Friday, June 26, 2009

"No Fail" Mode

I am not a video game person. Never have been. Strange, since I grew up in the golden age of Mario Brothers and games have just gotten cooler and more complex since then. I would just rather be up and doing something. Like chasing around a soccer ball. Or swing dancing.

And then I met rock band.

I love this game. So much so that scoured and scouted and bid, then rejoiced when I got a whole Rock Band set…to keep at a friend’s house. Yes, that’s right. I, who do not own a game system of any kind, bought Rock Band for the sole purpose of jamming out with my friends. Crazy right?

Not crazy. Brilliant! But I digress.

I was hooked on Rock Band from the first moment I picked up the guitar. My first song was “I Love Rock and Roll” and though I didn’t have a microphone, I sang along with myself as I played the guitar part. 98%! I declared myself a Rock Star and said I was going to retire.

That declaration lasted until an afternoon when I was coerced into playing bass and we started with “Eye of the Tiger” and didn’t look back. We conquered song after song. And when our drummer got tired and we had to recruit a replacement, the selling point was “Come on, it’s on NO FAIL mode.” Screeetch went the gears in my head. Huh? No Fail mode? You mean even if I miss lots of notes the song continues on? I won’t get kicked out of the band? The little on screen characters won’t throw a pixilated fit? How awesome is that?! I’m trying “hard” next time!

But you know what I’ve noticed about No Fail mode? Most of the time it’s not actually needed. People seem to rise to the challenge. Even if they hover down in the red area for a bit, they usually bounce back and finish strong. (Isn’t it amazing how much confidence one can find when they know they cannot fail?)

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Have you ever heard of the Paradoxical Commandments? I think following them is like living life in No Fail mode:

The Paradoxical Commandments
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
  11. The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction. Have faith anyway.
Have you ever genuinely reached out and been misunderstood? Watched a project filled with your heart, sweat, and tears be swept under the rug? Done a good thing that was forgotten or went unnoticed? Opened up and been hurt? Had a great idea that was squelched? Rooted for an unpopular person or idea because it was something you believed in? Invested in someone who didn’t (or couldn’t) see the depth of your giving?

When you do these things, even if they don’t turn out the way you envision, you come out the winner. Even if you hit a wrong button, or mess up the beat, or can’t quite keep up with the rest of the band…you cannot fail.

This list is all about action. About loving, and helping, and doing good anyway. And just as the fun of Rock Band is in the playing, the secret of this list is in the living. After all, No Fail mode is useless if you don’t actually pick up an instrument and play.

So get out there. Pick up your drumsticks, tap into your inner rock star, and do it anyway!

You can’t fail.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Stress. It seems to be plaguing lots of people. And in the cacophony of all that’s going on, a person can easily feel lost, looked over, or just powerless. If that’s you, and you feel like screaming, but you don’t even know that you’d be heard…this is the thought that I had while running today:

If God is in the whisper, he’s in your whisper too.

You know the passage in Kings where God isn’t in the earthquake or the storm, but his voice is found in the quiet wind? It may be a bit of stretch, but this is the encouragement I want to share: Yes it’s noisy. Yes, there’s a lot being asked of you. Life may feel like a storm, flood, and earthquake all rolled up into one.

But be assured, even if you feel like your shouting is but a whisper in the craziness…he hears you.

God is in your whisper. And he specializes in calming storms.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Open Door

My dog cracks me up. He’s 15 and full of quirks. Mostly these days, he believes in sleeping. He’s quite the expert. In fact, he sleeps so deeply that I’ll poke him just to make sure he’s still breathing. When he was younger, he woke up at the drop of a hat: when I got out of bed, when there was even the slightest hint of thunder, when someone was at the door, when I got up to change rooms, when anyone uttered the words "treat," "walk," or "ride"… you get the picture. These days, he just sleeps right on through.

Earlier, I took a study break by taking a shower. And when I got up, I left my dog looking something like this (Please see the adorable picture to the right. Makes your heart melt, doesn’t it?) He was conked out.

But as I was zoning out into happy shower land, I heard a *scratch* at the door. What? My dog that can sleep through World War III was awakened by the noise of the door clicking closed? Actually, he probably didn’t hear the door click at all. I don’t know that I can honestly tell you how he knew that we were now horribly separated by this evil known as the bathroom door. I was debating on whether or not to do anything about it when I heard *scratch* *scratch* He was serious! He wanted this situation fixed!

I jumped out turned the handle to open the door, and jumped back in.

And my darling little crazy dog toddled off and went back to sleep.

It just cracked me up that he couldn’t handle the closed door. -- He didn’t want to come in. He didn’t want anything from me. He just needed to know the door was open.

And then I thought to myself, you know…I can relate.

There’s nothing that will wake you up quite like a closed door. And sometimes all you need rest easy is the knowledge that the door is open, the road is clear, or the network is up. …That you’re not locked away from what’s on the other side.

Yeah, I can totally relate to that.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Correction. Disagreement. I’ve been thinking on those topics off and on for several weeks. Specifically, how do I take correction? And how do you talk with someone about something you think is wrong in his or her character/actions? Because it’s not a comfortable topic. And let’s face it, none of us like to hear negative things. It’s completely normal to tune out, shut down, get defensive, or push back with negative observances of our own.

It seems that in our very loving, tolerant, post-modern culture, we no longer have a place to talk about these things. Judge not, right? Take care of the plank in your own eye. If someone doesn’t ask you for advice, then you have no right to go offer up what you think. But is that really true? Or healthy?

What if you are genuinely concerned? What if there’s something that truly bothers you. And you want to address it?

Strangely enough, I found a clue -- hiding right there in one of the passages used to propel the “leave well enough alone” strategy.

Matthew 7:4-5 “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

While discussing this passage with some close friends, one person pointed out -- this passage doesn’t say that we shouldn’t remove the speck. It just says that we have to first deal with our plank. *click* Well look at that! Why didn’t that part of the passage ever jump out at me before?

That heartset makes all the difference. Uncomfortable topics have to be approached from a place of vulnerability (my eyes are jacked up too, but I’m working on it), and love (I’ve worked on my eyes so I can be in a better place to help you with yours).

The word “brother” is pivotal as well. Because those deeper, character defining things need to be addressed from a place of close relationship.

I also don’t think it’s an accident that this passage deals with eyes. Partially because of the whole “vision” concept, but also because eyes are so fragile. Dealing with eyes should be a gentle, careful process. (Not to be handled with powertools.)

I received some uncomfortable correction in the not so distant past. It’s part of what started me thinking on this topic. I was told things that were hard to hear. And what hurt most is that the comments seemed so off base. The person was close to me, and I could tell that they didn’t necessary want to hurt my feelings, but they were deeply bothered and concerned by what they perceived as a “speck” in my life.

So how do you deal with that? What I did: I listened. Reminded myself that this person loved me. Analyzed what they said. Did it have merit? Is this something I need to address? I got a second opinion from some others in my life that I feel have a good understanding of my character. And I came to my conclusion – while this person had good intentions, their perceptions were incomplete.

Sometimes we view people through dirty glasses. And sometimes the speck we see is on our glasses and not the person. (There’s a deep thought.)

But other times, there really is a speck (or even a plank). Reaching out to help your brother takes courage. Because if you really do love someone, you don’t want to hurt them. But if you love them, then you also don’t want to see them continue down paths that are destructive. You want to help them thrive, see clearly, and be the best that they can be.

I suppose it comes down to loving, making sure you’re working on yourself, being honest and vulnerable about the planks you’ve had to wrestle, and waiting for the right time to have a heart to heart with you brother.

Or said another way: Keep your glasses clean. Wash your face and keep your eyes clear. But also love your brother enough to say, “Hey man, you’ve got something on your eye. Does that sting? Can I help?”

And speaking just for myself here, I'm thankful to have people looking out for me. I would rather have someone offer to help me with a speck that isn’t there, than to be left suffering in watery stingy discomfort. As long as they come at me with eye drops, not acid. You know what I’m saying?

Friday, June 5, 2009


A few nights ago I was in service and we sang this song:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee
Oh I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour
I need Thee, I need Thee, I need Thee every hour

Admit it. You skimmed over those lines. And why wouldn’t you? They’re repetitive. But while I was singing them that night, I had this wonderful image pop into my head.

I need thee became “I knead thee.”

I pictured a grandmother with wispy hair and floured hands, showing a child how to work through a glob of dough. Of course, the child was a glorious mess of flour, sticky fingers, and grim determination.

Worship was kneading through me. Working out lumps in my attitude and mindset. Taking my impatience and wandering mind, and working through them to get to a conversation…getting to places where I’m not quite mixed through.

And as much as I felt like the dough, I also saw myself as the child. I have questions that I can’t answer. There are things that just don’t make sense to me. I have “lumps” in faith and in life that I am doing my best to work through.

But I think God was showing me that that’s part of the process. Kneading, working through, getting messy…and realizing that he’s right there like the watchful grandmother in my imagination.

I remember being little and wondering just how long I would have to stir brownie batter before it would become smooth. It amazed me that after what seemed like forever, when I had given up all hope, suddenly the lumps would be gone. Almost like the batter had skipped a step from totally lumpy to perfectly mixed.

Sometimes life is like that. I’ve experienced moments when it seems like everything just shifts and falls into place. And whether its my perception, understanding, or situation that shifted, moments like that are great.

But they don’t always come. So I found this picture incredibly encouraging. Because some lumps are tenacious. Sometimes, there really are questions that don’t have easy answers (or that have answers at all). But without the kneading (and resting…and more kneading), bread doesn’t turn out as it should.

So keep working through the lumps. Especially the stubborn ones.
And allow yourself to be worked through in return.

I need thee. I need thee. I need thee every hour.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fuzzy Rope

The beginning of Acts chapter 3 tells the story of a beggar who sits outside the gate called Beautiful. He’s completely on the outside looking in. Because of his condition, he’s not even allowed into the general courtyard of the temple where even the gentiles (gasp) can come to visit.

Just to get an idea of where this man is: Most Holy Place – Holy Place – Court of Priests – Court of Women – Court of Gentiles – Outside the gate

Put it another way. If the temple was a nightclub: The safe where you keep the really valuable stuff – the Owner’s Office – VIPs – Members – General Admission – Staring Down the Bouncer

And here come Peter and John, busting in like the Miller High Life man. I can almost hear them: “We’re coming for you VIPs, and we’re not the paparazzi.” Seriously. The veil to the Most Holy Place was torn in two on the day of Calvary. Jesus obliterated the need of a VIP section. He barged in past the fuzzy rope, and brought the high life to all those on the outside looking in. And Peter and John recognize that if anyone is in need of the High Life, it’s this man -- crippled since birth, sitting as the lowest of the low out on the street.

There’s really only one requirement to drink in the high life: ask Jesus to add your name to the guest list. But how often do we allow ourselves to get snobby and create some sort of spiritual VIP section?

We create hoops for people to jump through and prices they have to pay so they can drink some of the good stuff. I can just imagine Jesus, shaking his head, bursting onto the scene muttering “Common sense ain’t on the guest list. Na uh.” and packing up what we think is only for the cool kids and taking it out to the rest of his children. Wouldn’t that be a rude awakening?

Take a second to think. If that *did* happen, on what side of the fuzzy rope would you be standing? Are you hoarding the high life? Are you comfortable in a cushy chair, hiding behind a barrier that makes you feel important and special? Maybe you don't mean to be. Maybe since your cooler is full of drinks, it's easy to forget that there are people on the outside who are parched. The truth is, “We’re not all that. I guarantee you that.”

The high life is about celebrating, not separating. Celebrate the freedom, forgiveness, wholeness and high life that comes through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t be a snob and hoard it behind a fuzzy rope. Take it out and share with everyone. That’s where the party is.

“But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14