Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bekah's Softball

This has been a great year for Bekah in fast pitch softball. She's played for four years at the Division I level. Last year, her team was undefeated and won the tournament championship! This year has been a bit rougher. The team was very young, and Bekah was the oldest player on her team. She was the obvious team leader, and she had a huge role in her team doing far better than anyone anticipated. She's the starting catcher, plays some shortstop, and this year, she added pitching to her list of accomplishments. In her final regular season game last night, she played a stellar game behind the plate for 5 innings, and then, pitched 2 shutout innings to preserve a 2-1 victory! Next week it's tournament time. Way to go, Bekah!

You might wonder why I'm blogging this. I'm a proud father, no doubt! But Bekah learned a lot of valuable lessons this past season. She learned how to encourage the younger players who really have a lot to learn about softball. She also learned when it is necessary to light a fire under a player who isn't performing up to their ability or to expectations (yes, Bekah can light a fire under her peers). She also learned to sacrifice for the good of the team. Her own talents improved, but she helped others get better at the same time.

There are good lessons for all of us who are older than Bekah's 13 years. We need to be driven. We need to expect more of others, but at the same time, we need to encourage along the way. We need to improve consistently as we help others improve. The list could go on...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mystical Experiences

I've changed a lot over the years. No, I'm not referring to my graying hair (and lack of it), nor am I thinking about how my health has been changing for the better over the past several months. I'm slowing down in certain ways, all the while watching life speed by. But those aren't the changes I'm mulling over.

When I was younger, I felt like I had to explain God to everyone - how He works, why He does what He does, etc. For some reason I was obsessed with having to have all the answers, even if no one was buying in to them. But over the past few years, I've become more "mystical" in my musings. No, I'm not slipping into some cult-like fanaticism. I just thing that there are some things that take place that can only be God at work, with no explanation.

Let me share with you some examples. Take communion, or The Lord's Supper. In the tradition I am from, we believe that the elements represent the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. And we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. But we also think of The Lord's Supper as a "means of grace." So just what does happen when we consume the elements? I think it's something different for all of us. The same could be said of baptism. The ritual itself is sometimes referred to as "an outward sign of an inward cleansing." This rite, too, is a means of grace. Is it more than a sign? What about those people who have been released from demons and dependencies during the act of baptism? Isn't that somewhat mystical?

The other day I was musing about fellowship, when it hit me. Fellowship could also be viewed as a means of grace. While there are very practical benefits for being involved in a fellowship - accountability, friendship, learning, encouragement, etc - are not some of the benefits mystical in nature? Does not the Holy Spirit draw us it to fellowship? For those of us who are committed to a fellowship, there are perhaps benefits that can not be put in to words. Those who refuse and choose to go it alone in the faith (the thought of which is ludicrous) are missing something glorious, something wonderful, something...mystical. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Barbarian Way

I have to admit, I'm just getting around to reading "The Barbarian Way" by Erwin McManus. It was recommended to me by my friend, Tom "Hit Man" Hartman. I found some really intriguing words. After you read them, I'd like to know what you think. Perhaps you've read the book and have some feedback. Or maybe something inside of you is stirred and you have to respond.

McManus writes, "Two thousand years later the call to follow Christ has been repackaged to be smooth and trouble-free, filled with opportunity and promise but lacking risk, passion, and sacrifice. Is this really what Jesus died for? If He chose the way of the cross, where would He hesitate leading us? Is it possible that to follow Jesus is to choose the barbarian way? Jesus never made a pristine call to a proper and safe religion. Jesus beckons His followers to a path that is far from the easy road. It is a path filled with adventure, uncertainty, and unlimited possibilities - the only path that can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of your heart. This is the barbarian way: to give your heart to the only One who can make you fully alive. To love Him with simplicity and intensity. To unleash the untamed faith within. To be consumed by the presence of a passionate and compassionate God. To go where He sends you, no matter the cost."

I know the quote is lengthy, but as I read this, my heart was challenged afresh. Do we (Christ-followers) play it too safe at times? Are we guilty of following the path of least resistance rather than passionately pursuing Christ? Do we (pastors) try to make it too easy for people to follow Jesus, failing to explain the true cost of discipleship as laid out by Jesus in Mark 8:34-38? Have we become accustomed to a "smooth" cross? What happened to the old rugged cross?