Tag Archives: god

Ghostman on third!

Mrs. Gwendolyn Jones’ third grade class was divided in half.  There was a good half and a bad half.  This was not a generalization of the social climate in the classroom.  There was quite literally a ‘good side’ and a ‘bad side’.

You had to earn the opportunity to move your desk to the good side.  You had to be quiet, do your work, clean up and be attentive.  I was good at three of those four things.  I was not good at being quiet.  As a result, my desk stayed on the bad side of the room practically all year.

If you were lucky enough to get promoted to the good side, you actually picked up your desk and chair and proudly moved them across the room.  However, if you acted up and got demoted to the bad side, you had to begrudgingly drag your desk (which immediately seemed five times heavier than before), back to the bad side.

Week after week, month after month, I sat on the bad side.  I watched my friends move their desks around.  I envied.  I coveted.

But, then there was one day, one glorious day, I earned the right to move to the good side.  When I got called up to the big leagues, I crammed all my books and papers in my desk (the really old-school kind with the flip-top) and scooted/strutted across to the good side.  Bye-bye, dark side.

My time (albeit short-lived) on the good side was amazing.  What made it extraordinary is that Mrs. Jones picked me to be one of two captains for a class kickball game.

More than just a ball.  A way of life.

More than just a ball. A way of life.

I loved kickball.  It was a way of life.  I can still remember how all my classmates kicked.  I know that Joe would kick it straight over first base.  Jesse would ground it by third.  Robert would slam into the outfield over second.  It’s what got me through the day.  Recesses was the second best time of the day.  First pitch in my backyard after school was the best.  Except, sometimes we didn’t have enough people to play.  There was nothing more devastating to a kickball aficionado than being ill-equipped to field a full team.  So, occasionally we would resort to two-on-two or even in the rarest of events, one-on-one kickball.  That’s when we relied heavily on the ghostman.

If you’re rusty on your backyard kickball terminology, having a “ghostman on third” meant that as a runner, you have advanced the bases as far as you can get on your own.  You made it all the way to third base and got stranded, leaving no one left to physically “bat” for your team.  So, we would make a declaration that there was a “ghostman” on third base (or whatever base you advanced to.) The only way for a ghostman to move to the next base was for you (the runner) to advance to the place where the ghostman was located, pushing the ghostman forward.

The purpose of the ghostman was to hold your spot while you did something else.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could have the ghostman with you all the time?  The boss needs a report?  Ghostman on Powerpoint!  Kids need a bath?  Ghostman in the tub!  License expiring?  Ghostman to the DMV!  Line too long at the grocery store?  Ghostman on lane seven!

The ghostman allowed you to still put points on the board even if you couldn’t get all the way home on your own.  The ghostman in kickball was like the Holy Spirit of playground sports.

I’ve been struggling a bit recently.  A few weeks ago, we did a spiritual gift survey in our Sunday school class.  I was not surprised at all with the top three categories, in fact, I quite expected the results.  But, the area that I scored the lowest in was discernment.  Huh?  Am I that bad at making a decision?  Am I that weak in understanding God’s will in my life?  Am I that oblivious to the Spirit’s guidance and influence over me?  What the heck?

I know, I know.  It’s just a book.  Books can be wrong.  But, the top of the spectrum is what I expected.  My top spiritual gifts are evangelism, leadership and administration.  Quite the conflict with discernment, wouldn’t you say?  Who wants spiritual guidance from someone who lacks confidence when assessing God’s will?  Who wants a leader who doesn’t judge well?

The book says that people with the gift of discernment know with confidence if individuals, teachings or motives are from God.  So, if I’m not able to interpret things clearly, I must be inserting myself where I don’t need to be.  I’m putting my needs first.  I’m not relying fully on God.  It’s frustrating because I’m trying to be obedient.  I’m trying to follow.  I think I’m going about my life the way God wants me to.

It’s a hard thing to deal with.  It’s difficult to be the head of your household and lead your family spiritually when you constantly are second guessing decisions.  It’s not easy being an executive at work and having to make decisions that effect hundreds of sales people and their clients.  Some times you just have to turn off the noise in order to hear things.

I had a refreshing drive home from work.  Typically, I have music playing all the time.  But, today I drove home in silence with the windows down so I could just listen.  I wanted to hear the cars.  I wanted to hear the breeze.  I wanted to hear the music in the car next to me.  I wanted to hear the clickclickclick of my turn indicator.

I think I need a ghostman to take my place so I can turn off all the rest of the noise in my head and just listen.  Listen to the world.  Listen to God.  Listen to my heart.  Just listen.  Maybe once I quiet down like Mrs. Jones wanted, then I can see what it’s like on the other side of the room.

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The Day Noah Left

2001 was 12 years ago.  What’s up with that?

To put in perspective how this concept has blown my mind, here are some things that happened way back then.

  • Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod

  • A gallon of gas was $1.46
  • Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died in a crash at the Daytona International Speedway
  • The XFL was launched and subsequently flopped

xfl

  • The most popular movies included Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Shrek, Ocean’s Eleven and Pearl Harbor
  • Dharma & Greg, Everybody Loves Raymond and the Drew Carey Show were still on television
  • Terrorists attacked the US on 9/11 killing thousands of people

ny-times-september-12

  • Oklahoma Sooners beat the Florida State Seminoles (sadly) 13-2 in the Orange Bowl
  • Baltimore Ravens won the SuperBowl 34-7 over the New York Giants.  Ray Lewis was the MVP.
  • This was the top song of the year:

In 2001, I was entering my junior year of college.  I was enjoying waking up late and eating food from the cafeteria.  That year, our lacrosse team was 4-7.  That year, I broke up with someone for the first time.  I like to refer to that day (October 3, but I’m not keeping track) as my Independence Day.

So much has changed since 2001 both in our culture and in our lives.  I was a happy student, surrounded by impressive grades and great friends.  But, I was missing something and didn’t even know it.  God was doing a work in me that I wouldn’t see for many years to come.

During my junior year, I started taking the first of a couple semesters of poetry writing.  I recently remembered the following poem illustrating where my thoughts were at the time.

 

Today I watched Noah sail away

everyone in town had been helping him build

they’ve been working for weeks

I’ve been sleeping for years

but I heard he wasn’t going by himself

so I washed in the best stream, put on my best white suit

and brought my tools, even though I’m not a very good carpenter

 

As I walked up to the side of the ark

I was pushed aside by a pair of antelopes,

two beavers followed, damn, and some camels, too

even a couple of doves flew overhead. I didn’t see them though

but I knew they were there.

they seemed to have dropped a little something on my shoulder

 

So I took off my white jacket, hung it from the branch of an apple tree

and then the skies turned from friendly to mean, light to dark,

I heard a heavy thump at my feet, it was a ladder

and Noah, his wife and sons and their wives, and hundreds of animals

looked down and waited

 

Looking at the bottom rung of the ladder,

I realized all I had left were some problems

and a black umbrella to hide me from the rain.

 

It’s very humbling to look back at this poem and see how God was filling my thoughts and convicting me about how I was missing him.  It would be another couple years before I would make a decision to commit my life to following Christ, but the Holy Spirit was already working on me.  Poetry has always helped me understand myself.  The subconscious creeps in and lingers.

The loneliness, abandonment and disappointment I was feeling when I wrote the poem is completely different now.  God has accepted me.  Christ has redeemed me.  The Holy Spirit guides me.  The emptiness I felt has been replaced with hope.  The desperation I felt has been replaced with joy and satisfaction.  The shame I felt has been replaced with love.  I thought I was completely unworthy, but Christ showed me my value.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  -Ephesians 1:7-8

 

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You matter. (For reals.)

Recently, Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti did a photo study on children around the world posed with their favorite toys.  His series, Toy Stories, spans several continents and children from a variety of cultures.

Three thoughts came to mind while I was looking through his collection.

1. This is brilliant.

What a great idea for a photo study.  The toys were hand-picked by the kids and in a way, they represent their society, their hopes and their dreams.  I have a passion for photojournalism and telling stories.  I wish I came up with this idea first.  Seeing how these kids meticulously arranged and presented their toys, like this one from Noel in Texas.

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

2. What would my selections have been?

First, I’d probably pick my M.U.S.C.L.E. Man collection.

MUSCLE-MEN-figure-lot

I had (have) over 250 of these guys. I’d love to come across some more.  They are all in a Tupperware in my storage unit.  I used to spend hours playing with them as wrestling figures.  I can still remember their signature moves, rivalries and which ones held championship belts.

I’d also include my basketball.  I seemed to wear out one every few months.  I had plenty of these old indoor/outdoor leather ones chipping and fading away in my garage.

old-basketball--black-and-white-ben-haslam

3. These kids matter.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think I’m getting soft in my old age.  I was looking at these kids and their toys and definitely got emotional.  Some kids had tons of toys.  These kids didn’t have enough hours in the day to play with all the stuff in their rooms.  But, then there were kids like Chiwa from Malawi.

gabrielegalimberti_malawi

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Chiwa is living in a block house, held together with mud and brick.  Chiwa sleeps under mosquito nets to prevent malaria and other diseases.  Chiwa’s clothes, bedsheets and legs are filthy.  But, look at the toys.  The little white dog is pristine.  It looks like it just came out of the shopping bag.  Chiwa took great pride in keeping the toys clean and desirable to play with.

This little girl is Kalesi from the Fiji Islands.

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Photo by Gabriele Galimberti

Look at the joy on her face!  She loooooves her backpacks and her dolls.  She even looks like a baby doll.  There’s not a lot in the photo so I’m only assuming that the rest of her home is relatively bare.  I can see Kalesi sitting on the hard floor taking care of her dolls.  She feeds them with the pink bowl and blue cup.  She carries them around in her Transformers backpack.

Viewing these photos made me want to go and just hug these kids and tell them that God loves them.  The same emotion and care they had for their toys is the same love and caring that God has for them.  I wanted these kids to know that they matter.

To this kid I photographed in a park in Asia where Christ is not allowed – you matter.

east_asia_040311-114.jpg

To these kids enamored with boats and ducks in a lake in Spain – You matter.

north_africa_0712-978.jpg

To this little kid in North Africa, whose family may never tell him about Jesus – You.  Matter.

north_africa_0712-542.jpg

To these kids who had their portrait taken at a church in the barrio of Caracas, Venezuela – You Matter.  God has a great plan for your life.

jw_luz_del_mundo_day2_061311-53.jpg

To these students who heard the Gospel during English club at their university and can make a difference in a socialist community – You Matter.  Place your faith in Christ and worship him instead of saints.  Show your city God’s love.

carcas_venezuela_0611-238.jpg

To anyone who thinks they are too dirty, too broken, too messed up, too beyond repair, too unworthy, too old, too young, too confused to get on your knees and respond to a living God who is calling you to him – you matter.  You do.  You are God’s favorite possession.  He wants to shine you up and show you off like the kids showed off their toys.  He wants you to love him.  He wants to hear your praise.  He wants you to matter, because when you matter to the world, you matter to him.  It’s time to respond.

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Ron Burgandy is kind of a big deal. I am not.

I am not notable.

The only signature I pass out to people is the one at the bottom of my work email.

When you call my phone, you actually get me.

I do not have an assistant, handler or agent.

I drive myself places.

I can go out in public and go unrecognized.

I do not have merch or swag.

No one has ever lined up to see me.

These are all facts.  But, I did grow up with a bunch of people who are pretty famous now.  I’m from a small beach town in south Florida called Vero Beach.  It’s about half way between Daytona Beach and Miami.  I lived on the beach side of town, about a 5-minute walk from the river and the ocean.  I spent much of my youth hanging out on boats or at the beach.  Vero Beach, for generations, has affectionately been referred to as “Zero Beach” by bored high schoolers.  Not a lot usually happens in Vero Beach, which is why it’s particularly exciting when you can turn on the television and see people you know.

— This begins the name-dropping portion of the blog —

Jake Owen and Mardy Fish

Jake Owen and Mardy Fish.  Photo by Sam Wolfe

I used to play basketball with country star Jake Owen (@jakeowen) and tennis star Mardy Fish (@mardyfish). These guys do regular charity work to raise money for kids from the Vero Beach area.

Tilky Jones

Tilky Jones

Rising actor, musician and Nashville heartthrob Tilky Jones (@tilkymjones) used to come to my birthday parties.  He wasn’t born in Vero Beach, but we went to elementary school together where he rapped an original song “Get Busy, Not Dizzy” (a very Saved by the Bell-esque anti-drug anthem).  On Nashville, Tilky had a recurring role as Hayden Panettiere’s love interest, Sean Butler.

Tiffany (Simons) Corr

Tiffany (Simons) Corr

Tiffany Simons, NBC Sports & NBCSports.com talent, and I went to high school together.  She had a love for photography and is an awesome person to be around.  I don’t think I can remember her not smiling.  I’ve seen her interview pro athletes and cover the Mountain Dew Tour of action sports.

Sam Marine & Scott Stapleton

Sam Marine & Scott Stapleton

Sam Marine (middle) and Scott Stapleton (far right) both play in the successful indie rock band, Phosphorescent (@phosphorescent).  They have recently appeared on several late night talk shows and their new album, Muchacho, has gotten lots of great press and gets plenty of play on my speakers.  I became pretty good friends with Scott throughout high school, mainly during lunch trips to Miami Subs while blaring Pantera or Type O Negative on the way.  I photographed a couple of Scott’s concerts during his days with Dark Angel Divine.

—  This now concludes the name-dropping portion of the blog —

There are plenty of others that are making their mark as notable fashion designers, bloggers, Army Special Forces and lots of other amazing careers as well.

In addition to these former classmates, Vero Beach is also proud to have writers Carl Hiaasen and Stuart Woods associated with it, other musicians like Alison Mosshart and apparently MLB superstar Prince Fielder even went to private school for a couple years in Vero Beach (I had no idea).

Seeing these people on TV is fun, it’s exciting to hear their music or see them on SportsCenter.  You naturally want to cheer for people from your hometown or the college you went to.  It’s nice to celebrate the famous people who walked where you walked and ate where you ate.

I’m completely content with not making anyone’s list of “people I once knew.”  I have no jealousy or desire to have people drop my name.  But, what I do have aspirations to hear one day comes from Matthew 25.

The subject of the parable is a man who is going on a long journey and entrusts some of his money with his servants.  He gives one servant five talents (several years’ wages), another servant two talents and the last servant one talent.  The man receiving five talents invested his money and ended up with five more talents.  The man receiving two talents did the same thing and got two more.  But, the third man buried his talent in a hole.  When the master finally returned home, his servants brought him the talents.

To the servants who invested and increased the money, the master said “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

This is exactly the type of recognition I’m seeking.  See, we are all in different places and have different talents (the skill kind).  Some were born in to wealth, some were born in to a manageable life, some were born in to little.  Some were born into loving homes, some broken homes.  Some were born in to free countries, others were born in to countries fill with war, discrimination and conflict.  Jesus points this out in the parable and emphasizes that it’s what you do with your situation that matters.  It’s about how you respond to what you have and use it to serve your master.

I struggle when I’m around a lot of other mature Christians.  I grew up believing in God, but I wasn’t “saved” until I was 22 and even then, I didn’t start really growing in my faith until 2007 or 2008.  When I’m around other Christian men and women who are constantly quoting Scripture or recalling Bible stories, I feel quite tiny.  This topic came up at a men’s Bible study recently.  A friend of mine confessed the same feelings of inadequacy.

By being faithful to the master, the servants received great praise. “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  How cool is that?  How great would it be to hear the Lord greet us with that when we run through the Pearly Gates.  Despite not having any celebrity status or very public platform, we still have that opportunity.

This is OK.  Perfectly OK.

I’m never going to be a pastor with many published books or with a speaking tour.  I’m not going to have people tuning in to see what I will do on TV this week.  I’m not going to sell tickets to anyone to see me perform. Despite all this, I still have talents that I am called to use in my circles of influence.

My prayer is that I will use the gifts I was given to completely serve and glorify God.  I want God secretly cheering when I’m being obedient in my service.  I want him to look out at my life and say, ‘Way to go!  I knew him back when he was in elementary school,’ or ‘Hey, I created that guy!’  I want God to be proud of how I love people and how I show God’s love to people.  Love is something you share, not something you keep inside.  If I give enough of it out and make it compound in to more love, maybe then God can say ‘Well done, come and share my happiness!’

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I will not eat hairy crab, I will not eat it in a cab

Sometimes things get lost in translation.  Most times, these things are quite humorous.  Here are a few examples I came across on my last trip to East Asia.

Menu_Turtle burn the old gooseNext time grandma acts out of line, tell that old goose she’d better be careful.

Menu_Bacon hairy crab steamed shutterI’m not quite sure what the shutter is, but any food containing the word ‘hairy’ has me worried.

Menu_Feet feet jumpBecause the purpose of my trip was to play basketball, I sure could have used more of the ‘Feet Feet Jump’.

Menu_Soup to promote the shutterAgain, more with the shutter.

Menu_Bacon shrimp dry baby foodRegular sounding baby food is disgusting enough.  For the record, this was not the kid’s menu.  Also, could I interest you in some tasty grains of corn?

Menu_Hairy crab cakesI will not eat hairy crab, I will not eat it in a cab.

Other times, translation mishaps can be extremely difficult.  When God is trying to speak to me and I’m just not getting it, there aren’t any pretty pictures for me to look at to help me gain context.  At some point, we have all struggled with what our ‘calling’ is and ‘why we’re here.’  God reveals himself and his will for our lives subtly and in stages.

There was a point in my life as I was about to enter my final semester of college when I completely and truly realized that I needed God.  I needed him as the pillar of my life.  I needed to relinquish control to him and most of all, I needed to step out of the way.  That day, July 1st, 2003, I can say was the day that I surrendered my life to Christ.  I cried as I prayed that God would forgive me of my pride, my selfishness and the sin in my life.  I asked him to change me and give me the freedom of putting him first and pleasing me second.

Since that day, God has done great things in my life.  Step by step, he put burdened my heart for different things like missions, service, teaching and discipling.  Shortly after my wife and I were married, we moved to a new city and joined a fantastic church.  It was at that point as we were desiring membership that God burdened me with the desire to be baptized on my own terms.  I was “sprinkled” as a baby in the Catholic church, but this time it was on me.  I wanted to do it to show God and others that it was MY decision and not a programmatic decision to enter the waters of baptism just as Jesus did.

The decision wasn’t easy.  I worried about what people would think.  I worried about the clash of my past in another church.  I was concerned with the label of being a “Baptist”.  Frankly, I’m not one for titles.  At work, people can get caught up in the labels.  Director of this, assistant to the regional manager, supervisor of the planet, blah blah blah.  Call me the janitor, just make sure the check clears.  Titles are just another worldly possession that we get wrapped up in.  Years ago, I worked with guy that owned a local ad agency.  The title on his card said “Good Guy.”

Just as God was laying on my heart the importance of following in the footsteps of Christ and convicting me to baptism, he’s calling each of us to fine tune our lives.  For some, it might be a dramatic change, for others it might be confirming what they are already doing.  The challenge in all this is how we translate.

Communication takes at least two.  I’ve talked to the walls before, but I’ve never had them answer.  If there wasn’t a waitress to hear me ask for some feet feet jump, I would never get any food.  Translations happen in fractions of a second.  We hear, smell, taste, touch, see things and moments later we know and understand what just happened.  Hearing words and comprehending them in our own language is second nature.  But, being in another land and trying to understand if the waitress is asking me for chicken or ‘soup to promote the shutter’ takes practice (which I have not mastered).

Translating God’s will also takes practice.  It takes prayer.  It takes discernment.  It takes desire.  Do you desire to want to know God’s will for your life?  Are you terrified of the consequences of responding to him?  Are you staying out of the waters of baptism because you have a fear of water?

 

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