Friday, December 31, 2010

Do Over!

Do you remember playing neighborhood sports as a kid?  Not organized leagues, but the group of neighborhood kids that all gathered together on Saturday morning and suddenly became all-stars? Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I was lucky enough to experience the advent of youth soccer.  It was just taking off in American suburbia and I jumped in feet first!  In fact, I think my Mom still considers herself officially the first "soccer mom".  As Saturdays became Game Day, I absolutely fell in love with this burgeoning sport.  But despite the cool uniforms and the cheers of the crowds, I always loved playing neighborhood soccer best of all. There is just something about playing soccer with your buddies. No rules, no uniforms, no rain-outs and no refs! You play a little harder, get a lot more sweaty and dirty (maybe even a little blood!), and most of all, have a lot more fun.

But the one thing I remember most was the amount of grace we allowed each other. And we granted that grace with the ever popular "Do Over"! Remember the "Do Over"? You kick the ball crooked, it goes out of bounds and you yell, "Do over!" You hit a foul ball, "Do over!" You slip while trying to tackle the wide receiver, "Do over!" It was the best, and one of the only rules we had in neighborhood sports. Of course, there was always that guy that objected to most "do overs", but he was usually over ruled by other teams mates that knew they would probably need a "do over" as well when they had the ball.

I've been thinking a lot about "do overs" as we face the end of 2012, and and I am considering giving myself a "do over" to start the year off right. I know what you're thinking.!  It sound cliche, right?  But it's really how I've been feeling. I guess it's just human nature to reflect over the last year and take inventory of how you've been doing. This week, I found myself listing the various things that I want to do better. A lot of things went through my mind, but my predominate thought was to be a better spiritual leader to my two boys. Don't get me wrong, I pray with them every morning and night, get them to church every Sunday, make sure they make midweek groups, etc. But I want to feel like I'm doing more than just going through the motions. I want to connect with them on a deeper spiritual level. I'm not sure what that might mean right now. Maybe sharing more spiritual insight with them. Maybe sharing some cool things that God is doing in my life. Maybe just listening to them a little more. Whatever it might be, I'm considering a "do over".

You may not feel like you need a "do over" in this area of your life.  You may not even be a parent.  You may take stock of 2010 and feel as if all the pieces have fallen into place perfectly. But let me just ask you to join me in doing one thing.  If you're a mom or dad, teacher, youth leader, coach, or all of the above, you spend a great amount of our time with kids. Unfortunately, kids usually don't reflect on the past year as we do. In fact, they usually don't reflect much on the last week, or day for that matter! But what has 2010 looked like for the children in our lives? What obstacles have they faced? What victories have they been a part of? Where are they spiritually? Are there any milestones that mark their journey's of faith?

Give this some thought. Spend some time with God and reflect. And if you see some things that you might have been able to do a little better with the kiddos, then I officially make the call!

"Do over!!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here

In Eugene Peterson's The Message, he paraphrases Ecclesiastes 3:13 like this:
'There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace. But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I've had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he's left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he's coming or going. I've decided that there's nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That's it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It's God's gift."

I read these words in a new way this morning. I've been sitting in the library, trying to continue writing my book, which I began this Summer. It's not as easy as I thought it was going to be. At times, it can be isolating. Sometimes it's difficult to focus. Sometimes I feel compelled to delete every file that I've collected so far and start over. Sometimes, I wonder why I'm doing this at all. I wonder if I'll ever finish. I wonder if this is wasted time. I wonder if anyone will read it. But the words in this passage of scripture spoke to me this morning and gave me the comfort and perspective that I needed. I have no idea who's reading this, and those of you that are, I know nothing about your journey in life, and the specific paths you've taken. But you're human, and chances are, you've struggled with the same thoughts that overwhelm me this morning. I pray that it opens a door of hope with you as well.

Basically, my thoughts are pretty simple. I don't have a deep theological dissertation or a new idea of what God is trying to communicate. What rang true with me in these words is that God knows exactly what He's doing, each and every second of our lives. Regardless of the paths we decide to take in life, each one is the path that is ordained for us to walk down. Culture might classify your choices as "right" or "wrong", but what does that really mean when we are in perfect union with God? I firmly believe that if we remain connected to God in prayer and meditation, each and every life choice that we make is guided by Him through His Spirit and therefore cannot be narrowed down to a category of "right" or "wrong". My Dad often said that if we remain responsible in our decisions and pray about each choice, there are no "bad" choices. A specific decision may not be exactly what God had intended, but he still uses that choice for good and to advance His Kingdom.

Many of you know that I had a bad experience with the last church staff on which I served. I spent most of the Summer being angry with those that hurt me, and with God as well. I demanded God provide a reason for what happened, and begged Him for me to be vindicated. I questioned my decision to join this church, and questioned if God had even called me there in the first place. But just as I reached the pinnacle of confusion and frustration, God revealed to me that everything happened exactly as He had intended it. There was a "reason" for what happened, and I didn't need to know what it was. And I have found a peace with this realization.

So I sit here, in a dark corner of the library, banging on my laptop and knowing that there is a time to write and a time to serve on a church staff. There is a time to feel lonely, isolated and there is a time to enjoy company. There is a time for confusion and a time for clarity. There is a time for the wilderness and a time for shelter. There is a time for depression and a time for peace. A time for anger and a time for joy. There is a time to fall and a time to get up, but also a time to just lie there for a while. There is a time for each event in our lives that God sets into motion. And just like the seasons throughout a year, they often seem to be in complete conflict with each other. But they all work together in complete unity and reveal to us a simple truth: There is a time to trust God, and a time to....well...I guess that's it.