Monday, April 29, 2013

Sometimes just planting a seed is the really important part.

Sometimes just planting a seed is the really important part.
According to Jean Boles, in, eHow Contributor, points out that the Giant sequoias are the oldest, though not the tallest, living tree on earth. They are dwarfed by the redwood, but, out do them in total volume; the giant sequoias are the largest living things in the world. Sequoias reproduce from the seeds of their cones, and in order to reproduce, these seeds have three requirements: some direct sunlight; an adequate supply of moisture; and soil containing minerals, but no grass or other plants to share the available moisture. Before the seeds can have a chance at reproduction, they must be free of the tough, tight cones.
There are three methods:
The first is the Long-Horned Wood-Boring Beetle’s larvae which are laid on the cone and eats the hard outer shell thus releasing the tiny seeds when the cone dries.
The second is the Douglas Squirrel, also called a chickaree, eats the fleshy green scales on young cones cutting open the scales but does not bother with the seeds. While the chickaree prefers young cones, beetle larvae search for older cones.
The third and most prolific is the release by fire which dries the cones dropping the seeds on ground denuded of any competing vegetation allowing for the likely growth of the seedling.
Some days I feel that little insects of discouragement are eating away at my resolve only to find they are eating away the hard shell of my resistance to change or action. Other days it seems I am being nibbled to death by the little and sometimes petty things I consider non-essential for daily life only to find they were my daily life for that 24 hour period. But the days that really consume me are the days my plans get burned up in the passage of time or the tyranny of the urgent. Those days I tend to go to bed discouraged and defeated.
As you may have already discovered for yourself those tend to be followed by the most fruitful of days or even months (fires can burn as long as there is fuel). I try to remember those days past during the eating, nibbling, burning days of the present so I can prepare myself for what God planning for.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and … then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed” (Joel 2:25-27)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Go outside and play"

I feel very fortunate to have been born before the rise in indoor games became such a source for children. "Go out and play," was not something my Mom had to tell me. There just wasn't anything to do inside - the outside held unlimited possibilities. Even though I was an avid reader the outdoors was my home away from home. As a result I have, since I was 6 been involved in organized sports of one kind or another. I learned to love tennis shagging balls for my Dad when only 4 - yes I remember that far back. Basketball was the focus in our family - especially when the University of Kentucky was playing. Dad would turn on the radio and turn it to the outside window and we would listen while playing HORSE or taking free throws in the driveway.
More recently various government agencies and not for profits have been encouraging parents to get their children outside. The desire is to reduce the waist line of America's young (and old). "The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese." Obese is defined at having a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) than the 95th percentile. They go on to say,
"Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today's busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people."
Maybe that could also explain the excess weight the local church carries. BMI could mean "Be More Inside" and a high BMI would mean low concern for people (including family, friends, and acquaintances) who are not following Jesus. Can it be said of us, 
"Like many churches, we are spending less time exercising our faith in our homes, workplaces, and schools and more time in worship, programs, and meetings. Like so many others are we busy with the insiders having less "free" time to invite and become involved in the lives of those we know who do not yet follow Jesus?"
I believe I hear our Heavenly Father saying, "Go outside and play for me."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Play hard or ride the pine

I have been privileged to play organized sport most of my life. I even started Little League a year early because of my size. Regardless the sport (baseball, basketball, football, soccer and even tennis) the consistent mantra of my coaches was, "You have to be more tired after practice than after a game."
I believed them and since I wanted to be on the field and not on the sidelines I put my all into practice and physical training. Imaging my surprise after an ankle injury suffered on the soccer field during my boarding school days when the coach (he had played for Celtic so his word was considered final) refused to put me in a game because I was not "game fit." You see the paradox, right? I was working hard in practice and my physical training carried over an hour after practice (we took our soccer seriously). How could I not be ready to play?" He did put me in the game for the last 15 minutes, I believe, to teach me the difference between "practice fit" and "game fit." Those 15 minutes were the longest of my young career (can an 11 year old have a career?).
Practice is for preparation. Games are for winning. The stakes raise the level of intensity which more quickly drains the body as well as the mind. I learned that day (and relearned it over and over since) practicing and training hard would put me on the field, but, I had to actually use what I learned and spend the last drop of energy if I was going to stay "game fit."
In the church, leaders spend a lot of time practicing and training to be God's servants with the gifts He has given them. I believe one of the reasons these well trained and practiced leaders fail to see God adding many to their church is because they are not "game fit." Meetings, trainings, planning programs and evaluating outcomes are great exercises but they should not be substituted for getting in the game of evangelism.
Reading the Bible, talking with God, and studying the church is not nearly as exciting, rewarding, or, draining as sharing the Bible, talking to a friend not yet following Jesus, and bringing people to church. We leaders cannot be satisfied with being "practice fit." What we are involved is not a game, but, there is a score that will be tallied on Judgment Day and I for one want to see my friends, neighbors, and, casual acquaintances on the winning team.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

You never forget your first

The "firsts" in our life tend to stick with us. Well, the ones we remember stick with us. I don't remember my first word, "Mom" according to my mother and "more" according to my Dad, my first step, taken later than they had hoped and earlier than they later wished, or, my first Dairy Cream, from Mom's cone in the car when I was supposed to be breast feeding and she was supposed to be making sure her cone was safe from me. I do, however, remember my first real fist fight.
I was 10 years old and in my first term at Hillside Boarding School in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. I surprised how much I liked Hillside. I was surprised to find I liked being responsible for my own "stuff." I liked being able to choose my new friends. I even liked pitting my wits against the Masters (Boarding School Adult Supervisors who lived with us) and never complained when they won and I received the obligatory "6 of the best" from the government sanctioned leather strap. However, what caught me off guard was discovering there was a "shadow government" made up of the "head boy" and his followers. 
I was two weeks into my first Term when on the way to the swimming pool for Phys Ed I was surrounded by my fellow students and, pushing his way through the crowd, faced by a big blond haired blue eyed Swede named Danny Svoboda. What I did not know was that other boys had challenged Danny's leadership by saying, "The Yank is going to beat you up then he will be in charge." So, when he started our 'conversation' with, "Hit me" I did what my Father had always taught me, I hit him first.
The brief exchange of blows, which led me to believe I was not going to be the one left standing, was terminated by a warning cry that the teacher was coming. Young bodies ran in all directions and Danny, looking back and seeing me standing bewildered on the track, grabbed my arm and yelled, "This way or he will catch us out of class." I leaned a couple short cuts to the swimming pool that day. More than that I formed my first friendship in Africa.
Conflict is never fun and settling a conflict with violence is rarely recommended. But that day I learned respect for your opponent in the midst of conflict could often be your best tool for future benefit. 
As followers of Jesus we are inherently in conflict with our culture. When we respect the people who hold alternate views to life while holding firmly to our faith we are much more likely to make friends of the people of this world while offering them the entry to ours. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Can I Keep Him?

"Mom! He followed me home. Can I keep him?"
I don't know how many parents have heard that line but I am guessing they are legion. Mine was a rather large golden brown dog I roped on my way home from school shortly after I started First Grade.
"Can I Mom? I'll take care of him, I promise. Can I call him Bullet?"
Roy Rodgers vied with Superman for my #1 Hero at that time and I could think of nothing more fulfilling than to have my very own Bullet. Mom immediately began calling to see if anyone was missing a dog while I prayed (yes, prayed) she would come up empty handed. Either my prayers worked or the owners were too relieved to be rid of him as we soon had a new addition to our family.
Bullet lived in the unfinished basement to our house which also had open holes where the windows should have been. Dad said I shouldn't worry about Bullet running away at night, but, now that I think about it he was planning a strategy for careful removal.
One day I found a new toy in my back yard - did Santa work on days other than Christmas? A couple days later my secret Santa left yet another toy. I thought this was really cool until a couple days later when a rather angry parent knocked on our door to tell my Mom I was stealing toys from his yard. How? Seems I had trained my dog to steal them for me.
Turns out Bullet was my secret Santa. Needless to say Bullet was sent to a farm for the good of the preacher's character in town and I learned there was no such thing as mid year Santa's.
Not everything we want is for our good. We have parents to teach us that lesson while we are young. We have God's Spirit to reinforce that lesson as we get older. My prayer has become, "God please give me what I need so I can help others have what they need."