Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Late Bloomer

I'm looking out the living room window into the backyard. The grass is green and has already been cut once. All of the bushes sport bright green leaves. Of course, the evergreens are green. The Bradford Pears have bloomed and the petals have blown across the yard and stuck on the windshield of our vehicles. The hardwoods are last to the Spring party.

One of my best friends through school was a late bloomer physically. Let's just say that his 18th year was a good one. He went from being about my size (5'8" since 8th grade) to towering over me. When a person blooms isn't nearly as important as who they are after they bloom. Same with the trees; in a month nobody will remember what they looked like today.

Spiritually, we might be late bloomers, too. I was saved when I was 8 years old. I have no doubt that it was a genuine conversion experience. My teenage years were typical but during the Summer after graduation I knew God was calling me to Christian ministry and I began to chart my path in that direction. I would say I was a late bloomer because God probably was calling me to ministry for years before I surrendered.

I've known men and women who have felt God's call on their lives to be involved in vocational ministry from very early ages. And they were obedient to serve and have for decades. That's not my story but I like theirs.

And I've known men and women who have felt God's call later in life. Some left successful careers to start a new career of ministry. That's not my story, either, but I like theirs.

I'm not just talking about vocational ministry. Doesn't it seem like the church has portrayed ministry as vocational only? Recently, we've done better at emphasizing the calling of every Christian into ministry. Christians who accept the mission of God as theirs too take the Good News home with them and to work with them and to school with them and to their times and places of play with them.

The transforming power of the Gospel does this to anyone who yields to God's will: any Christian - every Christian - can be an effective witness of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

That you may not have accepted that central role in your walk of faith doesn't have to define the rest of your life. Start now. Bloom now. To borrow a phrase from Vance Havner, let him be "the Lord of what's left" of your life.

It seems like in the few minutes I've been writing this post that the trees outside the window are a little greener. Once blooming starts you can't stop it. Imagine who will be eternally impacted if you agree with God and his mission and bloom today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Carnival Mirrors

Deana and I have been reading a book on parenting teenagers. It was a gift from a friend. She must have met our son. Really, she gave the book to several of her son's friends' moms. She must have met all of the boys!

The book is Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp. We are nearing the end of the book after a slow, thoughtful pace. Hopefully, we've learned something that will help us help Riley. Throughout the book the author reminds us that our teenage son is really no different from us and that what we expect of him must also be expected of ourselves.

Even with all the heavy-handed brow-beating, we've continued to read.

The chapter we are reading now gives us strategies for implementing the goals discussed in earlier chapters. In applying Psalm 36:1-4 to parenting, the author said teenagers (and parents, too) tend to flatter themselves too much. They think they are smarter than they are, more mature than they are, more capable than they are. Then he said this.

When they look at themselves, they don't use the perfect mirror of the Word of God, but the carnival mirrors of peer opinion, personal evaluation, and cultural norm. In those mirrors you do see yourself, but what you see is distorted, so that your legs look fat and stubby or your neck looks three feet long.

God's Word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The carnival mirrors say you aren't worth anything.

God's Word says he has a plan for your life. The carnival mirrors say you'll never amount to anything.

God's Word says purpose and meaning are found in relationship with Jesus Christ. The carnival mirrors say you better chase what everyone else is chasing.

As we read today I could clearly see these truths in my son, other people, and even in my wife. And it dawned on me that I am just the same when I don't focus on the Lord. That's the key for each of us: focus on the Lord, use his Word as the mirror by which we view ourselves, and seek to point to his glory rather than seek our own.

A carnival-mirror-mentality causes one person in the office to arrogantly command the others. A carnival-mirror-mentality causes one family member to be short and harsh toward the others. A carnival-mirror-mentality causes one Christian to be judgmental toward the others. A carnival-mirror-mentality causes a Christian to simply overlook the lost.

A God's-Word-mentality causes me to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as myself.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


The football team had been practicing on a hot Arkansas August afternoon. It was the second practice that day. I had worked in between practices. Most of us wanted to sit on the cool concrete walkway in the shade and drink from the water hose. We dreaded when Coach would call us back to the practice field.

The practice field was the elementary school playground. It was three blocks from the field house. It was mostly a dust bowl. But it was better than the lot right across from the field house. We had a nickname for that place. The Sticker Bowl. Coach didn't care about the stickers. We still ran our drills on the ground. Linemen could hardly put their hands down in the pre-snap position without landing on the stickers. It would have been comical if it had not been painful.

So that day during the break Coach starts to get on us about being so down and blue and sad. "Come on, guys, smile!" It didn't work. We were tired. It would take more than that to make us smile. Maybe if our girlfriends drove by…then we might smile. If there was some reason to call off practice early…then we might smile.

"Do you know how many muscles it takes to frown?" "Forty-seven," I said quickly.

Sometimes my wit is tempered with wisdom. Sometimes it's not.

"That's right!" he said. I have no idea how many muscles it takes to frown. He probably doesn't either. Maybe his wit was a tad sharper than mine. Then he said it only took X number of muscles to smile. Frowning took more effort than smiling, he said.

Who knows? I don't but I learned an important lesson that day. A couple actually.

One is, don't try to outsmart the coach. As I've aged and especially as I've had teenagers I've learned that age is an advantage in many aspects.

The other lesson I learned is that attitude trumps almost anything. If you have a good attitude about even a mundane task you will be much happier. And the task won't seem so bad.

I guess we've discovered that there are too many germs in a water hose so we can't drink from them anymore. We especially can't pass it around to forty other guys. But when I'm out mowing on a hot summer day I'll slip over to the water hose and take a drink. And I almost always think of that day of practice on the elementary school playground.