I used to love Toys R Us when my kids were smaller. Believe it or not, they had no idea that we could buy the toys and take them home. For a short time (too short), they treated it just like another playground. I wish that lasted a little longer because these days I find myself saying, “No,” often when asked to purchase a toy, or an app, or a device. Children carry a significant cost to them, and I need to be grown up enough to know how to manage that cost. Similarly, choosing Jesus carries a significant cost, and I need to be grown up enough to be able manage the cost of my own choice to follow Jesus.
Sitting alone on the side of a hill overlooking the field, I prepared myself by focusing my mind and shutting everything else out. I thought only about my role on the team, mentally rehearsing running passes and positioning myself in the scrum. High school rugby was awesome! I knew I wasn’t nearly the best player on the team, but I wanted to give everything I had because if my head wasn’t in the game it could be a painful disaster. Now that I’m more than 20 years removed from high school (please don’t make me commit to a higher number) I know that my mindset mattered in high school rugby, and it still matters today. Our mindset usually determines our outcome. Our mindset is so important that it can determine how closely connected with Jesus we will be, or how far removed we will be.
My friend thrust a blindfold over my head, helped me bend over and press my forehead against a bat, and then told me to spin around 10 times. I think I made it to 7 before falling over. When I got back onto my feet I heard my team yell, “Run, run, run!” I ran, alright. Unfortunately, my alignment wasn’t aided by my lack of sight and dizziness. I ran right out of the playing area, down a small decline, and straight onto my face. There are some summer camp games that I absolutely dislike, and this was one of them. Misalignment in that game meant pain, pure and simple. Misalignment for a Believer can be painful, too, when our life’s direction is not in alignment with Jesus’ direction…
There was about 60 of us sitting on couches, or the floor, or on top of each other, eating chips and cheeses, while we discussed questions like, “How far is too far?” Or, “Ok, but, is it really a sin if I just did this?” Or, “But, I can do this, though, can’t I?” The teens in my Ottawa youth group were candid about wanting to both connect with Jesus and also stay disconnected. Dancing the line of Jesus’ grace and our choices created some fun talks. Now that I’m a lead pastor I’m finding that discussions of grace and choice still lead to some interesting discussions…
It was around 4am, I am dressed in the darkest clothes I own, and I’m following behind my friend to our target. We have replaced the spray cap from the can of shaving cream with a cap from a can of bug spray in order to stay quiet and keep the mist light so that it gently settles onto the face of our fellow camp counsellor without him waking up. We leave the cabin as quietly as we enter, hardly able to contain ourselves from laughing at the snow angel look-a-like we leave behind us. Man, that’s an awesome memory I like to play over and over again. It’s awesome because I’m still friends with that guy (not the snow angel, my fellow miscreant). He’s about a foot taller than me, we don’t look alike at all, but we sure value the same kind of fun! Our shared values have kept us friends through our teens into our forties.
Politics and fear of the unknown aside, I’m so very thankful that Canada has chosen to help Syrian refugees. As a Canadian, very aware that I live in one of the most beautiful and well resourced countries in the world, I can’t find adequate words to describe my reaction to the conditions people have found themselves in. More specifically, I am deeply troubled by the intense persecution Christians. We are seeing a new level of suffering on a scale I don’t think we’ve seen before (at least, not in my lifetime). How are Christians enduring such suffering and even facing martyrdom without wavering in their faith?
I believe that we are born tenacious, with the drive to go forward at blinding speeds to become anything we want to be, and brave any adventure we can find. But then our tenacity fizzles, lessons, dulls, and almost all but winks out. Blame it on what you think sounds best: seasonal blues, lack of energy, low income, too many disappointments, being a realist, sleeplessness, work, kids… blame it on what you think sounds best, but then let me help you find it again.