and play."

All I could think of was, that will never happen in hockey. In hockey, you are going to get hit. You are going to get hit hard sometimes. Its a fact of life. You get hit. You marvel at who whooped you at that moment, then you get up and hit them back. Or, you marvel at him once you regain conscientiousness at the hospital, then you marvel at it and hope that your teammates took care of returning the favor. Its rather simple violence at its best. And, if by chance, if a player does embellish a little, he normally gets a penalty called against him. Its all fair. There's an expectation and an understanding of the ethic behind it.

Please. There's a point. No hate mail from all the soccer fans out there.

As I thought about this, I thought about how we all act in our lives. For some, when some are pressed for whatever reason, they respond with a fair amount of pity driven, look at how I've been slighted actions, much like the untouched soccer player who falls to draw attention to what happened in hopes of getting the other person to get a yellow card. This comes easy for us. "I've been wronged! You owe me something in return." Now, I do understand that sometimes there is good reason to be on the floor grasping at the injury. I'm not minimizing that. I'm simply making the observation that all too often when something happens, we focus on ourselves and how we've been wronged.

I grew up in an era where you only fell down when you really got whacked. There was no faking--because when you faked, you got it worse. Otherwise, you brushed it off and moved on. (Maybe this is why I resonate with hockey?) Be honest and true with what actually happened. Deal with it, and be who you are called to be in the situation. For hockey players, that means you or one of your teammates promptly tried to pummel the other guy with more violence. For us in that era, it meant you heard things like, "rub some dirt in it" or "walk it off".

For Christians, the response is love. I know. It makes no sense. As humans in 21st century America, we don't want it to make sense. But, as Christians who are basking in the grace and love of God, it should make perfect sense. We cling with everything we are to that love and grace that God gives through his son Jesus. What sense would it make if that love and grace couldn't deal with and overcome our continual pummeling of it with our sin, selfishness, and stupidity? It wouldn't. Luckily, that's not the way God and his love and grace are. And, I think we get this as Christians.

The thing I don't think we get is being that love and grace. We know how to bask in it, but we really, really struggle to give it--to BE it. Its hard to forgive the person who just wronged you. Its hard not to whine and say, but you owe me now--I have rights! Yet, Jesus says, "if someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two." Or, more pointed, he says, "Love your enemies." Our response to that is, "What? Why? How--NO!" If we are going to be people who bask in the love of God, then we also are called to be bearers of that same love and grace to all, no matter who they are to us--friend or foe. If we were to put this in hockey terms, you would get hit and knocked down. Once you got up, you would go hug the guy say, "I love you, I forgive you.--God loves you!"

God's love and grace makes life not about me. It makes life about him and how I am showing that love and grace to others, no matter how messed up and crazy it is no matter what their response is to me--the same way that God is loving me.

Imagine what the world would be if we as a people were able to BE that. How much more would the rest of the world search out us for hope and healing? I would guess it would be a much different world.

Lord, help us learn how to BE!

October 6, 2009

The Treadmill

I've been feeling the need to make some life changes lately. Well. Let me start over. I've been feeling the need to make some life changes for a long time now. I've simply never had the motivation to do anything about it. I used to play basketball at our church on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That was good for me. . . however, those days are long gone. They still play, I'm simply too busy. In the last month or so my excuse has been, "I have to go pick up my daughter from kindergarten."

Well. This week I'm staying at a hotel that has a workout room. I had planned to pack clothes to do something while I was here--to use the new environment and the new month as a catalyst for the new me. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the workout clothes. When I told my wife that on the phone, she ridiculed me a little--which put me into macho mode. I promptly went out yesterday and bought some workout clothes at the local Super Walmart.

After a light breakfast of some orange juice and yogurt this morning, I made my way to the workout room. Picture this--me, a 6 foot, 3 inch, barely under 300 pound ugly walking down the hall to the workout room. Luckily, there was no one in the hall or in the room. They had 4 machines--stairs, an elliptical,a treadmill, and a stationary bike. Unfortunately, none of them had a book holder (like I was going to read while I actually exercised. I was hoping it would distract me from the pain and agony). I once used the stair machine back in the 90s. I remember it not being a pleasant experience at all. So, it was a no. In hopes of reading, the elliptical was also out, since I thought there would be too much for me to think about--big ugly on a contraption that has nothing but moving parts would have meant physical and mental overload. And, the bike just looked uncomfortable (not that anything in the room looked comfortable). So, i chose the treadmill.

The treadmill itself looked harmless. As I stared at it and contemplated, here is the conversation in my head: "I walk. Walking on a treadmill is just like walking. I have complete control of the speed and so on at my fingertips. I might even be able to hold my book and read while I walk. I can do this!" And, with all that mental encouragement to myself, I climbed aboard and pressed the go button.

I started slow at about 2 miles an hour. I know. Rocket speeds for a man of my size. It wasn't too bad. It took a little while to get used to walking on the moving belt, though. If I were a sailor, I would say that I had to get my sea legs on it. After a few minutes, I had two realizations. One, I'm not going to be able to read. I'm just now getting to the point that I can let go of the sissy bar and walk without holding on, which doesn't mean there wasn't a fair share of staggering here and there. It wasn't pretty. (The funniest thing was trying to let go of the sissy bar to take off my sweatshirt without falling off. It took awhile to get the sweatshirt off.) However, realization two was that I could do this, especially since there wasn't anyone else in the room with me. Otherwise, they would have wet their pants laughing and I would have went back to my room.

After a few minutes, I ramped up to about 3 miles an hour. For someone who hasn't been physically active, 3 miles an hour is comfortable, but not outlandish. We continued on for awhile at that pace. Then, being a guy, I had to play with the other buttons. Soon I was walking 3 miles an hour up a 4% grade. Then I went to 5%. At this point I had gone close to a mile. I wasn't feeling too bad. I was a bit frustrated that I wasn't covering distance fast enough. So, pushing more buttons, I went to a 1% grade at 4 miles an hour. That took me to about 1.25 miles. My treadmill legs felt normal. I wasn't staggering too much anymore.

Now, one thing I haven't mentioned. One the opposing wall--the wall I am facing--the hotel kindly put a wall size mirror. I assume this is in place to help encourage the normally ripped bodies that frequent such rooms to push on in their buffing out. For me, the 300 pound goon, not so much encouragement.

By the time I reached 1.25 miles I was frustrated that I was not covering ground fast enough. Plus, at this point I had built up a sweat, but wasn't really killing myself. I ramped up. the 7% incline came first. I had to slow my walk from 4 to 3 miles an hour. Part of that was because I had knocked my phone off the treadmill from the vibrations of my goonly walk up the 7% incline. I didn't want to break the thing!

At this going I was feeling really good--really proud of myself. Being the macho guy, I wanted to finish out well. I wanted to push it up a notch, especially since I still wasn't working really hard where it feels like the vein in my neck and my chest are going to explode from my heart working so hard. And, at this point, I had not felt like I was going to pass out or fallen off the darn thing. I was feeling confident. So, I ramped up to a 10% incline at 3 miles an hour. I did almost a quarter of a mile at this setting. At one point, I tried to look through the sweat that was pouring into my eyes at myself in the mirror. All I could see was this big lurch clodding up the 10% incline--half jogging, half clomping like a scary monster shuffling after his prey. All I could do was pray that no one would walk in the door.

In total I made it two miles in a half an hour. I'm rather proud of myself. I survived. I even pushed myself some. I achieved my goal for at least one day.
Unfortunately, I have to do it again tomorrow.

That's the thing with changes. Its not a one time deal and all is well. Its a daily, disciplined thing. Whether its exercise, studying the Bible, or learning to play a sport, you have to constantly be working at it to get improvement and change.

October 5, 2009

Crashing in South Bend

I'm in South Bend this week, leading worship each night for the youth group at North Liberty Church of Christ. They are doing a youth rally this week called, Seriously?? I'm using the time away from Lansing as a mini retreat--something I really think I needed. So, rather than crashing with Jody, the youth minister at North Liberty, and his dog, Napoleon, I snagged a room at a local hotel--which is why I'm posting.

When I was planning this trip, I started looking at options of where I could stay and get get lots of work done. I almost stayed at Michiana Christian Service Camp, but didn't want to spend a lot of time driving and so on, especially since I plan to connect with some ministry partners and camp students who live here in South Bend. I would have been driving from the camp to SB, then out to North Liberty. It would have not been fun and would have eaten away time just traveling. A solution was needed.

So, I emailed my friend Sarah and asked if the church she volunteers at had any hotel connections. Being the big church in town, I was trying to work the system. Unfortunately, they had no system to work, just some suggestions on hotels in the area. However, she forwarded me to the blog of Jason Powell, one of the staffers at Granger. Jason I guess has a knack for landing cheep hotel rates through Priceline. He has a post on his blog about how to use the bidding system and insanely cheep hotel prices for good hotels. He even has a video of him doing it. I watched, I learned, and I went bidding. The result, a sweet suite at a 2 1/2 star hotel in Mishawaka (technically not part of South Bend if you live here) for $35 a night. Seriously, $35 a night. It is hotel bliss for my retreat--except for the skunk coffee they have here. (I must venture out to Lula's for a good cup of coffee and some time at the big table--I'll try and post a picture later)

Here's the downside to the bidding thing. I've done it once and had good success. Now all I can think about is places I want to take my family just so I can bid on Priceline and get insane deals. Oh, how the world and our consumer culture invades us.


I received this from one of the people from South today. I thought it was quite funny.