42 Scattered Thoughts

A few years ago, I posted 37 Scattered Thoughts for my birthday & thought I’d do something similar this year (after the actual day, but… whatever). As I offer this peak into the random things that bounce around my little gray cells, some may make you laugh, some may make you a little concerned, some may even make you mad. All in all, though, I hope they serve to tap something inside you that will open you up to the possibilities of charging forward in an unstoppable kingdom. To keep it short bearable, I won’t offer a lot of context or explanation, so if you need some clarification, let me know in the comments…

    1. I turned 42 yesterday and it didn’t hurt a lot.
    2. Birthdays are a quirky phenomena. Some numbers seem to mean more than others, but on every birthday, you really only got one day older anyway.
    3. This is what my first church has looked like this year:I can think of no responsibility greater than discipling them. If you see me failing to disciple them because I’ve gotten to busy discipling someone else’s kids, feel free to grab me by the face and tell me I’ve lost the plot. Thanks.
    4. I published a book this year! It’s a self-published devotional type of journal that you write along with me. It’s helped me pray and teach students to pray and can help you move forward in your prayer life, too.
    5. The sales of the book have not been overwhelming – though better than what I understand is average for a first time, self-published work.
    6. The responses of people who are reading it has been awesome and affirming! I love seeing it make a difference for people.
    7. It’s not the last book I will write.
    8. I have not written near as much this past year as I had intended. Fear, perfectionism, distraction… each of these has played a role in my self-editing. I feel like they’ve too often choked the words out before they were fully given life on a page (or screen). I’ve also been busy adjusting to lots of new realities that has left me feeling unsure of what to share.
    9. I just edited out several thoughts that started to flesh themselves out into the world of words. Phew… that was close!
    10. I was the oldest player at an alumni soccer game earlier this year. Hopefully that won’t continue to be the case. Come on guys… get in shape this summer so you can make it.
    11. I’m not in shape, either.
    12. I’m 42, so maybe I am. Is 42 a shape?
    13. My oldest daughter is 18 and graduating HS this year. Her plan since Jr. High has been to go to NCC and become a worship pastor. She’s sticking with that plan, and I can’t wait to see what God will do through her and who He’ll inspire through her.
    14. When I was 18, I had plans, too. Big, scary ones that forced me to rely on God to see them through. Looking back, they weren’t really “my” plans. They were His plans that He let me in on – and I didn’t know enough to be as scared as I should have been. His plans are awesome.
    15. I need to forget some things so He can let me in on those types of plans again.
    16. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford: “I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” Ford needed people who would not be limited by what they already knew, so that they could accomplish what no one else ever had. (Forget What Can’t Be Done is a post I wrote about it a while back.)
    17. The church needs those kind of guys too, and I want to be one again. I used to be better at not knowing limits… so I exceeded a lot of them.
    18. I got straight A’s in school – and underperformed. I hope my straight A kids don’t fall into that trap, too.
    19. Sometimes, I still have underperformed.
    20. I’m full of contradictions like that. Vanity wants to tell me that makes me interesting and mysterious, but probably it just makes people around me confused and frustrated. Sorry.
    21. The conductor of the Boston Philharmonic once said, “It is my job to awaken possibilities in others.” That’s my job, too, but I work with different instruments and the sound is a whole lot more chaotic! Maybe I need a baton… Maybe not.
    22. I was dead until Jesus breathed new life into me. Not just sick or hurting… Not just broken or bruised… Not just prone to wander or outright lost… Dead.
    23. I’m not dead anymore. My life is full of immeasurably more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed because His Spirit is breathing in me; His breath fills my lungs.
    24. I’m not sure what happened, but the last few months, my passion for soccer has re-engaged. Not that it ever disappeared but… I can’t get enough. I found myself watching a game feed that was broadcast in Portuguese the other day.
    25. I do not speak Portuguese. At all. Some German. A little bit of Spanish. Zero Portuguese.
    26. It’s odd how passions can drift or be stifled by other things in life. Maybe that’s natural, maybe not…
    27. I serve on the board for a mission called 3:18 Ministries that is sharing Christ’s love in really practical ways on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona. It was awesome to finally be able to take some students from here down to help this last summer.
    28. Students need to get out of their usual setting from time to time to meet new people, do new things, and connect with God in new ways.
    29. I am not a fan of the creepy, crawly things we met there in Globe, AZ (snakes, scorpions, tarantulas…), but I am a huge fan of seeing my students get to know my friend Tory, whose heart is so full of Christ’s love that it leaks when it breaks for the Apache kids he works with. I hope they’ll have hearts like his.
    30. I think the world would be a much better place if every kid I work with would find that thing that breaks God’s heart that breaks theirs, too. So I try to help them find it, even though sometimes I fear their parents would rather they didn’t. It’s hard watching your kids hurt, but there is good hurt.
    31. My kids are His. That’s even more important than them being ‘mine’. That’s not an excuse to shirk my responsibility to disciple them and just leave it up to God or some youth pastor. Just a reminder that He’s got even more invested in them than I do – and He’s WAY better at working things out for their good than I am. Even the things that hurt.
    32. My favorite books read this year were An Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus & Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson. The imaginations of these men and their ability to craft great visuals for the church with their words are inspiring to me.
    33. I have 16 books from those two authors. They are among the few books I ever read more than once.
    34. I also read 1984 by George Orwell and The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley this year. 1984 was a little hard to finish and frustrating when I did. Malcolm X was a fascinating mixture of frustration and wonder for me. He was a criminal filled with hate… then he wasn’t. He was a man in transition seeking a peace (sometimes violently) that he could not find. I wondered what would have been next for him had he not been killed. I wondered what he would have been if he’d met the real Jesus instead of the fake, whitewashed version shown to him as a kid. I wouldn’t like that Jesus either.
    35. There is no political solution to the problems facing our nation right now. No party, policy, or legislation can fix what is broken inside us or break down the walls that divide us. But the King of another Kingdom (one that is unshakable) holds the key to binding us together and healing our wounds. In Him there is no black or white – no difference large enough to divide us. I still hold to His hope.
    36. It’s been really hard to be a Broncos fan this year. Hope has been hard to come by, there.
    37. I am a little bit sorry for that abrupt turn. But, hey… I’m 42.
    38. I have had little patience for the fans around me lately. Whether it’s the Husker fans who know just who to blame for all the losing or the Broncos fans calling for various QB’s to sit and others to start or US Soccer fans thinking they know just where to place the blame for the men’s failure to qualify for the World Cup… It’s easy to be a fan from a distance and diagnose simple solutions to problems so complex that, up close, you actually have no idea where to start. Does the world really need that kind of fan? If you really can fix it, get in the game and fix it. If you know how to lead others to fix it, grab a clipboard, Coach, and get to work!
    39. We take sports way too seriously, but that World Cup qualifying failure really hurt. I’m hopeful it will spark a leap in the development of younger players, though. I try not to be the fan with all the uninformed answers, but… we can do better, and I think it starts with coaches and kids. Sometimes, that means mom and dad get a little more training before being turned loose with a bunch of U10’s.
    40. 42 random things make for a long blog post. Sorry. If I’d turned 22, it might not have been any better because I knew everything back then, right?
    41. My 4 kids and wife amaze me every day. I am so fortunate to have been graced with the gift of marrying my best friend early enough that we could set course together and lay the foundations of our adulthood together. It’s enabling us to launch our kids into their own adulthoods from a stable base, from which I know, led by God, they will accomplish great things that other people have told them are impossible. Silly people… Don’t tell my kids that. The launch sequence has begun and as big and scary as that is… We’ll just keep relying on God to do what only He can do.
    42. If you buy my book here (just click on the cover image), He just might spark some thoughts in you through it that will start something much greater than this post. (That’s not because the book is so great, but because He is, and a lot of my words are simply pointing you to His!)

4 Days Dead

Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.

~ Paul to the church in First Century Rome

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing on a stage with a mic strapped to my face, speaking for chapel at NCC. As a soon to graduate NCC student 20 years earlier, this was barely an event that would have crossed my mind. As a high school kid a few years before that, it would have been a terrifying prospect had that eventuality sparked in the synapses of the younger me. I was petrified of speaking in public and it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. (Speeches in class were the bane of my high school existence – even at the hands of my favorite teacher.) It just would not have occurred to me that I would willingly place myself in front of a room full of people and try to communicate a message to them, let alone one as important as expounding on an Apostle’s message delivered on behalf of Christ to some of His first followers.

Incidentally, my oldest daughter was also in the room. She can see herself on the stage. She’s probably got a piano in front of her, but she can already see herself leading God’s people in musical prayer and celebration of His greatness. It’s all she really wants to do – which is why she’s on the path to enrolling there next year in the worship arts program! A former student who just graduated from that same program was there, too, leading the body to express our admiration and praise to the God who has incredibly blessed us all. It was quite a mix of nostalgia and anticipation as my past (both recent and distant), present, and future all swirled in my mind and heart like an echoing bell reverberating over and over through the landscape of my life.

Whoah. That was a little overdramatic. Sorry.

I can get carried away when it comes to the transformation that has happened in my life over the past 25 years or so. I am not who I once was because I have done as Paul instructed and God has built something different out of the pieces I returned to Him. That’s what I talked about in chapel. I have a suspicion that at least some of the students are a little uncertain as they still cling to bits and pieces of self. I suspect, like me, that they have their hearts set in the right direction and genuinely want to do whatever work God has planned for them… but they’re not quite sure they can handle it. Maybe you’re there, too. If that’s the case, let me reassure you – you’re right. You can’t handle it.

That’s why He calls us to offer ourselves (with all our inefficiencies and brokenness) to Him “as those who have been brought from death to life.” We offer ourselves to the Creator Craftsman who knows just what we’re here for and exactly how to re-shape us so that His life giving image can once again be seen in us. So just how do “those who’ve been brought from death to life” offer themselves to God?

  • With Confidence – There is no longer any fear of death. He’s been there and knocked death’s teeth out. “Where O Death is your victory?”
  • With Consistency – We have a constant reminder of who “orders our steps.” We are free to choose whatever steps we want to take, but only some of those steps will keep us on the path He’s intended and prepared for us. So we give ourselves to Him consistently with every choice we make.
  • With Clarity – We know the stakes are high. We are not made for only here and now – we are made for something more. So we give ourselves to Him knowing this moment will give way to eternity.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus is a great picture for us. Literally brought back from death, he answered Jesus and came out of the grave! He was 4 days dead when Jesus told him to come back. I think a lot of us are “4 days dead” – not really engaged in the vibrant life of someone fully living with the Breath of God within us. Lacking clarity, consistency, and confidence, we pad along through lives that are scarcely more than grave-tending. Just waiting… Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just me…

But if you’ve been 4 days dead for far too long, it’s time to take off the grave clothes, take a shower, and deliver life to the dying around us.

How do those who’ve been brought from death to life offer themselves to God? COMPLETELY

The Vanishing American Adult

I don’t usually dig into political debate, and I don’t intend to here, but I recently read The Vanishing American Adult from Senator Ben Sasse. It’s telling that I felt it necessary to preface this post with a bit of a disclaimer, isn’t it? We really need to do a better job of hearing the dissenting voices around us rather than just snapping on the noise canceling headphones and climbing into the echo chambers that repeat to us exactly what we want to hear. That’s not to say that Sasse is, for me, a voice of dissent or an echo chamber, but rather that many will fail to grasp what he says simply because he is a Senator, a conservative, or a Republican. They’ll think he must be writing from a particular viewpoint that they already know they are against, and so, will not hear clearly through the muck of pre-formed opinions based on what particular label they assign to him.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was Sasse’s ability to seek and to share genuine understanding of opposing positions. It’s a refreshingly adult way to approach differences, which gets to the heart of what the book is about in the first place: raising adults. How can we better prepare the next generation to face the rigors of life? We have not been doing a great job at this and Sasse offers hopeful paths toward a better way for parents, teachers, coaches… for American society to equip the next generation of citizens to be more than self-absorbed consumers.

We are going to need America’s children to rise to their best in the years to come, because a nation of adult-children cannot be a nation of self-governing people…

A republic is the only form of government, the only social arrangement, that seeks to make individuals preeminent in their own self-control, their own self-possession. A republic is thus at once liberating and scary. For it both requires and assumes adults, not subjects. And this is a rare state of affairs in political history.

– Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult

Having worked with youth for the last 20 years, I see so many lights of hope in the next generation. But we need to do a better job of helping our young people toughen up enough to hold on to their hope when life gets difficult. Self-reliance doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens when we walk with our kids through a process of teaching, mentoring, and coaching them to set aside the drive for instant gratification and remain determined to progress in a certain direction. Sasse offers some helpful guidance about how we can do this via real education, travel, meaningful work, and a host of other life long learning practices.

If you have a stake in the success of the future generations of Americans (we all do), you’ll find much to appreciate in this book.