Taking Trophies from Kids

In case you missed it, last week the defensive star for the Pittsburgh Steelers became the most recent flurry of internet heat. James Harrison was quoted as saying that he takes away the participation trophies that are given to his young kids, and I love it. In a time where showing up gets you praise, James is rebelling against the system. That system produced us current floundering twentysomethings, and not with bad intentions. Our parents, by-in-large, had tough, uncompromising parents. Their parents survived things. They fought in wars. They worked in factories, reared kids, and made a way for themselves. Our parents caught the firmness of the back of a belt, and sometimes the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that came with having to be tough to survive. (This is not an excuse for abusive behavior, just illustrating a general shift in tone for what it meant to be a parent). For previous generations, a life of comfort and following your every pleasure whim were not nearly as socially acceptable as today.

Our parents swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. We were the best, at everything, always. We put drawings on the fridge even if they were not good. We kept “special boxes” of memories that included lots of random T shirts from childhood (actually, the mothers of a couple of my friends gathered all their old special shirts and sewed them into a quilt to they could see all their memories on a special blanket). I actually do think this is kind of cool, and I do wish I had kept my shirts from elementary school, sports, and youth group trips to turn them into a sweet quilt. But that is the problem! (or at least part of it). We swoon, literally, in our childhood accomplishments and we think that showing up warrants a trophy.

In real life, showing up doesn’t get you praised, and in response many of us stopped showing up. Not caring became cool.  Someone famous said that quote about 90% of success is just showing up. Great, but I think where you show up to is the key factor there. I think what you do matters a lot. I like that James Harrison, a man who obviously has a work ethic, is setting the standard higher for his son than just being on the team. Does being on a team take work? Dedication? Conviction? Yes, but those things should be normal things in you, not the things you celebrate. Those attributes should lead you to things worth celebrating, to the formational experiences, and the lasting memories.  

So, can we give trophies? Sure, but how about valuing people for who they really are. At a youth event a couple years ago, we went to a thrift store and bought a ton of trophies from the 80s and 90s. Old bowling trophies. Used BMX bike trophies. Medals given for random field days. When our students won the competitions at the weekend event, we awarded them with the upcycled trophies. Then, the biggest awards of the night went to the people who were “caught being good.” The people who did Christ-like acts of humility, servanthood, and unselfishness got called up and surprised with gift certificates and a huge affirmation.

 

Action Steps: Maybe the best we can do is call out the ways we see God at work in each other. Often times, I bet others can see God working in and through you before you can see it yourself. This week be quick to notice God at work and tell someone “Amen for your life.” Instead of failing to show up or awarding mere participation, let’s reward the goodness and godliness we see in others.

 

OMG I love your bracelet, and other compliments.

 Regina George pays a "compliment"

Regina George pays a "compliment"

What is that little thing that can brighten your day no matter what? When my Real Simple magazine gets dropped in the mailbox, I'm a happy gal. Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to reading it, but it brings with it moments of rest, learning, and creative dreaming. I recently read in their new "Women and Work" section a survey fact about negative remarks. Far and away, women said that they are most likely to get upset over a negative comment regarding their...appearance. 

At the bottom of the list were remarks about children. To me, this looks like an inverse relationship between the things we are most secure about. A negative remark about our appearance can throw us off all day, because it picks at something about which we can already feel insecure. But a remark about our career or children - well, we don't rely on the off-hand remarks of others for our whole sense of worth in those areas. We stand more secure in the things that deeply matter. 

On the flipside, I wonder if a compliment about appearance would have the same weight as a negative comment. Sure, I appreciate a compliment, and you can always tell me if my hair looks good! But I fear we throw around compliments about looks just to make conversation..."oh, that's a cute skirt" or "you look nice today." Those remarks don't carry much intentionality. However, when someone gives a compliment about something significant, such as career, or children, or how they see God alive in you, that carries some weight. It means someone saw deeper than your trendy outfit and pointed out something worthy they notice about who you truly are.

Repeatedly in the Gospels, Jesus truly sees people. And his words are life-changing and healing - not mere compliments. May we see with the eyes of God and let that change how we speak to others as well as how we receive those remarks about ourselves. 

Scripture:

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Luke 13:10-13 (NIV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

How can you compliment others more intentionally?

What negative remarks upset you?

How can that reveal insecurities? How do you respond?

What is in your heart for the Lord to see?

 

 

Greater than...

Recognize that little math symbol? I loved drawing the alligator teeth to remind me which direction was which. Anyone else? When this posts, Jared will be on a plane to the deep South. He's speaking at a high school summer camp this week, where the theme is "Greater Than." The local churches who selected the theme hoped their students would see that God is greater than their sin, greater than their brokenness, greater than the world they see. In sermon preparations, we reflected on verses that contain those words.

Psalm 135:5

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.

John 10:29

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

John 14:11-12

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

Matthew 18:1-3

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

1 John 4:3-5

...but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

 

In this equation, God is always greater than. God's reign is greater. God's love is greater. God's works are greater. God's Kingdom is greater. God's Spirit is greater. These are only a handful examples of God's greatness in Scripture. In your life, what is God greater than? 

God Still Speaks

 Photo Credit: Monty Python

Photo Credit: Monty Python

I am always wary of people when they lead with, "God told me…"

But I shouldn't doubt it. I believe God is real. I believe that God is still creating, moving, and active amongst creation. Why then do I doubt? For a number of reasons, but more importantly, why should I believe the doubts?

God still speaks, through: 1) revelation through Scripture 2) audibly to people 3) through the Holy Spirit by leading, guiding, convicting, comforting 4) healing 5) logic/reason (knowledge/wisdom) 6) nature 7) tradition of the Church 8) personal experience 9) communal experience 10) conscience 

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
— Romans 10:17

How have you seen God move? 

A Blessing and a Call

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Over the weekend in Los Angeles, a theatre full of "justice junkies" (in the words of one speaker), gathered to be inundated with wisdom, challenges, Scripture, statistics, stories, and truth related to all forms of justice. Through speakers and music, we were pointed again and again toward the God who desires justice, who invites us into the redemptive work of the Kingdom. Forgive me while I process this information into a few more blog posts. But for now, may I point you toward this prayer, which was offered this weekend at The Justice Conference. 

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing

by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, 
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour, 
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, 
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN

Scripture: Isaiah 58: 6-12 (NIV)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Further Exploration:

Look up the work of the following speakers (bios and links found here)

Dr. Bernice King

Lynn Hybels

Donald Miller

Brian Stevenson

Stephen Bauman

Justin Dillon

Nicole Baker Fulgham

Gabriel & Jeannette Salguero

N.T. Wright

Marcel Serubungo

Jenny Wang

Ken Wystma

Alexia Salvatierra

Eugene Cho

Jim Wallis

Sami Awad

Bethany Hoang

Noel Castellanos

Rick McKinley

Mae Cannon

 

READ ALL ABOUT IT!!!

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The worst part about being a paperboy is that the ink dies your hands black. Well, that and waking up at 5:20am every morning, even earlier on Saturdays. Or the dog chasing you. Or when it rains...actually, being a paperboy wasn’t that great.  However, there is something cool about being the one who delivers the news. At the time, our small town paper had the scoop on whatever was happening in town, the United States, and around the globe.

Now we all have any information we want at our fingertips at all times. My homepage is set to a spreadsheet of twelve different sites that I daily refer to for information.  My news comes from the Huffington Post. My sports from Yahoo Sports. My movie trailers from Apple Trailers. The latest in animal fashion from... (jk).  Think of the places you go for information….

What if your current sins or vices were published publicly there for all to see? 

On the front page of the New York Times? or on the homepage of your online news source, your photo included? or on your Facebook feed?  If you knew it was happening in 10 days from now, would it change the way you live? What would you change? Can you think of anything to confess? repent of?

We serve a God who forgives us, already knowing everything about us that could be published. We live post-resurrection. So why wait to ask for God’s grace? The essence of grace is that we do not deserve it, so stop delaying! God is waiting to cover and erase what you try to keep hidden. Open up. Accept the loving grace of God. Be free.

Scripture: 

Luke 8:17 (NIV)

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Matthew 9:10-12 (NIV)

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Further Exploration:

Confess, repent, "go and sin no more"

Sailing Straight

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Somewhere we adopted the idea that God’s will is a tightrope. One wrong step and you could fall off. This paralyzes our ability to function as we were created to be. The Pharisees held so tightly to the rules that even when they were in the presence of the living God, they missed the point.  God’s will is less like a walking a tightrope and more like steering a sailboat. 

My friend said, “Grab the helm and keep us going straight.”  I jumped behind the wheel and held on with white knuckles. The wheel didn’t move an inch.  After attending to the other needs of the boat, he returned to check our progress. “We’ve gone way off path,” he said kindly, as to not hurt my feelings. I was shocked, “How is that possible? I’ve been holding the wheel perfectly straight.”  He explained that in order to maintain your desired direction in sailing, constant adjustments need to be made.  Pointing the boat straight, even with great fervor, failed to take into account the stirring waves or the guiding winds. 

Journeying towards God is not stagnant. It is not a riddle to solve or a skill to master.  Likewise, it can not be achieved by tightly clutching to the comfort of the Law.  Our journey never happens removed from the swirling tides of life, culture, and community that move around us.

So bring the bow of your life around, realign it with the Kingdom, and let the guiding winds of the Holy Spirit move you there.

Scripture: John 14:15-21 (NIV)

"If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Futher Exploration:

Watch Man on Wire

Go Sailing

The Shadow Free Love of Forrest Gump

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In good stories, characters grow or change.  In fact, I know of only one character who remains unchanged by the circumstances around him.  The brilliant Forrest Gump.

In Forrest’s love there are no shifting shadows. This is contrasted by Jenny, whose life is filled with shadows/secrets/selfishness. Her hot and cold love for Forrest causes him pain, yet his devotion for her never waivers, even when she betrays him and walks out.  Jenny ends up suffering and then dying as a result of her choices, but Forrest forgives and sits with her as she dies.  

Forrest’s love models God’s love for us, pure, unending, forgiving.  I am the one who continually walks away from the best offer, taking that unending love for granted.  I never thought I’d be the “Jenny”...

ScriptureJames 1:17 (NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Further Exploration:

Watch Forrest Gump 

Read In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen.