Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball..

As I watched the Golden State Warriors (pro basketball) this season, I tried to describe concisely what is so different about them. many things can be said, but during game 1 of the Finals, it struck me. Every player wants the ball–and every player wants to pass the ball to someone who has a better shot.

Gimme the ball so I can shoot. Gimme the ball so I can pass.

The number of assists on this team of superstars is astounding. When most teams are built around one or two superstars, what makes the GSW great is their truly team approach. What makes them dangerous is that even if you clamp down on one player, they have six more who can still beat you. Shut down 3-point shooter Klay Thompson in Game 1, and you still have to deal with NBA MVPs Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Clamp down on Durant, and Draymond Green, known for his non-point stats (rebounds, steals, assists, etc), will open Game 2 with a three-pointer. And when the depth of the bench can fill in to allow the first six to cycle in and out of the game without much loss of progress, a team becomes unbeatable.

Every player wants to make the play. Every player wants to give the assist. And every player hustles from start to finish. Even if the talent of the other team exceeds that of the Warriors, the Warriors will outlast them almost every time. Go ahead and start fast–they’ll out pace you in the end. Their conditioning, their work, and their hustle is unmatched.

Imagine if we approached our life of faith the same way. When God calls, we want the ball and we will make the play. When God calls someone else, we will take the assist and get them what they need to make the play. We cheer from the bench, and we high-five on the floor. We hustle in practice. We work. And in any situation, we might be beat down temporarily, but we will never be out-worked. In the life of faith, working means trusting, working means pushing when God calls us to push, and working means hitting our knees in prayer as often as we hit the floor in action.

We are given armor, for the life of faith is a battle. Maybe that’s why I enjoy sports–because there is an opponent, you have a team, and the work you put in behind the scenes comes on display in the battle. Let’s aspire to be so on point in our walk with Jesus that we will confidently make the play just as confidently as we pass the ball to our bother or sister in faith for their play.

Let’s be playmakers.

Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball.

It’s time…again?

Life. The older I get, the more I see cycles and patterns and how bits and pieces fit together to prepare us for each part of our journey. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can trust that each thing in life will be pulled together for eventual good–so even in the mixing stage of life, when pieces are all ingredients and not yet a meal, you can trust that eventually it will come together as a meal you will so greatly enjoy.

Sometimes life moments come as a result of percolating. A little bubble here, a moment there over the course of years comes to a head. A decision must be made: move forward in faith, settle back in complacency.

I cannot say I have always had faith to move forward when the opportunity first was made clear. And yet, in His infinite mercy, Jesus keeps coming, taking a different angle, a different approach. Sometimes my pause has resulted in a lost opportunity. But sometimes, in His love causing His desire to refine me into the best version of me, He keeps coming.

So a decision point comes…again. Something that has percolated for nearly three years is coming to a head–it is time to step out in faith, regardless of knowing where that road will ultimately go.

If Jesus is calling you to step, step. Trust His leading. Trust His hand. And trust His love for you. He would never lead you to a place that would not ultimately be for your good–His ultimate goal is your ultimate sanctification. Your best self will come as you surrender to His leading, submit to His refining of your self, and repentance from the sin that so easily entangles.

Let’s not wait until “again” happens–let’s take the step together. The people of faith are all in this walk together. Let’s wave each other on, hand each other a refreshment, and give some grace as we all step into new territory.

Life behind an 18-wheeler

I laughed today as I drove the highway, on the way to a family function. Lots of road equals lots of time to think. As I come up behind an 18-wheel, tractor/trailer, I sigh. I hate following them. You can’t see around them, you can’t see the road in front of them, and if there are over-road signs, you cannot read them until it is too late to make a lane change.

Don’t get me started about road spray in the rain and snow when driving behind one of these behemoths.

But today, I laughed. The life of faith often seems like following such a massive truck. We cannot see the road ahead, whether it turns right or left, and often hindsight is the only way to see the “signs” above the roadway.

But instead of annoying, dirtying road spray from a behemoth truck, we settle in behind our Savior. The Behemoth in this case is the Conqueror. He trampled sin and death. He rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of the One True God. Jesus has earned His behemoth status–and His road spray is a dusting of “follow Me,” a spray of “trust Me,” and when the storm is great, the overwhelming wash of “I am here.”

Jesus isn’t such a bad 18-wheeler to follow.

When Jesus Got Angry…

There is much ado going on in the Twitterverse in recent days. Someone wrote an inflammatory blog post whose nearly every sentence was insult after scathing description after baiting. Baiting the hook over and over, calling Christians with certain opinions name after name. Making comparisons that are absurd. And the foundational stream of it all was this–if someone came up with an interpretation of scripture that millions of scholars over thousands of years disagreed with, we should all just accept it. Or face the wrath of someone with a keyboard and a blog.

But that’s not my point. There will always be someone, many someone’s, seeking to incite. Seeking to poke you in the sore spot. Seeking to step on your toe, and when you look down, to poke you in the eye. Not limited to religious circles–someone is there just to throw a group into a tizzy. And laugh as the hissy fits abound.

My point–and my disappointment is this: WHY DO WE KEEP TAKING THE BAIT!?!?!

It’s called click-bait for a reason. An inflammatory headline, searchable names of every major name in Christendom fame right now, and inciting remarks. No hint of sharing love or Jesus or hope or faith. Just flat bait.

Let’s stop being stupid fishes. Let’s stop seeing the shiny flapper on the attractive hook. LET’S STOP TAKING THE BAIT.

Why are we so easily angered by people who clearly have no interest in a civil conversation? Why do we keep engaging at their level?

I am the youngest of three kids and the only girl. There was plenty of teasing and horseplay and sibling rivalry in the house. And it took years, YEARS, for me to take my mother’s advice and stop reacting. Stop taking the bait. The kicker was, I was such an easy target for so long, and the results of ignoring the poke weren’t immediate. It took a good while before the brothers finally realized that the bored reaction they got from me was going to be the only reaction they got from me. And so they moved on.

Amazing things happen when you stop taking the bait. There are “ministries”–and yes, I put them in quotes–that are based entirely on mocking people. It may not look like it at first blush, but as you read page after page of writing, or following their mean-spirited rants on social media, you start to wonder where the love is that they so demeaningly claim to demand from everyone? They spew names at people who believe differently than them–AND WE TAKE THE BAIT. We buy the book to refute the claims to write a response blog–AND IT ALL JUST FUELS THE BITTER, ANGRY, BAITING.

If you are really angry at the church, the Church, Jesus, God, pick a part of the Christian faith–and you really want to discuss issues, ask questions, I am all for it. Let’s talk. Let’s start by agreeing to disagree so we can get the trying to get you on my side issue out of the way. And let’s have a good old fashioned scholarly debate. Let’s cross-reference with scripture, with theological texts, with scholars. Let’s dig into the Greek and Hebrew. Let’s explore it together. I may never agree with you–but I will so love the process of learning how you think and what brought you there and how you are looking at things differently than I.

I love a good, well-intentioned debate. Especially when we both know we’re never going to agree. To me, that is the best kind of fun–let’s poke holes in each other’s arguments. But it has to be in good spirits.

Come at me with insults, and you’ll get a bored reaction.

Because here’s the thing. Jesus only got angry when his children were being swindled in the temple, the children were being kept from coming to Him, and the religious sect were mis-using and mis-interpreting scripture for their own gain. And in His anger–every single time–He pointed back to the truth. No name-calling, no inflammatory remarks for the sake of fame. He pointed people to God–period. He espoused the faith–period.

And when He was called names, He took it silently. When He was spit upon, literally spit upon, He received it silently. When He was accused of wrong doing where no wrong doing was done–He either calmly rebuked, or when His crucifixion was near, He said nothing.

It’s about time we start acting like Jesus. It’s about time we choose meekness instead of offense. It’s about time we keep our eye on the real prize, set aside these silly arguments, and stop jumping into the middle of dissension.

Let’s stop taking the bait.

Editorial discretion…

As I write, and find my words published with other publications, I see myself growing, changing in how I view Editors. The first time a work was published in a particular publication, I was of course excited. And when I read it, felt a bit of embarrassment for the amount that was pruned, cut. The next one, still published, still excited–and still a shade of blush for the words that were changed.

The next, a smoothing. They were my words, but polished. Cleaned up. Like a good spring pruning. And my analytical mind went into overdrive, trying to figure out how to write exactly what the editor wants.

The next, I let go of the analyzation. Because only the editor knows what is in the editor’s mind. I cannot write like he can. I can, however, keep writing like I write. And apparently that is enough. Because he will polish it. He will make it exactly what is needed for each publication.

And now. Again, another work published. No embarrassment, no analyzing. And as I read words I know were not mine, but added impact, added more sensory notes, all I feel is grace. The grace of an editor, to take the words my fingers put to electronic paper. To see the bits, the pieces, that will make the whole piece better. The sentence needed to fill out the story, to give context to the analogy. The reader will never know which words were mine, yet my byline gives me all the credit for each word. I cannot imagine–it is with humble gratitude I receive the grace given by editors who choose to be behind the scene.

And I realize, Jesus is our great Editor. He polishes up our contribution. I have left meetings at work knowing that the words that came out of my mouth were polished up and put together in a way my sinful self could not have done. Going in frustrated and walking away in reconciliation–because I gave my care to Jesus, He polished it up, and presented it in the way my deepest heart really meant underneath the humanness getting in the way.

He gives us grace, shines up the attempt, and in this world, people will look at us–give us the byline. And if we’re wise, we will recognize the grace and nudge our neighbor with a, “Hey, look what Jesus did today!” We know without Him, we would stumble more than we already do. What a grace He gives us. We would be wise to keep sharing our weakness, the ways in which we couldn’t have done what He did with a situation.

It’s all grace.