Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Race Controversy

You start out together jogging to your destination. Along the way one of you picks up the pace. The other matches. You’re side by side until the destination comes in site. Now the pace really picks up. Your fellow runner edges ahead. Not to be outdone, you respond in kind and push in front. No words are spoken but you both know: the race is on. It’s an all out sprint to the finish.

I suspect this happened with Peter and John that first Easter morning. Notice how John, referring to himself as “the other disciple”, describes the race:

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. John 20:3-8

These kinds of races usually end in controversy, as this one did. I imagine Peter and John returning to the disciples to tell the story of the empty tomb. As usual Peter speaks first, but John soon interrupts to correct him and let everyone know he in fact “reached the tomb first”. Before any details of the empty tomb can be shared, Peter fires back that no, in fact, he was the first inside the tomb. To which John claims they weren't running into the tomb but to the tomb, and he was the first to the tomb! At this point the rest of the disciples tell them both to shut up and tell about the tomb!

Sixty years later it's still a controversy of who won the race. As John records his recollections of the first Easter morning, of the most awesome news of resurrection, he can't keep from mentioning his version of the race, twice stating he “reached the tomb first” and that Peter “came along behind him.” 

Competition does that to you. It raises the stakes, gets you caring about something more than maybe you should. Obviously the importance of who won the race pales in comparison to the reality of the empty tomb. Sixty years later and we're still talking about who won a race?!?

Yet I kind of like that John is still making the argument long after the fact. I like that he cares. I like the drive that spurs him to run hard in pursuit of Jesus, to seek to be the first to see Him. I see in John's passion an invitation to wake every morning and run to Jesus and to seek Him first throughout the day. Of all the races we can run in this life, this one is most worthy of our best - giving our all to follow Him, pressing forward, seeking Him, collapsing at His feet, and finally being raised up as He was raised, victorious over sin and death.
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus - Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The day before Palm Sunday, the day before the crowds welcome Jesus with cheers, a more sinister note is struck … 
Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too … John 12:10

Why kill Lazarus?

for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. John 12:11

The people were flocking to Jesus, in part because of Lazarus, the man Jesus raised from the dead. Because of Lazarus, the religious leaders were losing - losing followers, attention, control, influence, power ...

But still it’s tough to fault Lazarus. I’m guessing if Jesus calls you back from the dead you don’t have much choice in the matter. Certainly seems like an overreaction to order his assassination. But he was a problem to those who carefully guarded their traditions and authority.

We’re left with a sobering reality: to follow Jesus is to become a target of religious leaders. It’s a promise. Get out your black highlighter and note:

Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. John 15:20

Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution 2 Tim. 3:12

It’s easy to assume the persecution will come from people out there - people who view the world in very different ways from those who follow Jesus. It’s easy to assume that inside the church we all share a common commitment to follow Jesus. Inside the church we look out for one another. But inside the church we have religious leaders. Inside the church, assassinations take place all the time.

For the most part murder is fairly uncommon at church, but the killing of reputations, relationships, programs, and positions happens all the time. Gossip ignites the plot, parking lot conversations build the coalition, board members are aligned and soon the mob has their man in their sights. Soon the threat to their comfort and control will be eliminated.

I suspect Lazarus had a good laugh once he found out he was a target:

“What are you going to do to me, kill me?!? That’s funny for I’ve already died. Jesus brought me back from death. What can you do to me?”

Seems like that would be a good response for any of us who find a target on our back, for ...

… we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life Romans 6:4

Through baptism we enter death. Through Christ we are raised to newness of life. Following Jesus will make you a target. No worry, entrust yourself to the One who conquers death and raises the dead.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Guy's Guide to Quickly Finding a Valentine’s Card

Faced with the prospect of finding a Valentine’s Day card many guys will postpone the search or not even try. Don’t be that guy. Instead, man up, head to the card aisle where you will find a sea of cards to choose from. Then …

1. Eliminate any card with glitter.

2. Reject cards making ridiculously exaggerated vows of love: “I’ve loved you with every corpuscle of my whole heart every moment of every second since I first saw you.” No, you haven’t. Don’t force her to give you examples, there are many.

3. Resist the temptation to go with a card suggesting the gift of the card is worthy of being repaid with sex. If you’re counting on a card to warm the romantic fires, you’ve got more work to do than finding the right card.

4. You’ve now reduced the sea of available cards down to four. If you’ll add a paragraph of personal expression of love, any of the four will do.

There is another option: wait until the evening of Feb. 13. The number of available cards will be drastically reduced down to a handful of really crappy cards. Your choice now is a classic no win situation: give a crappy card or don’t give a crappy card and pontificate on the ridiculousness of this Hallmark induced holiday. Don’t be that guy, go find a card today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Home Project Diplomacy

Summers provide a wonderful opportunity to teach our kids new skills and the value of hard work. We use a little tool called the house project. The kids call it slave labor. We prefer to think of it as a reason to keep feeding and clothing them. Along the way we make progress on the renovation of our home.

I still have my day job, so most of the work depends upon Karen and the kids. Because the projects tend to be disruptive to family life, Karen kindly allows me some input. It goes something like this ...

Karen: I'd like to paint the kitchen cabinets.

Me: No. There is no time, we'll just be getting back in town, we need to get ready for school.

This may seem a little harsh, but we're just on the front end of the negotiation. At this point my wife has a dream floating around outside of reality and the time constraints the rest of us deal with every day.

A few days later ...

Karen: I've been thinking about the kitchen cabinets. We'll have three weeks before I start teaching. The kids will need a project to work on and since there is not enough time to tear down the wall and completely redesign the layout of our house, I thought kitchen cabinets might be a good project to work on.

This is real progress - she's actually entered into the reality of time and begun to consider how this project might fit, but we still have to nail down a few more details before we reach agreement.

Me: I'm willing to consider this, but I would want the kitchen cabinets painted, not just sanded or primed. The project would need to be finished.

Karen: Of course, we'll definitely get the cabinets painted!

You may wonder why I make such an obvious point, but we have a tendency to prime something and then keep priming. Apparently some people think it's more efficient to just keep priming so you don't have to keep pulling the primer out when it's time to paint the next room. For those of us who like checking off boxes and experiencing a sense of completion, it's more like a sore that won't heal. Many more examples, but let's not get distracted.

Me: You know what this means don't you?

Karen: What?

Me: You have to choose a paint color.

Karen: I know, I already have one picked out!

You'll see why in a moment why I bring up the paint color. For now it will suffice for you to know that in my bedroom, which is one of the rooms that is primed, there are multiple swaths of paint of various colors. Apparently we're trying out colors before choosing one. Sometimes we have a hard time choosing.

I throw out a few more requests - the holes from the old hardware will need to be filled, there must be new hardware (the old hardware will tear your clothes or  rip your finger off - worst design of cabinet hardware I've ever seen), and the tools will need to be put up in the garage - I'm referring to the stack of tools in the hallway and the entryway remaining from the last two projects.

Karen: Of course!

Me: OK, let's go for it.

Karen: Yeah!

Two days before the project commences ...

Karen: What would you think about taking down the tile splash so it won't mess up the painted cabinets when we pull it out to renovate the kitchen?

Me: No.

At this point I'm focused and I've got my game face on. This is the first verifiable case of "mission creep", her first attempt to expand the project beyond the scope we originally agreed to. This takes tremendous diplomatic skills, as her proposal makes total and complete sense to her.

Me: When we renovate the kitchen we'll take the back splash down and touch up the cabinets.

That's what I say, but what I'm thinking is, "Are you crazy? It might be five years before we renovate the kitchen! We don't want to live with an ugly bare wall needing repair for the next five years!" But like I said, this takes diplomatic skill and I can't be crushing too many dreams in one day.

Karen: OK.

One day before the project commences ...

Karen: I think we're ready to go, I just need to run to Home Depot to look at upper cabinets.

"Home Depot" is an automatic red flag. My mission creep warning system sounds an alarm. 

Me: Why are you looking at cabinets?

Karen: Well, I thought while we're doing this, we should knock the soffits out since I'll want that done at some point. I just want to see how much the cabinets cost. 

Me: No.

Karen: No?

Me: No. Focus. We're painting the cabinets. We're not renovating the kitchen. We're not taking down the backsplash. We're not knocking out soffits. We're painting the cabinets. Get the cabinets painted and we can talk about the next project.

I know this may sound harsh, but it's necessary. I've learned that our house is connected - every piece of flooring connects to another piece of flooring in the next room. Every baseboard keeps going to each room in the house. The walls connect to other walls. For some people, this connection means there really is no such thing as a single project. The only single project is the "Renovate the entire house" project. These people need help.

Karen: OK.

Day 1 of the project ...

Karen: I'm going to Benjamin Moore.

Me: Why?

Karen: To look at paint colors.

Me: ...

I think "Oh $%!#."

This is like defcon 5 all alarms sounding. This is my one weakness, the one area I have no response for. I'm color blind. I see colors, I just call them different names than you. Oddly enough, I still have opinions on colors, but no one listens to me on colors. So when she is reconsidering her color choice, I've got no answer to this potential project de-railer.

Me: OK.

This is my first set back, but in any struggle you can't expect to win every time.

Day 2 of the project ...

The sanding is completed, holes are filled, and primer is going up ... I actually have a glimmer of hope. I can't find a bowl to eat breakfast, but I have hope.

I do smile at God for bringing together two so very different people and helping us to find a way to make it work.  And as much as this sounds like a struggle, I actually enjoy the journey and appreciate my wife's creativity, can do spirit, and willingness to live in a less than perfect house while we raise kids and manage life together.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Keep Running

After dinner my friend and I take our boys outside to play while the wives enjoy some quiet conversation inside. The boys run and chase and race, taking turns making up new courses to sprint. After a good while I notice my oldest, Reed, age 8, sitting on the curb, elbows on knees, face in hands, dark cloud descending.

Putting my fatherly skills to work, I ask, “What’s up?”

Reed says, “If I’m two years older than Drew, why is he faster than me?”

Hmmmm … I explain that God gives different gifts and talents to each of us and technically he wasn’t a full two years older and some other stuff that took a lot longer to say than it needed to. Apparently hearing you’re good in math doesn’t do much for the kid who keeps finishing behind his younger brother in the race.

I should have said, “Keep running.”

Jump forward five years. Reed is now 13. I invite him to run a 5K with me. I imagine us spending time training together and talking and sharing life. That lasted about a quarter mile. He says, “Mind if I run ahead?”

As a dad you know your athleticism is in decline while your kid’s is on the rise. You know at some point the lines will cross and your son will be faster and stronger, but still, I thought I would see that day coming. Turns out it had passed me some time ago.

Turns out Reed is a plodder. He doesn’t have much sprint, but he can keep going and going and going. He ran cross country in high school. Up and down hills, through mud and grass and dirt, in cold and in heat, he ran. His 6’5” frame isn’t exactly ideal for cross country, though it did make him easy to pick out in the crowd. It didn’t matter, he kept on running. Running and working and persevering.

At the end of the season banquet the cross country coach shares a little about each runner. He says this about Reed:

“Reed is a worker, the hardest worker on the team. He works and works and works. He doesn’t have the most talent, but he gets more out of the talent he has than any other runner on the team.”

Reed challenges me: Keep running. When discouragement pushes you to the curb, keep running. When the race isn’t turning out as you hoped, keep running. You may never be the best, but you can be the best you can be, if you keep running.

Reed graduates today from high school with something far more valuable than top 10 finishes. Reed graduates knowing the gut check of discouragement, the strength of perseverance, the satisfaction of overcoming, and the joy of finding your race, qualities I’m confident will serve him well in every endeavor in life he pursues. Count me very proud to call him my son.

“God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Choose Your Picture Frame Carefully

A friend gave me a beautiful landscape print that included a shoreline, water, mountains, and sky. Left to myself I probably would have thumb tacked the thing to my wall and enjoyed it, but something told me I needed to get this one framed. So off to the framer where I got an education.

The framer asked what color of frame did I want. I responded how I always respond to color related questions: I dunno. Something about being color blind leaves me less than confident in making color decisions! He proceeded to place different framing samples around my print.

A light blue frame caused the sky to jump out. I noticed various clouds and beams of light I had not seen before. We tried a darker blue frame and the sky receded while the water came to life in all its rollings and breakers and undulations. We worked our way through several more colors and each time I was shocked at how the frame changed the picture.

In reality, the picture never changed, only the frame. Choosing the frame determined how I viewed the picture. 

Life is kind of like that. You look at over the landscape of your life and you see what? Troubled waters ... peaceful skies ... threatening rocks ... hopeful breezes? Every life has it's hope and fears, dreams and challenges. What we see, where we focus, what dominates our thoughts as we view our life, is largely determined by the frame we put on the picture.

Consider: A driver cuts out off on your way to work. You can frame that with the idea that you deserve better, that you've been done wrong, that the disrespectful fool deserves the invectives you unleash.

Or you can frame that with the idea that this brother, made in the image of God, appears anxious, hurried, and preoccupied. Why you don't know, but it's likely he's not experiencing the life God has for him. Perhaps easing off the accelerator and saying a quick prayer would be good for his heart and yours. Same picture, different frame, different response.

The frames I find most helpful are those that take me out of a me centered perspective and help me see the work of God in redeeming and renovating this world. What frames do you use to frame your world?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hustle, Not Hurry

You can keep waiting to discover that one in a million gift, insight, or talent that you possess to change the world ... or you can hustle. Behind nearly every single over the top success story you know lies years of hustle. Jon Acuff makes this point well in Quitter.

I was hustling the other day and it almost got me killed. Waiting to turn left at a red light, I was reviewing some notecards containing ideas key to my success. The light turned green, I put down my cards, the cars in front of me turned, and so did I, only to recognize in the middle of the turn there was no green arrow (protected left turn), just a green light (turn at your own risk).

Fortunately the car rapidly approaching the nose of my truck was more alert than I and slowed to avoid a collision that clearly would have been my fault. What happened?

Upon reflection I remembered the light used to be an arrow, but several weeks back changed to just a green light. But really, the reason I missed the light was this: my hustle had turned into hurry.

I sensed the hurry while reviewing my notecards. I was reading too fast, not reflecting, just getting through the words. I was almost home, not much time left, wanted to get a few extra read. I quit hustling to get ahead and started hurrying to get done.

Your dream is too important to hurry. When you hurry you miss clues and opportunities and people and the voice of God. Hustle requires the discipline of making the most of your time, but it also includes the discipline to go at a pace you can still reflect and listen and talk ... and acknowledge who has the right of way.