I ran across this quote yesterday –
“Fight Apathy!… Or don’t, I couldn’t care less.”
It ranks right up there with:
“I might be the very best and most completely humble person I know.”
“I would serve more selflessly, but I am afraid that no one will notice it”
This past Sunday I preached a sermon entitled “Not Quite What I Was Planning.” In the sermon I threw in a quick, spur of the moment line from the movie “Dan in Real Life.” I wanted to give the full quote today. at the end of the movie Dan’s weekly article has gone into syndication and here is his first national piece.
Dear Readers, for most of you, this is my first column in your paper. In the future, I will be answering your questions, but today I want to break from my usual format and talk to you about the subject of plans. Not so much my plan for this column, but life plans, and how we all make them. And how we hope that our kids make good, smart, safe plans of their own. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, our plans usually don’t work out as we had hoped. So instead of asking our young people “What are you plans? What do you plan to do with your life?” maybe we should tell them this: Plan to be surprised.
I spent a summer in Sawbridgeworth England as a missions intern in 1993. A new Church had started there a year before I arrived and I was going to help it get going. I ended up spending most of my summer going door to door and sticking flyers into the mail slots on doors. This is completely legal in England. It was my job to hit every house in town and when I finished Sawbridgeworth, I then rode the bus to nearby towns to distribute flyers as well.
What did the advertisements say you ask? Well, one was a sheet of paper that gave all the information about our “Holiday Bible Club.” In the US we call it “Vacation Bible School” and it is an event for kids 6th grade and under. By the way, it ended up being a huge success. We had over 100 different kids come and averaged in the 70’s each night. It was probably the biggest Christian children’s event in the entire United Kingdom that year.
The ad for the Holiday Bible Club was placed inside of an orange little pamphlet that said on the outside; “Ten Reasons I Never Wash.” As you can imagine, many people flipped the brochure open to read:
1. I was made to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites they reckon they are cleaner than other people.
3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one was right.
4. I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.
5. I still wash on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I’m still young. When I’m older and have got a bit dirtier I might start washing.
8. I really don’t have the time.
9. The bathroom’s never warm enough.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.
Finally, on the back of the brochure it had a little explanation about Church being like washing. It apparently was effective. By the end of the summer we had 40 people attending Church (up from the original 10 people).
Maybe people enjoyed it. Maybe people were offended. Maybe they felt convicted. Maybe it was just British Humor.
It seems a man in Topeka, Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to New York, and started working west from there. He went to a very large church and began taking photographs and talking to people. There he spots a golden telephone on a wall and is intrigued with a sign which reads “$100,000 a minute.”
Seeking out the pastor he asks about the phone and the sign. The pastor answers that this golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and if he pays the price he can talk directly to God. He thanks the pastor and continues on his way. As he continues to visit churches in Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle and all around the United States, he finds more phones, with the same sign, and the same answer from each pastor.
Finally, he arrives in Alaska. Upon entering a church in Homer, lo and behold, he sees the usual golden telephone. But THIS time, the sign reads “Calls $1”
Fascinated, he requests to talk to the pastor. “Reverend, I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I found this golden telephone, and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to God, but, in the other churches the cost was $100,000 a minute. Your sign reads $1 a call. Why?”
The pastor, smiling benignly, replies, “Oh, my son, that’s very easy to explain. You see, you’re now in Alaska and, of course, it’s a local call from here.”
It is funny where you can get material from. Michelle and I were watching the movie Coach Carter this past Friday and there is a quote in the movie that is unmistakable. I did a Google search this morning and learned that it was a variation from a quote made by poet Marianne Williamson. Here is the full version:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
In honor of this weekend I wanted to share a story I ran across several years ago. I do not know the source, but it is very well written and I thought I would share it for this weekend. I hope you are touched and blessed.
We are sitting at lunch when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.” “We’re taking a survey,” she says, half-joking. “Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life,” I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
“I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations….”
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child-bearing will heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that had been MY child?” That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub.
That an urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation.
I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby’s sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of her discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right. I want my daughter to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine. That a five-year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather than the women’s at McDonald’s will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years-not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. My daughter’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.
I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children’s future.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or a cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real, it actually hurts.
My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.
“You’ll never regret it,” I finally say.
Then I reach across the table, squeeze my daughter’s hand and offer a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all of the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. This blessed gift from God…that of being a Mother.
Mother’s day is this Sunday and I have been thinking about being a parent. For some reason my mind went back to a scene in a movie (maybe that is because I watch too many movies). In the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Brad Pitt’s character writes a letter to his daughter. It is pretty good advice from any parent and I thought I would remind you of what it says 0 or share it anew.
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
This past Sunday I started a new sermon series called “Six Word Memoirs.” The question of the series is simple; “How would you describe your life in six words?” It could also be asked; “How would other people describe your life in six words?” There are other questions that follow like; Are you writing the story you want to right? Are you writing a story God would want you to write?
The idea for this series came from a book entitled “Not Quite What I Was Planning” and its follow-up “It All Changed In An Instant.” There is also a website HERE that is continually updated with new memoirs.
These memoirs might get you thinking about your own. And in turn get you ready for the upcoming sermons.
*Warning – these are not Christian books or a website. It may have some objectionable material.
I was recently reading an article by a Church consultant. In this article he stated that is often asked to come and assess the Sunday morning worship program of various Churches. Most Churches feel like they are doing a good job of blending Biblical truth, traditional aspects of worship and contemporary approaches. Yet these same Churches are finding it harder and harder to reach non-Christians. In response, he usually asks a simple question that causes Churches to reassess everything. He ask, “How do the teenagers in your Church view your worship?” “Are they engaged & challenged or are they bored & unengaged?”
His theory is simple. Youth see everything through fresh eyes, much like an unbeliever or new believer. They don’t know our traditions and usually don’t care. They see everything at face value and not the result of several years of challenges and compromises. The are honest about what they experience, and many are forced to sit through our programs week after week.
Thus he draws this conclusion. If your Church is serious about reaching lost people then develop a program that even your teenagers will like.
As a pastor and a father of 2 teenagers it has been a questions that is causing me to rethink everything.
This past weekend Homer High School was host to the Borough Track Championships for Jr and Sr High School. My son Logan was in two of the field events and two of the track events. I went up on Friday and watched him do his field events and then waited around to watch him run. For each race they had the Jr High girls compete first then the Jr High boys and then the Sr High girls and finally the Sr high boys. As a result we were able to see a lot more track events than I planned or imagined.
Logan and I were both watching the Sr High girls 100 meter hurdles. We watched a girl take off in the lead and catch her foot on the second hurdle. She did what my son called a “face plant” into the track. Without hesitation she jumped back up and took off running. Now she was in last place. We were amazed as we saw her pass girl after girl and finally come in second place by fractions of a second.
Logan said, “Did you see that? That was amazing!” In that moment, no one cared that she finished second. We were all amazed by her spirit and her drive and the fact that she did not give up. He second effort to finish the race was way more impressive than just winning a race.
I think that is a great reminder for people who are willing to take a second chance in Jesus.