Hope Tested

Mike —  September 7, 2017 — Leave a comment

So… yesterday I wrote this post about hope and responding to the darkness we encounter in life’s circumstances. Sometimes, it’s funny how life pushes back when you make a statement. Sometimes… it just hurts.

I went home and discovered that my basement was striving for swimming pool status once again. As I was writing words about hope in the darkness, brand new carpet was taking on water in the basement. In the very room that we’d done so much work to mitigate the possibility of flooding. In the very room that my 17 year old was so looking forward to having her own space for the first time in 15 years. In the very room in which we’d put down carpet THREE DAYS AGO! So now, the carpet is piled up with fans furiously attempting to push the moisture out into the air where it belongs (or at least SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN MY BASEMENT!).

And now I’m in a position to either live with the hope I claim to have that “God works everything out for the good of those that love Him” and reveal Him to be Lord, or light a match and reveal myself to be the fraud that I sometimes suspect I am.

I’m all out of matches, so here are a few observations:

  • There is a tiny fraction of humanity throughout history that would even have the chance to be upset by wet carpet. It’s an incredible time/place to be alive.
  • We have been so ridiculously blessed that it’s easy to forget that the best is yet to come. I have another place being prepared for me by the Maker of everything. You can bet its basement won’t flood!
  • My basement doesn’t really matter. The room can sit empty. My daughters can keep sharing a room upstairs until we can figure something else out. They’ll be fine. We still have everything we really need. Maybe this is just a reminder of what that really is.

Don’t Hide Your Hope

Mike —  September 6, 2017 — Leave a comment

With reports of bad news being plentiful these days, hope stands out. In fact, hope shines brightest when circumstances are at their worst.

And when hope shines, questions arise.

How are you not devastated? (by your cancer diagnosis)

How can you keep smiling? (when your home had just been flooded)

How will your family make it? (when you just lost your job or spouse)

… the questions are many.

And every one of them is an opportunity to explain the hope we have as believers. These questions are open doors to speak life into people’s hearts and minds. But only if we’re ready. Too often, when life is roughest, I want to just crawl in a hole and be alone. I think I still understand the hope… I just don’t feel like sharing it. So my hope is buried and hidden away from the world.

Don’t hide your hope.

The people around you are desperate to see some right now and learn where they can find some of their own.

Just so this doesn’t turn into a Jesus Juke-y post where you think it’s about something else, I’m just going to state from the beginning that this is about Him. Don’t come back at me for a snarky twist at the end that leaves you shaking your head and wondering if I thought it would be cute or funny or… whatever. There is no “Gotcha” moment. There is no snark intended.

A friend posted yesterday how underwhelming the eclipse was. After all the hype (which even the most ardent eclipser should admit got more than a little annoying), he felt let down. It was sort of a “Yeah, yeah… whatever. Now can I get back to my life already?” statement. I couldn’t believe he said it. I had to do a double take, because I saw the total eclipse and it was awesome! Did he really just say that? Yep. He did.

Then I realized something: He didn’t actually see the eclipse. He went outside and looked up at the sky, but he was so far out of the path of totality that what he was observing shouldn’t even have been called by the same name as what my family and I were seeing. He was criticizing something he hadn’t actually experienced! He was rolling his eyes at one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen!

Have you ever noticed how it’s so much easier to criticize something than to understand it? We do it all the time. Instead of getting to know the crazy neighbors down the road, we sit back and mock the mess in his yard. Instead of doing the hard work of creating something original, we stand at a distance and scoff at the artist who made the leap and held his heart out for everyone to see. Instead of walking in the way of totality with Jesus, we dip our toe into the church and step back and criticize all the perceived hypocrisy and short-comings we can find.

What if we could close the distance? What if we stopped observing from a distance and stepped into the path of totality that is a life fully given to the cause of Christ? What if we stepped out of the shadows at church and fully engaged every ability at our disposal in being the church? I think we’d see something incredible! When we “fix our eyes” on the perfecter of our faith, we’ll see things far greater than shiny rings in the sky and wavy shadows on the ground. (Those were crazy awesome though, right?!) We’ll see walls of division being torn down. We’ll see the gates of hell failing to separate people from God any longer. We’ll see the hearts of people who can’t stand each other begin to turn toward each other and soften and love again. We’ll see restoration and healing and hope.

Go ahead and take the leap to go all in with Jesus. Let me know if I can help you somehow.

You don’t even need to wear goofy glasses!

Evidence of our brokenness is not in short supply, but this past weekend we were viscerally reminded in so many ways that we have fallen far, far short of God’s hopes for humanity. Issues of race and economics and many other factors, complicated by political scheming and posturing are boiling over in our nation, separating and dividing us from each other. The events in Charlottesville painfully displayed the ugliness that has crept in to our world as people stop thinking of each other as people and lump the “others” into some category or another that they can then vilify without actually understanding who they’re hating.

Media figures continue to froth and feed the frenzy with hot takes and headlines that bear little resemblance to reality. The church gets blamed for it’s complicity and silence as those within it who do not take the Word of God seriously or actually follow His Son to freedom continue to be allowed to operate on the fringes that media so loves to spotlight. And fear of what’s different takes the win.

It’s time to stop fearing. Don’t just sit back and watch this happen. White supremacist hate will not win out. Neither will antifa violence. Neither will anyone else who attempts to shove people as far right or left as possible in their attempts to divide and conquer. Don’t let fear motivate your response to the news and draw you right or left – move in faith where the wind of the Spirit is moving. Let love and compassion set the tone for your life BEFORE you hear reports of racial tension exploding into chaos. Then you’ll be set to step into the chaos with hope in in the name of Jesus.

Hope. Love. Faith.

These will win.


In thinking about the events of last weekend and reading an unrelated book about God’s intent for leadership in humanity and in the church, I came across this quote:

It’s easy to forget that the failure of Adam’s leadership in the garden was passivity, not aggression. Adam failed to cultivate the garden. Adam failed to keep the weeds out…

-Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead

Continue to call out racism and speak out against this evil as it creeps around you. Don’t give that weed any place to take root in your neighborhood. Cultivate rich and meaningful relationships with those who can share with you a perspective different from your own.

Play the Man: Curiosity

Mike —  June 20, 2017 — Leave a comment

Did you hear the one about the kid who wanted to know everything about everything?

Drawing on some stories of Teddy Roosevelt (who was evidently enough of a man to give a 50 minute speech with a bullet buried in his chest), Batterson paints a compelling picture of childlike wonder as the second virtue of manhood. Roosevelt was a man who was insatiably curious. I don’t know if he was the pre-cursor for Sid the Science Kid, but he was compelled to learn. He wanted to know stuff.Fence Musings-3

This kind of appetite for figuring things out, for seeking understanding, for learning is a critical component of being a man. Have you ever heard two 12 year old boys arguing about the merits of Ford vs. Chevy? Or throw in a third boy who just loves his Dodge? Maybe you haven’t, but let me assure you, it is the curse of doing youth ministry in rural America – I’m sure there’s an analogous conversation going on in the clusters of 6th Grade boys wherever you are. It’s amazing how much these boys know about their family trucks, right? Right? No. Actually, it’s not. They typically know more about how their fidget spinners work than the trucks. But that won’t stop them from declaring absolute devotion to one brand or another – because they’re boys and they don’t realize how much they don’t know.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but you’re not a cat. You’re a child of God, so don’t ever lose that childlike wonder that Jesus built you with thinking it makes you more of a man to pretend that you know everything you need to know. You don’t. Men don’t know everything. The best of them know that there is a lot they still need to learn, that every day points out new gaps in what they know, and they continually seek to learn what they need to learn.

This isn’t merely a vain pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake, though. It’s for the sake of more deeply worshiping our Father, who made all the wonders of the universe that keep us so enthralled. The more we understand our selves and our world, the more in awe we can be about our Creator. He loves to see that awe and wonder, that curiosity in His children. It pleases Him to no end when when we worshipfully wonder.

So go ahead, Man – Be Curious! Learn something.

What do you want to do with what you’ve been learning lately? Maybe, instead of emails and private messages to me, you can share your answer in the comments section. Maybe someone else can be sparked into action by what you’re learning. Or maybe they can help you take the next steps in your process.


We’re walking through 7 virtues presented in Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next several posts. Feel free to jump into the discussion. It may be helpful to use the links in this post to get a copy for yourself and follow along.

Play the Man: Tough Love

Mike —  June 13, 2017 — Leave a comment

“Real men don’t cry.” I don’t know where this thought originated… Maybe it was some line in some movie where Clint Eastwood got shot without blinking, or where Bruce Willis walked barefoot over glass through a thousand explosions without flinching, but probably long before tough guys (or actors pretending to be tough guys) started showing up on giant screens. Somewhere, we’ve culturally come to understand the idea that men are supposed to be tough – and that means they don’t cry.

I would completely agree that men should be tough, but is an absence of tears really how we want to measure that? I don’t think so.

Mark Batterson lists some great character traits (virtues) in Play the Man, his recent book on “becoming the man God created you to be.” The first of these he defines as Tough Love. It’s that combination of toughness and empathy that allows a man to make it through the trying circumstances of life without become an uncaring jerk with no regard for anyone else whatsoever. Sometimes, life sucks, and it’s tempting to either crawl in a hole and ride out the storm or to lash out at anyone and everyone within reach.

Neither of those options will help us reveal God to the people around us, but Tough Love will. It’s what led Jesus to endure personal agony for our benefit. He was tough enough. And He loved enough.

Where do you need to toughen up a bit to get through the obstacles life is throwing at you right now? Can I help?

Where are you withholding your love to protect yourself from getting hurt? Maybe it’s time to take a risk and love the way Jesus does.

———

We’re walking through 7 virtues presented in Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next several posts. Feel free to jump into the discussion. It may be helpful to use the links in this post to get a copy for yourself and follow along.

Thanks for Reading

Mike —  June 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

You have chosen to read my posts, follow my tweets and Facebook thoughts, or receive an email once in a while from me – and I want to thank you for that. I don’t take that for granted. I know you only have a certain amount of time to read stuff every day and there are thousands of writers churning out content begging for your attention by the minute. Thank you for valuing my words enough to read them. Despite the occasional foray into frivolity, I try to write stuff that matters, and I hope that what you’ve read from me has been helpful.

I want what I write to unlock something inside you and help you realize that more is possible than you’ve dreamed. The potential God has placed inside each one of us is nothing short of a history shaping, culture making, creative spark He hopes to fan into flame in order to restore everything to Himself. He is building an unstoppable Kingdom and you have a unique part to contribute to its momentum.

Having said that, I’m not sure any of the words I’ve written will be more practical and effective in helping you understand the work He has ready for you to do than what I’ve written (and what you’ll write) in PRAY! That’s because my words aren’t the ones that matter when it comes to building the unstoppable church – His are. My words aren’t the ones that carry the weight sufficient to push your potential into a kinetic movement that will rock the shaky foundations of our culture and reveal a solid bedrock upon which you can build real life – His are. And PRAY will help you strengthen your conversation with Him. It will help you make sure the story of your life isn’t missing the most important Voice of all.

Use that link to find it on Amazon, or ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you. Grow your conversation with God & let me know how it goes… This Kingdom is no accident.

When I was in school, I was always good at editing my papers while I wrote them. As we were being taught the essay writing process, there was this strange sequence the teachers kept talking about that involved an outline, a rough draft, and a few revised drafts on the way to the finished product. I was on board for the outline, but always wondered why I would be asked to turn in a rough draft full of typos and mistakes. I hated it. Why would I have left mistakes in a paper I intended to hand in for a grade?

I distinctly remember the first time I had to adjust my writing strategy. Mrs. Washenfelder (who was an awesome English teacher) insisted on seeing the rough draft before the final copy would be due in a couple days. I had no rough draft, so I actually re-wrote the same essay, throwing in a few poorly worded sentences and misused semi-colons and stuff so that I would have a “rough draft” to turn in! (Definitely not what she had in mind, but it worked.)

I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse, but I’m a natural editor. I spot mistakes and do what I can to fix them. Now, with spell check soaking itself into just about every word crunching app or program, it’s even more simple to catch and correct mistakes as they happen! But what if I edit out mistakes that someone else could learn from? What if I’m so concerned with presenting the finished product that I rob someone else of the pleasure of slogging through the creative process together? What if the fear of revealing my cracks keeps me from offering up what I have and allowing someone else to help me?

Please understand, this isn’t hypothetical and it’s not about grammar anymore. It’s about Life… Relationships… Creating beauty and revealing beauty to people who didn’t notice it before. I know that I have shut people out before because I couldn’t get my inner editor to shut up and listen. I know that I’ve kept people in the dark and missed out on their presence because I didn’t want them to see the mess of my creative process. I’m sorry for those time when I over edited my life.

I came across this great reminder from Bob Goff today:

Don’t worry so much about letting people see your faults before you get them all ironed out. It just may be those very faults through which God reveals Himself most beautifully. He’s crazy good at that! May you see the beauty in you that He sees in you and live and love accordingly.

By the way, if you haven’t read Bob Goff’s book, Love Does yet… Order it now and enjoy the ride! Really… get it. You’ll love it and probably do something awesome because you read it.

Make It Better

Mike —  May 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

The world is not as it should be. Creation groans with the weight of our collective sins as humanity seems determined to be… less than human.

We are not made for this. We are not made for hating and blaming and shaming and strife. We’re not made for keeping each other out and blowing each other up. We’re made in the image of perfect relationship and freedom, of life-giving creativity and love. But we fall so far short of that image. We tangle it all up in our self and bury its beauty so deep in the rubble of our brokenness that the people around us can’t even see who He is.

The world is not as it should be. But there is hope. There is One who works through our brokenness and reveals to us what it truly means to be human – to be His. He renews and restores and confidently clears away the sin so that He can once again shine through us. Look for Him. Let Him work. Show Him to someone else.

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

~Abraham Kuyper

The world is not as it should be. You have been commissioned to improve it, so…

“Go, make disciples.”

“Be fruitful and multiply.”

I’m going to be meeting with a small group of recently graduated guys and going through Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next few weeks. I usually prefer to do groups with books that I’ve already read, but it’s timely and I’ve read enough of his other stuff to know what to expect, so… here we go.

I’ll be posting thoughts along the way as well, and you can digitally tag along with our group. Not only that, you can contribute to the discussion, too!

If you’d like to join us and share your own reflections on Play the Man, use the link below to order your copy and check back soon. We’ll get started in about a week, so get your copy before you’ll have to play catch up.