Friday, October 27, 2006

MJ and 'Air Graham' Posted by Picasa

I Wanna Be Like Reg…

I went to Chicago for the first time this week and met a guy named Elmer who (upon learning it was my first time in the city) shook my hand and said, “Welcome to the city that Al Capone and Michael Jordan made famous!” When I was a kid, Michael Jordan was the most famous person on the planet. Everyone loved Jordan. Even if you had no idea what a basketball was, you loved Jordan! I can remember being in 7th grade when I first saw the commercial of MJ playing basketball with a bunch of little kids while some folks sang, “Like Mike, if I could be like Mike… I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike…” We all wanted to be like Mike. Everyone I knew had a ‘Bulls’ jersey with ‘23’ on the back, and I saved every dime of my paper route money for four months so that I could buy a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s…

I admit that I too wanted to be like Mike… to jump like that and dunk like that, but it was not meant to be… in fact, I’m among the worst basketball players to ever taint the court, but that’s okay. I have a new goal now and a new hero. You’ve never heard of him, and you probably never will in this life outside of these short paragraphs. His name is Reginald, and he told me to call him “Reg.” He lives in the Lawndale community in downtown Chicago and this past Tuesday he worshiped God at a place called “The Bridge” for the first time.

The Bridge is a part of an urban ministry to gang members and prisoners in Chicago called Mission:USA. The folks at Mission:USA have been sharing the Gospel with gang members and prisoners for years and watching them not only come to Christ, but become strong and committed disciples of Jesus and evangelists to others like themselves. The Bridge is a meeting that takes place every Tuesday night where tons of these believers can go to worship together and get connected with local pastors who then invite them into a church home as they re-enter their neighborhoods. This week Tom, Joe, Graham and I went to Chicago to worship with, fellowship with and serve the folks at The Bridge with food, music and the word. It was awesome to meet them, hug them and be loved on by these sweet brothers and sisters who love our Lord so much!

At The Bridge there is a box for suggestions and prayer requests. They write down topics they want to hear sermons on and songs they want to sing, but they also write down things they are struggling with so that they can get prayer. Mike from Mission:USA was showing me the slips of paper in the suggestion box when I saw one that was from Reg. It read simply, “My name is Reginald, and I need all the help I can get.”

I needed to see that note… I think it is so easy for us who have every comfort we could ever want to remember that we are still so needy… that we need our Father for everything… and that we need to learn to cry out for help. I was reading different verses about how God is our help, how He saves us from trouble and provides all we need, and this one verse just jumped off of the page… “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” –Psalm 79:9 When was the last time you straight up cried out for help? When was the last time you had to beg God to help you praise Him in the middle of a trial or help you get rid of your anxiety or anger? Do you know today how much you need him? Reg does. He needs all the help he can get. That’s why I want to be like Reg… I want to be a pro at knowing my need for Him and crying out for help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chillin' at Windy Gap Posted by Picasa


I am really bad at directions… I don’t know why, but I can travel to a place a kabillion times and still need directions. I think one reason is that if I go somewhere and I’m not driving, or even if I am driving but I am following someone else, I just don’t pay any attention to the roads or the turns. A great example of my lack of navigational prowess was my trip to Young Life’s Windy Gap a couple of weeks ago… Now, I have been to Windy Gap five times before this fall’s trip, but I have never driven by myself, so the only thing I really knew for sure was that Windy Gap was somewhere in North Carolina…

In steps Tom (who by the way is that guy who always has a short-cut or a scenic route that just has to be different than the widely accepted course) with some creative directions… literally, he drew them. Anyway, he gave me instructions that put me on some highway that carved through a few of the random little backwoods towns of Tennessee. It was, as he promised, a very beautiful route, and it might have even been a short-cut, but I’m so bad at navigation that I was nervous the whole time and calling him every five minutes… “Am I still going the right way? I’ve been on this road for ever! Are you sure this is right!?” He just said, “Keep going, dude… you’re fine.” And he was right. I didn’t know the first thing about how to get to Windy Gap and when he told me his way, I felt a little suspect, but he directed me right to where I needed to be.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just don’t know how to get my heart where it needs to be during the day… Sometimes my quiet time just doesn’t give me anything. Sometimes my prayers just feel shallow. Sometimes my day feels impossible and I just want to run away from everything. How can I get where I need to be? What is the exit I need to take and what route should I follow to lead me to a praise-filled, Christ-centered heart? I know I’ve been there before, but I just can’t always find my way… so how do I get there?

You know what Paul did? He asked God to get people where they needed to be. Included in tons of his prayers for other people are these little sections where Paul asks that God will intervene in their emotions and invade their attitudes, making them what they should be. One cool example is in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 which says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” When I don’t know just how to get my mindset and attitude to where they’re supposed to be, God does and He’s the One who can direct my heart… steer it, change it and fill it up with the right stuff. If your heart’s headed the wrong way and you don’t know how to turn that thing around, just stop and ask for directions.

Friday, October 13, 2006

FROLF at Windy Gap 2006, Baby! Posted by Picasa

He’s Waiting…

My friend Allan and I were sitting there on Saturday night on the hardwood floors of the cabins at Windy Gap in a circle of thirteen freshmen guys, just waiting. We were waiting on them… waiting on them to stop cutting up, goofing off, screaming at each other and laughing their heads off for two seconds together. We were waiting on them to calm down long enough to hear the greatest news ever… we were longing to explain the message of the Gospel to them, but when you have thirteen guys that are all between fourteen and fifteen years old sitting in the same room, calm is not to be had.

This week we celebrated Anna’s third birthday. We asked family and friends to join us at the park for cupcakes and I urged everyone not to bring presents, but no one listened… the gifts were all so awesome, but Anna didn’t know. She was so busy tearing into one package after the other that she couldn’t stop long enough to know what each thing was before directing every ounce of her outrageous energy at the next colorfully wrapped box. As a result, Christy and I have no idea who gave what gift… it was all a tornado-like blur of scotch tape, ribbons and giggles.

I read in Isaiah 30 that God is waiting on us… waiting on us to wait on Him. This is what it says in verse 18… “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Can you believe that? He longs to be gracious to us!? Sometimes I look at all of the messes, stresses and struggles in my life and ask, “What’s stopping you, Lord!? By all means, be gracious! Show me compassion! What’s the hold-up?”

You know what I think? I think my stressing and striving is the hold-up. I think He’s waiting, like I was in that cabin full of rowdy guys… waiting to bring the Good News. I think I worry and freak out at such high speeds that I can’t even recognize the gifts He’s giving me all of the time. If we could just trust Him enough… If we could just slow down enough… If we could learn to wait on Him, I think we’ll find that He’s been waiting on us, waiting to rise up in compassion; longing to pour grace on us, waiting on us to wait on Him.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Play Ball! Posted by Picasa


Anna’s grandparents gave her a tee-ball set for her birthday and for the first time in my life, I got to teach another person how to hold a baseball bat… It was sort of a milestone for Anna and me. I showed her where to put her hands, which one goes on top and where to hold the bat before you start your swing. I held her little elbows up and got the bat in perfect position and told her, “Okay Anna… swing!”

I’d like to tell you that she busted a homer into our neighbor’s yard, but it didn’t happen. In fact, after whiffing, she swung back the other way, then the right way, then the other way… eventually, she hit the tee-ball stand and the ball fell to the ground at which point she decided that she wanted to hit the ball all over the yard on the ground saying, “Look Dad… I play golf!” It wasn’t exactly baseball, but it was a ton of fun! I guess this should be super obvious, but that little scene made me realize that swinging a baseball bat doesn’t come naturally for kids, even if they are red-blooded Americans. You have to show them how; and if they are really going to get it, you have to show them how again and again. Anna actually had a few killer swings that day, but only after I held those little elbows up a bunch of times.

The other day I was reading Proverbs 2 and I noticed something else that should be super obvious but I think we sometimes forget… wisdom doesn’t come naturally. You have to call out for it and search for it. It is called a hidden treasure that must be mined for. We are not born knowing how to live, what to do, what to say or how to think and act. To live well and walk through life with skill, we have to ask God to give us wisdom. Proverbs 2:10-11 says that if you look for it and ask God for it, “…wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

So often we protect and treasure our own opinions, ideas and instincts as if they were absolute truth, but the longer I live I’m realizing that I don’t need to protect anything of my own as much as I need to be protected from myself. We don’t automatically have wisdom inside us… it must enter us from the outside. It has to be looked for, searched for and given… only then will it enter our hearts. He has to show us where to put our hands, how to hold the bat and tell us when to swing, otherwise we’re just whiffing…

Cluster Map