Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apparently, My Stride Is Screwed Up

What is the one thing you absolutely want to hear when you are giving it all you got, when you are pushing it to your limit and when you feel like you have nothing left to give? How about this one?

She Has The Worst Stride Ever!

said running shoes
That is exactly what I heard last night as I ran past a group of teens standing in their driveway. Let me first say... is probably true

Yes I run. But I'm a newbie. I am reading up on running, I even have the running shoes to prove I'm a runner and I'm following a prescribed running program. However, that does not mean I have good form when I run - it more than likely stinks. I think I'm getting better as I get stronger but I have a long way to go.

As I continued running I thought, he knows nothing about me. He doesn't know I just started running. He doesn't know I'm 55 and just trying to do the best I can. He doesn't know my right knee is sore and I know I'm favoring it with each step. He doesn't know me, my story and where I've been or where I'm headed.

As I pushed through my intervals I kept thinking about that comment.

Isn't that what we do to each other? 

We see how others are running the course and we become sports commentators. "Oh no, look at that - a little slow to the finish." "Wow, just couldn't get the height he needed." "Man, a little short of the green!" "So sad, she just couldn't go the distance."

Only, instead of sporting related comments we analyze their spirituality.

"They're just not in the word as much as they should be." "Their prayer life isn't consistent." "You know, she's not in a Bible study right now." "I'm not sure he's a committed Christian." "She's walked away from the Lord." "They're just not acting in a way that's pleasing to God."

We look at another person's circumstances and quickly make conclusions based on what we see. We sum up their "walk" by connecting it to whatever it is they're going through.

We make the assumption that they are disobedient because, well, everybody knows that obedience brings blessings and if someone is having a rough time of it they must not be obeying God.

I wonder what we would have said about Jesus' "walk." Clearly, if anyone should have had a decent stride it was him. However, one quick peek into the gospels and you're bound to come away thinking, "He got it all wrong."

"His stride was the worst ever." 

Because if you really want to make a run for this King thing and be a winner in everyone's eyes, messing with religious people is probably the wrong step to take.

I mean, lounging at dinner with the super-religious small group while letting a FEMALE PROSTITUTE wash your feet. What?!? How does that translate today? I don't think I have words for the ways we would condemn his "walk."

We would certainly assume that he had not had his quiet time that day.

But more scandalous than that was the way Jesus marched toward the cross. Whoa, wait a second. What kind of stride is that, Jesus? It looks horrible from this vantage point. You're going to hurt yourself walking that way. And, it's certainly no way to win. Like when he entered Jerusalem...on a colt. Or when he ticked off the the temple peeps by damaging their property, or when he ignored the rule keepers who said his disciples had to wash their hands. He really messed with them when one of his disciples cut off a soldier's ear and he put it back on - a soldier who was trying to arrest him! What in the world was he thinking? He may have covered some ground when his disciple defended him but he totally gave away any progress when he jumped to the other side of the block with that move.

Not only did Jesus get it wrong from the perspective of the religious gurus of his day, he got it wrong from our vantage point too.

We want him to walk a little straighter, be a little more polished, a little more religious, a little less in your face and definitely a little bit more predictable. 

We want him to at least be a model for obedience, yet he pretty much went around breaking the rules not keeping them. What kind of example is that?

Jesus, you have the worst stride ever! 

Don't you know it won't get you very far? Don't you know it will hurt you?

Jesus, don't you know you're sprinting toward death?

Thankfully, what this tells me is my stride is just fine. To others it looks wobbly. It looks lopsided - and truth is, it is. But, according to Jesus I'm running well.

Because it's never been about how things look on the outside. 

That's good news. Contrary to what everyone thought, his stride was actually the only perfect stride there's ever been. 

For all the ways we get it wrong, fall down, get up and stumble again, Jesus sprinted toward death. 

For all the ways I call people out, make assumptions and feel superior for my "better than yours" stride, Jesus sprinted toward death. 

For you and for me, Jesus got it right...

...despite what everyone thought.

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Sam 16:7).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

One Thing I Want My 18 Year Old To Know

This is the time of year when we say goodbye to our young adult children. It is the time when we forget the "young adult" part and mostly remember the "children" part. Anxieties are high - will they get in with the right group of friends, will they study hard and get good grades? Some moms are hoping their children will at least shower, brush their teeth and do their laundry. Have you spent this final year at home with your teen rehearsing and reminding? Rehearsing all the right things to say in any given situation, and reminding them of all the do's and don'ts you've taught them over the years? 

Here is some good news.

Everything you have taught them from 0 to 18 they still know. You don't need to tell your 18 year old to make it to class on time or to get plenty of sleep. They already know that. This is good news because you can stop with all the reminders and advice. Just love them.

The one thing you want them to know and the one thing you should tell them over and over and over is this:

{source - google}
God loves them so much he sent His son to die - for them. Not because they were "getting it done" and "walking the walk." Because truthfully (I know you think their perfect) they are sinners just like you. Sinners in need of a Savior. 

Remind them of such a great love - one that condescended to them in the midst of their rebellion, their sin and their disobedience. 

For all the ways they have gotten it wrong, Jesus got it right - for them. He lived the perfect life they couldn't and wouldn't - for them. Now his perfect record is theirs. Jesus has done for them what they cannot do for themselves.

Encourage them with the spectacular news that as they go off to college, God loves them. They will make some good decisions and some bad decisions but none of that has any bearing on God's love for them. No good they do can earn more love from God and no bad they do can forfeit love from God.

One thing they need to know - God's love for them is unconditional, one way, forever and ever and ever.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thoughts On Equipping Our Christian Children

As I sat listening to a mom lament her failures I could not keep quiet!

In those moments when we are drowning in self-condemnation we need others who will pull us out of the quicksand of lies, guilt and regret. It's not always easy for me to do that, especially when I'm dealing with regret myself. However, it is usually in those moments that I end up preaching the gospel to myself because I need to hear it again.

First, I reassured her. She is an amazing mom. Not because she is perfect, but because she loves her kids. Friends, that is enough. Your kids don't need to see perfection. They need to see weakness and dependence on Another. I've said it before but it bears repeating:

Our kids don't need to see us staying strong in the midst of chaos. They need to see us falling apart into the arms of the Strong One who redeems the chaos of our lives.

Second, I corrected her. She has not failed her kids. It is funny how we know we don't have the power to save our kids, but somehow we think we have the power to ruin them! It's just not true. 

How To Be A Good Christian (stay away from these!)
Third, I encouraged her to not be so hard on herself. We can mentally destroy ourselves when we are wrapped up in comparisons or we cave under the expectations of others, the church included. One of the things that prompted her anxious thoughts about child rearing was an article she read on equipping our youth so they don't leave the church when they go off to college. ugh. I hate those articles. Can we all just agree to stop reading the myriad of books and blogs (like this wikihow post How To Be A Good Christian Child) that tell us how to keep our Christian kids Christian after they leave home? 

What this mom needed was a fresh reminder of the gospel, not another list of child rearing tips.

Spitting Out Church Deacons

I pointed out that:

"Defining the Christian walk by church involvement is a narrow interpretation of what it means to be a Christian. The author of that article asked, “How can I spend four years with this kid, helping him become the best church deacon and sixth-grade Sunday school class teacher he can be, ten years down the road?”
We don't need to spit out church deacons and Sunday school teachers - we need to make room for the gospel to do its saving work.
If we define what a "success" is by the fact that a young person is a deacon or leader in the church, that leaves out millions upon millions of Christians who are faithfully serving in their homes, at their workplaces, in the armed forces, in hospitals, in education...etc. So, a better question is, how have we communicated the gospel in a way that impacts their hearts? How do we assure them that no matter what they do God loves them so much he died for them in the midst of their sin. Because truly, the only thing that changes hearts and lives is love - one way love. My son had the benefit of equipping. He knew how to lead a study, how to read his Bible. At 24, he is not a leader in the church. He lives on his own, fully supporting himself. He works hard and so many hours that it is difficult for him to make it to church let alone serve there. Is he a Christian? Or does the church view him as a failure because he is not a deacon or Sunday school teacher?
The author is right when he says there is no formula. I think we take our cues from Jesus. Love unconditionally - on that we don't shilly shally (in the words of Steve Brown)."

Fruit Inspecting vs. Gospel Preaching

Parents, we really can stop wringing our hands over our kids. Do we want them to know Jesus? Yes. More importantly however, is that he knows them. That he is holding on to them despite what "fruit" they bear, what their "walk" looks like, how "trained up" they've been, or "how vibrant their relationship with the Lord is."

Don't shilly shally with them. Tell them the truth that God loves them and will never forsake them. It is finished...for our kids too.

They can be done with trying to measure up and we can be done with trying to measure them. 


Now, that's good news!