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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 amazing what silence will do…

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I didn’t mean to go radio silent on you. Life offers some interesting turns–nothing spectacular, nothing really all that new. But burblings emerging, breaking the surface, and popping in a way that old ideas shine in a new light.

Quietly, surprising in a whispering oh-look-at-that kind of way, confirmation after confirmation emerges. I wondered for many years if I walked the right path. And yet, in all the reflection that an over-analyzer can offer, I cannot see a different way. These confirmations, showing how the circuitous way I arrived here was instead setting a foundation from which to build.

I went into a hiding of sorts that last few months. Hired to achieve a particular goal and knowing it could take three years to do, I hid from the numbers–numbers only I reviewed regularly. The numbers I was brought in to fix, I hid from them. Reason combined with even my own I-can-do-anything approach said it would take three years. And three years was still an optimistic goal. But what I was seeing in the early numbers for the fiscal year had me wondering.

But the come-to-Jesus moment came. In preparing for a team retreat, I knew I had to bring the numbers out onto the table. I prepared for spending three days brainstorming how to keep fixing the numbers. Oh, those numbers. As I built the projections for the end of fiscal year, I had to stop. At first, the potential deficit looked bigger than I had hoped for the first of three years. But there was that big fish at the bottom of the list. And oh how I needed that big fish. I didn’t wait to get that far, I jumped to the bottom, ran some quick calculations, and dumped that fish into the barrel. It provided just a little more hope. I continued on, and not long later, I had to stop. I went back and double-checked, triple-checked everything to that point. I couldn’t believe it.

I took a lap around my office. How could this be? I dove back in and finished the report. Not only did we stop the hemorrhaging, we climbed out of the hole and were already building a new structure for the future. How could things turn in just a couple months? Well, when 70% of your business comes in during those months and each individual account saw growth, hiding from the numbers quickly becomes shouting them from the rooftop.

And inside, quietly all I could repeat was, “it worked.” And all the while, Jesus smiled. We have killed ourselves individually and as a team trying to start scratching back. And the news met with varied reactions. One, who is in the midst of closing his final accounts for the year, took a step back, leaned over on a chair, shook his head, and commented, “I really needed to hear that.” Another got teary-eyed. And a third laughed because neither she nor I believed she would be able to see it before she retires in a couple years.

I wonder how the reaction would have changed had I not avoided the numbers for those couple months. And I have spent (wasted?) much time wondering the same about my life choices. What if…what if…what if…

But the truth of the matter is this: had I seen the numbers creeping up, oh so slowly, I wouldn’t have felt the relief I felt when it broke through this week. The end result is the same–nothing I could have done would have changed that. But the relief, oh the relief. And I see my life in similar terms now. I can question and second-guess, but I keep coming back to the reality that regardless of my choices, I would have ended up right where I am. And any other path I would have chosen would have only brought heartache.

Regardless of where you are in life and what decisions you’re questioning in hindsight, remember this massive promise–post is on your wall, your screen saver, and every social media page if you need to:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” –Romans 8:28, ESV

But wait, there’s more! Yes, the cheesy infomercial tagline is true here too. Often overlooked, the prior verses take Romans 8:28 from a lovely sentiment to a battle cry:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:26-28, ESV

You’re not alone in the battle. The working together for good is not because of you. In fact, it is predicated on your weakness and the Spirit’s prayers. Your weakness plus the Spirit’s prayers for you means that everything will work out.

On Little League and Muscle Memory…

blog--2014-01--Jesus-wants-us-prayingWhat on earth just happened? My fourth-grade body stood between home plate and the pitcher’s mound in stunned calm. I was a catcher on the “Cubs” little league team. My girl-friend and I joined the boys playing ball; after all, it didn’t say girls “couldn’t” play. So we did. (And the next year they created girls’ softball…but that’s beside the point.) It was solidly the 80’s and my fluffy ponytail hung out the bottom of my helmet as my catcher’s mask rocked in the dust, being torn off in a flurry of movement.

Over and over my coach had me do this one drill. Over and over I sprung from my crouched stance, picked up a slow-dribbling ball, and hurled the thing to the first baseman. Over and over. Over and over. My fourth-grade eyes rolled in practice as I knew what drill would be mine to keep doing. What my fourth-grade mind didn’t realize is that the vast majority of little league hits end up right where he was drilling me to go: dribbling between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. And in our little league shock, defense could get an extra beat as the batter always seemed a bit shocked to actually hit the ball.

So there I stood. Between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. Watching the first-base umpire call the runner out as the first baseman caught the ball I threw. (Did I throw that? I must have.) I didn’t remember getting up. I didn’t think through getting to the ball and throwing it. I had no concept of tossing off my mask and heading for the ball. And there was my coach, cheering away! His incessant drilling paid off. So ingrained was the habit, I didn’t have to think about it–the right reaction just happened.

And I calmly picked up my mask, put it back on, and returned to my crouch…playing it off as if I’d done that every day of my life. Really, I HAD done it every day of my practice; I just didn’t believe it would ever come naturally. But when the moment came, my instinct took over. Muscle memory jumped into gear before my conscious brain had a chance to intervene.

I find the same is true with reading scripture. Talk to near any teacher and they will tell you how they read scripture best. Morning, evening, lunch breaks. On the beach, in the car, on audio book. As many people as there are, there remain that many different ways to read the Bible. And yet, the scripture doesn’t prescribe the where and the what and the time we should read.

God is so incredibly unconcerned with form. He doesn’t really care how we read the Bible, or at what speed, or with what level of linguistic understanding. If He did, He would have spelled it out.  That’s why He can speak through NKJV or NASB or NIV. Because He just wants us in it…even if we don’t understand the depths of the words we read.

He wants us praying, even if we cannot see the point.

He wants us seeking, even if we cannot possibly imagine what good it will do, or how it will “all work together”.

He wants us drilling over and over. So when the time comes that we need it, we won’t even have to pause–we will know right from wrong, truth from heresy, and the difference between godly submission and abuse by a tyrant.

Do the drills, whatever that looks like for you. Seek His face during whatever time of day does the job. Pray to Him in whatever words, songs, or writings you must. Do the drills. For when the day comes that you need instinctive, godly reaction, the drills will pay off.

Chronological Bible: December 23, Your advocate before the Throne…

Read:

  • Hebrews 5:1-8:13

“For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness…And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” –Hebrews 5:1-2, 4, ESV

Among other things, God appointed Jesus in the post of our High Priest. The passage above describes the general responsibilities of every high priest. If a sinful high priest offers gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of his people and handles gently those who wander, how much more will Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb, do for you and I? In His perfection, He doesn’t just know a decent gift to get us through a situation. He knows the perfect gift, the perfect supplication needed to give us exactly what we need for every situation. He prayers on your behalf. He pleads with the Father on your behalf. Your High Priest knows your struggles, and as your Creator, He knows exactly what you need. Be inspired that someone who knows your highs and lows, your struggles and victories, stands before the very throne of God asking on your behalf and celebrating in your victories together.

Chronological Bible: December 13, What is reasonable?…

Read:

  • Philippians 1:1-4:23

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” –Philippians 4:5-6, ESV

Reasonable; a powerful word. We define reasonable, often, as the opposite of faith. We see faith as a blind, trusting, ignorant approach to life. Yet Paul, one of the most brilliant religious scholars of all time defines it differently. Re-read the verses above.

In Paul’s dictionary, reasonable is not being anxious. Reasonable is praying to God. Reasonable is asking for help from God. Reasonable is giving thanks. Reasonable is making yourself known to God. These actions result in “reasonable.” And that kind of reasonable cannot be hidden. Embrace reasonable.