Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revolution, part one

The word "revolution" (based on findings at wordnet.princeton.edu) can be defined as "a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving."

Our popular culture is fond of this word. It is often used to make something sound edgy and appealing. With this in mind, it's almost ironic when you stop and think about how well the definition fits what following Christ is all about.

If that's the case though, why does it sometimes seem that being a Christian is anything but revolutionary? I don't want to speak for you, but my history shows that I will at times settle for something that I know deep down inside just doesn't measure up to the revolutionary life that God has for us. I only realize that I'm settling when I actually have an experience that shakes me out of my comfy place.

Here's an example of what I mean.

This past Friday night, the girls and I got dressed up and headed to their school for the annual Father/Daughter dance. It's a great time, complete with cookies, punch, a complimentary photo to commemorate the evening and of course, music and dancing. Well, sort of dancing. I mean, imagine the scene with a bunch of K- 5th grade girls revved up on cookies and punch running around while a school sound system plays favorites like "YMCA" and the Hokey-Pokey. The average dad alternates between dancing awkwardly with his daughter and standing by himself and watching while his daughter (or daughters) leaves him to dance with her friends. I understood my role perfectly, so I took turns dancing and standing, dancing and standing.

It was during one of my turns to stand that I noticed my friend Bud (also taking a turn standing) on the other side of the gym. He was there with his granddaughter, who is in the first grade. As I made my way over to chat with him, I saw her run up and grab his shirt, yell something with a big smile on her face, and then disappear again into the crowd. Bud and I stood there for awhile and caught up on life in general, while we waited for one of the girls to approach and signal that they were again ready to dance with us.

It was great to see him and chat, but the really amazing thing is that he had a reason to be there at all. I remember the Tuesday night when he called me at a worship team practice and asked if we could pray. When Bud's granddaughter was born, she was so premature that she weighed less than a pound and a half. Her prospects were dim, at best. As I shared the news, the priority of the team was clear. We knew that we were together that night to pray for her; the rehearsal was simply the occasion that had gathered us for our real purpose.

By the time the youth minister and I got to the hospital in Toledo, the family had been told that she had experienced some complications that would greatly hinder her sight, hearing and capacity to learn. I could tell the seriousness of the situation by the way the hospital staff treated us. As soon as we mentioned that we were ministers, they practically led us by the hand to where she was.

As I entered the intensive care unit, I was beyond words. Here was a tiny baby, barely the size of my hand, attached to enough equipment to fill a garage. Places like that seem devoid of hope. But the reality is, hope is found in someone much bigger than the machines that were monitoring her little life. We spent most of the night alternating between praying and waiting with them. I'm not always the most discerning person, but this was another night when I understood my role perfectly. So I took turns praying and waiting, praying and waiting.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." -1 John 5:14

You may feel trapped by your circumstances; ready to give up and accept what seems to be inevitable because there is nowhere to turn. But the truth is, God hears us. That's not just blind hope. It is truth. I am not going to pretend that we will always understand His timing or decisions- that really isn't my point. What I know is that we never utter a word to Him that falls on a deaf ear. God hears us.

Don't miss this, because it's part of the revolution. Take a chance and embrace the "drastic and far-reaching change in behavior" that comes from really believing that the God of the universe honestly listens to you- and desires to hear from you! It may radically affect how you look at your circumstances, how you communicate with your Creator- maybe even how you look at your whole relationship with Him. God does hear us. And, He responds- sometimes in ways that are far beyond amazing.

During that whole first year, as we prayed and waited, God heard and responded. Although her road hasn't always been smooth, Bud's granddaughter has absolutely defied many of the doctors' predictions about her.

And Bud?
Well, he has a date for next year's dance.

In Him We Live,


Friday, February 16, 2007

...She Got Her Wish!

Like the look? I was going for "Arctic Cone-head". Anyone for a vacation to Ohio?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


"Dad, I heard that we might get six to eight inches tonight!" My oldest daughter was practically ecstatic this afternoon as she shared the weather man's predictions. At eleven years old, snow is still amazing. It is more than weather- it is possibility and anticipation. Even before the first flurries begin to fall, you can see it in her eyes. She can already feel the crunch underneath her boots, taste the flakes in her mouth and imagine the size and shape of the new snowman- or snow-woman, or snow-dog that will be built. I think she even made a snow-squirrel once. (She really does have quite an imagination.) In her mind, school is already cancelled and the toughest question she'll have to answer all day is, "which mug would you like to drink your hot chocolate from?"

I smiled as she shared the news with me. I mean, you almost have to smile at that kind of excitement. But as an adult (who has grown up with it), snow is not all that amazing. Actually, it can really be a drag. I will admit, the first snow of the year is still great. Everything changes and you are happy that the barren landscape has a new look. It's really a treat if it happens in the evening and you can watch it fall outside, while you enjoy the fireplace inside! But soon it's not new anymore. Then the snow represents driveways that will need to be shoveled and cars that will need their windows scraped and interesting commutes to work with lots of people that have seemingly forgotten how to drive overnight. Actually, I think there's more to it than that. As an adult it's not the snow that gets to you; it's what the snow represents- Winter.

Instead of snow men, you anticipate the sting of the icy wind on your face and the relentless gray sky that seems to want to invade the core of who you are. It's not even always about the time of the year. Winter is more than a landscape, or a weather pattern. It is a season of the soul. A time when, regardless of the temperature, you feel a chill deep within yourself. Like a tree that has lost all the grandeur of its leaves, you begin to feel barren and exposed. People who trust Christ are no more immune than anyone else, (although we sometimes have a harder time admitting it).

Tough times can bring the cold.

Sometimes it comes quickly with a call or a message.
"You've missed three payments in a row and we must advise you that..."
"Please see me in my office at the end to the day."
"I just don't love you anymore."
"It's malignant..."
Sometimes it's a hundred things that would seem small if they were by themselves. But stacked together, they carry the weight of a truck. Regardless of the circumstances, Winter has come and you must endure it.

Without a doubt, Winter is hard and I would never pretend that it isn't. Now please hang in there, because what I'm about to say may at first appear to be either cliche' or overly simplistic. When I really stop and think about these darker, lonely seasons though, and what is required to emerge on the other side, I have to go back to my daughter and her comments about the snow. I suppose the real insight comes less from her comments and more from what fuels them in the first place.

Matthew 18: 1-4 says, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"

The verses before and after this story are teachings about walking in faith and avoiding sin, and the child is an example of innocence and purity. As adults, I think we typically view children from the perspective of what we can teach them, and typically this is correct. But in this case, Jesus told his disciples to look at a child as the example. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven will be the one who seeks to live a life of faith and humility and sets an example of innocence and purity.

I can learn a lot from my daughter's perspective on the snow. What I have "grown" to see as an obstacle, she sees as an opportunity. One of the most important elements of riding out a Winter of the soul is faith. Not the "adult" version of faith that has learned to spout holy-sounding phrases on cue and then proceed to rely on itself anyway. I'm talking about the cold-braving, snowman-making faith of a child that could honestly say "I don't understand this, but maybe with Your help we can make something." The kind of faith that would even admit "I don't like this, but I trust that You wont let me get so cold that I won't ever thaw out again."

If you're still exploring who God is and Winter is blowing, I hope you will dig deep into this. If you'll take a chance and read the stories about Jesus in any of the gospel books in the New Testament like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, I think you'll see that Jesus shows Himself to be someone that you can trust; someone who can restore the innocence and purity of a child in you.

If you already know Him and you're feeling barren, remember His promise to never leave you or forsake you, because He means it. Don't be afraid to tell him how you really feel- He can take it. Ask Him to renew that child-like faith in you again- trust me, He can do it.

And then decide which mug you are going to drink your hot chocolate from.

In Him We Live,


Monday, February 5, 2007

A New Adventure, Part Two

So, did you watch the Super Bowl this weekend? The whole thing worked out well in our home. Ten years of ministry in Kempton, Indiana have solidified my wife's parents as Colts fans. I grew up in St. Louis, so I was happy to root for anybody who was playing the Bears.

Regardless of my... well... less-than-fan status for Chicago as a team however, I've got to say that watching Lovie Smith sincerely congratulate Tony Dungy after the game was an awesome thing to see.

Without a doubt these men will be remembered as the first two African-American coaches to lead their teams to a Super Bowl. But I think their faith is far more memorable. They set a great example of camaraderie among believers and each modeled what a life yielded to Christ can look like. Both Smith and Dungy allowed others to see the influence of Christ in their leadership styles, while demonstrating that this influence isn't a hindrance to building a strong team. Through it all they showed a genuine appreciation for each other that never seemed at all forced. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that much of this happened on live television in a situation that would make it tough for anyone to hide their true nature. As C.S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, "Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is..."

If you read my first entry, you might be wondering at this point if I've forgotten my promise to share my second reason for choosing to call this blog "Convergence." Believe it or not, it's all connected- at least it is in my head.

The second definition listed above for the word simply says, "a meeting place." You may have noticed that the link to this site is "convergence244." Numbers are often included in links like this one simply because the word has already been used by someone, and the numbers allow an original address. I imagine "convergence" is probably being used somewhere else, but I actually included the numbers to remind myself (and whoever else might be interested) of a characteristic of the early church that is described in Acts 2:44. This is what it says: "All the believers were together and had everything in common."

Take a moment and picture that. This was the beginning of the Church, and one of their main focuses was true community. Just two verses later, in Acts 2:46-47 Luke writes, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." The Greek word for "church" is ecclesia, or "assembly". It is the very nature of the Church to be a community; a gathering.

The early Church met in a variety of places, from the temple courts to each other's homes. The place was not important in itself; it only provided the people with a common destination and an opportunity to gather as they lived out the characteristics that defined them as Jesus' disciples and as a community. Today just as it was then, the locations where the Church meets are nothing more than points of convergence, or meeting places.

Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith did a great job of demonstrating this idea. They faced each other in an intense competition and were able to use that unlikely meeting place as an opportunity to be the Church. As they met at the games end, their embrace showed respect, admiration, and a true sense of community.

This blog is just an opportunity; a meeting place. It is incidental. But perhaps, what happens here will be a tool for encouragement, or challenge, or conviction. And if you choose to join me on this adventure, perhaps together we will find a true sense of community here, as a part of Christ's Church.

In Him We Live,