Jul 31, 2009

I'm For You

Last week I was blessed to take 6 of our teens to Six Flags. The trip (for me anyway) was interrupted by a blown tire 10 miles out from the theme park. Thankfully it was a back tire and God's hand of protection was upon us, so I was able to ease the van to the side of the road and off the interstate. Inside I'm thinking "oh brother, of all the things that could happen on this trip...how long is this going to put us back?" What happened next actually somewhat surprised me. Two boys jumped out of the van and went to work changing the tire and replacing it with the spare. They weren't asked. They didn't hesitate. They just went to work and did it all themselves. The four girls were there to give them encouragement and moral support. The whole time not one of them said anything negative or discouraging about the experience. They were just happy to be together and knew they would make it on to Six Flags eventually. That's the kind of spirit I wish all of us could have more regularly. It's easy to become cynical or negative when things in life don't go our way or go differently than we expected. But life is short...so love God. Love Others. Live Different. Those six teenagers reminded me of that simple message in the moment.

I proceeded to drop them off at Six Flags 45 minutes later. But my work wasn't through. I then left for a tire repair place in order to get everything repaired. Three and a half hours later I made it back to the park to join them. I think I got to partake in two rides that day. On one level it was easy to feel frustrated. On another level I was reminded of their positive attitudes and the fact that everyone was safe and accounted for. Even though I missed a lot of the day I did make it for the Tobymac concert in the evening before we left to head home. Music is a big part of who I am. I find myself blessed by it in so many ways all the time. Well God spoke another simple message to me through the words of one of the songs called "I'm For You." I'll leave you to (hopefully) be blessed as well by the heart of the lyrics...

Tell me where its hurting
Are you burning?
Running just to catch your breath
And going nowhere
It's getting old when you feel like you got nothing left
Well it ain't over 'til it’s over
I told you since the day we met
So let me be the voice through all the noise
Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you

Whatever you need from me
To see you through
Everyone of us has stumbled
Everybody's humbled
We hit the ground and our lives crumble

Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you
I'm for you
If you never knew
If you never knew
I'm for you
You know it’s true

I know the feeling
I know it’s real when the drama's all in your face
You see a mountain
I hear a promise – it’s never more than we can take
Well it ain't over, 'til it's over
We can learn from our mistakes
So let me be the voice through all the noise

Everyone of us will fall
Have our backs against the wall
And everyone shares a need to be loved
You’ve always been for me
So I will be for you
That's just what it means to love

Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you
I'm for you
If you never knew
If you never knew
I'm for you
You know it’s true

Everytime you fall, I'll be for you,
If you back's against the wall, I'll be for you,
Cause you've always been for me, I'll be for you,
I'll be for you, I'm for you.
If you never knew,
If you never knew,
I'm for you.

I'm for you, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you, like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,

I'm for you.

May you be reminded once again of the simple message that in all things, whatever is happening in your life or all around you...God is for you!


Jul 23, 2009

Blessed to Be a Blessing

It is always hard to adequately express in words our experience at Camp Barnabas. It is exhausting, tiring, long and draining. But it is rewarding, filling, memorable and life-changing! It is a week that has quickly become one of my favorite of the year. I look forward to it. Our teens look forward to it...more than Palmetto, Celebration and Winterfest. You would be hard pressed to think you could love others so deeply after just a few days together, but it happens. You come to love those you serve with because you go deep with them, way beyond the surface. And it definitely doesn't take long to fall in love with the campers. The fact that they live with difficulties like 'autism' and 'downs' quickly disappears and all you see are beautiful creations of our God and King. We go to love on them and show them the love of God. But really...they show us what it means to love unconditionally...they reveal to us what it looks like to have a heart like God's.

I wish everyone could experience it...because it's just too hard to do it justice if you haven't. By far it is one of the best things we do together each and every year. I'm always so proud of our teens. They lead the way with open arms, willing spirits, encouraging smiles, and servant hearts. I truly believe it forms and shapes our young people in ways I will probably never fully be able to comprehend. And no matter what else happens I know, at least for a week, they get it. They see what it's like to choose to live for others and not for self. They feel what it's like to love without condition. They taste what it's like for heaven and earth to collide. They know what it's like for God to bless them to be a blessing.

Pure love. Deep joy. Abundant Life.

If you don't know...check it out! www.campbarnabas.org

If you want to know more...ask! I know there's at least 17 other people that would love to tell you about it!


Jul 21, 2009

I Try Not To Say "No"

I love one-liners, especially well-timed ones. For some people they just fall from the sky; for others they don't come quite so easily. And you know the really good ones because they're followed by someone thinking or saying, "Wish I'd said that!"

One of the best one-liners I've ever heard came in a casual conversation earlier today. Not a typical one-liner but priceless nevertheless. Dale, one of my best friends, told me about something he'd been asked to do. Not knowing whether he really wanted to accept the responsibility, he prayed about it and concluded that he couldn't really tell if God was leading him that direction or not. However, he decided to answer the call anyway and agree to a two-year stint. Why? His explanation was simply, "I try not to say 'no'." Priceless!

I know a lot of people who live by a different philosophy, one more like "I try not to say "yes." And why? Saying "yes" opens you up to being available, to giving up time, to living beyond your own walls. And if word gets out that you tend to say "yes," why people might call on you and prevent you from getting to do what you want to do.

O, and then there are the people who say "yes" but don't follow through. They can't say "no" with their lips, but they can't say "yes" and really mean it. So they say "yes" but they really mean "no." How can you know they really mean "no?" Simple--they never follow through.

So the next time someone asks something of me or if I see someone needing something, I hope I'll try not to say "no." I believe that's the way Jesus would do it and I want to be like him more than I want to breathe. Thanks for the lesson Dale.


Jul 16, 2009

Blindsided by Unexpected Blessings and Surprises

I like being in control. Knowing what's coming next, with no surprises, gives me a sense of peace and security. But God is a God of surprise. Sara having a son in her old age? No way. God convincing Pharaoh to release Hebrew slaves without "firing a shot?" Get real. Or, a virgin giving birth? Surely not.

I have received just such a surprise. Didn't see it coming and can't really describe it even now. For three days I participated in a spiritual feast that came as a surprise. I would not have attended this retreat without a friend urging me several times to give it a try just once. Just not the kind of activity I would normally participate in. But, wow, was I surprised! And blessed! I heard raw confession, preaching, teaching, sharing, prayer and hurt. And singing that gets no better this side of heaven. Materials, ideas and encouragement were all shared and received freely. We laughed, had a talent show and listened as a 73-year-old preacher keep all of us in stitches for 20 minutes. Someone that age can say things others can't!

About 100 people were present and when it was suddenly over Thursday night I found myself with a couple dozen of new friends. I have been blessed and I thank God. I hope I can go again next year. But don't expect any advertisements? There won't be any bulletin announcments. Your won't read about it in the papers. It's a well-kept secret and I feel privileged to have participated this year. Thank you Lord.

I'm eager to hear about some unexpected blessings that have come your way. How has God blessed you and you never saw it coming? A gift from someone? A word of encouragement? A new friend? Don't be bashful; share a story.


Jul 8, 2009

My Mom

My mom is great. She continues to be one of my greatest encouragers. For example, she still believes I'm one of the greatest basketball players of all time. She thinks back to my high school career in basketball (which honestly wasn't too impressive, except maybe for my jumping ability) and recalls the highlights; she simply doesn't think about the unimpressive times. And when I started preaching (at 16 years of age) she told me to look at her when I preach and she would help me through the process. From that I learned to select a few good listeners when I preach and look at them. I also learned not to look at certain people because they discourage me in my preaching. (Just curious--which kind of listener are you?)

Today I'm in Nashville. My mom has congestive heart failure and is scheduled for a heart cath tomorrow--perhaps a stint or even open heart surgery may be required. I'm feeling some emotions I've never felt before; don't really know how to describe them. But for now I say that if everyone could have a mom like mine all of us would live richer lives.

Tell me about your mom. I'd love to hear about some shining moment in your life when your mom helped define and shape you. Your thoughts would be a blessing to all readers. And my family would be delighted to have you pray for my mom.


Jul 1, 2009

Life Lessons from the Forgotten Piano Fingers

When you are young and "wise" beyond your years, there are some things you think you know better than others. Often when someone older offers some advice you might take it as merely a suggestion. So you think you already know who you should or shouldn't date, what major/career you should pursue, how to spend your time, what sport to play, what friends to hang out with, and whether or not you should spend time learning to play a musical instrument. And these are just a few of the issues that can be significant in the lives of 12-18 year old teenagers.

When I was younger my mom really thought I should try to learn piano. She always said I had the fingers for it. At 13 and 14, I didn't have much interest in spending my afternoons "tickling the ivory," not to mention that it seems like teenagers are wired to try to do everything opposite of what their parents suggest. But now, years later, I regret not investing some time learning to play and appreciate the piano. I guess I didn't know everything after all.

There are plenty of times when we interact with God in similar ways. We are convinced that we know what is best for our lives. We decide what direction to go without first giving it over to God, and then ask him to bless our own pursuits. But we need to be reminded that just like we realize we didn't know as much as we thought we did when we were young, we also still have a lot to learn about trusting God and walking forward in faith in all things. As much as we hate to admit it, we don't have all the answers. In fact, life often invites us to wrestle with more questions, than it allows us to come up with satisfactory solutions.

I've recently decided to give learning the piano another try. I've got another chance to follow the advice of someone who may have had greater insight into my life than I did at the time. That's also the beauty of our relationship with God. He's always waiting for us to come to our senses and return to the one who knows what's best for our lives. After all, he did create my piano fingers!