How Much Do You Have?
Not too long ago I was reminded about the classic children's book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. During the course of the story, the tree continues to lovingly give to the boy no matter what the personal cost. With each sacrifice, the tree is happy to give. In the final scene, the boy, now an old man, simply needs a place to sit and rest. The tree is now only a stump, but joyfully offers himself as a seat. And the tree was happy.
There have been a number of opinions as to the message of this story - everything from a parent/child relationship to some kind of sadomasochistic relationship. I remember hearing author Brennan Manning, who had a friendship with Silverstein, mention that he equated it with the unconditional love of God. I find that to be a powerful way of reading it.
I've been thinking about how generous I am with the things God has gifted to me. Most of us tend to focus on our limited resources and cautiously share from a scarcity viewpoint. But there is something that all of us possess in an unlimited supply: the love and hope that comes from God! Am I being overly cautious and stingy in sharing this abundant gift with others?
I hope you'll join us this coming Sunday, September 29th, as we continue our series on Reckless Faith by focusing on "Reckless Sowing". If you'd like to get a head start on the topic, you can read Luke 8:4-15.
Do You Dare?
About 10 years ago I decided to join a book study group with some other youth pastors in Kalamazoo, MI (yes, there really is a Kalamazoo). These were some men and women that I had gotten to know a bit from our monthly gatherings. However, this study would meet on the other three weeks of the month -- in other words, 3 times as often.
I met with these folks over the course of a couple of years and we read and discussed a number of books during that time. The most impactful one was called "The Real Deal" and was about becoming more authentic in life and leadership. This particular study required us to really open up about our lives and to be willing to become vulnerable. It was pretty scary to share some of this stuff! But I can't express enough how much I gained in depth of friendship and freedom from some emotional and spiritual baggage I had been carrying around for years! I'm still in contact with most of those people even though we now live various places around the country (I play Fantasy Football with some of them).
Participating in a small group has the potential for big growth in your spiritual life. I think it's the most effective way to mature in your faith because it provides a setting to ask questions and share your life with others in a safe and intimate setting. I know that I am better able to understand concepts when I have the opportunity to talk things out and wrestle with them together with others.
This Sunday, September 22nd, we'll be talking about these "Reckless Relationships" that take place in small, Community Groups. You'll learn about a number of groups around the valley that you can become a part of. I hope to see you there!
Fantasy vs. Reality
I'm a big football fan -- especially of the NFL. When I was a kid I covered the wall of my bedroom with pictures out of Sports Illustrated ... no, not from the swimsuit issue... pictures of Fran Tarkington and the Minnesota Vikings. I think I chose the Vikings as my team because of the connection to my Swedish heritage. When you live 1500 miles away from the nearest NFL city you need to come up with some sort of rationale in selecting "your team" and that was mine.
Of course I quickly abandoned my Viking loyalties in 7th grade when the Seahawks began their first season! I attended an Athletes in Action football camp that summer and a couple players who were hoping to make the team showed up one afternoon to participate with us. One of those players was an unknown and undrafted free agent out of Cal Poly Pomona named Jim Zorn. I like to brag that I caught a pass from the future Seahawk legend before he ever threw one in an NFL game! I'll be signing autographs after church on Sunday...
Although I played six years of football up through high school, I didn't have the skill, size, or killer instinct to have a future beyond that. Now I get my football fix through vicariously cheering on my nephew, Isaac Dotson, as he plays for WSU. And, of course, I rabidly watch the Seahawks and other games every chance I get.
About 10 years ago I started playing "Fantasy Football" with some other youth pastors in Kalamazoo, MI, where I served on staff at the Covenant Church. For those of you who are unfamiliar, participants in a fantasy league create their own team by 'drafting' NFL players and then compete each week to see whose team earned the most 'fantasy points'. It's not important to describe it any further, although I'd be happy to tell you about my team "the Gumming Monkeys" if you're interested.
But the contrast between fantasy and reality is most pronounced when meeting a real NFL player. I've had the chance to get to know a few Seahawks over the years including current long-snapper, Clint Gresham. My pretend, vicarious playing of the game is nothing compared to the reality of being on the field!
Christ-followers can suffer from the same contrast. There are those who are 'in the game' and serving the Kingdom of God in the way that God has shaped them to serve.... and there are those who are 'sitting in the bleachers'. Join us this Sunday, September 15th, as we take a look at Reckless Service and how to give your seat a rest! By the way, our Worship Celebration this week will be a bit different than you're used to -- so get ready! And there will be PRIZES! Hope to see you there.
Are You Safe?
When I was a kid, my family used to attend Family Camp at Covenant Beach in Des Moines, WA (the camp was sold years ago in order to purchase the land where Cascades Camp is now).
The camp was located in a long, narrow valley that opened onto Puget Sound.
One of the areas of special interest to me and my friends was a clay cliff face along the beach. It was on the other side of a wooden, rail fence -- that only made it more enticing to a young boy! We would spend hours digging into the side of the cliff in order to make hand and foot holds so that we could navigate our way across it while high above the beach below (I would guess that it was maybe 20 feet up, but it might as well have been 100 to my young mind). One summer I remember that a kid brought some fire crackers in order to do some "blasting"! Talk about AWESOME!!
I honestly don't recall whether we were breaking an official rule or not, but there was a sense of danger and "forbidden adventure" in playing there. It made us feel alive as we tempted fate and our dexterity high above the rocky beach.
Most of us have these kinds of memories of risk and excitement when we were kids. But few of us live lives of excitement as adults. Why is that? Is it simply a matter of being mature and acquiring a degree of discernment? Is our life supposed to be an endless sameness as if we're Captain Kirk giving the command, "Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu"? Sounds boring and nothing like Jesus promised in John 10:10.
"A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy.
I'm not advocating rebellion or being irresponsible, but we can be missing out on that promised "more and better life" while we play it safe. A life following Jesus will take us into the unknown and certainly far beyond the "same 'ole, same 'ole".
Join us this Sunday, September 8th, as we begin a new series we're calling "Reckless Faith". God's got so much more waiting for you if you're willing to climb over the fence!
Thoughts about living as a Jesus follower and life at Community Covenant Church