Monthly Archives: September 2016

A letter to my son about rocks.

Little buddy,
I know how much you love rocks. Since you were a toddler, you’ve been picking them up, feeling them, putting them in your mouth (ugh, glad those days are gone), studying them, collecting them and admiring them.
Before I go any further, I want to apologize. I want to apologize for hurrying you. I want to apologize for throwing back some (many) of the rocks you find. I want to apologize for thinking these are unacceptable toys. There are so many times (seriously, so many) that we were on our way somewhere and you find a rock. I’ve dragged you through parking lots, fields and streets with you crying or upset that we don’t have enough time to pick up every single rock. Your mother and I have pulled rocks out of the washer and dryer and (occasionally) we catch them before they even make it that far.
Here’s the thing, I’m actually really fascinated by what interests you. Geologists get excited when they find a rare fossil in a rock, preserved for thousands of years. You get equally excited when you find a rock from the parking lot. You don’t see the thousands of rocks around you. Instead, you see the one rock that caught your eye. I love that about you.
I want to make you some promises.
  1. I promise not to stifle your exploration of the world. There is so much out there and I want to show it all to you. I want to slow down and be able to look at all the rocks, the trees, the stars, whatever it is. I want us to see it all.
  2. I promise to join you as you learn. Together, let’s read books about rocks. Let’s study the differences between metamorphic and igneous rocks. Let’s go find some examples of each. Whatever it is that drives you, I’ll be by your side.
  3. I promise to tolerate whatever it is that you collect. I collected weird stuff as a kid. For a while, I collected beer bottle tops. I didn’t care at all about what was inside the bottle, I just thought the logos and designs were really cool. My mom tolerated that phase and she even dusted my desk around where they all were kept, organized by brand or color or font or however I had them organized that week.
As I write this, I’m on a personal sabbath – a time for spiritual retreat and renewal with the Lord. I spent time walking around a lake tonight and I found a rock for you. It’s not a spectacular rock, but it’s your rock and I’ve got some thoughts about it for you.
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  1. One side of the rock is bright white. Let this be a reminder of the purity of our savior, Jesus Christ. Through his blood, we are washed clean. Our sins are forgiven and for that, we should be eternally grateful. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” I found this rock because it was in the middle of a patch of dark leaves and soil. The whiteness of it stood out amongst the darkness behind it. The contrast drew me in. Be that light. Show the world, your friends, your classmates, girls you might one day date (a loooong time from now) that you are different because you are in Christ.
  2. One side of the rock has been darkened and stained by the earth. Let this be a reminder of Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” At one time, this entire rock was all the same pure color. But, over time and exposure to the earth, dirt and red clay from the ground, part of the rock was made impure. It’s unlikely that me, or anyone else, would have picked up this rock for the beauty of the stained side if it were facing up. If I asked you if this rock were clean or dirty, you’d probably answer that this rock were dirty because one of the sides was dirty. That’s just like we are. Because there is even one ounce of sin within us, we are tainted and stained in God’s eyes. But, the good news is that we do not have to remain that way. I can bleach this rock and make it as white as snow. And Jesus does that for us.
  3. This rock can be used for good. Along with thousands of other rocks, this one can make a walkway or path to a lake or resting spot. It could be stacked on top of others to form a wall or shelter. It can hold down papers when it gets windy. It can be studied and appreciated. Let your life have function. Let your life be used for good. By itself, this rock doesn’t do much. But, when added to many other rocks, it has potential. Sitting next to a lake, this rock has no influence over the water. But, if you exert some effort and throw the rock in the lake, the ripples would be great and they would extend farther than the eye can see. Be a ripple-maker for the Lord. Be a leader. Be a teacher. Be a listener. Be an explorer.
  4. This rock can be used for evil. This rock, though small, could break a window on a car or house with enough force. It could be deadly if thrown at someone with enough force.  This stray walk on an otherwise solid ground could cause someone to roll their ankle or trip. Don’t be that rock. Be thoughtful of your actions. People are going to follow you. I’ve seen it in you already. But, will they follow you for good, or will they follow you into mischief? Align your will with God’s and your path will be straight.
  5. This rock is solid. It would take an immense amount of force to break it. Know that your family is just as solid. I love your mother with all my heart, but I love Jesus more and your mother is okay with that. Your mother loves me (even when I don’t deserve it), but she loves Jesus more, and I’m perfectly fine with that. We both love and adore you and your sister. Our family is rooted in the Lord, therefore we are strong. The Lord is our strong tower, our refuge and our strength. Our love for you and your sister will not falter, even though your actions and obedience might. We will always be waiting for you. Patiently. Lovingly.
  6. This rock sparkles. There are specks of minerals and crystals in this ordinary rock that sparkle and shine. I hope you know how special you are. There are special pieces inside you that sparkle and shine as well. You are so creative. You love to design, build, draw and create. I can see your heart. Not figuratively, but I can see how compassionate and caring you are. I can’t describe it, but I can see my heart in you. The things that make you tick are the same things that make me tick. It’s in the way you look at things. It’s in the way you interact with your stuffed animals. It’s in the way you want to help. But, I know that one day you’ll do things far greater and inspire far more people than I ever could.
As a son, I thought I understood the intricacies of a father/son relationship. Now, as a father, I realized that I’ve barely scratched the surface. I am so proud of you. I am praying for you. I look forward to our adventures together. I will dream about the rocks we’ll find together and the ripples we will make. I love you, little buddy.
Thumbs up,
Daddy
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Disc golf with Jesus

Today, by the graciousness of my family and staff, I’m at a conference center out of town having a personal sabbath. A day of rest. A day of reflection. A day of refuge.

Over the past couple months, I’ve seen God do some pretty incredible things. Between large-scale projects, international mission trips, a growing and thriving ministry and personal struggles, this season of my life has been…well, busy. I’ve felt distant from the Lord and I needed to reconnect. The times when I am most involved in my own life are always the times when I am furthest from Jesus.

So, this morning after I dropped my son off at school, I headed out of town. I spent the first couple hours here in prayer for the circles of people closest to me; my family, the pastoral staff around me, the leaders on my team and my small group. I spent time in Scripture which was a cooling balm for my weary soul. Following a very simple plan, I started reading through Psalm. Today is the first day of the month, so I read Psalm 1 and added 30 to it reading Psalm 31, 61, 91 and 121. I quickly found myself becoming refreshed as I prayed with the Psalmist, “into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord; faithful God,” (Psalm 31:5).

After lunch, I headed out to play a nine-hole disc golf course. I’m not very good at disc golf, but I enjoy it. The course is par-3 throughout and I’ve played it several times over the last few years. As I walked, I spent time in prayer, in meditation and reflection of the lessons God wanted to teach me during this time of sabbath. Hole-by-hole, I started to find parallels between the game and life. For anyone who finds themselves disconnected and astray from the Lord, here are a few reflections from my round of disc golf with Jesus.

Hole 1: On this first hole, my drive took the flight I wanted it to, bending around a group of trees to the left and landing a few yards from the hole.

The first thing I did this morning was confess my sins and shortcomings. All the pride and selfishness and gunk. All the personal, dark and rotten things. I had to get them off my chest. I had to start this time with God with a good approach. “Lord, be gracious to me,” (Psalm 31:9).

Score: 2, (-1 for the round)

Hole 2: My first shot went off the fairway (a dirt path in the woods) and ricocheted off a tree. I thought for sure this happy start was quickly going to be ruined. Where I landed was great, but it certainly was better than I anticipated. Once I arrived at the problem, I found that it wasn’t really as bad as I thought it was. Even though I was behind a group of trees, I simply bent down and found an opening.

I’m an emotional person, I act quickly, but deliberately. I pray for wisdom and have faith that I’m moving in the right direction. But, admittedly, there are times when I see a problem and it seems much larger from a distance. I’ve got to remember that even when my shot smashes in to a tree and I think there’s no way around it, I just need to look at it from a different perspective. Just like my shot behind the trees, creativity and perspective often lead to an effective solution. “Lord, make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love,” (Psalm 31:16).

Score: 3, (-1 for the round)

Hole 3: Oh, how I hate this hole. As I mentioned, I’ve played this course several times before and I know exactly what’s going to happen. The fairway is a dogleg to the right (which I can never do with a disc) and there’s a huge 6′ ditch to the left of the hole. Of course, as always, my second shot went straight into the ditch.

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That yellow thing at the bottom of the ditch of doom is my disc.

I had to hold on to some trees in order to climb in the ditch and a couple shots later, I finally ended the pain by landing my disc in the basket.

So often I find my life being just like this hole. I know the dangers. I know the hazards. I know my habits. I know my tendencies. But, still, despite recognizing those things, I still end up in the same situation. For some it might be an addiction, a certain sin, a specific vice. For me, most times, it’s busyness. I’m only around for a short time and I want to serve the Lord with all my heart. I want to lead my ministry to do things that we’ve never done. I want to push the envelope for what missions means in the scope of the Church. I want to be the best dad, the most dedicated husband. I have goals as an artist, a writer, an adventurer and an athlete. But, not all those things go together at the same time and I know that I need to reign those things in. “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction,” (Psalm 31:7).

Score: 5 (+1 for the round)

Hole 4: I love the woods and the outdoors. I do not love spiders. They are creepy and horrible creatures and I just about walked in to several of them. I couldn’t finish this hole fast enough.

The things we fear are all around us. Whether it’s inadequacy, anxiety, immaturity, depression, sense of worth, risk of failure – any of our fears – they are right around us all the time, just like those spiders. So, what do we do? We can freeze and wait for someone to come kill the spider (typically my wife’s job around our house, though I’m getting better) or we can find a stick and move the problem in order to move on to the goal. “Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and my persecutors,” (Psalm 31:15).

Score: 3 (+1 for the round)

Hole 5: This tee is at the bottom of a hill and you can’t see the basket without running up the hill. Because I’ve played this course before, I could visualize where the goal was in relation to the tee. I took a breath and let the disc go. It soared. It cleared the trees overhead and avoided a large pine at the mouth of the trail. I ran up to see the disc land at a reasonable distance from the basket.

That’s faith. Faith is not being able to see the goal, but aiming for it anyway, trusting it’s there. I can’t see heaven. All I have is John’s description from the book of Revelation and promises about heaven throughout Scripture. But, I trust that’s where I will be because God is faithful. So with my life, I will aim and go. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God,'” (Psalm 31:14)

Score: 3 (+1 for the round)

Hole 6: This tee is at the top of the hill just in front of the basket for hole 5. There is a wide open fairway, the widest of the course. Today, there was a soft breeze that cooled me on a warm day. There were no obstacles, no ditches and no awful spiders between me and the goal. My drive was low, firm and level. (And far!) It landed right next to the goal. I couldn’t have done that again if I tried (trust me, I did). From a technical standpoint, I have no idea why that shot was different than the rest. Maybe the wind was just right. Maybe I adjusted my grip. I could tell when I let it go that it just felt…different.

Recently, I helped create an outreach project in my town that got a lot of attention and went viral online. Tens of thousands of people (maybe more) were reading articles about it online and people from all over the world emailed me about it. Everyone wanted to be a part of it or ask me how they could do the project in their city. “What made it work?” they asked. “How did you get all the media involved?” others wanted to know. “Where did the idea come from?” people inquired. The idea came from God. He gave it to me. He helped it grow. He guided my hand. I just released it and he directed it, level and far. When the project started, I just knew that it felt…different. “Oh, how abundant is your goodness,” (Psalm 31:19).

Score 2: (Even for the round)

Hole 7: This one took me a while to get started. I couldn’t find the tee marker anywhere. I knew roughly where it used to be, but I just couldn’t spot it. I had just about decided to estimate where it was and begin my drive, but then I saw the faded yellow paint from the top of it poking out from some pine needles. Evidently, after years of being out in the woods, it rotted and fell over.

Sometimes, we’re lost. We don’t know which way to go. We don’t know if the decision we’re about to make is productive or destructive. But, with some time, reflection and patience, we will see the way. “You are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me,” (Psalm 31:3).

Score: 3 (Even for the round)

Hole 8: Another great drive, followed up my a terrible second shot. I was about 10 yards from the basket, but I overshot and it veered to the left, blowing a decent chance at a birdie. With my third shot, I corrected my mistake and nailed the shot.

There are very few things in life you get one shot at. Making mistakes is just part of life. Luckily, my wife and children are very forgiving people. Lord, help me to correct when I overshoot and keep my eyes on the goal. “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!” (Psalm 31:2).

Score: 3 (Even for the round)

Hole 9: A long hole, but straight as it parallels a road. I feel good about the round I’ve played, but I haven’t added up my score. I usually shoot in the low 30s when I play and I think my best was 29 (I said I wasn’t very good). My drive was strong, though it headed into some trees. It’s funny, in disc golf, sometimes the trees can be your friend as much as they can hinder you. In this case, the shot hit a tree and bounced back towards the goal. The shot was within reach, but I was just off and parred the hole.

I started with momentum and had a strong first approach. Now, it was time to finish strong. I was the only one out there and I wasn’t playing for any prizes or competing with anyone. But, I really didn’t want to end on a bogey – and if I did, there goes the idea for this blog post. As a kid, I’d play basketball for hours by myself before and after dinner and during any other block of time I could. Before I’d go inside, I had to make my last shot. It was a rule I had; a commitment to myself. I was going to end with success. I want my time on this earth and my walk with the Lord to be the same. I want to end farther than I was yesterday and leading other people for tomorrow. I want Jesus to see my efforts and be proud.

I want to have evidence and an answer at any point of my life of what God is doing in me, through me and around me. I remember one time helping a student with his job interview skills. One employer (a Christian sports ministry) asked him, “what is God doing in your life?” He didn’t have an answer. He hadn’t considered it. He had not taken the time to reflect on what God was using him for and it caused him not to finish the interview strong and ultimately, he didn’t get the job.

I want to finish strong. “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24).

Score: 3 (Par for the round)

Oh…by the way. I went back and played another round of nine holes. Remember that hole #3 with the ditch? Finished it in three shots.

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