kicking against the tide

Memorial Day provided a snorkeling trip for my family at the gorgeous John Pennekamp Park and Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. What an awesome experience, we had a blast! The coral reef was fabulous and the fish were beyond description.

Unfortunately, the weather was a little bad and it wasn’t the best of days by South Florida standards. It rained on us a little and we got wet (jk). Seriously, the wind was really strong and it created a strong current. The tide required that we swim pretty hard to stay in the area where we needed to be. Later, the Captain of the boat told us that if we could make it through these conditions, we could snorkel anywhere.

Here’s the point. We swam hard to get up current and then would stop to enjoy the scenery. It only took a few seconds of looking around at the ocean floor, and all of the ground that we had gained was lost, we had to swim back against the wind and current so we could enjoy the view some more. The beauty of the sea life could only be enjoyed in short stints. If we got too distracted, we would only have to work harder.

What a dead-on analogy to being a leader! It takes a lot of effort and energy to get to where you need to be. There is a strong head wind. The tide is against you. You have to kick hard just to stay steady. You get tired and feel like floating back to the boat. Once you get to your goal, you really want to look around and enjoy the scenery. You’ve earned a rest. You pause a minute just to feel good about what has been accomplished. You take a deep breath or two and then it hits you, you are back where you started.

The visual imagery isn’t very encouraging here. Sounds a little depressing to think that we can’t even celebrate victories or get some well deserved rest. That is not what I am trying to say. An important part of leading is the ability to recognize progress, to rejoice when something goes well. If you don’t take time to do that, you won’t last very long as a leader. But if you spend too much time admiring where you are, you won’t be there any longer. (That was dangerously close to being a Yogism!)

The key –as usual- is balance. Know when to kick and know when to look around. Learn how to recognize seasons of fighting the tide and the seasons of rest and celebration. Don’t ever become so wrapped up in the scenery that you wind up in trouble.

On Monday, some of the wimpier snorkelers got tired and went back to the boat. No way, we paid our money and we were staying out as long as they would let us.

Never pass up a chance to swim in the ocean. It is awesome. But be aware of rip tides, high waves, jellyfish – don’t laugh, they really sting. Never pass up a chance to influence someone for the good, to impact the life of another person. Be aware of the challenges, the weariness and the temptation to quit. But the rewards are certainly worth the work.

At least there were no sharks – not that we knew of! (cue theme music from Jaws!)

Indiana Jones (4)

We got to go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Thursday. I thought it was great. Very entertaining and exactly what I expected. Since then, I have heard several people who also saw it say things like, “it wasn’t very believable”, “I thought it was hokey”, and “it was too cheesy”. Come on people, it’s Indiana Jones, what did you expect? You pay $9 to see an old guy with a whip surviving falls in several waterfalls, live through a nuclear blast (in a refrigerator) and single handedly out-fight dozens of Soviet soldiers, you thought it was a true story?

It was precisely what I needed to see on Thursday. We had a tough week and a little unbelievable, far out entertainment was good for us. I had some laughs – it was nice. I would recommend it if you don’t take everything seriously.

I may go see the Incredible Hulk when it comes out. I wonder if it will be realistic?

Lighten up and smile!

sophomore psychology

A few weeks ago, I went to an elementary boy’s basketball game because my friend is a coach for one of the teams. It wasn’t the NBA but it was entertaining and we had a good time. There was a little guy on one of the teams that was really struggling. He tried really hard but he didn’t seem to have the same skills as the other boys. He rarely touched the ball and he fell down quite a bit. Not the kind of kid to receive much applause from the crowd.

At one point, this little guy ran into another boy and he fell, hitting his head on the floor. It wasn’t a real hard hit but the crowd got really quiet for a couple of seconds. Finally, he got up and then the crowd clapped for him, glad that He was OK. At that moment, the little boy had an epiphany. For the first time in his brief basketball career, people were actually cheering for him. It was a proud moment. He got a huge smile on his face and acknowledged the crowd, his adoring fans. The bump on the head was a small price to pay for being honored with applause.

I was a little concerned that he may, in an effort to gain more approval, hit his head again on “accident”. He didn’t and his team won the game.

I thought about a few people that I know who gain attention from “hitting their head”. The only way that they can get people to notice them is by doing some kind of damage. They are looking for affirmation so they create some activity. The response they get from others is the equivalent of the applause of the crowd to the little basketball player. I am not talking about those who threaten to harm themselves or someone else, this is a much more serious issue. Those I am referring to get others to look at them by doing or saying things that bring attention to themselves. Many times, the things they do and say are odd or out of place. Even if the attention is negative, they are nonetheless getting attention. Any attention is good attention. It is sad but true that this is how some garner notice from others.

I have seen this in the church. It is a distressing thing to watch someone so desperate to be noticed that their behavior becomes self-destructive. People sabotaging relationships, saying foolish things, making lots of noise about minor issues. Lots of times, these things are simply an effort to be recognized.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this. Do you let people go when they are acting up? Do you ignore them with hopes that they will get tired of it? There isn’t a pat answer. It certainly doesn’t seem very productive to just let these people terrorize others so they can be noticed. Surely we can do better than that.

There is a time to confront this behavior. We care too much about these people to allow them to continue on this counter-productive path. For the good of these people and those around them, we may need to lovingly but firmly address the issue.

One solution is simply to stop cheering. I think after a while, they wear down from all of the head banging. Then maybe we can help build their self esteem in healthy, less painful ways.

Just a little college sophomore psychology.

so, what would you pray?

As I am prepping for the series that I discussed on Thursday, I am curious what you would ask God for. If God would answer one prayer that you could pray, not for yourself or your family, but for the church, what would you pray? Can you take a minute to share some ideas? Launch from the idea of “God, make us ______.” Fill in the blank and provide a little insight. No need to be profound, some simple answers would be great.

I really would like to hear back from you so give me some feedback. If we use your material in one of my messages, we’ll be sure to give you a cut of the proceeds. OK, I will at least mention your name. First name. Or initials.

Everybody have an awesome Memorial Day weekend and remember those who gave so we could be free!

What would you pray if God would answer One Prayer for the Church at large?

Craig Groeschel from LifeChurch.TV has developed another great idea to unite the body of Christ. One Prayer is a 4 week series combining churches all over the world to pray one strategic prayer for the Church at large. At the time of this post, over 1000 churches around the world are joining in. “God make us ______.” is the approach we will be taking. Respective churches can pick from a line up of speakers and topics to show during the 4 week series or they can deal with their own topics. Check out the One Prayer blog.

Maranatha Church
will be participating in this historic moment. We are launching this series one week early, beginning on May 31/June 1. If you are in the area, come on over or listen online.
It is very exciting when the body of Christ comes together like this for any purpose. When unity is the focus, look out!

If you lead a local church, consider being a part of this movement!

remember Your people

Two related passages are bouncing around my head this week.
Romans 5:20 “… where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (NIV) The Contemporary English Version says, “ … where sin was powerful, God’s kindness was even more powerful.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” (NCV)

Without launching into a theological treatise, there is a need for us to process this. This is an especially troubling time in the earth. Earthquakes in China, typhoons in Myanmar, tornadoes in the Midwest. And people are dying.

Friends of ours lost their little son this week. A youth pastor we know left his wife and child this week. A close friend shared with me yesterday his lack of emotional and mental stability because of the pressure he is facing.

Is God’s grace really enough to handle this stuff?

Over the weekend at our worship services, we sang, “Your Grace Is Enough”, written by Chris Tomlin. Knowing a little about the gravity of the situations faced by some people, I was choked up while we asked/reminded God: “remember your people, remember your children, remember your promise, O God”. A good song and a good prayer.

It is true. No matter how bad things get, God’s mercy can handle it. When people hurt, God’s love can cover them. For purposes of clarification, I am not connecting Romans 5:20 with the idea that God has brought the people mentioned above tragedy to punish them for their sin. We know that all bad things are a result of sin in the earth. But the innocent people, especially children who are dying, have hurt no one. I mention this because I heard a woman say this week that the earthquake in China was because they (the Chinese) had killed some Christians. This twisted view of justice is common among American Christians. If God responded to our sin this way, none of us would be left. I think I’ll take this up in another post.

How can we sure? What does grace looks like? Sometimes it may appear to be insufficient. Well grace doesn’t mean we will not have tough times. It means that, in those tough times, God will be with us and we will get through it. “Getting through it” is relative, I know. Some people lose their lives, so how can this be identified as “getting through it”?

When all the dust settles, God is there. And we can be with Him. That is His promise. That promise alone is what grace is about. In a million years from now, when all of the difficulties we are facing are gone from our memories, we will be with God. That is forever grace.

By the way, good things also happened this week. Healthy babies were born, people found hope and peace in Christ, families were reunited. Let’s not let the pain of the day cloud our vision of reality.

God’s grace is sufficient:
For China, for Myanmar, for Jose and Luz, for Emily, for me and you.
Remember your people, O God.


Our friends lost their six year old son today. He got choked on something on Saturday and never regained consciousness. This tragedy is a reminder of how precious and fragile life is. It is impossible to discuss it without being cliché, so I won’t even try.

Pray for Jose and Luz. Pray for the church they lead. Ask God to, in this dark time, bring glory to Himself and bring people to hope.