I don’t usually make a habit out of dispensing advice (especially unsolicited advice.) It has been my experience that most of us don’t care at all what you think, unless, of course, you agree with me. This hasn’t always been my perspective. I used to think we wanted the truth, or at least honesty, but I am no longer a child.
Today is an exception. I have 2 pieces of very good advice.
First, a story.
Last night, I explained to my boys that the trash was to find its way to the curb and, if not, they would not be staying home from school to see the new Avengers movie with me. (Yes, we all take the day off to see a movie. Do you remember any Fridays in school in late April? Me neither. We will remember today.) My youngest said, “no you won’t,” with a nice smile, not as mean-spirited or disrespectful as it sounds here. And this morning, when I woke to see that they did not do what had been asked of them, I knew he was right.
#1. Do not ask questions of which you are not prepared for all answers or make threats you are not prepared to see through.
I knew my comment was ridiculous and should never have been said. It was meaningless as it left my lips. They are home today, and we are going to the movies.
#2. Being ‘right’ isn’t always the most important thing to be.
Instead, maybe a peaceful, forgiving, clear-headed presence is. I was an unbelievably angry young man, and I have absolutely no idea how I was able to sustain that level of energy. This morning, I was mad when I saw the trash (STILL IN THE HOUSE!!!!!) but I went to the gym and took a breath and all of that negative energy quickly dissipated and I was left with us and the facts of the case (that won’t mean anything in a week.) Now, there will be punishment, but it won’t be at the expense of a memory we won’t get back. I know it’s only a movie, but it’s far more; It’s a special day – set apart, holy, a celebration of a journey we have taken, and are taking, together – these boys will spend with their daddy, who thinks they are the sun and moon. This is no small thing, (in fact, as most of us are only too aware, it’s the biggest thing, more valuable than we’d ever acknowledge) and should never be traded for right-ness or wrong-ness. I’m right, they’re wrong, we all know it…now what?
I can’t imagine the regret I’d have if I still was that angry young man and, still trying to prove myself enough, led around by my raging ego, mistaking a simple error for an indictment of my own value, took such a sacred moment from us.
They are sweet boys. This was no rebellion; his innocent (true) comment made it appear to be, but it was not so, only a job half-done (maybe he should read a several week teaching on details) They are sweet boys who are learning lessons about love and kindness and service and becoming who they have been created to be. There will be mis-steps, forgotten tasks, slights and subtle disrespects – by all of us – but we simply cannot lose sight of the bigger picture that gets more and more gorgeous with every moment not taken for granted.
…And now for the ENDGAME!!!!
We are nearing the end of this particular line of thinking, next week we will gather all of the threads we’ve been pulling on and tie them all together, hopefully creating a beautiful tapestry of transformation. I guess we’ll see.
But for today, let me tell you about Leviticus.
As you may or may not know, this book of the Bible has my attention in an unusual way. When we are confronted with a previous perception of what we accept as ‘truth,’ and it is exposed as something different – maybe not a lie, but certainly not Truth (we should probably explore this idea in greater detail another day) – this deeply disruptive inner-quake stays in the front of our thoughts for quite some time. For instance, Leviticus is super-boring, full of hard to understand rules that have nothing at all to do with our lives, here and now. Right? That’s true, isn’t it?
No. (Well, maybe a little – it is sort of boring)
The idea, to over simplify, is that the people of Israel are new. They have been chosen by God, set apart and set free to affect the world: to give the world a picture of who God is and what He’s like. But what does that mean??? What does that look like? How does one begin down such a path?
With the details.
When I start anything new, it can be overwhelming to look at the end result. If I wanted to learn to play the guitar, it’s not helpful to try to play the guitar solos from Van Halen albums, it’s much more important that I have a comfortable strap that is the right softness and width. We start with shopping for good shoes if we want to run a marathon. Or getting a nice cutting board to begin to cook. And if we want to illustrate being set apart, we might want to look at the food we are eating or the way we treat our neighbor in certain areas.
A perfect picture Rob Bell (…speaking of Rob Bell, his Leviticus teaching has been the jumping off point for much of this discussion. You understand how it works: you find an insight and follow it and it reminds you of something else that you studied or read or heard or thought that you didn’t realize was relevant and soon enough the sacrifices and food laws of Leviticus makes perfect sense in a discussion of weight and the People’s Court and hoarding and baseball gloves and the insight is priceless and you breathe and are unbelievably grateful…) uses is the question: “Do you think Lebron James knows what kind of socks he wears?” Of course he does, what a ridiculous question! He makes his living, crafts his reputation, with his body – why would he leave any of that to chance or doubt? That’s why, several years ago, when Barry Bonds was being investigated for steroids after a failed blood test, his “I don’t know what I took” defense was so offensive to everyone. It was so obviously a blatant lie because we all understand that details matter, whether we acknowledge that we understand or not.
It matters how the Temple is built, what animals are used in sacrifices, and what we do with our time. It matters, because everything matters.
How you do anything is how you do everything, which is why mindfulness, weight, priority, value, socks and cutting boards are so important.
We started our worship with a dance by 3 lovely ladies,
and started our message with 2 live goats.
The Bridge is a pretty cool place to be.
He has Risen!!! Happy Easter
It’s interesting how often we neglect the smallish, seemingly unimportant elements of our lives, apparently preferring to wait until those elements build a wall that is impossible to ignore. We ignore the toothpaste cap on the counter until it grows into the minty fresh monster that tore apart our once-beautiful relationship, and we wonder how it happened. I eat a peanut or a piece of chocolate here and there and here and there again until I no longer recognize myself in the mirror, wondering how it all got away. In the Bible, David harmlessly stayed home one season and, the next thing he knew, he was arranging the death of his buddy to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Small things aren’t very small at all.
Here’s a quick story with a happy ending:
Once, there was a boy on a baseball team who looked just like a ballplayer. He was tall and athletic, as strong and muscular as a 12 year-old can be. Walking on the field, he appeared to have all of what older ballplayers call “the tools.” The only problem was that he couldn’t catch a ball, warmups or infield/outfield practice, ground balls or fly balls. No matter where the ball was or how hard it was hit, he simply could not corral it into his glove cleanly.
Why? Was he saddled with hands of stone, poor hand-eye coordination, garden variety fear, or a rare condition that made it impossible for him to catch baseballs? Was he a lost cause? Should he just pack his stuff and take up a sport that takes no coordination or athletic ability, like soccer? (HAHA! That is one terrific sports joke!!)
His coach noticed one day, while watching him fumble ball after ball like so many hot potatoes, that his glove was rigid and unforgiving. This coach took that glove home over the weekend, worked some oil into the leather and kneaded it like dough.
And at the next practice after that weekend, miraculously, that boy could catch baseballs! He didn’t have stone hands (well, maybe a little) or a baseball phobia (maybe a little of that, too), what he did have was an innocent disregard for small things, a blind spot for details. And what looked like an insurmountable mountain was actually a tiny speed bump that was navigated easily.
Maybe he would’ve given up baseball because he couldn’t catch – and not being able to catch is a big deal.
Maybe we would’ve walked out because he’s a slob or she’s so disrespectful she won’t even put the cap back on – 2 characteristics that are big deals.
Maybe I would’ve kept eating because I don’t have any will power and it’s hopeless to try – a brand and a mindset that are very big deals.
Now, all of these are pretty big deals, they just also happen to be only pieces of stories that may or may not be true. He could catch (his glove just wasn’t given the proper love and attention,) he wasn’t a hog or disrespectful (just oblivious to the effects of his lack of intention to what he perceived as trivial,) I do have willpower (maybe not much, but I don’t need it as much if I make the decision to not keep peanuts and chocolate in the house, right?) and changing a mindset just takes some mindfulness and practice.
The point is, it’s the small things that matter. Everything matters when we’re building the structures of our lives. A giant building starts with one brick, one tiny decision after another, then before you know it, you’re different, a better version of you, closer to who you’ve been created to be.
There’s this story in the Bible:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)
We have spent the previous weeks discussing weight and value and priority, and this is why. Because sometimes Jesus stops, as He’s leaving the city and asks, What do you want?
What will you say??? What He’s really asking is, what’s important to you, what is the desire of your heart, who are you and what are you about?
So, what is it that we want Him to do for us? (…And how you interpret that question speaks volumes…)
It’s entirely possible we don’t really know.
Modern political elections have become exercises in complaint, shouting from a negative stance. We are asked to not vote for him or her, to vote against this or that, to look at problems and grumble over what is obviously broken – the notion that we could support ideas or people and discuss solutions is quaint and hopelessly outdated.
In our lives, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t want. We know what we don’t want to do, where things have gone wrong, where we are unfulfilled, and you know what, Jesus, now that You mention it, I actually have no idea. I’ve been sitting here on this road shouting because I know my situation is messed up, that I am uncomfortable and empty and anxious and depressed and angry, I don’t sleep at night and I have this ulcer and I couldn’t pay my bills last month and my boss is super-mean to me and I’m bored and tired all the time… I know I don’t want that, but what do I want?
Again, I’m not going to tell anyone what they want – maybe I want a fancy pair of jeans or my sidewalk fixed or better health insurance or to build a wall or a new job or a new boyfriend or this boyfriend to treat me better or whatever. That’s between you and Jesus (we’ll get right back to this.)
What I will say is: that blind man could’ve said, “You know, Son Of David, it’s hard being blind, what I want is a new special cane or a service dog or a friend who can lead me around.” Right? We very often settle for less. We settle for the good when we really want the great. We don’t want to ask for too much, maybe, not be greedy. We end our prayers, our answer to this question, with “whatever is Your will.” This man shoots for the moon and makes no apology for asking. “I want to see.”
It’s impossible, it’s pretty narrow in scope, small in relation to the world, but Jesus asked, and this blind man knows exactly what he wants. AND he believes Jesus can – and will – do it.
Maybe He has a bigger gift for us than those jeans. Maybe we are asking for a ‘standard of living’ pay raise when He has a corner office reserved for us. Maybe we’re just asking for the abuse to stop when He has a complete transformation planned.
Maybe He is just aching to say Yes, and give us our sight, give us a vision.
Did you ever think, “you’re so much better than that?” Sarah McLachlan had a song (called ‘Good Enough’ and is my #4 favorite song of all time) where she sang, “you’re so much more than good enough.”
But that’s between you and Jesus. That’s why we’ve spent the last several weeks discussing weight and value and priority. So that we actually give some time to learning ourselves, figuring ourselves out and getting an answer to His question. Because when we do, when we invite Him into this search and self-discovery (sometimes a little at a time, sometimes a maddeningly slow process), He will show us where we have settled, where we’ve been looking for canes, where we’ve been praying for just ok. He will show us who we are, what we’ve been created for, and why we are all “so much more than [the] good enough” we’ve accepted for far too long.
We’ve been discussing weight and value and our ability to choose and leave behind the hopelessness of victimhood in our daily lives. Next time, the tone will shift to the way these minor choices can affect our lives in major ways, increasing our presence and peace.
But first, this week I had (at least) 3 opportunities to practice weight that illustrate perfectly the water we’ve been swimming in.
A nearby theater does a super-cool thing where they play an older film for free at 10am on Tuesdays, and for months I had been anxiously waiting for this Tuesday, April 2, and Fight Club. Everybody knows Fight Club is my absolute favorite movie and The Most Spiritual Movie Ever (and I’m mostly not kidding about that, and I promise I’ll eventually write a detailed defense of that position.) I invited several of the men in our church community to experience this together, with me, and have our minds blown and souls filled together. Then Monday, I picked my oldest son up from school and he looked like he had been run over, the kind of look that, instead of “Hey buddy,” requires “Oh no! What happened to you?” He had managed to make it through the season relatively unscathed by the illness everyone else suffered through until now. I hoped and prayed that it would move through him in a night and he’d wake up new and healthy, hopes and prayers that went unanswered (I say that, but maybe they were answered. Maybe the answer was just no.)
I had a choice to make. I could call someone to watch him. I could go, and leave him home alone. I could ask my wife to take a sick day to be with him. I could stay with him. I’m sure there are more. I guess I could even take him with me. I had no shortage of options.
But I work from home for many reasons. One of the very biggest is so my boys (or my special lady) would have their daddy (or husband) right next to them to fill their water, feed them tissues, rub their feet, or worse, hold their hair while they, um, fill a bucket. But the “right next to them” is the point. I usually don’t do any other work, I just am.
BUT THIS WAS FIGHT CLUB!!! It long ago passed through its theatrical release, how often do you get to see a life-changing movie on the big screen with your brothers? He would understand, right? Of course he would.
I didn’t go to Fight Club, we watched DVD’s of Three’s Company instead. Some things weigh more and, as it turned out I didn’t have much of a choice to make at all. I had already made it, long before the circumstance dictated a decision.
We have a gathering at the Bridge where we eat pizza together and talk about all sorts of things that come up – we thoroughly enjoy each other. This lovely space was scheduled for last night. Last night, I also had baseball practice. No, I don’t play (I’m much too old and my knees and ankles hurt and crack far too much), but I do help to coach.
The Bridge is my priority, my job, and the people there are my family. No question as to weight here, right?
The son who was sick had recovered and Thursday was his first baseball practice of the year, first practice with a new team on a newly expanded field, first practice at an entirely new level.
I coach baseball for 1 reason and 1 reason alone, and they live in this house. I coach to spend time with my sons. (The relationships I’ve made with other coaches is second. As a matter of fact, baseball itself is pretty low on the list of why’s. Of course, I do love baseball, have always loved baseball, but the best part of baseball is my dad. I can love baseball and my dad from home.)
On the field (or basketball court), we worship the God who gave us these amazing physical gifts, we face challenges and our own fears, we do hard things, we learn to pick ourselves up, we discover what we are capable of, we love.
And we walk into firsts together.
I went to practice and it was awesome. He was awesome. I missed my Bridge family terribly. No one ever said this discernment of weight was easy, Saying yes to something means saying no to lots of other somethings.
I get up early to go to the gym around 4am. This requires me to go to bed before 9, sometimes well before 9. My wife mentioned Tuesday night that she might like me to be up later, until at least 9, so she might have a bit more time with a conscious me.
There are a million choices to be made in just this tiny example. Do I no longer go at 4? But what about the reasons I decided to go at 4 in the first place? What about sleep? How much do I need? She would surely deal with it easily if I still went down early. But what would that say, about her, about weight, about priority? To live at as high of a level as I value, I do need sleep. But I also need to work out. And most importantly, I need my wife to understand her significance.
Sooooooo. You’ll forgive me if I’m a little tired this week because I’m now a night owl.
Next time, we’ll talk about a GIANT question Jesus asks. But for now, I’m going to take a nap.
Each year we review who The Bridge is, where we are going as a community, and remember how much we are loved by Jesus. Sunday we also talked about where our money went in 2018 and how we can share pictures from our different events. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Have a wonderful week.