Saturday, July 16, 2005

Back to the Game

I'm watching the Yankees v. Red Sox in the top of the 5th inning. 6-2 Yankees, 1 out, Tino Martinez at the plate. He just grounded out to Renteria.

As Martinez awaits the pitch the camera view from center field catches a woman in the stands at ground level behind home plate. She is standing against the screen with her back to the game. What? She (or somebody) paid the highest price to see the game that's not a suite and she's not watching the game?

Baseball is different for me. I like to buy a scorecard or take my own and keep score. I'm tweaking my scoring style and get stumped on the proper scoring at least once in every game. But I don't want to miss a thing and keeping score forces me to watch closely.

Even when I pay $3 for the cheap seats at a AA Minor League game I want to see it all. I want to soak up all the action and any nuance behind the action. I especially like watching the outfielders track a fly ball. If you'll look at the outfielders when the ball flies from the bat you can tell from their path whether the ball is a home run or not. I just shake my head when the crowds yells at a high fly ball while the outfielder is camped out under it 40 feet inside the fence.

Anyway, I love baseball. And I pay attention to the game. But she wasn't watching. She isn't at Fenway for the baseball. I can't think of a worse waste of time than to attend church for the wrong reasons.

The score is 6-4 Yankees. Boston is smelling a comeback.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tour de Lance

I am so impressed with Lance Armstrong.

I visited the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock a couple of weeks ago. In a display case was a bicycle and yellow jersey worn by Lance in winning one of his six (hopefully, seven) Tours. With all the presidential stuff in the building, I felt more in awe standing in front of the Lance display than with anything else.

I am so impressed with Lance Armstrong.

I want to be a champion for Christ.


You know that person that just tries to annoy you? Isn't there always one person who wants to push your buttons just to see if they can?

I could have responded in many ways. One response is to retaliate - to get down on the same level of relational prowess. I really wanted to do that. I wanted to trade barbs with him. I think I'm pretty witty. I could've taken him on and won! But that very attitude (just the wanting to do it) is a bad choice.

I could have ignored him. I usually ignore conflict. But that never resolves the problem and only leads to greater issues later - and even more discomfort. This guy had to be stopped. He was trying to distract the rest of the learners. I think he had two goals: to throw me off track and impress the others with his knowledge. The truth is, he is actually catching on pretty good and some others are struggling; he just wanted to entertain himself (mostly) and the others.

Or I could have exercised my authority as the trainer and forced him to fall in line. That's always a good idea!

WWJD? What would Jesus do? That's a great question that we should ask ourselves several times a day. I'm standing in the slow line at the branch bank. I'm getting a little frustrated. WWJD? I'm stuck in traffic because the nuts in the other cars don't know how to merge. WWJD? A friend asks me to do something I know is wrong. WWJD? There's a $5 bill on the table at the diner. It's the previous customer's tip. Nobody would see me take it. WWJD?

I have a friend who says WWJD is the wrong question to ask because Jesus wouldn't get into the messes we get into. But that's not the point. IF Jesus did get into this situation, what would he do? Yes, we can answer that question for any situation by applying what we know about Jesus' character. It's a great question.

So, Jesus is the teacher and someone is trying to distract him. WWJD? Sound familiar? It really happened and it's in the Bible. As he is teaching another teacher of the law says, "Excuse me, Jesus. Suppose a woman's husband dies and she marries his brother (a custom of the day). Then the brother dies so she marries another brother." This happens a few times. "Jesus, whose wife would she be in the resurrection?" The odd thing is that the questioner didn't believe in the resurrection anyway, he was just trying to distract Jesus and trip him up.

WWJD? He called the teacher on it. "You don't even believe in the resurrection! And it shows by the question you asked! The truth is that there is no marriage relationship in Heaven so she is the wife of none of them. Stop trying to distract me."

So how does that apply to my horrible experience? Always speak the truth and don't let people get away with tricks like that.

I am surprised that I actually stood up to him. I usually do the Forrest Gump thing and just run from my troubles and conflict. I'm trying to get better at it. I've been praying that God will help me be better at it. I guess today was an opportunity to get better at resolving conflict.

I still have a way to go. But I did better than I would have this time last year.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New System

I've been training employees on a new data system. Previously, we've used a DOS-based system but we are transitioning to a Windows-based system. That's pretty cool. But different.

It's hard to move to a new system because we all keep thinking about the old one. When I took Greek and Hebrew in seminary I experienced the same phenomenon: I would look at the vocabulary words in the new language and try to make and English word out of it. I can never learn another language fluently until I stop trying to convert it into English. My coworkers are having the same struggle switching systems.

But I have confidence they will make the transition within a few weeks and look back wondering what was so hard about this. I think it's because they had such a wonderful trainer.

Have you ever tried to think otuside the box? Studies show us (and my own experience supports this) that churches that function today like they functioned just a few years ago are seeing a decline in attendance, offerings, ministry, etc. As people change, the way we reach them must change. I'm old-fashioned enough to be very careful about keeping the same message but I have to think outside the box to deliver that message in a relevant manner. I can think of no greater disaster than for a minister to be irrelevant.

Steve Lyon said that pastoral ministry is applying the meaning of the Gospel to a person's point of need. Relevance is mandatory!

So I have to change my thinking. I can't preach like I did 10 years ago because people don't listen like they did then. Our church can't continue to do what we've always done - we won't get results like we did in the '50s adn '60s because our neighborhood has changed and people change. It's time to think outside the box.