Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Basketball Dream

I promise myself each year that I will not watch the NBA playoffs. Making such a promise sets me up to be a promise breaker - I love basketball. I still recall going out and playing ball on the dirt driveway behind the the house, with the 9 foot 6 inch goal that my Dad and I installed on the Garage. The goal had originally been 10 feet but over time we put in more dirt on the driveway and the rim was bent downward from my attempted dunks and the last time I measured the height it was 9'6". This explains why my jump shot was always short on a regulation goal.

The size and speed of today's players is mind boggling. I live near Houston, so I have become a rather unfaithful fan of the Rockets. I love them and hate them all during the same game. When I see the massive players like Yao Ming and the lightning fast players like Wafer and Brooks I am stunned by what amazing athletes they are. Truly amazing.

I had a recurring dream when I was just kid. In the dream, I was playing in a big game and had the final shot and got fouled. There I stood on the free throw line with the game in the balance, sweating bullets and preparing to shoot my free throws. At this history making moment, I would wake up - the dream was never finished.

In some ways, life is like a basketball game. We go out and play hard every day and sometimes we face a strategic game changing moment - we stand on the line and the ball is placed in our hands. The pressure is on -- will we come through in the clutch or will we choke under the pressure? The difference is that life is not a dream - it's real and the challenges we face are real.

I have had these moments and so have you. While these challenging times push us to the limit, I am so thankful to be able to experience them. There is nothing quite like the experience of being so alive and engaged. Life is an adventure. Questions are not easy to answer, battles are not easy to win, people are not easy to love --- but when all is said and done we never feel more alive, human, and open to change and grow that when we face these life challenging moments.

Will we always sink the winning basket? No way. But being engaged in the game of life, working with people, tackling problems, and doing our very best -- this makes life exciting, meaningful, and important.

The balls in your court. Take the challenge - do your best - say a prayer - life is good!

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I've Got Problems

People with problems like to hang out with me. Like a moth drawn to a light people who struggle will all kinds of problems want to talk to me, spend time with me, and otherwise clutter up my day.

When I rise each morning I have this idea bouncing around in my head that today will be different. I will make my plan, assemble my list, and "getter done". Sorry, it never happens. People with their problems find me and hijack my day. They want to talk and want me to listen. They want to pray and want me to pray with them. They want to cry and they want me to supply tissue and a shoulder. Why do they do this? Don't they know I have important things to do. You know - stuff -work stuff and pastoral duties and howdy duties and baby hugging and deep thoughts about how many angels can rest upon a pin. I have places to go and people to see. And yet they keep asking for a moment or two of my day.

O.K. I know why it happens. It's because I have problems, too. Those who know me, know about my genetic flaws, my un-original sins, my blatant weaknesses and they feel at home with me. Now I am not proud of my problems or my failures or my sins but I am honest about them.

Kidding aside, I am humbled that anyone would want to open up and share their problems with me. I do like to find solutions for problems but the journey is rarely a simple one.

So that's it - I've got problems. Being fully human is to face and tackle our problems with courage and faith. And this I will do.

Just thinking, Steve

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In the Afterglow

I am living in the afterglow of Easter this week. I love Easter. Both the spiritual message of Easter and the family fun and traditions of Easter. Our church had a great day on Sunday, setting a new attendance record in our new church building, the campus overflowing with children everywhere. My Grand kids came and had a blast at our Children's Egg hunt, in spite of rainy weather. I loved it all.

People need the experience of new beginnings in their life, a central message of Easter. They also need the spirit of hope that is fostered by seeing hundreds of children at church with their parents - the dire predictions about the future of the church just don't ring true. Young families with their children love church -- it is a happening place to be!

Every time I hear the predictions about the demise of Christian faith and the decline of church life in America, I recall what my sociology Prof's were saying about marriage in the 70's when I was in College and Grad school. Marriage is history, they said. It will be a thing of the past by the end of the century. The truth is that marriage is more popular than ever. In fact, it is so popular that some folks get married several times! I have conducted more than 360 wedding ceremonies over the years --- and despite all the challenges of being married and staying married, it is still immensely popular. I know people live together and some people don't get married but the ultimate hope of many who are not married is to someday find just the right person and get married.

So when someone says church and Christian faith is history, I listen but I don't panic. There are too many signs that the future is bright -- churches that seek to share the love and grace of God will do well. Certainly there will be challenges, but the message of hope that Easter proclaims still speaks to people. It is a winsome and attractive idea - new life in Jesus, new hope in God, and a new beginning for human beings.

I am in the afterglow and it feels good.

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Whining Please

I admit it. I do not like whining. I don't like it when I do it and can't stand it when others do it. I think it is important to know the difference between a real problem and a slight inconvenience. Some folks just cannot seem to understand the difference.

One of my favorite stories is one told by Robert Fulghum about himself. Fulghum is famous for his funny and thoughtful books like All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulgum tells about his first real job out of college as a horse wrangler on a resort ranch in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The owners were real penny pincher's when it came to paying the help and feeding them. One night Robert was ranting about the wieners and sauerkraut that they had been fed for lunch for nine straight days and then to top it off the lunches were deducted from their meager pay. Robert went on and on about how unfair it all was and how steamed he was and how he was going to quit this lousy job. Eventually no one was left to listen to his rantings except the night auditor, Sigmond Wolman. Wolman was a quiet, hard working man who patiently listened to all Robert's complaints without a word. Robert liked Wolman and respected him. He had no idea that Wolman was a survivor of the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz. Finally the quiet Wolman could take it no more and he spoke; "Lissen, Fulghum. You know what's wrong with you? You do not know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, --- you have a problem. Everything else is just an inconvenience. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer and happier. And you will not annoy people like me. Good night." He walked out of the room. Robert Fulghum never forgot that night.

Life is lumpy but a lump in your oatmeal and a lump in the breast are not the same thing.

A friend of mine is making a journey of grief. His dear wife of 30 plus years died a year ago. That is a real problem. My frustrations with the sluggish economy are just an inconvenience. When I think of him crawling into that empty bed at night and his broken heart that is slowly mending, it puts it all in such clear perspective.

No whining for me.

Just thinking, Steve