Waiting for Super(wo)man: Being Single

We often define key moments of our life as the “big” events. Big events are things like graduations, a wedding, a funeral, a birth, a hiring. Certainly events like those are memorable and play a big part in the shape and direction of our life. What is often unnoticed, however, are the small moments that bring us to the big ones. Small moments are every bit as important in defining the contour of our lives.
A few years ago I was attending a surprise birthday party for a friend of mine. Shortly after we had surprised her, I received a text message from another friend of mine. In the text, my friend indicated that her father figure had suffered a severe stroke and his future was suddenly uncertain. Just that fast her life had changed. One phone call had rocked her world, and one text message to me had put a damper of reality on my celebratory mood. My suddenly distraught friend was also a friend to the friend celebrating a birthday, but I chose not to pass along the information. My friend should be able to celebrate her birthday.
Little moments.
I can point to a little moment that led to one of my big moments. I was working an event on the college campus where I attended, an all-day workshop that needed my presence to help direct guests in the right direction. It wasn’t as exciting or action-packed as working some of the concerts that came on campus, but it provided some needed spending money nonetheless. During a lull in the morning, I stooped down to pick up a brochure. The brochure provided information on summer employment at a youth camp, an area of work that had recently caught my interest. As I picked it up, a person behind me commented, “That’s a good place to work.”
Unbeknownst to me, the director of the camp was watching me and was looking for counselors to work with the youth who would attend. I followed up, interviewed, and was hired. Another hire for the summer happened to be a mentee of the Camp Director, and would become my wife a little over three years later. I often wonder how life would be different for me had I not picked up that shift on a Saturday morning. Yes, I was interested in working at a summer camp, but I had never heard of this camp before. Would I have met the person who became my wife?
I don’t think so.
Little moments.
In the seven years of being divorced, I have often been stuck looking for “big” moments. Perhaps I expected the clouds to part, the sun to shine down in a laser beam, and the birds to start singing “This is the one.” That has not happened. When you focus too much on the big moments, you never allow yourself to be in the moment. The moment that you are in is all that you have, so why not be in it?
That is my challenge back to me and for you, whether you find yourself to be single or not. Be in the moment. You will never find another “big” moment if you do not first embrace all of the little ones that fill each and every day. Let the little moments lead you and the big moments will appear sooner than your realize.

I’ll Race Ya! Part I

One week ago I completed a workshop. I, along with 40 others, gave up 2.5 days to dig into and discuss the topic of racism. I must be honest: I was not looking forward to it. First of all, it is hardly a topic to be excited about. Secondly, that much sitting and talking did not appeal to me. But truthfully, when I dig down, I was a white person thinking, “This again?”
Three times in my life (once in college and twice in the workplace) I have attended a course titled “The Institutes for Healing Racism.” I have worked in diverse workplaces and serve in a diverse church body. My children are biracial. It’s not that it’s not important to me, but I foolishly assumed that I would have nothing to gain. Again, as I expose my foolish thinking, I felt that I was a white person who “got it” already.
I’m so glad that I was wrong. The truth is that my white privilege affords me the opportunity to not give regular attention to this topic. I live in a diverse area and am hardly sheltered from the struggle, but let’s face it – I’m white. How often do I really have to think about it? One of the leaders of the workshop, on the third day, began a monologue by saying “I’m a racist child of God.” She did not say it to be flip nor was she indicating that is all of who she is. In fact, she is very active in the fight against racism. Yet she acknowledges what she has done and has been in her life because of her failure to look through that lens.
She made another comment that I needed to hear. She said, “You cannot be a non-racist. Either you are a racist or an anti-racist.” That struck home with me. Those are exactly the kind of divisive words that make us uncomfortable. We do not want to be “for” or “against;” others may not like that. Isn’t it easier to be tolerant? Can’t we just be accepting and, therefore, be accepted for our lukewarm approach?
I choose that word intentionally. If we look through Scripture, we quickly notice the language of “for” or “against.” In Luke 9:50, Jesus said, “Do not stop him…for whoever is not against you is for you.” Jesus was correcting his followers who had stopped someone from driving out demons. Their reason for doing so? “He is not one of us.” (Luke 9:49b) Interesting. Isn’t that the very mindset at the root of racism: us versus them?
It is. And we, as Christ-followers, would do well to be on the side that is against racism. That is, after all, the winning side. You cannot, as I had allowed myself to think, fall into the camp of being a “non-racist.” I don’t know what that looks like for you. I simply want to bring it to your attention. For me, I want to make this a weekly topic of conversation. I need to keep it at the forefront.
It’s not hard to find. Unfortunately it can also be easy to ignore. But let me remind you that it is also to spit out lukewarm water.
Be hot or be cold.
Here are some news stories from today that you can chew on in order to consider the way that racism still plays out today.
http://espn.go.com/racing/nascar/truck/story/_/id/9883258/darrell-wallace-jr-becomes-first-black-driver-win-nascar-race-1963
http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9883705/lavelle-e-neal-first-black-writer-named-head-baseball-writers-association-america
http://news.yahoo.com/sharpton-threatens-store-boycott-over-171249957.html
http://tv.yahoo.com/news/julianne-hough-apologizes-wearing-blackface-part-halloween-costume-195604282.html

Finding God In: Playoff Baseball

Outside of the fan bases in Boston and St. Louis, you may not realize that baseball is still being played. Yes, even in the month when the sun sets at dinner time and the occasional snow showers fly, teams are still fighting for the title of World Series champions. In the four-week quest for the title of champion, individual plays and players are placed in the spotlight like no other time of year.

Just last night, in the first game of the World Series, two such events came under scrutiny. In the first inning of the game, the umpire called a player out even though the ball had clearly been dropped. All of the umpires had to converge in order to correct the call before the excitable fans in Boston corrected them. After the game, several people who watched the game drew attention to the possibility of a foreign substance in the glove of the pitcher for Boston – a clear violation. Everything receives extra attention and it becomes time to be known as a hero or a scapegoat.

Just over two weeks ago there was a critical moment for a player named Juan Uribe. If you follow baseball as I do, you already know that name. But short of the die-hard fans, Uribe is relatively unknown. He’s made a fine career for himself by playing his role on several teams, but his career is altogether average by professional baseball standards. He’s never been the best player on his team and he’s never been asked to shoulder the weight of any team’s success. In the two seasons prior to this one, you could have fairly asserted that his career was coming to a close. He had enough experience to be valuable, but his production barely merited a place on the team.

His professional approach remained a credit to Uribe and helped to justify his position on the team. Playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Uribe took on a role of mentor to those who needed it and his production began to increase as well. However, there were several players in the lineup who drew much more attention, and rightly so. Thus it came as no surprise that Uribe, in a critical position of a playoff game, was asked to bunt. For those of you who are less familiar with baseball, Uribe was asked to sacrifice himself. He did not need to get a hit, he just needed to knock the ball a few feet in front of him to advance another runner. If he could do that much, someone else would pick up the critical piece of hitting the ball in order to bring the base runner home to score.

There was only one problem: Uribe was failing. Twice he bunted the ball into foul territory. If he continued this approach and fouled off the baseball again, he would be out and the base runner would not advance. He had four chances to make it work, but none of them had gone according to plan. Now what? Well, the smart play would be to allow Uribe the freedom to swing. The team could not risk the chance of Uribe recording an out attempting to bunt. He would have to swing.

He did.

Uribe sent the ball soaring into the outfield, over the fence not to be caught – a home run! Instead of sacrificing himself, Uribe had given his team the lead. The lead held up and the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the next round of the playoffs. Uribe was a hero in spite of his failed attempts, in spite of his past mistakes, and in spite of his previous anonymity.

As Christ followers, we are often content to bunt. We cloak ourselves in the mantle of humility and say, “Someone else will do it.” It’s not that we are not called to humility, but far too often we have simply relabeled our doubts as “humility.” We, like the pre-restored Peter, are caught up in our past failures and mistakes. Even as we, like Peter, have a conversation with the risen Christ, we wonder why he challenges our love for him.

Maybe it’s because he has bigger plans for us. The risen Christ told Peter that he would be the rock upon which Christ would build his church. Think about that. Jesus decided to take Peter, the Jesus-denying apostle, and make him the foundation for the church. Bear in mind that there had been no “church” before this. Jesus took off the bunt sign and was letting Peter swing.

2,000 years later, all over the world, the Church remains. I would like to encourage you to stop looking at your past failures. I would like to ask you to stop expecting someone else to do it. I would like to ask you to believe, even if it seems unlikely, that Christ has big plans for you in his Kingdom. The reason he may ask you about your love for him is not just to hear where you stand, but so that he can remind you where he stands.

He loves you, and he wants you to dare to be used.

Swing away.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9789359/juan-uribe-home-run-propels-los-angeles-dodgers-nlcs 

Leaves and Forgiveness

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I have lived in Michigan all of my life, and this has become one of my favorite times of the year. I love to walk or drive just to see God’s mastery and creativity on display in the color displays of the trees. I have also learned to appreciate what those leaves can remind me about forgiveness.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 NIV

Jesus is very clear that forgiving others is not a do-it-if-you-feel-like-it part of life. Forgiveness of others is a condition of receiving the Father’s forgiveness.  If you have doubts, read the verses right before this where Jesus taught us how to pray. Then, if you still think that Jesus was having an off day, read his…

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