The Landing After I Leaped Before I Looked

First a little disclaimer: Do not read into this post anything that I did not explicitly write. Don’t jump to conclusions and try to assign blame. The adventure began like this and it’s about to end with a fully shingled roof and some valuable lessons. That’s a good trip. It’s been discouraging and frustrating at times, but satisfying and even a little fun at others. The whole experience has highlighted some problems to me during the last month. I write this to propose some solutions, not to place blame or lay on the guilt.

I write this with tongue in cheek (and possibly foot in mouth), so please take it lightly. I harbor no ill will toward anyone who couldn’t help, and only a little toward whoever made me think this was a good idea in the first place (just kidding, that was me).
I have a lot of friends on facebook… but I don’t have a lot of friends on my roof.

This has been frustrating for me lately. I’ve needed help. Roofing’s one of those jobs that’s kind of tough to tackle on your own.

Black Friday for me was tar paper black. My birthday was Saturday and a lot of people stopped by my wall to wish me a good day. I would have felt pretty good about that except for one thing – Zero of them stopped by my roof to help me finish the shingling. This was my first weekend at home since August and I got to spend it roofing. My 11 year old daughter and 8 & 7 year old sons have learned where shingles need to be and when. My mom lugged tarps full of shingle scraps to the roll off dumpster for her Thanksgiving vacation and my dad spent 2 days up there with me stripping off the old and laying down the new. They may still be in recovery. They may never come to visit again! My wife has made lots of trips out of the house to bring me stuff I forgot to take up with me. A couple of my 16 year old students have helped out a lot (except when both of them could come and distract each other). A few of my friends have spent several hours helping out, but most just couldn’t make it.

Now, before this starts sounding as bitter as Marshall’s coffee (hopefully, not too late) I need to say that I don’t think this is an indictment of my friends. I sort of want to feel sorry for myself and be mad at them, but I’m not. I sort of want to moan about how my hour of need found me alone, but I know I’m not alone. I sort of want to be hurt by serving in a church full of people who watched the Huskers and Broncos, and “decked their halls”, and took family holiday pictures, and played around for the long weekend while I sent nail after nail into tar and asphalt and wood… but the truth is, I’d have much rather been doing those things, too. Roofing’s not nearly as fun as those things, or others… like pulling out your fingernails, or eating fried wombat hair.

I’ve identified a few possible reasons I’ve had less help than hoped for:
1. Maybe I suck at asking for help. Apparently, “I’ve never done this before and I’d love it if you could come help me put shingles on my house.” doesn’t mean what I thought it means. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who appeared to have everything under control, but maybe I do because if my friends knew the true level of need, I can’t believe they wouldn’t have helped. I know this because we’ve helped others together in similar endeavors. I think I need to communicate my need more accurately. But I don’t want to use guilt to motivate, so I always leave an open door for people to say no. Maybe that open door makes my friends think I don’t really need their help.
2. Maybe we live with no margins. We are a busy people. I mentioned earlier that this was the first weekend I’d been able to spend at home since August. Soccer, funerals, weddings, work trips, anniversary celebrations, family emergencies… all of these things keep us running from one thing to the next with no buffer zones… no empty spaces to simply be, and to breathe, and to be available. I wonder if we’re just too busy.
3. Maybe we’re just afraid to try. I realize that most of my friends are not roofing experts, or maybe even all that savvy regarding nails and hammers and construction type stuff. Neither am I (which is why I say construction type stuff, I don’t know what most of it’s really called). Once, when I was a kid, I hauled a few shingles onto a roof my dad was shingling for some lady that needed help, but that’s the extent of my roofing experience. I’m not a handy guy. I usually can only fix the things that I’ve broken and seen exactly how I broke it. It’s a whole different ball game to deconstruct a time honored method of getting the wet off the top of a house, and then to actually successfully do the work necessary to secure the shingles where they need to be. But guess what? I learned. Why do we let what we don’t know stop us from trying?

So here’s what I propose, friends:
-Let’s stop mitigating our speech and say what we really mean.
-Let’s stop filling every moment with something and create some margin in our lives (not just for our friends, but especially for our Father).
-Let’s never let what we don’t know scare us away from trying.

Bad News About That Pardon

Some turkeys have all the luck. About 200 million turkeys will be eaten in the United States this year – a large percentage of which will be consumed tomorrow! But just a few days ago, two of them received the coveted Presidential pardon. One of those quirky little holiday traditions that don’t quite make a lot of sense… two turkeys (the star and his alternate) are culled from the masses to be saved from your dinner plate.

Hooray for freedom… right?

But what happens then? We can safely assume that these birds aren’t just turned loose to wander the West Wing, and you know what’s going down if they start messing around in the garden. No, the pardoned turkeys over the past decade or so have gone on to live out the rest of their genetically altered lives in such amazing locales as Disney Land, Disney World, or the (hopefully) ironically named Frying Pan Park (I did not make that up, it’s an actual place – here’s a link).

How great must it be to be those pardoned turkeys? Maybe a gig at the head of Disney’s parade… A nice jaunt in the woods when the mood strikes… No fat guy trying to squelch your gobble… Just kick back, watch the Lions get massacred, do a little shopping…

Actually it’s not that great. Today’s turkeys are bred to be eaten. Those tender cuts of white meat goodness may look great on the plate, but they don’t do a turkey body any good. They actually lead to an early demise for poor Tom. Despite their pardon, the turkeys usually die within the year, anyway.

Oh, well.

Let’s eat!

Check Your Pockets

I noticed this weekend that my favorite jeans (meaning, one of my two pair of decent ones) were worn thin in a fairly ‘critical’ area. I was not anticipating great things from the Bronco game yesterday, so I was thinking about going and getting some new jeans instead of watching. I know, I know – like you really want to read about me buying pants. I was really tired after a long weekend that came after a long couple weeks, so I decided to sit down and watch a little of the game, see how it started out, gather my mental resolve to keep plodding, then go buy some pants.

This may all sound a little odd, but the truth is I hate buying pants. I can never find pants that fit right… All the relaxed fit, boot cut, loose fit, I-can’t-believe-you’re-actually-trying-to-squeeze-into-this, straight legged nonsense is irritating. If I can find them short enough, they’re about 8 inches too wide in the waist. When I find a pair that fits right in the middle, they either squeeze the crap out of my legs or would require me to wear stilts. It’s like jean makers decided anyone with a 31″ waist is either a flag pole, a weeble wobble, or an emo kid with a white leather belt. I actually even found some pants yesterday in the kids’ section that are TOO BIG.

So I always have to settle. Something between 30″x32″ or 32″x30″ or some such combination that’s not quite right, but close enough. By this time in my life, I’m tired of settling, so the whole thing gets me a little cranky. I briefly considered going on a donuts and McDonald’s diet to try to gain about 6 inches in the waist, but decided against it because it would just cause too many residual sock issues. I can’t handle any more sock issues.

So anyway… As soon as I sat down to watch a little football, I realized how tired I was and decided to put the whole pants buying thing on hold. I just didn’t have the energy for all that mess. Then, something amazing happened. Denver scored a touchdown in the first quarter, stopped the Chiefs, then scored another touchdown. I was so excited I put on my shoes, picked up the keys, and took LuAnn to go buy me some new pants!

The problem is the emotional spike didn’t change the underlying fact that I’ve been running on fumes and was still way too tired. So after hitting my limit for pants hunting, we headed home. Walked into the living room… reclaimed the tv and sat down to discover the Broncos were still throttling the Chiefs… then realized, something wasn’t right. Something just felt off in my left thigh, so I put my hand in my pocket and felt a little loose change and nothing else. This probably wouldn’t be an issue for most people, but when I was in high school I developed a paranoia in Berlin about getting pick pocketed (or is it picked pocket???) so I started putting my wallet in my front pocket. The habit has never died.

I hate trying to dig it out of a pocket that is too small, so when I try on pants, I always put the wallet in the pocket to see how the pants do. Kind of a real world test right there in the dressing room! Normally, I find wisdom in the practice and it has saved me from many aggravating pocket fights with otherwise innocuous pants, but yesterday… I was way too tired and left my wallet in the pants that I did not buy when I hung them back out on the clearance rack at Herbergers. Oops. Thankfully, no one else showed a whole lot of interest in those particular pants (maybe I have bad taste, too) so when we got back to the store, the wallet was right there where I stupidly left it. Bonehead.

After all of that, I still didn’t buy any pants. Just couldn’t settle. I remember once, a nice lady in the church named Mary Jane who gave me a pair of UnionBay pants that were a little miscut. She’d bought them for her son at the outlet store, but he was too normal shaped. Those pants were perfect. I miss them. I’d give my left cheek for another pair like those… but then I guess they wouldn’t fit right anymore.

I don’t think there’s a moral to this story…
except that maybe you should always check your pockets.
Or that maybe if you’re prone to being picky about pants, you should never go to Berlin.
Or maybe you should never forget to thank God for people like Mary Jane.
Or maybe that you should always shake hands after the game, even when you get your butt kicked.

Can you think of any other lessons I should be learning here?


I wasn’t swinging for the fence or anything in my message last night, but to say that it didn’t go well would be an understatement. I was pretty disappointed. I don’t know if it was the change in weather, some last second technical glitches, or the fact that I wore the same t-shirt 2 weeks in a row… but there was no focus whatsoever. I’m not sure anyone in the room really heard anything. The thing is, that even though last night’s delivery was no home run, I still think this is a pretty important message. We all are becoming something. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to do that on purpose?

In 1 Samuel 9-11 we can read the account of how a tall, good looking guy from nowhere became the first king of the Israelite nation. While the story of his reign isn’t always a great example for us to follow, in this episode, there is a lot to be emulated. There’s a great list of what Saul was doing that enabled him to become king. If we want to become people who make a difference, this is a great place to start:
-Honoring and obeying our parents Saul’s dad was missing some donkeys and sent him out to find them. After a long time searching, Saul encountered the prophet Samuel, who anointed him as king. What if Saul decided he didn’t have to do what his dad asked him to do? (In hindsight, maybe this is where it all went wrong last night – you start a message to teens about obeying Dad and the eyes start to gloss over pretty quickly…)

-Seeking counsel that is Godly “There’s a man of God…Perhaps he can tell us which way to go.” As we set the courses we’ll take in life, we need the input of people who are close to God. 

-Accepting what was unexpected Saul didn’t go off looking for someone to coronate him, he was just looking for donkeys. God elevated him to the position, he wasn’t stepping over someone else to get it.

-Allowing God to work I’m not sure if Saul knew what to think about all this that was going on. He seems to be open to what Samuel was saying, but it had to be a little hard to swallow. Saul was nobody. He hadn’t gone to king school and hadn’t earned a king degree… he was completely unqualified for the job as far as we know. But in chapter 10, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God changed his heart…”  

-Maintaining an attitude of humility I might have wanted to run home and tell everyone the good news that now I was the king! At the first opportunity to do just that with his uncle, Saul kept it a secret. There seems to be a humility about this young Saul that allowed him to become king. (Unfortunately, later in his reign, the humility seemed to disappear.) “God opposes the proud” so if we are going to become difference makers, we also need this humble attitude. 

-Keeping company with the Godly “When Saul returned home at Gibeah, a band of men whose hearts God had touched became his constant companions.” What we become is hugely influenced by who we allow to fill our time. To whom do we give the right to influence our lives? We will become like them.

-Gathering your tribe to respond to the Spirit In chapter 11, Saul is moved by the Spirit of God to assert his own influence on the people he’d been called to serve as king.  Some of them were about to be crushed by an opposing king, so Saul called the people together to come to their rescue. We each need to gather our tribes, those people with whom we have influence, in response to the Spirit. 
What are you becoming? 
Becoming isn’t about ambition – it’s about living a life that positions you to let God raise you up.

Don’t Give Up

I came across this video this morning and wanted to pass it on. It comes from NewSpring Church down in South Carolina. They’ve been doing a great marriage series about fighting FOR your marriage. Check out the whole series, but watch this short clip, too, of one couple’s story. “No situation is hopeless. Nothing is too big for God.” It’s so important to remember that. He is strong enough to sustain your marriage even when you are not – not only to sustain it, but to make it thrive!

A Story: From the Ashes from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

As a youth pastor, one of the most devastating events I’ve seen in the lives of my students has been divorce. When mom and dad don’t love Jesus enough to love each other, kids get hurt beyond understanding. I know some of my students who read this can verify the pain and confusion that their parents’ separation has caused them. It’s a pain and confusion through which only Jesus could rescue them. To them I want to be very clear: the end of your parents’ marriage is not your fault. You are a bystander, being injured in a fight that is not your own. Keep praying for your parents. Love them like Jesus does. Do your best to continue to honor your mother and father.

I love Jason’s statement near the end of the video: “Divorce is no longer an option, and Jesus is the reason for that.” May this attitude be reflected in the marriage of every disciple… Don’t give up.

Leaders Who Don’t Know What To Do

O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless… We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (from 2 Chronicles 20:12)

A friend had this posted this morning as a status update on Facebook and it really got me thinking about leadership.  Sometimes we think leaders are the ones with all the answers, but the truth is that leaders sometimes don’t know what to do, either. If we did, we’d never make a bad decision. (Which reminds me of a great sermon from Andy Stanley at Catalyst West in 2009 – here are some similar thoughts I had in a post after that conference.)

The king of Judah was one such leader at the point when he uttered those words. The neighboring nations had decided they’d had enough of the Israelites and were gathering their armies to destroy them. King Jehoshaphat knew they were in trouble. These armies were huge, they were mean, and Judah had just recently split from Israel and wasn’t really a military powerhouse. In short, they were dead meat and their king knew it. At the news of his impending doom, Jehoshaphat “sought the Lord for guidance. He also gave orders that everyone throughout Judah should observe a fast. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord.”

He knew he was powerless in the face of what opposed him, so he brought his people together to seek help from God. As the people stood before God, desperate for his help “the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there.” God told the people through him to take courage, that He would be doing the fighting. “Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.” As the army of Judah marched out against a force much greater than they, the gathered opposition began to turn on each other. So much so, that by the time Judah had come into view of the other armies, the only thing left was a vast field of bodies. They’d killed each other off! The men of Judah spent the next 3 days plundering. The surrounding kingdoms began to fear the God of Judah, and the nation lived at peace.
The most important action in the face of this kind of “Oh crap, what are we going to do?” moment is to ask God what He wants. There are a few additional thoughts that God’s impressing on me with this story as well:

  • We need to be clear on what He wants. (If we’re unclear about His vision for His people, we cannot move forward on His mission. Don’t stop asking what He wants.)
  • We need to remember what He’s already done. (Whatever obstacle we face today, it hasn’t caught God off guard. He’s ready to handle it and able to obliterate it.)
  • We need to admit we don’t know what to do. (Stop pretending your armor has no weak spots and seek guidance from the One who doesn’t.)
  • We need to accept His answer however it comes. (“One of the men standing there” was used by God to deliver the solution. Who’s standing around in your life waiting to be heard?)
  • We need to do what He tells us to do. (“Don’t just be hearers of the word… but do what it says.” Even if that means putting the singers out front and marching straight into a battle you know you can’t win.)
  • We need to give credit where credit is due. (“His love endures forever!” Victory will not come because of our great strategies and programs… “The win” will not happen because of our great resolve and cunning methodology… Never take credit for what only God could have possibly done.)

Formative Experience

“The heart will gravitate toward whatever offers adventure and significance.” [from Joiner/Neiuwhof in Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community (The Orange Series)]

I really appreciated this book’s overall approach to parenting, but this quote really stood out to me. Our primary responsibility as parents isn’t just to keep our kids safe and cozy and above the influence of a cold, hard world. It’s to lead our families to tell a story so great that people want to know Who wrote it. If we don’t foster experiences that really matter, our kids will look for them somewhere else.

These experiences of “adventure and significance” help to form a faith that is deep enough to share. They lead kids to the realization that God can accomplish something meaningful through them. They lead them to tell the compelling story of God’s restorative, redemptive work in them and in the world.

I’m curious, as a father and a youth minister… I’m always trying to create experiences that are formative for the faith of the young people I’m with (those who are ‘mine’ and those who are not). What experiences have been most formative for your faith? Are there ways we could work together to craft some similar experiences for another generation?

Adventures in Leaping Before I Look

What do you get when you cross an entomologist, 3 high school guys, and a youth minister? There’s no punchline, because this just isn’t funny!

I don’t really know what I’m doing at all, but does this look like progress to you? Anyone can roof a house, right? Right…? Oh well, I’m figuring things out as I go here. That’s just how I roll.

Friday, the city dropped off a huge roll-off container for the debris, and I started stripping off shingles from the shed, workshop, garage, and patio – with the help of some really good people. We discovered some rotted wood on the patio roof, so that slowed things down a bit, but so far, that’s been the only big surprise. I’ll have to get some new decking to put up there.  Decking is roofing code…
for plywood – which will be much more stable than the crappy particle board that’s rotting up there right now!

The truth is, after all the scraping we’d done, when we found that mess under the felt, I was ready to admit defeat. I’m feeling more optimistic today and should have the workshop done by dark, which will at least make me feel like something’s being accomplished.

So far, we’ve spent a lot of money, made a big mess, popped a wheelbarrow tire, and pried up about 5,237 nails… And we’re just getting started. I did find some very convenient starter strip rolls that are 33′ long and will save me from cutting off any appendages while trying to slice a straight line through asphalt. I’m sure I’ll receive my fair share of mockery from my extended family for cheating like that, but I can live with it. They all hogged the handyman genes and stuck me with the geeky stuff.

Which means… even though I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I’ll figure it out (again with the help of some really good people). Ok, blog break over, I suppose… back to the roof.