Friday, October 19, 2012

You Can't Float Upstream

You never know what you are going to get when a dozen men take off for a weekend together in the name of Jesus.  Especially if their wives load the vehicles with gourmet meals, plus caffeine and sugar.

That’s what our men did last weekend.  We drove an hour, crossing the state line into Virginia, and spent the weekend at Fairy Stone State Park.  Obviously a real man’s hang out.  This group has roughed it before, but this time we had the palatial park lodge building, complete with actual beds, a full kitchen, gas logs, and three showers.  Just outside the front door sat the all important campfire circle.

The theme for our weekend was, “I can.  I Will.  I MUST!”  As we promoted the event, the slogan just sounded gimmicky to me.  But two men in our church, Keith Street and Guy Andrews, gathered us around the fire and helped us dive into the scriptures and come out as changed men.

We discovered that it is easy for us to believe in each other.  We see each others’ strengths, potential, and opportunities.  We know that these men have what it takes.  Naturally we can say with confidence, “You can do it!”  But we all need to learn that, “I can.”  I have what it takes.  We learned that believing in one another inspires us to believe in ourselves.  In Christ we can accomplish everything God calls us to do.  But we need the support, the encouragement, the help from our brothers.  One man said, “I never again have to do anything solo.”  We learned that I can, but we learned that we need each other in the process. 

Esau failed to value his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) partly because he was alone.  Where were his hunting partners?  They could have warned Esau against the foolish bargain.  Why were the two twins apparent enemies?  They were living in isolation, not community.  Their stories would have been entirely different if they had loved and supported one another.  Through community, we realize that we really can do what God has equipped us to do.  It takes faith to believe that God can use us to accomplish big things.

Learning to say I can energizes us with the possibilities.  For some, that energy of imagining captivates our minds, and we get stuck there.  I can becomes I could if would.  Ever since Adam watched the serpent deceive his wife, men have tended toward passivity.  We sit back and let life happen to us.  Sinful human nature makes it real easy.

But we have to move beyond the possibilities of I can to the determination of I will.  When we believe that we have what it takes, we have the courage to step up and make something happen.  We make commitments to ourselves, and ask our brothers to hold us accountable. 

We invoked the wisdom of Yoda on this.  One man around the fire challenged a teenager to try to pick up a chair.  The teen cooperatively stood and picked up his empty chair.  “No,” the man said, “You picked it up.  I said try to pick it up, not pick it up.”  Suddenly Yoda’s words made sense to me.  “Either do or do not.  There is no ‘try.’”

God calls us to be men of action.  He wants us to swim upstream, to go against the flow, to do the difficult things.  Our retreat leader reminded us that you can’t float upstream.  It takes effort, will, action, and engagement to achieve anything valuable.  Many of us have been floating, and only dreaming of going upstream.  This was our wake up call.  The opposite of passive is active.  We are called to action.

Finally we tackled I MUST!  Once we believe we can, and take action, God reveals to us our calling.  “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do”  (Ephesians 2:10).  Once we are moved to action, we can pursue those good works, and follow God’s leadership into his purpose for our lives.

Our men are different now.  A good different.  We email and call each other more.  We pray together more.  We ask about the things that matter more.  We work less on hiding and more on connecting.  We are leading better in our families.  We are experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s only been five days, but by God’s grace we will never go back to passivity.

I would say that my life was changed by a slogan.  But really my life is changed by the Spirit of God, and he does his work as I share my life with friends. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adrenaline Check

Got adrenaline?  Of course you do.  We all do.  It’s part of the human condition.  We get in stressful situations (take a deep breath), and the “fight or flight” mode kicks in. 

So, where does your adrenaline come from?  Broadly speaking, it comes from fear or adventure.  Consider Peter’s body chemistry when he saw Jesus walking on the water.  (Matthew 14:22-33)  Like the other disciples, he probably was afraid of this mysterious figure approaching in the dark, on the water, in the wind.  A surge of adrenaline.

When the shadowy figure speaks, Peter suspects it really is Jesus.  “Lord, if it’s you,” he calls out, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  The adrenaline is still pumping, but Peter is changing his perspective.  Now he is operating out of adventure, rather than fear.  He chooses to trust Jesus.

He steps on the lake, walking to the Lord.  What a rush!  He is doing the miraculous, just like Jesus!  But with another look at the wind and waves, he has another thought.  Uh-oh.  His reality check reminds him of … reality.  This is impossible.  Duh.

He has a change of heart, a harmful one.  He goes from fight to flight.  He goes from adventure to fear.  He panics. 

Nothing about his situation changes.  Only his interpretation of his situation changes.  He begins to sink.

So, where does your adrenaline come from?  Is the source a threat or an exciting opportunity?  It depends on how you see it.  And how you see it determines your success. 

When we see with eyes of faith, we see the real reality.  When we trust Jesus, the threats become opportunities.  That adrenaline feels good.  It empowers us to live by faith, trusting Jesus, doing the miraculous.

And Jesus is there to take our hands whenever we start to sink.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Top Ten Bold Moves

Here are the Top Ten boldest things I’ve ever done (that I can think of right now).

10.  Dash through the Rome airport, looking for my family who were still outside, where I should have been (bold and stupid)

9.  Speak with (I hope) some authority to a roomful of home schooling parents

8.  Sign up for and compete in two triathlons

7.  Volunteer to go on a mission trip to Brazil as a college student

6.  Take over operations of my family farm

5.  Shop at the Coronation Market in Kingston, Jamaica

4.  Respond productively to criticism

3.  Witness to people in Irish Pen ghetto in Spanish Town, Jamaica

2.  Quit a steady job to start a church

1.     Lay everything in my life “on the table” before Jesus
The older I get, the bolder I get.  At least that's how I want to live.  I'll be adding a lot of items to my list, if I have truly done the #1 bold move. 
What's on your list?